Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Interview with Francis Muguet on OA at WSIS

Eric Goettmann, Le libre accès au Sommet mondial de l'information, Captain Doc, December 2003. An interview with Francis Muguet, chairman of the Scientific Information Working Group of the WSIS, on the WSIS endorsement of open access, its negotiation and significance. Read the original French or Google's English.

More on the UC-Elsevier agreement

Elsevier issued a press release today on the deal. Excerpt: "The agreement provides over 300,000 University of California (UC) undergraduates, graduates, researchers, faculty and staff with access to the UC list of subscribed titles, all Cell Press titles and Elsevier's entire collection of backfiles for all subject areas, back to Volume 1, Issue 1, which alone comprises 3 million articles. The agreement relating to the subscribed titles list provides the UC user community with access to approximately 3.6 million full-text articles and 59 million abstracts. Furthermore, the agreement contains the standard Elsevier "walk-up" provision, which permits all California citizens coming to UC libraries for scientific and medical information, free access to content covered under the agreement. Although the negotiation period was challenging for both parties, the tone of the discussion was professional and cordial throughout."

Friday, January 09, 2004

University of California and Elsevier

On January 7, the University of California announced the results of its negotiations with Elsevier: cancellation of about 200 journals and renewal of about 1200. It did not disclose the renewal price. Excerpt: "The economics of scholarly journal publishing are incontrovertibly unsustainable. Taming price inflation is not enough. Unless we change the current model, academic libraries and universities will be unable to continue providing faculty, students, and staff with the access they require to the world?s scholarship and knowledge. Scholars will be unable to make the results of their research widely available. These are not statements about any single company, about the strengths and weaknesses of for- and not-for-profit publishing, or about the prospects of open-access versus subscription-based journal models. They are merely observations about economic reality." (Thanks to Ross Scaife.)

A "common information environment"

Today JISC announced its Memorandum of Understanding with the British Library, the National electronic Library for Health (NeLH), e-Science core programme, Resource, and UKOLN, in support of a Common Information Environment. For details, see the memorandum itself or Philip Pothen's article, Building a common information environment, in the December 2003 issue of Library Information Update.

New work on reference linking

The December 2003 issue of ICSTI Forum has three articles on reference linking, one each by Jill O'Neill, Andrea Powell, and Amy Brand.

Another sighting of the "OA journals are for rich authors" meme

Iain Stevenson, 'Open access' is for the rich only, a letter to the editor in the Times Higher Education Supplement, January 9, 2003 (online access only for subscribers). The argument is clear from the title, but here's an excerpt: "Open access is fine if the article authors have grant funds to pay the publication charge likely in science and medicine but very unlikely in social sciences and humanities, let alone for aspiring authors in any field in poorer countries."

(PS: This is rapidly becoming the most common objection to OA journals. It's completely understandable but completely answerable. Unfortunately, both the funding model for OA journals, and the answer to this objection, are fairly complicated, at least more complicated than this simple, even simplistic, objection. So I worry that mere clarity won't suffice. We have to work hard to counter the spread of this meme. Some quick advice. Stop using the phrase "author fees" for fees that are usually paid by funders or employers. Talk about fee waivers in every description of the funding model. Talk about OA journals without fees. Talk about the differences among the disciplines, and that while medicine leads the way with OA journals, funding models that work in medicine needn't be the funding models that work in other fields. Talk about the open-ended ways in which OA journals can experiment to cover their expenses. Talk about OA archiving, which doesn't face any of the financial difficulties of OA journals.)

LOCKSS project featured in BMJ

The LOCKSS project which aims to provide librarians with a cheap and easy way to collect, preserve, and provide access to their own, local copy of web published material is featured in the current issue of the British medical journal

BMJ: US universities review subscriptions to journal "package deals" as costs rise

The British Medical Journal carries a report on cancellations on the Elsevier bundle by US Universities.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Historical world ocean climatological data project

CLIWOC, Climatological Database for the World's Oceans 1750-1850, is a European-Union funded project to gather data from ships' logbooks found in archives of several European countries and "make freely available for the scientific community the world’s first daily oceanic climatological database for the period 1750 to 1850." (Source: Librarian's Index to the Internet; see also a recent BBC News article on the project.)

