Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tips for filling an institutional repository

George S. Porter, Let's Get it Started! Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Summer 2006. Excerpt:

The difficulties involved in establishing an IR are not economic or technological in nature. Rather, they are sociological and strategic, with organizational inertia being a large obstacle to this early phase of implementation. Here are a few suggestions for focusing initial efforts to get an IR off the ground.

Focus on Late-Career Faculty. In order to create a campus culture where faculty routinely deposit material in the IR, it is necessary to get some individual faculty to become early adopters....The youngest faculty are not necessarily the primary opinion leaders on a campus, in part because they have not been around long enough to have made sufficient connections to exert that kind of informal influence on a large scale....At Caltech, the most enthusiastic early adopter was a late career professor who wanted to document his oeuvre. He compiled a complete bibliography and pursued clearances from the publishers. He approached the library about digitization and participation in the IR. The project has been so successful, he has moved on to documenting the career of one of his early mentors at Caltech....

[A] practical solution to the "chicken or the egg" issue is to try to actively engage late-career faculty. This may seem counter-intuitive to many librarians, since so many new library initiatives are pitched to and eagerly adopted by the newest generation of academicians. The senior faculty may view the proposition as a capstone/culmination/collected works project for their career. They are also more likely to have a large enough publishing portfolio....

Focusing on content which is easy to incorporate into an IR (low-hanging fruit)....Ascertaining a publisher's policy with respect to the version of a paper which an author contributes to an archive is a tedious and expensive process [John Ober, SPARC/ACRL Forum, ALA Midwinter 2006]. An effort is underway [ASEE ELD Scholarly Communication Committee] to address more specifically the policies and conditions of science and engineering journal publishers.

A limited number of publishers/publications permit the use of the as-published PDF to be harvested and uploaded to an IR. The peer-reviewed material which an institution has produced and published within these enlightened journals is the low hanging fruit. Begin harvesting the intellectual heritage of your institution from the material which presents the least difficulties with respect to publisher permissions....

Other rich sources of readily available content include the institution's gray literature: technical report series, working paper collections, theses, and dissertations....

Jon Udell's interview with me

Jon Udell and I had a wide-ranging conversation on open access last week that is now available as his weekly podcast interview (41 minutes) for Info World. From his introduction:

Peter Suber, the leading chronicler of the open access movement, joins me for this week’s podcast. Since the dawn of the blog era, it's been obvious to me that the modes of knowledge exchange we bloggers take for granted are also a natural fit for scientific and academic publishing. That idea has matured more slowly than some of us had hoped. But as you know if you follow Peter's blog, Open Access News, it has now taken root and is growing at a healthy rate.

In this conversation Peter defines open access repositories and open access journals, and he discusses the history, economics, and cultural practices driving the open access movement. We also discuss the ways in which scholarly open access is both like and unlike blogging, in terms of technologies and methods.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A French book publisher sues Google

Heidi Gautschi, Google: On en Parlera: French Publisher Sues Google Book Search, August 18, 2006. Excerpt:

La Martinière Groupe, an international French publisher, filed a suit in early June against both Google, Inc. and Google France on behalf of three of its publishing houses, Le Seuil (France), Delachaux et Niestlé (Switzerland), and Abrams (The United States). La Martinière claims Google has disregarded intellectual property rights and has produced counterfeits of its books on the Book Search site.

Speaking on behalf of La Martinière Groupe, Tessa Destais, adviser to the company's president, explained the motivation behind the suit, saying, "French and EU legislation does not allow a third party to use a copyrighted product. Google Book Search has also misrepresented La Martinière books by making a sentence available here and there and taken out of context. It's not very fair to the books, the authors, or the publisher." For La Martinière, Google's most serious offense is that the company "has put our business strategy in danger and violated our business freedom."

Google, of course, sees things differently. Philippe Etienne, in charge of communications for Google Book Search France, finds the situation "unfortunate and unnecessary....Publishers who wish to be excluded are excluded."...

Comment. I don't know French or EU copyright law. But I'd be very surprised if displaying a short snippet, in a book review or search engine, counted as unlawful "misrepresentation" of a book. I'd also be surprised if "putting a business strategy in danger" were prohibited by copyright law. Shifting from law to fact, I'd be just as surprised if participation in the Google Library project harmed, rather than helped, La Martinière's sales.

No OA to consolidated UK laws

Heather Brooke, Access denied to the laws that govern us, The Guardian, August 17, 2006.Excerpt:

On August 2, the government rolled out the second stage of a long-delayed project to make the consolidated law of parliament accessible to the people. So how does it look? The public - who paid for the whole project - can't get a look in.

No free public access sites have been granted permission to view the current system and testers of the database - predominantly from commercial legal publishing firms - have been told not to share their login and password. Even so, some testers are not entirely happy with what they've found after logging on to the top secret database of our country's laws.

Firstly, an astounding Crown copyright notice greets the reader: "The Statute Law Database and the material on the SLD website are subject to Crown copyright protection. The Crown copyright waiver that applies to published legislation generally does not apply to SLD because it is a value-added product. Any reuse of material from SLD will be the subject of separate and specific licensing arrangements. No such arrangements have yet been entered into. Users should not therefore reproduce or reuse any material from SLD until further guidance is issued."...

Small commercial legal publishers and democracy advocates are outraged. "It is appaling that a government feels it should sell the laws it makes to the general public who must obey them," said developer Francis Irving, who last month won two New Statesman new media awards for his web sites (the contribution to civic society award) and (advocacy award). "Because the DCA's data cannot be reproduced, it makes it impossible for anyone else to compete by providing new and innovative ways of accessing and learning the law."

