Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Searching for a better system of scientific communication

Stefan Blaschke, Die Informationsexplosion und ihre Bewältigung: Gedanken zur Suche nach einem besseren System der Fachkommunikation, Information - Wissenschaft und Praxis, 54, 6 (September 2003) pp. 329-334. In German but with this English-language abstract: "The information explosion has become a disinformation explosion. The article deals with the questions how the system of scientific communication must be changed and what consequences it will have. Electronic publishing can be a solution, but ony under certain circumstances. It is necessary to provide an open access to scientific information and to build up an electronic, universal database. As a result, the duplication of information will be unnecessary to reach as many readers as possible. The system of scientific communication will be changed in many ways. One consequence will be the disappearance of the journal, another that of the monograph."

OAI registry adds an RSS feed

The OAI Registry at the Grainger Engineering Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has added an RSS feed. The feed keeps subscribers up to date on new OAI providers. (PS: Very cool. As far as I know, this is the first OAI registry with an RSS feed. Think of the next step. Just as DayPop and other search engines support RSS feeds for canned searches, and syndicate new hits for subscribers, an OAI-compliant archive could do the same and automate current awareness for the open-access content in eprint archives.)

Help ALPSP collect data on OA journals

Sally Morris of ALPSP would like to hear from any journals willing to share data on their open-access experiments or operations. She will consider hiring a consultant to analyze the data, or hold a round-table meeting to discuss what kinds of data-sharing and analysis the community would find most helpful.

"India's National Newspaper" endorses open access

Today's issue of The Hindu ("India's National Newspaper") contains an editorial endorsing open access. Excerpt: "Open access publishing has been gathering momentum in recent years. Dr. [Harold] Varmus and like-minded scientists point out that much scientific research, especially basic research, is government funded. So the public ends up paying twice, first for the research and then for getting access to the results of the research. The costs of subscribing to several scientific journals are daunting enough for institutions in Western countries, not to mention those in India and other developing countries....Moreover, conventional journal publication is seen as benefiting publishers rather than the scientists or science. Journals do not pay scientists either for their papers or for reviewing the work of other researchers to judge whether it is suitable for publication (the all important 'peer review'). Scientists would like as many people as possible to read their work, a goal that is not served by high subscription fees and online access charges." (Thanks to Subbiah Arunachalam.)

Commercial publishers issue a statement on open access

On November 4, the International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers issued a statement on open access. The group includes all the major commercial publishers of scientific journals, such as Elsevier, Wiley, Springer, Kluwer, and Blackwell. The statement affirms that "broadening and ensuring continuity of information access for researchers, scholars, and practitioners is a critical mission for all publishers" and that "[a]s publishers of science, we naturally look forward to any new experiments in our field." So far, so good. But it argues that "[s]cientific research has never been more accessible than it is today," as if high-priced accessibility answered the need for access, and as if wider access (of any kind) were a reason to stop short of open access. But here's the key passage:
Abandoning the diversity of proven publishing models in favour of a single, untested model could have disastrous consequences for the scientific research community. It could seriously jeopardize the flow of information today, as well as continuity of the archival record of scientific progress that is so important to our society tomorrow.

It is the competitive and well-functioning market, and not governments, that must choose which business models and which publishers are best equipped to stay apace of the ever-increasing demand for information exchange.

A few quick replies. (1) It's wishful thinking to call the open-access model "untested". OA archiving has been phenomenally successful for over a decade, longer than the web itself has existed, and OA journals are nearly as old. It is being tested around the world right now in every discipline. (2) The current "proven" publishing model has been proven to be dysfunctional. It is based on unsustainable price increases that have outpaced the rate of inflation for over thirty years, and has made the STM publishers more resented by their customers, the academic libraries, than nearly any other vendors of any other product. (3) It is the current, unaffordable, unsustainable model that "could seriously jeopardize the flow of information today", and that already limits the exchange of information on which research depends. (4) The statement draws a false contrast between competitive markets and government action. The scholarly journal "market" is already permeated by government involvement, since it is based in large part on tax deductions for universities and their libraries and government grants for research.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

