Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Open access intro from St. Louis

Eli Kintish, New publishing method aims at greater access, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 20, 2003. Excerpt: "Top science journals cost subscribers thousands of dollars each year. That's a travesty for taxpayers who foot the research bill, say supporters of so-called 'open access' publishing....'The American taxpayer spends $50 billion on medical research and then they cannot read the papers that come out of it,' said biologist Michael Eisen of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Eisen is cofounder of PLoS, which is shaking up the publishing world with its free-for-all attitude. Like other top-flight journals, it employs expert editors and each paper is reviewed carefully by scientists before publication. Instead of selling subscriptions to readers, PLoS pays its bills by charging authors a $1,500 fee for publishing their papers. Other so-called 'open access' journals use a similar system. University librarians say that they would much rather pay publication fees for papers their researchers write than for journal subscriptions."

Another financial analyst acknowledges promise of open access

Investec is the latest financial analyst to join PNB Paribas and Citigroup Smith Barney in thinking that competition from open-access journals raises concerns for investors in commercial journal publishers.

Quoting from its December 4 report on Reed Elsevier: "Growing support for 'open access' journals, moves by some high profile university libraries to un-bundle their Elsevier journal subscription packages and other developments in the STM publishing market suggest that what has historically been a very predictable (albeit controversial) business may be facing significant changes in coming years."

Quoting from its December 12 report on Taylor & Francis: "The open access debate is gaining prominence, with BioMed Central and Public Library of Science getting considerable press coverage at the moment. Today the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has announced that it will be investigating the STM market and open access....We have today moved to a HOLD recommendation to reflect the impact that the increasingly vocal debate on Open Access will have on market sentiment towards the stock."

Digitizing journal backfiles

The presentations from the recent ALPSP conference, Digitising your journal backfiles: a practical approach (London, December 1, 2003) are now online.

Friday, December 19, 2003

JISC funding for journals to convert to OA

On December 18, JISC announced a £150,000 grant program to encourage publishers to convert their journals to open access. (PS: It's not clear what relationship this program has to the similar program JISC announced on December 4.)

Individual memberships in PLoS

The Public Library of Science is now offering individual memberships to those who make a a tax-deductible contribution of $25 or more.

More on the UK inquiry

Chris Johnston, Call to put research free on websites, Times Higher Education Supplement, December 19, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). On Stevan Harnad's submission to the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee investigating journal prices and accessibility. Harnad wants the committee to expand its scope from open-access journals to open-access archives. Quoting Harnad: "The longer we wait [to archive peer-reviewed research articles and their preprints], the longer and bigger will be our growing daily, weekly, monthly and yearly loss of research impact because of self-denial [PS: Harnad wrote "access-denial"] to would-be users worldwide. This represents a needless cumulative loss of research progress and productivity for researchers, their institutions, their funders and, ultimately, for taxpayers who fund the funders."

Special issue of Serials on the OAI

The November issue of Serials is devoted to the Open Archives Initiative. There are 16 relevant papers, but unfortunately and ironically only the table of contents is online. In at least a few cases the authors have archived their papers and there are OA editions. If there are more of these, I'd be glad to publicize the URLs. (Thanks to Steve Hitchcock.)

Return on the public investment in the British Library

According to a recent study by Spectrum Strategy Consultants, "for every £1 of public funds the [British Library] receives it generates over £4 of value to the UK economy." For more details, see the BL press release. (PS: Does anyone know of any studies, finished or ongoing, on the comparable return on the investment in open-access to scientific research articles and their preprints?)

Free access to scientific information

Nucleic Acids Research Database Issue 2004

Nucelic Acids Research (NAR) publishes annually a special, open-access issue, The Molecular Biology Database Collection. 548 freely-available databases of genetic, proteomic and biochemical data are described in a series of papers that reflect the exponential growth of bioinformatics, and "a natural response of the biological community as a whole to the challenge of staying current in this ever-increasing flow of information," as Michael Y. Galperin states in his introductory essay. Examples include reports on Genbank and updated resources of the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), comparative bacterial genomics, viral genomics, databases on protein interactions, plant genes, antimicrobial peptides, among others. The editors remark in an opening editorial that they are "strongly in support of the principles of open access, " have voted to move towards open-access publishing, "with all electronic content freely available to all," and are using their database issue as a test of the author charges model.

