Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, December 23, 2005

Will funder mandates and author attitudes kill embargoes?

Kate Worlock, Wellcome Trust: The End Of The Embargo? EPS, December 22, 2005 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
OUP, Blackwell and Springer have changed their copyright agreements with authors to allow immediate self-archiving of Wellcome-funded research. What will agreements of this sort mean for publisher embargo periods?...To date, attempts to request rather than require researchers to self-archive have fallen on rather deaf ears, so moves like this from Wellcome will be welcomed by open access supporters. According to open access advocate Peter Suber, if all of the NIH-funded researchers complied with the request to deposit articles in PubMed Central, about 5,000 papers would be submitted each month. In reality, only 1,878 articles were deposited between May and September....From 1st October, Wellcome made it a condition of funding that papers emanating from its grant awards be placed in an open access repository. This reflects the Research Councils UK's (RCUK) draft position statement, issued in September 2005, which also made article deposit a condition of funding....Meanwhile the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US established a working group (PAWG) in May 2005 to review statistical evidence on the impact of its policy and suggest any changes to the policy which might further its goals...[A]t the group's November 15th meeting, it recommended that the researchers be required rather than requested to submit an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to PubMed Central, and that delays or embargoes imposed by publishers could be no longer than six months (down from 12 months)....Another element was recently added to this mix with Senator Joseph Lieberman's introduction of the CURES Act, a bill which would mandate the deposit of articles within four months of publication. There is evidence that authors do not always obey embargo periods - Key Perspectives' research found that of the eight primary research papers published in the first issue of Nature Physics, seven were available on the web on the day of publication despite a six month embargo. At present most publishers require embargo periods of between six and 12 months before an article may be placed in a repository, but these recent announcements, plus the reality of researchers' actions, will put pressure on this position. In the short term publishers may choose to shorten their embargo periods and to use this action as a bid to attract authors or to position themselves as forwards-thinking. However, this type of competition cannot last long - by the end of 2006 we may have witnessed the death of the embargo.

Geochemical Transactions -- starting over OA

Geochemical Transactions has had a troubled history. Four lackluster years hosted by the Royal Society of Chemistry led to a transfer to the American Institute of Physics. AIP opted out due to a continuing dearth of manuscript submissions over the last two years.

With volume 7, the editorial board is trying a new tact. The journal is moving to BioMed Central and adopting an author pays [UK pounds 800, Euros 1185, US$1410], Open Access publishing model. Officially the move is effective on 1 January 2006. An announcement of the purchase of all of the backfiles and an editorial on the new vision for the journal.

Martin A A Schoonen, Ken B Anderson and Scott A Wood. Moving Geochemical Transactions forward as an open access journal. Geochemical Transactions 2006, 7:1. doi:10.1186/1467-4866-7-1

Geochemical Transactions, the first online-only journal in geochemistry and environmental chemistry, is now the first major open access journal in this subject area. All issues of Geochemical Transactions, including the back content, will be fully and permanently available online to all, without a subscription charge. Copyright of all future articles will be retained by the authors. Geochemical Transactions remains the official journal of the Division of Geochemistry of the American Chemical Society. The generous support of the Division has made it possible to make the back content available without a subscription charge.
As the impact factor demonstrates, the content has been strong, even if the flow of articles has been meager. The journal has never received a noticeable push from the American Chemical Society. The Geochemistry Division of the American Chemical Society has done a poor job recruiting submissions from its own members, but perhaps, the journal has finally turned the corner.

OA science for lay readers will help fight ID

Mike Eisen, Fight Intelligent Design - Publish in PLoS! Open Science Blog, December 22, 2005. Excerpt:
Now that a federal judge in Pennsylvania has ruled that intelligent design has no place in the classroom, the scientists who rallied to defend evolution will return to academia happy that science has weathered yet another assault. But this battle will not be won in the courtroom. Antipathy toward evolution is the natural consequence of a growing gulf between the scientific community and the public. Until scientists close this gap, much of the public will continue to dismiss Darwin’s theories, and we risk losing the broad public support on which science depends. Rather than blame public ignorance, scientists must accept responsibility for this distressing trend. We go about our business rarely thinking of the public as an audience for, or interested party in, our work....I propose a simple solution. We should give the public access to the peer-reviewed scientific journals in which we publish our ideas and discoveries. It is certainly the right thing to do - afterall, the public paid for most of this research, they should be able to see what their tax dollars have produced. But does the public want to read these papers? I believe they do. Many non-scientists whose interest is piqued by science stories in the popular press would love to learn more about the research directly from scientists who carried it out. People facing medical decisions would love to read the most accurate and up to date information about diseases and their treatments. When they do, they will find that much of the scientific literature is surprisingly comprehensible to a lay audience (and much more will be once authors know the public may read their work). And anyone who reads these papers will be left with a better understanding of how science works, and why we believe the things we do....[Open-access journals] invite the public in, and [the public has] responded – downloading, reading and even blogging about scientific articles like never before. Simply by choosing to publish in open access journals, scientists can honor the importance of public access and engage the public directly in their work....We must ensure that hiring, grant review and tenure committees give heavy weight to efforts (or lack thereof) to engage the public. But more importantly, we all must ask ourselves if that Science or Nature citation is worth furthering the dangerous divide between science and the public? Non-scientists can help scientists engage as well. Next time you read about some cool new scientific advance, find the paper on which this story is based. If you can’t access it, email the authors and request a copy – and ask them why they didn’t make it available to you in the first place. You’ll be letting them know that the public is interested in what they do, and holding them accountable for their decisions. Maybe next time they will publish in a journal that reaches you.

(PS: Mike Eisen is one of the co-founders of PLoS, and this essay marks the launch of his blog. Welcome to the blogosphere, Mike!)

Connotea developer recognized

Ben Lund has just won the OneSource Young Achiever Award for his work on the development of Connotea for the Nature Publishing Group. The announcement also mentions that Ben "secured several thousands of pounds' worth of funding from the UK Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) to integrate Connotea functionality into EPrints, a software package for creating and managing institutional repositories."

German OA resources in psychology

Ulrich Herb, Open Access: Freier Zugang zu wissenschaftlichen Informationen, a preprint, self-archived December 15, 2005. A short (one-page) survey of German OA resources in psychology, especially the PsyDok repository.

Profile of the PLEIADI Project

Ugo Contino and three co-authors, PLEIADI, un portale per la letteratura scientifica "Open Access", Bollettino del Cilea, 99 (2005) pp. 11-16. Self-archived December 22, 2005. In Italian but with this English-language abstract:
The PLEIADI Project (acronym for "Portale per la Letteratura scientifica Elettronica Italiana su Archivi aperti e Depositi Istituzionali", a portal for Italian scholarly e-literature in open archives and institutional repositories) originated from the collaboration between two major Italian university consortia, CASPUR and CILEA, within the framework of the AEPIC project. PLEIADI aims at building a national platform that offers centralized access to the scholarly literature archived in Italian repositories.

