Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The task of digitizing print books

Roger C. Schonfeld and Brian F. Lavoie, Books without Boundaries: A Brief Tour of the System-wide Print Book Collection, Journal of Electronic Publishing, Summer 2006.
Abstract: Print book collections are facing significant transformation in response to mass digitization, remote storage, and preservation. These issues should be considered within a system-wide context in which individual print book collections are viewed not as isolated units, but rather as parts of a larger whole. As libraries look beyond the boundaries of their local print book collections to consider system-wide implications, they will need to be equipped with data and analysis about the system-wide print book collection. This paper provides a brief overview of the system-wide print book collection, defined as the combined print book holdings of libraries everywhere, as reflected in the WorldCat bibliographic database. Issues addressed include the size of the collection; holdings patterns; distribution by publication date and language; and the relationship of the system-wide print book collection to overall book production. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of some implications of the analysis, and possible directions for future research.

PS: This article is more relevant to OA than the abstract might suggest. Here are three bits, with my comments in parentheses and italics.

  • It's hard to count how many distinct books have ever been published but "the closest approximation" is WorldCat which, with a little refining, identifies 24 million. (Google's initial goal to digitize 15 million books, assuming no duplicates, puts it over the halfway mark.)
  • 9.5 million books are only held by one library each. (Incredible. Digitization and OA would be like discovering a lost civilization.)
  • Only 2.4 million books are held by more than 50 libraries each and only 301,000 are held by more than 500 libraries each. (Books are long-tail, both in distribution and demand. We need digitization and OA to overcome the limitations of even the largest print collections.)

Serving OA content to every village

Richard Cave, One TOPAZ for Every Village, PLoS Blog, August 25, 2006. Excerpt:

One Laptop per Child is closer to reality with the Children’s Machine (CM1). One of the key features is that it “creates its own mesh network out of the box....” Each laptop will participate in an ad-hoc network with each laptop operating in a peer-to-peer fashion. This opens up a slew of possibilities for the laptops.

Why not have a TOPAZ server running in every village that could be browsed by every CM1 in the nearby network? The TOPAZ repository can contain Open Access articles published on medicine, neglected tropical diseases, etc....But the TOPAZ repository isn’t constrained to just Open Access [research] – it can contain any type of object from video presentations to textbooks.

Take a TOPAZ server and add every piece of educational material licensed by Creative Commons. Load the repository up with course material from MIT Open Courseware and Connexions Repository, textbooks, lesson plans, music lessons from Berklee Shares, museum resources, architectural solutions, agricultural information, etc. Setup a peer-to-peer TOPAZ network for information to be sent to remote repositories as soon as it is available. Put this in a village surrounded by CM1s and imagine the possibilities.

There’s talk that the CM1 will revolutionize how we educate the world’s children. The reality is that the CM1 laptops will be used by children and shared by their families. If the information is available, then the CM1 will truly revolutionize education.

Comment. This is a beautiful, attainable vision. It's true that access to OA content has to wait for bridges across the digital divide. And not every low-bandwidth bridge is good enough, since a slow or flaky connection for large files or many people can be equivalent to no connection at all. Taking advantage of the CM1's mesh network and P2P is a shortcut to serious, useful access. In principle, any kind of content could have its own node in that network, but we should make sure that OA content is first in line. Communities that can't afford stable broadband can't afford TA content either.

Blog's eye view of chemistry

Chemical blogspace "collates posts from chemistry blogs and then does useful and interesting things with that data."
For example, you can see which papers are currently being discussed by organic chemists, or which web pages are being linked to by chemoinformaticians It's sort of like a hot papers meeting with the entire chemistry blogging community. Sort of.

(Thanks to Richard Akerman.)

PLoS ONE is making a splash

PLoS ONE has had more submissions (70) in its first three weeks than any other PLoS journal in the same period.

PS: Congrats to PLoS and congrats to authors for seeing the value here and supporting something new.

Google's access barriers are permanent

Jeff Ubois, In Perpetuity: UC’s Agreement with Google, Television Archiving, August 25, 2006. Excerpt:
Key provisions [of the UC-Google contract] are in Section 4, which restricts the University’s use of the digital copies, and Section 8, which says those prohibitions are forever (”survive expiration or termination of this agreement.”) UC is essentially barred from entering into pooling agreements with other universities, and other provisions ensure that no entity other than Google or UC may develop an alternative search engine or finding aid.

The library community knows, or should know from the Showtime deal, that perpetual restrictions on the use digital copies are not in the public interest.

PS: The same terms exist in the Michigan-Google contract, as I blogged back in June 2005.

OA repository for Dutch archaeology

The Dutch DARE project has launched eDNA (e-depot Nederlandse Archeologie), an OA repository for Dutch archaeological research. For more details, see yesterday's announcement (in English).

Six more provosts endorse FRPAA

Since August 22, when SPARC posted its list of presidents and provosts endorsing FRPAA and OA, six provosts have added their names:
  • Peter Lange, Provost at Duke University
  • Alfred F. MacKay, Provost at Oberlin College
  • Robert L. McGrath, Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Stony Brook University
  • Arthur T. Johnson, Provost at University of Maryland - Baltimore County
  • Bruce L. Mallory, Provost and Executive Vice President at the University of New Hampshire
  • Dana Dunn, Provost at the University of Texas at Arlington

The total is now 54. (There will soon be a running tally on the page.) If you work at a U.S. institution, ask your president or provost to sign on to this call for open access to publicly-funded research. Also point out to them that university administrators who support FRPAA needn't wait for its adoption to foster OA on their own campuses.

Friday, August 25, 2006

OA audio books

Craig Silverman, Public Domain Books, Ready for Your iPod, New York Times, August 25, 2006. Excerpt:
LibriVox is the largest of several emerging collectives that offer free or inexpensive audiobooks of works whose copyrights have expired, from Plato to “The Wind in the Willows.” (In the United States, this generally means anything published or registered for copyright before 1923.) The results range from solo readings done by amateurs in makeshift home studios to high-quality recordings read by actors or professional voice talent.

LibriVox celebrated its anniversary on Aug. 10, around the same time it surpassed the 100-book mark. It also offers more than 200 recordings of short stories, plays, speeches, poems and documents like the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence. By comparison the audiobook industry, which typically sells recordings for $15 to $30, released 3,430 titles, taking in $832 million, in 2004, the last year for which figures are available. LibriVox’s founder, Hugh McGuire, 32, a software developer and writer in Montreal, said there were another 100 works in development, all of which would be recorded, edited and uploaded by volunteers. “The principles of the project are to be totally noncommercial, totally ad free, totally volunteer and totally public domain,” he said....

One of LibriVox’s colleagues in the free audiobook realm is Telltale Weekly, which sells recordings for 25 cents to $8, but makes them available at no charge through its Spoken Alexandria Project after five years or 100,000 downloads, whichever comes first. It was founded in 2004 by Alex Wilson, a writer and actor in Chapel Hill, N.C., who performs many of the readings. Another service, LiteralSystems, has 51 works available for free download and emphasizes their professional quality....

All three services rely on Project Gutenberg, the online repository of works in the public domain, for texts....

P2P data sharing

Salvatore Salamone, The Uncommon Information Commons, Bio-IT World, July/August, 2006. Excerpt:
Like most life scientists, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health spent a great deal of time managing data. As is the case in many labs, data were stored in Excel spreadsheets that were e-mailed to colleagues. As such, much time was spent formatting and preparing data for analysis. And when data was shared, there were also difficulties tracking any changes to the data to ensure everyone was working with the same information.

“I was working on many projects with lots of colleagues; it was hard to synchronize all of the information,” says Michael Barmada, associate professor of human genetics in the Graduate School of Public Health. “I started looking for a data management solution....We were dealing with huge amounts of data, and we were looking for ways to fit all types of data together. We were getting swamped.”

In his quest for a solution, Barmada heard a talk by Josh Knauer, director of advanced development at MAYA Design, about a new type of database called the Information Commons, a peer-to-peer system that allows many people to securely post and share large amounts of disparate data. In today’s vernacular, it’s something like a wiki database where many users can contribute data, designated people can edit or change the data, and in this case, the originator of the data can selectively control who sees what data.... For those wanting to try the Information Commons approach, MAYA Design will offer the basic software for free. If specific tools are desired, MAYA typically partners with an organization where both apply for a research grant or contract to fund the development.

Indian academy converts three journals to OA

The National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI) has decided to provide immediate or unembargoed OA to the contents of three of its journals: Proceedings of the NASI (section A-Physical Sciences), Proceedings of the NASI (section B-Biological Sciences) and National Academy Science Letters. The journals will be accessible through the OA Digital Library of India. (Thanks to KnowledgeSpeak.)

Details on California's contract with Google

Scott Carlson, U. of California Will Provide Up to 3,000 Books a Day to Google for Scanning, Contract States, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 25, 2006. Excerpt:

A mere two months after the University of California begins its book-digitization project with Google, the university may provide the search company with a whopping 3,000 books a day for scanning. That nugget, and many others, can be found in a confidential contract that allowed California to join Harvard and Stanford Universities, the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the University of Oxford, as well as the New York Public Library, in the search-engine company's elaborate and controversial library-digitization effort.

The contract was released in part as a response to an open-records request from The Chronicle.

According to the document, the university will provide at least 2.5 million volumes to Google for scanning, starting with 600 books a day and ratcheting up over time to 3,000 volumes a day. Materials pulled for scanning will be back on the shelves of their libraries within 15 days.

The contract offers clues to the scale of Google's ambition. "It is simply stunning that they can work with 3,000 books a day," said Prudence S. Adler, associate executive director of the Association of Research Libraries, after reviewing the contract.

Daniel Greenstein, director of the California Digital Library, who helped set up the deal, said Google had committed early on to a core value for the university: public access to the public-domain materials at no cost. "They said, As long as we are alive as a company, or successors are alive using this file, we will make it available for free," he said. "I've never seen this from anybody. That was their opening gambit." ...

Both the university and Google will get digital copies of the scanned works, but there are some restrictions on how the university can use its copies. The university can offer the digital copy, whole or in parts, "as part of services offered to the university library patrons." But the university must prevent users from downloading portions of the digital copies and stop automated scanning of the copies by, for example, other search engines.

Entire works not covered under copyright can be distributed to scholars and students for research purposes, but there are limits on in-copyright material. The university retains a right to distribute no more than 10 percent of the collection to other libraries and educational institutions for noncommercial research....

