Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 18, 2003

JISC sponsored seminar on Open Access

A forthcoming JISC seminar: Global Access to UK Research: Removing the barriers to be held on 20th November 2003 in London. The distinguished guest speakers - who include Mark Walport of the Wellcome Trust and Jean-Claude Guedon of the University of Montreal - will describe current initiatives to remove the barriers to research publications

Friday, October 17, 2003

Censorship reversed

In yesterday's Washington Post, Jim Krane reports that the Pentagon restored open-access to hundreds of documents it had taken offline after September 11. While they were offline, most were still available in print. The documents were restored to government web sites just as the Federation of American Scientists (FAA) was about to challenge their removal under the Freedom of Information Act. Quoting Stephen Aftergood, director of the FAA's Project on Government Secrecy: "If we want an open and accountable government, we need this type of information in the public domain."

House committee passes database bill

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property adopted the bill yesterday in a straight party-line vote in which all the Republicans were in favor and all the Democrats opposed. In today's Chronicle of Higher Education, Andrea Foster writes (accessible only to subscribers), "Scientists and groups representing colleges and academic libraries have long opposed legislation that would offer broad intellectual-property protections for databases. Such protections could stifle scholarship, they say. But the Association of American Universities, the American Council on Education, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges agreed on Wednesday to withdraw their opposition to the legislation after the bill's sponsors revised it to shield accredited nonprofit colleges and nonprofit research laboratories from liability." Also see Roy Mark's coverage in today's InternetNews.

Guide to repository software

The Open Society Institute has released A Guide to Institutional Repository Software, by Raym Crow. The guide compares five programs, all OAI-compliant and all open-source. It includes a detailed comparison of features that should help an institution decide which package best fits its needs and estimate how much support time it will require for installation and maintenance. OSI offers the guide under the auspices of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and promises to update it as the software evolves. (PS: This is badly needed. Let's hope that many more institutions can now make a decision and start archiving.)

Project Gutenberg has 10k open-access books

Project Gutenberg has published its 10,000th open-access book. See the Slashdot discussion. (Thanks to LIS News.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Laura Lynch, Public Library of Science, Creative Commons, October 2003. An excellent interview with PLoS co-founder Mike Eisen --good questions and good answers. Quoting Eisen: "Our goal is to see that every scientific and medical research publication is available free of charge for anyone to read, use, incorporate in databases, redistribute, etc. To do this we want to shift how the publishers are paid for the role they play in communicating scientific ideas and discoveries --to switch from a model in which publishers are given permanent, exclusive control over the scientific literature and allowed to charge for access to a model in which the literature is effectively placed in the public domain and publishers are paid a fair price for the service they provide in getting the literature there....We hope to do for scientific literature what freely available archives of DNA sequences did for genetics....Simply giving scientists free and unrestricted access to the raw sequences led them to develop the powerful methods, tools, and resources that have made the whole much greater than the sum of the individual sequences. If we succeed, we expect an even bigger creative explosion to be fueled by open access to the much larger body of published scientific results."

Text mining

Lisa Guernsey, Digging for Nuggets of Wisdom, New York Times, October 16, 2003 (free registration required). A good peek at the state of the art. (PS: It will always be easier to apply these tools to free online texts than to priced and password-protected texts, unless the tools are hobbled from birth and limited to certain proprietary collections. In the long run there will be a wide array of competing open-source packages with different strengths for different purposes. By making research conclusions in open-access texts stand out from the heap, and connecting them to related open-access research, they will create important incentives to make work openly accessible. If you're a programmer, you can help the cause by creating tools that process open-access texts. If you're a scholar, don't fail to put your work in the open where it is eligible for processing by these tools.)

New Open Access Now

The October 20 issue of Open Access Now is now online. This issue features an interview with MacKenzie Smith on DSpace and self-archiving, a news story on the open-access experiment at the Company of Biologists, and a profile of the Coalition for Networked Information.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Paul Elias, Free online journal seeks revolution in science publishing, Associated Press, October 16, 2003. In addition to the usual overview explaining open access to a new audience, Elias makes this nice point: "By Monday morning, the Duke paper [on the monkey using brain impulses to control a robot arm] was rendered inaccessible by a crush of traffic from interested readers that crashed the Public Library's servers. The site received 500,000 hits in the hours immediately after the paper was posted and some 80,000 downloads occurred, prompted by worldwide media coverage. 'Nothing else has ever argued so strongly for open-access publishing,' said Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory researcher Michael Eisen, who co-founded the nonprofit organization along with Nobel laureate Harold Varmus and Stanford University biochemist Patrick Brown."

November Cites & Insights

The November issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. This issue has major sections on Scholarly Article Access and Copyright Currents. In the Access section Walt reviews, often favorably, a wide swath of the recent literature on open access, including pieces by Declan Butler, Susan Owens, Stephen Pinfield and Hamish James, Robert Parks, Samuel Trosow, Catherine Zandonella, and me.

