Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Will OA make costs go up or down?

Joseph J. Esposito, The devil you don't know: The unexpected future of Open Access publishing, First Monday, August 2004. Abstract: "With the advent of the Internet and online publishing, the notion has arisen that access to the world’s research publications could be made available to one and all for free, presumably by shifting the costs to other places in the value chain and disintermediating publishers, a circumstance called Open Access (OA) publishing. While there are many hopes embedded in this view (lower costs, wider access, etc.), it appears more likely that Open Access will come about not through a revolution in the world of legacy publishing, but through upstart media built with the innate characteristics of the Internet in mind. An unanticipated outcome of this situation will be that the overall cost of research publications will rise, though the costs will be borne by different players, primarily authors and their proxies."

Friday, August 06, 2004

Priced access to OA journals

Ulrichsweb now has the power to identify open-access journals when searching or browsing. Unfortunately, the feature is only available to subscribers --and subscriptions start at $1,450/year for individuals. (PS: Stick to the open-access Directory of Open Access Journals.)

More on the NIH OA plan

Jocelyn Kaiser, Seeking Advice on 'Open Access,' NIH Gets an Earful, Science Magazine, August 6, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "The National Institutes of Health is forging ahead with plans to require that papers from NIH-funded research be made freely available. Last week, in a hastily called meeting, NIH director Elias Zerhouni told journal publishers he is not happy with the 'status quo' and is under pressure from the public to expand access to research results. He got an earful from scientific societies worried that any mandatory plan will drive their journals under....Zerhouni held an invitation only meeting on 28 July with 44 participants, many from scientific societies, as well as commercial and open-access journals. 'There really is a strong advocacy for this' from scientists and universities as well as patients, explains NIH Office of Science Policy Director Lana Skirboll....Skirboll says NIH expects to hold at least one more meeting, this time with patient groups, then post a proposal for comment in the NIH grants guide, probably by December. Even when the plan is final, it can be modified if it causes harm, she adds. 'Policies are not laws....Anything NIH puts in place, we will evaluate.' "

Call for Australia to follow UK OA plan

Allan Fels, How to bring knowledge to the entire planet, The Age, August 7, 2004. Excerpt: "The promise of the internet as an easy-to-search, open-access archive holding all humanity's accumulated research and information is not being realised. According to a new report from the British Parliament, much of the best scientific and medical research is being locked away in for-profit journals whose rising costs are increasingly putting them out of public reach....It is time that the Australian Government changed its funding criteria and approach, to encourage researchers to publish their work in ways that ensure it is accessible to all....A fascinating demonstration of how an open-access research distribution universe would look is the Los Alamos E-Print Archive ( This website has revolutionised physics research by serving as an open and respected resource for serious scientists....Such open-access structures lower the barriers to entry to science, bring more brains into the innovation process, and increase the potential for breakthroughs....Colin Steele, one of the conveners of the NSCF, makes the insightful argument that prosperity in a knowledge economy depends as much, if not more, on knowledge distribution power than it does on knowledge production power. One could not make a stronger case for the end of the era of high-priced academic journals and the beginning of an era of open-access publishing."

Elsevier CEO responds to economic and political challenge

Dan Sabbagh, Reed Elsevier chief hits back in scientific publishing row, London Times, August 6, 2004. Excerpt: "Critics argue that the scientific community should abandon seeking publication in journals of the type that Reed owns in favour of the 'open-source' model, in which authors pay to have their research made public. 'After five years, the author-pays model has gained a 1 per cent market share,' Sir Crispin said as the Anglo-Dutch group reported interim results. 'Libraries do push back on costs, but we are securing a 96 per cent renewal rate, and that tells the real story.'...Last month, MPs on the Commons Science and Technology Committee called on the Government to create a free national archive of all scientific publications, and accused Reed of 'not being transparent' about its costs. At that time, Ian Gibson, MP, the committee’s chairman, went further and accused commercial publishers of 'ripping off the academic community'. According to the committee, the price of scientific publications has increased by 58 per cent since 1998. The report is now in the hands of the Government, which has to decide what measures to adopt. Executives at Reed are privately confident that any measures adopted will not have a major impact on business."