Officials at Google provided few insights into the contract. The restrictions placed on the digital files, particularly those covered by copyright, were requested by both Google and the University of California, Adam M. Smith, the group business-product manager at Google, said in an e-mail message....

[S]ome publishers have been worried about how libraries might use their digital copies from Google. Sanford Thatcher, director of Pennsylvania State University Press and president-elect of the Association of American University Presses, said that the agreement gave the university too much leeway. "California could set itself up as a facility for providing e-reserves to all land-grant institutions," he said....

Others fretted that the University of California was giving too much to Google. Brewster Kahle, co-founder of the nonprofit Internet Archive, said the contract was another step in the "balkanization" of the digital library system. He said that while each of the institutions that have partnerships with Google will get digitized versions of their own books, they will not be able to share those versions to build a digital library. Only Google will have the most comprehensive collection, he said. "We want a public library system in the digital age, but what we are getting is a private library system controlled by a single corporation," he said....

Mr. Kahle forged a partnership with the University of California in forming the Open Content Alliance, which also includes Yahoo, Microsoft, and institutions such as Columbia University, the Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Toronto. The alliance, which has made open access a core component of its mission, is scanning only out-of-copyright materials.

"Microsoft, Yahoo, the Sloan Foundation, and dozens of libraries are funding a public and open system, but this is made more difficult by UC's agreeing to spend millions of taxpayers' dollars to benefit a single corporation's interest in building a private library," he said. "Needless to say, I am disappointed and hope it does not undermine others' interest in pursuing broad public benefit."

Mr. Greenstein said that the University of California was digitizing at full capacity with the Open Content Alliance, and would continue to do so. But one has to look at the Google deal from the university's point of view, he said. With the Open Content Alliance, "I think last month we did 3,500 books. ... Google is going to do that in a day. So, what do you do?"

"I understand [Google's] ends are commercial," he said. "But it's one of these things where their business model, their interests, and our interests align around public access for the public domain forever and for free."

Patents pave the way for OA to avian flu data

John Lauerman, Poor countries may patent bird virus strains, Deseret News, August 25, 2006. Excerpt:
Poorer countries where bird flu is spreading may patent individual strains of the virus as a way to help them negotiate lower prices for vaccines and treatments.

The plan is being advanced by a new program, announced today, that urges participating countries to place genetic information about their individual bird flu strains into central databases in return for rights that will allow the countries to control who uses the data.

While nations such as Indonesia have been increasingly willing to share such information, government leaders have expressed concern they may not be able to afford the products that result. The new program would help countries charge for information involving their individual strains, or negotiate low prices for drugs and tests developed from the data.

"This is an independent effort to bring scientists together to collaborate, share data and put in place some protections that will also be good for the countries of origin of the flu strains," said Nancy Cox, head of the CDC's influenza branch, in a telephone interview yesterday....

Comment. You don't see this very often: a movement to patent more stuff (esp. naturally occurring substances) integrated with a data-sharing initiative.

There's a reason you don't see it very often, of course. Patent-holders usually want to confine information to themselves and licensees. But this deal does a remarkable job of bypassing that problem, even if you decide in the end that it's closer to a compromise than a win-win. Yes, the patent-holding countries can decide who may and who may not use their patents to develop medicines. But in exchange they are providing true OA to the data without limits or favoritism. Under the deal, they won't use their patents to impede research or restrict access to information, only to negotiate a royalty or discount on commercial products developed from them.

Recycle, recycle, recycle

From an anonymous post at Community Mobilization:

On one of the e-mail distribution list I read a question from a Oracle employee questioning the wisdom and difference of knowledge harvesting and/or recycling.  He commented that harvested knowledge (like corn) is often sent into guarded silos and rot away....

More OA journals in engineering

Jay Bhatt is collecting the links to OA journals in engineering not already listed in the DOAJ.  Roddy MacLeod has already submitted one:

Magazine of the Faculty of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering of the Independent University again Leon

OA archives for French research in the social sciences and humanities

Daniel Bourrion and three co-authors, Les chercheurs en Lettres et Sciences Humaines et les Archives Ouvertes, ENSSIB, June 2006. (Thanks to the INIST Libre Accès blog.) In French, but with this English-language abstract:
Based on an on-line inquiry and semi-directive interviews, the aim of this work is to find out how scholars in French universities in the field of humanities feel about the Open Archives phenomenon. The study tries to establish what keeps them from publishing their scientific production that way. It also indicates some directions librarians could follow to introduce and allow a better use of these Open Access repositories.

Calling on libraries to drive harder bargains with Google

Ben Vershbow, Librarians, hold google accountable, if:book, August 24, 2006. Excerpt:

I'm quite disappointed by this op-ed on Google's library initiative in Tuesday's Washington Post. It comes from Richard Ekman, president of the Council of Independent Colleges, which represents 570 independent colleges and universities in the US (and a few abroad). Generally, these are mid-tier schools — not the elite powerhouses Google has partnered with in its digitization efforts — and so, being neither a publisher, nor a direct representative of one of the cooperating libraries, I expected Ekman might take a more measured approach to this issue, which usually elicits either ecstatic support or vociferous opposition. Alas, no....

If you're not Michigan or Google, though, the benefits are less clear. Sure, it's great that books now come up in web searches, and there's plenty of good browsing to be done (and the public domain texts, available in full, are a real asset). But we're in trouble if this is the research tool that is to replace, by force of market and by force of users' habits, online library catalogues. That's because no sane librarian would outsource their profession to an unaccountable private entity that refuses to disclose the workings of its system — in other words, how does Google's book algorithm work, how are the search results ranked?  And yet so many librarians are behind this plan. Am I to conclude that they've all gone insane?...

We may be resigned to the steady takeover of college bookstores around the country by Barnes and Noble, but how do we feel about a Barnes and Noble-like entity taking over our library systems?...

I am wholeheartedly in favor of digital libraries, just the right kind of digital libraries.

What good is Google's project if it does little more than enhance the world's elite libraries and give Google the competitive edge in the search wars (not to mention positioning them in future ebook and print-on-demand markets)?...

What's frustrating is that the partner libraries themselves are in the best position to make demands. After all, they have the books that Google wants, so they could easily set more stringent guidelines for how these resources are to be redeployed....

Google, a private company, is in the process of annexing a major province of public knowledge, and we are allowing it to do so unchallenged. To call the publishers' legal challenge a real challenge, is to misidentify what really is at stake. Years from now, when Google, or something like it, exerts unimaginable influence over every aspect of our informated lives, we might look back on these skirmishes as the fatal turning point. So that's why I turn to the librarians. Raise a ruckus.

Comment. I'm on the record preferring the OCA model to the Google model.  So I certainly agree that participating libraries could exert pressure on Google to improve its model, for example by providing full open access to public-domain books with no barriers to printing, downloading, or redistribution.  Nevertheless, Ben's conclusion here is marred by a number of false assumptions:  (1) that librarians are "outsourcing their profession" to Google, (2) that Google is "taking over our library systems", (3) that Google's library project does "little more than enhance the world's elite libraries and give Google the competitive edge in the search wars", and (4) that Google "is in the process of annexing a major province of public knowledge".

Profile of UTSePress

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Digital University/Library Presses, Part 6: UTSePress, DigitalKoans, August 24, 2006. Another installment in Charles' useful series.  Excerpt:

Established in January 2004, the University of Technology, Sydney’s UTSePress publishes e-journals and conference proceedings. The university’s DSpace institutional repository is also under the UTSePress....

The UTSePress uses Open Journal Systems to publish five e-journals....

The UTSePress has published one conference proceeding: International Conference on Wireless Broadband and Ultra Wideband Communications. It appears that Open Conference Systems is being used to support this function.

These documents provide further information about the UTSePress: (1) "UTSePress Breaks Boundaries in Online Publishing" (press release) and (2) "UTSePress: UTS Advancing Scholarly Publication."

Google adds a library catalog search

Google Book Search now links to a library catalog search to help users find a brick-and-morter library that owns the book. Look at the bottom of Google's return page for the link.

Most of the examples I tried used WorldCat but not all do. In the Google blog post announcing the new feature, Google says "we have worked with more than 15 library union catalogs that have information about libraries from more than 30 countries, as well as with our colleagues working on Google Scholar (which includes a similar feature just for scholarly books)."

Update. Run a number of Google book searches and you'll notice that some do and some don't provide a link to a library catalog search. Over at ResourceShelf, Gary Price has a handful of examples. His verdict so far: "Hard to find a pattern."

New RSS feature at

The web search now looks for RSS feeds related to a search query. If it finds a relevant one, it links to its three most recent items. All this takes place at the top of the returns page, and below it the other returns are listed as usual. For example, search for open access (or open access news or peter suber) and the three most recent posts from OAN will appear at the top of the page. If a publisher, like the National Academies Press, has an RSS feed, then a search for it (national academies press or even nap) returns the three most recent items from its feed. (Thanks to Gary Price.)

For this feature, Ask defaults to the one most relevant feed on a topic. But if you want to see more than one feed for that topic, then simply click on the "Blogs & Feeds" tab at the top of the page, where three sub-tabs let you choose among "Posts", "Feeds", and "News". Click "Feeds" to see Ask's list of OA-related feeds.

Comment. This is an elegant way to make use of something useful. All RSS feeds are OA, and there are valuable ones on a rapidly growing number of topics. While blogs are impossible to overlook these days, RSS feeds still rank high on the list of best-kept secrets about the free and easy exchange of information. There are some very good blog- and RSS-specific search engines, but users who don't know much about RSS feeds are not likely to seek them out. Ask is making them visible to new users and thereby increasing the visibility of the information they contain.

A step towards the EU's i2010 Digital Library

Yesterday the European Commission adopted a Recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation. Excerpt:
The present Communication outlines the context of the Commission Recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation. The Recommendation aims at bringing out the full economic and cultural potential of Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage through the Internet. It is part of the Commission’s strategy for the digitisation, online accessibility and digital preservation of Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage as set out in the Commission Communication ‘i2010: digital libraries’ of 30 September 2005....

The digital libraries initiative aims at enabling all Europeans to access Europe's collective memory and use it for education, work, leisure and creativity...

