Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Copyright blocks OA to British Library archive

Dominic Dudley, Public denied online access to British Library's archive, New Media Age, September 2, 2004. Excerpt: "The British Library won't be able to make the Web content that it's collecting for the nation available to the public over the Internet. The Library says copyright laws will stop it providing widespread access and the same fate awaits its archive of printed material, which it's slowly digitising. This problem comes despite the passage of the Legal Deposit Libraries Act last year which gave the six legal deposit libraries, including the British Library, a new mandate to collect digital content. This has the potential to affect every UK Web site, as it includes what's published on the Web. 'We'd like to allow access, but it's unlikely we'd be able to provide it over the Web,' admitted Richard Boulderstone, British Library director of e-strategy. 'I suspect it'll be limited to just inside the Library. At least we can collect it. If you can get to the Library you can look at it.' He blamed the anomaly on copyright laws that restrict the use of content for 100 years, which he said were 'a very blunt instrument'." (PS: This is a perfect example of why it's important to remove permission barriers, and not just price barriers. Thanks to ResourceShelf for the link.)

Another way that OA can help medicine

Free Database Encourages Wide Sharing of Information on Programs' Outcomes, Managed Care Magazine, August 2004. An unsigned news on an open-access database of best practices for healthcare providers. Excerpt: "Jerry Salkowe, MD, vice president for quality improvement at MVP Health Care, spent part of a recent weekend entering information about the insurer's quality incentive program into a new Web-based list of such efforts compiled by the Leapfrog Group. MVP, a health plan based in Schenectady, N.Y., issues payments to primary care physicians who meet specific quality measures. Leapfrog, steadily growing in national influence, is an employer-driven organization attempting to improve quality in patient care. Leapfrog's Incentive and Reward Compendium makes it easy to learn about what others are doing and tell the story of your organization's efforts, says Salkowe....The compendium...summarizes more than 80 projects around the country, providing information on program goals, the structure of nonfinancial and financial incentives, and the impact of the programs."

Right-to-know video censored

Ted Bridis, Pentagon Censors 'Right to Know' Video, Associated Press, September 1, 2004. Excerpt: "The Defense Department spent $70,500 to produce a Humphrey Bogart-themed video called The People's Right to Know to teach employees to respond to citizen requests for information. But when it came to showing the tape to the public, the Pentagon censored some of the footage. Officials said they blacked out parts of the training video with the message, 'copyrighted material removed for public viewing,' because they were worried the government didn't have legal rights to some historical footage that was included." (Thanks to LIS News.)

More on support for the NIH OA plan

Nobel Winners, Library Groups Voice Support for Open Access at NIH, Library Journal, a short unsigned news story. Excerpt: "Calling the House Appropriation Committee’s direction to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop an open access policy for its publicly-funded research an 'enlightened policy' and a 'long overdue reform,' 25 Nobel Prize winners have signed a letter to Congress supporting the plan....Also, four library groups also wrote to NIH director Elias Zerhouni to further voice their support. The Association of Research Libraries, the American Association of Law Libraries, the American Library Association, and the Special Libraries Association emphasized the difficulty libraries have had in keeping up with serials inflation. 'At a time when a single journal subscription can cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per year—and library users need access to thousands of journals—not even the largest research libraries can provide the research needed by scientists and other users,' the groups said."

Does your organization support OA archiving?

The current poll at Information Today asks this question: "Given recent developments and all the discussion of Open Access lately, does your organization already support or plan to implement self-archiving of publications?" When I checked one minute ago, 100% of the replies were yes.

How the September NIH OA plan differs from the July report plan

Here is my first take on the major differences between the July 14 report language from the House Appropriations Committee and the September 3 plan from the NIH:
  • The September plan drops the provision in the July report requiring that, if the NIH paid any part of the article's publication costs, then PubMed Central (PMC) would release the OA edition of the article immediately. The new plan simply says that the OA edition will appear six months after publication "or sooner if the publisher agrees".
  • The September plan gives new detail on exactly what grantees must deposit in PMC: "electronic copies of all final version manuscripts" accepted at peer-reviewed journals, when "final manuscript" is defined as "the author's version resulting after all modifications due to the peer review process." But then the September plan adds a new provision: "If the publisher requests, the author's final version of the publication will be replaced in the PMC archive by the final publisher's copy with an appropriate link to the publisher's electronic database."
  • The September plan gives new detail on what kind of NIH funding triggers the OA plan. The plan applies to NIH "grantees and supported Principal Investigators" and covers "all research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, as well as National Research Service Award (NRSA) fellowships." The OA policy will apply to all articles whose underlying research "was supported in whole or in part by NIH funding."
  • The September plan drops the condition in the July report that the policy will only apply to articles accepted by a "scientific journal listed in the NLM's PubMed directory".
  • Finally, while the July report contained some background principles and goals of the House Appropriations Committee, the September plan articulates some goals and intentions of the NIH. I count at least these eight: (1) the goal to improve the health of Americans; (2) the goal "to share and support public access to the results and accomplishments of the activities that [the NIH] funds"; (3) the goal to improve access to scientific information for "other scientists, health care providers, students, teachers, and the many millions of Americans searching the web to obtain credible health-related information"; (4) the intention to "balance this need with the ability of journals and publishers to preserve their critical role in the peer review, editing and scientific quality control process"; (5) the intention to monitor the "economic and business implications" of the plan in order to avoid "compromising the quality of the information being provided"; (6) the intention to "maintain a dialogue with publishers, investigators, and representatives from scientific associations and the public to ensure the success of this initiative"; (7) the intention to monitor compliance with the new policy and to use compliance as one factor in evaluating subsequent applications for NIH funds; and (8) the intention to "consider options to ensure that grantees' budgets are not unduly affected by this policy", for example, by journals that impose "unreasonable or disproportionate charges" on grantees.