The OA movement in Germany

Gerd Hansen, Grenzenlos kreativ: Die Open-Access-Bewegung will freien Zugang zu wissenschaftlichen Informationen und kulturellen Gütern schaffen, Der Tagesspiegel, August 6, 2004. On the open-access movement in general and its German initiatives in particular, including the new German edition of the Creative Commons. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Elsevier CEO defends company profits

Philip Aldrick, Reed boss denies 'profiteering', Daily Telegraph, August 6, 2004. Excerpt: "Reed, the world's largest publisher of scientific journals, has been accused of profiteering from knowledge. In particular, critics have drawn attention to the company's 34pc operating margin. Reformers want to transform the current 'subscriber pays' model of publishing research into an 'author pays' model, where access is free to all. Sir Crispin defended the existing system of subscriptions Reed charges for its 1,800 medical journals. Speaking at yesterday's interim results, he said: 'Once you get into the issue and see what's truly going on, you realise the model is working very well. Today, through his laptop, a scientist can access 3.5 miles of research articles and do in an hour what would have taken a week before. That would not have happened if we hadn't been able to invest and you didn't have a profitable industry. None of it would have happened under author pays.' "

(PS: On the contrary, the purpose of the upfront funding model --confusingly called the 'author pays' model-- is to cover a journal's expenses in reviewing and publishing articles. So if we had been using it from the start, then all production costs would have been covered and all the articles would be OA, a much better outcome than we see today with the toll-access Elsevier corpus. OA publishers don't need huge profits to digitize their back runs; they are already digital. As for access to the Elsevier corpus through a 'laptop', no one denies that those who pay will have access. The point is to find a way to cover costs without creating access barriers.)

More on the Springer open-choice plan

Stephanie Kirchgaessner, New leaf for chief of Springer, Financial Times, August 5, 2004. On Derk Haank's move from Elsevier to Springer. Excerpt: "Like other academic publishers, some of Springer's biggest customers the libraries that purchase its journals are facing increasing budget pressure. A vocal minority of libraries and academics are also calling for a revamp of the traditional 'user pays' publishing model, which they claim is too costly for the end user. Instead, some are promoting a so-called open access model in which an author or sponsoring institution pays to have articles published that are then widely disseminated. Mr Haank says the debate, which has pitted some open-access upstarts against the industry leaders, has taken on an 'unhelpful', 'almost religious' emotional element. Nevertheless, Springer has responded to the call from some academics by offering journal authors a choice: publish using the traditional method or pay Springer $3,000 once an article has been accepted and it will be disseminated for free. 'The responses have been very positive, because people appreciate we are listening to the market,' Mr Haank says. But one rival says Springer's plan represents little more than a 'public relations initiative'. It is an accusation Mr Haank would likely deny, although he does appear to relish the challenge he is presenting to some academics to put their money where their protests are. 'Let's see how serious they really are...we expect that not more than 10 per cent will be interested in this option,' he says."

(PS: Haank sounds as if his plan is designed more to generate low uptake, and ground a rebuke to OA advocates, than to test the waters in good faith. However, as I argued in SOAN for 8/2/04, the Springer processing fee is so high, and the resulting access so restrictive compared to true OA, that "[i]f Springer gets very few takers, no one will not be able to conclude that authors don't desire free online access for their work, especially when publishers offering full OA at lower prices are thriving.")

Elsevier CEO criticizes UK OA plan

Richard Wray, Reed says enforced access plan is daft, The Guardian, August 6, 2004. Excerpt: "Sir Crispin Davis, the chief executive of leading academic publisher Reed Elsevier, yesterday branded as 'daft' the idea that British universities should have to make publicly funded research freely available to all. Last month a committee of MPs recommended that academic institutions must put a copy of any article written by staff and based on publicly funded work on their websites. This recommendation for so-called author or institutional self-archiving was seen as a victory for proponents of open access to scientific research....[Quoting Davis:] 'To expect 250 academic institutions in the UK to do that is daft; frankly, the vast majority do not want to and the vast majority of authors do not want to.'...Reed Elsevier already allows academics whose research is published in its subscription journals, such as the Lancet, to post that research on their own websites. Sir Crispin said that universities did not have the time or the inclination to create their own, independent archives."

Thursday, August 05, 2004

More on the UK and US proposals

Access all areas, The Economist, August 5, 2004. An unsigned news story. Excerpt: "[T]he dominance of Elsevier and its kin is under attack. The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee did more than just lament the rising price of journals. It told the British government that the country's universities should be required to ensure that all their research papers are available free online, and that government-funded research grants ought to include free access to the findings a condition of the awards. The government will respond next month. American politicians, too, are getting cross. Earlier this month the House of Representatives' Committee on Appropriations approved a provision in a bill that backs open access to material published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The committee expressed concern at the lack of public access to research findings, and at the rising price of journals. These, it commented, were 'contrary to the best interests of the US taxpayers who paid for this research'."

