Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Measuring the access/download pattern for OA articles

Philipp Mayr, Constructing experimental indicators for Open Access documents. A preprint forthcoming in the Research Evaluation special issue on 'Web indicators for Innovation Systems', 14, (2006).
Abstract: The ongoing paradigm change in the scholarly publication system (‘science is turning to e-science’) makes it necessary to construct alternative evaluation criteria/metrics which appropriately take into account the unique characteristics of electronic publications and other research output in digital formats. Today, major parts of scholarly Open Access (OA) publications and the self-archiving area are not well covered in the traditional citation and indexing databases. The growing share and importance of freely accessible research output demands new approaches/metrics for measuring and for evaluating of these new types of scientific publications. In this paper we propose a simple quantitative method which establishes indicators by measuring the access/download pattern of OA documents and other web entities of a single web server. The experimental indicators (search engine, backlink and direct access indicator) are constructed based on standard local web usage data. This new type of web-based indicator is developed to model the specific demand for better study/evaluation of the accessibility, visibility and interlinking of open accessible documents. We conclude that e-science will need new stable e-indicators.

Update. This article is also self-archived at E-LIS.

April issue of Against the Grain

The April issue of Against the Grain is now out. There are several OA-related articles in the issue, but only one is itself OA (by Tony Ferguson on institutional repositories) and for me, so far, its link isn't working.

"Open Access is bringing great benefits to the academic world"

Emma McCulloch, Taking Stock of Open Access: Progress and Issues, forthcoming from Library Review, 55, 6 (2006). Self-archived May 12, 2006.
Abstract: Purpose – Aims to provide a broad overview of some of the issues emerging from the growth in Open Access publishing, with specific reference to the use of repositories and Open Access journals.
Design/methodology/approach – A viewpoint paper largely based on specific experience with institutional repositories and the internationally run E-LIS archive.
Findings – The Open Access Initiative is dramatically transforming the process of scholarly communication bringing great benefits to the academic world with an, as yet, uncertain outcome for commercial publishers.
Practical implications – Outlines the benefits of the Open Access movement with reference to repositories and Open Access journals, to authors and readers alike, and gives some food for thought on potential barriers to the complete permeation of the Open Access model, such as copyright restrictions and version control issues. Some illustrative examples of country-specific initiatives and the international E-LIS venture are given.
Originality/value – An attempt to introduce general theories and practical implications of the Open Access movement to those largely unfamiliar with the movement.

The state of OA today

Dorothea Salo, How are we doing? Caveat Lector, May 12, 2006. Excerpt:

I’m probably the wrong person to ask whether open access will fly. Still --I think the world will change in our direction. Utopia, certainly not. An entirely open-access landscape, certainly not. A world where many more people have unfettered access to much more research and scholarship --yes. I think we’ll get there. Here’s why I think that.

We have the (largely US- and Europe-based) for-profit publishers, who hate and fear open access to the point of telling flat-out lies about it. We have librarians and a few visionary researchers, who want it desperately. And we have the slumbering behemoth, the vast quantity of researchers who don’t understand the system and don’t care, but will do what they are told and act in what they perceive to be their self-interest.

The for-profit publishers are fighting on a lot of fronts right now --too many. Too much legislation and other government action in too many countries. Sure, they’ve stopped some of it; they gutted the NIH proposal. But they have to win every single fight to maintain their position without ceding anything. They can’t. This isn’t going away. Even some of their wins are turning out rather Pyrrhic --the NIH victory was a dagger in the heart of open-access policy based on voluntary action by researchers.

One big legislative win in a developed country will blow this wide open, I firmly believe. I can’t predict when that win will happen, because that’s like predicting lightning --but I’d be honestly shocked to see nothing pass in the US or Western Europe within ten years. The big publishers simply aren’t an important enough lobby to stop it --especially when the arguments (and, to be blunt, the lies) they choose are so pitifully transparent much of the time. Nor does it help the publishers when developing nations climb on the open-access bandwagon (as they are, speedily); arguing against it paints publishers in a dreadful light indeed....

Slowly but surely, the environment is changing in an open-access direction. That’s what I see. I don’t see what can stop it. And as the environment changes, more and more researchers will make independent self-interest-based decisions to play along.

Despite our internal squabbles and frustrations --even our occasional moments of despair-- the ranks of pro-open-access librarians and researchers are growing. Even just since I started my job, which I’ve been in for less than a year, I hear more voices than I did, more inquiries, more interest. I see more experiments, more projects happening in parallel, more public statements drawing lines in the sand. This suggests to me that we’re not building air-castles here; we’re starting to envision and build the infrastructure that the changed system will require.

Our biggest stumbling-block, we both say and are told, is the slumbering behemoth: the researchers. Frankly, I think their absence from the struggle is a neutral or even slightly hopeful sign. If the slumbering behemoth were violently opposed to open access, we’d have an insuperable problem. If the slumbering behemoth had ranged itself behind the publishers, we’d be outright dead in the water.  But the slumbering behemoth slumbers on, letting us change its sleeping-space behind the scenes. The publishers daren’t disturb it --for example, by aggressively hunting down e-reserves programs or institutional repositories-- for fear that it will turn on them when it wakes. Sure, the behemoth isn’t using its current power (and it has quite a lot, in the form of unremunerated labor) to force change, nor is it actively changing. It won’t use its power to resist change, either, and I do think that may just be good enough, the way the world is moving....

Comment. Like Dorothea's Wednesday post on gatekeeping, this one was hard to excerpt; it's all so good. My reading agrees with hers. Any candid and comprehensive look at the landscape gives OA proponents grounds for hope. We have a large number of small successes, a small number of large successes, good prospects for more, good momentum, good technology, good policy arguments, good answers to the objections, and good people working hard worldwide to build the OA infrastructure. OA is far from the default today for scholarly communication, but it will be.

How Elsevier adds value

Alex Lankester, The Value of Publishers, Library Connect Newsletter, April 2006 (scroll to p. 4). (Thanks to William Walsh.) Lankester is a Global Marketing Manager for Elsevier. Excerpt:
At a meeting of the British Computer Society Electronic Publishing Specialist Group, the motivation for authors to get published and be seen in particular journals was described [by Stevan Harnad] as being primarily to “reach the eyes of their colleagues.” Here the publisher has a role to play not just in ensuring a fast and efficient publication process and maintaining a journal’s reputation but also in dissemination, ensuring findings are rapidly accessible to the research community....

Publishers in the electronic era are the guardians of content, guaranteeing 24/7 access to articles today and into the future. Elsevier’s investment in ScienceDirect, offering 25% of the world’s STM full-text scholarly articles and seeing 36 full-text article downloads per second on a typical workday, has been substantial. Such a service is no small feat to maintain....

As well as delivering the latest research findings to users in the most immediate way, through online publishing and value-added services such as personalized alerts, publishers today must ensure these findings are forever accessible....

Today’s learned journal publishers are serving as much more than a traditional vehicle by which research findings are published. Today’s publishers are making a huge contribution to the ways and means in which content is delivered to research communities. If a publisher is innovative, invests in development of content technologies and is a leader in cross-industry initiatives, the value added is immense. In such a context the publisher and researcher community benefit from a mutually reinforcing relationship — expanding knowledge and increasing access to it.

Comment. I've always acknowledged that publishers add value, and even praised Elsevier (at some cost among my colleagues) for its green policy and experiment in free online access. But some of Lankester's claims are clear and ironic exaggerations. It's ironic that Elsevier would boast about making research "rapidly accessible" in "the most immediate way" and "increasing access" to it when, by these measures, open access is superior to toll access. If Lankester meant that, and intended to boast about Elsevier's green policy, she forgot to mention it. It's ironic that she would invoke Stevan Harnad's criterion for meeting author needs and then fail to show that Elsevier fulfills it as well as the OA that Harnad clearly had in mind. It's ironic to boast about ScienceDirect when evidence shows that customer satisfaction with it has been declining for years. It's ironic to boast that Elsevier helps make content "forever accessible" when long-term preservation requires making copies to migrate content to new formats and media to keep it readable as technology changes --something permitted by OA but blocked by the Elsevier licensing agreement. Finally, it's ironic that Elsevier would boast about being "guardians of content" when researchers are looking for ways to remove the guardians of content.

(BTW and much appreciated, Elsevier's Library Connect Newsletter, where this article appeared, is OA.)

From India, another OA mandate

India's National Institute of Technology in Rourkela has adopted an OA mandate. From the summary in ROARMAP:
All research papers by faculty and students, MTech (Research) and Ph. D. thesis is to be self-archived in Dspace@nitr or it should be submitted to the librarian for archiving, so that others interested may benefit by referring to these documents. The Administration may use this archive for assessment of faculty performance when needed.

PS: Kudos to all at NIT who brought this about. NIT's is the sixth worldwide university-level OA mandate and the first from India. For the other five, see the institutions with asterisks by their names in ROARMAP.

Cemagref signs the Berlin Declaration

Frances' Cemagref (Centre national du machinisme agricole, du génie rural, des eaux et des forêts) has signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Acces to Knowledge.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Mass digitization and OA

The US Government National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS) has released a new report, Mass Digitization: Implications for Information Policy, May 9, 2006. The report is based on the meeting at the University of Michigan, Scholarship and Libraries in Transition: A Dialogue about the Impacts of Mass Digitization Projects (Ann Arbor, March 10-11, 2006). From the executive summary:
7. What business models are needed in the era of mass digitization? How will the open access movement affect the economics of digitization? The business model for access to valuable information that has evolved is not “pay-per-view”—what has evolved instead is either free or advertiser-supported information. This model appears to be continuing with the Google and other mass digitization projects. Open access is another model promoted by some, but others question the sustainability of that model.

More on the upcoming launch of PLoS Clinical Trials

David Grimm, A Cure for the Common Trial, Science Magazine, May 12, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
Ordinarily, a study with negative results...wouldn’t see the light of day in a medical journal --at least not a top-tier one. But the Public Library of Science (PLoS) aims to be different. It’s using the LOTIS study [showing that certain interventions do not slow the onset of age-related disabilities] to launch its new journal, PLoS Clinical Trials, which begins publishing on 19 May. The journal’s credo is simple: Disappointing results can still be good news. Its editors have explicitly stated that all clinical trials submitted --regardless of outcome or significance-- will be published, as long as they are methodologically sound. The policy takes aim at a pervasive problem in the clinical trials literature: a heavy skew toward studies with positive outcomes. Some say there’s a “black hole” where studies with negative or ambiguous outcomes should be. This bias can cost lives....

More on publisher objections to FRPAA

Jocelyn Kaiser, Bill Would Require Free Public Access to Research Papers, Science Magazine, May 12, 2006. Excerpt:
A proposal to require federally funded scientists to make their accepted papers freely available online within 6 months of publication has reignited a bruising battle over scientific publishing. The bill [FRPAA], introduced last week by senators John Cornyn (R–TX) and Joseph Lieberman (D–CT), would make mandatory a voluntary National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy and extend it to every major federal research agency, from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to the Department of Defense. Supporters argue that so-called public access should extend beyond biomedical research. “The ramifications for the acceleration of science are the same,” says Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which represents libraries. Many publishers disagree, saying that there is no evidence of an unmet public demand for nonbiomedical papers. They warn that extending NIH’s policy to other disciplines could seriously harm societies that rely on journal subscription and advertising revenues to run their organizations....

Some publishers argue that there’s no evidence the public is as interested in, say, high-energy physics papers as in health research. “You’re just expanding this willy-nilly on the assumption that there’s the same clamor,” says Allan Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs for the Association of American Publishers. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, argues that if the bill became law, it could be especially damaging to “small niche area” journals in disciplines such as ecology that have not yet experimented much with open-access journals that recoup publication costs from authors rather than subscribers. Observers don’t expect the bill to be passed this year, but they anticipate a push to make the NIH policy mandatory. The 6-month deadline is also controversial: NIH Director Elias Zerhouni recently testified that he is sympathetic to publishers’desire for a 12-month delay. In the meantime, NSF plans to add citation data to the Web-based descriptions of each award in response to a February report by its inspector general that said “other science agencies have done much more than NSF” to tell the public what it gets for its money. The report said NASA and the Defense Department already make available the full texts of some journal articles.

Comments. A few quick responses.

  • "Some publishers argue that there’s no evidence the public is as interested in, say, high-energy physics papers as in health research." Publishers who say this are trying to divert attention from the primary purpose of the bill, which is access for researchers.
  • "Many publishers [say] that there is no evidence of an unmet public demand for nonbiomedical papers." Ditto. Publishers who say this are referring to the lay public, not the academic community, where the demand is great.
  • "Martin Frank...argues that...the bill...could be especially damaging to 'small niche area' journals in disciplines such as ecology that have not yet experimented much with open-access journals...." This is from left field. The bill does not presuppose that journals have experimented with OA, does not force or even ask authors to publish in OA journals, and does not regulate journals or force them to convert to OA.

Effective knowledge sharing for development in Africa

The new issue (vol. 2, no. 1) of the OA journal, Knowledge Management for Development, is devoted to Effective knowledge sharing for development in Africa. (Thanks to Subbiah Arunachalam.)

New OA database of proteins and peptides

ProteinCenter Open Access is a new OA database from Proxeon Biosystems. From the site:
The single protein lookup in ProteinCenter Open Access is a small subset of the full functionality provided by the commercial version of ProteinCenter, which...[enables] comparison of data sets with thousands of proteins in minutes, with advanced clustering and filtering to quickly reach biological conclusions....ProteinCenter Open Access is a free service intended for interactive use - scripting is therefore not allowed.