Self-archiving to maximize impact

Stevan Harnad, Maximizing university research impact through self-archiving, Jekyll, December 2003. Excerpt: "The infrastructure for maximizing university research impact is hence already available or in place. What are urgently needed now are institutional policies and computational tools designed to create and fill the university Eprint Archives as soon as possible, for until those archives are filled, research impact is being needlessly lost every day."

CODATA / ERPANET presentations online

The presentations from the recent CODATA / ERPANET Workshop on the Selection, Appraisal, and Retention of Scientific Data (Lisbon, December 15-17, 2003) are now online.

Searching serials records

The ZBD OPAC offers free online searching of over 1.1 million bibliographic records of serials from the 16th century to the present, from all countries and in all languages. It does not search full-text articles. It is managed by the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and hosted by Die Deutsche Bibliothek. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Google starts indexing printed books

Google has launched Google Print, an ambitious project to index printed information alongside digital information. "Google's mission is to provide access to all the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible. It turns out that not all the world's information is already on the Internet, so Google has been experimenting with a number of publishers to test their content online." It now indexes some Google-hosted portions of some printed books. If you search on a string that appears in the indexed portion of the book, then among the hits listed on the results page there will be a Google-produced page about the book (see sample), offering a citation, a summary from the jacket, and links to online vendors. Google also provides a contact form for publishers and authors interested in participating in the program. (PS: This is a modest start to an ambitious program. It doesn't yet compare with Amazon's Search Inside the Book service. For example, it does not index full text and does not return text passages containing search strings. But Google has revealed that it wants to index print information --or more extravagantly, all print information-- and Google doesn't blow smoke. Let's see what unfolds.)

More on the UK inquiry

The December 18 issue of Library Journal Academic Newswire has a short piece on the UK inquiry into journal prices and accessibility. Excerpt: "[Committee Chair Ian] Gibson pledged that the committee would have some 'very tough questions' for publishers, libraries and government. It remains to be seen, however, what actions could come out of the hearings. In 2002, the British Office for Fair Trading (OFT) issued a statement acknowledging that the STM market 'has a number of features that suggest competition may not be working effectively.' Still, OFT chief John Vickers at that time stopped well short of saying government intervention was needed, adding that 'market forces harnessing new technology' [i.e. the open-access movement] could bring about change without intervention (see LJ Academic Newswire 9/12/02)."

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Open access one of the breakthroughs of the year

Open access is one of the "Breakthroughs of the Year" and "Areas to Watch in 2004" according to the editors of Science. See their list of breakthroughs and areas to watch in the December 19 issue (accessible only to subscribers and registered users). Excerpt:
Open sesame. Will 2004 be the year scientists open their hearts --and their wallets-- to open-access scientific journals? A slew of publishers will launch experiments in which authors will pay publication charges and journals will make their papers freely accessible over the Internet. Advocates say that the author-pays approach will speed the flow of scientific information, but critics predict that the business model will be a flop, particularly outside the relatively flush biomedical sciences.

Also see Science's press release on the breakthroughs. For further reading, the editors link to five previous Science articles on open access and Open Access News.

