Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Presentations on access to public sector info

The presentations from the OECD Workshop on Access to Public Sector Information and Content (Paris, May 31, 2006), are now online. (Thanks to John Houghton.)

Geoportail, Gallica, Quaero

A new web map takes a French perspective, International Herald Tribune, June 23, 2006. Excerpt:

A Web site sponsored by the French government that features a detailed aerial map of France went live Friday, rivaling a similar service offered by Google, owner of the world’s largest Internet search engine. was created by the French National Geographic Institute and features aerial maps of mainland France and of all the country’s overseas territories. It is competing with Google Earth, the virtual globe program that carries images obtained from satellite and aerial photography....

Geoportail reflects President Jacques Chirac's view that Anglo-Saxon culture is omnipresent on the Internet and threatens to overwhelm other cultures. The French National Library has put more than 80,000 books and newspapers clips online since early 2006 on a portal called Gallica, in response to Google Book Search....That database, and the French National Library's, will soon be followed by Quaero, a European search engine created by France and Germany and designed to compete with Google and Yahoo.

A standalone submission module for OA repositories

A standard ingest for repositories, The Digital Librarian, June 23, 2006. Excerpt:

I want to put forward what I believe is one compelling use case for a standard ingest API/Interface/Protocol (call it what you will). We use DSpace here at [Oregon State University], and as everyone knows, one of the biggest barriers to faculty submitting materials into an institutional repository (i.e. not DSpace-specific) is the amount of metadata they need to enter when submitting a resource. Now, say a faculty member has a large set of related (such as they are all part of a series) images that they are trying to submit into the repository - with DSpace (and other repository software, I’m sure), they are required to re-enter, for every image, every metadata field value, even if it is the same value for each image....Now, DSpace does indeed have one way of doing this - by setting up a default template for a collection. Unfortunately, this isn’t an acceptable solution, as we would need to create a new collection every time a new, unique series of resources was to be submitted. What would be better is if we could build a user interface that provided the user an option to "carry-over" their metadata from their previous submission.

In order to accomplish this "carry-over" feature, there are at least two approaches. The first approach would be to dive into the DSpace code, and enhance the software to do what we want....The second approach would be to create a separate web app that allowed us to easily create a custom UI / workflow particular to the problem we are attempting to address, and then have that app automatically submit the resources into our repository. The plus-side here is that we aren’t needlessly monkeying around with the DSpace code, we can use whichever programming language / framework that is comfortable to us (such as Ruby on Rails), and we don’t have to upgrade this system every time DSpace is upgraded - unless the method of submitting items into DSpace changes.

 And this brings us to the point: If DSpace defined a standard, consistant ingest interface (or API or protocol...), then this would allow us to build these types of apps quite easilly. And, if there were a standard ingest that was implemented by all scholarly repositories, then if we were decided to step away from DSpace, or wanted to deposit items into more than one repository, we could - without needing to re-program our app.  To me, that's a fairly convincing use case for a standard ingest interface for scholarly repositories.

More on OA v. security

If you recall, the EU's INSPIRE Directive (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) was recently revised to require OA rather than cost-recovery for publicly-funded geospatial data. The new policy is now being attacked by UK conservatives for endangering national security. From Conservatives in the European Parliament:
Geoffrey Van Orden MEP, Conservative Defence Spokesman, commented: "I am very concerned that, in spite of Conservative opposition..., the Parliament has passed amendments that allow for unlimited public access to certain spatial data including oceanographic survey data. From this it would be possible to identify trends in sea areas that are being surveyed and the timescales involved. Analysis of such information over time could lead to conclusions about naval patrol routes. This has clear implications for the safety of Royal Navy vessels, including the nuclear deterrent force....The British government must now put a stop to this in the EU Council."
(Thanks to Public Geo Data.)

More on the CNRS self-archiving recommendation

Stevan Harnad, Position of CNRS (France) on Open Access, Open Access Archivangelism, June 23, 2006.
Summary: The new Director General of France's large, distributed national research network, the CNRS, has reiterated his predecessor’s recommendation to all CNRS researchers to deposit their articles in HAL, the CNRS's nationwide institutional repository. Unfortunately, recommendations alone do not generate much more Open Access self-archiving than the spontaneous worldwide baseline of about 15%. To accelerate CNRS self-archiving toward 100%, the recommendation must be transformed into a requirement. The only obstacle to adopting an OA self-archiving requirement is the perception that it could contravene copyright agreements with publishers, so the simple, certain solution is to make it an immediate deposit requirement (no exceptions, no delays), with Open-Access-setting merely a recommendation rather than a requirement. (For the 31% of postprints that might have a Closed Access embargo interval, the semi-automatic EMAIL-EPRINT request feature of the institutional repository softwares can provide for all would-be users' access needs during the embargo.)

More on the Royal Society hybrid OA journals

Katharine Sanderson, Open access, take it or leave it, Chemistry World (from the Royal Society of Chemistry), June 23, 2006. Excerpt:
The Royal Society, UK, is trialling a hybrid author-pays/reader-pays publishing model. The RS has been a stern critic of open access publishing in the past, and says there is an absence of evidence to support the author-pays model.

Using the hybrid model, authors are offered a choice: they can pay £300 per A4 page to make their paper freely available immediately; or they can pay nothing and wait 12 months for their paper to become freely available (the current model). Papers written by authors who choose the first option, called ‘EXiS Open Choice’, will be placed in the PubMedCentral repository.

The RS was prompted to test the hybrid model after frustrations that its call to the publishing sector to produce a study of different models was ignored, said a spokesperson for the society. In November 2005, the RS was critical of commercial open access publishers for profiting from publicly-funded research (see Chemistry World, January 2006, p6). ‘We haven’t changed, we’re in the same position,’ Bob Ward told Chemistry World. ‘We’ve always recognised the potential benefits of OA, but we’re also aware that there are some potential drawbacks.’...

Sally Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers applauded the ‘very sensible’ move by the RS. The only way to test open access is to give researchers the choice, Morris told Chemistry World. ‘Open access isn’t the complete answer,’ she said. She predicts a collective ‘racking-of-brains’ by publishers to come up with other imaginative publishing models.

Comment. I don't think it's true that the RS will routinely deposit its Open Choice articles in PubMed Central. The first Open Choice article was deposited in PMC, but it was funded by the Wellcome Trust, which requires PMC deposit. An automatic deposit policy, at PMC or any other OA repository independent of the RS, would be very welcome, but the RS hasn'tn announced such a policy yet.

Friday, June 23, 2006

OA database of Costa Rica's biodiversity

Rex Dalton, Biodiversity: Cashing in on the rich coast, Nature, June 1, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). (Thanks to Kathryn Garforth.) Excerpt:
Along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, scientific explorers are trying to turn over a new leaf for a storied institute — the National Biodiversity Institute, or INBio....Created in 1989, INBio, based in a suburb of the capital San Jose, became an early symbol for how developing nations might participate sustainably in the biotechnology revolution. World-class researchers joined with Costa Rica’s well-trained academics, hoping to save the nation’s biodiversity — 4% of the world’s total — by making money from it....Today, other developing nations look to INBio as an example of how to achieve the goals of the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity, which encourages sustainable development worldwide....

Advocates hope [that sustenance for INBio] will come from the Fogarty International Center at the US National Institutes of Health, which is giving the new bioprospecting team $3.5 million over four years....Led by chemist Jon Clardy of Harvard Medical School, the five-year project includes researchers from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, the Broad Institute — a joint venture of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts....The current project is be as open as possible about any potential new drug candidates. With the earlier grants, any compounds of interest left Costa Rica, disappearing behind the proprietary walls of corporate science. Clardy, who was part of the earlier ICBG when at Cornell, says he didn’t want the new programme making the same mistakes....[T]he data will be publicly accessible, in a database containing information such as where the compounds were collected and under what conditions. Clardy foresees an eventual library with some 5,000 to 10,000 compounds collected during the project. The database could even contain details on how compounds respond in various screening tests against pathogens, information that is usually considered proprietary. Clardy’s group would get first shot at studying any promising disease-fighting compounds. But eventually the data would enter the publicly accessible ChemBank.

More on the Royal Society hybrid OA journals

Kim Thomas, Royal Society charges £300 per page for open access, Information World Review, June 23, 2006. Excerpt:
The Royal Society is to charge authors £300 per page to use its new open access journal service. EXiS Open Choice will offer authors whose work is accepted by Royal Society journals the opportunity to make their articles immediately available online. Initially authors will be charged a discounted rate of £225 per A4 page, but that will later be increased to £300.

Bob Ward, a spokesperson for the Royal Society, said that the fee represented the real cost of publishing online, because it included the cost of peer review. “Some open access providers have been subsidising the costs to authors. We don’t believe that’s a sustainable model in the long run,” he said.

Ward acknowledged that some researchers, such as those in the mathematical sciences, might find the costs too high, and said the Royal Society would be monitoring the takeup of the service in different disciplines, earlier this year the society warned against open access adoption.

PS: There seem to be some words missing from the last sentence.

Forthcoming OA journal on medical education

ExOME (Excellence in Online Medical Education) is a forthcoming OA journal. It has no web site yet, but it already has an announcement. Excerpt:
This is the first public announcement of ExOME - Excellence in Online Medical Education....Initially, it will be open-access and online only with the option to go paper-based in the future.

I've also been reading lots about problems with peer-reviews and the cost to open access journals. Our solution is to have it community led. When articles are submitted, they will be held in a queue. This queue will last a minimum amount of time (say 2 weeks) and a maximum of 12 weeks. In this time, all members of the community will be able to criticise and review the article. This can be done anonymously (except to editorial staff who might need to moderate in case of ad hominem attacks) and votes made on the quality of the article. If the article reaches a minimal level of approval, the authors have a choice. They can withdraw and resubmit the article with corrections (and go through the review process again), or they can publish the article with or without corrections made from the reviews....

