Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, May 27, 2006

More on the Eysenbach study

Points for Open Access, Science Magazine, May 19, 2006. (Thanks to Jennifer Heffelfinger.) A short unsigned news story. Excerpt:
Advocates of open-access publishing got new fuel for their argument from a study published online this week in the open-access Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology suggesting that free papers get cited more often. The analysis, conducted by Gunther Eysenbach of the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto, Canada, looked at articles published from June to December 2004 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, after the journal started letting authors pay $1000 to make their papers immediately available for free. By April 2005, 78 (37%) of the 212 open-access articles had not been cited versus 627 (49%) of the 1280 regular articles, which are free online after 6 months. By October, 11 open-access articles (5%) were still uncited compared to 172 (14%) of regular articles. After data adjustments for factors such as authors' previous citation rates, the open-access papers were twice as likely to be cited by April and three times as likely by October. They also averaged more citations: 6.4 per paper versus 4.5.

Good WHA resolution could be better

Tove Iren S. Gerhardsen, Agreement Reached On IP And Public Health Resolution At WHO, IP Watch, May 27, 2006.

First the good news:

A technical group at the World Health Assembly today agreed on a resolution that will increase the worldwide research and development focus on diseases that disproportionately affect developing countries....The text of the resolution is not yet available but will be distributed at the meeting on 27 May by the World Health Organization (WHO)....

And then the bad news:

Participants said some language was removed due to overlaps from combining the two draft resolutions....Deleted language with no apparent overlap may have been removed because it was controversial. This might include...references to open access to public research such as the Human Genome Project and open access models in general. It might also include references to the public domain (“proper balance between intellectual property rights and the public domain”), and to the public interest (“imperative to reconcile the public interest in accessing the products and derived from new knowledge with the public interest in stimulating invention”), a global appeal from 2,500 scientists, and the importance of the WHO’s regional committees to include the CIPIH [Commission on Intellectual Property Rights, Innovation and Public Health] report in their agendas.

Comment. I understand going for the low-hanging fruit before the higher-hanging fruit, and not waiting for consensus on harder questions before resolving easier ones. We do it ourselves in the OA movement. But OA isn't an easily separable side-issue in the current WHA debate. Any serious attempt to accelerate R&D on diseases that affect developing countries has to reckon with the power of open access to help the cause and the power of toll access to hurt it.

OA can help translate basic medical research into practical therapies

Stig Linder and Maria C. Shoshan, Is translational research compatible with preclinical publication strategies? Radiation Oncology, March 24, 2006.
Abstract: The term "translational research" is used to describe the transfer of basic biological knowledge into practical medicine, a process necessary for motivation of public spending. In the area of cancer therapeutics, it is becoming increasingly evident that results obtained in vitro and in animal models are difficult to translate into clinical medicine. We here argue that a number of factors contribute to making the translation process inefficient. These factors include the use of sensitive cell lines and fast growing experimental tumors as targets for novel therapies, and the use of unrealistic drug concentrations and radiation doses. We also argue that aggressive interpretation of data, successful in hypothesis-building biological research, does not form a solid base for development of clinically useful treatment modalities. We question whether "clean" results obtained in simplified models, expected for publication in high-impact journals, represent solid foundations for improved treatment of patients. Open-access journals such as Radiation Oncology have a large mission to fulfill by publishing relevant data to be used for making actual progress in translational cancer research.

Three perspectives on OA

G.W. Brian Owen, Andrew Waller, and Lesley Perkins, Open Access: Three Perspectives, a presentation delivered at Sharing a Vision: The Power of Collaboration (Burnaby, April 20-22, 2006).
Abstract: Open Access has the potential to transform scholarly communications and access to academic research, especially for libraries in smaller institutions or in economically disadvantaged areas around the world. This important and timely panel discussion will focus on three aspects of open access: 1) the library as publisher, 2) the librarian as archivist, and 3) the role of open access in the careers of upcoming professionals.

German profile of Harold Varmus and PLoS

Hartmut Wewetzer, Bibliothek auf Knopfdruck, Der Tagesspiegel, May 26, 2006. A profile of Harold Varmus and PLoS, apparently based on the new Wired article. Read the original German or Google's English.

Informal scholarly communication

Christina Pikas, The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies on Informal Scholarly Scientific Communication: A Literature Review, a paper for a doctoral seminar at the University of Maryland College of Information Studies, May 13, 2006.
Abstract: This paper provides a review of the extensive research on the social structure and process of informal scholarly scientific communication and more recent research on the adoption and use of information and communication technologies by scientists for informal scholarly scientific communication. The benefits and uses of the information and communication technologies reported in the literature were examined to determine the influence of the technologies on the prior system. Information and communication technologies have not changed the social structure of science, but have enabled new forms of remote collaboration and slightly higher productivity as measured by number of publications.

PS: Pikas only mentions OA once, in the title of one work in the bibliography. Yet according to her definitions of "formal" and "informal" (pp. 5-6), OA preprint archiving is informal.

Willinsky's Access Principle wins another award

Congratulations to John Willinsky for winning the Distinguished Book Award for 2006 from Computers and Composition: An International Journal for his book, The Access Principle: The Case for Open Access to Research and Scholarship (MIT Press, 2005). The book is available in a print edition and an OA edition.

Connecticut's OA repository

The University of Connecticut has officially launched its year-old institutional repository, DigitalCommons@UConn. From the press release:

The University has begun full-scale operation of an electronic institutional repository. Following the successful completion of a year-long pilot program, the University Libraries has opened its digital collection of the University’s scholarly products to all faculty, staff, and graduate students at UConn, including the regional campuses, the Health Center, and the Law School....

The scholarly products that may be posted to the site include journal articles, reports, monographs, papers presented, seminar series, conference materials, and other products, such as sound and video clips and PowerPoint presentations. Contributions from undergraduates will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Documents from University-sponsored conferences and meetings will also be accepted, whether or not the author is from UConn....

Increasing prices in the academic publishing industry have caused libraries to reduce their subscriptions, which has hindered the work of researchers. At the same time, high printing costs have limited the production of monographs, making it harder for researchers to get their work published. Digital Commons provides an alternative to commercial publishers and individual web sites. Many publishers now allow posting of published materials in institutional repositories - sometimes as pre-prints, sometimes as post-prints...

“The establishment of a digital repository at UConn is very exciting for the research community,” says Greg Anderson, interim vice provost for research and graduate education and interim dean of the graduate school. “For the first time, the research output of our scholars will be accessible freely and easily to anyone at any time. This is the wave of the future, and we are well ahead of it.”...

Documents placed in DigitalCommons@UConn are all “open access,” meaning anyone with an Internet connection can view, print, and download them. The only exception is UConn dissertations (available from 1997), the full text of which is available only to UConn-affiliated individuals....

Thomas Meyer, associate professor of natural resources management and engineering [said] “Online article retrieval is clearly the future and I want all my articles available in PDF form on the Internet,” he says, adding that he’s also interested in Digital Commons “as a means of responding to the outrageously high prices publishers are demanding for journal subscriptions.” Xiuchun “Cindy” Tian, an assistant professor of animal science who conducts research in the Center for Regenerative Biology, has begun submitting her peer-reviewed articles to the repository. She says she sees the site as an ideal location for “laboratory techniques and protocols, undergraduates’ honors theses, independent research term papers…and preliminary and supplementary data that are not included in formal publications in research journals.”

Recommending an OA mandate for Australia

Arthur Sale, Submission to the Australian Research Council - Funding Rules & Agreements, self-archived May 26, 2006.
Abstract: The submission is addressed to making a change in the reporting requirements for all funded schemes, which will make it a requirement of receiving the grant to deposit an electronic copy of any refereed research journal or conference articles deriving from the grant with the institution administering the grant. Minor changes are needed in the Funding Rules and the Funding Agreements. Precise wording is supplied to eliminate any concerns by publishers and to make the implementation easy.