Only part of the material held by libraries, archives and museums is in the public domain in the sense that it is not or no longer covered by intellectual property rights. Europe’s cultural heritage should be digitised, made available and preserved, while fully respecting Community and international rules on copyright and related rights. Particularly relevant in this context is Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, which stipulates in its Article 5(2) that Member States may provide for exceptions or limitations in respect of specific acts of reproduction by publicly accessible libraries or by archives, where they are not for direct or indirect economic or commercial gain...


...promote a European digital library, in the form of a multilingual common access point to Europe’s cultural material, by:

  1. encouraging cultural institutions, as well as publishers and other rightholders to make their digitised material searchable through the European digital library,
  2. ensuring that cultural institutions, and where relevant private companies, apply common digitisation standards in order to achieve interoperability of the digitised material at European level and to facilitate cross-language searchability;

...improve conditions for digitisation of, and online accessibility to, cultural material by:...identifying barriers in their legislation to the online accessibility and subsequent use of cultural material that is in the public domain and taking steps to remove them;

  1. creating mechanisms to facilitate the use of orphan works, following consultation of interested parties,
  2. establishing or promoting mechanisms, on a voluntary basis, to facilitate the use of works that are out of print or out of distribution, following consultation
    of interested parties,
  3. promoting the availability of lists of known orphan works and works in the public domain,
  4. identifying barriers in their legislation to the online accessibility and subsequent use of cultural material that is in the public domain and taking steps to remove them;

PS: By "online accessiblity" the recommendation seems to mean "online accessibility without charge", though it never mentions open access and never discusses the presence or absence of access charges.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More on OA to avian flu data

Helen Pearson, Bird flu data liberated, Nature, August 24, 2006.  Excerpt:

Researchers studying avian influenza say they have agreed to share data that were previously being kept behind closed doors — a move they hope will speed insights into the virus that threatens to spark a human pandemic.

Some countries and organizations have come under fire for hoarding genetic information about the virus. The data have been kept under wraps partly because of concerns that other groups might use them and publish scientific findings without giving due credit to researchers involved.

Now many leading avian influenza scientists have tentatively agreed to share data as part of an effort called the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID). A letter outlining the agreement is published online today in Nature, signed by 70 scientists and health officials, including six Nobel laureates....

[I]n essence, the participants have agreed to place genetic sequences into secure sections (which have not yet been set up) of existing online databases, as soon as possible after producing and analysing them. The group proposes using the International Nucleotide Sequence Database Collaboration [INSDC], a network of three major public databases, for the collection.

The data will, at first, only be accessible to scientists who have signed up to the agreement, but will become open to the public after 6 months at the most. Scientists who sign up make a promise to share their sequences. They must also agree to collaborate with, and appropriately credit, all other researchers in publications and intellectual-property agreements....

Veterinary virologist Ilaria Capua at the Vialle dell'Universita in Padova, Italy, started something of a backlash against this system in March this year. Instead of placing her flu sequence data in the WHO-linked, password-protected database, she chose to enter it into the publicly available GenBank, and called on colleagues to do the same. "When you're facing a pandemic, you have to get your priorities straight," she says....

Bogner's and Capua's efforts have resulted in this GISAID agreement, which they put together with Nancy Cox, head of the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, and David Lipman, director of the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland....

Capua says that she is "really happy with the result". Perhaps, she says, the same framework could be used to distribute data for other emerging infectious diseases in which information must be shared quickly. "If a new SARS knocks on our door, we have a system in place," she says.

More news coverage of GISAID.

Update. Also see the August 24 public letter from Peter Bogner, Ilaria Capua, Nancy J. Cox, David J. Lipman and others, A global initiative on sharing avian flu data, calling on scientists worldwide to share avian flu data and participate in the GISAID initiative. Excerpt:

Several countries and international agencies have recently taken steps to improve sharing of influenza data, following the initiative of leading veterinary virologists in the field of avian influenza. The current level of collection and sharing of data is inadequate, however, given the magnitude of the threat. We propose to expand and complement existing efforts with the creation of a global consortium — the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID) — that would foster international sharing of avian influenza isolates and data....

GISAID's policies for rapid and complete data release are modelled on those established for community resource projects. These policies have successfully been employed previously, for example by the International HapMap Project ( — a project to map, and make freely available, data on DNA sequence variations in the human genome.

This letter is also posted at the GISAID site along with the full list of signatories. Also see the press release accompanying the letter.

OpenDOAR milestone

From the SHERPA blog this morning:

Just glanced at the OpenDOAR live server and I'm pleased to report that we've just passed the 600 manually quality assured repositories listed on the site.  This is great, as only a couple of weeks ago we passed the 500 mark.  Of course what the site doesn't show at this point are the number of sites we've actually discounted from the service.  A lot of the repository targets listed on other repo directory sites are dead ends, empty, non-functional or simply not Open Access repositories.  To date we've evaulated and discounted nearly 180 sites, and the number is rising each day.  In time we'll list these as the service, hopefully, develops.

PS: BTW, the SHERPA Blog is new, only launched on Monday. This is a welcome extension of SHERPA's online presence and service to OA.

More on the UK's Free Our Data campaign

S.A. Mathieson, It's a struggle to get data out of councilsThe Guardian, August 24, 2006. Excerpt:

Much of the Free Our Data debate, held last month in London with the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, focused on Ordnance Survey. Its chief executive, Vanessa Lawrence, defended its model of raising revenues from customers rather than the taxpayer - although with 47% of OS's revenue coming from the public sector, taxpayers often are the customers....

However, one attendee questioned the willingness of organisations that enjoy direct tax-raising powers, with no financial dependence on selling data, to free our data - local authorities.

Benjamin Bennetts, managing director of the not-for-profit company Land Management Information Service (LaMIS), told the debate that his business has enormous difficulties extracting data from local authorities, adding that he sees "absolutely no consistency [and] no means for anyone to challenge a decision not to release data"....

Profile of Cornell's Internet-First University Press

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Digital University/Library Presses, Part 5: Internet-First University Press, DigitalKoans, August 23, 2006. Another installment in Charles' useful series. Excerpt:

Established in January 2004, Cornell University’s Internet-First University Press is described as follows:

These materials are being published as part of a new approach to scholarly publishing. The manuscripts and videos are freely available from this Internet-First University Press repository within DSpace at Cornell University.

These online materials are available on an open access basis, without fees or restrictions on personal use. All mass reproduction, even for educational or not-for-profit use, requires permission and license.

There are Internet-First University Press DSpace collections for books and articles, multimedia and videos, and undergraduate scholarly publications. There is a print-on-demand option for books and articles.  There are DSpace sub-communities for journals and symposia, workshops, and conferences....

Another way that funders could help

Dorothea Salo, Second-order effects, Caveat Lector, August 23, 2006. Excerpt:
As more funders insist on open access, it seems not improbable that grant seekers will consider open publication venues and self-archiving a way to win brownie points on future grant applications. I expect this to have only a modest positive effect at best… but anything positive is good news.

Funders could accelerate the effect, of course, by explicitly listing open access to previous research among the factors they weight when deciding on grants.

Comment. This is definitely another way that funders could help. But they tend to take the opposite course and give the most credit to publication in venerable high-prestige journals. This policy discriminates against OA journals (but only because they are new) and disregards OA archiving. It doesn't negate the good effects of an OA mandate on funded research, but it shows a commitment to OA only one front when funders could help on at least two.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

BMC journals integrate with Connotea

From the August 22 issue of BioMed Central Update:

Connotea, the free online reference manager for clinicians and scientists, now supports all journals published by BioMed Central. When you save a link to a BioMed Central article with Connotea, Connotea will automatically identify the article and pull in the bibliographic information for it.

Grass roots support for FRPAA

Remember the Progressive Secretary letter in support of FRPAA? In the past month (the letter was posted July 16), more than 1,000 citizens have clicked to send it to their Congressional delegation.

PS: This is a testament to public support for FRPAA. (Not surprising in light of the Harris Poll of May 2006.) To send a copy of the letter yourself, visit the FRPAA letter page but also read the short description of how Progressive Secretary works.

CERN's plan to convert particle physics journals to OA

Rüdiger Voss (ed.), Report of the Task Force on Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics, CERN, June 22, 2006. Excerpt:

The start of the LHC [Large Hadron Collider] experiments at CERN in 2007 will be a major milestone for particle physics and for science at large. It will be a unique opportunity to reform the publishing paradigm of the particle physics community to ensure the widest, and most efficient, dissemination of results from this unique facility.

Recognizing this fact, CERN set up in December 2005 a tripartite “Task force on Open Access publishing in particle physics”, representing authors, publishers, and funding agencies and mandated to “study and develop sustainable business models for Open Access for existing and new journals and publishers in particle physics, focused mainly on a sponsoring model”. The task force envisions free and unrestricted Web-based access to peer-reviewed journals as the ultimate goal of Open Access (OA) publishing in particle physics; at the same time, it considers that OA publishing must be available to individual authors without financial barriers, and remain affordable for the community at large. To make the OA transition attractive and transparent to authors, the study focused on the conversion of established, high-profile journals, while leaving room for new, emerging journals in the field; to overcome the practical and psychological obstacle of traditional publication charges (author fees), the study focused on business models sponsored primarily by major laboratories and by funding agencies.

To survey the present particle physics journals landscape, and to sound the interest of relevant publishers to participate in a large-scale transition to OA, a questionnaire was sent in February 2006 to about 20 publishers for a total of about 40 different journals dealing with particle physics and/or closely related fields....For each journal, the publisher was asked whether he would consider a transition to OA under the condition that a sustainable business model could be identified....Amongst the journals ready for an OA transition are:

  • Physical Review D and Physical Review Special Topics – Accelerators and Beams (PRST–AB, a sponsored OA journal already), published by the American Physical Society (APS);
  • Journal of High Energy Physics (JHEP), Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (JCAP), and Journal of Instrumentation (JINST), published by SISSA (Trieste) and presently marketed by Institute of Physics Publishing (IOP);
  • The European Physical Journal C, published by Springer, EDP Sciences, and Società Italiana di Fisica.

In addition, some smaller and/or more highly specialized journals declared themselves ready for an OA transition, or are published under an OA business model already. These journals combined cover up to 50% of the original research literature in particle physics (excluding review articles, conference proceedings, and instrumentation papers)....

Based on the cost per article quoted by the publishers, and on the average number of papers published in the period 2003-2005, sponsoring all journals ready for OA at the time of the enquiry would require an annual budget of 5–6 Million €, significantly less than the present global expenditure for particle physics journal subscriptions.

