Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, November 20, 2004

NBC story on NIH plan tonight?

NBC Nightly News is telling us that its story on the NIH OA plan "may" run tonight. As in the past, it may be preempted by hotter news.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Preserving institutional repositories

The Digital Preservation Coalition has posted a report summarizing the recent conference, Digital Preservation in Institutional Repositories (London, October 19, 2004). The report includes links to the separate presentations. Excerpt: 'The 9th DPC Forum was a collaboration between CURL and the British Library. The theme of institutional repositories was proposed by CURL as being very timely as the move from theory to practice is likely to accelerate, requiring more emphasis on sustainability and lessons learned from the practical experience of early adopters. Clifford Lynch's quote from a recent RLG DigiNews : 'An institutional repository needs to be a service with continuity behind it...Institutions need to recognize that they are making commitments for the long term.'...Differing views have been expressed on whether it is necessary to preserve [e-prints] but there is an opportunity here to move beyond saving and rescuing digital objects to building the infrastructure required to manage them from the start. A good start has been made in identifying properties of e-prints, looking at selection and retention criteria, preferred formats, rights issues etc. but none of these are 'doing' preservation. Using the OAIS model as a guide, a preservation storage layer and preservation planning (e.g. policies and procedures, risk assessment) needs to be added, with preservation and administration metadata and preservation protocols and processes in place.' (Thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr.)

More on OA to drug trial data

Kate Fodor, Trials of the Pharmaceutical Industry, The Scientist, November 22, 2004. Excerpt: 'Pharmaceutical companies may soon be required to register their clinical trials and publicly disclose the results, whether they show a drug in a positive, negative, or lukewarm light....In early October, citing the [GlaxoSmithKline Paxil] case as an impetus, a group of lawmakers introduced the Fair Access to Clinical Trials (FACT) Act, which is an effort to increase the transparency of clinical trials for drugs, biologics, and medical devices....The 48-page bill calls for a mandatory, electronic clinical-trial registry to be run by the government. The bill would require companies to post information about a study before patient enrollment begins and to publish a summary of the results --whether positive, negative, or inconclusive-- once the study is complete. The registry would operate as an expansion of [open-access], which houses a database established in 1997 that is run by the government's National Library of Medicine. Currently, only studies of drugs for serious diseases must be registered in the database, and companies are not required to provide results of the trials. The FACT Act would require all US Phase II, III, and IV trials to be registered, with updates provided every six months until a summary of the final results is posted. Study sponsors who fail to comply would face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day and would be ineligible to receive government grant money or contracts.' The rest of the article contains a detailed overview of drug company concerns and legislative responses.

(PS: The FACT Act has been introduced in both houses of Congress. The House bill is H.R.5252. The Senate bill is S.2933.)

Google Scholar and OA

From a posting on yesterday's Commentary blog (from Shore Communications): 'At this early stage, Google Scholar's business model isn't apparent. However, Google does state in the FAQ that Google "does not receive compensation if you decide to buy a subscription to a journal or access a particular article." That leaves advertising as the source of revenue, which fits right in with Google's recent history and mission. The FAQ also humbly suggests that Google "recognize[s] the debt we owe to all those in academia whose work has made Google itself a reality...". Keep in mind, however, that there is a commercial goal, too. As more and more scholarly publications become available on an open access basis, Google is paving the way to include a huge collection of content in its network --content that can be monetized through search advertising and AdSense contextual advertising. With Google Scholar, Google has already done much of its homework in prepping for advances in open access.'

Google Scholar search plugin for Firefox

BioMed Central has developed a Google Scholar search plugin for Firefox. (PS: Earlier this week, BMC released a BMC-search plugin for Firefox.)

Google Scholar and Elsevier's Scopus

From a posting on yesterday's Outsell Now blog: 'A marketer's nightmare for Elsevier's Scopus: An interesting side story here is the contrast between the visibility this offering gets just because it's from Google, and Elsevier's struggle to get its brand-new Scopus collection of scientific literature abstracts noticed. The bottom line is that Google Scholar will be in part an everyman's Scopus or Thomson's Web of Science. Scopus is targeted at institutions, academic libraries, not individuals, but it will gain the attention of library users, students and faculty. Elsevier made a strong pitch that Scopus, with its ease of use and Google-like simplicity, would draw these users away from Google back to library resources. Well, here comes Google with Google-like simplicity. In the tug-of-war, the handkerchief just got pulled back over the line by the users.'

More on Google Scholar

Jeffrey Young, Google Unveils a Search Engine Focused on Scholarly Materials, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 19, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: 'Google Scholar searches the full text of most of the documents it indexes, but in some cases the results point to articles or texts that can be seen only for a fee or with a subscription. In most such cases, users can see a free abstract of the article to decide whether they want to seek out or buy it. Some results also point to other works that cite a given article -- a useful tool for researchers. The service combines many features the company has developed in partnerships with colleges and library groups. Google officials say it builds on their work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and 16 other universities to make scholarly papers from the institutions more accessible in search engines (The Chronicle, April 23). The new search tool also includes records from the Open WorldCat project, which makes library-catalog records available as searchable documents. That effort is a partnership of Google and OCLC Online Computer Library Center, a nonprofit library organization (The Chronicle, May 21). Google officials also would not say how they determine exactly what material counts as scholarly, or how Google Scholar decides which results are more relevant than others. But a company statement does say that it "takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared, and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature." Such secrecy does not sit well with many librarians, who are accustomed to using databases that are carefully labeled. And some librarians worry that students will stop using library databases, journals, and books, many of which are not indexed by Google.'

