Here are the major blog postings I made by email to SOAF while OAN was down last week. June 29, 2005:
More on the RCUK draft policy. Donald MacLeod, Research councils back free online access, The Guardian, June 29, 2005. (Thanks to Pablo Stafforini.) Excerpt: 'Thousands of British academics in every subject from art history to zoology will soon be required to make their research freely available online, the UK research councils have announced. The move flies in the face of government reluctance to offend the publishing industry and is a victory for proponents of open access to research findings. By making free access a condition of grants, the research councils, which control billions of pounds worth of funding, hope to give British research more impact worldwide as it is taken up and cited by other researchers. University libraries will benefit from an easing of the financial pressure to acquire more, and ever more expensive, journals as scholars can consult research for free. The UK is now said to lead the world in open access policy, but today the Publishers' Association raised the alarm, accusing the research councils of going "too far, too fast" without properly costing their proposals. International publishers, who lobbied hard against attempts by MPs to push open access pilots, are watching the research councils' moves closely....Today, some academics said they feared the research councils had left a loophole by saying that the condition would be dropped if there was no repository available. To date there are 55 open access repositories in the UK (including 34 universities and departments) . The majority of institutions have yet to set one up. But Stevan Harnad, of Southampton University, a leading advocate of open access, said he was confident the loophole would be plugged. "Not only does the UK have the second largest absolute number of open access archives [after the US], as well as one of the world's largest relative number, but once it has the RCUK policy too, it will also have the world's 'fullest' open access archives," he said....Graham Taylor, director of academic publishing at the Publishers' Association, said repositories could never be a channel for formal publishing because they did not have the peer review or editorial input of journals. All journals were experimenting with new forms of publication and it would be a mistake for the research councils to try to impose one particular solution. "Things are being forced too far, too fast without a full understanding of what is involved here," he said. Mr Taylor added that the costs of repositories were being seriously underestimated and they could prove unsustainable in practice.'
Comment. Three quick replies to Graham Taylor. (1) No one claims that the kind of OA archiving required by the RCUK policy should replace peer review. On the contrary, the policy is explicit about the importance of peer review (Paragraph 18) and only applies to articles that have been published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at conferences (Paragraph 14.b). (2) The RCUK policy rests on a very "full understanding of what is involved here." See the report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, based on six months of inquiry, four rounds of public hearings, and hundreds of written comments. The Research Councils have consciously built on the House committee report (Paragraphs 4, 24). (3) What is unsustainable is the cost of access *without* OA archives and OA journals.
Far-reaching consequences of digitization and OA. Lloyd A. Davidson, The end of print: digitization and its consequence --revolutionary changes in scholarly and social communication and in scientific research, International journal of toxicology, Jan-Feb, 2005. Only this abstract is free online for non-subscribers: 'The transformation from print to digital media for scientific communication, driven in part by the growth of the Internet and the tremendous explosion in the amount of information now available to everybody, is creating fundamental changes in institutions such as publishers, libraries, and universities that primarily exist for the creation, management, and distribution of information and knowledge. Scientific, technological, and medical journals are the first publications to be completely transformed from print to digital format but monographs are beginning to appear in digital format as well and soon all communication and publishing of scientific information will be entirely electronic. In fact, this change is affecting all components of the scientific enterprise, from personal correspondence and laboratory methods to peer reviewing and the quality assessment of scientific research. Along with these radical and rapid changes in information presentation and distribution are coincident changes in the expectations of both the public and other scientists, with both groups demanding ever more rapid, open, and global access to scientific information than has been available in the past. The consequence of this revolution in the mechanics of communications technology is threatening the very existence of a number of highly regarded institutions such as intellectual property, commercial publishers, scientific societies, and academic libraries and might soon begin to threaten even the traditional university.'
More on the RCUK draft policy. Aisha Labi, British Research Group Calls for More-Liberal Open-Access Policy Than NIH Supports, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 29, 2005 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: 'The umbrella organization for Britain's public research institutions issued a draft policy on Tuesday that strongly endorses free and prompt public access to research they have sponsored. The draft calls for publications that result from work financed by Britain's research councils after October 1 to be put in an open-access repository "at the earliest opportunity, wherever possible at or around the time of publication, in accordance with copyright and licensing arrangements." The proposal was published by Research Councils UK, commonly known as the RCUK, a partnership formed by Britain's eight government-financed research councils. The councils represent scientists as well as researchers in engineering, the arts, the humanities, and the social sciences. "It is an evolving policy, and this is just a starting point," said Astrid Wissenburg, a historian on the Economic and Social Research Council and the interim head of a committee that formulated the draft policy. "We felt it was time for us to take a position and encourage open and easy access to research output for everyone. The purpose of the policy is really to encourage scientists and researchers in the U.K. to deposit materials in archives when they have a right to do so," Ms. Wissenburg said. "If they have signed an agreement with a publisher that either restricts them completely or gives a time restriction -- for example, if the publisher says they are only allowed to deposit their work in six months -- then they can wait six months. So the phrase 'at the earliest opportunity' means when someone is legally allowed to do so. We're not overruling any agreement publishers have in place with authors." Advocates for open access welcomed the RCUK proposal. "It's a marvelous policy and very strong in almost all the right ways," said Peter Suber, a professor of philosophy at Earlham College, in Indiana, and a leader in the open-access movement. "It's a big step forward from the NIH policy, which merely requests, but does not mandate open access, and as a result is not likely to get full compliance." ...Ms. Wissenburg conceded that the RCUK exception -- allowing for delay because of copyright and licensing restrictions -- might create an incentive for publishers to begin imposing such restrictions on authors, as a way of dictating when their work could be placed in open-access repositories....Based on the NIH experience, Mr. Suber is certain of the outcome. "With the NIH policy, we've seen that publishers are requesting [PS: I said "requiring"] embargoes," he said. "They're saying, If you don't comply, we won't publish you. We'll see the same thing with the RCUK unless the language is tightened up before it's made final." Another element of the RCUK draft that will come under scrutiny during the public-comment period is a phrase that says there is "no obligation to set up a repository where none exists at present." Michael Fraser, coordinator of the Research Technologies Service at the University of Oxford, said that language is a way of letting institutions off the hook for the responsibility of establishing open-access repositories. He would rather see a policy that encourages recipients of public funds to spend part of that money on setting up and running an institutional repository.'
