Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Enclosing the information commons

David Bollier, Who Owns the Sky? Reviving the Commons, In These Times, February 27, 2004. Excerpt: "The commons describes the many resources we collectively own that are being mismanaged by government or siphoned away by corporations. Some commons are physical assets, such as the global atmosphere, ecosystems, clean water, wildlife and the human genome. Some commons are public institutions such as libraries, museums, schools and government agencies. Still other commons are social communities, such as the 'gift economies' of people who contribute their time and expertise to create valuable resources. Examples include scientific disciplines and Internet communities, both of which depend on the open exchange of information."

More on trade embargoes on scientific publications

Adam Liptak, Treasury Department Is Warning Publishers of the Perils of Criminal Editing of the Enemy, New York Times, February 28, 2004 (free registration required). Excerpt: "The federal government has recently...warned publishers they may face grave legal consequences for editing manuscripts from Iran and other disfavored nations, on the ground that such tinkering amounts to trading with the enemy....In theory --almost certainly only in theory-- correcting typographical errors and performing other routine editing could subject publishers to fines of $500,000 and 10 years in jail." Quoting Eric A. Swanson, a senior vice president at John Wiley & Sons: "It is against the principles of scholarship and freedom of expression, as well as the interests of science, to require publishers to get U.S. government permission to publish the works of scholars and researchers who happen to live in countries with oppressive regimes." Quoting Leon Friedman, a Hofstra law professor who sometimes represents PEN: "That's censorship. That's a prior restraint." Quoting Esther Allen, chairwoman of the PEN American Center's translation committee, said the rules would also appear to ban translations: "During the cold war, the idea was to let voices from behind the Iron Curtain be heard. Now that's called trading with the enemy?"

Friday, February 27, 2004

ESDS International

Delivering the world with free UK access to international data, JISC, February 27, 2004. An unsigned article on ESDS International, a new data service from ESDS. Excerpt: "ESDS International hosts international statistical databanks that collectively chart over 50 years of global social and economic change and includes topics such as the environment, human development, social expenditure, education, employment, trade, industry, demography and economic performamce....Thanks to JISC and ESRC funding it is estimated that ESDS International has secured access to over £5 million pounds worth of data for a five year period for approximately £500,000 thus delivering significant savings to the whole academic community and removing a significant barrier to use of international data in research and teaching."

Kentucky provides OA to newly enacted legislation

Kentucky is providing open access to newly enacted legislation from the moment the new laws are received from the Governor's office. The online versions are unsearchable scanned images, but at least they are free and readable. For more details see the unsigned story in today's

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Deutsche Bank downgrades Elsevier stock based on OA threat

Deutsche Bank reduced its evaluation of Elsevier from "buy" to "hold". Excerpt from Wednesday's New Ratings: "According to Deutsche Bank, the electronic media trends, which enable customers to be more selective in choosing their journals, are likely to pose a long term challenge to the company."

PLoS Medicine getting closer to launch

PLoS has created a web page for PLoS Medicine, the new OA journal it plans to launch this fall. While the journal hasn't launched yet, the web site broadcasts a call for papers (acceptance decisions will begin in April) and lets users sign up for email alerts for news, sneak previews, and tables of contents. (Thanks to George Porter.)

Difficulty in searching open access journal sites

Peter Jacsó, Proxy Searching of Non-Searchable and Poorly Searchable Open Access Archives of Digital Scholarly Journals, Lecture Notes in Computer Science 2911, 552-555 (2003). Jacsó examines search capabilities for open access journal websites and finds them wanting, particularly in comparison with established publishers such as Elsevier. He proposes a work-around using search engines such as Google, AlltheWeb and Wisenut and claims that these work fairly precisely to mine these archives. Jacsó does not mention such utilities as Citeseer, myOAI or OAIster which search both preprint servers and journals such as those on the BioMed Central platform; the article may also have been written prior to BMC's release of its journal content for data mining via ftp-able XML files.

