Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Another misreading of the NIH plan

Mark Hermodson, The Open Access Debate, Protein Science, 13, 10 (2004) pp. 2569-2570 (accessible only to subscribers). An editorial. Excerpt: "It is my belief that few scientists who wish to read Protein Science are restricted in their access by the current publishing model....Protein Science receives half its submissions from places other than the North American continent. Many authors outside the US and Canada have great difficulty meeting just the page and color charges and simply wouldnít be able to publish in a journal which required full publication charges of $3000 or more. This would result in their publishing the work in national journals and actually make access to the work more difficult for their colleagues around the world....I urge Protein Society members to write to their Representatives and Senators and also to Dr. Zerhouni, to oppose any bills that would mandate a change in publication policies beyond those advocated by the DC Principles...." (Thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr.) (PS: Hermodson gives some reasons not to convert Protein Science to OA, but none of these are reasons to oppose the NIH OA plan, which is about OA archiving, not OA journals. It will not require non-OA journals to convert to OA.)

How OA improves bibliographic searching

S. Mola, Effective bibliographic search. Internet and neurology. Cochrane Collaboration, Neurologia, September 2004. The article is in Spanish; only this English-language abstract is free online, at least so far: "The development of communication and the possibility of its dissemination to the biomedical documentation by means of the Internet network are producing changes in the traditional way of conceiving scientific publications. Two initiatives, derived from this new framework, are analyzed in this article. These are the Pubmed Central, the initiative of NCBI, intended to create a reservoir of biomedical literature, with free access, on-line, and the Cochrane Library which, through its different databases, is aimed at offering practitioners reasonable replies to frequent clinical questions. A new model of clinical documentation is arising from a combination of both: on the one hand, rational indexing and accessibility of the literature, and on the other, the analysis of information produced to generate relevant clinical knowledge." (Thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr.)

Support for Australian OA thesis database

Louise Perry, Formulating 130,000 theses for your perusal, The Australian, September 22, 2004. Excerpt: "An online directory of all research theses and dissertations from Australian universities will soon be available to the world. After pushing for the improved database for more than 15 years, the patience of postgraduate students and their supervisors has been rewarded: the federal Government has announced $500,000 for the job. The new database will use the Australian Digital Theses Program, which is already in place but only has links to about 2600 theses in digital form. The new version will have records of up to 130,000 theses and dissertations - some will be in digital form and those that are not will be linked to an order form where the database user can order a copy of the research. Anyone with access to the internet will be able to use the database."

Friday, September 24, 2004

New JODI on Digital Libraries and User Needs

The September issue of the Journal of Digital Information is devoted to Digital Libraries and User Needs.

BMC open letter supporting the NIH OA plan

Jan Velterop, publisher and director of BioMed Central, has written an open letter (September 23, 2004) to Elias Zerhouni in support of the NIH open-access plan. Excerpt: "Our company...publishes a large number of NIH-funded research articles, all with full and immediate open access (ca. 15% - almost a thousand of the 6500 research articles we have published to date - indicate some form of NIH funding; all 6500 articles have been deposited immediately and in full in PubMedCentral)....We are impressed with and enthusiastic about your initiatives to bring open access to research literature closer to reality, not just for the sake of the tax paying public, but for scientific progress itself, which stands to benefit significantly. Since we publish research articles with open access and have done so for the last five years, we have come to conclude that there is a viable and feasible business model that ensures immediate open access, based on article processing charges payable by or on behalf of the author....All the open access articles we publish are deposited immediately in PubMed Central and in a number of other repositories in Europe as well, ensuring redundancy in accessibility....Our experience should be seen as a counter-argument to the reservations expressed by traditional publishers as to the economic sustainability of an open access publishing model. Any difficulties encountered by traditional publishers must be regarded as problems associated with the transition from the old model to an open access one, not as fundamental impediments....We also believe that immediate open access publishing is essential for the effective conduct of scientific research and provides substantial benefits for society as a whole. We fully recognize that these changes require adjustment on the part of traditional publishers and your proposal of a six months' initial delay of open access for published articles provides, in our opinion, a sufficient and appropriate help in this respect. We admire your initiative and will support it in any way we can."

New archiving software under development

Lindsay Greene, NYU to make archive software, Washington Square News, September 22, 2004. Excerpt: "NYU's library system has announced plans to develop software for an intercollegiate database that will make archival processing more efficient, a library official said. The system, called 'The Archivists' Toolkit,' will allow universities and other research institutions to compile their archives into a online database, making the scholarship available worldwide....NYU, which is developing the project with assistance from the University of California at San Diego, decided to pursue the project after several researchers expressed an interest in a more accessible archive, Dean of Libraries Carol Mandel said. 'Our archivists were frustrated with the lack of software available, so they got together and kind of said "let's do this,"' she said. The archivists went to the Andrew W. Mellon foundation where they were paired up with the University of California. Both universities received a collaborative, two-year grant for $847,000. The project is expected to last from two to four years, and NYU hopes to renew the grant, Mandel said." (PS: The article doesn't say so, but the toolkit web site makes clear that the software will be both OAI-compliant and open-source. However, I'm still curious about what the project leaders found deficient in the nine existing systems of OAI-compliant, open-source archiving software.)