The benefits to Australia are that Australia's ARC publicly funded research is made visible to all through the Internet, and in the majority of cases publicly accessible. This will raise Australia's research impact and is consistent with Australia's espousal of a level playing field in the dissemination of research, and with activities currently underway or implemented in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the European Union.

PS: I hope other Australians will support this excellent recommendation to mandate OA for publicly-funded research in Australia. (Disclosure: I'm listed as a co-author, with Stevan Harnad and Alma Swan, but Arthur deserves all our thanks and congratulations.)

Friday, May 26, 2006

What counts as an open business?

Open Business is --openly-- seeking help in defining what counts as an open business.

We started Openbusiness to share knowledge about business models that give a substantial portion of their main product away for free. By “free” we meant free as in “freedom” and also as in “free beer”, paraphrasing Richard Stallman....Putting it into one sentence for an unusual business advice: The more you give, the more you get! Giving away lots makes sense, because only then people will use your content, see you, recognize you. This is why Creative Commons now looks like a rational option for many artists, content creators, authors, photographers or even established media businesses....

For more than a decade we have known that the Internet reduces substantially transaction costs and because of this services like ebay could emerge. They connect thousands of sellers with potential buyers for even the most unlikely products (what has now become famous as the so-called “long tail theory), something that was logistically impossible in the physical-distribution environment....

[O]pen business models [are often] built around participatory architectures, where co-creation and collaboration are the norm and not the exception....[But] MySpace – one of the best known ‘open’ platforms for sharing content and information - recently changed its copyright policy following acquisition by Murdoch. Today everything which is uploaded to the site, your pictures, movies and recordings belongs, legally at least, to them. This position is clearly in opposition to some of the benefits sought by loosening intellectual property restrictions. The definition of ‘open’ also depends, in this regard, on encouraging communities which are sustainable.

There is also another aspect of how “Openess” changes the way business operates: Big industrial organisational models which were made for the era of mass-media and mass-production make no sense anymore. An online record label run by a staff of three can perform similar functions to a big record label run by hundreds of people. New organizational forms, new management styles and cultural norms are emerging, as well as new revenue models. But are these businesses more ethical, because they can re-distribute more, or radically reduce the costs of publishing making access to educational resources much cheaper?

If you have a comment or discussion that you would like to contribute we would love to hear from you!

Wellcome Trust FAQ for publishers on its OA policy

The Wellcome Trust has issued a Publishers' Guide and FAQ to help publishers understand its OA policy. Excerpt:

8. What happens in cases where the journal does not allow the final, peer-reviewed manuscript to be made freely available from PMC/UKPMC within 6 months of publication?

8.1 If a publisher’s policy does not allow the deposition of Trust-funded research papers to be deposited in PMC/UKPMC and made freely available within 6 months of publication, then the author should not proceed with the submission to the journal for publication.

8.2 The Wellcome Trust’s Grant Conditions are mandatory and binding on institutions, grantholders, and all others supported by a grant. An author’s obligations to the Wellcome Trust will therefore, in almost all cases, pre-date any agreement with a journal....

15. Can a publisher directly invoice the Trust for any Wellcome-funded papers they publish under an OA - author/funder pays model?

No. The Trust sees publication costs as a research cost. Consequently, the additional funding it has made available for open access publishing is channelled through the University system.

Also see the Authors' Guide and FAQ.

Note that Wellcome requires papers to be deposited in PMC or UKPMC. Hence, the new Elsevier option, which provides free online access only through ScienceDirect, will not satisfy Wellcome's requirement.

Self-archiving in a new key

Charlie Rapple, Same debate, different forum: self-archiving of academic papers ... via iTunes? All my eye, May 26, 2006. Excerpt:

Here's a development in OA that might be considered, well, a little leftfield: Greg Restall has submitted an RSS feed of the metadata of his research opus to iTunes, to enable interested parties to locate and download the full text of his articles....Although Greg admits that "using iTunes in this way is just a bit of a joke", this is an interesting (and, in some quarters perhaps, alarming) development of the self-archiving idea....

For example, this reader is already suggesting that all journal articles should be thus distributed, thereby saving users from having to pay to access research....[But this] reader is confusing availability of metadata in iTunes with free availability of full text....[His] suggestion that publishers "rethink their distribution" and take advantage of iTunes misses the pretty obvious point that publishers already distribute their metadata widely, and via more appropriate, and in some cases more accessible, channels (think, for example, PubMed, which is freely available and, unlike iTunes, doesn't require you to have a plugin to use it).

Ultimately, of course, this is not a new issue. If a publisher is "green", i.e. allows authors to self-archive their papers for open access, then iTunes is just another potential self-archiving channel. What Greg's use of iTunes, and the responses it provoked, highlight is the lack of awareness of existing repositories amongst many of those who are best placed to use them, and perhaps also an underlying need for greater repository functionality, to help users quickly locate, collate and share relevant research.

We've been mulling over the implications of this, and had some ideas about what repositories could usefully do that might encourage increased usage by publishers [if, like iTunes, we didn't insist on OA]....

Harold Varmus, Free Radical

The June issue of Wired Magazine has a profile of Harold Varmus and PLoS by Jamie Shreeve, "Free Radical" (pp. 136-143). Unfortunately it won't appear in the online edition until June 1. I'll blog an excerpt when it appears, but in the meantime find the print edition.

OA to historic animations

Open access to early animations and their images is triggering an animation revolution.

World Health Assembly may require OA to avian flu data

David Brown, Bird Flu Fears Ignite Debate on Scientists' Sharing of Data, Washington Post, May 25, 2006. (Thanks to Eric Kansa.) Excerpt:
As fears of an influenza pandemic grow, a struggle has emerged between experts who believe the latest genetic data on the H5N1 bird flu virus should be made public immediately and others who fear that such a policy would alienate the countries collecting virus samples and the scientists analyzing them. The issue may come to a head this week at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, the governing body of the World Health Organization. Health ministers from more than 190 countries will consider a resolution that would require them to provide flu data and virus samples to the scientific community "in a timely manner."...

WHO supports the change....Without guarantees [of credit], scientists and clinicians may be unwilling to hand over virus samples or collect them in the first place, Margaret Chan, WHO’s director of pandemic influenza planning, said recently.

Critics of the current system say the possibility of global catastrophe trumps any concern about hurt feelings or career advancement.

"Science just moves more rapidly when you share the data openly," said Steven L. Salzberg, a computer scientist at the University of Maryland and a leader of the Influenza Genome Sequencing Project at the National Institutes of Health. He said the chief fear is that one researcher will expropriate another’s hard-earned data before the first can produce a scientific paper. "It will happen, I can’t deny it," he said. "But the problem is that when you take that attitude with a public health matter, then you’re essentially putting your scientific goals ahead of matters of the public." But the resistance to sharing data may wane as the specter of a pandemic grows.

Comment. I strongly support the OA mandate under consideration at the World Health Assembly. For background, see my April article on OA to avian flu data.

Green and gold as complementary

Dorothea Salo, Both/And, Caveat Lector, May 25, 2006. Excerpt:

The author of last week’s open-access citation-advantage article has been getting strong pushback from Stevan Harnad. His latest response is well worth reading (except for one small quotation that is fortunately easily skipped)....[I]n the main, I agree with Eysenbach. It’s a complicated world. There is no one clear definition of open access (and what is with this pregnancy metaphor, anyway?). There is no easy road to it; both green and gold roads have serious bumps to contend with....I do, however, want to quibble with one section near the end of Eysenbach’s statement:

As to Harnad’s statement that the advantage gold-over-green will wash out as self-archiving repositories become more interoperable, I would also dispute this notion. If the advantage of gold-OA is delivered through community building (building networks of peer-reviewers, networks of users, and promoting the content to the right users) and promoting the journal site and its content (by press releases, participation in conferences to build relations with readers and authors etc.), then this advantage cannot be simply washed out by a vast interdisciplinary repository of articles where no such efforts are undertaken (surely, you could have people doing the same for subject areas in a repository, but then these people can be called editors, and you are reinventing OA journals).

