Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Summary of OA presentation

Lorena Tapia Muñoz, Movimiento open access y su implicancia en las Ciencias de la Salud, summary of a paper accepted for presentation at the Congreso Internacional Online TICvida (Tecnologías de la Información en Ciencias de la Vida), March 1-13, 2005.

SPARC/ARL presentations

The presentations from the SPARC/ARL session on OA (In the Public Interest: Open Access and Public Policy, January 15), at the ALA Midwinter meeting, are now online.

Oxford and Mellon cancel book-digitizing project

Oxford University Press and the Mellon Foundation have scrapped their plans for Project Torch (The Online Resource Center in the Humanities), a project to digitize backlist scholarly monographs. The Google library project was one reason to cancel the project. Another may have been that Philip Friedman, who led Project Torch since last May, moved to Harper Collins on January 18.

More on the Google library project

Babel takes back seat, The Australian, January 22, 2005. The piece is signed only with an email address, Excerpt: 'But just as we are determined never to appear impressed, many of us are also deeply suspicious of anything that looks like it may improve the human condition. In the 15 years or so in which the worldwide web has been the most mass of mass media, there have been all sorts of warnings that no good would come of the information explosion. Cultural theorists...use a short story written in the 1940s by Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel, to explain....While Borges was writing fiction, not prediction, he anticipated the endless content of the wired world. His library contained every book that had been written and could be written. But there were also corrupted copies of every book, making it impossible to find the facts one wanted, let alone know which book was the real thing. And this, say the e-sceptics, is where we are now. There is as near as dammit an infinity of information online but people with lifelong fascinations for anything from orchids to orthography use the web to check the weather and pay the power bill. Most of us have no idea what to look for or where, and which information to trust when we do find it....But Babel is not as black as the sceptics suggest, because there are as many maps of the library as there are people with passions for their own special interests who know how to build a website. And this makes for endless associations of ordinary folk around the world who learn from each other online. The third wave idea of social capital, that networks of like-minded people can make societies equitable and efficient, certainly applies to all the millions of people who spend their spare time running websites and discussion boards....Google is not dumping useless knowledge on to the chaotic shelves of Babel. It is helping people whose minds live in electronic communities of like-minded enthusiasts.'

Friday, January 21, 2005

Partnership to support OJS

Open Journal Systems, the open-source journal management software developed by the University of British Columbia's Public Knowledge Project (PKP), will now be supported by a partnership of the PKP, the Simon Fraser University Library, and SFU's Canadian Center for Studies in Publishing (CCSP). From yesterday's press release: 'Under the direction of John Willinsky (PKP), Rowland Lorimer (CCSP) and Lynn Copeland (SFU Library), the software development will remain focused on improving the scholarly and public quality of published research, supporting the efforts of those with little experience with scholarly publishing and publishing technologies, reducing costs associated with publishing, and supporting a variety of publishing and economic models, including various forms of open access to the contents of journals....At the heart of the partnership are three major software programs. Open Journal Systems (OJS) provides online management for journal submissions, peer reviewing, editing, and online publishing and indexing. Open Conference Systems (OCS) manages conference registration, programming and paper submission and publication. The PKP Harvester (PKPH) is used to automatically create an online index of materials from a variety of online sites including journals and repositories such as those housed at the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, which are harvested and reside on an SFU Library server.'

Why the NIH weakened its policy

Janet Coleman, "NIH Public Access Policy Gives Authors Posting Discretion Up To 12 Months", Washington Fax, January 21, 2005 (the article is not online). Excerpt: 'NIH's final policy on public access will instruct authors to designate when their manuscripts on agency-funded research should be posted on NIH's PubMed Central digital library following journal publication, NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, MD, said. "We're going to tell the scientists, 'look, you have the right to specify when your paper can be made public by NIH,'" Zerhouni said in an interview Jan. 19. "You can tell us right away, three months, six months, nine months....If you scientists feel it is going to damage your society or scientific publishing or your relationship with your publishers, then you can go up to 12 months. "We expect 12 months to be the exception, not the rule," Zerhouni insisted. The posting timeframe is a shift from NIH's September draft policy on public access, which called for posting manuscripts on PMC six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal, or sooner if the publisher agreed. The six-month period was a central concern raised by scientific societies and publishers, who argued...that some journals, particularly those that publish infrequently, might be put out of business. NIH's inability to quantify the potential economic impact on industry ultimately led to the agency's current proposal for a more flexible posting timeframe. The choice, Zerhouni explained, was whether to take two or three years to do an economic analysis ­ with the danger that "you can never really get to the answers" or eliminate to the six-month deadline. "What we also realized was that perhaps what we needed to do was disconnect the date from the policy because people are missing the point here, in my view. The fundamental breakthrough of this policy is…not the timing, it's the fact that we're creating for the first time the precedent and the right for a federal agency to have a venue or pathway for its scientists to publish and give access to the public," Zerhouni asserted....The final public access policy is expected to take effect in the spring.'

(PS: This is a serious and disappointing retreat by the NIH. The delay in public access will be a delay in research advances. The delay puts the private interests of publishers ahead of the public interest in medical research. The only plus is that authors no longer need their publisher's consent to deposit their articles less than six months after publication. However, authors will be torn between their funder's expectation for early deposit and their publisher's demand for later deposit. We don't yet know how often authors will align themselves with their funder. But we do know that this will be a painful and risky dilemma for authors and that the NIH could have made it unnecessary. Finally, see our previous posting: Elias Zerhouni's new boss, Michael Leavitt, was urged at his Senate confirmation hearings yesterday to scrap the new 12-month period and restore the shorter, six-month embargo. We won't know whether this will have an effect until the NIH policy is finally released. I'll have more to say in the February issue of SOAN.)