Indian editorial endorses OA

For Access to Scientific Publications, The Hindu, August 3, 2004. An unsigned editorial. Excerpt: "In July, the movement for 'open access' got an important boost when the Appropriations Committee of the United States' House of Representatives and the Science & Technology Committee of the United Kingdom's House of Commons recommended measures that would help make scientific journal publications available more freely online....[The UK proposal] is an idea that India --where research is overwhelmingly supported by the Government-- must adopt with conviction and enthusiasm. The software for such archiving is available free of cost and has been used to establish an e-print archive at the Indian Institute of Science. Not only must more such institutional repositories be established; scientists need to take the lead in ensuring that their papers are suitably archived."

Funder makes OA journal jump through hoops

Terry Anderson, Something Old - Something New, an editorial in The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning (IRRODL), August 2004. Excerpt: "This issue of IRRODL marks a significant evolution in the development of your open access, peer-reviewed, international, online learning journal....Finally, although we continue to support full and open access to IRRODL, we now have paid subscribers to IRRODL. The reason why we have opted to solicit 'paid subscribers' is because the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council has a program designed to support scholarly journals published in Canada. To be eligible to apply for this funding, however, IRRODL needs at least 200 'paid subscribers' per year. Our current 7050 unpaid subscribers were deemed insufficient to demonstrate community demand! Thanks to the 280 distance educators who feel strongly enough about the value of Open Access and this journal, to donate a $10.00 subscription fee, we met this arbitrary criteria for this year and have submitted our grant application – though we are not at all certain how successful that application will be." (PS: For some background, see our blog posting from 6/3/04.)

More on the NIH OA plan

Dee Ann Divis, House acts on research access, United Press International, August 4, 2004. Excerpt: "Anger over high prices and limits to research access by scientific journals has finally risen to the point a federal backlash is brewing. Congress is moving to force a shift to 'open access,' a form of free-to-consumer publishing, for scientific papers. The move angers commercial publishers, who see their livelihoods threatened and it scares scientific societies, who are afraid they will face losses or costs they cannot afford....[P]rices for journals have skyrocketed....High prices are closely linked to a lack of access to research results....'Taxpayers not only have to pay for the research, they have to pay to read it,' said Micah Swafford, spokesman for Congressman Ernest Istook Jr., R-Okla....[S]aid Swafford, "[The NIH OA plan] will become law."

Update. There is now a Slashdot discussion of this article. (Thanks to Carol Hutchins.)

Elsevier CEO comments on OA

Adam Pasick and Theo Kolker, Reed Elsevier sees pick-up in sales growth, Reuters, August 5, 2004. Excerpt: "Reed Elsevier faces a potential challenge from a movement to make scientific journals freely available, widely known as the 'open access' model. It said there has been 'much comment but little market impact'. 'There are no real indications at the moment that the market is changing significantly,' [CEO Crispin] Davis said. 'After five years, 99 percent of our customers are saying they're comfortable with the existing model. If that changes it's up to us to adapt.' "

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

PNAS will offer institutional memberships

Starting in 2005, the new open-access (or free-access) edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) will include an institutional membership automatically with every institutional site license. The memberships will give authors from those institutions a 25% discount on the $1,000 processing fee PNAS charges to publish an accepted article.

Permanent access, not necessarily open access

Wim van Drimmelen, Universal access through time: archiving strategies for digital publications, Libri, June 2004. No Libri content is free online for non-subscribers, not even the TOC and abstracts. This abstract was distributed by email: "The author's definition of a permanent archive or electronic deposit distinguishes between its aim of long term preservation and the goals of Open Access, contrasts its probably limited search and retrieval system with the functionality of a publisher's site, and indicates that while it should be compliant with the Open Archives Information System (OAIS) it need not offer the unrestricted access sought by the Open Archives Initiative (OAI). Libraries maintain paper-based archives of publications, often duplicating collections, without publishers taking an active part, but a single copy of a digital object can be accessed globally. Digital objects can be changed easily, may have a technically short lifespan, and their volume and variety is growing rapidly. The key concepts in the preservation of electronic media are refreshing, migration, and emulation. All make regular demands on the archiving institution’s resources, and require a long-term commitment. The LOCKSS strategy and institutional repositories do not address the issues of long-term preservation. Very few individual libraries or large library cooperatives have the resources to accept this global responsibility. Publishers need to support these permanent archives because their customers expect them to do so, and because it would help if long-term preservation needs were recognised when new developments were being planned. The costs of permanent archiving must also be shared amongst the user community."

