Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Open content for education in Africa

Kerryn McKay, Chris Armstrong, and Heather Ford, The Enterprise Commons: Growing sustainable open content for accessible education in Africa, Commons Sense, version 1.0, March 2006. (Thanks to Open Business.) Excerpt:
The word “business” may be a bit distracting when talking about educational projects. Unlike traditional business models that rely solely on commercial transactions between the company and its customers, the funding of open content education products comes mostly from public foundations, international donors and government departments. Although open educational publishing projects are typically not developed around pure business or commercial goals, all of them require a strategy that addresses long-term viability in order to sustain themselves after what is usually only an initial period of funding. Sustainability of open educational content projects is referred to further in this manual as an elusive “golden egg” that is dependent on a range of interdependent factors. Projects partnerships; the development, licensing and procurement of content; content dissemination; interactivity and user statistics; innovative and entrepreneurial scope and, lastly, project finding are analysed through the lens of “openness” in this guide. From this perspective, the guide has attempted to analyse to what extent “openness” plays a part in the project’s sustainability and whether there are any clear trends that similar projects could follow in achieving success in providing accessible, quality educational services.

Taking stock of OA

Emma McCulloch, Taking stock of open access: progress and issues, Library Review, 55, 6 (2006).

LR gives three URLs for this article (one, two, three), all of them dead. I don't mean that I got a login or pay-per-view page rather than text. I got error messages. I assume the problem is temporary. Meantime, here's the issue's table of contents.

Update (7/9/06). All three links are working this morning. Here's the abstract:

Purpose – Aims at providing a broad overview of some of the issues emerging from the growth in open access publishing, with specific reference to the use of repositories and open access journals.
Design/methodology/approach – A paper largely based on specific experience with institutional repositories and the internationally run E-library and information science (LIS) archive.
Findings – The open access initiative is dramatically transforming the process of scholarly communication bringing great benefits to the academic world with an, as yet, uncertain outcome for commercial publishers.
Practical implications – Outlines the benefits of the open access movement with reference to repositories and open access journals to authors and readers alike and gives some food for thought on potential barriers to the complete permeation of the open access model, such as copyright restrictions and version control issues. Some illustrative examples of country-specific initiatives and the international E-LIS venture are given.
Originality/value – An attempt to introduce general theories and practical implications of the open access movement to those largely unfamiliar with the movement.

The economics of OA law reviews

Jessica Litman, The Economics of Open-Access Law Publishing, forthcoming from the Lewis & Clark Law Review. Self-archived July 3, 2006.
Abstract: The conventional model of scholarly publishing uses the copyright system as a lever to induce commercial publishers and printers to disseminate the results of scholarly research. The role of copyright in the dissemination of scholarly research is in many ways curious, since neither authors nor the entities who compensate them for their authorship are motivated by the incentives supplied by the copyright system. Rather, copyright is a bribe to entice professional publishers and printers to reproduce and distribute scholarly works. As technology has spawned new methods of restricting access to works, and copyright law has enhanced copyright owners' rights to do so, the publishers of scholarly journals have begun to experiment with subscription models that charge for access by the article, the viewer, or the year. Copyright may have been a cheap bribe when paper was expensive, but it has arguably distorted the scholarly publishing system in ways that undermine the enterprise of scholarship. Recently, we've seen a number of high-profile experiments seeking to use one of a variety of forms of open access scholarly publishing to develop an alternative model. Critics have not quarreled with the goals of open access publishing; instead, they've attacked the viability of the open-access business model.

If we are examining the economics of open access publishing, we shouldn't limit ourselves to the question whether open access journals have fielded a business model that would allow them to ape conventional journals in the information marketplace. We should be taking a broader look at who is paying what money (and comparable incentives) to whom, for what activity, and to what end. Are either conventional or open-access journals likely to deliver what they're being paid for?

Law journal publishing is one of the easiest cases for open access publishing. Law scholarship relies on few commercial publishers. The majority of law journals depend on unpaid students to undertake the selection and copy editing of articles. Nobody who participates in any way in the law journal article research, writing, selecting, editing and publication process does so because of copyright incentives. Indeed, copyright is sufficiently irrelevant that legal scholars, the institutions that employ them and the journals that publish their research tolerate considerable uncertainty about who owns the copyright to the works in question, without engaging in serious efforts to resolve it. At the same time, the first copy cost of law reviews is heavily subsidized by the academy to an extent that dwarfs both the mailing and printing costs that make up law journals' chief budgeted expenditures and the subscription and royalty payments that account for their chief budgeted revenues. That subsidy, I argue, is an investment in the production and dissemination of legal scholarship, whose value is unambiguously enhanced by open access publishing.

In part I of the paper I give a brief sketch of the slow growth of open access publishing in legal research. In part II, I look at the conventional budget of a student-edited law journal, which excludes all of the costs involved in generating the first copy of any issue, and suggest that we cannot make an intelligent assessment of the economics of open access law publishing unless we account for input costs, like the first copy cost, that conventional analysis ignores. In part III, I develop a constructive first copy cost based on assumptions about the material included in a typical issue of the law journal, and draw inferences based on comparing the expenses involved in the first copy, and the entities who pay them, with the official law journal budget. In part IV, I examine the implications of my argument for open access law publishing. In part V, I argue that the conclusions that flow from my analysis apply to non-legal publishing as well.

