Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, November 25, 2006

More on the INSPIRE compromise

Better geographical data: conciliation agreement on INSPIRE, a press release from the European Parliament, November 22, 2006.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  Excerpt:

Europe needs better map-based information to support its policies, especially on the environment. A new database designed to achieve this - known as INSPIRE - which could be in place by early 2009, was agreed late Tuesday evening in conciliation....

After two readings by Parliament and Council under the co-decision procedure, the chief points of disagreement remaining between MEPs and EU governments were intellectual property rights, derogations to the sharing of spatial data and the financial viability of publicly owned bodies. All these points were settled at a conciliation meeting on 21 November....

Member States will, for example, be able to restrict public access to network consultation services displaying panoramic views where there is a risk to international relations, public security or national defence.   They will also be allowed to limit access to e-commerce services on a range of grounds (confidentiality of proceedings of public authorities; international relations, public security or national defence; confidentiality of commercial information; intellectual property rights; confidentiality of personal data; protection of any person who supplied the information requested on a voluntary basis; protection of the environment).  The agreed text also states that INSPIRE does not affect the existence or ownership of public authorities' intellectual property rights....

At Parliament's insistence, the Member States will have to make available free of charge the services for discovering and, subject to certain specific conditions, viewing spatial data sets.

However, because some Member States were concerned about the financial sustainability of their weather forecasting services, a derogation to the principle of free public access will allow the public authorities to levy charges "where such charges are securing the maintenance of spatial data sets and corresponding data services, especially in cases involving large volumes of frequently updated data".

More generally, the question of ensuring the financial viability of public services for supplying spatial data was another key point of the agreement.  Under the compromise, Member States may allow public authorities which supply spatial data sets "to license them to, and/or require payment from, the public authorities or institutions and bodies of the Community" which use them.  However, any such charges and licences "must be fully compatible with the general aim of facilitating the sharing of spatial data" and must "be kept to the minimum required to ensure the necessary quality and supply of spatial data sets and services together with a reasonable return on investment". Moreover, spatial data provided under Community legislation relating to the environment may not be subject to charging.

Michael Geist calls for OA to publicly-funded research in Canada

Laura Eggertson, Geist calls for 'open access' government research, IT Business, November 24, 2006.  Excerpt:

The Canadian government has been “painfully slow” to adopt and promote open-access software and research, which facilitate knowledge transfer, an expert in Internet and e-commerce law told an international conference Friday.

“Canada has the potential to show some leadership here,” said Michael Geist, holder of the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa.

“But … at least in the public sector, our government has been painfully slow in adopting any kind of open source software, preferring instead to spend our tax dollars on proprietary software licences,” he told the first general meeting of the Emerging Dynamic Global Economies Network, hosted by the University....

He also put the onus on researchers to adopt Creative Commons licences instead of more restrictive copyright provisions, to ensure their research is readily available around the world.

Despite promises by some federal funding agencies to promote open-access publication, most granting agencies have not yet made it a requirement that the researchers they finance make their results available to the general public in a timely fashion, Geist added in an interview.

“At the moment, we’ve got what strikes me as a ridiculous proposition where we fund the research and then spend thousands of dollars to purchase that research within our own institutions, and the public isn’t even granted broad access to it.”

He called for an open-source repository where researchers, after publishing their work in peer-reviewed journals, would make it publicly accessible.

As part of its broader accountability agenda, the Conservative government should also eliminate the outdated Crown copyright provisions that stipulate that all public work belongs to the Crown and taxpayers must seek permission to access it, Geist said.

“There’s something fundamentally wrong about that,” he said....

Friday, November 24, 2006

OA reference sources

Péter Jacsó, Open access ready reference suites, Online Information Review, 30, 6 (2006).  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far.

The paper discusses various reference sources represented in the open access domain of the web....The paper finds that, in spite of the variety of open access reference suites mentioned, it is still advisable to be on the lookout for new developments, as some highly relevant sources are not available in any of them, especially some of the best open access subject encyclopaedias in the sciences and social sciences....

OA journal business models

Chen Chi Chang, Business models for open access journals publishing, Online Information Review, 30, 6 (2006).  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far.

Abstract: Purpose – This study aims to summarise the information about open access publishing models and to analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).

Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a review of the academic literature, to conduct a comprehensive SWOT analysis and adopt the multiple case study approach to analyse the open access publishing model.

Findings – Useful results include the findings that the success factors of open access business models are: creating savings in publishing costs, increasing incomes, adoption of innovative technologies and controlling the quality of journals. The open access publishing model makes the research permanently visible and accessible, with sustainable development.

Research limitations/implications – While the findings may be applicable to open access journals for reasons other than impact factor, further research would be required to confirm this. 

Originality/value – This study provides results that may enhance one's understanding of the open access publishing model, allowing both the reader and the author to benefit from it. Open access publishing leads to wider dissemination of information and greater advances in science.

More on the closing of the EPA libraries

Kelpie Wilson, A Step Shy of Book-Burning, AlterNet, November 23, 2006.  (Thanks to LISNews.)  Excerpt:

The White House has begun closing the Environmental Protection Agency's research libraries to the public and to its own staff, cementing Bush's reputation as usher of a new dark age....

In August, under the guise of fiscal responsibility, the Bush Environmental Protection Agency began closing most of its research libraries, both to the public and to its own staff.

The EPA's professional staff objected strongly, insisting that closing the libraries would hamstring them in their jobs. In a letter to Congress protesting the closures, public employees said, "We believe that this budget cut is just one of many Bush administration initiatives to reduce the effectiveness of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and to continue to demoralize its employees."

The EPA's precipitous move to close the libraries was based on a $2 million cut in Bush's proposed $8 billion EPA budget for 2007. EPA bureaucrats did not wait to see if Congress might restore the funds or shift budget priorities in order to save the libraries; it acted immediately to box up documents for deep storage, and shut the doors.

While the official EPA line is that all of the documents will be eventually be digitized and made available online, this will cost money that the agency does not have, so for practical purposes, all of the thousands of reports and maps that now exist only on paper or microfiche will be lost to the public and to agency scientists. They might as well just burn them....

Bet on accessibility over exclusivity

Eric Schmidt, Don’t bet against the internet, The Economist:  The World in 2007, November 24, 2006.  (Thanks to LibLog.)  Schmidt is the CEO of Google.  In this piece he isn't talking about scholarly communication, but how far do his remarks carry over?  Excerpt:

...But what’s surprising is that so many companies are still betting against the net, trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions. The past few years have taught us that business models based on controlling consumers or content don’t work. Betting against the net is foolish because you’re betting against human ingenuity and creativity....

Cloud computing is hardly perfect: internet-based services aren’t always reliable....But the direction is clear. Simplicity is triumphing over complexity. Accessibility is beating exclusivity. Power is increasingly in the hands of the user....

The lesson is compelling: put simple, intuitive technology in the hands of users and they will create content and share it. The fastest-growing parts of the internet all involve direct human interaction....Political pundits may claim that society is becoming atomised, but online communities are thriving and growing. The internet is helping to satisfy our most fundamental human needs —our desire for knowledge, communication and a sense of belonging....

Presentation on HAL and OA archiving in France

Franck Laloë, Les archives ouvertes (AO) et la communication scientifique directe (CSD), a presentation at the CNRS meeting Réunion sur les archives ouvertes (Paris, November 16, 2006).  (Thanks to the INIST Libre Accès blog.)

