Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, December 13, 2003

DASER presentations

The presentations from the DASER Summit (Cambridge, Massachusetts, November 21-23, 2003) are being put online. DASER = Digital Archives for Science and Engineering Resources. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

Web impact factor

Xuemei Li, A review of the development and application of the Web impact factor, Online Information Review, 27, 6 (2003) pp. 407-417. Only this abstract is free online: "Since 1996, hyperlinks have been studied extensively by applying existing bibliometric methods. The Web impact factor (WIF), for example, is the online counterpart of the journal impact factor. This paper reviews how this link-based metric has been developed, enhanced and applied. Not only has the metric itself undergone improvement but also the relevant data collection techniques have been enhanced. WIFs have also been validated by significant correlations with traditional research measures. Bibliometric techniques have been further applied to the Web and patterns that might have otherwise been ignored have been found from hyperlinks. This paper concludes with some suggestions for future research."

XML and ejournals

The latest number of OCLC Systems & Services is a special issue on how "XML and its related technologies can help to fulfil the promise of e-journals." (Only abstracts are free online.) All eight articles are of interest, but see especially Dennis Nicholson on The European Open Archives Forum and Peter Murray-Rust and Henry Rzepa on XML for scientific publishing.

More on the Elsevier cancellations

Anon., After failed negotiations, CU Library cancels Elsevier journal package, Cornell Chronicle, December 11, 2003. Excerpt: "After several months of negotiations, Cornell University Library (CUL) administrators have decided not to renew CUL's subscription with publisher Reed Elsevier for a bundled package of more than 900 journals. Beginning in 2004 the library will subscribe to a smaller number of individual Elsevier titles. Library administrators cite an unsustainable pricing model, prohibitive selection options, and the financial impact on the library's ability to purchase other journals as reasons for its decision." (Thanks to Dorothea Salo.)

The golden and green roads to OA

Stevan Harnad, The Golden and Green Roads to Open Access, AmSci Open Access Forum, November 14, 2003. A preprint responding to Pritpal Tamber, Fiona Godlee, Peter Newmark's recent article on open access in The Lancet. Excerpt: "It is certainly true, as the authors of the Lancet article state, that open-access self-archiving 'is not an alternative to the current subscription-based publishing model.' But let us not forget that this is not the "alternative-to-the-current-subscription-based-model" initiative. It is the *open-access* initiative! And the golden road (with the changes in the subscription model that it requires) is just one of the two roads leading to it (and not the fastest or surest)."

More content and power at NLM

Andrea Demsey, Enhanced Functionality Plus Access to More Data in the NLM Gateway's Latest Release, NLM Technical Bulletin, December 11, 2003. Excerpt: "Also new in this version of the Gateway will be access to two additional collections: OMIM (Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man) and HSDB (Hazardous Substances Data Bank). OMIM is a catalog of human genes and genetic disorders that contains textual information and references. HSDB is a comprehensive, scientifically reviewed, factual database containing records for over 4500 toxic or potentially toxic chemicals. It contains extensive information in such areas as toxicity, emergency handling procedures, human exposure, chemical safety, waste disposal, and regulatory requirements." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

More on the UK inquiry

Martin Flanagan, FTSE finishes week on downbeat note,, December 13, 2003. Excerpt: "British-Dutch publisher Reed Elsevier fell 2.3 per cent or 10.5p to 449p after a House of Commons committee said that it would hold hearings on the price and availability of scientific journals. The committee will specifically look into the emergence of free, open-access publications, which could challenge Reedís scientific and legal journals."

More on the new ERIC

A short, unsigned note in the December 11 issue of Library Journal succinctly describes what's happening with the ERIC overhaul. For the latest on what the ERIC Clearinghouses will do after they lose federal funding, Kate Corby's page on the clearinghouse plans was updated on December 3.