OA helps respond to disasters

Edward J. Mills, Sharing evidence on humanitarian relief, BMJ, December 24, 2005. An editorial. Excerpt:
One year ago the Asian tsunami struck, resulting in the largest humanitarian efforts of our generation. This year's hurricane Katrina and earthquake in Kashmir also showed that both developed and developing nations are ill prepared for major disasters. Rapidly sharing relevant information from relief agencies and academic and non-government organisations (NGOs) at such critical times can make an important difference to tens of thousands of people....We must, therefore, consider how to create and disseminate evidence regarding humanitarian interventions. One absolute necessity is a publicly accessible, searchable, and comprehensive database on humanitarian disasters and approaches to relief. The lack of systematically documented or disseminated information leads to unnecessary duplication of efforts and ill informed decisions....Some relief databases are already accessible to the public and NGOs. The largest is Relief Web, established in 1996 by the United Nations, but it has been hindered by a lack of submissions from agencies and a reticence by academics to submit reports that may be under review at journals....Academics should submit their relevant manuscripts to databases such as Relief Web. Moreover, we urge journals to submit the full text of all of their public health related articles to Relief Web, a policy which BioMed Central, an open access publisher, has pioneered, and has recently been joined by PLoS Medicine.

Comment. Exactly right. But note that this is just a special case of a more general principle: the more knowledge matters, the more OA to that knowledge matters. Relief information is to disasters what general research literature is the whole range of human problems.

Google is changing medicine

Dean Giustini, How Google is changing medicine, BMJ, December 24, 2005. An editorial. Excerpt:
What a remarkable year it has been for those of us monitoring changes in the global information landscape. Since last Christmas, there has been a flurry of activity: the digitisation of the world's libraries began in earnest (despite the copyright fracas); open access publishing gained much-needed support internationally (especially in science and medicine); and Google, MSN Search, and Yahoo introduced a number of customisation tools for desktops and mobiles, podcasts, blogs, and video searches....For all the benefits technology provides, it does provoke anxiety. In a recent letter in the New England Journal of Medicine, a New York rheumatologist describes a scene at rounds where a professor asked the presenting fellow to explain how he arrived at his diagnosis. Matter of factly, the reply came: "I entered the salient features into Google, and [the diagnosis] popped right up." The attending doctor was taken aback by the Google diagnosis. "Are we physicians no longer needed? Is an observer who can accurately select the findings to be entered in a Google search all we need for a diagnosis to appear --as if by magic?" In a post-Google world, where evidence based education is headed is anyone's guess.5 Googling your diagnosis; Googling your treatment—where is all this leading us?...Google has won the battle of the search engines, at least for the time being (see example in table), and its more serious minded offspring, Google Scholar, is rapidly gaining ground. Within a year of its release Google Scholar has led more visitors to many biomedical journal websites than has PubMed (J Sack, personal communication, 2005)....As scientific societies and associations consider moving their journals to open access models, Google Scholar and Elsevier's Scirus will likely provide a reliable gateway to this information. The most useful feature to come out this year on Google Scholar is "cited by" referencing. This free tool links searchers to other scholarly papers that have cited the paper being viewed. Scholar also provides links to local library catalogues through its library link program and through an international database called WorldCat....Apparently, Google's data mining techniques are well suited to analysing gene sequences in the human genome project. It may even be possible for patients to "google their own genes" one day. But "do no evil" is a far cry from "do what's best for humanity." Google is still a business. However, if it wishes to do something for medicine, Google should consider creating a medical portal. Call it Google Medicine; design an interface with medical filters and better algorithms; lead to the best evidence (just don't forget to consult with librarians about where the evidence is located). This kind of all purpose tool is badly needed in medicine, particularly for developing countries.

(PS: How are search advances, from Google and others, changing your field?)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Herbert Van de Sompel honored by LACASIS

An item from today's issue of the LANL Research Library News:
The Los Angeles Chapter of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (LACASIS) has selected Herbert Van de Sompel as the winner of this year's LACASIS Contributions to Information Science. The award is presented to individuals who are recognized by their colleagues as exceptional leaders whose dedication, commitment and vision inspire others, or whose singular contribution to the field of information science has been particularly significant. In particular Van de Sompel is honored and recognized for his groundbreaking contributions in the areas of the Open URL Framework, the Open Archives Initiative and the URI schema. Past award winners include such eminent names as: Eugene Garfield, Jose-Marie Griffiths, Carlos Cuandra and Clifford Lynch.
(Congratulations, Herbert!)

More on the OA preprint repository in classics

Richard Poynder, OA as instrumental good, Open and Shut, December 22, 2005. An interview with Josiah Ober, the Princeton Professor of Classics who recently launched the Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics (PSWP). Excerpt:

Q: Which is the more important function of PSWP in your view: to enable authors to solicit comments prior to submitting articles to a journal, or to increase the visibility of research being done by the Princeton and Stanford departments of classics?

A: I regard soliciting comments as more important than publicity per se. I am perfectly happy to have the work of our two faculties receive extra attention, but that is not my main concern.

Q: Does the PSWP concept owe anything to the physics preprint server

A: I don’t know that server. My model in initially thinking through the site was social science Working Papers (WP) sites, in the first instance the WPs of the Princeton Economics Department....

Q: You maybe saw the comment made by OA advocate Peter Suber: "More OA is better than less, so I applaud this initiative. But I must say that a classics repository for all classicists would be more useful than one limited to faculty from two distinguished departments." Does he have a point?

A: Sure he does. Our initiative is constrained by two considerations: quality control and resources....

Q: Do you envisage classics departments from other universities being invited to deposit their papers at your site in future?

A: We have left that as an open question....The long-term answer might be for a professional association to become the primary site for hosting classics WPs....

Q: Suber also commented "[A]n OAI-compliant repository would be more useful than a non-compliant repository." Was there any particular reason why you chose not to adopt an open metadata harvesting standard when developing the site?

A: This is beyond my expertise level. Basically, we went with what looked to be the best cost/benefit approach, with the goal being to get a useable site up quickly, using existing resources....

Q: So is OA an inherently good thing for the humanities or just something that some researchers may find interesting to provide?

A: By calling something an inherent (rather than an instrumental) good, you set the bar pretty high. I tend to think of OA as an instrumental good, but it may be understood as an intrinsic aspect of inherent goods (freedom, democracy). Again, I don’t see why humanities would be a special case — if humanists are producing work that is of value to others, that value is increased by its accessibility. OA is in this sense an instrument for delivering something that may be of inherent value....

Q: Does OA provide benefits to researchers that were not possible historically? If so, what benefits?

A: It seems to me that it a case of making things of value (the results of scholarship) readily available to a very wide audience of researchers (professional and amateur), rather than restricting them to the privileged elite that happens to have access to great research libraries. Of course even those who do have access to major libraries may be encouraged to read more widely because the material is “right there” in front of them. So there is increased potential for cross-appropriation of ideas and facts....

Q: Finally, do you think that OA is "inevitable and optimal" as OA advocates often put it? If so, what are the compelling reasons for arguing that that is the case in the area of the humanities in general, and in classics in particular?