A few unexamined assumptions underlie this: that community-building and promotion are unique to the journal model of information dissemination, that post-publication selection measures are functionally equivalent to pre-publication selection measures such as editing, and that green-OA cannot come up with other attractions. I’m not happy with any of those assumptions....

I’m not convinced, first, that journals are the community-building tool they once were, or even that communities form around journals at all these days, be they promoted howsoever expertly....I suspect that a growth area for scholarly societies intimidated by all this open-access business is, indeed, community --a gated section of the Internet on which to talk turkey. Do I think scholars will pay membership fees for that? I surely do, given a few hotshots to seed it with. Do I think that article citations will circulate in this viral fashion, largely irrespective of the article’s publication venue? Of course I do...

[G]reen OA can exert some countervailing pressures. Interdisciplinarity is a major one; it’s easier for scholars to find related other-field materials via the big OAI-enabled interdisciplinary soup than to try to trace them through still-siloed journals and article databases. As journals themselves start interoperating better, this advantage may decrease, but I do think it exists and I do think it matters.

Thirdly, I do not agree at all that filtering and selection post-”publication” are equivalent to acquisitions editing; someone who combs repositories for discipline-specific materials worthy of recommendation is not a “journal editor.” (She’s a lot closer to a library collection developer.) There’s quite a chasm between “this is worth saying” (which is the journal editor’s credo) and “this is worth reading” (which is the collection developer’s)....

Finally, I believe green OA carries certain advantages that gold OA could conceivably match but probably won’t, mired as it is in the journal model....It’s much easier for green OA to make a stab at capturing the rest of the data than it is for gold....

In short, green and gold open access should not really be considered competitors; they are complements....

Finding public-domain articles by govt employees

Mike Carroll, Put Articles by Government Researchers Online Now, Carrollogos, May 24, 2006. Excerpt:
The proposed Federal Public Research Access Act of 2006 has an important provision that would require covered agencies to mark peer-reviewed articles by agency employees as being in the public domain and to post such articles online immediately. This is an incontestibly sensible requirement, but federal agencies and members of the public need not await the outcome of this pending legislation to make this provision effective.

Why? Because under Section 105 of the Copyright Act, any "work of the United States Government" is not subject to copyright. That means any journal article written solely by federal employee researchers (think NASA, NIH, etc.) is in the public domain. If an article is co-authored by one or more non-federal employees, then the copyright status is more complicated.

For the moment, let's focus on articles written solely by federal employees. These articles, as part of the public domain, belong to you. If you find one, you are free to post it online and to mark it as part of the public domain.

The trick is to find these articles. If you are in an office of intramural research and have access to bibliographies of articles written by federal employees, can you send me a copy or post it online? If you otherwise have access to such bibliographies, please post it or send me a copy.

Going forward, agencies should start requiring that articles written solely by federal employees be marked as such so that we can get these online now.

Michigan officially launches its IR

U-M Library launches Deep Blue: More access to U-M scholarship, press release from the University of Michigan, May 25, 2006. (Thanks to William Walsh.) Excerpt:

The University of Michigan Library has launched its new Deep Blue service that provides public online access to more than 24,000 items of research, a database that will grow as U-M researchers continue to add their work.

The service is available to the broader academic community and the general public and provides free, online and fully searchable results in a wide variety of research areas...."Increasingly, universities around the world are establishing services such as Deep Blue to disseminate research results," said James Hilton, associate provost for academic, information and instructional technology affairs, and interim University librarian.

"In addition, both public and private funding sources have begun to require public access to the results of research they support. Congress recognized the importance of open access to taxpayer-funded research by instructing the National Institutes of Health to encourage grant recipients to deposit published articles into open access databases like Deep Blue."

While access is Deep Blue’s main mission, the service also is committed to act as steward for the entirety of the scholarly and cultural information produced by U-M faculty, staff and students, he said.

The site is a customized version of the DSpace software created by MIT and Hewlett-Packard. It was designed and is managed by U-M’s Library Information Technology group, standard-setters for quality research and innovation via initiatives ranging from Making of America to the Google Print project.

Also see Michigan's pre-launch press release (May 11) urging faculty to deposit their work in Deep Blue.

Charles Bailey recognized for editing issue on reference librarians and IRs

Congratulations to Charles W. Bailey Jr. for winning the first Dr. Ilene F. Rockman Award. The award recognizes his work in editing last year's special issue of Reference Services Review on Reference Librarians and Institutional Repositories.

Semantic web ready for prime time

Semantic Web emerges from the sidelines at Edinburgh conference, a JISC press release, May 26, 2006. Excerpt:
Speaking in an interview for JISC at the end of the week-long International World Wide Web conference, David De Roure, Professor at the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton and one of the conference organisers, said it would be remembered for the emergence of the Semantic Web from specialist and academic discussions into the mainstream of public debate.

‘The Semantic Web came through at all levels of debate,’ he said. ‘It’s become very real.’ Acknowledging that the Web community has not in the past been very good at articulating what the Semantic Web actually is, Professor De Roure says that some very good and concise definitions are beginning to emerge....‘The Semantic Web is about the integration of data, enabling data to come together - the data could be calendars, photographs, pictures, scientific data, experimental data - allowing it to be searched and browsed in ways in which it couldn’t be searched and browsed before, enabling those resources to come together, enabling you to ask questions that you couldn’t ask before....The Semantic Web has equal application in chemistry, history, archaeology, music, and any other subject, and it’s as useful for those putting together the learning materials as it is for those doing the learning.’

Also see Jonathan Bennett, Semantic Web ready for mainstream use,, May 24, 2006. Excerpt:

Speaking at the World Wide Web 2006 conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Wednesday, Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, said it is now time for Web developers and content producers to start using semantic languages in addition to HTML.

A panel discussion titled "The next wave of the Web" kicked off the second day of the conference and marked the start of the technical conference content. Nigel Shadbolt, professor of computer science at the University of Southampton, told the conference attendees that what has been achieved with the Web so far is astounding by itself. "We’ve produced an information infrastructure that few would have anticipated, with the possible exception of Vannevar Bush, but I think even he would have thought the scale of all this extraordinary. Fifty years ago, it might have appeared audacious, perhaps even inconceivable, that we could have built the kind of global infrastructure that now surrounds us," said Shadbolt....

Berners-Lee said that building the stack of technologies needed to make the Semantic Web a reality has taken some time, but that we’re now at the stage where the technologies can be used....The last layer of that cake has recently been finalized. Berners-Lee explained that "the Query language, SPARQL, is now in the candidate recommendation phase, which means it’s time to implement it....

Eprints and DSpace one step closer to the RAE 2008

Announcement from IRRA (Institutional Repository and Research Assessment):
The software to allow EPrints and DSpace institutional repositories to be used for RAE 2008 is now available in Silver release form. This means that it has been adopted internally on the test institutions and has undergone some months of testing. It is now being made avalable to the UK academic community for repository managers to gain the experience of fitting it into their Institutional RAE processes.

OA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences digital library

Xiaolin Zhang, Sustainable Digital Library Development for Scientific Communities in China, IFLA Journal, 32, 2 (2006) pp. 140-146. Xiaolin Zhang is (among many other things) the Director of the Chinese Science Digital Library and chair of the national project to develop Open Access Policy Guidelines. Excerpt:
Scholarly communication is taken new a turn when forces like Google Scholar/Print, the open access movement, and institutional repositories10 are creating a new information supply chain. Access to information is no longer solely intermediated by and channeled through a library; ‘library services’ can be more effectively provided by open or commercial systems. A distributed, producerdriven, value-enriched, and competitive market is here to stay, and providing access to information alone is no longer enough for a sustainable future, as predicted by a PEW study which found that any organization relying on intermediary services will be fundamentally changed within the near future....