Thursday, November 18, 2004

More on Google Scholar

Danny Sullivan, Google Scholar Offers Access To Academic Information, Search Engine Watch, November 18, 2004. Excerpt: 'Google has worked with publishers to gain access to some material that wouldn't ordinarily be accessible to search spiders, because it is locked behind subscription barriers....But Google's made arrangements with publishers to get into these password areas. The advantage is that suddenly, searchers have a much better ability to locate material that may be of interest. However, it also means that actually trying to read the full-text of such documents -- which Google does index -- will only be possible for those who have relationships with the publishing sites. Google says, by the way, that it does not earn money off of any new subscriptions generated between searchers and publishers....When spidering the content, Google has worked to understand who the authors of the papers are, as well as the formal titles of the papers and other documents that cite the material. These citations are a key part of the special ranking algorithm used by Google for Google Scholar. Google says the citation extractions allows it to see the connections between papers even if these connections are not made through links. As a result, it can use citation analysis to try and put the best papers at the top of the results....The same paper may be hosted in more than one place, of course. In these instances, Google picks what it believes is the best version and provides links to other versions after the paper's description. In some cases, the material is not actually online. Google may know about a paper only through references it has seen on other papers. In these cases, a Library Search and Web Search link will appear next to the paper or book's title.'

University of Maine conference on OA

Scholars push for freedom from digital copyright restrictions, Associated Press, November 18, 2004. Excerpt: 'As academic and scholarly journals move toward publishing in paperless formats, university professors are finding it difficult to maneuver through copyright laws that restrict how their work can be used...."You have situations throughout the country...where faculty members who write articles can't assign them to their classes to read because the library can't afford to buy the journal," said James Campbell, a graduate student at the University Maine's Department of Spatial Information Science and Engineering. Campbell is one of the organizers of a conference this weekend in Bangor focusing on helping creators of scholarly work provide open access and eliminate a variety of means by which their works are restricted.' (PS: Disclosure: I'll be speaking at this conference.)

Attracting scientists to institutional repositories

Saskia Franken, What do scientific authors want? Attracting scientists to institutional repositories, a preprint. Abstract: 'Igitur supports (especially Utrecht) scientists with electronic publishing and in a more general sense aims to improve scientific communication. Igitur offers two major services: Publication of recent scientific output in the digital scientific repository of Utrecht University and support in starting new electronic publication channels, such as electronic journals and communication platforms. Igitur guarantees fast publication, optimal disclosure and worldwide availability. Offers various supporting services including tools, technical support, product development and web marketing.' (Thanks to the Jill O'Neill on the NFAIS Information Community News.)

Another Hindawi journal converts to OA

The EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking (EURASIP JWCN) is converting to open access, effective immediately. From the November 17 press release: 'EURASIP JWCN will adopt a mandatory open access model whereby authors will be required to pay an article processing charge. The journal will continue to have both an online (which is now freely available with no subscription or registration barriers) and print editions....EURASIP JWCN is Hindawi's second journal that has been converted to open access.' (PS: The first Hindawi journal to convert to OA was the Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology on August 26, 2004.)

More on Google Scholar

Shirl Kennedy and Gary Price, Big News: "Google Scholar" is Born, ResourceShelf, November 18, 2004. Excerpt: 'The world of online "scholarly" research is changing today as Google introduces Google Scholar. This specialized new interface -- which will NOT be linked from Google's main search page -- will allow users to search a treasure chest of "scholarly material."...In a nutshell, Google has built an algorithm that makes a calculated guess at to *what it thinks* is a scholarly content mined from the OPEN WEB, and then makes it accessible via the Google Scholar interface. Precisely what makes something "scholarly" enough to be included in Google Scholar, Google will not say. And this is not an insignificant omission....Material accessible via Google Scholar can also be in the main Google index. Google Scholar results pages *will not contain advertising* -- at least for now. Some examples of material from major publishers whose material you'll find (we know Google has been working with many)? Google will not provide us with a complete list, but look for content from ACM, IEEE, and yes, Open Worldcat material from OCLC. We also don't know precisely what is and is not available, date ranges, etc....VERY COOL! For many citations, you'll find a direct link to other articles in the Google Scholar database that cite the article you've selected. Yes, Google Scholar is a citation database too!...Might this be a golden opportunity for the library community to tell people -- look, we have access to this stuff and MUCH MUCH MORE? We have better ways to search it, and you might not even have to pay for it?'

Also see today's news coverage of Google Scholar and the Slashdot discussion of Google Scholar (unfortunately blended with a discussion of Google Keyhole).

APS comment on the NIH plan

The American Physiological Society has publicly released its comment in opposition to the NIH plan. The comment includes a 47 page appendix by a Washington law firm. Excerpt: 'The APS recommends that instead of this proposal, the NIH should enhance the existing MedLine/PubMed web site so that it is possible to search the full text of articles on journals' own websites. These searches would yield links to finished [but non-OA] articles on those websites rather than access to manuscripts....NIH's plan would infringe on the copyright interests of (a) federal grantees who author copyrighted articles based upon NIH-sponsored research, and (b) publishers of professional journals that have accepted those articles for publication and to whom copyright interests have been conveyed.'