A: Inevitable is a strong word and one I tend to avoid when speaking of social phenomena, like politics, economics, or OA. I think that there will be strong pressure for more OA over time, as students and scholars become more and more used to doing their research online. Optimal must of course depend on implementation. So I’d say that OA is a very good bet, and stands to be a lot closer to optimal than any prior information regime I know of. Humanists, whose work can be made readily accessible across disciplinary lines (in a way that is more difficult for highly mathematical fields), are likely to benefit disproportionately from OA — and should, therefore, have every reason to support it.

Ukrainian Parliament makes OA a national priority

On December 1, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a resolution (in Ukrainian) identifying OA as a priority for the nation. Excerpt from Iryna Kuchma's summary (in English):
Ukrainian Parliament (Verhovna Rada) passed resolution On Recommendations of Parliamentary hearing on Developing information society in Ukraine (from 01.12.2005 -- 3175-IV) where open access is called one of the priorities in developing information society in Ukraine. In [Clause] 2 Developing informational infrastructure of this Resolution it is recommended for the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to create favorable conditions for developing open access repositories in archives, libraries, museums and other cultural institutions. In [Clause] 5 Creating accessible electronic information resources it is recommended for the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine to stir to activities on creating accessible national electronic information resources especially with scientific-technical and economical information; to develop model regulation on repository of electronic documents; and for the Ministry of education and science of Ukraine to speed up development of state program on ICT in education and science including the close on development of open access resources in science, technology and education with open access condition to state funded researches....Open Access is also one of the priorities in National strategy on developing information society in Ukraine introduced to Ukrainian Parliament by Parliamentary Committee on Science and Education. Open Access recommendations in Ukraine were first introduced by the participants of Open Access Scholarly Communication Workshop, February 17-19 2005, organized by International Renaissance Foundation, Open Society Institute, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, International Association of Academies of Sciences and National University Kyiv Mohyla Academy and supported by the British Council Ukraine.

Ethics of data sharing

J.E. Sieber, Ethics Of Sharing Scientific And Technological Data: A Heuristic For Coping With Complexity & Uncertainty, Data Science Journal, December 22, 2005.
Abstract: Data sharing poses complex ethical questions for data management. Manifold conflicting and shifting values need to be reconciled in pursuing viable data-management policies. For example, how does one make data available in useable form to stakeholders including scientists, governments and businesses worldwide, while assuring confidentiality, satisfying one's research ethics committee, protecting intellectual property and national security, and containing costs? Increasingly, ethical problem solving requires integration of ethics with technological "know how" and empirical research on the presenting problem. Each problem is highly contextual; broad application of general ethical principles such as always practice openness, or prepare all data for sharing, may have harmful unintended consequences. Chaos theory provides a heuristic or vision for understanding and coping with complexity and uncertainty. It does not provide answers to problems of data management, but frames the issues, and provides appropriate expectations and heuristics for considering data management problems.

Online textbooks, free and priced

Mark Chillingworth, Publishers face up to web's challenge to text books, Information World Review, December 21, 2005.
Academic and science, technical and medical (STM) publishers predict that the internet will dominate university text book delivery in the near future, but the book is not dead. Speaking at the Publishers Association International Division conference delegates from Macmillan and Wiley agreed on the increasingly important role the internet will play for text books. "The text book is transferring to online provision," said Dominic Knight, Palgrave Macmillan managing director in an interview with IWR. At the conference Knight described the text book market as "on the verge of radical change because of the growth of the internet". Jamie Marshall, associate publishing director at Palgrave Macmillan , the academic publishing company, said: "all educational material will be available online, and a lot of core material such as big textbook packages will be available only in an online form". Knight was keen to defend the traditional text book though, "It is not dead. Text books and online material could be bought [in a] range of different packages in the future." Marshall said it was highly likely that the e-book would emerge as a viable, inexpensive technology..., and pay-as-you-go content would develop. "With virtual learning environments being developed the universities are looking for material to be delivered in chapter sized chunks," Knight said of the changing information environment developing in universities. "There is increasingly a demand from students for 'slabs' of information - they are willing to pay - but only for that one bit of information," Marshall said. A challenge facing publishers and information professionals is the changing perception of information value. " Wikipedia for example may well become 'good enough' for students and that is a challenge we will have to look at closely," Knight said, adding" Students might well say that something which is free and does 80% of the job is OK, so they don't want to pay for 100%."

Comment. If students and faculty are willing to shift from print textbooks to online textbooks, then they will have removed the largest obstacle now holding down OA textbooks. Given two online textbooks of roughly equal quality, students and faculty will vastly prefer the OA book to the book shackled with copy restrictions, print restrictions, infrequent corrections, tethered to a single machine, and bound to expire, even apart from the price. Quality will always matter, but there will always be high-quality books on both sides of the price barrier.

Finding scholars to review OA web sites

Journals recruit book reviewers by handing out physical books. Will they have trouble recruiting reviewers of OA web sites? Michael Pakaluk reports that it may be a problem in a blog posting yesterday on Dissoi Blogoi. Excerpt:
BMCR [Bryn Mawr Classical Review] is passing its fifteenth birthday in these weeks and is settled in its ways of doing business. It remains a mild irony that this, the second-oldest electronic journal in the humanities, is devoted to disseminating information about the print medium. More than an irony, it is a puzzle to us that various efforts to bring digital resources within the purview of reviewership have fallen flat. Occasionally we succeed in placing a physical manifestation of a digital artifact with a reviewer (usually a CD publication), but despite having gone so far as to promote the establishment of BMERR (Bryn Mawr Electronic Resources Review), we have not sustained a community of practice around serious reviews of web-based publications. This is a concern for the scholarly world as a whole in two regards. First, there are more and more very high quality and quite serious scholarly works that appear in digital form; second, many observers and participants in the scholarly communication world argue strongly for Open Access publication -- that is to say, publication whose costs are defrayed in some way *other* than by user charges. A freely accessible web publication done to appropriate technical standards is the ideal in that regard, and we are pleased that BMCR has indeed followed that model for the electronic version (some of you remember that there was once also a print version) for all its history. But if it is true that reviewers are so strongly enticed by the prospect of a free book or a free CD that absent such an enticement they are unwilling to come forward, then we will soon be at an impasse, as more and more important material becomes available in a form unsusceptible to the enticement of reviewers.

E-Science technologies in the arts and humanities

The UK Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will fund "one or two small projects...that can be used to demonstrate the possibilities of the use of e-Science Technologies in the [arts and humanities]." The deadline for submitting proposals is February 16, 2006. For details see the EPSRC announcement (undated). (Thanks to Gabriel Bodard.)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Use of research articles in e-learning

JISC is inviting proposals "to undertake a study on the use of research content in e-learning". Proposals are due by January 27, 2006.

Forthcoming ERCIM News devoted to OA

The January issue of ERCIM News will be devoted to OA. It's not yet online, but Stevan Harnad has posted the TOC with permission:
  • Keith Jeffrey, Open Access: An Introduction
  • Stevan Harnad, Publish or Perish - Self-Archive to Flourish: The Green Route to Open Access
  • Jan Velterop, The Golden Route to Open Access
  • ERCIM Statement on Open Access
  • Renato Iannella, Managing Licenses in an Open Access Community
  • Rigo Wenning, W3C at the Forefront of Open Access
  • Wouter Mettrop, Cream of Science

Stevan has also self-archived his contribution: Publish or Perish — Self-Archive to Flourish: The Green Route to Open Access, ERCIM News, January 2006.