Defense of subscription-based journals

Donald Kennedy, Vantage Point: Subscription journals are here to stay, Stanford Report, February 26, 2004. The Editor-in-Chief of Science defends toll-access journals, in a counterpoint to the Pat Brown piece (see previous entry). Excerpt: "Science and many other journals published by scientific societies use a different business model [from the OA journals]. Scientist-authors pay nothing to have their papers submitted, reviewed, edited and published, save when there are color figures. Neither do they pay to have their work covered in our news or 'This Week In Science' section. Instead, the costs of publication are met from several sources: membership (all AAAS members receive Science, but their dues cover that and a variety of other AAAS programs); institutional subscriptions or site licenses for the online version at 1,000 institutions; and advertising. Thus our model should probably be called 'open submission.' I think it is a good thing that we will now have both models in play. PLoS has made an impressive start, with good papers, and there is every reason to wish them success. Interestingly, both ways of making scientific results available to the community are facing real challenges. Ours is that we are already making so much of our content free to readers online that there is a dwindling incentive to subscribe to the print version....Since print advertising is a major part of our revenue stream and since it is linked to circulation, that's a problem for us....I hope we will see a productive competition between the Science and PLoS publication models. But I know of no normative standard by which theirs or ours can lay special claim to the moral high ground."

Pat Brown on OA

Patrick Brown, Vantage Point: Free online scientific journals make sense, Stanford Report, February 26, 2004. One of the three founders of the Public Library of Science articulates and defends his vision. Excerpt: "The public library, one of the greatest inventions of human civilization, has been waiting for the Internet. What seemed an impossible ideal in 1836, when Antonio Panizzi, librarian of the British Museum, wrote, 'I want a poor student to have the same means of indulging his learned curiosity,...of consulting the same authorities, the richest man in the kingdoms,' is today within reach. With the Internet, we have the means to make humanity's treasury of knowledge freely available to scientists, teachers, students and the public around the world. But it won't happen automatically....Even at Stanford, the restrictions on access prevent us from being able to search the entire corpus of scientific articles for particular terms, concepts, methods, data or images and retrieve the results -- you can't "Google" the millions of scientific articles that have been published online!...Charging for access longer economically necessary, rational or fair -- it needlessly limits access to an essential public good. What's the alternative? Just as midwives can earn a living without claiming ownership or control of the babies they deliver, publishers can and should be paid a fair price by the sponsors of the research -- a 'midwife's fee' -- for their role in orchestrating peer-review, editing and disseminating the results. But they should not be given the baby -- our baby -- to own and control. By paying publishers for each article at the time of its publication, instead of allowing them to own the article and charge for access, the doors to the online library could be opened to everyone."

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

OA publishing overview from PLoS

The Public Library of Science has summarized its experience as an OA publisher in a white paper, Publishing Open-Access Journals, February 2004. Excerpt: "There are many different paths to producing a journal, either online or in print, with a tremendously wide spectrum of costs that can be generated or avoided during the publishing process. The aggregate cost of shepherding manuscripts through peer review, preparing selected papers for publishing, and finally disseminating articles depends on the particular steps that a publisher deems necessary for a particular journal. Using unpaid academic editors and an opensource online journal management system, eschewing frills in the production process, and publishing online directly in archives with minimal formatting requirements (for example, those that accept articles as simple PDF files), a publisher could potentially produce a peer-reviewed journal spending little or no money....This is the preliminary version of a document that we anticipate will evolve over time. In its present state, this paper concerns predominantly production rather than editorial systems, structures, and costs. However, as PLoS grows as a publisher and launches new journals with different editorial and production systems, and as more open access publishers share their editorial and production costs, we will plan to update this document with additional information as it becomes available."

More on the UK inquiry

The first session of oral evidence in the UK inquiry into journal prices and availability will be March 1, when the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee will hear from Blackwell, Nature, Wiley, and Elsevier. The next week, March 8, it will hear from the Institute of Physics, ALPSP, Oxford, Axiope, PLoS, and BMC. For more detail, see the committee's online schedule, which includes instructions for members of the public wishing to attend. (Thanks to David Prosser.)

New impact measurement for OA scholarship

Thomson ISI and NEC's CiteSeer are joining forces to create a new Web Citation Index. Excerpt from today's press release: "The new Web Citation Index(TM) will combine a suite of technologies developed by NEC, including "autonomous citation indexing" tools from NEC's CiteSeer environment, with the capabilities underlying ISI Web of Knowledge(SM). Thomson ISI editors will carefully monitor the quality of this new resource to ensure all indexed material meets the Thomson ISI high-quality standards. During 2004, Thomson ISI and NEC will operate a pilot of the new resource to receive feedback from the scientific and scholarly community. Full access to the index is projected for early 2005." (Thanks to Gary Price.)