More on the NIH policy

Peggy Garvin, Open Access and Public Access: New Models for Information Access, SLA Government Information Division, undated but apparently July 7, 2006. A report on a session at the SLA Annual Conference (Baltimore, June 11-14, 2006). Excerpt:

Government agencies are exploring new models for public access to the results of government-funded scientific and medical research.  The SLA Government Information Division (DGI) hosted David Gillikin from the National Library of Medicine and Thomas Lahr from the project to describe their efforts in this area.  A third speaker, Selene Dalecky from the Government Printing Office, discussed GPO efforts to improve public access to government information with a new Future Digital System under development.  The June 13th session was moderated by DGI Chair Richard Huffine.

David Gillikin focused on PubMed Central, the NIH digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature.  Through PubMed Central, NIH seeks to expand free, public access to the results of NIH-funded research.  Supported by Congress in appropriations report language for fiscal years 2004 and 2005, NIH developed a public access policy released in February 2005.  Gillikin stressed that the NIH policy explicitly upholds copyright. NIH's "public access" is not "open access."

Authors are encouraged to submit manuscripts within twelve months of the publisher's official date of final publication.  In soliciting and processing manuscript submissions, NIH's relationship is with the author, rather than with the publishing journal, and submission of NIH-funded research results is voluntary.  NIH tries to work directly with publishers as well, but has not found a warm welcome in every case.  The NIH repository got a boost when the British Wellcome Trust announced a requirement that Wellcome-funded researchers deposit their manuscripts with PubMed Central.

Voluntary author submission has netted a low rate of about four percent of what NIH estimates could have been submitted.  Gillikin described several bills introduced in the 109th Congress to enhance the policy, such as the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006....

Friday, July 07, 2006

Canadian funding alliance provides OA to the research it funds

The Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA) maintains its own OA repository for CBCRA-funded research. (Thanks to Jim Till.) From the site:
We have created a unique repository of peer-reviewed literature on breast cancer research, research supported by CBCRA. We believe it is the first of its kind, initiated by us because we believe that the public should have free access to research results funded by public agencies....

CBCRA is the primary granting agency for breast cancer research in Canada....To date, CBCRA has allocated $138 million to top-quality breast cancer research in Canada.

Also see the Grant Application Guide (p. 14):

CBCRA is aware of new models for the publication of research results and supports open and unrestricted access to published research in freely-accessible, high-quality scientific journals available via the Internet. Therefore budgets proposed in applications for CBCRA grants may include a line item for the cost of charges, such as article processing fees (APFs), that may be required for open access to publications in such online journals.

Comment. Kudos to the CBCRA. I can't tell whether it requires OA to the research it funds or simply provides OA to as much of it as it can. Either way, it's in very select company. I couldn't find the policy spelled out anywhere at the web site. Am I missing it, or did the CBCRA decide that the policy is so simple and obvious that there is no need to raise grantee anxieties, even to allay publisher anxieties, with legalistic detail on embargoes, permissions, copyright transfer agreements, and mandates? (If anyone knows, please drop me a line.)

Unlike the Wellcome Trust, which is private, and the Research Councils UK, which are public, the CBCRA is an alliance with members on each side of the line. Its motto is: Canada's unique collaboration of public, private and non-profit organizations.

AOL moving from subscriptions to OA

Sara Kehaulani Goo, AOL May Speed Shift Away From Subscribers, Washington Post, July 7, 2006. AOL is converting from subscriptions to ad-supported open access. It will give up $1.8 billion in subscription revenue, but it will also realize large savings by cutting "hundreds or thousands of jobs related to marketing and subscriber retention." And there's this:
"It's a case where AOL has to make a move to stay competitive," said Rob Enderle, a Silicon Valley technology consultant. "While they are declining slowly, they are still declining. It wasn't a matter of if but when they would be dead."

PS: It's not scholarly communication, but it's a sign of larger trends.

More on access v. security

Richard Willing, Tax dollars to fund study on restricting public data, USA Today, July 5, 2006. Excerpt:
The federal government will pay a Texas law school $1 million to do research aimed at rolling back the amount of sensitive data available to the press and public through freedom-of-information requests. Beginning this month, St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio will analyze recent state laws that place previously available information, such as site plans of power plants, beyond the reach of public inquiries. Jeffrey Addicott, a professor at the law school, said he will use that research to produce a national "model statute" that state legislatures and Congress could adopt to ensure that potentially dangerous information "stays out of the hands of the bad guys."

Comment. Fine; do the study. But let's frame the issue honestly. There's no way to keep citizens informed and keep terrorists in the dark. We're talking about keeping citizens as well as terrorists in the dark, not just terrorists.

More on taking full advantage of the internet

Chris Anderson, People Power, Wired, July 2006. Excerpt:
There’ in the casual Web droppings we all leave online. Much of the value of Amazon and Netflix comes from their tens of millions of customer reviews. Your click trail on Amazon is used to create better recommendations for those who follow. Your query on Google and the pages that you find relevant give feedback that fine-tunes the search algorithms. The ads you click don’t just boost revenue for Google, they also tell it how much to charge the next advertiser. These companies have found ways to harness the wisdom of the crowd, extracting information that was there all along, just latent and lost.