Abstract: The online-age practice of self-archiving has been shown to increase citation impact by a dramatic 50-250%, but so far only 15% of researchers are actually doing it. If a country invests R billion Euros in its research, this translates into the loss of 50% x 85% = 42.5% or close to R/2 billion Euros’ worth of potential citation impact simply for failing to self-archive it all. It is as if someone bought R billion Euros worth of batteries and lost 42.5% of their potential usage simply for failing to refrigerate them all before use. Europe is losing almost 50% of the potential return on its research investment until research funders and institutions mandate that all research findings must be made freely accessible to all would-be users, webwide.

Diamond continues at RCUK

The RCUK is still deliberating on the final form of its OA policy. Meantime, Ian Diamond was reelected as chair of the RCUK Executive Group.

I'm hoping this is a good sign. Diamond was chair when the RCUK released its excellent draft policy in June.

Dutch group coordinates open-source and open-content initiatives

The Holland Open Source Platform (HOSP) was launched last summer to coordinate open-source and open-content initiatives in the Netherlands. The web site is in Dutch, but you can find English-language details in Koen Vervloesem's article from yesterday's NewsForge. Excerpt:
Officially founded last summer, HOSP has the goal of bringing together all existing initiatives around open source software, open content, and open standards in the Netherlands. More specifically, HOSP has chosen these four goals: [1] Advocate open standards in information technology, promote open information processing, and stimulate open source software; [2] Look after the interests of organisations, corporations, persons, and communities that have this same goal; [3] Bring together diverse local and national initiatives and give them a forum for knowledge exchange; [4] Serve as contact point for similar initiatives in other countries....In its own initiatives, HOSP wants to stress the advantages of open information technology for the Dutch society. [Jo] Lahaye [Chairman of HOSP] says, "We will mainly focus on local knowledge acquisition of open software systems and development methods, and on digital durability of processed and stored information. Above all, we want to stress that information has to be transparent in education, science, and government."...[Lahaye also says:] "Currently other disciplines are adopting the practices of open source communities, as in open research, open education, and open content (Creative Commons). Powerful communities can arise here functioning as a motor for our knowledge economy. HOSP wants to facilitate the new business models needed for these communities or created by them and to spread knowledge about these innovations."

Some OA policy questions

Heather Morrison, Open Access and Policy Issues, a presentation at OAI4, or the CERN Workshop on Scholarly Innovations (Geneva, October 20-22, 2005).
Abstract: The CERN Workshop on Scholarly Innovations (OAI4) included about 30 participants from a variety of open access related backgrounds. Some were involved in institutional repositories at various stages, from mature repositories with mandated self-archiving policies to new or planned repositories. There was much interest in copyright issues, and the more experienced group members felt that the approach appreciated most by faculty was assistance in negotiating their rights with publishers, for example using the standard authors' addendum developed by SPARC U.S. Some participants were from the subject repository community (E-LIS, PubMed). Potential differences of viewpoint between the two approaches were identified, but seen as superficial differences which could be overcome. A representative from a funding agency suggested that the funding agency monies for open access charges could perhaps be leveraged to free up funds for non-funded researchers. The author concludes with an afterthought along these lines, that is, if publishers are receiving revenues from processing fees for funded researchers, subscription fees should decrease; these funds could then be diverted to a fund to pay for further processing fees.

MP Ed Vaizey grandstanding for local consumption

'1000 publishing jobs could go', Oxford Mail, December 21, 2005. An unsigned news story. Excerpt:
More than 1,000 Oxfordshire publishing jobs could be at risk if proposals to alter the way scientific journals are published become reality. Bosses at major Oxford employers, including Reed Elsevier, Oxford University Press and Blackwells, are alarmed at a move by Labour MP Ian Gibson to allow articles to be published by authors on the Internet instead of in specialist publications. Dr Gibson wants to break up what he sees as a cartel involving publishers charging high prices for an increasing number of publications which university libraries struggle to find the cash for. But speaking at a debate at Westminster, Wantage MP Ed Vaizey said the plan could have a massive impact on Oxfordshire-based publishers. And he warned it would have major implications for job security. He added: "To say the publishers charge too much is not an accurate assessment of the situation. "If academics pay to publish themselves online, then the money will still come out of university budgets. "Oxfordshire-based publishing is an export industry bringing in millions of pounds and providing employment for thousands of people. "And there are far more journals in university libraries than there were 10 years ago. "It would be absurd to destroy this with a headlong rush into an untried and untested model. "We should allow the publishing industry to change and adapt to this challenge." Reed Elsevier spokesman Catherine May said that if the "pay as you write" online model was adapted in favour of printed journals, there would be a major reduction in the quality of research available despite an explosion of quantity. She said: "We have peer review panels and only about 50 per cent of what is submitted is published -- it is a way of controlling quality.

Comment. No wonder this article is unsigned. It's a shameless string of misrepresentations. Eight quick comments: (1) Ian Gibson is not proposing OA distribution instead of publication in peer-reviewed journals. On the contrary, his proposal and the RCUK proposal --the two proposals under discussion at last week's Parliamentary debate on OA-- only apply to articles that are published in peer-reviewed journals. (2) Gibson is alarmed at high journal prices, but his proposal is to put a condition on publicly-funded research grants, not to regulate the publishing industry. (3) The possibility of "massive impact on Oxfordshire-based publishers" has never been backed by evidence --not by scholars in the literature and not by Vaizey in his speech in the House of Commons last week. (4) Vaizey's protest that "It would be absurd to destroy this [industry] with a headlong rush into an untried and untested model" makes a familiar cluster of mistakes. He falsely assumes that Gibson and the RCUK are proposing to mandate submission to OA journals when they are only proposing to mandate deposit in OA repositories. He falsely assumes that OA archiving is untried and untested. He assumes that OA archiving will destroy conventional publishing, when the best evidence to date, from physics where OA archiving is most widespread and longstanding, is that it has not cause any damage whatsoever. He falsely assumes that the Gibson and RCUK proposals are a "headlong rush" when in fact they are the results of an extensive inquiry conducted by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee. (5) In short, Vaizey says don't fix what isn't broken, when all independent observers agree that the current system of journal publication is dysfunctional and unsustainable. The citizens of Oxfordshire would be better served if the local press told the truth about publishing-sector problems and proposed solutions than to hear one more pep talk papering over the problems. (6) Catherine May brings in the myth that OA journals compromise on peer-review, when it has long been refuted and when the quality of OA journals isn't even relevant to the Gibson or RCUK proposals. (7) May also manages to hint that OA is about bypassing peer review, when as she well knows, it is about removing access barriers to peer-reviewed literature. (8) This is a case of a member of Parliament grandstanding for local consumption.

More on UNESCO's support for OA

Antonella De Robbio, Open Access all'UNESCO per un accesso universale alla conoscenza, Bibliotime, VIII, 3 (November 2005). In Italian, with no abstract. On UNESCO's draft resolution on OA and the Italian proposal to amend it.