Follow-up on ACS and scholarly publishing embargoes

Sophie Rovner, ACS Ends Limited Publishing Moratorium, Chemical and Engineering News 82(8), 6 (February 23, 2004). A news article reports that the American Chemical Society will again accept articles from scholars in nations with whom the United States holds a trade embargo. See ( Peter Suber's earlier posting for related articles on the ACS and scholarly publishing embargoes). This follows a meeting between several societies and publishers and officials with the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Robert D. Bovenschulte, president of ACS' publications division, indicated that the society would continue to seek changes in the OFAC ruling and consider legal options.

Also: Society lifts publishing ban on nations facing U.S. sanctions, Nature 427, 770 (26 February 2004). (Access restricted to subscribers.) A news brief from Nature reported on these developments and quoted an Iranian scientist as saying: "I think Iranian chemists will be happy to see that these restrictions have been removed."

Both pieces gave a passing mention of the view that the embargo infringes first amendment rights, which C&EN notes has been argued in a brief by the Association of American Publishers.

Cold eye on academic publishing

Mohamed Gad-el Hak, Publish or Perish - An Ailing Enterprise, Physics Today 57(3), 61-62 (March 2004). (Issue not yet available online, and will probably be restricted to subscribers.) The author pens a scathing critique of the scholarly publishing enterprise, citing familiar maladies such as excessive publication, cut-and-paste or recycled publications (such as turning a thesis into a book that's little more than the original,or material already published in journal form masquerading as a new monograph,) and shoddily-edited manuscripts. Gad-el-Hak agrees with scholarly publishing's role in the academic merit and promotion process, "if it emphasizes quality rather than quantity." However, he blames the "publish-or-perish" imperative for creating a "race ... to publish en masse. ... Mostly for-profit publishers of books and journals have mushroomed and mediocrity has crept into both venues." Gad-el-Hak sees an excessive proliferation of scholarly journals, using as an example his own speciality fluid mechanics, where he finds more than 200 periodicals and perhaps half a dozen worth reading. While he doesn't mention open access publishing, one wonders if he would consider it a remedy or view the launching of new journals with suspicion. Among his suggestions towards fixing the system, Gad-el-Hak values peer review and impact factors highly, remarking: "Journals should publish their impact factor. The ones who don't may have something to hide." Furthermore, he says libraries should give considerable weight to impact factor when making subscription retention decisions. For the most part, though, researchers should publish less often and libraries and book buyers should be more discriminating and "boycott over-priced books."

OAIS introductory guide

Brian Lavoie, The Open Archival Information System Reference Model: Introductory Guide, OCLC. The document is dated January 2004, but it was released yesterday, February 24. A detailed overview of the OAIS model of digital preservation.

More on the Stanford decision to cancel expensive journals

Ray Delgado, Faculty Senate approves resolution encouraging boycott of some pricey journals, Stanford Report, February 25, 2004. Excerpt: "The Faculty Senate endorsed the latest attempt by the university's library system to take a stand against for-profit journal publishers that it says engage in exorbitant pricing practices. The senate last week approved a motion on a divided voice vote that encourages libraries to cancel some costly journal subscriptions and faculty to withhold articles and reviews from publishers who engage in questionable pricing practices. The motion singled out publishing giant Elsevier as deserving special attention."

Quoting University Librarian Michael Keller: "We're not doing this to position ourselves to negotiate more effectively with Elsevier. We're doing this to change the whole scene. We're trying to change the fundamental nature of scholarly communication in the journal industry."

Quoting Robert Simoni, professor of biology and advisor to HighWire Press: "I think it's going to take a long time for its prestige and cachet [of the journal Cell] to wear out. There are still so many people who think publishing in Cell is going to make their career that they'll still get submissions. But if institutions like Stanford and others stop subscribing to journals like Cell, authors will eventually realize that their work is not being seen. This is an evolutionary change and it will take time."

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Using OpenURL to make OA literature more visible

Walt Crawford, OpenURL Meets Open Access, American Libraries, February 2004. On an OpenURL resolver built by Giles Caron, library director at the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi. Caron's resolver offers to check OAI harvesters in addition to the library's licensed holdings. Walt is right that this makes OA literature in OAI archives more visible and accessible to student researchers who might not know to try OAIster or myOAI.