From today's press release:

Lookup protein accession codes and peptides in a global database with more than 22 million protein accession codes. One single resource for lookup of any protein accession codes and identifiers from: GenBank, Refseq, EMBL, UniProt, Swiss-Prot, Trembl, PIR, IPI, PDB, Ensembl etc, Including many of the outdated accession codes.

Assessing JISC's OA funding program

Key Perspectives, Evaluation of the JISC’s Open Access Funding Initiative Spring 2006, JISC, undated but apparently released today. This report assesses JISC's three-year program (now in its third year) to subsidize the article processing fees charged by certain by OA journals.

The executive summary breaks the results into Publishers' views, Authors' views, and the future. From the publishers' views:

  • By publicly endorsing the open access publishing activities being undertaken by the participating publishers, the JISC’s funding initiative provided valuable impetus to these endeavours.
  • The JISC’s involvement had the effect of raising awareness of open access publishing among the UK author community through the promotional activities of publishers.
  • The funding lent a degree of short-term financial stability to open access publishing projects, giving publishers breathing space to focus on refining operational processes.
  • The funding provided a timely opportunity for publishers to develop and experiment with different economic models.
  • The only negative effect reported is that the funding has, for the time being, insulated UK authors from the cost of publishing in open access form.
  • The impact of the funding on publishing performance is perceived to have been generally positive.
  • Although the present funding initiative is due to end this year, all the participating publishers remain committed to their open access publishing projects, though there is some uncertainty as to whether UK authors will be prepared or able to find funds to pay the open access publishing charges.

From the authors' views:

  • A survey collected the views of 124 authors who have benefited from fee waivers or discounts under the JISC’s open access funding initiative.
  • The top five reasons for choosing to publish in particular journals are: prestige; principle of free access for all readers; impact factor; citations; size of readership. Two of these reasons are directly linked to publishing in open access form.
  • The decision by 38% of authors to publish in one of the funded journals was positively influenced by the JISC’s funding initiative.
  • 23% of authors would not have published in one of the funded journals had it not been for the fee waiver or discount.
  • 78% of authors said that given their experience of publishing in one or more of the funded journals they are more likely to publish in open access form again.
  • Authors do relatively little themselves to disseminate their open access papers.
  • Authors are influenced by the monetary level of publishers open access fees; this may be the basis for the development of a new form of inter-publisher competition for the best authors and papers.
  • 48% of authors think open access fees should be paid by Government agencies and 42% says money should be found from research grants.

From the section on the future:

  • On the basis of the evidence presented in this report the JISC’s open access funding initiative is shown to have been successful on a variety of counts. Publishers and authors have moved forward in their understanding of open access publishing.
  • Any future iteration of the funding initiative may benefit from a degree of fine tuning to account for the progress that has been made since the initiative was conceived.
  • Ideas for such fine tuning include: transitional funding that exposes authors to a proportion of publishers’ open access publishing charges; assigning a portion of each grant to enable publishers to identify, analyse and report the quantitative impact of the funding; a requirement for authors to deposit a copy of their postprints in an appropriate repository to align the outcome of the funding with the JISC’s investment in the repository aspect of its Information Environment.

Update. See JISC's press release on the report, May 16, 2006. Excerpt:

JISC’s open access funding initiative - which provided £384,500 over three years to publishers to explore open access models of publishing for their journals - has given “valuable impetus” to thinking around open access and “has had the effect of raising awareness among the UK author community,” says a report published today. Provided as “seed money” to publishers to experiment with alternative publishing models, the funding has, says the report, provided publishers with “a timely opportunity to develop and experiment” with open access publishing, with all participating publishers remaining committed to their open access projects after funding has ceased.

Authors too have found the experience positive...The results show that not only was the JISC funding influential in encouraging authors to publish in this way, but that 78% of them were likely to choose to publish in an open access form again.

The findings corroborate earlier studies which show that authors respond positively to publishing in open access journals, valuing the principle of free access to all readers and the consequent wider readership that open access enables. These, says the current study, are two of the five main factors influencing authors’ publishing decisions, the others being prestige, impact factor and citations. The initiative has, the report concludes, provided “a catalyst for change in authors’ perceptions and behaviour in relation to publishing in an open access form.”...

PRC studies on barriers to research productivity

The Publishing Research Consortium (PRC) released two documents today arguing that OA is a low priority for surveyed scientists in the fields of immunology and microbiology

(1) Ian Rowlands and Rene Olivieri, Journals and Scientific Productivity: A case study in immunology and microbiology Publishing Research Consortium, May 12, 2006. From the executive summary:

[1] The biggest single productivity issue facing biomedical researchers is funding: not just a lack of adequate resources but an increasingly short-term, `stop-go’ funding culture that makes forward planning and staff retention very difficult (pp. 10-12). [2] Other major issues impacting upon their productivity are problems in recruiting suitably qualified research staff, a lack of seed corn funding to help get risky new ideas off the ground, a lack of autonomy in terms of the research that they would like to do but which does not fit in with funders’ priorities, and too much time spent in filling forms and other non-productive bureaucratic tasks (pp. 10-12). [3] In comparison, researchers do not consider that problems in accessing the journal literature are a significant barrier to their work: this aspect is ranked in 12th place (of 16) (pp. 11-12)....[6] Immunologists and microbiologists are generally satisfied with their level of access to the journals system and a large majority, 83.7% agree that major improvements in journal accessibility have been made over the past five years (pp. 6-7). [7] Those researchers who voice dissatisfaction with the journals system are more likely to be involved in interdisciplinary work and to be struggling with research funding and time pressures. They are also much more likely to be found in smaller European countries, suggesting perhaps that there are some supply-side issues that need to be tackled (p.15)....[9] Our survey work confirms earlier studies: desktop access to high quality published information results in significant time savings for researchers and they feel that this has helped them to be more effective knowledge workers (p.10). [10] The linkages between information consumption (reading) and information production are barely examined in the scientific literature. This is a serious gap in our knowledge, especially in the context of the current debate about new publishing models in the scholarly arena. [11] The key policy implication of this research is that Europe could improve its biomedical research performance by listening more carefully to its scientists. There is little evidence here, for example, that greater moves towards reader open access will make any significant difference. The really important issues are much more mundane and could be tackled relatively inexpensively.

(2) Overcoming the Barriers: A case study in immunology and microbiology. This appears to be a longer report, but I can only bring up the splash page. The link to the full text isn't working for me right now.

Also see the PRC press release. Excerpt:

The single most important issue obstructing the productivity of biomedical scientists today is the culture of research funding. This finding challenges the belief of some that the lack of "open access" to journal content is a major barrier to scientific productivity....[The result is based on a] survey of 883 biomedical scientists – in Europe and North America - commissioned by the Publishing Research Consortium....Conversely, the study found that 90% of respondents reported access to publishers' online content had increased their productivity by saving them significant time in locating research articles and enabling them to become more effective researchers. "This study reinforces the critical role that publishing plays in advancing research and scholarship," says René Olivieri, CEO, Blackwell Publishing [and co-author of one of the documents]. "Major improvements in journal accessibility over the last few years have not only improved research productivity but they have also helped to maximize return on investment in scientific research."

Comment. I'll be able to comment better after I can read the long report. But it looks like one of the chief results is that easy online access to the literature helps research productivity ("90% of respondents reported access to publishers' online content had increased their productivity"). The PRC clearly wants to spin this in favor of conventional priced access. But it can be spun both ways. Where priced online access is adequate or improving, the productivity benefits can be used as an argument for priced online access. But where priced online access is inadequate, decreasing, or unsustainable, the lost productivity can be used as an argument for OA. Even where priced access is adequate, it's not hard to argue that OA would be superior (because it supports search engine indexing, mash-ups, text-mining, and other forms of processing by machines that need DRM-free access), that OA and TA can coexist through self-archiving, and that paying skyrocketing subscription fees is a very inefficient way to procure easy online access to peer-reviewed research literature. Finally, of course, the fact that funding problems rank ahead of access problems is no argument that access problems shouldn't be solved.

Update. Gunther Eysenbach makes a good point:

Now, Olivieri is CEO of Blackwell. How come he is "author" on a study "carried out by independent researchers"? Either the study was really "independent" meaning that Olivieri was not involved in the study, in which case he should NOT be listed as author, or he was involved, in which case authorship is deserved, but the study can't be called "independent".

More on OA in the humanities

Jordan J. Ballor, The Shifting Paradigm of Scholarly Publishing, PowerBlog, May 12, 2006. Ballor has blogged some of the introduction to his talk (“The Digital Ad Fontes! Scholarly Research Trends in the Humanities”) at the Drexel University Libraries Scholarly Communications Symposium (Philadelphia, April 28, 2006). Excerpt:

Nearly a decade ago, in an insightful and valuable work, MIT professor Janet H. Murray discussed her vision for the future of the newly burgeoning World Wide Web. She wrote of “a single comprehensive global library of paintings, films, books, newspapers, television programs, and databases, a library that would be accessible from any point on the globe. It is as if the modern version of the great library of Alexandria, which contained all the knowledge of the ancient world, is about to rematerialize in the infinite expanses of cyberspace.”...[S]ince Murray’s book a number of voices have been raised decrying the barriers to the utopian vision represented by the economics of the publishing world and such “market forces.”

Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig complain of “the balkanization of the web into privately owned digital storehouses,” and the fact that “the most important commercial purveyors of the past are…global multibillion-dollar information conglomerates like ProQuest, Reed Elsevier, and the Thomson Corporation, which charge libraries high prices for the vast digital databases of journals, magazines, newspapers, books, and historical documents that they control.” Indeed, Cohen and Rosenzweig have challenged the economics of traditional publishing by concurrently releasing the text of their digital history guide in a freely accessible and readably formatted web version, as well as in the traditional paper form for sale published by the University of Pennsylvania Press. In their words, “Academics and enthusiasts created the web; we should not quickly or quietly cede it to giant corporations and their pricy, gated materials. The most important weapon for building the digital future we want is to take an active hand in creating digital history in the present.”...

Perhaps the representation of digital publishing as a binary opposition between “multibillion-dollar information conglomerates” and “academics and enthusiasts” does not exhaust the possibilities. Alas, those of us in the humanities who look to the government for succor are likely to be jilted. Greg Crane, a professor of classics at Tufts University, points out the ambiguous position of the humanities when it comes to government sources of funding for academic technology. He writes, “The biggest government funders of academic technology are the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation whose aggregate funding ($20 billion and $5 billion respectively) exceeds that of the National Endowment for the Humanities ($135 million requested for 2003) by a factor of 185.”...

PS: For more on the differences between government funding for the sciences and government funding for the humanities, and how it affects OA, see my January 2004 article, Promoting Open Access in the Humanities.

Adding HubMed lilnks to Google results

Alf Eaton has written a Greasemonkey script to add HubMed links to Google search results. HubMed is Eaton's powerful, alternative front end to PubMed.

OA maps in the UK, the continuing struggle

Steve Mathieson, A sidestep in the right direction, The Guardian, May 11, 2006. Excerpt:

[Damian] Steer is taking part in an attempt to map the Isle of Wight's roads in one weekend for, a website that helps create maps free for anyone to use for any purpose. If Ordnance Survey [OS] and other national agencies will not make their data freely available, then OpenStreetMap, developed over the past two years, will re-collect it from scratch.

The weekend drew around 40 people. By Monday, OpenStreetMap's founder Steve Coast estimated that more than 90% of the island's roads had been recorded. When asked if volunteers used OS maps, Coast says: "No. It's a taboo." Someone who did pull out an OS map was told to put it away immediately.  Instead, Coast distributed older, out-of-copyright maps to aid navigation. [Although publicly-funded,] OS maps are covered by Crown copyright, which lasts 50 years from the end of the year of publication....

But OS has all [the geospatial information] up to date, so wouldn't it be better to campaign for OS to open up its data rather than rebuild it? "Freeing certain scales of data would be good, but the best way to make it happen [is] to go and do it," replies Coast. "There's no reason for OS to [free the data] because it has a monopoly. There's no economic incentive - until we produce one."

OpenStreetMap's aim is to produce maps such as that for Weybridge where someone using the name 80n has turned GPS tracings and research into a fairly detailed map of the town. Next weekend OpenStreetMap will attempt to map the centre of Manchester, with the aim of producing a free-to-use map of venues for the city's Futuresonic 2006 arts festival in July. "They can't get it from OS without spending vast amounts of money," says Coast. The "Mapchester" event is getting space and support from Manchester Digital Development Agency, a public-sector organisation. "We very much endorse it," says Dave Carter, its head. "We see it as a map version of open source. It might not work, but ... we're funded to promote innovative research and development, which is why we're supporting this."

Charles Arthur puts this in perspective on the FreeOurData blog:

Is it only me who finds it faintly ridiculous that a public sector organisation is endorsing a public movement to create open-source maps for the public’s use when there’s already a public sector organisation that creates very good maps - but which neither the other public sector organisation or the public wants to tangle with?

Comment. This is fascinating. A taxpayer-supported agency of the UK government collects high-quality map data, which it sells to the public rather than giving away. OA activists are volunteering their labor and time to make high-quality maps of their own, and giving them away, in order to compete with the publicly-funded, government-sold maps. It should shame the UK government that this is even happening. But the activists are thinking that economic pressure is more powerful than shame, and maybe it is. Will it free up publicly-funded mapping data in the UK? Stay tuned.

Software news from the Public Knowledge Project

The Public Knowledge Project at the University of British Columbia has two OA-related announcements.

  1. Over 550 journals in 11 languages are using Open Journal Systems, its open-source journal management system optimized for OA journals.

  2. PKP has started a complete rewrite of its companion package, Open Conference Systems, expected to launch in January 2007. From the site: "OCS will allow you to: [1] create a conference Web site, [2] compose and send a call for papers, [3] electronically accept paper and abstract submissions, [4] allow paper submitters to edit their work, [5] post conference proceedings and papers in a searchable format, [6] post, if you wish, the original data sets, [7] register participants, [8] integrate post-conference online discussions."

