Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Spreadsheet of Research Council OA policies

The day the RCUK announced its new OA policy (June 28), David Prosser of SPARC Europe sent a spreadsheet to a number of discussion lists showing what positions each of the eight Research Councils took on OA. Now David has posted a copy of the spreadsheet at SPARC Europe itself. The new copy can be kept up to date as the Research Councils announce and revise their policies. There may not be much demand for that now that SHERPA has launched JULIET, its databases of funder OA policies, But as David points out, some people will still prefer to compare the policies in the form of a table.

More evidence that journal prices don't correlate with quality or impact

Golnessa Galyani Moghaddam, Price and Value of Electronic Journals: A Survey at the Indian Institute of Science, Libri, June 2006.
Abstract. This article analyzes the most used scholarly electronic journals at a multi-disciplinary research institute in India, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). Analysis of the top thirty journals at IISc shows that two-thirds of these journals belong to non-profit/society publishers and one-third to for-profit/ commercial publishers. There is a remarkable difference between the prices that for-profit/commercial publishers charge libraries for scholarly journals and the prices that non-profit/ society publishers and university presses charge. This price difference does not appear to reflect a difference in quality as measured by the number of recorded citations to a journal/impact factor and use of journal.

OA repositories in the STM fields

Quick Guide to Open-Access Eprint Archives in Science, Technology & Medicine. A list of the major subject-based OA repositories compiled by the Science Reference Service of the Library of Congress. (Thanks to Environmental News Bits.)

PS: It also lists some lists of repositories, but it omits the two best: the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) and the Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR). For more, see my own list of the better lists.

Blackwell's critique of OA

Back in June, I blogged Virginia Barbour and Mark Patterson's article, Open access: the view of the Public Library of Science, Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, 4 (2006) pp. 1450-1453. But I didn't notice that it was part of a debate. Here's the other half:

Andrew Robinson, Open access: the view of a commercial publisher, Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, 4 (2006) pp. 1450-1453. Robinson is the Director of Medical Publishing at Blackwell Publishing, which publishes JTH. Excerpt:

Believers in open access (OA) argue that the subscription-based journal model is like a clot blocking the free-flow of scientific research to vital research organs and the public, cutting off the supply of ideas and innovations. But believers in traditional journals argue that, with a single cut, there is a real risk that scientific research will leak in an uncontrolled fashion that would be impossible to stem. The end result will be an undifferentiated pool of unreviewed research, which will, because of its lack of structure, not only halt the diffusion of innovation to the same vital research organs, but also challenge the viability of the whole body by affecting other systems, such as peer review and societies like the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis.

I will argue for a delicately balanced system that allows research that is published in journals to flow to the organs that need it, rapidly and efficiently. But I will also argue for a process of evolution, not revolution, in a spirit of experimentation, to safeguard what works well now, but also to ensure that neither sustainability nor quality is compromised....

Comment. This is one of the longest anti-OA articles I've seen, perhaps because it compiles just about every tired myth and misunderstanding ever circulated about OA: that OA threatens peer review, that researchers have all the access they need, that lay readers don't need access, that funder OA mandates are primarily intended to serve lay readers, that researchers in developing countries are served as well by HINARI as they would be by OA, that OA journals discriminate against indigent authors, that there is no OA impact advantage, that because OA is not very well-known among reseachers it must not be very desirable, and that the serials pricing crisis is really a problem of library budgets.

More on OA to Welsh dissertations

Open source powers Welsh e-theses project, Ping Wales, July 15, 2006. Excerpt:

A newly launched electronic theses deposit system, the Repository Bridge allows theses produced at Welsh universities to be automatically and electronically added and stored at the National Library of Wales.

The system is part of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC)’s digital repositories programme. JISC works with further and higher education by providing guidance, advice and opportunities to use ICT to support teaching, learning, research and administration.  The project is based at the Aberystwyth and Swansea universities and provides a regional hub for the UK-wide electronic theses online service (EThOS) project, which aims to develop a UK database of theses.

EThOS will allow students and researchers to search its database and securely access, from their desktop, the full text of e-theses. In addition, UK HE institutions, in partnership with the British Library, will use the project to promote postgraduate research and increase usage of their theses output.

With over 14,000 theses produced in the UK each year, the Repository Bridge and EThOS aim to simplify the current, rather complex, theses request process, which is usually manually driven....

JISC's final report into the Repository Bridge [pdf] implementation is available for download.

Former CMAJ editors launching a new OA journal

Helen Branswell, Medical journal should be free of editorial interference, panel recommends, CBC News, July 14, 2006.
The Canadian Medical Association Journal should be free of editorial interference from its owners, and its editor protected from being fired without cause, a panel of experts set up to draft a new governance structure for the journal recommended in a report released Friday. The Canadian Medical Association...posted the report on its website and immediately announced it would accept the 25 recommendations it contains....

The panel was set up in the wake of the controversial late February firing of Hoey and his senior deputy, Anne Marie Todkill....The firings were widely viewed as the culmination of a battle over editorial independence between the journal editors and owners. The CMA disputes that view but has not offered an alternative, saying it cannot comment on personnel matters. The dismissals led to a mass exodus of journal staff, including most of the editorial board. Hoey, who has since taken a position at Queen's University as special adviser on public and population health, said in an e-mail Friday that he had not read the report. Todkill saw it as an improvement over the conditions under which she and Hoey were working, but said she felt governance structures couldn't fully insulate editors from pressure to dovetail journal policies to match owner politics, if a journal is owned by a medical association. "No document is enough to make you fireproof," she said. For the sake of disclosure, Todkill revealed she is working with other former editors of the CMAJ to launch a new, independent, open-access Canadian medical journal.

Update. The new journal has a title and web site, Open Medicine, but no content yet. More later.

The value of open knowledge

Rufus Pollock, The Value of the Public Domain, Institute for Public Policy Research, July 2006. Excerpt:
Traditionally, the public domain has been defined as the set of intellectual works that can be copied, used and reused without restriction of any kind. For the purposes of this essay I wish to widen this a little and make the public domain synonymous with ‘open’ knowledge, that is, all ideas and information that can be freely used, redistributed and reused. The word ‘freely’ must be loosely interpreted – for example the requirement of attribution or even that derivative works be re-shared, does not render a work unfree.

This public domain is very large. It includes the contents of the traditional public domain such as works originally subject to monopoly protection but where the protection has expired, for example Shakespeare’s plays, which were once subject to copyright, as well as items never subject to protection, for example the theory of relativity. It also includes open source software and work released under (some) Creative Commons licenses. As such, it consists of almost all of humanity’s intellectual output up until the very recent present (for patented ideas it excludes approximately the last 20 years and for copyrighted works approximately the last 100 years)....

Too often [the] value [of the public domain] has been unarticulated and thereby left vulnerable. While those who promote stronger intellectual property rights point to the tangible benefits that these offer their businesses, the corresponding costs to the public domain and its users are invisible or ignored. This paper seeks to redress the imbalance and, in doing so, to spur a re-orientation of innovation and information policy. Our current paradigm represents a form of monomania in which monopoly rights, in the form of intellectual property, displace all else from our thinking on this subject. It binds us to a narrow, and erroneous, viewpoint in which innovation is central but access is peripheral. The system it has engendered is now so distorted that its social and commercial costs in several key areas have become large. It is therefore high time to restore balance, in particular by taking proper account of the public domain and open approaches to knowledge production. It is only by doing so that we will be able to take full advantage of the possibilities offered by this digital age.

How to re-route subscription fees toward OA journals

Stevan Harnad, Open Access Self-Archiving Mandates to Re-Route Cash Flow Toward Open Access Publishing? Open Access Archivangelism, July 14, 2006.
Summary: Jan Velterep (of Springer Open Choice) argues that the money being spent today on journal subscriptions needs to be "re-routed" to paying for Open Access journal publishing instead. If that is indeed a desirable outcome, then supporting the many actual and proposed Open Access self-archiving mandates worldwide today is the best way to facilitate that outcome. Meanwhile, it will also generate 100% Open Access, a desirable outcome in and of itself.

More on Wikipedia v. Digital Universe

Alice LaPlante, Spawn Of Wikipedia, InformationWeek, July 14, 2006. Excerpt:

Larry Sanger [co-founder of Wikipedia with Jimmy Wales] in late May unveiled the beta version of Digital Universe, which is, in effect, a portfolio of portals leading to expert-approved content--including specialized encyclopedias--and has resolutely turned his back on the wide-open philosophy of Wikipedia.