Irving had hoped to create a free, user-friendly legal database to rival his previous successes. As such he filed Freedom of Information Act requests last year asking for the raw data held by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. Instead of thanking Irving for his interest, the DCA denied his request. Matthew Elliot, the chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, is appalled by the government's response: "Any information collected by the government at taxpayers' expense should be freely available to the public."...

DCA spokesman Alfred Bacchus says that the copyright notice is only for the pilot system. "For live running it will be suitably amended. We have always quoted that there will be a level of free access for the general public but there may be a charge against some of the value added data (defined under the terms of the Treasury's Wider Markets Initiative) depending on the outcome of the commercial strategy. This is being discussed at the moment."...

US law is copyright free.  This is not how it could, or should, have happened. In the US, where information compiled at public expense by public officials is copyright free, the public has had access to consolidated law for decades. Since 1992, the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University in New York has been the leading online resource for US law and Supreme Court decisions. "The raw material for our United States Code collection is provided us by the law revision counsel's office in the House of Representatives," says institute director Thomas R Bruce. "They have actively helped us with the things we publish."

Even Canada, which inherited Crown copyright from us, provides its citizens free access to parliamentary law. In the mid-90s the University of Montreal, which now operates the Canadian Legal Information Institute, set out to remove copyright limits on the distribution of law. It succeeded and the Reproduction of Federal Law Order was issued in late 1996.

Meanwhile, in the UK, we're still suffering under the yoke of Crown copyright. "This copyright situation manages to be bad for business, bad for lawyers, bad for the general public and bad for our freedom all at the same time," Irving said.

OA to protect the independence of government science

Francesca Grifo, Leave The Science To Scientists At FDA, Newton Bee, undated but apparently today.  Grifo is senior scientist and director of the Scientific Integrity Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.  Excerpt:

In 2006, my staff at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), along with Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, distributed a 38-question survey to 5,918 scientists at the FDA [Food and Drug Administration], asking them to comment on management, professionalism, independence, candor, and job satisfaction at the agency. Their responses document significant interference with the FDA's scientific work and dissatisfaction at the agency. In fact, 497 respondents disagreed with the statement: "The FDA is moving in the right direction."

This is bad news for the American people, who spend 25 cents of every dollar they earn on products the FDA monitors. This year alone, the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General, the United States Government Accountability Office, and the United States House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform have all issued reports calling attention to problems raised by our survey results.

Hundreds of survey respondents described their lack of faith in agency leadership: 561 FDA scientists thought their managers did not stand behind their work when it was politically controversial....Respondents described an agency culture that ignores scientific data and prevents scientists from effectively doing their jobs; 378 scientists thought that the FDA is not effectively protecting public health. To be effective, FDA scientists must be allowed to present their data in an environment that values the truth, regardless of its political or commercial consequences. But 357 survey respondents felt they could not openly express any concerns about public health inside the agency without fear of retaliation. That must change.

Safeguards must be put in place for all government scientists who speak out. FDA leadership must make certain that advisory panels making decisions at the agency are truly independent and that the experts who serve on those panels are free of ideological or commercial conflicts of interest. Additionally, the public should have free and open access to the FDA's scientific research and its panels' recommendations.

New OA book publisher

Wowio is a new publisher specializing in ad-supported OA books, some from the public domain and some still under copyright.  (Thanks to Tom Peters.)  From the site:

Is this legal?
Absolutely. Magazines have ads. Newspapers have ads. Now, books have ads --except, unlike magazines and newspapers, we don't charge for books.

How is intellectual property protected?
Since anyone can defeat the most "sophisticated" DRM with the print screen button, we believe that technology-based DRM is essentially a fraud. Our approach takes the market incentive out of misbehaving, rewards people for doing the right thing, and tries to stay out of the way of honest users. To help keep everyone honest, however, readers must agree to a licensing agreement when they set up their account and authenticate their identity with a valid credit card. Then, each ebook is serialized with the reader's authenticated name and a unique serial number. This information is clearly displayed on the cover and on every page in the ebook. WOWIO will immediately terminate the account of anyone caught illegally distributing ebooks, and will prosecute serious offenders....

Why is there a limit on the number of books per day?
It's a Tragedy of the Commons thing --Google it. The current limit is 5 free ebooks per reader per day. We will raise the limit as our advertiser base grows....

I am looking for books you don't have. Will it do any good to request them?
Request away. We are meeting with publishers as fast as we can to bring on new books, and telling them that we have people requesting their books will help us seal the deal. Contact us and let us know what you're looking for.

How will the availability of free ebooks impact sales of print books?
There is good reason to believe that the availability of WOWIO ebooks will improve sales of print books. A few reasons are: (1) many of the people who download WOWIO ebooks would not otherwise buy the print versions --readers will give them a chance because they are free and because the ebooks are available on-demand, (2) this increased exposure will grow the readership and, correspondingly, the potential market for the print book, and (3) most people who really like a particular ebook will buy the print version because ebook readers and computers continue to lack the resolution and portability of print books.

I live outside the United States and cannot sign on to WOWIO. What's up?
For now, WOWIO is only available to people living in the United States (apologies to our International friends). The way we pay our content partners is through advertising. Therefore, we can't expand our reach faster than we expand our advertising base. Our long-term goal is to make all books available to everyone on the planet for free. In the meantime, we ask for your patience.

I am an author or publisher and would like to explore WOWIO as an option of distributing my content. What do I do?
Contact us and we'll be in touch.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

OA coming to the Journal of Business

The University of Chicago Press will cease publication of the Journal of Business in November 2006 and in the Spring of 2007 offer OA to the entire 79-year back run. For more details, see today's announcement.