Harold Varmus on NPR's Science Friday tomorrow

Harold Varmus will discuss PLoS Biology and open access on NPR's Science Friday program tomorrow. It's a two-hour show (2:00 - 4:00 ET), and the second hour will be devoted to open access. To get your question or comment on the air, dial 1-800-989-8255 between 3:00 and 4:00 tomorrow. (Thanks to Dick Holden.)

Intro to open-access journals.

Roy Tennant, Open-Access Journals, Library Journal, October 15, 2003. A good, brief introduction to the major issues and initiatives. Excerpt: "The current system of scholarly communication is in need of major changes. Journal price increases have been so dramatic and devastating that faculty who typically don't know or care about library expenditures are now front and center in the battle to change the dominant paradigm. Simply put, this model is: faculty and researchers at universities, many of which are public institutions, create most scientific and academic journal literature. Faculty typically publish articles with commercial publishers for no compensation (in many cases they even pay to publish). Once published, the research and scholarship of their faculty are licensed by libraries from the commercial publishers, often at top dollar....It's too early to tell what impact the open-access revolution will have on the dominant paradigm. But the breadth and depth of the movement is impressive. Although the revolution has not yet succeeded in all of its goals, it is gaining enough ground that one can envision the toppling of the current system --unimaginable even a few years ago." (Thanks to Gary Price.)

OA to encryption software now OK, sometimes

Can a math professor make a simple encryption program freely available online? Daniel Bernstein, professor of mathematics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has been in court since 1995 trying to find out. At time he filed his suit, sharing encryption software online was prohibited as a form of "exporting munitions". While the rules have relaxed in the meantime, Bernstein never got his vindication. Yesterday a federal court threw out his suit when the Bush administration said that it would not use the law to punish "legitimate research".

(PS: This is how the Felten case ended. The bad law is still on the books, and the only direct challenge to it has been quashed. This kind of resolution is tidy for prosecutors but not for potential defendants. It's still uncertain whether researchers specializing in cryptography or computer security have a First Amendment right to publish the results of their research. And until this uncertainty is removed, researchers will be chilled in exercising their First Amendment rights. This kind of ruling shifts the modus operandi from the government censorship of science to the self-censorship of scientists.)

Open-access newsletter archive

I just finished a project that I've wanted to do for a long time. I've translated all the back issues of the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter and the SPARC Open Access Newsletter into HTML and put them into a unified newsletter archive. This gives me control over the texts (so that I can correct occasional typos), over the look (which I've kept very close to the original, simple email), and over their long-term fate. I've added some internal anchors for cross-referencing, and now issues that cite one another also link to one another.

But I'm excited by two changes above all. First, the texts are now out from the deep internet, in the sunshine, and crawlable by standard search engines. Look for them in Google any day now. Second, I've put all the back issues in the index of the search engine in the blog sidebar. Now you can run integrated searches over blog content and newsletter content. The same search engine covers my conference page, my timeline, my guide, and my other writings on open-access.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Alorie Gilbert, Traffic overwhelms new online science journal,, October 14, 2003. Excerpt: "Not surprisingly, the free distribution model seems be going over well. Within the first eight hours of the journal's launch [PLoS Biology], traffic on the site spiked to more than half a million hits."

New OAI registry

Last week the Grainger Engineering Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign launched a new OAI Registry. (Thanks to Gary Price.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

PLoS co-founder Mike Eisen was on NPR's Marketplace show yesterday talking about PLoS, PLoS Biology, and open access. (Thanks to Jack Suber.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Philipp Grätzel von Grätz, Affe denkt, Roboter tut: Open Access-Journal beginnt hochkarätig, Telepolis, October 14, 2003. A brief notice on the PLoS Biology launch, with a digression into Pat Brown's contretemps with NEJM. Read the original German or Google's English. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

More on trade embargoes blocking scholarship

Lila Guterman, Embargo Imbroglio: U.S. trade restrictions raise fears about new threats to academic publishing, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 17, 2003. Accessible only to subscribers (free online excerpts). Quoting Irving A. Lerch, director of international affairs for the American Physical Society: "The idea of withholding intellectual information because of its origin just makes no sense. Sooner or later, ideas are circulated. No government anywhere can prevent those ideas from being circulated. We're not talking about ideology, we're talking about science that benefits everybody."

Guterman moderated the Chronicle's online colloquy on this subject this morning. The transcript is now online (accesslbe only to subscribers).

October D-Lib

Indian official wants to expand fair use

On October 3, India's Union Minister for Human Resource Development Dr. Murli Manohar Joshi called for an international expansion of the legal scope of fair use. "We urge UNESCO to mobilise an international consensus on reasonable interpretation of 'fair use' clauses in international and copyright laws which should provide a good balance between private profit and public good and allow the pursuit of research and education."