More on the Digital Promise Project

David Seaman, Digital Opportunity Investment Trust: A Digital Promise? CLIR Issues, November/December 2003. A good overview of the ambitious Digital Promise Project. Excerpt: "The digital divide is an enduring problem, locally and globally, and simple connectivity and access to the Internet are still major social and educational needs. Once access is achieved, however, the paucity of publicly accessible content becomes evident, as does the lack of friendly and sophisticated tools that can help us interact with digital images, maps, movies, simulations, and books. DO IT offers a compelling strategy for a national investment that addresses this lack."

Changing scholarly communication

Abby Smith, Changing Scholarly Communication, CLIR Issues, November/December 2003. Excerpt: "Creating fundamental change in the processes of research and dissemination --change that can be sustained over time and across institutional boundaries-- requires developing a cadre of leaders in various disciplines who are willing to explore new models of scholarship, to encourage and support those with whom they collaborate, and to mentor those who aspire to continue this work. It is this vision that informs the Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI), which held its first session this summer at Dartmouth College."

Not quite open access

David Dickson, ICSU defends 'universal and equitable' access to data, SciDev.Net, December 12, 2003. In an address to the WSIS meeting in Geneva, ICSU president Jane Lubchenco argued for "universal and equitable access" to scientific information. She did not mention "open access". (PS: Why?) The ICSU web site makes available the text and video of Lubchenco's presentation.

Measuring online impact

Mike Thelwall and Gareth Harries, Do the Web sites of higher rated scholars have significantly more online impact? Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, October 28, 2003. Only this abstract is free online: "The quality and impact of academic Web sites is of interest to many audiences, including the scholars who use them and Web educators who need to identify best practice. Several large-scale European Union research projects have been funded to build new indicators for online scientific activity, reflecting recognition of the importance of the Web for scholarly communication. In this paper we address the key question of whether higher rated scholars produce higher impact Web sites, using the United Kingdom as a case study and measuring scholars' quality in terms of university-wide average research ratings. Methodological issues concerning the measurement of the online impact are discussed, leading to the adoption of counts of links to a university's constituent single domain Web sites from an aggregated counting metric. The findings suggest that universities with higher rated scholars produce significantly more Web content but with a similar average online impact. Higher rated scholars therefore attract more total links from their peers, but only by being more prolific, refuting earlier suggestions. It can be surmised that general Web publications are very different from scholarly journal articles and conference papers, for which scholarly quality does associate with citation impact. This has important implications for the construction of new Web indicators, for example that online impact should not be used to assess the quality of small groups of scholars, even within a single discipline."

Is Chemistry Preprint Server going under?

On December 8, Elsevier announced that it was phasing out three of its science portals, BioMedNet, ChemWeb, and ElsevierEngineering. On December 10, Chemical and Engineering News wondered whether the axe would also fall on the Chemistry Preprint Server, one of Elsevier's few experiments with open-access eprint archiving. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.) (PS: If anyone knows the answer, please drop me a line.)

Origins of PubMed Central

Rob Kling, Lisa B. Spector, Joanna Fortuna, The real stakes of virtual publishing: The transformation of E-Biomed into PubMed central, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, November 6, 2003 (received November 29, 2001). Only this abstract is free online: "In May 1999, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Harold Varmus proposed an electronic repository for biomedical research literature server called E-biomed. E-biomed reflected the visions of scholarly electronic publishing advocates: It would be fully searchable, be free to readers, and contain full-text versions of both preprint and postpublication biomedical research articles. However, within 4 months, the E-biomed proposal was radically transformed: The preprint section was eliminated, delays were instituted between article publication and posting to the archive, and the name was changed to PubMed Central. This case study examines the remarkable transformation of the E-biomed proposal to PubMed Central by analyzing comments about the proposal that were posted to an online E-biomed forum created by the NIH, and discussions that took place in other face-to-face forums where E-biomed deliberations took place. We find that the transformation of the E-biomed proposal into PubMed Central was the result of highly visible and highly influential position statements made by scientific societies against the proposal. The literature about scholarly electronic publishing usually emphasizes a binary conflict between (trade) publishers and scholars/scientists. We conclude that: (1) scientific societies and the individual scientists they represent do not always have identical interests in regard to scientific e-publishing; (2) stakeholder politics and personal interests reign supreme in e-publishing debates, even in a supposedly status-free online forum; and (3) multiple communication forums must be considered in examinations of e-publishing deliberations." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

