Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Philadelphia Consensus Statement on access to medicines

Eva Tallaksen, Universities urged: 'share benefits of health research', SciDev.Net, November 17, 2006.  Excerpt:

Prominent scientists have joined forces with a group of students to urge the World Health Organization (WHO) to include in its global strategies how universities can ensure health research benefits developing countries.

Submitted this week (15 November), their petition — the Philadelphia Consensus Statement — outlines how universities can improve access to medicines and transfer of knowledge to the developing world by changing their licensing policies and intellectual property (IP) rights.

Some 80 top law, science and global health experts — including four Nobel laureates — as well as 150 students have signed the petition.

It is unique in seeking to spur universities, rather than companies or governments, into taking action, says Dave Chokshi, a medical student at the US-based University of Pennsylvania....

The petition lays out specific proposals on how universities can improve access to the fruits of this research by such measures as granting rights to companies to manufacture and export generic versions of new drugs to developing countries, price reductions,...lifting of patent requirements...engaging with public-private partnerships or institutions in developing countries, creating new opportunities for drug development, and carving out exemptions for research in university patents or licences....

Each year, 10 million people die from diseases that are treatable with existing drugs, according to the WHO.

More than half of all pharmaceutical innovations in the United States come from universities, making them a key place to address issues of access to medicines and research into neglected diseases.

"The current IP system isn't working for the majority of the world," says signatory David Mayne, professor emeritus in engineering control theory at the UK-based Imperial College London....

Comment.  The policy recommendations in the statement are very good but sadly incomplete.  The statement calls on universities "to make the fruits of their research available in the developing world" but doesn't call on them to make the research itself available in the developing world.  Or, it focuses on access to new drugs and technologies and largely ignores access to literature and data.  Or, it focuses on access barriers created by patents and largely ignores those created by copyrights.  It should ask universities to mandate open access to the research output of their faculty.  (It should also ask funding agencies, especially public funding agencies, to mandate open access to the research published by their grantees; but so far the statement is limited to university actions.)  If researchers routinely deposited copies of their journal publications in interoperable OA repositories, then barrier-free access to the peer-reviewed research would complement barrier-free access to new medicines and technologies.

Value beyond price and impact

Jan Velterop, Price & Value, The Parachute, November 17, 2006.  Excerpt:

...In a normal functional economic system, the potential buyer just doesn’t buy [when the price seems too high]...or buys something that can be regarded as a substitute for what he initially desired, elsewhere, at a lower price.

Academic journals with their subscription models are not functioning along those lines, as they are monopoloid, i.e. non-substitutable, non-rivalrous. The paying party doesn’t have the choice. A subscribing library can’t just cancel an expensive journal and buy a cheaper one instead, because what his patrons find in one, they will not find in the other and vice versa. That’s why the model should be ‘flipped’, from a ‘user-side’ payment, to an ‘author-side’ payment.

In contrast to users, authors do have the choice. They can, in almost all cases, decide to go to another journal with their paper. And if price becomes a factor for them or their backers, they can weigh that in their decisions. For them, journals are substitutable, rivalrous....

[C]hanging to a standard economic model – which is what author-side payment for publication (i.e. payment on behalf of the party with a choice) entails – will offer us a chance to create a functional market environment and to converge the perceived value and the fee (the definition of a fair price)....

Those who see open access simply as a way to pay less are free to do so, of course, but it makes open access a mere negotiating lever with publishers....

The problem really is that for non-substitutable, non-rivalrous, material, the market for subscriptions is intrinsically dysfunctional. It may sometimes look as though high prices cause cancellations, but low-priced journals have suffered cancellations as well, and what’s more, there is no discernible pattern that reliably shows a distinction between higher priced and lower priced journals in that regard....

Open access is more fundamental than about price. It is also more fundamental than increased usage figures or citation counts. It is about the notion that results of research carried out with public money are public goods....

Should the cost of publishing be scrutinized? Sure. In the same way as the cost of research is scrutinized....

The current subscription system doesn’t give us that chance. Nobody knows what a fair price is. We are, absurdly, measuring ‘cost per download’, ‘cost of citation’ and the like and believe we are measuring value. Has anybody ever approached, say, the proceedings of a parliamentary debate in that way? Even just as a thought experiment? What is 'usage' anyway? Scientific articles are important documents. The only thing that valuing them by their usage and citation does is to make the usage and citation potential of articles into criteria for publishing them, instead of their intrinsic scientific merit. Thus making a brilliant article that few understand seem pretty worthless. And – possibly worse – making a poor, but controversial, popular, and fashionable article seem the more valuable of the two. Surely, that can't be where we want to go.

Using Skypecasts in the academy

Jeff Van Drimmelen, Skypecasts' Academic Potential, Educause Connect, November 13, 2006.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)  Excerpt:

Skypecasts have the potential to revolutionize the academic community. They not only open up many options to teacher and student interactions, but level the playing field in a way that equalizes every participant’s voice. They also create thousands of new and exciting possibilities for real-time learning that were never possible before. This article gives a broad overview of what Skypecasts are, some possible applications in academia, as well as some of the pros and cons of using them now.  You can see the original post on my webpage here.

In writing this article I realized that it would be appropriate to create a Skypecast to discuss this article and other issues facing those who implement technology in education.  Join me at 10:30 (Eastern Standard Time) on November the 20th, 2006 to discuss Using Technology in Education....

Definition:  Skype has a great Skypecasts FAQ page. They define Skypecasts as “large, hosted calls on Skype.” Sound pretty simple. Basically you can create or join a large online conference call with UP TO 100 people. Skypecasts are scheduled to begin and end at a certain time and usually have a certain topic of discussion. The users must download and use Skype in order to join the Skypecast....

There are Skypecasts going right now with the title “Chat in HINDI or URDU” or “You speak English with me I teach you Chinese.” Online discussion groups could be created for foreign languages acquisition classes where students could speak with a native speaker of a language and in turn help others learn English....

Comment.  Hear, hear.  Earlier this month I participated by telephone in an OA conference taking place in Hyderabad, India.  It would have been much less expensive for the hosts if I participated by Skype.  I have a couple more teleconferences coming up, one for a group in Vancouver and one for a group in Barcelona.  I prefer them to travel because they save time (how often have you spent three days on the road to give a 40 minute talk?), money, hassle, backaches, and (no joke) carbon dioxide emissions. 

More on the AAA and FRPAA

Eric Kansa, Once more on FRPAA, Digging Digitally, November 17, 2006. Eric restates some of Gary Ward's excellent answers to publisher objections to FRPAA, clearly hoping that officials at the AAA will pay attention.  Then he continues:

Now, it is not my purpose to bash the AAA on this matter. I believe very strongly that they are mistaken in their opposition to FRPAA, but I also believe it is essential to fully explore and address the concerns of scholarly societies and their publishing arms....

In moving toward open access, we need to consider how the costs will be covered. It is obvious that not every open access model will be sustainable or appropriate for disciplines such as anthropology or archaeology. I can’t imagine “author-side fees” (such as those expected by PLoS) working in these disciplines. I can imagine a system where professional societies, university libraries, and other consortia come together to underwrite and subsidize open access dissemination.  Universities and university libraries already spend a great deal of money on publication, and shifting some of these resources toward lower-cost open access systems seems viable. Peter Suber has devoted much attention to this issue and explores many pragmatic options (two examples: here and here.) I’m glad open access advocates in anthropology are careful and judicious in how they approach this issue (see this open letter on Savage Minds). Not all routes toward open access are the same. Some may be more sustainable than others, and some models adhere to the ideals of “open knowledge” more than others. FRPAA represents one strategy, and as noted by Gary Ward (above), FRPAA represents little risk to existing publication frameworks.

That said, we must not lose sight of the fact that the current publication regime is in trouble and is not sustainable (here, here, and this important letter about cost pressures on the University of California libraries). The AAA needs to remember this broader context before they entrench themselves even further in their opposition to FRPAA....

Hopefully, heads will cool and the AAA executive staff will realize that the (now defunct) AnthroSource Steering Committee recommendations, especially for the development of a “member-informed policy on open access” are sound and reasonable. FRPAA and open access should not be summarily dismissed. They are important issues that need to be aired and debated by the membership and other anthropological stakeholders. Hopefully, we’ll continue to see some progress toward these ends.

The Karman Center's commitment to OA

The Karman Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Bern is undertaking an OA Pantheon Project on the architecture of the ancient Roman building.  More importantly, the project marks a general commitment by Karman to OA.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  From the Pantheon site:

The Pantheon Project, as all other future Karman Center projects, focuses on Open Access Scholarship, that is, not only the research results from the Pantheon Project and the Karman Center, but also all the basic data and discussion concerning them will be made freely accessible to all interested scholars for their own use. We also hope to convince archives and other institutions owning historical sources, such as drawings, photographs, prints, rare books, maps, etc., to help us make them available online for research. This would not only help to intensify scholarly work but would at the same time help to preserve the often very delicate or easily damaged originals. One tool developed at the University of Bern to serve large amounts of images and other data over the internet, is Digilib, the digital image library.

And more from another page within the site:

The Pantheon Project aims to establish new tools and norms of Open Access Scholarship: not only the research results from the Pantheon Project, but also all the basic data, intermediate results and discussion will be made freely accessible to all interested scholars. Archives and other institutions will be asked to publish their historical sources – drawings, photographs, prints, rare books, maps – online and make them freely accessible for research....

Digital resources can be referred and quoted in electronic documents, and links can be backtracked to citation sources, so that in the future scholarly work carried out using the Open Access archive can be easily harvested and searched.

A second and very important aspect is the form of interactive collaboration over the internet....

As can be seen, the Karman Center is testing new forms of scientific work and publication in the humanities, which will hopefully result in the establishment of these new forms as permanent working methods in the scientific community. Although the natural sciences, particularly in large projects that can only be realised through the collaboration of hundreds of scholars, have been using web-based collaboration and publication for more than a decade now, the approach to scientific work in the humanities is of a very different structure....

Also see Gerd Grasshoff's slide presentation on the Karman Center's approach to humanistic scholarship, its commitment to OA, and its Pantheon Project.

Podcast on OA and Web 3.0

The Library 2.0 gang has released a podcast of its telephone conference on Open Access and Web 3.0.  (On November 7 it released a podcast on Open Data about libraries.)

Submitting comments on the Australian OA recommendations

The Australian Government Productivity Commission has posted a circular on how to submit comments on its recent draft report on public support for science:

You are invited to examine Draft Report and to provide written submissions to the Commission. (In addition, the Commission intends to hold a limited number of consultations to obtain feedback on the draft.)...There is no specified format for submissions. They may range from a brief outline of your views, to a much more substantial assessment of a range of issues. Where possible, you should provide relevant data and documentation to support your views. Written submissions should reach the Commission by Thursday, 21 December 2006....Submissions will normally be placed on the Commission’s website shortly after receipt, unless they are marked confidential or accompanied by a request to delay release for short period of time....Submissions may also be sent by mail, fax or audio cassette....By email:

PS:  For the OA recommendations in the draft report, see my blog posting from November 13, 2006.

Friday, November 17, 2006

OA for global development

Sascha Knauf, Open Access — Global Instrument for Society Development, a slide presentation (in German) at the seminar on Open Access to Knowledge: new opportunities with Internet: Part 2: Copyright and Open Access (Kiev, November 13, 2006).  (Thanks to Iryna Kuchma.)

Tracking progress at Caltech

From George Porter at Caltech:

[The] Open Access @ Caltech blog has surpassed 200 entries this week. The entries document Open Access choices made by Caltech faculty, staff, and students, primarily from 2003 to date. In addition to articles published in Open Access journals (PLoS, BMC, NAR, etc.) and hybrid-OA journals (PNAS, Company of Biologists, etc.), the blog notes participation on editorial boards of OA journals, release of technical reports, archiving commitments from individual faculty, among other noteworthy OA-related activities.

Wiley buys Blackwell

Wiley has acquired Blackwell.  For details, see today's press release.

Also see the news coverage.

Comments.  I don't blog this because it already has consequences for OA but because it could.

  1. Wiley has a hybrid OA program called Funded Access (since August 2006; see my SOAN review) and Blackwell has a hybrid OA program called OnlineOpen (since February 2005; see my SOAN review).  Wiley's policy is much less author-friendly than Blackwell's.  After the merger, will the Wiley policy move toward the Blackwell policy?  Vice versa?   Both?  Or will each continue to apply, more or less unchanged, to separate sets of journals?
  2. On another front, see Mark McCabe, The Impact of Publisher Mergers on Journal Prices.

Update. David Prosser points out (by email) that "back in 2002 the UK Office of Fair Trading issued a Statement on the market for scientific, technical and medical journals. In it, they listed the publishers of ISI-rated STM journals (Table 1, page 7). If this sale goes through then the top 15 publishers (in terms of number of journals) will have become just 9 publishers - a remarkable case of market consolidation in just 8 years."

The costs of peer review and journal publishing

Bill Hooker, Open Question on Open Access, Open Reading Frame, November 15, 2006.  Excerpt:

In a comment on Scott's recent entry (discussed below), Mark D makes a good point, one that I've touched on previously and that bears repeating:

The problem is, I haven't seen any hard data that documents the cost of peer review, redaction, and publishing. Everyone throws numbers around as if they were confetti. We are all, supposedly (publishers and librarians) in the scientific/technical community, yet so very few people take a scientific approach to this issue.

The first step on the road to open access, should be a review of the processes and costs associated with scientific publication. Sounds like a good paper for the library association journal. Any librarians out there that want to tackle this paper?

And as for the publishers, if they really do wish a dialogue, then why don't they reveal their redaction costs? Any takers out there in the publishing world?

Online publication dramatically lowers costs relative to printed journals, but it is not free. Copyediting is still required, peer review must be co-ordinated even though the actual reviewing is done by authors for no charge, and the digital objects (articles, data, etc) must be created, archived and maintained in an accessible format. There are surely other important costs, too, that do not occur to me right now. All of this costs money, but the Big Question of OA is: how much money?... [PS:  Omitting a good collection of stated costs and estimates.]

Comments. The problem is complicated.  Here are a few reasons why.

  1. Different publishers give different estimates (as Bill well-summarizes).  Some test our credulity, such as Richard Charkin's testimony before the UK House of Commons that the cost per published article at Nature is 30 thousand pounds (scroll to p. Ev 2, Q16).  But even if we could eliminate absurd, miscalculated, and bad-faith estimates, we'd face the problem that different estimates may count different aspects of the publishing process in the cost per article.  And even if we could standardize the measurement, we'd have to face the fact that different publishers really do have different costs.  One reason is that they differ in their overheads and efficiency.  A lean and mean start-up, optimized for OA publication, will have lower costs than a traditional print publisher retooling for electronic publication.  It will have no legacy equipment or employees and therefore lower overheads.
  2. Apart from leanness and meanness, OA publishing has fewer expenses than non-OA publishing.  It dispenses with print (or prices the optional print edition at cost), eliminates subscription management, eliminates DRM, eliminates lawyer fees for licenses and enforcement, reduces or eliminates marketing, and reduces or eliminates profit margins. In their place it adds back little more than the cost of collecting author-side fees or institutional subsidies.
  3. Some other variables are the submission rate, the acceptance rate, and average article length, the average use of charts and illustrations, and the local cost of labor.  Of course profit margins also vary.
  4. In 2002, Fytton Rowland found that the average cost of peer review per published article was about $400.  Note that this depends on the average acceptance rate, since the cost per accepted paper must also cover the cost of reviewing rejected papers.  Also note that the cost of peer review is almost entirely the cost of facilitation, since most referees are not paid, and the clerical tasks in facilitation are steadily being automated.  Hence the cost of peer review is coming down every year as journal management software improves, especially open-source software like DPubS, GAPworks, Hyperjournal, ePublishing Toolkit, OpenACS, Open Journal Systems (the current leader), SOPS, and TOPAZ

More on the pricing crisis

Carl T Bergstrom and Theodore C Bergstrom, The Economics of Ecology Journals, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, November 2006.  (Thanks to Katie Newman and George Porter.)  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far.

Over the past decade, scientific publishing has shifted from a paper-based distribution system to one largely built upon electronic access to journal articles. Despite this shift, the basic patterns of journal pricing have remained largely unchanged. The large commercial publishers charge dramatically higher prices to institutions than do professional societies and university presses. These price differences do not reflect differences in quality as measured by citation rate. We discuss the effect of price and citation rate of a journal on library subscriptions and offer an explanation for why competition has not been able to erode the price differences between commercial and non-profit journals.

Update. See the OA edition of this article. (Thanks to William Walsh.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

More on the pricing crisis

There's a new entry on the Weasel's Manual of Apologies for Misbehaving Monopolists from Ted Bergstrom: 

Geography Professor, Nick Blomley, wrote an editorial called "Is this Journal Worth US$1118?"  in Geoforum, an Elsevier journal.  Blomley presented data comparing prices and citations for a number of geography journals.  Blomley's article inspired an Elsevier spokesperson, Chris Pringle, to write a rejoinder titled "Price and Value:  A Publisher's Perspective", an essay that will appeal to connoisseurs of Weaselsprache the world over.  Mr. Pringle explains that "the cost per download has declined fivefold between 1999 and 2005".  You have to give the man credit for finding something that grew more than five times as fast as Elsevier prices over this period.   Article downloads will do it.  The days when we used to walk over to the library to read journals are not so far behind us.

Of course we are still left wondering why it is that Elsevier journals cost about four times as much per article as non-profit journals, (whose downloads must also be growing about five times as fast as Elsevier prices. )  Mr. Pringle has an answer for that one too. "Some journals rely solely on a limited number of subscriptions whereas others benefit from additional revenue sources as well as subsidies and tax breaks."  I suppose that he means that  Elsevier journals have fewer subscribers than the cheaper non-profit journals.  (What do you suppose could be the reason for that?  Reminds me of Lizzie Borden pleading for leniency on the grounds that she was an orphan.)    As to subsidies: most professional societies do not subsidize their journals, but collect a substantial surplus from journal operations which they use to sponsor societal activities.  Nevertheless they manage to make do with prices that are about a fourth of Elsevier prices.  Maybe its the tax breaks, eh?

Refinements to ROAR's search engine

Tim Brody, Google CSE added to the Registry of Open Access Repositories, Open Access Peon, November 16, 2006.  Excerpt:

A few weeks ago OpenDOAR announced the inclusion of a experimental Google CSE ("customised search engine"). Google released their CSE (or 'co-op') tool on the 26th October, and its a testament to Google's skill at identifying new niches that CSE has already gained such interest.
Being OpenDOAR's nearest (good natured) competitor its incumbent on me to make sure we don't fall behind in the technical stakes....

What Google CSE means for us registries is we can now (theoretically) provide full-content searches of registered repositories with a minimal of effort. This is what OpenDOAR have done, and we've followed suit in our own search interface.

In addition to constraining the search to given sites Google CSE provides 'refinements' - editor-provided key terms that either filter the list of sites, or weight certain sites higher in the search results. Refinements allow the CSE creator to provide sub-customised searches to more finely control the search results, the typical example being to create a CSE for a topic area (e.g. tropical diseases) then to provide refinements for different types of users (e.g. medical practitioners).

To create the Google CSE and refinements for ROAR I created two exports: the TSV and Context files. The TSV file contains the URLs of the sites to be included, labels for each site and the site's weighting. A label is an identifier that can be used to refine search results (e.g. Australian repositories are labelled with 'country_au').

The Context file contains the basic search engine configuration (title, description etc.) and what effect refinements have on the search results. Refinements can change the weighting of sites, alter the query or filter out given sites. In the ROAR CSE I've set all the labels to 'filter' (i.e. only include sites that contain the given label).
So, that's the theory, but in practise Google CSE refinements don't appear to work like that (or work at all). If you try out the ROAR search, first of all you'll notice you get very few matches back and secondly you actually get more matches the more refinements you use. Hopefully this will be resolved in time, in the meanwhile prepare to be confused!

Notes on the Bangalore OA workshop

Eve Gray has blogged some notes on the Bangalore Workshop on electronic publishing and open access (November 2-3, 2006).  Excerpt:

...Right at the beginning of the workshop, in one of the introductory addresses, Prof N Balakrishnan, the Associate Director of the Indian Institute of Science, said, 'What we need to do is change the “developing country” rhetoric to a world perspective.' Put another way – when I emailed Gordon Graham, of the LOGOS journal, one of the wisest people I know from the publishing industry, he wrote back, 'Do tell me more about the workshop. What a combination. India, China, Brazil and Africa constitute about two thirds of humanity.' They are both right – what this workshop reminded us is that we in the developing world are the norm - with all our challenges - not the privileged and powerful who call the shots in scholarly publishing. Alma Swan raised the same issue in another way, echoing something that was said in Leiden: that we have a problem with the common expression of the international/local dichotomy. Why should developing country issues be considered 'local' when these apply to the greater proportion of the global population, while , for example, we bow down to the 'international' status of the comparatively narrowly-focused ISI indexed journals?

Lawrence Liang, of the Alternative Law Forum in Bangalore, gave us the message in another way. In a typically virtuoso and mind-stretching keynote address, in which he charted different meanings of ownership, in different languages and cultures. He invited us to resist a property discourse that conflates property rights with academic rights and turns the collegiality of academe into the hierarchy of property....

Its insistence on the importance of a developing world view has led India to be an early and successful adopter of Open Access. The Indian Academy of Science publishes 11 OA journals and, strikingly from my point of view as a publisher, Prof Chandrasekran, the Secretary of the IAC, said that whenever the IAS works with international partners, it insists that this must be on its own terms, in ways suitable to the situation in the developing world. There is a lesson to be learned here by those struggling African journal editors who hand over their journals to UK publishers in the name of 'viability', all too often landing up unable to afford to buy back their own output.

The general tone of the contributions and discussions at the workshop was pragmatic, echoing Subbiah Arunachalam's plea at the start of the workshop that we move from words to action in developing South-South collaboration. Barbara Kirsop and Alma Swan both gave admirably clear expositions of the advantages of OA for developing countries, speeding up the solution of global problems, avoiding expensive duplication, increasing impact factors and providing grater visibility for national research. With preprint archiving, the impact or journal articles can begin even before the publication date of the article. Muthi Mathan of NIT in Rourkela gave quietly impressive practical advice on how to swing an organisation round to mandating OA archiving.

Medknow, the Indian OA medical publisher goes from strength to strength, now publishing 40 journals all of them Open Access, none of them dependent on author fees, said DK Sahu, the MD of the company....

In Latin America, SciELO , too, came early to Open Access. Abel Packer stressed the ways in which this collaborative effort across Latin America and the Caribbean is moving journals from the status of local and regional towards the international flow of scientific information....

Prof Zu Guang, the Head of the Department of Publication at the Natural Science Foundation Council revealed that most [Chinese] journals were government supported, something that influences the journals' ability to choose its publication mode....

Against this background, African efforts seem fragmented and decentralised. As Susan Veldsman put it, after her account of the work that EIFL is doing in southern Africa, few repositories are actually up and running, most still in the incubation phase. The problems faced are lack of HR capacity, lack of government support, decentralised efforts and the need for strategic and not only operational efforts. My own paper, based on the work I have been doing for my OSI fellowship, looked at the consequences of publish and perish policies in South Africa in a context where government is, in contradiction of its scholarly publishing policy, looking for development impact from national research spending....The most promising development is the South African Academy of Science report on scholarly publishing, commissioned by the Department of Science and Technology, that has come up with the proposal that the Academy take on the role of scholarly publishing coordination and quality control....

Papers from the Bangalore workshop are online [here].

Giving data to the govt, buying it back

Michael Cross, A one-way street to postcode madness, The Guardian, November 16, 2006.  Excerpt:

An up-to-date list of addresses is vital for local authorities - but they have to pay for the data they created themselves....

Council executives in charge of maintaining databases of land and property are in the frontline in the battle against one of the biggest absurdities highlighted by Technology Guardian's Free Our Data campaign: that councils have to spend local taxpayers' money for the privilege of using data that they themselves largely created.

The data are accurate lists of addresses, essential for public services and collecting council tax....Councils say they provide lists of street names and numbers for free - but Ordnance Survey and Royal Mail treat their data as a commercial asset and charge other public bodies to make it available to the wider public.

When a local authority puts its schools admission system online, as required by the e-government programme, it must pay Royal Mail if it wants to allow residents to search for a school by postcode. "We provide our data for free and they sell it back to us," says Kristin Warry, national chair of street gazetteer custodians....

The result...could be a grassroots rebellion. David Heyes, address manager at Wigan metropolitan borough council, Greater Manchester, says he is "very uncomfortable" with the click fee....

Technology Guardian's Free Our Data campaign offers a way out of the imbroglio. Surely there is a case for something as simple and valuable as lists of addresses to be declared open? The problem is that without such a radical step, the mood is driving government in the opposite direction....

Publishers Weekly's OA book reviews

Péter Jacsó has reviewed the OA collection of Publishers Weekly book reviews, November 16, 2006.   (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

The reviews are just a part of the comprehensive entirely free PW web site. Reviews are available from 1987 only, but there are 132,000 of them....

The management of Publishers Weekly apparently recognized that there is not much to loose by making the review collection, and the entire journal open access. After all, Publishers Weekly is included in many of the largest and most widely subscribed databases of ProQuest, Thomson Gale and EBSCO at least for the past ten years in full text. Most of the PW reviews are also available in Amazon’s book records, and in a number of other fully or partially open access databases.

It was the right move by PW to change to the open access model (and probably making more money from click-through ads than from the earlier required subscription fees). I would not be surprised if ALA would come to the same conclusion about the Booklist Online service when it turns out to be a hard sell for the price.

PS:  The review includes links to other collections of OA book reviews. 

Emerging open standard for search engine submissions

Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have agreed to use the Sitemaps 0.90 standard to let webmasters tell search engines how to direct their crawlers.  For details, see today' press release.


  • Sitemaps is a Google product and I believe that until now Google was its only user.  If so, then kudos to Google for voluntarily opening the standard and kudos to Yahoo and Microsoft for joining it rather than spurning it as "not built here". 
  • For OA journals and repositories not already crawled by these three search engines, this is an easy way to increase your visibility.

Update. Google originally released the Sitemaps protocol last year under a Creative Commons license. So the kudos for Google remain, but should go back a year.

Another university president for FRPAA

David Roselle, President of the University of Delaware, 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). The tally is now up to 130.

No more misleading copyright notices, esp. for publicly-funded works

Michael Geist, Copyright Notices on Books, Agora Vox, November 15, 2006. Excerpt:

...As I flipped to the opening page of [a new travel book by Paul Wells], I was struck by the copyright notice...:

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of the publisher - or, in case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a licence from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency - is an infringement of the copyright law.

I recognize that few people actually read these notices and that most would consider this standard. Yet there is something wrong about Canadian publishers (in this case McClelland & Stewart’s Douglas Gibson imprint) using legal notices that are exceptionally misleading and which perpetuate the incorrect view that nothing may be copied without prior permission.

It goes without saying that I just violated this particular clause by reproducing a part of the publication without permission, but I certainly have not violated Canadian copyright law in doing so. In fact, the Supreme Court of Canada has made it very clear that far more could be copied for research or private study purposes without a license and without violating the law.

These misleading notices must stop....

The notice page in the Wells’ book also contains an acknowledgement for the financial support of the federal government’s Book Publishing Industry Development Program (BPIDP), the Ontario Media Development Corporation’s Ontario Book Initiative, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council. This too is typical as the Canadian book publishing industry relies heavily on taxpayer support. Last year alone, the BPIDP distributed more than $26 million to Canadian publishers, including $578,365 for McClelland & Stewart. I think public support for book publishing in Canada is a good thing, but I also think that it is wrong to provide public support to publishers who then proceed to mislead the public about their copyright rights. The solution is simple - borrowing from the move toward open access requirements for government-funded research, government book publishing funding programs should insist on a condition that prohibits the use of overbroad and misleading copyright notices.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Charleston Readers Choice awards

Yesterday the Charleston Advisor announced its sixth annual Readers Choice Awards.  (Thanks to David Prosser.)  Two are OA-related.

  1. "Hybrid Open Access" won in the category of Best Contract Options, with this citation: 

    Hybrid Open Access - as a new pricing model for scholarly journals which shows some promise of working for publishers and campuses as an interim solution for the journal pricing crisis.

  2. "The Networked Book" won in the category of Best Effort:
    The Institute for the Future of the Book is providing a creative new paradigm for monographic production as books move from print to the screen. This includes integration of multimedia, interviews with authors and inviting readers to comment on draft manuscripts.

  3. I won a special award for Non-Librarian Working for Our Cause:

    Peter Suber - for his excellent work in managing the influential SPARC Open Access Forum (blog) and the Open Access Newsletter.


  • I applaud the careful wording of the award for hybrid OA.  The hybrid model shows "some promise" as an "interim solution".  For my take on its promise, its limits, and why it works better as a stepping stone than as a destination, see my article from September 2006 (esp. the last section, "Strengths and weaknesses of the hybrid model").
  • The networked book is not just Web 2.0, but also OA --or not just OA, but also Web 2.0. As I wrote back in July, in conjunction with MediaCommons, a related project from the Institute for the Future of the Book: "From a narrow OA point of view, what's most interesting about these projects is the way they take OA for granted and move on to other frontiers, such as turn-around time, peer review, and interactivity. To me, this is the future: OA will be the default and creative energy will focus on how to build on the OA foundation to take full advantage of the networked environment for the purposes of scholarship."
  • I'm honored by the Readers Choice award.  My readers are the best, sending me a steady stream of suggestions, criticism, and support.  Thanks to you all.  (I feel a bit guilty winning this award when I didn't even know I was in the running.  How well am I really covering this scene if I could receive such a pleasant surprise?)
  • I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't insert a gentle correction to set the record straight.  My blog is called Open Access News.  The SPARC Open Access Forum is a discussion list I moderate.

December Cites & Insights

The December issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online.  This issue contains a long section on OA, Library Access to Scholarship, covering FRPAA (at length), the nine interviews on OA in Research Information, some OA developments from OAN, some commentary by Dorothea Salo and Charles W. Bailey, Jr., and some posts and articles by others.  It's a wide-ranging review of some important recent developments and analysis.  Recommended.

Arthur Sale recognized for his OA work

The University of Tasmania has given Arthur Sale its 2006 Vice-Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Community Engagement.  In the citation, it makes special mention of his work on behalf of open access:

You are also an internationally recognised and respected contributor to the debate around free access to publicly funded research through the Open Access movement....

If that sentence needs any proof, here it is:  I can post this news on this blog and count of my regular readers to understand that the award is well-deserved.  Congratulations, Arthur!

The future of OA classics

Eight classicists have issued an open letter (November 7, 2006) on Classics in the Million Book Library.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  Excerpt:

Classicists face a unique opportunity. Google, Microsoft, the Open Content Alliance and other emerging projects (such as the European i2010 initiative) have begun to create very large collections ultimately designed to exceed in size the largest academic print libraries on earth. Classics stands to gain more than many disciplines. Among work published in the United States, many useful editions, reference materials and publications are in the public domain and thus are among the first texts to be included in these projects....

Immense digital libraries based on open access and aimed at massive audiences put scholars under an obligation to avoid a new access divide opening up between ourselves and the wider community that we serve....

The expectations for digital editions should be higher than for their predecessors: we expect dynamic textual notes (compare witness A vs. B), links to high resolution images of the manuscript, papyrus, inscription or other source, and potentially even new forms of annotation (e.g., syntactic markup as a component of a standard edition). Our job is to make these huge new collections a foundation for this next generation of more expressive and sophisticated editions.

New digital tools should go beyond their print counterparts in at least three ways.

First, reference materials and scholarly editions should provide a knowledge base to support advanced services...

Second, reference materials and scholarly editions should be updatable in a continuous, documented, versioned fashion....

Third, human and machine decisions should reinforce each other. Just as OCR should provide a first draft that editors may correct, named entity identification, syntactic analysis, morphological analysis and similar processes should provide useful initial results that human readers can correct and augment....


1) We should do our best to build on what Google, OCA and other projects are doing, augmenting and enhancing it for the uses of classicists....Centuries of classical scholarship and a generation of digital classics have put us in a position where we can add value to these raw materials, making them intellectually accessible to audiences at any point on the globe. 

Enhancements may take several steps. First, we must establish a service with materials on which we can freely experiment (these include many of the image books entering the Open Content Alliance). Second, academic libraries such as Michigan can apply these techniques directly to the sources files that Google has digitized from their collections. Third, these services, once published, will, we hope, become standard within large commercial libraries....

2) Core open source content: While we may rely on Google etc. to digitize the vast majority of content, we must as a profession take responsibility for creating and maintaining a rich core of reliable editions and reference works described above that can be uploaded into any digital library, and which individuals and groups can use to provide a starting point for the new, open source knowledge base on which scholarship will depend. In this case, the Open Content Alliance, with its commitment to the free distribution of ideas, provides a natural collaborator.

3) Open source services: e.g., GATE (Generalized Architecture for Text Engineering), Zotero, Canonical Text Services, Morpheus, the University of Chicago’s PhiloLogic, TextGrid, EpiDoc (discipline-specific XML for epigraphy), Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri, components of the Perseus Digital Library, interoperable geo-referenced data via protocols disseminated by Pleiades....

More on the PRC study

Rebeca Cliffe, "Self-Archiving & Journal Subscriptions": New Study Probes Librarian Decision Making, EPS Insights, November 14, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

The report, carried out by Scholarly Information Strategies on behalf of Publishing Research Consortium (PRC), has suggested that a significant number of librarians are likely to substitute open access materials for subscription resources. This runs contrary to the argument made by many in the open access debate, that OA self-archiving is not detrimental to journal subscriptions.

The authors surveyed 400 librarians from a number of countries in July 2006. It looked at both their general attitudes to open access, and the relative importance of specific decision-making factors to their content acquisition process. These included price, embargo period, article version, and reliability of access. Librarians were found to strongly favour material that had undergone peer review, with unrefereed versions of an article seen "as a poor substitute" for a refereed version, but editorial changes to subsequent versions had little impact on librarians' preferences. The speed with which content is made available is another significant factor for librarians. For content that is available for self-archiving in an institutional repository immediately following publication, just under 75% of librarians preferred to access the OA version of the article. The impact of a six month embargo on self-archiving on this preference share was found to be negligible. Only 12 and 24-month embargoes were found to have a significant impact - with a 24-month embargo, just over 50% of librarians were found to prefer the paid-for version of the journal article. Finally, librarians were found to have a strong preference for free content, when all other factors were equal....

Steven Harnad, on his Open Access Archivangelism blog, argues that the report's attempt to remove bias means "it is impossible to draw any conclusions about self-archiving causing cancellations by librarians, because the librarians were never asked what they would cancel, under what conditions; just what hypothetical products they would prefer over what". ...

Sharing supports sustainability

Gavin Baker, Sustaining the Information Society: New (and Old) Conflicts in the Knowledge Economy, a presentation at Campus & Community Sustainability (Gainesville, October 25-26, 2006). 

Abstract:   This presentation reports on the movement for sustainability in the information environment. The wealth of nations today relies on intangible products: information goods or "intellectual property" such as ideas, symbols, and data. IP-based industries are growing in their share of America's economic output, outpacing fields such as manufacturing and resource extraction. While those latter industries have well-documented sustainability challenges, the rise of the information society has been met with a growth of interest in sustainable management of information goods and resources. Sustainable business models, legal and political regimes, and institutional, community, and individual practices are now the subject of study and debate worldwide. Academic communities are taking particular interest as they strive to fulfill their mission to serve the public good through efforts such as Yale's Access to Knowledge project and MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative....

Student columnist endorses FRPAA

Sami Lange, Tax-funded research should be made available to those in need, Spartan Daily, November 15, 2006.  Lange is an LIS graduate student at San Jose State University.  Excerpt:

...A professor of microbiology at the University of Vermont is allowed access to about 66-75 percent of his required journal articles. He then has to rely on inter-library loans and only requests articles that are exactly what he needs and misses out on discoveries he might have made by browsing through other relevant articles in the entire journal.

For parents of children with rare diseases who have no access to information on their children's illness and scientists and academics unable to get the latest information in their field because their institution doesn't subscribe to an unusual journal, the need for access is not only a desire, but of vital importance.

Our fast-paced, need-it-now society demands immediate access to information. Heather Joseph, of Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said, "whether it is speeding a response to a potential flu pandemic, developing energy alternatives, or putting the brakes on global warming, access to publicly funded science is more critical than ever." ...

The recent and most groundbreaking issue is the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, which requires agencies who have a research budget in access of $100 million to implement online access to articles within six months of publication.

When describing the act, Nobel Prize laureate Richard Roberts said, "as a scientist and a taxpayer, I support this bill because it lifts barriers that hinder, delay or block the spread of scientific knowledge supported by federal tax dollars."
The policy excludes classified, copyrighted or patented materials. Publishers of the scholarly journals are concerned that open access will precipitate the cancellation of many library subscriptions. However, built into the act is a six-month delay in the release of completed manuscripts that may help to address this concern....

For those interested in voicing an opinion about the act, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access has displayed action steps in support of the policy on their Web site. The list includes phoning, faxing or e-mailing your senator to support the bill, faxing a letter of support to Senators John Cornyn and Joe Lieberman, the sponsors of the bill, and issuing a public statement of support....

OA and citation impact in condensed matter physics

Henk Moed, The effect of 'Open Access' upon citation impact: An analysis of ArXiv's Condensed Matter Section, a preprint deposited in arXiv November 13, 2006. 

Abstract:   This article statistically analyses how the citation impact of articles deposited in the Condensed Matter section of the preprint server ArXiv (hosted by Cornell University), and subsequently published in a scientific journal, compares to that of articles in the same journal that were not deposited in that archive. Its principal aim is to further illustrate and roughly estimate the effect of two factors, 'early view' and 'quality bias', upon differences in citation impact between these two sets of papers, using citation data from Thomson Scientific's Web of Science. It presents estimates for a number of journals in the field of condensed matter physics. In order to discriminate between an 'open access' effect and an early view effect, longitudinal citation data was analysed covering a time period as long as 7 years. Quality bias was measured by calculating ArXiv citation impact differentials at the level of individual authors publishing in a journal, taking into account co-authorship. The analysis provided evidence of a strong quality bias and early view effect. Correcting for these effects, there is in a sample of 6 condensed matter physics journals studied in detail, no sign of a general 'open access advantage' of papers deposited in ArXiv. The study does provide evidence that ArXiv accelerates citation, due to the fact that that ArXiv makes papers earlier available rather than that it makes papers freely available.

More on the case for open data

Heather Morrison, That day has arrived, and Canada must seize it (more on CIHR), Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, November 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

Another thought on the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Consultation on their Draft Policy on Access to Research Outputs (comments due November 24, 2006).
This policy is leading-edge in the area of open data. But, does it go far enough?

The Final Report of the National Consultation on Access to Scientific Research Data recommends a much stronger leadership role for Canada. Two paragraphs from this Report explain beautifully why open data is so important:

Complex and rich arrays of scientific databases are changing how research is done, speeding discovery and creating new concepts. Increased access will accelerate these changes, creating a new world of research and a whole new world. When these databases are combined within and between disciplines and countries, fundamental leaps in knowledge can occur that transform our understanding of life, the world and the universe.

For example, in the analysis of human genetics, the technology to capture enormous amounts of data and to mine them for new information is already showing the genetic make-up of life and the understanding of numerous diseases and syndromes. We will soon be able to analyze such complexities as the pre-disposition to disease in animal and plant populations based on genetics, social and environmental conditions, and demographics, so that all these factors can become part of new disease prevention strategies. With the ability to access and integrate data compiled in different fields, totally new knowledge regimes are being opened in ways that have historically been impossible.

Another preview of PLoS ONE

Catriona J. MacCallum, ONE for All: The Next Step for PLoS, PLoS Biology, November 14, 2006.  An editorial.  Excerpt:

...[I]in just a few weeks, the Public Library of Science will launch a new “journal,” PLoS ONE, that will initiate a radical departure from the stifling constraints of this existing system. Its aims are not only to provide a more inclusive open-access platform for scientific literature —papers will not be rejected on the basis of such subjective justifications as those invoked above— but to reflect far more closely the way that scientific research is conducted by taking advantage of the increasing functionality and flexibility of internet-based communication. All papers that make a valuable contribution to the scientific literature, that are replicable, that are clearly written, and whose conclusions are supported by the data deserve publication. PLoS ONE will provide the means to do that swiftly and efficiently.

The launch is only the first step—indeed, we refer to this first version of PLoS ONE as a beta version to emphasize that it will develop rapidly during the months after launch. Initially, PLoS ONE may not look so different from a traditional journal. There is a large and growing editorial board who will handle peer review. Papers, if accepted, will be rapidly posted online (acceptance to publication will be a matter of days) in XML and PDF versions, included in abstracting and indexing services, and they will be deposited in the publicly available archive PubMedCentral. Similar to the other PLoS journals, there will be a publication charge to pay for the cost of review, production, and web hosting (in this case, US$1,250, although there is a discounted price of US$750 for pioneering authors submitting before the official launch). Like the other PLoS journals, the fee will be waived for those without access to appropriate funds. But that is where the similarity ends.

From the start, PLoS ONE will be open to papers from all scientific disciplines....

Peer review will also be also handled differently. PLoS ONE uses a two-stage assessment process starting when a paper is submitted but continuing long after it has been published. Submitted papers will first be scrutinized by an appropriate handling editor from the PLoS ONE board....This pre-publication peer review concentrates on objective and technical concerns to determine whether the research has been sufficiently well conceived, well executed, and well described to justify inclusion in the scientific record....But peer review doesn't, and shouldn't, stop there. And this is where the increasing sophistication of web-based tools can begin to play a part. Once a paper is in the public domain post-publication, open peer review will begin. Readers are able to comment on—and rate—articles. Papers will not be a static statement of fact but the beginning of a conversation with the scientific community. Obviously, this will be no free-for-all. Anonymous commenting will not be permitted, and, to take part, commentators will need to conform to the norms of civilized scientific discussion.

The tools that PLoS ONE will use to create such web functionality come from a new open-source software project called TOPAZ. PLoS ONE will be the first publication to be produced on this platform, and so the PLoS ONE and TOPAZ teams are working closely together to meet the growing demand for sophisticated tools and resources to read and use the scientific and medical literature. We are convinced that we will be the first of many publishers, societies, universities, and research communities to take advantage of TOPAZ to produce open-access publications economically and efficiently.

This functionality is just the beginning for PLoS ONE. What could now be termed a high-volume, broad-scope online publication will rapidly develop into a much more dynamic platform than can be encompassed by the name “journal.”...

Moreover, because an open-access model enables each paper to pay for itself, no matter how small the field, the subject can be nurtured. To stimulate this endeavor, PLoS ONE will ultimately provide multiple portals as part of its publishing service, where such research can be aggregated for as long as required by a dedicated editorial board regulating the quality and scope of the content displayed....

New Scholarly Communications Report

The October issue of Scholarly Communications Report is now online.  Only the TOC is accessible to non-subscribers.

Chris Surridge on PLoS ONE

Chris Surridge spoke on PLoS ONE at MIT on October 20.  A video of the talk is now online at the Open Wetware wiki.  Chris is the managing editor of PLoS ONE.

FreeCulture joins the ATA

FreeCulture has joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and blogged its reasons why: has joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, which supports open public access to taxpayer-funded research. We join other student groups such as Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and the American Medical Student Association as members, along with a long list of universities, libraries, patients, and public interest groups.

Our reasons for joining are two-fold:

  1. As the leading group of student advocates for the public interest in intellectual property and information & communications technology, we recognize access to research as a defining issue for our generation. Public access will lead to faster cures and treatments for disease, improve scholarship and research, and promote development. Whether it’s brilliant photos of space, GIS data, or scholarly journal articles, the people have a right to what they pay for. Access to publicly-funded research, and open access generally, is simply the right thing to do.
  2. As students, we work with academic research all the time. After all, who isn’t required to write a research paper at some time or another? Whether it’s a term paper or a doctoral dissertation, scholarship always builds on the past. That requires access to the work of those who’ve come before us. is proud to support the alliance’s work on behalf of the Federal Research Public Access Act and other efforts. Here at the University of Florida, we worked with the Student Senate to pass a resolution supporting FRPAA and open access — and succeeded. We hope to work with ATA to provide more information and resources to engage students on the issue in the future.

PS:  Welcome to FreeCulture.  Students have a strong interest in OA, as scholars and as citizens, and their voices will help the worldwide campaign to bring it about.

DSpace user survey

Charles Bailey has summarized the results of a DSpace User Survey.  Excerpt from his summary:

  • The vast majority of respondents (77.6%) used or planned to use DSpace for a university IR....
  • Preservation and interoperability were the highest priority system features (61.2% each), followed by search engine indexing (57.8%) and open access to refereed articles (56.9%). (Percentage of respondents who rated these features "very important.") Only 5.2% thought that OA to refereed articles was unimportant.
  • The most common type of current IR content was refereed scholarly articles and theses/dissertations (55.2% each), followed by other (48.6%) and grey literature (47.4%).
  • The most popular types of content that respondents were planning to add to their IRs were datasets (53.4%), followed by audio and video (46.6% each)....

More on the pricing crisis

Barbara Palmer, Ongoing crisis in academic-journal pricing is the focus of recent colloquium, Stanford Report,  November 15, 2006.  A report on Stanford's Scholarly Communications Colloquium (Palo Alto, November 6, 2006).  Excerpt:

...[T]were two points on which almost everyone agreed: The high costs for journal subscriptions charged by commercial publishers in recent years are unsustainable, and the ability to distribute articles electronically has fundamentally changed academic research and publishing....

From 1986 to 2003, the unit cost of serials purchased by academic research libraries rose by 215 percent compared with a 68 percent rise in the consumer price index over the same time period, said Doug Brutlag, professor of biochemistry and current chairman of the Academic Council's Committee on Libraries. The Faculty Senate passed a resolution in 2004 encouraging faculty to consider journal pricing as well as reputation when considering where to publish or serving on editorial boards.

There is a big discrepancy between the prices charged by for-profit and nonprofit journals, reported Ted Bergstrom, professor of economics at the University of California - Santa Barbara, in a talk titled "The Changing Economics of Scholarly Journals." Bergstrom presented data comparing journal costs in 2004 that showed that the price-per-page of for-profit journals was about three times the average price-per-page of nonprofit journals.

Prices should be decreasing rather than increasing, since the ability of scholars to publish papers on their own websites has reduced the value of journal subscriptions, Bergstrom said.

In a recent analysis of articles published in economics journals, Bergstrom found that 73 percent of all articles and 100 percent of the papers published in the four leading journals could be found for free online. Not only are papers that are free on the web more often cited than those that are not, but also authors of papers that appear in high-impact journals are more likely to post them on their own websites than authors of articles in minor journals and papers, Bergstrom said....

A similar analysis of science and medical journals completed 18 months ago showed that from 37 to 45 percent of the content of three leading journals, Science, Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine, made its way into the free zone in cyberspace, said John Sack, director of HighWire Press, who moderated a panel of Stanford authors and editors. The study corroborated Bergstrom's finding that the higher impact a journal has, the more likely it is that the content would become free from the authors' own websites, Sack said.

Research belongs in the public domain, to advance science and also because taxpayers, including the "guy flipping hamburgers," help foot the bill for publicly funded research, said Patrick Brown, professor of biochemistry and a co-founder and co-director of the Public Library of Science (PLoS)....

Slides from many of the presentations are archived at the Scholarly Communication and Publishing Issues website.

The website also contains tools to help faculty authors analyze journal cost and impact, as well as information about the strategies Stanford University Libraries have developed for maintaining their serial collections.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Another OA recommendation for Australia

The Australian government has published the report, Research Quality Framework: Assessing the quality and impact of research in Australia: The Recommended RQF, October 2006, which has been "endorsed by the Development Advisory Group for the RQF".  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

5.3.  The RQF Information Management System is to be developed recognising that the Australian Government announced the RQF in conjunction with the Accessibility Framework in May 2004 as part of the Backing Australia's Ability - Building our Future through Science and Innovation package.

The purpose of the Research Accessibility Framework is to ensure that information about research and how to access it is available to researchers and the wider community. This is particularly true of publicly-funded research; as a general proposition, it should be accessible to the public.

There's an article about the report in the November 15 issue of The Australian, but it doesn't mention the OA recommendation.

Comment.  This OA recommendation converges beautifully with the OA recommendation from study by the Australian Government Productivity Commission (blogged here yesterday).  The odds that Australia will adopt an OA mandate for publicly-funded research have to go up as more official commissions deliver the same message.

U of Virginia joins Google Library project

The University of Virginia Library has become the ninth library to join the Google Library project.  (Thanks to Gary Price.)  From the UV press release

Today, Google welcomes its newest partner - the University of Virginia Library - to the Google Books Library Project.  Built by Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, the U.Va. Library carries a wealth of early American historical material among its rich collections.

Google will digitize hundreds of thousands of books from the Library, including selected portions of the Library's American history, literature, and humanities works collections, and make them searchable online through Google Book Search.  With 13 physical locations as well as the original Rotunda, the Library contains more than five million volumes, 17 million manuscripts, rare books and archives, and rapidly-growing digital collections....

Two OA milestones

  1. BioMed Central has launched its 100th independent OA journal.  From yesterday's announcement:

    BioMed Central is proud to announce the launch of our 100th independent journal, Source Code for Biology and Medicine....

    BioMed Central’s independent journal programme, launched in August 2001, allows groups of researchers to start open access journals under their own editorial control. BioMed Central provides publishing technology, hosting, marketing and customer support.

    We encourage researchers with proposals for new journals and also editorial groups of existing journals to contact our independent journals team to find out more about the benefits of publishing with BioMed Central.

  2. Hindawi Publishing has published 1,000 open-access articles since the first of the year.  From today's announcement:

    Hindawi Publishing Corporation is pleased to announce that it has published the 1,000th article in its open access journal collection for 2006. This milestone provides an indication of the significant growth of Hindawi's open access journal collection, which contains 25 journals with published content in 2006.

    "We are quite confident of our ability to scale up our open access publishing program while maintaining or enhancing its current levels of academic quality and financial performance," said Hindawi's co-founder and CEO Ahmed Hindawi. "With the current level of almost 400 submissions a month, we expect to publish about 2,000 open access articles in 2007."

    Hindawi began experimenting with open access during 2003, using an optional open access model. In 2004, we converted two subscription-based journals to a full open access model. During 2005 and 2006 we launched more than a dozen new journals under the open access model, and converted more than 25 subscription-based journals to open access.

PS:  Congratulations to BMC and Hindawi on these landmark achievements.

More on OA in Germany

Ina Helms, Die neue Offenheit des Wissens, Max Planck Forschung, No. 3, 2006, pp. 26-31.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

OA glimpses of NSF-funded research

The US National Science Foundation has published an Audit of Interest in NSF Providing More Research Results (dated September 25, 2006, but apparently released today).  (Thanks to Prue Adler.)  Excerpt:

The objective of this audit was to assess the interest among NSF’s various constituents for NSF to provide information about the results of the research it funds on its website....

Recent surveys conducted by the U.S. Government Accountability Office and NSF indicate that NSF constituents have an interest in NSF providing more information about the results of the research it funds. Interviews we conducted with executives of organizations representing NSF’s diverse constituents, as well as with NSF program officers, corroborate these results.

The organization executives and NSF program officers expressed an interest in NSF posting more research results, in some format, on its website. They cited multiple advantages to NSF providing this information, such as helping researchers identify possible collaborators and improving the public’s understanding of scientific research. While they also expressed some concerns, such as the premature disclosure of proprietary information or an invention, the advantages appear to outweigh the concerns and could be mitigated by NSF’s policies and practices.

In terms of the best format to convey the research results, organization executives and NSF program officers expressed an overwhelming interest in NSF posting brief summaries of research results and publication citations on its website. They also indicated some interest in NSF posting conference proceedings, abstracts of journal articles, and final project reports.

By providing greater public access to the results of the research it funds, NSF would further the public’s knowledge and understanding of scientific research, assist researchers in building on prior work, and make its operations more transparent and accountable.

Recommendations: In addition to NSF continuing with its plans to make publication citations available on its website, we recommend that NSF use its positions on various government-wide committees to advocate for the inclusion of brief summaries in project reports. These summaries could then be made available to the public. In addition, we recommend NSF consider posting other formats, such as final project reports, conference proceedings, and/or journal abstracts on its website or providing links to these documents if they are available elsewhere.

Agency Response: NSF agreed with the OIG [Office of Inspector General] that access to science is an important issue. We originally recommended that NSF require researchers to submit brief summaries of research results that NSF could then post on its website. However, NSF stated that it would be premature to revise reporting requirements because of government-wide efforts to standardize templates used by researchers to report their results to various federal funding agencies. Accordingly, we modified our report to recommend that NSF use its position on these committees to advocate for brief summaries of research results. NSF agreed with our recommendation to consider posting other forms of results information and is exploring posting journal abstracts or links to these abstracts on the NSF website.

Comment. I'm disappointed that the survey focused so much on citations and abstracts when the crying need is for access to full-text research articles.  The Office of Inspector General (OIG) did ask interview subjects about full-text articles, but we don't know whom it interviewed or how the questions were phrased. 

[Page 3] We interviewed the executive director (or designee) of seven national organizations that represented educators, libraries, individual librarians, groups currently underrepresented among NSF-funded researchers (women and minorities), science writers and journalists, and researchers....

[Page 9] Finally, the [interviewed] organizations and program officers expressed little support for NSF posting...annual project reports, the full text of published journal articles, and the manuscripts of journal articles accepted by publishers. They stated that the other products, particularly the brief summaries and the publication citations, contain sufficient information on the results of NSF-funded research.

For more detail on the interviewed organizations, but without their names, see pp. 20f.

It appears that the OIG made access to full-text articles a minor emphasis in the interviews.   For example, Table D-1 (p. 20) summarizes the interviewee responses "regarding whether or not NSF should post various results formats on its website".  It lists five formats (publication citations, brief summaries, conference proceedings, journal abstracts, and final project reports) but omits full-text articles and peer-reviewed author manuscripts.

Note that the NSF is covered by FRPAA.  Hence, if FRPAA passes, the NSF would have to mandate open access to full-text peer-reviewed manuscripts based on NSF-funded research.

Tracking the RCUK's progress toward OA

Tracey Caldwell, Half of RCUKs opt for open access model, Information World Review, November 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

Research papers sponsored by four RCUKs will be made available on an open access model. These are the Economic and Social Research Council, Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, Medical Research Council and Natural Environment Research Council.

Open access campaigners welcome the announcement. Peter Suber, author of the Open Access news blog, said, “The four research councils that have adopted the mandates are exemplary. We can quibble about details,...[but by] requiring open access to the research they fund, they’ve taken the biggest and most beneficial step.”

Suber called for the four remaining research councils to follow suit. “One – the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) – has indicated it will not, and will merely encourage open access....[T]he US National Institutes of Health (NIH) tried the CCLRC approach in 2004 and it didn’t work. The NIH requests rather than requires open access to the research it funds and, despite its best efforts to encourage and educate its grantees, it has not been able to get more than 5% compliance. The CCLRC apparently hasn’t monitored the NIH experiment and is preparing to repeat its mistakes,” Suber said.

A CCLRC representative dismissed the criticism: “CCLRC provides the facilities for research. It is not a major grant issuing body. So the question of mandating deposit of research outputs for grant holders does not arise. CCLRC and PPARC will merge in April 2007. Together we will develop the guidance for the new research council.”


  1. After I gave this interview, the Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) also adopted an OA mandate.  So now the tally for the eight Research Councils UK is five mandates, one request, and two undecided. 
  2. I differ with the CCLRC.  The fact that it is not a "major" research funder doesn't mean that the policy arguments for OA don't apply to it.  They apply to all agencies that fund non-classified research, and with special strength to public funding agencies.  I hope the upcoming merger means that the new agency will adopt the PPARC's strong OA policy, not the CCLRC's weak one.

Creating a commons for synthetic biology

Arti Rai and James Boyle, Synthetic Biology: Caught Between Property Rights, The Public Domain, And The Commons, a preprint forthcoming in PLoS Biology.  (Thanks to Science Commons.)  Excerpt:

Novel artificial genetic systems with twelve bases instead of four. Bacteria that can be programmed to take photographs or form visible patterns. Cells that can count the number of times they divide. A live polio virus “created from scratch using mail-order segments of DNA and a viral genome map that is freely available on the Internet.” These are some of the remarkable, and occasionally disturbing, fruits of “synthetic biology,” the attempt to construct life starting at the genetic level....[S]ynthetic biologists aim to make biology a true engineering discipline. In the same way that electrical engineers rely on standard capacitors and resistors, or computer programmers rely on modular blocks of code, synthetic biologists wish to create an array of modular biological parts that can be readily synthesized and mixed together in different combinations. MIT has a “Registry of Standard Biological Parts [which] supports this goal by recording and indexing biological parts that are currently being built and offering synthesis and assembly services to construct new parts, devices, and systems.” ...The idea behind a registry of parts is that these parts can, and should, be recombined in different ways to produce many different types of devices and systems. Although the Registry currently contains physical DNA, its developers believe that, as DNA synthesis technology becomes increasingly inexpensive, the Registry will be composed largely of information and specifications which can be executed in synthesizers just as semiconductor chip designs are executed by fabrication firms.

Synthetic biology has already produced important results, including more accurate AIDS tests and the possibility of unlimited supplies of previously scarce drugs for malaria. Proponents hope to use synthetic organisms to produce not only medically relevant chemicals but also a large variety of industrial materials, including biofuels such as hydrogen and ethanol. At the same time, synthetic biology has engendered numerous policy concerns. From its inception, commentators have raised issues ranging from bioethical and environmental worries to fears of bioterrorism....

There is, however, one area that has been largely unexplored until this point – the relationship of synthetic biology to intellectual property law. Two key issues deserve further attention. First,...[t]here is reason to fear that tendencies in the way that the law has handled software on the one hand and biotechnology on the other could come together in a “perfect storm” that will impede the potential of the technology. Second,...[i]t points out a tension between different methods of creating “openness”. On the one hand, we have intellectual property law’s insistence that certain types of material remain in the public domain, outside the world of property. On the other, we have the attempt by individuals to use intellectual property rights to create a “commons,” just as developers of free and open source software use the leverage of software copyrights to impose requirements of openness on future programmers....

PS:  Despite the Creative Commons license on this preprint, Microsoft Explorer 7.0 (with the default security settings) balked at a certificate problem, didn't offer me a workaround, couldn't open it for me.  I read it in Firefox with no trouble.

Webcast on author rights to self-archive

ARL, ACRL, and SPARC are sponsoring a Joint Webcast on Author Rights on December 14, 2006.  From the announcement:

ACRL and ARL, through the Institute on Scholarly Communication, along with SPARC, are sponsoring a special joint webcast on author rights. This Webcast will help librarians better engage disciplinary faculty and researchers on the topic of author rights. A journal article is often the culmination of years of study, research, and hard work. The more the article is read and cited, the greater its value. But if authors give exclusive control to the publisher in the copyright agreement, use may be limited. Many authors wonder:

  • Can I post my articles on a course Web site? What about in an institutional repository?
  • Can I give copies of my published article to my class or colleagues?
  • Is it okay to post articles in NIH's PubMed Central?
  • Can I include sections of my article in later works?

Authors of journal articles can modify publishers' copyright transfer agreements to keep key rights to their articles. Educate faculty on your campus before they transfer ownership of their intellectual output and help them understand the consequences and options. Increase your visibility on campus, your influence on the higher education and research environment, and become a respected local authority on this important scholarly communication issue....

[The presenters are] Julia Blixrud, Assistant Director for Public Programs, SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), and Trisha Davis, Rights Management Coordinator, The Ohio State University Libraries....

The cost of the Webcast is being partially underwritten by the sponsors and offered for $35 to all participants.  The Webcast is limited to 75. Registration opens November 14 and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis....

Another provost for FRPAA

Jamshed Bharucha, Provost & Senior Vice President of Tufts University, 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). The tally is now up to 129.

Moral and prudential arguments for OA

T. Scott Plutchak, A Heretic in Charleston, T. Scott, November 13, 2006.  Excerpt:

I was trying to figure out a theme to use for my comments at the panel discussion in Charleston on Friday.  Anthony Watkinson had done a superb job of framing a series of questions for us to respond to during the session "Open Access - Beyond Declarations"....Among other things, Anthony asked, Is the achievement of Open Access to (all) scholarly communication a moral imperative, or is it one where advantages and disadvantages have to be weighed and evidence adduced?

The open access moralism on the part of some of the partisans has been extremely damaging to the entire discussion, so I ended up characterizing myself as perhaps an Open Access Heretic, pointing out that, "Martin Luther continued to believe in Jesus.  He just quit believing in the Pope."  That's a fair metaphor for the evolution of my views.

When one takes the strong moralistic approach, the open access all or nothing approach, and treats it as if it is the most important issue in scholarly publishing, then one is essentially absolved from the difficult consideration of social costs.  If one feels that the social benefits of open access are clearly and completely overwhelming, then one is compelled to push for whatever solutions might point in that direction and let the chips fall where they may.   But to righteously ignore the fact that some of those chips may fall very heavily indeed is irresponsible....

I tried to illustrate this with the "taxpayer rights" argument.  In a mom and apple pie kind of way, the statement that taxpayers should have immediate access to the results of federally funded research is trivially true.  But this could easily be met by having scientists write up the results of their work and post it to publicly available websites.   This, however, is clearly not what those who are making the argument would be satisfied with -- they still want the benefits of the peer review and editing processes that are part of the publication system and that are not, under the traditional system, paid for by the taxpayers.... 

Open access moralism has poisoned the debate, generated tremendous distrust, pushed people (most of whom I believe are essentially well meaning) into making tendentious and unsupportable arguments (on both sides), and made it far more difficult to build the kinds of alliances that might actually enable us to develop a social benefit calculus that could lead to positive changes that don't carry the burden of unintended negative consequences....

I hope that we've reached a point where we can do some bridge building among the various stakeholders and do the hard work of seriously analyzing the social costs & benefits of various open or enhanced access approaches....

Comment.  There are both moral and prudential (cost-benefit) arguments for OA, just as there both moral and prudential arguments against it. The moral arguments for OA don't absolve us of the need to make the prudential arguments, and to be scrupulous, and civil, in collecting and using the empirical evidence needed to support them.  But likewise, the prudential arguments don't moot or invalidate the moral arguments.  This shouldn't be surprising or controversial, since we're talking about justifications for policy change, not explanations for natural phenomena.  Arguments for and against every policy change have both moral and prudential components --pick your favorite example, from ending the war in Iraq to reducing greenhouse gas emissions or helping senior citizens pay for subscription drugs. 

In the taxpayer argument for OA, I agree with Scott that funding agencies pay for research, not for the value added by publishers (and I said so back in September 2003).  But I've also argued that there is a both a fairness argument here and an argument for spending public money in the public interest.  Those two additional layers to the taxpayer argument have irreducible moral components, even if they require patient analysis to show that fairness to taxpayers and the public interest support OA more than they support the subscription model. 

I can't tell whether Scott is saying that moral issues don't even arise in this debate or merely that arguments built on them have sometimes been abused or overstated.  If the latter, I certainly agree.  Both sides, in fact, have gotten a lot of mileage from self-righteous moral arguments and from dismissing self-righteous zealots on the other side.  I'd like to see the rhetoric on both sides disregard the worst arguments on the other side and address only the strongest --which is hard to do when the worst ones are prominently published.  But even if we could succeed at that, part of the refocused discussion would, or should, be on moral questions, like fairness to taxpayers, and part on prudential questions, like costs and benefits. 

Finally, it's incorrect to leave the impression that OA proponents haven't done serious empirical analysis of the costs and benefits of OA.  We see this in the many studies of the connection between OA and citation impact and in the growing number of studies (most recently by Houghton, Steele, and Sheehan for Australia's DEST) on the net economic benefits to a nation in providing OA to its research output.

New multimedia OA journal on neuroscience

Neural Development is a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal from BioMed Central.  For more details, see today's press release or the editorial in the inaugural issue

Open access will allow key findings in our field to be more accessible and far-reaching, because it will be online and without charge. An online journal means more rapid reviews and shorter time to publication; for a growing field, dispensing new knowledge quickly is critical. The open access format will also allow us to publish articles without the constraint of page limitations. A fixed article-processing charge will be levied to cover the publication costs; there are no additional page or colour figure charges. Furthermore, the dynamic nature of the developing nervous system is often best captured in the form of movies and animations. We have made this a priority in designing the format of Neural Development: movies will be built into the article, such that readers will be only one click away from a real-time view of the observations. Also, the online format permits the journal to generate a cover for every article we publish. Apart from the intellectual challenge of understanding how our favourite part of the nervous system develops, the sheer beauty of development is what has attracted many of us to the field.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Draft report from Australian government recommends OA mandate

The Australian Government Productivity Commission has released an important study, Public Support for Science and Innovation: Draft Research Report (November 2, 2006).  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

Impediments to the functioning of the innovation system [:]....There is scope for the ARC and the NHMRC to play a more active role than they currently do in promoting access to the results of research they fund. They could require as a condition of funding that research papers, data and other information produced as a result of their funding are made publicly available such as in an ‘open access’ repository.

The Australian Government has sought to enhance access to the results of publicly funded research through the:

  • development of an Accessibility Framework for Publicly Funded Research; and
  • allocation of funding under the Systemic Infrastructure Initiative to build technical information infrastructure that supports the creation, dissemination of and access to knowledge, and the use of digital assets and their management (box 5.10)....

In a recent report to DEST, Houghton et al. (2006) estimated net gains from improving access to publicly-funded research across the board and in particular research sectors (table 5.2).

  • The estimated benefits from an assumed 5 per cent increase in access and efficiency and level of social rate of return were between $2 million (ARC competitively-funded research) and $628 million (gross expenditure on R&D).
  • Assuming a move from this level of improved access and efficiency to a national system of institutional repositories in Australia over twenty years, the estimated benefit–cost ratios were between 3.1 (NHMRC-funded research) to 214 (gross expenditure on R&D)....

Of interest, is whether funding agencies themselves could become more actively involved in enhancing access to the results of the research they fund....

In their recent report to DEST, Houghton et al. (2006) made a number of suggestions to improve access to and dissemination of research including:

  • developing a national system of institutional or enterprise-based repositories to support new modes of enquiry and research; ...
  • ensuring that the Research Quality Framework supports and encourages the development of new, more open scholarly communication mechanisms, rather than encouraging ‘a retreat’ by researchers to conventional publication forms and media, and a reliance by evaluators upon traditional publication metrics (for example, by ensuring dissemination and impact are an integral part of evaluation); 
  • encouraging funding agencies (for example, ARC and NHMRC) to mandate that the results of their supported research be made available in open access archives and repositories;
  • encouraging universities and research institutions to support the development of new, more open scholarly communication mechanisms, through, for example, the development of ‘hard or soft open access’ mandates for their supported research; and
  • providing support for a structured advocacy program to raise awareness and inform all stakeholders about the potential benefits of more open scholarly communication alternatives, and provide leadership in such areas as copyright (for example, by encouraging use of ‘creative commons’ licensing) (pp. xii-xiii)....

Several impediments to innovation should be addressed: ...

  • published papers and data from ARC and NHMRC-funded projects should be freely and publicly available....

Comment. It's important that this report was written by a government commission and important that it recommends an OA mandate. 

From the file of preliminaries:

You are invited to examine this draft research study and to provide written submissions to the Commission. Submissions should reach the Commission by Thursday, 21 December 2006.  In addition, the Commission intends to hold a limited number of consultations to obtain feedback on this draft. The Commission intends to present its final report to the Government in early March 2007.

Update. The online version of the report doesn't tell us where to send comments, an unfortunate (but remediable) omission. Colin Steele tells me that the print edition of the report asks for comments to be sent by email to Science [at] The Commission prefers to receive comments in "Word or similar text format rather than Adobe PDF".

Update. The Productivity Commission has posted a circular in which it elaborates on how to submit comments on the draft report:

You are invited to examine Draft Report and to provide written submissions to the Commission. (In addition, the Commission intends to hold a limited number of consultations to obtain feedback on the draft.)...There is no specified format for submissions. They may range from a brief outline of your views, to a much more substantial assessment of a range of issues. Where possible, you should provide relevant data and documentation to support your views. Written submissions should reach the Commission by Thursday, 21 December 2006....Submissions will normally be placed on the Commission’s website shortly after receipt, unless they are marked confidential or accompanied by a request to delay release for short period of time....Submissions may also be sent by mail, fax or audio cassette....By email:

Glasgow open scholarship presentations

The presentations from Open Scholarship: New Challenges for Open Access Repositories (Glasgow, October 18-20, 2006) are now online.  (Thanks to the INIST Libre Accès blog.)

Charleston presentations on implementing OA

Heather Morrison, Open Access in Practice, OA Librarian, November 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

In a recent presentation at the Charleston 2006 Conference, Open Access in Practice, several of us talked about what we are doing to implement open access.

George Machovec of the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries (CARL) talked about open access linking and listing for CARL members, who share access to 80 open access title lists through Gold Rush. George is also Managing Editor of the for-profit Charleston Advisor, which practices an interesting twist on the author payment model for OA: some of the reviews from each Advisor are OA - and it is the author who is paid (an honorarium). Charleston Advisor also has a generous author copyright policy, which facilitates author self-archiving.

Heather Whitehead of the Colorado School of Mines described the process she and her colleagues employed in creating a specialized open access journal list, which is shared with the other CARL members through Gold Rush. The Colorado School of Mines list includes specialized titles not (yet?) in DOAJ. Audience members encouraged Heather to share her list with DOAJ! In turn, Heather encouraged audience members to think about creating and sharing other specialized lists. None of us can vet and select all of the open access resources by ourselves - but if we work together, who knows what we can accomplish?

As for me, it was my great pleasure to talk about how we librarians are sharing our own work through E-LIS: the Open Archive for Library and Information Science. As a voluntary collaboration of editors from all over the world, E-LIS is not only a model for sharing for librarians; in my opinion, it is a model for how we can work together in a global society. I talk about some of the benefits of E-LIS for searchers and for depositing authors.

We conclude with some notes about the reality of open access - the substantial, and growing resources, and what this means for librarians. Much of our work is exactly the same in the open access environment. We connect people with information - whether the information is purchased, or freely available. We build collections, through careful selection and preservation; again, it does not matter whether or not the resources are purchased.

Critique of the new PRC study on self-archiving and journal cancellations

Stevan Harnad, Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Flawed Method and No Data, Open Access Archivangelism, November 13, 2006.  Excerpt:

Summary:  There is no evidence to date that Open Access (OA) self-archiving causes journal cancellations. The Publishing Research Consortium commissioned a survey of acquisitions librarian preferences to see whether they could predict such cancellations in the future using a "Share of Preference model," but the study has a glaring methodological flaw that invalidates its conclusion (that self-archiving will cause cancellations). The study consisted of asking librarians which of three hypothetical products -- A, B or C -- they preferred least and most, for a variety of hypothetical combinations of 6 properties with 3-4 possible values each:

  1. ACCESS DELAY: 24-months, 12-months, 6-months, immediate access
  2. PERCENTAGE OF JOURNAL'S CONTENT: 100%, 80%, 60%, 40%
  3. COST: 100%, 50%, 25%, 0% 
  4. VERSION: preprint, refereed, refereed+copy-edited, published-PDF;
  5. ACCESS RELIABILITY: high, medium, low
  6. JOURNAL QUALITY: high, medium, low

No mention was made of OA self-archiving (in order to avoid "bias"); but, as a result, the model cannot make any prediction at all about the effects of self-archiving on cancellations. The questions on which it is based were about relative preferences for acquisition among competing "products" having different combinations of properties, and the model treated OA (0% cost) as if it were just one of those product properties. But self-archived articles are not products purchased by acquisitions librarians: they are papers given away by researchers, anarchically, and in parallel. Hence from the survey's "Share of Preference model" it is impossible to draw any conclusions about self-archiving causing cancellations by librarians, because the librarians were never asked what they would cancel, under what conditions; just what hypothetical products they would prefer over what. And of course they would prefer lower-priced, immediate products over higher-priced, delayed products! But if all articles in all journals were self-archived, the "Share of Preference model" does not give us the slightest clue about what journals librarians would acquire or cancel. Nor does it give us a clue as to what they would do between now (c. 15% self-archiving) and then (100% self-archiving). The banal fact that everyone would rather have something for free rather than paying for it certainly does not answer this question, or fill the gaping evidential gap about the existence, size, or timing of any hypothetical effect of self-archiving on cancellations. Nor does the study's one nontrivial finding: that librarians don't much care about the difference between a refereed author's draft and a published-PDF. (Let us hope that this study will be the last futile attempt to treat research as if it were done in order to generate or protect journal revenues. Even if valid evidence should eventually emerge that OA self-archiving does cause journal cancellations, it would be for the publishing community to adapt to that new reality, not for the research community to abstain from it, and its obvious benefits to research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the tax-paying public that funds the funders and for whose benefit the research is conducted.)

Update. Stevan has now self-archived this article.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

More on the UK's eBank project

Liz Lyon, Adding value to open access research data : the eBank UK Project, a presentation at OAI4, the CERN workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication (Geneva, October 20-22, 2005).  Self-archived November 12, 2006.

Abstract:   This presentation will briefly examine the changing landscape of e-research and data-intensive science, together with associated trends in scholarly communications. In this context the eBank UK project will be described, which is seeking to enable open access to research data generated from an e-Science application, and to build links from e-research outputs through to e-learning materials. The role of digital repositories and OAI-based aggregator services in facilitating the linking of data-sets from Grid-enabled research applications to e-prints through to peer-reviewed articles, as resources in portals and Learning Management Systems, will be assessed. Recent developments from the eBank UK project will be presented with discussion about integration in research and learning workflows and the challenge of assuring long-term access to open data archives.

Research assessment reform and OA

Universities UK has called for the reform of research assessment in the UK.  For details, see its November 9 press release.  For some of the OA connection, see its policy briefing, The future of research assessment: the principles of reform (October 2006).  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  From the policy briefing:

4.9 A marker of ‘performance’ is citation analysis of
journal articles. This can provide good coverage, soundly
based data and a link to quality. There is, however, a
possibility that changes to the structure of publication
through ‘open access’ will in due course supersede
traditional journals. Developments in this area will bring
their own advantages and create opportunities for the
development of new indicators. Much of the work in this
area, as well as the opportunities it presents, is not
currently on the radar of policy makers. It is essential that
this is explored further before decisions are made. A key
question is the extent to which citation metrics are
appropriate as a resource allocation model because of the
impact that this could have on behaviour. As with input
measures, it is likely that they could be used productively
as part of a basket of indicators in a supporting role.

PS:  For more on the OA connection, see Stevan Harnad's frequent comments on how research assessment creates incentives for self-archiving, to facilitate the submission process and (with the transition to a metrics-based assessment) to give authors the benefit of the OA impact advantage.

New IR for the U of Tasmania

The University of Tasmania has launched UTAS ePrints, its new institutional repository. 

(Thanks to Arthur sale both for the alert and for the moving and shaking behind the scenes to make this happen.)

Presentations on open learning

The presentations from the Fourth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (Ocho Rios, Jamaica, October 30 - November 3, 2006) are now online.  (Thanks to Steve Foerster.)

Bethesda Statement now in German

Bernhard Linseisen has translated the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing into German.  (Many thanks, Bernhard.)

More on the networked book

Paula Berinstein, The Book as Place: The “Networked Book” Becomes the New “In” Destination, Searcher,  November/December 2006.  The longest and most detailed treatment I've seen of networked books, which combine OA with social networking.

Obstacle to strong OA policy in the UK steps down

On Friday, Lord David Sainsbury stepped down from his position as UK science minister.  However we may hear from him on UK science policy one more time before he leaves the public stage:

Lord Sainsbury has agreed to carry out a review of science and innovation policies across government – taking a forward look at what needs to be done to ensure the UK’s success in wealth creation and scientific policy-making. He will report to the Chancellor and the Secretaries of State at DTI and the Department for Education and Skills.

Sainsbury has been the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation in the Department of Trade and Industry since July 1998.  (Thanks to Matt Cockerill.) 

More news coverage.


  1. David Sainsbury is the UK official most responsible for rejecting the OA recommendations (July 2004) of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.  Those recommendations were based on extensive fact-finding and in their basic terms have been reaffirmed and adopted by just about every other government since then that has closely examined the same issues.  
  2. Thanks to a document unearthed by David Prosser through the UK Freedom of Information Act, we know that during the time when Sainsbury was supposed to be evaluating the OA recommendations, he met with OA opponents roughly twice as often as with OA proponents, and met with the Reed Elsevier CEO three times more often than any other stakeholder. 
  3. As a result of Sainsbury's partiality, strong OA policy in the UK was delayed by about two years --the time between the House of Commons recommendations (July 2004) and the adoption of the RCUK policy (June 2006).  And for the record, we should note that the RCUK could adopt its strong OA policy only because it was independent of Sainsbury's authority, as Sainsbury himself noted in March 2005 testimony before the Science and Technology Committee (scroll to Questions 20 and following).

Stellenbosch presentations

The presentations from the Stellenbosch Ninth Annual Symposium (University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, November 2-3, 2006) are now online.  (Thanks to Richard Akerman.)  See esp. these three:

Prospects for OA in chemistry

Peter Murray-Rust, Could an Open chemistry journal fly? A Scientist and the Web, November 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

This post addresses the Closed world of chemistry publishing and offers some not very optimistic comments. I subscribe to the CHMINF-L list which serves the chemical information community. Much of the traffic is about specific (usually commercial) chemical information services or where to find esoteric pieces of information. It reflects the innate conservatism of chemistry. I and a few others have from time to time raised the question of how do we take chemistry into the current century, but generally fail to get much of a response. There is, for example, little belief in the value of Wikipedia, etc. or how to develop virtual chemical communities.

Occasionally, however, some of the membership raise the question of Open Access (and implicitly why chemistry is effectively the least enlightened major scientific discipline by having no major Open Access journals). Michael Engel is one of the few list members who tries to question the way things are currently done and writes (Open Access and costs):

I still do not understand the 3000 USD per paper. How much unnecessary overhead costs are in this figure ?

I wonder how much it would cost to have a Chemistry journal at virtually no cost to the author and the reader.... [PS:  Omitting Engel's other criteria and suggestions.]

On simple answer is that it has been tried.

  • Steve Bachrach ran the Internet Journal of Chemistry for a period. It was at ( but the server no longer runs....
  • Jean-Claude Bradley publishes his science directly onto the Internet (UsefulChemistry molecules) without peer-review but Openly visible This is effectively a zero-cost model (marginal academic costs - e.g. a university of personal server and effectively part of the actual practice of science).
  • The chemistry blogosphere now contains high quality reviews such as TotallySynthetic which reviews peer-reviewed articles in closed access chemistry publications with the subject of natural product synthesis. I believe that this is effectively peer-reviewed by the community.
  • Wikipedia has a large and growing amount of factual chemistry material which will (I believe and hope) challenge the current overpriced and out-of-date methods of secondary publication in chemistry. IMO Wikipedia is also effectively peer-reviewed by the community.

So the problem is not technical but social....[T]he Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry (”an Open Access, peer-reviewed online journal that will encompass all aspects of organic chemistry.”) free to authors and free to readers. So what could be more attractive? As you can see [PS: from a graph, omitted here] it’s a year-and-a-bit old. All new journals take time to develop....

But the answer is simple. Chemistry exemplifies the artificial citation economy which is destructive of innovation and amplifies statis. Effectively chemists (like me) are judged on their formal publication record in journals with high impact factors....We leave it to a commercial company (such as Thomson ISI) to give us metrics about academic value. In other words we have no metric or worth of our own - we rely on a process which is driven by how much money an independent company can make out of it. There is no societal control over this.

So we are locked in a dystopia. Small changes are detrimental to any individual or organisation who tries to change it. Publish in an unusual way and you will suffer. Yes, there is a visible better future but there is no way to get there by our own will....

However it must and will change. And I’d point to the following:

  • The Wellcome trust and other funders
  • The changing face of the information world, such as Flickr, Facebook, etc.
  • The increasing economic unsustainability of conventional publishing.

So it will change. I think it will be dramatic. But I don’t think we can say how....

Comment.  One more ground for hope:  Watch the new BMC initiative, Chemistry Central and its open-access Chemistry Central Journal.