Comment. I'm sorry to see the demise of this venerable journal. But kudos to Chicago for this way of recognizing its value to researchers.

More on OA textbooks

Textbooks For the 21st Century: A Guide To Free And Low Cost Textbooks, a new report from the Make Textbooks Affordable project of the Student Public Interest Research Groups, August 2006. (Thanks to Rob Capriccioso.) Excerpt:

Major publishers have done little to provide adequate lower-cost versions of most textbooks and advertise them to professors ordering books for their classes. In response, alternative and online publishers are offering lower-cost and even free versions of some textbooks. Although these alternatives have the potential to compete with the traditional publishers, they have not yet secured a significant part of the textbook market....

Students spend about $900 each year on textbooks, a high price tag that can pose a financial obstacle for students already facing rising tuition and dwindling financial aid....

In order to provide a snapshot of the lowercost textbook market, we examined the lowercost options offered by the major publishers in their online catalogues and identified several alternative publishers offering textbooks for a lower price or for free. We found:

A growing number of alternative publishers and faculty are offering lowercost and free textbooks....

These books offer the same educational value as traditional textbooks; faculty members we surveyed who have used these alternative textbooks in a classroom setting said they are satisfied with the books’ educational content.

Unfortunately, at this time these alternative publishers offer only a limited number of titles. In addition, some faculty members have raised concerns about online textbooks since not all students have convenient access to the Internet....

Brazilian students fight for right of fair-use copying

Copying Book is a Right! An anonymous blog posting on A2KBrasil, July 21, 2006. Excerpt:

The Movement to Copy Literature started to expand following the annual National Assembly of Base Entities in Campinas, São Paulo on April 11, during which 13,000 students from all over Brazil met as part of the National Students’ Union (UNE, in Portuguese).

As its principal objective, the Movement hopes to gain for students the right to photocopy portions of books for academic purposes.

The Movement "Copiar Livro é Direito!", its original name in Brazilian Portuguese, arose in response to actions taken by the Brazilian Association of Reprography Rights (ABDR, in Brazilian Portuguese), which represents several Brazilian editors - but not all. The ABDR has prosecuted universities and academic directories throughout five different states...for making photocopies of copyrighted materials. Until the present, 18 institutions have been sued.

Brazil’s Copyright Law, n. 9.610/98, states that the one-time reproduction of small portions of texts for the copier’s private use without the intention of making a profit “does not constitute an offense to copyrights”. This statement is accompanied by five complementary restrictions: 1. one can copy at the most just one piece; 2. copies must be of small portions of the text (the law does not specify the size); 3. copies must be for private use of the copier; 4. the individual interested in reproducing the material must be the one responsible for making the copy, and 5. under no circumstances is profit from the photocopy permitted....

According to Putterman, “what’s absurd about the Law is that it prohibits authors from making use of their own books in the classroom, for example.” He goes on to explain that the Copiar Livro é Direito Movement estimates how much each student would have to spend on books, if they were required to purchase the entire bibliography for a semester course: “a first-semester B.A. candidate at the Fundação Getúlio Vargas would have to spend 2,000 Reais (approximately US$ 900)!”

The Movement continues to expand. Today it has support from the following Student’s Unions:  Centro Acadêmico Direito GV (FGV-SP) Centro Acadêmico Nove de Setembro (São Judas/Administração) Centro Acadêmico XI de Agosto (USP/Direito) Centro Acadêmico 22 de Agosto (PUC/Direito) Centro Acadêmico Visconde de Cairu (USP/FEA) Diretório Acadêmico de Administração FGV - Rio Diretório Acadêmico Eugênio Gudin (Mackenzie) Diretório Acadêmico Getulio Vargas (FGV-SP/EAESP e EESP) Diretório Acadêmico Ibmec - RJ Discentes Representatives of the Universidade da São Paulo

The Copiar Livro é Direito! has the support of the Center for Technology and Society at Fundação Getúlio Vargas’ School of Law in Rio de Janeiro along with Free Culture, an international student organization that defends the flexibility of laws pertaining to intellectual property and access to knowledge. The Copiar Livro é Direito! Movement intends to launch a booklet and website to support the initiative.

Bailey on two more digital university presses

Charles W. Bailey, Jr. has two new installments in his series on digital university presses: one on Newfound Press at the University of Tennessee and the other on Singapore E-Press at the National University of Singapore.

More on JISC's scholarly digitization projects

JISC has winnowed 49 digitization proposals down to 24 and called for public comments on which of them should be funded.

More misunderstanding

C. Judson King and five co-authors, Scholarly Communication: Academic Values and Sustainable Models, Center for Studies in Higher Education, July 27, 2006. (Thanks to CAUL.)
Abstract: This study reports on five interdisciplinary case studies that explore academic value systems as they influence publishing behavior and attitudes of University of California, Berkeley faculty. The case studies are based on direct interviews with relevant stakeholders --faculty, advancement reviewers, librarians, and editors-- in five fields: chemical engineering, anthropology, law and economics, English-language literature, and biostatistics. The results of the study strongly confirm the vital role of peer review in faculty attitudes and actual publishing behavior. There is much more experimentation, however, with regard to means of in-progress communication, where single means of publication and communication are not fixed so deeply in values and tradition as they are for final, archival publication. We conclude that approaches that try to “move” faculty and deeply embedded value systems directly toward new forms of archival, “final” publication are destined largely to failure in the short-term. From our perspective, a more promising route is to (1) examine the needs of scholarly researchers for both final and in-progress communications, and (2) determine how those needs are likely to influence future scenarios in a range of disciplinary areas.

