Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, May 22, 2004

More on the launch of PLoS Medicine

Bobby Pickering, Medical Journals to get open access rival, Information World Review, May 22, 2004. On PLoS Medicine, to launch later this fall. Excerpt: "The PLoS launched its first open access journal, PLoS Biology, last October to some critical acclaim. Nobel prize winner Joseph Goldstein --a member of the editorial board of the new journal-- said that the need for making medical research freely available was even more pressing than for biological research. Goldstein said: 'The National Institutes of Health in the US alone spends over $28 billion on biomedical research. Everyone in the country, and around the world, should have access to the results of those studies.' "

Subbiah Arunachalam on the OA Workshops in India

Subbiah Arunachalam has written an account of the Open Access Workshops in Chennai, India (May 2-4 and 6-8, 2004). Excerpt: "While access to (and impact of) the peer-reviewed literature is a global issue, the impact of Indian research is of particular concern to Indian scientists and policy makers who feel that it receives less representation than it deserves in international journals. Besides, others in the rest of the world do not really notice much of the work that is carried out in India. If Indian scientists publish their papers in expensive journals, then even other Indian scientists do not notice them, as not many Indian institutions may subscribe to those journals. OA will improve access to Indian research and hence help to maximize its use, recognition (and citation) by researchers across the world. Indeed, OA will be of much greater advantage to developing countries than to the western countries....It is clear that technical infrastructure is no longer an issue both in India and elsewhere. It is a matter of leadership and institutional commitment." (PS: Also see Les Carr's account of the same workshops.)

OA to scholarship on 19th century literature

Seventeen literary scholars have launched Nines, a "publishing environment" and portal of peer-reviewed, open-access scholarship on 19th century British and American literature.

Interview with Harold Varmus

The May 24 issue of The Scientist contains an interview with Harold Varmus. Excerpt:

Q: What was the genesis of the Public Library of Science?

A: A conversation with Pat Brown in San Francisco in December 1998, a year before I left the NIH, about the open access preprint archive that physicists had set up at Los Alamos National Laboratory got me thinking for the first time about open access publishing in biology and medicine. The Public Library of Science began as an advocacy group for the NIH archive, PubMedCentral, about a year after I left the NIH. Subsequently it became a publishing house and you can read all about it and see the journals at

Friday, May 21, 2004

It takes a library of millions

Byron Spice, CMU's 'Million Books' on the Web project makes slow, steady progress, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 21, 2004. Spice reports on Carnegie Mellon University's project (in conjunction with the Internet Archive and others) to digitize one million books by 2007. To date some 80,000 books (mostly out-of-print or out of copyright) have been digitized. This multinational effort includes scanning centers in India, China and Egypt among other places and features texts from multiple languages. (Source: LISNews)

LIS journals should provide OA, set an example

Heather Morrison, Professional Library & Information Associations Should Rise to the Challenge of Promoting Open Access and Lead by Example, Library Hi Tech News, 21, 4 (2004) pp. 8-10. Only this abstract is free online, at least so far: "Focuses on an initiative of the Association of Research Library's Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition in giving leadership for providing open access to scholarly information, determining this as the most effective means of advancing scholarly research. Addresses some of the reasons for opening up access to library literature, issues and challenges, and gives some examples of library associations that are already providing open access to their publications."
Update. There is now an OA edition (and another) of this article in the the Simon Fraser University institutional repository.

More on the Nature OA debate

Theodore Bergstrom and Carl Bergstrom, Can 'author pays' journals compete with 'reader pays'? Nature, May 20, 2004. Excerpt: "A powerful technological reality looms over this entire discussion. With electronic access, the marginal cost of allowing an extra person to read a scholarly work approaches zero. When publishers --even non-profit operations interested in maximizing circulation-- rely on subscriptions to generate revenue, distribution is inefficient because potential readers are excluded though it would cost nothing to allow them access. Author Pays, Open Access publishing is one way of realizing the enormous potential gains that the Internet offers. Whether some form of Open Access emerges as the dominant form of academic publishing is likely to depend on how much scholars care about broad distribution of their writings."

Kepler 1.2

The Digital Library Research Group at Old Dominion University has released Kepler version 1.2. Kepler is open-source software for making open-access, OAI-compliant eprint repositories. But instead of making archives for entire institutions or disciplines, it makes "archivelets" for individual scholars. 2.0

An alliance of twelve major US government science agencies launched version 2.0 on May 11, and followed up yesterday with a press release explaining the enhancements. searches 30 government databases and 1,700 web sites, or a total of about 47 million pages. The portal and search engine are OA, and as far as I can tell all the content to which they point is also OA. The major innovation of v 2.0 is relevancy-ranked search results. For more detail (e.g. a video of the launch ceremony, a search tutorial, links to news stories) see the communications page.