Leavitt pressed to reduce 12 month NIH embargo to 6 months

Jeffrey Young, "HHS Nominee Leavitt Backs NIH Public Access "Principle" At Senate Hearing", Washington Fax, January 21, 2005 (the article is not online). Excerpt: 'HHS Secretary nominee Michael Leavitt assured members of the Senate Finance Committee that he supports the principles guiding the proposed NIH public access policy during his confirmation hearing Jan. 19. Leavitt acknowledged that he "know[s] very little about the specifics of" the public access proposal being finalized by NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, MD, but maintained that the outcomes of federally funded research should swiftly be made accessible to the public....Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), citing press reports, remarked that NIH "is going to reduce substantially a proposal to make research that the taxpayers have funded available to the country." He continued, "I would find it helpful if you could just tell us about your commitment to making sure that the public does get access to this information, because these reports from the last couple of days that come from sources within the department [are] pretty troubling."...Leavitt asserted, "I can just tell you in principle that I believe that research [results] that [are] made available by government-funded research ought to add to the knowledge of an informed public generally and ought to be readily and easily available." Wyden pressed Leavitt to support the original NIH plan to require researchers to provide access to their articles within six months of submission to a scientific journal. Under pressure from disease societies and journal publishers, NIH has revised its draft policy to create a 12-month window. (see Washington Fax 1/21/05) "Those publishers fought the department there's no question about that," Wyden commented. Journal publishers­-- for-profit and not-for-profit-- have maintained that the original public access plan would threaten their survival. (see Washington Fax 11/22/04) "Let's try to get it down to that short turnaround time ­ the six months ­ because otherwise the taxpayer pays twice," Wyden replied. "The taxpayer pays first when their tax dollars go to research and then they’ve got to shell out more to the scientific publisher."...The Finance Committee and the Senate as a whole are expected overwhelmingly to approve Leavitt's confirmation.' (PS: Kudos to Sen. Ron Wyden for raising this point and pressing it at the confirmation hearings. For non-American readers, Leavitt has been nominated to head the Department of Health and Human Services, the cabinet-level department that contains and oversees the NIH.)

Journal of Physical & Chemical Reference Data

Christine Orr (AIP) provided some valuable information on the availability of free online backfiles of Journal of Physical & Chemical Reference Data on SLAPAM-L this morning. Journal of Physical & Chemical Reference Data - Fulltext v1-27 (1972-1998) [free from NIST] | Fulltext v29+ (2000+) [subscription required from AIP]; Print ISSN: 0047-2689 | Online ISSN: 1529-7845.

Amending the DMCA needed to protect scientific research

Rik Lambers, Restriking the balance: from DMCA to DMCRA, Indicare, January 20, 2005. Excerpt: 'Historically US copyright law has sought a balance between rightsholders' and consumers' interests. The anti-circumvention provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act [DMCA] have changed this balance to the benefit of rightsholders. Proposed legislation tries to restore the balance: the Digital Media Consumers' Rights Act [DMCRA] would reaffirm fair use for consumers and augment the transparency of the use of technological protection measures....Under the DMCA scientific researchers may only circumvent technological protection measures for encryption research under specific circumstances. Infamous is how Princeton University Professor Ed Felten was threatened with a DMCA lawsuit when he wanted to publish his research on weaknesses in a certain digital music security system (the Secure Digital Music Initiative). Felten initially withdrew his research. As a result both the academic freedom of speech and the progress of science were hindered by the (mis)use of a DMCA provision. The DMCRA would provide that researchers can analyse other technological protection measures than encryption and allows them to manufacture the circumvention tools to do so. Valid scientific research would be restored, bringing more security, and presumably also more secure technological measures.'

Presentations on institutional repositories

The presentations from the ARL session on institutional repositories (Institutional Repositories: Their Place in the Evolution of Scholarly Communication, January 15), at the ALA Midwinter meeting, are now online. (Thanks to Donna Braquet.)

Laws governing access to US government information

Harold C. Relyea, Access to Government Information In the United States, Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, January 7, 2005. Summary: 'The Constitution of the United States makes no specific allowance for any one of the co-equal branches to have access to information held by the others and contains no provision expressly establishing a procedure for, or a right of, public access to government information. Nonetheless, Congress has legislated various public access laws. These include two records access statutes — the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) and the Privacy Act (5 U.S.C. 552a) — and two meetings access statutes — the Federal Advisory Committee Act (5 U.S.C. App.) and the Government in the Sunshine Act (5 U.S.C. 552b). Moreover, due to the American separation of powers model of government, interbranch conflicts over the accessibility of information are neither unexpected nor necessarily destructive. The federal courts, historically, have been reluctant to review and resolve “political questions” involving information disputes between Congress and the executive branch. Although there is considerable interbranch cooperation, such conflicts probably will continue to occur on occasion.' (Thanks to LIS News.)

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Immunome Research -- forthcoming OA journal

Immunome Research will encompass all aspects of immunology research that integrate traditional laboratory research with the latest technologies, including genomics, bioinformatics and mathematical modelling. Immunome Research is a journal of the International Immunomics Society (IIMMS). The journal aims to provide a focal point for the field of Immunomics, which includes the sub-speciality immunoinformatics, as well as the application of large-scale genomics to the immune system. Rapidly expanding areas of particular interest include prediction of MHC-peptide binding, mathematical modelling of viral/host interactions, and the use of gene expression arrays to model immune system pathways.
Immunome Research - Forthcoming fulltext from BioMed Central; ISSN: 1745-7580.