Combining OAI and non-OAI resources in one search

Anita Coleman, Paul Bracke, and Subramaniam Karthik, Integration of Non-OAI Resources for Federated Searching in DLIST, an Eprints Repository, D-Lib Magazine, July/August 2004. Abstract: "Federated, distributed, and broadcast searches on the Internet depend on an underlying common metadata framework by which the information resources to be searched are organized. The Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) is designed to facilitate searches across OAI-compliant databases. Software such as Arc allow service providers to offer federated searching of multiple, OAI-compliant resources. The majority of web-accessible information resources, however, are not OAI-compliant. This article describes a process whereby readily available open source tools and customized scripts were developed for integrating metadata from non-OAI compliant repositories for a federated search. The work described is being carried out as part of the development of the Digital Library of Information Science and Technology (DLIST), an Eprints repository."

Tapir 0.3

Tapir 0.3 is an open-source component of DSpace devoted to the handling of electronic theses and dissertations. It now has its own page at SourceForge.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

More on the NIH OA plan

Publishers Visit NIH To Protest Free Access Initiative, Library Journal, August 4, 2004. A short, unsigned news story on the NIH OA plan from the House Appropriations Committee. Excerpt: "While supporters of open access hailed a proposal by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to make all taxpayer-funded NIH research freely available within six months, more than 100 publishers yesterday visited the NIH offices to voice their strong opposition. Among their complaints: the NIH tucked the measure into an appropriations bill, which denied publishers, including society publishers, the opportunity to be heard on the issue. 'This measure caught publishers completely off-guard,' said Barbara Meredith, VP of Professional and Scholarly Publishing at the Association of American Publishers (AAP). 'This essentially mandates open access without any evidentiary hearings or studies.' The meeting was hosted by NIH Chairman Elias Zerhouni, and was the first in what is expected to be a number of hearings on the proposal, including, Meredith adds, a possible colloquy sponsored by the AAP. In response to publisher outcry, Rick Johnson, director of SPARC, in a letter sent to Zerhouni yesterday, suggested that NIH had made the right choice and that publishers appeared to 'misunderstand the proposal, which proposes open archiving, not open-access publication.' Open archiving, Johnson said, 'is not a threat to journals.' "

More on Lessig's Free Culture

Give It Away and They'll Buy It, Stanford Magazine, July/August 2004. On Lawrence Lessig's new book, Free Culture, which is available in both open-access and priced/printed editions. Excerpt: "You can pay $25 for Lawrence Lessig's new book. Or you can download it for free. What's the catch? None, according to Lessig, a law professor who specializes in intellectual property and is the author of Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. A memo Lessig wrote to his publisher convinced Penguin Books that releasing Free Culture online actually would increase sales of hardcove copies. Which may be true: there have been more than 180,000 downloads --and Penguin is on its third printing."

Note to Bloglet subscribers

If you subscribe to the Open Access News blog postings by email, through Bloglet, then you'll notice that the service is up again after a short downtime. You can read the postings you missed in the blog archive online.

Let me say again that Bloglet is unreliable and beyond my control. It's often down without explanation. When it's up, it often sends out corrupted emails that garble the text. When it's working as advertised, it still deletes the titles, bylines, and direct links to individual blog postings.

For the future, if it's not convenient to read the blog on the web, then I strongly recommend reading our RSS feed through a news aggregator. If you don't have a news aggregator, I can recommend Bloglines (free and web-based) or FeedDemon (affordable, desktop-based, and full-featured). Once you set up an aggregator, reading an RSS feed is as convenient as reading email. Moreover, you'll be in a position to subscribe to other feeds from other sources. And the quality is much better than Bloglet.

OA book on OA journalism

Dan Gillmor's We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People, published by O'Reilly, has also been issued under a Creative Commons license, and you can download the book chapters in .pdf. Gillmor explores how the internet offers alternatives to traditional media, particularly through weblogs and web-based publishing. (Source: Joho the Blog)

More on public access to drug trial data

Eli Lilly and Co. has agreed to provide public access to all the results of all the trials of all its approved drugs.