I just revised my FAQ on the NIH open-access plan to take some of these differences into account. I'll probably write about these and other differences in the next issue of SOAN.

11 OA journals from the Indian Academy of Sciences

The Indian Academy of Sciences now publishes 11 open-access journals. (Thanks to J.W.T. Smith.)

Another way to search online journals

OJOSE (Online JOurnals Search Engine) is a new academic search engine. It covers a large number of free and priced journals and databases, and even some books. When a search brings up priced content, you will usually see a citation and abstract; clicking for full-text can bring up a pay-per-view offer, the full-text (if you detected to be affiliated with a subscriber) or an error. It links automatically to machine translation and saves your search history for an hour. (Thanks to the Internet Resources Newsletter.)

More on the NIH OA plan

Danielle Belopotosky, Online federal library on health research sparks outcry,, September 3, 2004. Excerpt: "A battle over a proposal to make taxpayer-funded medical research reports available to the public is brewing on Capitol Hill, pitting some publishers and members of the scientific and medical communities against each other. 'The issue here is research that has been created with taxpayer money,' said Rick Johnson, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. The coalition is part of the Open Access Working Group that has promoted the notion of open access to research....Roughly 60,000 NIH-funded reports are written each year, and more than 25,000 journals publish research articles from various sources. Libraries likely would not cancel current journal subscriptions as a result of the repository, he said, because they also need the other research. NIH, which has a $28 billion budget, is not asking for additional appropriations, Johnson said, but is seeking a more efficient way to get its research to people who can benefit from it and who pay for it....But some publishers say the move would create a government-mandated repository without evidentiary hearings. 'It is extremely unfair,' said Barbara Meredith, vice president of professional and scholarly publishing for the Association of American Publishers (AAP). She said the move 'would signal the demise' of scientific publishers."

NIH releases its OA plan for public comment

The NIH has released its open-access plan, Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information (September 3, 2004) for public comment. Excerpts:

This notice is to announce and to seek public comments regarding NIH’s plans to facilitate enhanced public access to NIH health related research information. NIH intends to request that its grantees and supported Principal Investigators provide the NIH with electronic copies of all final version manuscripts upon acceptance for publication if the research was supported in whole or in part by NIH funding. This would include all research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, as well as National Research Service Award (NRSA) fellowships. We define final manuscript as the author’s version resulting after all modifications due to the peer review process. Submission of the final manuscript will provide NIH supported investigators with an alternate means by which they will meet and fulfill the requirement of the provision of one copy of each publication in the annual or final progress reports. Submission of the electronic versions of final manuscripts will be monitored as part of the annual grant progress review and close-out process.

NIH considers final manuscripts to be an important record of the research funded by the government and will archive these manuscripts and any appropriate supplementary information in PubMed Central (PMC), NIH’s digital repository for biomedical research. Six months after an NIH supported research study’s publication—or sooner if the publisher agrees—the manuscript will be made available freely to the public through PMC. If the publisher requests, the author’s final version of the publication will be replaced in the PMC archive by the final publisher’s copy with an appropriate link to the publisher’s electronic database.

Comments may be submitted by email or web form, and are due November 2. (PS: It's very important that US citizens who support OA send comments. You can be sure that opponents of OA will send comments.)

Friday, September 03, 2004

Submission to acceptance time for mathematical journals

Prompted by a question on SLAPAM-L, I found a recent tabulation of the reported lag time between submission, acceptance, and publication. (Notices of the American Mathematical Society is freely available online.) Backlog of Mathematics Research Journals. Notices of the American Mathematical Society 51(8):924-927 2004 September. The tables include both traditional and online-only journal editor's estimates of the delay between submission and publication. Note that the units of delay change between the print (months) and online (days) realms. The speed advantage of the online journals is incredible. Notices of the American Mathematical Society - Fulltext v42+ (1995+); Print ISSN: 0002-9920 | Online ISSN 1088-9477. Thanks to Dana Roth (Caltech) for bringing the article to my attention and Frances Knudson (LANL) for posing the question.