Based on a new understanding of the essence of digital libraries as live knowledge systems incorporating knowledge content, context, and communities, the following framework of the CAS [Chinese Academy of Scieinces] Digital Library is outlined. The Overall Layered Framework (Figure 1) consists of three major layers: an Integrated Information Service (IIS) layer, a Discipline-based e-Scholarship Service (DSS) layer, and an Institution-Based Knowledge Service (IKS) layer....For the Resource Facet, Information Resources will cover STM literature, open access repositories, and other web resources; Sci & Tech Data Resources will provide organization and access to data grids in the field....For the Service Facet, a range of services are integrated to provide information alerting, selective dissemination of information, crossdatabase search, document delivery, and reference, to support research in the field. Many of these are provided by the services at the Integrated Information Services layer and may be customized according to the needs and resources of the field. In addition, the portal may host open access journals, blog services, mailing lists, and open conference systems to facilitate communications.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Traditional knowledge and open knowledge

Eric C. Kansa, Jason Schultz, and Ahrash N. Bissell, Protecting Traditional Knowledge and Expanding Access to Scientific Data: Juxtaposing Intellectual Property Agendas via a “Some Rights Reserved” Model, a preprint (draft) forthcoming in the International Journal of Cultural Property.
Abstract: The 21st century has ushered in new debates and social movements that aim to structure how culture is produced, owned, and distributed. At one side, “open knowledge” advocates seek greater freedom for finding, distributing, using, and reusing information. On the other hand, “traditional knowledge” rights advocates seek to protect certain forms of knowledge from appropriation and exploitation and seek recognition for communal and culturally situated notions of heritage and intellectual property. Understanding and bridging the tension between these movements represents a vital and significant challenge. This paper explores possible areas of where these seemingly divergent goals may converge, centered on the Creative Commons concept of “some rights reserved”. We argue that this concept can be extended into areas where scientific disciplines intersect with traditional knowledge. This model can help build a voluntary framework for negotiating more equitable and open communication between field researchers and diverse stakeholding communities.

More AAP opposition to the FRPAA

The AAP has publicly released its May 23 letter to Sen. Susan Collins, Chair of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Senate committee considering the FRPAA. Excerpt:
Our Executive Council is writing to you on behalf of member publishers within the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP/PSP), as well as other concerned publishers among the undersigned, to express our strong opposition to S. 2695, the Federal Research Public Access Act....This unnecessary legislation would adversely impact the existing peer review system that ensures the high quality of scientific research in the United States. In addition, it would impose costly new mandates on federal agencies....

We hasten to point out that researchers who have access to US Government research funds also already have widespread access to our published information through their laboratories, universities, and private industry....As proposed, S.2695 represents an unfunded mandate that would be undertaken without compensation to the original publisher.

S. 2695 is unnecessary and duplicates existing mechanisms that enable the public to access scientific and medical journal research....

Peer review is a critical part of scientific publishing. It gives authors feedback on and validation of their analyses from other experts in their field....

In an environment of ever-shrinking budgets, we strongly believe every agency research dollar should be spent on scientific advancement and not on back-office administrative costs....

By depositing articles in databases with no access controls, federal agencies would be asking the American taxpayer to subsidize the dissemination of information to anyone in the world with access to the internet-- including those corporations around the world that now are obliged to purchase information about US-funded research....

Comment. The bill is that bad and yet it duplicates what publishers are already doing. It would be terrible if peer review disappeared, but don't ask for the evidence that the bill would make peer review disappear. Public research money should be spent on research, even if the results are locked away for the economic benefit of a private-sector industry, even if a small investment would make them available to everyone who can use them, and even if the same agencies spend roughly 10 times the cost of this program on page charges and other subsidies for subscription journals. For more detail, see my 10-point rebuttal to the AAP's objections to the FRPAA.

Two more installments of Harnad and Eysenbach

Yesterday, Stevan Harnad posted one more response to Gunther Eysenbach (short version, long version), and Eysenbach posted one more response to Harnad.

Update. Harnad has now posted one more response to Eysenbach.

Helsinki OA presentations

The presentations from the UNICA Seminar, Trends in Education and Research (Helsinki, May 18-19, 2006), are now online. There are presentations on OA by David Prosser, Lars Bjørnshauge, Antonio Fantoni, Bo-Christer Björk, Robert Terry, Nicole Dewandre, and Paul Ayris. (Thanks to Kimmo Kuusela.)

Forthcoming OA journal from AIP

Biomicrofluidics is a forthcoming peer-reviewed, OA journal from the American Institute of Physics. (Thanks to George Porter.) From the site:
As an electronic-only, open access journal with rapid publication time, Biomicrofluidics will be responsive to the rapid developments expected in this field. The interdisciplinary approach inherent in biomicrofluidics research draws scientists from diverse fields — engineering, physics, materials science, chemistry, and biology.

It will start accepting submissions on July 6, 2006, and the first issue should appear by January 2007.

From yesterday's press release:

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) announced today that Prof. Hsueh-Chia Chang has accepted the position of Editor of AIP's new rapid-publication, open access journal, Biomicrofluidics. Dr. Chang is Bayer Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Director of the Center for Microfluidics and Medical Diagnostics at the University of Notre Dame....

[Quoting Hsueh-Chia Chang:] "[O]pen access to the journal will allow researchers to build on each others work, thereby spurring significant research activity and leading to major breakthroughs in applications such as diagnostic technologies."...

"With budgetary constraints hampering the efforts of many libraries to acquire all the research their patrons need, new connections are needed between those publishing research and those needing to utilize it," stated Marc H. Brodsky, AIP Executive Director and CEO. "In order to fulfill AIP's mandate, which involves the diffusion of knowledge for the benefit of human welfare, we are pursuing new avenues to enhance the free flow of information. Open access publication is one such avenue."

Update. The official launch date was November 9, 2006. See the AIP press release.

Student editorial supports FRPAA

Articles of contention, Indiana Daily Student, May 25, 2006. An editorial. Excerpt:

Who would have thought that academics might be opposed to the dissemination of information? A recently proposed congressional act, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, would require certain government agencies to publish online any articles containing research funded by public grants. It has been met with some hostility among the management of scholarly journals whose income depends upon the selling power of these articles.

Were this bill to be passed, any article published in an applicable scholarly journal would have to be made available electronically (free of charge) within six months. Obviously, this doesn't sit particularly well with editors and producers of such journals; their argument is that free online publication of their articles would reduce their subscriptions and, hence, their ability to sell advertising space....The problem is that the content these publications are hawking has been funded by taxpayer money. Journals provide a means of editing, condensing and digesting the immense amount of research published every year -- but to charge the taxpayer twice is unfair....

We think an act of Congress is appropriate....[I]t makes little sense for a taxpayer to have to purchase a subscription to read the fruit of his or her own tax dollars. In our opinion, it does not sound too harsh to say "make the research available or find private funding."

PS: This is the first discussion of FRPAA I've seen in a student paper. Kudos to the editors for covering it and for their sensible endorsement. Just one small correction: The OA requirement wouldn't depend on the journal publishing the research but on the agency funding the research.

More on free access to publicly-funded data in the UK

Michael Cross, One small step on a long-haul journey, The Guardian, May 25, 2006. Excerpt:
Ten weeks after Guardian Technology launched the "Free Our Data" campaign on March 9, government advisers are starting to consider its message. Last Friday, the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information - set up in 2003 to advise the government on how to exploit its digital crown jewels - published the minutes of its annual seminar. They reveal that "the 'Free Our Data' campaign organised by The Guardian was raised". The chair of the advisory panel, Professor Richard Susskind, told us this week: "We welcome the thrust of your campaign because you recognise the value of public-sector information, and are doing a fine job of raising awareness."...

But first, to recap. The campaign's argument - made in "Give Us Back Our Crown Jewels" (March 9) is that the British government owns one of the world's most valuable collections of intellectual property. Government policy on what it should do with this information is muddled. On one hand, it encourages free access, for example to historic census returns. On the other hand, agencies holding some of the most valuable information are required to operate on a quasi-commercial basis, charging for access to their data. The most efficient and astute of these so-called trading funds, such as Ordnance Survey, operate at no direct cost to the taxpayer and even make a profit for the Treasury.  However, we contend that this policy has a wider cost. At best, it generates an absurd bureaucracy in which one government agency has to negotiate contracts with another government agency for permission to use information which the government already owns. At worst, it stifles the knowledge economy because any start-up business based on government data is liable to find itself in direct commercial competition with the very body which produces that data. Tales of unfair practices abound.

Our proposal is that the government gets out of the market and leaves data pricing to the market. Data collected by the public sector (apart from necessary exceptions to protect privacy and national security) should be available to all for free, to exploit as they wish. This would require higher taxes to fund the national collection of, for example, meteorological data. But this cost would be outweighed by the economic benefits of creating taxpaying companies and jobs....[W]e stand by the arguments at the centre of our campaign:

  • The public sector is best positioned to collect data, and the private sector best placed for commercial exploitation
  • Taxpayers should not have to pay twice, or three times, for data they already own
  • At the very least, the government needs to produce better evidence to justify the overall cost of the status quo.

More on the First Monday Openness conference

Prayas Abhinav has written a two-part summary of the First Monday conference, Openness: Code, science and content (Chicago, May 15-17, 2006).

From Part I:

Jennifer Papin’s paper (she was from Trinidad & Tobago), which was about Open Access Publishing, was a good introduction to the concepts, challenges, motivations of OA. I got thinking, are there any OAP consultants around, who can help institutions help shape their OA policies and programs? And maybe even help them setup the systems to go open.

From Part II:

Charlotte Tschider’s paper talked about the impact factors of different journals - Open Access and other. She spoke about how “giving necessiates reciprocity”, about the concept of hau about how givers and receivers are connected infinitely.

Comment. On the consultant question, the answer is yes. I'd be glad to help institutions shape their OA policies (time permitting, no charge). If I'm too busy or speak the wrong language, I can also recommend others from around the world.

Supporting a directory of OA repositories

Kathleen B. Oliver and Robert Swain, Directories of Institutional Repositories: Research Results & Recommendations, a paper to be delivered at the 72nd IFLA General Conference (Seoul, August 20-24, 2006).
Abstract: At its 2005 business meeting in Oslo, the Health and Biosciences Libraries Section (HBLS) agreed that an international directory of institutional repositories would be a useful tool for IFLA. Members suggested that it could be mined and monitored for growth in numbers of repositories, their collections and content development, the services they provide, their acceptance and use by scholars, and their impact on scholarship. With that in mind, HBLS funded Johns Hopkins to 1) identify existing directories, and, for those found, 2) to describe their scope, record structure and updating mechanisms. In this paper, we will describe the results of our research. One directory, the University of Nottingham’s OpenDOAR, stands out as the leader among the directories identified, particularly for the purposes envisioned at the Section’s 2005 business meeting. This paper will describe and compare the scope, structure and update methodology of OpenDOAR and 23 other directories of institutional repositories, with particular attention to the health sciences. Based on our findings, we will offer suggestions for how the HBLS and IFLA might support an international directory of institutional repositories and how such a directory might be used for the advancement of scholarship globally.

Comment. The abstract suggests that, although HBLS likes OpenDOAR, it might launch yet another directory of OA repositories. But the body of the paper suggests that HBLS is more likely to support OpenDOAR than launch a new one --which is good news. We don't need another directory. We need to merge the best ones (OpenDOAR and ROAR), avoid the present duplication of labor and resources, persuade existing repositories to list themselves, and support the merged result.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Open access and library access

The June issue of Cites & Insights is now online. This issue contains a good opening section on Libraries and Access. Excerpt:
Think of...this essay as an extended answer to the question, “Why do I write about library access at all --and why don’t I stick to open access?”...I would not dissuade anyone from focusing on open access to scholarly articles (with or without capital “O” and “A”) and improving both “green” and “gold” aspects of such access. That’s important work. Peter Suber sustains a high level of clarity and completeness in discussing and advocating both forms of open access; Charles W. Bailey, Jr. and (more recently) the bloggers at OA librarian add to that effort, as do others. Many other librarians and scholars are engaged in creating and building OA journals (“gold” OA) and encouraging scholars to deposit their articles in OAI digital repositories (“green” OA). More power to them. Library access involves more and, in some ways, less than open access....

The current journal model is broken. Too many STM journals cost too much money, and increase in price at too rapid a rate....The current model, with several large commercial publishers dominating the field of STM publishing and charging what they believe the market will bear, is unsustainable: It is already breaking down, with even the wealthiest libraries canceling large numbers of journals....I am not arguing that these publishers don’t add value. Clearly, they do. I am arguing that the subscription model simply will not stand: That it is already breaking down and will continue to break down, probably at an accelerating rate....

Green OA...[improves access but] does nothing to address the financial breakage --which means it fails to address library issues, vital to long-term effective access. Worse, some green OA evangelists regard library issues as irrelevant and even treat with disdain library efforts to improve green OA....

Open access journals can relieve cost pressures on libraries. Open access journals can reduce the cost structure of the entire scholarly publishing enterprise. Libraries may even be sensible candidates to carry out the modest organizational tasks involved in publishing an electronic-only open access journal. But open access journals aren’t growing rapidly --and aren’t displacing commercial journals to a noticeable extent. Some argue that a complete shift to open access journals could even increase costs to some libraries or universities, but that analysis assumes two questionable points: [1] It assumes a very high cost per published article, at least $1,500, even though some open access journals that charge author-side fees have considerably lower fees....[2] It assumes that all open access journals will be paid for by direct author-side charges, even though most open access journals don’t currently charge author-side fees (and many subscription journals do charge author-side fees), and even though author-side fees could reasonably be built into research grants.

There are several possible reasons for the slow growth of open access publishing. One factor may be the astonishing level of “untruthiness” set forth, on an ongoing basis, by many within the scholarly publishing community: For example, arguments that open access journals will undermine peer review, reduce editorial quality, or in some other manner damage scholarship.

PS: Like Walt, I've argued that some OA initiatives help scholars without helping libraries and that long-term we have to help both.

OA and digital science

Deanna B. Marcum, International Dimensions of Digital Science and Scholarship, the keynote address at the 148th Membership Meeting of the ARL (Ottawa, May 17-19, 2006). Marcum includes a succinct summary of recent OA developments in the US. Also see her slides.

Open science and national security

The National Research Council has published a new report, Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences, National Academies Press, 2006. (Thanks to Debra Lappin.) Like all NAP books, it's available in a free online edition and in a priced, print edition. From the executive summary:
It is undeniable that this new knowledge [in biology] and these advancing technologies hold enormous potential to improve public health and agriculture, strengthen national economies, and closee the development gap between resource-rich and resource-poor countries. However, as with all scientific revolutions, there is a potential dark side, to the advancing power and global spread of these and other technologieis. For millenia, every major new technology has been used for hostile purposes....

In its most recent unclassified report on the future global landscale, the National Intelligence Council predicted that a major terrorist attack employing biological agents will likely occur by 2020....Official U.S. statements continue to cite around a dozen countries that are believed to have or to be pursuing a biological weapons capability....

[Recommendations] 1. The [Committee on Advances in Technology and the Prevention of Their Application to Next Generation Biowarfare Threats] endorses and affirms policies and practices that, to the maximum extent possible, promote the free and open exchange of information in the life sciences. 1a. Ensure that...the results of fundamental research remain unrestricted except in cases where national security requires classification...[and] 1b. Ensure that any biosecurity policies or regulations implemented are scientifically sound and are likely to reduce risks without unduly hindering progress in the biological sciences and associated technologies....

[R]estrictive regulations...are not likely to reduce the risks that advances in the life sciences will be utilized with malevolent intent in the future. In fact, they will make it more difficult for civil society to protect itself against such threats....Such regulations...would also limit the tremendous potential for continuing advances in the life sciences and related technologies to improve health, provide secure sources of food and energy, contribute to economic development..., and enhance overall the quality of human life.

Comment. This is not the first time the National Research Council has looked closely at the threats from bioterrorism and concluded that "the free and open exchange of information in the life sciences" is worth preserving. Open science not only has overriding peacetime benefits but also enables us to develop countermeasures to protect ourselves against bioterror. For the NRC's previous analysis of the tension between the benefits of open science and the risks of terrorism, see Seeking Security: Pathogens, Open Access, and Genome Databases (September 8, 2004) and my thoughts on it, Reflections on 9/11, four years later (September 2, 2005).

OA or fair use?

Christopher N. Carlson, Open Access oder Fair Use? Ein Vergleich nach Kosten/Nutzen-Aspekten, in Maximilian Stempfhuber (ed.), Proceedings In die Zukunft publizieren. Herausforderungen an das Publizieren und die Informationsversorgung in den Wissenschaften, 2006, pp. 43-54. Self-archived May 23, 2006. In German but with this English-language abstract:
Following the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) of 2001, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access of 2003 gave the OA discussion a new impetus. The Declaration takes a very different approach from the Fair Use doctrine in the U.S., which is embodied in copyright law, whereas the Berlin Declaration postulates a voluntary system of Internet-based publication repositories together with incentives for depositors. Both approaches endeavour to make scholarly research and cultural heritage as broadly available as is possible, while freeing them of the status of trade-goods. This paper addresses the question of which of the two approaches is more promising in the long-term.

Comment. My German isn't strong enough to read the article with the care it deserves. But it looks like Carlson enumerates the strengths and weaknesses of OA and fair use, in full prose as well as a table, and then leaves the question for the reader to decide. If so, then something is amiss, since properly understood OA (at least where it exists) offers everything that fair use offers and more, including more permitted uses, more certainty about permission, and of course free online access to boot. Fair use does apply to more literature than OA, as Carlson points out, but that isn't a reason to "prefer" fair use in the sense that one stops working for OA.

Update. Also see Klaus Graf's criticism of Carlson's article (in German).

Handling everything from the experiment to the OA results

Simon J. Coles and 14 co-authors, An E-Science Environment for Service Crystallography-from Submission to Dissemination, Journal of chemical information and modeling, May 22, 2006. Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:
Abstract: The U.K. National Crystallography Service (NCS) has developed a prototype e-science infrastructure for the provision of a small molecule crystallography service from sample receipt to results dissemination. This paper outlines the two strands of this service, which (a) enable a user to contribute in the conduction of an experiment and (b) provide an effective route for the archival and dissemination of the arising results. Access to use the NCS facilities and expertise and a mechanism to submit samples is granted through a secure Grid infrastructure, which seamlessly provides instantaneous feedback and the ability to remotely monitor and guide diffraction experiments and stage the diffraction data to a securely accessible location. Publication of all the data and results generated during the course of the experiment, from processed data to analyzed structures, is then enabled by means of an open access data repository. The repository publishes its content through established digital libraries' protocols, which enable harvester and aggregator services to make the data searchable and accessible.

Elsevier offers OA hybrid journals

Starting this month, Elsevier is making six of its physics journals into hybrid OA journals, and will do the same for 30 more, in different fields, in the next two months. The announcement came from Carl Schwarz, Elsevier's publishing editor for physics and astronomy, in a message to PAMnet this morning. Excerpt:
From May onwards some Elsevier journals will be offering to their authors the option to pay a sponsorship fee to ensure that their article, already accepted for publication, is made freely available to non-subscribers via ScienceDirect.

Worldwide approximately 10 million researchers can already access these journals through institutional subscriptions. In a few instances, authors publishing in these journals have requested an option to make their articles freely available online to non-subscribers.

Six journals in Physics are the first to offer such an option. These are:

Nuclear Physics A
Nuclear Physics B
Nuclear Physics B Proceedings Supplements
Nuclear Instruments and Methods A
Physics Letters B
Astroparticle Physics

Thirty more journals across other fields such as Life and Health
sciences also plan to offer this option in the next two months.

The author charge for article sponsorship is $3,000. The fee excludes taxes and other potential author fees such as color charges which are additional. Information about selecting this option is now available on the journal homepages at as well as Elsevier's author gateway site, The availability of this option will be offered to authors of the above-mentioned journals only after receiving notification that their article has been accepted for publication. This prevents a potential conflict of interest where a journal would have a financial incentive to accept an article.

Comment. This is important. A few comments now and more to come.

  1. This is a large, welcome step. Hybrid journals provide genuine OA for authors who select the OA option (or they can, depending on the fine print). The step is welcome for providing more OA and welcome for putting Elsevier's weight behind it. Just as Elsevier's decision to permit postprint archiving in June 2004 broke the ice for many publishers who were not already green, this decision may also break the ice for those that are not already offering a hybrid option. (Note that Springer, Oxford, Blackwell and others already offer a hybrid option and broke the ice for Elsevier.)
  2. The step is welcome even though the program is flawed. It has essentially the same defects that the Springer Open Choice program had when it was first announced. Elsevier's processing fee is very high (the same as Springer's), and may generate a low uptake by authors, especially since traditional page charges will be laid on top of it (same as at Springer). A low uptake will not indicate low interest in OA. Nothing in the announcement or at the journal sites suggests that Elsevier will waive the fee in cases of economic hardship. Further, Elsevier appears to demand transfer of copyright even for authors who select the new option (more below).
  3. Like other publishers who have decided to accept author-side fees, Elsevier will have to stop arguing that these fees corrupt peer review. Like PLoS, BMC, and Hindawi, and others, Elsevier must erect a firewall between the editorial and financial sides of the enterprise so that peer-review judgments are not affected by the financial incentives. The PAMnet announcement gives a misleading picture of Elsevier's firewall and makes it seem porous and paradoxical: don't tell authors that the fee-based OA option even exists until the paper is accepted --but at the same time, tell them (through this announcement and the journal web sites) that the option exists. The explanation at the web site for Nuclear Physics A is much clearer: Elsevier won't ask authors for their access decision until it notifies them that their paper has been accepted. This makes sense.
  4. The page at Nuclear Physics A adds a detail missing from the PAMnet announcement: "When calculating subscription prices we plan to only take into account content published under the subscription model. We do not plan to charge subscribers for author sponsored content." This policy, pioneered by Springer, is becoming customary for hybrid OA journals.
  5. It appears that authors who select the OA option must still sign Elsevier's standard copyright transfer agreement. At least the order form for requesting the OA option makes no reference to an alternative. Springer required copyright transfer even for its "Open Choice" authors until October 2005 when it let authors retain copyright and adopted an home-grown equivalent to the Creative Commons Attribution-NoCommercial license. I hope Elsevier can learn from Springer in this regard.
  6. The chief strength of hybrid OA journals and the chief weakness are the same: because only some authors in a given issue will select the OA option, libraries cannot justify cancelling their subscriptions. This postpones the day that libraries and universities will save money from OA journals, but it also reduces the risk for publishers and encourages them to try the experiment.
  7. Elsevier doesn't have a name for its new program, like Springer's Open Choice, Blackwell's Online Open, or OUP's Oxford Open. I'm calling it the "OA option" for now, but largely from optimism and lack of an alternative. When Elsevier finally gives it a name (say, the XY program), then I'll gladly trade in "OA option" for "XY option", especially if we learn that the option removes no permission barriers.

Update. Soon after the Carl Schwarz announcement appeared on PAMnet, the same announcement, now signed by Tony McSean and Daviess Menefee (Elsevier, Library Relations), began appearing on other lists.