To exploit this savings potential and to promote a rapid, large-scale transition of the particle physics community to OA publishing, the task force proposes a “Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics” (SCOAP3). Potential funding partners of this consortium are: [1] funding agencies supporting particle physics; [2] major particle physics laboratories; [3] major author communities, such as large experimental collaborations; [4] funding agencies supporting OA publishing in general; [5] libraries....

Tentatively, the task force envisages a transition period of five years to establish a ‘fair share’ scenario between funding agencies and other partners, to allow time for funding agencies to redirect budgets from journal subscriptions to OA sponsoring, and to allow time for more publishers to convert journals to OA. At the end of this period, the vast majority of particle physics literature should be available under an OA scheme. To allow for OA publication of LHC results from the outset, SCOAP3 should become operational not later than 2007.

For more background on the CERN OA task force, see the press release announcing its launch on December 14, 2005.


  1. First, apologies for not catching this sooner.
  2. This is new and potentially big. It's the first time that anyone has tried to convert all the TA journals in a field to OA by offering to pay reasonable article processing fees. (None of the journals would charge authors.)
  3. All or most of these articles would be OA through arXiv. Why isn't that enough? Here are a few answers. (1) arXiv deals more with unrefereed preprints than with refereed postprints. For many researchers (like Grigory Perelman) that's enough. But most researchers acknowledge that access to the published edition, if it can be arranged, is even better. (2) Converting the journals to OA will bring much-needed budget relief to lab and university libraries, which will be part of the consortium CERN is putting together. (3) While physics journals have coexisted with arXiv for 15 years, freely admit that they haven't lost subscriptions to it, and even host mirrors of it, they may worry that it's only a matter of time before arXiv and OA archiving will eat into their subscriptions.
  4. Note the key discovery that makes the CERN plan feasible: "[S]ponsoring all journals ready for OA at the time of the enquiry would require an annual budget of 5–6 Million €, significantly less than the present global expenditure for particle physics journal subscriptions." This is the primary reason to believe that the long-term sustainability of OA journals is not in doubt (even if the transition is bumpy): the actual costs of peer review and publication are lower than the prices we currently pay for access through subscriptions.
  5. Clearly this fact didn't escape the notice of the surveyed journals. If they convert to OA under this plan, then for most of them revenue will decrease even if the revenue that remains suffices to pay the bills. Why would they agree? My guess: they recognize that subscriptions are not sustainable in a world in which high-volume OA archiving is a fact of life and library budgets grow more slowly than published literature. The CERN plan offers survival and protection, which offset the greater revenue and greater risks of continuing as a subscription journal.
  6. If CERN pulls this off, could the plan be duplicated in any other field? It may appear unlikely: CERN dominates particle physics in a way that no other institution dominates any field. Moreover, physicists and physics journals are unusually accustomed to OA through archiving. But remember that CERN plans to build a consortium of funding institutions, not to do it alone. And the rates of OA archiving are growing in other fields, especially as funders start to mandate it for the research they fund. It may work in particle physics and it may transfer to other fields.

How OA archiving helps publishers

Edgar Crook, For the Record: Assessing the Impact of Archiving on the Archived, RLG DigiNews, August 15, 2006. Excerpt:
PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive at the National Library of Australia (NLA), has been archiving Web-based publications for 10 years, in conjunction with participants at the Australian State Libraries and other cultural organisations....

Many studies and articles examining archival practice and policy have emanated from PANDORA. None, however, has attempted to gauge the effect of archiving on the archived—that is the publishers and their publications....

The results of the study show that PANDORA archiving has thus far not had a detrimental effect on publications, and is in fact mostly benign and in some cases beneficial. It is to be hoped that the knowledge that Internet archiving does not necessitate any conflict between archivists and publishers will assist in guiding future negotiations.

Here are some results read off the charts in the article: 37% of surveyed publishers said PANDORA archiving changed the public perception of their publication for the better, and less than 1% said for the worse. (Most said it caused no change.) 96% said that overall it has been positive for their publication. 92% said it increased the number of hits to their online publication. 29% said it increased their publication's citation rate. (Most said it caused no change.) 11% said it increased revenue from their web site, while only 1% said it decreased revenue.

August issue of RLG DigiNews

The August issue of RLG DigiNews is now online. Here are the OA-related articles:

More on the ARL report on IRs

Stevan Harnad, US Association of Research Libraries (ARL) Report on Institutional Repositories, Open Access Archivangelism, August 22, 2006.

SummaryAn ARL survey of US Institutional Repositories (IRs) begins: "Since 2002, when DSpace and other institutional repository (IR) software began to be available..." But EPrints, the first and most widely used IR software, was created in 2000...

"[Of the 87/123] responding ARL libraries 37 (43%) have an IR." But according to ROAR, there are at least 200 OAI-compliant archives in the US, 115 of them institutional or departmental IRs, 18 of them e-thesis IRs.

The ARL survey reports that "By a large majority, the most frequently used local IR software was DSpace, with... bepress [second]," but for the US ROAR currently lists 55 DSpace, 52 EPrints, and 44 Bepress archives. The corresponding worldwide figures are: 210 EPrints, 167 DSpace and 53 Bepress.

ARL states that "The average IR start-up cost has been around $182,500 and its average ongoing operation budget is about $113,500." For some less daunting cost estimates, see here and here.

ARL finds that "IR and library staff use a variety of strategies to recruit content: 83% made presentations to faculty and others, 78% identified and encouraged likely depositors, 78% had library subject specialists act as advocates, 64% offered to deposit materials for authors, and 50% offered to digitize materials and deposit them." No US university yet has a self-archiving mandate. US Provosts ought to try that: They might find it trumps all other ways of recruiting content (as Arthur Sale's analyses have been showing)!

Muscular Dystrophy group supports FRPAA

Pat Furlong, Open access, Pat Furlong's Journal, August 21, 2006.  Pat Furlong is the Founding President and CEO of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy.  (Thanks to William Walsh.) Excerpt:
I’m in Washington today meeting with Sheila Walcoff, Counselor to the Secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS). The discussion will concentrate on Senate Bill 2695, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA)....

We all search Pubmed to access the latest information on DMD [Duchenne muscular dystrophy] research and care, and often investigate other areas of research searching for ways to help our children. Using keywords, our search will result in a list of published articles and, in most cases, an abstract of the article will be available. While the abstract is helpful, it does not provide the whole story. You have to pay to access the article, unless you are associated with a University and even then, access is limited to specific journals. On average, the individual cost is $20 to $30 for each article. Keeping up with the latest information is very expensive!

As you might imagine, there are two sides to the story – namely the publishing industry is concerned about economic impact and believes access after 12 months is adequate. On the other side, stakeholders (us) want and need the information as soon as possible.

PPMD [Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy] has been working on this issue with the Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA). We support the proposed legislation that would mandate public access to federally funded research by NIH investigators within six months of publication. We believe access would have tremendous benefits for all: for the researchers who may not have ready access to all journals, for health care professionals who need to treat patients based on the latest research results, and for our families who need to make informed decisions for their children.

Because US taxpayers underwrite this research, we believe we have a right to expect its dissemination and use will be maximized. It is important to have access and equally important for us to look across the field – to ‘look under every rock’ – to stimulate new ideas and to learn from other fields.

Our goal is: free online access as soon as possible and no later than 6 months after the article has been published in a peer review journal.

Finding related articles in Google Scholar

Google Scholar has added a Related Articles link to each item in its return list. For details, see yesterday's post on the Google Blog.

KnowledgeSpeak interviews Matt Cockerill

KnowledgeSpeak has interviewed Matthew Cockerill, publisher of BioMed Central, August 23, 2006. Excerpt:

Q: How does BioMed Central ensure long-term sustainability of its open access journals while staying profitable? Can you briefly discuss your business model?

A: BioMed Central's business model is to cover the the cost of publishing through an 'Article Processing Charge' or APC, payable for every published article. Funders such as the Wellcome trust have expressed strong support for such a model, saying that publication and dissemination is best seen as the final part of the process of doing research. The cost of paying to cover publication costs is tiny (1-2% by most estimates) compared to the costs of carrying out the research in the first place. But the benefits of universal open access are enormous.

There is no inherent reason why open access publications supported by Article Processing Charges should have any difficulty being sustainable and profitable. The same amount of money currently spent by the scientific community supporting traditional subscription-only journals could easily cover the cost of open access publication of that same research. The costs in both cases are likely to be similar. BioMed Central is already very close to profitability as a commercial open access publisher. The fact that new open access journals are not immediately profitable should be no surprise to those in the publishing industry. Even traditional scientific journals do not generally make a profit in their first 5 years - the fact is that starting new journals is hard work and requires a lot of investment. But open access publishers such as BioMed Central are now seeing that hard work pay off. It is notable that there are already examples of commercial publishers who are operating profitably on the open access model - e.g. the Hindawi Publishing Corporation.

Q: Based on impact factors and other citation-based metrics, how are open access journals placed, when compared to the traditional (subscription based) journals?

A: BioMed Central's journals are doing extremely well in terms of citation-based metrics, especially since they are relatively new journals....[Nine] BioMed Central journals are all in the Top 10 by impact factor, in their ISI subject category....Genome Biology's first impact factor (9.71) is especially impressive, and demonstrates clearly the compatibility of open access publishing with the highest editorial standards. For more details on BioMed Central journal impact factors, see [here]....

Q: As far as open access initiatives are concerned, can you please elaborate on new products or services that you plan to launch in the near term?

A: Today marks the launch of Chemistry Central - a new portal site for open access journals in chemistry. Chemistry Central is from the same team responsible for BioMed Central, and builds on BioMed Central's proven open access journal publishing technology. We have also added special features to meet the needs of chemists (for example, figures can be submitted in the popular ChemDraw and ISISDraw file formats). In the last several years research communication in biomedicine and physics has evolved rapidly, with emphasis on more open communication of research results. Chemistry has up to now lagged behind, with chemistry-related journals and databases overwhelmingly remaining subscription-based. In fact, though, the benefits of open access publication are just as applicable to fields like Chemistry. It's time for change - hence the launch of Chemistry Central....

Empirical study of university-level OA mandates

Arthur Sale, The acquisition of open access research articles, a preprint, self-archived August 23, 2006.
Abstract: The behavior of researchers when self-archiving in an institutional repository has not been previously analyzed. This paper uses available information for three repositories analyzing when researchers (as authors) deposit their research articles. The three repositories have variants of a mandatory deposit policy.