Leslie Chan sound bite on open access

Listen to a two-minute audio clip of Leslie Chan, Associate Director of Bioline International, talking about the "equitable access" and "open access" terminology used at WSIS, and the importance of open access to developing countries.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Free for all

A short unsigned note from the December 18 Nature, p. 755: "Will the scientific literature in future be dominated by journals that do not charge their readers? That is the goal of the 'open-access' movement, which argues that the costs of publishing should be borne up front by those who fund research, rather than those who want to read about it. Open-access journals, which charge publication fees, have been proliferating over the past few years. October saw the launch of the most prominent, Public Library of Science Biology, which is competing for top biology papers with Nature, Science and Cell." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

The open-access HapMap project

The International HapMap Consortium, The International HapMap Project, Nature, 426 (December 18, 2003) pp. 789-796. Report of a major OA project. Excerpt: "The goal of the International HapMap Project is to determine the common patterns of DNA sequence variation in the human genome and to make this information freely available in the public domain. An international consortium is developing a map of these patterns across the genome by determining the genotypes of one million or more sequence variants, their frequencies and the degree of association between them, in DNA samples from populations with ancestry from parts of Africa, Asia and Europe. The HapMap will allow the discovery of sequence variants that affect common disease, will facilitate development of diagnostic tools, and will enhance our ability to choose targets for therapeutic intervention." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

OA to UK theses and dissertations

JISC is looking for models to promote the preservation and online accessibility of theses and dissertations in the UK. It will share the work to date in a London conference on January 22, 2004.

Future of self-archiving

Gerry McKiernan, Open Access and Retrieval: Liberating the Scholarly Literature, in David Fowler (ed.), E-Serials Collection Management: Transitions, Trends, and Technicalities, Haworth Information Press, 2004, pp. 197-220. An extended look at the BOAI and the two strategies it recommends, OA journals and OA archives, with special attention to the latter. Excerpt: "Whether the self-archiving model becomes the new paradigm for scholarly publishing as envisioned by its proponents will depend not only on improved archiving and retrieval software and systems but also, and more importantly, on the degree to which all stakeholders endorse and embrace its potential as a viable and sustainable publishing alternative."

National network of OA medical data

Daniel Dupont, NECTAR for Your Health: Revamping U.S. medical research means unifying data, Scientific American, January 2004. (Only a small portion is currently free online, but I believe that in a couple of weeks, the full-text will be free online.) An introduction to the NIH's NECTAR (National Electronic Clinical Trials and Research Network) project to accelerate research and discovery in medicine. Excerpt: "The way things work today is considered wildly inefficient, notes Daniel R. Masys, director of biomedical informatics at the University of California at San Diego. 'As an institution, or perhaps as a drug company, you have a scientific question in mind, consult with biostatisticians and determine the number of people needed and specifications to answer the question, write the forms for the questions and data, hire people to type the data into databases, and then at the end you publish a paper,' Masys explains. The primary data, however, remain the property of the institution. 'You keep your own data, and the next trial, you do it all over again,' he says. NECTAR will change all that, states Stephen I. Katz, director of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases....It will consolidate data in a user-friendly, Internet-based system." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

More on OA to government records

Fee-based access isn't quite public, Quad-City Times, December 16, 2003, by the newspaper staff. Praising Rock Island County, Illinois, and Scott County, Iowa, for taking steps to provide public records free online, but criticizing them for not going far enough. Excerpt: "We have impatiently awaited the day when our bought-and-paid-for public records actually would be accessible to the general public without traipsing to a courthouse during weekday business hours. That day remains far off. But both counties got us quite a bit closer....[Free] online access is more than a convenience. It's a standard."

Tuesday, December 16, 2003


"Publishers providing high-value scientific, technical and medical content typically generate a high percentage of revenues from digital content sales. By providing readers with a fast and easy way to obtain digital permissions and reprints directly from their publications' Web sites, these content providers have a significant opportunity to improve customer satisfaction, optimize their digital content assets and increase revenues. In fact, Copyright Clearance Center estimates the size of the digital reuse market for the STM industry segment to be over $37 million in 2003."
--From a December 15 press release from the Copyright Clearance Center. (Thanks to the NFAIS Information Community News.)