Retrovirology -- 6 months on

Kuan-Teh Jeang, editor-in-chief of Retrovirology, has written a milestone editorial for his journal. Synthesizing boyhood memories of the coup in Libya with the power inherent in controlling the channels of communication, Jeang makes a compelling case for OA. KT Jeang. Mohmmar Qadaffi, Open Access, and Retrovirology. Retrovirology 2004, 1:24 doi:10.1186/1742-4690-1-24 In addition, he provides a league table of Retrovirology articles which have garnered a minimum of 1000 views (11 of 23 articles). I suspect the reality is even greater. I am unaware of a mechanism by which the article views from the PubMed Central mirror would be included in the count. Retrovirology - Fulltext v1+ (2004+) BioMed Central | PubMed Central; ISSN: 1742-4690.

Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin

Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin -- journal titles don't get much more descriptive than that. This title has been freely available since the dawn of the web. Early issues are HTML, while the more recent issues are glossy PDFs. The bulletin is published by the Lunar and Planetary Institute. LPI is a focus for academic participation in studies of the current state, evolution, and formation of the solar system. Lunar and Planetary Information Bulletin - Fulltext no71+ (1994+); Print ISSN: 1534-6587 | Online ISSN: 0891-4664 Thanks to Caroline Smith, Caltech's Astrophysics librarian for bringing this old reliable to my attention.

Chemistry journal trends

Brian Simboli has created a web page to track Chemistry Journal Trends, including their pricess and access policies.

OA and German copyright law

Thomas Pflüger and Dietmar Ertmann, E-Publishing and Open Access, Zeitschrift für Urheber- und Medienrecht, 2004, pp. 436-443. Only the abstract is free online, at least so far. Read it in German or in Google's English. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Update. There is now an OA edition of the full-text.

A look at ciber

I just learned about ciber (the Centre for Information Behavior and the Evaluation Research) at the City University of London. Ciber was behind the report, Scholarly Communication in the Digital Environment: What Do Authors Want? (dated March 2004 but apparently released in May). From the ciber site: "ciber's expertise lies in the mapping, monitoring and evaluating of digital information systems, platforms, services and environments, using robust and innovative research methods.... How do we measure information consumption and production in the new digital environment? How can we assess the quality, reliability and impact of information? How do we determine the extent, direction and nature of change?...It seeks to inform by countering idle speculation and uninformed opinion with the facts." (Thanks to Hamid R. Jamali.)

More on the NIH OA plan

Jocelyn Kaiser, Zerhouni Plans a Nudge Toward Open Access, Science, September 3, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "Hoping to resolve an escalating debate about public access to biomedical research reports, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Elias Zerhouni consulted with scientists this week and said that he is leaning toward a delay of 6 months after publication before posting grantees' papers on NIH's free Web archive. This plan won't satisfy everyone, he acknowledged, but it is 'reasonable.' A war of words broke out this summer after Zerhouni responded to a House report urging NIH to come up with a plan to give free access to published papers. In a stern seven-page letter last week, the Association of American Publishers and other groups called NIH's plans a 'radical new policy' and an 'inappropriate intrusion' on free enterprise [PS reply]; they contend that it could force journals to adopt an 'unproven' model in which authors pay publication costs [PS reply]. Lobbying for the plan, 25 Nobel laureates --led by Richard Roberts and including former NIH director Harold Varmus and James Watson-- wrote Congress on 26 August expressing 'strong support' for posting NIH grantees' papers in PubMedCentral --NIH's free, full-text archive-- as soon as they are published. A new coalition of patient and library groups called the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, meanwhile, is backing a 6-month release plan." (Thanks to Alexei Koudinov.)

Correlation between hit rates and citation counts

A new study in the BMJ [Thomas Perneger BMJ 2004; 546-547 (4 September)] finds the hit count on the website in the week after online publication predicted the number of citations in subsequent years. The paper concludes that the hit count is a potentially useful measure of the scientific value of a research paper.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Virology Journal -- new OA journal on BMC

Virology Journal is ready to debut at BioMed Central. Virology Journal is an Open Access journal emphasizing rapid communication of high quality original research in human, animal, plant, insect, bacterial and fungal viruses. From the introductory editorial:
There are several outstanding virology journals covering all aspects of this dynamic field, but none of the general virology journals are exclusively published on-line or are Open Access. With the launch of Virology Journal, we hope to catalyse a fuller utilization of the Internet for scientific communication in virology drawing on our long experience with the ATV website. We welcome any advice and input.
Virology Journal - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN: 1743-422X.