Indeed, Sanger made his opinion of the weaknesses of Wikipedia known more than a year ago in a widely disseminated article titled "Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism." In it, Sanger pointed to two serious problems plaguing his former pet project: the public perception of Wikipedia as a flawed reference guide, as well as the presence of "difficult people, trolls, and their enablers."...

So what’s the right approach? The populist [Wikipedia] or the elitist [Digital Universe]?...

Those in favor of the Wikipedia approach say that, despite unavoidable glitches in the process, the community ultimately rights all wrongs. Supporting their argument, there was a study by Nature last December that found that for every four errors in Wikipedia, there were three in the Encyclopedia Britannica.  But even ardent Wikipedia supporters admit that although it’s good as a preliminary research tool, people seeking verified facts should probably get a second opinion on any given query when consulting a truly open forum.

That’s where I stand. I find Wikipedia infinitely valuable for giving me basic background information and providing links to other sites. But trust it when composing an article? Not on your life. I want evidence of reputable gatekeepers. I’m therefore looking forward to the evolution of Digital Universe.

Comment. Larry Sanger is right to use the phrase "anti-elitism" to describe an attitude found among some Wikipedia contributors. But note that he doesn't use the term "elitism" to describe Digital Universe, and the press shouldn't perpetuate the invidious idea that there's something "elitist" about peer review and rigor. To do so is to feed the same "anti-elitist" attitude that Sanger is criticizing. Nor should the press perpetuate an oversimple opposition between expertise and populism when talking about Wikipedia and Digital Universe. Wikis can harness collective expertise, not just collective ignorance, opinion, and dogmatism. Digital Universe gives expertise a central role in quality control, but Wikipedia may have as many expert contributors as non-experts.

SPARC supports RCUK's new OA policy

SPARC has issued a press release supporting the new RCUK OA policy. Excerpt:
SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) strongly supports the recent commitment by Research Councils UK (RCUK) to ensure access to publicly funded research. The RCUK statement, which says that “ideas and knowledge derived from publicly funded research must be made widely available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly and effectively as possible,” requires deposit of research articles in open access repositories. Three individual Research Councils have announced policies mandating this to date.

“RCUK, and the UK by extension, have taken a tremendous leap forward that will benefit researchers, scholars, teachers, patients, and citizens,” said SPARC Director Heather Joseph. “We have seen overwhelming evidence that making the deposit of research papers in open access repositories a condition of awarded grants ensures the widest compliance and greatest benefits for research. We encourage all individual Research Councils to institute policies for open access.”

SPARC submitted a letter in support of RCUK’s new policy during the comment period. A copy of this letter is available on the Web [here].

More on FRPAA

Bipartisan Effort Emerges to Make Federally-Funded Research Publicly Accessible, Science & Intellectual Property in the Public Interest, July 14, 2006. Excerpt:
According to Senator Cornyn, open, public access would accelerate scientific discoveries and progress in medicine, “leverage [the taxpayers’] investment in research, and ensure a greater return on that investment.” Supporters of the bill maintain that taxpayers should have access to the research they fund, and that dissemination of research findings is an inextricable part of the scientific process. The Harris Poll found that “more than 80% of Americans say they agree strongly or somewhat that research should be available for free via the Internet because the research is paid for with U.S. tax dollars.” Patient advocate groups argue that individuals should have access to the latest developments in biomedical research that enable them to make better informed decisions about their health. Researchers also have incentives to make their work accessible because the more widely available their work is, the more it is likely to be cited.

Some scientific societies and publishers fear that open, public access might jeopardize peer-review and editing processes necessary for quality control, and also lead to dramatic decreases in subscriptions and therefore revenues. However, research articles in many disciplines --including the biomedical, cell, and molecular biology fields-- are shown to draw the highest level of interest in the first six to eight weeks following publication. Because the Act would make the research publicly accessible six months after it is published in a peer-reviewed journal --well after that period-- supporters argue that concerns over the legislation’s provisions are overstated. Additionally, non-federally funded research, editorials, and news articles would not be placed in the publicly-accessible repositories.

Friday, July 14, 2006

More on the RCUK policy

Susan Mayor, Publicly funded research in the UK must be freely accessible, BMJ, July 15, 2006. Only the first 150 words are free for non-subscribers. Excerpt:
Publicly funded research must be made accessible and free of charge to the public, recommended a statement published this week by research councils in the United Kingdom.

The statement said that information derived from publicly funded research must be made available at no charge for public use as widely, rapidly, and effectively as is practical. It also advised that published research findings must be subject to rigorous quality assurance, through effective peer review mechanisms, and that mechanisms for publication and access to research results must be efficient and cost effective. Finally, the outputs from current and future research must be preserved and remain accessible for future generations.

The recommendations were developed by the executive group of Research Councils UK, which represents the eight research councils in the country, including the Medical Research Council....

Google joins the ODF Alliance

Mandating OA in the US

Ray, English, Open Access to Federally Funded Research--The Time is Now, Portal, July 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). A guest editorial. I don't have access, so I'll borrow --with thanks-- the excerpt blogged by John Russell:
[I]mplementation of a comprehensive U.S. policy would have enormous implications for access to research both in this country and abroad. In addition to its immediate benefit for researchers, success in changing U.S. national policy would substantially strengthen international efforts to establish public access to government-funded research, and it would give a large boost to the worldwide open-access movement.

It is especially encouraging that the effort to provide public access to federally funded research has strong bipartisan support in Congress. The Cornyn-Lieberman and Cures bills are, in each case, sponsored by a conservative Republican and a moderate Democrat. Earlier congressional support for the NIH public access policy spanned the political spectrum. Given such bipartisan support, it is realistic to believe that the NIH policy can soon be strengthened and that the public access provision of the Cures bill and the Cornyn-Lieberman bill can eventually be passed into law.

SURF stands by OA in its new strategic plan

SURF, the central public funding agency for Dutch science and scholarship, has released its Strategic Plan 2007/10 (May 2006). Excerpt:
SURF has developed a view of the future of the publication cycle in which the researcher’s workflow takes centre stage. In this manner researchers (and teaching staff) gain easy access to as many sources as possible, not just publications, but also the underpinning collections of data, (visual) models and algorithms through ‘enhanced publications’.

SURF intends to achieve this vision of the future through a programme in which ‘enhanced publications’ are stored and made accessible, and providing free access to researchers around the world, in any event to products that are financed with public funds. The existing collaboration with the national knowledge institutes NOW, KNAW and KB will be intensified for this purpose.

JISC's scholarly digitization projects

JISC has received 49 proposals on how to spend the £10m it has allocated to scholarly digitization projects. In a press release today it describes a few of the proposals and its process for picking the finalists.

Profit margins for commercial STM journal publishers = 25%

EPS Forecasts STM Information Market to Reach Nearly $11 Billion By 2008, EContent, July 14, 2006. A summary of EPS's (priced) Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) Market Monitor. Excerpt:
Findings of the 59-page report include:
  • Publicly-traded STM publishers grew 8.6% in their reported currencies in 2005; aggregate profit margins held steady at 25%
  • Thomson posted the strongest increase in profits with a year-over-year gain of 20.5%, outperforming its peers and the market average of 17.7%
  • Elsevier achieved the strongest organic growth: 5% and 6% in its Science & Technology and Health Sciences divisions, respectively
  • The five largest players (Reed Elsevier, Thomson, Wolters Kluwer, Springer, and Wiley) continued to acquire scale, and now account for over half (52.3%) of total market revenues
  • Revenues from digital content distribution may be nearing a tipping point: 60% of STM revenues, and close to 70% in S&T alone, are now derived from electronic products
  • Among the leading eight players, the pace of acquisitions increased modestly in 2005; Elsevier's purchase of MediMedia's European and U.S. Netter professional medical publishing businesses for about USD336 million, and the completion of Thomson's acquisition of IHI for USD441 million were the two largest deals
  • The STM publishing and information services market is expected to reach USD10.8 billion in 2008, a 4% compound annual growth rate

Comment. I don't point out the 25% profit margins at commercial publishers of scholarly journals in order to argue gouging or monopoly, although there is clearly a case to be made there. I point it out to argue that an OA journal system will cost much less than what we pay now for the current system.

More on the Royal Society hybrid journals

Kim Thomas, Royal Society set per page charge, Information World Review, July 14, 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....

“We’ve always been sympathetic to the aims of open access in making opportunities for researchers to share their work,” said Bob Ward, a spokesperson for the Royal Society, adding that the fee represented the real cost of publishing online, because it included the cost of peer review....