New source of OA news and opinion

SciDev.Net has launched a new special section called Open Access and Scientific Publishing. It includes links to news, opinion pieces, articles, conferences, reports, and discussion, most of it with SciDev.Net's distinctive emphasis on the interests of the developing world. Kudos to SciDev.Net for a useful and wide-ranging new site.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

More on trade embargoes and scholarship

Jean Kumagai, Will U.S. Sanctions Have Chilling Effect on Scholarly Publishing?, IEEE Spectrum, October 15, 2003. Contrary to the charges of its critics, the IEEE deplores the Treasury Department ruling that forces it (among other things) to refuse to edit papers submitted to IEEE journals by Iranian citizens. Also see the open letter from the IEEE President, Michael Adler, on the IEEE response to the controversy. Quoting Adler: In its negotiations with the Treasury Department before the ruling came down, "[w]e stated the reasons that the IEEE firmly believes that the peer review and editing of technical journal articles should be permissible under the current regulations. We have asked that they agree with our interpretation outright, or at least issue us a license to permit these activities as an exception." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

Educause session on institutional repositories

If you'll be at the 2003 EDUCAUSE conference (Anaheim, California, November 4-7), then don't miss tomorrow's session, Institutional Repositories: What Does Your Institution Need to Know? Speakers include Joseph Branin, Clifford Lynch, MacKenzie Smith, and Eric Van de Velde.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Economics of open access

Alastair Dryburgh has launched a new discussion forum, Economics of Open Access. Free registration is required for access.

BioOne at two

Heather Joseph and Adrian W. Alexander, Two years after the launch: An update on the BioOne electronic publishing initiative, College and Research Libraries News, November 2003. Excerpt: "BioOne's central aim has always been to establish a robust, reliable source for cost-effective electronic access to the full text of primary journals. Established jointly by the library and publishing communities, BioOne set out to support noncommercial publishers who lacked sufficient resources to make the leap to online publishing and to support their transition from print-based to electronic publishing. This directly served the library community’s interest by preserving its ability to continue to provide high-quality scientific literature at a reasonable cost. All of BioOne's partners agreed that other options available at the time --remaining paper-based and facing slow but inevitable irrelevance or the sale/license of content to commercial publishers and facing inevitable large increases in subscription costs-- were unacceptable. By launching on schedule and with the content promised to library supporters, BioOne rapidly moved beyond being perceived by the scholarly community (librarians and publishers alike) as an experimental, potentially risky endeavor to being regarded as a sound alternative for publishers in need of an online platform and as a primary source of journal access for librarians." (Thanks to Gary Price.)

Open-access, toll-access competition helps developing countries

David Dickson, Communicating science in an electronic era, SciDev.Net, November 3, 2003. Developing countries are benefiting from the competition between open-access and toll-access journals. It leads to more open access, which helps directly, and it leads commercial publishers to participate in quasi-open-access initiatives like HINARI and AGORA, which also helps. "It would be naïve to believe that the future is going to belong to one model or the other. But neither would that necessarily be desirable, at least as far as the developing world is concerned. For, in the case of both models, one of the by-products of the competition between them is that resources are essentially being channelled from the scientific communities of the rich to the poor nations of the world. The latter already face a number of impediments, such as poor quality, high-cost connections, that limit their ability to benefit from the communications revolution that is sweeping the scientific community. All the more reason, therefore, to welcome any move that reduces their cost of access to publishing opportunities and journals, both of which lie at the heart of the capacity-building endeavours that developing countries so badly need." (Thanks to Leslie Chan.)

"The open-access vision in the BOAI is achievable!"

Frederick J. Friend, Improving access: is there any hope? Interlending & Document Supply, 30, 4 (2002) pp. 183-189. Excerpt: Authors have long shown more interest in the prestige of the publication than in the ability of users to access that publication, but authors are coming to recognise that their actions - such as the exclusive transfer of copyright - are damaging access. Publication is a long road from author to reader, and if access to journal literature is to improve, authors have to ensure that barriers are not erected at their end of the road which hinder access for users at the other end of the road. The open-access vision in the BOAI is achievable! It may be achieved through new purchasing models or through improvements in library co-operation. Because of the scale of user-need world-wide, it will only be achieved through electronic document supply if there is a radical shift in the way publishers and librarians think about document delivery. Given that open access is a new concept in scholarly communication, it is arguable that only those initiatives which are developing new models will succeed in making a major breakthrough in access. Barrier-free access can only be achieved through a break with the current economic models or with the current routes to content. Such initiatives are not the responsibility of only one community. Librarians, publishers and authors are all involved in movements like SPARC or the BOAI. If there is to be much better access to journal literature in the future, realising the BOAI vision, it will come through collaboration between all the participants in such movements. Librarians, publishers and authors need not lose out as open access is achieved, but the big winners will be all those users across the world who are hungry for academic information." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Effect of ejournals on libraries