Society journal rejects OA

Robert Stanley, Open Access: Has Its Time Come? American Journal of Roentgenology, September 2004 (accessible only to subscribers, at least so far). An editorial. Excerpt: "Although the concept of freely sharing scientific and medical knowledge with everyone globally has merit, it does not appear to work well for all providers of scholarly publications. Educational, not-for-profit societies, such as the ARRS [American Roentgen Ray Society], would soon see open access turn to no access because the free dissemination of the material in their medical journals would be financially unsustainable. Free access to the journal would eliminate the incentive for some current members to remain members of the ARRS." (Thanks to Howard Mann.)

JCI editorial supporting the US and UK proposals

Ushma Savla and John Hawley, Want the world to know? Publish here, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 114 (2004) p. 602. An editorial. Excerpt: "Recent recommendations by the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States support the notion that government-funded research should be published in free-access journals. The JCI supports these recommendations, and we remind our readers that all JCI articles are deposited in PubMed Central for completely free access from the day they are published....More journals may soon be joining the JCI in the free-access camp after the recent recommendations offered to the UK and the US governments. The UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee proposed that research funded with public money be deposited in freely available repositories soon after being peer reviewed and published in a scientific journal. They went on to enthusiastically endorse the idea of an author-pays model." (PS: I join Salva and Hawley in hoping that the US and UK proposals will help new and existing OA journals. However, neither proposal requires OA through journals. The UK proposal does not endorse the upfront funding model for OA journals, although it does call for further experimentation with it. Thanks to Jonathan Weitzman for the link.)

PubMed milestone

On August 11, PubMed posted the 15 millionth citation to its OA database.

More on OA to drug trial data

John George, Glaxo begins Web data system, Philadelphia Business Journal, September 2, 2004. Excerpt: "GlaxoSmithKline said Wednesday it has posted the first set of data on its GSK Clinical Trial Register, a Web site that eases access to information derived from company-sponsored clinical trials. The register will provides summary results of GSK-sponsored trials of the company's marketed medicines. It also notes references to related publications that have appeared in the medical literature....In June, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued GSK, accusing the pharmaceutical company of concealing studies that questioned the effectiveness of its antidepressant Paxil in children. After the lawsuit was filed, GSK announced plans to create the Internet-based clinical trial register to provide open access to clinical trial data."

More on the Nobelists' open letter on OA

Nobelpreisträger fordern freien Zugang zu Forschungsergebnissen, Spiegel, September 1, 2004. A short unsigned news story on the open letter from 25 US Nobel laureates to the US Congress in support of the NIH open-access plan.

September issue of SOAN

I just mailed the September 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 a cluster of related problems: stretching or diluting the term "open access" to cover all flavors of widening access, hesitating to praise steps that widen access if they stop short of full OA, and letting a fuzzy OA meme outpace the spread of the major public definitions from Budapest, Bethesda, and Berlin. The issue also includes a reflection on September 11 three years later.

Interview with Springer's Derk Haank

Richard Poynder, Put Up or Shut Up, Information Today, September 2004. Poynder interviews Derk Haank, former chairman of Elsevier Science and current CEO of Springer, about his move from Elsevier, the big deal, and open access. Excerpts:

Q: So why have you introduced Open Choice?

A: What we are saying is: "Look. It's not that we don't want to change on principle; we've been advocating the traditional model simply because we thought it was practical. But if you want to try open access, and you can really organize yourselves in a different way, and the money starts to come out of a different pot, we are happy to change our internal procedures to accommodate you." [...]

Q: You have set the publication fee at $3,000 a paper. Critics say this is too high, that authors won't pay that much; and so, perhaps Springer is only going through the motions. Is Derk Haank really serious about open access?

A: As always, I am very serious --$3,000 is a very competitive price. Even open-access advocates would have to acknowledge that. The Wellcome Trust report, for instance, estimated the true cost of publishing a paper at more like $3,500.

Q: But if PLoS charges $1,500 and BioMed Central just $525, how can Open Choice be competitive?

A: Of course, we can't compete with heavily subsidized prices from new initiatives. In reality, however, it is they who are not competitive because they can't offer a brand name like Springer's.

(PS: When this interview first appeared, yesterday, it was not OA. Thanks to Information Today for making it OA today.)

More on the NIH OA plan

Judy Sarasohn, Accessibility Battle Flares, Washington Post, September 2, 2004. Excerpt: "A lobbying battle over the accessibility of federally funded medical research to the public and other researchers gathered steam over the summer recess and threatened to break out in full force when Congress returns to town. To the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and its founder, the Open Access Working Group, "it's about how science can be exchanged freely," says Debra Lappin, one of the lobbyists working the issue. To the Association of American Publishers and other publishing organizations, the issue is "one of primarily fairness," says Allan R. Adler, AAP's vice president for legal and governmental affairs. So far, the open access folks seem to be winning, even though they promote themselves as David vs. a publishing Goliath. The National Institutes of Health is developing policy guidance that would require that final peer-reviewed manuscripts of NIH published [PS correction: should be "NIH-funded"] research be placed in PubMed Central, the digital library maintained by the National Library of Medicine, within six months after publication in a scientific journal. Language promoting this direction is included in a report accompanying a House Appropriations Committee bill."