From the body of the paper:

These scholars had minimal, if any, understanding of open access models, although they were somewhat familiar with the “open” concept. We found that scholars are generally receptive to the ideal of making knowledge available for the “public good.”...

Faculty did have a good understanding that the high cost of journals is problematic and faculty in chemical engineering, in particular, viewed open access models as a possible alternative to commercial presses. Some faculty refuse to publish in particular journals because of their high cost and pricing mechanisms. Senior faculty appeared to be more comfortable with the idea of sharing material at the early stages of work (e.g., preprint servers), as did faculty in chemical engineering, biostatistics, and law and economics in general. Archaeologists already use some open access websites to share field observations....

The largest concern among scholars was the perception that open access models had little or no means of quality control, such as peer review. Some faculty in biostatistics, interestingly, equated the high cost of print journals with quality and believed that online open access models are “cheaper” and therefore might be prone to lower standards. Others expressed fear that scholarly work placed in open access models could be “stolen,” although faculty with a better understanding of the online publication process saw licensing bodies, such as Creative Commons, as a potential solution.

Scholars were generally not aware of author-pays models. Once explained, faculty responses were universally negative. Paying to publish one’s work was perceived as self-promotion and fundamentally in conflict with the peer review process. English-language literature faculty, in particular, equated the author-pays models to vanity presses, while those in the sciences equated it with advertising and therefore believed that any such publication would compromise academic integrity....

Results from the project suggest that examinations of how new media should and will affect scholarly communication and publication must recognize that, for the foreseeable future, the values surrounding final archival publication are deep and relatively inflexible in research universities. On the other hand, what scholars value and want will eventually become accepted practice. This is a much more realistic way of looking at issues than is devising models and modes of communication because of their cost efficiencies or other non-research criteria and then trying to draw scholars to them.


  1. This report shows just how much educating we still have to do. I support the general conclusion that it's more promising to devise systems of scholarly communication that match existing academic values than to pitch new systems, no matter how cool, that require changing or abandoning those values. But OA satisfies this criterion far better than the existing TA system. The problem is that most scholars still know very little about OA. And I must say that the authors of this study apparently did more to confuse than enlighten their interview subjects before interviewing them.
  2. The interview subjects didn't realize --in sufficient numbers-- that OA journals perform peer review and can be as rigorous as TA journals. They didn't realize that OA journals can use the same review standards, procedures, and even the same people (editors and referees) as TA journals. Nor did they realize that OA repositories can contain articles peer-reviewed at the most prestigious TA journals. (About 70% of peer-reviewed TA journals already permit author-initiated OA archiving.)
  3. The interview subjects didn't realize that OA is compatible with copyright and does not require putting works into the public domain. On the contrary, most OA initiatives want to use copyright (in the words of the BOAI) to "give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited."
  4. Not surprisingly, the interview subjects knew little or nothing about how OA journals pay their bills. The interviewers apparently introduced the false and harmful term "author pays" before asking interviewees what they thought about it. Indeed, these interviews demonstrate what kind of harm that term can cause. Both interviewers and interviewees need to understand (a) that most OA journals charge no author-side fees at all, (b) that at the minority of OA journals where fees exist, funders or employers typically pay on behalf of authors, or the journal waives the fee because of economic hardship, and hence (c) that these fees are rarely paid by authors out of pocket. They also need to understand that, where fees exist, they only apply to papers already accepted by peer review and that no journal using independent peer review deserves to be called a vanity press.
  5. It's still true, as I've been saying for too many years now, that the largest obstacles to OA are ignorance and misunderstanding.

Update. The Center for Studies in Higher Education has released a new version of this paper. It has a new title ("The Influence of Academic Values on Scholarly Publication and Communication Practices") and new date (September 2006), but the same abstract. It also lists the same five co-authors, though in a different order (with Diane Harley listed first). I haven't checked to see what changes, if any, occur in the body of the text.

Update. The UC Berkeley News Center has issued a press release on the report, October 4, 2006.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

American Physical Society launches Free To Read program

The American Physical Society has launched a hybrid OA journal program. From today's announcement:

The American Physical Society (APS) is pleased to announce that it will soon expand its Open Access (OA) offerings to articles published in Physical Review A-E, Physical Review Letters, and Reviews of Modern Physics. This OA initiative is called FREE TO READ and, when released in early September 2006, can be applied to any article or group of articles published in the Journals of the American Physical Society back to 1893. Anyone (authors, readers, institutions, funding agencies, etc.) may, by paying a one-time fee, make articles published in our journals available on our sites to all readers at no cost and without a subscription. Readers will have access to PDF and postscript versions of the FREE TO READ articles through the APS online journals.

For years APS has been a leader in OA with its early and continued support of and with its exemplary copyright agreement form. The agreement allows authors to make available their APS publications on their own or their institution’s website. APS introduced its first OA journal, Physical Review Special Topics - Accelerators and Beams, in 1998. Based on a sponsorship model, this journal has steadily grown over the past 8 years and is now supported by an international group of accelerator laboratories. APS introduced a second OA journal in 2005 called Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research. This freely available journal is financed by publication charges to the authors or the authors’ institutions. The introduction of FREE TO READ extends OA to the articles for all of APS’ journals.

The FREE TO READ fees will initially be $975 for articles in Physical Review A-E and $1300 for Letters in PRL. Articles in RMP, due to their large size and the limited number published annually, will be considered on a case-by-case basis. The higher price associated with PRL is due to its higher cost per published Letter (because of its stringent acceptance rate).