Profile of Brewster Kahle

Elinor Mills, Brewster Kahle's modest mission: Archiving everything,, June 23, 2006. Excerpt:

Ten years ago, Kahle founded the nonprofit Internet Archive, with the goal of preserving the hitherto ephemeral pleasures of the Net for posterity. But, unsatisfied with limiting himself to the saving of Web sites, Kahle decided to broaden his scope and include existing collections of books, television programs, movies and music in the archive's massive digital repository....

Kahle enthusiastically discusses his ambitious plan to build, make freely accessible and preserve what he calls--in reference to the legendary lost library of the ancient world--the "Library of Alexandria, v.2."  "Let's have a library system that is in the great traditions of Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Carnegie and the Library of Alexandria," he says while showing a reporter around the Internet Archive's offices in San Francisco's Presidio. "If we are able to build that library again with the vision of the Greeks but the technology of the modern era, that's something to be proud of."...

Kahle relishes his role as Internet archivist. The staggering volume of material to digitize--centuries of historic media, and new data appearing by the minute--doesn't daunt him. Commercial interests whose monetizing efforts threaten free universal access do. So he readily takes up the cause to fight for freely accessible information.  "If we lose (the library of human knowledge) to a corporate interest, I would have screwed up. Having it go to corporate hands is my worst nightmare," he says. Which brings us to the Open Content Alliance, a joint effort by the Internet Archive, Yahoo and Microsoft to digitize library collections, including those of the University of California system and The University of Toronto....

"Some would like to control (information) so fewer people make money and have access. This is not right," Kahle says. "I really want the Enlightenment-era ideal of universal education....I’m not against people making money. In fact, it’s absolutely essential," he says, adding that there’s plenty of money to be made off services related to the distribution of free information....

Despite some hurdles, Kahle is an optimistic man. The pieces are in place to accomplish his dream, he says: Internet technology to digitize and distribute content; ideals of universal education; and political will. "With those, I believe we can build a great library of humankind’s thoughts and dreams," he says.

More comments on Nature's coverage of PLoS' finances

All quotes are from the comment section to the Nature Newsblog.

From Jonathan Eisen:

I generally think that the Nature piece misrepresents many of the issues relating to Open Access publishing and of the costs of publishing. To say that PLoS faces a "looming financial crisis" simply because it has not broken even in the time line that the Nature reporter thinks they should have is disingenuous. My reading of the data presented in the article is that PLoS is a start up organization that has not figured out exactly what its costs of doing business are. That is a far cry from a looming crisis.

In addition, I personally think that the "break even" issue is not the critical issue here. The real issue to me is that scientific and medical research should be freely available for it to most benefit humankind. That the system for Open Access publishing is still being worked out is a minor detail in a bigger picture.

I view this issue much like I view the National Parks here in the US. The National Park Servive is still exploring ways to get parks to come as close to breaking even as possible. This is done through entrance and camping fees and various other revenue generating systems. But few would argue that Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon and Yosemite should be turned over to developers simply because it costs a bit more to manage them that is brought in by fees. That is not to say the managers of the parks should not continue to explore ways to recover their costs and reduce their expenses. But the parks benefit the entire country....[The money needed to pay PLoS' bills] could easily be provided if one took the funds being used to pay the high fees of many journals and redistributed them to Open Access journals. That way the literature would be available and no extra taxpayer money would be spent. In fact, most likely, taxpayer money would be saved by doing this.

From Stephen Ellner:

I have published in Nature and refereed for Nature, but I'm also on the PLoS Biology editorial board and an open-access supporter, so the artcle “Open-access journal hits rocky time” made me see red. Yes, PLoS needs external support still. But so does Nature, in the form of manuscript reviews that we do for free while the publisher profits from the papers that we have worked to improve. It would be interesting to compare the amount of support PLoS is getting against the value of all the anonymous "pro bono" work that the scientific community does for Nature Publishing Group.

From Musa Mayer:

As a patient advocate in the United States who closely follows the emerging scientific literature in breast cancer, and helps to educate women with advanced and metastatic breast cancer about their treatment options, the open access movement has been more than welcome. Many advocates like myself have watched with dismay over the last fifteen years as one valuable journal after another has adopted a subscription-only policy.

The PLoS journals, PubMed Central and the open access movement have been beacons in that gathering darkness. This is not a small matter for advocates like myself, who do not have institutional and academic access to the journals that we follow, nor personal resources to pay for multiple subscriptions. If we wish to read anything more than abstracts of uneven quality, we are reduced to paying exorbitant per-article prices, begging authors for reprints, visiting medical libraries open to the public, or arranging time-consuming and sometimes costly interlibrary loans. To me, it has always seemed unconscionable that research paid for in whole or in part with public funds, using patients who give so unselfishly for the advancement of medicine and science, should be unavailable to those very patients and to the public.

That a prestigious journal like Nature should all but gloat at the unremarkable start-up struggles of the Public Library of Science feels unseemly to me. I would think that even at a subscriber-supported journal, there would be those who believe in open access to the biomedical literature. And when did philanthropic support become a sign of weakness? Perhaps your editorial focus ought to be on ways to liberate scientific knowledge from the marketplace.

Many roads to open access

Jan Velterop, On the road, June 23, 2006. Excerpt:
To Sally Morris's post on the SOAF list saying that she has "difficulty envisaging how the 'no-fee' OA model, dependent on (conscious or not) institutional or other subsidy, could possibly scale", Matt Cockerill responded:

"I think a reasonable analogy here would be to ask: can a road system scale without charging tolls? I think it is clear that road systems can scale without tolls. But on the other hand, tolls can certainly play a role, and play a bigger role in some countries than others. Non-toll roads can't be written off simply as 'unsustainable'...." End of quote.

We could take this road analogy further. Roads are not paid for by tolls at every turn, as that would disrupt the flow of traffic (though the technology to introduce just that via satellite tracking is advancing fast). So tolls are only used for 'premium' roads (and tunnels, bridges, et cetera). Instead, the vast majority of the road infrastructure is usually paid for by state subsidies, which in turn, we must assume, are funded by road taxes and fuel excise taxes. These excise taxes are interesting, because it means that there is already an element of 'user pays', as more road usage means more fuel consumption means more excise tax paid. But that user-related charge is just part of the road payment structure. Every potential road user also pays via road tax, levied on the owners of cars whether they use them or not. They pay for access.

Would something like that work in science publishing? And would it be desirable?  To a degree, and in a way, the road tax simile is already there. Institutions pay for subscriptions for potential users. It's a 'just-in-case' provision. They pay for access, not usage. It is often said that payment for usage would be fairer. But we have to be very clear as to what usage and who the user actually is. It's certainly not just the reader. It's definitely also the author, who uses publication in a journal to give his article the formal status he needs for career advancement and impact. And it's also the institution itself, depending for recognition and reputation on the formal publication record of its research population.

So it would be fair were they all to pay their share....Could the reader-side charge and the author-side charge perhaps be rolled up into a single charge, on an institutional level?...Would it be possible to come up with a charge that reflects the total usage of a journal, by its readers as well as its authors, in a given institute? A way to sustain the formal peer-reviewed journal literature that balances the need to publish (publish or perish) with the need to have access (read or rot)? Or would it be a road to nowhere?

Comment. I like Jan's question and don't have an answer. But I do have my own road analogy to throw in. One objection to OA mandates for publicly-funded research is that it's wrong to spend public money on goods used by only a subset of the population. My response: On this argument, it would be wrong to spend public money on roads, since most citizens never drive on a given mile of any road. (Likewise, most citizens never visit any given post office, public library, national park, or Senatorial bathroom. Most never check out a given book from any public library.) The fact that most citizens will never drive on a given mile of a given road is not a reason to withhold public funding from the road or to stop mandating "open access" to every mile of it. If a road will be useful at all --ruling out the pork-barrell roads to nowhere--, then every citizen is a potential user of every mile and it's good policy to serve all who find that they need service. When this argument prevails and the road is publicly-funded, then every citizen has prepaid the tolls and deserves access rights, whether or not they exercise these rights. Moreover, I benefit when people across the country from me can get where they need to go, just as I benefit when my doctor has access to literature that I don't read or wouldn't understand. Finally, open access for everyone is even less expensive to provide than the tollbooths and authentication machinery needed to provide open access to some and toll access to others.

More on Nature's coverage of PLoS' finances

Nick Anthis, A Natural Conflict of Interest as Nature Criticizes PLoS, The Scientific Activist, June 22, 2006. Excerpt:

It's not surprising that the article's tone is so harsh (and that its bias is readily apparent), since Nature and the other commercial publishers have resisted the open access movement, something that threatens to undermine their profit making ability. Although PLoS is still trying to get up off the ground and reach the break-even mark, it has only been publishing for less than three years, and it has largely been a success, with its flagship journal PLoS Biology already earning the impressive impact factor of 14.7.

Still, it's worrying to see such a large gap between PLoS's earnings and expenses, and it's important that PLoS takes decisive action to address this situation, since all of academia's eyes are watching every up and down of the tangible symbol of the open access movement.

PLoS began with incredibly ambitious goals. Although the idea of forming a successful open access publishing organization would have surely been intimidating enough, PLoS went a step further by trying to compete directly with the top scientific journals in various fields. So far the results have been positive, but there's a long way to go to prove the staying power of open access.

PLoS has quite a bit working against it, and, unfortunately for PLoS, there's little room for failure, as Nature's response shows.

Deficient skills as access and usage barriers

Bruce White and Rae Gendall, Barriers to the Use of Digital Information by University Researchers, in Proceedings Educause Australasia 2005, Auckland, New Zealand, 2005. Self-archived June 22, 2006.
Abstract: The transition of academic libraries from print to electronic resources is well underway and for most scholars non-engagement with the digital environment has ceased to be an option. The demands placed on the computing skills and understanding of the main features of this environment are considerable, however, and a significant proportion of researchers either fail to take advantage of it or are in fact impeded in their work by their minimal skill sets. We examine the barriers to use of the technology and describe our own experience in training university academics to become more fluent users of electronic information resources. A higher level of engagement by both library and computing staff in training and advocacy is suggested.

Comment. The authors don't specifically discuss self-archiving, but I wonder whether some of the problems they identify might help explain the low rate of self-archiving. The fact that self-archiving is easy doesn't rule this out. Using many electronic resources is even easier. If part of the problem is discomfort with digital technology as such, then it would apply in both domains.