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Access to cancer tissue samples and informatics data

Aaron Bouchie, Coming soon: a global grid for cancer research, Nature Biotechnology 22, 1071 - 1073 (2004). Only the abstract is freely available online: "The US NCI is spearheading efforts to create a national network for storing cancer tissue samples as well as an international informatics grid to share data."

OCLC repository

OCLC has launched an institutional repository for its own research publications. From the web site: "What did we learn along the way?...It is easier to preserve one's copyright from the get-go, than to get it after-the-fact. Seeking permissions, even for older materials, was one of our hardest tasks. Nowadays OCLC Research's policy is that OCLC should retain copyright, secure archiving rights up-front, and publish in open-access friendly journals, whenever feasible." (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Paula Hane and Robin Peek on OA

Paula Hane, Developments in Open Access, Search, and More, Information Today, September 2004. On the US and UK open-access proposals, BMC's consultation on OA business models, and an upcoming Open Access Forum for Internet Librarians at Internet Librarian International 2004 (London, October 10-12, 2004).

The same issue of Information Today has a non-OA article by Robin Peek, The Cascading Effect. The TOC describes it this way: "Robin Peek asks what many are wondering: Where does open access go from here?"

More subsidized free access from Nature

Nature is offering six months of free online access to a collection of articles on proteomics. This no-fee access is subsidized by Sigma-Aldrich.

Two from Online magazine

The Sept/Oct issue of Online features some OA-related articles which are not available on the magazine's website. Peter Jacso reviews three search utilities in his Picks and Pans column (p.57), and calls Citebase Search "the crown jewel of the Open Citation Project," noting its facility in searching open access sources such as arXiv, cogprints, and BioMed Central. He has high regard for the Institute of Physics (IoP) archive search interface, but dismisses Google's interface for searching scholarly archives (consisting of material from nine scientific publishers,) determining that "duplicates and triplicates were very common in many of Google's results, so its reported hits must be discounted ..." He concludes with the suggestion that scientists not rely on Google for searching this kind of material, given its "half-hearted implementation" of its interface to these archives.

Roger Strouse's "The Changing Face of Content Users and the Impact on Information Providers" (p.27) presents results from an Outsell survey. Among the findings Strouse includes is a section "Social Publishing, Information Sharing, and Open Access," which mentions file-sharing, networking among academics and scientists, collaborative software, blogs, wikis, media "that bypass the traditional publishing establishment altogether." He goes on to summarize challenges by scientists and libraries to traditional publishers, and concludes:

Librarians in academic institutions can become leaders with regard to open access initiatives by educating authors about alternative publishing venues, while at the same time continuing to push commercial vendors to develop more palatable pricing. For their part, vendors must do a better job of justifying their prices, and communicating directly to scientists (and librarians) the value they add to the publication process.

German coverage of the NIH OA plan

Richard Sietmann, Nobelpreisträger für "Open Access", Heise Online, August 31, 2004. A brief article (in German) on the open letter from 25 US Nobel laureates to the US Congress in support of the NIH open-access plan.

New ERIC web site

Today marks the launch of the new ERIC (Education Resources Information Center) web site. By my reckoning, ERIC is the world's oldest open-access site, tied with Medline. Coming to ERIC on October 1: "more than 107,000 full-text non-journal documents (issued 1993-2004), previously available through fee-based services only, will be available for free."

Living Reviews in Solar Physics

Living Reviews in Solar Physics is a new Open Access, refereed journal providing high quality up-to-date reviews of all aspects of solar physics and related fields (primarily the Sun-Earth and the solar-stellar connection). LRSP is published by the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in cooperation with the Living Reviews BackOffice. The first two articles, are available: Yuhong Fan: "Magnetic Fields in the Solar Convection Zone" Brian E. Wood: "Astrospheres and Solar-like Stellar Winds" Additional articles are in preparation. Articles will be kept up-to-date by periodic revisions made by the original authors (hence the name "Living Reviews"). The NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS) provides another method of access. (Thanks to Donna Coletti, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)

More on the NIH OA plan

Lila Guterman, NIH Proceeds With Plan to Provide Open Access to Scientific Papers, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 1, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "The news [of the NIH OA plan] has led supporters and critics of open access to actively lobby Elias A. Zerhouni, the NIH's director. Dr. Zerhouni has met with three groups with a direct interest in the issue: with publishers in late July, with scientists on Monday, and with patients' advocates on Tuesday. 'The status quo is not an option,' Dr. Zerhouni said at Tuesday's meeting....Indeed, at the close of Tuesday's meeting, Dr. Zerhouni said, 'We are not standing pat. We are going to move.' Access for taxpayers was also emphasized by a group of 25 Nobel laureates who wrote an open letter to members of Congress last week. "As scientists and taxpayers too, we ... object to barriers that hinder, delay, or block the spread of scientific knowledge supported by federal tax dollars -- including our own works," wrote the Nobelists, who included James D. Watson, the co-discoverer of DNA's double-helical shape, and both of last year's winners in chemistry, Peter Agre and Roderick MacKinnon....A coalition of patient-advocacy groups and libraries also formed to support the NIH's move toward open access. 'The time has come to make taxpayer-funded research publicly available,' said Prudence S. Adler, associate executive director of the Association of Research Libraries, which is a member of the new coalition, called the Alliance for Taxpayer Access."