The fees will initially augment revenues for the APS, since they will not be replacing subscriptions, but have been set well below the current amount per article needed to recover costs in the absence of subscriptions. The fees will therefore be adjusted as necessary to maintain APS’ ability to sustain this initiative. Additional revenues from FREE TO READ will primarily be used to lower the current subscription rates of the smallest (lowest tier) institutions.

The FREE TO READ initiative represents a path by which APS could gradually transition to full Open Access. If the community (especially institutions and funding agencies) shows continued support for this initiative, a sustainable level may be reached in which the APS can recover its costs, offset its risks, and eliminate subscriptions for some or all of its journals.

The APS is determined to extend every effort to make this model successful. Martin Blume, the Editor-in-Chief, states that "APS is a financially stable organization willing to take risks to support the community," and it is with the community in mind that APS is offering FREE TO READ.  For additional information, please go to the FREE TO READ FAQ.


  1. This is the fourth OA hybrid program introduced in August, and August is only half over. The first three were BMJ Unlocked (August 3; see my comments), Wiley Funded Access (August 8; see my comments), and Cambridge Open (August 12; see my comments).
  2. This is the first hybrid program to apply retroactively. The good news is that toll access (TA) articles from the back run can now be liberated by anyone willing to pay the ransom. The bad news is that APS has already received subscription payments for those articles and presumably amortized its investment in them. It's adding a second charge when it might have opened access to the back run without charging another fee. --But then again the good news is that APS hopes the new program will allow it to reduce subscription prices going forward and even eliminate them in favor of pure OA.
  3. It appears that the program applies prospectively as well, and not just retroactively (though I'd welcome clarification about that). If true, the prospective part of the program leaves some questions unanswered: Will APS let participating authors retain copyright? Will it waive its fee in cases of economic hardship? Will it still allow immediate self-archiving for authors who choose not to pay the fee?

Update. I just got answers to some of my questions from Bob Kelly, Director of Journal Information Systems at APS. Yes, the program applies prospectively as well as retroactively. No, authors may not retain copyright. And yes, non-participating authors may still self-archive without an embargo or fee. (Thanks, Bob.)

Scientists with one oar in the water

Jonathan Eisen, SciFoo Camp Impressions Day2, Tree of Life, August 15, 2006. Excerpt:
Not much was disappointing [at this year's Sci Foo Camp], although I was still somewhat dismayed to see how scientists support open source software, and open access to data, but then do not always support open access to publications. When asked why, they give the lamest explanations, like, "well, that is just the way it is done." Perhaps most tellingly, the technology and engineering and physical sciences folks seem to get the Open Access to publications movement more so than the biologists and other life science folks. Maybe that is due to the existence of the physics archives and things like that. Or maybe biologists do not like to speak up when there were multiple folks from Nature there, and they did not want to jeopardize their chances of getting a Nature paper. I think the real explanation is that many of them are, how should I put this politely, afraid of change (note I wanted to say chicken shit there but then decided to be polite).

More on Freeload's ad-based OA textbooks

Justin Pope, Ads coming to texbooks, Associated Press, August 15, 2006. Excerpt:

Textbook prices are soaring into the hundreds of dollars, but in some courses this fall, students won't pay a dime. The catch: Their textbooks will have ads for companies including FedEx Kinko's and Pura Vida coffee.

Selling ad space keeps newspapers, magazines, Web sites and television either cheap or free. But so far, the model hasn't spread to college textbooks — partly for fear that faculty would consider ads undignified. The upshot is that textbooks now cost students, according to various studies, about $900 per year.

Now, a small Minnesota startup is trying to shake up the status quo in the $6 billion college textbook industry. Freeload Press will offer more than 100 titles this fall — mostly for business courses — completely free. Students, or anyone else who fills out a five-minute survey, can download a PDF file of the book, which they can store on their hard drive and print....

What Freeload has going for it is its arrival on the scene at a time when textbook publishers are under immense pressure to moderate prices. A recent government study found prices have risen at twice the rate of inflation since 1986.

A new Connecticut law requires that textbook sellers tell professors what their books will cost students, and other states are considering similar measures. Cost complaints come not just from students and parents but also teachers. A 2005 study by the National Association of College Stores Foundation found 65 percent of students don't buy all the required course materials — which means many probably aren't learning the material, either....

Tom Doran, Freeload's CEO, says McGraw-Hill's experiment failed because it didn't use the ad revenue to reduce prices enough to get students' attention. As for faculty, Doran says he realizes not everyone will go for it.  Current customers "are primarily business instructors, so they understand there's a quid pro quo here," Doran said. "When we walk over to the social sciences and humanities, I expect there will be more push back."...

As to objections that textbooks shouldn't have ads, Doran notes ads already appear in academic journals. He says Freeload's ads won't be distracting; they will be placed only at natural breaks in the material, and won't push products like alcohol or tobacco....

Another review of Willinsky

Marian Burright reviews John Willinsky's book (The Access Principle, MIT Press, 2005, print edition, OA edition) in the summer issue of Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship. (Thanks to Kumiko Vezina.) Excerpt:

John Willinsky makes a strong case for the open access publishing model of scholarly research. Willinksy roots his argument for open access in the politics of "evidence-based policymaking".... Willinsky establishes the case for open access based on two principles. First, advances in Internet technology and adequate economic models are available to sustain open access publishing. Second, open access benefits a global knowledge economy in which developing nations are able to participate in the research and development process at a more equitable rate than they have done under the constraints of traditional publishing.

Willinsky situates his case for open access within the economics of scholarship. The knowledge economy does not produce instant monetary returns for authors but depends on long-term establishment of scholarly reputation. The knowledge economy continues to grow with new journal publications and increased expectations for publishing. While faculty members expect to have access to the highest tier journals in their fields, library budgets have not kept pace with journal price increases. Thus, commercial publishers have been allowed to exploit this tension between faculty needs and limited resources to fund them. It is at the heart of this tension that the need for an alternative publishing model arises. Willinsky articulates the current problem of the knowledge economy and proceeds with thirteen well argued chapters to establish the case for open access....

Online publishing has affected academic societies in so far as they can no longer depend on revenue stream from individual journal subscriptions. Instead, societies have two options to sustain their journals: either by using commercial publishers or by finding lower cost alternatives such as publishing opportunities supported by SPARC....

Another funder mandates OA

The UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has adopted an OA mandate. From its access policy page:

NERC is committed to the principles articulated in the RCUK statement on access to research outputs....NERC already requires that award holders offer a copy of any dataset resulting from NERC-funded activities to its data centres.

From 1 October 2006 NERC will require that, for new funding awards, an electronic copy of any published peer-reviewed paper, supported in whole or in part by NERC-funding, is deposited at the earliest opportunity in an e-print repository.  NERC also encourages award-holders to deposit published peer-reviewed papers arising from awards made before October 2006.

NERC will establish an e-print repository to improve access to the outputs of its research centres.  NERC staff will be expected to deposit copies of any published peer-reviewed papers, supported in whole or in part by NERC-funding, in the NERC repository.  NERC award holders who do not have access to an appropriate repository through their host institution will be able to deposit in the NERC repository.

Full implementation of these requirements requires that current copyright and licensing policies, such as embargo periods, are maintained by publishers and respected by authors.  Under this policy, at no time will individual authors be required to negotiate copyright and licensing arrangements with their publishers.  NERC will work with publishers to put in place mechanisms for publishers submitting publications on behalf of authors, where this is possible.  The version of the paper deposited will depend upon publishers’ policies on deposit in repositories....

Learned Societies have expressed concerns that mandating deposit in repositories may affect journal subscription income and thus the financial sustainability of some societies.  It is in NERC’s interest to ensure that the Learned Societies remain as key members of its research community and NERC, along with the other research councils, will work with the societies to look at ways that they can adapt to and exploit new models of publication.  Specifically, NERC will work with those Learned Societies within the NERC community who have an interest in this area, to develop thematic repositories offering value added services.  The nature and location of these thematic repositories will be agreed on a case-by-case basis; however, NERC is open to finding ways of supporting these and linking them to its own repository.

NERC will amend its grant conditions to reflect the requirement for deposit of published peer-reviewed papers.  Compliance with this requirement will be taken into consideration when considering further applications for funding.


  1. This is excellent news. NERC is now the fourth of the eight UK Research Councils to adopt an OA mandate. The other three are the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), and the Medical Research Council (MRC). One RC has decided to request OA without requiring it --the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC)-- and the rest are still deliberating.
  2. With one exception, the policy is all that one could ask. The exception is the way it defers to publisher preferences on embargoes and other copyright and licensing restrictions, in effect authorizing publishers to resist and negate the rest of the policy. As the policy evolves, I hope NERC will take advantage of the fact that funders are upstream from publishers and have every right to dictate terms to their own grantees and enforce their own interests. Grantees sign their funding contracts before they sign their copyright transfer agreements with publishers, and there's no legal reason why funding contracts must defer to publishing contracts that don't yet exist.
  3. Bill Hubbard has already incorporated the new policy into JULIET, the directory of funding agency OA policies.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Problems with the secret UC-Google contract

Jeff Ubois, Google “Showtimes” the UC Library System, Television Archiving, August 13, 2006. (Thanks to Tien Teng.) Excerpt:

The University of California’s secret agreement with Google for book digitization promises to improve access to parts of its library collections, but the contractual restrictions UC has accepted may enrich Google’s shareholders at public expense....[I]t's troubling to see public institutions transfer cultural assets, accumulated with public funds, into private hands without disclosing the terms of the transaction.... 

Transparency is a primary value [according to the digitization principles of] both the OCA, and the ALA....

The [UC] president’s office says it expects that [contract] terms will only come out after it receives the equivalent of a FOIA request. Since when does it take a FOIA request to get information from the library?

But it isn’t just the public that is excluded --it’s the rest of the library community....By isolating librarians from each other, Google dramatically strengthens its negotiating position, and UC negates the goal of academic openness....

[P]rivate companies, at least profitable ones like Google, don’t work for free....[U]se of and access to the digitized cultural works is usually limited in some way to benefit the private firm. This has to be done in the open.

The recent Smithsonian/Showtime agreement is a case in point that clearly shows what can go wrong in such a process. To recap, Showtime convinced the Smithsonian to sign a secret 170 page, 30 year agreement which gives Showtime control of the Smithsonian’s film and video archive. This particular saga has been widely covered elsewhere, but the roots of catastrophe are in 1) secret negotiations 2) exclusivity 3) length of term.

UC’s agreement is probably not explicitly exclusive. But as a practical matter, scanning doesn’t happen twice; libraries learned this when their material was microfilmed....