The future of OA and other e-content

Arnold Hirshon, A Diamond in the Rough: Divining the Future of E-Content, Educause Review, January/February 2005. All of Part 3 is on OA. Excerpt: 'Only within the last few years has one of the early dreams for the Web --the ability of the scholarly community to maintain control of its publishing environment-- become possible through advances in technology. This movement has now reached a point where even its chief detractors, the commercial publishers who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, are seeing alternative publishing systems, and open access in particular, as a significant threat to their viability. The open access movement began as an alternative avenue for publishing STM scholarly materials. The key features of this system are that the author (or a grant) pays a one-time fee for publication of the article, with the author retaining copyright. In addition, the publisher usually operates on a nonprofit basis, and the materials become freely available after an initial period (usually about six months) following publication. At least one recent study indicates that open access publications are on the verge of becoming part of the mainstream information channel in scholarly communications....Open access is far from being perfected as a communications medium; it can fulfill its promise only if librarians continue to help it develop. Librarians can foster the growth of open access by encouraging mainstream abstract and indexing services to include articles in open access journals.' (Thanks to Charles W. Bailey, Jr.)

(PS: A few quick replies. First, this formulation focuses on OA journals and overlooks OA archives. Second, OA journals make their content freely available from the start. Only non-OA journals consider compromises like free online access after a six month embargo. Third, librarians are remarkable in their support for OA, and their future support will complement the efforts of other stakeholders, but the only parties indispensable for OA are authors. Fourth, "mainstream abstracting and indexing services" are less important for OA content than for conventional content, since OA content is crawled and indexed by an ever-expanding array of increasingly-sophisticated tools for full-text searching, mining, summarizing, querying, linking, alerting, and many other forms of processing and analysis.)

Connexions seeks an Executive Director

Connexions, the large and innovative collection of OA scholarship hosted by Rice University, is looking for an Executive Director. See the web site for a job description and application instructions.

More on Kahle v. Ashcroft

After their case was dismissed in District Court last November, Brewster Kahle and Richard Prelinger promised to appeal. They filed their appellate brief yesterday in the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief lists these three Issues on Appeal:
  1. Whether the change from an "opt-in" to an "opt-out" system of copyright alters a "traditional contour[] of copyright," requiring "further First Amendment scrutiny" under the standard established in Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186, 123 S. Ct. 769 (2003).
  2. Whether the current term of copyright is so long as to be effectively perpetual.
  3. Whether a statute that extends copyright terms that have not, and will not, pass through a filter of renewal violates the "limited Times" condition of Article I, sec. 8, cl. 8 ("the Progress Clause").

For more background and updates, see the page on the case maintained by the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society.

Fully OA book digitization projects eclipsed by Google news

Google joins effort to put millions of books online, Hackensack Record, January 18, 2005. An unsigned news story on some of the large, fully-OA book digitization projects getting less publicity than the Google project. Excerpt: '[Google] announced an audacious plan last month to digitize millions of books, including the entire holdings of the University of Michigan and Stanford University, significantly increasing the amount of information available online -- and making the Internet a far more authoritative source for scholars and high school students alike. But for all the hoopla generated by Google Print, the Universal Library and other low-profile projects -- Project Gutenberg, the Electronic Text Center, the Internet Archive -- have been quietly pursuing the same goal for years. And though Google will scan far more books, these other projects are considerably less stingy with the content of their e-books. "Our objective is to ultimately take the works of man... digitize it and make it free to everybody," said Michael Shamos, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, which created the Universal Library.' (Thanks to Gary Price in SearchDay.)

Report on OA critiques from Charleston Conference

Anthony Watkinson, "24th Annual Charleston Conference", Professional/Scholarly Publishing Bulletin, Winter 2004, pp. 4-5. A summary of presentations from the Charleston Conference (November 3-6, 2004), focusing on those that were critical of OA. (PS: The same issue of the Bulletin reprints Pat Schroeder's letter to Elias Zerhouni on behalf of the AAP, opposing the NIH plan, but we blogged that here long ago.)

Clinical journal added to PMC

Clinical Medicine & Research will now be avaiable free online from PubMed Central. For more details, see Matt Conn, National database lists journal from Marshfield Clinic, Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, January 20, 2005. Excerpt: 'Students and researchers worldwide now have free access to a Marshfield Clinic research journal...."By being listed in those databases, your article is now seen by thousands more people," said Deanna Cross, a postdoctoral fellow in the clinic's molecular oncology laboratory. Cross has published research on prostate cancer in Clinical Medicine & Research....To be accepted by PubMed Central, a journal must have three of its editorial board members participating in research funded through major agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, or the publication must be recognized by at least one other major indexing organization.'

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

France's CNRS appoints director of OA

Laurent Romary has been appointed the director of research dissemination for France's Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). Since the CNRS is committed to OA, this makes Romary the OA officer for a major national research organization. For more details, see the press release --in French with Stevan Harnad's English translation and annotation. (PS: Romary will be speaking about OA at the upcoming Berlin3 Open Access conference.)

INRA accepts OA

Philippe Chemineau, Director of research at France's Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA), endorsed open access in an interview today. Read the interview in French or in Google's English. (Thanks to Stevan Harnad.)

More on the revision of the NIH policy

Erika Check, All parties on edge as NIH delays open-access briefing, Nature 433, 182 (20 January 2005). (Access restricted to subscribers.) A news article considers the postponement of NIH's announcement of its open access policy. "Sources close to Congress and the NIH speculated that the White House had scuttled the NIH announcement over concerns that the issue would complicate the confirmation hearings of Mike Leavitt, whom President George Bush has nominated as health secretary. Those hearings were set to be held on 18 and 19 January. But some questioned this explanation, which wasn't officially confirmed. This has left each side of the open-access debate worrying that the policy may now be revised in favour of their opponents."

German National Library license to circumvent

Slashdot has a discussion thread on the license held by the Deutsche Bibliothek to circumvent copy-protection on eBooks and CD's in order to fulfill its mission to collect, index, and preserve German cultural heritage. (PS: Great idea. Let's do it in this country and let's give permission to more than just one library.)