It is shown that it takes several years for a mandatory policy to be institutionalized and routinized, but that once it has been the deposit of articles takes place in a remarkably short time after publication, or in some cases even before. Authors overwhelmingly deposit well before six months after publication date. The OA mantra of 'deposit now, set open access when feasible' is shown to be not only reasonable, but fitting what researchers actually do.

From the body of the paper:

  1. Repository managers should invest in promotion and follow-up for 2-3 years after a mandatory policy is promulgated, after which the behavior becomes routinized.
  2. No especial activities need to be undertaken to convince researchers to deposit research articles soon after publication – this seems to happen naturally under mandatory policies.
  3. Six month embargos by publishers are likely to be unpopular with researchers, since in the absence of constraints they deposit earlier than this.
  4. The recommendation widely adopted by the open access movement and summarized as ‘deposit immediately, and make open access as soon as legally possible’ is shown to be excellent advice for any university or funding agency considering adopting a mandatory policy.

Comment. This is an important set of results. Sale's research shows that OA mandates work without coercion and supports the case for university-level mandates, the case for the dual deposit/release strategy, and the case against self-archiving embargoes.

Update. The published edition is now online, in the October 2006 issue of First Monday.

Calling on provosts and presidents to endorse FRPAA

SPARC has issued a call to action for university presidents and provosts to endorse FRPAA by adding their names to this public statement (August 22):

Broad dissemination of research results is fundamental to the advancement of knowledge. For America’s taxpayers to obtain an optimal return on their investment in science, publicly funded research must be shared as broadly as possible. Yet too often, research results are not available to researchers, scientists, or the members of the public. Today, the Internet and digital technologies give us a powerful means of addressing this problem by removing access barriers and enabling new, expanded, and accelerated uses of research findings.

We believe the US Government can and must act to ensure that all potential users have free and timely access on the Internet to peer-reviewed federal research findings. This will not only benefit the higher education community, but will ultimately magnify the public benefits of research and education by promoting progress, enhancing economic growth, and improving the public welfare.

We support the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 and urge its passage by the US Congress.

The web site includes a form allowing presidents and provosts to add their signatures and a list of those who have already endorsed FRPAA by signing the July 28 CIC letter or the July 31 GWLA letter. As new university leaders sign on, the list will grow.

Comment. This is extremely helpful. The provosts and presidents who have already endorsed FRPAA show Congress that the bill has critical support from universities and researchers. There are undoubtedly other provosts and presidents who would have signed one of the first two letters but didn't know about them and others who will now be inspired to sign. This is an opening for all faculty (esp. in US institutions) to campaign locally and persuade their campus leaders to show their public support for open access to publicly-funded research.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How researchers can support OA

Francis Ouellette, Top 10 things you should do to support the Open Access of scientific publications, UBC Bioinformatics Centre, August 22, 2006. Excerpt:
10. Publish in OA journals
9. Submit grants to funding agencies that support OA publishing.
8. Move to a country that has signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access.
7. Only review for OA journals. For mixed-access journals, make them guaranty that article they want you to review will be OA, otherwise, don't review it.
6. Recruit scientists that publish in OA journals.
5. On grant-review panels, score applicants that have an OA publishing record better then an equivalent applicant that publishes in closed journals.
4. Subscribe to or read Peter Suber's OA blog
3. In your grants and papers, reference OA publications
2. When reviewing papers, give the authors a hard time for citing closed access publications when there are better ones that are OA....
1. If you are looking for a position in Academia, and you find yourself in front of a departmental chair- person that tells you they will not grant you tenure if you publish in OA journals, don't take that job.

Comment. We'd all make these lists differently, but I hope they'd all have some family resemblance. (See my list of what researchers should know about OA and my list of what resarchers can do to promote OA.) I like this one, especially #4, but can't resist making two suggestions.

I'd revise Number 8: don't move, just work to get your university and the major public funding agencies in your country to sign the Berlin Declaration --and then to implement it.

Number 10 is good advice but we can't yet assume that all scholars will be able to find high-quality OA journals in their research niche. Until then, scholars should understand that publishing in a conventional journal, and self-archiving the postprint, is a quick and easy way to provide bona fide OA to their research. I'd make providing OA to one's own work --through OA journals or OA repositories -- Number 1.

More on the Bush administration's withdrawal of public info

Herb Kaufman, Bush closes door on open access, Hartford Courier News, August 22, 2006. Excerpt:

The number of documents that have been listed as "secret" jumped from 9 million in 2001 to 16 million in 2004. Moreover, this same administration has granted the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Agriculture and the Health and Human Services Department the power to classify any of their documents as "secret." (I guess the purpose was to keep such vital information from falling into the hands of terrorists who might try, for example, to blow up a silo or two in the Midwest.)

In that same period, thousands of unclassified documents have been purged from government Web sites and the National Archives. In 2001, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft instructed federal agencies to "resist" Freedom of Information Act requests whenever they could find legal grounds to do so.

If information is the oxygen of democracy (the system President Bush is trying to install in Iraq), the Bush administration seems to be doing everything in its power to cut off the supply here in the good old USA.

Another defense of Google Book Search

Richard Ekman, The Books Google Could Open, Washington Post, August 22, 2006. Ekman is the president of the Council of Independent Colleges and on the advisory boards of two university presses and a university library.  Excerpt:

The nation's colleges and universities should support Google's controversial project to digitize great libraries and offer books online. It has the potential to do a lot of good for higher education in this country....

[M]any in the publishing industry are opposing the new digital catalogue of published works created by Google -- Book Search -- even as many librarians hail it as a way to expand access to millions of published works.

Only a small fraction of the huge number of books published today are printed in editions of more than a few thousand copies. And the great works of even the recent past are quickly passing into obscurity. Google has joined with major libraries to make it possible for all titles to remain accessible to users....

Book Search does not permit users to read entire copyrighted works on screen; it simply makes those works searchable through keywords, quickly and at no cost, and allows readers to view several lines from the book. Users can look at an entire page from any book not under copyright protection....

Geography will not hinder a student's quest to find relevant material. Libraries can help to revive interest in underused books. And sales of books would probably increase as a result.

Book Search comes at a time when college and university libraries are hard-pressed to keep up with the publishing and technology revolutions. Budgets are stretched, and libraries must now specialize and rely on interlibrary loans for books in other subjects.

Student and faculty research has also been limited by what is on the shelves of campus libraries. A student can identify a book through an online library catalogue, but the book's content remains unknown. It must then be shipped -- an expense that may not be worthwhile if the book isn't what was expected....

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that publishers have resisted an important technology instead of figuring out how to use it to their advantage.  Music publishers a century ago tried to stop the manufacture of player pianos because they feared that sales of sheet music would decline. In fact, player pianos helped increase the number of buyers of sheet music.

New technologies and new ways of doing business can be disruptive, but they are inevitable. The transition to new technologies can be smooth or rough, depending on the attitudes of the institutional actors. The goal is to make more of the world's information readily available to users.

Launch of LibreDigital Warehouse

Steve Bryant, Publishers Fight Back Against Google with New Book Search Service, eWeek, August 22, 2006. Excerpt:

Publishers who want to make their books searchable online but aren't comfortable with Google Book Search now have another option.  Publisher HarperCollins and Austin, Texas-based LibreDigital announced today a hosted service called LibreDigital Warehouse that will give publishers and booksellers the ability to deliver searchable book content on their own Web sites.

Like Google Book Search, the service will allow users to search the entire content of a book and preview a percentage of its text and illustrations.

Unlike Google, LibreDigital Warehouse allows publishers to customize which pages a user can view, which pages are always prohibited from viewing (such as the last three pages of a novel), and what overall percentage of a book is viewable. Publishers can customize these rules per title and per partner....

HarperCollins is currently the only participating publisher, but the program has received a "warm welcome" from other publishers who are also interested in participating, according to LibreDigital....

Patricia Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, said LibreDigital Warehouse would be a way to help authors, distributors and independent booksellers market their titles, while allowing publishers to maintain presentation quality and copyright control....

HarperCollins announced a version of LibreDigital Warehouse, called "Browse Inside," on its own Web site earlier this month, although users can only browse predefined pages instead of searching.


  1. LibreDigital Warehouse doesn't seem to have a web site yet. I'll post the URL as soon as it's available.
  2. This project is welcome if it means more free searching of full-text books. Don't be misled by the name, however. While libre has acquired strong connotations of open source and open access, and this project is delivering neither.
  3. Like most publisher announcements that touch on Google, this one fails to distinguish the Google Publisher program from the Google Library program. The former gives the publishers all the controls that LibreDigital Warehouse does how much of a book, and which parts, will be visible online. The latter only displays fair-use snippets.

Nice line

I've heard this said about publishing poetry, not about publishing research.   But it's a good line --limited to non-OA publishing-- and could use more exposure.  From David Cohen in today's Guardian:

Academic publishing is sometimes likened to tossing rose petals into the Grand Canyon and then waiting - and waiting - to hear the echo.

An organized OA search for prior art to block bogus patents

Nicholas Varchaver, Patent review goes Wiki, Fortune Magazine, August 16, 2006. (Thanks to the Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog.) Excerpt:

The problem: an epidemic of shoddy patents. The solution: Wikipedia?

That's the basic concept behind a pilot program sponsored by IBM and other companies, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office appears poised to green-light. The project would apply an advisory version of the wiki approach to the patent-approval process.

The issue is that patent applications have tripled in the past two decades, leaving examiners only 20 hours on average to comb through a complex application, research past inventions, and decide whether a patent should be granted. As a result, critics contend, quality has declined and lucrative patents have been granted for ideas that weren’t actually new.

One solution is to let astute outsiders weigh in during the patent-review process, as online encyclopedia Wikipedia does, vastly increasing the information available to the patent examiner.

New York Law School professor Beth Noveck floated the idea on her blog last July [2005], inspiring an article in Wired News. That, in turn, attracted the attention of IBM, which got behind the idea.

Says Dave Kappos, vice president for intellectual-property law at IBM: "It’s a very powerful concept because it leverages the enormous capabilities of the entire world of technical talent."...

Corporate sponsors including IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard will make a total of 250 to 400 software patents available for the pilot....

Comment. Brilliant and much-needed, along with a simplified procedure to nullify patents awarded in error. I love the way this project moved from a blog posting to a trial run by the patent office and major corporations in about a year.

