Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Profile of the Blue Obelisk

Peter Murray-Rust, The Blue Obelisk, A Scientist and the Web, September 8, 2006.  Excerpt:

Chemoinformatics and much chemical computation is seriously broken. The formats are 30 years old, the producers compete against each other, there are no validated data resources, programs and no communal agreed knowledge. Each producer sees themselves at the centre of the universe and caters only for their own requirements, leading to a forest of “stovepipes” in the antipattern jargon. There is no sign of positive reaction to the developments on the web. Neighbouring disciplines such as bioinformatics sigh meaningfully and then go ahead and create the Open chemical resources they need....

Chemical software used to be free. It wasn’t interoperable, but that is because machines weren’t. Even if you used a single language (FORTRAN) there was a lot of work to transport it....

This mess persists. But about 10 years ago a number of small initiatives took place to create Open alternatives - a real labour of love because theye were generally not innovating, but playing catchup. They weren’t taken seriously. For the most part they still aren’t. But it’s changing. There is now a critical mass of developers in mainstream chemoinformatics - not enormous, but sufficient to create a usable, useful system. That is growing rapidly....

We discover each other by cyber-methods - mailing lists, IRCs, etc. The best known of the IRCs is freenode cdk. So people become cyberfriends. Before the ACS meeting in san Diego 2 years ago we decided to meet in Horton Plaza - by the Blue Obelisk. Amusingly there are two so we nearly didn’t manage it. But we did, and the name stuck. I wrote a short summary of our communal aims and aspirations and it’s taken off from there. We’re meeting again in San Francisco next week.

The Blue Obelisk now has its own mailing list and many members including me have blogs. You can find it all [here].

Universities: translate FRPAA support into campus OA policies

Stevan Harnad, 115 US university presidents and provosts endorse FRPAA self-archiving mandate proposal, Open Access Archivangelism, September 8, 2006.  Excerpt:  

More and more US university presidents and provosts are signing to support the proposed FRPAA self-archiving mandate. Let us hope that they will not now sit waiting for the Act to pass, but will also go on to sign a self-archiving mandate for each of their own respective universities -- and then register their policies in ROARMAP for other universities to emulate. (The Immediate-Deposit/Optional-Access [ID/OA] mandate is the optimal policy to adopt -- infinitely preferable to the "Optional Delayed Deposit" mandates that are currently being contemplated instead of giving the details deeper and more careful thought.) 

(UK vice-chancellors and pro-vice-chancellors should hasten to adopt ID/OA too, now that half the RCUK research councils and the Wellcome Trust have already mandated self-archiving! The European Commission is next...)

Declaration of Riyadh for Free Access to Scientific and Technical Information

On September 7, the participants in the Second Gulf-Maghreb Scientific Congress (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, February 25-26, 2006) issued the Declaration of Riyadh for Free Access to Scientific and Technical Information. So far the text is available in Arabic and French. Here's Google's English translation of the French edition (FWIW). (Thanks to the INIST Libre Accès blog.)

PS: This is the first Arabic declaration in support of OA and I'd love to know more about it. I don't trust my English versions of the conference name or declaration title. I've found an article that may --or may not-- be about the same event. Using the French text and the English article as clues, I still can't find a link to the conference web site (if it has a web site). If any readers can help with these, with a good English translation of the declaration, or with background on the sponsoring organizations, I'd appreciate it. Thanks. --More later, I hope.

Another provost for FRPAA and OA

Reed Way Dasenbrock, Provost of the University of New Mexico, has added his signature to the SPARC list of U.S. university presidents and provosts endorsing open access to publicly-funded research and the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA).

Friday, September 08, 2006

Collaborating to support e-presses and IRs in Australia

Paul Mercieca, “Integration and collaboration” within recently established Australian scholarly publishing initiatives, OCLC Systems & Services, 22, 3 (2006) pp. 149-154. Only the abstract is free online, at least so far. Excerpt:
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to highlight how application integration and project collaboration is being used to support the development of newly established university electronic presses and institutional repositories.

Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents a summary of a number of projects that have been established within the Australian university environment. These projects are used to illustrate models of collaboration that can be used to assist the establishment of small or new scholarly publishing projects.

Findings – Suggests that in instances where universities are exploring new models for dissemination of their scholarship, collaboration between institutional projects may assist in the ongoing development of content and in the provision of access to this content....

Questioning the OA impact advantage

Henk F. Moed, New developments in citation analysis and research evaluation, Information Services and Use 26, 2 (2006) pp. 135-137.  (Thanks to Wouter Gerritsma.)

The core of this contribution presents preliminary results from a study examining the effect of “open access” upon citation impact and visibility. This contribution presents the main lines of the research and preliminary findings. Detailed findings from all studies will be published in separate, future research articles....

Following the work by Kurtz et al. and Davis and Fromerth, three effects were distinguished. The first is the genuine Open Access Effect, in the sense that the archive increases access to research papers. The second is termed the Early View Effect: articles appear earlier in the archive than they do in the publisher archive. Finally there is a Self-Selection or Quality Bias Effect. Better authors use the archive, or authors deposit their better papers in the archive. Following Harnad and Brody, the average citation impact of WoS papers deposited in ArXiv was compared to that of articles not deposited in that archive, by calculating an ArXiv Impact Differential.

A preliminary analysis related to a set of 22 WoS journals, in which Physical Review B contributes by far the largest number of papers deposited in ArXiv. Large differences in the ArXiv Impact Differential were found across journals. Moreover, the analysis provided evidence of strong Self-Selection and Early View Effects. Correcting for these effects, the remaining ArXiv Impact Differential may be one or even two orders of magnitude (i.e. factors of 10) lower than the Impact Differentials reported by Harnad and Brody, depending upon journal, citation type and time window, and type of statistic calculated. Whether the remaining ArXiv Impact Differential reflects an open access effect or still a Self-Selection Effect, – the tendency that authors deposit their better papers in ArXiv –, is still an open question....

More notes on the OA session at ESOF 2006

Eberhard Hilf has blogged some notes (in German) on the OA session (Open Access - threat or blessing?) at the Euroscience Open Forum 2006 (Munich, July 15-19, 2006).

Update. Here's a page in English that Hilf has made of the same session, including links to each of the presentations.

CSE endorses ICMJE principles on OA to drug trial data

The Council of Science Editors has endorsed the principles on clinical drug trial data promulgated by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). Unfortunately, the article saying so, in the July/Augusgt issue of Science Editor, is only accessible to subscribers, at least so far.

The ICMJE principles essentially say that journal editors should refuse to publish articles on new drugs unless the underlying clinical trial data are on deposit in an OA database independent of the drug manufacturer.

Recognizing and removing the full range of access barriers

Shawn Mathur and four co-authors, Open access and beyond, Molecular Cancer, September 6, 2006.  Excerpt:

Abstract:   Uncensored exchange of scientific results hastens progress. Open Access does not stop at the removal of price and permission barriers; still, censorship and reading disabilities, to name a few, hamper access to information. Here, we invite the scientific community and the public to discuss new methods to distribute, store and manage literature in order to achieve unfettered access to literature.

Encouraging society publishers to experiment with OA

John Willinsky, Why Open Access to Research and Scholarship? Journal of Neuroscience, September 6, 2006.  Not even an abstract is free online, at least so far.

Update. This article is now OA (at the same URL). Apparently it should have been OA from the start but was mistakenly left behind the password wall. Excerpt:

The Internet has changed how we conduct and share research, primarily by increasing the global reach of scholarly communication. With scholarly journals, this possibility of expanding the circulation of knowledge has led to an "open access" movement that is making an increasing number of published, peer-reviewed articles free to read on-line. Authors, editors, publishers, and librarians are exploring new ways of using the Internet to make more of their research available in this way. The Society for Neuroscience provides an excellent example. It has recently increased the level of open access to The Journal of Neuroscience by making back issues, once they are 6 months old, freely accessible to on-line readers. The current president of the Society for Neuroscience, Stephen Heineman, explained that the move to increase access made sense, not only in light of National Institutes of Health and patient advocacy group initiatives, but because "open access is also consistent with the mission of the Society to promote research and to educate the public" (Heineman, 2006), and to that end, the Society is a signatory to the Washington D.C. Principles for Free Access to Science....

The question that scholarly societies and publishers are asking is that even if no one disputes the public good represented by the greater circulation of this knowledge, how can a journal be expected to offer free access to its content and remain financially viable? More than that, why would a scholarly society put subscription revenues at risk to further increase free access to its content? ...

To begin with the simplest of points, made across a growing number of studies, open access leads to a work being cited more often and more quickly (Hitchcock, 2006)....

The most important reason for pursuing open access comes down to first principles. With its proven ability to increase the circulation of research (meaning that more researchers are turning a critical and appreciative eye to this work), open access strengthens the scientific claims of articles and overall quality of the research literature. Open access to research literature may prove to be the most important scientific gain afforded by the Internet....

Yet, open access is also part of a larger set of worries for the executive directors of scholarly associations. Many of them are witnessing the slow attrition of journal subscriptions among institutions, as libraries face tough choices between the big publishers' bundled titles and the smaller society titles. At the same time, individuals are seeing less value in subscribing to titles that the library delivers to their laptops. How, then, are societies to serve member-authors, whose primary interest is in increasing their readership (rather than seeing it dwindle) and realizing the full benefit of their contributions to the public good? ...

[T]Internet is already leading, much as the printing press did centuries ago, to a greater circulation of this work. How much greater that circulation will be, and to whose benefit, are the questions that we should all be asking. The answer will depend, in part, on the leadership and vision of scholarly societies such as this one, as well as the actions of its members (when it comes to self- archiving their published work). At the very least, this is a time to experiment (the very thing we do so well, after all) with new ways and models of scholarly publishing....

Also see Gary Westbrook's editorial in the same issue, introducing the journal's series of OA articles on OA, of which Willinsky's is the first. Excerpt:

Certainly there are legitimate reasons why government-funded research should be available to those who paid for it, but the reality, at least for the Journal of Neuroscience is that 96% of the articles published since 1981 are already freely available to anyone with Internet access. Only the 600 papers published in the last 6 months are under access control, and those are freely available to each of the >35,000 members of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) as a benefit of membership, as well as at more than 1000 libraries across the world. A recent survey of the membership indicated strong support for the concept of open access, but an unwillingness to pay the ~$3000 cost of each article published in the Journal, perhaps not a surprise in this year of uncertain grant funding.

A new kind of hybrid OA journal

Donald R. Ort, RT-Plant Physiology: Full Open Access Publishing at No Charge to ASPB Members, Plant Physiology, September 2006.  Excerpt:

Beginning with the January 2007 issue, all papers in Plant Physiology corresponded by ASPB [American Society of Plant Biology] members will be published with full Open Access. This means that anyone with an Internet connection anywhere in the world will have instant full access to your paper as soon as it is published, i.e. Real-Time Plant Physiology. This includes full access to the publish-ahead-of-print version (Plant Physiology Preview) as well as to the final, fully edited version, full access to supplemental data, and full access to all the advanced linking and tracking tools. Since more than 50% of the papers currently published in Plant Physiology are corresponded by ASPB members, more than half of the papers in the January 2007 issue will be fully Open Access. We anticipate that the proportion of Open Access papers will increase as submitting authors join ASPB to become eligible for this new member benefit....

Why should you be concerned whether or not your article is published with Open Access? In addition to helping fulfill the altruistic academic aspiration of making new knowledge as widely available as possible, there are strong reasons to believe that Open Access drives higher impact and citation by accelerating recognition and dissemination of research findings. A recent longitudinal bibliometric analysis of Open Access vs. non–Open Access papers published over a 6-month period in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences supports this premise (Eysenbach, 2006). Even in a journal widely available in research libraries and one that publicly releases its full content after 6 months, Open Access articles were found to be twice as likely to be cited in the first 4 to 10 months compared to non–Open Access articles....

Plant Physiology and The Plant Cell have for the past 10 months offered a similar author fee–based Open Access option. Since we introduced this option in Plant Physiology with the December 2005 issue, about 10% of the articles published in our journal have been Open Access. These articles, on average, have been accessed about 10% more often and downloaded approximately 20% more often than the non–Open Access articles published in the same volumes. It is somewhat puzzling why this so. While there is a cohort of readers that do not have subscription access and thus must wait until Plant Physiology releases content 12 months after publication, I believe a stronger factor is the ease with which Open Access papers can be directly viewed from various sorts of Web searches. Although it is too early for citation data on Plant Physiology Open Access papers to be meaningful, we believe that this early recognition will translate into an increase in article citations and impact as was seen for the 15% of articles in PNAS with that journal's author fee–based Open Access. Since more than 50% of the papers published in Plant Physiology during 2007 and beyond will be Open Access, I am a strong believer that the journal will grow in impact and stature as a result.

ASPB President Mike Thomashow, in a recent article in the ASPB News, laid out the financial risks for the Society that are associated with Open Access. While Plant Physiology's membership-based Open Access model mitigates those risks, I nevertheless believe that the plant biology community will be very grateful to ASPB for signing on to this bold experiment: RT-Plant Physiology.

Comments. Kudos to Plant Physiology (PP) and the APSB for this innovation. 

  1. Basically, PP is becoming a new kind of hybrid OA journal.  What's new here is that authors needn't pay an article-specific fee to select the OA option.  They only have to belong to the ASPB.  For authors who are already members or who would have joined anyway, this is essentially a no-fee model. For all ASPB members, regardless of their reasons for joining, this is a one-fee, many-article model.
  2. If it's true that 50% of PP's articles in the January 2007 issue will be OA, then its rate of author uptake will significantly surpass the average for other hybrid OA journals.
  3. Another virtue of the PP hybrid model is that it uses society membership dues to support the journal (so that some of its articles can be OA).  By contrast, other society publishers use subscription fees on their journals (so that none of their articles are OA) to support the society.  I hope other societies will notice and try out this elegant model.
  4. Finally, notice that PP recognizes that OA benefits journals, not just authors and readers.   

Yale adds open video to its open courseware project

Thomas Kaplan, Selected lectures go online, Yale Daily News, September 8, 2006.  Excerpt:

Seven undergraduate lecture courses will be available online as streaming videos starting next fall, the first step in a pilot program to make select Yale classes accessible to the general public worldwide.

The initiative — dubbed the Open Educational Resources Video Lecture Project — will be funded by a $775,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, for which Yale President Richard Levin serves as a director. Coordinating the program is Diana Kleiner, a professor of art history and classics....

“It’s part of thinking more globally about the University and its reach beyond the walls of Yale by reaching out to other educators, other students — college students, high school students — and especially people in developing countries,” Kleiner said....

[T]he University’s program takes inspiration from the OpenCourseWare program at MIT....But while the MIT program and others freely provide syllabi, lesson plans, some readings, and assignments, the Yale initiative will also include videos of lectures, currently rare in existing online programs....

While the new initiative is not aimed at Yale students, with recordings available on-demand, a student could conceivably sleep through a class and then watch it online later. But if that is the case, Smith said, then the program may not be worth it....

Early discussions of open science

Richard Akerman is trying to track down some of the earliest discussions of open science. He has about a dozen so far and welcomes other references.

PS: A quick search of the OAN archives turns up 25 files, each of which is a week's worth of blogging with at least one reference and perhaps many more.

The broken cycle of information in chemistry

Peter Murray-Rust, Open Source, Open Data and the science commons, A Scientist and the Web, September 7, 2006.  Excerpt:

In this post I content that the chemical information cycle is broken - to the detriment of the chemical and general commons. I’ll explain what that means.

Robert Terry, Wellcome Trust, is widely know for his advocacy of Open Access....Essentially his argument is that funders support scientists to do research. The results of this work are then given (i.e. copyright assigned) to publishers who get peer-review donated by the scientific community and then restrict the dissemination to readers who are able and prepared to pay. The wealth flow (which include both money, informatics goods, and services) is a net drain FROM the funders TO the shareholders of the publishers....

[By contrast, under OA] the cycle is complete: funders support science; science is published into the commons; the commons can be seen by the funders who can demonstrate the value of their contribution; and the new goods inspire the next generation of science.

Can we apply the same sort of logic to software and data in science? Again we need a cycle or the producers end up subsidizing other parts of the chain. In bioscience this can work. Although there is a considerable problem in any science in supporting data and technology there is direct funding for databases and software....The funders support science with a partial provision for the development of tools to support it. They require that the tools and the data are made available to the community. In this way the cycles are closed and there is a flow of goods back to the commons....

In contrast the flow in chemistry is broken. I have omitted the funders from the diagram but there [are] very few projects where major software or data has been mandated as Open by the funders. I’d be delighted to have examples. In practice almost all software is commercial and unresponsive to the needs of the science commons. The major market for both software and data is the pharmaceutical industry which pays billions to major information suppliers. This biases the flow so that only crumbs return to the commons. It’s actually worse than zero because if a commercial offering exists there is no motivation to build one in the Commons. So innovation is stifled....

Attacking plagiarism with cultural norms, not copyright law

David Bollier, French Chefs and the Power of Social Norms, On the commons, September 7, 2006. Excerpt:
A French chef whose restaurant is given an extra “star” in the famed Michelin Guide (on a scale of 1 to 5) can expect a flurry of new patrons, prestige and profits in the coming year. Similarly, restaurants that “lose” a star can see sales drop as much as 50%. Since there is so much money riding on the quality of food served in top French restaurants, why aren’t the recipes and food preparation techniques used by great French chefs protected by copyrights, patents or trade secret law?  The answer, as explored in a fascinating paper by Emmanuelle Fauchart and Eric von Hippel, is that the social norms of the culinary professionals are a more effective tool for protecting the “proprietary” interests of top-flight chefs....Any chef who violates these norms is stigmatized or even ostracized by the community....

Comment. What's the OA connection?  There are several but let me pick out just one.  The French chef solution is remarkably similar to the one that has evolved in the world of scholarship.  In principle, many kinds of plagiarism could be pursued as copyright infringement.  In practice, however, we punish them as violations of academic norms, not as violations of law.  This is reflected in a little-known sentence of the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing:

Community standards, rather than copyright law, will continue to provide the mechanism for enforcement of proper attribution and responsible use of the published work, as they do now.

OA is compatible with copyright as long as the copyright-holder consents to OA.  But publishers who claim they need to hold copyrights in order to prevent or punish plagiarism are blowing smoke.  In the rare case when a copyright is needed to pursue a plagiarist, it doesn't matter whether the author or the publisher is the copyright-holder.  And in the vast majority of cases, no copyright will be needed.  We act like French chefs, not like lawyers.

Improving access for the general public, short of OA

Access for Members of the Public to Digital Content held in University and College Libraries, Research Information Network, August 2006. A "Report on Current Practice and Recommendations for the Future" by "Members of the Expert Group on Public Access to Digital Content in Academic Libraries".  Excerpt:

This paper reports on the current position with regard to the provision of access for members of the public to digital content in libraries in the higher education (HE) sector in the UK. It has been prepared by an expert group assembled by the Research Information Network (RIN) and provides advice to the sector and to its funding agencies on issues that need to be addressed if public access is to be enhanced.

The Government has acknowledged the significance of providing access to members of the public to scientific journals and other materials held in academic libraries, in pursuit of its aims of enhancing public understanding of science, of lifelong learning, and widening participation in higher education....

We present seven recommendations - addressed to Government, to the Higher Education Funding Bodies, to the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), to Eduserv Chest, to the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL), to the Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association (UCISA), and to university and college libraries – to address these issues....

Comment. All seven recommendations will increase access to TA research for walk-in patrons, online patrons, lay readers, and independent scholars. But one recommendation is missing:  provide open access to a larger portion of the research literature.  The UK is already working toward OA on many fronts, of course.  But every new argument, ally, and connection helps the cause, just as every failure to recognize how OA can solve a problem is a setback for OA and for the prospects of solving the problem.  We can talk at length about negotiating permissions to share keys for locked doors, but at some point we should also talk about leaving the doors open. 

RSS feed for APS's free-access articles

The APS has just added an RSS feed for the articles in its Free To Read program.

The launch of Connecting-Africa

Jennifer De Beer sends this email report from the ASC-CODESRIA conference, Bridging the North-South Divide in Scholarly Communication on Africa. Threats and Opportunities in the Digital era (Leiden, September 6-8, 2006):

It is a get-together of mostly African Studies scholars/researchers, and for sure the theme of Open Access i.a. has been thrashed around in these past couple of days. And I am most happy to report on the connecting-africa project (officially launched yesterday), which proves what can be done when you have, at base, an already-established network of IRs (institutional repositories). For, what the initiative is, is an aggregator research (material) locator service using OAI-PMH to harvest only African Studies-related research from IR's the world over. The list of current data providers is available here, and what's also of interest are not only the indications of the quantity-subset of records being harvested in the aggregate-total number of records in disparate institutional archives, but also the figure indicating the number of African Studies experts for the institutions listed. Now, it will be obvious that the statistical data is more refined with regard to Dutch data providers (I imagine as a consequence of the, at-base, data collection effort of the DARE network), but the aim with the Connecting-Africa project is to expand the list of data providers (and so, in turn, accessible research output) to all such IRs globally which have material of interest to African Studies scholars. Already, and I am proud to see, that the IR at Rhodes University in South Africa, is one of the data providers in the network. Shows what can be done when there is enough interest, enthusiasm, and action!! Well done to the team at the African Studies Centre here in Leiden!

Here's some more detail from the about page at Connecting-Africa:

Connecting-Africa is a service that provides access to African research information and materials produced in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

The service provides:  [1] details of researchers on Africa affiliated to Dutch universities and research institutes; [2] details of organizational units of Dutch universities and research institutes where research on Africa is being undertaken; [3] titles of published research on Africa in the Netherlands; [4] digital resources on Africa (full-text of publications, images and sound) in about 40 international university repositories.  There is no charge for using the service or for contributing to it....

Connecting-Africa is the result of a pilot project started in September 2003 by the African Studies Centre in Leiden (ASC). The Distributed Africana Repositories Community (DARC) project aims to make all Africanist research material and information in the Netherlands accessible through a community portal on the Internet.

By providing federated access to university repositories and other resources, including library catalogues and publishers’ services, and by gathering knowledge and expertise that are both physically and electronically scattered across universities and research centres, it is hoped to offer fertile ground for a more effective knowledge exchange....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Google and Michigan block access outside U.S.

Klaus Graf has pointed out that Google Book Search and the University of Michigan's MBooks (based on Google scans) both block access to users outside the US.

His test case is Emanuel Geibel's Gedichte, published in Stuttgart in 1873. (Geibel died in 1884.) As Klaus observes, the book is in the public domain in every country on Earth and US users have free online access to the full text.

Comment. When Klaus told me this by email a few days ago, I asked some friends outside the US to click on the link and tell me whether they got a book or an error message. So far, they report no access from Australia, Canada, England, Finland, France, India, Nigeria, and Paraguay. How many report access? None. (Thanks to many friends in many places for rapid turn-around on this informal survey.)

When denying access to non-US users, Google gives this error message:

Page images and the full text of this item are *not available* at this time due to *copyright restrictions*. (Why?) However, you may search within the text of this item to determine the frequency and location of specific words and phrases.

I join Klaus in calling on Google and Michigan either to restore access to non-US users or to explain what copyright problems bar access to this public-domain book.

Update (9/11/06). The book is not accessible in Nepal or South Africa either.

OA in the war against poverty

Gavin Yamey, What did you do in the war against poverty, granddad?  PLoS Medicine blog, September 6, 2006.  Excerpt:

Is it folly to believe that a medical or scientific journal can have any measurable impact upon global poverty? I don’t think so, and nor does the Task Force on Science Journals, Poverty, and Human Development, of which I’m a member....

As you can imagine, I feel passionately that the most effective way that journals can help to lift people out of the extremes of poverty is to champion open access to the world’s treasury of medical, scientific, and technical knowledge. I’m not alone in my conviction --the United Nations, for example, has repeatedly championed open access as a development tool. If you’re unconvinced that open access has anything to do with human development, I urge you to read the UN Millennium Project report Innovation: applying knowledge in development. The lead author is Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard's John F Kennedy School of Government and another member of the PLoS Board of Directors. The report includes an extremely compelling description, with some fantastic case studies, of how developing countries are improving their capacity to harness scientific and technical knowledge to solve local problems themselves. But they can only do this if they have an adequate pool of public domain knowledge in the first place.

And this is where editors can step in. As the PLoS Medicine editors say in our editorial this month, expanding the amount of essential information placed in the public domain “would give developing countries the scientific and technical information needed to solve fundamental challenges, promote public health, manage the environment, and participate in international trade.” How can we not do it?

Using a subscription-based digital library to reach OA content

Mary Beth Schell, The use of free resources in a subscription-based digital library: a case study of the North Carolina AHEC Digital Library, Biomedical Digital Libraries, September 6, 2006.  From the provisional abstract:

Background - The North Carolina (NC) Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) Digital Library (ADL) is a web portal designed to meet the information needs of health professionals across the state by pulling together a set of resources from numerous different sources and linking a pool of users to only the resources for which they have eligibility. Although the ADL was designed with the primary purpose of linking health care professionals to a set of licensed resources, the ADL also contains a significant number of links to free resources. These resources are available to any ADL member logging into their ADL account and to guest visitors to the ADL. While there are regular assessments of the subscription resources in the ADL as to utility and frequency of use, up until this point there has been no systematic analysis of the use of the overall set of free resources. It was decided to undertake an examination of the usage of ADL free resources over a 6-month period to analyze the utility of these resources to both ADL members and guests....

Results - The vast majority of resource use through the ADL is to licensed resources. There are 2056 free resource URLs in the ADL, to which 1351 were linked out, meaning there was at least one link out to 65% of the free resources. The single most popular free resource was PubMed with 4803 link outs or nearly 20% of the total link outs to free resources. The breakdown of free resource use by different use groups indicates that the highest percentage of use of free resources was by guests followed by institutional affiliates and AHEC Faculty/Staff. The next 3 highest user groups accessing free resources are: paid members, preceptors, and residents.

Conclusions - The only free resource capturing a significant number of link outs is the free link to PubMed. This reflects the importance placed on traditional medical literature searching by the ADL clinical user base. Institutional affiliates access free resources through the ADL with the second highest frequency of all the user groups. Finally, in analyzing use of free resources, it is important to note the overall limitations of this survey. While link outs are excellent indicators of frequency of use they do not provide any information about the ultimate usefulness of the resource being accessed. Further studies would need to examine not only the quantitative use of resources, but also their qualitative importance to the user.

115 presidents and provosts endorse FRPAA

The SPARC list of presidents and provosts who have publicly endorsed FRPAA now includes the 53 liberal arts college presidents who signed the September 5 Oberlin Group letter. The total is now a very impressive 115.

New newsletter on scholarly communication

The University of Iowa Libraries have launched Transitions, a newsletter on scholarly communication. The September issue is now online, focuses on OA, and quotes extensively from OAN and SOAF.

OA to Indiana history

IU Digital Library Program leads projects to expand access to Indiana history, September 7, 2006.  An announcement from IU.  Excerpt:
The Indiana University Digital Library Program will advance two projects to make the state's history broadly available to Hoosiers, thanks to grants recently announced by the Indiana State Library. The projects — one to digitize a 100-year run of a popular history journal, and the other to digitize historic correspondence from the utopian community of New Harmony — leverage IU's strengths to benefit the state.

"The benefits are twofold," says Patricia Steele, Ruth Lilly Interim Dean of University Libraries. "Citizens across the state will have the opportunity to gain a better understanding of their own history, and we at the IU Libraries advance our goal of providing free and open access to the information researchers need."

Both projects are expected to be online in summer 2007....

New OA journal on teaching and learning

The International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching & Learning is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by Georgia Southern University. The first issue will appear in January 2007.

Bringing eScience to chemistry

Peter Murray-Rust, Open Data, Open Science, Closed DataA Scientist and the Web, September 7, 2006. Excerpt:

By eChemistry I mean more than simply compiling in-house data and running programs - I mean semantically enriched chemistry that machines can help to process....The single fundamental requirement in eScience is that there is shared data. Ideally this should be semantic, and that’s a challenge, but at least it should be there and shared. In chemistry there is virtually none. What there is has almost all come from bioscience (e.g. NCI and PubChem) and some of the US government agencies. However mainstream chemistry is totally uninterested in sharing chemical data and when it needs it expects to have to pay private sector providers. As a result innovation in eChemistry and chemoinformatics is stifled....

This is exemplified by a question from JohnIrwin on the Indian CHMINF-L list....John has compiled a wonderful list of compounds (ZINC) from a wide variety of sources such as chemical suppliers and made it available to PubChem - as a result of this and similar efforts PubChem has ca 5 million compounds (information, not physical samples). He quite reasonably asks whether we can do the same for chemical reactions.  Read on…

Version 1.0 of the open knowledge definition

The Open Knowledge Foundation has released version 1.0 of the open knowledge definition.  This is not an attempt to redefine open access but to define a related concept.  Excerpt:

Access.  The work shall be available as a whole and at no more than a reasonable reproduction cost, preferably downloading via the Internet without charge. The work must also be available in a convenient and modifiable form.

The other 10 provisions cover redistribution, reuse, technological restrictions, attribution, integrity, discrimination, and some specific licensing issues.

Two presentations on OA

Oliver Obst has blogged some notes (in German) on two presentations on open access given on Wednesday at InetBib 2006 (Münster, September 6-8, 2006).

More on OA and the national interest

David Wiley, Open access threatens national security, Iterating Toward Openness, September 6, 2006. Excerpt:

One of the most amazing quotes I’ve seen in a while comes from Allan Adler, vice president for legal and government affairs of the Association of American Publishers, in an article about Open Access to Research.

[Mr. Adler] rejected the idea that taxpayer financed research should be open to the public, saying that it was in the national interest for it to be restricted to those who could pay subscription fees. “Remember — you’re talking about free online access to the world,” he said. “You are talking about making our competitive research available to foreign governments and corporations.”

There are just so many problems with this thinking that I don’t even know where to start. If the cost of making information available to the public who sponsored it is making it available to everyone on the planet, so be it. Let’s not use national security as an excuse to deprive the public of yet another right due them, let alone to further reinforce the problem of the rich getting richer.

And what are we afraid of, anyway? That our 5% of the population won’t be able to continue indefinitely in a lifestyle that consumes 25% of the planet’s resources? That someone else might improve their quality of life at the cost of our own?

Comments. When I blogged Adler's quote yesterday, I was inclined to let its absurdity speak for itself.   But I think David is right to take the time to show how dishonest it really is.  I'd add the following to what he has already said.

  1. We're talking about published research, not classified research that isn't published.
  2. Thank goodness our enemies can't afford to pay subscriptions or visit libraries.
  3. Thank goodness Americans have never benefited from scientific advances made by non-Americans.
  4. Thank goodness harming Americans has the side-effect of harming foreigners.  At least our sacrifice is not in vain.
  5. Thank goodness publishers are willing to collect subscription fees for this patriotic purpose.
  6. Thank goodness publishers are willing to shoulder the responsibility of controlling access to our research.   We realize that they didn't have to.  They didn't conduct this research, write it up, or fund it.

Publisher opens full line of full-text books for Google users

An announcement from the Google Book Search blog:

Recently, DIANE Publishing, which reprints a wide variety of government publications, made all of its titles in Google Book Search 100 percent viewable. While the Partner Program's default settings limit people to viewing 20 percent of any title, you're now free to read every page of every DIANE publication in the index. Explains Herman Baron, President of DIANE Publishing,

Our mission has always been to carefully select U.S. government reports and publish them to make it easier for readers to access this valuable information. Google Book Search provides a way for us to make these documents available to Google users worldwide. The free flow of government information to a democratic society is utmost in our mind....

Feel like browsing? Try an advanced search by publisher to check out the other government reports DIANE has made fully viewable online.

Librarians and OA

Dorothea Salo, Libraries and Open Access, Caveat Lector, September 7, 2006.  Excerpt:

Much is made of how librarians impede open access. I’ll surprise you: I agree with that assessment. I don’t agree with the usual complaints, however. It’s got nothing to do with metadata (though I agree that we over-obsess about it sometimes, and the evidence shows it isn’t where we need to put the bulk of our effort). It’s got nothing to do with preservation, which is an absolutely valid and necessary concern. It’s got nothing to do with peer-reviewed research versus everything else we can and do archive.

It’s ignorance. Just as with researchers, the biggest problem I see in libraries is that outside of some enlightened leaders and a scattering of peasants like me, librarians know next to nothing about open access. Worse, my sense (admittedly based on anecdotal evidence only) is that the ingrained librarian distrust of free-as-in-beer is actively hindering library use and promotion of open-access materials.

Serials Solutions offers an open-access module in its popular e-journal management software. Dozens of OA journals and other sources, added to library collections in a few keystrokes. It’s a very enlightened approach. I wonder how many libraries that subscribe to Serials Solutions turn up their noses at it?

I wonder how many repository-rats have to struggle to build a coalition around a repository inside their own library. Insofar as I have managed it, it’s been by force of personality rather than my colleagues’ intellectual investment in the concept. Several of my colleagues still stumble over their own tongues when they introduce me to faculty (which they are exceedingly good about) and try to describe what I do.

I wonder how many hear “But why would they just give that all away?” in tones of abject disbelief. (True story. I heard this with my own ears, from an honest-to-goodness librarian.) I wonder how many librarians at smaller, non-research-intensive institutions don’t think open access concerns them. I wonder how many are turned off by virulent anti-librarian sentiment in the open-access community --I’ve gotten fighting mad about that myself once or twice.

Much as I dislike survey research, I see a use for it here. We need to know how bad the ignorance problem is. We need to know if librarians are suppressing open-access materials, and if so, why. We need to know if they’re buying into publisher fear, uncertainty, and doubt....

Comment. I've always thought of librarians as strong allies of OA.  But I realize that this could be a sampling error:  the ones I know best are strong allies and I know many of them for precisely that reason.  We all have skewed samples of other groups, but for what it's worth here are two rough inductions from the samples I have:  the average librarian knows more about OA than the average researcher, but the average researcher is easier to excite about the idea in a five minute conversation. 

Nine answers from Springer Open Choice

Jan Velterop, the Open Access Director at Springer, has sent me the Springer Open Choice answers to my nine questions for hybrid journal programs.
  1. Does the journal let participating authors retain copyright? Yes.
  2. Does the journal use an OA-friendly license, like those from Creative Commons? Yes. Does it let authors do so? Yes.
  3. Does the journal automatically deposit participating articles in an OA repository independent of the publisher? Yes. If the OA repository in question accepts such articles, which is not always the case. Does it allow the author to do so? Yes.
  4. Does the journal waive fees in cases of economic hardship? In exceptional cases only. There is no blanket waiver.
  5. Does the journal promise to reduce the subscription price in proportion to author uptake? Yes.
  6. If authors have a prior obligation to their funding agency to provide OA to their peer-reviewed manuscript, does the journal let them comply without choosing the new OA option and paying the associated fee? See answer to question 7.
  7. If the journal previously allowed author self-archiving without an embargo, does it still allow it for authors who do not choose the new OA option? Yes.
  8. For participating authors, do the OA publication fees cover page and color charges or are the latter laid on top of the former? There are no page charges. The article processing charges do cover colour charges, for the online version. Additional colour charges do apply if the author wants colour in print, but the option is given to print in black and white at no extra charge, while the online version is in full colour.
  9. Is the fee high or low? As Peter already says, there is no right answer.

Thanks, Jan. If other publishers of hybrid journals would like to publicize their answers to these nine questions, I can offer this forum. If the answers are short, like Springer's, then I can blog them here. If they are long, I can post them to SOAF and blog an excerpt and link here.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Open-source software for digital libraries (and repositories)

Dion Hoe-Lian Goh and five co-authors, A checklist for evaluating open source digital library software, Online Information Review, 30, 4 (2006), pp. 360-379. Accessible only to subscribers, at least so far.  Abstract:

Purpose – Many open source software packages are available for organizations and individuals to create digital libraries (DLs). However, a simple to use instrument to evaluate these DL software packages does not exist. The objectives of the present work are to develop a checklist for DL evaluation and use this checklist on four DL software packages.

Design/methodology/approach – Features that characterized “good” open source DL software were determined from the literature. First identified were essential categories of features that DL software should possess. These categories were then decomposed into supporting features. From these, a checklist that covered all such features was developed. The checklist was then used to evaluate four popular open source DL software packages (CDSware, EPrints, Fedora, and Greenstone) for the purposes of assessing suitability for use in a DL project to be undertaken by the authors.

Findings – A checklist consisting of 12 categories of items was developed. Using this, Greenstone was found to be the best performer, followed by CDSware, Fedora and EPrints. Greenstone was the only software package that consistently fulfilled the majority of the criteria in many of the checklist categories. In contrast, EPrints was the worst performer due to its poor support for certain features deemed important in our checklist, and a total absence of functionality in other categories.

Originality/value – The present work attempts to develop a comprehensive checklist for assessing DLs. Its flexibility allows users to tailor it to accommodate new categories, items and weighting schemes to reflect the needs of different DL implementations.

Comment. There's something odd about the packages the authors chose to compare. Eprints is not general-purpose digital library software. It's more specialized for OA repositories. But if the authors thought it fit the category anyway, then why not also DSpace?

How the OA mandate came to ECS Southampton

Steve Hitchcock, Filling a repository: Caltech's low-hanging fruit, Eprints Insiders, September 6, 2006. Excerpt:  

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

As long as content generation remains an IR's biggest, most pressing and most elusive task, it helps to share experience about what has worked in different cases. Caltech's George Porter advises targetting the low-hanging fruit: "To get an institutional repository up and running, librarians need to go where the content is, preferably content which will entail little effort to clear rights and permissions for distribution."
This is fine as one strategy...

Stevan Harnad has already pointed out that this view misses the mandating approach entirely. Within a departmental or school-based context, another vital ingredient is to find a champion among senior staff, ideally the head, not just to deposit content but to rally staff and set the group's agenda around the repository: give people something to do with the repository. It's more important that such people are champions for the repository, and for the group, than necessarily for OA.

That's what happened in ECS Southampton. Yes, we have champions for OA too, but those who made things happen locally were the heads of school and departments, not noted for their OA advocacy. Their call was based around the use the repository to build group bibliographies and prepare group-based research assessment submissions. At that time the heads may have been taking a calculated risk, but these ideas are more widely understood now, so this should not be the case any more.

Go for the low-hanging fruit too, but top-down works best.

Two nuclear medicine journals provide delayed free access

The Society of Nuclear Medicine has decided to provide free online access to year-old back issues of its two leading journals, the Journal of Nuclear Medicine and the Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology. From yesterday's press release:
SNM announced today that its flagship Journal of Nuclear Medicine and the Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology have moved to an open access publishing model, providing free, full-text online articles 12 months after publication.

"With digital open access, users are free to read, download, copy, distribute and print articles--with proper acknowledgement and citation," said Heinrich R. Schelbert, JNM's editor in chief. "This action speeds the delivery of important developments and innovations that significantly impact disease recognition, staging and management, thus expanding its audience to include medical researchers, physicians, technologists, other health care providers, patients and their advocates, students and the global public," said Schelbert, professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the University of California at Los Angeles and the George V. Taplin professor at the university's David Geffen School of Medicine....

Comment. Full OA journals provide free online access immediately upon publication.

New book on digitization

Mark Jordan, Putting Content Online: A practical guide for libraries, Chandos Publishing, September 2006.  A new book on digitization.  It doesn't discuss OA but will be relevant to many OA projects.  Two of the chapters are OA from the author's site:  Chapter 6 on Search and Display and Chapter 8 on Project Management.

Profile of Cincinnati's Digital Press

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Digital University/Library Presses, Part 9: University of Cincinnati Digital Press, DigitalKoans, September 6, 2006.  Excerpt:

Established in 1995, the University of Cincinnati Digital Press is a service of the Digital Projects Department of the University of Cincinnati Libraries....

The press publishes both research publications and online publications....The press distributes its research publications on CD-ROM for a fee, and it utilizes the locally developed Windows-based CUrator software....With the exception of monographs (partial contents accessible), online publications are freely available. They are categorized as bibliographies, exhibits, monographs, and Web sites.

Firefox Scholar becomes Zotero

Do you remember the software from George Mason University with the working name Firefox Scholar?  It's been renamed Zotero and the public beta is expected to be released this fall.  From the site:  Zotero...

  • captures citation information you want from a web page automatically, without typing or cutting and pasting on your part, and saves this information directly into the correct fields (e.g., author, title, etc.) of your Zotero library
  • lets you store —beyond citations— PDFs, files, images, links, and whole web pages
  • allows you to easily take notes on the research materials you capture
  • makes it easy to organize your research materials in multiple ways, such as folders, saved searches (smart folders), and tags...
  • is free and open source...

Comment.  Zotero's ability to extract citation information from a web page could automate the collection of metadata and lower the already-low hurdle to self-archiving.  It will be very useful to have this power built in to a tool that scholars might already have running on their desktops, embedded in their browser --and even more useful to have it in an open-source tool that could be optimized for self-archiving and integrated with the open-source archiving packages like Eprints and DSpace. 

Hybrid OA journals don't change the case for mandated OA archiving

Stevan Harnad, The Geeks and the IrrationalOpen Access Archivangelism, September 3, 2006. Excerpt:

A promise: If it should turn out that the spontaneous author uptake rate for the "hybrid gold open access" option (i.e., journals that give authors a choice between either conventional subscription-based publication or paying to make their own article open access) significantly exceeds the spontaneous author uptake rate for "green open access" self-archiving (currently only about 15%, averaged across all fields, even though 94% of journals have given authors their green light for immediate OA self-archiving), then this weary archivangelist will retire to his tent, in defeat and dismay, at having wasted a decade and a half on trying to maximize the impact of human rationality, only to discover that the sole thing that had been missing all along -- as Thomas Walker had suggested in 1998, in the proposal that launched the American Scientist Open Access Forum -- was the option to purchase the extra visibility at a price!

My guess, though, is that researchers are no more likely to do, spontaneously, for a fee, what they would not do, spontaneously, for free....Most researchers will not bother to self-archive until and unless they are required to do so by their institutions and/or funders: Not for free, and even less likely for a fee!

Hence it is Immediate-Deposit & Optional-Access Self-Archiving Mandates (IDOA) by researchers' institutions and funders that will propel self-archiving rates from their current spontaneous 15% rut into unstoppable growth toward 100%....

(Only IF AND WHEN the urgent question should ever become (1) how to pay publication costs (subscriptions having been cancelled) rather than (2) how to end access-denial and impact-loss (as now), THEN the windfall savings from the subscription cancellations will be the rational source out of which to pay the publication costs. To pay for OA now, in advance, when all the money is all still tied up in subscriptions, when all costs are still being covered, and when catastrophic cancellations are only a hypothetical possibility -- well, you find your own preferred i-word for describing it...)

Three more provosts endorse FRPAA and OA

Three more provosts have added their signatures to the SPARC list of U.S. university presidents and provosts endorsing open access to publicly-funded research and the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA).
  • Tony Frank, Provost and Senior Vice President, Colorado State University
  • David McLaughlin, Provost, New York University
  • A. Edward Uprichard, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

More on the college presidents' endorsement of FRPAA

Scott Jaschik, Momentum for Open Access Research, Inside Higher Ed, September 6, 2006. Excerpt:

When the Federal Public Research Access Act was proposed this year, scholarly society after scholarly society came out against the legislation, which would require federal agencies to publish their findings, online and free, within six months of their publication elsewhere. The future of academic research was at stake, the societies said, and both their journals and the peer review system could collapse if the legislation passed.

It is increasingly hard, however, to say that those societies reflect the views of academe on the issue. In July, the provosts of 25 research universities came out in favor of the legislation, saying that the current system of research publishing leads to outrageously high journal costs that are harming libraries and making it impossible for people to follow research. Now the presidents of 53 liberal arts colleges — at the behest of their librarians — are issuing a joint letter backing the legislation. And while it is unlikely that the bill will pass this year, the new letter that was released Tuesday is part of a broader effort by open access supporters to place higher education in a new position when the debate is renewed next year.

Nancy S. Dye, president of Oberlin College, where the new letter was organized, said that her interest was in part — but only in part — financial. “All liberal arts colleges are finding it more and more difficult to purchase the materials we need,” she said. But Dye stressed that there is also “a philosophical view” that is spreading: “Knowledge is made to be shared.” And while that may sound idealistic, Dye said there is another “underlying view” that makes sense to her and other presidents. “If this research is being done with federal money, it would only seem right that the people who are paying taxes have access to the research findings.” ...

The letter from the liberal arts college presidents is straightforward. It says that their institutions can’t afford rising journal prices, that their faculties and students want more access to journals than the institutions can provide, and that liberal arts colleges play a key role in producing future Ph.D.’s, so their exposure to journals matters. Oberlin is among many liberal arts colleges with unusually high percentages of graduates who go on to earn doctorates....

Presidents signing the letter...were organized by the Oberlin Group, an organization of the libraries of liberal arts colleges....

Ray English, director of libraries at Oberlin, said that the current system is “fundamentally unstable,” adding that “I’ve been looking at these issues for more than a decade now, and it’s clear that there are problems of access to research that are such that we need transformational strategies.”

Diane Graves, university librarian at Trinity University, in Texas, another of the institutions backing the letter, agreed. “The current model is broken so it’s time for new models. Staying with the status quo is unsustainable.” ...

As for the scholarly societies, Graves said that she knew that they did valuable work, but questioned why that work needed to be subsidized by journals. “A lot of societies have relied on journals to fund other activities. But why should libraries at colleges — nonprofit entities within nonprofit entities — fund those activities? Shouldn’t members be funding those activities? We need to have this conversation.”

Barbara Allen, director of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which coordinated the [first] letter from university provosts, said she was thrilled to see the liberal arts college presidents joining the effort. “I think administrators are starting to feel emboldened to speak out and to draw their faculty into the conversations,” she said....

PS: Read the whole article. To focus on the college presidents' letter, I had to cut some good background on new ACS AuthorChoice program, announced yesterday, and some new and desperately bad arguments from the AAP against FRPAA.  (Allan Adler of the AAP "rejected the idea that taxpayer financed research should be open to the public, saying that it was in the national interest for it to be restricted to those who could pay subscription fees. 'Remember — you’re talking about free online access to the world,' he said. 'You are talking about making our competitive research available to foreign governments and corporations.'")

53 liberal arts college presidents endorse FRPAA

The Oberlin Group has released an Open letter in support of FRPAA signed by the presidents of 53 liberal arts colleges. Excerpt:

As liberal arts college presidents, we are writing to express our strong support for S.2695, the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006....

Liberal arts colleges are important components of our nation's scientific and scholarly productivity. Studies have shown that our institutions are highly effective in producing graduates who go on to obtain Ph.D. degrees in the sciences. Our faculty actively pursue scientific research, much of it with government funding, and often working in partnership with talented undergraduates who later become productive scientists. Unfortunately, access to research information paid for with tax dollars is severely limited at our insitutions --and indeed at most universities. Academic libraries simply cannot afford ready access to most of the research literature that their faculty and students need....

Given the scope of research literature that would become available online, it is clear that the adoption of the bill wouuld have significant benefits for the progress of science and the advancement of knowledge.

We are also supportive of [FRPAA] because it has been crafted in a way that provides ample protection for the system of peer review. It incorporates a six-month window, following publication in peer-reviewed journals, before manuscripts are required to be openly accessible on the Internet. This embargo period...safeguards the interests of scholarly societies and other publishers. In addition, the bill leaves control of the final published version of articles, which is generally used for citation purposes, in the hands of publishers.

Adoption of [FRPAA] will democratize access to research information funded by tax dollars. It will benefit education, research, and the general public. We urge the higher education community, American taxpayers, and members of Congress to support its passage into law.

The letter is signed by the presidents of Albion College, Amherst College, Augustana College (IL), Austin College , Barnard College, Bates College, Bowdoin College, Bryn Mawr College, Bucknell University, Carleton College, Clark University, Coe College, Colby College, Colgate University, The College of Wooster, Colorado College, Connecticut College, Davidson College, Denison University, DePauw University, Dickinson College, Earlham College, Eckerd College, Franklin & Marshall College, Gettysburg College, Gustavus Adolphus College, Haverford College, Kalamazoo College, Lafayette College, Lake Forest College, Lawrence University, Macalester College, Middlebury College, Mount Holyoke College, Oberlin College, Occidental College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Reed College, Rhodes College, Rollins College, Skidmore College, St. Olaf College, St. Lawrence University, Smith College, Swarthmore College, Trinity University (TX), Vassar College, Wabash College, Washington and Lee University, Wellesley College, Wheaton College (MA), Whitman College, and Willamette University.

Comment. These liberal arts college presidents are an important addition to the research university provosts who have already endorsed FRPAA. Liberal arts colleges deserve access to publicly-funded research as much as more research-intensive insitutions and have less access to it through subscriptions. Their support will matter to members of Congress representing the states where these colleges are located. I'm very proud to say that Earlham College, my own school, is on the list.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

More on access to Google's scanned books

Barbara Quint, Google Opens Public Domain Books for Downloading, Michigan Launches MBooks, Information Today Newsbreaks, September 5, 2006.  Excerpt:
Google has changed its policy and will now allow users to download full-image files of public domain books in its Google Book Search collection. Until now, Google had insisted that readers remain connected to Google while they read any public domain books online. Why the change in policy? According to Adam M. Smith, product manager for Google Book Search, “It stemmed from listening to users and our library partners.” Competition may have had some influence, however, both from the downloading policies of the Open Content Alliance and, now, from Google’s own library partners. For example, the University of Michigan—one of Google Book Search’s most generous and activist library partners—has begun releasing MBooks to the open Web, as well as to its campus users. The MBooks collection currently includes hundreds of thousands of books Google has digitized from the University of Michigan’s library collection. The MBooks offer different features than the versions Google Book Search supplies directly. It also includes in-copyright books, though only to produce individual book indexing....

Macmillan CEO comments on the hybrid model

Richard Charkin, Of this and that, Charkin blog, September 4, 2006.  Charkin is the CEO of Macmillan, the parent company of Nature.  Excerpt:

Some interesting statistics from Oxford University Press about the reaction to their open access experiment for publication in the journals they publish. In essence they offer authors whose research has been accepted for publication the option of paying £1500 (or £800 if their institution already subscribes to the online version of the journal in question) to have their paper made available absolutely free to anyone in the world. Open access is being encouraged by a number of research-funding organisations and this 'mixed-economy' response is clever. OUP benefit from being seen to be scholar-friendly, they earn money from the author fees, they encourage institutional subscriptions and they still retain the vast bulk of their subscription income. They are also seen to be transparent in publishing the results of the experiment widely. However, none of this answers the fundamental question of why paying for publication is likely to result in better scientific literature than the existing subscriber sytem. Time will tell and it's great to see practical experimentation rather than hypothetical debate.

Comment. Charkin implies that when asking about the value of OA, the question is whether OA improves the quality of the literature.  It isn't.  The question is whether it improves access to the literature, hence the usefulness of the literature, hence the productivity of researchers and the pace of research.  Using a legible font doesn't improve the quality of the literature, but it's an obvious way to make literature more useful regardless of its quality.  That's what OA does.

There are subtle ways in which OA can improve the quality of literature, e.g. by removing incentives to compromise on peer review.  But we don't have to reach those in order to understand how OA makes every kind of literature more useful.  When Nature authors self-archive their articles (which Nature permits), the articles are more useful than they were before, even though they have not changed in quality.

Open APIs are not enough

Rufus Pollock, Open APIs Don’t Equal Open Knowledge, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, September 4, 2006.  Excerpt:

Kragen Sitaker recently posted an essay about the equivalent of free software for online services....He points out that the movement to use online services rather than local applications greatly increases the possibility for vendor lock-in....As Ross Anderson has repeatedly emphasised the value that a vendor can extract from users is roughly equivalent to the total switching cost. With control of your data that switching cost is going to be much, much higher than with control of the user interface alone.

This focus on data brings me to a related and, in my view, even more important point. Associated with the move to online services there’s been a proliferation of web 2.0yy ‘open’ APIs. While an open API is certainly better than a closed one I think we need to understand clearly the way in which the ‘open’ in ‘open’ API is different to other forms of ‘openness’...[Cutting five specific points; worth reading.]

Open knowledge consists of three freedoms: the freedom to access, to reuse, and to redistribute. As we’ve just seen an open API however guarantees none of these...

ACS jumps on the hybrid journal bandwagon

Sophie Rovner, ACS Offers Open-Access Option To AuthorsChemical & Engineering News, September 4, 2006.  Excerpt:

In October, American Chemical Society journal authors will have the option of paying to immediately provide free online access to their articles on the society's website. Authors will also be able to post electronic copies of their sponsored articles on personal websites and institutional repositories. Fees for the program will range from $1,000 to $3,000 per paper, depending on whether the author is an ACS member or is affiliated with an institution that subscribes to ACS journals.

The new ACS AuthorChoice option "underscores the society's willingness to experiment with innovative models to broaden access to highly valued, peer-reviewed research" while upholding editorial standards, says Brian D. Crawford, senior vice president responsible for the journal publishing program of ACS, which also publishes C&EN. "The fee was established in light of the society's actual costs incurred in the peer review and publication of an article." ...

Also see the ACS press release (dated August 14, 2006).


  1. If the press release was issued in August, then there were five, not four, hybrid journal programs launched in August and I apologize for missing this one. But because no blogs or news media covered the story before the ACS covered it in its own Chemical & Engineering News, I suspect it wasn't issued until this month.
  2. See my nine questions for hybrid journal programs, just published on Sunday.  Of the nine, the ACS announcements give good and welcome answers to two:  it will let authors deposit articles in repositories independent of ACS and it will not retreat on its green self-archiving policy.  It gives unwelcome answers to two more:  it will not let participating authors retain copyright and it does not promise to reduce its subscription prices in proportion to author uptake.  (Hence, it plans to use the "double charge" business model.)  It leaves us uncertain on the remainder:  Will it let participating authors use OA-friendly licenses?  Will it waive fees in cases of economic hardship?  Will it force authors to pay the fee if they want to comply with a prior funding contract mandating deposit in an OA repository?  Will it lay page charges on top of the new AuthorChoice fee?
  3. The ACS has been a bitter opponent of OA through PubChem and FRPAA.  But I don't believe it ever opposed the very idea of charging author-side fees to support the costs of a peer-reviewed journal, as some other hybrid journal publishers did before adopting the hybrid model. 

New compendium of OA-related news

Charles Bailey has enlarged Lesley Perkins' composite of six OA-related blogs, making a new composite of 12.  He's also created a useful Open Access Update page listing the latest 30 posts from the composite blog (also available by RSS) as well as links to key OA resources.

Comment. The aggregate feed is supposed to include Open Access News but so far doesn't do so.  I haven't checked to see whether this problem extends to any of the other 11 blogs.  When this kind of problem is fixed, the feed should be very useful.

Profile of Eprints

Maureen Pennock, Eprints Digital Repository Software, Digital Curation Centre, August 25, 2006.  (Thanks to UKOLN News.)   A detailed profile of the features and functions of Eprints, the open-source software for OA archives.

More evidence that OA books increase sales of print editions

David Glenn, Yale U. Press Places Book Online in Hopes of Increasing Print SalesChronicle of Higher Education, September 8, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

[Jack M. Balkin's] Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology (Yale University Press, 1998)...was widely discussed in the late 1990s, but the book is now eight years old, and its sales have dwindled. So Mr. Balkin, a professor at Yale Law School, has concocted a new strategy for promulgating the spread of his own memes: He has persuaded the Yale press to release a free version of the book online. Anyone with Internet access can visit his Web site and download a high-resolution (but nonsearchable) PDF file of each chapter.

The idea, says the author, is that a small portion of the readers who sample Cultural Software online will decide to buy a printed copy of the book, producing a net increase in revenue for the press. (The online version has been issued under a license developed by Creative Commons....)

"If this experiment succeeds," Mr. Balkin says, "it may change the way that university presses make money off their backlists. ... What we are doing with Cultural Software may be a new and inexpensive way to create interest in the 'long tail' of scholarly works that sell only a few copies a year and would otherwise be a drag on profits."

The director of the press, John E. Donatich, says Mr. Balkin's experiment is one of several new explorations of electronic publishing there. Yale is among the six presses participating in the Caravan Project, a new program financed by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that will allow publishers to release books simultaneously in print-on-demand cloth, paperback, digital, and audio formats.....

The Balkin project follows on the heels of Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, which Yale published in May. Mr. Benkler, who also teaches at Yale Law School, released his book in a free online format together with wiki pages that allow readers to criticize and annotate his text. Mr. Donatich says he is confident that Mr. Benkler's online playground has not cannibalized sales of the printed book. On the contrary, the press director reports....

Those instances are hardly the first in which readers have been encouraged to browse books online in the hope that they will buy printed copies. Most university publishers participate in the licensed browsing programs operated by Amazon and Google that allow readers to look at a finite number of pages. More ambitiously, the National Academies Press and the Brookings Institution Press have released free texts of many of their books online, often in an unusual format that lets the reader view the books page by page but does not permit the wholesale downloading or printing of chapters.

"Our experience indicates that for many titles, free online access acts as a driver for increased sales," writes Michael Jon Jensen, director of Web communications for the National Academies, in an e-mail message to The Chronicle. "We still are seeing increased online sales and stable overall print sales."...

"The real question," Mr. Balkin says, "is what the vocation of academic publishing is. Academic publishers saw themselves as trying to spread knowledge — high-quality knowledge — as far and wide as they could ... not just as a service that they provide to the universities that they're associated with. Well, now they can promote that vocation even better than they could before. And they may even be able to make money off of it, which would be all to the good."

Institutional archiving software supports tags and comments

The Columbia University Teachers College has created PocketKnowledge, a new package of archiving software that it's using to archive just about anything --documents, music, photos, video-- created by its faculty and students. (Thanks to Jonah Bossewitch.)

As far as I can tell, PocketKnowledge is not open source or OAI-compliant, but it allows depositers to set access levels (private, university-only, everyone) and allows users to tag and comment on any accessible item. Any item may be cross-listed in any number of sections or pockets. Users can browse the contents by pocket, tag, author, or uploader. Tag searching allows boolean combinations on all fields so that you find, e.g. all work by students on sexual discrimination. The software is available to other institutions. For more details, see the FAQ.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Report on NASIG's E-journal conference

Patrick L. Carr, The Other Serials News: The E-Journal StampedeNASIG Newsletter, September 3, 2006.  Excerpt:

For a sixth year, NASIG’s Continuing Education Committee joined with Mississippi State University Libraries and EBSCO Subscription Services to cosponsor an e-journal workshop for information professionals in the Deep South region. Held at Mississippi State University (MSU) on July 14, 2006, this year’s workshop, titled “Head ‘em Up, Move ‘em Out! Corralling the E-Journal Stampede,” explored issues related to the role and management of e-resources in libraries. In attendance were over ninety information professionals from states across the southeast. Keynote speaker T. Scott Plutchak, Director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, got the workshop off to a thought-provoking start with his presentation “After the E-Journal: Now It Really Gets Interesting.” Arguing that now is the greatest time in the last five hundred years to be a librarian, Plutchak’s presentation explored the trends that are currently reshaping the distribution of information and the role of libraries. From the Open Access movement to libraries’ imperative to preserve information regardless of its format, Plutchak summarized the myriad of challenges facing information professionals today....

New OA journal on Hispanic studies

Hispanic Issues On Line is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the University of Minnesota. The inaugural issue (Fall 2006) is now online.

Friend of OA elected chair of international library group

New Zealand's national librarian, Penny Carnaby, has been elected Chair of the international Conference of Directors of National Libraries (CDNL). From her acceptance speech:
There is no doubt in my mind that the lead role the New Zealand Government played in shaping the open access to information agenda at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis last year led National Library Directors to support my nomination....

In my role as chair of the Directors of National Libraries, I will focus on connecting the magnificent online stories of the national libraries of the world into one searchable view of the cultures of all nations. I will be promoting a World National Digital Library project which would connect the major digital projects internationally. Wouldn't it be wonderful if a citizen browsing the websites of a small public library on the West Coast or a school in Kaitaia could access not only the resources of all the libraries of New Zealand but all the national libraries of the world, opening up a greater understanding of the rich cultures of each nation?...

Michel Bauwens on P2P

Richard Poynder, P2P: A blueprint for the future? Open and Shut, September 3, 2006. Excerpt:
One of the abiding debates about the Internet is the extent to which it represents a step change in the way that societies — and economies — will function in the future. What is undeniable is that the Web has sparked a growing number of "free" and "open" movements that challenge current economic models — including the Free and Open Source Software movements, the Open Access Movement, Open Source Journalism, and Creative Commons. Many also believe that the peer-to-peer (P2P) phenomenon has significant implications for the traditional top-down model on which modern societies are based.

But what is it that all these movements have in common? And how revolutionary will they prove over time? Thailand-based Michel Bauwens, creator of the Foundation for P2P Alternatives, believes that they have a great deal in common. He also believes that they offer a potential new model for the future development of human society. However, he argues, since the free and open movements are all components of a more generalised revolution, advocates of these movements should combine forces with the larger P2P movement if they want to ensure the success of their individual objectives. Here, in the first of a two-part interview, Bauwens talks to Richard Poynder....

Update. Part 2 of this interview is now online (9/7/06). One Bauwens insight:

[C]urrently we live in a society that treats scarce and rival resources (i.e. nature and the biosphere), as if they were infinite, and artificially renders scarce what is infinite [information, especially digital information], since it can be reproduced for free. This is an illogical state of affairs that both destroys the biosphere and impedes the growth of social productivity. And that illogicality is what we want to reverse.

Making a commons of new and old knowledge in India

Frederick Noronha, India At The Forefront Of Knowledge Commons DebateIntellectual Property Watch, September 3, 2006. Excerpt:

What do seeds have in common with software? Or age-old medicines with copyright lawyers? And, what’s the link between ayurvedic medicines and techies talking free software in Bangalore?

Such issues are getting closely enmeshed in a deepening debate on how knowledge is shared or controlled in this new information-dominated century. This is a debate of vital relevance for a country that is making an increasingly visible global impact through its brain power, and yet has among the most impressive collections of traditional medicines and knowledge.

Diverse views surface on how such issues should be tackled, as was strongly obvious at a 24-25 August “knowledge symposium” held at New Delhi....

Survey of open content projects in five non-western regions

From today's announcement by releases today a survey of open content projects in five non-western regions: Arab countries, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Brazil and South East and Eastern Europe. The aim of the study is to assess the potential of the open content production process for areas and fields which are under served by the commercial players. While we cannot claim completeness, we believe that the range of projects allows insight into the complex ways in which these projects interact with their particular contexts and the vast differences this creates.

Open content projects are extremely sensitive to local conditions....

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Authors needn't wait for publishers and universities needn't wait for governments

Stevan Harnad, No OA Yet? Don't Blame Elsevier! Open Access Archivangelism, September 2, 2006. Excerpt:

Elsevier has since at least 2004 given every single author of every single article published in every single one of its c. 2000 journals the green light to self-archive it if they wish to make their article Open Access (OA). All Elsevier authors can, with Elsevier's blessing, deposit their peer-reviewed final drafts (postprints) immediately upon acceptance for publication (no embargo -- and their pre-refereeing preprints even earlier, if they wish) in their own OA Institutional Repositories (IRs). 

No author desirous of OA can ask for more from their publisher; yet only about 15% of authors are as yet self-archiving spontaneously....

There is only one cure for this fruitless inertia: Authors' institutions and funders need to mandate self-archiving, so authors (and users) can stop complaining about needing or wanting OA, and start doing something about it, for their own (and their institutions') good, as well as the good of research and the public that funds it. 

(We don't need more solemn signings of pious declarations of abstract principle; we don't even need more sanguine signatures from provosts applauding national legislation to mandate concrete self-archiving: Charity begins at home, and provosts should adopt self-archiving mandates at their own institutions without waiting for their governments: then it won't even matter whether or not the legislation manages to get passed!)


  1. Stevan is right about Elsevier and what I've called primacy of authors in achieving OA. From my Open Access Overview: "Most publishers and most journals already permit author-initiated OA archiving. Since self-archiving is a bona fide form of OA, authors who fail to take advantage of the opportunity are actually a greater obstacle to OA than publishers who fail to offer the opportunity."
  2. However, I take a different view of the provost statements.  On the one hand, it's true that provosts endorsing FRPAA shouldn't wait for FRPAA to adopt OA friendly policies on their own campuses (and I've said so).   But on the other, FRPAA could do far more for OA than any single university and it's highly desirable for provosts to do all they can to help it pass.  Their public endorsements are key part of that strategy.

Physics journal publisher launches enhanced version of arXiv

The Institute of Physics has launched, a new mirror, front end, and enhancement to arXiv. (Thanks to George Porter.) From the site:
EprintWeb is an e-print service in the fields of physics, mathematics, non-linear science, computer science, and quantitative biology, and consists of e-print records which can be browsed and searched. The contents of EprintWeb are provided by arXiv, which is operated and funded by Cornell University Library....

Just like arXiv, EprintWeb is updated daily and will always be completely free to access.

So what's different about EprintWeb? We have focused on your experience as a user, and have addressed issues of navigation, searching, personalization and presentation, in order to enhance that experience. We have also introduced reference linking across the entire content, and enhanced searching on all key fields, including institutional address....

Comment. IOP has long been rumored to be launching a mirror of arXiv. This looks like it, though EprintWeb is much more than a mirror. IOP already allows direct submission from arXiv to its 73 physics journals, and told Alma Swan in 2005 that it "could not identify any losses of subscriptions" due to arXiv and does not "view arXiv as a threat to [its] business" (Swan's summary).

Physics is the field in which OA archiving has been taking place for the longest time (since 1991) and at the highest levels (approaching 100% in some branches). The launch of EprintWeb should leave no doubt that this physics publisher finds its interest more in supporting OA archiving than in deterring it. Publishers who fear the rise of OA archiving should study this example of a publisher with more experience coexisting with it.