Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, November 21, 2003

INSERM statement on open access

When INSERM signed the Berlin Declaration, it released a public statement in French and English. Excerpt from the English edition: "Our Institution considers that every researcher has to have an open and free access to every scientific publication. We stimulate discussion within our biomedical research community on new possibilities in providing open access to the primary scientific literature. In addition to our scientists, our goal is to associate all relevant parties, other organizations that develop and support scientific research, publishers in charge of the peer-reviewing process, public authorities, policy makers and international agencies concerned, librarians and scientific information engineers who depend on access to this knowledge. We have to stress that for Inserm, publication of results is an essential part of scientific research and the costs of publication are part of the cost of doing research." (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

New Cites & Insights

The December issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. This issue has less on OA issues than recent issues, but the feedback section offers short updates on OAIster and CIPA, LOCKSS, and open access (based on a letter from me).

A second hat in the ring

The Cornell and Virginia Fedora Project is an important open-access initiative. The Red Hat Fedora Project is an important open-source initiative. The OA initiative came first, by about five years. The OS initiative came second, but was the first to apply for trademark on the name "Fedora". The OA initiative has tried negotiation, to no avail, and is considering legal action. For more, see the OA-Fedora's press release.

(PS: Note to Red Hat. This is a case of good guy v. good guy. Don't make us take sides. And don't make us associate Red Hat with a company that takes out a trademark on a name with pre-existing usage in a similar arena and then tries to assert a right to its exclusive use. Is that in the spirit of OS?)

Open-access music

Loca Records is publishing open-access music, although it doesn't use this term. It distributes MP3 files with Creative Commons licenses that leave users free to copy, modify, and re-release them. For more, see Katie Dean's article in yesterday's Wired News.

Open-access repository at EPA

On November 18, the US Environmental Protection Agency launched Science Inventory, an open-access repository of EPA-funded research projects, their results and data. The repository is several years old, but until now access was limited to EPA employees. The November 18 ceremony opened it to the public. Quoting EPA Acting Deputy Administrator Steve Johnson from the press release: "Americans invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year in EPA's human health and environmental science. Now that very science is easily accessible to anyone with a link to the Internet. The public launch of the Science Inventory is another example of open, transparent government." (PS: This is exemplary. Every funding agency, or at least every taxpayer-supported funding agency, should launch a similar repository.)

EMANI moves to the web

The Electronic Mathematical Archiving Network Initiative (EMANI) now has a web site. EMANI's mission is to digitize mathematics journals and assure their long-term preservation and accessibility. The project includes both the back runs and future issues of participating journals, some of which are open-access and some priced. EMANI focuses on journal literature, and should not be confused with the Distributed Digital Library of Mathematical Monographs, even though they are sponsored by some of the same institutions (notably, Cornell and Göttingen Universities). However, Cornell's partnership in EMANI does seem to imply that EMANI subsumes or at least embraces Project Euclid. (Thanks to UKSG Serials eNews.)

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Trusted digital repositories for cultural heritage

Many of the presentations from the conference, Trusted Digital Repositories for Cultural Digital Heritage (Rome, November 17-19, 2003) are now online, and it appears that the others will be coming soon.

Open letter on open access to law review preprints

Dan Hunter of the Wharton School has written an open letter to the California Law Review, protesting its policy that articles must be removed from preprint exchanges and eprint archives once they are published in the CLR. Excerpt: "Second, there is the issue of your capture by the commercial providers. On the face of it, your decision to remove my drafts cannot help but appear to be motivated by the interests of the commercial online database providers. Even if you are happy acting as the stalking horse of these commercial interests, the practical effect of your actions is to remove public access to information. Thanks to you, if people want access to my ideas then they can pay Westlaw or Lexis or Hein monopoly rents to get it. This was literally your suggestion in your first email message. You said that my articles were "available through a number of online subscriber services, including Westlaw, Lexis, and Hein Online, and we encourage you to direct interested readers to these services." You'll have to forgive me if I think that this is the single most appalling statement I have ever heard from a law student. [PS: Law reviews have student editors.] You may be happy with the idea that the general public cannot access my ideas without paying for them, but I think it is outrageous." (Thanks to Harlan Onsrud.)

More on the GAO report

Two quick addenda on the GAO report, which despite its title is as much about open access as conflicts of interest.