More on OA Central and Chemistry Central

Kim Thomas, BioMed Central opens access to Chemistry articles, Information World Review, August 22, 2006. Excerpt:

Open access publisher BioMed Central has launched Chemistry Central, a site that the London based company hopes will see chemistry become as prolific in the open access arena as physics.

Access to Chemistry Central, and its sister site BioMed Central is available through a newly-launched portal, Open Access Central, which will provide a single point of access to all the publisher’s open access journals. A new site, PhysMath Central, is also planned for physics and mathematics.

"There are plenty of opportunities for physicists to publish their findings using the open access model," said BioMed publisher Matthew Cockerill, but chemistry had lagged behind. He hopes the launch of Chemistry Central will change that: “We want open access to spread to as wide an audience as possible.”

Chemistry Central will make it possible for researchers both to publish articles in existing journals and to set up their own journals....

Cockerill said that the future of scientific publishing lay in open access: “Publishers need to adapt to the reality of what the web means for publishing scientific findings. In 2000 BioMed Central was a very new model. It had a slow start but we’ve had increasing enthusiasm as scientists started to see the benefits. We’ve seen a doubling every 18 months of the number of articles submitted to our journals.”

Royal Society of Chemistry lashes out

Katharine Sanderson, Open access for chemistry, Chemistry World, August 22, 2006. Excerpt:

The team that developed BioMed Central, an open access publishing website, has launched a chemistry version called Chemistry Central.

The site will host BioMed Central’s (BMC’s) two chemistry journals: Geochemical Transactions, the online journal of the American Chemical Society’s division of geochemistry, and the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry. Chemistry-related content from BMC’s other more biological journals will also be highlighted on the site. Next year, the open access Chemistry Central Journal will also be launched and hosted by the website.

‘Chemists have really been lacking a home for open access,’ said Bryan Vickery, BMC’s deputy publisher and previously managing director of, an online chemistry portal formerly owned by Elsevier and subsequently taken over by, based in Southern California, US. ‘Open access as a business model is relevant to all STM [science, technology and medicine] publishing,’ Vickery said....

But the Royal Society of Chemistry’s director of publishing, Peter Gregory, disagrees. ‘We have absolutely no interest shown from our editorial board members, or our authors, for open access publishing,’ he said.

Gregory believes that the open access author-pays model is ‘ethically flawed’, because it raises the risk that substandard science could be widely circulated without being subjected to more rigorous peer review. This could be particularly problematic in chemistry, where rapid, open access publication could be used to establish priority ahead of more time-consuming patent applications from rival groups, he added.

Open access publishing remains ‘financially unproven’, Gregory said: if the business model turns out to be unsustainable, parts of the scientific record may be lost when publishing platforms fold, he argues....

Comments. First note that the Royal Society of Chemistry is not connected with the Royal Society, which recently launched a hybrid OA journal program.

  1. Peter Gregory doesn't understand that OA journals are peer reviewed and that their rigor can match that of the best TA journals. The old canard that journals charging author-side processing fees must compromise on peer review was never justified and overlooked the facts (1) that OA journals and TA journals might use the same standards and even the same editors and referees, (2) that editorial firewalls insulate editors from financial decisions, and (3) that fee waivers mean that some accepted articles generate no revenue.
  2. Moreover, the old canard also overlooked the many reasons why subscription journals might compromise on peer review more than OA journals, for example (1) that more subscription journals charge author-side fees than OA journals; (2) that OA journals with many excellent submissions can increase their acceptance rate without lowering standards (because they have no size limits); (3) that OA journals with a dearth of excellent submissions can accept fewer papers without shortchanging subscribers (because they have no subscribers); (4) that subscription journals often justify price increases by pointing to the growing volume of published articles, creating incentives to increase the acceptance rate; (5) that OA journal fees are much closer to "subsistence-level" compensation than subscription fees, creating much smaller incentives to change editorial practices; and (6) that subscription journals with lower standards and lower rejection rates have higher profit margins (because they perform peer review fewer times per published paper).
  3. Gregory also worries that if an OA journal folds, then "parts of the scientific record may be lost...." Again he's uninformed. He's criticizing BMC journals, which make a point of depositing all their OA articles in PubMed Central, an OA repository independent of BMC. It does this precisely to guarantee that its corpus will be available, and OA, in case the journal or publisher folds. Does the Royal Society of Chemistry do this? No. Moreover, BMC makes its entire corpus downloadable for anyone who wants a copy, e.g. for text mining. This has already guaranteed the proliferation of copies that protect against disaster. Does the Royal Society of Chemistry do this? No. Finally, BMC has taken steps to assure that if it is ever bought by another company, the buyer's access policies will be at least as liberal as BMC's. Has the Royal Society of Chemistry done this? No.

Free connectivity project wins prize from Gates Foundation

The Gates Foundation has given this year's Access to Learning Award, a $1 million prize, to Nepal’s Rural Education and Development (READ) program "for its pioneering approach to providing no-cost public access to computers and the Internet to residents, and its commitment to promoting information and literacy." For more details, see today's press release.

Generalizing BioMed Central

The Science Navigation Group, the group behind BioMed Central, has generalized the concept, launching Chemistry Central as its first project beyond biomedicine, and Open Access Central as the new umbrella organization to coordinate the growing family of disciplinary projects. From today's announcement of Open Access Central:

Bringing together the open access publishing activities of Science Navigation Group, Open Access Central includes BioMed Central and its newly launched sister site, Chemistry Central. Future open access initiatives such as PhysMath Central will also fall under the Open Access Central umbrella.

BioMed Central Publisher, Matthew Cockerill, says: "The rapid growth of open access publishing in biomedicine has attracted the attention of researchers and funders in other disciplines. It has become clear that open access journals are equally necessary in fields such as chemistry and physics. With the launch of Open Access Central, we are making the open access journal publishing system available to groups of researchers in other fields who wish to start open access journals."

Open Access Central builds on BioMed Central's success in biomedicine. Launching its first journals in 2000, BioMed Central has grown rapidly and today publishes over 160 open access journals, with many more in the pipeline. BioMed Central's biomedical journals have gone from strength to strength, publishing thousands of peer reviewed articles, and demonstrating their quality with impressive Thomson Scientific (ISI) impact factors.

Chemistry Central, also launched today, will publish peer-reviewed research in chemistry and makes it immediately available online with no access charges or subscriptions. The publishers' website currently features articles from existing open access chemistry journals published with BioMed Central, including Geochemical Transactions and Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry. It also includes chemistry-related content from other BioMed Central journals such as BMC Chemical Biology. Chemistry Central will soon be launching further chemistry journals, including Chemistry Central Journal, a major new open access title covering all areas of chemistry.

PhysMath Central is planned for launch at a future date, and will feature peer-reviewed research in all areas of mathematics and physics.

Also see today's announcement of Chemistry Central:

Chemistry Central, launched today, is a new open access website for chemists. It brings together peer-reviewed research in chemistry from a range of open access journals. All the original research articles on Chemistry Central are made freely and permanently accessible online immediately upon publication.

Chemistry Central has been developed by the same team who created BioMed Central, the leading biomedical open access publisher.

Bryan Vickery, Deputy Publisher at BioMed Central and a chemist by training, says "We have seen increasing interest from chemists in the open access publishing model and, having launched two chemistry-specific titles in the last 18 months, the time seemed right for BioMed Central to create an open access publishing website to meet the needs of chemists."...

Journals featured on Chemistry Central incorporate special features to make them suitable for chemistry-related content. For example, authors can submit their figures as ChemDraw or ISISDraw files, and see an instant thumbnail preview showing how the web version of the figure will appear. Articles published in the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry also incorporate a graphical abstract on the table of contents and search results pages, providing a quick visual summary the research reported in the article.

As well as viewing the latest research highlights and content from featured journals, users of Chemistry Central can discuss articles, submit manuscripts, sign up for email alerts and find out more about starting a new open access chemistry journal or transferring an existing title to the Chemistry Central open access model....

Chemists who wish to support open access to published research by playing an editorial role on this major new journal should contact

Comment. This is a significant development. BMC is the largest OA publisher and is taking its experience to chemistry, physics, and mathematics. These three fields will benefit by having BMC siblings publishing in their midst. Open Access Central will benefit from greater economies of scale, making its business model more robust.

Note that PLoS has moved beyond biomedicine with PLoS ONE, a different way to generalize its experience. In both cases, researchers everywhere will benefit from the growing body of OA literature, the spread of experienced OA publishing to new fields, and the growing momentum for OA itself.

Stevan Harnad donates prize to the ATA

From the Alliance for Taxpayer Access:
"Publish or Perish" author Stevan Harnad, winner of the English-language category prize in the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF2006) Poetry Competition sponsored by the Andrea von Braun Stiftung has donated his prize to support ATA's efforts for the Federal Research Public Access Act. In appreciation, we have made the poem available here. Thanks Stevan!

PS: As a bystander whose only interest here is increasing support for the ATA and FRPAA, I also appreciate Stevan's gesture.

Fields medal for Grigory Perelman

Grigory Perelman is one of four mathematicians to win the Fields Medal for 2006, honored for his progress in proving the Poincaré conjecture. However, he has refused the award. A notorious recluse, he has refused other mathematics prizes, refused job offers from Princeton and Stanford, and said he'd refuse the $1 million prize from the Clay Institute for a proof of the conjecture.

What's the OA connection? Here's how I put it Sunday on the PLoS Blog, where Chris Surridge had anticipated that Perelman would win this year's Fields Medal.

There's another peculiarity in Perelman's way of sharing his results. As you note, he's posted his three papers to arXiv [one, two, three] and benefited from its form of open review. But to date he's refused to publish the same papers in peer-reviewed journals. The problem is not that a conventional journal would refuse them, at least now that consensus is building that his proof is sound. Steven Krantz, editor of The Journal of Geometric Analysis, has offered to publish Perelman's three papers or any new ones that he would like to submit, but Perelman has not accepted the offer. (See my blog postings on this here and here.)

Perelman is not just saying, by his actions, that open review suffices. If that were all, he could still accept conventional publication for whatever increment of authority it would bring e.g. for mathematicians who are waiting for the imprimatur of a peer-reviewed journal. He's apparently saying that there is no such increment of authority and that he doesn't care to persuade mathematicians who think there is.

On second thought, it's just as likely that his refusal to publish in a peer-reviewed journal is of a piece with his refusal of prizes, money, and prestigious jobs. It may have more to do with temperament than principle; and if there's a principle here, it may have more to do with honors than peer review.