Watering down INSPIRE

Michael Cross, Britain poised for victory in Brussels, The Guardian, November 24, 2006.  Excerpt:

Dreams of a Europe-wide "free data" zone faded this week as EU institutions prepared to water down a key piece of new legislation. Final amendments to the Inspire directive, which would force governments to make available for free data relevant to environmental protection, will instead allow public bodies to continue to charge for such information.

If agreed, the wording will be a victory for British policy on public-sector information - and for organisations such as Ordnance Survey, whose commercial future was threatened by the plan....

Inspire (infrastructure for spatial information in the EU) was conceived three years ago. The intention is to fill in gaps and remove inconsistencies between Europe's geographic databases....

As a first step toward harmonisation, Inspire will require member states to make geographic databases available online, searchable via a single geoportal. Almost everyone agrees that this is a good idea. Over the past year, however, Inspire has become a battleground between campaigners for public-sector information to be made freely available and governments anxious to protect revenues from the sale of geographical data. The most vociferous advocate of the latter group is the UK, which designates its state mapping agencies, Ordnance Survey and the UK Hydrographic Office, as commercially self-standing trading funds.

EU legislative bodies have mirrored this split, with the European parliament leaning towards free data and the Council of Ministers, representing governments, towards charging....

The council of ministers agreed that free data was unacceptable. The department for environment, food and rural affairs, which led the UK's work on Inspire, threatened to kill the whole directive unless it protected trading funds. In European lawmaking, conflict between the parliament and the council triggers a conciliation process under which a compromise must be agreed by a set deadline. In the case of Inspire, this was midnight on Tuesday. As Technology Guardian went to press, MEPs meeting in Brussels appeared ready to approve a compromise suggested by the European Commission.

This amends several clauses to take into account "the need to protect the financial viability of public authorities, in particular those who have a duty to raise revenue"....Public authorities will be allowed to apply charges for "very large volumes of real-time data" and suspend access to data as an emergency measure....

Two cheers for INSPIRE

Inspire decision, Free Our Data: the blog, November 22, 2006.  Excerpt:

The European parliament and council of ministers have finally agreed a compromise wording to the Inspire directive designed to harmonise spatial information around Europe. The directive had become a cause celebre in the movement to make public sector data freely available. Broadly, the European parliament backed our position, while the council of ministers was opposed.

Here’s today’s announcement of the compromise, hammered out on Tuesday night (after this week’s Technology Guardian went to press)....

“Data search services designed for the public will generally be free of charge, although the directive allows fees to be charged for access to data that has to be updated frequently, such as weather reports.” ...

Satu Hassi, a Green MEP from Finland who was closely involved with the negotiations, told me this morning that while she was not 100% satisfied with the outcome, the compromise at least puts some limits on data charges. In particular, it prohibits what she calls “arbitrary charging” - a finance ministry cannot suddenly decide to double the price of an information asset....

To sum up? Well, obviously the outcome isn’t what we’d have hoped for. Inspire isn’t going to end the absurd practice of public bodies spending time and effort negotiating rights and paying royalties for using data already owned by the taxpayer. (In Hassi’s words: “a ridiculous zero-sum game”.)

We’re not downhearted, however. Thanks to Inspire, the argument for freeing public sector information has been made at ministerial level in every government in Europe. It is on the mainstream agenda....

The fourfold path to OA

Alma Swan, Open Access: Why should we have it?  A preprint forthcoming in Cahiers de la Documentation: Bladen voor Documentatie.  Excerpt:

This article derives from a presentation made at the meeting "Zichtbaar onderzoek. Kan Open Archives daarbij helpen?" / Visible research. Can OAI help? This was a "good practice” conference organised by AWI (Flemish Ministry for Economy, Enterprise, Science, Innovation and Foreign Trade) and VOWB (Flemish Organisation of Scientific Research Libraries) May 2006....

I propose four main reasons as to why Open Access is beneficial for the way scholarly research is carried out and how its findings are used, and is thus incontrovertibly beneficial for human society as a result. I mention the latter because the stakeholders are, after all, not just the immediate players in the game: we all have stakes in there, too – researchers, research institutions, nations and global society as a whole. We all have an interest in the efficient and effective progress of scholarly endeavour. The reasons I offer, then, for why Open Access is the way to go are these:

  1. Open Access means there is greater visibility and accessibility, and thus impact from scholarly endeavour
  2. Open access means there is more rapid and more efficient progress of scholarly research
  3. Open Access means there can be better assessment, better monitoring and better management of science
  4. Open Access means that novel information can be created using new computational technologies

These are not just personal hunches. There is evidence for each....

Outsell report on hybrid OA journal experiments

Bette Brunelle, Hot Topic: Publishers Speak Up On Open Access: Big Promise, Small Uptake, Outsell, November 17, 2006.  A $495 report by Outsell's Vice President & Lead Analyst, apparently focusing on hybrid OA journals.  Here's the free summary:

Open access is a topic very much on the minds of Scientific, Technical & Medical publishers. This HotTopics focuses on open access’s merits as a sustainable business model and an alternative to subscriptions.

This HotTopics provides you with:

  • A sampling of publishers’ attitudes toward and experiences with open access, from organizations such as Elsevier and Oxford University Press 
  • Examples of recent successes and real-world business challenges with open access 
  • A chart with descriptions of 18 publishers’ sponsored open access programs 
  • Conditions enabling sponsored open access to work as a revenue model 
  • Outsell’s essential actions for the scholarly publishing community

In preparing for this HotTopics, Outsell reviewed secondary literature on open access and conducted interviews with 10 publishers that are very experienced with open access programs or have a unique perspective on them; these comprised traditional publishers with open access programs as well as newer open access publishers.

Here's the Table of Contents:

  • Why This Topic?
    • Methodology
  • Defining Open Access
  • Open Access Finally Heats Up in 2006
  • Traditional Publishers Agnostic on Author-Sponsored Open Access
    • OUP Shares Extensive Data on the Oxford Open Program
    • HighWire Press Reflects Collective Early Experience
    • Publisher Advice Reflects Variations in Experience
  • Open Access Publishers Report Recent Success
  • Archiving and Repositories Loom over the Open Access Landscape
  • What to Make of All This?
  • Outsell’s List of Essential Actions
  • Companies Mentioned in This HotTopics
  • Appendix: Sponsored Open Access At-a-Glance

New OA journal on digital curation

The International Journal of Digital Curation is a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal launched at the 2nd International Digital Curation Conference (Glasgow, 21-22 November 2006).  IJDC is published by the UK's Digital Curation Centre.

Open scholarship

Liz Lyon, Reflections on open scholarship: process, product and people, keynote presentation at the 2nd International Digital Curation Conference (Glasgow, 21-22 November 2006). 

Another IR in Australia

Bond University in Australia has officially launched its institutional repository, epublications@bond.  For details, see the announcement.

More on overlay journals

Stevan Harnad, Research Journals Are Already Just Quality Controllers and Certifiers: So What Are "Overlay Journals"? Open Access Archivangelism, November 23, 2006.  

Summary:  The notion of an "Overlay Journal" often unwittingly confuses (1) access-provision with peer-review service-provision, (2) pre-peer-review preprints with peer-reviewed postprints (or posting with publishing), (3) archives (repositories) with journals, or (4) Central Archives/Repositories (CRs) in particular with distributed Institutional Repositories (IRs) in general. Throughout the evolution of research communication -- from On-Paper to On-Line to Open Access -- peer review remains peer review, a journal remains a journal (i.e., a peer-review service-provider and certifier), and texts tagged as "published" by journal X remain texts tagged as published by journal X. All that changes is the access-medium and the degree of accessibility. (And possibly, one day, the cost-recovery model.)