Call for increased access to electronic scholarship from Arab universities

Wendy Sawahel, Arab science 'needs more electronic databases', SciDev.Net, May 21, 2004. Excerpt: "Arab universities are being urged to make their research more accessible by placing information about it --including summaries of research projects and any results to emerge from them-- on easily searchable electronic databases. The calls were made at a meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last month, which brought together scientists, technologists, policy makers and economists from across the region. The meeting also heard proposals that a regional database could be built up from a purely national database already established in Saudi Arabia....The increased availability of easily searchable electronic resources would not only give researchers access to a wide range of up-to-date information about the activities of their colleagues in the region, but would increase research productivity, added [Reima Ljarf, professor of English language translation and online learning at King Saud University in Riyadh]."

Launch of Canadian Research Knowledge Network

The Canadian Research Knowledge Network incorporated on April 1, and will take over the work formerly done by the Canadian National Site Licensing Project. Yesterday's press release says that the CRKN is "dedicated to expanding access to scholarly research in digital formats for the benefit of academic researchers nation-wide" and that its inaugural meeting (Toronto, April 22-23) explored "the impact of expanded access to digital content on" the research conducted by CRKN member institutions.

An anecdote about Google and Cogprints

A Google search done today, using the key words "Electronic support groups", yielded a ranked list of pages, which included (at rank #3) a PDF version of an invited peer-reviewed commentary of mine in a new subscription-based journal, Journal of Cancer Integrative Medicine 2004(Winter); 2(1): 21-24. This commentary (to which I retained copyright) was self-archived in the Cogprints archive a month ago, on 21 April. As noted in a message of mine posted to the AmSci OA Forum on 26 April, this same eprint in the Cogprints archive had achieved a very high Google page rank (at #5) within days after it had been self-archived. [Comment: My tentative explanations for this prompt high page rank are either that it was a chance result, or that some domains, including the Cogprints domain, are given an immediate high Google PageRank weighting].

Representation of authors from the developing world in research on tropical medicine

An article by Keiser et al in this week's BMJ provides some evidence about the challenges facing authors in developing countries to get their research pubished in traditional journals. The paper finds a very low proportion of articles from developing world countries on a subject they might be expected to have special expertise in, and conclude that "Current collaborations should be transformed into research partnerships, with the goals of mutual learning and institutional capacity strengthening in the developing world."

The implication of this paper is that the argument that the author-pays model discriminates against third world authors is largely incorrect.

Reference: Representation of authors and editors from countries with different human development indexes in the leading literature on tropical medicine: survey of current evidence. Jennifer Keiser, Jürg Utzinger, Marcel Tanner, Burton H Singer BMJ 2004;328:1229-1232, doi:10.1136/bmj.38069.518137.F6 (published 1 April 2004)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

New software for OAI-compliant archives

Laval University Library has released Archimede, new open-source software for building and maintaining an open-access, OAI-compliant eprint archive. It supports both metadata and full-text searching. A future release will automatically generate subject headings for indexing from the eprint text. Archimede runs on both Linux and Windows.

Rick Johnson on OA

Richard Johnson, Open Access: Unlocking the Value of Scientific Research, a preprint based on his presentation at the conference, The New Challenge for Research Libraries: Collection Management and Stratedgic Access to Digital Resources conference (University of Oklahoma Libraries, March 4-5, 2004). Excerpt: "As we saw with the remarkable international effort to address the SARS crisis in 2003, which relied on the Internet to achieve broad and rapid communication across a research community under the gun to achieve results, science advances most effectively when research results are freely, widely available. So the battle for open access is about more than change in the journal publishing industry. It is about the future of science and how best to maximize the societal benefits of our research investment....Today open access is still more of a goal than a business model. There are many particulars to be worked out, requiring shifts in longstanding traditions and adaptation by entrenched financial interests. But the fact that open access is risky for some at this early stage simply means that structural changes need to occur to support its effective implementation. Ultimately the discussion must move from 'why open access' to 'how do we best implement open access.' But the first step is acknowledgement among those charged with advancing knowledge --funding agencies and institutions of higher education, in particular-- that it is a goal worth striving for. Then we can move affirmatively toward systemic changes that will benefit the academic and research community, and society at large." Richard Johnson is the Enterprise Director of SPARC.