TPM and access to scholarship

Kristin R. Eschenfelder and Ian Benton, An Evaluation of Access and Use Rights for Licensed Scholarly Digital Resources, a presentation to be given at JCDL 2006 (Chapel Hill, June 11-15, 2006). Self-archived May 11, 2006.
Abstract: This research in progress investigates how technological protection measures shape how authorized users access and make use of digital collections of licensed scholarly resources. It seeks to ascertain the range and variation in access and rights restrictions, and whether observed restrictions were described in acceptable use statements and resource licenses.

Humboldt University adopts an OA policy

On May 9, the Academic Senate of Humbolt University Berlin adopted an Open Access Declaration (in German). Excerpt from the shorter, English summary on ROARMAP:
Humboldt-University recommends its scientists and researchers to publish their articles in Open Access Journals and to publish their monographs on Open Access platform. Postprint versions of already published articles should be deposited on the Document and Publication Repository of Humboldt-University. The edoc server will also host preprint versions.... Humboldt-University encourages emphatically all scientists to insist on keeping the copyrights during the conclusion of author contracts.

PS: Kudos to all involved at Humboldt. Universities everywhere should consider adopting a similar policy. Look at the other OA policies registered at ROARMAP for precedents and ideas.

New co-sponsor for the FRPAA

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) has has decided to co-sponsor the FRPAA. Please consider writing his office to thank him.

Autism group joins the ATA

Autism Speaks (formerly the National Alliance for Autism Research) has joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

PS: The ATA fights for open access to publicly-funded research in the U.S., and is now fighting for a mandate at the NIH, the CURES Act, and the FRPAA. If you work for or with a U.S.-based non-profit, urge it join the ATA.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Survey on the EC report's OA recommendations

If you or your organization plans to comment on the EC report and its OA recommendations before the June 1 deadline, consider taking the survey the EC has launched on SINAPSE (the EC's communication tool for science policy). From the invitation:
The objective of this survey is to gather comments on the recent study financed by the EC. Members are invited to give their opinion on the recommendations as well as their proposal/analysis on the topic they address. For each recommendation, you're invited to indicate, on a scale, the degree of pertinence, how difficult it is to implement, the degree of priority, whether there is a role for public authorities. Any other information or reactions on "scientific publications" issues are also welcomed. The results of this consultation will provide an invaluable input to the design of the EC policy in the field.

Lund presentations on scientific publishing

The presentations from the 1st European Conference on Scientific Publishing in Biomedicine and Medicine (Lund, April 21-22, 2006) are now online. (Thanks to Yvonne Hultman Ozek.) Many focus on OA.

More on the publisher objections to FRPAA

Ted Agres, Publishers, societies oppose 'public access' bill, The Scientist, May 11, 2006. Excerpt:

A Senate bill that would require federally funded scientists to post their research papers freely on the Internet is drawing fire from many journal publishers and scientific societies. The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (S 2695), introduced last week, mandates that scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies make their research results available without charge within six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal....

Not-for-profit research societies generally depend on journal subscription revenue to support peer review, scientific outreach, and other activities. Many fear that if articles become freely available too early, they might lose significant revenue, impacting their ability to conduct peer review. For-profit journals also argue that they need subscription fees to survive.

The bill unfairly puts authors "between the agency that funds the research and the publisher" should the latter refuse to grant republication rights, said Martin Frank, coordinator of the DC Principles Coalition, a group of more than 100 scholarly and not-for-profit journal publishers that supports wide dissemination of research findings. Frank is also executive director of the American Physiological Society, which publishes 14 journals.... 

[C]ompliance [with the NIH policy] has been extremely low -- less than 4% of eligible articles have been added to PubMed Central during the first eight months of the policy enactment, said NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni in a January 2006 report to Congress. Peter Suber, director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, a public-interest advocacy group, suggested that authors just didn't bother because the policy was not mandatory. "It's not as if the grantees thought it was a bad idea; they just have other things to do with their time," he said....

Howard Garrison, public affairs director for the Federation of American Scientists for Experimental Biology (FASEB), whose 21 member scientific organizations publish dozens of journals, critiqued this portion of the plan, arguing that Web sites and search engines from the private sector already catalogue publicly accessible papers. Stanford University's HighWire Press, for instance, links to more than 1.3 million full-text journal articles, most of which are available 6 months to a year after publication. Another free Internet site, patientINFORM, provides links to full text peer-reviewed biomedical journal articles as soon as they are published. "In times of scarce funding, we're not sure that duplication of effort really makes a lot of sense," Garrison said.

But the proposal has also drawn praise. "It's a very good piece of legislation," said Open Access Project's Suber. "It will vastly increase the return on U.S. investment in research by getting it into the hands of everybody who can build on it. Right now [the research] is locked up in subscription journals. By making research openly available, it makes it more usable," Suber told The Scientist....

Comments. Three quick responses.

  • Martin Frank's objection would carry more weight if publishers who disliked the FRPAA refused to publish federally-funded research. But he is a publisher and he's not refusing. So far, none of the publishers he represents on the DC Principles Coalition is refusing. So far no publishers anywhere are refusing. Until they do, authors have no dilemma.
  • BTW, I used the "author dilemma" argument myself as an objection to the NIH policy. The problem is that the NIH policy is a request, not a requirement. Hence, authors (grantees) are under pressure from their funding agency to comply, and to do so as soon as possible, but also under pressure from their publisher not to comply or to do so as late as possible. FRPAA avoids this problem by mandating compliance and imposing a firm deadline. Moreover, FRPAA uses a government license as the legal basis for disseminating the OA copies, not publisher consent. This is also part of the solution, since it reduces the publisher's bargaining power with authors. Publishers who dislike the policy gain nothing by pressuring their authors; they have to defeat the bill or refuse to publish federally-funded research. If Frank really wants to spare authors from the funder-publisher dilemma, he should aim the objection at the NIH policy and join the call for a mandate.
  • On Howard Garrison's argument that the FRPAA is a wasteful "duplication of effort", let me use the same reply I used when the AAP's Brian Crawford called it "duplicative": "The simply false. Some publishers are providing OA to some content when it's sufficiently old. But this is a far cry from providing OA to virtually all federally-funded research within six months of publication. If publishers are saying that over time their voluntary efforts will approach what FRPAA would mandate, then they have to give up their claim that this will harm journals. They can't have it both ways."

More on the South African OA recommendations

South African journals told to increase international profile, Research Research, May 11, 2006. An unsigned news story. Excerpt:
The Academy of Science of South Africa has urged the country’s scientific journals to create open-access internet editions in a bid to significantly increase their visibility worldwide, reports SciDev.Net. The academy called for action this week after it published a report showing that in the last 14 years, one third of South African journals have not had a single paper quoted in their international counterparts....

The Department of Education currently pays universities 84,000 rands (US$14,000) every time a government-accredited journal publishes a paper by one of their academics, regardless of the journal’s international standing. Gevers believes funds should be diverted from the subsidy to allow journals to establish and fund online and open-access editions.

The report was greeted positively by South Africa’s science establishment. Dan Ncayiyana, editor of the South African Medical Journal – one of the few to rank in international databases – said the report “captures the situation very well and I think it’s good for South African science publishing”. Adi Paterson of the Department of Science and Technology, welcomes the findings of the report as a foundation for improving "incentives to support high-quality research publications" and to "forge a low cost open-access approach to the publishing of publicly funded research".

PS: I posted some comments on the academy recommendations on Tuesday.

More on the NIH policy and the FRPAA

Lila Guterman, NIH Has Little to Celebrate on 1st Anniversary of Its Open-Access Policy, but Changes May Be on Way, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 11, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:

The public-access policy of the National Institutes of Health marked its first anniversary last week, and all involved in the debate agree that it has failed to create free online access to the biomedical literature.  Open-access proponents are rejoicing because that failure has created new momentum to strengthen the policy. That momentum further worries the policy's early detractors -- mostly publishing groups that fear a loss of revenue if the contents of their journals are free online. They are lobbying to keep things just as they are.

"All we've seen this year," said Peter Suber, director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group in Washington, "is one step after another to strengthen" the policy....The NIH estimates that fewer than 4 percent of eligible manuscripts were uploaded [to its OA repository in the past year]. "It's an abysmal failure," said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition....In November the majority of an NIH working group suggested that the policy be made mandatory....In February, the Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine, which is part of the NIH and runs the repository, recommended the same changes to Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the NIH. At a Congressional hearing in April, Dr. Zerhouni said: "It seems like voluntary is just not enough of an incentive."...

Observers expect the NIH policy to become mandatory, but the publishers hope to keep the maximum delay at 12 months. Such a plan, said Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, "gets the system to work without jeopardizing a very important component of the dissemination of scientific information: the journals." He says that some publishers have already lost subscriptions after experimenting with a six-month model. Oxford University Press, for example, examined the number of subscribers between 2002 and 2003 for 28 journals. Two journals that put their contents online free after six months lost 6.1 percent of their subscribers; those that did so after a year or longer lost fewer subscribers.

Gary Ward, an associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at the University of Vermont, says that figure does not mean much. "If you look at industry averages" of circulation decline, he said, the 6-percent decrease "is well within what's been happening to other journals." Mr. Ward is treasurer of the American Society for Cell Biology, which publishes the research journal Molecular Biology of the Cell, and he also serves on the NIH working group. In 2001 the journal made its contents free online two months after publication....The gamble proved a wise one, he said: Subscriptions have increased since 2001. Individual subscriptions have increased sharply, and institutional subscriptions -- the all-important library presence -- have increased at about the same rate as they did before the open-access decision, Mr. Ward said.  Mr. Suber, of Public Knowledge, commented: "The evidence today suggests that the fears are not justified."...

Momentum continues to build outside the NIH, and outside the United States, for mandatory posting of manuscripts in centralized free online repositories. In April, the European Commission released a report calling for a "guarantee" of free access to all publicly sponsored research (Chronicle News Blog, April 19). But that report was not binding; nor was a draft policy of Research Councils UK, an umbrella organization of Britain's public research institutions, which called for mandatory participation last June (The Chronicle, June 29, 2005).

Then, in early May, came a stateside whopper: Two senators introduced a bill that would require every federal agency that sponsors more than $100-million annually in research to establish an online repository and make its grantees deposit their articles within six months of publication (Chronicle News Blog, May 3). The bill, which is sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat, would apply to 11 agencies, including the NIH, the National Science Foundation, and NASA.

"It's very depressing -- it's huge!" said Ms. Schroeder. Of course, open-access proponents are delighted. Passage of the bill would also help answer questions about how open access affects subscriptions.  "The only way to get empirical evidence outside physics is to stimulate high-volume open-access archiving [outside physics] and monitor the results," Mr. Suber said. "Let's do that and be prepared to make changes if we see harm."

New directory of OA scholarship on the early modern era

Early Modern E-Prints is a new directory of OA scholarship on the early modern era. It's not a repository, but it aims to link to OA editions of all the relevant texts it can find. From the site:
The traditional products of academic research - peer-reviewed journal articlels, chapters from books, works in progress, seminar and conference papers, theses and dissertations - are increasingly being made available online in open access journals and repositories and publishers' own websites. But at present humanities disciplines are lagging behind the sciences in the creation of subject-based repositories; works on historical subjects are scattered across the web and often difficult to locate. This page is intended to facilitate access to full-text academic publications and postgraduate theses on early modern topics.

From an accompanying blog post by Sharon Howard, the force behind the new directory:

Early Modern E-prints is now up and running. At the moment it’s very small, but I have plenty more entries to add over the coming months.  You can help out if you know of examples of the following, on any early modern (ie, c.1500-1800) topic:  [1] Research papers and publications archived at academics’ personal webpages, which can be particularly hard to track down.  [2] Articles, chapters, papers and so on from sources (journals, books, e-seminars, etc) that aren’t specifically devoted to early modern history (this may include graduate student journals, as long as they’re peer-reviewed).  [3] Free samples (book chapters, issues of journals) from publishers’ websites.  [4] Postgraduate theses and dissertations....

I hope that eventually there will be full-scale open access repositories for history and this resource will no longer be needed. But in the meantime it should help to facilitate access to good quality academic research for people who are studying early modern history but don’t have access to well-stocked university libraries, and it may also encourage the development of open access publishing/archiving by historians.

Two minds about FRPAA

Nate Anderson, Should government-funded research be free? Ars Technica, May 10, 2006. Excerpt:

Is it fair for the government to fund scientific research, only to have that research locked up in a US$300 academic journal? Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Lieberman (D-CT) don't think so, and they've got a plan to change the current system. That plan is the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (PDF), a new bit of legislation making its way through the senate. The bill mandates that most federally funded research be freely published online after publication in an academic journal.

The bill contains a few caveats, though: such publication won’t take place until at least six months after an article appears in a journal, and it won’t necessarily be an exact copy of the journal article. If the publisher refuses to allow for a copy from the journal, the author’s own copy of the paper’s final version will be used instead....

It doesn't take a college graduate to imagine that journal publishers don't like the idea. Brian Crawford, who chairs the Professional Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (that must be one wide business card), says of the plan:

Mandating that journal articles be freely available on government Web sites so soon after their publication will be a powerful disincentive for publishers to continue these substantial investments.

Not surprisingly, the plan is quite a bit more popular with universities and libraries, who now pay journal subscription fees that sometimes border on the obscene....