Update. Jerome McDonough, Digital Library Development Team Leader at NYU, sent me an email in response to my posting above and gave me permission to forward it to SOAF. Thanks, Jerome.

Lancet supports OA to genome data

Keep genome data freely accessible, The Lancet, September 25, 2004. An unsigned and OA editorial. Excerpt: "[W]hile free and open access to [scientific] data is a boon to science, it carries some risk: among the genome sequences freely available on the internet are those for more than 100 pathogens, including the organisms that cause anthrax, botulism, smallpox, Ebola haemorrhagic fever, and plague. It is possible that a government, a terrorist organisation, or even an individual could use data from these repositories to create novel pathogens that could be used as weapons. Concerned about this possibility, several US agencies...commissioned the National Academies of convene a scientific panel to evaluate the risk and recommend policies to govern access to such data. On Sept 9, the panel released its report Seeking security: pathogens, open access, and genome databases. The panel concluded, rightly, that current policies should remain unchanged....The panel noted that the threat of misuse is not as great as some might fear....But even if sequences were identified as being particularly dangerous, the panel noted that it would be 'difficult, expensive, and probably counterproductive' to try to restrict access to these data....The current system also offers tremendous benefits. The panel pointed to the recent experience with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as an example of the power of an open system....But beyond the practical, open-access policies of the genome database repositories serve another purpose. One that might, in the long run, be more important. They present the world with a model of international cooperation, trust, and altruism that offers a compelling alternative to the worldview of those who would use bioweapons to impose their political and ideological views."

NIH OA plan published in the Federal Register

The NIH open-access plan has been published in the Federal Register (vol. 69, no. 180, September 17, 2004, p. 56074) both in plain-text and PDF editions. A quick look suggests that this is the same text published on September 3 in the NIH Guide. (If I later discover differences, I'll post them here.) The significance of the FR version is that starts the clock anew on the 60 day period of public comments, or starts a second clock. Comments on the NIH Guide version were due by November 2. Comments on the Federal Register version are due by November 16. As before, you may submit comments by email or web form.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Ocean Science & Ocean Science Discussions on the horizon

It appears, to me at any rate, that the European Geophysical Union (EGU) and Copernicus Gesellschaft are planning to launch another pair of Open Access journals, Ocean Science and Ocean Science Discussions. EGU has pioneered the dual journal model. The ... Discussions titles feature discussion manuscripts, publicly posted peer review, author responses, and give and take from other members of the scientific community. The open discussion period lasts eight weeks and is permanently archived and citable. The polished paper then is published in the companion journal. Ocean Science will be the third set of titles in this Open Access series. Already in production are the following four journals: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions - Fulltext v1+ (2001+); Print ISSN: 1680-7367 | Online ISSN: 1680-7375. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics - Fulltext v1+ (2001+); Print ISSN: 1680-7316 | Online ISSN: 1680-7324. Biogeosciences Discussions - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); Print ISSN: 1810-6277 | Online ISSN: 1810-6285. Biogeosciences - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); Print ISSN: 1726-4170 | Online ISSN: 1726-4189.

OA archives of US economic data

The Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has launched FRASER (Federal Reserve Archival System for Economic Research), an open-access archive of documents and data on the U.S. economy. FRASER supplements FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data), the similar archive from the same outfit. (Thanks to ResourceShelf for the link. Kudos to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank. My only suggestion is a clearer statement of how FRED and FRASER differ and when to search in one and when in the other.)

Biomedical Digital Libraries -- new OA journal from BMC

Biomedical Digital Libraries is the latest in a long line (50+) of independent, Open Access journals hosted by BioMed Central. Something that differentiates this title from others at BMC is the library and librarian orientation and involvement in the founding and operation of the journal. Biomedical Digital Libraries - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN: 1742-5581.

NEJM editorial on NIH plan

Jeffrey M. Drazen, M.D., and Gregory D. Curfman, M.D., Public Access to Biomedical Research, New England Journal of Medicine 351:1343 (September 23, 2004). (Access restricted to subscribers.) The NEJM comments on the NIH OA plan and agrees with the initiative to make research available after six months, since the journal already follows such a policy. They take issue with the NIH on copyright, suggesting the following example of unscrupulous use of their material:
Suppose, for example, that we published an NIH-sponsored study showing that a given drug has benefit for a specific condition but that there are significant side effects to the treatment. Under the proposed rule, a commercial entity could republish the work, highlighting the benefits but ignoring the disadvantages, and attribute the work to the Journal. Since the Journal would not hold copyright, we could not seek recourse in the courts to halt this misuse of scientific data and potential danger to the public.
NEJM therefore calls on NIH to allow journal publishers to retain copyright even in an open access environment.