More on the revision of the NIH policy

Lila Guterman, NIH Reportedly Is Weakening Its Plan for Free Access to Journal Articles, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 19, 2005 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: 'Just weeks after its director defended a controversial draft policy for providing free access to scientific literature, the National Institutes of Health appears to be softening its stance. A newspaper report on Tuesday said that the NIH's final policy, which is not yet public, would ask scientists to post their papers online a year after they were published by a journal, instead of just six months....An NIH spokesman would neither confirm nor deny a change in the policy, and said an announcement of the final policy would come soon....Some critics of the NIH's draft plan, including nonprofit research groups that depend on their journals for revenue, were glad to hear of the reported change. "It probably minimizes the potential damage to subscriptions," said Peter Banks, who is in charge of the American Diabetes Association's publications program. "I'm hoping it's true."...[Martin] Frank also worried that [even] the 12-month delay would lull nonprofit publishers into accepting the policy, and that the NIH could later shorten the delay. He said that taking legal action to stop the new policy from taking effect was "an option." Advocates of increasing public access to research results decried the weakening of the policy. "The six-month embargo was already a compromise," said Peter Suber, director the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group that advocates the free flow of information. "If extending the embargo was necessary to save the subscription base of some journals, it certainly wasn't necessary for all journals, and yet [the NIH is] giving all journals the out."...Another critic assailed the NIH's extension of the delay and its making voluntary whether to post on PubMed Central. "I think they've punted," said Richard K. Johnson, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. "Rather than NIH acting within the scope of its ability to act on this, they've thrown it to the researchers to make the decision."'

More on the revision of the NIH policy

Paul Revere, Implausible deniability at NIH, Effect Measure, January 18, 2005. Excerpt: '[Rick Weiss in the Washington Post] is reporting that NIH has buckled under pressure from scientific publishers and gutted its new Open Access proposal. That proposal, which was set to be announced last week, would have asked researchers to deposit NIH funded research papers in the National Library of Medicine's Pub Central repository within 6 months of publication, making them freely available to the public. The new plan would push that back to one year, a time when many publishers already make their content publicly available. NIH Director Elias Zerhouni denied that the change was in response to intense pressure applied to NIH by lobbyists for commercial publishers and the Association of American Publishers, whose president, Patricia Schroeder, is a former congresswoman from Colorado. With this denial, Zerhouni is lying, plainly and simply. Another "water carrier" for the Administration. But the fight continues on other fronts....'

For this journal, OA increases submissions, quality, and impact factor

Open access in medical publishing: trends and countertrends, Canadian Medical Association Journal, January 18, 2005. An unsigned editorial (also in French). Excerpt: 'Since July 1999 the full text of CMAJ has been available online without charge or restriction. We continue to experiment with online enhancements to our print content, and every issue of the journal published since 1911 will soon be available online....We've learned that there are a lot of potential readers "out there": in 2005 we expect traffic to increase to close to 20 million hits. We also know that open access through the Internet has expanded our readership. Our most recent survey of online readers shows that only 31% of those who access eCMAJ identify themselves as physicians and more than half of our online readers access the site from outside Canada....Promoters and detractors of free access agree that wider dissemination of scholarly and scientific content is a worthy goal. The disagreement concerns the economics of free-to-user access....Money is important, even though the marginal additional costs of providing content free on the Web constitute a relatively small portion of the budget of a major print-based journal....The economic question is, How big are [subscription] losses, and are they balanced by noneconomic benefits?...Subscriptions, although in modest decline with open access, are not yet in free-fall. For CMAJ, the noneconomic benefits have included making the journal more attractive to authors, who want their work to be read and applied widely. We've seen our manuscript submissions increase dramatically, allowing CMAJ's peer reviewers and editors to raise the bar for quality and to select from a much wider range of content. We've seen satisfying increases in our Impact Factor....One day soon, new Internet payment models may enable electronic publications to apply pennies-per-view charges that defray editorial costs without creating a disincentive for readers. Or advertisers may be more willing to advertise on the Web. In the meantime, we intend to stick with open (and free) access without fees for readers or for authors.'

More on the revision of the NIH policy

Jocelyn Kaiser, NIH Revises Public Access Policy, Science Magazine, January 18, 2005 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: 'The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants to wait up to 1 year after publication before posting a free copy of articles based on NIH-funded research on the web. That's double the length of time it proposed last fall in the wake of congressional pressure to give the public greater access to such research....Scientific societies are "pleased" with the revised NIH proposal, says Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, noting that it is consistent with the policies of many not-for-profit journals (including /Science/). But he maintains that the archive isn't necessary, and that having both the archived manuscript and the published article on the Web will be confusing. Groups that pushed for quicker public access also had mixed reactions: "NIH punted," says Rick Johnson, director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Research Coalition. But he thinks the policy's impact "could be positive."'

(PS: One important correction. The NIH permits a year's delay but does not "want" a year's delay. On the contrary, at the same time that it permits a longer delay, it will encourage authors to deposit their articles as soon as possible. Rick Johnson got it just right: The NIH shouldn't have permitted a longer delay, but if authors do deposit their work in PubMed Central sooner than six months after publication, then the result will be positive.)

Launch of Korean Open Access License

Kruno Kartus, IPLeft launching Korean Open Access Licence, Association for Progressive Communications, December 26, 2004. Excerpt: 'IPLeft, a social group for information commons in South Korea since 1999, launched the Korean Open Access Licence (KOAL) in October, 2004. KOAL it’s a newly-introduced model of open access to information in South Korea. Jinbonet, APC member in Seoul, has participated in IPLeft activities to develop this new initiative. As the information and communication technologies (ICTs) are growing and broadband infrastructure is becoming wide-spread, it seems that people should have access to information more easily. However, in South Korea, in spite of the huge broadband infrastructure, there is a very limited access to digital libraries. This is due to South Korea’s restrictive copyright regime....In response, IPLeft has researched many open access models and finally developed KOAL. KOAL is a kind of social contract between authors and users. Authors are free to grant certain use of their works and accompany the work with a selected KOAL logo which identifies what rights are protected and covers commercial, non-commercial and derivative uses. Offering works under KOAL means that authors are not surrendering their control, but can permit to use of their work under certain condition,. KOAL can be used on diverse works such as software, educational works, digital contents and media products. KOAL exists to encourage the free use of information, and it is hoped will contribute to the improvement and development of creative culture.'