Permission to preserve old software

Brewster Kahle has petitioned the U.S. Copyright Office for an exemption to the DMCA so that he may lawfully make copies of old software in order to preserve them in his Internet Archive. (Thanks to Daniel Terdiman in Wired News.)

More on the Amazon book digitizing project

Jim Milliot, Publishers Grudgingly Cooperate With Amazon Database Effort, Publishers Weekly, September 15, 2003. Excerpt: "Publishers cite three major concerns about the project, dubbed Look Inside the Book II. Many are worried about security issues, noting that despite Amazon assurances, by digitizing a book that will be hosted in another company's file, the chances of piracy increases. Another concern is that rather than increasing the sales of books, as Amazon suggests, the project will cut into sales. Under the plan, consumers will be able to browse about 20% of a book's contents....As a result of that concern, several publishers told PW they have not given Amazon permission to include cookbooks, travel guides and scholarly and reference books in the program. Even one publisher who thinks additional browsing will spur sales said she 'wouldn't put up any real reference works.' The third concern, and one shared by the Authors Guild, is that publishers don't have the contractual right to let an author's work appear on the site without the author's consent." (Thanks to LIS News.)

For your holiday wish list

You know that Alexa has crawled the 10 billion web pages of the Internet Archive and that an Alexa-Archive partnership offers offers open access to the result through the Wayback Machine. But now the same crawl is available by subscription or even on disk "[f]or organizations capable of hosting or mining an entire crawl index that exceeds 60 Terabytes in size". (Thanks to LIS News.)

Online primary sources for researching history

David Lincove and seven co-authors, Using Primary Sources on the Web. A guide to finding and using primary sources for historical research, by eight ALA librarians. (Thanks to LIS News.)


"The research was reported in the second issue of PLoS Biology, which is interesting in another way. This new journal is open access. No expensive subscriptions or licenses are required. Just log on and read up. The research results --the thoughts-- are free. That seems to fit about right." From an editorial in yesterday's USA Today, after summmarizing the already-famous article (by Carmena et al.) on a monkey trained to control a robot arm by thought or neural impulses alone.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Launch of AGORA

Today marks the launch of the Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) project. AGORA offers tiered pricing to over 400 journals in food, nutrition, agriculture, biology, and environmental science. Access will be free to non-profit schools and institutions in nations where the per capita GNP is less than US $1000. Access will be priced but discounted to those in the next tier. The participating publishers are Blackwell, CABI, Elsevier, Kluwer Academic, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press, Springer Verlag, and John Wiley. For more details, see the web site or press release.

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Karl-Erik Tallmo has written an introduction to open access and PLoS for his Health & Science blog.

Monday, October 13, 2003

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Rian Stockbower, The Public Library of Science Launches, Ars Technica Newsdesk, October 13, 2003. A short notice based on, but more welcoming than, Maggie Fox's story for Reuters yesterday.

Open access triggers Elsevier stock warning

Financial analysts at BNP Paribas issued the following report on Reed Elsevier stock this afternoon: "BNP Paribas expresses its concern regarding the company's current subscription based access, as compared to the newer and more successful article-fee based open access system."

More on trade embargoes and scholarship

When I wrote my October 3 blog entry on how the U.S. trade embargo against Iran constrains IEEE journals when dealing with submissions from Iranian citizens, I didn't have access to the letter from the U.S. Treasury Department clarifying U.S. law. I asked anyone with access to the letter to send it to me, and an anonymous source has just done so. I've forwarded a copy of the letter to our discussion forum.

Bottom line: May IEEE journals edit articles submitted by Iranian citizens? Answer: not without a license from the U.S. government. Excerpt: "The collaboration on and editing of manuscripts submitted by persons in Iran, including activities such as the reordering of paragraphs or sentences, correction of syntax, grammar, and replacement of inappropriate words by U.S. persons, prior to publication, may result in a substantively altered or enhanced product, and is therefore prohibited under ITR § 560.204 unless specifically licensed."

More (again) on the PLoS Biology launch

The editorial Why PLoS Became a Publisher can also be reached directly, via a shortened URL,, or, if the PLoS site is too busy, via the version archived by PubMed Central.

More on the RedLightGreen project

Barbara Quint, RLG’s Union Catalog Available on the Open Web, Information Today, October 13, 2003. On the RLG's massive RedLightGreen project, the free online XML union catalog merging the records of 160 libraries from 300+ countries in 370+ languages.

