Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Harold Varmus interview in NewScientist

Kurt Kleiner interviews Harold Varmus in today's issue of New Scientist. (Thanks to Darius Cuplinskas.) Excerpt:

[KK] But why bother? What's wrong with the established scientific publishing system?

[HV] Well, it doesn't live up to the opportunities that are created by the internet. The system as it exists has produced many good journals, but journals are expensive and increasingly people are reading and searching online. There's an opportunity here to eliminate boundaries between the individual and the information, and between pieces of information. I think all of us were startled by the incredible power that the internet provided for looking at and working with the genome. If we had published pieces of genomes paper by paper we would be much less far along than we are. That model has been a powerful force in helping people to think about how the scientific literature can be worked with.

Citigroup thinks OA threatens Elsevier

Richard Wray, Free access may constrain Reed, The Guardian, November 1, 2003. Citigroup has added its weight to the Elsevier stock warning issued by BNP Paribas on October 13. "The [Reed Elsevier] shares were the biggest losers in the FTSE 100 index, down 16.5p to 458p as Citigroup Smith Barney warned of the impact of open access and sliced its price target for Reed to 500p from 580p....Citigroup believes that at the very least, the PLoS will scupper Reed's annual journal price rise of 5% to 10%, while in the longer term it could see its reviewers and contributors - who Reed does not pay - slowly drain away to the opposition."

Friday, October 31, 2003

New Online Information Review

The new issue of Online Information Review is now online. Only the table of contents and abstracts are free online. Here are the OA-related articles.

New institutional repository

Discussion of the database bill

There's a good discussion thread on LibLicense on what the pending database bill does and does not restrict.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Digital Promise Project report sent to Congress

The Digital Promise Project submitted its report to Congress on October 23. The report calls on the country to create a $20 billion Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO-IT), funded from the auction of electromagnetic spectrum. Interest generated by the trust would pay for new projects in digital research and education, apparently including open-access projects. Quoting Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) in the press release: "DO-IT will give us the opportunity to take the knowledge that resides in our country's museums, libraries, universities and research institutions and make it uniformly available to every American from Presque Isle, Maine to Juneau, Alaska." Quoting the executive summary: "DO IT will help to digitize these collections [in universities, museums, libraries, and cultural institutions] and set standards to conserve 'born digital' materials, ensuring their accessibility to all. It will assist in the development of content and software to integrate the riches of our cultural institutions into classroom curricula and stimulate research in the humanities. It will help move our not-for-profit educational, cultural, and scientific institutions into the digital age and enable them to reach beyond their walls into even the most remote schools, homes, and workplaces." Three Senators (Dodd D-CT, Durbin D-IL, and Snowe R-ME) have agreed to introduce legislation to implement the report's recommendations.

Canadian copyright bill passes

An article, "Copyright bill passes", by James Adams, is on page R3 of the Review section of today's Globe & Mail. Two excerpts: "An amended version of the so-called "Lucy Maud Montgomery provision" has been passed by a vote in the House of Commons. MPs approved third and final reading Tuesday of Bill C-36 ...". [The legislation still requires Senate approval]. "In the compromise version of the bill passed this week, copyright was extended until only the end of 2006. However, this three-year extension now applies to the unpublished works of any person who died before Dec. 30, 1948".

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Presentations on The Scholar's Portal

The presentations on The Scholar's Portal given at a session of the IFLA General Conference (Berlin, August 1-9, 2003) are now online.

BMC statement on the Elsevier boycott

Jan Velterop, publisher of BioMed Central, has issued a statement on the Elsevier boycott. Excerpt: "The UCSC Resolution shows the deep frustration scientists feel when access to the articles they have written, reporting the results of their research, is threatened by traditional publishers. The subscription publishing model assumes the ownership of these articles and charges very high prices for access."