Canadian copyright reform will hurt research and education

Educators fear effect of copyright changes, Canadian Press, September 22, 2004. Excerpt: "Educators across the country are gearing up for battle, fearing proposed changes to Canadian copyright law could hinder Internet use in the classroom. They say extended blanket licensing as proposed by a parliamentary committee on Canadian Heritage last spring, could create a costly pay-per-use system that might cause schools to deny students access to the Internet entirely....Educators are saying it's one thing for people to protect their work by passwords and encryption that allows only paid users to access it, or by creating low-resolution images that are inadequate for reproduction. It's another issue to charge a blanket copyright fee when many of those posting information do so without the expectation of being paid for it. 'Why should we pay for access to public information?' said Robert Schad, a University of Regina administrator and member of the Council of Ministers of Education."

Searching texts in the Google Print project

Google Print is Google's ambitious project to provide free online full-text Google searches of selected print and non-OA content. In yesterday's ResearchBuzz, Tara Calishain harnessed little-known Google syntax for running searches on Google Print books and journals. She even created a search box to run these searches for you (run one and study the syntax to see how to do it yourself) and bookmarklets to create Google Alerts based on the searches.

China tries to increase stature and reach of its scientific journals

Hepeng Jia, China gives national science journals a financial boost, SciDev.Net, September 17, 2004. Excerpts: "China's Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) is to fund a number of the country's scientific journals in a bid to transform them into world-class research publications. Sun Zhengqi, the MOST official responsible for managing science publication, says the decision was made because the low international profile of most Chinese journals fails to reflect the country's growing world status....China currently has nearly 4500 scientific journals Ė about half the national total of magazine titles. In 2003, some 400 million copies of these journals were printed. Despite these phenomenal figures, many of China's science publications are low-quality, and they can take a long time to review and publish papers. As a result, some cannot keep up with the latest national developments in their fields....Many Chinese journals are also constrained by a lack of funds, poor circulation and low advertising revenues." (PS: If the government has already decided that increasing the stature, visibility, and circulation of Chinese journals is a priority for public funds, then it should either help the journals convert to OA or launch a network of OA, OAI-compliant institutional repositories to archive their articles.)

Briefing papers on ePortfolios and Digital Repositories

Two briefing papers based on the ALT-SURF Seminar "ePortfolios and Digital Repositories" (Edinburgh 22-23, 2004) are now online.
  • Simon Cotterill and five co-authors, "ePortfolios in the Netherlands and the UK" (pp. 4-10)
  • David Nicol, "Digital Repositories" (pp. 11-18)

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

More on OA in India

D. Balasubramanian, Open access to journals --a noble movement, The Hindu, September 23, 2004. Excerpt: "A number of new initiatives aimed to provide everyone in the scientific community access to, at least, publicly funded research. These include BioMedCentral which publishes 90 Open Access (OA) journals (where those authors who can, pay up to $ 500 as publication fee while others do not, but all are treated fairly and equally), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), the Joint Information Systems Committee and the Open Society Institute, which gave rise to the Budapest Open Access Initiative 2001 that brought the OA movement to the forefront....The tide truly turned in our favour with the start of the non-profit Public Library of Science (PLoS) by the Nobelist Harold Varmus, Pat Brown of Stanford and Michael Eisen of Berkeley....Further, actions like this have led the U.S. and U.K. governments to mandate the authors of all government-funded research output to 'self-archive' their work, so as to offer free and open access on the web....The distinguished scientometrist of India, Dr. S. Arunachalam of the MS Swaminathan Foundation Chennai, has been leading the crusade for OA to and from India. He has been requesting all Indian science agencies to follow the U.K. and U.S., lead and to mandate Indian scientists to self-archive their work and allow OA. He points out that this would benefit us to (a) maximize the visibility and impact of India's research output, and by symmetry (b) help create maximal knowledge base for us regarding the rest of the world's research output. I am sure that our science agencies, the University Grants Commission and also the National Informatics Centre will support Dr. Arunachalam in his selfless public-spirited request."