(PS: Two quick replies. (1) The APS alternative has the advantages that the APS cites for it, but also the decisive disadvantage that it doesn't provide OA to full-text articles. For that reason, it doesn't solve the problem that NIH is trying to solve. (2) The copyright analysis here overlooks the fact that funders like NIH are upstream of publishers. Authors sign their grant contracts with funders before they sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers. NIH grantees will give NIH the rights it needs for this program before they transfer any rights to publishers. Hence, NIH will never need to ask publishers for their consent and will never infringe the rights held by publishers.)

Michael Keller comment on the NIH plan

Michael Keller has publicly released his comment on the NIH plan. Keller is the Stanford University Librarian and the Publisher of HighWire Press and Stanford University Press. Excerpt: 'Should any of those American not for profit societies fail or weaken enough [from lost subscriptions] to jettison their publishing roles, the likely beneficiaries of such failure are the European for profit stm publishers and elements of the NIH's own bureaucracy. Such an outcome would have the dangerous and expensive prospect of one or perhaps both worst case scenarios: 1. the European for profit publishing industries would control more of the literature of stm and thus expand their monopolistic practices as well as charging more for access to the very stm literature the NIH proposal intends to affect; 2. the U.S. government would be taking over more responsibility for publishing de novo stm articles, thus further asserting control over research topics and methods....Additionally, the NIH proposal flies in the face of considerable innovation and enormously improved public access already undertaken by numerous publishers receiving services from HighWire Press, a not for profit, enterprise of the Stanford University Libraries.'

(PS: Two quick replies. (1) There are reasons to think that the NIH plan would not undercut journal subscriptions. But if they did, it is much more likely that ailing journals would convert to one or another OA model than that NIH would take on the peer-review functions of a publisher. (2) To me, OA through Highwire Press or through institutional repositories would be a perfectly acceptable amendment or enhancement to the NIH plan. But if it's on the same terms as OA through PMC, then the effect on journal subscriptions would not change. If it's not on the same terms, then the debate should focus on the terms, not the venue.)

Launch of Google Scholar

Tomorrow Google will launch the beta version of Google Scholar, although it is online today for use. From the press release: '[W]e are excited to announce Google Scholar, a free search service that helps users find scholarly literature such as peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, preprints, abstracts, and technical reports. This service will be available tomorrow morning....Like Google Web Search, Google Scholar orders search results by relevancy to ensure the most useful references appear at the top of the page. This ranking takes into account the full text of each article as well as the article's author, the publication in which the article appeared, and how often it has been cited in scholarly literature....Whenever possible, Google searches across the full text of a paper, not just the abstract....Google Scholar offers relevant results for a wide range of scholarly materials including research that isn't yet online. For instance much of Einstein's work isn't online, but it is heavily cited by other researchers. Google Scholar leverages these citations to make users aware of important papers or books that are not online, yet may be available in their local library.'

(PS: This is an important development. It will make OA literature even more visible and retrievable than it already is. It will give authors new incentives to make their work OA. It will help readers find what they need. Because it indexes work that is not online, even non-OA publishers will have an incentive to participate, making it more and more comprehensive and useful. When you run a search, Google Scholar labels each hit by the number of citations it has, presumably from other works in the index. It also lets you click through to a new page showing just those citing works. Authors and publishers: see the FAQ for instructions on how to make sure that your work is included.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

More on the NIH plan

Klaus Marre, Publishers wary of NIH plan, The Hill, November 17, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: 'The NIH said the plan would make research funded through taxpayer money available "in a timely fashion to other scientists, healthcare providers, students, teachers, and the many millions of Americans searching the web to obtain credible health-related information." But some publishers warn that this could put niche publications out of business and harm the public good. While the opponents of the proposal say they support more public access, they feel the NIH approach could also have a chilling effect on research output.'

Joseph Henry Press -- free online books

Joseph Henry Press is an imprint of the National Academies Press. As is the case with literally thousands of books published by NAP over the last couple of decades, the vast majority of JHP books are freely available online. Whether your tastes run to space exploration (1), gen-mod food (2), or quantum physics (3), Joseph Henry Press can swell your online book collections without draining your budget.
1) Mark Wolverton. The Depths of Space: The Story of the Pioneer Planetary Probes. Washington, DC : Joseph Henry Press, c2004. ISBN: 0309090504
2) Nina V. Federoff and Nancy Marie Brown. Mendel in the Kitchen: Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Food. Washington, DC : Joseph Henry Press, c2004. ISBN: 0309092051
3) Edmund Blair Bolles. Einstein Defiant: Genius versus Genius in the Quantum Revolution. Washington, DC : Joseph Henry Press, c2004. ISBN: 0309089980

ACRL comment on the NIH plan

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has publicly released its comment in support of the NIH plan. Excerpt: 'We wish to emphasize, above all, that academic libraries will not cancel journal subscriptions as a result of this plan and that it will therefore not produce economic harm to publishers. Since biomedical journals publish research that derives from many sources other than NIH funding, the articles made available in PubMed Central will not substitute for the content of individual journals. Even if libraries wished to consider the availability of NIH-funded articles when making journal cancellation decisions, they would have no reasonable way of determining what articles in specific journals would become openly accessible after the embargo period. The six-month embargo also provides substantial protection of publishers’ interests. Because most biomedical research is time sensitive, libraries will make every effort to maintain the subscriptions they already have as a way of providing needed access to the most current research.'