More on publisher opposition to the NIH OA plan

Andrew Albanese, Publishers Protest at NIH, Library Journal, September 1, 2004. A brief note on publisher opposition to the NIH OA plan.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Course management software and institutional repositories

Dale Flecker and Neil McLean, Digital Library Content and Course Management Systems: Issues of Interoperation, Digital Library Federation, July 2004. The report of a study group on making course management systems interoperable with repositories like DSpace and Fedora. Excerpt: "With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, an ad hoc group of digital librarians, course management system developers, and publishers met under the aegis of the Digital Library Federation to discuss the issues related to the use of digital library content in course management systems. The size, heterogeneity, and complexity of the current information landscape create enormous challenges for the interoperation of information repositories and systems that support course instruction. The group has created a checklist of things that operators of digital content repositories can do to help ameliorate the complexities of such interoperation." (Thanks to Clifford Lynch.)

From the 1823 Lancet

The editor's Preface to the 1823 inaugural issue of The Lancet uses arguments with nice parallels to some present-day arguments for open access. Mike Eisen dug it up and scanned it; Helen Doyle sent it around; I keyed it. In this excerpt, the editor has already described the kinds of valuable information the journal will publish, including the "Metropolitan Hospital Lectures":
The great advantages derivable from information of this description, will, we hope, be sufficiently obvious to every one in the least degree conversant with medical knowledge; any arguments, therefore, to prove these are unnecessary, and we content ourselves by merely showing in what direction their utility will be most active: To the Medical and Surgical Practitioners of this city, whose avocations prevent their personal attendance at the hospitals --To Country Practitioners, whose remoteness from the head quarters, as it were, of scientific knowledge, leaves them almost without the means of ascertaining its progress --To the numerous classes of Students, whether here or in distant universities --To Colonial Practitioners --And, finally, to every individual in these realms....In this attempt, we are well aware that we shall be assailed by much interested opposition. But, notwithstanding this, we will fearlessly discharge our duty.

Update. Also see this background by Richard Horton, current editor of The Lancet. "[M]edicine in 1823 was a little different (but not very much) than now because the famous and powerful surgeons and physicians of the time charged their students to come and listen to lectures. And they charged phenomenal amounts. Well, Thomas Wakley, the first editor, was not having any of this! Thomas Wakley was the Harold Varmus of his time. And so he started The Lancet. He did have a user charge though. Sixpence. And here you could get all the lectures that these physicians and surgeons were delivering at such high cost, almost for free. Medicine did not break down I note that historical lesson thanks to The Lancet." (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

Webcast of January OA conference

A video webcast of the Open Access Publishing Conference (Atlanta, January 7, 2004) is now online.

"An abstracting and indexing equivalent of OA publishing"

Thomas Krichel and Michael Koenig, From open access to open libraries: claims and visions for Open Academic Libraries, an E-LIS archived copy of an article from the Proceedings International Conference of Digital Library: Advance the Efficiency of Knowledge Utilization, Beijing, 2004. Excerpt: "Recently, the primary academic publishing industry has become much preoccupied with the idea of open access to its output. Open access becomes possible as the Internet has reduced margin costs of giving out an additional copy to virtually zero. Very simple economic theory suggests that when welfare is optimal, prices are equal to marginal costs. Such a theory thus supports the idea that open access has favorable welfare properties. Our paper however is not about open access to primary research papers per se. Despite all the hype about open access, we think that the access method is not crucial to the academic digital library. The essence of any digital library is not so much about the access to the documents; rather it is more about how such documents are organized....We are interested in an abstracting and indexing equivalent of open access publishing."

OA could solve problem for Canadian dissertations

Mary Nersessian, PhDs see red over American rights, Globe and Mail, August 31, 2004. Excerpt: "Library and Archives Canada's current thesis-submission form is at odds with academic principles meant to uphold the free dissemination of ideas, some Canadian graduate students are arguing. As it stands now, students who wish to see their thesis published in a national, standardized way are required to submit the work, through Theses Canada (a division of Library and Archives), to the American company ProQuest, which then gets non-exclusive publishing rights. Some institutions, including the University of Toronto, even require such a submission before they will allow students to graduate....Dennis Pilon, who is completing his doctorate in political science at Toronto's York University, contends that his research should not be published to profit an American company....Meanwhile, there may be another way to resolve the entire issue. 'The way out of this,' says [Sharon] Reeves [manager of Theses Canada], 'is to go electronic.' In fact, Library and Archives Canada has initiated a pilot project with three universities (Saskatchewan, Waterloo and Laval) to submit theses through an in-house electronic program -- which would be immediately accessible, to anyone, for free."