SCO says GPL is illegal

The SCO Group claims that the GPL (general public license) is illegal. So far SCO has not elaborated this far-fetched claim except to say that "Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. copyright law [it must mean, the U.S. Constitution] says that Congress can regulate copyrights, not the FSF [Free Software Foundation] or any other organization." Buf if that's all that SCO has, then it's confusing the regulation of copyright law with the waiver of rights under that law. (Of course it's also confusing the U.S. Constitution with the Copyright Act passed by Congress.) However, if it's right that copyright holders cannot waive any of the rights they receive under the statute, then open-source software and open-access literature would both suddenly close up. Moreover, if it is illegal to give permission to copy your intellectual property, then it's illegal to sell the same permission, undermining conventional licenses as well. You would have the right to refuse medical treatment and hasten your death, but not the right to let someone copy your latest article. (PS: I argued in an 8/28/03 posting that if SCO's theory is that federal copyright law preempts state contract law, including software and journal licensing agreements, and if a court agrees, then this could be very beneficial to libraries and scholarship.)

Academic publishing at German universities

Axel Halle, Wissenschaftliche Publikationskultur und Hochschulverlage, Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). The English abstract: "This article discusses the present state of academic publishing at German universities in light of the current recommendations of the German Science Council (Wissenschaftsrat) and the Association of Universities and Other Higher Education Institutions in Germany (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz, HRK). Particular focus is given to common practices in monographic publications. An overview and characterization of Germany’s university presses is provided and compared with the opinions of the authors and editors thereof. In addition, a qualitative evaluation of the relationship between grey literature to on-line publication servers, on the one hand, and this area to university presses, on the other hand, is attempted. It is concluded that university administrations should support these changing publishing practices as well as the development of university presses and online publication servers. Librararies also need to encourage this process, if need be, through re-allocation of their own resources." (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

Julie Yen, Free online science journal launched, The Stanford Daily, October 29, 2004. Quoting PLoS co-founder and Stanford biochemist Pat Brown: "If we succeed, the treasury of knowledge in the scientific and scholarly literature will not be restricted to the lucky few who have access to the research libraries of wealthy institutions like Stanford, but to billions of people around the world....We believe this will be a great boost to education, informed medical practice and scientific literacy. And it will enable scientists to develop creative new ways to organize, integrate and use the information that currently exists as stacks of journals on library shelves, or their digital clones."

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Online, open access journals: the only hope for the future

The Editorial of the Inaugural issue of Calicut Medical Journal- Online, open access journals: the only hope for the future discusses in detail how and why Calicut Medical Journal supports the Open Access initiatives.In his editorial, Dr Ramachandran, stresses the need to disseminate knowledge in the widest possible sphere, and especially between scholars of other developing countries and asserts that Open Access is the best possible solution to achieve this goal.The Editorial also criticises the widely publicised " author pays" model as "discouraging" for scholars from developing world and states it would badly affect the already low level of publications from these countries. It also discusses the various advantages of being Online and Open. He also asserts the need for more regional Open Access Journals to meet the specific demands of scholars and clinicians and for the maintenance and enhancement of the quality of health services. The editorial concludes with the statement that Calicut Medical Journal would play a dual role - being International by being Online and Open Access on one hand, and catering to the needs of Indian Scholars and Clinicians on the other.

Calicut Medical Journal Formally Launched

The Calicut Medical Journal is Online The much awaited Calicut Medical Journal is Online. The new Open Access BioMedical Journal published by the Calicut Medical College Alumni Association, is the second Indian Open Access BioMedical Journal. With new Open Access medical Journals coming up in India, existing publishers are already feeling the heat of competetion . While these two Open Access Journals offer online acceptance of manuscripts, speedy peer review and almost instant publication, with a host of utilities, and ofcourse without a pricetag, other publishers are still in dark with their outdated modes of peer review and publication. The web statistics of these Journals are telltale signs of the fact that Open Access Publications are widely embraced. Being Open Access, these Journals also aim to have an International impact, which was hitherto virtually impossible in the conventional publishing model.

BMC chair welcomes PLoS Biology

Vitek Tracz, Chairman of the Current Science Group and BioMed Central, issued a public welcome last week to PLoS Biology. Excerpt: "The first journal published by Public Library of Science, PLoS Biology, has just published its first issue, with outstanding research articles and an absolute commitment to full open access....We are at the beginning of an unstoppable change in the way scientific research findings are recorded, distributed and used, which will bring great benefits to the way science is practiced and to the relationship between researchers and other communities in society - patients, students, practitioners and members of the public."