What if journals paid for articles and the money went to cited authors and publishers?

David Zetland, An Auction Market for Journal Articles, a preprint. Abstract: 'Publishing a journal article is difficult --authors fear and suffer misplacement, delay, overburdened editors and dense reviewers. Publishing is also important --greater efficiency can have big impacts. Here I present a market solution to improve article valuation, editorial e±ciency and the returns to prestigious journals. This system pays auction money to the authors and publishers of works cited by the auctioned paper. This paper examines economic articles; inclusion of other fields would generate positive network effects.'

(Thanks to Alex Tabarrok and Mike Linksvayer, who have both blogged comments on the idea. Quoting Tabarrok: 'The money paid in the auction would flow not to the author of the paper but to authors cited by the paper and their publishers....The cleverness of the idea now becomes apparent. Publishers will be willing and able to pay for papers because they expect to earn revenues when in turn those papers are cited....Once it gets off the ground, the market for journal articles is self-sustaining and self-fulfilling.' Quoting Linksvayer: 'If the journal market idea really could foster a self-sustaining business model it could be a boon to the open access movement. Restricting access is rather pointless when your main business concern is to get your articles cited.')

Public Knowledge comment on the NIH plan

Public Knowledge has publicly released its comment in support of the NIH plan. Excerpt: 'Unfortunately, NIH-funded research is not currently accessible to everyone who could make good use of it....Americans should be proud and grateful that Congress has increased the NIH budget so dramatically over the past five years. But this investment in medical research is undermined by the skyrocketing prices of scientific journals that currently control access to the results. It's untenable that journals should control access to research conducted by others, written up by others, and funded by taxpayers, especially when journals acquire manuscripts without payment and raise their prices faster than inflation. It doesn't matter whether these access barriers are caused by greed, a dysfunctional payment system evolved in the age of print, or innocent market forces. They slow down medical research; they will worsen as the body of published knowledge continues to grow; and open-access technologies now make them unnecessary. As taxpayers, we want to see a better return on our investment in medical research, and we see the NIH proposal as a timely and judicious plan to deliver precisely that.' (Disclaimer: I wrote the comment.)

OA developments at IFLA section on LIS journals

The November issue of the Newsletter from IFLA's Section of Library and Information Science Journals is now online.
  • The Section decided that the theme for its session at the 2006 IFLA conference in Seoul would open access to LIS journals (p. 2).
  • One priority in its 2004-05 strategic plan is "providing unrestricted access to information" (p. 5).
  • Its forthcoming "toolkit" for LIS journal editors will include "advice, guidelines, check-lists, form letters, sample correspondence, pricing calculations etc. for both printed and on-line journals, following both conventional and open access financing models" (p. 6).

More comments on the NIH plan

The web site for the DC Principles for Free Access to Science now has a page collecting comments on the NIH plan from signatory organizations, most of them critical. Today the page links to 21 comments.

Questions about OA

Nancy Davenport, Open Access Is the Buzz, CLIR Issues, November/December 2004. Excerpt: 'The open-access system presents scholars with many unanswered questions: Will my work be more or less accessible to the readers I want to reach? How will publishing in an open-access mode affect my professional standing? Will my work be cited as often in prestigious journals or mentioned as frequently by others noted in the field? Will peer review be faster or slower? Will my work get to "print" faster? Should I start publishing now in open access, getting in early while new journals are developing their reputations, or should I wait to see how it sorts out? If everyone is publishing in open access, how will I find the new work of other scholars whose work I need to read? Do I really care if my work is accessible to the public since that is not my primary audience? If open access means I have to pay preprocessing costs, where do I get the money? If I start publishing my work in open-access formats will I still get the grants I want?' (PS: I don't deny that these questions may be on the minds of many scholars. But it's remarkable how easy most of them are to answer, and how the answers favor OA. We still have a lot of educating to do.)

Second Readex Digital Institute for librarians and scholars

Readex has released a summary of its second annual Digital Institute for librarians and scholars (Chester, Vermont, October 7-9, 2004). I like this quotation from Patrick McGlamery, Director of Libraries Information Technology Services for University of Connecticut Libraries. "Competing on our collections is no longer a viable metric; now we should be competing on access and service."

PLoS for everyone

A consumer health column in today's Detroit News includes a mention of PLoS Medicine alongside tips on exercise and dieting during Thanksgiving. 'A new general medical journal is publishing important, peer-reviewed biomedical research. Unlike most medical journals, which are available only through costly subscriptions, PLoS Medicine is available free of charge and accessible to everyone through the Internet, at www.plos PLoS Medicine is published by the Public Library of Science, a coalition of researchers and physicians.' (PS: I like this. Even if we think that researchers are the primary audience of OA peer-reviewed research, and that most members of the lay public will benefit only indirectly from it, we should encourage steps like this one to make OA research known to all who can make use of it.)

OA awareness in Finland

Bo-Christer Björk and Turid Hedlund, OA awareness rises rapidly in Finland, ScieCom Info, November 2004. Excerpt: 'The year 2003 was a clear turning point concerning the awareness among Finnish academics and academic librarians of the possibilities of open access publishing. A workshop organised by the Hanken business school to disseminate the results of the EU-project SciX provided the impulse for the founding of a working group that lobbies for wider adoption of Open Access in Finland. FinnOA is chaired by Professor Bo-Christer Björk and includes representatives from the central Finnish organisations affected by OA; the national library, several universities and university libraries, the association of scientific societies, research institutes etc. In addition to the main working group, which meets regularly about every two months, a number of task groups for institutional repositories, journal publishing and information dissemination have been established.'