Comment. On the whole, the nonacademic web is far ahead of the academic web in taking advantage of these tools. One reason is the reluctance of academics to trade in professional or credentialed peer review for democratic or anarchic peer review. But wherever you stand on that question, it should be clear that the nature of peer review isn't the only place where the promise of these tools intersects the academic web. The possibilities for improved impact measurements and recommendation services, to name just two, are real and exciting.

For me, the first and most important way that academics can take advantage of the internet is open access. But after that there are thousands of other ways, large and small, although most of them presuppose OA. Let's not allow our conservatism about peer review to make us conservative about taking full advantage of the internet in ways that don't affect peer review.

Why is the NSF blocking the Wayback Machine?

Susan Nevelow has discovered that the National Science Foundation (NSF) blocks the Wayback Machine from copying its web pages, and would like to know why.

PS: Good question. I'd like to know too. The web pages we're talking about are already OA at the NSF site.

Update. Bill Hooker at Open Reading Frame wrote to the NSF webmaster and got a direct answer:

NSF blocks all indexing of the site between 7AM and 7PM ET, our peak traffic hours, for the convenience of our users. However, there is no block on the site from 7PM to 7AM ET. This is standard policy for most high traffic sites. The owner of [the Wayback Machine] need only comply with our policy in order to index our pages.
(Thanks, Bill.)

More on the closing of the EPA libraries

As you may know, Bush administration budget cuts are forcing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to close its network of libraries. The growing protest by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) focuses on an OA connection that gives me an excuse to cover it here. PEER has publicly released its June 29 letter to the Congressional appropriations subcommittees responsible for funding the EPA. Excerpt:
Senior EPA managers are touting the message that the $2 million budget reduction, and subsequent library closures, will promote increased “efficiencies,” with virtually all EPA reports being available in an electronic format. These “savings” are illusory. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Here are some sobering facts regarding our impending library closures:...The National Environmental Publications Information System, EPA’s repository of electronic documents, currently holds about 13,000 documents. But the Agency has a total of about 80,000 documents that should be retained; most of these are not yet available in any electronic format. Our management has not addressed the issue of how much it will cost to digitize these thousands of reports, where the money will come from, or how long it will take to complete the task....

Also see the PEER press release acompanying its letter:

In an extraordinary letter of protest, representatives for 10,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists are asking Congress to stop the Bush administration from closing the agency’s network of technical research libraries. The EPA scientists, representing more than half of the total agency workforce, contend thousands of scientific studies are being put out of reach, hindering emergency preparedness, anti-pollution enforcement and long-term research, according to the letter released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER)....Approximately 50,000 original research documents will become completely unavailable because they are not available electronically and the agency has no budget for digitizing them....The public and academic researchers may lose any access to EPA library materials as services to the public are being axed and there are no plans to maintain “the inter-library loan process.” “Eliminating library access is an absolutely awful way to run an agency devoted to public and environmental health,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

Comment. OA to all EPA-funded research would solve much (but not all) of this problem. But we're not there yet and a false claim of progress toward OA should not be used as a pretext to close off other forms of access.

The EPA is one of the 11 agencies covered by the OA mandate in the pending FRPAA. If the Bush administration wants to use OA to EPA research as a reason to shut down the EPA libraries, then it could show its good faith by backing FRPAA, on which it has not yet taken a position.

Top science blogs

Declan Butler has identified the top 50 science blogs, as measured by Technorati rankings.

PS: What's important about this to me is not the ranking but the reminder, for those who'd rather not notice, that serious science is being reported and discussed on blogs. If you visit some, you'll also notice that the people writing and reading these blogs are having fun.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Zerhouni: it's about the length of the embargo

Susan R. Morrissey, Elias A. Zerhouni, Chemical & Engineering News, July 3, 2006. A profile of the director of the NIH. Excerpt:
C&EN: An issue that is gaining congressional interest is public access. NIH has had a policy in place since May of last year that asks researchers it supports to voluntarily post resulting journal articles on PubMed Central as soon as possible, but no longer than one year after publication. Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would make public access mandatory after six months. Is it possible to find a balance that will satisfy supporters who want tax-payer-funded research available for free as quickly as possible and publishers who worry that making publications free too quickly will hurt their ability to recoup the costs of publishing the journals?

Zerhouni: Absolutely, there's a need to find that sweet spot. What I've found with this issue is paralysis. You have the zealots on one side who are hammering for open access right away. And then on the other side, you have the zealots who say that open access is absolutely not right. In the middle is the taxpayers' interest.

I'm not driven by what the popular thing to do is; I'm driven by what's right. I believe that, number one, NIH needs a database of the research it funds so that it can have accountability and the ability to analyze its own portfolio. Our scientists must also have access to our portfolio of research so they can see what we've funded. So there's an internal need and an external need for accountability.

It is also important that at some point the public, which pays for 99.5% of this research, is not prevented from having access to it. But this access should not be done at the expense and viability of peer-reviewed scientific publishing --whether it be nonprofit or for profit.

I believe very strongly that a happy medium can be found. But if the happy medium causes a loss of viability in being able to produce good articles and good journals, it won't work.

Free texts of US patents and patent applications

US Patent Search lets you download full-text patents and patent applications free of charge. All you need is the patent number, which you can usually find in a search at the US Patent and Trademark Office.

Citations in, DOIs out

Back in February I blogged a powerful new tool built by Inera for CrossRef. Enter a bibliographic citation and it returns the DOI, at least when the cited work has a DOI. Ed Pentz, Executive Director of CrossRef, says that the tool matches citations to DOIs for 21.6 million items.

Back in February, the service was only available to CrossRef members, and my blog posting included a plea to open it up to everyone. Today CrossRef has done just that. (The web form has a place to enter "member name" but just leave it blank.) It's even more powerful than the last version. For example, paste in series of citations, and it will return a series of DOIs.

Kudos to CrossRef for opening this up.

18 BMC journals added to Medscape Publishers' Circle

BioMed Central Journals join Medscape Publishers' Circle, a press release from BMC, July 6, 2006. Excerpt:

Eighteen open access journals published by BioMed Central have been added to Medscape Publishers' Circle, BioMed Central announced today. Up to four clinically relevant articles will be selected per month from each journal and made accessible on Medscape from WebMD, providing physicians and other healthcare professionals with access to current research articles on biology and medicine....[Two BMC journals] were already part of the Medscape Publishers’ Circle....

Medscape Publishers’ Circle is available free to registered users of Medscape....

Four Chinese publishers join Google Book Search

Google Book Search has added four Chinese publishers to its set of partners. From a short article in China Knowledge (today):
Google China signed agreements with four publishing houses, including China’s Tsinghua University Press and the Children's Publishing House of China, Xinhua reported Wednesday.

Vice President of Google China Kaifu Lee was quoted as saying that the books would be available online and Google would provide search links and free access to a segment of each work, but readers would have to pay to read the full contents.

Google also plans to take a 30% commission from the profit on online book sales.

Promoting India's OA journals

The presentations from the conference, E-Publishing & Global Promotion of Indian Publications (Mumbai, July 1, 2006), are now online.

Feedback on BMC's feedback

In March, Robert Centor published an article in BMC's Medical Informatics and Decision Making. Yesterday he blogged a letter he received from BMC giving him a "traffic report" on how often his article had been downloaded, comparing his download rate to the BMC average, and showing him where he can continue to monitor traffic. His conclusion:
This is my first experience with open access publishing and it is an excellent experience. Hopefully, the medical literature will move rapidly towards this model.

Toronto's comments on CIHR OA policy

Yesterday, the University of Toronto's Project Open Source | Open Access publicly released its response to the CHIR's call for comments on its evolving OA policy. Excerpt:
Researchers should be encouraged to publish articles as open access, either in open access journals or in open access repositories. Researchers should store protocols in World Health Organization accredited clinical trial registries. If software products used are open source, the researchers should be encouraged to share the source code....Raw data and data appendices in publications should be deposited in open access repositories where available....

Speaking as journal editors, we would be cognisant of the fact that it is generally accepted that open access increases the impact of the research, including the citation rate. Open access offers a better return on investment on publicly-funded research. Publicly-funded research can be accessible within public institutions, without those institutions having to spend public monies to private parties for access to that research. Editors see an internationalization of contributors which is an advantage for regionallybased journals such as publicly funded journals in Canada....

A mandatory policy of deposit in open access repositories would ensure compliance by researchers....

Microsoft launches open-source project for OpenDocument

Martin LaMonica, Microsoft bends on OpenDocument,, July 5, 2006. (Thanks to Glyn Moody.) Excerpt:

The software giant on Thursday launched the Open XML Translator project on, a popular site for hosting code-sharing projects. The software will be available under the BSD open-source license.

The software, developed by a France-based Microsoft partner, will allow people to use Microsoft Office to open and save documents in the OpenDocument, or ODF, format.

Although Microsoft Office document formats are the most widely used, OpenDocument has emerged as an alternative with significant vendor backing and with high-profile government customers in Massachusetts and Belgium. OpenDocument is an XML-based format developed under the standards group OASIS, or the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards.

The decision to manage the project is something of a reversal for Microsoft. Until now, it said that it would not natively support OpenDocument in Office, citing lack of demand. Instead, it would rely instead on third parties for format translators.

More on OA in relation to other commons movements

I blogged The Commons Rising back on May 15, but the Tomales Bay Institute, its publisher, didn't officially announce it until yesterday. From David Bollier's post on it at the Institute's excellent blog, On the Commons:

Our new report, The Commons Rising, has been posted here...for a little bit, but now we are officially anouncing and releasing the paper version of it. For those of you who have not checked it out, I invite you to download the [OA] 24-page report. (For hard copies, contact Kathleen Maloney at The report was written by my colleagues Peter Barnes, Jonathan Rowe and me.

The Commons Rising is about the profusion of commons initiatives that are defending and invigorating the commons in all sorts of arenas -- the Internet, natural resources, public spaces, information and culture. We can see the "commons rising" in collaborativge websites and ecosystem trusts; in innovative legal tools such as conservation easements and Creative Commons licenses; in new types of social networks such as community gardens and time banks; and in new online communities such as Wikipedia, free and open source software, Craigslist and open science initiatives. The report celebrates these efforts and calls upon Americans to scale them up....

Google's fourfold way

Google Book Search clarifies the four ways that it displays digitized books. (See the site for illustrations.)
  1. Full view. For books in Full View, you can view the entire book. These include books that we've verified are in the public domain, or those that the publisher or author has decided to make fully browsable. Some examples of materials presented in Full View (in the U.S.) are Charles Sumner's eulogy for Abraham Lincoln from 1865 and a collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories from 1903.
  2. Limited Preview. For books that fall into this category, you can view a limited number of pages. These books have been submitted through our Partner Program by copyright holders in order to enable you to find and browse (and purchase!) their books. A few examples include Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series, or the late Octavia Butler's powerful novel Kindred.
  3. Snippet view. Books that may still be in copyright that we don't receive through the Partner Program are displayed in Snippet View. For these books, you can view a few sentences in addition to bibliographic information. For example, you can view mentions of China in the 1937 report, Japan in Jeopardy, or check out references to man-eating sharks in the 1940's title This Amazing Planet.
  4. No preview. For some books -- like dictionaries -- we display only basic information about the books. You're still searching the full text of these books from, so you'll be able to figure out if your search term appears anywhere within the book, even if it's not in the title or index. You can find out details about Webster's New World Crossword Puzzle Dictionary or see basic information about this Pocket English-Bengali Dictionary.

Rethinking indigenous knowledge and the public domain

Eric Kansa, Indigenous cultural heritage and the digital commons, Digging Digitally, July 5, 2006. Excerpt:

...In some ways, one would expect the access to knowledge community to want to shy away from rights issues surrounding traditional knowledge and indigenous cultural heritage. Typically, many in the access to knowledge community are committed to protecting the public domain from exploitative commercial interests and other pressures that threaten the public domain with intellectual property “maximalism”....

Enter traditional knowledge. Because of the way our law shapes the public domain, most “traditional knowledge” legally falls into the public domain, and is therefore (typically) open for anyone and everyone to use and exploit as they see fit. This definition of the public domain and its boundaries strikes many as unfair, especially to some people in indigenous societies. International regulations defining the public domain often don’t map well with local and indigenous rules about how knowledge is communicated. Also, not everyone benefits from the public domain equally (see a fascinating discussion by Chander and Sunder). The issue of “biopiracy” exemplifies this point, where public domain indigenous knowledge is used to find new pharmacologically significant compounds, often resulting in very valuable and patented (privatized) intellectual property.

It may seem counterintuitive that members of the access to knowledge community would want to look at the public domain with a critical eye....

In many ways the “commons” is envisioned as a context to re-imagine communication, knowledge sharing, science, and the public sphere and how they relate to new, empowering technologies and forms of social organization. This re-imagination explores the protection of privacy, the importance of consent and participation, and the notion that communication is embedded in social realities. These are many issues centrally important to making the commons empowering to members of native communities. iCommons works towards these ends internationally, so I think it is very appropriate for iCommons to explore how the digital commons intersects local and indigenous systems of knowledge sharing and communication. My home organization, the Alexandria Archive Institute, is partnering with iCommons to help move this forward. Our goal is to bring stakeholder communities together to shape ethical, licensing, and other policy recommendations for sharing indigenous knowledge and heritage in the global commons. Please contact us if you are interested in participating!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

OA to forestry research

The Spring issue of Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship has a Supplement on Forestry. The main part of the issue contains David Flaxbart's strong editorial in support of FRPAA (already blogged here 5/31/06). Here are the OA-related articles from the Supplement:

OA publicity for non-OA books

Scott McLemee, Public Access, Inside Higher Ed, July 5, 2006. Excerpt:
For any publisher or author trying to get some traction in this landscape, the situation can be confusing. It might be helpful to frame things in terms of what I’ve come to call “the price paradox.” In short, the cost of making books known in the digital public sphere is both very small and incredibly intensive.

On the one hand, the monetary outlay involved in making content available online is relatively low. The cost of starting a blog, for example, is quite small -– in some cases approaching zero. And the potential audience is very large.

On the other hand, the expense of actually reaching that audience cannot be calculated in terms of simple bookkeeping. It involves significant investments of cultural capital. Time must be spent learning about the existing array of blogs, online journals, podcasts, etc....

Belize launches OA health library

Yesterday, Belize launched the Belize Virtual Health Library. From the press release:
The Ministry of Health in collaboration with other national institutions and with technical support from the Pan American Health Organization will be launching its Virtual Health Library (VHL) on Tuesday July 04 2006....The VHL is a means of joining the expanding network of internet libraries on health sciences information throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. This initiative is intended for users countrywide and regionally to ensure universal access to scientific and technical information, products and services.

“Towards Equitable Access to Scientific Health Information and Knowledge” is the motto for this initiative.

A team of experts from the Latin American and Caribbean Center on Health Sciences Information, BIREME/PAHO/WHO, will be conducting a series of activities such as on-site visits and training sessions, intended to involve all the national institutions related to the production, management and use of health information.

The VHL will be an integral part of the Latin American and Caribbean Network, and will contribute to increased national capacity to collect, organize, index, preserve, publish, disseminate, access and use scientific information.