Comment.  These confusions may occur now and then, but the concept of an overlay journal doesn't depend on them.  Hence, we should be careful to clarify rather than dismiss the concept of overlay journals.  They remain important ways to decouple peer review from dissemination and minimize the costs of a peer-reviewed journal.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

More on open data

The anonymous author of the peanutbutter blog has posted some notes on the 2nd International Digital Curation Conference Digital Data Curation in Practice (Glasgow, November 21-22, 2006).  Excerpt:

The open panel session on day two, engaged some interesting discussion and I heard a term which I had never heard before, Open Data, put forward by Peter Murray-Rust (University of Cambridge). We have all heard of Open Access publishing, (and should not be publishing any other way), but to date this means open access to the journal publication and not the the data that the publication refers to. In something as simple as a graph in a journal publication, generally the access to the numbers/values, has to be re-calculated via a print-out and a ruler. It would be so much easier (and logical) for re-use, analysis or even review, if the presented image was accompanied by the data (even if this was in an excel spreadsheet).

More on the RIN report on UK scholarly journal publishing

Tracey Caldwell, EPS report gets mixed reviews, Information World Review, November 23, 2006.  Excerpt:

A report on the current state of scholarly publishing in the UK will provide the government an evidence base for the first time. The report was commissioned to enable policy development on promotion, support and development of a world class scholarly communications system in the UK. But critics say the report is biased and too limited in scope.

The Research Information Network (RIN), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Research Councils UK (RCUK) commissioned the review, which looked into the operation and costs of scholarly journal publishing. Market consultants Electronic Publishing Services (EPS) carried out the research....

The report presents the evidence available in six areas: the volume and value of the academic journal market, journal supply-side economics, usage, citations and impact factors, disciplinary differences and costs and impact of open access journals and of digital repositories.

Stevan Harnad, a supporter of open access through self archiving, accused the report of slanting towards the publishing lobby with a bias towards authors paying publishers to make their article OA for them, instead of self-archiving it for themselves.

Professor Charles Oppenheim, a consultant on the report confirmed that whereas he is in favour of self-archiving mandates, his own brief from the commissioners of the report had imposed certain constraints on its form and content. He said, “Stevan's criticisms are appropriate, but there were constraints the research team worked under. It had a very precise brief to critically evaluate what research had been done regarding the UK scholarly journals industry, and what gaps there were in said research. Within those constraints, I think the team did a good job.”...

David Worlock, chairman, EPS said, “Criticism of the report’s summary of the evidence on article accessibility was strong at the STM publishers key annual meeting at Frankfurt in October. Put these comments alongside Professor Harnad’s views that “it is glaringly obvious that the questions, answers and interpretations have been slanted toward the interests of the publishing lobby rather than those of the research community” and it is clear that the report achieved some of the balance and objectivity that it sought.”

PS:  It's an obvious fallacy to claim that a position must be objective just because it has been criticized by both sides.  Beyond that, see my original comment when the report came out in October.

Seven free options for ejournal delivery to PDAs

Colleen Cuddy, Delivery of Electronic Journal Content to Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs): Seven Free Options for Health Care Professionals, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 3, 4 (2006) pp. 77-85.  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far.

The use of personal digital assistants (PDAs) to read electronic journal content is introduced and seven software programs that provide electronic journal content are reviewed: JournalToGo, HighWire Press, MobileMerck Medicus, Wiley Interscience Mobile Edition, BioMed Central, PubMed for Handhelds, and MEDLINE Database on Tap. Advice on choosing the right program based on content and technical considerations is offered.

Interview with BMC's Matthew Cockerill

Elizabeth Connor, Interview with Matthew Cockerill of BioMed Central, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, 3, 4 (2006) pp. 51-58.  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far.

This interview with Matthew Cockerill, publisher of BioMed Central, describes universal access to peer-reviewed scientific content available through BioMed Central, and discusses the use of resource description framework (RDF) to describe scientific content, typical article processing costs, article corrections and retractions, and future directions such as the mining of scientific datasets.

Favoring grant applications that promise OA

Jonathan Eisen, A call for Open Access supporters to favor grant proposals from researchers promising Open Access publishing, Tree of Life, November 21, 2006.  Excerpt:

In the world of scientific research, perhaps the most critical step is the acquisition of funding to do research. A key component of grant reviews these days are "Release Policies" for data, tools and research materials. In general, the more "Open" one is with these release policies, the more likely one is to get a grant. This of course makes great sense. If one is going to keep ones data or tools or material private for as long as possible, then one is not advancing science as rapidly as someone else who did the same work but also released everything rapidly.

I believe now is the time for the same thing to be done regarding Open Acces publishing. One can use the same litmus test here. Imagine two grant proposals, to do identical work. And furthermore, assume the researchers will succeed in their work. And one researcher promised to publish in an Open Access manner while the other promises to publish in a non Open manner. Again, assuming everything else is equal, I think the proposal promising Open Access publishing HAS to be scored higher than the one promising non Open publishing....

So I call on researchers who support Open Access publishing in any way to start to bring this up on grant panels and in grant reviews. And to score proposals accordingly....

Comment.  While many funding agencies encourage or require open access to the results of the research they fund, I only know of one that explicitly favors applications that promise open access over applications that don't:  the US National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).   For details, see my short article on it from October 2006.  It's a great idea, and Jonathan is right that individual friends of OA can implement a bottom-up version of the same policy whenever they serve on a panel reviewing grant proposals.  Spread the word.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Four German universities will manage DFG's OA platform

[This post takes the place of a misleading post from November 20. --Peter.]

In September, Germany's DFG [Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft] launched the Informationsplattform Open Access, a nation-wide platform for OA German research. On Monday, the University of Bielefeld issued a press release (in German) to say more about the project. Today UB released an English translation. Excerpt:

Since September 2006 the German Science Foundation funds the implementation of a nation-wide online information portal on Open Access issues that is operated cooperatively by the Universities of Bielefeld, Goettingen, Constance and the Free University of Berlin, with support from DINI - German Initiative for Networked Information. The platform is intended to inform scientists, their professional societies, university administrations and the interested public comprehensively on objectives and use of Open Access, and support them with practical assistance on its implementation in practice....

Until now Information on Open Access is largely produced in an uncoordinated way and is mostly scattered widely throughout the Internet, much of it is dependent upon the local personal commitment of individuals. This fact is largely responsible for the discrepancy between the growing international significance of Open Access on one hand and the comparatively small publicity and little practice with German scientists on the other hand.

The new information portal sets out to counter this development in Germany. The offer addresses primarily scientific authors, university administrations and scholarly societies. Current deficits in information and use within the German Higher Education Landscape are sought to be removed by the concise presentation of relevant information on open access issues targeted to specific audiences. The information platform will also concentrate on concrete recommendations for action, know how and argumentation aids as well as the sharing of practical experience and all sort of information materials on Open Access.

The four project partners all belong to the pioneers on the field of Open Access in Germany. After its completion in May 2007, the online platform will be open to all interested users and additional cooperation partners for exchange of information and experiences. DINI - the German Initiative for Networked Information, regards the new information platform as a chance to better promote the relevant open access activities of DINI. Platform development and operation are therefore supported by DINI.