[T]his is an issue near and dear to us [as grad students] --and we are of two minds about it. On the one hand, it hardly seems right for the government to fund research, then to pay a private company for access to that research (which is what happens at most public universities). There’s an argument to be made that if taxpayers foot the bill, they should have access to the product. On the other hand, the journals do provide some valuable services. One of their most important functions is to coordinate the peer review process, one of the cornerstones of contemporary academic research. But they're also useful because they sort information; one soon learns what to expect from, say, English Literary History. By throwing all of their research into a big pile, government-run web sites might make it difficult to find articles of interest and value. And the argument about "the government paid, so it should be free!" breaks down when we consider analogous situations. Just because your local government funded that new baseball stadium, for instance, doesn't mean they're going to give you free tickets-or even a discount. It's also worth pointing out that federal funding often doesn't cover the entire cost of the research, and it certainly doesn't pay the journal's real editorial and printing expenses.


  1. The bill (FRPAA) doesn't impose a minimum six month embargo on the OA edition. On the contrary, it says that six months is the maximum embargo.
  2. The bill would not replace peer-reviewed journals or steer publicly-funded research away from them. On the contrary, the bill only applies to articles that have been published in peer-reviewed journals.
  3. These articles will still be discoverable through the usual channels (the journals themselves, standard indices in different fields). But the OA editions will also be discoverable in new and useful ways. For example, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Scirus are all indexing the OA repositories where these articles will be on deposit, and so will the OAI harvesters like OAIster. Discoverability will be considerably better, not worse, than it is now.
  4. The publicly-funded baseball stadium isn't a good analogy to publicly-funded scientific research. The stadium is rivalrous --use by some excludes use by others. But knowledge is non-rivalrous. It can be shared with everyone without diminishing use, possession, or consumption by anyone. Digital texts are non-rivalrous for the same reason. There is a huge difference, therefore, between giving taxpayers free access to a publicly-subsidized building with finite capacity and giving taxpayers free access to publicly-subsidized knowledge.
  5. For my response to Brian Crawford and the AAP's criticism of bill, see the 10-point rebuttal I posted yesterday.
  6. For an assessment of the bill's chances of passing, see my article on it in the May issue of SOAN.

OA will impove public health

Virginia Barbour, Paul Chinnock, Barbara Cohen, and Gavin Yamey, The impact of open access upon public health, Bulletin of the World Health Organization, May 2006. All four authors work for the Public Library of Science. Excerpt:

Arthur Amman, President of Global Strategies for HIV Prevention, tells the following story:

I recently met a physician from southern Africa, engaged in perinatal HIV prevention, whose primary access to information was abstracts posted on the Internet. Based on a single abstract, they had altered their perinatal HIV prevention program from an effective therapy to one with lesser efficacy. Had they read the full text article they would have undoubtedly realized that the study results were based on short-term follow-up, a small pivotal group, incomplete data, and were unlikely to be applicable to their country situation. Their decision to alter treatment based solely on the abstract’s conclusions may have resulted in increased perinatal HIV transmission.

Amman’s story shows the potentially deadly gap between the information-rich and the information-poor. This gap is not the result of lack of technology or of money, but of a failure of imagination. We live in the most information-rich era of history, when the Internet allows immediate global dissemination of crucial health information, and the inter-linking of online information creates an integrated, living body of information...What is preventing such a living web? For scientific and medical information, two obstacles are vested interests and traditions. Central to these traditions is the role of copyright...

The Internet provides the means to revolutionize publishing in two crucial ways. First, it makes it possible to disseminate health information at no charge to anyone in the world with online access. Although it costs money to peer review, edit, produce, and host an online article, this is a one-time, fixed cost. If research funders are willing to pay this cost, then the published work can be made freely available to all readers worldwide, and there would be no need for journal subscriptions. This is one way of financing an open-access model of publishing.

Second, because the Internet allows not just ease of access but ease of reuse, an article’s usefulness is limited only by a user’s imagination. To allow this,...authors can retain copyright and grant the public the right to creatively reuse their work. Licences such as those developed by the Creative Commons, which facilitate rather than prohibit reuse, are used by the open-access publishers Public Library of Science (PLoS) and BioMed Central (BMC). The result is that: “… copyright can be used for what it is meant to in science, not to make the articles artificially scarce and in the process restrict their distribution, but instead, to ensure that their potential for maximum possible dissemination can be realised.”

The potential benefits of such a change are vast. No longer will physicians have to base their practice on half truths. Instead, everyone from patients to policy-makers can read for themselves the evidence on which crucial science and health policy decisions are made....It may be uncomfortable for those with interest in the status quo, but by regaining control of copyright the medical and scientific communities could ensure that publishing is no longer driven by the interests of publishers, but rather by the needs of society.

Who asked publishers to protect lay readers from knowledge?

Dorothea Salo, Designated Gatekeepers? Caveat Lector, May 10, 2006. Excerpt:

The new blog Carrollogos...dissects the claim that open access is harmful because lay readers do not have the training or experience to interpret research articles. (See the New York Times for examples of this argument, lest anyone think homines straminei are what’s at stake here.)  Carroll’s counter-arguments are good, and so are the comments, but I have another angle on the issue. Simply put: when did gatekeeping become part of publisher mandate?

If you ask a researcher or a librarian what publishers are for, “keeping knowledge out of the hands of inexperienced readers” is not going to appear on the response list. I don’t know any publishers who attract submissions because they promise fewer readers!  Indeed, I suspect the majority researcher response to the inexperienced-reader question, if it were posed outright, would be a bewildered stare and “If they’re willing to wade through it, why would I stop them?” I grant that a substantial minority response would be the snobbish “They can’t possibly care or understand,” but even in that case, I doubt the researcher would want the publisher deciding who is or isn’t a qualified reader!

Do publishers really act as gatekeepers now? Do they vet all their subscription requests for competence in the related field of inquiry? (I can just see it: “No, this community-college library may not subscribe to the Journal of Incomprehensible Results! They’re not worthy!”) Do eighteen-year-old undergraduates, who have the full run of their libraries, really count as “qualified” readers? Does it bother publishers that lay readers can walk freely into a great many academic libraries (though, sadly, fewer than in days of yore) and read their journals? 

And what about reprint requests, or pay-per-downloads? What competency controls do publishers maintain on those? Yes, I’m laughing too. This is all about the money. We know that, publishers know that; let’s everybody cut out the nonsense....

Richard Poynder interviews Subbiah Arunachalam, Part II

Richard Poynder, Open Access: Science in which no one is left behind, Open and Shut, May 10, 2006. This is Part II of Richard's interview with Subbiah Arunachalam. Part I came out on May 5. Excerpt:

RP: ...[Many]scholarly publishers - including large commercial publishers like Elsevier, Springer and Blackwell - agreed to participate in a number of low-cost or free access schemes - schemes like HINARI, AGORA, and OARE. Have these not resolved the access problems faced by Indian researchers?

SA: No. In fact, although India’s per capita GNP is less than the $1,000 figure below which free access to journals under HINARI and AGORA was supposed to be triggered, the publishers participating in the schemes have proved unwilling to provide Indian researchers with free access, on the plea that they enjoy a sizeable subscription income from India.

RP: So while paying lip service to equality of access, in practice scholarly publishers are only willing to help developing countries if doing so will have no impact on their revenues?

SA: Exactly. They are only providing free access to developing countries that do hardly any science. As a consequence, they are getting undue credit for their philanthropy....[B]oth WHO and FAO should have negotiated a better deal with the publishers. As it stands, they have not protected the interests of India; and they have not protected the interests of the other developing countries whose per capita GNP is below $1,000 and yet who are denied free access to the HINARI and AGORA journals.  What organisations like WHO and FAO should do now, however, is devote their time and energy to promoting Open Access throughout the world....The aim now should not be simply to provide Indian researchers with access to a few more journals, but to level the playing field in terms of information access; and in my view OA is the only effective way of doing that. The fact is that scientists in developing countries have the most to gain from OA, since they are currently the most deprived of access to scientific information....

RP: Finally, what’s your message to researchers and research institutes, both in the West and in the developed world?

SA: My message to all researchers in the world is this:

  • Adopt OA whole-heartedly; it can only do you good
  • Never give away the copyright in your work to publishers, especially if your research is funded by the public
  • Don’t fall prey to the blandishments of publishers when they offer you membership of an editorial board, or ask you to guest edit a special issue, if the journal is not Open Access.

And my message to research institutions is this:

  • Set up an interoperable institutional archive and mandate archiving as soon as possible
  • Provide high bandwidth Internet access to your scientists, and always try to take advantage of advances in technology
  • Remember that the purpose of all science is ultimately to benefit the people. Be proactive in sharing your institution’s knowledge with the rest of the world.

The key point is that science and society can only progress if we all share knowledge, and build partnerships. We increasingly talk about e-Science and the information commons, but what is even more important is inclusive science - science in which no one is left behind.

UK perspective on FRPAA

Richard Wray, US senators propose to make scientific research freely available, The Guardian, May 11, 2006. Excerpt:
American legislators have proposed that scientific research paid for by US taxpayers should be freely available online to everyone. Analysts described the move as a "potential banana skin" for established scientific publishers such as Reed Elsevier, Springer and Informa. The proposed new law comes after an independent report for the European commission last month recommended that research funded by European taxpayers should also be available free on the web. In the UK, meanwhile, public funders of research are still considering whether to recommend so-called "open access" to research, despite support for the idea from a committee of MPs. Charitable funders such as the Wellcome Trust have already come out in favour.

The Federal Research Public Access Act - introduced by senators John Cornyn, a Texan Republican, and Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat - would require all federal departments and agencies that invest $100m (£54m) or more in research to demand that articles be put online within six months of publication in a subscription journal. "It will ensure that US taxpayers do not have to pay twice for the same research - once to conduct it and a second time to read it," Senator Cornyn told Congress....

Peter Willis, Liberal Democrat MP and chairman of the science and technology select committee, said the proposed US law should serve as a warning to the government this side of the Atlantic that the current model needs to be changed. "This is yet another example of the dissemination of research moving into the 21st century and the UK must not be left behind," he said. "To cling on to what are basically 19th-century principles of publishing research seems to me a rather bizarre concept in the 21st century."

In a note on the proposed law, Panmure Gordon pointed out that Reed Elsevier's academic publishing division accounts for 28% of group revenues and 39% of profits and "the market's main fear ... has always been that the margin ... would crack if new pricing models were introduced". The broker added that the proposed law "could be a potential banana skin" for the lucrative science publishing arms of companies like Reed.

More on OA for lay readers

Barbara Fister, Pubishers Speak Up, ACRLog, May 10, 2006. Excerpt:
I always thought the argument that ordinary folks will benefit by being able to read research results a little dubious; it’s not that they will benefit by reading them, because for the most part they won’t, but that they will benefit because scientists will have greater access to them. And that public good is why we fund their research in the first place.

"Publishing is not a homogenous activity"

John Cox, Access to Scholarly Literature: Publishing for an Extended Readership, The Serials Librarian, 50, 1/2 (2006). Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:
Access to scholarship and research has become controversial. It is described in apocalyptic terms as 'open'-or good and moral, or 'toll-gated'-with the life-blood of the system ebbing away. The real world is more complex. Publishing is not a homogenous activity, because it reflects the varied needs of scholars. This paper will be based on evidence from surveys and from published inquiries. It will pose, and attempt to answer, some questions about the future of publishing scholarly information, including open access, in the context of what publishers are actually doing. It will describe the challenge that faces publishers and librarians in meeting both scholarly and societal needs.

Comment. I don't have access and haven't read the full article. But from the abstract, it looks like Cox is oversimplifying the debate by positioning all OA advocates as oversimplifiers. But oversimplification occurs in every quarter. (Is Cox forgetting that publishers have described OA "in apocalyptic terms" as communist and the death of peer review?) No surprise, Sturgeon's law applies here too.

I don't know any OA advocate who has said that publishing is a homogenous activity. My view on this is apparently very close to Cox's:

Publishers are not monolithic. Some already provide full OA, some provide hybrid models, and some are considering experiments with it. Among those not providing OA, some are opposed and some are merely unpersuaded. Among the unpersuaded, some provide more free online content than others. OA gains nothing and loses potential allies by blurring these distinctions.

Launch of the Medical Journals Backfiles Digitisation Project

Today the Wellcome Trust officially launched its Medical Journals Backfiles Digitisation Project, which it first announced in June 2004. JISC, one of the project partners, describes the project in a press release issued today. Excerpt:

Complete back issues covering nearly 200 years of historically significant biomedical journals are being made freely available online as a result of a landmark project launched today at the Wellcome Trust.

On completion, the back files project will deliver over three million pages of medical journals free to anyone through standard search tools such as PubMed and Google.  The initiative was developed through a partnership between the Wellcome Trust, JISC, the US National Library of Medicine  (NLM) and a number of medical journal publishers.  The archive, will contain a number of discoveries which have changed the face of medicine....

Participating publishers have also agreed to continue to deposit current content of their journals into this archive. They will be freely available after an embargo period - a maximum of one year for all research papers. In addition to the faithful replication of every published page, the archive provides a number of innovative, value-added functions, including links from references to full text, high resolution images, full text searching across the entire archive, and links from the original article to corrections and retractions and vice-versa.

Director of the Wellcome Trust, Dr Mark Walport, said: “This growing collection will be of lasting benefit to researchers, practitioners and medical historians worldwide. It will provide access to important scientific literature from the past, free of charge, to anyone in the world with internet access.” JISC’s Executive Secretary, Dr Malcolm Read, said: “This archive and its commitment to free and open access to the outputs of scientific research demonstrates the value of collaboration between funding bodies, publishers and the academic and research communities....”  Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, Director of the National Library of Medicine said:  "The importance of this archive is realized every day - our studies show that researchers and authors whose articles appear in PubMed Central are read and cited hundreds of times more than they were in their original print format...."