That extreme scenario may not come to pass, but there are many other questions about the Google / UC deal:

  • What more might UC be able to do if its scanning project were funded by the legislature or foundations, rather than by Google? 
  • UC says the “digitized books will be searchable through Google Book Search.” Can anyone else build services that access this data? Or is it another case of “Google can crawl everyone else’s data, no one can crawl Google’s data?”
  • What quality assurances will Google provide? How can we ensure this won’t be a repeat of the microfilm experience? 
  • Will UC have copies of the full, high quality scans, or will certain information, such as image positioning data needed for searching, be kept by Google alone?
  • What restrictions will be placed on UC’s use of those scans? 
  • What will be the different treatments for material in copyright, or orphaned, or in the public domain?
  • Is it reasonable to ask the public to pay a second time (or watch ads) for material already purchased, simply because it’s now necessary to convert the format in which it is stored? 
  • Why haven’t the Regents appointed a panel of advisors on this matter?

Clearly, UC’s high level goals are laudable. The Google people I’ve met believe in the company motto, “don’t be evil.” And it is not really in the public interest to side with the publishers who are the loudest voices now attacking Google, and a primary cause of the all the secrecy. Yet by acquiescing to Google’s demands for secrecy, UC has compromised the public interest, and set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the academic community.

Rio Framework for Open Science

Today iCommons launched the Rio Framework for Open Science, moderated by Heather Ford and John Wilbanks. From the site wiki:
The goal of this Framework is to provide a seedbed of resources for those interested in Open Science, from the background information to examples of institutional policy, from arguments and evidence to the tools needed to implement various elements of Open Science.

This Framework serves as a guide to those resources. It is intended for universities, funders of research, individual scientists, scholarly publishers - but it is open to all, to consume or contribute. In the wiki spirit, we welcome edits, annotations, additions, and comments from the community....

This Framework focuses on three key elements: policy, law, and technology.

Policy: Institutions as varied as funders of research, universities, and scholarly publications have begun to implement policies that incentivise or require elements of open science. We have collected a set of those here as a starting point for other institutions examining such policies.

Law: Copyrights, particularly the transfer of copyrights to publishers by authors, can create barriers - both legal and cultural. We have collected here both links to open licensing regimes by Creative Commons and the Free Software Foundation, as well as links to analyses of open licensing regimes and a study of the issues around implementation.

Technology: There is a significant body of technology available under FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) licensing terms. If you are looking to set up a database, or an archive of papers, or find software to create documents, edit images, annotate articles on the web, publish an open access journal, search for public domain works, publish and find free educational curricula, or collaboratively filter knowledge with other scientists, you can do that from these links.

PS: Like the Rio Declaration on Open Access, this is an initiative arising from the iCommons iSummit (Rio de Janeiro, June 23-25, 2006).

Aug/Sept issue of Research Information

The August/September issue of Research Information is now online. Here are the OA-related articles:

OA books popular at World eBook Fair

David Mehegan, Giveaway shows demand for e-books is strong, Boston Globe, August 15, 2006. Excerpt:
More than 30 million [open access] books were downloaded in the past month as part of the World eBook Fair, a giveaway of books in electronic form. Originally intended to run July 4 to Aug. 4, the project was extended for a week because unexpected demand at the start temporarily overwhelmed computer servers.

Coordinated by Project Gutenberg, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making e-books available for free, the fair brought together Gutenberg's own holdings of 20,000 books with those of 125 private e-book libraries and collections that agreed to lend their holdings. The largest is World eBook Library, which normally charges a fee for downloading. More than 300,000 books in total were available.

According to Gutenberg founder Michael Hart, about 95 percent of the books available for download were in the public domain -- not under copyright protection -- and permission was given for the remainder by the libraries that hold the rights.

"It was a revelation, way beyond our expectations," Hart said yesterday. "On some peak days we had 150,000 different people downloading books. A lot more people want e-books than the world ever dreamed of." He had hoped 10 million books would be downloaded. So great was demand, he said, that the project will be repeated starting Oct. 1 to coincide with World Book Fair Month....

More on OA for doctors and patients

Jonathan Eisen, Open Access Rant: How Does Your Doctor Learn About the Newest Medical Findings?? The Tree of Life, August 13, 2006.  Excerpt:

...[Here] is one of the biggest problems in modern medicine. Even if you have a really hard working doctor who is willing to read the latest papers, they may not be able to. This is because even though most of the medical studies were paid for by the government in some way, they are not freely available for the doctors to read because they are published in journals that charge exceptionally high prices for subscriptions. Doctors in large institutions probably have good access to this information. But doctors in small groups may not. Imagine if congress passed laws but lawyers was not allowed to read them without paying a fee to someone. The system is really absurd.

I got thinking about this when re-reading Lance Armstrong's autobiography "It's Not about the Bike." In the book, Armstrong describes how when he had testicular cancer he had a friend who was a doctor bring him the latest studies on this type of cancer and he read all of them. Well, this only was possible because his friend must have had access to all the publications through a university or very large medical group. Wouldn't it have been better if Armstrong could have just gotten the studies himself, given that most were paid for by the US Government in the first place? Well, if people doing medical researhc published their finding in Open Access journals, then anyone could read the articles, from doctors, to patients, to family members, to journalists. We would all benefit if this was done.

Obstacles facing OA journals from non-traditional publishers

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Overcoming Obstacles to Launching and Sustaining Non-Traditional-Publisher Open Access Journals, DigitalKoans, August 15, 2006.  Excerpt:

As I noted in "What Is Open Access?," there is a fairly long history of non-traditional publishers producing free electronic journals:...However, the obstacles that non-traditional-publisher OA journals (hereafter called NTP OA journals) face are not primarily technical.