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

OA at the front lines

Edwin Mapara, Medical Open Access: The great value of information at the front lines, Community Centric Sustainable Development Issues, January 18, 2005. Excerpt: 'I have just had an open access article published in the December 2004 PLoS Medicine Journal, Picturing AIDS: Using images to Raise Community Awareness, co-authored with Prof David Morley....Since then close to 200 colleagues have received a copy in Botswana across all sectors, and are academically surprised that what was a "condemned" village initiative in Health Promotion in Lobatse, Botswana, is being used in London. The icing on the cake was to stand with the Director General on the same platform at the World Health Organisation headquarters, Geneva on World AIDS Day 2004 and in a seminar for the WHO staff the following day in Geneva, talking and discussing the same PLoS Medicine, open access, article....If this article was in a restricted publication, it might have only been in the hands of 20 or so consultants at the referral hospitals in their "restricted" offices and another 20 or so bureaucrats at the Ministry ofHealth on the shelves as a "decoration"!...Sub-Saharan Africa has roughly three "Twin Tower" disasters every day or one Tsunami disaster, 150 000 deaths, per month in health related deaths. Sadly, the majority of deaths are preventable but the information is mostly "restricted"!...The HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa is "iatrogenic!" The Health Promotion curriculums have to be re-visited! If that will be done through the Open Access Approach, let it be so. Do we need Nelson Mandela to talk "open access" about his family to take a point home, when there are Open Access Publications!'

OA to the prehistoric rock carvings of Northumberland

The University of Newcastle upon Tyne has launched an OA archive of photographs, drawings, and rubbings of prehistoric rock carvings from the Northumberland region of Britain. The collection was donated by its creator, Stan Beckensall. For more details, see the press release or BBC story.

Editorial on OA

Thomas Liesegang, Andrew Schachat and Daniel Albert, The Open Access initiative in scientific and biomedical publishing: Fourth in the series on editorship, American Journal of Ophthalmology, January 2005. An editorial. Excerpt: 'The premise of the Open Access initiative is that society benefits from the open exchange of ideas and that access to copyrighted or non-copyrighted materials inspires creativity and facilitates the development of new knowledge. Open access does not apply to materials for which the authors expect to generate revenue, for example, most textbooks. A conflict has developed between the traditional print journal and the Open Access advocates since the model affects publishing businesses, journals, academic institutions, government, researchers, and the reading public. The mutual success of traditional print and Open Access may not be possible because of the costs of both systems....All publishers must continue to innovate, observe the impact of Open Access, and assess how effectively such initiatives serve the needs of scientific and research communities. As developments bring demonstrable and sustainable improvements for those communities, publishers must adapt and invest accordingly.'

(PS: This is the longest and most detailed of the journal editorials about OA I've seen recently. Although it uncritically repeats some canards --e.g. that OA journals compromise on peer review [reply], that the current system works well [reply], and that OA is incompatible with print [reply]-- it tries harder to be judicious than most other journal editorials skeptical about OA.)

Is the OA movement living up to its potential?

John Blossom, Opportunity Knocks: Is the Open Access Movement Meeting its Full Potential? Commentary (the Shore Communications blog), January 17, 2005. Excerpt: 'As the enthusiasm for open access publishing in academic and scientific circles is starting to reach a fever pitch, publishers such as the Public Library of Science (PLoS) are adding new journals and getting more support to subsidize authors' contributions. This heady atmosphere is not without clouds on the horizon, though. The headlong rush to embrace open access publishing as a business model has created an anti-profit zeal that may limit its commercial success - a limitation that will give commercial publishers plenty of time to think about how they want to adopt their own business models to this new environment. Nobody has the corner on the market for publishing wisdom these days. Thank goodness....The good news for schools and professionals is that the broadening supply of free-to-users content makes for wide access to leading-edge ideas, increasing knowledge and accelerating discoveries. As noted in Janice McCallum's earlier news analysis on open access, exposing journals content to a wider array of search technologies allows it to flow into many more useful contexts, creating many new opportunities for creating content value. More problematic, though, are the business models that are - and aren't - being developed to underpin the open access movement....Established publishers aren't going away and are still well-funded....Commercial journals can go open, too.'

(PS: OA opposes price barriers to access, not profit. BioMed Central, for example, is a for-profit OA publisher. OA opposes priced journal literature, not the publishers that provide priced journal literature. If they adopt OA models, they will be welcomed as allies. OA does not require publisher setbacks.)

Molecular Pain -- new OA journal

Molecular Pain is the first independent, Open Access journal hosted by BioMed Central to be launched in 2005. Following is the abstract of the introductory editorial:
Molecular pain is a relatively new and rapidly expanding research field that represents an advanced step from conventional pain research. Molecular pain research addresses physiological and pathological pain at the cellular, subcellular and molecular levels. These studies integrate pain research with molecular biology, genomics, proteomics, modern electrophysiology and neurobiology. The field of molecular pain research has been rapidly expanding in the recent years, and has great promise for the identification of highly specific and effective targets for the treatment of intractable pain. Although several existing journals publish articles on classical pain research, none are specifically dedicated to molecular pain research. Therefore, a new journal focused on molecular pain research is needed. Molecular Pain, an Open Access, peer-reviewed, online journal, will provide a forum for molecular pain scientists to communicate their research findings in a targeted manner to others in this important and growing field.
Molecular Pain - Fulltext v1+ (2005+); ISSN: 1744-8069.