Open Letter to Frank Gannon on EMBO journal price increases

This letter from Bas Savenije, Chair, SPARC Europe, to Frank Gannon, executive director of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), was forwarded to LIBLICENSE-L, and merits mention here, especially in light of Gannon's editorial from earlier this month in which he discussed the ethics of journal subscription profits. (See earlier posting on the latter.) Savenije decries EMBO's "bundling" the EMBO Journal and EMBO Reports in one subscription, a site license based on an institution's number of full-time employees and says that it amounts to doubling the subscription costs for most libraries. In 2003, Nature Publishing Group assumed publication of EMBO Reports and now publishes the EMBO Journal for the society. In its annual report from 2002 (p.34), EMBO says the move to NPG "was motivated by the wish to reach the broadest possible audience in the current age of electronic media," but Savenjie points out that the new subscription model, in face of tightening academic budgets, may likely reduce the journal's audience and impact. Furthermore, he notes the irony of EMBO's actions in the face of other publishers experiments with alternative subscription models, including open access, and the increased support of funding bodies in the U.S. and Europe for such initatives. Lastly, Savenije remarks the possibility that EMBO be a leader in the open access movement and "reconsider this excessive and damaging price rise.) (Source: Bernd-Christoph Kämper via LIBLICENSE-L mailing list)

Interview with Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg

Sam Vaknin, Project Gutenberg's anabasis, United Press International, January 7, 2004. Vaknin interviews Michael Hart, founder and director of Project Gutenberg, and Greg Newby, CEO of the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.

Vaknin: Why don't simple scans or raw OCR (optical character recognition) output qualify as eBooks?

Hart: [P]eople are not interested in scans. Some Project Gutenberg sites each hand out 10 million eBooks per year -- impossible with scanned images or full text eBooks due to their bandwidth-consuming oversize. The "scanners" want to be the only source for "their" books, even when those books are in the public domain -- and are willing to claim copyright on the public domain works of Project Gutenberg in the process. They deny themselves true access to the public. Our Unlimited Distribution Model calls for everyone to have a library of 10,000 eBooks, stored on a single DVD that costs only $1. [The same books are online at the PG web site free of charge.] People find this appealing....Additionally, the huge scan files hold just a single book, are not searchable, cannot be copied, indexed, or cited by off the shelf applications, typos can't be corrected, and are not truly portable due to their size.

Systematic search engine bias?

Susan Gerhart, Do Web search engines suppress controversy? First Monday, January 2004. Abstract: "Web behavior depends upon three interlocking communities: (1) authors whose Web pages link to other pages; (2) search engines indexing and ranking those pages; and (3) information seekers whose queries and surfing reward authors and support search engines. Systematic suppression of controversial topics would indicate a flaw in the Web's ideology of openness and informativeness. This paper explores search engines' bias by asking: Is a specific well–known controversy revealed in a simple search? Experimental topics include: distance learning, Albert Einstein, St. John's Wort, female astronauts, and Belize. The experiments suggest simple queries tend to overly present the "sunny side" of these topics, with minimal controversy. A more "Objective Web" is analyzed where: (a) Web page authors adopt research citation practices; (b) search engines balance organizational and analytic content; and, (c) searchers practice more wary multi–searching."

