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In the April issue of Internet Resources Newsletter, the featured Nice Web Site is African Journals Online, which it describes this way: "This site, which is supported by INASP, provides tables of contents and and abstracts from over 180 African-published peer-reviewed journals, with links to the full text if available. All access is free." Congratulations to AJOL and INASP.
Vinod Scaria, Open Access to Scholarly Communication: New Perspective for Health Professionals and Scholars, Plexus, March 26, 2004. Excerpt: "Open access is perhaps more relevant in the Health domain than perhaps any other - given its unique impact on human lives. Health is a basic human right and thus gives open access to scholarly communication in the health domain a unique philosophical and ethical perspective. Moreover, it has been pointed out that Open Access to Scholarly communication in the health domain is essential to contain the menace of diseases which plague the developing countries and to create a unique platform of exchange of knowledge between scholars. It is thought that Open Access would significantly improve the south-north flow of knowledge, adding to the prestige of scholars from the developing world....Open Access market also puts developing countries with immense IT-related expertise like India and South Africa at an advantageous position. The low cost for development and maintenance added with the low cost of manpower (compared to western statistics) make them potent and attractive destinations for publishers and service providers. Moreover, indigenous publishers can also leverage their expertise into an International platform effectively exploiting the unique opportunity."
Tara Moore, UC Teams Up With Nonprofit Science Journal Publisher, The Daily Online Californian, April 2, 2004. Excerpt: "In private companies like Elsevier, researchers contribute papers to journals at a low cost or for free, but then the publisher turns around and sells it back to universities for thousands of dollars, [Mike] Eisen said. In his journal [PLoS Biology], contributors have to pay $1,500 to send in an article, but the publication is free. 'Our model makes far more sense for everyone in the world to get our information regardless of how much money they have,' he said....UC's endorsement was one of the most sought-after among the hundreds of potential member universities. Other major public institutions including the University of Texas and the University of Virginia are among the journalís supporters."
Beth Flanningan, Libraries join fight for greater research access, Georgia State University Villager, March 23, 2004. Flannigan reports on initiatives at GSU, including the libraries' scholarly communication issues website, opting for inexpensive journal subscriptions, and moving towards centralized online repositories of the university's intellectual output, especially theses. University librarian Charlene Hurt is quoted:
I just mailed the April issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. In addition to the usual round-up of news and bibliography from the past month, it catalogs the recent university actions against high journal prices and reflects on the DC Principles for Free Access to Science.
Richard Poynder, The Inevitable and the Optimal, Information Today, April 1, 2004. Poynder's detailed observations of the oral testimony. Excerpt: "Certainly, many of the 80-plus people attending on the first day had come to see publishers called to account for their part in the ongoing journal price-inflation crisis. They wanted to see the school bullies given a bloody nose....Uppermost in the politicians' minds, however, was the knowledge that there's now an alternative to traditional publishing: open access. They were clearly attracted to a model that promised to replace ever more expensive journal subscriptions with one that freely distributed research papers over the Internet. While claiming to be neutral, publishers were evidently bent on discrediting open access....But the most surprising comment came when publishers were asked how they intended to enfranchise those currently unable to access scientific research either because they are not personal subscribers, not members of a subscribing institution, or have exceeded concurrent user limits. Jarvis startled the audience by replying that it was dangerous to make medical information widely available to the public....Apparently agreeing, Charkin nodded vigorously and said, 'The unprocessed data of scientific research papers is very tough for a layperson.' It seemed both publishers felt that denying people access to information for their own good was a tenable proposition. Unfortunately, their remarks served to starkly contrast the autocratic tendencies of publishers with the democratic aspirations of the open access movement, casting the latter in a more desirable light."