PS: When I posted the German and English versions of the press release to SOAF, I mistakenly attributed both to DFG, not to the University of Bielefeld. My apologies for any confusion this may have caused.

OA to data on world development

I just saw an extraordinary 20 minute video of Hans Rosling (Professor of International Health at Sweden's Karolinska Institutet) demonstrating how 30 years of historic changes have exploded conventional wisdom about the developing world.  I recommend it for three reasons:

  • It's the best overview of these changes I've seen.  It's hard to imagine doing a better job in the same amount of time.
  • Every scientist should see how animated graphs can bring data to life and make complex changes crystal clear.
  • In the last five minutes, Rosling makes a compelling case for open access to the publicly-funded data he used in his presentation.  With better access to the data, we can take quicker and more intelligent action.

PS:  Rosling had a hand in developing the free animated graphics software he used in the presentation.  For the software, and for online interactive versions of some of his graphs, see Gapminder.

Librarian-faculty dialogue on OA

Frances Maloy, Scholarly Communication —It Is Our Problem!  ARL BiMonthly Report 248, October 2006.  Excerpt:

...The first three hours of the [ARL/ACRL Institute on Scholarly Communication] were powerful and shifted my and my team’s thinking and perspectives. After a brief introduction to the process of creating a program plan for our local campuses, Lee Van Orsdel, Dean of University Libraries, Grand Valley State University, introduced a lively exploration of advocacy. After Van Orsdel offered several strategies for working with faculty on their own turf addressing their issues, she moved us into an active learning mode. Each team created a sound bite or "elevator speech" tailored to faculty addressing a scholarly communication issue on our campus. Then we shared our sound bites with the group and asked the faculty present if the sound bites resonated with them.

This was the first of the most compelling moments in the entire institute. The faculty present spoke openly and candidly about scholarly communication and its impact on their professional careers and ways of conducting their work. While not always agreeing with one another, our faculty participants offered their own perceptions. We heard views such as the following: Faculty will share their own work—despite any copyright agreement they signed with the publisher. They understand that open access material is freely available, but it is not free of costs. Where their work is published and who sees it is of primary importance. They don’t care whether or not large numbers of people have access to it but they do want to insure that key scholars in their field have access to it. Local repositories do not enable other scholars in their field to gain access to their work as well as a discipline-specific national repository could. The importance of publishing in the top five journals in their field could not be overstated—it matters throughout their careers, even post-tenure, because the prestige gained affects their ability to obtain grant funding, subsequent publishing and future job opportunities, and even defines who their colleagues are....

An access tragedy in progress

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has issued another update on the closing of the libraries at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is frantically dispersing its library collections to preempt Congressional intervention, according to internal emails released today [November 20, 2006] by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Contrary to promises by EPA Deputy Administrator Marcus Peacock that all of the former library materials will be made available electronically, vast troves of unique technical reports and analyses will remain indefinitely inaccessible.

Meanwhile, many materials formerly held by the Office of Prevention, Pollution and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, in EPA’s Washington D.C. Headquarters, were directed to be thrown into trash bins, according to reports received by PEER. This month, EPA closed the OPPTS Library, its only specialized library for research on health effects and properties of toxic chemicals and pesticides, without notice to either the public or affected scientists.

“By its actions, it appears that the appointed management at EPA is determined to actually reduce the sum total of human knowledge,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch....

Internal emails indicate that EPA official statements about the library closure process do not match reality:...EPA is spending more money closing the libraries than it asserted it would save ($2 million) from the closures....

Senator Barbra Boxer (D-CA), the incoming chair of the oversight committee for EPA, and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) are leading an effort to restore EPA’s network of libraries during the current lame-duck session of Congress.

Better book-reading interface at Google

Most EU spatial data to be OA

European Parliament and Council reach agreement on spatial information directive, a press release issued today by the office of Finland's EU Presidency.  Excerpt:

The European Parliament and Council reached agreement last night on the contents of the proposed INSPIRE Directive, which aims to harmonise spatial information across Europe....

Data search services designed for the public will generally be free of charge, although the directive allows fees to be charged for access to data that has to be updated frequently, such as weather reports....

The INSPIRE Directive is now likely to be enforced from summer 2007. The directive has been designed to control various aspects of the spatial data in the possession of authorities around Europe, including:...principles on access to data and the related charges....

Queensland's OA law project to launch next week

The Open Access Knowledge Law project at the Queensland University of Technology will officially launch at the end of this month, and will mark the occasion with two events, one on November 29 in Brisbane and one on November 30 in Sydney.

Repository feature wishlist

Klaus Graf has posted his wishlist of features for OA repositories.  Read it in German or Google's English.

An end to the end

Laura Cohen, The Coming End of Completed Publications, Library 2.0, November 20, 2006.  (Thanks to allan's library.)  Excerpt:

The prospect of publishing books and articles on wikis has got me thinking about the future of scholarly research in a world in which publications need never be completed....

This concept seems particularly compelling in the scholarly world. Scholarship never ends. There is never a last word, even about established facts. What we've had up till now in published works are static snapshots. Sure, there may be follow-up articles, second editions and corrections, but each work stands alone as a completed product. I find myself wondering if researchers - and writers - will continue to be content with snapshots when the technical barriers to revision are so low and readers' comfort level with edited online works is growing.

It occurs to me that we expect more of Web sites in terms of staying current, and staying current quickly, than we do of peer-reviewed or edited scholarly publications. Can this scenario last? ...

PS:  In parts that I've omitted, Laura focuses on wikis.  But note that keeping online documents open to continual revision and updating needn't be the same as keeping them open to editing by any comer. 

OA to Australian CS journals

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) has launched the ACS Digital Library.  (Thanks to Tom Worthington.)  From the about page

The ACS Digital Library...includes free access to international quality, peer reviewed papers from the Journal of Research and Practice in Information Technology and Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology.

The ACS is also launching a third journal, Australasian Journal of Information Systems, which might also be included in the ACS Digital Library.

Solving the access problem

Stevan Harnad, Solving the Article Accessibility Problem Moots the Journal Affordability Problem, Open Access Archivangelism, November 21, 2006.  Excerpt:

On the premise that the Article Accessibility problem is solved, there is no longer any Journal Affordability problem left. Let us suppose (and hope) that researchers' institutions and funders soon mandate, at long last, that their employees/fundees (or their assigns) do the pathetically small number of keystrokes it takes to self-archive all their final, peer-reviewed drafts in their own Institutional Repositories immediately upon acceptance for publication.

That will generate 100% Open Access (OA).

Once it is no longer true that any would-be user is unable to access an article because his institution cannot afford the journal in which it happens to have been published, there is no longer any Accessibility Problem. Librarians' annual agony over which journals to keep and which to cancel within the constraints of their finite serials budgets (never anywhere near enough to afford all published journals) will be over. They can purchase as many as they can afford from among those journals for which their users indicate that they would still quite like to have them in-house (whether out of desire for the paper edition or for online add-ons, or out of habit, sentimentality, loyalty, civic-mindedness or superstition): Nothing important hinges on the choice or the outcome once it is sure that no potential user is any longer doing without (hence no research or researcher is any longer needlessly losing impact because of access denial)....

And before the inevitable, tedious question is asked about how the essential costs of peer-reviewed journal publishing will continue to be covered if/when subscriptions become unsustainable, please consult the prophets.

(Publishing will adapt, cutting the costs of the inessentials, downsizing to the essentials, possibly right down to peer-review service-provision alone; those irreducible essential costs will then be covered on the OA cost-recovery model, out of a fraction of the annual institutional windfall savings from the institutional journal cancellations. Till that income stream is released, however, OA Publishing is OA-Publicatio Praecox...)

Market forces will control fees at fee-based OA journals

Jan Velterop, Ego and Economics, The Parachute, November 21, 2006.  This is a response to Richard Poynder's essay-length blog post from November 20.  Excerpt:

...Publishers hold no more hegemony over scholarly communication than bakers hold over making bread. Anybody can choose to bake their own bread. Any researcher can choose to communicate with their peers themselves, as indeed they often do. There is no hegemony for publishers to preserve. Researchers do not ‘have to give away’ their articles to publishers – they can “just plonk their articles onto the internet”, as intellectual property law professor Dirk Visser of Leyden University recently put it....And if they do have to publish, it is not publishers who compel them. Publishers provide services that enable researchers to attach credibility to their articles, so that they can be used to further their career and future funding prospects. The model to pay for such services in a roundabout way, via subscriptions, is a relic of the pre-internet past and an impediment to open access. Unfortunately, publishers are just as much locked into that model as the other actors on the academic stage, though an increasing number of publishers are keen to move on and try to support the provision of their services in a way that makes structural open access – immediate and full open access at the point of publication – economically viable.

...[If funders pay publication fees at OA journals, then is it true, as Richard Poynder, Stevan Harnad, and Dana Roth argue, that there will there no way to control prices?]

This presumes that researchers, since they would be ‘running up a bill at someone else’s expense’ would just pay anything. They are running up a bill at someone else’s expense (their funders’) when they buy reagents, mouse strains, glassware, other assorted laboratory necessities. Do they really pay the providers of these goods based on the providers’ demands, rather than economic reality? Not when they have the choice of providers, one would imagine. This is where Poynder, Harnad, Roth, and I’m afraid many others, go wrong. They forget – or ignore – that unlike for subscribers, for authors there is a real choice of journal in which they publish, or at least to which they submit their articles. Where the party who pays (even if with 'someone else's money') is the party with the choice, the laws of economic do function, copyright becomes irrelevant as an economic factor, and the fact that information is a peculiar economic commodity becomes inconsequential. In that system, the tradable commodity is ‘service’, not information, and is subject to conventional market forces.

A model OA policy for developing countries

The participants in the Workshop on electronic publishing and open access (Bangalore, November 2-3, 2006) have issued a Bangalore Policy Statement on OA.  From today's announcement:

...After presentations from experts and OA practitioners, a draft National OA Policy for Developing Countries was considered, based on earlier policy documents, and adapted to meet developing country needs. Suggestions from participants were tabled and the document revised taking these into account. A further period for consultation has led to the acceptance of the attached policy statement by those present.

The policy statement provides a clear way forward to achieving free access to publicly-funded research publications that is essential for scientific progress in all countries. It can be adopted and used by national governments, their funding organisations, research institutes and universities to accelerate the free exchange of research findings and reap optimum benefit from academic investment....

Subbiah Arunachalam
Distinguished Fellow
M S Swaminathan Research Foundation CHENNAI 600 113, India


The Bangalore workshop was convened to bring together policy makers and research scientists from major developing countries to agree a path forward towards adopting full Open Access to publicly-funded research publications. The importance of access to the world's research information for the development of a strong economy and a vibrant research capability is widely acknowledged, yet financial barriers limit access by developing countries to the research information they need. Equally, the unique research carried out in countries representing 80% of the world's population is largely 'invisible' to international science because of economic or other constraints. The resolution of many of the world's problems, such as emerging infectious diseases, environmental disasters, HIV/AIDS or climate change, cannot be achieved without incorporation of the research from developing countries into the global knowledge pool....

Building on the Budapest Open Access Initiative recommendations, and past Declarations of commitments to the strategy of Open Access, particularly the Salvador International Declaration on Open Access for Developing Countries, and recognising the benefits that Open Access will bring to the strengthening of science, participants to the Workshop agreed the following model National Open Access Policy for Developing Countries.

A National Open Access Policy for Developing Countries

The [country-name] Government/Government Department expects the authors of papers reporting publicly-funded research to maximise the accessibility, usage and applications of their findings. To this end:

As a condition for research funding, the [country-name] Government:

  1. requires electronic copies of any research papers that have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and are supported in whole or in part by Government funding, to be deposited in an institutional digital repository [IR] immediately upon acceptance for publication; 
  2. encourages Government Grant Holders to provide Open Access to their deposited papers immediately upon deposit; 
  3. encourages Government Grant Holders to publish in a suitable Open Access Journal where one exists....

Comment. This model policy is important for two reasons.  First, it's exemplary in its provisions.  It calls for the right things in the right ways, and calls for nothing inessential.  Second, it has the backing of important researchers and officials from India, China, Brazil, and South Africa, the largest of the developing and transition countries.  It could, and certainly should, have a wide and deep impact.

German report on Bangalore OA workshop

Achim Oßwald, Bangalore Commitment: Workshop on Electronic Publishing and Open Access: Developing Country Perspective, a preprint forthcoming in Information - Wissenschaft und Praxis.  A report on the workshop of the same name (Bangalore, November 2-3, 2006).  In German.

OA is just the first step

Donat Agosti, Open Access - nur ein erster Schritt?  Neue Zürcher Zeitung, November 22, 2006.  A primer on OA, a call for OA to data as well as literature, and an argument that OA will revolutionize science.  Read the original German or Google's English.

Michael Ashburner on OA

From an unsigned post on Evolgen yesterday:

The new issue of Current Biology contains an interview with Drosophila geneticist Michael Ashburner. Here's a quote from the article [PS: accessible only to subscribers]:

Scientists should realize that if they submit to journals -- like those published by Elsevier, Springer, Kluwer, Wiley and the like -- then their work will be less accessible and not as widely read as it would be if it was published in an Open Access journal.

Current Biology is published by Elsevier (who are also involved in the arms trade), which means that Ashburner is pushing for Open Access publishing in a non-Open Access journal. Good stuff.

Ashburner's advocacy of Open Access publishing should come as no surprise, as he is a vocal proponent of open access to genomic data. He also walks the walk -- he will only publish in journals that are Open Access....

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The RIN/DTI/RCUK workshop on journal publishing

Tom Roper has blogged three sets of notes (one, two, three) on the RIN/DTI/RCUK Workshop on the Evidence-based Analysis of Data on Scholarly Journal Publishing (London, November 14, 2006).  There was clearly a fascinating discussion of the RCUK policy, the justification of mandates, the existing evidence on relevant questions and the need for new studies.

How Americans use the internet to learn about science

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has released its report on The Internet as a Resource for News and Information about Science, November 20, 2006.  (Thanks to Search Engine Watch.)  Excerpt:

When asked where they get most of their news and information about science, 20% of all Americans say they turn to the internet for most of their science news. That translates to 40 million adults....

The internet is the source to which people would turn first if they need information on a specific scientific topic....

The internet is a research tool for 87% of online users. That translates to 128 million adults....70% of internet users have used the internet to look up the meaning of a scientific concept or term. 68% have gone online to look for an answer to a question about a scientific concept or theory. 65% have used the internet to learn more about a science story or discovery first heard of offline. 55% have used the internet to complete a science assignment for school (for either oneself or a child). 52% have used the internet to check the accuracy of a scientific fact or statistic. 43% have downloaded scientific data, graphs, or charts from the internet. 37% have used the internet to compare different or opposing scientific theories....