November issue of ScieCom Info

The November issue of ScieCom Info is now online. Here are the OA-related articles. (Thanks to Kimmo Kuusela.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Meeting with Zerhouni

Yesterday Elias Zerhouni, Director of the NIH, met with Mark Kamlet, Provost of Carnegie Mellon University, and Rick Johnson, Director of SPARC, to discuss the NIH public access plan. Today the Alliance for Taxpayer Access issued a press release about the meeting. Quoting Kamlet: 'Clearly, Dr. Zerhouni is listening to all voices in this debate on how to expand access to the published results of NIH funded science. He knows that NIH's primary responsibility is to serve science and to improve human health. From the perspective of one of the nation's finest research institutions, I emphasized that we feel that the academy, not the commercial publishing industry, is NIH's primary partner in the conduct, scientific review, and dissemination of research. Today we are frustrated by restricted access to research, which is choking the system. NIH is addressing this challenge intelligently without threatening publishers' livelihoods.'

Immunity & Ageing -- new OA journal launched

Immunity & Ageing is the latest of the more than 60 independent, Open Access journals hosted by BioMed Central. The journal publishes material in the realm of immunosenescnence and all aspects of ageing examined from an immunological point of view. Immunity & Ageing - Fulltext v1+ (2004+); ISSN: 1742-4933. [PS -- Please excuse the initial mis-spelling of Ageing, a fault which was wholly my own. Thanks to Jan Schoones, Leiden University Medical Center, for bringing this error to my attention.]

U of Bergen launches an OA repository

The University of Bergen has launched the Bergen Open Research Archive, an OAI-compliant open-access institutional repository using DSpace. (Thanks to Lorenz Khazaleh.)

More on the embargo on editing

Shirin Ebadi, Bound but Gagged, New York Times, November 16, 2004. An op-ed. Excerpt: 'I was surprised and angered when I learned that regulations in the United States make it nearly impossible for me to write a book for Americans. Despite federal laws that say that American trade embargoes may not restrict the free flow of information, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control continues to regulate the import of books from Iran, Cuba and other countries....An American scientific journal, for instance, recently declined to run a paper on the human and economic consequences of the catastrophic earthquake last year in Bam, Iran, because Iranian scientists helped write it and therefore the journal would have to obtain a license to publish it. (Newspapers are exempt from some of these requirements.)...If even people like me - those who advocate peace and dialogue - are denied the right to publish their books in the United States with the assistance of Americans, then people will seriously question the view of the United States as a country that advocates democracy and freedom everywhere. What is the difference between the censorship in Iran and this censorship in the United States? Is it not better to encourage a dialogue between Iranians and the American public? This is why I filed a lawsuit against the Treasury Department on Oct. 26, joining one filed in September by several American organizations representing publishers, editors and translators. We seek to overturn the regulations on what Americans can and cannot read in the United States.' Ebadi is an Iranian national who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

BMC makes a search plugin for Firefox

BioMed Central has created a search plugin for the Mozilla Firefox browser. From the BMC site: 'The BioMed Central search plugin for Firefox adds BioMed Central to the list of search engines that are available in the quick search box at the top right of every Firefox browser window. Installing the the plugin takes only seconds.'

Elsevier comment on the NIH plan

Elsevier has publicly released its comment opposing the NIH plan. Excerpt: 'Elsevier fully supports the NIH's goals of improved dissemination and enhanced access to NIH research for both specialized and general audiences, and offers to collaborate with the NIH to achieve these objectives....By working together, we seek to avert some serious risks that we foresee with the current draft NIH proposal, risks that we believe would detract from both NIH's and Elsevier's objectives....We would recommend that NIH request the author to deposit the manuscript on PMC 15-18 months after publication....Public access to STM journals and high quality validated research articles is [already] very good....In conclusion, we see STM publishing as a system that has developed over many years...."

Preserving digital research literature

Maria van der Hoeven, the EU Minister of Education, Culture and Science, is warning that digital research literature needs better safeguards for its long-term preservation. Excerpt from her November 1 press release: '[L]ibraries and academic organisations, both international and national, should work together more closely for the sustainable preservation of digital and scientific information for the future. If they do not, the minister fears that our digital inheritance will soon become inaccessible. At the minister's initiative this problem has been placed on the European agenda. "The circumstances under which scientific publications are now stored are like quick sand", said the minister on Monday 1 November during the opening of the European Conference 'Permanent access to the records of science' in the Hague, organised by the Royal Library, the national library of the Netherlands....The Royal Library is playing a pioneering role in the securing of this material. In cooperation with IBM, the Royal Library has set up an 'e-Depot'. This is a storage and opening-up system that automatically adjusts to new technological developments. The majority of the big international academic publishers, including Elsevier and Kluwer, now deposit their digital publications with the Royal Library. The 'e-Depot' encompasses almost 80% of the world supply. But without European and international networks for 'safe places' there is a long way to go before the problem is solved.' (Thanks to Darius Cuplinskas.)