PLoS reply to the news and comments on its finances

Mark Patterson, What’s the story morning glory? PLoS blog, June 22, 2006. Patterson is the Director of Publishing at PLoS. Excerpt:

This Nature News item, published online 6.20.06, focuses on publicly available information about the income and expenses at PLoS from 2003-2005. There seems little that’s surprising in a piece about a recent publishing venture taking time to break even. I’m not even sure it’s newsworthy.

As PLoS continues to grow and innovate, of course we will require outside financial support to develop our business. We started a completely new publishing venture from scratch at the beginning of 2003, and our first journal - PLoS Biology - is still less than three years old. In May we launched our sixth open access journal and a radical new publishing forum for the web 2.0 era is also under development.

Our revenue from publishing is building, but we still have a way to go. Our major funders remain committed to PLoS - they have invested heavily in the organization because they strongly support our mission to make the world’s scientific and medical literature a public resource.

PLoS is also more than a publishing organization. We are actively involved in advocacy, as part of our effort to drive forward our mission to transform scientific publishing. It’s therefore not possible to judge the economic success of open access publishing on the basis of the broad financial picture at a single organization such as PLoS. Paul Peters of the Hindawi Publishing Corporation has made this point on the Nature Newsblog.

Furthermore, PLoS is but one organization within the landscape of scientific and medical publishing. The success of open access, whether or not it is supported by a publication fee business model is critically dependent on the actions and policies of other stakeholders, such as research institutions and funding agencies. That’s why our advocacy efforts are so important....

As the publishing landscape and funding environment continue to move towards open access, which they inevitably must, PLoS will adjust its own open access model so that research literature is accessible and preserved for future generations.

If you would like to show your continued support of PLoS, why not add your voice to those currently commenting on the Nature Newsblog.

Encouraging OA archiving at France's CNRS

On June 21, Arnold Migus, Director General of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), sent a letter to the CNRS unit heads asking them to invite their researchers [invitiez tous les chercheurs] to deposit their research articles in HAL, the OA repository sponsored by five major French research organizations. (Thanks to Libre Accès à l'information scientifique & technique.)

Historian on Wikipedia on history

Roy Rosenzweig, Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past, The Journal of American History, June 2006. Rosenzweig, a professor of history at George Mason University and a leading defender of OA for historical scholarship, takes a close look at the history of Wikipedia and at Wikipedia's coverage of history.

Following the action at the iCommons iSummit

The Rio de Janeiro iCommons iSummit '06 --now in progress-- is launching web site to help non-attenders follow the action.

More on the PLoS finances

OA Business Model a Challenge for Public Library of Science, Library Journal, June 23, 2006. An unsigned news story. Excerpt:

It seems that open access journal publishing, known as the "gold" version of OA, isn't paved with gold. In an eye-opening analysis in the journal Nature, the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which launched its first open access journals in 2003, is said to be facing a "looming financial crisis." According to Nature, which analyzed the non-profit PLoS's publicly available records on file with the Internal Revenue Service, PLoS ran a deficit of almost $1 million last year, and its total income from fees and advertising currently covers just 35 percent of its costs. While revenue is increasing slightly, spending is increasing at a greater clip, up to $5.5 million from $1.5 million for the past three years combined. In response, with its grant funds being steadily depleted, PLoS has announced that it will raise author fees, effective July 1, for its open access journals from $1500 to $2500 for flagship journals PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine; and to $2000 for its community journals PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Genetics, and PLoS Pathogens.

In a release, officials from the non-profit PLoS said that, with three years of operational experience to draw on, it was "time to adjust this model so that our publication fees reflect more closely the costs of publication." Still, even with the increased fees, Nature reports that PLoS will have to rely on "philanthropy" to survive for the foreseeable future, including its funding from the Sandler and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations. PLoS director of publishing Mark Patterson downplayed the financial situation, noting that the fledgling publisher is only in its fourth year. Still, more than a few commercial publishers may be saying "I told you so." In the early days of open access publishing, commercial publishers repeatedly suggested that author fees for PLoS, at $1500, and for-profit open access publisher BioMed Central, then $500, were unsustainably low. Last year, BioMed Central increased its author fees, from $525 to as much as $1700. Commercial competitors, meanwhile, including Springer, Blackwell, and most recently Elsevier, have begun offering open-access-like publishing options, for fees closer to $3000.

Information-systems strategies for OA repositories

Mary Anne Kennan and Concepción S. Wilson, Institutional repositories: review and an information systems perspective, Library Management, April 2006. Self-archived June 22, 2006.
Abstract: Purpose: To review the current literature and discussion on institutional repository (IR) and open access (OA) issues, to provide examples from the Information Systems (IS) literature, and to propose the use of IS literature and further research to inform understanding of institutional repository implementations for library managers. Methodology/Approach: Recent literature is reviewed to provide the background to, and current issues in, the development of institutional repositories to support open access to refereed research output. Practical implications: Existing research is identified, as are areas for potential research. Brief examples from IS literature are provided which may provide strategies for libraries and other organisations to speed up their implementation of IR to provide access to, and management of, their own institutions refereed research output. Value of paper: The paper brings together recent opinion and research on IR and OA to provide librarians and other information managers with a review of the field, and proposes research on IR and OA building on existing IS as well as information management and librarianship research. Keywords: Open access, institutional repositories, libraries, information systems Article type: General Review.

More on the Royal Society Open Choice policy

Stevan Harnad, Royal Society Offers Open Choice: Giving With One Hand, Taking Back With the Other, Open Access Archivangelism, June 22, 2006.
Summary: The Royal Society is a green publisher, giving its authors the green light to provide immediate Open Access to their articles by self-archiving them in their own institutional repositories in order to maximise their usage and impact. The Royal Society is now also an optional gold publisher, offering its authors the "Open Choice" of providing Open Access on their behalf, for a fee. But all of this is outweighed by the fact that this most venerable of Learned Societies, contrary to the wishes of at least 64 of its (unconsulted) members, has put its substantial prestige and gravitas behind a vehement -- and so far successful -- lobby against the Research Councils UK proposal to mandate author self-archiving by its fundees, as recommended by the UK parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology as well as the U.S. Federal Research Public Access Act, and the European Commission. In this respect, the Royal Society is deporting itself exactly like the crassest of commercial publishers, and is putting a sad blemish on its proud record in the history of Learned Inquiry and the dissemination of its fruits.

More results on Oxford's OA experiments

Rebeca Cliffe, OUP: Assessing Open Access, EPS Insights, June 22, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
Can open access (OA) be financially viable, not just in the sense of making enough revenue to cover costs, but also generating a surplus? What are the views of researchers, librarians and funding agencies? What effect does OA have on usage and citations? These questions formed the focus of the Oxford Journals event, and while there are still no firm answers, the initial research findings presented on OUP’s experimentation with the OA model make a useful contribution to a debate that is crying out for more solid data. Findings were presented relating to three different open access business models operated by OUP - full open access, optional open access and sponsored open access.

Martin Richardson, Managing Director, Oxford Journals, and Claire Saxby, Senior Editor, Oxford Journals, provided insight into the success of the models so far from a financial viability perspective. The publisher has one full open access journal, Nucleic Acids Research (NAR), which adopted the model at the beginning of 2005. Although NAR print subscriptions were already declining steadily before full open access was introduced in 2005, after that time they dropped rapidly. The rising income from author charges did not compensate for loss of revenue from print and online subscriptions, and average income per article dropped from USD4,647 in 2004 to USD3,622 in 2005. As a result, the journal has had to introduce cost-cutting measures. OUP was surprised that fewer institutions than expected took out institutional membership to enable authors from their institutions to pay discounted author fees for NAR....Martin Richardson accepted that author’s expectations of the publishing process might change when they are paying for it, and expects that authors will gradually develop a more consumer approach....

OUP's Oxford Open programme, which allows authors to choose whether they want to publish in a particular journal under an open access or a traditional subscription model, was launched in July 2005 and there are now 49 OUP journals participating in total, across a range of disciplines. Between January and April 2006 there has been 7% uptake of the OA option from authors, but the large variation between subject areas is noticeable, with 11.3% uptake in Life Sciences, 4.8% in Medicine and 2.2% in Social Sciences & Humanities. So far, there has been no attrition in subscriptions for these journals, probably because OUP has dropped the pricing of the journal subscription according to the amount of OA content that is included....

PS: Oxford's full report of the results should be released next week. In the meantime you can find more details in the presentations from the Oxford Open Access Workshop (London, June 5, 2006).

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Easy way to ask your Senators to support FRPAA

OpenTheGovernment has created an action alert in support of FRPAA. If you're a US citizen, fill in your name and address, revise the text if you like, click, and your Senators will get the message.

Promoting the digital diffusion of knowledge

David E. Wojick and three co-authors, The Digital Road to Scientific Knowledge Diffusion, D-Lib Magazine, June 2006. Excerpt:
With the United States federal government spending over $130 billion annually for research and development, ways to increase the productivity of that research can have a significant return on investment. It is well known that all scientific advancement is based on work that has come before. Isaac Newton expressed this thought most eloquently in 1676, when he wrote, "If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants."

The process by which science knowledge is spread is called diffusion. It is therefore important to better understand and measure the benefits of this diffusion of knowledge. In particular, it is important to understand whether advances in Internet searching – such as simultaneous, ranked searching of distributed digital collections made broadly available via the Internet – can speed up the diffusion of scientific knowledge and accelerate scientific progress. Near-term opportunities continue to emerge to further speed up knowledge diffusion. To help craft a strategy for converting opportunities to reality, research is needed on the impact such speeding up of knowledge diffusion has on the advancement of science.

This article discusses these issues and describes research being conducted by the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) of the United States Department of Energy (DOE) under its strategic initiative, Innovations in Scientific Knowledge and Advancement (ISKA).

PS: Also see my June 9 post on this OSTI project, Science Accelerator.