In any case, his work on the Poincaré conjecture may be the most important work yet disseminated through preprints in an OA repository and never submitted for formal publication.

For an earlier example of important mathematics taking place on an OA preprint server --also on the Poincaré conjecture-- see my short article in SOAN for April 2002.

Congratulations to Perelman and his three co-winners, Andrei Okounkov of Princeton, Terence Tao of the University of California, and Wendelin Werner of the University of Paris-Sud in Orsay.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Survey of ARL member libraries on institutional repositories

The ARL has released its SPEC Kit on Institutional Repositories. From today's announcement:
Since 2002, when DSpace and other institutional repository (IR) software began to be available, an increasing number of research libraries and their parent institutions have established institutional repositories to collect and provide access to diverse locally produced digital materials. This emerging technology holds great promise to transform scholarly communication, but it is still in its infancy. This survey was intended to collect baseline data about ARL member institutions’ institutional repository activities....

The survey was distributed to the 123 ARL member libraries in January 2006. Eighty-seven libraries (71%) responded to the survey. Of those, 37 (43%) have an operational IR, 31 (35%) are planning for one by 2007 at the latest, and 19 (22%) have no immediate plans to develop an IR. The survey found that most IRs had been established in the last two years (or had just been established). By far, the library was likely to have been the most active institutional advocate of the IR....The main reasons for establishing an IR were to increase the global visibility of, preserve, provide free access to, and collect and organize the institution’s scholarship.

By a large majority, the most frequently used local IR software was DSpace, with DigitalCommons (or the bepress software it is based on) being the system of choice for vendor-hosted systems....A typical IR holds about 3,800 digital objects, with electronic theses and dissertations, article preprints and postprints, conference presentations, technical reports, working papers, conference proceedings, and multimedia materials being the most common types of documents. IRs normally support OAI-PMH and, a little over half the time, OpenURL.

The average IR start-up cost has been around $182,500 and its average ongoing operation budget is about $113,500. Reallocated funds from the library’s budget are a key source of IR support, as are new funds from grants and the parent institution. Staff have been the largest single IR budget item during start-up and remain so in ongoing budgets....

For more detail on the survey results, see (in order by increasing detail) Charles Bailey's summary, the executive summary of the report (OA), or the full report (not OA).

OA archiving progress

From an Alma Swan posting to the AmSci OA Forum, August 20, 2006:
[T]he numbers [of institutional repositories] are now increasing - at an average rate of one repository being established per day over the last twelve months. There is also some evidence that this rate has been increasing of late. The reasons given are various, but the two main ones are (i) the requirement for a vehicle for providing open access, and (ii) that a repository is the natural development for institutions wishing to take stewardship of their digital intellectual resources. Given those reasons, we can presumably expect the growth in the number of repositories to continue since neither reason is likely to decline in importance in the foreseeable period....

Researchers do not spontaneously and voluntarily self-archive their output in great numbers. We know why: first of all it is because (still) many of them are not familiar with what repositories are and their purposes (even if there is one up and running in their own institution). Then, when these things are explained, they tell us that the main reasons for not self-archiving are: worries about the time it will take, worries that it will be a difficult process, worries that they will infringe an agreement with their publisher. When we ask those who HAVE self-archived, we find that it takes very little time (a few minutes), it is not difficult, and we already know that the vast majority of journals permit self-archiving of articles. All these issues have been studied and documented (see 1 and 2). This leaves the single most important reason for researchers not acting - general inertia.

When asked, 95% of researchers say they would self-archive if required to by their employer or funder. That is what they SAY they would do. Do they do it, if this is actually the case? Yes, in exactly the numbers predicted. The empirical evidence from those institutions that have mandatory policies demonstrate this unequivocally: over 90% compliance at the ECS repository in Southampton, and at CERN; a rapidly-climbing compliance curve for Queensland University of Technology; the same at the University of Minho. The comparative data drawn together by Arthur Sale for Australian universities with differing repository implementations demonstrates with absolute clarity the effect of a mandatory policy (see 3).

Library advocacy and activism is crucial, but it alone cannot achieve the result that mandatory requirement to self-archive does. It is, then, no wonder, that there is now a move in this direction. Several institutions are about to impose mandatory policies (not to mention four UK Research Councils and probably the NIH) and we shall be monitoring the content of their repositories with interest. Some of these repositories are already in existence, others are to be born-mandated.

Is it a terrible thing to require researchers to do something they would otherwise not bother to do? Are they required to write up a report at the end of each grant period? Are they required to publish their results? Are these things infringements of their academic liberty, or reasonable performance monitoring procedures? Those of us who pay our taxes happily and generously so that researchers can push back the frontiers on our society's behalf probably think it is fair to ask for a public record of what is achieved with our contributions. But that's not the crux of the matter. The answers to those questions above lie with the researchers themselves: they comply with such current requirements on research reporting and publishing, and 95% of them would comply, as well, with a third requirement - to make their results available to all other researchers in order that the effectiveness and efficiency of scholarly endeavour may be maximised.

1. Swan, A. (2006) The culture of Open Access: researchers' views and responses, in Jacobs, N., Eds. Open Access: Key Strategic, Technical and Economic Aspects, chapter 7. Chandos, Oxford. pp 52-59.

2. Swan, Alma and Brown, Sheridan (2005) Open Access self-archiving: pp 1-104. An author study. Published by JISC.

3. Sale, Arthur (2006) Comparison of IR content policies in Australia. First Monday 11(4).

Scopus improves its handling of OA repository content

Scopus announced today that it has enhanced its organization of OA content from institutional repositories. Scopus is an Elsevier product. From today's announcement: the first and only database of its kind to provide a fully customizable feature to its customers that enables users to search within selected repositories or subject specific digital archives within the Scopus interface. This new feature in Scopus, Selected Sources, allows customers to choose from a list of institutional resources and special subject collections indexed by Scirus to be made individually searchable in a separate tab; in effect highlighting the best scientific information from the web to their users.

Furthermore, for the first time, librarians can request for their own institutes' repositories and digital archive to be indexed and made searchable through the Scopus interface.

Now that these Selected Sources can be selected and searched separately by universities, departments, government agencies and corporations can enhance traditional literature searching by providing easy access to non-published intellectual output such as theses, lecture notes, presentations, manuscripts and prepress papers. Additionally it provides exposure of the research carried out at institutes that offer their repositories online and it bridges the gap between traditional and new search environments....

Librarians can choose from over 19 institutional repositories indexed by Elsevier's Scirus including MIT OpenCourseWare, the University of Toronto's T-Space, the Caltech collection of open digital archives and other gray literature sources such as NASA. The Selected Sources feature is available to all subscribers and can be quickly and easily customized by contacting Scopus' E-Helpdesk.  Customers can also request their repositories to be indexed by Scirus for free.

Comment. I'm glad to see that Scopus will index any institutional repository on request (the more tools indexing this content the better) and glad that it will let users pick the repositories they'd like to search (the more flexibility in searching this content the better).

However, Scopus is expensive for users. Institutions that already have OA repositories don't need Scopus to make their research output accessible and searchable. The institutional repository and free search engines (OAI-specific search engines like OAIster and mainstream search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft) already do that. But clearly institutions have nothing to lose and everything to gain by asking Scopus to include their content as well.

For users who don't have access to Scopus, it's less important to demand local access to Scopus than to join the effort to persuade more institutions to provide OA to their research output. And for institutions that don't already have OA repositories and want to make their research output more accessible, it's less important to provide access to Scopus users than to provide open access to everyone, including Scopus.

Update. Also see John Blossom's comments (August 22) on ContentBlogger:

While the technology used to create the Selected Sources feature is hardly new, it's a very important breakthrough for scientific publishers to embrace the exposure of enterprise content to a more general audience. It helps to expose ideas and research under investigation in a way that is far more likely to result in powerful awareness and interactions surrounding the work of scientific professionals in highly useful contexts. The Selected Sources feature positions Elsevier as a provider of a far broader base of content than just journals that can help scientific professionals to solve key problems and that can help to position participating institutions as thought leaders in ways that will encourage collaboration. It's "low hanging fruit" from a product design perspective but as a first step it's an exciting hint of what scientific publishers can do to develop high-margin services that amplify the value of an enterprise's intellectual property significantly.

Library policies to aid the transition to OA

Heather Morrison, From buying to producing (transitioning to open access), Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, August 20, 2006. Excerpt:

One of the key factors in the transition to open access is the considerable sum of money libraries currently pay for periodical subscriptions. Depending on your viewpoint, this can be seen as either a challenge, or an opportunity. From my point of view, the funds currently spent on subscriptions could easily form the most important component of an open access production-based economics model.

It is not necessary to simply abandon the buying (purchase / subscription) model and replace it with a production-based model, as there are many hybrid models which can be employed to ease the transition for everyone involved. This post explores the hypothesis that library (or consortia) specific incentives for support for an open access processing fee approach will maximize uptake of the processing fee approach. One potential model is presented, in which publishers reduce subscription prices in anticipation of processing fee revenue, at differing rates depending on the level of the library's commitment to the processing fee approach....

Research: divide journals into groups of equivalent quality, open access policies, and production fees, but with differing incentives for libraries, with one group offering library (or consortia) -specific incentives, and the other either general or no incentives. If the hypothesis is correct, uptake of an open access processing fee option will be significantly higher at the journals with library or consortial-specific incentives....

This post is the second in the series Transitioning to Open Access.

Google's CEO on fair use and the publisher lawsuits

Danny Sullivan interviewed Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, at the Search Engine Strategies Conference, August 9, 2006. Excerpt from the transcript (but also see the video):
Because of our scale and because of the amounts of money that we have, Google has to be more careful with respect to launching products that may violate other people's notion of their rights. But also, frankly, we find ourselves in litigation and the litigation was expensive, and diverts the management team, etcetera, from our mission. In the cases that you describe, most of the litigation in my judgment was really a business negotiation being done in a courtroom. And I hate to say that, but that is my personal opinion. And in most cases a change in our policy or a financial change would in fact address many of the issues.