STM comment on the NIH plan

The International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM) has publicly released its comment in opposition to the NIH plan. Excerpt: 'NIH officials have indicated that they do not intend to harm the STM publishing market. For this intention to become reality, the NIH proposal must assume that revenues to support the peer reviewing, editorial and production processes etc. will be obtained through alternative business models. Specifically, NIH must be assuming that either: (a) a six months period of exclusivity will be enough to create a sustainable marketable demand for journal content; or; (b) that an author-pays model will be funded and will be successful. There is little evidence to indicate that either business model is viable or sustainable. In fact, there is substantial evidence to the contrary. In any event, we believe it is entirely inappropriate for a government agency of any country to be advocating and supporting particular business models, either directly or indirectly.'

(PS: Brief response. There are several reasons to think that the NIH plan will not undercut journal subscriptions. The plan does not require non-OA journals to convert to OA journals. The STM comment fails to acknowledge that the current system is badly broken and undermines the significant taxpayer investment in research. Hence it does not acknowledge the need for the NIH to reassert the public interest.)

Foundation joins PLoS

The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF) has become the first research funder to buy an institutional membership in the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Excerpt from the press release: 'The DDCF hopes that the broad dissemination of the research it funds through publication in open-access journals will increase the impact of these discoveries on clinical research and practice, in keeping with the foundation’s mission. The foundation joins the National Institutes of Health and other prominent funders of research in adopting policies and setting aside funds to promote the unfettered dissemination of work they support....The DDCF Medical Research Program supports several clinical research initiatives, including Distinguished Clinical Scientist awards, Clinical Scientist Development awards, Clinical Interface awards, Innovation in Clinical Research awards, and International AIDS research grants. All researchers currently funded through these initiatives will qualify for a full discount on the publication charge in PLoS journals.'

Cheerleading for the UK government response

Malcolm Morgan, Agenda - Relief for academic firms, Media Week, November 16, 2004. Excerpt: 'This week, the Government issued its response to the House of Commons Science Committee report Scientific Publications: Free for all. And its response must have come as music to the ears of the commercial publishers. It concluded: "A publishing model which loads the cost onto the authors of articles rather than the users is not likely to be in our national interest." On the thorny issue of profit margins, again the Government noted "it is not a matter for government to determine profit margins for commercial firms". Hurray! The needless undermining of a robust UK industry ultimately serves no one....If I were advising an academic publisher, I would be pleased with this week’s result, but would still urge them to tread carefully and not trumpet my price increases so publicly in future.'

ALA comment on the NIH plan

The American Library Association (ALA) has publicly released its comment in support of the NIH plan. Excerpt: 'As you are aware, the vast majority of research funded with public funds today is available only through increasingly costly journal subscriptions. As in past years, we anticipate that the cost of subscribing to these journals will rise next year in excess of the growth of the budgets of even large research libraries. As a result, many libraries will likely be forced once again to cancel journals needed by their faculty and students. In addition to the costs, we note that restrictive licensing terms and conditions imposed by publishers severely limit the amount and type of access that many libraries are able to provide to users. The current prevailing system of journal publication, which limits access to research, is a growing impediment to the dissemination and use of research that has been paid for with public funds. The system slows the flow of knowledge and pace of discovery, and it subverts the public investment in science. Such a system fails to utilize the potential of the Internet to enhance, expand, and increase the efficiency of scientific communication.'

Monday, November 15, 2004

SPARC comment on the NIH plan

SPARC has publicly released its comment in support of the NIH plan. Excerpt: 'SPARC supports both the concept and implementation plan outlined in the NIH notice. The proposal successfully balances the taxpayer's right of access to NIH research with the need to preserve the quality-certification process traditionally organized by journal publishers. We are confident that it adequately shields the subscription revenue supporting publication of most journals. The six-month embargo and the limited scope of content to be included in PubMed Central (PMC) will not result in PMC becoming a substitute for journal subscriptions. We note, however, that as a consequence the plan does not alleviate the growing strain placed on libraries by high and rising scientific and medical journal prices. Nor does it address the long-term impact on scientific communication of already-dwindling journal subscription bases and other challenges facing scientific societies in the era of the Internet. We also observe that U.S. taxpayer needs for immediate access to NIH funded research are compromised by the proposed six-month delay in access following first publication. Any extension of the delay beyond six months would be excessive and not in the interest of taxpayers.'

AIP to try hybrid OA for three journals

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) is launching open-access experiments at three of its 11 journals. Excerpt from today's press release: 'The American Institute of Physics announced today that it will offer on a trial basis an open-access publishing option to authors contributing to three AIP journals: Journal of Mathematical Physics, Review of Scientific Instruments, and Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science....Beginning on January 1, 2005, JMP, RSI, and Chaos will permit authors (or their funding agencies) to pay a $2000 fee prior to publication, for articles that will be freely available to anyone on the Web....During the peer-review process editors and referees will not be aware of whether an author has selected the open-access option....While the AIP Author Select experiment will have no effect on subscription rates for 2005, AIP plans to reduce future online subscription prices proportionately to the percent of open-access articles published....AIP is already considered a "green" publisher, in that it allows authors to post e-prints to their personal or institutional websites. At the same time, [Marc] Brodsky [Executive Director and CEO of AIP] has been highly critical of some claims made by Open Access enthusiasts with respect to the desirability and economics of some forms of this new model. As the current chair of the executive council of the Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, Brodsky has also been vocal in opposition to government-mandated publishing models. Nonetheless, "we have no problem with Open Access per se," said Brodsky. "Our interest is in supporting and maintaining the scientific record over time, which the subscription model has done remarkably well, at least until recently, when the growing amount of published research has collided with the diminishing ability of our best libraries to acquire that research." '