The backfiles archive can be accessed free of charge through the National Institutes of Health (NIH), full-text, life sciences repository PubMed Central (PMC). Journals will be added to the archive as soon as they are digitised. PubMed citations are added to that database when the archive is complete.

For more details, see the project FAQ.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The IEEE is experimenting with OA

Michael Lightner, Message from the IEEE President, IEEE communications magazine, April 2006. (Thanks to Ahmed Hindawi.) Excerpt:
Finally, there is the growing issue of open access. A better way to frame this, in my opinion, is an interest in different business models for publications. What most people consider open access is an author pay model in which the cost of publication is absorbed by the author and the publishing organization, and the papers are free to the reader. IEEE does not have this model, although there are some experiments underway. In my opinion our challenge is to develop greater value for our aggregated IP. As a researcher I am interested in exploring questions/issues. Tools that aid that exploration, such as cognitive search tools, or the ability to return specific data from a search and not just papers are what we need to develop. These will add value to our collected IP far beyond the value of single papers. This is one way in which we can address the public interest of open access with the need to derive revenue from our IP products. My bottom line is that cost should never be a barrier to publishing in the IEEE.

Comment. I'm glad to hear about the OA experiments at IEEE and look forward to more detail. I just want to point out that providing sophisticated new search tools while charging for access to the content does not "address the public interest of open access". It simply decides against open access. Moreover, while it's certainly important that "cost should never be a barrier to publishing in the IEEE", this position is one-sided. Most researchers would argue that it's roughly as important that cost should never be a barrier to reading the research published by the IEEE. The real questions are two: (1) if we must choose, which value do we rank higher, and (2) do we have to choose? More than a thousand peer-reviewed journals offer no-fee access to readers and no-fee access to authors.

OA journal business models

Matthew Cockerill, Business models in open access publishing, in Neil Jacobs (ed.), Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, Chandos Publishing, forthcoming 2006.
Abstract: Matthew Cockerill, in this chapter, draws a parallel between open access and open government, noting that only by making information freely available can we hope to build the kinds of systems and services that are already useful, and that will be essential in the future.

More on OA for lay readers

Mike Madison, Open Access for Publicly-Funded Science,, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:
Mike [Carroll] takes down the elitist argument that “the people” can’t be trusted with science. He’s absolutely right, but the elitism that he hears goes more deeply than he describes in that post. The “science for scientists” mantra that holds back open access isn’t just about protecting the public from itself. It’s also about protecting the privileges of science. Open access won’t simply help scientists do better research; in its most idealistic (though not unrealistic) form, open access will create a better informed public — that is, a public that not only hears research scientists tell them what’s authoritative but also teaches itself about science. Is the United States serious about scientific literacy and science education? If so (and that’s a big “if”), then it should throw open the doors to archives of material stocked with publicly-funded research, and let the educational process begin in earnest.

Inside Google Book Search

The folks behind Google Book Search have now launched a blog. (Thanks to Barry Schwartz.)

Comment. If you're a regular reader of my blog and newsletter, you know that I admire both the opt-in and the opt-out halves of Google Book Search. But when I heard about this blog, my first thought was not:  good, now I'll get more news about this admirable service. Instead it was:  good, now Google has more reason to give Blogger some serious resources and improve the service. Blogger had its rough spots but compared pretty well to the competition before Google acquired it in February 2003. But since then, it's shown almost no sign of having a wealthy parent who cares about it. It has frequent unexplained downtime and has fallen far behind the competition.

More on machine-readable scholarship

T. Scott Plutchak, Open Computation, T. Scott, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:

Coincidentally, a draft of an article by Cliff Lynch that started bouncing around the net yesterday points to some very intriguing ways of dealing with the problems so congently identified by Mark D in his comments on my post yesterday.   Lynch suggests that we are approaching the day when we can apply data mining and analysis techniques to large sets of articles in such a way that we can begin to automate the kinds of meta-analyses and knowledge discovery that are now so terribly labor-intensive....[W]e are overwhelmed with articles and reports and seem to have less and less time to actually make sense of them.   Now we may have an opportunity to move past the focus on individual articles to developing systems that can do the kind of synthesis that we really need.

Lynch's article also addresses one of the questions that I've heard from publishers regarding the NIH public access program -- namely, why does NIH want to have all of these articles in a single repository?  Why isn't it sufficient to establish effective linkages to the publishers' sites?  Who cares where the articles actually reside?  I started to get a glimmer of the answer to this during Elias Zerhouni's talk at the AAMC meeting last fall.  If access to individual articles were the only issue, then linking is all that we need.  But Zerhouni is after something more than that.  In an article published earlier this spring in Health Affairs, he points out that "we have no place where the integration of information can be used as a powerful hypothesis generator as well as a powerful way of understanding change."  Lynch maintains that in order to start to develop systems that can do this kind of integration, centralized research databanks are more efficient than distributed ones....Lynch suggests that one of the benefits of more open access is that it will be easier to create such repositories, but that's clearly not essential, if publishers are willing to see the benefits of such repositories and rethink how they manage the control of the content that they own....Developing the kinds of open computation tools that Lynch envisions will have a far greater impact on the development of real knowledge than the elimination of subscription barriers to individual articles ever could.

Comment. Just a quick point on the final sentence. If T. Scott is saying that the importance of machine processing diminishes the importance of OA, then he may be overlooking one of the key points from Lynch's article: "Traditional open access is, in my view, a probable (but not certain) prerequisite for the emergence of fully developed large-scale computational approaches to the scholarly literature." But if he's saying that OA is important not just for direct human reading but even more for machine processing and indirect human reading, then I fully agree. Here's how I put this point in September 2002:

As we move further into an era in which serious research is mediated by sophisticated software, commercial publishers will have to put their works into the public Internet in order to make them visible to serious researchers. In this sense, the true promise of [open access] is not that scientific and scholarly texts will be free and online for reading, copying, printing, and so on, but that they will be available as free online data for software that acts as the antennae, prosthetic eyeballs, research assistants, and personal librarians of all serious researchers.

New search tool for engineering, math, and CS

TechXtra is a new service for finding free and priced online resources in engineering, mathematics, and computer science. For details see today's press release. (Thanks to Randy Reichardt.)

Facilitating open knowledge development

Rufus Pollock, The Four Principles of (Open) Knowledge Development, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:
Open knowledge means porting much more of the open source stack than just the idea of open licensing. It is about porting many of the processes and tools that attach to the open development process — the process enabled by the use of an open approach to knowledge production and distribution....Open knowledge allows (and requires for its success) a development process that is: [1] incremental, [2] decentralized (and asynchronous), [3] collaborative, [4] componentized (and ‘packagized’)....

In the early days of software there was...little arms-length reuse because there was little packaging. Hardware was so expensive, and so limited, that it made sense for all software to be bespoke and little effort to be put into building libraries or packages. Only gradually did the modern complex, though still crude, system develop. The same evolution can be expected for knowledge. At present knowledge development displays very little componentization but as the underlying pool of raw, ‘unpackaged’, information continues to increase there will be increasing emphasis on componentization and reuse it supports. (One can conceptualize this as a question of interface vs. the content. Currently 90% of effort goes into the content and 10% goes into the interface. With components this will change to 90% on the interface 10% on the content). The change to a componentized architecture will be complex but, once achieved, will revolutionize the production and development of open knowledge.

More on publisher opposition to FRPAA

Jeffrey Goldfarb, Publishers mobilize against US research proposal, Reuters, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:

Scientific and scholarly publishers including John Wiley...and Reed Elsevier...are launching an offensive against newly proposed U.S. legislation that would require them to make much of their research available for free within six months of publication....The proposal from two U.S. lawmakers opens a new front in a mounting global push to make taxpayer-funded research more widely accessible in what is a potential threat to publishers’ business models....

"Mandating that journal articles be made freely available on government Web sites so soon after their publication will be a powerful disincentive for publishers to continue these substantial investments," Brian Crawford, chairman of the professional publishers’ trade group, said on Tuesday. About 70 percent of a typical article’s usage value occurs after six months, Crawford said, citing independent librarian research and publishers’ own accounts. He said that publishers are already taking voluntary steps to make more research available and that they firmly oppose the legislation. They are calling instead for an independent study to scrutinize the potential effect the proposal might have on research quality and taxpayer costs. Individual publishers deferred comment to Crawford’s group, the Professional Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP)....

It was unclear whether [FRPAA] would advance this year, given that lawmakers have a shortened session because of the November congressional elections....

The push for open access to publicly funded research is growing in Europe, as well. A report for the European Commission earlier this year said that from 1975 to 1995 the price of scientific journals soared 300 percent more than the rate of inflation while subscriptions waned as library and researcher budgets were squeezed. The report’s authors, economists from two universities, recommended that research funded by European taxpayers be made freely available over the Internet.

PS: Because this article relies so heavily on the AAP position, see my 10-point rebuttal of that position, blogged earlier today.

A way to reduce publishing costs?

Alf Eaton, A Plan for Publishing Journal Articles, HubLog, May 6, 2006. Excerpt:
  1. Articles are submitted to the journal, running on OJS for example, as XHTML....
  2. The XHTML document is made available to reviewers, who can add notes --using Marginalia-- and vote on whether to accept the article in its current form.
  3. If necessary, the XHTML document is revised, submitted as a new version and presented to the reviewers again, until it is acceptable for publication.
  4. The XHTML document is transformed to the NLM Journal Publishing format for storage and submission to external archives.
  5. XSLT transformation of the NLM XML file to semantically structured XHTML, HTML, PDF and citation export formats for reading and re-use.
Here's some of the reasoning behind that process... Firstly, the final format for the article has to be NLM's Journal Publishing XML, because it's a very capable standard that can be transformed into all the required output formats mentioned above. The second requirement is that people are able to author articles in whatever application/document format they want. So, the article has to get from Word, OpenDocument, DocBook, MultiMarkdown, LaTeX, etc into the NLM DTD and --at the moment-- the way to do that seems to be via XHTML, which all those tools can produce. Ideally, there would be a tool that could process all those formats and produce NLM-formatted XML, but that seems unlikely in the near future. More likely is that all those tools will be able to produce OpenDocument files, which might be better, but I'd say that XHTML, with constrained use of microformats --like markup, can retain just as much of the semantics of the original document as an OpenDocument file, if not more so.

So then, either by asking authors to submit XHTML or by converting their submitted documents to XHTML, the journal has one document which it needs to get reviewed. Instead of emailing it out to a few people and collating their responses manually, the review process can take place centrally, with potentially lots of reviewers (and reviewees) all able to see each other's comments (which may or may not be anonymous). Rinse and repeat until the article is accepted, convert to NLM (and make any manual adjustments if necessary) then publish to the web and/or print as required.

PS: This technical detail is not OA-related unless it points to a way to reduce costs without reducing quality, in which case it suggests a solution for OA journals.

How copyright and DRM are obstructing library services

The British Library - "The world's knowledge" DRM'd and for a price, a long, unsigned blog posting to Groklaw, May 7, 2006. (Thanks to Digital Rights Network.) Excerpt:

Libraries are looking for ways to loan digital works while respecting copyright law. There has always been a certain tension between libraries and publishers, because the latter want everyone to pay for a book or article, and if you don't have the money, too bad for you. Libraries, on the other hand, traditionally want to make knowledge available to all. It's the heart of what they are, or what they traditionally have been. But [today] we have new, top-heavy copyright laws...and so libraries have to be careful to set policies that comply with the law. It's hard. Here's the dignified way the NY Public Library does so, posting a notice about copyright law and what it means to you....

If the library can email [an ebook] to me, I can email it right on to you and you and you, or put it on BitTorrent, if I don’t respect the law. Of course, there are a lot of laws that depend on simple compliance. I can kill someone with a knife from my kitchen drawer, if I decide I don’t care about the law forbidding murder, and the knife doesn’t arrive with any kind of device to prevent it. I’m on my honor to keep the law. Not everyone does, of course, but we don’t ban knives, because they are useful for chopping up vegetables. So we rely upon enforcement of the law, not predictive prevention by mechanical means. But with copyright, for some reason it is perceived as not enough....

Draconian DRM is undeniably altering what a library is and how knowledge can be found and used. It alters not only what libraries are like; it alters the way copyright law works, without anyone passing a law....Would you like to see what a more fully DRM-loving library looks like? Take a look at the British Library....

Publishers oppose FRPAA

The Association of American Publishers issued a press release yesterday opposing FRPAA (the Cornyn-Lieberman bill). I'm pleased to reprint it in full so that I can answer it in full.
Professional and scholarly publishers firmly oppose S.2695, the "Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006" introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). The proposed legislation would require the majority of recipients of U.S. federal research agency funds to make their findings free within six months of publication. Publishers argue that the legislation, if passed, will seriously jeopardize the integrity of the scientific publishing process, and is a duplicative effort that places an unwarranted burden on research investigators.

According to the publishers, the provisions of S.2695 threaten to undermine the essential value of peer review by removing the publishers' incentive and ability to sustain investments in a range of scientific, technical, and medical publishing activities. The proposed legislation comes at a time when increased public access to government-funded research is already occurring in a voluntary and highly effective manner through a variety of publisher-initiated mechanisms and cooperative approaches.

"Full public access to scientific articles based on government funding has always been central to our mission. Competition demands it and timely access to quality peer-reviewed journals is fundamental to the scientific process," said Dr. Brian D. Crawford, chairman of the Professional Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP-PSP), and a Senior Vice President with the American Chemical Society. Americans have easy access to scientific and medical literature through public libraries, state universities, existing private-sector online database, as well as through their professional, academic, or business affiliations, low-cost online individual article sales, and innovative health literacy initiatives such as patientINFORM.