Australian government responds to research infrastructure recommendations

The Australian government has posted its responses to the recommendations of three recent reports on research infrastructure and innovation. None of the recommendations explicitly calls for open access, but many propose related reforms, such as access to publicly funded research and research infrastructure either at no charge or at a charge reflecting only "marginal operating costs". In almost every case the government response to the OA-related proposals is non-committal: "The Government will take into account the Taskforce's recommendations...."

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Call for bioinformatics project repository

A. Jamie Cuticchia & Gregg W. Silk, Bioinformatics needs a software archive, Nature 429, 241 (20 May 2004). (Access restricted to subscribers.) Two researches point out in a letter that bioinformatics databases and software disappear after a project ends or loses funding (they cite one example of a U.S. funded genomics project which cost somewhere around $50 million which was succeded by a private venture, losing the source code for the database in the process.) They call for a publicly funded repository that they name Bioinformatics Software Archive. "As with software released under open-source agreements, a central archive will help stop too many researchers trying to reinvent the wheel (thereby saving research funds)."

Dis-CERN-ing laboratory

CERN supports drive for free access to data, Nature 429, 234 - 235 (20 May 2004)(access restricted to subscribers.) They invented the web and there they will openly distribute their research output. A brief news piece reports that CERN signed on to the Berlin Declaration last week, affirming their support for open access. See also CERN's press release.

Scholars object to Canadian copyright reform

Jack Kapica, Copyright proposal too harsh: Library Association, Globe and Mail, May 14, 2004. Excerpt: "Copyright legislation needs to maintain existing exceptions for libraries and educational institutions, [said Don Butcher, executive director of the Canadian Library Association], so reasonable use can be made of legally acquired copyright material, as is done in the United States and the European Union. He said that the [House of Commons] committee appears to have ignored the 'profound, long-term implications that [its] recommendations would have for researchers, librarians, educators and all those involved in lifelong learning in this country.' A licensing regime for interlibrary loans and electronic transmission of journal articles ignores the fact that libraries have already paid for this copyright material through expensive subscription rates, the CLA said. 'Other countries consider such reasonable, non-profit, educational and research uses as being exempt from royalty payments,' the statement continued."

Institutional repositories for preservation

Paul Wheatley, Institutional Repositories in the Context of Digital Preservation, Digital Preservation Coalition, Technology Watch Series Report 04-02, 2004. Excerpt: "The key recommendations from this report are for the continued development of specific requirements for trusted digital repositories, and also for the creation of independent certification services for digital repositories that will evaluate how repositories meet these requirements. A clearer picture can then be presented as to how well institutional repository software, as well as specific digital repositories, can deliver effective digital preservation." (Thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr.)

Berlin 2 meeting, presentations, and roadmap

The Berlin Declaration follow-up conference, Berlin 2 Open Access: Steps Toward Implementation of the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (Geneva, May 12-13, 2004) is now over. Its presentations are now online and so is its Roadmap Proposal for moving forward, written by Robert Schlögl and Theresa Velden. The Roadmap starts from the proposition that "Open access is the replacement for the conventional scholarly communication paradigm and not its 2nd class counterpart." Then it outlines steps for implementing the Berlin Declaration, such as educating stakeholders about OA, using Creative Commons licenses, expanding OAI-compliant infrastructure, facilitating the search and retrieval of OA content, encouraging the view that the cost of OA dissemination is part of the cost of research, forming alliances to accomplish specific tasks, and meeting periodically in the future to share ideas and report on progress.

Comment on draft regs for the government use of peer review

The US Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has revised its draft regulations to reform the way federal agencies use peer review before releasing scientific information to the public. Here's an excerpt from Sidney Shapiro's analysis of the revised draft:
OMB's new version of its Peer Review Guidelines is better, but still not good. The new guidelines eliminate some of the most egregious problems of the original proposal, particularly in terms of stacking panels with industry representatives. But the system it would impose on regulatory agencies is insufficiently transparent, and still encourages agencies to avoid open government requirements. And at its core the guidelines continue to reflect OMB’s failure to grasp the difference between private research and publishing and government information. Government activity has a unique obligation to be transparent, so that public can know what is being done its name. These guidelines continue to fail that test because the processes it imposes will remain too secretive.
My recommendation: either submit your comments on the revised draft before May 28 or use the OMBWatch web form to ask the OMB to extend the public comment period.

More on the UK inquiry

The May 18 issue of Library Journal has an unsigned summary of the final session of oral testimony in the UK inquiry. Excerpt: "Witnesses also expressed strong support for institutional repositories. How those repositories would function and who would set them up and maintain them, however, went unanswered, a point which provoked Gibson. MP Robert Key noted that 83 percent of publishers allowed authors to archive their papers in post-print archives, but that hardly any supported pre-print archives. 'What is the government's position and the research councils' on the problem of institutional repositories?' he asked. [John] Wood [from the Research Councils UK] offered enthusiastic support. 'We are fully in favor of institutional repositories,' he said."

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Stevan Harnad's contribution to the Nature debate

Stevan Harnad and eight co-authors, The green and the gold roads to Open Access, Nature, May 17, 2004. Harnad and his colleagues underline two important but increasingly neglected distinctions, the first between the "affordability problem" (making journals more affordable) and the "access problem" (making them more accessible), and the second between delivering OA through journals (the gold road) and delivering it through archives or repositories (the green road). They also draw the first major public attention to two significant new research results. One is a forthcoming Tim Brody analysis confirming Steve Lawrence's famous study showing a correlation between open access and citation impact. The other is Harnad's own analysis showing that over 80% of conventional journals now permit OA archiving in some form. A longer version of the article is available at Harnad's web site.

Ciber releases major survey of author attitudes

Ian Rowlands, Dave Nicholas, and Paul Huntingdon, Scholarly Communication in the Digital Environment: What Do Authors Want? Ciber, March 18, 2004 (apparently released in May). The results of a survey of 4,000 senior researchers from 97 countries, apparently the largest survey yet conducted of scholarly authors on OA and scholarly publication. Excerpt: "Many of the comments that authors made were very hostile towards commercial publishers. Authors are resentful of what they see as a perversion of the ethos of science ('information should be free') for market ends. They do not understand or appreciate the value added that publishers bring to the scholarly communication process....Authors' attitudes to the open access movement are generally positive, although there are significant reservations about quality and preservation in an increasingly digital information landscape. The key sticking point for commercial open access publishing is that there seems to be great resistance, both in principle and in practice to the question of author payment ('can't pay won't pay' seems to be the message). Unsurprisingly, authors want open access at both ends of the chain: as authors and as readers....Older, more senior authors, seem much more wedded to the traditional subscription print-based model than their younger peers. These authors are more likely to self-publish on the web and to feel more positively towards the open access movement."

Update. The report link was dead for a few days but has now been fixed.

New Cites & Insights

The June issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. This issue has two sections of strong OA interest, (1) "Library Access to Scholarship" on university actions against the big deal and the AAP's much-delayed response to the Sabo bill, and (2) "Library Access Perspective" on the UK inquiry, the BMC response to 11 myths about OA, and the Nature OA debate. In the dispute between OA proponents and opponents, Walt is an independent. But in this issue he finds much more to criticize in recent anti-OA arguments than pro-OA arguments. Excerpt: "My sense in reading [the Nature OA debate, the UK inquiry, and other recent discussions] is that open access publishing must be perturbing the STM oligarchy a lot; otherwise, they wouldn't be so busy spreading misinformation about it."

Walt Crawford's optimal scenario for journals

Walt Crawford, Journals Revisited: A Survivable Future, American Libraries, May 2004. A review of the serials crisis and potential solutions, including OA. Excerpt: "The number of open access journals (with no charge for online access, typically covering costs via publication fees or institutional subsidy) will certainly grow --but, as with SPARC-supported lower-cost journals, that growth won't save libraries any money until such journals replace overpriced commercial and professional-society journals, or at least cause their publishers to lower subscription prices." Walt outlines his "optimal scenario", which includes more online-only journals (roughly, all but the 5-10% of true "core journals" in a field), more LOCKSS and library-deposit programs to preserve online content, and lower prices by both commercial and non-profit publishers.