Martin Frank on OA

Martin Frank, Open Does Not Mean Free! The Physiologist (a journal of the American Physiological Society), August 2004. Excerpts with interposed comments:

The supporters of an "open access" model contend that publication is the final step of the research process and, thus, should be supported by research grants provided by the Federal government or other funding agencies/organizations. Unfortunately, grants provided by the National Institutes of Health, the primary supporter of biomedical research, are often awarded in $25,000 modules that allow for some flexibility in how to use the monies, but not enough to allow the research investigator to make realistic choices. Should funds be used to support the supplies and personnel to do the research or the cost of publication? [PS: OK, then just skip the OA journal fees and deposit the article in an OA archive.]...

In the US, the supporters of PLoS are attempting to influence funding agencies to adopt policies and to earmark funds in order to advance open access....Can we realistically expect the NIH and the federal government to cover the full cost of publication at a time of budgetary constraint? [PS: If this refers to the new NIH OA plan, then it misses the target. The proposal is not to pay the costs of journal publication, but to pay the costs of OA archiving in PubMed Central.]...

The term "open access" is actually something of a misnomer when it comes to describing online journal publishing. While readers enjoy free access to these publications, authors are required to pay $1,500 (in the case of PLoS Biology) to have their work published. [PS: Surprise! No serious OA advocate has ever said that OA literature is free to produce, only that there are better ways to pay the bills than by charging readers and creating an access barrier.]...

We believe that a free society allows for the co-existence of many publishing models, including an author pays model, and therefore believe that it would be foolish and dangerous to do away with one model for another that remains largely unproven. [PS: We agree on what a free society allows. To argue that OA models are superior to non-OA models is not even close to arguing for a prohibition of non-OA models.]

Missing the target -- the debate is joined

Rudy Baum, Socialized Science, Chemical & Engineering News, September 20, 2004. Peter Suber weighed in on this editorial almost immediately. The editorial has created a significant buzz on CHMINF-L, the Chemical Information Sources Discussion List. The clamor on CHMINF-L is being monitored and documented by Randy Reichardt on The SciTech Library Question? in a thread entitled, "Is Open Access Socialized Science?".

Guide to oa journal sites

John Tropea, ACNM free journals information guide, ACNM library - what's new, September 7, 2004. The Australian College of Natural Medicine library has compiled a listing of open access journal sites (some of which point to content that is not entirely OA,) including the Directory of Open Access Journals. Groupings include featured sites, PubMed-related, subject-oriented, university sites, among others.

More on the NIH OA plan

Publishing for Nothing, Science for Free, DCLnews (the newsletter of the Data Conversion Laboratory), September 21, 2004. An unsigned editorial that lays out both sides but does not take a position. Excerpt: "It isnít just government committees who are calling for more open-access journals [PS: should be "open-access repositories"]; scientists are too. Twenty-five Nobel Prize winners joined the open-access fray at the end of August, asking the government to make all taxpayer-funded research papers freely available....Those signing the letter included DNA co-discoverer James Watson and former National Institute of Health chief Harold Varmus, a long-time supporter of open-access....Many publishers are concerned that open access is being forced on them by government intervention, which they see as unfair. '[We donít] oppose open-access publishing, but only its premature and unwarranted imposition through government mandate,' the Association of American Publishers said in a statement. Alan Leshner, chief of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science magazine, takes a slightly different view: '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.' "

Therapy -- new OA journal

Therapy - Open Access in Clinical Medicine is a newly launched OA title from Future Drugs. This title is Future Drugs first foray into the OA realm. Their other nine Expert Reviews... journals are of the traditional toll access (subscription) variety. Quoting a blurb on the journal's main page:
The journal follows a 'hybrid' model, whereby open-access publication of original research papers will be supported by high added value content - reviews, commentaries, profiles and news, which can paid for by subscription or pay-per-view. Articles published in the original research section will be available to download for personal use directly from the site without charge.
The hybrid model described is akin to that employed by Arthritis Research & Therapy, Breast Cancer Research, Critical Care, Genome Biology, and Journal of Biology, which are all hosted by BioMed Central. Therapy - Open Access in Clinical Medicine - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN: 1475-0708.

Logical Methods in Computer Science preparing initial issues

Logical Methods in Computer Science (LMCS) is preparing both their initial regular issue and a special issue for release. As I mentioned in July, LMCS is a new theory of computer science journal whose creation was sparked by the editorial board revolt at the Journal of Algorithms. [Additional background -- Commentary: The Crisis In Scholarly Communication and Journal of Algorithms Fallout Getting Noticed, Stanford U Takes Stand Against "Pricey Journals".] Andrei Voronkov is the guest editor of the special issue. The issue will feature selected papers from Logic in Computer Science (LICS) 2004. Voronkov is a professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Manchester. Logical Methods in Computer Science - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN: not yet.

More on the Google-Elsevier deal

A blog posting on offers this interpretation of the Google-Elsevier deal: Google is indexing ScienceDirect content for the Google Print project and placing Google AdSense advertisements on the Google Print return pages. The only payments that Google will make to Elsevier are for click-throughs on the ads, the same deal that Google makes with every other host of AdSense ads. (Thanks to Jan Velterop. This reading makes sense of the original story and supports the suspicions I voiced yesterday.)