The future of OA funding

On August 31, BioMed Central will "consult with librarians and funding bodies about future mechanisms for funding Open Access publishing." The 16 invitation-only participants will address four questions: "[1] Payment model for Open Access: membership / article-processing charges, [2] Payment mechanisms for Open Access; differences and similarities with subscriptions, [3] Role of the library and the funding body in the Open Access world, and [4] Collaboration between institutions/librarians and funding bodies: can mechanisms be found to channel funding streams via the institution/library to pay for Open Access?"

Update. BMC is now soliciting written submissions on these four topics for use at the meeting. The deadline is August 20.

OA journal on FOI imminent

Steve Wood is thinking about launching an open-access Freedom of Information Journal. He'd like to hear from anyone interested in contributing an article or serving on the editorial board.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Can one copyright a digitized copy of a work in the public domain?

On the LibraryLaw Blog, Peter Hirtle and Klaus Graf are discussing whether digitized copies of works in the public domain are themselves in the public domain or can be copyrighted. The narrow focus of the discussion is on faithful digital scans of public-domain images, but the general question also applies to digitized copies of public-domain texts.

Changing business models in STM publishing

David Worlock, Changing Business Models in the Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishing Market, a presentation at the OECD conference on the Information Economy, June 3, 2004. Worlock shows how non-OA publishers compete with each other and how the non-OA models overall compete with OA models. He sees five key questions for evaluating the prospects of OA journals: "Is 'author pays' economically viable? Will commercial publishers be forced to follow the OA pioneers? Is there room for hybrid models? How will commercial STM publishers be affected? What are they doing to counter the threat?" (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

AAU position on the NIH OA plan

The House Appropriations Committee Enters Scholarly Publishing Fray, AAU CFR Weekly Wrap-Up, July 30, 2004, pp. 1-2. An unsigned story reporting the committee action and the AAU stance on it. Excerpt: "AAU has not taken a position on the substance of the proposal contained in the report language, but the association believes that a congressional prescription for scholarly publishing is unwise and unwarranted. However the debate over public access is decided, the quality and reliability of scholarly publishing should remain the first priority. A congressional mandate requiring a specific business model for the scholarly publishing enterprise prejudges what should be an internal, transparent deliberation by the academic and scientific communities. That process should examine the full range of options for controlling costs and increasing access to scholarly publishing while preserving its quality and reliability. Publishers are exploring different options, and outside groups or the government --no matter how well intended-- should not prematurely pick winners and losers."

(PS: There are two objections here: that there should be no federal mandate and that this mandate will force journals to adopt a specific business model. I respond to both in today's issue of my newsletter: "I've heard publishers complain...that this federal mandate will force publishers to adopt an open-access business model. But in every case, these publishers misunderstood the proposal. It proposes OA through archiving, not OA through journals. OA through archiving will have consequences for journals, but it will not require journals to convert to OA business models....Some publishers object that we should 'let the market work' and not turn to a federal mandate. One problem with this objection is that scientific research and its dissemination are permeated by government spending and government policies. Hence, this is not a market in any ordinary or classical sense at all. For example, in most countries (certainly in the U.S.) most funded scientific research is funded by governments, most scientists work at public institutions and are paid by governments, and most subscriptions to subscription-based journals are purchased by public institutions and paid for by governments.")

August issue of SOAN

I just mailed the August issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. In addition to the usual round-up of news from the past month, it takes a close look at the proposals in both the US and the UK to mandate open-access archiving for the results of taxpayer-funded research. The US proposal comes from the House Appropriations Committee and focuses on NIH-funded research. The UK proposal comes from the report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and would apply to all taxpayer-funded research.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Publishers correct "myths" of OA

Setting the Record Straight About Academic Journal Publishing, the Professional/Scholarly Publishing (PSP) division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP), July 2004. An attempt to correct four "myths" about subscription-based journals spread by OA defenders, apparently modelled on the BMC page of anti-OA myths.

The first myth and its correction will give you an idea of the document's quality. The first myth is that "[traditional publishing], relative to open-access publishing, hinders the progress of science and medicine and reduces the benefits to the public." To show that this proposition from the PLoS web site is false, the document asserts that subscription-based journals add value, including date stamps and peer review (conceded, not at issue) and that they are more widely read than OA journals (conceded, not at issue). The answer simply misses the target, which is especially troubling since the authors got to pick the myth to which they wanted to respond. The claim in the PLoS quotation was that conventional journals hinder progress "relative to" OA journals, not that they hinder progress absolutely or offer nothing of value. Moreover, when the document points to the valuable features of conventional journals, it seems to forget that OA journals have all of them (date stamps, peer review, disseminating research, and archiving) with the possible exception of marketing.