David Dickson and Christina Scott, Soros scheme provides grants for scientists to publish research in open-access journal, Cape Times, April 2, 2004. More on last week's announcement from OSI that it was funding memberships in PLoS for research institutions in developing countries. Excerpt: "Biologists and medical scientists in Cape Town have until April 15 to apply for the first batch of funding to cover the expense of publishing their research in an open-access journal - that is, a journal prepared to make information freely available to all who want it....Open Society officials say the new programme reflects their commitment to the principle of free access to the results of scientific research, and in particular to the potential benefits that open access models of scientific publishing offer to researchers in the developing world."
Steve Stoft has rigged up a custom Google search to search "just about every CRS report available on the web". If you remember, these are taxpayer-funded research reports, famous for their thoroughness and objectivity, commissioned by members of Congress but rarely released to the public. A private sector publisher, however, somehow gets access to them and sells them at a profit to the public and even to other branches of the federal government. In my gradebook of government policies on OA to taxpayer-funded research, this one ties with PACER for last place. Stoft's search engine is the best development on this front in a long time. Not all CRS reports are online, and his search engine may not cover those that are. But it takes us a giant step closer to useful access to this body of research. Kudos, Steve!
Are there any good April Fool's jokes about open access? Decide for yourself. (Thanks to Jamie Boyle, who swears he didn't write it himself.)
The University of California has joined the Public Library of Science. Excerpt from today's press release: "Traditional scholarly publishing models --especially commercial publisher business models-- have limited the ability to maintain, much less increase the breadth and depth of library collections, because they are unsustainable for library budgets. 'The decision to join PLoS --clearly one of the leaders in the international movement to create unfettered access to scientific and medical literature-- was taken jointly by all of UC's campus libraries,' said Beverlee French, director for shared digital collections at UC. 'It reflects our unanimous resolve to address the unsustainable economics of current scholarly publishing by directing some of our scarce dollars away from over-priced journals and towards innovation.' "
Randy Reichardt, Cancellation of Elsevier Packages at Cornell, MIT, Harvard, etc. - Commentaries, The (sci-tech) Library Question, April 1, 2004. Reichardt posted to multiple listservs a question "about the impact and/or fallout from the cancellations of Elsevier packages and/or journals, by MIT, Harvard, Cornell. Has anyone heard of reactions from faculty at these universities and institutes regarding the loss of access to Elsevier titles?" He shares a dozen responses with the sender's names suppressed and for some, the institution's names modified.
Scientific Review boasts the motto "Caution! Cutting Edge Research." Papers are freely accessible, including the featured "comprehensive approach to the 2+2 problem." Seven scientific categories with some subcategories are proposed. To submit a paper, one must register with the site. A news service and books section are also available, although some sections are not yet activated. (Source: Internet Resources Newsletter Issue 115, April 2004)
Retribution denied to creationist suing arXiv over religious bias, Nature 428, 458 (01 April 2004). (Freely available via Nature Digital Edition.) A news brief reports the dismissal of a lawsuit brought against arXIv by Robert Gentry, a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who posted 10 preprints offering alternative, creationist explanations for the Big Bang, which were then pulled from the server by the archive's administrators, who claimed that Gentry "lacked proper academic credentials." Paul Ginsparg is quoted in the piece, explaining that as of January 2004, one who would deposit a paper in the arXiv would need to be recommended by a current member. (The toll/free access Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences used to have such a referral system, that a new paper needed to be "communicated" by a current NAS member, but they have since modified the policy.)
In a guest posting today to Glenn Reynolds' blog, Lawrence Lessig explains why he's providing free online access to the full-text of his new book, Free Culture, why his publisher allows it, and why even Amazon links to the free edition. The theory is that those who sample the book online and then buy the priced edition will outnumber those who would have bought the book but decided against it when they found it online for free. If so, "then making it free makes sense for the publisher."