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 take-up of the service in different disciplines. “One of the things we want to examine is whether introducing a fee creates a disincentive,” he said.

The move was welcomed by Sally Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), who said that the charge was comparable to that being made by other publishers. Morris said that 20% of publishers were now experimenting with open access, and that ALPSP would be watching the results of the Royal Society’s trial with interest. The Royal Society was embroiled in an open access spat earlier this year when its president Lord Martin Rees claimed that if the Research Councils UK (RCUK) adopted a pro open access stance, it could damage scientific research. “Funders may be forcing scientific researchers to change the way they publish papers so quickly that disastrous consequences could result,” the society said in a position statement regarding RCUK policy. The statement added that peer review journals could be forced to close. “The worst case scenario is the introduction of new journals, archives and IRs that cannot be sustained in the long term.” Over 40 fellows of the society wrote an open letter demanding Rees withdraw the statement.

PS: For my take on the Royal Society's turn, see my comments in the July issue of SOAN.

OA books coming from Rice's new all-digital university press

Rice University is re-launching its university press as an all-digital operation focusing on OA books. From yesterday's press release:
As money-strapped university presses shut down nationwide, Rice University is turning to technology to bring its press back to life as the first fully digital university press in the United States.

Using the open-source e-publishing platform Connexions, Rice University Press is returning from a decade-long hiatus to explore models of peer-reviewed scholarship for the 21st century. The technology offers authors a way to use multimedia -- audio files, live hyperlinks or moving images -- to craft dynamic scholarly arguments, and to publish on-demand original works in fields of study that are increasingly constrained by print publishing....

Charles Henry, Rice University vice provost, university librarian and publisher of Rice University Press during the startup phase, said, "Our decision to revive Rice's press as a digital enterprise is based on both economics and on new ways of thinking about scholarly publishing. On the one hand, university presses are losing money at unprecedented rates, and technology offers us ways to decrease production costs and provide nearly ubiquitous delivery system, the Internet. We avoid costs associated with backlogs, large inventories and unsold physical volumes, and we greatly speed the editorial process. "We don't have a precise figure for our startup costs yet, but it's safe to say our startup costs and annual operating expenses will be at least 10 times less than what we'd expect to pay if we were using a traditional publishing model," Henry said....

Users will be able to view the content online for free or purchase a copy of the book for download through the Rice University Press Web site. Alternatively, thanks to Connexions' partnership with on-demand printer QOOP, users will be able to order printed books if they want, in every style from softbound black-and-white on inexpensive paper to leather-bound full-color hardbacks on high-gloss paper. "As with a traditional press, our publications will be peer-reviewed, professionally vetted and very high quality," Henry said. "But the choice to have a printed copy will be up to the customer."...

Authors published by Rice University Press will retain the copyrights for their works, in accordance with Connexions' licensing agreement with Creative Commons.

Comment. Kudos to Rice. Connexions is a pioneer at collecting high-quality scholarship for OA distribution and will make the perfect backbone for an all-digital university press. I believe that more and more university presses will turn to the model in which textbooks and monographs are digital first, OA by default, and print on demand.

Update. The best news coverage of this story so far is Scott Jaschik, New Model for Scholarly Publishing, Inside Higher Ed, July 14, 2006.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

More on the Dutch DARE project

Just de Leeuwe and Mirella van der Velde, From repository to eternity: from Delft repository to DARE - the developments of OAI in The Netherlands, Serials, July 2006. Only this abstract is free online:
To meet the growing demand for accessibility of scientific output, a national-level co-operation has been established in The Netherlands to implement local repositories, known as Digital Academic REpositories (DARE). The repository content will be included in the e-Depot of the National Library of The Netherlands (KB) and therefore in their digital preservation strategies, guaranteeing the accessibility for future generations. This article presents the perspectives of both the Library of the Technical University (TU) of Delft repository and the KB on technical issues concerning harvesting metadata and establishing the infrastructure for a national digital preservation programme supported at the local level.

OA to historical medical journals

Robert Kiley, The medical journals back-files digitization project and open access, Serials, July 2006. Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:
This article discusses the medical journals back-files digitization project - an initiative to create a critical mass of digital content based on the back-files of a number of historically significant medical journals. All content is made freely available through the NIH life sciences repository, PubMed Central (PMC).

The project, however, is not limited to historical, archival content. All publishers that participate in this initiative agree to deposit current and future issues with the PMC archive, and make all research papers freely available within an embargo-defined period. As such, this project is in accord with the open access principles espoused by the project sponsors - the Wellcome Trust, the JISC, and the US National Library of Medicine.

This paper considers some of the value-added services this project has developed, and explores why the Wellcome Trust is supporting open and unrestricted access to the research literature and what it is doing to help realize its open access policy.

The future of journals

Rick Anderson, What will become of us? Looking into the crystal ball of serials work, Serials, July 2006. Only this abstract is free online:
Is it possible to predict the future of serials work? Not with perfect accuracy, of course - but to do so imperfectly is both possible and imperative. We need to be looking ahead and asking questions like these: What are the implications of the open access movement for serials staff? Will the information economy of the future be driven by problems of scarcity or problems of abundance, and what does each scenario mean for the library? The areas in which we work are especially volatile, and both we and those we serve will benefit greatly if we learn how to anticipate and prepare for change, rather than simply reacting to it after it happens.

JISC/CNI presentations

The presentations from the JISC/CNI meeting, Envisioning future challenges in networked information (York, July 6-7, 2006), are now online. Several are on OA.

U of California launches OA portal of California history

Last month the University of California launched Calisphere, a collection of OA "photographs, documents, newspaper pages, political cartoons, works of art, diaries, transcribed oral histories, advertising, and other unique cultural artifacts" on California history. Calisphere is a "public service project" of the California Digital Library. (Thanks to Donna Wentworth.)

Comment. Kudos to the U of California. I've long argued that universities, especially public universities, should use their OA repositories to serve the non-academic community surrounding and supporting the university, not just the academics within it. This project gives back to California taxpayers and educates them about the benefits of OA at the same time.

Human-constructed portal of OA scholarship

Today JISC announced the launch of Intute. From the press release:
Intute - the new face of the Resource Discovery Network (RDN) - is launched at an event today at the Wellcome Trust in London. Intute is a free national service enabling lecturers, researchers and students to discover and access quality Internet resources. Intute supports education and research by promoting the most intelligent use of the Internet.

Caroline Williams, Executive Director of Intute, said: "The environment in which we operate is rapidly changing. Issues of trust and quality are real concerns for our users, and we have responded to this by creating a new service which takes the best of the RDN and streamlines it into one easy to use interface.” She explains, “the Intute database makes it possible to discover the best and most relevant resources on the Internet. You can explore and discover trusted information, assured that it has been evaluated by subject specialists.”

Where should we go?

Jan Velterop, Open access, quo vadis? The Parachute, July 12, 2006. Excerpt:

[I]may be time to face up to some uncomfortable truths. Let's be honest, open access is just not all that attractive to individual researchers when they publish their articles. I say that with pain in my heart, but we have, as proponents of open access, singularly failed to get enough support among researchers. Not for want of trying. The proposition is simply not strong enough....

The benefits of open access 'to science' are apparently pretty distant to an average researcher. Now, I know that the case has been made that there are benefits at closer proximity to researchers' ids, such as increased citations to their articles, but they seem, grosso modo, wholly underwhelmed by those....

[Funders] have the power to impose OA on their grantees, and maybe the duty. And as they mostly pay the bill for library subscriptions anyway (indirectly, via overhead charges of institutions, but they pay nonetheless), they could simply re-route that money to OA article processing charges and reform publishing in the process....

There seems to be one thing standing in the way. Conflation of financial concerns with open access is, unfortunately, a major barrier to open access. If open access were a real priority, in other words, if the starting point would not so much be cost evasion, but the principle that for the amounts now spent on scholarly literature one could, and should, have open access, and if a widespread willingness were displayed on the part of funders and librarians to help flip the model, then I'm thoroughly convinced we would be much, much further with open access. And as for financial concerns, inherent in an author-side payment model is a much clearer scope for real competition, and that will put downward pressure on prices and upward pressure on efficiencies as any economist will tell us. Putting the horse before the cart might be a good idea, for a change.

There is of course the hypothesis, consistently put forward by Stevan Harnad (and Stevan is nothing if not consistent, you have to give him that), that we can have OA without reforming publishing and without damaging journals. Consistent, but unfortunately, that doesn't make it right. In his world of self-archiving, all peer-reviewed and formally published articles would be freely available with open access -- although perhaps in an informal version, but still -- and librarians would continue to pay for subscriptions to keep journals afloat. As evidence he puts forward that having effectively had a physics archive in which published articles have been available freely for a decade and a half or so, this has not discernably reduced the willingness of librarians to keep paying for subscriptions to the journals with the very same material. And indeed, he makes very plausible that in physices, over the last decade and a half, there has been no damage to journals....