MedlinePlus tops in user satisfaction

In the last quarter of 2003, MedlinePlus tied with the Free Application for Federal Student Air (FAFSA) for the highest ratings from their online users. Both received scores of 86 out of 100 on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) developed by the University of Michigan. Congratulations Medline! (Thanks to Government Computer News via ResourceShelf.)

Open access one of the year's top five science stories

Maria Anderson for The Scientist (December 15) has compiled a list of the top five science news stories of 2003 "besides comparative genomics and systems biology". Open access is one of the stories. Excerpt: "The Public Library of Science published the inaugural issue of PLoS Biology in October, and BioMed Central, an open-access publisher and a partner of The Scientist, received official UK funding support in June." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

Limited public access to publicly-funded CRS reports

Paul Krawzak, Ney draws line at public access to research, The Times Reporter (Dover-New Philadelphia, Ohio), December 12, 2003. Excerpt: "Year after year, the Congressional Research Service [PS: no web site] produces thousands of exclusive, coveted reports and analyses that help lawmakers make sense of complex issues and legislation. Yet taxpayers, who finance the service to the tune of $80 million a year, have no guaranteed access to the publications. Critics of the limited availability say as long as taxpayers are footing the bill, they ought to have access to the reports, which are noted for their balance and thoroughness....As chairman of the House Administration Committee, which has jurisdiction over the CRS, [Bob] Ney [R-OH] launched a new service that allows lawmakers to make reports of their choosing available via a link in their congressional Web sites. 'It used to be nothing went up online' for the public to see, Ney said. 'Now we're telling members if you want to do a work product and put it online, that's fine. At the same time, Ney called a halt to efforts to provide greater public access to the research. He ended a two-year pilot project, which allowed the public to search through the otherwise inaccessible CRS database via links on the Web sites of participating congressmen." (Thanks to Gary Price.)

Some of the CRS reports are OA and some are not. The best site for the OA reports is maintained by the private-sector National Council for Science and the Environment. The non-OA reports are available in print from Penny Hill Press, a private-sector publisher which acquires its copies from cooperative members of Congress and sells its editions to the public and even to federal government agencies.

Lessons from studying open-source communities

Mike Martin, Scientific Research Backs Wisdom of Open Source, NewsFactor Sci-Tech, December 15, 2003. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.) New scientific studies of how open-source communities build and debug software conclude that the process is more complex and more effective than usually thought. Quoting Walt Scacchi, a senior research scientist at UC Irvine's Institute for Software Research: "Open-source is not a poor version of software engineering, but a private-collective approach to large-software systems." Quoting Suzanne Iacono, NSF program director: "The software-intensive systems in today's world have become so complex that we need every available design tool at our disposal. Open-source development has achieved some remarkable successes, and we need to learn from these successes as our systems become increasingly distributed, complex and heterogeneous." (PS: The complexity of scientific problems, and the benefits of collaboration, suggest that much of this research will transfer from open source to open access.)

Making sharing the norm

Michelle Delio, Copyright Doesn't Cover This Site, Wired News, December 16, 2003. On The Pool, "a collaborative online environment for creating and sharing images, music, videos, programming code and texts" at the University of Maine's Still Water new media lab. Quoting Joline Blais, co-director of the lab: "We are training revolutionaries -- not by indoctrinating them with dogma but by exposing them to a process in which sharing culture rather than hoarding it is the norm." (Thanks to Gary Price.)

Range of opinion on OA at WSIS

David Dickson, The challenges of 'e-science', SciDev.Net, December 15, 2003. Excerpt:

Everyone, in his or her own way, is in favour of the widest possible access to scientific information; that is not in dispute. What is, however, is the terms and conditions on which such access should be permitted. In particular, should this be a market model, in which the cost of access is determined by the ability and willingness of individuals to pay? One based entirely on need, where the costs are covered by the provider (which, in the case of scientists, means the original funder of the research in question)? Or a combination of the two?

The ideal that all scientific information should be made freely available to everyone. Many statements to this effect were heard in Geneva, not least from the current leaders of the international physics community, Luciano Maiani, the current director of CERN. Addressing the final session of the summit, he presented as a key conclusion emerging from a meeting held at his own laboratory earlier in the week that "fundamental scientific information must be made freely available".

Others were more pragmatic. Speaking on behalf of ICSU, for example, the organisation's current president, Jane Lubchenco, spoke similarly of the need to ensure universal access to scientific data for research and education purposes. But at the same time, she added that this needed to be balanced with treating such data as "a commodity for short-term economic return".

Michael Keller on OA to books

Anon., How to Digitize Eight Million Books: A Conversation with Michael Keller, The Book and the Computer, December 15, 2003. Quoting Keller: "Books are copyrighted, and we can't violate those copyrights. So what we have to do is persuade the rights holders -- the publishers, the authors, the agents and so forth -- that there's a benefit to them in digitizing their books. The first project we're doing is digitizing the books at the Stanford University Press. Over the last 80 years, we've published about 2,500 titles. We're digitizing them all. We'll put some on the Web for free and put others up for sale through a company like Ebrary, where they can be sold around the world, costing us only a pittance to produce on a per-page basis. We can take books that have been long out of print and put them back on the market, benefiting authors who might not have seen a dime since their first sale long ago. This will be an example to other publishers, to see if we can't persuade them to let us do the same with their titles. Another thing we can do is to digitize books published by the government and by nongovernmental organizations, if they're not copyrighted, making them available to the world. We can begin to demonstrate what effects this kind of collection might have on study, research and teaching -- not just higher education, but kindergarten through high school and in continuing education. I think it's an experiment that's got to happen."

More on the WSIS endorsement of OA

Today's CORDIS News has an unsigned note on the WSIS endorsement of open access.

Presentations on metadata and institutional repositories

The presentations from the RLG Members' Forums, To Have and to Hold: Metadata and Institutional Repositories (Washington and Chicago, December 9 and 12, 2003) are now online.

Open access database on proteins

Yesterday the AfCS-Nature Signalling Gateway launched the Molecules Pages. From the web site:
The Molecule Pages is a database of keys facts about proteins involved in cellular signaling. It currently covers well over 3,000 proteins. For each of these, the database currently provides a large amount of 'automated' data, collected from numerous other online resources and updated monthly. These data include names, synonyms, sequence information, biophysical properties, domain and motif information, protein family details, structure and gene data, the identities of orthologs and paralogs, and BLAST results. For over 800 proteins we also provide 'Mini Molecule Page' summaries composed by invited expert authors.

And it's open access. The press release calls the site "a groundbreaking new form of scientific publication. The Molecule Pages combine the power of scientific databases with the authority of peer review. They also enable a uniquely collaborative approach to scientific information sharing and represent another step towards the holy grail of cell biology: the creation of a 'virtual cell'." (Thanks to Timo Hannay.)

Monday, December 15, 2003

New D-Lib Magazine

The December issue of D-Lib Magazine is now online. Here are the OA-related articles.

Public access to university networks

Lori Driscoll, Library Public Access Workstation Authentication, ARL, October 2003. From the Executive Summary: "In reaction to the events of September 11, 2001, as well as several widely reported misuses of campus computer networks, computer systems administrators have re-examined network access policies. While systems administrators have moved to restrict access to information assets, librarians have worked to support barrier-free access that protects users' privacy. This survey was distributed to the 124 ARL member libraries in May 2003 to gather data on how users at public access workstations are authenticated; what is driving IT policy changes in libraries; who is involved in policy decision-making; how access controls have affected services; how, with tighter campus IT security, Federal Depository libraries are meeting the information needs of the public; and other questions."