SfogliaWeb and OA in Italy

Barbara Fiorentini, SfogliaWeb, un contributo alla promozione del modello Open Access in Italia, Bibliotime, VIII, 3 (November 2005). In Italian, but here's Google's English translation of the abstract:
To support of the spread of the open access philosophy and the main initiatives in course in Italy, it is present online, between the others, the situated SfogliaWeb, that it comes here shortly introduced. Dedicated to the search (bibliographical, webliografica and not only) in Internet, it is been born five years ago with the scope to promote the information on I use of the Net to scopes of study and search.

Libraries praise CURES Act

Five library groups have issued a press release applauding the CURES Act. Excerpt:
A coalition of national library associations, representing more than 80,000 information specialists, praised the introduction last week of legislation to establish the American Center for Cures within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The bill includes a provision that would help to make taxpayer-funded biomedical research available to all potential users – an important goal for the library groups....Among the requirements of the bill is the establishment of free public access to articles stemming from research funded by agencies of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), including NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Under the proposed legislation, articles published in a peer-reviewed journal would be required to be made publicly available within months via NIH's popular PubMed Central online digital archive. The groups note that although some final electronic manuscripts are made available now on PubMed, many are not—and delays in posting research on PubMed sometimes stall public access to important articles for up to a year. "Depriving researchers and members of the public of the findings of research funded by taxpayers is not only wrong, it can also slow down the discovery of new and improved treatment for diseases," said Miriam Nisbet, a spokesperson for the library coalition.

The coalition members are American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), American Library Association (ALA), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA).

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

ASPET's blend of immediate and delayed access

Rich Dodenhoff, ASPET Journals and Open Access, The Pharmacologist, December 2005 (scroll to p. 146). Excerpt:
At the Society for Neuroscience Meeting in November, I had the opportunity to talk with meeting attendees at the Society’s booth on Publishers’ Row. We were located next to BioMed Central, a publisher of many online author-pays open-access journals. From a few of the discussions I had, I realized that I need to do a better job of publicizing the fact that ASPET’s primary research journals are open access. [ASPET = American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.] This was explained in the June issue of The Pharmacologist, but it bears repeating. All manuscripts accepted for publication since July 2005 for JPET, Molecular Pharmacology, and Drug Metabolism and Disposition are freely accessible online. These “Fast Forward” online-ahead-of-print articles remain free after they are copyedited and formatted. The formatted version becomes free 12 months after publication in an issue, but the manuscript version is free immediately upon publication. This includes all articles—not just those funded by the NIH—so ASPET’s policy provides access exceeding that of the NIH. There are many variations on “open access” (OA), but the primary tenet of OA is that a work be freely accessible immediately upon publication. That is exactly what ASPET is doing for its primary research articles. We revised our copyright forms to allow authors to deposit NIH-funded research articles with PubMed Central. I encourage authors to do this. ASPET asks only that authors set the release date for their articles at 12 months. The NIH system will automatically calculate the actual calendar release date. It is based on publication data sent from the Society’s journals to PubMed. Authors just have to set the time interval. Although the NIH’s Enhanced Public Access Policy is voluntary, the low participation rate to date is fueling calls for mandatory deposits with short or immediate release of content. Why does ASPET ask for a 12-month release period at the NIH’s PubMed Central when articles are immediately available at the journal Web sites? It’s all about hits. Librarians demand, and get, detailed usage statistics for the journals to which they subscribe. If ASPET journal content is accessed at places other than the journal, hits go down, and there is less reason to maintain (or start) a subscription. Hits are also important to advertisers. Advertising income helps support ASPET’s publishing program. It isn’t a great deal of income currently, but it is more than the Society’s journals can afford to lose, and we are working to make it grow. Hits diverted to journal content at PubMed Central or anywhere else decrease our ability to attract and keep advertisers.

(PS: I covered this in the July SOAN but agree that it bears repeating. ASPET journals are the only ones I know that provide immediate free online access to the authors' peer-reviewed manuscripts and delayed free online access to the copy-edited versions.)

Update. My comment reflected limited knowledge and I'm glad to correct it. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) publishes four journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry, and uses the same two-tiered access policy: immediate free online access for peer-reviewed manuscripts and delayed access for the copy-edited versions. Details here. Thanks to John Hawley.

John Willinsky on the Access Principle

Scott Jaschik interviews John Willinsky in today's issue of Inside Higher Ed. The occasion is the appearance of John's new book, The Access Principle. Excerpt:

Q: Can you define “the access principle"?

A: The access principle holds that with a form of knowledge that is constituted as a public good, which is the case with research and scholarship, the knowledge should be circulated as widely and publicly as possible, especially as that wider circulation increases the value and quality of that knowledge. The Internet, as a new publishing medium, is proving itself capable of a considerable increase in access and circulation over print, and we are thus compelled to explore how this medium can contribute all that it can to this principle.

Q: Many publishers argue that journals and materials for which one must pay are somehow by definition of higher quality than various open models. How do you respond?

A: The empirical evidence argues otherwise: For example, the Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology, a relatively new open access journal that operates on author fees, has the highest “impact factor” (number of times articles are cited) by a considerable margin among biology journals indexed by the ISI Web of Science. But that is only part of the quality story. The majority of journals now allow their authors to “self archive” their published articles in open access institutional repositories (usually located in the author’s university library). But note that in all cases, someone pays, though it is not necessarily the reader, and these alternatives are greatly increasing access to this knowledge.

Q: What economic models could allow those who publish journals to embrace the access principle? How can costs be covered?

A: First, there are now open access approaches that call for no change to the current financial models that most journals follow: There are journals, as I noted, whose policies permit authors to self-archive the final version in their library or on their Web site, while other journals grant open access six months or more after the initial publication of their otherwise subscription-controlled content. Then, too, there are new economic models for open access publishing based on the reduced costs afforded by online systems, which is where my Public Knowledge Project comes in, with its open source software (Open Journal Systems) for managing and publishing journals that significantly reduces costs. As societies and publishers move to online editions, and away from print — in the face of libraries canceling print editions when they have a choice — the reduced publishing costs can enable forms of open access, through author fees, society subsidies and institutional support. I would add that there can be no sense of fixed costs that need to be met in scholarly publishing as long as journal subscription prices range, as they currently do, from hundreds of dollars to, in at least one case, over $20,000. [...]

Q: How do you think scholarly publishing will be different five years from now?

A: The scholarly publishing of journals will move increasingly online, with print editions eventually disappearing, and, and thanks to the efforts of open access advocates, this move will lead to a far greater proportion of the literature available through some form of open access, in what can only be called a mixed knowledge economy. The resulting increase in global and public access may well prove to be the best thing that has happened to research and scholarship in some time.