German commentary on OA

The April issue of Duz Magazin is devoted to OA. Unfortunately the articles themselves are not OA, or at least not yet. The TOC provides two-sentence previews and Wolfgang Heusen's editorial provides slightly more detail. In German.
  • Tilmann Warnecke, Der Preis der groβen Freiheit
  • Nicole Lücke, Ein Freigeist lehrt das Fürchten
  • Eva Keller, Wenn der 'Peer' den Daumen hebt
  • Susanne Stracke-Neumann, Der nach den Worten gräbt
(Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

BMC memberships for nine oncology institutes

The Italian Alliance Against Cancer (Alleanza contro il cancro, or ACC) has purchased institutional memberships in BioMed Central for all nine Italian oncology institutes in the alliance. From the BMC press release: "The ACC decision is an important one for BioMed Central - bringing the number of Italian institutional members to 19. ACC institutions employ over 1200 physicians, and produces more than 1350 articles a year published in domestic and international scientific journals. BioMed Central is optimistic that many of these articles will now be published in it's Open Access journals - making the research immediately and freely available for anyone to use, reuse or redistribute." (PS: To me, this is also important as another sign that groups focused on disease eradication and patient advocacy see how OA serves their mission. It's not just for universities or governments acting on behalf of universities.)

Final report on selecting, appraising, on retaining scientific data

The presentations from the 2003 CODATA / ERPANET Workshop on the Selection, Appraisal, and Retention of Scientific Data (Lisbon, December 15-17) were put online in December 2003, but have now been reissued as a Final Report.

OA database on magnetic properties of Earth's rocks

NASA and the USGS are pooling their collected data to launch an OA database on the magnetic properties of the Earth's rocks. Quoting today's press release: "Satellite data of Earth's magnetic field combined with rock magnetic data collected on the ground will provide a more complete insight into Earth's geology, gravity and magnetism. The information in this database will allow more realistic interpretations of satellite magnetic data and will contribute to a variety of studies such as groundwater, mineral resource, and earthquake hazard investigations. The new database will be available to the public via the Internet. A clickable map of the world will include locations where detailed rock magnetic data were collected." The unified database is not yet online and the press release does not give a timetable.

Genomics resource from EBI

Kevin Davies, EBI Launches Genome Reviews Database, Bio-IT World, May 14, 2004. Davies reports on the European Bioinformatics Institute's release of the freely-available Genome Reviews, "a standardized resource for completely sequenced genomes, consisting of 256 chromosomes and plasmids, representing the complete genomes of 153 prokaryotic organisms." Evidently much of this genomic data, upon being deposited in public repositories, becomes "static," and the Reviews database will address that issue by correlating and cross-referencing information from additional databases such as UniProt and InterPro.

Review of alternatives to OA

Robin Peek, The Free-Access Debate Flourishes, Information Today 21(5), 17-18 (May 2004). (Not available online.) Peek reviews three alternatives to open access offered up in recent months, including the Royal Society's statement to the U.K. inquiry, the DC Principles, and the ALPSP Principles. The former two advocate freeing the literature after a limited embargo, while the ALPSP advocates "mechanisms that support free or very inexpensive access to journals." However, Peek asks "How open is open enough? How free is free enough? How deep is the commitment to those countires who cannot afford the tolls? And in the final analysis, which position really will 'do it better'?"

Electronic STM publishing and its implications

The presentations from the conference, Electronic Scientific, Technical, and Medical Journal Publishing and Its Implications (Washington, D.C., May 19-20, 2003) have been online since January 6. But they've now been published as an OA book by the National Academies Press. Moreover, the Steering Committee has written a summary of the workshop which has been released as a separate OA book from the NAP.

Lund conference presentations

The presentations from the Second Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication, Towards a New Publishing Environment (Lund, April 26-28, 2004) are now online. Nearly all of them address OA issues.

Monday, May 17, 2004

The "third decade"

George Porter, Commentary: The Crisis In Scholary Communication, the (sci-tech) Library Question, May 14, 2004. Porter remarks that the scholarly communication crisis is now in its third decade, pointing to Henry Barschal's controversial journal pricing studies (which, he writes, have been compiled by Yale and Stanford.) "Library-publisher dynamics have not changed greatly in the intervening years, but the broader awareness and concern with the topic has undergone a sea change in the last few years," Porter comments. Among the pivotal points, he notes, are open access publishing efforts such as PLoS and BioMed Central and the launch of new, less expensive, society journals in competition with established commercial journals (e.g. Journal of Algorithms.) Porter also cites the Committee on Electronic Information and Communication (CEIC) of the International Mathematical Union's "best practices," which offer guidelines to librarians, scientists and publishers with respect to policies on subscription, pricing and archiving, among other criteria. Lastly, the author lists a number of comparative journal economic studies from recent years.