Lancet editor on the value of the current journal system

Dr. Richard Horton, Electronic Cultures and Clinics: Reasons to be Hysterical and Hopeful. In a lecture given at the Medical Library Association meeting on May 25, 2004, Horton outlines several challenges for science and then spends the bulk of his talk exploring the question of open access. As a physician, he regards OA as a worthwhile goal. As an editor, Horton views OA with some skepticism, feeling put off by the rhetoric of OA advocates and wanting to preserve the best aspects of the journal system, which he notes has "worked rather well." He argues that print journals will remain necessary and that OA isn't necessarily well suited for them. "We need a mixed economy of media, and we need publishing models that are going to support a mixed economy of media." Furthermore, he cautions against a loss of quality, noting that his own Lancet rejects close to 90% of papers submitted to it. Horton is skeptical of author-payment models, pointing out that societies may have to charge enormous amounts to sustain their revenues, and that it would create "complexity" and "bureaucracy" sorting all those author checks. Finally, he maintains that tolls are necessary: "I need to have revenue coming into the journal to give me my freedom to do what we should be doing at the journal, which is to hold people to account for what they do in medicine and medical science, to protect the integrity of the values that underpin medicine."

More VOA on OA

Today's Voice of America has a brief story on open access to scientific research. Excerpt from the online transcript: "Prices for published research on science, medicine and other subjects have been rising. This has been a problem for many libraries, schools and individuals....Recently, British and American lawmakers have proposed measures toward what is called open access publishing. Researchers would pay to have their studies published. They would also be permitted to keep the right to reprint their own work. And, if a government pays for a study, the findings would be free for the public to read on the Internet."

Monday, August 30, 2004

ATA letter to NIH

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has publicly released its August 26 letter to Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH, in support of the NIH open-access plan. Excerpt: "The widespread dissemination of medical advances and scientific findings is critical to obtaining the best return possible on our nation's investment in research. Unfortunately, most Americans effectively do not have access to the results of research paid for with their tax dollars....Today's technology is not being used optimally to facilitate the open and rapid exchange of publicly supported science within and across our borders. The vast majority of federally-funded published research is available only through increasingly costly journal subscriptions....This closed system leaves the American public -- including physicians, public health professionals, patients and patient groups, students, teachers, librarians and scientists at academic institutions, hospitals, research laboratories, and corporate research centers -- under-informed about important, timely research results they helped finance. In the age of the Internet, it is no longer acceptable that millions of Americans lack access to this credible, peer-reviewed research to inform their work, their studies and their personal healthcare decisions....The proposal to place the majority of the final manuscripts of NIH research in PubMed Central six months following publication is a smart and timely solution to a mounting public issue....Please accept the support of the undersigned for your efforts to provide open access to taxpayer-funded research."

OA journals key to good science policy

Jan Siemens (Technical University Berlin) observes:
Country-specific data of C sequestration by terrestrial ecosystems are highly desirable, because nations and not continents are the main actors in international negotiations and efforts addressing global climate change (e.g. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). As people involved in these political processes might have limited access to classic scientific journals, an open-access journal like "Biogeosciences" might be especially suited for publication of the country-specific data presented in the manuscript.
Siemens' observations appear in his peer review commentary [Biogeosciences Discussions, 1, S60-S65, 2004] on Janssens et al, The carbon budget of terrestrial ecosystems at country-scale - a European case study, Biogeosciences Discussions, 1, 167-193, 2004.

Enabling new scholarship

Amy Harbur and Abby Smith, Enabling New Scholarship: Scholarly Communication Institute Highlights Collaboration and Technology, CLIR Issues, September/October 2004. On CLIR's second annual Scholarly Communications Institute (SCI). Excerpt: "The presentations made it clear that digital scholarship cannot exist in a vacuum....Scholars today provide the content, but administrators must provide the institutional support, and librarians, technologists, and publishers must provide the structure, for digital information dissemination and retrieval....Scholars, it transpired, are often unaware of the resources available to them in their campus libraries. Technologists, given little or no direction, create 'cool' Web sites that do not provide the information and functionality that scholars need. Librarians create enhanced searching techniques for content they may never receive from scholars, who do not know they should be passing it along. Publishers provide value through peer review and editing, but they are often failing financially. Administrators must struggle to balance the demand for online resources from students and senior faculty's adherence to paper-based resources. Meanwhile, librarians cry for the resources to provide both digital and paper media as they seek to serve their increasingly diverse user bases....Having identified the case study as a tool that is important both for teaching and for research [in practical ethics], the teams proposed creating a case-study repository that the four centers could test collectively."