IFLA statement on OA

Today the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) released the IFLA Statement on Open Access to Scholarly Literature and Research Documentation, an important endorsement of OA by an important voice for libraries. Excerpts:

IFLA affirms that comprehensive open access to scholarly literature and research documentation is vital to the understanding of our world and to the identification of solutions to global challenges and particularly the reduction of information inequality.

Open access guarantees the integrity of the system of scholarly communication by ensuring that all research and scholarship will be available in perpetuity for unrestricted examination and, where relevant, elaboration or refutation.

The IFLA definition of OA derives from the Bethesda statement. The IFLA statement was approved by the IFLA Governing Board on December 5, 2003, but only released today. Also see the press release accompanying the statement.

Metadata and institutional repositories

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

Myths about myths

Three quick comments on Rudy Baum, The Open-Access Myth, Chemical and Engineering News, February 23, 2004 (only accessible to subscribers), which Garrett Eastman just posted a few minutes ago.

Excerpt: "The dangerous, usually unspoken, myth that makes the argument [for OA] seem reasonable is this: STM publishers add little value to the research they publish and therefore should not charge institutions for subscriptions to the electronic versions of their journals, or, at the very least, they should provide open access to the public a short time after publication." (PS: Wrong. OA doesn't say that publishers shouldn't be paid for their services, merely that there are better ways to cover their expenses than by charging readers or libraries.)

Excerpt: "And it's not clear to me what advantage is conferred by shifting the cost of publishing from libraries to researchers." (PS: It's called open access. It's barrier-free access to an important body of literature by everyone with an internet connection.)

Excerpt: "The open-access movement's demand that an entirely new and unproven model for STM publishing be adopted is not in the best interests of science." (PS: Entirely? There have been OA journals since the late 1980's. Is it even relevant that the subscription-based model has been judged unsustainable by a growing number of universities, libraries, and analysts? If Baum were reviewing a scientific article this cavalier with evidence and balance, I assume that he'd reject it.)

Chemical and Engineering News attacks OA models

Rudy M. Baum, The Open-Access Myth, Chemical and Engineering News 82(8), 3 (February 23, 2004). (Access restricted to subscribers.) Baum writes: "Open access is predicated on an obvious truth and a dangerous myth." By the former he means the reality that public monies underwrite the majority of scientific literature, while the latter, the myth that the CEN editor seeks to jettison is that publishers "add little value to the research they publish." Rather than detailing the costs of producing a high-quality publication and demonstrating such added value, Baum attacks open access models as based on flawed reasoning, unproven in the marketplace, unfair to authors in developing countries (in terms of the author payment model) and suggests furthermore that OA is unwanted by the majority of scientists as exemplified in the recent PNAS survey (see Peter's posting from 2/4) in which 50% surveyed were willing to consider author fees. Finally, he reduces a complex issue (OA) with many facets and players into a "something for nothing" wish-fulfillment.

Swedish article on OA

Stig Larsén, Open Access! Sydsvenskan, February 20, 2004. In Swedish. (Thanks to ScieCom.)

More on the Sabo bill

In January the American Association of Publishers (AAP) released a public statement opposing the Sabo bill. On the one hand, it makes a good point that I made myself when analyzing the bill last July, namely, that copyright-holder consent works as well as the public domain in creating the legal basis for open access, and maybe even better. On the other hand, it naively underestimates the pressure that authors feel to transfer their copyrights to journals and, by confusing publication with "public access", naively overestimates the sense in which "copyright promotes public access to the results of federally-funded scientific research".

Monday, February 23, 2004

Radio show transcript touches on OA issues

On February 16, Andrea Joswig hosted a radio call-in show on the state of libraries in Germany. The transcript is now online (in German). Two of the guests, Hans-Joachim Wätjen and Rainer Kuhlen, are friendly to OA. A third, Hans Roosendaal, a former Elsevier executive, is not. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

New OA journal and press

On January 28, the University of Technology in Sydney launched a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal, Portal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies. At the same time it launched UTSePress, an all-electronic and apparently all-OA press chaired by UTS University Librarian, Alex Byrne.