Threats to the openness of the net

Roy Mark, FCC Following "Ill-Advised" Internet Policy, InternetNews, October 10, 2003. Reporting the views of Michael Copps, one of the two Democrats on the FCC. Quoting Copps: "From its inception, the Internet was designed, as those present during the course of its creation will tell you, to prevent government or a corporation or anyone else from controlling it. It was designed to defeat discrimination against users, ideas and technologies. This freedom has always been at the heart of what the Internet community and its creators celebrate. Anyone can access the Internet, with any kind of computer, for any type of application, and read or say pretty much what they want. No one can corner control of the Internet for their own limited purposes. The founders' vision of the Internet is being exchanged for a constricted and distorted view of technology development, entrepreneurship and consumer preferences. For its part, the [FCC] has already made serious regulatory miscalculations that could endanger the freedom and lifeblood of the Internet sooner rather than later." (Thanks to GigaLaw.)

Open-access photo archive

British Pathe has launched an open-access archive of 12 million photographs digitized and extracted from its collection of 20th century films. Low-res copies online are free to view, download, and share for non-commercial purposes. High-res copies are available for purchase. (Thanks to Chris Sherman in SearchDay.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

One sign of the public interest in this launch: When I tried to visit the PLoS Biology web site just now, I got an apologetic message that the server was overloaded and a request to try again later. Then I was shunted over to the PubMed Central edition of the articles in the inaugural issue. (PS: Be patient, but don't stop spreading the word.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

There is now a Slashdot discussion thread on the launch of PLoS Biology and the benefits of open access.

More on the database bill

Andrea Foster, Colleges' Database Dilemma, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 17, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). Proponents of the database bill want to eliminate their chief opponents, universities and libraries, who have successfully blocked the bill every time it has been introduced since 1996. So last week Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) offered them a deal: if they support the bill, then he will add an amendment protecting nonprofit universities and research libraries from liability under the bill. Excerpt: "If college officials accept the offer, its backers will have succeeded in splitting a powerful coalition of opponents.... On the other hand, if colleges and research libraries reject the offer, it could come back to haunt them. Lobbyists note that colleges cannot afford to alienate the Judiciary Committee, which has considerable influence over the Internet file-sharing controversy and over patent issues, both of which concern colleges." Foster's article includes a short timeline of database legislation ups and downs since 1991.

Editorial endorsing PLoS

Today's issue of The Guardian has an editorial, Publishing Progress, endorsing the Public Library of Science and open access. Excerpt: "Until now the editing, printing and distribution costs have meant that the price of academic journals were controlled by publishing houses. But the internet offers a chance to change all that, and today sees the most high-profile attempt to do so. Being launched is the first journal of a publishing house, the Public Library of Science, which aims to give away research for free....The promise of such new models cannot be underestimated....Commercial publishing houses should not control access to information just to maximise revenues --especially when much of the research has been publicly funded."

PLoS Biology, vol. 1, no. 1

PLoS Biology has launched. In the first issue there are 16 scientific contributions, of which nine are research articles accompanied by synopses written by professional science writers for a general audience. Don't miss these additional features:Congratulations, PLoS! Bon voyage.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

PLoS Biology listed at PubMed Central

PubMed Central has already included PLoS Biology on its list of available journals. It also has a PMC-formatted edition of PLoS Biology, incorporating the papers that PLoS has already deposited in PMC. (Thanks to Gary Price.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Maggie Fox, New Scientific Journal Challenges Establishment, Reuters, October 12, 2003. In describing the problems that open access solves, Fox mentions high journal prices and delays caused by peer review. Beware. This is another sloppy introduction that leaves the false impression that PLoS Biology is not peer-reviewed.

Scientific authorship: credit and intellectual property in science

This collection of essays, edited by Mario Biagioli & Peter Galison, explores the idea of authorship in science from a historical and philosophical perspective. Many of the authors take their lead from Michel Foucault's essay 'What is an author?'. Some of the essays, inevitably, are a little hard going. But there is an interesting discussion about the origin of copyright. And two essays in particular stand out as highly relevant to open access. Corynne McSherry (author of the prize winning Who Owns Academic Work?[Large PDF of full text]) asks if a work of scientific authorship is a commodity or a gift, and in his essay on changing frameworks of scientific authorship Mario Biagioli raises a question about multiple authorship that relates directly to who is entitled to archive a paper.

A link to current status of the Sabo bill

About the current status of the Sabo bill: On Sept. 4, 2003, it was referred to the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property. (No change in status over the past month).

New look

I hope you like the blog's new look. It's just as simple, but cleaner and brighter. If you can't stand it, wait a week and then break it to me gently.

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Fred Locklear has a paragraph on the launch in his column, Science Sunday, in the October 12 issue of Ars Technica. He too seems to have absorbed misinformation that PLoS will somehow abandon or compromise peer review: "Let's hope that PLoS Biology can walk the fine line between expediency and solid peer-review...." (PS: He might have meant that the journal should embrace both expediency and peer review, even though his expression, as ordinarily understood, means that it should avoid both.)