Richard Poynder interviews Vitek Tracz

Richard Poynder has posted his interview with Vitek Tracz, founder of BioMed Central. This is the latest installment of The Basement Interviews, Poynder's blog-based OA book of interviews with leaders of many related openness initiatives. Like all of Poynder's interviews, this one is long and rich in historical detail --in this case, on the rise of the OA movement, the founding of BMC, the choicepoints between OA journals and OA repositories, and the recent troubles or growing pains at BMC. This excerpt is a small part of what's worth reading:

Tracz pains to stress that OA is more than just a commercial issue. While conceding that he is a businessman, and so believes that making profits is a legitimate activity for scholarly publishers, he adds, however, that since OA is plainly beneficial to society "there is an ethical reason for insisting that it happens."...

[According to an industry insider,] "Vitek should have a star role in the history of Open Access, because he was one of the first to pick up the signals, and to get in touch with Varmus, and the other people who started [PMC and] PLoS.... He has also been talking to NIH for a long time. More importantly, he had the vision and the guts to do something about OA."...

RP: Do you think the development of the Web means that OA is in any case inevitable?

VT: I think so. But it is not just that the Web has made it possible: biomedical science simply can't function efficiently any more without open, unrestricted access to research results....[W]e have seen from our experience with the genome how important it is that the data is free and that everyone can access it. What this means is that we have to completely re-think the way science reports its findings, including the basic idea of the paper and why is it written....[J]ust think how many businesses grew up around the genome, and how many inventions have been made because the data is all in one freely available database and people can gather it and play with it....

RP: Currently, however, neither BioMed Central nor the Public Library of Science makes money, and some maintain that OA publishing will never be financially viable. When you gave evidence to the UK Select Committee into scientific publishing you said that you expect to be in the black sometime in 2006. Is that still the plan?

VT: Yes. We think we need about 2,000 to 2,500 papers a month to break even. We estimate that we will have around 2,000 by the end of next year. While OA publishing will never be as profitable as the current system of selling subscriptions we are confident it can and will be profitable.

RP: One of the problems you face is that authors appear to be as reluctant as publishers to adopt OA.

VT: You are completely wrong to say that. In fact, OA is growing much faster then anything I have ever experienced in my time in publishing, and it will continue to grow very fast as more and more people find out about it.

RP: Can you give me some figures to demonstrate that?

VT: Absolutely. Submissions to our journals are now running at above 700 papers a month. A year ago this figure was 300; two years ago it was about 120. So it is more than doubling each year. We know that authors who have published Open Access once publish that way again. And they tell others. Today around 1% of papers are published OA. I believe that when this becomes more like 5% we will reach a “tipping point”. Suddenly everyone will start knowing someone who has done it and for whom it worked well, and at that point the rate of growth will increase rapidly.

New Berlin signatories

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Free access to patent info and free use of patented inventions

Esther van Zimmeren and three co-authors, A clearing house for diagnostic testing: the solution to ensure access to and use of patented genetic inventions? Bulletin of the World Health Organization, May 2006.
Abstract: In genetic diagnostics, the emergence of a so-called "patent thicket" is imminent. Such an overlapping set of patent rights may have restrictive effects on further research and development of diagnostic tests, and the provision of clinical diagnostic services. Currently, two models that may facilitate access to and use of patented genetic inventions are attracting much debate in various national and international fora: patent pools and clearing houses. In this article, we explore the concept of clearing houses. Several types of clearing houses are identified. First, we describe and discuss two types that would provide access to information on the patented inventions: the information clearing house and the technology exchange clearing house. Second, three types of clearing houses are analysed that not only offer access to information but also provide an instrument to facilitate the use of the patented inventions: the open access clearing house, the standardized licences clearing house and the royalty collection clearing house. A royalty collection clearing house for genetic diagnostic testing would be the most comprehensive as it would serve several functions: identifying patents and patent claims essential to diagnostic testing, matching licensees with licensors, developing and supplying standardized licences, collecting royalties, monitoring whether users respect licensing conditions, and providing dispute resolution services such as mediation and arbitration. In this way, it might function as an effective model for users to facilitate access to and use of the patented inventions. However, it remains to be seen whether patent holders with a strong patent portfolio will be convinced by the advantages of the royalty collection clearing house and be willing to participate.

More on the German OA bill

Stefan Krempl, Wissenschaftler und Verleger liegen bei der Urheberrechtsnovelle über Kreuz, Heise online, May 22, 2006. On the controversy surrounding the OA bill now under consideration by Germany's Bundesrat. (In German.)

PS: It sounds like the debate in Germany is much like the debate in the US and UK: scientists and librarians support the move to OA and publishers oppose it but claim to speak for the interests of science rather than the interests of publishing.

Background on the US National Science Digital Library

Dean Krafft, Building a National Science Digital Library, a webcast lecture and PPT slides from the Educause webinar series, delivered May 8, 2006. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.) From the summary:
Since 2000, the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) Core Integration team has been creating the infrastructure for a digital library of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics resources. That library now contains more than a million resources from approximately 100 collections. In this talk, Dean Krafft will give a short historical overview of the NSDL and describe the current NSDL community and participants. He will then review the technical underpinnings of NSDL 1.0, a library built on metadata harvesting, and describe some of the challenges encountered. For the past year, the project has been working on NSDL 2.0, a new version of the library built on the Fedora repository architecture. For the last part of the talk, Krafft will describe this new library architecture and explain how it supports creating context for science resources, how it enhances the selection and use of library materials, and what these capabilities mean for the users of the NSDL.

Hindawi converts another journal to OA

Hindawi Publishing has acquired Neural Plasticity and will immediately convert it to OA. From today's announcement:

Hindawi Publishing Corporation" is pleased to announce that it has added "Neural Plasticity" to its open access journal collection. This journal was acquired from its former publisher and immediately converted to an open access model.

"Neural Plasticity" has been published as a subscription-based journal since 1998, and it is edited by Gal Richter-Levin of the University of Haifa, Israel. The back volumes of "Neural Plasticity" will be digitized and made freely available online (Volume 12 is already freely available on the journal's website, and the remaining volumes are currently being digitized). The journal's website is located [here].

All articles published in "Neural Plasticity" shall be distributed under the "Creative Commons Attribution License," which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Journal editors should help compel access to trial data

Richard Horton, Trial registers: protecting patients, advancing trust, The Lancet, May 20, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). An editorial. I don't have access and quote from an excerpt posted by William Walsh:
This flourishing of clinical research for the benefit of patients is the overarching objective of WHO's effort to gain agreement on a practicable way of registering all clinical trials, from the moment of their inception and for a minimum set of scientifically and ethically essential elements. In today's Lancet, Ida Sim and her colleagues at WHO set out two principles that must underpin trial registration. First, that all interventional trials, including early-phase studies...should be registered. And second, that all elements of the 20-item minimum dataset must be disclosed at the time of registration...Journal editors can help. Just as the editors of general medical journals played a part in raising the profile of trial registration, so editors could again help to move the current debate beyond merely an aspiration and towards a necessity. Results disclosure will be the next major step on the road to full transparency of all relevant information about a particular trial. Editors could drive that disclosure process by insisting that trialists and sponsors deposit key results information into a publicly accessible database, akin to GenBank. But...some editors are operating policies that inhibit rapid disclosure of trial data. Editors have been tough on pharmaceutical companies resistant to registering their trials. They have urged companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, to put public interest before commercial interest. Yet journals now find themselves in a similar position to industry, but with respect to results disclosure. They --we-- have a self-interested motivation to delay full disclosure of results until publication of a final paper --the Ingelfinger rule. In the past, editors have sought to control access to research results by insisting on a journal's priority in releasing data in advance of any other venue. Happily, that rule has broken down in the face of multiple outlets for data --in particular, presentation at scientific conferences. Given the ever-widening flow of information, it would be only a small step to recognise posting of trials data on an independent results database as an ethical imperative.

An open-access, open-process book

The Institute for the Future of the Book has published version 1.1 of its first networked book, McKenzie Wark's GAM3R 7H3ORY. The book is not only open access, but is being written online in real time with continual feedback from readers. From the announcement:

This is a fascinating look at video games as allegories of the world we live in, and (we think) a compelling approach to publishing in the network environment. As with Mitch Stephens' ongoing experiment at Without Gods, we're interested here in a process-oriented approach to writing, opening the book up to discussion and debate while it's still being written.