Create more change

SPARC and ARL have launched a major upgrade of their useful and well-known web site on scholarly communication and OA, Create Change. From today's announcement:

SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and ARL (Association of Research Libraries), with support from ACRL (Association of College and Research Libraries), today announced the re-launch of the Create Change Web site, a popular resource on scholarly communication issues. The site has been updated to provide faculty with current information, perspectives, and tools that will enable them to play an active role in advancing scholarly information exchange in the networked environment.

The new Create Change Web based around the idea that the ways faculty share and use academic research results are changing rapidly and irreversibly. By posing the question, “Shouldn’t the way we share research be as advanced as the Internet?” the site outlines how faster and wider sharing of journal articles, research data, simulations, syntheses, analyses, and other findings fuels the advance of knowledge. It also offers practical ways faculty can look out for their own interests as researchers....

The Create Change Web site includes sections on digital scholarship and new modes of communication; examples of change in diverse fields; and ways to stay informed on new developments. It offers tailored guidance for researchers who play many roles in their professional lives - as researcher, author, reviewer, editor, editorial board member, society member, faculty member, or teacher. The site features selected news items; an ongoing series of interviews with scholars from different disciplines; and scores of links to other Web sites and resources.

From the front page of the new site:

In the age of the Internet, the ways you share and use academic research results are changing — rapidly, fundamentally, irreversibly. There’s great potential in change. After all, faster and wider sharing of journal articles, research data, simulations, syntheses, analyses, and other findings fuels the advance of knowledge. It’s a two-way street — sharing research benefits you and others. But will the promise of digital scholarship be fully realized? How will yesterday’s norms adapt to tomorrow’s possibilities?

This website will help you understand the changing landscape and how it affects you and your research. It also offers practical ways to look out for your own interests as a researcher.

A scholarly revolution is underway. It enables you to get a greater return from your research. All you have to do is share it.

OA journal processing fees by the page

When I first blogged the Royal Society's new Open Choice policy, I said, "[t]he Royal Society is the first publisher I know to charge a per-page processing fee rather than a per-article fee." But I missed at least one.

The OA journals from Hindawi Publishing charge per-page processing fees. The amounts and even the formulas differ from journal to journal. For example, the EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking charges €80/page. The Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology charges €60/page. Differential Equations and Nonlinear Mechanics charges €40/page for the first 16 pages and nothing for any remaining pages. The EURASIP Journal on Embedded Systems charges nothing for the first six pages and €100/page for each remaining page. Ahmed Hindawi tells me that the different models will probably converge to just one in the coming year.

If there are other OA or hybrid OA journals charging processing fees by the page rather than the article, I'd like to hear about them.

Meantime, the CharteringLibrarian wonders why a journal would charge per-page fees rather than per-article fees.

Update. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics is another OA journal charging per-page processing fees. (Thanks again to Ahmed Hindawi.) The fees vary depending on which of six editorial services the journal provides for a given paper.

More on the Royal Society hybrid OA journals

Stephen Pincock, Royal Society tries open access, TheScientist, June 22, 2006. Excerpt:

Britain’s Royal Society dipped a cautious toe into the waters of open access publishing this week, allowing authors whose papers are accepted by any of its seven journals to pay a fee and have their work made freely available on the web.

The society’s officials have expressed serious doubts about open access on several occasions in the past. Although they are still concerned by a lack of evidence about the sustainability of the model, they hope the experiment will ultimately be a success, spokesman Bob Ward told The Scientist. “It’s a toe in the water, but it’s not based on an expectation that it will fail -- we expect that it will succeed,” he said. “We are also hoping that this will allow us to gather some evidence that the whole sector can use.”...

Peter Suber, director of the Open Access Project at Public Knowledge, also welcomed the society’s decision to try out a “hybrid” model -- combining open access with the traditional publishing system. “The Royal Society is trying the hybrid model for the right reasons,” he said in his blog, “to see how well it works, to answer critics, and to measure the demand.”  But Suber said the plan was also flawed, pointing out that the society will not waive its fees in cases of economic hardship, will not apparently let authors choosing the new option retain copyright, and will not apparently deposit its open access articles in a repository.

The fees for the new service are higher than those charged by open access publishers. Authors who choose to pay to make their papers immediately available on the web will be charged £200 ($370) per journal page for Proceedings A, Phil Trans A, and Notes and Records, or £300 ($550) per journal page for Proceedings B, Phil Trans B, Biology Letters, and Interface.  For a 10-page article like [Neil] Roach’s [the first paper published under the RS's new OA program], that adds up to £3000 ($5500). This is more than double the fees at US open access publisher Public Library of Science, which charges up to $2,500 per article for its flagship journals.

Ward said the fee was an accurate reflection of the cost of publishing a paper. “People need to understand the cost of doing this,” he said. Still, the society remains concerned that the costs of open access publishing will be prohibitive for some researchers, he noted.

Librarians educating faculty about OA issues

Barbara M. Koehler and Nancy K. Roderer, Scholarly Communications Program: force for change, Biomedical Digital Libraries, June 21, 2006.
Abstract: The changing landscape of scholarly publication and increasing journal costs have resulted in a need for proactive behavior in libraries. At Johns Hopkins, a group of librarians joined forces to bring these issues to the attention of faculty and to begin a dialog leading to change. This commentary describes a comprehensive program undertaken to raise faculty awareness of scholarly communications issues. In addition to raising faculty interest in the issues at hand, the endeavor also highlights an area where library liaisons can increase their communication with the units they serve.

From the body of the paper:

Scholarly communication is approaching a crossroads. If the current system is unsustainable, as many believe, and if technology has changed the landscape of publishing, then a time for serious decision-making is at hand. There is a role for the libraries and librarians in this enterprise - continuing to support authors and to disseminate scholarly communications information until there is an economically sustainable system that provides the widest possible access to scholarship. The goal of the Hopkins’ scholarly communications initiative has never been to undermine the world of scholarly publishing. It is not necessary to make everything free for libraries or to put publishers out of business. Indeed, our goals are to ensure that Hopkins authors know what their rights are, that they manage their own work in a way that benefits science as well as their own needs, that they understand the business plans and philosophy of the journals they work for, and that they take control of their own publishing destinies.

Another approach to OA

Some people think that Al Gore's movie about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, is so important that they have banded together to pay the costs for anyone to see it. (Thanks to Lawrence Lessig.)

It's as if a pay-per-view article were so important that would-be readers could tap a network of willing donors for the fee. I don't expect to see this model spread to scholarly publishing, but who knows? It has a family resemblance to other OA business models: those with an interest in disseminating useful results (authors, funders, universities, governments) pay the costs so that readers/viewers needn't pay. Kudos to Eric Pan for coming up with the idea and organizing the network of donors. (BTW, the network is accepting donations.)

Comments on Declan Butler's story on PLoS

To follow comments on Declan Butler's June 20 story in Nature on PLoS' finances, there are two places to look: the Nature Newsblog and Declan's own blog. There are now comments in both places.

Here's an excerpt from Jan Velterop's comment on Declan's blog. Jan is the Open Access Director at Springer and the former publisher of BioMed Central.

The fact that the PLoS is not breaking even at this stage is not surprising. There seems to be a consensus in the publishing world that new journals - at least in the traditional subscription model - take about seven years to reach break-even. I personally think it’s more like 10 years; if ever. And here we are talking not just of new journals, but of new journals published in a new publishing model. The PLoS has done remarkably well, given all that.

But even if the top two PLoS journals don’t reach break-even, that’s not the end of the story. There is a well-known phenomenon in business that’s know as ‘loss-leaders’. It is quite conceivable that these two PLoS journals fulfil that role, pushing the PLoS brand reputation to great heights, and then enabling the organisation to capitalise on that brand with smaller, subordinate journals (’specialist’ or ‘community’ titles), which do make the surplus needed to sustain not only themselves but also the flagship loss-leaders.

Japanese researchers' attitudes toward OA

Survey Report on Research Activities and Open Access, a study from the Committee on International Scholarly Communication (a.k.a. SPARC Japan), the Japan Association of National University Libraries, and Japan's National Institute of Informations (dated March 2006 but apparently released on June 13). (Thanks to Shinji Mine.) From the executive summary:
The aim of this survey, carried out in December 2005, was to investigate trends in Japanese researchers’ research activities, their use of databases, their awareness of new Open Access (OA) possibilities such as open access journals (OAJ) and self-archiving, and their concerns about this form of publishing. 613 faculty members (researchers) at National University Corporations or Inter-University Research Institution Corporations responded to the queries. The results of the survey suggested that Japanese researchers are, in general, still hardly aware of or prepared to cope with OA, although their counterparts in developed countries are knowledgeable about OA.

29% replied that they were aware of OA, while according to A. Swan’s JISC Report (2004), over 60% of those who have not published through OAJ were aware of the concept. This evidences that Japanese researchers do not have enough knowledge concerning OA. Only 17% of the respondents answered they have plans to publish through an OAJ in the next three years. The primary reason for more than half of those respondents who choose an OAJ is a belief that the principle of free access to research information is important. In contrast, those who answered that they do not plan to publish through an OAJ (21%) stated that the most important reason for not doing so is that they are not familiar enough with OAJs in their fields to be motivated to submit to them. These findings are consistent with the tendency reported in A. Swan’s JISC Report (2004).

Most researchers feel that the author’s fee should be subsidized by research grants. More than two thirds (69%) of the respondents said that, if publishing their work in an OAJ were a condition prescribed by the contract with grant-awarding bodies, they would accept the condition. About 20% of the respondents expressed concern about the possible breakdown of the conventional scholarly communication system which the proliferation of OA might bring about, while over 40% stated they could not make any judgment concerning this subject.

Regarding researchers’ self-archiving, only 20% of the respondents have self-archived at least one article during the last three years....A. Swan’s 2nd report (2005) states that almost half (49%) of the author population has self-archived at least one article in the past three years. Most Japanese researchers are still unaware of the possibility of providing open access to their work by self-archiving.