Without commenting specifically on AP [Associated Press] or AFP [Agence France Presse] or the book publishers, we have to respect the copyright owners' information, and it's okay to disagree on the precise aspects of the law, but no one at Google is suggesting that we are not subject to copyright law. In the United States there is a fairly well-established doctrine of fair use. And depending on which graduate school or legal school the lawyer went to, they disagree on precise details. The ones who went to this law school agree on one thing and the ones that went to this law school went to another. And I've learned that the law is not as crisply defined in this area as you might want. So in our case, we've analyzed this pretty carefully. We believe that the library work we're doing, given that we're not, in fact, reproducing the book but rather simply a snippet and then we have a pointer to the book, is absolutely permitted by fair use. Reasonable people can disagree with that, but that is our view and we spent a lot of time on it. And I don't think we're going to change our tune on that.

More on OA to European geodata

Public GeoData is drafting a third open letter to EC ministers opposing amendments to the INSPIRE directive that would block OA to geographic data. (Thanks to Jo Walsh.)

Turning public data into national security secrets

Kudos to William Burr, who has documented an attempt to censor US history by suppressing information previously and officially public. See his new report, How Many and Where Were the Nukes? What the U.S. Government No Longer Wants You to Know about Nuclear Weapons During the Cold War, The National Security Archive, August 18, 2006. (Thanks to Free Government Information.) Excerpt:
The Pentagon and the Energy Department have now stamped as national security secrets the long-public numbers of U.S. nuclear missiles during the Cold War, including data from the public reports of the Secretaries of Defense in 1967 and 1971, according to government documents posted today on the Web by the National Security Archive.

Pentagon and Energy officials have now blacked out from previously public charts the numbers of Minuteman missiles (1,000), Titan II missiles (54), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (656) in the historic U.S. Cold War arsenal, even though four Secretaries of Defense (McNamara, Laird, Richardson, Schlesinger) reported strategic force levels publicly in the 1960s and 1970s....

More on the WIPO Development Agenda and A2K treaty

Karsten Gerloff, Access to Knowledge in a Network Society, a Master's thesis in the Department of Language & Communication Studies / Cultural Informatics at Lüneberg University, August 3, 2006. Excerpt:
Chapter 3 starts on p. 23 by explaining the nature of knowledge as a public good in the economic sense of the term. It then proceeds to outline two basic modes of the regulation of knowledge: intellectual monopoly powers and commons-based approaches. The former mode is based on exclusion, the latter on access. The description of the knowledge commons draws heavily on the concepts of the law scholars Yochai Benkler, Peter Drahos and James Boyle, all of which have contributed to a better understanding of immaterial commons and the way knowledge is produced in such an environment. A third section lays out some aspects of the relation between intellectual monopolies and economic development....

[Chapters 5 and 6] analyse the discussion about a development agenda for WIPO. To remedy a number of perceived fundamental shortcomings of that organisation, Brazil and Argentina in 2004 proposed a number of measures to thoroughly reform it. They want WIPO to better take into account the interests of developing countries and the public. The proposal calls for a more critical and balanced approach to IMPs [intellectual monopoly powers], taking into account not only the benefits, but also the costs of monopoly protection. This Development Agenda Proposal started a heated debate, which is currently still in progress....

Casting a look beyond the horizon, chapter 7 (p. 97) ponders a possible remedy to some of these problems. A “Treaty on Access to Knowledge” is not only mentioned in the Development Agenda Proposal. It is also a rallying point for a considerable number of civil society organisations. This chapter will analyse some of the structural difficulties posed by this project. It will also present a first sketch of how such a treaty may work.

How OA archiving supports Australia's research quallity exercise

David Groenewegen, Practical Experiences with Research Quality Exercises. A slide presentation (at DAG ITWG, August 18, 2006) on OA archiving in support of Australia's research quality exercise.

Extending e-Science to the arts and humanities

JISC and two of the UK Research Councils --the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-- are extending the UK's e-Science program to the arts and humanities. From today's call for grant proposals:
Grants will be awarded up to a total value of £2m, plus up to six 4-year postgraduate studentships.

This is the main part of a joint initiative of the three funders which extends the national e-Science programme to arts and humanities research. A scoping survey, nine workshops and demonstrators, and an Arts and Humanities e-Science Support Centre have already been funded.

e-Science stands for a specific set of advanced technologies for collaboration and sharing resources across the Internet: so-called grid technologies, and technologies integrated with them, for instance for authentication, data-mining and visualization.

'This is an important new initiative by the three key players in the field,' says David Robey, Director of the AHRC's ICT Programme. 'e-Science has already had a transforming impact on U.K. science, technology, and medicine. It is increasingly important for the social sciences, and its impact on the arts and humanities is potentially just as great.'

For further information please go to: e-Science call.

The other kind of science embargo

In a discussion about open access, an "embargo" is the time after an article is published in a subscription-based journal when online access is limited to subscribers.  Some non-OA journals never provide OA to their back issues, no matter how old, but others open up access after a "moving wall" of six months to three years.

In a discussion about science journalism, however, an "embargo" is the time after a publisher or researcher issues a press release when journalists are expected to keep the news to themselves.  In today's Inside Higher Ed, Vincent Kiernan has an extensive argument against embargoes in the second sense that occasionally touches on OA issues.  Part of his argument is that new online forms of digital communication are undermining the embargo system.  Excerpt:

[The embargo system] clearly does not enjoy total support in academe. Some scholarly societies — such as the American Geophysical Union and others — see no need for an embargo or believe that it does not operate in the public interest. Individual scholars also criticize the embargo arrangement. Some characterize it as a type of collusion that interferes with the stated purpose of scholarly communication. In the words of one science librarian: “Science is supposed to progress through rapid communication of results among scientists, but the embargo system is a barrier to this free exchange of information....”

The Internet will also weaken the embargo because it is transforming the process of scientific communication itself. Most traditional journals now offer online access to their articles, with the articles often posted long before the printed journal arrives in a scholar’s mailbox. Some journals have gone a step further, by publishing some or all of their articles online before they are published in print. The New England Journal of Medicine, for example, has posted on its Web site certain articles that, in the opinion of its editors, were in the public interest for rapid dissemination. Although the New England journal generally restricts online access to paid subscribers of the journal, anyone could read or download these “early release” articles. Science and Nature have also begun to post selected journal articles online, after they have completed peer review and editing but before they appear in print....

Scientists are also using the Web to archive and distribute preprints of their papers. With the advent of the Web, scholarly societies and even individual scholars have created databases on which authors can deposit electronic copies of their papers. Few journalists use the Web sites to plumb for news.  One who does is Tom Siegfried, science editor of The Dallas Morning News. “There’s plenty of stuff to report out there before they appear in journals,” he says. Every night, he says, he checks physics preprint servers, because the latest research is usually reported there first. “In physics nowadays the journals have become increasingly irrelevant,” he contends, with their role largely limited to serving as the archival copies of important papers and for proving records for tenure....

Even aside from these new forms of online scholarly communication, the Internet weakens the embargo system by providing new routes for embargoed information to leak into the public sphere....

The embargo system should be replaced with full and open disclosure of research results as soon as they are ready for public consumption, which generally would mean as soon as peer review is complete. Once a scholarly paper has been accepted by a journal, scientists and their institutions should be free to tell the world about it, and journalists should be free to report on it if they deem it newsworthy....It is time for science and medical journalists to break out of their dependence on journals as a source of science news, and it is time for scholarly societies to stop trying to shape the flow of news in a way that suits their own political ends.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

OA and commons projects in Africa

Frederick Noronha, 101 ideas on how to share knowledge... from Africa, DailyIndia, August 20, 2006. Excerpt:

An initiative called the Commons-sense Project in Africa looks at examples of how alternative approaches to copyrights and patents can help that continent meet its needs to access information and knowledge.

The Link Centre at Johannesburg's Wits University worked with the Commons-sense Project and recently published 'The African Digital Commons: A Participant's Guide', which suggests that knowledge-sharing has more relevance to cash-strapped, resource-poor regions of the planet.  Co-authored by Heather and Chris Armstrong, the 78-page book lists a wide range of existing African projects.

It attempts to 'map' a range of projects that build a 'digital information commons' - the sharing of online information in a way that allows traditional passive 'users' of the media to become active participants....

[The report] adds that there are also significant moves 'by the handful of traditional publishers to set up barriers that threaten the potential of the digital realm to level the playing field and create a truly universal medium for creative expression and technological transfer'.

Comment. This report deserves attention, but it's not new. It's dated 2005 and was released in January 2006. I blogged it on January 20.

Open research on open access

Beth Ritter-Guth, Crazy Nerd, Proftitutes, August 19, 2006. Excerpt:
...Since I am doing my semester project on the rhetoric of Open Access and Open Source Scholarship, I decided to work completely in the open on a wiki [see the working notes]. In a sense, this is like taking a shower in public. All of my everything is out there. This is a completely new way to do research for me (a HUGE fan of colored notecards, snappy highlighters, and gaggles of paper products). So, I decided to blog about it, also. But, I went with a blog over at Easy Journal. I want to compare them to Blogger.

PS: Good luck, Beth.

Harnad jeremiad

Stevan Harnad, Open access jeremiads, archivangelism and self-archiving mandates, Open Access Archivangelism, August 20, 2006. Excerpt:

Porter, George (2006) Let's Get it Started! Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship 47.  
"...Stevan Harnad is into the second decade of his jeremiad on the subject of self-archiving. A number of platforms have been created to support institutional repositories [IRs]... If librarians and academicians agree on the desirability of institutional repositories, and software platforms and services are available to make repositories technically feasible, one is left to ponder a few questions. Why are there so few institutional repositories up and running? Why are the existing institutional repositories generally not well filled with the intellectual output of their respective institutions?..."

< jeremiad > 
      Yes, jeremiads for self-archiving are not enough. 
      Yes, creating IR software is not enough. 
      Yes, creating IRs is not enough. 
      Yes, library activism is not enough. (See Book of Ezekiel.)
      Not even providing the evidence on how self-archiving enhances research impact is enough: 
      Only (institutional and funder) self-archiving mandates are (necessary and) sufficient to set self-archiving inexorably on the path to 100% OA (yet that's precisely what George Porter fails even to mention!). (See Book of Ruth.)
      Nor are jeremiads to mandate self-archiving enough to generate self-archiving mandates either: 
      Only the empirical example of those institutions and funders that already mandate self-archiving -- and have thus demonstrated the success of mandated self-archiving -- will generate self-archiving mandates. And self-archiving. And 100% OA.
< /jeremiad >

Update. Stevan's comment has now been published as a letter to the editor in the Fall 2006 issue of Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship.