Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 12, 2005

More on open-source biology

Priya Shetty, Free access GM 'toolkit' launched, SciDev.Net, February 11, 2005. Excerpt: 'Researchers in Australia have developed a new method of genetically modifying plants and are making their discovery accessible by other researchers through 'open source' licensing. The decision will make the technique available for free to scientists from developing countries who might otherwise be unable to afford to research genetic modification because of the restrictive costs of getting a licence to use the existing technique....The team's lead researcher Richard A. Jefferson is founder of the Biological Innovation for Open Society (BIOS), an initiative designed to increase the availability of scientific information to scientists in developing countries who cannot afford licensing costs of the existing patented technology. The CAMBIA research is available under an open source licence, which can be obtained from the BIOS website. Although the work will still be patented, such licences prevent an individual or group from holding a monopoly over information they have discovered or created. The only restrictions the project applies are that users share any improvements, safety information and regulatory data, and preserve the opportunity for others to use and improve the technology. Jefferson told SciDev.Net that he believed free access to biotechnologies would help scientists collaborate under a 'rule-set' that guarantees as far as possible that the original work will be retained as building blocks, transparently evaluated and incorporated into new products. Scientists would also be able to work without the costs of negotiating licence agreements, he added.'

Renting and buying v. the commons

Thinking Out Loud About the Ownership Society, an unsigned blog posting from Outsell Now, February 11, 2005. This excerpt comes after a discussion of renting v. buying digital music: 'It's not just the bandwidth that's changing; it's the nature of content itself. In the case of scientific literature, for example, the idea of a journal article or a book as a permanent, fixed document might soon be obsolete. Such literature is inextricably bound up with the other literature it cites, and the literature citing it. Current knowledge on a topic is dynamic and not confined to a single document; in that environment access to the flow of knowledge is more important than ownership of a document that's just a snapshot of knowledge at a point in time. We've concluded that all parts of the content industry are lined up along a "rent vs. buy" spectrum, but that the concept of owning content is slowly losing ground to other models of access.'

(PS: It's true that new models of access are challenging the ownership model. But it's too tidy to suggest that all content lies somewhere on the rent/buy spectrum. OA content is a true commons that is neither rented nor purchased.)

Friday, February 11, 2005

More on Prometheus

Last year, Prometheus, the German network of image archives, triggered controversy by claiming that it offered "open access" while charging access fees, limiting permissible uses beyond fair use, and threatening criminal penalties for violation. Now Klaus Graf reports that Prometheus has switched to the term "open content" --though it continues to charge for access and to limit permissible uses. For example, Prometheus prohibits copying its images, publishing them, and even sharing them with other scholars. It permits private and classroom use, but has no barrier-free section even for images in the public domain.

How librarians can help provide OA

Helene Bosc and Stevan Harnad, In a paperless world a new role for academic libraries: Providing Open Access. A written version of their presentation at the symposium, Spreading the word: who profits from scientific publications (Stockholm, August 26, 2004). Abstract: 'Academic libraries should be considered research tools, co-evolving with technology. The Internet has changed the way science is communicated and hence also the role of libraries. It has made it possible for researchers to provide Open Access (OA) (i.e., toll-free, full-text, on-line access, web-wide) to their peer reviewed journal articles in two different ways: (1) by publishing in them in OA journals and (2) by publishing them in non-OA journals but also self-archiving them in their institutional OA Archives. Librarians are researchers' best allies in both of these OA provision strategies. Some of the best examples of these pioneering libraries are described in this article. From them we conclude that an official mandate for OA provision is necessary to accelerate the growth of OA – and thereby the growth of research usage and impact -- worldwide.'

Teaching authors about OA

William Spivey, Developing an Open Access Class for Authors, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 2, 2, (2005). Only this abstract is free online, at least so far: 'In early 2004, the Ehrman Medical Library, New York University School of Medicine, decided to offer formal instruction to its authors within the medical school on Open Access publishing. The Library's approach was to engage faculty in a dialogue on the nature of scholarly communication, and to offer Open Access as an alternative model to traditional publishing. Components of the class included definitions and description of Open Access, a survey of key players in the movement, and a review of benefits and concerns for those who choose to publish in an Open Access publication. A section on starting an Open Access journal was developed later. Future integration of the class with the existing Library Research Skills program is under discussion.'

(PS: This is an excellent idea. Authors form the audience we most need to address. An ideal course for authors would spend as much time on OA archiving as it does on OA journals.)

Three scientific search engines

Elizabeth Connor, Searching for Science: A Descriptive Comparison of CiteSeer, FirstGov for Science, and Scirus, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 2, 2, (2005). Only this abstract is free online, at least so far: 'CiteSeer, FirstGov for Science, and Scirus are freely available Web-based resources that provide access to bibliographic and full-text scientific content of potential value to scientists, health professionals, and librarians. These resources serve as no-risk, no-cost introductions to searching aggregated collections and understanding cross-database or federated searching, reduce the time and effort needed to find useful scientific information, and provide a superior alternative to using a general search engine such as Google.'

OA journals and their implications for libraries

Elizabeth Wood, Open Access Publishing: Implications for Libraries, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 2, 2, (2005). Only this abstract is free online, at least so far: 'The recent movement towards "open access publishing" has developed very quickly. It began with publishers such as Public Library of Science and BioMed Central, persuading researchers to publish in their subscription-free or very low-cost journals. Commercial publishers then joined in, suggesting that authors pay a fee to have articles available free of charge on the Web. Most recently, government and professional organizations are recommending that research results be published this way. Implications for libraries include the impact on subscription costs, institutional subsidizing of authors' fees, and libraries' negotiations with administrators.'

On the upcoming launch of The European Library

Tracey Caldwell, European Library to provide a 'co-operative framework', Information World Review, February 11, 2005. Excerpt: 'The European Library (TEL) will launch next month, offering public access to the collections of ten national libraries across the continent. TEL will replace Gabriel as the virtual gateway to Europe's national libraries. The European Library was initially set up as an EU project. It is now owned by the Conference of European Librarians (CENL), and supported by the participating libraries. Jill Cousins, head of The European Library Office, told IWR:..."Some libraries are interested in possible revenue opportunities, such as the selling of some pictures, but at the moment everything available on the portal is free - almost everything is precopyright."'

More on Google's library project

David Kirkpatrick, Google: Going Beyond the Web, Fortune, February 10, 2005. An interview with Marissa Mayer, Google's product manager. Excerpt: 'While Google Local may be an important new product for Google, it's dwarfed in long-term importance for Mayer by one of the company's other projects: Google Print. The company is starting to digitize books, with ambitious goals. "Google Print is our moon shot," Mayer said. "It will take lots of manpower, but in the end you may have every published book available for full-text search. Think about the number of searches you would do online, if you knew that everything ever printed was searchable. It will take decades of work, but it's really exciting." '

More on Information Rx

From an NLM press release: 'After a doctor sees a patient, he or she often prescribes medications. But what if a doctor also wants to direct a patient to up-to-date, reliable, consumer-friendly information about a health concern? Under a pilot program to be launched in Florida on Feb. 14, physicians from six counties are being encouraged to refer their patients to MedlinePlus, a consumer health site of the National Institutes of Health. The American Medical Association Foundation (AMAF) and the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation have teamed up with the National Library of Medicine (NLM), an arm of the National Institutes of Health, to encourage Florida physicians to point patients to first-rate online health information in NLM's MedlinePlus database, and Fisher Center Foundation's Web site. The pilot program, called the "Information Rx" project, will be launched in six Florida counties with a demonstration hosted by Rep. C. W. Bill Young (R-FL)...."Physicians have always known that an informed patient who takes an active role is a 'better' patient," notes NLM Director Lindberg. "We believe that both patients and their doctors will welcome this additional medical tool-good medical information-in their continuing efforts to provide good health care."...Today, the majority of U.S. adults online --80 percent-- use the Net to find health information. Most users say it helps them obtain better health care, a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports. Nearly 70 percent of patients nationwide add they will pay serious attention to a Web site recommended by their physician. The Information Rx Project is already well received by doctors and their patients. Preliminary findings from ongoing pilot projects with Internists in Iowa, Georgia, and Virginia reveal that 97 percent of participating physicians make referrals to MedlinePlus and the overwhelming majority use it daily. Internists who participated in the pilot programs said MedlinePlus empowers patients (54 percent), explains difficult concepts and procedures (43 percent), and improves patient-physician communication (42 percent). [Congressman C.W. Bill Young said,] "I think [Floridians will] find that, used in conjunction with their doctor's good care, information can be powerful medicine."...After testing of this pilot program, a greatly expanded national initiative is expected to follow.' (PS: Information Rx is a great idea and of course it only works with OA literature and information.)

More on open-source biology

Paul Rincon, Plant biotech goes open-source, BBC News, February 10, 2005. Excerpt: 'A team of scientists has developed an "open-source" alternative to one of the most effective - but patent-protected - ways of genetically modifying plants....But Agrobacterium has hundreds of patents issued on it, with biotech giants Monsanto and Syngenta amongst the significant rights holders. The microbe, which causes plant tumours in the wild, is used widely in research. But patent rights are rarely enforced until scientists decide to commercialise the fruits of their work. "If you care one hoot about delivering it to the public, it's a big problem," said co-author of the new study [in Nature] Dr Richard Jefferson of research institute Cambia in Canberra, Australia. "When there are dozens or hundreds of patents involved, negotiations can be labyrinthine - and all it takes is one denied right to stop the whole process."...The open-source method is not bound by the patent system. So scientists are free to use the technique without commercial restrictions, but must share any improvements they make to this scientific "toolkit". "It isn't about making it cost-free or busting patents. It's about harnessing the latent creativity of a very large number of people who are out of the loop right now," said Dr Jefferson, a descendent of Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US and also the country's first patent commissioner. "I see this as unfinished family business," he told the BBC News website....The team behind the Nature paper has also launched a collaborative research platform on the internet called BioForge, which will allow scientists to develop new technology within a protected "commons".'

More on the NIH policy

Science for Free, The Economist, February 10, 2005. Only part of the first paragraph is free online: 'For around a decade, a group of campaigners has been arguing that the public should not have to pay to read the results of the scientific research which it has, through its taxes, financed. Feelings about the issue are particularly high when it comes to government-funded medical research. Patients' rights groups argue vociferously that it is ethically wrong to charge for access to the latest medical discoveries....' (Thanks to Adam Hodgkin.)

Update. I just got a copy of the full text. Here's an excerpt: 'The NIH's decision represents a big change. The $30 billion that it spends on research each year leads to the publication of around 60,000 papers annually --some 11% of the total published in the medical field. Indeed, the organisation says that its actual impact is much higher, with 30-50% of the most important papers (the ones that get cited extensively by other researchers) having had NIH sponsorship. And although its new policy does not actually oblige its scientific dependants to make their work available this way, when a big paymaster asks its researchers to jump, in most cases the response is going to be "how high?" A victory, then, for the open-access campaigners. But only a partial one. The NIH's announcement is actually a retreat from the proposal originally circulated last year, which was for open access within six months of first publication. The NIH appears to have backed down under pressure from commercial publishers, as well as from professional societies that fund their activities by publishing journals. Elias Zerhouni, the NIH's director, acknowledged that the step back was an attempt to "preserve the role" of these groups....Publishers are going to have to find a way of adapting to those changes....And while this may not please them, if any of the medical journals were to decide not to accept the new terms under which NIH researchers must publish they would have to be prepared to lose a large proportion of their best research papers. Another reason the NIH decision is important is that it could establish a standard for other organisations that fund research. The Wellcome Trust, a large charitable research foundation based in Britain, is also a strong supporter of open access. It is currently discussing with the National Library of Medicine the possibility of a joint, global archive of papers. Though by no means as powerful as the NIH, the Wellcome Trust helps to finance research that leads to the publication of around 3,600 papers a year. Ultimately the trust wants that research available free within six months of publication in a journal. For commercial scientific publishers the days of wine and roses may be numbered.'

More on open-source biology

Andrew Pollack, Open-Source Practices for Biotechnology, New York Times, February 10, 2005 (free registration required). Excerpt: 'The open-source movement, which has encouraged legions of programmers around the world to improve continually upon software like the Linux operating system, may be spreading to biotechnology. Researchers from Australia will report in a scientific journal [Nature] today that they have devised a method of creating genetically modified crops that does not infringe on patents held by big biotechnology companies. They said the technique, and a related one already used in crop biotechnology, would be made available free to others to use and improve, as long as any improvements are also available free. As with open-source software, the idea is to spur innovation through a sort of communal barn-raising effort....The new technology-sharing initiative, called the Biological Innovation for Open Society, or BIOS, is the brainchild of Richard A. Jefferson, chief executive of Cambia, a nonprofit Australian research institute. Both Cambia and BIOS are supported by the Rockefeller Foundation.'

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Online Archive of California 3.0

The California Digital Library (CDL) has launched the Online Archive of California (OAC) v. 3.0. For an overview of what's new in 3.0, see the brief article in today's issue of CDLInfo or the longer account at the CDL web site.

More on open-source biology

There is now a thread at Slashdot on open-source biology.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

OA archive of DNA sequences

John von Radowitz, Scientists begin project to 'barcode' earth's 10m species, Irish Examiner, February 10, 2005. Excerpt: 'The aim is to have a record of genetic sequences that uniquely identify every one of the estimated 10 million species of plants and animals by 2010. Many extinct species may also be barcoded using DNA taken from museum collections. Less than a fifth of the Earth's flora and fauna have been named by scientists. The task of identifying and describing the vast array of known and unknown species on the planet is a daunting one, but vital to scientific research. Three new initiatives launched yesterday (wed) mark a first step towards that goal. Two of the initiatives will aim to gather genetic barcodes of all the world's fish and bird species. The third will develop an open-access archive of DNA sequences from specimens held in major collections around the world. The overall project is being coordinated by the Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL), which will bring together experts from fields such as taxonomy the classification of living organisms and information management.'

The subscription overlay model for OA journals

Brian Simboli, The Subscription Overlay: An Alternative Publishing Model. A web page summarizing a model that Brian has been describing and defending in recent messages to SOAF and other listservs. Excerpt: 'The idea is that institutions may be willing to pay for such enhanced features [to an otherwise OA journal] as: additional content (including e.g. news, or links to online reference resources); citing/cited reference capabilities of the kind discussed here; email alerting services; searchable abstracting and indexing; direct linkages to citation management software; analyze capabilities; graphical displays of conceptual relationships between articles; cross-reference linking; and "mark and email" (or print) capabilities. (While it does not necessarily have all these features, one is reminded here of the Science Direct interface.) Objections to the model have been posed here. A response is offered here.'

New OA journal

Hindawi Publishing has launched its third peer-reviewed, OA journal, EURASIP Journal on Embedded Systems. From today's press release: 'EURASIP JES is edited by Prof Zoran Salcic of the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The journal employs an open access model based on article processing charges to be paid by the author's institution or research grant. The journal shall have an online edition which is free with no subscription or registration barriers and a print edition which shall be priced at a level reasonable for covering the printing cost. All articles published in the journal shall be distributed under the "Creative Commons Attribution License," which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.'

More on open-source biology

Kristen Philipkoski, Genetically Modified IP Launched, Wired News, February 9, 2005. Excerpt: 'A paper appearing in this week's edition of Nature is antiseptically entitled: "Gene transfer to plants by diverse species of bacteria." But the information that lies within may herald a revolution in biology. The paper describes two new technologies: TransBacter, a method for transferring genes to plants, and GUSPlus, a method of visualizing where the genes are and what they do. Behind the research, which was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, is a team of scientists who want to provide the technologies as a "kernel," modeled on the Linux movement, as the beginning of perhaps the first practical offering in open source biology. Researchers who want to develop technologies based on this kernel can use it as they wish if they agree to a flexible license issued by Biological Innovation for Open Society. BIOS is spearheaded by Richard Jefferson, also founder of CAMBIA, an agricultural life science institute in Canberra, Australia....For the vision to become reality, BIOS plans to reach out to these entities with its BioForge website, which it launched Wednesday. Scientists can deposit and obtain scientific information on the site. The open source biology movement has been bubbling to the surface for years, and enthusiasts are heartened by the first technologies finally becoming available. "This is important, fundamental agricultural technology moving into the commons," said John Wilbanks, executive director of Science Commons, a group working to make it easier, and legal, to share scientific data. "This is the type of tool that, in increasing numbers, is being patented." '

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Google Scholar and PubMed

Rita Vine, Google Scholar is a Full Year Late Indexing PubMed Content, SiteLines, February 8, 2005. Excerpt: '[T]ests conducted by me on Feburary 8 2005 suggest that Google Scholar is currently missing almost a full year of PubMed records....Results: For the 2004-2005 period, Google delivered 29,500 records; PubMed delivered over 658,000 for the same period. While some of these PubMed records in the larger set are PreMedline records that will ultimately be dumped from the database, there is simply no accounting for the enormous difference in the numbers, except to hypothesize that Google Scholar is missing very significant quantities of relatively recent records from PubMed....I tested by copying and pasting a distinctive phrase from the title of each article into Google Scholar, then clicked SEARCH to see if Google Scholar would retrieve the article. My results showed that Google Scholar failed to retrieve any PubMed content after February-March 2004, making Google Scholar almost one full year in arrears of PubMed.' (Thanks to T.J. Sondermann.)

Google Print, ebooks, and P2P book sharing

Nilanjana Roy, The library of everything, New Delhi Business Standard, February 8, 2005. Excerpt: 'Even in Beta, [Google Print is] working better than Amazon's search, while generating its share of controversy: many publishing houses and authors are nervous about copyright issues. Google has attempted to address their fears in several ways: the only complete works on database are out-of-copyright works, if you search for a book that is copyrighted at present, you will get only an excerpt or a few pages, and print or save file commands have been disabled on this engine. Publishing houses are still grumbling about possible piracy issues, but they're looking in the wrong direction....The publishing world wasn't worried at that time [of Napster] about the implications of electronic file sharing: most readers preferred physical books to e-books, there were few decent e-readers available, and relatively few people would share e-books online in the same way that they might share their music collections. But as e-book layouts have improved and scanners have become more widely available, the publishing industry might find that its complacency is terribly misplaced. Shareaza is just one of the many new, improved file-sharing networks that offers users the opportunity to share books as well as audio and video files. It currently has thousands of books available on the network, with more being added every month --and Shareaza is just one network. This generation is more comfortable reading off screen than the previous one, just as MP3 enthusiasts are prepared to live with a drop in music quality in order to access free music. This is the face of the new, web library as I see it. It will act both as a force multiplier for readers and as a possible conduit for piracy. It will be a repository for rare books, a source for unusual books, and indeed, a cemetery for forgotten books.'

PLoS Computational Biology

PLoS Computational Biology has issued a call for papers. This new OA journal will be published in partnership with the International Society for Computational Biology. The inaugural issue will be published in late June 2005. The other current PLoS journals are PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine and PLoS Genetics. PLoS Genetics will initiate publication in July 2005.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Logical Methods in Computer Science is launched

Logical Methods in Computer Science (LMCS) was first announced in the wake of the departure of the editorial board of the Journal of Algorithms (JoA) at the end of 2003. The editors of JoA have gone on to establish ACM Transactions on Algorithms, the first issue of which is expected soon. LMCS "... is a fully refereed, open access, free, electronic journal. It welcomes papers on theoretical and practical areas in computer science involving logical methods, taken in a broad sense...." LMCS is an overlay journal of the Computing Research Repository (CoRR) which is a part of Overlay journals use as the basis for article submission the e-prints/preprints deposited in disciplinary repositories. Advances in Theoretical and Mathematical Physics (ATMP) has been operating under this model since 1997. Logical Methods in Computer Science - Fulltext v1+ (2005+); ISSN: application pending.

An OA journal responds to the NIH policy

The OA journal, Neurobiology of Lipids, has issued a press release on the NIH public-access policy. Excerpt: 'Neurobiology of Lipids (NoL) welcomes the announcement by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) new "Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research" effective May 2, 2005....The article deposition in NIH archive will no doubt benefit the scholars themselves. This is because deposition in PMC archive will ensure the publication is preserved for future generations and gets maximum and barrier-free exposure to both peers and the public....While the new Policy calls for the voluntary submission of final author manuscripts and does not affect the ability to copyright, all NIH grantees now have a new issue to consider when selecting the journal to publish at....[W]hen Neurobiology of Lipids archiving in PMC is implemented, any article published in the journal will meet the NIH new Policy, immediately and without any need for additional archiving works by authors....Neurobiology of Lipids urges funding bodies worldwide to follow the pioneering NIH policy, and calls for other scholar scientific technical and medical (STM) journals to comply with the NIH request on behalf of their authors.'

Access to government geospatial data in jeopardy

Frank Tiboni, A publishing dilemma: Geospatial agency considers restricting access to its maps, Federal Computer Week, February 7, 2005. Excerpt: 'Officials at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency want to bar the public from viewing the agency's aeronautical and navigational data and publications, a decision that has upset many who use that information. Some librarians, commercial mapmakers and public-interest group members say they will launch a campaign to retain access. Without seeking public comment, NGA officials announced plans in November 2004 to stop selling and distributing the aeronautical and navigational data because of copyright concerns and worries about terrorist attacks. Last December, however, they said they would seek comments before making a final decision.'

OA in South Africa

Jennifer De Beer, Open Access scholarly communication in South Africa : a role for National Information Policy in the National System of Innovation, a Master's Thesis in Information Science at Stellenbosch University, 2005. From the abstract: 'South African science shows a decline in its global competitiveness in that its scholarly publication rate has not kept pace with that of other countries, both developed and developing. This, together with a decline in publication rate especially among junior South African scholars, suggests a structural problem in the South African national system of innovation....The empirical part of this study (Chapters 4 and 5) in turn consist of two parts....Both empirical studies were used to assess levels of activity and extent of adoption of Open Access within a defined South African scholarly community, one discipline-based, the other institution-based. The aims of this study were two-fold: to assess levels of awareness of and investment in Open Access modes of scholarly communication within defined scholarly communities; and to create a benchmark document of South Africa’s involvement to date in various Open Access initiatives. The argument is made for the openness of scholarly systems, and furthermore that the disparate and uncoordinated nature of Open Access in South Africa needs a policy intervention. The policy intervention so identified would exist within an enabling policy environment and would be minimally disruptive to the South African science system. Said policy intervention would constitute a National Information Policy since it would address the storage, dissemination, and retrieval of scholarly research output. This thesis recommends the amendment of the current statutory reporting mechanism - used by scholars to report and obtain publication rate subsidies – which would require that scholars make their research available via an Open Access mode of scholarly communication, and moreover, would require scholars to report on having done so.'

Copyright questions about Google's library project

Jeffrey Young, Publishing Groups Say Google's Library-Scanning Effort May Violate Copyright Laws, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 7, 2005 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt: 'Some publishing groups say that Google's ambitious project to scan millions of library volumes and make them searchable could run afoul of copyright laws, and that Google should get permission from publishers before proceeding....Google said that it would begin by scanning works that are in the public domain and that the full texts of those books would be accessible online through its popular search engine. But the company also plans to scan copyrighted books in some of the libraries. The search engine will not give users the full texts of those volumes, but will provide up to three short excerpts, each consisting of only a few lines of text in which a search term appears. Google officials say that such limited use will not violate copyright law. But some publishing-industry officials say that even scanning a book and offering brief excerpts without the publishers' permission could violate copyright because scanning the book would represent a reproduction of the work, and the copying would have been done by a commercial entity rather than the library that purchased the book....Steve Langdon, a spokesman for Google, said in an e-mail interview that the company "respects the rights of copyright holders and the tremendous creative effort of authors...In every case Google's presentation of the works to the public will keep authors and publishers in mind and be well within the bounds of copyright law," he said....Sally C.L. Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, said in an interview on Friday that she had contacted Google officials last week to raise the concern that Google's plans to scan some material might violate the rights of academic publishers. She said she had asked for more information about the company's plans. "They seem to be certain that what they're doing is OK under copyright law, but I can't understand how they think so," she said...."It's a matter of legal principle," she said, noting that many publishers were likely to agree to Google's arrangement if approached. "But they haven't been asked, and so they haven't had the opportunity to say yes or no." '

More on OA to US government weather data

Aliya Sternstein, Value add? New questions arise about how accessible agencies should make government data, Federal Computer Week, February 7, 2005. Excerpt: 'Advocates of free access to government information recently claimed a modest victory — but did they celebrate too early? A new policy of providing weather information and other environmental data to the broadest possible audience in easily usable formats has reversed a long-standing practice of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Instead of offering weather information in proprietary formats to a limited number of companies for resale, NOAA officials will provide environmental data in nonproprietary formats that any person or organization can use and commercialize if they choose....Reactions among commercial publishers and open-access advocates to the new policy were predictable. Open-access advocates welcomed it; some well-known commercial publishers criticized it. Yet even with NOAA's new policy — or perhaps because of it — some critics of the Bush administration's policies say that the balance between open access and commercial interests will tilt toward privatization....Daniel Barkley, coordinator of government information and microforms at the University of New Mexico and a former chairman of the Depository Library Council, said he thinks the balance between government and commercial publishers of federal information could tilt toward privatization. "I think it's pretty clear that Bush administration [officials have] the mind-set that anything the public sector can do, the private sector can do better," Barkley said. "It wouldn't surprise me if there was a stronger push for the privatization of information." But in Barkley's opinion, that would be a disservice to the public. Commercial publishers, he said, would selectively publish information that generates the most profits....Whatever happens during the next few years, NOAA's new policy is a welcome reversal of recent trends in government publishing, a former federal policy official said. Bruce McConnell, former chief of information policy and technology at OMB and now president of the consulting firm McConnell International, said the possibility of greater access to government information is important. "Under the guise of homeland security, a lot of government information has been taken off the Web," he said. "Now, NOAA is doing something different. This is a bright spot in a picture that's otherwise more mixed."'

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Applying the World Summit OA principles, esp. in Africa

H.E Adama Samassekou, Open Access for All: A Required Step Towards a Society of Shared Knowledge. A presentation at the 19th International CODATA Conference, The Information Society: New Horizons for Science (Berlin, November 7-10, 2004). Excerpt: 'Recommendation 28 of the [WSIS] Declaration of Principle is particularly significant: 28. We strive to promote universal access with equal opportunities for all to scientific knowledge and the creation and dissemination of scientific and technical information, including open access initiatives for scientific publishing.....It means that Open Access to scientific articles as well to raw data, shall be guaranteed to all, whenever the data and scientific information being disclosed in articles, as is very often the case, are the result of research works supported by public or philanthropic funds....It is clear that financially handicapped scientists, fighting for their intellectual survival, cannot and shall not accept to be considered as second class researchers, and to have free access only to six months old archives. More inclusive and innovating policies should and could be implemented....Open Access is an essential condition of an evolution towards a society of shared knowledge, and this is not a concern only of intellectual or philosophical nature, because the consequences of the current system are quite simply dramatic, even tragic....The current system, if it were to persist, would be some sort of a forced rent or toll on scientific information, and would constitute also in this way a forced contribution from all innovating entrepreneurs whose researchers are also freely donating the contents of their publications as members of the scientific community.' Samassekou is the President of the African Academy of Languages, President of the WSIS PrepCom of the Geneva Phase, and former Minister of Education of Mali. (Thanks to Francis Muguet.)

OA and academic stupidity

Roger Pollack, Mr Toad slightly endangered, Eclectica, January 10, 2005. Excerpt: 'Universities employ academic staff to carry out research. The academics write up their research in the form of articles which they hope will be published. If an academic has enough articles published they will be paid even more by their university. To get their articles published the academics must give their work (including the copyright) free of charge to commercial publishers. The publishers print and bind the articles neatly and then sell them back to university libraries. Yes, that's right, the universities are buying back the work of their own employees....[Publishers have] been doing very well out of academic stupidity. Perhaps the Internet and Open Access will start to give the taxpayers a better deal. It rather depends whether the Government can spare any time from its internal catfights to do some serious work to produce a more sensible system. I doubt if they will unless the Daily Mail starts writing some leaders on the subject.'