And although Stevan may even turn out to be right -- only hindsight will tell and we have to keep an open mind on that -- for societies and other publishers just to take his word for it or even his 'evidence' that his extrapolations are valid, would be a serious dereliction of fiduciary duty, and sooo unnecessary. Because with some political will, publishing can be reformed, and reformed very quickly, without damage, or even the threat of damage, to anyone. And thus the problems could be fundamentally solved instead of treated with sticky-plasters such as OA through self-archiving (great as institutional repositories otherwise are).

Comment. I welcome Jan's argument for OA journals, but I don't accept his premise that OA archiving is unattractive to researchers. The evidence shows that most researchers are not familiar with it. According to Swan and Brown 2005: "Of the authors who have not yet self-archived any articles, 71% remain unaware of the option." When authors are aware of it, they show overwhelming support. According to Swan and Brown 2004: "Over 90% of open access authors said [free access to research information] is important." The case for OA journals, and for redirecting subscription funds to pay for them, can sit on its own bottom and needn't disparage the benefits of OA archiving.

New Austrian repository withholds OA to full-texts

The Austrian Academy of Sciences (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften) has launched a new publication server.

A short article about it in Der Standard says that current research results will be publicly accessible ("öffentlich zugänglich") but a netbib post objects that only tables of contents and excerpts will be OA.

An "institutional repository" for a town or community

Richard W. Boss, Institutional Repositories, Tech Notes from the Public Library Association, July 10, 2006. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.) Excerpt:
In January of 2006, the Technology Committee of the Public Library Association, the sponsor of TechNotes, decided that public libraries might have a role to play in creating and maintaining institutional repositories for the intellectual output of their communities. This TechNote investigates that question.

Underlying the concept of an institutional repository is the growing awareness that the traditional publishing model no longer meets the needs of those who seek to disseminate or access scholarly output....

A public library is itself an institution. In most cases, its staff will not produce enough scholarly output to warrant the establishment and maintenance of an institutional repository. A public library can think of itself as part of a greater whole, the community that it serves or the municipal or county government of which it is a part.

It is difficult to think of an entire community as an “institution” that a public library might seek to support with an institutional repository. Not only is a community comprised of multiple institutions, both academic and corporate, but also of many unaffiliated individuals. Clearly, a “community repository” established and maintained by a public library cannot expect to include all of the local scholarly output. For that reason, the role of the public library might be a combination of a repository and links to other repositories, thus facilitating the discovery of all publicly available scholarship, regardless of where the primary responsibility for capturing, preserving, organizing, and providing access lies. In that case, it would limit its collection to that which the other institutions do not include in their repositories.

Another option for a public library is to participate with other organizations, including libraries, to jointly develop an institutional repository. This might significantly reduce the impact on staff and budget unless the consortium seeks to define the scope of the depository much more broadly than the library would have done....

It's an honor

I thank the good folks at OA Librarian for making me Honorary OA Librarian of the Day.

DFG has plans to accelerate OA archiving

Germany's DFG has issued a new position paper, Wissenschaftliche Literaturversorgungs- und Informationssysteme: Schwerpunkte der Förderung bis 2015, June 2006. My German isn't strong enough to plow through it, but I've learned from medinfo that the DFG plans to participate in LOCKSS and launch a project like the Dutch Cream of Science to accelerate the pace of OA archiving.

PS: For background on DFG's OA policy, see my article in SOAN for April 2006.

More on the MIT author addendum

Emma Morris, PS I want all the rights, Nature, July 13, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
...[O]pen-access advocates have set their sights on...encouraging researchers to demand the right to distribute the published versions freely and immediately. Ann Wolpert, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has launched an initiative that she says will clearly assign rights to the author in a way that would satisfy funders. Wolpert has drawn up a document that researchers can add on to the rights agreement the publisher gives them to sign. Similar agreements have been drafted by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and the MIT-affiliated Science Commons. “I look at it as responding to a request by faculty members to simplify their lives,” says Wolpert. “They say ‘it is crazy that we are supposed to read and understand these publishers’ agreements. Give me something that I can just staple to any agreement, so I can comply with NIH or Wellcome Trust policy’.”

But publishers’ groups argue that the agreements being drafted go much further than is necessary to comply with current policies. Wolpert’s document, for example, would allow authors to publish the final, formatted version of their paper anywhere on the Internet, as many times as they like, immediately after publication. “This isn’t a balance of rights. This is giving MIT all the relevant rights,” says David Hoole, head of brand marketing at Nature Publishing Group....

Sally Morris, chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, [is not in favour of making the final, edited version of a paper freely available everywhere.] “The final version is where publishers add value,” she says. On 27 June, Morris’s group, along with the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, wrote to Wolpert outlining their concerns and proposing a meeting....

John Cox, a consultant to publishers and academic societies who is based in Chichester, UK, says that the value of papers as they appear on journal websites is often underestimated. “It’s not just the copy-editing, but the infrastructure that is provided: the linking to citations, indexing, alerting services, the presentation of the product on the screen to the reader.” But he argues that the desire to post final versions across the web is misguided because the version published on the journal website will always be definitive. “It becomes, if you like, part of the minutes of science,” he says. “That is deeply embedded in the scientific research culture.”

Comments. I support the effort to get OA for the finished, published version. But here are a few comments on the effort to get OA for the prior version, sometimes called the "final version of the author's manuscript", which has undergone peer review but not yet copy editing.

  1. If it's true, as Sally Morris says, that "the final version is where publishers add value", then publishers should have little or no objection to OA for the final version of the author's manuscript, which is the version on which all the major funder policies focus (NIH, Wellcome Trust, RCUK, CURES, FRPAA). But on the contrary, we see publishers lobbying hard to block these funder policies.
  2. John Cox is right about the many kind of value added by publishers and right that the published version is more desirable than the author's final version. But it doesn't follow that providing OA to the author's final version is misguided. OA to that version is still very useful to authors, who need the increased visibility and impact, and to readers, who need barrier-free access.
  3. If the published version is so clearly superior to any previous version, as both Morris and Cox assert, then that's another reason for libraries to continue their subscriptions even after inferior versions are OA, and hence another reason to scale back the argument that OA mandates (for these inferior versions) will kill subscriptions.

Ockham 1.02 now available

An announcement from Ockham:
The first production-ready version of the Ockham Digital Library Service Registry is now available! If you have been running a pre-1.0 version, you must upgrade to this version.

More on OA to avian flu data

Nature ran another article yesterday on the need to share avian flu data. I don't have access, but here's a summary from
The strain of bird flu that killed seven Indonesian family members in May was mutating as it spread from person to person, according to confidential data presented at a closed meeting of experts last month. The news, revealed today (12 July) by Nature, has prompted fresh calls for genetic data on bird flu viruses to be made more readily available....

Researchers say it is essential to know how the virus is changing as it spreads, but the WHO has not revealed full details of the genetic changes because the data belong to Indonesia. A senior official at the WHO...acknowledges that greater data sharing would accelerate research on the virus, but says it is up to the countries involved to decide whether to share data.

PS: I repeat my question to Nature: "Given the topic and urgency, wouldn't it make more sense to provide OA to this [article] than to charge $30 for pay-per-view?"

For background, see my April article on OA to avian flu data.

Update. Declan Butler, who wrote the Nature article, has posted some excerpts to his blog.

Paul Gully, who recently joined WHO as senior adviser to Margaret Chan, head of the WHO’s pandemic-flu efforts, defends the agency’s position. He points out that the WHO’s priority is investigating outbreaks, not academic research. And he adds that although calls for more complete genome data and wider sharing of samples are “a valid point”, labs are stretched during outbreaks, and don’t have the time or resources to do high-quality sequencing.

He agrees that sharing samples with other researchers would allow such work to be done. But he says the WHO must work within the constraints set by its member states — they own the data, and decide whether to share it. “As more countries share data, hopefully that research will get done,” he says. The WHO has not formally asked Indonesia to share the sequences, Gully adds. “We would rather wait and see what Indonesia decides.”

Profile of Larry Sanger and Digital Universe

Glyn Moody, This time, it'll be a Wikipedia written by experts, The Guardian, July 13, 2006. Excerpt:
Larry Sanger seems to have a thing about free online encyclopedias. Although his main claim to fame is as the co-founder, along with Jimmy Wales, of Wikipedia, that is just one of several projects to produce large-scale, systematic stores of human knowledge he has been involved in....