"The Cornyn-Lieberman bill would create unnecessary costs for taxpayers, place an unwarranted burden on research investigators, and expropriate the value-added investments made by scientific publishers --many of them not-for-profit associations who depend on publishing income to support pursuit of their scholarly missions, including education and outreach for the next generation of U.S. scientists," continued Dr. Crawford. "If enacted, S.2695 could well have the unintended consequence of compromising or destroying the independent system of peer review that ensures the integrity of the very research the U.S. Government is trying to support and disseminate."

Dr. Crawford explained that publishers invest hundreds of millions of dollars each year in publishing and disseminating peer-reviewed journals. These investments ensure the quality of U.S. taxpayer-supported scientific research by subjecting all articles to a rigorous technical review by experts in specialized fields prior to publication and pay for the development of technological innovations that enable broad web dissemination. "Mandating that journal articles be made freely available on government websites so soon after their publication will be a powerful disincentive for publishers to continue these substantial investments," explained Dr. Crawford. He said publishers are concerned that S.2695 would result in a significant loss of revenue from subscriptions, licensing, and individual article sales, thereby making it difficult for them to sustain and recoup the investments they make in support of scientific communication. The proposed bill was introduced on the first anniversary of the National Institutes of Health's (NIH) adoption of its Public Access policy, which encourages the posting of journal articles based on NIH-funded research within 12 months of publication on its existing PubMedCentral database -- a policy that gained PSP/AAP member publisher support and yet remains in its early stages of government-led implementation. A departure from the NIH's voluntary approach, the Cornyn/Lieberman bill would mandate that 11 federal agencies create new systems and data repositories to enforce internet posting of government funded research within six months of publication. As the NIH's implementation of the policy has not yet progressed to the point where its impact can be assessed, publishers view the introduction of the Cornyn-Lieberman proposal as premature.

"No evidentiary record exists, and no impact studies have been conducted, to document the long-term cost to tax payers of government agencies developing yet another system to promote public access. Moreover, no consideration has been given to what the impact of this government mandate will be on publishers and scholarly societies ability to maintain their broad base of library and other customers worldwide and invest in independent peer review systems." said Allan Adler, the Association of American Publishers' Vice President for Legal and Government Affairs. He cautioned, "Responsible major U.S. government policy revisions must be based on a solid, researched understanding of the long-range impact of any policy changes. This perspective is conspicuously absent from the proposed legislation, which would cause severe harm to the publishing community, scientific societies, and taxpayers."

Mr. Adler said that publishers and scholarly societies urge that an independent study be conducted to measure the potential impact that any changes to the existing NIH policy or the adoption of the proposed Cornyn-Lieberman legislation would have on scientific quality, the peer review process, and the viability of numerous journals and societies--as well as the additional costs that would need to be shouldered by taxpayers.

Comments. Let's look at the major claims here one at a time.

  1. On the feared loss of revenue, my response is two-sided. On the one hand, there are good reasons to think that the FRPAA will not harm subscriptions. On the other hand, if it does, the public interest takes precedence. The mission of the publicly-funded research agencies is to advance science and research, not to protect the revenues of private-sector businesses.
  2. The claim that FRPAA is "duplicative" is simply false. Some publishers are providing OA to some content when it's sufficiently old. But this is a far cry from providing OA to virtually all federally-funded research within six months of publication. If publishers are saying that over time their voluntary efforts will approach what FRPAA would mandate, then they have to give up their claim that this will harm journals. They can't have it both ways.
  3. The claim that "[f]ull public access to scientific articles based on government funding has always been central to our mission" --if it refers to open access and not to toll access-- is simply false. It hasn't been the AAP/PSP policy and it's not its policy now.
  4. The claim that peer-reviewed journal literature is available in public libraries is generally false. Very few public libraries carry scholarly journals. FRPAA is necessary because even academic researchers don't have sufficient access to the literature through academic libraries.
  5. The claim that FRPAA would "create unnecessary costs for taxpayers" begs the question. The Senators, university and library groups, and scientists think this expense is necessary --even to give full effect to the existing investment in research. Only publishers with a conflicting economic interest think it's unnecessary. In any case, how much are we talking about? The NIH estimates that the cost of its public-access program (even at 100% compliance) is only $2-4 million/year, about 0.01% of its annual budget. By contrast, the NIH spends $30 million/year on page charges and other subsidies to subscription-based journals. It's unseemly --and imprudent-- for the private-sector beneficiares of this largess to complain that a comparative pittance spent in the public interest is wasted. They might trigger an inquiry showing that the subsidy to journals that lock content away from the public is the truly unnecessary cost for taxpayers.
  6. The claim that FRPAA would "expropriate the value-added investments made by scientific publishers" is false. FRPAA only applies to the final version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript, not to the published version. It's very true that peer review is added value, but the bulk of that value is added by scholars donating their time and labor. No other form of added value is at stake here. Publishers add value through copy editing and mark-up, but under FRPAA they retain the exclusive right to distribute the articles with those enhancements --not just for six months but for 95 years (the life of copyright).
  7. The claim that any threat to publisher revenue is a threat to peer review is an old canard. First, as noted, the critical parts of peer review are performed by uncompensated scholars. Second, peer review is performed by a growing number of high-quality OA journals, not just by subscription-based journals.
  8. The claim that the NIH policy will do fine without a mandate is wishful thinking, and the claim that we haven't given it enough time is false. After one year of operation, the compliance rate is below 4%. The glass isn't even half full. There's no room for hopeful spin here. Publishers want the voluntary policy to work well enough to head off a mandate, but when groups without the same axe to grind look at the evidence --groups like the NIH's own Public Access Working Group and the National Library of Medicine's Board of Regents-- they conclude that the voluntary policy has failed, that the failure is not due to insufficient information about the policy or technical difficulties in the submission process, and that a mandate is necessary to raise the compliance rate.
  9. The AAP calls for another study. But it knows very well that there's no empirical evidence, outside physics, on how high-volume OA archiving will affect journal subscriptions. And in physics, publishers themselves acknowleldge that OA archiving has not caused journal cancellations. In fact, two journal publishers in physics, the Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society, host mirrors of arXiv, the OA repository that is supposed to threaten them. The only way to generate the kind of evidence that the AAP wants is to stimulate high-volume OA archiving in fields outside physics --for example, by adopting the FRPAA-- and study the results. In the absence of that, the call for another study is just a delaying tactic.
  10. Moreover, Senators Cornyn and Lieberman are not acting in an information vacuum. There's ample evidence that the current subscription system is dysfunctional. When the University of California studied the evidence in 2004, it concluded that "[t]he economics of [subscription-based] scholarly journal publishing are incontrovertibly unsustainable."


The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries has joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

PS: Because the ATA is a leader in gathering support for the FRPAA (Cornyn-Lieberman bill), this is good time for US-based non-profits who aren't already members to consider joining. If you work at a US university, library, or public-interest advocacy group, encourage your organization to take this step. Membership is free of charge. The ATA doesn't need your money as much as your willingness to let it act in your name when it talks to Washington policy-makers about open access.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Comments to the CIHR on its planned OA policy

Comments on the plan by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to develop an OA policy for CIHR-funded research are due on May 15. Either send free-form comments or fill out the CIHR survey.

Heather Morrison has blogged her survey answers. If you're planning to send comments (and please do, especially if you're Canadian), Heather's comments may help you compose your own.

The elitist argument against OA

Mike Carroll, The Insider's Argument against Open Access, Carrollogos, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:

Here comes the public attack against the bi-partisan Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, which would require 11 government agencies to publish online any articles that contained research financed with federal grants. See Sara Ivry, Some Publishers of Scholarly Journals Dislike Bill to Require Online Access to Articles, New York Times, 5/8/06.

What is particularly galling is one of the two publisher responses to the taxpayer access argument for open access. The taxpayer argument is simple: we paid for it, we should get to read it without paying again. Publishers have two responses: (1) the economic argument and (2) the elitist argument....

The elitist argument holds that taxpayers cannot be trusted with open access because they might harm themselves by misreading or misunderstanding an article written by specialists for specialists. In the case of biomedical research, the argument goes, open access could lead non-specialist members of the public to self-treat, to fail to seek medical attention, and/or to disobey doctor's orders.

Let's just focus on the elitist argument for a moment. How would that argument fly with respect to other kinds of government expenditure? Voters should not have access to information about how the war in Iraq is going because they're likely to misunderstand how complex modern warfare is? Voters should not have access to hurricaine readiness preparations in New Orleans because meteorology is a complex business? These arguments are laughable on their face. Why doesn't the elitist argument against open government get the same response when it comes to science? The different treatment arises out of fundamental differences between the respective cultures of law and science, differences nicely analyzed in Steven Goldberg's 1994 book, Culture Clash: Law and Science in America (NYU Press). The culture of science has been buffered in some respects from our more general information policy in the U.S....

First part of the OA Digital Universe

Laura Smith, Digital Universe gets UK uni stars, Information World Review, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:

Academics at Oxford, Cambridge, Strathclyde and Dundee universities will be among the first UK-based contributors to a new online [and OA] encyclopedia written and edited entirely by experts.

The Encyclopedia of Earth (EoE), an online reference resource for all things environmental, will be written by academics approved by a panel of scientists, who will also ‘peer-review’ their contributions.  Cutler J Cleveland, the EoE’s editor-in-chief, said this approach meant its accuracy could be trusted by students, lecturers, librarians and teachers ­ unlike the collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which anybody can contribute to and edit.  He said: “Wikipedia has proved to be very successful at generating huge amounts of good content by letting anyone contribute. The problem is there is a lot of bad content too. We are trying to combine the good aspects of Wikipedia, like the technology, with some of the more traditional quality control that you’d find in academic scholarship.”

Expected to launch in June 2006, the EoE is the first part of the Digital Universe project, which will offer online information free from commercial advertising, including encyclopedias on other subjects, blogs and podcasts from academics and links to relevant websites and databases.

A home for OA databases

Neil Canavan, Open Source Bioinformatics, Genomics and Proteomics, undated but apparently May 9, 2006. Excerpt:
"As we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously." – Benjamin Franklin

These words, written by an inventor who never took a patent, is the mantra of Jeff Bizzaro, MSc, founder of the Bioinformatics Organization Inc. (BOI), one of the largest organizations in the field of bioinformatics. Launched in 1998, BOI embraced the ideals of the open-source movement to combat if not elitist, working conditions imposed by the cost of scientific progress rendered proprietary. (For this article "open source" is defined as freely available software, data sets, or computing capacity.) "When I got into this field in 1995," says Bizzaro, "software as well as biological data were being patented at an alarming rate. Computational tools could run hundreds of thousands of dollars, requiring institutional licenses that only the better-endowed academic institutions could afford." Out of this frustration and almost a sense of isolation, the idea of shared bioinformatics resources evolved. "I created an environment --an online community where myself and others, those of us who didn't have a local group-- could meet and share information."...BOI offers a permanent home, and administration, in exchange for open access. "Anyone who wants a place for their project, and allows other people to access it --they're welcome here."

South African Science Academy recommends green and gold OA

Christina Scott, Publish online, South African journals told, SciDev.Net, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:

South African research journals have been urged to dramatically increase their visibility - to policymakers, taxpayers who often fund the research, and readers across the developing world - by creating open-access Internet editions as soon as possible.

The Academy of Science of South Africa made the call this week in a report of an inquiry that found that in the past 14 years, one-third of South African journals have not had a single paper cited by their international counterparts....The academy’s executive officer Wieland Gevers, who led the investigation, stresses that a considerable body of world-class research has emerged from South Africa over time, much of it published to an international audience....Gevers says the government’s system for subsidising journals must be reformed to improve their quality and visibility.

Currently, the Department of Education pays universities 84,000 rands (US$14,000) each time a government-accredited journal publishes a paper by one of their academics, regardless of the journal’s international standing. Gevers says the department should divert US$165 of the subsidy to the journals, to allow them to fund online and open-access editions.

"I'm very happy with the report," said Dan Ncayiyana, editor of the South African Medical Journal, which is among the few to rank in international databases. "It captures the situation very well and I think it's good for South African science publishing." Adi Paterson of the Department of Science and Technology, which commissioned the study, welcomes the report as a basis for strengthening "incentives to support high-quality research publications" and to "forge a low cost open-access approach to the publishing of publicly funded research".  The report has been sent to science academies in Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe to stimulate a broader debate about open-access.  It has also been sent to the African Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS), the International Council for Science (ICSU) and the science and technology secretariat of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

Representatives of the Academy of Science of South Africa will discuss the findings at the South African Research and Innovation Management Association conference in Pretoria/Tshwane on 11 May.

Here's the key OA recommendation from the report:

Recommendation No 6: that the Department of Science and Technology takes responsibility for ensuring that Open Access initiatives are promoted to enhance the visibility of all South African research articles and to make them accessible to the entire international research community. Specifically:
  • online, open access (“Gold route”) versions of South African research journals should be funded in significant part through a per-article charge system (linked in the case of higher education institutions to an agreed fraction of output publication subsidies, and in the case of other research- producing institutions to adapted budgeting practice), but publishers should still sell subscriptions to print copies and should maximise other sources of income to lower the article-charge burden;
  • a federation of institutional Open Access repositories, adhering to common standards, should be established (“Green route”), with resources made available to help institutions in the preliminary stage, this virtual repository to be augmented by a central repository for those institutions which are unable to run a sustainable repository;
  • national harvesting of South African Open Access repositories should be undertaken as a matter of urgency, preferably by the NRF [National Research Foundation]; and the importance of affordable bandwidth for research communications for this purpose be drawn to the attention of DST [Department of Science and Technology] officials negotiating for better rates.

...The virtual repository would capitalise on institutional efforts, provided agreed standards were adopted, and provide a publication route for researchers in institutions without such a repository. The emphasis should be on “leapfrogging” the present turmoil and confusion in the system. The clear need for caution in assessing the presently somewhat vaguely defined business models for open access systems should not prevent the country from moving forward resolutely with a well-resourced programme for expanding its electronic access to the global and national scientific literature.