New journals on JSTAGE

JSTAGE (Japan Science and Technology Information Aggregator, Electronic) provides journal hosting services for a wide range of both subscription-based and free online journals. Here are some recent additions to the free literature: Mind/Soul Interfaces - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN ???. [Image PDFs of articles in Japanese script.] Biomechanisms - Fulltext v16 (2002); Print ISSN: 1348-7116 | Online ISSN: 1349-497X. [Image PDFs of articles in Japanese script.] Journal of the Society of Biomechanisms - Fulltext v27+ (2003+); ISSN: 0285-0885. [Image PDFs of articles in Japanese script.] Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics - Fulltext v19(3)+ (2004+); ISSN: 1347-4367.

More on the NIH OA plan

NIH floats open-access plan amidst objections, an unsigned news story in Research Research for September 13, 2004. Excerpt: "Fundamental societal changes in information-gathering compelled the agency to start developing the policy, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni said at an August 30 meeting that brought together young investigators and professors, many of whom serve on scientific journal boards. A 'paradigm shift' on how the public seeks information, especially health-related data, is occurring, Zerhouni continued, reporting that the number of online 'hits' at the National Library of Medicine's Web-based database, PubMed Central, has experienced an exponential rise, as has the number of patients approaching physicians with information they have gathered from the Internet. That shift, paired with rising scientific journal subscription prices, has created an environment ripe for change, the director stated, and the agency and scientific community must find a 'sweet spot' where an agreeable policy is formed that does not interfere with the quality of published material and does not harm revenue-producing journals. 'We need scientists to be in favor of whatever we come up with [because] in the end of the day, it will be scientist who will vote with their feet,' Zerhouni said. 'The status quo is not an option any more.' "

Education journal converts to open access

The Journal of Research in Rural Education (JRRE) has converted from a printed subscription-based journal to an online-only open-access journal. JRRE is published by the University of Maine College of Education & Human Development. For more details, see the University of Maine's press release or Aimee Dolloff's article in today's Bangor Daily News. Excerpt from Dolloff's story: " 'Clearly we're going to be reaching markedly more readers as an online journal than we could possibly reach as a print journal,' Theodore Coladarci, the journal's editor and UM educational psychology professor, said Tuesday. As an open-access journal, the publication and its online archive are free to all users, Coladarci said. The publication targets a small niche, rural education research, but the editor said that even in its print version, there were subscribers from all over the United States and in Canada, Australia and several European countries. He was hopeful that even more readers would access the journal online. 'You throw out a much wider net when you go online,' Coladarci said. 'You reach so many more people.' In addition to reaching a broader audience, the editor said he expects to see an increase in the number of manuscripts submitted for publication, meaning he likely will be even more selective in what is used. 'Which means it will be an even better journal than it already is,' Coladarci said. The journal now publishes only 20 percent to 30 percent of the submissions it receives. Another positive is that there is practically no cost associated with publishing the journal now that it has gone online. 'The costs are much, much less,' the editor said. 'The efficiency is just improved astronomically.'...Coladarci said he hasn't found any disadvantages to the new format."

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Proposed mandatory public registry of clinical trials

DRUG RESEARCH: Legislators Propose a Registry to Track Clinical Trials From Start to Finish. Jennifer Couzin. Science 17 September 2004: 1695. [Subscription needed to read fulltext.] Referred to as the Waxman-Markey bill, the proposed legislation would:
require all US drug trials to register at launch;
list participant eligibility requirements;
list funding sources;
post results, including unpublished results;
impose fines on noncompliant sponsors of clinical trials.

Infrastructure for UK e-theses

JISC will fund "a test-bed implementation" of "infrastructure to support the deposit, access and use of research theses for the UK Higher Education (HE) sector". It is now soliciting proposals, which are due at noon on November 3, 2004.

More on Google payments to Elsevier

The inetbib list currently has a very interesting discussion thread (in German) on the trial run of the arrangement by which Google will make small payments to Elsevier for click-throughs on Elsevier articles. One question is whether Elsevier will try to get Google to stop indexing OA versions of the same articles. Another is how to build a better manipulation-proof (or do-no-evil) search engine. Another is why Google is paying Elsevier rather than Elsevier paying Google. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

(PS: I have the same questions myself. If the payments are for click-throughs from the main Google index, then I worry. If they are for click-throughs from well-identified ads, then I don't worry. The early reports on the plan are not helpful on this point, but it may be that Elsevier is arranging for relevant ScienceDirect articles to appear in Google's ad space, in the righthand column of the hit page, in response to user searchstrings. I just ran Google searches on a dozen keywords sure to elicit ScienceDirect content, and saw nothing from ScienceDirect in the ad space. Do we scratch this hypothesis or try again later?)