Here are some issues that NTP OA journals can face:

  • NTP OA journals are new journals. New journals have much more difficulty attracting authors, especially high-visibility authors, than established journals. Therefore, they also have more difficulty attracting readers, especially scholars who will cite their articles. This is a vicious circle. There are three key strategies for overcoming this problem: (1) focus your journal on a specialized, emerging topic of great interest that is not covered or not well covered by existing journals; (2) establish a high visibility editorial team and editorial board; and (3) actively recruit articles from authors....
  • NTP OA journals may not be indexed in traditional disciplinary indexing and abstracting services, they may lack standard identifiers (ISSN numbers), and they may not be cataloged by libraries in systems such as the OCLC Online Union Catalog....
  • For the reasons noted above, NTP OA journals may lack citation impact; however, if they do have impact this may not be known because they are not included in prominent ISI publications that are widely used to measure such impact. However, with the advent of Google Scholar and similar systems that provide alternative ways of measuring citation impact, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon....
  • NTP OA journals survival may depend on the continued interest of their founders. Founders can lose interest in their journals, they can move to new jobs (leading to issues of their continued affiliation with the journal or the transfer of the journal to a new organization), they can retire, and they can die (see Walt Crawford’s "Free Electronic Refereed Journals: Getting Past the Arc of Enthusiasm").

For the reasons outlined above, NTP OA journals have a higher probability of success and survival if they are produced by a formal digital publishing program that has the firm backing of a nonprofit organization (or a unit of such an organization) than they do if they are published by a loose confederation of individuals.  This digital publishing program does not need to invest anywhere near the level of resources that conventional publishers do, but it needs to have a parent organization that is committed to the continued operation and preservation of its journals, a distinct brand identity, a small core of subsidized part- or full-time editorial staff supported by a much larger number of editorial volunteers, a minimal level of supported technical infrastructure that relies on open source software, an active vs. passive content recruitment orientation, and a vigorous targeted promotion effort that integrates its journals into conventional finding tools and uses disciplinary and dedicated mailing lists, RSS feeds, Weblogs, and other free or low-cost communication tools to publicize them.

OA info on HIV/AIDS

PLoS has created an OA collection of articles on HIV Infection and AIDS previously published in PLoS Medicine.

The KaiserNetwork is providing free online access to the sessions at the XVI International AIDS Conference (Toronto, August 13-18) --as well as related data and information. (Thanks to Gary Price.)

Papers from APE 2006

The new issue of Information Services and Use (vol. 26, no. 2, 2006) is now online. This issue is devoted to the papers presented at Academic Publishing in Europe 2006 (Berlin, April 4-5, 2006). The articles are full-text OA, though they don't have abstracts. Many are explicitly about OA.

Monday, August 14, 2006

A bookmarklet to request a digital offprint

Pierre Lindenbaum has written a javascript bookmarklet to scan an online article for the first email address and send a request to that address for a digital offprint. Alf Eaton suggests that the message should ask for the URL in case the author has already self-archived the article.

Comment. I like this idea but perhaps not for the same reason that Lindenbaum likes it. To me, it's less useful as a way to gain access to someone's article than as a way to prod the author to self-archive the article and make it accessible to everyone. Authors should only need to get one of these queries before they see the efficiency of self-archiving, which takes about as much time as sending a single copy to a single colleague but makes the work available to every researcher and search engine on the planet.

Help influence research funding policy in Africa

David Dickson, Comments sought on African science funding body, SciDev.Net, August 14, 2006. Excerpt:

African scientists, politicians, and policy advisors are being asked to make suggestions on the design of a proposed mechanism for funding regional research facilities across the continent.

The request has come from the science and technology office of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), which is drawing up the proposal at the request of African science and technology ministers. At a meeting in September last year the ministers asked NEPAD to explore options for creating an African Science and Innovation Facility (ASIF)....

NEPAD is seeking people’s views on various aspects of the ASIF by the end of August. Questions include what kind of organisation the ASIF should be, how to measure its impact, and how to ensure that African governments and the private sector contribute to it....

"We want to know what would make the stakeholders - including not only African government and donor agencies, but also both the scientific and business communities - buy into it," says [NEPAD advisor Geoff Oldham], who is a former director of the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, United Kingdom....

Link to NEPAD questionnaire on the ASIF [24KB]

Responses should be sent by 31 August to:

Comment. This is a rare and important opportunity to help shape the policy of a major funding agency. Please send in your comments, especially if you are African. One of the greatest services the new funding agency could perform for African science and development is to put an OA condition on its research grants. There are many good models it could follow, including the Wellcome Trust, the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, the Economic & Social Research Council, the Medical Research Council, or FRPAA. In this month's SOAN, I make 10 specific suggestions for any funder OA policy.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

More on the Google Library project

Bob Thompson, Search Me? Washington Post, August 13, 2006. One of the longest and most detailed accounts I've seen on the background of the Google Library project and the copyright controversy it has spawned.

Klaus Graf: German libraries are thwarting OA

Klaus Graf has posted an detailed critique of the way German libraries thwart open access. His post is in German, but he sent me this short English-language summary:
German libaries are working against OA. Reasons:
  • only a small number of library journals are OA (see Bailey re ALA)
  • ditto library scholarly literature
  • libraries promote toll-access bibliographical databases
  • as members of DigiZeitschriften (Germany's JSTOR) they are working against the scholarly interests
  • they do not remove permission barriers (e.g. by labelling eprints with CC licenses)
  • they claim [copyright] protection also for OAI-metadata
  • they are tyrannts re permission to use public-domain materials and copyfraudists (most fervent accusation)
  • they are blocking the building of a rich public domain (charging too high prices for digital reproductions)