More on the delay of the NIH public-access policy

Rick Weiss, NIH Revises Plan for Quick, Free Access to Study Results, Washington Post, January 18, 2005. Excerpt: 'An ambitious proposal to make the results of federally funded medical research available to the public quickly and for free has been scaled back by the National Institutes of Health under pressure from scientific publishers, who argued that the plan would eat into their profits and harm the scientific enterprise they support. The initial plan, encouraged by Congress and hailed by patient advocacy groups, called for the results of NIH-funded research to be posted on a publicly accessible Web site within six months after they are published in a scientific journal. Most research results now are available only by subscription to the journal -- at a cost that often reaches into the thousands of dollars -- or on a pay-per-article basis that can cost $100 or more for two or three articles. In the final version of the plan, however, the recommended six-month deadline for posting results has been stretched to a year. That change has angered many advocates of public access, who have argued it isn't fair that taxpayers must either wait or ante up to see the results of research they have already paid for....NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni denied that the agency had buckled under industry pressure. Zerhouni said in a telephone interview that there are so many different kinds of publishers -- including many nonprofit publishers run by scientific societies, which reinvest their profits in scientific and educational endeavors -- that it did not make sense to demand a six-month release deadline for all. "I could not prove that a six-month deadline would not harm a significant part of the industry," Zerhouni said. "The new policy continues to call for release of information as soon as possible after publication, but it really leaves it in the hands of the scientists to decide when. What's important is that we're creating a precedent in which the agency that funds medical research is establishing a public database containing all its scientific output. I am certain that over time people will see this as a win-win." Some advocates for public access agreed that even a voluntary policy encouraging release within 12 months could result in more access than is available today, if the NIH makes clear to its grantees that it is serious about wanting them to participate. "The next year will tell if it's working. If a lot of people do it, it won't matter what the language is," said Michael Eisen, co-founder of the Public Library of Science, which publishes scientific journals freely accessible to the public. "What's important is for NIH to convincingly say they're behind it."'

(PS: It's true that the policy Weiss describes is the policy that NIH would have announced on January 11, but it's too early to say whether this is the version that NIH will announce when it finally releases the language. It's true that this policy could encourage deposit and public access much earlier than six months, but it's also true that it would permit many NIH-funded research articles to be deposited much later than six months and some never to be deposited at all. Even if it is designed to preserve subscriptions at certain journals, it is not surgical and gives all publishers an out only needed by some. Moreover, it does buckle under industry pressure, putting publisher revenue ahead of public access to NIH-funded research. The six month embargo was already a compromise with the public interest. This policy gives publishers another concession without waiting for evidence that it was really necessary. There are good reasons to think that the original version of the policy would not have undercut journal subscriptions. Finally, it will put NIH-funded scientists in the painful and untenable position of having to choose between their funder and their publisher, a situation that the NIH could have avoided with an unambiguous mandate for OA to NIH-funded research. I'll have more to say about all of this in the February SOAN.)

Monday, January 17, 2005

Profile of Ian Diamond, chair of the RCUK

Linda Nordling, Ian Diamond: the Santa of science, Guardian, January 18, 2005. Excerpt: 'Professor Ian Diamond displays a no-nonsense cordiality. This is a busy time for him. In addition to heading the ESRC he also chairs Research Councils UK, the group that brings together the research councils on policy matters. This, he explains, by no means elevates him above the other chief executives, who each speak for RCUK on specific topics - such as open access publication or European research policy. As if for emphasis, he slouches in his seat....The results of this bottom-up process, including all the weird and wonderful research it will bring about, will be available via the new social science web portal the ESRC is launching in April. A "one stop shop" for social science, it will house plain-English summaries of the majority of research funded by ESRC in the past two years. New research will be added as it is completed. Diamond hopes that in future these reports will be linked to copies of the actual published research articles from peer-reviewed journals, although for that to happen deals have to be negotiated with publishers holding the copyrights. This process will take some time, he says, but in the end he envisages that a "vast tranche" of ESRC-sponsored research will be freely available over the net.'

Sloppy scholarship about sloppy scholarship

Richard T. Johnson, Message from the editor, Annals of Neurology, 57, 1 (2005). An editorial. Excerpt: 'This move to computerization has accelerated information access but has damaged scholarship. As an Editor, I see claims of priority for methods or observations that are already published in articles not included online or for findings not included in the online abstract. Repetitions of errors in references are seen presumably resulting from the copying of references from other articles without verification of the original references. Those old volumes in the library stacks should be preserved and not ignored....Will print journals survive? I believe some clinical journals like the Annals will. There is still a generational factor. Many of us over 50 years of age prefer to read from paper placed horizontally on our desk or propped against our knee on plane or train or in a comfortable chair rather than from a glaring vertical screen. We are the ones who respond to an online paper for review by pushing the print button....Free public access poses different problems in electronic publishing. In July 2004, the House Appropriations Committee instructed NIH to develop a proposal to make NIH supported studies immediately available to all upon publication. Since three-quarters of the top 200 rated journals are owned by scholarly societies or other non-profits, this suggestion for free access could have been catastrophic. In response to the congressional mandate the Director of NIH proposed that all scholarly articles arising out of NIH grants be placed in PUBMED central no later than six months after publication. NIH requested comments, but before this was possible the requirement was slipped into the lame duck omnibus funding bill without any hearings or comments on the possible impact on scholarly societies or publishers.'

(PS: Four quick replies. Sloppy scholarship with digital sources doesn't reflect on digitization any more than sloppy scholarship with print sources reflects on print. I'm also over 50 and I like both OA and my print button. What's the problem? There are many reasons to think that NIH public-access policy will not harm subscription-based journals, whether their publishers are for-profit or non-profit. Finally, the NIH policy did have its period of public comment, two weeks longer than the usual 60 days, and it elicited over 6,000 comments.)