The main Digital Universe portal is made up of many subsidiary portals. Each portal categorises weblinks by type, and there will be related content such as video and audio streams. Potentially, each portal will exist in multiple versions for different languages. There will be an encyclopedia for each portal, and that's where Sanger comes in. The encyclopedias will be built collaboratively using MediaWiki, the software that runs Wikipedia, although the presentation will be different. The wiki will be run by acknowledged experts - the "elite" that Sanger feels Wikipedia has turned its back on....

Sanger is also starting a collaborative project called Textop (Text Outline Project), which aims to create "a central outline of human knowledge based on specific details of definition, explanation and argument contained within scholarly texts". He believes this "will facilitate research and learning in a way never before possible", because it can be used "to organise all sorts of textual information, such as a dictionary, a guide to debates and summaries of recent events"....

PS: Disclosure: I'm on the advisory committee for Textop.

More on the RCUK policy

Majied Robinson, RCUK Statement On Open Access - Cheers Or Jeers? EPS Insights, July 12, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
"Bravo UK!" was open access evangelist's Stevan Harnad's response to the news in a blog entry of June 28. While the immediate response to the updated position may have been to assume that the publishing lobby had 'got' to the RCUK, the University of Southampton professor explained to EPS that the fact that three of the councils had decided to mandate self-archiving - and a fourth seems very close to mandating - as a condition of funding meant the UK led the world when it came to OA.

Of the three, only the Medical Research Council (MRC) statement has no caveats when it comes to respecting the wishes of publishers. The Biotechnology and Biological Research Council (BBRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) have instead stated that archiving in an open access repository is a requirement of grant holders from October 1 this year, but publishers' copyright and embargo periods should be "respected by authors". The MRC on the other hand has said that if an author wishes to submit output to a journal that does not allow self-archiving within six months then funding will only be given in "very exceptional cases". A fourth, the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils "strongly encourages researchers to deposit research outputs . in appropriate open access repositories", though there is some hope among OA supporters that this council will change its position to a stronger one in the near future.

There is no doubt that the 2006 RCUK statement is some way from the direction it appeared to be going in 2005. The question of what the effect on publishing will be remains. Organisations like the ALPSP claim that OA will hurt learned societies the most and that it is an unproven business model, while the OA enthusiasts point out that the number of subscriptions taken out by libraries has grown along with the growth of OA. This has lead to the commissioning of studies into the effects of OA - ones by the publisher's lobby demonstrating it is an unproven business model (e.g. the 2005 report from ALPSP) and ones from the OA advocates showing the increase in impact factor of journals that have been openly archived. In this respect, RCUK has bent more to the side of the publishers, commissioning another study into the effects of OA that is due for completion in 2008. Harnad in particular has dismissed this as further "filibustering" as it is impossible to "armchair guess" what the effects of OA publishing will be without actually going ahead with it. In addition, STM journal publishing is a global endeavour of which the UK is only a constituent part....

Comment. All the talk about "untested business models" for OA journals is beside the point, since the RCUK policy is entirely about OA archiving, not OA journals.

More on the Open U's open courseware project

From today's press release:
The Milton Keynes Open University in UK today announced a GBP £5.65 million (US $9.9 million) project to make a selection of its learning materials available free of charge to educators and learners around the world. Supported by a grant of US $4.45 million from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation the University will launch the website in October 2006.

The provision on the internet of 'Open Educational Resources', free at point of use and available to everyone, reflects The Open University's mission of promoting fair access for all....There will be one site that is primarily for learners, where material with suggested learning pathways will be offered. A second site will be primarily for other course creators; it will foster the concept of sharing and re-use of materials. Through the development of both sites the University plans to take open content delivery on to a new level....

The Open University will be the first in the UK to offer Open Content materials under a Creative Commons licence....

More on the RCUK policy

Mark Chillingworth, RCUK fails to time stamp open access, Information World Review, July 13, 2006. Excerpt:
A long-awaited position paper from the Research Councils UK (RCUK) has failed to clarify its position on free access to research information funded by British tax payers....[T]he paper makes no judgement on which publishing method authors should use and also fails to provide a clear time limit for when Research Council funded research should be made publicly available. “Publicly funded research must be made available and accessible for public examination as rapidly as practical,” it states.

Instead of a clear time limit, the RCUK has instigated a new study on author-pays publishing and self-archiving. RCUK has thrown its weight behind institutional repositories, however, saying: “Funded researchers should, where required to do so, deposit the outputs from research councils funded research in an acceptable repository.” Rather than tie its colours to open access or traditional publishers, the position paper states that: “It is for authors’ institutions to decide whether they are prepared to use funds for any page charges or other publishing fees.”

Institutional repository and open-access campaigner Stevan Harnad has criticised the RCUK’s stance, “The mandates are still needlessly wishy-washy about one important thing: when the deposit must take place,” he told IWR. “None of this is specific enough to be a clear, effective mandate.”

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Intro to OA

Christine Hamilton-Pennell, On the Verge of Revolution - Open-access Publishing, Free Pint, July 13, 2006. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.) Excerpt:
Online scholarly publishing is definitely in flux, and it's not yet clear which digital models will survive the shake-out. But one online development arguably holds the greatest potential for revolutionising scholarly publishing: the push for free and open access to scholarship and research.

According to Peter Suber, open access project director at Public Knowledge, a public-interest advocacy group in Washington D.C. focusing on information policy: "Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. What makes it possible is the [internet] and the consent of the author or copyright holder."...

Commercial publishers, as well as professional societies, are concerned about the move toward open-access publishing. They believe it leads to an untenable business model that threatens the viability of niche journals. Nevertheless, they recognise that OA is here to stay, and may even become the dominant scholarly publishing model. They are experimenting with different business models, including online subscriptions offering free access to content after an embargo period (usually two to twelve months)....

Since there are no costs incurred for licensing, rights management or subscription administration, it should theoretically cost less to produce an open-access journal than its traditional counterpart....[S]erious e-journals perform quality checks, and most commentators see no reason why the traditional refereeing system with editorial boards can't be used in the online environment. The quality of content in scholarly journals is more a function of the quality control system in place than the publishing medium....

National legislation has been introduced in the United States that would require every federal agency that sponsors more than $100 million annually in research (a total of 11 agencies) to establish an online repository and make its grantees deposit articles within six months of publication. There is also increasing pressure from outside the U.S., particularly in the European Union, to have mandatory posting of publicly sponsored research in centralised, free online repositories....

More on the RCUK policy

Eliot Marshall, A Mixed Bag of U.K. Open-Access Plans, Science, July 7, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:
The open-access movement chalked up a victory in Britain last week, but it did not get the universal mandate for free release of research papers that some advocates want. In a long-delayed policy statement on 28 June, the executive board of Research Councils U.K. (RCUK), an umbrella organization for government funding bodies, said that all peerreviewed journal papers produced by publicly funded research must be made available for free soon after they’re completed. Exactly what that means was not specified, and RCUK left each research council to set its own rules. In coordinated announcements, some set out hard-edged policies whereas others said they were still debating what to do....

The news that MRC [Medical Research Council] is setting hard deadlines [an OA mandate with a maximum six-month delay] won praise from some advocates of open access, such as BioMed Central, a London-based commercial scientific publisher funded by billing authors rather than readers. “It was a very important step,” says publisher Matthew Cockerill. “Not many other funding institutions have gone as far.”...

Cockerill was also encouraged by a sentence in the MRC announcement indicating that the government may pay the costs of publishing in open-access journals....[BMC and PLoS hare recently raised their fees, and the Royal Society is starting out with high fees.] No-subscription publishing can be very expensive, says London-based consultant Mary Waltham, “and many publishers were disappointed” last week to see that RCUK did not back its open-access policy with a promise of new financial support.

Notes on the LITA presentations

Will Stuivenga has posted some notes on the presentations at the LITA preconference, Contracting for Content in a Digital World (part of the ALA annual conference, New Orleans, June 23, 2006). At least one touched on OA.

OA to first issue of a new Blackwell journal

Blackwell is providing free online access to every article in the inaugural issue of its new journal, Integrative Zoology. (Thanks to GrrlScientist.) But nothing in the issue's editorial or at the journal web site suggests that the journal is OA, and it's not likely that a Blackwell Online Open hybrid journal would get 100% uptake, especially for its first issue. I'd think this was just a way to market the first issue of a new journal, but I haven't seen any publicity to build on it. Does anyone know what's going on?