PS:  The report doesn't mention open access or appear to discuss any issues related to free online access.

Bill to strengthen the NIH policy delayed until January

Jeffrey Brainard, Senate Republicans Defer Completion of 2007 Spending Bills, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 21, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).  (Thanks to Jennifer McLennan.)  Excerpt:

Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate have decided to postpone voting on all remaining spending bills for the 2007 fiscal year until January, when a new, Democrat-controlled Congress will convene....

Congress has passed only two of the 12 appropriations bills that must be approved annually to finance the entire federal government. The passed bills are for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. The House of Representatives has approved its version of almost all the remaining ones, but so far the Senate has approved none of those -- a job that is among its primary responsibilities under the Constitution....

Comment.  What's the OA connection?  One of the 12 appropriations bills pending action in January is the one funding the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  That bill includes language, approved by the House Appropriations Committee, instructing the NIH to strengthen its public access policy by converting it from a request to a requirement.  The postponement doesn't clearly help or clearly hurt this proposal. 

Info about OA in German

Where can you find information about open access in German?  Klaus Graf has usefully collected (and annotated) some of the most essential links.

Is science like open source software?

Christopher Kelty, Free Science, in Joseph Feller et al. (eds.), Perspectives on Free and Open Source Software, MIT Press, June 2005.  (Thanks to Jean-Claude Guédon.)  Excerpt:

What is the value of science? In speculating about the success of open source/free software (OS/FS), users and advocates often suggest that it is “like science.” It has characteristics of peer review, open data subject to validation and replication, and a culture of academic freedom, credit, civility, and reputation. The point of this comparison is that these characteristics directly contribute to producing (morally or technologically) better software, just as science is improved by them. This begs the question: what exactly is the value of either endeavor —financial, personal, aesthetic, moral, or all of these? How can we specify it?

This chapter investigates the value of science from the perspective of its social constitution; in particular, the importance of law, informal norms, and technology. It poses two related questions: “Is science like open source/free software?” and “Can you do science without open source/free software?”

PS:  All the chapters in this book are OA.  Thanks, MIT.

Scientific American 50

There are two OA-related winners in this year's Scientific American 50

(Apologies in advance if I overlooked any.  As I find time to read the 50 descriptions more carefully, I'll add any others I missed the first time through.)

Open source science: solutions from outsiders

Martha Lagace, Open Source Science: A New Model for Innovation, Working Knowledge, November 20, 2006.  An interview with Karim Lakhani, an assistant professor at the Harvard Business School.  (Thanks to John Russell.)  Excerpt:

In a perfect world, scientists share problems and work together on solutions for the good of society. In the real world, however, that's usually not the case. The main obstacles: competition for publication and intellectual property protection.

Is there a model for encouraging large-scale scientific problem solving? Yes, and it comes from an unexpected and unrelated corner of the universe: open source software development.

That's the view of Karim R. Lakhani, an assistant professor at Harvard Business School with an extensive research background in open source software communities and their innovation and product development strategies. His latest research analyzes how open source norms of transparency, permeable access, and collaboration might work with scientists.

What he and his coauthors discovered: "broadcasting" or introducing problems to outsiders yields effective solutions. Indeed, it was outsiders --those with expertise at the periphery of a problem's field-- who were most likely to find answers and do so quickly.

The study and its findings are described in his paper "The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving," coauthored with Lars Bo Jeppesen, Peter A. Lohse, and Jill A. Panetta. It describes how broadcast search was used with 166 distinct scientific problems from the research laboratories of twenty-six firms from ten countries over a four-and-a-half year period. Problems involved everything from biotech to consumer products and agrochemicals....

Q: What is different about problem solving in the open source and science communities?

A: Open source software developers are very pragmatic and focused on solving problems. Scientists are focused on problems too, but their priority is often publication and that can sometimes come in the way of openness and sharing. The ideals of science are, of course, openness, sharing, and no restrictions on the free flow of knowledge, but in practice that doesn't happen much at all. Some scientists, however, are pushing back and many say they need to rethink how they conduct science....

Comparing directories of OA journals

Klaus Graf, Open Access Journals, Archivalia, November 21, 2006.  Comparing the DOAJ to other, sometimes larger lists of OA journals. 

PS:  Note that some of the larger lists are not limited to peer-reviewed journals, as the DOAJ is.  There are other lists that Graf doesn't include in his review; see the links collected under Directories and Links in the Wikipedia article on OA.  And conversely, Graf discusses some sources not yet included in the Wikipedia list.

Two new blogs on OA

The Electronic Publishing Trust for Development (EPT), one of the leading advocates for OA in the developing world, has launched a blog to help spread its advocacy and analysis. 

Earlier this morning I discovered an anonymous French-language blog on OA, L'Open Access et les Revues électroniques, that launched in October. 

Welcome to them both!

STM response to draft CIHR policy

The International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM) has released its November 20 letter commenting on the draft open access policy from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Excerpt:

STM wishes to register our concerns with two aspects of your proposed draft policies in respect of access to research articles: [1] An embargo period of six months, [2] The absence of any provision for financial support of those authors who wish to publish in journals offering immediate open access.

For our member publishers, making access to research articles free at any point after – or even upon – publication presupposes a means of recovering revenues that allow the journal to exist. To make articles free to read upon publication means that funds equal to 100% of the “pay to read” revenues have to be found from another source: be it government subsidy, charitable donations or publication charges. Of these three options, only one is potentially sustainable and scalable for the estimated 23,000 active learned journals published worldwide and involves publication charges (equal to potential lost revenues) paid either directly by the author or indirectly by the funder of the piece of research. This model has been adopted by a number of funding agencies, especially the Wellcome Trust in the UK, who are prepared to pay a fee for immediate free access. CIHR does not propose to do this.

An alternative route to open access involves making the article freely available online following publication after some embargo period, typically six, twelve or more months in duration. This approach assumes that an article has little value after its embargo period. This is a dangerous and fallacious assumption....

Many commentators have argued that all these arguments are invalidated if the deposited item is the peer-reviewed author manuscript version. They base this assessment upon the assumption that to date no journals have been cancelled because such author manuscript versions were made freely available on the internet. Leaving aside the potential human harm that might result (through injudicious use of non-final, non-copy-edited drafts of medical papers with potentially fatal errors in drug dosages and the like), there is now hard evidence that for many libraries availability of the peer-reviewed author manuscript is good enough and will lead to cancellations and that a 6-month embargo will have very little impact on such cancellations.

STM is sure that the consequences of this scenario will be immediately apparent to CIHR: deposit of “good enough” copies in repositories will lead to cancellations and the eventual demise of the journal upon which their peer-reviewed status depended. Such parasitism puts all peer-reviewed journals at risk, which we are sure was never the intention of the authors of the CIHR policy....