Confirming the OA impact advantage, again

Edwin A. Henneken and six co-authors, Effect of E-printing on Citation Rates in Astronomy and Physics, a preprint submitted to the Journal of Electronic Publishing.
Abstract: In this report we examine the change in citation behavior since the introduction of the arXiv e-print repository (Ginsparg, 2001). It has been observed that papers that initially appear as arXiv e-prints get cited more than papers that do not (Lawrence, 2001; Brody et al., 2004; Schwarz & Kennicutt, 2004; Kurtz et al., 2005a, Metcalfe, 2005). Using the citation statistics from the NASA-Smithsonian Astrophysics Data System (ADS; Kurtz et al., 1993, 2000), we confirm the findings from other studies, we examine the average citation rate to e-printed papers in the Astrophysical Journal, and we show that for a number of major astronomy and physics journals the most important papers are submitted to the arXiv e-print repository first.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Which author-side fees are high?

A reader has asked me why I criticized the Royal Society today (and Springer and Elsevier previously) for high fees at their hybrid OA journals when I didn't criticize PLoS for its recent fee increases. The Royal Society charges $553 per page; Springer and Elsevier charge $3,000 per paper; and next month PLoS will charge $2,500 per paper at its two leading journals. It's a fair question and here's a brief answer.

PLoS Biology offers six kinds of value for the money that the Royal Society does not:

  1. Freedom from additional fees. The RS levies color charges on top of the article processing fees.
  2. Professionally written lay synopses of each article
  3. A higher impact factor
  4. A standing policy to let authors retain copyright
  5. Assurance of long-term OA by depositing in PubMed Central (insurance in case the journal later changes its access policy)
  6. Fee waivers in cases of economic hardship

In a different category of value, PLoS Biology offers OA to every article it publishes, making subscriptions unnecessary and freeing library funds for other purposes. For the same reason, it has a stronger interest in making its OA option attractive to authors. It can't make up for low author uptake with subscription revenue.

And of course, even after the fee hike, PLoS Biology charges less than the Royal Society (for a paper five pages or longer) and less than Springer and Elsevier (for any paper).

But having said this, I do worry that the PLoS Biology fee will deter authors --or that it would deter authors but for the PLoS waiver policy. BTW, PLoS Director of Publishing Mark Patterson shares this concern.

Finally, I only criticized the RS, Springer, and Elsevier fees for being so high as to generate a low level of author uptake. I didn't criticize them for unduly exceeding the costs of publication, since I don't know whether they do. If the PLoS fee reduces author uptake, then I'll criticize it too. If the RS, Springer, and Elsevier fees don't generate a low level of author uptake, then I'll gladly withdraw my criticism and stand corrected.

21st century scholarly publishing

Jennifer Howard, University Press Officials Discuss Problems and Options in a Digital Age, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 19, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
E-reserves, original digital scholarship, and how the Net Generation learns were some of the most-talked-about topics at the 2006 conference of the Association of American University Presses, which ended here on Sunday. Some 500 people registered for the four-day meeting, which focused on Transformational Publishing: Lessons, Tools, and Strategies for Scholarly Publishing in the 21st Century....

At Friday's plenary session on "Changing Systems of Scholarly Communication," Stephen Rhind-Tutt, president of Alexander Street Press, described the new online environment -- the world of open access, and of Web communities like Flickr and -- which he characterized as more participatory, interactive, and democratic than earlier versions of the online world. He cautioned the audience that "tomorrow's students aren't going to care about the printed artifact the way we care about it" and that "if you hold onto your content tightly ... you will be shut out of this economy of links."

Making ETDs the rule rather than the exception

Joan K. Lippincott, Institutional Strategies and Policies for Electronic Theses and Dissertations, Educause Center for Applied Research Bulletin, June 20, 2006.
Abstract: Almost without exception, students produce theses and dissertations in electronic formats, and it would seem that an institutional electronic thesis and dissertation (ETD) program would be the rule and not the exception. In the United States, however, ETD programs have been slow to gain ground; other countries are far ahead in implementing comprehensive strategies for the creation of and access to ETDs. The focus of this bulletin is on the development of institutional policies to address ETDs and the changes needed in academic culture to implement robust ETD programs. The value of ETDs as institutional intellectual assets is also explored.

PLoS finances and self-archiving

Stevan Harnad, Open Access First; Then, if/When Necessary: Open Access Publication, Open Access Archivangelism, June 21, 2006.
Summary: Nature reports that Open Access (OA) journals are having trouble making ends meet. This is because institutional publication funds are currently tied up in subscription costs. What is urgently needed now is OA, to maximize research usage and impact. Immediate 100% OA can be reached via OA self-archiving mandates. If/when 100% OA self-archiving should ever generate institutional subscription cancellations, those same institutional windfall savings will be the natural way to pay for institutional OA publication costs. If/when there are signs that that is approaching, then would be the opportune time for journals to convert to OA publishing. Right now, there are no such signs, and it is OA that we need, urgently.

More on the Springer suggestion to amend FRPAA

Stevan Harnad, FRPAA and paying publishers to self-archive, Open Access Archivangelism, June 15, 2006.
Summary: Some publishers have suggested that because a 6-month embargo on Open Access self-archiving by authors is too long for researchers and too short for publishers, the FRPAA should instead pay publishers to provide the Open Access immediately. This is fine if the research funders have the extra cash to pay whatever price publishers are currently charging for this (it varies from under $500 to over $3000 today) or to impose a standardized cap on the price and pay that. But otherwise it makes more sense for authors to self-archive for themselves, at no cost, now, exactly as proposed by the FRPAA, and to allow the market to decide the price, if and when subscription revenues should ever prove unsustainable. There is no evidence at all of subscription revenue decline yet, as a consequence of self-archiving, even after 15 years in the fields where self-archiving has been practised the longest and effectively reached 100% years ago. The FRPAA should mandate that the deposit of all articles must be immediate (upon acceptance for publication), with only the Open-Access-setting (vs. Closed Access) open to embargo (capped at 6 months) from the 6% of journals that do not yet endorse immediate Open-Access-setting. Semi-automatized email-eprint requests made possible by the institutional repository softwares can provide for the needs of the researchers during the embargo period for articles in those journals.

The data deluge --preserving it, organizing it, accessing it

Scott Carlson, Lost in a Sea of Science Data, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 23, 2006. Excerpt:
Science is experiencing revolutionary changes thanks to digital technology, with computers generating a flood of valuable data for scientists to interpret. But that flood could drown science. Data from experiments conducted as recently as six months ago might be suddenly deemed important, but researchers might never find those numbers — or if they did, might not know what the numbers meant. Lost in some research assistant's computer, the data are often irretrievable or an indecipherable string of digits....To vet experiments, correct errors, or find new breakthroughs, scientists desperately need better ways to store and retrieve research data, says [James M. Caruthers, a professor of chemical engineering at Purdue University], or "we are going to be more and more inefficient in the science that we do in the future."...

The concept of creating shared archives of raw data in those fields is still relatively new, and scientists are still debating who should do the storage — or whether data should be shared at all. But a few colleges and universities have begun experimenting with data libraries. Those projects unite people who don't usually work together, says Clifford A. Lynch, director of the Coalition for Networked Information. "Scientists and scholars on one side and library and IT folks on the other are all feeling their way for the right roles for everybody....The big thing hanging over all of this is funding," he says, adding that agencies like the National Science Foundation are accustomed to supporting science projects and experiments, not infrastructure, like centralized archives....

Purdue librarians were encouraged to tackle the challenge of science data by James L. Mullins, dean of libraries there. Mr. Mullins had worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where various archiving projects are under way as part of a well-known project called DSpace. Although librarians are working with scientists and technology staff members to apply for grants, the archiving project for now is supported almost entirely by Purdue. Purdue's data-repository model defies some traditional conceptions of an archive. The data will not be stored in a central location on campus, like books stored in the stacks. Instead, the data will reside on the hard drives of faculty members, on departmental servers, or on the TeraGrid, a large-scale computing project run by a handful of institutions, including Purdue D. Scott Brandt, an associate dean at Purdue's library who is directing the project, describes it as a "distributed institutional repository."...

Mr. Caruthers has worked closely with industry and, like many scientists, has worked with data that hold secrets to key discoveries. If data are stored in an archive, researchers should be allowed to keep all or part of it secret, he says. Except for the metadata, Mr. Brandt interjects. "The data that describes what your data is and what it can do would be public — or should be public," he says. Mr. Caruthers shrugs skeptically. Even the simplest metadata describe what a researcher is working on, and can provide advantages to competitors.

Tomorrow (June 22) at 2:00 pm U.S. Eastern time, the Chronicle will host a live online colloquy on these issues with D. Scott Brandt, associate dean for research at Purdue University's libraries. If you can't participate, the Chronicle will publish a transcript later.

Update (6/23/06). The transcript is now online. Excerpt:

Question from Pamela Alexander, University of Pennsylvania:
While an obviously important part of the problem is technical, another aspect is the need for establishing policy for sharing data. As was described in this article, many researchers are reluctant to lose a perceived competitive edge by making their data available to others. However, if this goal is seen as desirable, it will be necessary for federal granting agencies to develop incentives and even requirements for researchers to archive data from funded studies and to provide detailed metadata to make these data accessible to others. As some research agencies (such as the National Institute of Justice) have done, providing funding for secondary data analysis is also another piece of the solution.

D. Scott Brandt:
Good comment --this aspect is important to researchers. One thing is that we think it is critical to have institutional commitment, and we have written this into our strategic plan. Also, at the federal and funding agency level, there is movement to make research results, and in some cases data, available as a stipulation of accepting the grant. For instance, the NIH says it “strongly encourages” pubic accessibility and this is widely interpreted as precursor to further funding. Also, the Cornyn-Lieberman legislation passed recently was intended to ensure research is available to the public (this covers 11 agencies).

More on the call for an OA mandate at NIH

Gene Russo, Congress pushes plan to make papers free, Nature, June 22, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
[PubMed Central] is at the heart of plans, backed by a coalition of US politicians and advocacy groups, to make the fruits of publicly funded research freely available. On 13 June, a change was introduced to a House of Representatives spending bill such that NIH grantees would be required, not requested, to submit to PubMed within 12 months of publication. The proposal has upset some publishers and scientific societies, who are wary of citation confusion and a possible drop in income.