New SHERPA partners

Six UK universities have joined the SHERPA Project as Associate Partners, making a total of 13 partners representing 20 institutions. The result will be a significant enlargement of the UK network of institutional eprint archives. Quoting the January 7 press release: "Currently there is a high degree of interest in improving the visibility and accessibility of UK research, not only to directly facilitate economic development, but also to increase the fundamental efficiency of the way that research works. One response has been the development of Open Access journals to replace the current subscription based commercial journals. There are now around 600 such journals, compared to around 20,000 subscription journals, but more are planned for launch. The other solution, adopted by the SHERPA project, takes a different approach and promises to have a more direct effect. This is to make UK research directly available online in Open Access collections. Such pen access archives, or repositories, have already made available over 500,000 research papers."

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

American Chemical Society president comments on rising costs of journals and open access

The January 5 issue of Chemical and Engineering News includes an introductory message from ACS president Charles P. Casey. Among other concerns for ACS and the chemical community, on pages 4-5, Casey comments on rising journal costs for libraries and the question of open access. He cites the comparative value of ACS journals in terms of price, pagination and impact factor. Regarding open access, Casey questions the stability of PLoS, implying that lack of economic viability will jeopardize archival status of these publications. He dismisses the Sabo bill, saying that requiring open access for government-funded research "would effectively remove copyright protection for ACS and other scientific journals" and would tilt influence "toward the open access model and would fatally damage publications of scientific societies." Casey's remedy would be "electronic journals from scientific societies ... made available at reasonable costs," and he urges the chemistry community to push commercial publishers towards reducing their prices, especially by reconsidering their contributions to such publications. (Source: The (sci-tech) Library Question)

"Electronic science: a license to print money"

David Mort, Science makes money for Europe's information companies, Research Information, Winter 2003, pp. 13-14. (Not yet online but soon to be here.) A summary of the 2003 profits, margins, acquisitions, and shifts to electronic publication and bundling at the major journal publishers. In the TOC of this issue the editors plug the article with the line, "Electronic science: a license to print money". Excerpt: "[R]estructuring, cost-cutting programmes, and improved operating efficiencies should boost industry margins compared to last year." (PS: Despite the rosy forecast, this is pre-Paribas, pre-Citigroup, and pre-Investec. Unlike other recent financial analysts, Mort doesn't even mention open access, let alone try to take its progress into account.)

Libraries as publishers of OA journals

Eulalia Roel, Electronic journal publication: A new library contribution to scholarly communication, College & Research Libraries News, January 2004. How the University of Arizona library, with help from SPARC, became the publisher of the open-access Journal of Insect Science. Roel offers reflections on how to meet expenses, build journal visibility and prestige, and master production details.

New issue of Access

The December 2003 issue of Access is now online. This issue has news stories on BioOne, the new Malaysian digital library on Islam, the largest digital library in China, Oxford Scholarship Online, and half a dozen other recent initiatives.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Electronic STM journal conference proceedings online

The presentations at the conference, Electronic Scientific, Technical, and Medical Journal Publishing and Its Implications (Washington, D.C., May 19-20, 2003) are now online.

Updated Create Change brochure

SPARC, ARL, and the ACRL have updated their Create Change brochure. The new text is freely available online in several formats, for institutions that would like to adapt it to local conditions. Printed copies are also available for purchase. Quoting the SPARC press release: "The new brochure's colorful design, larger format and revised text present up-to-date statistics on the stresses facing scholarly communication and offers options for action by scholars. It reflects the gathering momentum of the open access movement and recommends ways that faculty action can bring about constructive change." Also see the more extensive Create Change web site.

EMBO Reports editorial: "Ethical profits from publishing"

EMBO reports 5, 1, 1 (2004) (Access restricted to subscribers.) Frank Gannon, editor of EMBO Journal, maintains that his society makes money ethically from its publishing activities, because "we use this money exclusively for our community," citing programs that support scientists in developing countries, young investigators, fellowships for women scientists among others. He argues that scientific societies must make a profit to sustain such activities. Furthermore, Gannon states that the SPARC journals "have not yet succeeded in their goal of replacing" their better-known commercial counterparts and that open access publishing "is at too early a stage of implementation to make predictions about its economic viability." The EMBO publications, he writes, allow author retention of copyright and author self-archiving, and are free to scientists in developing countries and universally accessible after a one year embargo. Unfortunately, Gannon resorts to name-calling, labeling proponents of open access publishing "evangelists" and "self-righteous scientists," which undermines his reasonable point, "there are many different ways to serve the scientific community."