Monday, October 27, 2003

The Elsevier boycott is spreading

At its meeting on Friday, October 24, the Academic Senate of the University of California at Santa Cruz considered a Resolution on [Cutting] Ties with Elsevier Journals. Quoting the resolution: "Online access to scholarly papers is increasingly important to scholarly research. Such access would be jeopardized by a breakdown in negotiations between the University of California and Elsevier (Science Direct Online). Successful resolution of the negotiations is threatened by Elsevier's insistence on increasing its charges at a rate far exceeding inflation and to a level not justified by its relative utility compared with other online journal services[.] Therefore, the UCSC Academic Senate resolves to call upon its tenured members to give serious and careful consideration to cutting their ties with Elsevier: no longer submitting papers to Elsevier journals, refusing to referee the submissions of others, and relinquishing editorial posts." (PS: I'd like to hear from anyone who can describe the Academic Senate deliberations on this resolution.)

Skeptical look at the Berlin Declaration

Ulrich Kühne, Offene Türen: Wissenschaftler fordern freien Zugang zum Wissen, Süddeutsche Zeitung, October 28, 2003. A skeptical look at the Berlin Declaration. Unfortunately, the skepticism is shown more by a snide tone than by articulate objections, so there is nothing to answer. (Thanks to Archivalia.)

Online access to chemistry journals

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has scanned all the back issues of all its journals and put the digitized images in the ACS Journal Archives. It doesn't offer free access to the whole collection, but it does offer free full-text searching of the collection and free access to selected articles. Likewise, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) is digitizing its back issues and posting the files to the RCS Journals Archive Project. This collection is not open-access either, but it seems to support free full-text searching. We'll know more when the project is complete in the next month or two. (Thanks to Brian Lynch.)

Open-access fish census

Over 300 scientists from 53 countries are creating an open-access Census of Marine Life. For more details, see Julianna Kettlewell, Ocean census discovers new fish, BBC News, October 23, 2003. (Thanks to Darius Cuplinskas.)

More on the PLoS Biology launch

An anonymous note in Online Publishing News for October 22, 2003, announces the launch of PLoS Biology. Excerpt: "The online journal is free of charge and represents a potential threat to the comfortable world of academic publishing....The journal was launched at least partly as a response to the steeply rising subscription costs of the most prestigious - and generally highly profitable - research journals. With subscription rates as high as $11,000 and little or no editorial costs - most papers are contributed free by their authors as part of the traditional peer-assessment system which has dominated academic publishing for so long - it's not surprising that there's plenty of money to made in academic publishing."

The Calicut Medical Journal decides to Archive at Cogprints

The Calicut Medical Journal has decided to create and maintain its full text archive at CogPrints. Thus Calicut Medical Journal would become the second Medical Journal from India to archive at this Open Access Archive. The Inaugural issue of the Journal will go online on 3oth of October 2003.

More on the Australian grant to repository infrastructure

Australia's Department Education, Science and Training, which awarded the $12 million grant, has issued a press release describing the program. Excerpt: "Australia's research information will become more easily accessible and better managed thanks to more than $12 million in funding to improve infrastructure....[We] found there was a need to enhance the creation and management of information, improve access to information resources, and facilitate the discovery and dissemination of new information to researchers and institutions."

OAI tutorial

The Open Archives Forum has created an online tutorial for those new to the OAI protocol for metadata harvesting.