Looking for OA library journals

Brian Surratt, Where are the open access library journals? Texadata, July 11, 2006. Excerpt:

I'm currently working on a paper that I would like to publish in a peer-reviewed library journal. Choosing a journal for publication is a serious issue, there are a number of criteria to consider. I would like to publish in an open access journal, and there are a few in the library profession, but there are significant reasons for not considering extant OA library journals....

When I look at the top library journals, there are very few that meet all of [my] criteria. DLib is one of the premier open access journals, but it is focused on digital libraries from a research perspective. I'm looking for a journal whose audience consists of practicing librarians, not researchers. None of the premier journals that cover academic libraries in general (such as College and Research Libraries, portal: Libraries and the Academy, and the Journal of Academic Librarianship) are open access. Some of the journals with a narrower focus (Library Research, Collections, and Technical Services) aren't even online, except perhaps in full-text databases like Wilson Web.

There are a few open access library journals, but they are not generally high impact. The Directory of Open Access Journals and have listings of OA journals in LIS. Thompson's Journal Citation Reports provides statistics on the impact of various LIS journals.

One would think that College and Research Libraries would be open access. It's publisher, the Association for College and Research Libraries, is a big supporter of open access.

German research center launches an OA repository

Forschungszentrum Jülich (Research Center Jülich) has launched an OA repository called JUWEL (Jülicher Wissenschaftliche Elektronische Literatur). (Thanks to Glyn Moody.)

From a Robert Smith news story in today's Heise Online :

Ever since yesterday all Internet users are in a position to consult online scientific publications of the Research Center Jülich (FZJ). Europe's largest multidisciplinary research institution has made its database JUWEL (Juelicher Wissenschaftliche Elektronische Literatur [Juelich Scientific Literature in Electronic Form; the acronym also spells the German word "jewel"]) available to the online public at large. The latter database contains articles from scientific journals, written scientific contributions made to conferences, doctoral theses and items published by the FZJ's own publishing house. Kicking off with a total of 400 items the database will be expanded at regular intervals. According to its own statements the research center generates 1,800 publications -- theses, contributions, articles and the like -- annually. "The results of the scientific research undertaken at the center in Jülich are to be made available to the public at large -- in a transparent fashion," the research center's CEO Joachim Treusch said. JUWEL thus implements the requirements set out in the "Berlin Declaration" issued in 2003 and signed by leading scientific research institutions according to which items of scientific knowledge are to be made available globally in line with the open-access publication paradigm.

OA in the US

Peter Suber, Open Access in the United States, a chapter in Neil Jacobs (ed.), Open Access: Key strategic, technical and economic aspects, Chandos Publishing, 2006. Self-archived July 12, 2006.

OA spam

The Algorithmic Engineering group at the University of Rome is building the first OA collection of human-filtered spam. The purpose is to provide a useful dataset for spam researchers and tool developers. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

PS: Of course spam is already OA. This collection will be "value-added" spam by virtue of the human filtering. Sound familiar?

Library groups support EC report OA recommendations

Eight major North American library associations have publicly released their May 31 letter supporting the OA recommendations in the EC report on STM publishing and OA in Europe. Excerpt:
Collectively, we wish to convey our enthusiastic support for the actions proposed in Recommendation A1 to “guarantee public access to publicly funded research results shortly after publication.” The issues around public access are of great concern to the members of our associations. We have been leaders in supporting and encouraging similar actions in the United States and Canada....

While we strongly endorse the goals of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) public access policy, we want to highlight some features that are unnecessarily limiting the policy’s effectiveness. We submit that the success of the NIH policy relies on making author submission mandatory and requiring that NIH-funded works are made publicly available in PubMed Central within six months of publication. These are also the recent recommendations of the NIH’s own Public Access Working Group (PAWG) and the National Library of Medicine Board of Regents. We are confident that reliable evidence shows that a six-month embargo poses no substantial danger to existing publishers relying on subscription-based revenues.

We commend to you the approach to public access embodied in the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (S.2695)....

Further, our organizations strongly support the analysis in Section seven regarding journal business models and the consequent Recommendation A2 that a level playing field is needed to allow for the creation of a more competitive marketplace. The study correctly notes that funding bodies substantially subsidize subscription-based funding models, albeit largely indirectly, and should equally subsidize models using author-side payments....Concerns are raised in the Study regarding the presumed potential of author-side payment models to compromise current quality standards exercised by journals. It should be noted that there is no evidence available indicating a lowering of quality standards among journals using author-side payment models....

[P]ay-per-use models [introduce price sensitivity] only at the price of continued disparities in access to research and consequent losses of productivity. Open access, while perhaps less familiar, strongly reflects the historic ethos of sharing within the research community as well as the emerging norms of Internet-based communication systems. It provides the best opportunity to maximize the return on public investment in research by sweeping away virtually all access barriers. The leverage this offers in support of innovation is substantial. The resulting social and economic benefits far outweigh any modest risk to particular publishing interests....

The organizations signing the letter are the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), American Library Association (ALA), Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL), Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), Medical Library Association (MLA), and the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

SPARC Europe supports OA mandates from the RCUK

SPARC Europe has issued a press release in support of the new RCUK OA policy. Excerpt:
SPARC Europe welcomes the publication of the position statement on access to research outputs by Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the related policies adopted by individual Research Councils....Following a year of extensive consultation on their draft policy, RCUK has reiterated their commitment to ensuring that “ideas and knowledge derived from publicly-funded research must be made widely available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly and effectively as possible.” To this end, a number of Research Councils have announced policies that will require deposit of research articles in open access repositories.

David Prosser, Director of SPARC Europe, said “This is a vitally important step in making available UK research results to all researchers within the UK and beyond. Mandating deposit of research articles will increase the dissemination and utility of these articles, providing access to all interested readers.”

Three Councils (covering biotechnology and biological sciences, economics and social research, and medical research) have made deposit of research papers in open access repositories a condition of grant. One Council (responsible for the UK’s central research laboratories) “strongly encourages” deposit, while the remaining four do not yet have policies in places. (It is expected that two of these will make announcements by the end of 2006).

According to Prosser, “It is obviously disappointing that a year after publication of the initial RCUK draft policy some Councils have not developed mandates for open access. However, we should not lose sight of the major move forward by three of the Councils. These are the first deposit mandates adopted by any Government funding bodies internationally. The lessons of less-successful ‘encouragement’ policies, such as the NIH policy in the US, have been learnt and the UK is now in a leading position with respect to the dissemination of its research outputs. We hope that other countries -- and the remaining UK Councils! -- move quickly to ensure that they benefit from the increased use of research papers that comes from open access.”

Journals that require OA datasets should enforce compliance

Mohamed A. F. Noor and three co-authors, Data Sharing: How Much Doesn't Get Submitted to GenBank? PLoS Biology, July 11, 2006. A letter to the editor. Excerpt:
Scientists recognize that free access to data is synergistic for fostering major advances. Concerns about standards of sharing are particularly acute with respect to large-scale DNA sequence and microarray data. Although some types of data have shallow histories or unclear protocols for how one would share them, DNA sequences have been deposited to the joint databases of GenBank, EMBL, and the DNA Databank of Japan for over a decade, and many journals have policies requiring such submission before a paper can be accepted. For simplicity, we refer to these databases jointly as “GenBank.”...

We know from personal experience that authors of published papers reporting DNA sequences sometimes intentionally fail to deposit their sequences to GenBank and refuse to release them upon request. Is this a rare exception, or do many papers make it past coauthors, associate editors, editors, reviewers, and journal staff without providing the purportedly required data accession numbers?

We examined the frequency with which published studies failed to submit their DNA sequences to GenBank....No journal [we surgeyed] had complete compliance with its requirement for all DNA sequences to have been submitted to GenBank. Between 3% and 20% of papers in these journals did not include GenBank accession numbers, and between 3% and 15% of studies never submitted their DNA sequences at all....

Although the failure to submit DNA sequences to GenBank appears rare...[w]e suggest [a remedy]. In the 21st century, many writers access publications online. We propose that, in cases where an author has not released DNA sequences, the author be given one month notice, at which point, if accession numbers are not provided, the publication is removed from the journal Web site until compliance is reached....