Libraries can promote freedoms of access and expression

Stuart Hamilton and Niels Ole Pors, Freedom of access to information and freedom of expression: the Internet as a tool for global social inclusion, Library Management, 24, 8/9 (2003) pp. 407-416. Abstract: "This paper explores how the relationship between freedom of access to information and freedom of expression is expressed across the international library community. Specifically, it analyses this relationship in the setting of Internet access in libraries where the Internet has been seen as a tool for fostering democracy and furthering social inclusion. Using preliminary analysis of data collected from a global survey of Internet access issues within the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) member countries (2003), and by comparing this data with a survey of European library institutions carried out in 2002, the paper shows the extent to which libraries --from the point of view of national associations and national libraries-- are able to use the Internet to promote freedom of access to information and freedom of expression despite the existence of barriers to this task." The articles does not mention open access.

More on the Elsevier cancellations and boycott

Dan Carnevale, Libraries With Tight Budgets Renew Complaints About Elsevier's Online Pricing, Chronicle of Higher Education, December 19, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "A growing number of colleges in the country are rebelling against [Elsevier's] rates and terms for online science journals. Some of the institutions are even cutting back on their subscriptions to avoid having to pay for a 'bundle' of the publications, which university libraries on tight budgets say they can no long afford....The University of Missouri decided over the summer to stop subscribing to ScienceDirect. Cornell University announced last month that it would stop paying for the entire collection, and would instead take out individual subscriptions to a smaller number of journals. The University of Iowa, which is facing additional reductions in its state appropriation, may join other institutions in abandoning ScienceDirect. The Faculty Senate at North Carolina State University passed a resolution condemning bundling and the amount of money being spent on the company's journals. And two professors at the University of California at San Francisco are calling for a nationwide boycott of six molecular-biology journals, sold only by Elsevier, because of the price." Unlike other stories on the growing wave of cancellations, this story doesn't mention the open access alternative.

New Open Access Now

The December 15 issue of Open Access Now is now online. This issue contains an editorial on the healthy competition among OA publications, an interview with Subbiah Arunachalam on OA in India, a news report on stock warnings for commercial publishers based on the threat from OA journals, and a profile of Eprints, the open-source software for OAI-compliant eprint archives.

WSIS support for open access

David Dickson, Information summit endorses key role of 'e-science', SciDev.Net., December 14, 2003. Excerpt: "The first session of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) ended on Friday (12 December) with endorsement of a broad list of principles intended to guide the future development of information and communication technologies (ICTs), and of a 'road map' showing how these should be put into practice. Included in the first of these is a statement recognising that science has a central role in the development of the information society, and that there is a need to ensure that scientific data remains widely accessible....The declaration also makes an explicit reference to the need to promote open access initiatives for scientific publishing as part of support for 'universal access with equal opportunities for all to scientific knowledge'."

Paris meeting on the economics of OA

The upcoming ICSTI meeting, Economic Models for Scientific Information, Production and Distribution (Paris, January 15-16, 2004) is limited to 50 ICSTI members and invitees. But there are still a few slots open, and I have ICSTI's permission to post this wider invitation. If you'd like an application, send an email to

Sunday, December 14, 2003

New newsletter covering OA issues

Alastair Dryburgh, moderator of the Economics of Open Access discussion forum, has launched the Dryburgh Associates Newsletter on academic, business, and professional publishing. Alastair predicts that each issue will contain something on open access. The first issue (December 2003) includes a brief report on a breakfast forum on open access hosted by Electronic Publishing Services in November. Excerpt from the newsletter: "If you knew the speakers you knew before you went what they were going to say, but the interesting thing was who was in the audience: venture capitalists, very senior figures from large publishers not noted for their enthusiasm for OA, investment analysts... The issue is clearly moving up the agenda."

Open access gaining momentum

Excerpt from an unsigned note in the December 12 issue of Outsell's e-briefs (not online): "Critical mass for the Open Access movement is starting to build, and it feels like a tsunami in the making. This week two high-profile supporters came on board: [the UK inquiry into journal prices and accessibility, and the WSIS endorsement]. Support for Open Access is pouring in, but it will look messy for a while. New phenomena often take time to sort themselves out, but in time we will see the proponents settle on the models and principles that will carry the movement forward."