  1. I've answered all of these objections before, for example, in my 10-point rebuttal to the AAP's objections to FRPAA.  Here I'll only add a few points.
  2. I actually agree that the CIHR should let grantees who publish in OA journals use grant funds to pay publication fees (if any) at those journals.  However, funders needn't offer what the publishers demand and it could be disastrous to use the proposed STM criterion of replacing a publisher's "lost revenue" without regard to the publisher's efficiency or profit margin.
  3. A six month embargo is already a compromise with the public interest in immediate access to publicly-funded research.  The STM wants the embargo to last as long as the long tail of diminishing downloads continues --essentially forever.  If we're playing this game, namely, give me everything without compromise, how about giving the public interest everything instead?  If not, then six months is a good compromise.  The CIHR's mission is to serve the public by advancing research, not to serve publisher revenue first and the public second.
  4. If you follow the footnote I omitted in the excerpt above, the "hard evidence" that OA archiving will lead to journal cancellations is the new (November 8, 2006) study by Chris Beckett and Simon Inger for the Publishing Research Consortium.  This is a study of librarians' hypothetical preferences, not actual cancellation decisions or even librarian preferences as modulated by consultation with faculty.  In short, it's not hard evidence that the CIHR draft policy will increase cancellations.  Less hypothetical studies, like Mark Ware's March 2006 study for ALPSP, show that high journal prices far surpass OA archiving as a cause of journal cancellations, and hence that publishers have to get their own house in order before they object to actions by researchers, libraries, and funding agencies to solve the problem that publishers are aggravating.  (My usual disclaimer applies:  high-volume OA archiving might really increase cancellations, but there's no hard evidence yet that it will, and abundant evidence to the contrary in physics; and even if OA archiving does increase cancellations, it is still justified.) 
  5. Did you notice how threats to subscription journals became threats to "all peer-reviewed journals"?  Here are two tiresome canards at work:  first, the assumption that harm to existing subscription journals or publishers is harm to peer review, and second, the assumption that open-access journals don't perform peer review.

A model of scientific communication and the place of OA within it

Bo-Christer Björk, A model of scientific communication as a global distributed information system, a preprint submitted to Information Research

Summary:  A formal graphical model of the scientific communication process is presented in this paper. The purpose of the model is to act as a roadmap for policy discussions and research concerning the process. In comparison to earlier models found in the literature this model is more detailed, hierarchical and includes more modelling constructs (activities, inputs, outputs, controls, mechanisms). The modelling methodology used is IDEF0, a process modelling method, which previously has mainly been used for business process reengineering in the manufacturing industries.

The scope of the model is the whole communication value chain, from initial research to the assimilation of research results to improve every-day life. The model treats both informal and formal communication, as well as the publishing of data, but the major focus is on modelling the publishing and indexing of traditional peer reviewed journal articles, as well as the activities of readers to find out about them and access them. The new business models and parallel functions enabled by the Internet, such as open access journals and e-print repositories, are also in focus. 

The current version of the model consists of 33 diagrams, with 113 different activities and over 200 different inputs, outputs, controls and mechanisms. 

Update (1/19/07). The published edition of this article is now online.

Update (1/22/07). Also see Bo-Christer's site on The Scientific Communication Life-Cycle model. It not only contains his diagrams on this model in reusable PowerPoint form (under CC licenses), but also serves as a central point of reference for new developments and research on the model.

Webcast lectures in course on OS and OA

Pamela Samuelson and Mitchell Kapor are teaching a course at Berkeley on Open Source Development and Distribution of Digital Information.  The lectures are all online as OA webcasts, and of course the syllabus is a wiki.  (Thanks to elearnspace.)

The October 30 lecture was by a guest, Daniel Greenstein, on Open Access Journals and Publications.  Greenstein is the Director of the California Digital Library.  The November 6 lecture was on Open Source Biology.

PS:  I tried to watch the Greenstein lecture but couldn't get the webcast to play for more than five minutes without timing out.  I hope you have better luck.

New OA video journal of biological experiments

The Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) is a new peer-reviewed, open-access journal specializing in videos of biological experiments.  In addition to browsing the table of contents, you can search for videos by tags --though I saw no way for users to add their own tags.  The videos are subject to peer review.  (Thanks to Jean-Claude Bradley.)  From the site:

This publication aims to solve some of the most difficult problems in the contemporary life science research: [1] low transparency and reproducibility of biological experiments, [2] time-consuming learning of experimental techniques.

As every practicing biology researcher knows, it takes days, weeks or sometimes months and years to learn and apply new experimental techniques. It is especially difficult to reproduce newly published studies describing the most advanced state-of-the-art techniques....Video-based visualization of biological techniques and procedures provide an effective solution to the problem described....

Each video-article will include step-by-step instructions on an experiment, a demonstration of equipment and reagents, and a short discussion by experts describing possible technical problems and modifications. Every scientist planning on a biological experiment will be able to access the database, find videos relevant to their work, and use them as protocols. High effectiveness of visualized instructions, as compared to currently used written protocols, will decrease failure rates for biological experiments, and, thus, facilitate significant savings in time and cost. It will also increase reproducibility of published experiments, one of the main problems in the current life science research.

There is no fee for authors to publish their video articles. Also, video-articles published in JoVE will be freely available to the scientific community.

PS:  This is a fascinating step forward in taking advantage of the internet as a medium for scientific communication.  This journal is limited to biology, but I imagine there is a very similar need in many other fields.  I also imagine there's a need for video journals that go beyond experimental protocols to observations of unusual phenomena and observations made with rare and expensive instruments.

Very popular email button for non-OA papers in OA repositories

Stevan Harnad, Two Happy Accidents Demonstrate Power of "Eprint Request" Button, Open Access Archivangelism, November 20, 2006

Here are two rather remarkable anecdotes about the recently created "EMAIL EPRINT" button that allows any would-be user webwide to email a semi-automatic "eprint request" to the author of any eprint in an IR that has been deposited as "Closed Access" rather than "Open Access" to request an individual copy for personal use. (The author need merely click on an "approval" URL in his email message in order to fulfil the request.)

Two recent "accidents," occurring independently at two different institutions, provide dramatic evidence of the potential power of this feature:  The button is intended to tide over researcher usage needs during any embargo interval. As such, it is expected to apply only to a minority of deposits...

The two accident-anecdotes come from University of Southampton and Université du Québec à Montréal:
Southampton has many IRs: A departmental IR (Department of Electronics and Computer Science) already has an immediate full-text deposit mandate, but the university-wide IR does not yet have a mandate, so it has many deposits for which only the metadata are accessible, many of them deposited via library mediation rather than by the authors themselves. This will soon change to direct author deposit, but meanwhile, "The Button" was implemented, and the result was such a huge flood of eprint requests that the proxy depositors were overwhelmed and the feature quickly had to be turned off!

The Button will of course be restored...but the accident was instructive in revealing the nuclear power of the button! ...

Much the same thing happened at UQaM but this time it was while a new IR was still under construction, and its designers were still just testing out its features with dummy demo papers (some of them real!). "The Button" again unleashed an immediate torrent of eprint requests for the bona fide papers, so the feature had to be (tremulously, but temporarily) disabled!

Comment.  I share Stevan's excitement about this evidence.  Where the button is implemented, its use shows levels of unmet demand for access --in these cases, high levels of unmet demand.  The author who receives a request for an email eprint can meet that demand, one click at a time, but will soon see the case for consenting once and for all to make the non-OA eprint OA.  Long-term, it builds the OA corpus and, short-term, makes up for the lack of OA and mitigates the harm of embargoes. 

Quality advantage or quality bias?

Stevan Harnad, The Self-Archiving Impact Advantage: Quality Advantage or Quality Bias? Open Access Archivangelism, November 20, 2006. 