The move is in part a response to the limited impact of NIH’s current policy on open access. “It is not working in its current state,” says Norka Ruiz Bravo, NIH deputy director for extramural research and an advocate of full participation in open-access publishing by all grantees. A majority of the NIH Public Access Working Group, an advisory body that includes publishers and researchers, have also endorsed mandatory submission to PubMed Central, says Thomas Detre, a psychiatrist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and chair of the working group: “Nobody in academia will do anything administrative that’s not obligatory.”...

[Publisher objections] could be addressed when the Senate drafts its appropriations bill, as some senators are likely to want to include a clause on mandatory submission. In May, for example, Joseph Lieberman and John Cornyn introduced a bill that would require that all federal US agency grantees with annual research budgets of more than $100 million make their research papers freely available within six months of publication (Nature 441, 140; 2006). The Senate’s spending bill could be introduced in July, although completion by the autumn is more likely.

Defense of the publication-fee business model for OA journals

Paul Peters of Hindawi Publishing has posted a comment to the Nature News blog in response to Declan Butler's story on PLoS' finances. Excerpt:
The article recently published in Nature entitled “Open-access journal hits rocky time,” seems to suggest that the author-pays business model is not financially sustainable. Their argument is based on an analysis of the finances of the Public Library of Science (PLoS), which has recently raised the publication charges in its two main journals. While it is clear that PLoS will be dependent on external funding, at least for the next few years, it is certainly not the case that the author-pays business model is inherently unsustainable.

Based on our experience as a publisher of both subscription-based journals and author-pays open access journals, I would not only argue that the author-pays publishing model is sustainable, but also that it has many economic advantages over the subscription model. Even though our open access journal collection is only a few years old, we have already achieved profitability for the collection as a whole. Moreover, using a business model based on publication charges has enabled us to expand our publishing program in a much more sustainable way than we were able to using a subscription model.

To understand why Hindawi adopted a business model based on publication charges, one must look at the fundamental differences between these two models. In an author-pays model, a publisher’s revenues are directly proportional to the number of articles published. This enables us to expand our publishing operation while ensuring financial sustainability, since an increase in the number of published articles provides a proportional increase in revenue.

In contrast, an increase in the number of articles published in a subscription-based journal does not necessarily lead to a proportional increase in the journal’s revenue. If there is an expansion in the size of a subscription-based journal, a publisher must raise the subscription price of the journal in order to cover their costs. However, raising a journal’s subscription price most often leads to cancellations, since libraries have a fixed amount of money to spend on journals, so an increase in price does not provide a proportional increase in subscription revenues.

If the author-pays model is in fact financially sustainable, one may wonder why the Public Library of Science has had to increase their publication charges. The answer to this is that the price increase is reflective of the costs of publication in general, not of the author-pays business model in particular. In fact, if one looks at the total cost to the academic community, by adding up the subscription revenues from all subscribers, it is clear that PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine are significantly less expensive than most comparable subscription-based journals, even after their recent increase in publication charges....

Profile of AlouetteCanada

Scott Carlson, AlouetteCanada Hopes to Pluck Scattered Digitization Efforts Into a Central Portal, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 21, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:

Librarians and archivists in Canada are hopeful that a new nationwide online project, scheduled to go live today, will pull together digitization efforts across the country and make them easily accessible to the public.

The project, AlouetteCanada, is named after a French-Canadian children's song. It is intended to be a portal site for boutique digitization projects at various colleges and museums. As a searchable, open-access database, Alouette will focus on digitized materials about or of interest to Canadians.

"It's really inaccessible material ... because it has been [digitized] in small projects," said Carole Moore, chief librarian of the University of Toronto, who is helping coordinate the project. "Very few people know about where to find them."  Several universities already are participating, and the project is calling on
other institutions to contribute digitized material.

Adding CC licenses to Microsoft docs

From the Creative Commons blog:

Microsoft has released an tool for copyright licensing that enables the easy addition of Creative Commons licensing information for works in popular Microsoft Office applications. The software is available free of charge at Microsoft Office Online and will enable the 400 million users of Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Excel, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint to easily select Creative Commons licenses from directly within the application they are working in.

The first document to be CC-licensed using this tool is the text of Brazilian Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil's iSummit keynote speech in English and Portugese.

See the press release here and at Microsoft and early press at CNET and TechChrunch.

More on who opposes OA

Wesley Fryer, Universally available research, Moving at the Speed of Creativity, June 20, 2006. Excerpt:

The June issue of Wired Magazine has an interesting article about Nobel Prize winning scientist and academic leader Harold Varmus, titled Free Radical. Varmus’ controversial position is that publishing should be free and open in the scientific and academic community. I agree with him, although this position is a radical departure from the traditional conception academics and scientific researchers have had of elite, peer reviewed journals whose subscriptions can be QUITE expensive...

Not surprisingly, many (if not most) scientific researchers and others in “the academy” oppose this move against tradition and established practice....

If you want to be relevant, your ideas not only have to be digital- they also need to be OPENLY accessible to the world on the Web. Lots of folks will fight this future, but I think it is a future we should embrace and actively support as we move forward in the 21st century.

Comment. Just one correction: There's no evidence that researchers oppose OA. Studies (one, two) show that researchers are not very familiar with OA and either lack time or fear that they lack time to try it out. Support is very high among researchers who know much about it. By contrast, scientific societies that publish journals often oppose OA, and are often taken to be speaking for their members when they are really speaking for their publishing arms. I don't know a single case in which a scientific society has based its opposition to OA on a vote of its members.

OA defenders at the U of Toronto

Open Access: University Professor Champions Open Access within the Academic Community, University of Toronto Libraries Newsletter, Spring 2006. An unsigned news story. Excerpt:
A fervent proponent of open access, University Professor Jim Till is a world renowned scientist. He and his colleague, Professor Ernest McCulloch, discovered the first stem cell and all current work on adult and embryonic stem cells have followed from their initial discovery. In September 2005, Professor Till was awarded the Lasker Award, known as America’s Nobel Prize, for his seminal research in this area....An early advocate of Open Access (OA), he has published extensively on Open Access, and all of his publications are, of course, openly accessible through the Internet and PubMedCentral....

Regarding the benefits of open access, Professor Till says that with an increase in dissemination, human knowledge would grow at an unprecedented rate; more affordability of journals would address the current serials pricing crisis; and open access would ensure that knowledge produced by rich and poor countries is shared....

In the same issue, see Linda Hutcheon and Graham Bradshaw, The Soaring Cost of Knowledge. Excerpt:

One response to the crisis is the open access movement, which encourages the production of peerreviewed and quality-controlled scholarly and scientific journals that are made available online without charge (costs being covered by authors or institutions), or the deposition of research work in freely accessible institutional digital repositories, along with or after commercial publication. Open access has made progress but still encounters some resistance and misunderstanding....

How is the University of Toronto responding to this cost crisis?...The university libraries are also working to promote open access. Toronto’s institutional research repository, operated by the Libraries, is called T-Space. It captures, stores, indexes and makes universally available digital documents produced by faculty. TSpace is growing daily, but there is a pressing need to publicize it on campus and raise awareness of the benefits to society of the widest possible access to scholarly information....

Clearly, scholarly communication is no longer a specialized problem affecting only information professionals: it is now widely recognized as a genuine crisis in public policy. The health of the whole research enterprise is at stake, and the direction we take will be decisive for tomorrow’s society....Now, more than ever, faculty leadership is crucial.

ACS editorial against FRPAA backfires

Alexander Scheeline, a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, has released his June 7 letter to Senator Susan Collins in support of FRPAA. (Thanks to Katie Newman.) Excerpt:
You doubtless will get many responses to an editorial by Rudy M. Baum, editor of the American Chemical Society's Chemical and Engineering News, opposing S.2695 [FRPAA]. While I will not comment on legislative specifics, I do believe that something like S.2695 is in the public interest, that the fears of publishers are only valid to the extent that they are defending turf, prerogatives, and a pre-internet view of the world, and that a Federal push for openness could help scholarly communications significantly....

For the taxpayers to be able to see what they've paid for is commendable. The technical means to ensure this happens are rapidly evolving, so any technical "lock-in" at this point is premature. I thus encourage you to keep the publishers scared to encourage them to keep cutting costs and (one hopes) capping subscription expense, while encouraging inventive ways to publish quality material. The threat of S.2695 may be more useful than passing the bill.

PS: Kudos to Prof. Scheeline. I hope this means that society publishers who try to rouse their members against FRPAA will rouse at least as many in support of it. To write your own message to Senator Colllins (chair of the Senate committee considering FRPAA), send it to

The Honorable Susan Collins
United States Senate
461 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-1904

Eprints joins the ATA

Eprints has joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

PS: Kudos to Eprints. This is an especially good time for organizations supporting OA to join the ATA. It costs nothing and the ATA is working hard for the adoption of FRPAA.

The Royal Society adopts the OA hybrid model for all seven of its journals

Royal Society launches trial of new 'open access' journal service, a press release from the Royal Society, June 21, 2006. Excerpt:

The Royal Society today (21 June 2006) launched a trial of an 'open access' journal service, which will allow people to read new scientific papers free of charge immediately after they are published on the web. The new service offers authors the opportunity to pay a fee to have their paper made freely available on the web immediately if it is accepted for publication by any Royal Society journal. The first paper to be published under the new service appears on the Royal Society’s website today.

Currently, all papers appearing in Royal Society journals can be accessed free of charge on the Society’s website 12 months after the publication date....The new open access’ journal service, called EXiS Open Choice, is being tested by the Royal Society to see if it provides a viable way of sustaining the costs of peer review and other aspects of journal production. Authors who choose to pay to make their papers immediately available on the web will be charged a full cost of £300 per A4 page, although the Society will initially be offering a discounted rate of £225 per A4 page to encourage authors to use the service.

Professor Martin Taylor, Vice-President of the Royal Society, said: ..."There is still a lack of evidence about how open access journals can be sustained in the long-run, and we hope that this trial will help the Royal Society and researchers, as both authors and readers, to investigate one of the options."...