More on Amazon's Search Inside the Book

Henry Jenkins has written a glowing review of Amazon's Search Inside the Book service for the MIT Technology Review, October 24, 2003. Note to the Authors Guild: Jenkins supports the theory that free sampling increases net sales. "I racked up a few hundred dollars worth of books last night, books which were totally relevant to my work but which I had never found using the existing browser functions on Amazon." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

Two initiatives from San Francisco

Keay Davidson, Bay Area leads revolt against scientific journals, San Francisco Chronicle, October 27, 2003. Pointing out that PLoS is headquartered in San Francisco and that the recent call for a boycott of Cell Press journals originated at the U of California at San Francisco. Davidson offers good summaries of both initiatives. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

Authors Guild v. Amazon (again)

The Authors Guild is protesting Amazon's useful new Search Inside the Book service. It complains that publishers have made books available to the service without the authors' consent, and that the service lets users read and print too many free pages. For more details, see David Kirkpatrick, Amazon Worries Authors, New York Times, October 27, 2003, and the Authors Guild Email to Members, October 24, 2003. (PS: The Authors Guild also protests that Amazon makes it too easy to buy used books instead of new; see FOSN for 4/15/02. BTW, my latest book is in the system, I'm delighted, and nobody asked my permission.)

Traditions, techologies, and the disciplines

The presentations from the conference, Scholarly Tribes and Tribulations: How Tradition and Technology Are Driving Disciplinary Change (Washington, October 17) are now online. (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

Text mining open-access literature

Mark Uehling, Digging Into Digital Quarries, Bio-IT World, October 10, 2003. A very good survey of the prospects for text mining. Excerpt: "As nearly magical as all current and next-generation text-mining capabilities may seem, they are being applied to only a fraction of the most tantalizing text: the abstract. The full, unabridged text of scientific articles is almost always locked away from the clutching paws of software. Generating those abstracts is, by definition, an art. That means that far more unexplained connections could emerge from text-mining the entire mountain of life science data, not just the summit. Fortunately, even that is changing, thanks to new online reservoirs of insight such as the Public Library of Science and BioMed Central, where Matthew Cockerill is doing text mining with new software built into Oracle databases. Says Cockerill: 'The full text articles are locked in prisons in publishers' Web sites. We make our whole corpus of data available. People can download it and work with it whenever they want.'" (Thanks to Jason Bobe.)

ALPSP statement on open access

ALPSP has issued a public statement on open access. (It is dated August 27, 2003, but was released today.) Here it is in its entirety.
ALPSP is wholly in favour of maximizing access to research literature; the various proposals for achieving this (e.g. Open Access journals, institutional repositories, self-archiving), however, raise complex economic, logistical and sociological questions which differ from field to field as well as between different sizes and types of publishers. Much more information needs to be gathered through experimentation and analysis; ALPSP therefore welcomes the establishment of journals with different economic models for open access in order that the benefit to scholars and the long-term stability and viability of these models can be assessed.

I applaud this statement. There are stronger endorsements of open access, but ALPSP supports the goal and it supports exploration of the best ways to achieve the goal. The call for more information is reasonable and addresses the concerns of many publishers who see the benefits of open access but who also want to steer their enterprises safely through these half-charted waters. I appreciate the way the statement encourages society publishers to experiment with open access for themselves rather than wait for others to provide the data. ALPSP is now closer to open access than many of its members, and we can hope that this act of leadership will inspire a wave of creative new experiments.

German survey of open access issues

Ulf von Rauchhaupt, Keine Maut für den Geist, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, October 19, 2003. A good introduction to open access for the general reader, touching on the PLoS Biology launch, the Wellcome Trust statement, and the prospect of open access rather than commercialization for cultural heritage collections. Also see Klaus Graf's comments on this article, including his discussion of the cultural heritage problem (here and here).

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Electronic publishing in biology

Jill Lambert, Developments in electronic publishing in the biomedical sciences, Program: electronic library & information systems, 37, 1 (2003) pp. 6-15. Only this abstract is free online: "This paper reports on developments in biomedical electronic publishing since the mid-1990s. These cover the HighWire, PubMed Central, BioOne, the Public Library of Science, E-BioSci and BioMed Central services. The issues raised by these developments are outlined and include the need to attract good quality papers, the ownership of copyright, how developments are funded, the question of whether a distributed or centralised system is adopted, and preservation of content."

UK Central Government archive

On September 26, the UK launched an open-access Central Government Web Archive.