  1. The report is based in part on a survey of the 200 universities that received the most federal research funding in the year 2000. Here's how the report describes the results (p. 12): "Among the 171 university respondents to our survey, 91 universities (53 percent) supported posting the grantee''s final technical reports on the agency''s Web site, and 31 universities (18 percent) opposed posting the final technical report, while 49 universities (29 percent) either were uncertain or did not respond. Primary advantages that universities cited for posting final technical reports on an agency''s Web site include facilitating the access of other scientists to research results, facilitating collaboration among scientists, providing prompt dissemination of research results, and providing a public record if the results of a research project are not published. Primary disadvantages that universities cited for posting final technical reports are the potential for (1) an invention to be prematurely disclosed, (2) a scientific journal to reject a manuscript because it views posted reports as publications, (3) proprietary information to be disclosed, (4) research results to be prematurely disclosed, (5) incomplete or misleading report results to be prematurely disseminated, (6) an investigator to be to harassed by opponents to the research, and (7) universities to incur added administrative costs in complying with agency requirements."

  2. I've said that the report endorses open access for the usual good reasons, in addition to the help it could provide in preventing financial conflicts of interest. Here's how it describes the rationale for open access (p. 16): "A fundamental principle of scientific research is that wide dissemination of research results is vital for validating these results and advancing the field of science. Posting final research reports, or similar information, on federal agencies'' Web sites can advance scientific research by providing other scientists with timely access to research results and facilitating collaboration. Posting this information also provides access to members of the public interested in the research and a public record if the results of agency-funded research are not published, thus maximizing the benefit of the federal investment. For these reasons, five federal agencies, including Energy and NASA, already routinely disseminate research results through their Web sites. While posting research results might create concerns in some fields, such as biomedical research, these concerns are less applicable for Education, which like Energy and NASA, has a specific statutory requirement to widely disseminate research results."
Note that the report does not use the term "open access". It talks about posting research data and reports to public and private government web sites.

More on OA to education research

I've learned more about why the GAO report singles out the Department of Education (ED) from all the other federal agencies that fund research (see previous blog entry). The answer is that Congress adopted the Education Sciences Reform Act in November 2002. The statute created the Institute of Education Sciences within the ED, and directed it to "conduct research, evaluations, and wide dissemination activities in areas of demonstrated national need (including in technology areas) that are supported by Federal funds appropriated to the Institute...." The GAO was willing to recommend open access for the results of ED-funded research, and the ED was willing to accept the recommendation, because the Education Sciences Reform Act already required essentially the same thing and the ED was already in the process of implementing it.

If you're looking for ways to generalize from the ED to other federal funding agencies, then look at why the Education Sciences Reform Act requires "wide dissemination" for education research. The statute gives the Institute of Education Sciences the mission "to provide national leadership in expanding fundamental knowledge and understanding of order to provide parents, educators, students, researchers, policymakers, and the general public with reliable information about the condition and progress of education...." The good news is that Congress has already adopted a policy about education research that it could well adopt for almost any other kind of research. The bad news is that some federal funding agencies might think that they have to wait for Congress to act.

GAO calls for open access to education research

The US Government Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report on November 14 recommending "that the Department of Education [ED] post the final technical reports of the research it funds on its Web site." Moreover, the ED "agreed with the recommendation to post research results on its Web site."

I'm still reading the report, but haven't yet found a reason why it singles out the ED from all the other federal agencies that fund research. Nor does the ED site have a press release on the subject. However, the GAO report does offer a helpful table of Agencies That Post Research Results on Their Web Sites (bottom of page 10). The table lists the Departments of Agriculture (annual and final technical reports), Defense (final technical reports), and Energy (final technical reports), the National Center for Environmental Research (annual and final report summaries), and NASA (abstract of final technical reports). Another table on page 8 summarizes the policies of eight federal funding agencies on "disseminating research results".

The primary purpose of the GAO report is to urge all federal agencies that fund research to agree on a common policy for preventing financial conflicts of interest. It recommends open access to education research partly on the merits (the usual good reasons, p. 16) and partly as one among other tools for reducing conflicts of interest. But if open access is good for the usual reasons, and will also help reduce such conflicts, then why limit it to ED-funded research? For that side of the story, see Eugene Russo, Uniform conflict rules needed, The Scientist, November 19, 2003. According to Russo, the report authors hesitated to make a general call for open access when they saw the "minefield of concerns" it raised. Excerpt: "On the issue of open access to government-funded data, report authors had a very negative reaction from biomedical researchers at Emory University when they proposed posting all results on the World Wide Web, Cheston said. Among the major concerns were protecting patentable information, avoiding rejections from prestigious journals as a result of premature data release, and ensuring that findings have been properly vetted by peer review so that neither researchers nor the public are misled. The GAO did recommend, however, that the Department of Education post the final technical reports of the research it funds on its Web site."

USA Today on open access

Dan Vergano, Upstart science journals take on the powerhouses, USA Today, November 19, 2003. On the PLoS Biology launch. Excerpt: "Science's Rocky-style publishing battle starts its second round Monday when a groundbreaking journal releases its latest [second] issue....The two sides are at odds over 'open access,' an idea that is gathering strength in the scientific publishing world. Most journal publishers retain copyrights to reports on scientific findings that appear in their pages, even when the research is publicly financed. Scientists cannot give away copies of their own research papers without violating publishers' ownership rights. And publishers charge fees that can run as high as $30 for individual papers, plus subscription prices that some scientists and librarians complain have spiraled grossly out of hand."