Another OA/TA book

If you're tracking books that appear in both free-online and priced-print editions, then add the 9/11 Commission Report to your list. The full-text is free online and also for sale in a $10 paperback from W.W. Norton & Co. Over 600,000 people have so far bought the print edition. In an article on this phenomenon for today's Wired News, Joanna Glasner writes, "Today, heady sales of the 9/11 Commission Report are providing fresh ammunition to authors who have been pressing publishers to release their books both in print and online. While publishers commonly provide free access to excerpts of books, so far few have been willing to put works online in their entirety without charging. 'The conventional wisdom was, of course, if I give it away for free no one's going to buy it,' said Peter Watts, a biologist and writer who attempted unsuccessfully to persuade his publisher, Tor Science Fiction, to let him put his novels online for free. Watts, who does publish free short fiction on his website, disputes that notion. If people get free access to a novel, they're more likely to begin reading it. And once they begin reading, provided it holds their attention, they'll probably buy the book."

PNAS modifies OA policy

Nicholas R. Cozzarelli, Kenneth R. Fulton, and Diane M. Sullenberger, Lower open access fees and institutional partnerships, PNAS Early Edition, September 21, 2004. (Access restricted to subscribers.) In which it is announced that PNAS will include open access memberships with each institutional site license subscription. Authors from subscribing institutions, therefore, may pay a $750 fee for open access, as opposed to the $1000 OA fee previously imposed. The editors of PNAS state: "Open access publishing is gaining momentum, but we believe that it cannot succeed solely on an author-pays basis; hybrid funding models are still needed."

More on Kahle v. Ashcroft

Katie Dean, Saving the Artistic Orphans, Wired News, September 20, 2004. Excerpt: "Valuable resources are being lost to students, researchers and historians because of sweeping changes in copyright law, according to digital archivists who are suing the government. These resources -- older books, films and music -- are often out of print and considered no longer commercially viable, but are still locked up under copyright. Locating copyright owners is a formidable challenge because Congress no longer requires that owners register or renew their copyrights with the U.S. Copyright Office....In a suit filed in March, the plaintiffs in Kahle v. Ashcroft [Brewster Kahle and Rick Prelinger] argue that multiple changes to copyright law have essentially made it impossible for works to return to the public domain. They want to have these changes declared unconstitutional....The law 'imposes enormous burdens on speech without any countervailing benefit to anybody,' said Chris Sprigman, a fellow at the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School, who is representing the plaintiff. 'It doesn't benefit the public because it keeps creative works locked up, and it doesn't benefit private rights holders because these works are out of print.'...These rules are especially frustrating now that the digital world makes it so easy to distribute content. Archivists say that digitizing these old books, photographs and films, for instance, could be a boon for research and education."

More on BMC's Open Repository

In earlier postings about BMC's Open Repository service, I wasn't able to link to a web site because it didn't have one yet. But now Open Repository has a web site. The site is still under construction, but at least we know what to monitor for future developments.

Op-ed endorsing the NIH OA plan

Peter Suber, Public should have free access to research it funds, Tallahassee Democrat, September 21, 2004. Excerpt: "Rising journal prices, limited subscriptions, forced cancellations, and the background model of metered knowledge have slowed down medical research and subverted our enormous national investment in it. We may not know when we're spending enough on medical research, but we know that access barriers limit the usefulness of knowledge. Open access will make this research as useful as it can be, which we deserve as taxpayers as well as beneficiaries of medical advances....Scientific journals do not pay authors for their articles. Nor in most cases do they pay the referees whose professional judgments facilitate the peer-review process. When the 'talent' is giving away its work in this way (a tradition in science since 1665), and the research costs are paid by taxpayers, then there is no excuse for unnecessary access barriers. In the age of print, there were unavoidable access barriers based on print itself...[b]ut the Internet allows us to distribute perfect copies to a worldwide audience at virtually no cost. This convergence of factors has led a growing number of scientists to call for open access to all scientific research. In a compromise, the House Appropriations Committee and the NIH are saying that we should start with taxpayer-funded medical research....The plan does not interfere with copyright. It does not bypass or modify peer review. It does not tell scientists what to write or journals what to publish. It's good for science, good for medicine, good for health-care providers, good for patients, and good for taxpayers." (PS: The Tallahassee Democrat is a Knight Ridder Tribune paper, and the same op-ed may soon appear in other KRT papers.)