Inside the book, you’ll find comment streams adjacent to each individual paragraph, inviting readers to respond to the text on a fine-grained level. Doing the comments this way (next to, not below, the parent posts) came out of a desire to break out of the usual top-down hierarchy of blog-based discussion - something we’ve talked about periodically here....It’s also a place to tackle meta-questions about networked books and to evaluate the successes and failings of our experiment....McKenzie will actively participate in these discussions and draw upon them in subsequent drafts of his book. The current version is published under a Creative Commons license.

And like the book, the site is a work in progress. We fully intend to make modifications and add new features as we go. Here’s to putting theory into practice!

OA to satellite ocean data

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has committed funds to continue providing OA to satellite ocean data and to simplify access for real-time applications such as detecting algal blooms. Details in its May 16 press release.

Finland's university rectors commit to OA

The Finnish Council of University Rectors decided today to support a wide-ranging set of initiatives to advance OA in Finland. (Thanks to Kalle Korhonen.) From the minutes of its meeting:

The Finnish Council of University Rectors has, in its meeting today, decided to sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities. The council is a non-governmental association representing the heads of all 21 Finnish universities. In this occasion, it is important to point out also the more concrete open access activities in Finland.

In April 2006, an initiative was started for the advancement of open access activities in Finland, funded by the Ministry of Education. The project, known as OA-JES, is coordinated by the Finnish Open Access Working Group, FinnOA. It is a collaboration between the University of Helsinki, Helsinki University of Technology, the National Library of Finland, and the Federation of Finnish Learned Societies (TSV).

The objectives of the initiative are: 1) to give aid to universities and research institutes in setting up institutional repositories; 2) to inform researchers about how open access is a part of the research process; and 3) to provide an easy-to-use platform for the open access journals of Finnish learned societies.

The Ministry of Education will also be funding a digital infrastructure initiative in the centre campus the University of Helsinki, starting in 2007. In the centre campus are situated the faculties of arts, behavioural sciences, law, social sciences, and theology.

The aims will be twofold: 1) to support scholarly open access publishing, which will include repository services both for researchers and for scholarly journals of the departments, and 2) to build a supportive infrastructure for the accessibility and preservation of primary research materials of the departments. The idea is to provide faculty with a comprehensive set of services for own publications and research materials.

These activities are a concrete manifestation of the recommendations of the Open Access Publishing Committee, issued by the ministry in 2005.

Comment. Finland is one of only three countries so far with a national-level OA policy that has gone beyond proposal to adoption. The other two are the US (NIH policy) and Germany (DFG policy). The minutes above link to an abstract (in English) of the policy, but also see the full-text (in English). The new initiatives supported by the rectors focus on what remains to be done: funding, educational outreach, and OA infrastructure. Kudos to Finland for these important steps. With the new OA bill in Germany I blogged yesterday, these are signs of growing momentum not only toward OA, but toward national commitments to OA.

Update. The Finnish Council of University Rectors did sign the Berlin Declaration on October 18, 2006.

Monday, May 22, 2006

The German OA bill

Last Friday I blogged a note on a new bill (Entwurf eines Zweiten Gesetzes zur Regelung des Urheberrechts in der Informationsgesellschaft) before the German Bundesrat that would support OA to German science. I asked for help in translating or summarizing it in English. I just heard from Gerd Hansen, an OA advocate, doctoral candidate at the Max-Planck-Institute for Intellectual Property Law in Munich, and by good luck the author or at least the inspiration for the new bill. From his email:

The provision that is currently being discussed is based on the wording I have proposed in an article on “Access to scientific information” published in GRUR Int. 2005, 378, p. 17 (until this very moment only in German).

The Bundesrat now asked for a provision (p. 7) that would support OA in particular by giving authors the right to make their articles available online, even if they have granted exclusive rights to the publisher, if the following requirements are met:

  • only after expiration of 6-months since first publication
  • research predominantly based on public (tax payer) money
  • only publications in periodicals
  • non-commercial purpose of post-print-publication
  • author is obliged to use his final version of the article

The provision would be mandatory and is not subject to any contrary agreement.

Comment. Congratulations to Gerd for this creative approach to OA and for seeing it through to the Bundesrat --and thanks for the translation help. The bill in effect permits author-initiated OA to publicly-funded research in Germany, though without mandating it. A mandate would be stronger, but this approach is the most direct way I've seen to resolve doubts about permission and make publisher dissent irrelevant. In any case, the DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), Germany's primary public funding agency, is already implementing an OA policy in between a request and a requirement. I'd be delighted to see the "Hansen bill" adopted and I hope German friends of OA will do what they can to support it.

The OA impact advantage in developing countries

Barbara Kirsop and four co-authors, Open access: more signs of its impact on citations, SciDev.Net, May 19, 2006. A letter to the editor. Excerpt:

My colleagues and I read with interest your news item 'Open-access research makes a bigger splash'. This is welcome research, and confirms what is being found by a growing number of similar studies carried out since 2001.

It will be of interest to your readers that statistics now available for journals published in developing countries are showing a similar marked increase in usage following conversion to open-access.  For example, the journals distributed by the Brazil/Canada service Bioline International show a remarkable increase in full text paper downloads, rising from an average of about 2,500 per month in 2004 to an average of 200,000 per month since the journals were made freely accessible by compliance with the Open Archives Metadata Harvesting Protocol in January 2005....It seems certain that the recovery of full papers will have a direct impact on the citation index as more data become available.

Similarly the distribution service MedKnow (see, which manages biomedical journals in India has found that as a result of converting to open access, paper access rates have risen dramatically. The number of submissions has also grown, with an increasing number from non-Indian authors. The projected citation index has increased almost four-fold and, more importantly, the journals have been able to provide free access without charging authors or losing revenue from print subscriptions.

Although these statistics are not a comparison between the same papers available through either open- or non-open access, as in the [Eysenbach] study SciDev.Net reported on, it is certainly clear that open access is creating a remarkable and hugely encouraging growth in the use of research publications from developing countries....

OA helps funding applicants, not just funders

Heather Morrison, The financial folly of pay-per-view, for the funder, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, May 22, 2006. Excerpt:
Abstract: Some of the best arguments for open access, can be found by simply looking at the alternatives, such as pay-per-view. It is hypothesized that the costs to a funding agency of reviewing the previous work of a grant applicant, following the pay-per-view model, could quite easily average $12,000 US per grant application, or more. This makes the payment of a very modest fee, such as the PLoS $1,500 US per article, for top-notch open access publishing for access to everyone, everywhere - not only a good idea, but an incredible bargain, too. Reviewing the works of the self-archiving author provides significant benefits in terms of both costs and time for the funding agency, that perhaps it makes sense for the funder to prioritize or expedite such applications. It is hypothesized that even without conscious intent, expediting of grant applications by self-archiving authors may be a natural phenomenon, due to the time savings and simplicity of review of previous work.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A rector's introduction to OA

Bernard Rentier, Accès libre, a posting on his blog, May 20, 2006. Rentier is the Rector of the University of Liege. His posting is a succinct introduction (in French) to the irrational scholarly communication system and the OA alternative, with answers to basic questions and objections.

PS: You have to like a rector with a blog, especially one who uses it to defend OA. Kudos to Rentier. Lucky Liege.

Access to knowledge in blogs

Gilad Mishne, Information Access Challenges in the Blogspace, a paper to be presented at the International Workshop on Intelligent Information Access (Helsinki, July 6-8, 2006). (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)
Abstract: This paper discusses the blogging phenomenon from an information access point of view. We examine blogs as a source of knowledge, analyzing the properties which make them unique as a data collection. We outline information analysis tasks aimed at blogs, and discuss how the properties of blogs are used in this context; finally, we point out some of the main aims of current computational blog research.