Comment. Kudos to the South African Science Academy for this bold proposal. I hope the South African government will take it up quickly. (1) The Academy is exactly right that OA to the nation's research output will significantly increase its visibility and impact. (2) The green part of the recommendation stops short of an OA mandate for publicly-funded research. Why? The report strongly recommends creating a national network of OA repositories, and then harvesting them, but it neglects the key step of ensuring that researchers deposit their work in them. South Africa should learn from the NIH, which has proved that making deposit discretionary, even if strongly encouraged, leads to a dismally low compliance rate. (3) The gold part of the recommendation is unique as far as I know. I like the way it proposes to make the subsidy to OA journals direct, unlike the current taxpayer subsidies to subscription journals, which are so well hidden that publishers like to deny them and pretend that government subsidies for OA "tilt the playing field" and represent unlawful interference with the "market". I like the way it tries to mitigate the size of the article processing fees, though I'd like to hear more about that plan. I like the way it avoids the problem of some naive recommendations that would require publicly-funded research to be published in OA journals.

Who benefits from OA to cutting-edge research?

Stevan Harnad, Strengthening the US Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), Open Access Archivangelism, May 8, 2006. Excerpt:
As presently drafted, the wording of the the timely and extremely welcome US Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) stands to create needless problems for itself that could even make it fail under the already-gathering opposition from the publisher lobby. Yet the FRPAA's flaws are ever so easily correctable:

The gist of the problem is all there in this well-meaning quote by Senator John Cornyn (R, co-sponsor of the bill (with Senator Joe Lieberman, D: quotation is from Robin Peek's Newsbreak article in Information Today).
[Sen.  Cornyn]: "Making this information available to the public will lead to faster discoveries, innovations and cures..."

This same logic underlies the Bill itself.

The publisher lobby will (quite rightly) jump straight onto the two profound errors in this reasoning, and they will use it, for all its worth, against the Bill: (1) For most of the research literature, the [lay] public has neither the expertise nor the interest to read it.  (2) Making it accessible to the [lay] public, does not make for cures!

Yet the remedy is so absurdly simple: The pressing reason for making research accessible to everyone is not because the general public has a pressing interest in reading it, nor because the public’s reading it will result in cures. It is so that researchers -- those specialists by and for whom it was written, the ones with the expertise to use, apply and build upon it -- can access and apply it, to the benefit of the general public who paid for it....

The right way to put it is:

"Making this information available to all researchers who can use, apply and build upon it will lead to faster discoveries, innovations and cures, thereby giving American taxpayers a greater return on their research investment. As a side bonus, the tax-paying public too will have access to as much as they may feel they wish to read of the research they have funded."

Comment. (1) I agree with Stevan that the primary beneficiaries of FRPAA, and of every similar OA policy, are researchers, and that the benefits for lay readers are important but secondary. I've said so whenever the question has come up --for the NIH policy, the draft RCUK policy, the CURES Act, and now the FRPAA. (2) I also agree with Stevan that casting lay readers as the primary beneficiaries needlessly opens these policies to publisher objections. (3) However, I would distinguish the language of the sponsoring Senators from the language of the bill itself. The Senators may put researchers and lay readers on a par but there's nothing in the substantive provisions of the bill to support or require that emphasis. The problem is not with the bill but with some ways of pitching the bill. (4) I'm also more inclined than Stevan to be lenient with this way of pitching the bill, at least for the sponsoring Senators. The bill really will make publicly-funded research accessible to the taxpayers who paid for it, whether they are professional researchers or lay readers, and this really will benefit lay readers, whether these benefits are primary or secondary. It's natural, even irresistible, for an elected legislator introducing a new bill to point to every benefit for every constituent. If we had to choose, I'd rather see sponsors of good OA legislation be re-elected than to fine-tune their rhetoric in order to disarm every publisher objection. However, we don't have to choose. There are ways to point out the benefits for lay readers, and still put the accent on the benefits for researchers. (5) The FRPAA, like the NIH policy before it, uses the term "public access". In opposing the NIH policy, many publishers mistakenly assumed that the goal of public access was the goal of access for lay readers, and some are already making the same assmption about the FRPAA. We OA advocates shouldn't make the same mistake. "Public" doesn't mean "lay public" any more than it means "professional public". It means everyone.

Update. Stevan has posted a supportive response to my comment on several lists.

Two fates for two government OA journals after privatization

Daniel Cornwall, Open Access: It's Not Just PubMed, Free Government Information, May 8, 2006. Excerpt:

When I interviewed for my current position as Head, Serials Services at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s Robert M. Bird Health Sciences Library, there was a proposal for the potential privatization of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Due to efforts of the American Library Association (ALA) and the Medical Library Association (MLA) and many other interested organizations and individuals, it appears that Environmental Health Perspectives [EHP] is now an open access journal and the website proudly notes that “all content is freely available to everyone online immediately after publication”.

Open Access, like Information Literacy, has a number of definitions and interpretations, and my hope in this guest blog is to provide some avenues of information on the topic. Those of us who remember “early threats” to access to government funded research may recall that one of the first, if not the first, journal of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to be privatized. In 1997, the Government Printing Office’s Library Program Service was notified that the Journal of the National Cancer Institute had been "privatized." Ownership was transferred from the National Cancer Institute to Oxford University Press - USA, Inc. Superintendent of Documents Wayne Kelley said that the letter went on to explain that "because the Journal is no longer a publication of the U.S. Government, copies of the Journal and JNCI Monographs will not be provided to the Depository Library Program nor will sale copies be available at the GPO bookstore." and that "the new price, from Oxford, is $120 for an individual and $150 for an institution". Current pricing for the OUHSC library for this title is $585 for print and online. And, fortunately, Oxford Journals does include JNCI and other titles in it’s “ Open Access experiments”.

A digital library should be OA and...

Henk Ellerman, Key concepts for the Digital Library? In Between, May 8, 2006. Excerpt:
The digital library should strive towards an openly accessible, modifiable knowledge base where each object is identified, where changes to objects are rigidly described, and upon which an extensible set of similarity operators can be defined.


[This] is an attempt at formulating a mission statement for those working on the digital library of the future....

OA books by Caltech authors

The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has launched an OA repository of OA books by Caltech authors. (Thanks to Michael Knee.) So far the repository contains 12 books originally published between 1959 and 2005.

PS: Kudos to Caltech. I don't know of any other university doing this.

Six library organizations endorse FRPAA

Six major US library organizations have endorsed the FRPAA. From their press release (May 2, 2006):
A coalition of national library associations praised the introduction of the "Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006." The legislation, introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) would require federal agencies with extramural research portfolios over $100 million to make the electronic versions of peer-reviewed articles publicly available via the Internet within 6 months of publication.

"Far too often the results of research that the U.S. government funds --with billions of taxpayer dollars each year-- are not broadly available to researchers, scientists, physicians and members of the public. This legislation will greatly expand public access while at the same time, ensure that these articles generated with federal support are available to future generations," said Prudence S. Adler, a spokesperson for the coalition.

Enhanced public access to publicly funded research spurs innovation and competition by accelerating research, sharing knowledge, improving treatment of diseases, and supports the educational enterprise.

The coalition...collectively represent over 139,000 libraries in the United States employing 350,000 librarians and library workers. The mission of libraries is to foster global access to information for creative, research, and educational uses.

The six library groups are the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), American Library Association (ALA), Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA)

OA for archival institutions

Peter Van Garderen, Web 2.0 and Archival Institutions,, May 8th, 2006. Excerpt:

I’ve been preparing my presentation for some upcoming conferences in Summer 2006 (IS&T Archiving, Association of Canadian Archivists, Society of American Archivists). I’m going to be talking about Web 2.0 as a set of enabling technologies and practices that can enhance the quality of archives access systems.

Open content and open access refer to the elimination of restrictions on the re-use of digital information through more flexible licensing practices such as those provided through Creative Commons licenses....Although there are still many tough legal, business, and professional obstacles to clear, the increased adoptation of open content licensing can help archival institutions to enrich the content and contextual information of their own collections while ‘letting a million flowers bloom’ and enriching the ‘long tail’ of the Web with open access to the wealth of information and cultural treasures that are preserved in archival collections.

More on the FRPAA and EC report

Mark Chillingworth, US legislators table tough OA bill, Information World Review, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:

A hard-hitting newly-tabled piece of US legislation could radically alter access to US-funded scientific research and embarrass the EC over its lack of clarity and action in its report on scientific publishing last month. Hard on the heels of a new EC report, Senators Joseph Lieberman and John Cornyn have proposed that US-funded research papers should be available freely within six months [of publication]. The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006states that every federal agency with a research budget over $100 million would have to implement a public access policy, which would require researchers funded by the US government to submit an article to a peer-review journal and to ensure free online access is available within six months....

The proposal has been widely welcomed. Gigi Sohn, president of the Public Knowledge advocacy group, said the bill “sends a signal” that taxpayers deserve access and that research should be shared with “everyone”.

The EC study passed up the opportunity to be as clear as Cornyn and Leiberman, stating in A1 of its findings that the EC should “promote and support the archiving of publications in open repositories after a time period to be discussed with publishers”. Publisher Matthew Cockerill at BioMed Central welcomed the EC report, saying: “It confirms that scientists and funders are getting a poor deal from the traditional publishing system.” But open access advocate Jan Velterop was dismissive. “It’s just another report and it will not change a lot,” he said.

Comment. (1) A detail on the Cornyn-Lieberman bill: It does not require federal grantees to submit their work to peer-reviewed journals, merely to provide OA to the peer-reviewed manuscripts that they do submit and that are accepted. (2) On British and American English: in the US, we say that a bill is "tabled" when the legislature halts or suspends active deliberation on it. It appears that the word has the opposite meaning in Britain, which I didn't know before. The Cornyn-Lieberman bill has been tabled in the British sense, not the American sense. (3) On the EC report: It's only a report today, but its recommendation A1 is exactly right and, if fleshed out into a policy, the policy would closely resemble the Cornyn-Lieberman bill.

The EC report on OA and interoperability

Tracey Caldwell, EC report calls for more OA content, Information World Review, May 9, 2006. Excerpt:

Linking and markup technologies must be promoted if open access is to become more widely adopted, according to one of the recommendations of the EC report on scientific publishing, released last month. But critics have slammed the recommendation, saying it is ‘putting the cart before the horse’.

Recommendation A5 of Study on the economic and technical evolution of the scientific publications market in Europe states that the European Commission should support R&D on interoperability issues such as meta-data and the XML format. It also says the EC should be promoting the wide implementation of linking technologies, especially the open standard OpenURL, and interoperable standard protocols, especially the OAI-PMH.

Stevan Harnad, OA champion, said the EC had got things the wrong way round. “A5 is about fostering interoperable tools to improve visibility. But without the content, there’s nothing to be made visible. Developing the tools is the easy part. The tools we already have are already far more powerful than the sparse Open Access content on which they are used....”

Peter Suber, open access policy strategist, believes the XML recommendation will help interoperability in the long term. “But it could be a barrier to self archiving if it was made a pre-requisite [and] the author [had] to spend time marking it up,” he said. Suber said the next big step in interoperability is full-text harvesting. “We need to get agencies that fund research to make open access a condition of that research.”

PS: I'd only add here, as I did in the interview, that the report's primary recommendation, A1, would mandate OA archiving for publicly-funded research. That's exactly what's needed. If the report intended A1 (on OA) to take priority over A5 (on interoperability), then it has its priorities right.

More on the FRPAA

Andy Carvin, Scientific Publishers Leery of Cornyn-Lieberman Open Access Legislation, Digital Divide Network, May 8, 2006. Excerpt:
Last week, US Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Connecticut) proposed the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (PDF), a groundbreaking bill that will shake the foundations of scientific research publishing. The bill proposes that scientific articles based on research funded by the federal government must be made freely available to the public over the Internet within six months of publishing. If enacted into law, the bill would force scientific publishers to release the full text of articles that would otherwise be accessible to libraries and professionals who pay hefty fees for access....

"Unfortunately, as it stands now, most Americans have little - to no - timely access to this wealth of information, despite the fact that their tax dollars paid for the research," said Sen. Cornyn in a speech on the Senate floor. "Our bill simply says to all researchers who seek government funding that we want the results of your work to be seen by the largest possible audience. It will ensure that U.S. taxpayers do not have to pay twice for the same research - once to conduct it, and a second time to read it."...

The bill would mark a sea change in the way scientific research is published. The majority of scientific publishers guard the copyright of their content very closely, often allowing only an abstract of the content to be made available for public consumption. For those people who wish to have the full text, they must either pay a small fortune in subscription fees or physically visit a research library that subscribes to the publication....

Not surprisingly, publishers are none too pleased. In today's New York Times, Howard H. Garrison of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology worried that the legislation could inflict serious economic damage on the publishing industry....Other publishers, such as Joann Boughman of the American Society of Human Genetics, take a different stance: that the public shouldn't necessarily be trusted to use this knowledge wisely. "Consumers themselves are saying, 'We have the right to know these things as quickly as we can.'" she told the Times. "That is not incorrect. However, wherever there is a benefit, there is a risk associated with it." The sentiment of this statement is as old as the printing press, when church leaders feared that giving the general public direct access to the Bible would undermine their authority and lead to the corruption of religious practices. It takes the position that certain types of knowledge should only be in the hands of those who have the training, the money or the power to utilize it; otherwise, the public will be at "risk," as suggested by Ms. Boughman. But knowledge does not belong to one class of people. Open access publishing recognize everyone's right to access knowledge in a time and manner of their choosing, without mediation by those who wish to control that knowledge. It will allow people to make more informed judgments on medical treatment, and assist others in improving their understanding of important research that was previously available only to those who could afford access.