Victoria Robertson, The impact of electronic journals on academic libraries: the changing relationship between journals, acquisitions and inter-library loans department roles and functions, Interlending & Document Supply, 31, 3 (2003), pp. 174-179. Excerpt: "Academic libraries are in a transition period owing to the economic climate and the rise in the price of electronic and print journals. Libraries are tending to move from the system of acquiring journals to more co-operation and sharing of resources due to budgetary cuts and lack of space." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Open access as a response to the pricing crisis

Richard Atkinson, A New World of Scholarly Communication, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 7, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). Suggesting ways that universities can cope with the serials pricing crisis. Excerpt: "[Projects] like BioMed Central and the Public Library of Science in both biology and medicine, are only just emerging. Although it is too soon to know whether any of those services will significantly reduce the cost of scholarly communication or just shift the burden elsewhere, they deserve our support. We can demonstrate that support financially and by explicitly encouraging faculty members to make use of those models....Faculty members...decide which publishing organizations they will review, edit, and write for. When signing a publishing contract, they should determine whether to assign the publisher copyright and whether to seek a nonexclusive right to disseminate their work freely in an electronic form. As they do so, however, faculty members should recognize and reward colleagues who choose alternative ways to disseminate their research....Universities should shoulder the costs of developing, managing, and publicizing research --including peer review of scholarly papers-- and build the online capacity [through institutional repositories] to distribute those works worldwide. The costs, though not insignificant, pale in comparison to those that libraries must bear to buy access to our faculty members' publications." Atkinson is the former president of the University of California. (PS: It's heartening to see an important figure endorse OA journals and OA repositories in the Chronicle. But I wish he had used the phrase "open access" at least once so that readers would find it easier to follow-up his suggestions.)

Interview with Mark Rowse

Paula Hane interviews Ingenta CEO Mark Rowse in the November 3 issue of Information Today. (Thanks to Gary Price.) Excerpt:

Q: With commercial publishers wanting to raise their prices, what about the growing trend toward open access journals that are providing free access to scholarly journals on the Internet? The initiative seems to be gaining momentum.

A: It is gaining momentum, but it's still a long way from achieving critical mass, in my view. I think the commercial publishers have to appreciate how their business models may have to change if they are to retain their position --which they certainly can, even in a changing world. At the most basic level, there is a cost to produce a journal. Whether that cost is covered by submission fees or by access fees is a less important issue. In either case, the publisher can have a role. Imagine a publisher that has already licensed content to all the library consortia in the U.S. The publisher could, at a stroke, say that the license will now confer rights for the academics in those institutions to submit content rather than to access content. The publisher would have successfully flipped its business model completely, to being an open access business. So I think it's possible to see a transition from where we are now to a completely open access world without fundamentally destroying the existing scholarly publishing business.

(PS: See my own interview with Rowse on open-access issues in FOSN for 8/8/02.)

Scottish Archive Network launches its catalogue

On October 21, the Scottish Archive Network (SCAN) officially launched its online catalogue. SCAN has been gathering, negotiating, and digitizing for four years, and has been online at least since February of this year when I blogged a note about it. Quoting Magnus Magnusson at the launch ceremony: "SCAN, the new Scottish Archive Network, has resolved all my worries about the Internet, restored my faith in human ingenuity and revolutionised my life as a researcher. SCAN is the Web in blazing Technicolor action, fully quality-controlled, fully peer-reviewed, and fully free of numbskull keyboard-bangers."