More on the UK inquiry

Nick Hasell, Larger capitalisation shares - Reed Elsevier, Reuters, mm02, London Times, December 13, 2003. Excerpt: "Reed Elsevier [stock] fell to a nine-month low on concerns over an impending House of Commons investigation into the science publishing market and the increasing support for 'open access' journals....Meg Geldens, a highly rated media analyst in Investec Securities, highlighted these two issues yesterday [the UK inquiry and the rise of open access journals] as she repeated her cautious 'hold' advice on Reed. She also highlighted recent moves by high-profile university libraries --such as Cornell, Harvard, University of California and University of North Carolina-- not to renew their bundled journal subscription contracts with Reed in their present form."

Version 52 of Bailey bibliography

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., has released version 52 of his comprehensive Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography. The new version cites over 2,050 books, articles, and other resources, both in print and online.

Shulenburger on the path to open access

David Shulenburger, "The High Cost of Scholarly Journals (And What To Do About It)", Change Magazine, November/December 2003 (not online). Excerpt: "Scholarship, and hence the content of scholarly journals, is a public good. A public good is one for which one consumer's use of the good is not competitive with, or exclusive of, another consumer's use of the same good. [He then gives examples of national defense and clean air.] It has long been recognized that provision of public goods cannot be organized efficiently through the private market....The United States government believes so strongly in research as a public good that it funds NSF, NIH, and the research divisions of other federal agencies with public dollars so that scientists will create research on behalf of the larger society. It is nonsensical to provide billions each year for research and then completely ignore the mechanism by which the results of that research are disseminated....A federal statute should require that, as a condition for accepting a federal research grant, the scientist or scholar agrees to place each article reporting results from the research in a free, publicly accessible electronic domain after some period, say six months, of exclusive publication in a journal or other medium."

More on the UK inquiry

Anon., Telecoms, oils help FTSE to slightly higher close, Reuters, December 12, 2003. The UK inquiry gets a brief mention in this general survey of recent stock market news: "Anglo-Dutch publisher Reed Elsevier [stock] fell 2.3 percent after the House of Commons said it would hold hearings on the price and availability of scientific journals. The committee will specifically look into the emergence of free, open-access publications, which could challenge Reed's scientific and legal journals."

More on the UK inquiry

Pat Hagan, UK probes scientific publications, The Scientist, December 12, 2003. Excerpt: "Labour MP Ian Gibson, who chairs the committee, told The Scientist he hopes the outcome will be 'an informed system' of publishing that is cheap and effective. 'If research is funded by public money, then it should be available to the public for free,' he said....A key part of the inquiry will also focus on the trend toward more open-access journals and whether the government should be supporting such a shift."

More on the UK inquiry in to journal prices and access

Richard Wray, Reed Elsevier at risk as MPs look into science publishing market, The Guardian, December 12, 2003. Excerpt: "Increasingly, universities are reluctant to pay the large fees demanded by publishers and are turning to so-called open access journals....Specifically the committee will ask about the importance of open-access journals and whether the government should support the trend towards free scientific information. Such a move could spell disaster for Reed Elsevier."

Open access plea at WSIS

David Dickson, WSIS hears plea for open access, SciDev.Net, December 11, 2003. Excerpt: "Delegates from 176 nations attending the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) have heard a strong plea that they should support campaigns to secure open access to scientific information....'It is clear that open access is going have a significant long-term positive impact on technological development everywhere,' said [Shu-Khun Lin, founder and director of the Swiss-Based Molecular Diversity Presentation International]. 'We expect that the summit recommendations will substantially accelerate this trend, over the whole spectrum of society, and over the whole world.'...The next step, said Lin, was to persuade all those who fund research that is reported in scientific journals --including governments, research agencies, philanthropic foundations, and private companies-- to ensure that authors publish their results in open-access journals."