Gladys A. Cotter, The Digitization of Museum Specimens, The Scientist 18(6), 8 (Mar. 29, 2004). Excerpt: "Natural history museum collections contain a world of knowledge that can be used to support the needs of science and society. We need to develop the infrastructure, technology, and collaborative framework to make these collections electronically available to a worldwide audience. " Cotter goes on to draw comparisons to the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII), a data resource established by the National Academy of Sciences and maintained by the US Geological Survey. "A September 2003 workshop sponsored by NBII and The Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSCA) began the development of an integrated research tool for networking collections." Cotter goes on to report that some "three million specimen records" can be accessed through NBII and its partners. A collaboration is occuring between the NBII and local and regional natural science networks, particularly to develop data standards to ease access to these research collections. The author suggests that this kind of partnership could have broad application within the museum community.
Thomas C. Terwilliger, Structures and technology for biologists, Nature Structural & Molecular Biology 11, 296-297 (April 2004). (Access restricted to subscribers.) Terwilliger summarizes the benefits of ongoing structural genomics efforts for the biological community. He highlights the International Structural Genomics Organization, a cooperative effort among several research organizations who "have joined together to promote rapid data dissemination and sharing of technologies ... leading the structural biology community in openness and cooperation." While acknowledging the costs of such research efforts, the author sees these being alleviated by data sharing and advances in technology.
The Wellcome Trust has released a new report, Public Health Sciences: Challenges and Opportunities, March 2004. It focuses on solving public health problems, not models of scientific publication. But it points out a natural connection (p. 26): "At the heart of the public health science research process is the need to distinguish true and causative associations from those that arise from chance, bias and confounding. The failure to publish and report negative findings (which is driven by funding, scientific publishing and media considerations) accentuate positive research findings. The unrepresentative nature of many positive findings in public health science results in a flawed research record, the accumulation of non-replicated findings, the duplication of research and a misleading picture being conveyed to the public. Researchers, public policy makers and commercial and non-commercial funders must recognize the responsibility to release all research findings for the public record, whether negative or positive. Some progress is being made in the area of clinical trials, where registration of trials is becoming an obligation and the systematic review of previous work is now a necessary prelude to further trials. Similar measures must be taken in observational epidemiology (including genetic epidemiology) and in public health interventions. Open access publishing may facilitate the introduction of systems approaches to dealing with this issue." (Thanks to Gary Price.)
Charles Burress, The staggering price of world's best research, San Francisco Chronicle, March 28, 2004. Excerpt: "An alarm bell is ringing in the ivory tower. Something's gone terribly wrong, frustrated scholars say, when scientific journals cost as much as new cars and diamond rings. Critics are complaining with growing intensity that the most important advances in human knowledge -- the new research and discoveries of top universities -- have been in effect seized and are being held for ransom by commercial publishers." Burress surveys recent large-scale university cancellations of Elsevier titles, OA initiatives like PLoS, and the Elsevier response.
If you're following the current controversy about Richard Clarke's book, then you'll be interested in the OA connection. When he was Cybersecurity Czar, he was the only official in the Bush administration willing to say in public that the DMCA was stifling scientific research, especially into cryptography and computer security, and should be revised. Back in October 2002, when he made his views known, I blogged this comment: "It's not really surprising that someone charged with homeland security would call for the freedom to publish computer security research. But it does break the pattern we've seen since 9/11 in which the executive and legislative branches of government one-sidedly view academic freedom more as a threat than a support to national security."
The March 29 issue of Library Journal has two brief notes on the DC principles. (1) One summarizes the principles themselves. " While the language signals a strong commitment to the idea of free access, how such free access should be achieved is not addressed. Notably, the principles do not specifically endorse open access, nor assail commercial publishing practices." (2) The other summarizes the response from library and public-interest advocacy organizations. "The groups, however, reiterated their support for a move to an open access model for STM publishing--something not specifically endorsed in the DC Principles. Nevertheless, the statement welcomed bringing nonprofit society publishers further into the debate over the future of STM publishing, citing the publishers' history of moderate prices."
The February issue of Revue Documentaliste is now online. Here are the OA-related articles. Only abstracts are free online.