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The CRS itself prefers the current system, under which the public release of one of its reports requires the approval of the member of Congress who commissioned it. This according to a recent but undated internal memo obtained by Secrecy News. In an accompanying note, the editors of Secrecy News point out that "Most of the arguments presented in the CRS memo are refuted by the record of the U.S. General Accounting Office, another congressional support agency that publishes reports online daily with no adverse impact on performance or productivity." I'd add that all CRS reports make their way to the public already, although most in priced editions based on copies surreptitiously obtained by a private-sector publisher. The CRS arguments work best when access depends on consent of the commissioning member of Congress. Since we've long since abandoned that system, the government should remove the price barrier and give taxpayers what we've already paid for. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)
An unsigned editorial in the December 22 Toledo Blade makes the point very well. "How do you know when a United States congressman has been around too long? When he starts to believe that he owns and controls what the American public pays for with its tax dollars. A case in point: Rep. Bob Ney, Republican of St. Clairsville in southeastern Ohio, [who] has denied a request that the public get full access to information distributed by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress. CRS produces reports on all manner of public policy matters for members of Congress and their staffs. This information is regarded to be the most objective available in Washington’s intensely partisan atmosphere." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)
Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) is leading a group of senators in urging the Library of Congress to provide more information through THOMAS for the general public. The senators want the public to have access to the Legislative Information System, a souped-up version of THOMAS currently available only to members of Congress. For more details, see Randall Edwards' story in Federal Computer Week or the table comparing LIS and THOMAS created by the Project on Government Oversight. (Thanks to LIS News.)
The Faculty Senate at Cornell University has adopted a strongly worded resolution supporting its library in cancelling hundreds of Elsevier journals. Excerpt: "Recognizing that the cost of Elsevier journals in particular is radically out of proportion with the importance of those journals to the library's serials collection (measured both in terms of the proportion of the total collection they represent and in terms of their use by and value to faculty and students), the University Faculty Senate encourages the library to seek in the near term, in consultation with the faculty, to reduce its expenditures on Elsevier journals to no more than 15% of its total annual serials acquisitions expenditures (from in excess of 20% in 2003)."
An item in the latest update from BioMed Central is: World Governments throw their weight behind Open Access. An excerpt: "Governments from 176 countries including the UK have signed a landmark international agreement that explicitly supports Open Access. Described as the 'constitution of the information society', the Geneva Principles and Action Plan were adopted at the United Nations sponsored World Summit on the Information Society in Switzerland this month".
On December 15, the University of Virginia Library and Cornell University released FEDORA version 1.2. FEDORA stands for Flexible Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture. From the web site: "This new release contains a number of significant new features, including content versioning, the complete implementation of the Fedora Management interface, and major additions to the Fedora Administrator client to enable object creation and editing. With the advent of content versioning, the Fedora Access interfaces now support date-time stamped requests, so that a client can 'go back in time' and see a digital object as it looked in the past. Additionally, this release provides a migration utility for mass export and mass ingest of objects from either directories or other repositories. The migration utility enables the moving of objects from older versions of Fedora repositories into the lastest version. It also is of general utility for copying or moving objects among repositories, for unloading repositories, and for bulk ingest of objects."
The January issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. This issue contains comments on Amazon's Search Inside the Book, Ebooks and Etext, another excellent installment of his Copyright Currents, and an essay arguing that the boycott and cancellations of Elsevier titles signals a tipping point against big-deal bundling. Excerpt: "I hope there's momentum. I hope faculty members pay attention --that they find alternative routes to publication and support necessary cuts to keep the system alive. I hope some scholarly associations start to see that their first purpose in publishing should be to make scholarship widely available --and that accepting or matching outrageous commercial prices is no way to do that."
But above this issue contains a long and detailed section, Scholarly Article Access, commenting on the launch of PLoS Biology, the STM Publishers' defensive campaign against OA, John Willinsky's nine flavors of OA, Richard O'Grady's reflections on funding OA, the debate between Elsevier's Arie Jongejan and BMC's Jan Velterop, and several other recent OA developments.
The only bad news is that this is Walt's last sustained coverage of OA. One of his reasons is that the field is already well-covered. "Peter Suber does a superb job of covering Open Access and related issues in SOAN, SOAF, and the Open Access News weblog. He provides fair (that is, intellectually honest) summaries of articles and news items even when he disagrees with them, and adds his own comments in an ethical, insightful and enjoyable manner." (Thanks, Walt.) If he didn't have another reason --limited time and unlimited other topics to cover-- I'd have to remind him that we have a history of civil disagreements, just one reason why my voice shouldn't exclude his. But Walt did leave the door ajar to return to this topic. "As a humanist, I am appalled at the thought that universities and colleges have stripped book budgets (and budgets for typically inexpensive humanities journals and periodicals) to the bone in order to keep paying outrageous prices for STM journals. As an observer, I have a complex set of opinions about the various strains contained within the current controversies. As appropriate, I'll continue to comment."
From an unsigned note in today's Library Journal: "Librarians may not have noticed yet, but the federally-chartered commission set up to advise on homeland security has told the President and Congress that library records deserve greater protection than currently allowed under the USA PATRIOT Act."
Helen Doyle, Andy Gass, and Debra Lappin, A Changing Landscape, PLoS Biology, December 22, 2003. A good overview of the current state of the experiment with open-access journal publishing. Excerpt: "These experiments suggest a variety of business models that might sustain open-access publications....A formal evaluation of these open-access experiments should be a top priority for funders interested in optimizing the dissemination of scientific knowledge....As an open-access publisher, PLoS intends to maximize the savings and benefits afforded by open-access electronic publishing and collaborate with others to create more open-access journals....Funders, librarians, scientists, members of industry, and of course publishers must ensure that open-access experiments proliferate --and, in time, open-access publications will no longer be seen as experimental."
Ney says nay: The Ohio House member wants the public kept in the dark, an editorial in the Akron Beacon Journal for December 16. Excerpt: "The trouble is, the public cannot gain access [to these taxpayer funded research reports]. Essentially, the decision was made by Bob Ney, a Republican from St. Clairsville who chairs the House Administration Committee, which oversees the [Congressional Research Service or CRS]. The ranking Democrat on the committee agreed with Ney, ending a two-year pilot program that made indexes of the reports and the full texts available on the Web. Ney's reasoning? There are times when the facts requested by a member might not fit the position he or she has already staked out in public. 'Let's say that I'm working on an issue and I'm trying to look for some research that helps me to get my point across...and all of a sudden, the Congressional Research Service sends me over something and I read it and I say, "Oh, no, it's not going to help," ' Ney told the Associated Press. Just imagine the horror if the facts got in the way. Actually, Ney's principal objection appears to be giving opponents access to free research. Those citizens who paid for the research in the first place? The Ney response seems to be: Who cares?" (Thanks to RoadRunner.) (PS: Ohioans should write to Ney's office and explain why members of Congress should support the public interest. More coverage.)
On December 4, the Interacademy Panel on International Issues (IAP) issued a statement on Access to Scientific Information. Excerpts:
The statement does not mention "open access". The IAP is a consortium of 90 science academies from around the world.