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Open access to individual "featured articles"

In an article in the Globe & Mail (Wed. Dec. 10, page A13, by Christine Boyd), entitled New health council to stay above the fray, leader says, it's noted that the head of the new health council in Canada, Michael Decter, has "laid out a wide-ranging blueprint for the watchdog agency in a recent article in the periodical Hospital Quarterly ...". This particular article in Hospital Quarterly (Vol. 6, No. 4) is openly accessible, and is entitled: The Health Council of Canada: A Speculation on a Constructive Agenda. [I wonder how many journals now routinely provide open access to individual "featured articles"? Another health care policy journal that does this is Milbank Quarterly].

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Open access to US geospatial data

The U.S. Geological Survey and private-sector partner TopoZone have launched The National Map project, which will provide open access to geospatial data about the United State and related open-source tools for serving the data online. Excerpt from the December 3 press release:

USGS today announced it has entered into a cooperative agreement with Maps a la carte, Inc., creators of TopoZone, to support The National Map project. As part of the one-year agreement Maps a la carte, Inc. will develop, enhance, and document a suite of Open Source software for serving geospatial data over the Internet. The agreement will result in the distribution of free software tools to The National Map partners to enhance the capability of data sharing.

Working with partners, USGS is building The National Map as a framework for geographic knowledge that will provide current, accurate, and nationally consistent digital data and topographic maps derived from those data to the Nation. The availability of software tools for hosting and serving geospatial data in a flexible, low cost way, without being tied to specific or proprietary formats or vendors, will encourage more state, local and private holders of geospatial data to serve these data through The National Map.

(Thanks to Gary Price.)

Written evidence is coming...

In response to the UK House of Commons committee call for written evidence on whether the government should support open access journals (and other questions), Stevan Harnad has launched a thread on the American Scientist Open Access Forum to provide it. Join the conversation but please don't forget to submit your evidence in a form that the House committee can accept.

UK government inquiry into journal prices and accessibility

The Science and Technology Committee of the UK House of Commons has launched an "inquiry into scientific publications". Quoting from the press release:
The Committee will be looking at access to journals within the scientific community, with particular reference to price and availability. It will be asking what measures are being taken in government, the publishing industry and academic institutions to ensure that researchers, teachers and students have access to the publications they need in order to carry out their work effectively. The inquiry will also examine the impact that the current trend towards e-publishing may have on the integrity of journals and the scientific process.

The committee requests written evidence from all interested parties by February 12, 2003 [PS: this must be 2004] on five specific questions. The third of them is this: "What are the consequences of increasing numbers of open-access journals, for example for the operation of the Research Assessment Exercise and other selection processes? Should the Government support such a trend and, if so, how?"

Electronic theses and dissertations (ETD's)

Janice El-Bayoumi and Lisa Charlong, Exploring Electronic Theses and Dissertation Issues, an analysis apparently prepared for the University of New Brunswick and then posted online. Excerpt: "The improving technology of the Internet and the desire for rapid access to information is driving universities, students and providers of access to graduate student research to meet the demand for electronic access to theses and dissertations. As more universities begin ETD programs, national standards will need to be identified. Meanwhile the gap is filled by initiatives such as the Networked Library of Digital Theses and Dissertations (NLDTD) that has taken the lead by providing information, a forum for discussion, as well as software that when installed, allows a free, central, seamless access point to digital collections residing at participating universities." (Thanks to Online Learning Update.)

Collections of open-access journals

Joan Conger has created a list of links to collections of open access journals. The list summarizes suggestions to a recent ERIL discussion thread and remains open to additions and corrections.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Two new broad-interest BMC journals

BioMed Central has launched a new pair of OA journals, BMC Medicine and BMC Biology. These journals are designed to "fill the gap between the highly selective Journal of Biology and the existing BMC titles".

PMC email list

PubMed Central has an email list for announcements and other PMC news. Because it's two years old and still a fairly well-kept secret, PMC will soon publicize the list on its web site. New subscribers must sign up through the web form.