More on the Elsevier boycott and cancellations

Jonathan Knight, Cornell axes Elsevier journals as prices rise, Nature, November 20, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). Background on the Cornell decision to cancel "several hundred" Elsevier journals. Excerpt: "Cancellations by other universities are also likely, says Duane Webster, director of the Association of Research Libraries in Washington DC. 'Cornell is just the first,' he says. Among those still negotiating is Harvard University, which is unlikely to renew its deal with Elsevier, according to library director Sidney Verba. He says that the price rises will probably result in a large reduction in Elsevier subscriptions. The University of California has been in negotiations with Elsevier since March over the rising price of online access. In a notice to faculty members dated 15 October, the university’s academic senate warned that a reduction in journal access would be likely if no agreement could be reached. Last month, the faculty senate at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said that Elsevier’s pricing was unsustainable. It urged faculty to give up editorships at Elsevier journals and to submit papers elsewhere." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

JISC announces new arrangements for access to eJournals

JISC The UK’s Joint Information Systems Committee, announces that it has secured agreements with seven major international publishers to provide access to eJournals for the higher and further education sector in the UK.

PR Wars Heat Up in Open-Access Publishing

Outsell carries a small report on what it sees as a growing PR war between academic and open access publishers

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Preserving eprints

Hamish James, Raivo Ruusalepp, Sheila Anderson, and Stephen Pinfield, Feasibility and Requirements Study on Preservation of E-Prints, JISC, October 29, 2003. Excerpt: "Perhaps unusually for the rapidly evolving scholarly digital world, there is an opportunity to address the preservation of UK e-print collections before the issue becomes urgent. At the present time UK e-print repositories have yet to encounter significant preservation problems, and they hold only a very small proportion of academic research output. However, although the future is uncertain, e-print repositories are likely to become home to more and more significant material that is difficult to obtain elsewhere, or simply not held elsewhere. E-Prints can represent the corporate memory of research communities – hypothesis, experiment, critique and synthesis. It is difficult to see how this material can be viewed as anything but worthy of long-term preservation. Efforts to preserve this material should begin now." (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

More on the Digital Promise Project

On November 12, Senators Dodd (D-CT), Snowe (R-ME), and Durbin (D-IL) introduced the Digital Opportunity Investment Trust Act (S. 1854). The bill would create a $20 billion Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DO-IT), funded from the auction of electromagnetic spectrum, to spend on digital initiatives in education and research. The fund is the goal of the Digital Promise Project.

OA commitment from Greece

Update on the scholars portal project

Monday, November 17, 2003

CrossRef drops DOI retrieval fees

Starting in January 2004, CrossRef will drop its DOI retrival fees for members and affiliates. Quoting the press release: "This move gives all CrossRef users unlimited access to DOIs, and is particularly significant for secondary publishers, as DOI links from citations and bibliographic databases to full text are expected to increase greatly as a result." BMC and PLoS already use DOIs, but CrossRef's decision should make it easier for other open-access publishers and journals to use them.

More on the potential defamation problem at arXiv

The November 13 issue of The Economist contains an anonymous story, Perishing publishing, on the possible defamation in a preprint on deposit at arXiv. Excerpt: "On the face of things, pre-printing is a good idea. It exposes a paper to wider scrutiny than the old system did, which should improve its accuracy—as happened in this case. But it also suggests that the price of getting one's ideas into the public domain rapidly is a need to keep them continuously revised in order to avoid criticism, however moderately or immoderately expressed. Like the Red Queen, in 'Through the looking glass', today's physicists need to rush faster and faster merely to stay in the same place." (Thanks to Darius Cuplinskas.)

ISI profile

Adam Stone, ISI databases chronicle scientific journal growth, Philadelphia Business Journal, November 17, 2003. A puff piece on the ISI product line and its usefulness. (Thanks to Gary Price.)

AJOL will use OJS

INASP has adopted the open-source journal management software, Open Journal Systems, for the 100+ journals in its African Journals Online program.

New Open Access Now

The November 17 issue of Open Access Now is now online. This issue features an editorial on the Elsevier boycott, an interview with Beverlee French, Director for Shared Digital Collections at the California Digital Library, on the pricing crisis and Elsevier boycott, and a news story on the Berlin Declaration.

OAI harvester plug-in for DSpace

The Digital Library Research Group at Old Dominion University and the Research Library of the Los Alamos National Laboratory have released an alpha version of an OAI harvester plug-in for DSpace. Yes, DSpace is already OAI-compliant. But the new plug-in lets it harvest metadata from other OAI-compliant archives, and make the records available through the DSpace interface.