Also see the transcript of today's news broadcast on the launch from Belize's News 5 TV.

Road to Hell or from it?

Rafael Ball, Green Road - Golden Road: Open Access - The Road to Hell?, 9 (2006) Nr. 2. (Thanks to medinfo.) Only the abstract is free online, at least so far. Abstract of the BIT Online article:
Seven years after Open Access was first defined, the concrete realisation of free access to scientific information is beginning to take shape. A variety of paths have been trod along the way. The spectrum ranges from the ideal of "freedom of information" up to merciless commercialisation, for example, through Open Choice programmes by some scientific publishers. Using seven theses, withis paper will show that the "golden road" is the wrong road for the realisation of Open Access, that publishers are by no means the devil in disguise and that scientific communication does not need to be revolutionised by Open Access.

PS: This article seems to be based on Ball's slide presentation from the 5th Frankfurt Scientific Symposium (October 22-23, 2005). At least the slide presentation came first and has a similar title, "Open Access – neither green road nor golden road, is this the road to hell?" I don't have access to the full text of the article, but from the abstract it appears that Ball was much more positive about OA at the time of the presentation, when he concluded that "Everyone's a winner with Open Access."

Update. Ball is the head librarian at the Zentralbibliothek Jülich, a major research institution with an ample budget. One of his theses in the article is that libraries don't need OA. In a blog post on Tuesday, Jürgen Plieninger argues that Ball is out of touch with the needs of university libraries. Four comments support Plieninger's critique and OA. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

User-modifiable search engine for the public domain

Archival is a swicki-based search engine for content in the public domain. (Thanks to LIS News.)

Rio Declaration on Open Access

Participants in the iCommons iSummit for 2006 (Rio de Janeiro, June 23-25, 2006) asked the iCommons board to sign the Budapest and Berlin declarations. They also launched a wiki-based Rio Declaration on Open Access, whose language is still evolving.

PS: The draft declaration is already off to a good start, basing its definition on the BOAI (rather than starting over from scratch) and focusing on promotion, implementation, and resources. If you have any suggestions, which the sponsors prefer to direct edits, post them before July 13.

Update. iCommons also has wiki-based draft declarations on DRM and the Broadcast Treaty.

OA resolutions at the ALA meeting

At the American Library Association Annual Conference 2006 (New Orleans, June 24-27, 2006), the ALA adopted a resolution in support of FRPAA.

At the same meeting, the American Association of Law Libraries adopted a resolution in support of OA to PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records). PACER is the US government center for access to appellate court records, and is one of the most useful US government information services that it is not yet fully OA.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

OA verdict at JRSM

Jeffrey K. Aronson, 'Open-access' publishing: first the evidence --then the verdict, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, March 2006. An editorial. Not even an abstract is free online, at least so far.

Paula Le Dieu on OA and Science Commons

Paula Le Dieu, Science Commons, a podcast lecture delivered at the O'Reilly European Open Source Convention (Amsterdam, October 17-20, 2005). Paula Le Dieu is the Director of Creative Commons International. (Thanks to Windley.) From the description:

The scientific traditions of collaboration, transparency and sharing can be at odds with the constraints of publishers, patents and copy protection. Science Commons is a new project of the Creative Commons with a mission to facilitate the growth of an openly accessible commons for scientific knowledge. In this talk, Paula Le Dieu maps out some of the alternative models for journal publishing, licensing and data sharing which can help promote the flow of scientific results and innovation.

Le Dieu highlights research on the well known p53 tumor suppressor gene to illustrate how scientific progress can be encumbered by limited access to published results. Meta analysis of the tens of thousands of articles written on p53 reveals an intriguing web of connections between different pathways and diseases, but this approach is hindered by the fact that only a quarter of published research papers are freely accessible in full text on line.

Limits stem partly from a conflict between the scientists’ interest in sharing knowledge and publishers’ interest in protecting copyright. The shift toward electronic publishing also means more libraries acquire journals on a rental basis rather than outright purchase so that all access is lost if the subscription ends.

Since there is no way of knowing in advance where new insights may lie, it’s in the interest of humanity to ensure the widest possible access to the body of scientific knowledge. To that end, Science Commons is promoting new publishing models. They are also trying to rationalize the language of technology transfer agreements to help scientists avoid inadvertently signing away rights. Finally, the group is investigating alternatives to the ’publish or perish’ mode of building scientific reputation. Open access publication and diverse impact measurements can help reduce the inequities of citation ranking.

Opening up the phone system

Stephanie Mehta, The future of telecom is in Wales, CNN Money, June 8, 2006. (Thanks to Cooperation Commons.) Excerpt:
BT, (British Telecom) the incumbent phone company in the United Kingdom, is planning to shut off all of its legacy phone networks - a hodge podge of systems that includes the traditional "circuit switched" system that has served as the architecture for delivering phone calls for more than a century - by 2010. In its place, BT is installing a single network based on Internet Protocol, the language of the Internet. And the first town to make the conversion to the new network is Cardiff, a former coal port....