ProQuest's institutional repository software catching on

In the five months since ProQuest launched Digital Commons@, the institutional-repository software has been adopted by Boston College, the University of Pennsylvania, Dickinson College, Trinity College, Stevens Institute of Technology, and Middlebury College. Excerpt from ProQuest's November 12 press release: "Digital Commons@ was introduced at the American Library Association annual conference last June. Powered by the vigorous Bepress platform (the technology partner driving the University of California's eScholarship Repository), it offers a highly desirable combination of functionality and price that is unmatched by any other IR product currently on the market...."Subscribers are excited that they can set up a fully functional, feature-rich Institutional Repository in a matter of hours, for less investment than the do-it-yourself options," said Austin McLean, director of scholarly communication and dissertations publishing for ProQuest.'

In the trenches in the serials and book crises

Barbara Fister and Niko Pfund, We're Not Dead Yet! Library Journal, November 15, 2004. An excellent two-part story (one by Fister and one by Pfund) on what's wrong with the journal system, how it hurts book publishing, and one promising alternative.

Excerpt from Fister: 'So, I'm in my library, paying for journals that mostly don't get read, buying rights to articles for individuals to use and toss, and hoping like hell some other library will buy the books we need. I mean, at least one library's going to buy a copy, right? What a dope. Sure, I heard the ugly rumors that university presses are in trouble, that books that used to sell 3000 copies now are lucky to sell 300. I know there's a crisis out there, but everybody calls it a "serials crisis." I'm busy blaming Elsevier and Kluwer, telling the scientists to get their act together. Only I wake up one morning and find out that thanks to me, Northeastern University Press is close to death.'

Excerpt from Pfund: 'Clearly, the time for hand-wringing has come to an end. We simply must conjure a more effective and versatile delivery format for academic content, especially in the humanities and social sciences, before one is created for us. That may mean managing our print businesses into decline even as we invent a new model for disseminating our content, even if that new model is complementary rather than a simple substitute. The problem, of course, is that few presses have the resources—human, financial, technical—to drive a move online....I hope, fervently, that future generations of librarians and scholars won't look back on this era and ask, "Why did you all sit on your hands while commercial entities colonized the online world?"'

CiteSeer is OAI-compliant

CiteSeer is now OAI-compliant. The announcement page has technical details for harvesters and those who want to download CiteSeers's OAI records. (PS: This is an important development. CiteSeer was already OA, and already had the eyeballs of computer scientists worldwide. Now it is interoperable with other OAI-complaint archives and its contents will be more visible from more search tools.)

Yahoo-OCLC toolbar

Barbara Quint, OCLC and Yahoo! Offer Joint Toolbar, Information Today, November 15, 2004. Excerpt: 'Today, OCLC and Yahoo! officially launch a free co-branded toolbar that provides one-click access to Open WorldCat as well as Yahoo! Search’s Web search engine. The free toolbar plugs into Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser. A whirligig OCLC logo to the extreme left on the toolbar clicks to a subset of Open WorldCat (currently 2 million of the 57 million records available in the full WorldCat, reflecting the holdings of some 9,000 libraries). In time, the click-through will access more—perhaps all—of the WorldCat database, as Yahoo! begins to “harvest” the full file now offered by OCLC.'

More on the UK government response

Richard Poynder, U.K. Government Rejects Call to Support Open Access, Information Today, November 15, 2004. Excerpt: 'In a move that has angered members of an influential cross-party committee of British politicians, the U.K. government has rejected their call to make all publicly funded scientific research in Britain freely available on the Web, and declined to intervene in the increasingly bitter dispute over open access (OA)....In rejecting all the main recommendations of the report, the U.K. government response --published by the committee on Nov. 8-- asserts that the government is "not aware that there are major problems in accessing scientific information" and characterizes the publishing industry as "healthy and competitive." While saying that it "recognises the potential benefits of institutional repositories and sees them as a significant development worthy of encouragement," the government nevertheless argues that "each institution has to make its own decision about institutional repositories." Consequently, it says, it has "no present intention to mandate Research Council funded researchers to deposit a copy of their published material in institutional repositories."...But, the debate is far from over. Indeed, OA has become like the mythical Hydra: every time its head is chopped off, it grows two new heads to replace it. Days before the government response was published, for instance, the U.K.-based Wellcome Trust --the world's largest private funder of medical research-- announced plans to introduce a European PubMed Central, and indicated that in the future grantees will be required to make their research freely available on the Web, either via the U.S.-based PubMed Central or the planned European mirror. And in the wake of the U.K. government’s response, pressure is growing on Research Councils UK (RCUK) --through which half (£2.1 billion, or about $3.88 billion) of the U.K.'s publicly funded research is funneled-- to implement its own mandate. Emulating the U.S. plan mooted by the NIH, which has proposed that all NIH-funded research be made freely available in PubMed Central, the RCUK could itself require its funded researchers to self-archive their papers.'