BMC changing basis for institutional membership fee

BioMed Central is changing the way it calculates institutional membership fees. The current method is based on the number of researchers in BMC-related departments at the institution. After January 1, 2005, BMC will base the fee for renewals on the estimated number of BMC-published articles the institution will produce in the following year. The method for calculating first-year membership fees will not change. For details see the BMC page on institutional memberships, the discussion thread on LibLicense, or the short note in Library Journal for February 23, 2004.

Update. I corrected this posting February 25 in light of a February 23 press release from BMC.

Detailed study of institutional repositories

Mark Ware, Pathfinder Research on Web-based Repositories: Final Report, Publisher and Library/Learning Solutions, January 2004. A study of 45 institutional repositories (IR's) and several IR-related projects such as DSpace, Eprints, DARE, and SHERPA. The report studies the problems facing IR's, their various uses at different institutions, the benefits for hosting institutions, the costs of creating and maintaining them, institutional policies that would help them succeed, publisher policies toward them, and the quantity and kinds of content they currently contain.

Excerpt: "A short survey of publishers was conducted to take a snapshot of their attitudes towards IRs. Some 45% think that IRs will have a significant impact on scholarly publishing, but almost as many (38%) don't know. Significantly, three-quarters think that the impact will either be neutral or there will be no impact. The stances towards IRs were split between 'wait and see' (38%) and active experimentation (42%). Publishers appeared fairly relaxed about pre-prints but much more concerned about self-archiving of final published papers. Interestingly, while 55% permit authors to self-archive, some 12% said they currently permit but expect to tighten restrictions to exclude IRs. (Page 35)."

Cutbacks on Elsevier titles at the University of Maryland

As the result of unsatisfactory negotiations with Elsevier, the University of Maryland is giving up consortial access to the Baltimore campus subscriptions and converting the College Park campus subscriptions to electronic-only. The changes were announced in February 20 memo to faculty from William Destler, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. Excerpt: "The Libraries have articulated two objectives in working with publishers: [1] to maintain and exercise control over library collecting decisions in order to meet the constantly evolving information needs of faculty, researchers, and students; and [2] to manage overall costs in a way that guarantees that no single publisher is exempted from the regular critical review, which ensures that all subscriptions provide reasonable value in relation to their budget impact. Elsevier's final offer...failed to meet either criterion."

More on OA progress during 2003

T. H. and A-M. B., 2003, année du libre accès à l'information scientifique, Captain Doc, January 2004. An overview of OA progress during 2003. Read the original French or Google's English. (Thanks to Marie Martens.)

Sunday, February 22, 2004

2003 at BMC's Journal of Biology

Theodora Bloom, Editorial, Journal of Biology, January 16, 2004. On the progress made during 2003 by open access, BioMed Central, and this BMC OA journal launched in 2002. Excerpt: "The last year also saw increasing numbers of authors voting - in the way that counts, with the submission of their precious research articles - to support Open Access. BioMed Central, the publisher of Journal of Biology, now publishes more than 100 Open Access journals, and to date these have considered more than 8,000 articles and published more than 4,000. But different journals within the BioMed Central stable have different editorial policies and standards. Journal of Biology, which completed its first full year of publication in 2003, was the first fully Open Access journal publishing articles of exceptional interest and importance from the full spectrum of biology; since launch it has received over 250 submissions and has accepted fewer than 5% of them for publication. We are committed to ensuring that Journal of Biology is a prestigious place to publish, and this means exercising a high degree of selectivity in deciding what is published in the journal."

Libraries could use threat of OA for leverage in Elsevier negotiations

Jason Nissé, Business View, The Independent, February 22, 2004. Excerpt: "Reed Elsevier gave a stout defence of its scientific publishing business last week, arguing that only a tiny fraction of academics are getting journals and articles via 'open access', whereby they don't have to pay the massive fees Reed charges. But what Reed ignores is how universities and libraries might use the threat of open access to beat it down. A recent survey by Goldman Sachs found that nearly a quarter of librarians planned to cancel or reduce subscriptions to Reed's Science Direct and another third were demanding price cuts. Not all of these will carry through with the threats, but it's enough to ensure Reed will have to keep its prices down for some time." (PS: Does anyone have a URL for the Goldman Sachs study Nissé cites? I couldn't turn it up in a quick search.)