PLoS editorial supports FRPAA

Hemai Parthasarathy, Bipartisan Bill for Public Access to Research—Time for Action, PLoS Biology, July 11, 2006. An editorial. Excerpt:
The “red” versus “blue” state divide, most graphically captured in mapped results of the infamous United States presidential election battle between George Bush and Al Gore in 2000, has come to symbolize the political polarization of America. It may be surprising, therefore, to find a Republican from President Bush's decidedly red state of Texas and Gore's running mate, a Democrat from the blue state of Connecticut, agreeing on anything. Yet just such a pair has recently recognized that one issue, at least, rises above partisan forces: open access to publicly funded research. Senators John Cornyn (Texas) and Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut) have introduced a bill [FRPAA] whereby federal agencies with research expenditure over US$100 million per year must ensure that research articles produced from their grants are deposited in an Internet-accessible public archive within six months of acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal....

When the NIH was first called on to consider its policies on access to research—a result of direct recommendations from Congressional appropriators—several publishing organizations lobbied hard against the NIH's efforts. Those groups are taking the same tack with this new legislation, presenting doomsday scenarios that predict public access will undermine the very peer-review process that supports scientific progress. And yet the evidence from publishers who have moved voluntarily in the direction outlined by the FRPAA is entirely contrary to these doomsayers....

Of course, the Public Library of Science espouses full and immediate access to final published articles as the end-game of what will no doubt be a long process in publishing reform. In that regard, we view it as equally important that this legislation would also stimulate publishers to explore new models to support their business, potentially paving the way for a fundamental shift in the subscription-based model.

As part of its investment in restoring the infrastructure of Iraq, the United States government has recently spearheaded an initiative to make a large corpus of scientific literature available to scientists working in Iraq, much larger, in fact, than is readily available to the American taxpayer. If passed, the FRPAA would benefit scientific progress at home, in Iraq, and around the world, regardless of political boundaries; and the United States would still be at the vanguard in producing change in the way we disseminate science. You can help, by showing your support for the FRPAA. Visit [the ATA page on FRPAA] for more details.

OA to the complete run of the Ohio J of Science

The complete run of the Ohio Journal of Science is now OA at the institutional repository of Ohio State University (OSU). The digitization was a joint project of OSU and the Ohio Academy of Science, the journal's publisher. (Thanks to Alison Ricker.)

OA literature enhances collective intelligence and vice versa

In the ongoing debate between digital Maoism (Jaron Lanier) and the wisdom of crowds (James Surowiecki), Frank Pasquale has added an OA connection. Excerpt:

To their credit, both Lanier and Surowiecki identify the particular situations where aggregation is most useful. I’d like to nominate one more: open access publishing. I think that disciplines that adopt open access models will be evolutionarily more successful than those that fail to. It is much easier to vet quality and to build consensus (or structure controversy) when everything can be accessible to everyone.

Think, for instance, of how this discussion on the wisdom of crowds will progress. I would love to discuss Jeremy Waldron’s brilliant article on Aristotle’s concept of the Wisdom of the Multitude, but it’s on closed-access JStor. I’m not bothering to download it --not because it would be hard to do so, but because it’s not accessible to everyone. As a moral matter, I want to cite to things that can be accessed by, say, average citizens in less developed countries, independent scholars unaffiliated with universities, curious autodidacts, etc….not just fellow academics at relatively wealthy institutions.

Both this blog’s founder (Michael Madison) and Yochai Benkler help us see how that ethic of egalitarianism leads not to anarchy but to more benign things like quality control. Madison predicts that eventually

[o]pen access can create a working prestige economy if scholarly publication is standardized to a format that permits scholars in the relevant discipline to develop a digital “tagging” specification. Works in open access archives can be “tagged,” classified, and rated along various dimensions by scholars, and the result would be a kind of dynamic, searchable, shareable, bottom-up post-publication form of peer review.

It could be verse

Yehuda Berlinger has translated the U.S. Copyright Code into verse.

PS: For a companion, see my haiku introduction to open access.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Blackwell Publishing Journal News

The July issue of Blackwell Publishing Journal News is now online. (Thanks to Donat Agosti.) There are four short articles on OA:
  1. Bob Campbell, Impact of Self-Archiving on Subscriptions
  2. Bob Campbell, The UK Research Councils Break Ranks
  3. Robert Harington, Where Next for the NIH’s Public Access Stance
  4. Ginny Foley, Funding and Bureaucracy, not Access to Journals, are Chief Obstacles to Scientific Productivity

Comment. To me, the most interesting of these is the second, on the RCUK. Campbell's spin is that the RCUK's draft OA policy emphasized the need for more study, and that the Medical Research Council has gone beyond the draft policy by mandating OA. The opposite is the case. The RCUK draft policy mandated OA across the board, for all eight of the Research Councils, even if it also recommended further study. The Medical Research Council is right in line with the draft, and the Research Councils not mandating OA, like the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils, are retreating from the draft. Don't take my word for it; read the draft yourself. Quoting Section 13: "RCUK believes that in order for Research Councils to demonstrate their commitment to enhancing access to published research outputs through the medium of e-print repositories, it should...introduce a requirement that Research Council-funded researchers should deposit their published outputs in appropriate e-print repositories." The details of the requirement are spelled out in Section 14.b.

Another call for a mandate at the NIH

Michael Stebbins and three co-authors, Public Access Failure at PubMed, Science Magazine, July 7, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). A letter to the editor. (Thanks to Jim Till.) Excerpt:

As of January 2006, only approximately 3.8% of NIH-funded research papers published after 1 May 2005 had been submitted to the PMC repository. Low compliance only tells part of the story. More than half of the manuscripts available on PMC were published before 2 May 2005. Many reviews and commentaries, which fall outside of the scope of the request, and papers inappropriately made publicly available before the publisher’s public access embargo were also found in the database. This suggests either wide misunderstanding of the policy or deliberate submission of papers falling outside the scope of the database....

By NIH estimates, if only half of the eligible papers are submitted to the database, the cost would reach $2 million per year, or $62 per paper. Without a mandatory policy, however, submission of half of all eligible papers is unlikely. The NIH already provides close to $30 million annually to cover publication costs [at non-OA journals]. As the policy expands, archiving could cost an additional $3 million....

Both internal and external warnings that, if voluntary, the program would fail were outweighed by the NIH’s desire to allay the concerns of some publishers and those advocating public access policies. There is some good news, though. Authors publishing in some of the more influential journals in biomedical research seem to have a higher compliance rate than the estimated average....

NIH’s faltering experience so far indicates that public access policies must be mandatory and curated if they are to have any chance of success. It would also be wise for there to be a real demonstration of public desire or need before we expand it to other agencies. Unfortunately, this experiment has cost taxpayers money and the NIH credibility.

Comment. Two quick responses.

  1. If the compliance rate for the NIH policy rose to 100%, the cost to the agency would be $3 million total, not "an additional $3 million" on top of the $2 million for 50% compliance.
  2. The authors call for "a real demonstration of public desire". But they are assuming that the policy's goal of "public access" means "lay public" rather than "professional public" or "all who can make use of this research". In fact, researchers are the primary beneficiaries of the policy, and lay readers secondary. Some lay readers will want to read this literature, and will be able to do so, but most will benefit indirectly because researchers benefit directly.

More on the RCUK policy

Robin Peek, RCUK Releases Long-Awaited OA Policy, Information Today Newsbreak, July 10, 2006. Excerpt:
In June 2005 the research Councils UK (RCUK) issued its draft policy for public comment on Open Access (OA) for publicly funded research. At the time the RCUK seemed poised to mandate OA across its eight research councils. On June 28th, a year later, the RCUK released its updated position paper which now only strongly encourages that a substantial portion of its funded research must be OA....

In an interview published in the Guardian, Sally Morris, chief executive, of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, which objected strongly to RCUK's original plan, described the new one as "an improvement on the previous draft, in that it allows freedom to individual research councils to reflect what is likely to be appropriate in their own disciplines".

Unfortunately it will be some time before the implementation guidelines of all of the councils will be known. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council (MRC), and the Economic & Social Research Council ESRC have already announced that they will mandate deposit. The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) has decided to "strongly encourage" rather than mandate. A rather surprising choice given how poorly such a policy has served the National Institute of Health. The rest have elected to undergo further deliberation on their policies, with the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) stating that it is withholding it policy until 2008.

According the Steven Harnad, long time OA advocate, there are issues with the wording of these mandates. "The three RCUK self-archiving mandates though extremely timely and welcome per se, are still needlessly wishy-washy about one important thing: When the deposit should take place. Some (ESRC and BBSRC) say, vaguely, "at the earliest opportunity." Others (BBSRC) say "within six months of publication". And there is also hedging with: "depends upon publishers' agreements with their author."