Google's new newsletter for librarians

The inaugural issue of Google's Newsletter for Librarians is now online. Excerpt:
This introductory issue features an article written to address one of the most frequent questions we've heard from librarians: How does Google index the web, and, more important, how does it rank the results? Matt Cutts, an engineer in our Quality group, explains the basics of indexing and sheds some light on some of the algorithms we use to determine where a site should appear on results pages. He also suggests exercises school librarians can do to help students better understand how Google works. But this newsletter wouldn't be much of a conversation if it were written solely by folks at Google. Future issues will feature articles contributed by librarians and library supporters, links to library-related web sites, and updates on Google products and services that can help you in your work. We invite you to send us your thoughts: your questions about Google, your suggestions for articles, and your stories of how librarians use and keep up with technology on the job. We'll do our best to use your feedback to make each issue more relevant and useful to the library community.

Lund signs Self-Archiving Policy Register

Lund University has signed the Institutional Self-Archiving Policy Register, the first Swedish institution to do so.

Will open-source commitment lead to open-access commitment?

Seven universities, four corporations, and one foundation announced a breakthrough plan yesterday "to accelerate collaborative research for open source software". From the press release (December 19):
Specifically, the companies and universities agreed: [1] That intellectual property arising from selected research collaborations will be made available free of charge for commercial and academic use. [2] To an established set of guidelines that address the rights of the participants and the public. These twelve enterprises believe the principles will accelerate innovation and contribute to open source software research across a breadth of initiatives, thus enabling the development of related industry standards and greater interoperability, while managing intellectual property in a more balanced manner....Pervasive acceptance of the open collaboration principles by other universities and the IT industry, as well as the development of guiding principles for other research agreements remains at the core of the Summit team's continuing agenda. The goal is to shorten the time from the first spark, or idea, to the commencement of research on that idea. Summit participants developing and adopting these principles include the Kauffman Foundation, Carnegie Mellon University (Penn.), Georgia Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (N.Y.), Stanford University (Calif.), University of California at Berkeley, University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign, The University of Texas at Austin, Cisco, HP, IBM and Intel. Additional collaborators include the National Science Foundation, the Office of U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman and the National Academies' Government University Industry Research Roundtable (GUIRR).

Comment. This is about open-source software, not open-access to research literature or data. But there are so many principles common to the two that the universities in the OS pact should be ready to adopt similar policies on OA, such as requiring or encouraging their faculty to deposit postprints of their published journal articles in an OA institutional repository.

Update. Here's a nice nugget from Steve Lohr's story about the agreement in yesterday's New York Times.

"This a great start to addressing the problem," said Peter A. Freeman, assistant director for computer and information science and engineering at the National Science Foundation. "It's a recognition by both sides that for precompetitive research, 'It's the science, stupid.' It's not the intellectual property."

More on GICS

Shuichi Iwata, Opening Remarks at the CODATA Session 1 within the Eighth Plenary Session of the World Summit on the Information Society, November 18, 2005. Iwata is the President of CODATA. Excerpt:
At the first WSIS meeting in Geneva in December 2003, 175 countries adopted a landmark Declaration of Principles and Plan of Action....Article 10 of the Agenda for Action recognizes the importance of “Access to Information and Knowledge,” and Article 23 recognizes the important role of “e-Science.” Many actors and organizations within the scientific community already are engaged in activities that address these issues, in particular the importance of widespread access to scientific data and information. However, there is a growing perception of the need to coordinate and integrate these efforts. With this in mind, CODATA consulted extensively during the past year with the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Council of Scientific and Technical Information (ICSTI), the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP), the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), the Science Commons, UNESCO, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), CERN, and scientists and scholars from around the world.

Earlier this week, we held a special event at a WSIS Satellite Event here in Tunis to launch a new initiative to create the Global Information Commons for Science. The Global Information Commons for Science Initiative is a multi-stakeholder undertaking with the following goals: (1) Improved understanding and increased awareness of the societal benefits of easier access to and use of scientific data and information, particularly those resulting from publicly funded research activities; (2) Wider adoption of successful methods and models for providing open availability on a sustainable basis and facilitating reuse of publicly-funded scientific data and information, as well as cooperative sharing of research materials and tools among researchers; and (3) Encouragement and coordination of the efforts of the many stakeholders in the world’s diverse scientific community who are engaged in efforts to devise and implement effective means to achieve these objectives, with particular attention to data and knowledge transfer from haves to not-haves, e.g., next generations, non-experts, developing countries. The Initiative will not duplicate existing efforts . Rather, it will provide a shared global platform to supplement and support members’ work on existing initiatives. To become a partner, organizations will need to make a commitment to undertake one or more activities that contribute to the stated goals.

Abstracts of the other presentations at the CODATA session are now online.

Podcast interview with Brewster Kahle on the OCA

Matt Pasiewicz interviews Brewster Kahle in a 33 minute podcast released on December 8. The interview covers the Internet Archive and Open Content Alliance.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Southern Africa needs OA repositories

Subbiah Arunachalam, Open access is the way forward in southern Africa, SciDev.Net, December 15, 2005. A letter to the editor.
Adopting a regional approach to science (and higher education) in Southern Africa (see 'Southern Africa adopts a regional approach to science') is a very good initiative. May I suggest that this initiative start with the major higher educational and research institutions in these countries setting up interoperable open access archives thus enabling researchers in these countries to share their research findings freely at very low cost? If they need help, it is readily available from the University of Southampton. They provide the necessary eprints software absolutely free. Among the institutions that support open access wholeheartedly are the Welcome Trust, US National Institutes of Health, CERN, Indian Institute of Science, the Open Society Institute, and of course Southampton University.

January issue of Cites & Insights

The January 2006 issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online. This issue has a section on OCA and GLP Redux covering etexts and ebooks, Project Gutenberg, and the Google Library Project, especially the controversy over its its fair-use claim. Another section explicates Marjorie Heins and Tricia Beckle's new report for the Free Expression Project, Will fair use survive?

Preprint repository for two university classics departments

Princeton and Stanford have launched Princeton/Stanford Working Papers in Classics, an OA preprint repository. However, deposits are limited to faculty from the two universities and there's no sign that it's OAI-compliant. (Thanks to Josiah Ober via LibLicense.)

Comment. More OA is better than less, so I applaud this initiative. But I must say that a classics repository for all classicists would be more useful than one limited to faculty from two distinguished departments. Moreover, a repository for both preprints and postprints would be more useful than a repository for preprints alone. Finally, an OAI-compliant repository would be more useful than a non-compliant repository.

Accessible knowledge is indispensable for development

David Dickson, European leaders endorse role of science in Africa, SciDev.Net, December 19, 2005. Excerpt:
The leaders of European Union (EU) member states have endorsed a statement calling for the recognition of scientific and technological knowledge as "indispensable" to sustainable development in Africa....And they have suggested that creating advanced communications networks linking national research and education institutions could overcome the "inadequacies" of the market in building cost-effective communications solutions within developing countries.

Comment. If the EU recommendations are to have practical impact, then the new communications infrastructure must include interoperable OA repositories and policies to fill them. To say that knowledge is indispensable for development is really ellipitical for saying that accessible knowledge is indispensable for development.