More on the trade embargo on scientific editing

Peter Givler, The Defendant is Charged with Good Editing, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 21, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "A warning: Publishing may still be hazardous to your health. A lot of angry ink has been spilled over the U.S. Treasury Department's bizarre ruling last fall that a publisher who corrected the spelling in a manuscript from Iran could be guilty of trading with the enemy and subject to serious criminal penalties -- up to $500,000 in fines and 10 years in prison. Publishers and writers were outraged....Now the department appears to have backed off. In a further ruling, announced last month, it said, based on submissions from one scholarly publisherthe Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineersthat the institute may copy-edit manuscripts from Iran after all. Officials have said the ruling should apply to other publishers who follow the same editing procedures. A victory for publishing and the free flow of ideas? It would be pretty to think so, but I'm afraid not. Because of the legal complexities involved, too few observers -- including most of the news media -- have really understood what continues to be at stake."

More on the Google and Yahoo efforts to index OA scholarship

Jeffrey Young, Libraries Aim to Widen Google's Eyes, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 21, 2004 (access limited to subscribers). Excerpt: "Experts say the reason for the sudden interest in academic content by search-engine makers is simple: competition. Google's addition of features to its search tool coincides with the initial public stock offering for which it filed last month. Microsoft has announced plans to build a new search engine of its own, and Yahoo has renewed its focus on searching, making search engines the latest tech-industry battleground. These search engines are now in competition for quality content' rather than just quantity in their search results, says Herbert Van de Sompel, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory who has designed software to help search engines find academic materials."

Sunday, May 16, 2004

The serials crisis at Stanford

Linda Cicero, At What Cost?, Stanford Magazine, June 2004. How the serials pricing crisis looks from Stanford. Excerpt: "The Faculty Senate approved a resolution that encourages faculty and University libraries to support 'affordable' scholarly journals. It calls on the libraries to refuse bundled subscription plans and to scrutinize the pricing of for-profit journals in general, and 'those published by Elsevier in particular.' Finally, the four-part resolution encourages senior faculty to stop writing for or reviewing articles in journals that 'engage in exploitive or exorbitant pricing.' Some senior faculty have already taken action on their own. Falkow, a former president of the 40,000-member American Society for Microbiology, stopped reviewing articles for a journal that was acquired by Elsevier four years ago. 'Their response [was] to imply that I am senile!' he told the Faculty Senate. Donald Knuth, a professor emeritus of computer science, says he and the entire editorial board of the Journal of Algorithms voted to resign from that Elsevier publication because 'we came to the unanimous conclusion that it was wrong to continue the way we were going.' He will help launch a new scholarly journal, ACM Transactions on Algorithms, within the next few months." (Thanks to George Porter.)

OA progress in Europe

David Prosser, The view from Europe: Creating international change, College & Research Libraries News, May 2004. On recent European steps toward OA, including the UK inquiry, the BOAI, the Berlin Declaration, the several Wellcome Trust contributions, and the DOAJ. Excerpt: "Any attempt to fundamentally change a well-embedded system with such large degrees of inertia as those of scholarly communication will be difficult. These difficulties are compounded by the worldwide, international nature of the problem, which makes consensus and coordination difficult. However we are seeing growing acceptance of open access by researchers as they deposit their work in repositories, publish in open access journals, and read their colleagues’ work in these journals. Librarians are seeing the benefits of open access, and they are increasingly taking on the role of host for their institutions’ repositories. Funding bodies and politicians are waking up to the inefficiencies of the old subscription-based system and are looking critically at new models. This combination of high-level and grassroots desire for change will enable us to overcome the inertia in the system and the difficulties of working in a diverse and multicultured environment." David Prosser is the Director of SPARC Europe.

OA and the threat to middlemen

James Fallows, The Twilight of the Information Middlemen, New York Times, May 16, 2004 (free registration required). One of the better articles putting the OA movement in a larger perspective. Excerpt (after discussing PLoS): "A similar battle involves, of all things, weather. In the pre-Internet era, the National Weather Service agreed with its middlemen, the commercial weather services, not to compete with them in certain products. Now, the Internet makes the vast range of the weather service's data available to anyone. In a recent study called Fair Weather, the National Research Council urged that the service seize this new technological opportunity so that farmers, aviators, city officials and others affected by weather can have free access to information their tax dollars have paid for. Commercial companies, most notably AccuWeather, have been lobbying Congress for rules that would force the National Weather Service to close or restrict some of the excellent free sites it has already opened. No matter how that battle turns out, the public will win the longer war. The Internet's impact on the value of information may still be in flux, but its long-term impact on middlemen is clear." (PS: Fallows quotes me accurately. But just before he quotes me, he writes that OA has met with "resistance from journals and authors who traditionally have held copyrights." I did not make this claim about authors.)