Open letter from 25 Nobel laureates

The Open Letter to the U.S. Congress from 25 Nobel prize winners has been released to the public (and I've posted a copy to SOAF). Excerpts:

As scientists and Nobel laureates, we are writing today to express our strong support for the House Appropriations Committee's recent direction to NIH to develop an open, taxpayer access policy requiring that a complete electronic text of any manuscript reporting work supported by NIH grants or contracts be supplied to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central. We believe the time is now for all Members of Congress to support this enlightened policy.

Science is the measure of the human race's progress. As scientists and taxpayers too, we therefore object to barriers that hinder, delay or block the spread of scientific knowledge supported by federal tax dollars including our own works....

There's no question, open access truly expands shared knowledge across scientific fields -- it is the best path for accelerating multi-disciplinary breakthroughs in research....There is widespread acknowledgement that the current model for scientific publishing is failing us....The trend towards open access is gaining momentum....Free access to taxpayer funded research globally may soon be within grasp, and make possible the freer flow of medical knowledge that strengthens our capacity to find cures and to improve lives.

As the undersigned Nobel Laureates, we are committed to open access. We ask Congress and NIH to ensure that all taxpayers get their money's worth. Our investment in scientific research is not well served by a process that limits taxpayer access instead of expanding it. We specifically ask you to support the House Appropriations Committee language as well as NIH leadership in adopting this long overdue reform.

NIH Fact Sheet for Public Access Publishing

The NIH has prepared a Fact Sheet on Public Access Publishing that it sent to participants in today's invitation-only stakeholder meeting on the open-access plan. Excerpt: "The goals of the agency specifically include expanding the knowledge base in medical and associated sciences, in order to enhance the Nation's well-being and ensure a continued high return on the public investment in research. The sharing of ideas, data, and research findings has always been encouraged by NIH as a primary mechanism for accomplishing these objectives....NIH is aware of many of the implications of possible changes to the current publishing model. As the agency works towards the development of a policy statement on public access publishing, two important goals must be considered: first, the need to give the public taxpayers who support NIH research better access to the results of its investment; and second, the need for NIH to have a full compendium of research results including clinical trials outcomes that it can use to manage its research portfolio and monitor scientific productivity. An additional consideration is the need to preserve the ability of journals and publishers to play a major role in peer review and to facilitate information transfer. As part of on-going efforts to gather input on this issue, NIH Director Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni is holding a series of meetings to consider the concerns of affected parties including publishers, scientists, and patient advocates. The NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts will publish a draft policy statement in September for public comment. This draft policy will take into account the input that NIH receives on this issue, and present a clear description of the agency's position and planned actions in the area of public access. In December, NIH will report to Congress on its consultations and proposed next steps."

25 Nobel laureates support NIH OA plan

Dan Vergano, Scientists want research papers freely available, USA Today, August 29, 2004. Excerpt: "Twenty-five Nobel Prize-winning scientists today are calling for the government to make all taxpayer-funded research papers freely available. 'Science is the measure of the human race's progress,' scientists say in a letter to Congress and the National Institutes of Health. Signers include DNA co-discoverer James Watson and former National Institutes of Health chief Harold Varmus, a longtime supporter of open access. 'As scientists and taxpayers, too, we therefore object to barriers that hinder, delay or block the spread of scientific knowledge supported by federal tax dollars — including our own works.'...'[Conventional journal publishing is] the biggest scam ever,' says letter-signer and 1993 Nobel Prize winner Richard Roberts. Taxpayers pay for researchers to prepare, review and edit manuscripts, he says, while scientific societies and large publishing firms reap the profits....Alan Leshner, chief of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science magazine, says, 'I think all the problems are workable' for the free-access publishing plan. 'The question is how to do it so we can still pay our bills....The whole discussion of how we share research results is a very productive one,' Leshner says. 'Science is about communicating results to serve society.' " (PS: Later today I'll post the Nobelists' letter to SOAF and blog the URL and excerpts here.)

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Biodiversity requires OA

The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has released an issues paper, Sharing Information with Confidence: 'The Biodiversity Commons', May 2004. Excerpt: "Good information is critically important to good conservation of biodiversity and there is a recognition that we all need to share information far more regularly and openly than in the past. The cultural shift towards making information more readily available is already underway. The aim of the current report is to chart and analyse this change in relation to information on biodiversity, and to suggest how biodiversity information can be managed cooperatively, allowing greater access to data that will improve global responses to the challenges of biodiversity loss, climate change and ecosystem degradation." Section 2 (pp. 8-10) is devoted to open access; the remaining sections apply these ideas to literature and data on biodiversity. (Thanks to Charlotte Hess.)

LSU intro to OA

The Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center has written a helpful document, Open access to the scientific literature: a summary of the issues. It includes coverage of the recent NIH open-access plan.