Elsevier and Google may share revenue

James Robinson, Reed and Google in talks to share revenue, The Observer, September 19, 2004. Excerpt: "Reed Elsevier is in discussion with internet search engine Google about a possible revenue-sharing agreement. Executives from the publishing group have had several meetings with Google and are trialling the concept, which would see Reed receive a small payment for each user directed to one of its websites. Reed's scientific publishing business generates around a third of the group's profits, and some industry analysts regard Google and other search engines as potential competitors....Many scientists post their research on university websites, which can be accessed free of charge. Google directs its users to Reed's sites, but Reed does not now receive a share of the revenue generated by the traffic. Google has similar revenue-sharing arrangements with other companies, but a deal with Reed would be one of the biggest of its kind. Reed could come to similar agreements with Yahoo and Microsoft." (Thanks to Joe Esposito.)

Lessig on the BBC Creative Archive

The Guardian interviewed Lawrence Lessig on the BBC Creative Archive yesterday (free but annoyingly extensive registration required). Excerpt: "The project exploits the BBC's position as a publicly funded broadcaster in a very clever way. Whereas most media organisations depend on controlling distribution of their products for their bread and butter income, the BBC has a charter obligation to make its products as free and accessible as possible. So while the majority of media companies continue to fret over internet piracy, the corporation can concentrate on getting involved in the broadband revolution....Lessig helped the corporation meet its legal challenge. It is his Creative Commons licence that the BBC has refashioned to get the archive off the ground....The quasi-perpetual copyright terms lately secured in the US, and heading swiftly for the EU, are steering us towards a new feudalism that will stunt the growth of the knowledge economy. Lessig explains this idea: 'The fight against feudalism was the fight against property regimes that had become so expansive and cumbersome that they choked off innovation and competitive growth. Much of the progress of the common law in England was the process of limiting the burdens of property law, so that property could become something you could transfer - use, reuse, and the competitive market could take off. Now we've recreated feudalism in the context of intellectual property.' "

Monday, September 20, 2004

Two new BMC journals

BioMed Central has launched a new epidemiology journal, Epidemiologic Perspectives and Innovations, which focuses on contributions to the field of epidemiology, as opposed to specific case studies. Journal of Experimental and Clinical Assisted Reproduction also launched within the last couple of days. Epidemiologic Perspectives and Innovations - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN: 1742-5573. Journal of Experimental and Clinical Assisted Reproduction - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN: 1743-1050.

Cornell report on OA publishing

Phil Davis, Terry Ehling, Oliver Habicht, Sarah How, John M. Saylor and Kizer Walker, Report of the Cornell University Library Task Force on Open Access Publishing, Cornell University Library, August 9, 2004. Abstract: "The Task Force on Open Access Publishing was convened by Ross Atkinson in January 2004.The purpose of the Task Force is to study the information available on Open Access publishing and to provide the CUL Library Management Team with a report that addressed specific questions. Alternative publishing models that would offer free and unimpeded access to scholarship promise both a more affordable system for academic institutions and their libraries and a more democratic one for readers and authors. The present Report examines both aspects of the Open Access promise and offers recommendations for CUL's involvement in the arena of Open Access publishing." The report recommends (p. 3) that the Cornell library support OA initiatives that meet local needs, save money, improve scholarly communication, and minimize detrimental effects on scholarly networks. The report also recommends creating a standing committee to monitor OA developments and "raise awareness of OA issues among scholars at Cornell".

Missing the target

Rudy Baum, Socialized Science, Chemical & Engineering News, September 20, 2004. An editorial. Excerpt: "National Institutes of Health director Elias A. Zerhouni seems hell-bent on imposing an 'open access' model of publishing on researchers receiving NIH grants. His action will inflict long-term damage on the communication of scientific results and on maintenance of the archive of scientific knowledge. More important, Zerhouni's action is the opening salvo in the open-access movement's unstated, but clearly evident, goal of placing responsibility for the entire scientific enterprise in the federal government's hand. Open access, in fact, equates with socialized science....I find it incredible that a Republican Administration would institute a policy that will have the long-term effect of shifting responsibility for communicating scientific research and maintaining the archive of science, technology, and medical (STM) literature from the private sector to the federal government." (Thanks to Lila Guterman.)

(PS: Whoa. Baum overlooks the fact that the NIH plan is only about disseminating articles that have already been accepted by independent, i.e. non-governmental, peer-reviewed journals. He forgets that nothing in the plan tells scientists what to study or what to conclude, and nothing in it tells journals what to publish or how to conduct peer review. He forgets that the directive to the NIH to develop this plan was adopted unanimously by two Republican-controlled committees. He also forgets what socialism is. The NIH plan does not expropriate private property for public use, but provides public access to publicly-funded research. It does not even deny property rights in these works by individual authors or journals. Let's get back to the subject.)