[W]hat's really cool about what will happen in Cardiff - and eventually the rest of the U.K. - is that BT is creating an open, standards-based platform for which anyone can develop new applications. In other words, the phone has the potential to become more like the Internet with its proliferation of cool new Web sites, tools and services. "This whole thing is based on openness and transparency," says Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT's wholesale operations. "We want to allow experimentation by application developers."

This is no small thing. Right now, for example, most of the mildly interesting stuff consumers can do with their phones - call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding - is programmed right into the big computers that route calls around the network. That makes it virtually impossible for some entrepreneur in a garage or some teenager tinkering at his computer to develop a new phone service.

By moving to an Internet-based architecture, British Telecom enables that tinkering teen to spend time he might have dedicated to making Google "mashups" to creating a fun application for the phone network. "We are doing what Google is doing," says Reynolds, referring to Google's willingness to make some of its application programming interfaces (APIs) available to the public.

Comment. Kudos to BT. The fact that we can barely imagine the power of mashups between the phone system and the rest of the internet is the reason to do this, not the reason to resist. Opening the door will put imagination and cleverness to work, not keep them shut out.

Here's one potential mashup. Press 1 for an eprint. Dial a repository, identify an eprint, press 1, and a copy is on its way by email. The repository grabbed your email address from another mashup that connects email addresses with phone IDs. Here's another: Press 2 for an audio reading of the eprint. A pleasant computerized voice reads the eprint to you over the phone. Press 3 for an MP3 of this eprint. If you liked the audio reading and want a copy, or if you just didn't have time to finish listening to it in the cab on the way to the airport, ask for an MP3 to be sent to your email. You can listen to it on your iPod the next time you go jogging.

Or instead of using the phone to send content to your computer, use your computer to send content to your phone. Click here to send an audio reading of this file (or this podcast lecture) to your cell phone voicemail. You're running out the door but can listen to the file on your commute.

Sure, there will be new kinds of spam, but there will also be new kinds of spam solution. Spam wasn't a reason to keep email systems closed. Bring on the utility and plan to mop up as we go.

Keeping the rights you need

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., How Can Scholars Retain Copyright Rights? DigitalKoans, July 3, 2006. Excerpt:
Scholars are often exhorted to retain the copyright rights to their journal articles to ensure that they can freely use their own work and to permit others to freely read and use it as well. The question for scholars who are convinced to do so is: "How do I do that?"

The first thing to understand is that copyright is not one right. Rather, it is a bundle of rights that can be individually granted or withheld. The second thing to understand is that rights can either be granted exclusively to one party or nonexclusively to multiple parties....

Comment. This is a good introduction to the options. I'd only make two additions.

  1. Authors needn't retain full copyright in order to provide OA to their own work. They only need to retain the right of OA archiving --which, BTW, about 70% of journals already give to authors in the copyright transfer agreement.
  2. Charles mentions the author addenda from SPARC and Science Commons, but there's also one from MIT.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The politics of selective OA

Today's New York Times has a good story on the prospects for an OA database of US government grants and contracts. Right-wing politicians like it because they think public scrutiny will lead to a reduction in government spending. Left-wing politicians like it because they think public scrutiny will increase political protection, if not spending, for valuable programs. The only opponents are politicians trying to defend their pork from public scrutiny, but there seem to be more of them than originally expected. The House version of the bill, passed in June, retreats from the original vision by shining light only on nonprofits receiving grants, not businesses receiving contracts. Democrats complain that his looks like a way to keep Republican pork in the dark.

PS: For another example of selective OA that seems to have a political motivation, see the global warming story I blogged last week.

Calling on academics to move online

Andrew Leigh, Academia online, On Line Opinion, July 3, 2006. Excerpt:

Seventeen years on the Internet offers unprecedented opportunities for academics to engage with the world. By using websites to post working papers and finished articles, and blogs to engage in discussions with the broader public, the Internet may potentially be the largest change in the way academics convey ideas since the invention of the printing press.

Making academic work available on one’s own website has many advantages. As undergraduates, postgraduates and the general community increasingly turn to search engines such as Google Scholar, work that is readily accessible is more likely to be read and cited. A spate of studies has shown that making articles [freely] available online boosts citations by 50 to 250 per cent. If you want to have your articles cited in other countries and other disciplines, your best bet is to post them on your website.

Despite the clear benefits of posting articles online, only about one-seventh of the research conducted by Australian academics is freely available on their websites....

A standard excuse for academics failing to post their papers on their websites is that copyright law prevents it. Yet as advocates of open access have pointed out, 93 per cent of journals have policies that permit authors to post a copy of an article on the author’s own website. Of the remaining few, most have no objections to authors posting a pre-publication version of their article....

Just as the printing press helped speed the decline of Latin, so too the Internet is undermining existing ways of conveying information. As Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin observes (pdf file 673KB), the “wired intelligentsia” now assume that “they can find out pretty much anything on Google”. For academics who are willing and able to make their research Google-friendly, the Internet offers plenty of new opportunities for conveying ideas to a broad audience....

Comment. Just one correction: It's much better to post one's work to an OA repository than to a personal web site. You won't have to move the content and break existing links when you change jobs or retire; the content will be indexed by academic search engines (like OAIster) as well as the mainstream giants (like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft); and in most cases dedicated librarians will assure its long-term preservation.