The EXiS Open Choice is being offered to authors of papers that are accepted for publication in any of the Royal Society’s seven journals.

Also see the FAQ on the new Open Choice policy. Among other things, it explains that "EXiS" stands for "Excellence in Science", that the RS will not waive the fee in cases of economic hardship, and that color charges will be laid on top of the OA fee.

Jon Boone has an article about the new policy, Royal Society tests new system of free access to papers, in yesterday's Financial Times. Excerpt:

The world’s oldest learned society will on Wednesday tear up its 340-year-old business model with the launch of an “open access” journal allowing people to read its new scientific papers free of charge. The Royal Society in London virtually invented the subscription-based system of peer-reviewed scientific journals when it started the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in 1665. But in a trial that will be closely watched by researchers and journal publishers around the world, it will allow authors to pay for costs of publication themselves. Authors, or their research sponsors, who choose to pay to make their papers immediately available online will be charged £300 ($553, €439) per A4 page....

The open access movement has been helped by recent developments, including the decision by the Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest research granting bodies, that all articles produced through work it has funded will have to be published on an open access basis from October. The Royal Society’s first paper published on Wednesday is being financed by the trust. Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said he was delighted the society was making work freely available to all. “Maximum distribution of research findings is essential to maximise their impact,” Mr Walport said.

Comments. Three quick notes. More later.

  1. This is a welcome and interesting move, for the same reasons that it was welcome and interesting when Elsevier adopted the hybrid model for some of its journals last month. Like Elsevier, the Royal Society has lobbied hard against public OA initiatives, like the draft RCUK OA policy, and has argued against the model of charging author-side fees. Like Elsevier, the Royal Society is trying the hybrid model for the right reasons --to see how well it works, to answer critics, and to measure the demand-- but its policy shares many of the same flaws. The RS will not waive its fees in case of economic hardship, will not apparently let authors choosing the new option retain copyright, and will not apparently deposit its OA articles in an OA repository to assure long-term OA in case the journals change their access policies in the future. Unlike most of the other publishers offering hybrid models, the RS is not yet offering to reduce the cost of subscriptions in proportion to author uptake.
  2. Also like Elsevier, the RS is a green publisher who permits postprint archiving. It hasn't said how the Open Choice policy will interact with the self-archiving policy. If authors decline the new OA option (because they don't have a sponsor to pay the fee), will they still be allowed to self-archive their postprints without fee or delay? Or will the RS retreat on its green policy instead? (As far as I know, Elsevier hasn't clarified this yet either.)
  3. The fee is high and we'll see what effect that has on the level of author uptake. As with Springer and Elsevier, who both charge $3,000 per paper, we cannot conclude that a low level of author uptake indicates a low level of author interest in OA. The Royal Society is the first publisher I know to charge a per-page processing fee rather than a per-article fee. This suggests that it will have greater uptake by authors of short papers than by authors of long papers, a variable independent of interest in OA or scientific merit.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More on the PLoS fee hikes

Declan Butler, Open-access journal hits rocky times, Nature, June 20, 2006. Excerpt:
The Public Library of Science (PLoS), the flagship publisher for the open-access publishing movement, faces a looming financial crisis. An analysis of the company's accounts, obtained by Nature, shows that the company falls far short of its stated goal of quickly breaking even. In an attempt to redress its finances, PLoS will next month hike the charge for publishing in its journals from US$1,500 per article to as much as $2,500....

As a US non-profit charity, PLoS must file its annual accounts to the Internal Revenue Service. Nature consulted these via, a database that contains information on 1.5 million US non-profit organizations.  The figures show that PLoS lost almost $1 million last year. Moreover, its total income from fees and advertising currently covers just 35% of its total costs. And although this income is increasing - from $0.75 million in 2003-04 to $0.9 million in 2004-05 - it lags far behind spending, which has soared from $1.5 million to around $5.5 million over the past three years....[Grants from the Moore Foundation and Sandler Family Supporting Foundation] covered 65% of the company's operating costs last year....

"We will continue to rely on philanthropic grant support for the foreseeable future," says Mark Patterson, director of publishing at PLoS's UK office in Cambridge, and "possibly always". Patterson adds that he is hopeful that the Sandler Foundation will provide more grants....

"This demonstrates once again the fragility of the author-pays model," says David Worlock, chairman of the London-based publishing consultancy Electronic Publishing Services. (Worlock has worked with a number of publishing companies including Nature Publishing Group.) "It's a real giveaway if they are now saying that they will always need some philanthropic funding." But Patterson points out that PLoS launched most of its journals recently, and that income from these publications is only beginning to accrue. "The financial situation for this year will look quite different," he says. "I'm confident we can balance the books this year and next."

Help for DSpace managers

Dorothea Salo and Timothy Donohue, DSpace How-To Guide, IDEALS, June 11, 2006.
Abstract: This short booklet is intended to introduce the commonest non-obvious customization-related tasks for newcomers to DSpace administration. It has been written against the current stable version 1.3.2 of DSpace. We have tried to include instructions for different operating systems as required; most customizations, however, work identically cross-platform. This booklet was created as a handout for the tutorial "Making DSpace Your Own", at the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (JCDL) 2006 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

More on the fee hike at PLoS

David Secko, Author fee spikes at PLoS, TheScientist, June 19, 2006. Excerpt:
Open access publisher Public Library of Science (PLoS) is raising its publication fee for the first time since its inception in 2003, hiking rates by up to two-thirds the original cost. Advocates of the open access model say the increase reflects how much it costs to publish an article, and does not suggest that the publisher or the model are failing. Starting July 1, the fees, which are paid by authors to offset production costs, will increase from $1,500 for PLoS's flagship journals (PLoS Biology and PLoS Medicine) to $2,500, and to $2,000 for its other journals.

"The reason we're increasing the fees is so that they more closely reflect the cost of running the journals," said Mark Patterson, director of publishing at PLoS. "We have to move slowly but surely towards a financially sustainable organization and this is part of putting us on that path," Patterson told The Scientist. He said the journal wasn't in financial trouble, and instead had grown to a point that it thought the scientific community was ready to absorb more costs....

Matthew Cockerill, publisher at BioMedCentral, another open access publisher and sister company to The Scientist, said article publication charges are converging to approximately $2000-3000 USD for open access journals. BMC currently charges between $605 and $1750 per article, and has been "transitioning to this fee," he told The Scientist, "which we feel is a good representation of our costs."

"It takes time for any system to find its equilibrium," said Cockerill, "so things like PLoS and BMC adjusting its publication charges is all part of the settling down process." He added that bigger commercial publications such as Springer charge $3000, "but if they do find that some publishers can break even charging $1,500 or $2,000, they will find it difficult to charge what they do."

In addition, Patterson admitted that the increased fees at PLoS may be a barrier to some authors. "Some scientists will not have access to the funds needed to pay the new publications fees," said Patterson, "and we don't want this to block someone with a great piece of work." PLoS is therefore still retaining its fee waiver policy, he said, where authors can request not to pay the publication charge....

Closed-mouthed about OA in orthodontics

The Summer 2006 issue of the World Journal of Orthodontics may have an editorial on The open-access movement in orthodontic publications. But it may not. A piece by that title is listed in PubMed but not in the issue's table of contents. The PubMed entry has no abstract.

OA policies at funding agencies and universities

Heather Morrison, Andrew Waller, and Kumiko Vézina, Open Access: Policy, Academic, and University Perspectives, a presentation at Canadian Library Association Conference 2006, Ottawa, Ontario.
Abstract: The landscape of scholarly communications is transforming into an Open Access environment. Policies are being set by national funding agencies and universities, among others. This session will present an overview of major policy issues, the academic (teaching faculty) perspective on open access publishing and self-archiving and what it all means in the real-world university (library) environment.

Also see Heather Morrison's blog posting about this presentation:

I presented an update on open access policy developments and talked about why it is funding agencies are so fond of open access; Andrew Waller talked about university libraries' questions and thoughts about the economics of switching to open access; and Kumiko Vézina presented some data from her recently-completed research with faculty members at 6 major Québec Universities. A couple of highlights: Kumiko's findings on the % of faculty who are willing to self-archive are almost the same as those reported by Swan and Brown. It came as a bit of a surprise that 27% of faculty reported that they have already published in an open access journal - more than any of us had thought, but less than any of us would like to see, of course!

The very best part came at the end of the session - the questions, both at the presentation and afterwards - about how to find open access resources, where to publish open access, how to become an open access advocate.

Open Access presenters, here is a tip: be sure to keep up with Peter Suber's Open Access News, right up to presentation time! There were no less than 3 items that morning that we needed to fit in....

PS: That's a neat testimonial. I'm glad I could help.

More on OA for lay readers

Eric Kansa, The Longtail and Archaeological Openness, Digging Digitally, June 19, 2006. Excerpt:

Here’s a question recently sent to me about FRPAA:

“Would the enactment of this law give scientists a false sense of serving the public (by virtue of making their work available online), when in fact most scientific, jargon-filled articles can’t or won’t be read by most lay people?”

As the commenter above suggests, most people won’t find the open literature that interesting, or will find it difficult to comprehend. The main beneficiaries of the bill are researchers, and the public benefits secondarily since the bill helps to maximize the performance of public money in the support of research.  That said, we should not discount the range and breadth of public interests or the public capacity to use even arcane technical reports and papers....

Interview with the developer of ChemRefer

David Bradley, Interview with William James Griffiths, Reactive Reports #56 (undated by apparently published today). Griffiths is the developer of ChemRefer, which I've blogged here four times since March. Excerpt:

Indeed, how do you see ChemRefer evolving, presumably, you'd like it to be the open access equivalent in chemistry of PubMed?

I am currently looking at various options....Naturally, ChemRefer aims to allow users to search as much chemical and related literature as possible, but this must not be done for the sake of having millions of searchable articles. The quality of search results must be high and I am aware of the comparison with PubMed, but it's not a reality just yet....ChemRefer is also commercial and this throws up entirely different opportunities/risks since publicly backed projects have an assured stream of funding....

In terms of the OpenAccess movement itself, I assume you consider it important, but can you tell me why you think so?