OA from the University of Texas

Mark McFarland, The UTOPIA Project, D-Lib Magazine, January 2005. Excerpt: 'Two years ago the president of the University of Texas at Austin (UT) announced a campus-wide initiative to systematically digitize and make available to the public via the World Wide Web the intellectual and cultural treasures of the institution. On March 6, 2004, the campus went live with a site called UTOPIA....We are currently in the process of preparing for a DSpace implementation, and we have been discussing the problem of how best to engage with faculty on this issue. The primary goal of this effort is to greatly accelerate ongoing efforts to digitize and make available UT-owned resources held in its libraries, museums, collections, laboratories, research units and departments. This new effort has three important components: [1] To digitize and provide access to materials from our collections, museums, laboratories and classrooms to the public free of charge, [2] To establish a connection with K-12 community by developing content and services that support the classroom teacher, [3] To serve as a digital archive for material produced by faculty members.'

More on LOCKSS format migration

David Rosenthal and three co-authors, Transparent Format Migration of Preserved Web Content, D-Lib Magazine, January 2005. Abstract: 'The LOCKSS digital preservation system collects content by crawling the web and preserves it in the format supplied by the publisher. Eventually, browsers will no longer understand that format. A process called format migration converts it to a newer format that the browsers do understand. The LOCKSS program has designed and tested an initial implementation of format migration for Web content that is transparent to readers, building on the content negotiation capabilities of HTTP.'

Persuading faculty to deposit their work in IR's

Nancy Fried Foster and Susan Gibbons, Understanding Faculty to Improve Content Recruitment for Institutional Repositories, D-Lib Magazine, January 2005. Excerpt: 'The phrase "if you build it, they will come" does not yet apply to IRs. While their benefits seem to be very persuasive to institutions, IRs fail to appear compelling and useful to the authors and owners of the content. And, without the content, IRs will not succeed, because institutions will sustain IRs for only so long without greater evidence of success....Our key finding seems obvious in retrospect: what faculty members and university researchers want is to do their research, read and write about it, share it with others, and keep up in their fields. Many of our faculty members are outstanding teachers and some are skilled administrators; they provide service to their departments and fields. But even those who are most committed to the role of professor, broadly defined, complain of overwork, resist clerical responsibility, and resent any additional activity that cuts into their research and writing time....When we completed our research, we realized that our top priority was to recruit more content for the IR in the short term....In order to meet our short-term goal, we developed two strategies. One was to try a new strategy for recruiting faculty members, described below, in which we approach them on their own grounds and speak their language. The other was to enhance DSpace to make it much easier for our faculty members to submit their items to the IR and to showcase themselves and their research....By contrast to the language previously used to describe the features and benefits of the IR [language that most faculty did not understand], we are now describing the IR in language drawn from faculty interviews. Thus, we tell faculty that the IR will enable them to...[1] Make their own work easily accessible to others on the web through Google searches and searches within the IR itself, [2] Preserve digital items far into the future, safe from loss or damage, [3] Give out links to their work so that they do not have to spend time finding files and sending them out as email attachments, [4] Maintain ownership of their own work and control who sees it, [5] Not have to maintain a server, [6] Not have to do anything complicated.'

More on the UK inquiry

Donald MacLeod, Government warned over 'lack of science policy', Guardian, January 17, 2005. Excerpt: 'The annual report from the Commons science and technology committee [chaired by Ian Gibson] said members had made a point of examining areas of policy they suspected were deficient....Dr Gibson and his colleagues have also clashed with the government over open access publishing of scientific journals, this time with less success. Although their report, Free for all? won considerable support for the idea of an "author-pays" model which would then give universities in the UK - and the developing world - free access to papers, ministers have declined to try it out. "We found that the government was completely unprepared for such a change. Indeed, in oral evidence government officials showed themselves to be only barely aware of the issues surrounding the way that scientific research papers are published," said the committee's annual report. Putting a brave face on the continuing dispute, the report said that the committee's inquiry had improved the situation. "The director general of the research councils told us that 'the ball is actually rolling. We have had numerous discussions. And, as I say, being quite frank, I think the interest of this committee has stimulated that considerably'. "We hope that the government will use the opportunity of our second report on scientific publications to formulate a response that addresses the policy deficiency that we have identified," added the annual report.' (PS: It's hard to believe that journalists are still writing about this report as if its primary recommendation were OA journals rather than OA archiving.)

The most uninformed article about OA in many years

G. E. Gorman, Unanswered Questions about Open Access, Information Management, January 2005. Excerpt: '[T]he success or failure of Open Access comes down to finance, and it is difficult to see that money will be available to bed down and sustain a viable model of Open Access. It ain't free, in other words! [PS reply.]...The following is based principally on [Nancy Davenport's] questions, interwoven with some of our own. The purpose of this is to put the brakes on the Open Access bandwagon by helping everyone to reflect more deeply on what is happening and to stop following the OA fad so blindly – there are too many unknowns for information professionals to be hoping that this is the answer to their problems....One suspects that Open Access materials will not be oft-cited by others, because they lack the kudos of journals with ISI impact factors, etc. [PS reply 1, 2, and 3.]...How can we know that these materials are quality-assured if any researcher can make his or her work available through OA? Where are the effective quality controls? [PS reply.]...And finally, what of the publishers? From their perspective, if it isn't broken, why are we fixing it? The current model has worked, and worked reasonably well, for decades. [PS reply]'

(PS: This may be the single most uninformed article about OA I've ever read.)

More on open-source biology

David Cohn, Open-Source Biology Evolves, Wired News, January 17, 2005. Excerpt: 'To push research forward, scientists need to draw from the best data and innovations in their field. Much of the work, however, is patented, leaving many academic and nonprofit researchers hamstrung. But an Australian organization advocating an open-source approach to biology hopes to free up biological data without violating intellectual property rights. The battle lies between biotech companies like multinational Monsanto, who can grant or deny the legal use of biological information, and independent organizations like The Biological Innovation for Open Society, or BIOS, and Science Commons. The indies want to give scientists free access to the latest methods in biotechnology through the web. BIOS will soon launch an open-source platform that promises to free up rights to patented DNA sequences and the methods needed to manipulate biological material. Users must only follow BIOS' "rules of engagement," which are similar to those used by the open-source software community.'