Profile of ibiblio

Michelle Delio, Where Sharing Isn't a Dirty Word, Wired News, November 15, 2003. A profile of Ibiblio, "one of the Web's oldest and largest digital libraries...and all of it is completely free to visitors, thanks to backing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and technology companies like Linux distributor Red Hat." Quoting director Paul Jones: "Basically, if you want to share information about almost any subject, ibiblio will be happy to host you for free. The only rules are that whatever you want to share must be noncommercial, legal and have some value to other people." (Thanks to LIS News.)

Text-mining requires open access

Steven Dickman, Tough Mining: The challenges of searching the scientific literature, PLoS Biology, November 17, 2003. Excerpt: "Although the march toward better text-mining systems is building momentum, there are two issues that could stop it in its tracks. The first is access. Experts in text-searching uniformly cite access as a key obstacle for developing better search tools. 'Access is a bigger problem than algorithms' is how one machine-learning expert puts it, and a half-dozen others agreed."

Open access for conservation biology

Gustavo Fonseca and Philippa J. Benson, Biodiversity Conservation Demands Open Access, PLoS Biology, November 17, 2003. Excerpt: "Although free and open access to the progress of scientific thought is vital for the advancement of many disciplines, it is particularly necessary for conservation science. This is true not only because resources for high-cost items such as scientific publications are limited in many of the countries with the most complex and urgent conservation problems, but also because effective conservation solutions must draw ingredients from a wide range of disciplines....Which models are successful and sustainable will depend on changes in technology, in the culture of science and scientists, and in the marketplace. Perhaps the community of conservation scientists will lead the charge to push the boundaries of scientific publishing models. Although this community is diverse and dispersed, the rewards associated with finding and using reliable information as quickly as possible are increasing dramatically. Precious conservation dollars can be saved or put to more effective and rapid use by avoiding duplication of efforts through the wide and free dissemination of relevant information and by fostering the collaboration among researchers, policy-makers, and funders. These goals should no longer be allowed to fall hostage to the existing constraints imposed by the profit-driven publishing marketplace or by old-fashioned practices of handling scientific data."

More on the Elsevier boycott and cancellations

Paula Hane, Cornell and Other University Libraries to Cancel Elsevier Titles, Information Today, November 17, 2003. Excerpt: "Cornell University Library has posted a list of about two hundred Elsevier journal titles it is canceling for 2004. Harvard University says it is preparing for similar cuts in its Elsevier subscriptions. The University of California continues its negotiations with the Dutch publisher of scholarly scientific journals on behalf of all the UC campuses, while faculty on some campuses have resolved to boycott Elsevier if reasonable rates cannot be negotiated. Other universities and library consortia around the country are also in the throes of assessing what they can afford and what they will have to cancel due to price increases and budget constraints....Many faculty scholars at numerous universities have already embraced alternative scholarly publishing and open-access models, such as BioMed Central, Public Library of Science (PLoS), and others. Just this week, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) announced a partnership with PLoS 'to broaden support for open-access publishing among researchers, funding agencies, societies, libraries, and academic institutions through cooperative educational and advocacy activities.'"

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Death of the Lucy Maud Montgomery bill?

An article in Saturday's Globe and Mail, is entitled Bill's death opens diaries of Canadian notables. The article is by James Adams, and is on page R16 of the Review section for November 15, 2003. The fall session of Parliament was shut down this week, so Bill C-36, which "would have extended copyright protection of unpublished works by deceased authors is probably dead unless Parliament is recalled sometime between now and the end of the year, a scenario most observers consider highly unlikely". If Bill C-36 is indeed dead, then unpublished works by deceased Canadians, such as Lucy Maud Montgomery and Stephen Leacock, can enter the public domain unhindered, as of January 2004. [For some previous items about Bill C-36, see: Canadian copyright bill passes; More on the Lucy Maud Montgomery bill; More on piracy from the public domain…].

Harnad on self-archiving

Stevan Harnad, Self-Archive unto others..., University Affairs, December 2003. A clear and succinct statement of the argument for self-archiving. Excerpt: "Research journal publishers are still stuck in the old system. Every journal now has both a paper edition and online edition, and they charge tolls for access to one or the other or both. Besides, most other kinds of authors are not like researchers: they do want to be paid royalties out of the sales of their writing, so the toll barriers suit them just fine. The special case of research papers is just a tiny and unrepresentative minority in the world of writing and its economics. So what are researchers, who seek only research impact, to do? The toll-booths deny access to all those potential users worldwide whose universities can’t afford to pay them. And journals are so expensive that most universities can’t afford most journals (there are 24,000 research journals in all). Yet if the publishers cannot or will not make their research accessible for free on the Web, why can't the researchers do it for themselves? Why don’t they just put it all up on their own Web sites for free? That is what the 'self-archiving initiative' is doing."