Summary: In astrophysics, Kurtz found that articles that were self-archived by their authors in Arxiv were downloaded and cited twice as much as those that were not. He traced this enhanced citation impact to two factors: (1) Early Access (EA): The self-archived preprint was accessible earlier than the publisher's version (which is accessible to all research-active astrophysicists as soon as it is published, thanks to Kurtz's ADS system). (Hajjem, however, found that in other fields, which self-archive only published postprints and do have accessibility/affordability problems with the publisher's version, self-archived articles still have enhanced citation impact.) Kurtz's second factor was: (2) Quality Bias (QB), a selective tendency for higher quality articles to be preferentially self-archived by their authors, as inferred from the fact that the proportion of self-archived articles turns out to be higher among the more highly cited articles. (The very same finding is of course equally interpretable as (3) Quality Advantage (QA), a tendency for higher quality articles to benefit more than lower quality articles from being self-archived.) In condensed-matter physics, Moed has confirmed that the impact advantage occurs early (within 1-3 years of publication). After article-age is adjusted to reflect the date of deposit rather than the date of publication, the enhanced impact of self-archived articles is again interpretable as QB, with articles by more highly cited authors (based only on their non-archived articles) tending to be self-archived more. (But since the citation counts for authors and for their articles are correlated, one would expect much the same outcome from QA too.) The only way to test QA vs. QB is to compare the impact of self-selected self-archiving with mandated self-archiving (and no self-archiving). (The outcome is likely to be that both QA and QB contribute, along with EA, to the impact advantage.)

A dysfunctional journal publishing system and a self-limiting OA movement

Richard Poynder, Open Access: Beyond Selfish Interests, Open and Shut?  November 20, 2006.  Excerpt:

Few would question that the aim of the Open Access (OA) Movement — to make all research papers freely available on the Web — is a laudable one. OA will considerably benefit the research process, and maximise the use of public funds. It was encouraging therefore to see the topic of OA aired in a number of presentations at the recent Internet Librarian International (ILI) [PS:  London, October 16-17, 2006]. Listening to them, however, I found myself wondering how many acts of selfishness stand between us and OA....

I was interested, therefore, to hear at ILI the opinions of someone with a less partisan view; the view, moreover, of an economist. For the conference keynote was given by Danny Quah, professor of economics at the prestigious London School of Economics....

Where economists would expect an increase in supply to have caused prices to decrease, the rapid growth in published research we have seen over the past several decades has led to an increase in the price of scholarly journals....Even more puzzling, he added, this has occurred during a period of unprecedented advances in the technology for distributing information....

Quah's talk spurred me to think about the various actors in the OA drama, and their different motivations. Might we, I wondered, reach a better understanding of the problems besetting the scholarly journal market if we considered the motivations of the different actors, and the selfish actions that drive the market? Could this also alert us to the dangers ahead, and help us see what needs to be done? ...

This is just Poynder's introduction to his own, much longer reflections on the state of OA.  His take is too long to excerpt and I'll want more time before I feel confident in offering a summary.  But if you want my unconfident, very brief summary today, I'd say his thesis is that the stakeholders, by following their narrow or short-term self-interests, have created a dysfunctional journal publishing system and a self-limiting OA movement.  I see more grounds for hope than he does, perhaps many more.  But if I were convening a meeting on long-term strategy, I'd assign this article in its entirety as background reading.  I encourage you to read it for the same reason.

Monday, November 20, 2006

OA and German law

Klaus Graf raises and answers a series of legal questions about open access (in German.)

Class writes OA textbook

Matthew Bowers, Textbook education: ODU class to write its own, Hampton-Roads, November 20, 2006.  Excerpt:

The course syllabus the first day surprised Stormie Batten - no textbook. The professor surprised her more. The class, he said, is going to write its own.

It's going to be online. Future classes - and anyone else - may use it for free. And anyone can edit it, update it or comment on it forever - or as long as the Internet holds out....

Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education is the name of both the groundbreaking Old Dominion University course and its text-under-construction this semester, all 15 chapters and 95 sections of it.

Professor Dwight Allen said he wanted his beginning education students to become critical thinkers, and figured this was a good way to encourage that...."At some point we may be humbled by it," the 75-year-old Allen said with a laugh. "But so far we're getting away with it." ...

Allen's experiment fits into the trend toward "open access scholarship," in which the Web is used like a big, free scholarly journal, said James G. Milles, an associate dean at the University at Buffalo Law School who tracks academic uses of the digital world.

Still, he and others called it rare for undergraduates such as the sophomores and juniors in Allen's class to tackle this kind of project.  "I've never heard of that," Milles said. "But I think it's an exciting idea."

There are still lectures and tests, but the heart of the class is for the students to pick a section topic, research it and write a 1,000-word article on it. Two or three students write separately on the same topic.

The job of their more than 220 classmates - almost two-thirds of whom take the class online - is to read, critique, edit and rate the competing articles. Other teams of graduate students and class members grade them on a more detailed scale.  The top-scoring article gets "harvested" into the final book. Students admit it gets competitive....

Another directory of OAI-compliant repositories is a new portal of OAI-compliant repositories around the world.  From the site: is the European guide to OAI-PMH compliant digital repositories in the world. This is not a search engine to find metadata stored in the repositories but a searchable index of the repositories themselves. If you are interested in the metadata click on "Digital Objects" below.

This portal uses repositories and collection descriptions harvested from the University of Illinois OAI-PMH Data Provider Registry. The search engine and other editorial contents that complete the originary database have been developed by Horizons Unlimited srl (Bologna – Italy).

Comment.  It's hard to judge the comprehensiveness of compared to OpenDOAR and ROAR, which already occupy this space. doesn't (yet) list the repositories it indexes or even give a tally of how many it indexes.  While it may develop competitive features over time, all in all I must repeat what I said in August:  "We don't need another directory. We need to merge the best ones..., avoid the present duplication of labor and resources, persuade existing repositories to list themselves, and support the merged result." 

Update. I was wrong to say that OpenArchives provides no list or tally of the repositories it indexes. Click the "OK" button on the search form --basically, run an empty search-- and you'll get a complete list and tally. Today the tally is 1,082. (Thanks to Giulio Blasi.)

Update. Also see Giulio Blasi's full account of why a new directory of OAI-compliant repositories is needed, posted today to SOAF.

More on the OA initiatives from ICRISAT

B.V. Mahalakshmi, E-tech invasion of farmlands, Financial Express, November 20, 2006.  Excerpt:

Facilitating this revolution [of ICT in Indian farming] is the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)-promoted Virtual Academy for Semi Arid Tropics (VASAT)....

VASAT aims to link rural farm communities with researchers, intermediaries and markets through an interface of information and communication technology and open and distance learning methods....

[F]or the first time ICRISAT, in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, has launched an initiative to promote open access information sources in agricultural sciences and technology in India. It is planning to establish two pilot open access information repositories in the agricultural domain within the first year. One would be in Delhi with support from ICAR, and the other in Hyderabad with support from ICRISAT and National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE).

The new initiative is expected to create a new platform for information sharing on agricultural research in India. Says PM Bhargava, vice chairman of Indian National Knowledge Commission, the technology and application can take agricultural information sharing into a new paradigm. Though open access documentation systems have been popular in many other areas of science communication in India, it is not being used in agricultural research documentation. The initiative has been launched to bridge this gap, he adds.

It will also implement lessons learnt from existing global open access systems such as AGRIS, the international information system for the agricultural sciences and technology, initiated by FAO. The AGRIS Secretariat in Rome has taken up several new initiatives in the last few years in face of the exponential growth in available information on agricultural research. Development of new metadata (information that describes how, when and by whom data has been collected and formatted) standards to share information coupled with open source software now in use can ensure open access for users worldwide....