Proposal to mandate OA to California-funded stem-cell research. The University of California Academic Senate has publicly released its April 4 letter to California policy-makers urging them to mandate open access to California-funded stem-cell research. Excerpt: 'At its February meeting, the Academic Council unanimously endorsed the attached proposed policy, which we hope will be adopted by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. If adopted, this policy would require that scientific information arising from research funded by the California Stem Cell Research and Cures Bond Act of 2004 be made freely available on the web to other scientists and interested citizens within six months....[T]he following draft policy on public access and archiving of research results is submitted to the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) and its Independent Citizen's Oversight Committee (ICOC) for their consideration....The policy establishes an online open-access research repository configured so that:  Scientific information arising from Act-funded research is available without fee and in a timely fashion to other scientists, health care providers, medical and other students, teachers, and the California citizens who fund the research;  The critical roles of journals and publishers in peer review, editing, and scientific quality control processes are preserved;  Deposit in the repository supplements but does not replace traditional publication, providing access to those who cannot afford journal subscription costs, after an author-defined delay of no more than 6 months;  Where appropriate and at the researcher's discretion, source data also can be deposited and results are linked to such data;  Formal technology transfer through patents, etc. remains intact, just as it does through the current system of publishing peer-reviewed research findings. Similar public access policies are under development or recently adopted by the NIH, the UK research councils, and the Wellcome Trust, among others. While similar in intent, they differ in the particulars, especially with regard to: 1) the mandate: requiring vs. encouraging public access; 2) the delay: immediate public access or a delay of 6 or 12 months to accommodate concerns about preserving the market for journals; and 3) the timing: deposit and public access coordinated with the finalization of the peer review process or with initial publication....The Proposed Policy: Beginning [DATE], CIRM-funded investigators are required to submit to a trusted publicly-accessible repository an electronic version of the author's final manuscript resulting from research supported, in whole or in part, with direct costs from CIRM. The author's final manuscript is defined as the final version that has been accepted for journal publication, and includes all modifications from the publishing peer review process. Authors also are encouraged to submit source data upon which the published results are based, as well as book chapters, editorials, reviews, or conference proceedings related to the work. Under this Policy, electronic submission is made directly to a trusted, publicly accessible online repository, either at the investigator's or another institution.'
More on the RCUK draft policy. Richard Wray, Funding aid for open access, The Guardian, June 29, 2005. Excerpt: 'The drive to make publicly funded academic research available for free received a boost yesterday as the leading public investors in research proposed mandating researchers to put their writings on the internet.
Research Councils UK (RCUK), which brings together the eight councils, wants to make it a condition of grants that researchers put work they have funded in freely-available online archives as soon as possible. The RCUK said its proposal, which will apply to all new grants awarded after October 1 this year, is just a starting point as the technology involved in publishing scientific research on the web is still evolving. The councils will also encourage researchers who received their grants before October to make their articles available. The move will be seen as a dramatic victory for proponents of open access to academic research and follows calls from a committee of MPs last year for more research to be available without charge on the internet.'
More on OA and national security. Associated Press, Controversial Milk Terror Report Released, WCCO.com, June 28, 2005. Excerpt: 'A scientific article that says terrorists could poison thousands of people through the milk supply --withheld at first at the government's request-- is being published despite continuing objections after the National Academy of Sciences concluded it wouldn't help attackers....Bruce Alberts, president of the Academy, said in an accompanying editorial that a terrorist would not learn anything useful from the article about the minimum amount of toxin to use. "And we can detect no other information in this article important for a terrorist that is not already immediately available to anyone who has access to information from the World Wide Web." In fact, he said publication of the article by the Academy could instead be valuable for biodefense....[F]ollowing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, some government officials have raised concerns that by obtaining biotechnology data terrorists might be able to engineer deadlier versions of diseases....Last September the National Research Council, an arm of the Academy, urged continued open access to scientific research. It also suggested creation of an advisory board to review research and report on any security implications.'
Peter Suber at 7/01/2005 01:05:00 PM.
The open access movement:
Putting peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature
on the internet. Making it available free of charge and
free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.
Removing the barriers to serious research.