Meanwhile, the predictions that this law will undermine the publishing industry may be premature. There are already numerous open-access publishers experimenting with new economic models, such as the journals of Public Library of Science. The Internet has already forced the broadcast industry, the newspaper industry, the telephone industry, even the movie rental industry to rework their practices. Why shouldn't the scientific publishing industry be expected to do the same, particularly when the end result will inevitably serve the public good?

Comment. Just one correction. Andy says, "[T]he bill would force scientific publishers to release the full text of articles that would otherwise be accessible to libraries and professionals who pay hefty fees for access." Not true. The bill applies to the peer-reviewed version of the author's manuscript, not to the published version, which may include extensive copy editing and mark-up. The bill's mandate applies to grantees or authors, not to publishers. Publishers are not forced to release anything, merely to coexist with free copies of different versions of a subset of the articles they publish.

This may seem like a fine point, but it has two important consequences. First, it's another reason to think that the policy will not, in fact, harm journal subscriptions. Researchers will still want access to the published versions and therefore libraries will still feel demand to subscribe. Second, it shows that the policy does not regulate publishers but only grantees, with whom the funding agencies have a contractual relationship. The FRPAA is too new for many publishers to have weighed in on yet. But in the debate over the NIH policy (different in many ways but similar in this respect), many publishers inaccurately claimed that it was an attempt to regulate publishing.

More on the FRPAA

Bill Would Mandate Access to More Federally Funded Research, Library Journal, May 9, 2006. A short, unsigned news story.
A coalition of library groups has applauded the introduction of the "Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006," introduced May 2 by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT). If passed, the bill would require federal agencies with "extramural research portfolios over $100 million" to make the electronic versions of peer-reviewed articles publicly available via the Internet within six months of publication. The bill would significantly expand the weakened and ineffective policy implemented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) last year that merely requested NIH-funded researchers deposit their papers within a year after publication.

In addition to the NIH, the bill would cover a host of other agencies, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Transportation, as well as EPA, NASA, and NSF. Unlike the NIH policy, however, which specified that papers be deposited into the PubMed Central repository, the Cornyn/Lieberman bill does not specify how the information would be made available online. While library groups applauded the effort, it remains unlikely that any real action will happen this year. "The introduction of the legislation sends an important signal to these federal agencies that there is strong congressional interest in public access policies to federally funded research," said Association of Research Libraries associate executive director Prue Adler. "There are strong voices of support in diverse constituencies that will be actively working on this legislation."

Icelandic national hospital launches OA repository

Iceland's national hospital (Landspitali) has launched an OA institutional repository, using BMC's Open Repository service. Landspitali has 5,000 employees and over 400 ongoing research projects. For more details see today's press release from BMC.

Monday, May 08, 2006

More on OA and grey literature

The TOC of the Spring issue of The Grey Journal is now online. The theme of the issue is Grey Matters for OAI. However, to judge from their titles, the six articles in the issue are more about OA than OAI. None is free online, at least so far.
  • Cees de Blaaij, Public funded research and Open Access: Perspectives and policies
  • Stefania Biagioni, Assisting scientists to make their research results world wide freely available: An experience begun in the 90’s
  • Rosa Di Cesare, Daniela Luzi, and Roberta Ruggieri, Open archives and SIGLE participation in Italy: Is there a subtle link between the two experiences?
  • Mohammad Ghane, A Survey of Open Access Barriers to Scientific Information: Providing an Appropriate Pattern for Scientific Communication in Iran
  • Hyekyong Hwang and three co-authors, Patterns of Research Output produced by Scholarly Communities in South Korea
  • Manorama Tripathi, H.N. Prasad, and S.K. Sonker, Open Access to Grey Literature: Challenges and Opportunities at the Banaras Hindu University in India

More on the FRPAA

Robin Peek, The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, Information Today Newsbreaks, May 8, 2006. Excerpt:
One of the greatest events in the history of Open Access may have just happened. On May 2, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, introduced the bipartisan Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA) (S.2695). The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn. If passed, the policy would require that agencies with research budgets of more than $100 million enact policy to ensure that articles generated through research funded by that agency are made available online within 6 months of publication. “Each year, our federal government invests more than $55 billion on basic and applied research....” noted Cornyn in a speech introducing the bill to the Senate. The bulk of this money is spent by approximately 10 agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Science Foundation, NASA, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Agriculture. These agencies use the money to fund research that is usually conducted by outside researchers working for universities, healthcare systems, and other groups....According to Lieberman, “Taxpayer-funded research should be accessible to taxpayers. Our bill will give researchers, medical professionals and patients in Connecticut and throughout the nation access to scientific discoveries and advancements that can help bring new treatments and cures to the public.”...“Making this information available to the public will lead to faster discoveries, innovations, and cures,” Cornyn said. “This bill will give the American taxpayer a greater return on its research investment.”

“The expanded access to research called for by this bill will help accelerate true innovation in science and medicine,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, an Alliance for Taxpayer Access founding member). “The public’s interest is clear; whether it is speeding a response to a potential flu pandemic, developing energy alternatives, or putting the brakes on global warming, access to publicly funded science is more critical than ever.” Joseph added, “The Alliance is encouraged by Congressional leaders who agree that we can do much more to leverage the taxpayers’ return on federal investment in these essential areas.”

“Public access to research expands shared knowledge across scientific fields and is the best path for accelerating multi-disciplinary breakthroughs in research,” said Richard J. Roberts, a Nobel Prize laureate and research director at New England Biolabs. “As a scientist and a taxpayer, I support this bill because it lifts barriers that hinder, delay, or block the spread of scientific knowledge supported by federal tax dollars.”

FRPAA has corrected all but one of the flaws of the NIH Public Access Policy, but it is “still just a bill, not an implemented policy,” observed Stevan Harnad, long-time proponent of Open Access. “There is still time for the RCUK as well as the European Commission to get their acts together and implement their dual deposit/release policies—mandating immediate deposit, encouraging immediate release in Open Access—before the U.S. does, correcting the one remaining flaw (delayed deposit).”

Publisher objections to FRPAA

Sara Ivry, Some Publishers of Scholarly Journals Dislike Bill to Require Online Access to Articles, New York Times, May 8, 2006. Excerpt:
Scholarly publishing has never been a big business. But it could take a financial hit if a proposed federal law is enacted, opening taxpayer-financed research to the public, according to some critics in academic institutions. The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, proposed last week by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, and John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, would require 11 government agencies to publish online any articles that contained research financed with federal grants. If enacted, the measure would require that the articles be accessible online without charge within six months of their initial publication in a scholarly journal. "Not everybody has a library next door. I don't mean to be flippant about it, but this gives access to anybody," said Donald Stewart, a spokesman for Senator Cornyn. "The genesis of this was his interest in open government and finding ways to reform our Freedom of Information laws and taxpayer access to federally funded work."

Some members of the scholarly publishing industry are wary of the legislation. Howard H. Garrison, the director of public affairs at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, an organization whose members collectively publish approximately 60 journals, argued that the legislation would weaken the connection between the journals and their readers and that journals could lose subscribers and ad revenue if articles were available online. "People won't be able to gauge how many people will be reading the articles and that has ramifications for advertising, promotion," he said. "Does it reach 1,000 scientists, 2,000 or 50? If the articles are on a government Web site, your readership may be halved." Scientific data is easily misinterpreted, said Joann Boughman, executive vice president of the American Society of Human Genetics, publisher of The American Journal of Human Genetics. "Consumers themselves are saying, 'We have the right to know these things as quickly as we can.' That is not incorrect. However, wherever there is a benefit, there is a risk associated with it."

A year ago, the National Institutes of Health introduced a policy encouraging scientists who had received N.I.H. financing to submit published articles within a year to a central database at the National Library of Medicine. Fewer than 4 percent of researchers have complied. Catherine McKenna Ribeiro, the deputy press secretary for Senator Lieberman, said mandatory compliance would "foster information sharing, prevent duplication of research efforts, and generate new lines of scientific inquiry." She said in an e-mail message that the bill would, in effect, allow agencies to better monitor what publications were a result of their grants.

Comment. Am I getting jaded, or will NYTimes readers --scientists and non-scientists alike-- see the pettiness of the publisher objections when juxtaposed with the benefits and urgency of public access to publicly-funded research? Should we really reduce the effectiveness of the enormous US public investment in research in order to help journals measure traffic and charge for ads? Should we really reduce access for scientists in order to paternalize non-scientists who may not understand the literature or care to read it? Let's get serious. It's not about journal advertising or journal subscriptions, and it's only secondarily about lay readers. It's about $55 billion/year in research, making it available to all the researchers who can apply or build on it, and making it as useful as it can possibly be. --And BTW, there are ways to give publishers the traffic data they want without derailing OA, and there are good reasons to think that FRPAA will not reduce subscriptions.

Michael Geist on the OA retreat at SSHRC

Michael Geist, SSHRC Backtracks on Open Access, from his blog, May 7, 2006. Excerpt:
Disappointing news from Peter Suber's...Open Access blog, where he reports that the SSHRC has slowed down its quest to adopt open access principles into its research approach. In October 2004, SSHRC decided to move toward an open access approach that would increase access to its (publicly) funded research. Following consultations, the funding agency has now stated that "the idea of open access to all research is widely accepted, but presents a number of implementation obstacles, and the community is by and large cautious. Rather than imposing mandatory requirements on researchers to publish via open access, Council chose to increase awareness of open access, pursue discussions with major stakeholders, and gradually incorporate open access provisions in research support programs." It should be noted that an open access requirement does not mean mandating publication in an open access journal. Rather, it could involve as little as agreeing to post a copy of a published article in an online repository, including the grantee's own website.

Awareness is good. Discussions are good. We should not lose sight of the fact, however, that the public is funding this research. I was awarded an SSHRC grant last month and would happily agree to open access requirements in return for the support. Indeed, with nearly a third of the grant proposals in my discipline approved but unable to receive support due to lack of funding, I'd venture to say that the SSHRC could fully distribute its envelope of funding to peer-reviewed research proposals with an open access requirement built in. If researchers don't want to make their work available to the public, don't apply for the funding.

OA journal processing fees at 12 publishers

BioMed Central has created a table comparing the article processing fees charged by OA journals at 12 publishers. The purpose is to show that the BMC fees are competitive, but one helpful side-effect is to see an up to date picture of the fees at some major publishers (as of April 28, 2006), their range, and what benefits they pay for.

PS: The table well-represents the publishers charging higher fees than BMC. But it omits the publishers charging lower fees, such as Hindawi ($500/paper), and the majority of OA journals that charge no fees at all.

Update. BMC has updated the table to include Hindawi and this note on the table's intended scope. "Some open access journals (including several from BioMed Central) charge no article processing charges to authors, but cover their costs in other ways - e.g. some are directly supported by a host institution. The table above lists only journals where article processing charges are the primary form of support."

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Academics for net neutrality

Andrea Foster, The Fight for a Toll-Free Internet, Chronicle of Higher Education, May 5, 2006 (subscription required). As I've explained, I can't cover the net neutrality debate fully here even though I think it has implications for OA. Foster's article is the best I've seen on the implications for academics, though without quite reaching the implications for OA. Excerpt:
[The University of Alaska is having trouble with the quality of its net-based videoconferences.] When [Curt Madison, director of the Center for Distance Education at Alaska's Fairbanks campus] complained to [broadband provider] General Communications, officials advised the university to buy the company's dedicated videoconference line. Mr. Madison says that option is too expensive, and besides, he says, he shouldn't have to pay extra to get reliable service. Dana L. Tindall, a senior vice president of the company, offers an airline analogy: "If you don't want to ride on coach, and you want to have a seating assignment, you have to pay a little bit more." Mr. Madison worries that the company's preferential treatment of its own videoconference service "is a harbinger of what we could face, as [broadband] carriers become vendors of programming and seek competitive advantage." Many academic leaders share his concern. Telephone and cable companies, the officials say, could soon thwart colleges' attempts to deliver education and collaborate on research over the Internet. Colleges are pressing Congress to force telecommunications companies to keep their broadband pipes open to any kind of Web content or network application — even those that compete with the companies' own offerings — and to prohibit the companies from favoring certain types of network traffic with fast-lane delivery to people's computers....[A]cademic leaders say that faster service for some Web sites means slower and less reliable service for others, since network capacity, known as bandwidth, is limited....

Many college presidents find themselves caught in the middle of the debate, confides a college lobbyist who asked not to be identified. On the one hand, they want to maintain good ties with AT&T, Verizon, and other broadband carriers because in many cases, they provide communication services to campuses. Some college presidents may even serve on the companies' boards. On the other hand, the presidents do not want their distance-learning and research programs to suffer because of a tiered Internet that would cause their institutions to pay more than they can afford for reliable, fast Internet service. Despite college presidents' reluctance to take a stand, several higher-education groups in Washington are promoting legislation to require telephone and cable companies to operate their networks in a nondiscriminatory way....Nils Hasselmo, then president of the Association of American Universities, signed the [pro-neutrality] March letter [drafted by Educause's Network Policy Council], on behalf of his group, the American Council on Education, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, Educause, and Internet2. About two weeks later, the coalition sent a similar letter to the Republican chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, before it took up the issue. Academic-library groups support network neutrality, too. The American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries, as well as Educause, are part of a diverse group calling itself the Coalition. The coalition announced last week that it was planning a rally on Capitol Hill and was urging its members to write letters to newspapers and to contact lawmakers. Two law professors — Lawrence Lessig, of Stanford University, and Tim Wu, of Columbia University, both of whom popularized the term "network neutrality" — are also part of the coalition.