Open archives in Italy

Susanna Mornati, Open Archives in Italia: una piattaforma nazionale, Proceedings Biblioteche digitali per la ricerca e la didattica : esperienze e prospettive, 2003. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

November Online-Mitteilungen

The November issue of Online-Mitteilungen is now online. It contains two articles on OA. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

More on scholarly blogging

For another tool to make blogs more useful for scholarship, see Hewlett-Packard's Semantic Blogging for Bibliography Management. From the web site: "Semantic blogging exploits [the] personal publishing, syndication, aggregation and subscription model [used in existing blogging] but applies it to structured items with richer metadata data. The metadata would include classification of the items into one or more topic ontologies, semantic links between items ("supports", "refutes", "extends" etc.) as well as less formal annotations and ratings." The result is a superior blogging platform for content discovery, cross-linking, aggregation, selection, and integration with other sources and applications. (Thanks to Leigh Dodds.)

Monday, December 08, 2003

PubMed Central is OAI-compliant and offering new services

In October, PubMed Central (or a portion of it) became OAI-compliant. One consequence is that it now allows users to download the the full-text XML for its open-access articles and FTP the text, data, and image files associated with an article. See the PMC list of open-access PMC journals for the scope of these important new services.

Making blogs more useful for scholarship

The Blogbook is a "guide to legal blogging" that offers suggestions, for example, on how to cite blog content in official documents. This is a step toward making the hundreds of legal blogs more useful to legal scholars and practicing lawyers who might want to cite them in law journals or court briefs. At the same time, it's a step toward making blogs --which are open access by default-- a more serious and useful vehicle of scholarship. For more detail, see Andrew Zangrilli's short article in the December issue of Modern Practice. (Thanks to QuickLinks.) (PS: I first wrote about scholarly blogs in FOSN for 11/9/01, and their number has grown sharply since then. See for example, this directory and this article.)

Libraries and the information commons

Nancy Kranich has written a discussion paper, Libraries and the Information Commons, for participants in the open forum on Libraries and the Information Commons (Saturday, January 10, 2004, 2:00 - 4:00, San Diego Conference Center 30E) at the ALA Midwinter Meeting. Excerpt: "Information commons ensure open access to ideas and the opportunity to use them....Open access advances knowledge, nurtures creativity, fosters civic engagement and promotes the public interest....New technology promises abundant open access to an infinite array of information that can enrich peopleís lives. Ironically, the same technology that enables unfettered access is just as capable of restricting personal information choices and the free flow of ideas."

More on the Elsevier boycott and cancellations

The December 8 issue of Library Journal has a brief account of the NCSU story we blogged on December 4. (Thanks to Gary Price.)

Australian support for BMC

Seventeen Australian universities have become institutional members of BioMed Central, thanks to an agreement announced today between BMC and the Committee of Australian University Librarians (CAUL). The memberships begin January 1, 2004.

Revised version of Dickson article on OA at WSIS

David Dickson has revised the text of his article on open access principles at the WSIS since I blogged it yesterday. If you read yesterday's edition, you might want to read today's as well.

PSP campaign to defend conventional publishing models

Barbara Meredith, "PSP Outreach Campaign Enters New Phase", Professional Scholarly Publishing Bulletin, Fall 2003, pp. 1-2. On the AAP-PSP campaign "to reaffirm the value of traditional fee-subscription publishing in the face of an aggressive media blitz by some supporters of the recently announced [journal from the] Public Library of Science." (PS: The article summarizes the campaign strategy, which doesn't justify fees so much as enumerate the valuable services performed by journals. But both sides agree that journals perform valuable services, including peer review. To change minds, the campaign will have to address the arguments made by OA proponents --that some journal services are more essential than others, that they cost less than most journals charge for them, and that there are better ways to cover the costs of the essential services than by charging fees and erecting access barriers.)