Advantages of differential processing fees

Alastair Dryburgh, Open access --time to stop preaching to the converted? A preprint of an article to appear in Learned Publishing, January 2004. On price differentiation in the processing fee as a strategy to make OA publishing more appealing to conventional journals. Excerpt: "Here you do not aspire to be the cheapest, but to be superior in some way, thereby commanding a premium price which supports your higher costs. This is clearly the approach of the Public Library of Science journals, which charge $1,500 per article, three times the previous benchmark. It is also the approach which will commend itself to existing publishers, for whom the assembly line model is quite alien. Adopting it would require not merely a complete reengineering of their processes but a complete change of culture as they eliminate activities representing much of their traditional value added. There are a couple of fairly obvious dimensions for differentiation which, oddly, seem to be neglected to date. As far as I can ascertain, nobody is charging different fees for articles of differing complexity or length. Nor have I managed to find a graduated policy for fee waiver --it seems to be all or nothing. Here a sliding scale policy would be both equitable and economically efficient."

New issue of Open Access Now

The November 3 issue of Open Access Now is now online. This issue contains an editorial on the PLoS Biology launch, an interview with Martin Richardson on the Oxford University Press experiment with open access, a news story on the Wellcome Trust commitment to open access, an interview with Michael Costigan of Harvard Medical School on why he publishes in OA journals (and BMC journals in particular), and a profile of the SHERPA project.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

More on the Million Book Project

The slides and audio of Gloriana St. Clair's public lecture on The Million Book Project (OCLC, October 24) are now online. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

More on the Elsevier boycott

Jondi Gumz, UCSC faculty threaten to boycott publisher over journal subscriptions' costs, Santa Cruz Sentinel , October 31, 2003. Good coverage of the boycott by a local paper. Excerpt: "University librarians are stunned that rate hikes for online journal subscriptions outpace the Consumer Price Index. They contend publishing mergers have pushed prices higher....'They try to hold us to ransom,' said [Ben] Crow [associate professor of sociology at UCSC], who taught at Stanford and Berkeley before coming to UCSC in 1996. He noted Elsevier's profits were up 26 percent in the past year, 'nearly a monopoly profit.' The threatened boycott has shaken [Elsevier], according to Crow, who said the company 'asked us to call off the dogs.' About 1,000 UC faculty are on the boards of Elsevier journals, and about 150 UC faculty are senior editors for those journals. UC faculty also provide at least 10 percent of the research papers published by Elsevier, according to Crow." (Thanks to Gary Price.)

More on the Digital Promise Project

The October 15 issue of RLG DigiNews has an interview with Anne Murphy of the DDP. Excerpt, quoting Anny Murphy: "As a result of our studies, we propose that one of the main objectives of the Digital Opportunity [Investment] Trust [DO IT] be to assist in the digitization of the collections of universities, museums, libraries, and cultural institutions --America’s heritage is stored there. DO IT will help to digitize these collections and to set standards to conserve born-digital materials, ensuring their accessibility to all."

Open-access exemption to DMCA denied

On October 28, the U.S. Copyright Office approved four narrow exemptions to the DMCA anti-circumvention clause and denied dozens of others that would have restored substantial fair-use rights now overridden by DRM with the legal blessing of the DMCA. Public interest advocates (e.g. here and here) have criticized the narrowness of the ruling, and some affected groups are planning an appeal to federal court. More news coverage.

My own proposal was among those denied. It would have permitted circumvention to gain access to works for which the copyright holder has consented to provide open access. Excerpt from the proposal: "For this class of works, an exceptionless anti-circumvention clause threatens readers with criminal penalties for gaining the kind of access that the copyright holder desires to make available. When authors consent to open access, then all use is non-infringing use. Preventing readers from taking advantage of this gift from authors not only frustrates copyright holders who wish to make this gift, but negates their sacrifice in relinquishing revenue, obstructs the free exchange of scientific ideas, and impedes research. For these reasons, most works in this class will be published in open-access archives or open-access journals, without DRM, and consequently circumvention will never be an issue. But the exemption is needed for the occasional works of this class for which user access is hindered by DRM barriers."

November SPARC Open Access Newsletter

I just mailed the November issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. In addition to the usual round-up of news and bibliography from the past month, it has pieces on the PLoS Biology launch, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access, the Elsevier stock warnings from BNP Paribas and Citigroup Smith Barney, the AGORA and Ptolemy projects for creating open access in developing countries, the objection that OA journal processing fees exclude the poor, and the question whether trade embargoes should apply to scholarship.