Editorial endorses DC Principles proposal but misses the point

To your e-health, Chicago Tribune, December 19, 2005. An unsigned editorial.
The National Institutes of Health reports that the number of visitors to PubMed Central, its online database, has soared. Lots of people are turning to medical Web sites for information about their health. Some of what you find at PubMed Central has a limited audience. The folks who turn to Oprah for their health news probably will resist browsing through "Annals of Clinical Microbiology and Antimicrobials, Vols. 1 to 4, 2002 to 2005." But it's there, all there, just in case you want it. And there's plenty of information on arthritis research, cancer research, dermatology research--health issues that do have big and broad audiences. Many people want the National Institutes of Health to release more government-funded research, and to release it more quickly. In response, NIH has created an online collection of peer-reviewed, NIH-sponsored scientific research. This, however, has alarmed the competition: not-for-profit publishers of prestigious journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine and The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The scholarly publications feel a threat to their bottom line. Like many information outlets, including newspapers, they are struggling to figure out how to turn online publishing into an economically sustainable model. Online competition from the government doesn't help. The private, not-for-profit journals offer articles that undergo more review and copy editing than those published on the NIH Web site. The additional scrutiny provides more safeguards against misleading the public about the extent and the promise of new cures and treatments. One way or another, pressure to put more breakthrough research on the Internet is bound to grow. One group of 68 not-for-profit medical and scientific publishers, which calls itself the DC Principles Coalition [DCPC], urges that the NIH Web site offer links to its members' Web sites. Makes sense. But Dr. Elias Zerhouni, the NIH director, has cast doubt on his agency's ability to interface effectively with the archives on the medical journals' Web sites. That sounds more like a failure of imagination than a failure of technical ability. It would serve the public well for NIH officials to cooperate with the broader scientific community on this. The potential of online publishing is too great to ignore, especially when questions of health hang in the balance.

Comment. The Tribune has been misled. The NIH already links to publisher versions of articles deposited in PMC under the NIH public-access policy. The DCPC wants the NIH to link to publisher copies instead of, rather than in addition to, hosting its own free online copies, a proposal that would reduce rather increase the likelihood of permanent free online access to publicly-funded research. Moreover, the NIH is already "cooperat[ing] with the broader scientific community" on access issues. The Tribune has mistaken the interests of working scientists for the interests of publishers. The Tribune has also bought the publishers' line that the NIH is "competing" with private-sector publishers, when in fact it is providing taxpayers with access to research for which they have already paid. The publishers are not asking for a free market, but for government protection to be the sole distributors of publicly-funded research. Finally, the Tribune has forgotten that the mission of the NIH is to advance research and healthcare in the US, not to protect publishers at the expense of research and healthcare. The increased traffic the editorial cites in its opening paragraph is proof that the NIH public-access policy is serving a public need.

Upcoming launch of Digital Universe, a peer-reviewed OA encyclopedia

Daniel Terdiman, Wikipedia alternative aims to be 'PBS of the Web', ZDNet, December 19, 2005. Excerpt:
A new online information service launching in early 2006 aims to build on the model of free online encyclopedia Wikipedia by inviting acknowledged experts in a range of subjects to review material contributed by the general public. Called Digital Universe, the project is the brainchild of, among others, USWeb founder Joe Firmage and Larry Sanger, one of Wikipedia's earliest creators. By providing a service they're calling "the PBS of the Web," the Digital Universe team hopes to create a new era of free and open access to wide swaths of information on virtually any topic. "The vision of the Digital Universe is to essentially provide an ad-free alternative to the likes of AOL and Yahoo on the Internet," said Firmage. "Instead of building it through Web robots, we're building it through a web of experts at hundreds of institutions throughout the world." Their idea is particularly timely given recent questions about Wikipedia's accuracy and credibility. A frequently raised criticism of the constantly growing repository of information has been that the millions of articles created by a worldwide community of contributors are not verified by experts. Of course, that has always been Wikipedia's modus operandi--that its articles are written and vetted by its community, not by an elite corps of Ph.D.s. Yet there are some who feel that while the site has a satisfying populist appeal, and may be on par with the Encyclopedia Britannica when it comes to accuracy, it still suffers from a lack of true accountability. By including articles that have been approved by experts, Digital Universe will have such reliability, its founders say....While the Digital Universe will be free to anyone, it has a business model, Firmage said. The idea is that it will partner with nonprofit organizations including NASA, the American Museum of Natural History and U.C. Berkeley and sell Digital Universe-branded Internet service to their members. He said subscribers would pay no more than what they currently pay for Internet service, and would get the benefit of knowing that some of their fees are going to supporting the organizations, as well as the Digital Universe itself....[W]hen Digital Universe launches in January, [it will have] about a dozen subject-area portals, Firmage said, but will add a new portal every two to three weeks. According to Firmage, experts, many of whom have already been lined up, will be paid to work part-time vetting articles. The initial funding will come from $10 million raised over the last three years from angel investors and others. To Sanger, the experts will want to be involved in the project because of its vision of being "a free, nonprofit and authoritative information resource (that has) never before been tried." Some of those involved agree. "It will be the first Web-based information resource that combines the trustworthiness and authority of scientific review and governance with the power of Web-based collaboration, all enabled by a state-of-the-art technology platform," wrote three Ph.D.s, Cutler Cleveland, Jim Lester and Peter Saundry, the chair and vice chairs, respectively, of the project's Environmental Information Coalition. "As such, the (Digital Universe)," they wrote in an open letter [November 8, 2005], "will be a direct conduit of objective information from scientists and educators to decision makers and civil society at large."

Mandating OA to ETDs

Arthur Sale, The impact of mandatory policies on ETD acquisition, a preprint, self-archived November 16, 2005. (Thanks to Charles Bailey's Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog.)
Abstract: This paper analyzes the data now available in Australia's coordinated Electronic Theses and Dissertations gateway to show the impact of high-level institutional policy decisions on population of the individual repositories. The paper shows that just like research article repositories, voluntary ETD deposition results in repositories collecting only about 15% of the available theses, whereas mandatory policies are well accepted and cause deposit rates to rise towards 100%. Modeling of the PhD and Master process in Australia is also carried out to indicate the delays and liabilities to be expected if mandatory policies are applied only to newly enrolled candidates.

Elsevier collaborating with PubChem

PubChem will soon include chemical structures from Elsevier's xPharm database. From Elsevier's press release (December 19, 2005):
Elsevier MDL today announced an agreement with the National Institute of Health (NIH) to contribute to the NIH effort to catalog information on the biological properties of small molecules in its freely available PubChem database. Elsevier MDL will enrich the growing PubChem resource for the scientific community by furnishing chemical structures from Elsevier’s xPharm database, giving scientists with an xPharm license the ability to move from biological data in PubChem to more focused pharmacology data in xPharm that is essential to drug research. “Elsevier MDL is pleased to collaborate with the NIH to give commercial, academic and governmental researchers broader access to vital research information,” said Elsevier MDL CEO Lars Barfod. “xPharm provides its licensed customers an ideal set of compounds for medicinal chemists, biologists, pharmacologists and other researchers to determine starting points for pharmacological research. The addition of xPharm chemical structures makes PubChem an even more valuable resource, allowing researchers who have licensed xPharm to link from chemistry and biology data in PubChem to authoritative pharmacology data and associated target and disorder data.”...The contribution of xPharm structures marks the first step in Elsevier MDL’s efforts to support the NIH Roadmap initiative. Elsevier MDL and NIH plan additional collaboration related to the PubChem database in the future.