Siva Vaidhyanathan's new book

Scott Carlson, In the Copyright Wars, This Scholar Sides With the Anarchists, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 19, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: '"I resent a legal system that makes it too difficult and too expensive for creators to play around with the culture," says Mr. [Siva] Vaidhyanathan, an assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University. "I resent the fact that copyrights last so long that things that should be free and convenient to use are locked down and lost forever."...Mr. Vaidhyanathan's new book, The Anarchist in the Library, released in May, picks up similar themes, describing the digital revolution as a battle between those who would free culture and those who would use technology to lock it down. "To participate in culture is to share," he says, "and now, all of a sudden, our laws are telling us that we may not be cultural."...In The Anarchist in the Library, a sharply written digital-age manifesto, Mr. Vaidhyanathan focuses on what he sees as a technological battle between anarchy and oligarchy, pitting the forces of freedom and liberty against those of ownership and control in realms as diverse as file sharing, digital television, terrorism, libraries, and academe. Those who want a free culture stand against those who want to profit from culture....The model of database companies like Reed Elsevier and Thomson is oligarchic, he says: They maintain control of and access to information. If a library gives up a subscription to an electronic database of journals, it loses access even to issues published when the subscription was in effect. But libraries -- "leaks in the information economy," Mr. Vaidhyanathan calls them -- tend to follow the anarchist's model by making information cheap or free. They are, in a sense, hacking the established system as they talk about setting up their own publishing models, like online, open-access journals.'

Lessig on Creative Commons and Science Commons

Lawrence Lessig, Alternative Licenses for Intellectual Property, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 19, 2004 (accessible only to subscribers). A letter to the editor in response to two earier CHE stories on Creative Commons (here and here). Excerpt: 'The headline of the [first] Creative Commons article states that our licenses for the arts have not caught on in academe....There is an important error in that article. Ms. Foster wrote that "only about 3,000 records" are licensed under our licenses. The number is in fact over 4,500,000 -- in less than two years. It appears that Ms. Foster may have taken her number from one directory that lists some of the Web sites using our licenses. But that, of course, is just a single directory, and some sites contain thousands of articles, pictures, and films. The [second] article about the Science Commons carries a more troubling error. The article centers on an imagined conflict between Science Commons on the one hand and technology-transfer offices, the Bayh-Dole Act, and patents on the other. This is a shame because much of what Science Commons will be doing has little to do with universities' licensing policies, and those portions that do are far from anti-patent, or anti-university-licensing....None of our initiatives implies an attack on patents, licensing, or Bayh-Dole, any more than Creative Commons implies an attack on copyright. We hope to work with, not against, the technology-transfer offices. They, too, we suspect, are not fans of unnecessary burdens created by the law."

Austrian rectors sign Berlin Declaration

Sunday, November 14, 2004

EAHIL response to UK committee report

In the November issue of its newsletter (pp. 6-8), the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) published its response to the July report on open access from UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. Excerpt: 'EAHIL supports the 2 routes to open access: [1] open access journals with author-fees and/or institutional subscriptions to author-pays journals, [2] e-print repositories where scientists can self-archive their preprint or published papers EAHIL wishes to emphasize that scientists and scientific societies, libraries and publishers should make every effort to hasten this transition in a fashion that does not disrupt the orderly dissemination of scientific information....Health science libraries are developing and supporting mechanisms to make the transition to open access publishing including providing tools and services to facilitate innovation in publishing particularly e-print repositories and promoting open access journals.' (Thanks to medinfo.)

(PS: At p. 36, the same issue of the newsletter contains a report by Ingeborg Zimmermann on the Symposium on Open Access to Knowledge and Scholarly Communication, Zurich, October 15, 2004.)

NIH slide show on the public access plan

The NIH has posted a set of PPT slides, NIH Public Access Proposed Policy. Excerpt: 'What is wrong with the current system?...The proposed NIH policy would provide the patient and/or physician electronic access to NIH-funded publications six months after publicationo for no fee. Currently, in order to gain access to NIH-funded published findings, a patient or physician who is not affiliated with an academic medical library or research hospital must: personally visit a medical library (if it is convenient); order a copy of the article from the author or the library and wait for delivery; or have a personal subscription to the journal....We are not aware of evidence that indicates that libraries and individual subscribes are likely to cancel subscriptions because of the NIH policy.'

OA to "the DNA of literature"

The Paris Review has launched an open-access project, The DNA of Literature. From the web site: 'The Paris Review has interviewed almost 300 authors whose work has defined the literary landscape of latter half of the twentieth century. From its first interview with E.M. Forster, the Writers at Work series has, in the words of The New York Times, "set the standard for literary interrogation." Now the Paris Review Foundation proposes to make this vast archival resource --what has felicitously been referred to as the DNA of Literature-- available online, for free, to anyone who visits the Paris Review website.' The first installment was put online yesterday. (Thanks to Michal Cohen.)

Articles in BMJ (13 Nov. issue)

An article by Lynn Eaton, MP criticises government response on open access publishing in the 13 Nov. issue of BMJ includes the comment that "the government would not want to damage what is currently a 'thriving, innovative market' in scientific, technical, and medical publishing. The income to UK science journals from overseas subscriptions alone is estimated to be 750m [UK pounds, or 1390m US dollars]". Another article in the same issue, by Paul Garner and Helen Smith, is entitled PLoS Medicine. An excerpt: "With science and research at the core of the journal, the editors have tackled head on the problems that cause a huge disease burden worldwide, with accessible articles about public health and the latest in molecular research in clinical disease and immunology".