One aspect of the new policy that seems problematic is that "Full implementation of these requirements must be undertaken such that current copyright and licensing policies, for example embargo periods or provisions limiting the use of deposited content to non-commercial purposes, are respected by authors. The research councils' position is based on the assumption that publishers will maintain the spirit of their current policies."

"My guess is that it does defer to publishers but only as long as they "maintain the spirit of their current policies" --presumably by allowing OA deposits and keeping embargoes in the present range," observes Peter Suber, author of Open Access News. "If this is right, then how will the RCUK decide when publishers violate this spirit? How obstructive must publishers become before the RCUK puts the public interest ahead of their economic interests?"

More on the Oxford and Elsevier OA experiments

Mark Chillingworth, Open access open to debate, Information World Review, July 10, 2006. Excerpt:
....The industry must be thankful, then, that Oxford University Press (OUP) has, like all publishers, studied the effects of OA, but unlike many others it’s chosen to share them. Reading the results of the OUP study and discussing the recent changes in policy at Elsevier, it looks like OA suits certain titles and not others....

In the study ‘Determining the impact of open access publishing and users: a deep log analysis of Nucleic Acids Research’, researchers discover that the NAR journal is relatively unique, with a unique community. OUP carried out research and knew that the community around this journal would welcome OA with, excuse the pun, open arms. The genetics community that reads NAR is a hot subject area of research at present. But not all scientific fields will be attracting the funding genetics does, thus OUP research indicates there is still a need for the non-author-pays model.

With Elsevier entering the fray with its Sponsored Articles service, the debate widens. Elsevier is adamant that its new model for its nuclear physics journals is no U-turn and that by calling its service Sponsored Articles, it believes it is adding clarity. It now wants to influence the industry and define journals and articles by different terms, rather than the generic term open access. This is a good point, but as anyone who has dealt with the IT industry knows, too many vendors cook up their own terms for the same product – and standards disappear. The publishing industry needs to offer clarity both in definition and understanding of accessing content, rather than creating division and confusion.

More on OA in archaeology

Alun Salt, Why Open Access is important, Archaeoastronomy, July 9, 2006. Excerpt:

[During the Copper Age] it was the southeast of Europe and the Balkans which were the centres of innovation. The problem, and it’s a big one, is accessing that information....Unfortunately [archaeologists] haven’t really got to grips with the web yet. In terms of easily accessible information, the Balkans are sorely lacking.

Archaeological material is hidden behind subscriptions. In my case my paper on Delphi will cost you £15, or over twice the cost of the Complete Works of Shakespeare. I don’t want to put you off, it’s amazing, but twice as good as Shakespeare? I did think the idea of archaeologists being exclusionary was paranoia, but if you look at the sheer cost of recently published material, then unintentionally or not the costs are a very effective barrier to learning. What you’re left with is a bunch of experts who are asking people to examine the evidence, use a critical mind and if you want to examine them be prepared to pay sacrifice a major bodily organ to a shady transplant surgeon to pay for the privilege.

From the inside it’s laughable to think that archaeology is about money or power, but if people will publish their work in books like this (£230 is about $430, but you can save $100 ordering from Amazon US), then it’s clear that someone is making money....

In light of all that it’s great news that the EAA journal is encouraging reviewers to self-publish their reviews to the web after a one-year embargo. There’s also the American Journal of Archaeology available online. As for my work, you can read an overview (in English, Greek, Hungarian and Italian) or else read a series of posts on it.

The primary rationale of a funder OA policy

Stevan Harnad, Against Needless Pruning of Research's Growth Tip, Open Access Archivangelism, July 9, 2006.
Summary: Contrary to the recent suggestion of NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, the primary and urgent purpose of open access to NIH research is definitely not so that "scientists have access to [NIH's] portfolio of research so they can see what [NIH] has funded." It is so that scientists can use and apply the research findings, immediately, for the benefit of the public that funded it for that very purpose ("CURES"). Dr. Zerhouni is right that 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 the primary purpose of open access is immediate scientific usage and applications, for the benefit of the public. NIH can have its portfolio by requiring immediate deposit without even necessarily requiring that the articles be made publicly accessible immediately. Individual scientists who need to know and use the deposited findings immediately could have immediate access through the simple expedient of the EMAIL-EPRINT-REQUEST button that is now being implemented in researchers' own institutional repositories -- if, that is, the immediate deposit of the full text is systematically mandated. (Otherwise email eprint requests are a hopelessly time-consuming, uncertain and low-yield strategy.) Hence the "happy medium" is to require immediate deposit in the researchers' own institutional repositories and to harvest the deposits into PubMed Central after whatever embargo period NIH judges necessary (a priori) to insure that this is not "done at the expense [of the] of peer-reviewed scientific publishing."

As if OA proponents didn't really want OA

Stevan Harnad, Are Researchers, their Institutions and Funders, Being Strong-Armed Into OA? Open Access Archivangelism, July 9, 2006.
Summary: Lisa Dittrich, Managing Editor, Academic Medicine, seems to imagine that researchers, their institutions and their funders are being "strong-armed" into taking steps to maximize the usage and impact of their research output by OA zealots. It is more likely that for researchers, their institutions and their funders (the tax-paying public), maximizing research usage and impact is a natural end in itself, optimal and inevitable (though grotesquely slow in coming!) in the online era, that it is merely being hastened toward its natural outcome by the OA movement, and that those who imagine otherwise, perhaps because of interests vested in another outcome, are engaging in wishful thinking. Stay tuned.

JSTOR free in Africa

Starting July 1, 2006, access to JSTOR is free for all academic and non-profit institutions in Africa. (Thanks to medinfo.)

Good numbers for an OA book on OA

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Open Access to Books: The Case of the Open Access Bibliography, DigitalKoans, July 9, 2006. Excerpt:

In March 2005, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) published my book the Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 License. [Other OA editions of the whole book, parts of it, and indices, were also available.]...

The OAB deals with a topic that is of keen interest to a relatively small segment of the reading public. Moreover, it’s primarily a very detailed bibliography. The question is: Was it worth putting up all of these free digital versions of the book and creating these auxiliary digital materials?

From March through May 2005, there were 29,255 requests for the OAB PDF. From June 2005 through June 2006, there were another 15,272 requests for the OAB PDF; 17,952 requests for chapters or sections of the HTML version of the OAB; 11,610 requests for the HTML version of "Key Open Access Concepts"; 3,183 requests for the author index; and 2,918 requests for the title index....

Print runs for scholarly books are notoriously short, often in the hundreds. I suspect most scholarly publishers would be delighted to sell 500 copies of a specialized bibliography, many of which would end up on library shelves. However, by making the Open Access Bibliography: Liberating Scholarly Literature with E-Prints and Open Access Journals freely available in digital form, over 44,500 copies of the complete book, over 29,500 chapters (or other book sections), and over 6,100 author or title indexes have been distributed to users worldwide. Thanks to ARL, the OAB has had greater visibility and impact than it would have had under the conventional publishing model.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Building a positive intellectual commons

Peter Drahos, A Defence of the Intellectual Commons, Consumer Policy Review, May/June 2006. Excerpt:

For present purposes, the ‘intellectual commons’ refers to information, where information is used as a generic term to mean things like verified knowledge (for example, the structure of the DNA molecule), data, interpretations of that data, techniques, information embodied in technology, the products of technology (for example, music) and many other discrete classes of information. I will argue that monopoly rights in the form of intellectual property rights are an especially bad idea for the intellectual commons. Amongst other things, information cannot be depleted through use....

Pharmaceutical, software and media companies argue for and obtain, usually by means of trade agreements, stronger and stronger forms of intellectual property that are backed by the coercive power of civil and criminal law....In essence, private monopolists are using intellectual property law to command our obedience over new arrangements for the intellectual commons....

The intellectual commons can be distinguished from the public domain. The latter draws its meaning from the laws of intellectual property, while the former is a political expression of community when it comes to social arrangements for use rights over information. Hardin’s tragedy of the commons does not apply to the intellectual commons. In fact, the intellectual common is subject to the law of repletion. It grows rather than depletes through use....A negative common in which monopolists gain the power of restriction over the commoners slows down the operation of the law of repletion and, more importantly, represents a net loss of freedom. Self-organized positive intellectual commons will become more prevalent as citizens conclude that governments, because they have been corrupted by the wealth of big business, will not deliver the institutions of knowledge that citizens want. Citizens will, through social licences, construct variants of the positive intellectual commons that maximize their use rights over the informational assets that matter to their ends in life, commons that will help to disperse the centralizing power of private monopoly over information.