Springer's Haank responds to criticism of Open Choice

Bobby Pickering, Springer blasts Open Choice criticism, Information World Review, September 20, 2004. Excerpts:

German STM publishing giant Springer has blasted critics of its Open Choice initiative, saying that it is essential to "take the emotion out of the debate" and give authors and customers realistic options....In an exclusive interview with IWR, Springer's chief executive, Derk Haank, said Open Choice was a pragmatic solution that would reveal just how deep the demand for OA publishing is. "I'd be surprised if in five years' time more than 5-10% of our articles have been published by author-pays," he predicted.

(PS: I criticized Springer on August 6 for apparently designing the Open Choice program "more to generate low uptake, and ground a rebuke to OA advocates, than to test the waters in good faith." This reply by Haank tends to confirm that diagnosis.)

Open Choice has come in for criticism from OA vendors and bloggers for being overpriced and not offering 'pure' open access because Springer will retain copyright. But Haank countered his critics by saying: "...Copyright is not that important to us, but we are using it here as a mechanism to protect the author from having articles taken by other commercial publishers."

(PS: I made the copyright criticism on August 2. If we take Haank's claim at face value, then Springer is paternalizing authors instead of letting them choose between retaining copyright and letting Springer "protect" them from other commercial publishers. But it can hardly be taken at face value. How often do Springer authors have their articles taken by other commercial publishers?)

Wikipedia milestone

Wikipedia, the open-access, reader-revisable encyclopedia, now has one million articles.

OA to course content

Michael Roy, The Open-Source Bazaar Makes Scholarship Available, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 24, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: "The adoption of proprietary course-management systems by most universities inhibits progress in that direction [of widely accessible scholarly information] because learning materials that were once available on course Web pages are now hidden behind passwords and no longer show up in search-engine results....Even projects like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's well-intentioned OpenCourseWare initiative do more to document existing practices than to encourage a rethinking of teaching and doing scholarship online. And many of the most innovative projects are handicapped by a copyright system that makes sharing derivative works for educational use cumbersome, if not impossible....We can learn from the world of software development. Eric S. Raymond, a well-known advocate of open-source programs, describes two worlds of software development: the cathedral and the bazaar....We in higher education should think about whether we produce knowledge in the world of the cathedral or that of the bazaar....In an age when a textbook often costs more than $100, when journal prices are skyrocketing, and when scholarly presses routinely produce only a hundred copies of a monograph, we need to know more about the open-source techniques that make it easier to create and share intellectual property."

In the same article, Roy mentions Academic Commons, a web site he is developing to address these needs. Still under construction and due to launch in January 2005, "the site will collect stories and projects that document the evolving nature of teaching and research, and encourage collaboration that will lead to open-source teaching and research."

JISC renews BMC memberships for all UK universities

JISC has renewed the BioMed Central institutional memberships that it first bought for all UK universities in July 2003. The new memberships will last until September 2005. Excerpt from today's press release: "News of the JISC renewal comes at a key time for Open Access in the UK. The UK government is due to respond shortly to Scientific Publications: Free for all - the House of Commons Science & Technology Select Committee report. In the report, the Committee concludes that changes in scientific publishing are 'necessary as a matter of urgency' and everyone should have free, open access to UK research findings. They urge the UK Government to 'act as a proponent for change' and 'lead by example'. JISCís decision, to fund Open Access publication in BioMed Centralís journals for all UK universities for a further year, provides critical support for the growth of Open Access in the UK while policy is debated at government level."

More on the NIH OA plan

Bob Roehr, NIH moves towards open access, BMJ, September 11, 2004. Excerpt: "The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has taken the first step to requiring that all published papers that are based on research it supports financially will be made freely available to the public....The move to open access has been building for some time in the United States. Key dates include the launching of PubMed Central in February 2000 under the aegis of the then director of the NIH, Harold Varmus, and the creation of the electronic publisher the Public Library of Science. The library received a huge boost when the Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced that it would underwrite any fees associated with publishing the work of their supported researchers in Public Library of Science. In December 2002 the Council of Public Representatives, an advisory body to the director of the NIH, recommended that the NIH should do the same. It subsequently clarified that grant funds could be used for this purpose." (Thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr.)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Nice analogy

From a blog posting by Stephen Meyer earlier today: "Perhaps the most frustrating thing about the American Association of Publishers' objections to the recent NIH proposal to require work funded by the NIH to be deposited in PubMed Central is AAP's refusal to address a critical issue. Publishers are trying to assume monopolistic copyright privileges over works they are not willing to fully fund themselves. This would be analogous to a landscaping company trying to charge for access to a public park after the city outsourced some of its maintenance work. The AAP does not own the content and they will not address the issue."

(PS: Let's anticipate an AAP objection: But facilitating peer review is much more important for research literature than landscaping is for a park. Granted. But what follows? That publishers who didn't fund the research, didn't conduct the research, and didn't write up the research should control access to the results?)