OA National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network

The University of Washington Center for Nanotechnology just received a $10 million grant from the National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network (NNIN). Quoting the UW press release: The funds will enable UW to join the network, which "seeks to enable university students and researchers, as well as scientists from corporate and government laboratories, to have open access to resources they need for studying molecular and higher length-scale materials and processes."

Bloglet is working again

Bloglet is working again for Open Access News. It has worked for other blogs all along, and formerly worked for us, but recently became snagged on a mysterious incompatibility. Matt Cockerill of BMC identified the problem and and solved it last night. Now you can sign up for email delivery of OAN blog postings. Just use the sign-up form either in the blog sidebar or on the About page. (Thank-you, Matt!)

OA overview from THES

Geoff Watts, Crusaders for a truly free flow of ideas, Times Higher Education Supplement, January 5, 2004 (online access only for subscribers). Excerpt: "Item: speaking recently at a meeting in London organised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England's Joint Information Systems Committee, Mark Walport described trying to consult the online version of the Journal of Infectious Disease. The issue he wanted included a report on malaria research by the Medical Research Council laboratories in Gambia: work financed by the Wellcome Trust. On his office computer screen a message appeared: 'Access denied'. Walport is director of the Wellcome Trust. To do away with such irritations and absurdities is one of the aims of the open-access movement in the publishing of academic research findings." (Thanks to Stevan Harnad.)

Monday, January 05, 2004

InformationToday asks info industry execs about the year ahead

In "What's Ahead for 2004," eleven high-profile players in the information industry share their thoughts on significant developments to follow in the next year. Only two, the British Library's Lynne Brindley and Sabine Brünger-Weilandt of FIZ Karlsruhe, mention open access, and mainly as something to watch, one model among many alternatives, without yet pronouncing on its impact or viability; others such as Outsell's Anthea Stratigos and Ingenta's Mark Rowse note the increasing role of XML and RSS in seamless delivery of content.

Harnad op-ed piece on OA

Stevan Harnad, Knowledge freely given should be freely available, Montreal Gazette, January 5, 2003. Excerpt: "The authors of most books, for example, are quite aware that the Web is a medium in which texts can be made accessible to anyone, but they'd rather their readers paid for access. Most singers and songwriters feel the same way. Most people, in fact, would prefer to be paid for their work. But there's one prominent exception. Researchers are paid to do research but they publish it (in research journals) for free. Unlike all other authors, they don't ask for any fee or royalty."

Harnad on OA archiving and impact

Stevan Harnad, Open Access to Peer-Reviewed Research through Author/Institution Self-Archiving: Maximizing Research Impact by Maximizing Online Access, Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, 49, 4 (2003) pp. 337-342. Excerpt: The beneficiaries [of OA archiving] will not just be research and researchers, but society itself, inasmuch as research is supported because of its potential benefits to society. Researchers in developing countries and at the less affluent universities and research institutions of the developed countries will benefit even more from toll-free access to the research literature than the better-off institutions, but it is instructive to remind ourselves that even the most affluent institutional libraries cannot afford most of the refereed journals! So open access to it all will benefit all institutions. And on the other side of barrier-free access to the work of others, all researchers, even the most affluent, will benefit from the barrier-free impact of their own work on the work of others. Moreover, a toll-free, interoperable, digital research literature will not only radically enhance access, navigation (e.g., citation-linking) and impact, and thereby improve research productivity and quality, but it will also spawn new ways of monitoring and measuring impact, productivity and quality (e.g., download impact, links, immediacy, comments, and the higher-order dynamics of a citation-linked corpus) that can be analyzed from preprint to post-postprint."