Elsevier's Bolman on the effectiveness of self-archiving

In his Chairman's Corner column in the fall issue of the Professional Scholarly Publishing Bulletin, Elsevier's Pieter Bolman supports Stevan Harnad's assessment of the current state of open access, even citing a recent Harnad posting to the AmSci forum. Quoting Bolman:
[T]here appears to be some concern in the original OA camp that the launch of new OA journals, such as the PLoS title, while welcome, is diverting attention from the easiest, surest and quickets road to Open Access, namely author self-archiving. It seems that those committed to starting new OA journals do not have any inclination to stress this other way. Although one can quibble with the ultimate practicality or even legal feasibility of author self-archiving (and I certainly do), it is more likely, in our lifetime, to transform the huge body of 15,000 or so journals (with their annual 1-2 million articles) to a form of open access than the start of a few new journals every year, however well funded they are.
(PS: Because Bolman's opposition to OA is well-documented, it's hard to interpret this comment as free strategic advice to his opponents. My advice, however, is not to interpret it as a mischievous attempt to accentuate differences within the OA movement, and not to let it, or our own intramural debates, turn differences into divisions. We should simply focus on the issue and continue to promote both OA journals and OA archives, discussing on the side, as we go, how the two strategies complement one another. If those working hardest on OA journals and those working hardest on OA archives disagree about which strategy is most promising or urgent, then the disagreement is a healthy spur to action. It only harms us when it slows us down.)

Australia's ARROW project

On December 2, Australia's Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST) published a report on the ARROW Project (Australian Research Repositories Online to the World). Excerpt: "The ARROW project (ARROW) will identify and test a software solution or solutions to support best-practice institutional digital repositories comprising e-prints, digital theses and electronic publishing....The National Library of Australia will develop a repository and associated metadata to support independent scholars (those not associated with institutions). A complementary activity of ARROW is the development and testing of national resource discovery services (developed by the National Library) using metadata harvested from the institutional repositories, and the exposing of metadata to provide services via protocols and toolkits." (Thanks to Charles Bailey's Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog.)

More on the Cell Press boycott

On November 15, Alexei Koudinov, editor of the open-access journal, Neurobiology of Lipids, wrote an Open Letter on a Call to Boycott Cell Press, expanding the grounds for the boycott from high prices to compromised academic integrity.

More on individual articles archived by PMC

As noted in a OA News item posted on November 12, 2003, PubMed Central now permits toll-access journals to archive individual Open Access Articles. So far, only one such article is in this particular archive. The article is "PUBLIC HEALTH: Grand Challenges in Global Health", by H. Varmus, R. Klausner, E. Zerhouni, T. Acharya, A. S. Daar, and P. A. Singer, Science, 2003(Oct 17); 302(5644): 398-99 [Abstract]. [See also another OA News item, for October 24, 2003].

"Online Firsts" in the BMJ

Two short excerpts from an editorial by Jane Smith (deputy editor of BMJ), Online Firsts, BMJ 2003(6 Dec); 327(7427): 1302: "The BMJ is about to start posting its original research articles on before they appear in the print BMJ", and, "Our plan is to post research articles as soon as they are edited". [The BMJ considered posting unedited manuscripts immediately after acceptance, but decided not to, for two reasons: unpopularity with about 50% of authors surveyed, and concerns about a possible need to post corrected versions].

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Struggle for significant OA endorsement at WSIS

David Dickson, UN meeting urged to back open access science, SciDev.Net, December 7, 2003. Francis Muguet is working for a strong and clear endorsement of open access from next week's World Summit on the Information Society in Geneva. The alternative is a statement endorsing only "equitable access", a feel-good phrase with no particular meaning. (Full disclosure: Muguet is chairman of the WSIS Scientific Information Working Group, of which I am a member of the steering committee. I support and assist his efforts.)

Ghost written contributions to peer-reviewed medical journals

The UK Observer newspaper of 7th December is carrying a report on ghost writing in prestigious medical journals:
"Hundreds of articles in medical journals claiming to be written by academics or doctors have been penned by ghostwriters in the pay of drug companies"
While not directly relevant to the case for Open Access, the report will add to the sense that the present arrangements for publishing medical research need review. The report copntinues: "The journals, bibles of the profession, have huge influence on which drugs doctors prescribe and the treatment hospitals provide. But The Observer has uncovered evidence that many articles written by so-called independent academics may have been penned by writers working for agencies which receive huge sums from drug companies to plug their products."