Momentum for OA

Sophie Rovner, Evolving Access, Chemical & Engineering News, July 3, 2006. Excerpt:
Publishers are striving to find a viable business model to support free reader access to scholarly articles on the Web.

Britain's Royal Society, which already provides free access to its articles 12 months after publication, has launched a trial of immediate open access for its seven journals. Authors whose papers are accepted by these journals now have the option to pay the society $370 to $550 per page to make the articles free to nonsubscribers as soon as they are published online. The fees, which will be discounted in the trial's first year, are set at a level that will sustain the journals if all authors choose immediate open access and subscription revenue drops to zero.

Elsevier recently instituted an open-access trial that will eventually involve 36 of its journals. An author who wants all readers to have immediate free online access to a paper in one of these journals can pay the company a $3,000 fee....

Meanwhile, Research Councils UK has updated its position on access to research results. Beginning in October, three of RCUK's eight member councils, which are Britain's leading public funders of science, will require grant recipients to deposit their articles in open-access repositories.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


I just mailed the July issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. This issue takes a close look at the big step toward OA mandates at the RCUK, the big step toward an OA mandate at the NIH, and the case for mandating OA to electronic theses and dissertations. The Top Stories section takes a brief look at the Royal Society's decision to switch to hybrid OA journals, the PLoS preview of PLoS ONE and its first-ever fee increase, the results to date of Oxford's OA experiments, protests within the American Anthropological Association about the AAA decision to oppose FRPAA, the Science Commons launch of Scholar's Copyright, some new OA policies at three research institutions, and more news and comment on FRPAA.

French presidential candidate supports OA

Ségolène Royal, a candidate for the Presidency of France, supports the Berlin Declaration and the WSIS principles for OA. Thanks to Francis Muguet for forwarding a press release, in English and French, reporting Royal's recent meeting with Richard Stallman:
Open standards (like the Open Document Format) and the use of Free Software contribute to the independence, quality and effectiveness of public agencies and local communities. Developments funded by public authorities for their own needs should be free, as a general rule.

Public authorities, in France and Europe, should promote a legal framework which favors freedom to use software and participation of all users in innovation. Policies for research and technological innovation in computing could benefit by using concepts originating from Free Software....

Beyond software, public authorities must promote the "information commons" in all fields of science. [Royal and Stallman] call for implementation of the Berlin declaration and the recommendations of the World Summit of the Company of Information (WSIS) in regards to Open Access to scientific information.

Update. For more background on the Royal-Stallman meeting and its joint statement, see Glyn Moody, Time for Coders to Get Political? Linux Journal, July 3, 2006.

More on the growth of the free scholarly web

Robert J. Lackie, The Changing Face of the Scholarly Web: Finding Free, Quality, Full-Text Articles, Books, and More! Multimedia & Internet@Schools, July 1, 2006 (free registration required). Excerpt:
Fortunately for all of us, the scholarly Web is getting noticed more because of new digitization initiatives underway and the enormous publicity search leaders are receiving for their fledlging work. Many librarians and researchers seem to be pleasantly surprised by the continually changing face of the scholarly Web and its freely available quality full-text offerings.

This article will touch on and attempt to bring together pertinent resources on the free Web of interest to anyone, including librarians and other educators, who conducts research and would like to easily supplement their currently available holdings, in print and electronic formats and via commercial vendors' fee-based subscription databases, within their own libraries....

PS: Lackie's survey is strongest on OA books and full-text search tools. He includes the DOAJ and some other sites on OA journals, and gives short shrift to OA repositories (mentioning PMC, for example, but not arXiv, OAI, OAIster, ROAR, or OpenDoar).

Marc Brodsky on OA in physics

Miriam Drake, Open Access for Physics: Interview with Marc Brodsky, Searcher, July/August, 2006. Only this blurb is free online:
Miriam Drake interviews Marc Brodsky, the executive director of the American Institute of Physics (AIP), about what role open access will play in the disbursement of physics research on the Web.

Update. Bill Walsh has blogged an excerpt.

More on the Eysenbach study

Robin Peek, The Impact of Open Choice, Information Today, July/August 2006. Excerpt:
The findings of a study released last month in PLoS Biology reveal that articles that are published by the author-pays open access (OA) approach are cited more often than those that are published in the same journal and that are publicly released 6 months after publication.

The papers were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). In this hybrid journal (also known in OA circles as open choice), authors (or their funders) can pay $1,000 for immediate free access. In June 2004, PNAS became one of the first journals to make this option available to its authors.

Gunther Eysenbach, a health-policy specialist at the University of Toronto, is a self-described “moderate” advocate of OA publishing. He said, “I think in the future there will be a role for both business models, author-pays and reader-pays. I don’t evangelize.” Eysenbach also noted in an interview with Medscape Today that “unless you have a top paper that is publishable in one of the [five] major general medical journals-it is always better to publish in an OA journal than in a toll-access specialist journal.”...

According to Eysenbach, “The strength of the OA effect is particularly surprising because PNAS is a widely available journal that is accessible for most researchers through their library. In addition, articles are made freely available to nonsubscribers 6 months after publication.” He suggested, “The effect of OA publishing may be even higher in fields where journals are not widely available and where articles from the control group remain ‘toll-access.?”...