Comment. Of course, PubChem is OA and xPharm is not. Elsevier is not giving away its priced content, just making life easier for paying customers who want to explore connections between xPharm data and PubChem data. It's removing interoperability barriers, not price barriers. This is a model for the American Chemical Society which, so far, seems unwilling to let PubChem coexist with the ACS' Chemical Abstracts Service.

UK renews ScienceDirect

The UK has signed a new two-year national license for ScienceDirect. Details in today's press release.

Report from the IRRA project

Leslie Carr and John MacColl, IRRA RAE Software for Institutional Repositories, IRRA, December 19, 2005. A white paper from the IRRA project (Institutional Repositories and Research Assessment) on the UK RAE (Research Assessment Exercise). Excerpt:
RAE 2008 is the latest UK research assessment exercise designed to inform the selective distribution of public funds for research by the UK's higher education funding bodies. Like previous exercises, RAE 2008 will be based upon expert review by discipline-based panels considering written submission from participating institutions. It is managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on behalf of all UK HE Funding Councils....The aim of the IRRA project is to ease the [RAE] data collection task by embedding it into the processes of the institutional repository. Most UK universities engaged in significant amounts of research now either have an institutional repository, or are actively planning to introduce one. Our Project has identified two types of institutional repository which are being created in response to institutional policies on research publications: (a) Repositories which act as comprehensive research publication repositories (therefore accommodating a mix of metadata-only and metadata+full-text items), (b) Repositories which act as open access research publication repositories, holding metadata+full-text items only. IRRA will provide solutions for both types. In the case of type (a), the repository should hold all of the researchers' publications, and should be updated as a matter of course. In such an environment, the researcher need only make a simple form-based selection to have their submission passed on to their academic administrator. In trials at the University of Southampton, where the use of a repository is accepted, this has radically reduced the effort required by (and complaints from) the researchers and lecturers. Project IRRA will build on this trial work, which resulted in Southampton's repository being extended with functionality that permits its use for research quality assessment...In the case of type (b), IRRA will provide a web application which will interface with the open access institutional repository, but will permit the loading of records both directly and by import from other systems (such as a separate publications repository). This solution will also be the sole solution for DSpace sites, since the DSpace software makes type (a) repositories more difficult to achieve (the software assumes metadata+full-text deposits). The project therefore aims to produce a plug-in for the GNU EPrints platform and a separate web application for DSpace designed as a tool to create an institutional RAE publications repository. Both of these software products will interoperate with the many Research Management systems which are being developed by UK universities to cater, amongst other things, for the non-research outputs data required by RAE2008....The final versions of IRRA RAE software products for DSpace and GNU Eprints will be available in summer 2006 (earlier development releases will be available from January 2006). Workshops will also be run across the UK to train institutions in use of IRRA software in the summer 2006.

Attitudes toward OA archiving differ by discipline

James Allen, Interdisciplinary differences in attitudes towards deposit in institutional repositories, a Masters thesis for the Department of Information and Communications, Manchester Metropolitan University, 2005. Self-archived December 16, 2005.
Abstract: The attitudes and behaviours of academics from different disciplines towards depositing their work in institutional repositories are compared. This is achieved through the use of a survey strategy, and by examination of the contents of a twenty-five UK institutional repositories. The survey targets humanities academics, and the data is compared to that from previous surveys focusing on scientific, technical and medical (STM) disciplines. The number of humanities documents in institutional repositories is currently far lower than that in STM disciplines. Awareness of Open Access amongst humanities academics is also low. However they perceive many advantages to depositing their work in institutional repositories, especially for the reader, not for themselves. Around two-thirds of respondents would deposit work in institutional repositories, despite having several concerns. Those who would not deposit work in this way perceive the same disadvantages: potential for plagiarism, the apprehension of interfering with publishing their work elsewhere, and the fragility of online means of dissemination. Increased depositing in institutional repositories in the future depends on encouraging authors of the advantages of doing so, not only to others but also to themselves. At this early stage of development understanding the attitudes of academics in different disciplines is crucial.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Volunteers to digitize public-domain books for OA

Would you volunteer to digitize public-domain books for open access? Help work out the details on the Distributed Scanners discussion list. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.) From the list description:
In the current incarnation of the idea (subject to change over time as we gain understanding) volunteers at scanning “stations” around the country will scan public domain books, at suitable archival quality (to be determined), probably using color-calibration. The resulting scans will be qc’d by volunteers using an online volunteer system, cleaned up (e.g., deskewed, cropped, color corrected, despeckled, etc.) using both automated tools and online volunteers. In addition, MARC or similar metadata records will be generated using volunteer librarians to assist with the process. Copyright clearance certificates could also be issued, using trained online volunteers. The scans of certified public domain works would be donated to the Internet Archive (and/or OCA), and may also be archived on other servers including our own....The inspiration for DistScan comes from Distributed Proofreaders (DP), where proofing of already scanned books is done by volunteers all over the world, using a web interface. We believe a lot of the work as described above, other than the scanning itself, can be similarly done via online tools and collaboration. It is also a given that there’s lots of scanning equipment, owned both by individuals and many institutions, that could be leveraged....There are, of course, difficulties and uncertainties in this idea. For example, how does it relate to other scanning projects already going on, such as those managed by the Internet Archive (OCA)? Where and by whom is the scanning done? How do we assure adequate quality control? 501(c)3 status? No doubt there are several other difficulties, not yet identified, that will also need to be addressed.

Can copyright be neutral on OA and other modes of authorship?

Tim Wu of Columbia Law School has launched the draft of a new article, Copyright and New Modes of Authorship, open to group editing on WikiLaw.
Thesis: Over the last decade, the success of projects like Wikipedia, open access science journals, and open source programming projects have broadly suggested the existence of a variety of successful modes of authorship. Both open and closed authorship models have successfully led to the creation of socially valuable works. But what does that mean for copyright's central project of promoting authorship? Is copyright helping projects like Wikipedia, or just getting in the way? The thesis of this paper is that copyright should strive for the neutral promotion of competing modes of authorship. But what does such neutrality mean in practice? Some argue that the copyright law might be simply an impediment to authorship. However, the thesis of this paper is different. It argues that some manner of enforceable rights remain useful and probably essential for promoting a broad array of modes of production of expressive works. Yet it is also true, on the flip side, that if copyright favors one mode of authorship too strongly, it may inhibit other modes.

Indexing OAN

Heather Morrison's idea from OA Librarian yesterday:
Here is an idea for an OA project which I would love to see an LIS student take on: create an index to Open Access News. This could be a popular tool! There is a lot of content there - perhaps this would be more suitable for group work?

Comment. Good idea, and I'll cooperate with anyone undertaking it. But if I may, here's an even better idea. Help me find a free or donated search engine better than the one I'm using now. I use the WebSideStory (formerly Atomz) free engine, which doesn't support Boolean searches or date filters. See it on the blog sidebar or here. I've priced the WebSideStory premium engine and let's just say that it's out of my league.