Creative Commons launches an Australian version

Jennifer Foreshew, Commons simplifies net rights, Australian, January 18, 2005. On the launch of the Australian version of Creative Commons. Excerpt: 'An Australian version of a legally binding licence that allows governments and artists to share information on the internet will be launched today. Creative Commons, a non-profit organisation established in the US to simplify online copyright, has approved an Australian licence. The Australian Creative Commons licence will be launched at a conference at Queensland University of Technology and will be accessible at later this month. QUT has been the lead agency for the Australian Creative Commons project...."Once you know the material has the Creative Commons badge and the licence, you know that you can go and use it without fear of being sued for taking other people's material without their permission," QUT law school head Brian Fitzgerald said.'

More on the WIPO Development Agenda

Michael Geist, Fairness calls for fairer rules, Toronto Star, January 17, 2005 (free registration required). Excerpt: 'As developing countries seek access to new technologies, they frequently find that global intellectual property law rules represent a significant barrier to development....Last fall WIPO, which has been viewed by many as insensitive to the concerns of the developing world, approved a new development agenda. Initially proposed by Brazil and Argentina, it won support from developing countries from across the globe. The agenda promises to focus for the first time on developing country concerns including the pursuit of collaborative information-sharing initiatives such as those that use the Human Genome Project and the development of the World Wide Web as models. The agenda also raises the possibility of a treaty on access to knowledge and technology, which could include provisions on access to medicines and globally funded research, open access to scholarly research, as well as exceptions to patent and copyright laws that serve the interests of the developing world....While [Canada's existing development] initiatives are admirable, Canada can do more. WIPO's development agenda provides the first chance in years to fashion a global intellectual property policy that helps, rather than hinders, the developing world. It deserves Canada's active support.'

More on the Eyes on the Prize fiasco

Guy Dixon, How copyright could be killing culture, Globe and Mail, January 17, 2005. Excerpt: 'As Americans commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. and his legacy today, no television channel will be broadcasting the documentary series Eyes on the Prize. Produced in the 1980s and widely considered the most important encapsulation of the American civil-rights movement on video, the documentary series can no longer be broadcast or sold anywhere. Why? The makers of the series no longer have permission for the archival footage they previously used of such key events as the historic protest marches or the confrontations with Southern police. Given Eyes on the Prize's tight budget, typical of any documentary, its filmmakers could barely afford the minimum five-year rights for use of the clips. That permission has long since expired, and the $250,000 to $500,000 needed to clear the numerous copyrights involved is proving too expensive.'

A public-domain, open-access success story

Shiri Lev-Ari, The national poet and the new generation, Haaretz International, January 17, 2005. Excerpt: 'Everyone in the copyright and new media department of ACUM, the Association of Composers, Authors and Publishers of Music in Israel, breathed a sigh of relief. The end of 2004 marked 70 years since the death of national poet Haim Nahman Bialik, and his work entered the public domain....What will happen now that the works of the national poet are accessible to everyone? The Internet has already given its answer. At the beginning of this month, the Ben Yehuda Project uploaded all of Bialik's work. The project, at, started in 1999 and presents the works of Hebrew writers, poets and thinkers who died more than 70 years ago. On January 3, 220 of Bialik's poems appeared on the site, as well as stories, essays, articles and oral works that were later put in writing....[Assaf] Bartov plans to propose a change to the copyright law to reduce the period that heirs hold the rights to work. "There is a lot of old material by important writers and less popular material that has disappeared from the stores and is out of print, and thus is inaccessible to readers," he said. "Anyway, it does not pay financially for publishers to reissue them, so why wait 70 years?"' (Thanks to BNA Internet Law News.)

(PS: Thanks to retroactive extensions of the term of copyright, nothing like this can happen in the United States until 2019.)

Public digital libraries

K. R. Mulla and M. Chandrashakara, Virtual Information & Intellectual Freedom: Challenges for Knowledge Organiser and Information Manager. Apparently a preprint. Abstract: 'Development of the Internet and the increasing popularity of the WWW have opened up a new realm of information access, storage, and delivery for librarians and information professionals. Libraries are striving to respond to the pervasive and persistent growth of global networking and manage the demand for access to this dynamic medium. Working in the trenches of the digital revolution, librarians and information professionals are beginning to offer Internet services to patrons; their work marks the beginning of the grassroots implementation of the "Public" digital library.'

More on the NIH public-access policy

Dee Ann Divis, The push for public access to journals, Los Angeles Times, January 17, 2005. Excerpt: 'Most medical journal articles are not freely available to the public in print or over the Internet. Access often is limited to subscribers, who must pay hefty fees. And most public libraries are more likely to carry People magazine than the Archives of Internal Medicine....The NIH is considering a proposal that would ask researchers to provide a copy of each journal article they write about NIH-supported projects. Those articles, which often are copyrighted and tightly controlled by the journals, would be made available for free on the Internet through a permanent archive....Should NIH decide to ease access, the range of what would become available is enormous. Though it is often thought of as a center for studying rare disorders, NIH funds research on subjects such as wisdom tooth extraction, vitamin supplements and the use of acupuncture for lower back pain. Nearly 10% of U.S. health and medical research receives NIH funding. Roughly a third of NIH-supported research consists of clinical trials. A shift toward public access would come at a time when more people than ever are searching online for health information....Pat Furlong, executive director of the Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and a proponent of the NIH plan, also says more access would help doctors stay on top of developments. She told attendees at an NIH meeting on Aug. 31 how her son, a teenager with muscular dystrophy, died when he was given an inhalational anesthesia in the hospital. Her family lived in a rural town and had limited access to a library with the latest medical studies. "The physician did not have the access to the information he needed for my son to survive," Furlong told the panel.'