Relative to other subjects, chemistry is expensive to teach and practice in and therefore unattractive to finance. It makes no sense for governments to shell out for this only to have the fruits of their expenditure (the published research) withheld by those who did not pay for it. If this burden were removed, companies and especially libraries could then direct more attention to improving scientific educational resources. Anyone could open a library on a shoestring and quickly make the most authoritative content available to a local community.

Monday, June 19, 2006

More on the evolving OA policy at the CIHR

Update on CIHR's Policy in Development - Access to Outputs of Research, a June 15 press release from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). (Thanks to Jim Till.) Excerpt:

A little over two months ago, CIHR launched an important initiative to promote the dissemination of research products developed using CIHR funds (i.e., research materials, data and published results). By ensuring the widest possible access to research products and knowledge, we aim to maximize the impact of publicly funded research....

The good practices that NIH requires should also apply to CIHR-funded research. We see the development of CIHR policy as emphasizing and encouraging the "culture of sharing" within the Canadian research community, that Dr. Arthur Carty, National Science Advisor, referred to in his November 2005 article, A global information system needs a culture of sharing....

I would like to thank everyone who submitted comments through our online survey. I was pleased with the number of responses and the range of groups that provided feedback. We heard from not only from those directly involved, including researchers, administrators, libraries and journal editors, but also from stakeholders such as health charities, industry and other government agencies. There was overwhelming support for greater accessibility to the broad categories of research products that we identified. In addition, we received many valuable comments and suggestions from individuals who were willing to share their vast knowledge in this area. Below are some of the key themes that emerged from the survey.

  • Increased accessibility is the goal and this can be achieved while protecting intellectual property;
  • Make efforts to limit restrictions on sharing products of research;
  • Strong support for sharing research data, particularly data that has been accepted by peer-reviewed publications; and
  • Self-archiving of publications was encouraged.

CIHR will be posting a summary of the survey results in the next few weeks....Over the coming months, CIHR will be working on the development of a draft policy. We anticipate having a draft completed by the summer, at which time it will be posted on our web site for consultation. If you have any questions, please contact Geoff Hynes, Research Officer to the President at or (613) 952-8965.

More on the House call for an OA mandate at the NIH

Aliya Sternstein, House appropriation mandates NIH public access policy, Federal Computer Week, June 19, 2006. Excerpt:
A measure passed in last week’s House Appropriations bill for the Department of Health and Human Services would ensure that research funded by public tax dollars is readily available to the public. The bill requires scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health to submit copies of their peer-reviewed journal manuscripts to NIH’s online archive, known as PubMed Central. Those manuscripts would then have to be made available to the public for free on the PubMed Central Web site within a year of publication....

Pat Furlong, founding president and chief executive officer of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy, stated, “For individuals and families struggling to stay abreast of scientific developments and make informed decisions about their care and their lives, access to credible, reliable, and current information is often the difference between life and death. However, the 12-month delay is too long for us to wait. As the bill moves forward, we urge members of both House and Senate committees to consider adopting a six-month embargo, if not immediate access.”

Eric Lease Morgan's trend spotting

Eric Lease Morgan, Top Tech Trends for ALA 2006; “Sum” pontifications, LITA Blog, June 18, 2006. Excerpt:
The ideas forming the core of open source software are slowly leaking into other domains including science and government. I draw your attention to the June and upcoming July issues of First Monday ( where participants from all over the world examined and discussed all things open. I was particularly impressed with the way the concepts of open source software were being applied to areas of science. Along with the sharing of articles describing the outcomes of research, the data used to do analysis are being shared as well. This sort of openness makes for more transparency and better science....

Licensed content and digital resource management (DRM) schemes are not going away, but neither is open access....

More on PLoS ONE

Lila Guterman, Online Journal Will Have Low Rejection Rate, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 23, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
Like elite colleges, top scientific journals often advertise their rejection rates — to show how exclusive they are. But the open-access publisher Public Library of Science is now moving in the opposite direction. PLoS is starting a multidisciplinary journal in August that will publish papers no matter how unimportant their results are.

The multidisciplinary online journal, PLoS ONE will concentrate on speedy review and publication of just about anything that editors deem scientifically sound. Online discussions, along with reader ratings, will accompany published papers to give readers a sense of the papers' importance. When editors of other journals receive a manuscript, says Christopher D. Surridge, managing editor of the new journal, they often have to say, "'It should be published, but not in this journal.' That's not something we want PLoS ONE ever to say."...

But PLoS doesn't want to be alone in its efforts. Its online technology is open source, so it can be used by others. "PLoS's mission," says Mr. Surridge, "is to get as much of the literature into an open-access environment as possible," whether PLoS publishes it or not.

The publisher revealed PLoS ONE just two days after Nature announced a three-month experiment allowing users to add online comments to manuscripts under consideration for publication. Perhaps Nature anticipated the online competition? "That was not the impetus," says Linda J. Miller, U.S. executive editor of Nature and the Nature Publishing Group's research journals. Mr. Surridge says both journals were reacting to users' demand for online services. "This really fits in with where the Web is going," says Mr. Surridge.

More on the House call for an OA mandate at the NIH

Anne Walters, House Committee Would Require Open Access to NIH-Backed Research, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 19, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
A little-noticed provision in a bill passed last week by the House Appropriations Committee would require federally sponsored researchers to make their findings more widely available to the public.

The provision appears in an appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for the 2007 fiscal year, which begins on October 1. It would require all researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health to submit electronic versions of papers reporting their findings to PubMed Central, the National Library of Medicine's online system, and they would have to do so within one year of publication in a scholarly journal.

Advocates of making research findings available free online say the public should have access to taxpayer-financed research without having to pay subscription fees to academic journals. Publishers have worried that making more of the information available free would gut the moneymaking capabilities of their journals -- a critical concern for some academic associations that rely on their journals for revenue....

"This is a pretty big move," said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, which has fought for open access to federally backed research. Still, she said, the one-year timeline is too long. Immediate access to research findings would be best, but making information available to the public within six months of publication would be a better compromise, Ms. Joseph said.

Publishers were wary of the legislation and said it would hurt the academic journals that typically publish such research. Barbara Meredith, vice president for the professional and scholarly publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, said the provision would upset the balance created by the current voluntary system. Requiring scientists to make their work available one year after publication in a journal "disregards the complexity of scholarly publishing," she said. It is premature to change the current system after just one year with little data to support the move, she said. The bill now faces a vote by the entire House of Representatives, and Ms. Meredith said the publishers' group would try to get the provision removed on the House floor....

ALPSP and STM support OA data

The ALPSP and STM have issued a joint statement in support of free online access to scientific data (June 2006). Excerpt:
Publishers recognise that in many disciplines data itself, in various forms, is now a key output of research. Data searching and mining tools permit increasingly sophisticated use of raw data. Of course, journal articles provide one ‘view’ of the significance and interpretation of that data – and conference presentations and informal exchanges may provide other ‘views’ – but data itself is an increasingly important community resource. Science is best advanced by allowing as many scientists as possible to have access to as much prior data as possible; this avoids costly repetition of work, and allows creative new integration and reworking of existing data....

We believe that, as a general principle, data sets, the raw data outputs of research, and sets or sub-sets of that data which are submitted with a paper to a journal, should wherever possible be made freely accessible to other scholars. We believe that the best practice for scholarly journal publishers is to separate supporting data from the article itself, and not to require any transfer of or ownership in such data or data sets as a condition of publication of the article in question. Further, we believe that when articles are published that have associated data files, it would be highly desirable, whenever feasible, to provide free access to that data, immediately or shortly after publication, whether the data is hosted on the publisher’s own site or elsewhere (even when the article itself is published under a business model which does not make it immediately free to all)....

None of this means, however, that databases themselves – collections of data specifically organised and presented, often at considerable cost, for the ease of viewing, retrieval and analysis – do not merit intellectual property protection, under copyright or database protection principles....There is sometimes confusion about whether the use of individual ‘facts’ and data points extracted from a database is permitted under law. Facts themselves are not copyrightable, but only the way in which information is expressed – this is fundamental in copyright law. In the EU, the use of ‘insubstantial’ parts of a database, provided it is not systematic and repeated, does not infringe the database maker’s rights.

Comments. Three quick responses.

  1. First, I commend ALPSP and STM for the primary recommendation in this significant statement. Open access to data is important for all the reasons they cite.
  2. Their call for intellectual property protection for databases is a separable and regrettable part of their statement. The EU has such protection but the US does not. Any argument that such protection is needed to stimulate the production, collection, or dissemination of data is refuted by the vigor of science in the US.
  3. The ALPSP and STM both lobby against policies that would provide OA to research literature, like FRPAA and the draft RCUK policy. I acknowledge that there are many differences between OA to data and OA to peer-reviewed articles interpreting or analyzing data. But ALPSP and STM should acknowledge that there are many similarities, and that most of their arguments for OA data (enhancing research productivity, avoiding costly repetition of research, supporting the creative integration and reworking of research) also apply to OA literature.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Measuring the citation impact of books

Les Carr and five co-authors, Extending journal-based research impact assessment to book-based disciplines, a preprint self-archived June 17, 2006.
Abstract: The ‘impact’ of academic research is typically measured by how much it is read, used and cited, and by how much new work it influences. Services that measure impact work well for journal-based disciplines. Book-based disciplines can now benefit from online tools and methods of impact analysis too. These analyses also predict fruitful directions for future research, and so can inform research assessment and funding. This project will extend tools for online bibliometric data collection of publications and their citations with the aim of testing and evaluating new Web metrics to assist research assessment in book-based disciplines.

Book authors should self-archive metadata

Stevan Harnad, Self-archiving books' metadata and bibliographies, Open Access Archivangelism, June 17, 2006.
Summary: In addition to despositing in their institutional repositories the metadata plus the full-texts of their journal articles, researchers should also deposit the metadata plus the cited-reference lists of their books. This will allow the book citations to be harvested webwide and citation-linked, exactly as article citations will be, thereby providing book citation-impact metrics for book-based disciplines, alongside the usual journal-article citation-impact metrics.