Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A fourth OA mandate for Australia

Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has just released its Project Grants Funding Policy for funding commencing in 2008 (undated).  The new NHMRC policy is to encourage open access for the research it funds:

16.2 Dissemination of Scientific Results

To maximise the benefits from research, findings need to be disseminated as broadly as possible to allow access by other researchers and the wider community. The NHMRC encourages researchers to consider the benefits of depositing their data and any publications arising from a research project in an appropriate subject and/or institutional repository wherever such a repository is available to the researcher(s). Any research outputs that have been or will be deposited in appropriate repositories should be identified in the Final Report.

Unlike the Australian Research Council (ARC), which announced a similar OA policy last week, the NHMRC does not (yet) require non-complying grantees to justify their non-compliance, an extra obligation that effectively converts the ARC encouragement into a mandate.  However, Colin Steele writes:

Miranda Crean from the NHMRC research policy section emailed me on 8 December to say: "The IT system supporting our Final Reports does not currently allow an area for applicants to justify why they will not be despositing. However, once the new system is up and running (approx. 18 mths) the words "If a researcher is not intending to deposit the data from a project in a repository within a six-month period, he/she should include the reasons in the project's Final Report." will be included in the policy.

For this reason, I consider the NHMRC policy to be as much a mandate as the ARC policy. 

PS:  Kudos to the NHMRC.  There are now two Australian OA mandates from public funding agencies (ARC and NHMRC) and two from universities or departments (the Queensland U of Technology and the U of Tasmania School of Computing).

Free access to Pakistani law for Pakistani lawyers

Pakistan has launched the first stage of a program to provide free online access to the country's laws (statutes and case decisions) for the country's bar associations.

PS:  There seems to be no plan to provide free online access for citizens.

Synergy between OA archiving and research assessment metrics

On Thursday, Stevan Harnad wrote a blog post on the metrics for the UK Research Assessment Exercise.  I asked him to elaborate on the OA connection and here's his response

Peter Suber: "If the metrics have a stronger OA connection, can you say something short (by email or on the blog) that I could quote for readers who aren't clued in, esp. readers outside the UK?"

(1) In the UK (Research Assessment Exercise, RAE) and Australia (Research Quality Framework, RQF) all researchers and institutions are evaluated for "top-sliced" funding, over and above competitive research proposals.

(2) Everywhere in the world, researchers and research institutions have research performance evaluations, on which careers/salaries, research funding, economic benefits, and institutional/departmental ratings depend.

(3) There is now a natural synergy growing between OA self-archiving, Institutional Repositories (IRs), OA self-archiving mandates, and the online "metrics" toward which both the RAE/RQF and research evaluation in general are moving.

(4) Each institution's IR is the natural place from which to derive and display research performance indicators: publication counts, citation counts, download counts, and many new metrics, rich and diverse ones, that will be mined from the OA corpus, making research evaluation much more open, sensitive to diversity, adapted to each discipline, predictive, and equitable.

(5) OA Self-Archiving not only allows performance indicators (metrics) to be collected and displayed, and new metrics to be developed, but OA also enhances metrics (research impact), both competitively (OA vs. NOA) and absolutely (Quality Advantage: OA benefits the best work the most, and Early Advantage), as well as making possible the data-mining of the OA corpus for research purposes. (Research Evaluation, Research Navigation, and Research Data-Mining are all very closely related.)

(6) This powerful and promising synergy between Open Research and Open Metrics is hence also a strong incentive for institutional and funder OA mandates, which will in turn hasten 100% OA: Their connection needs to be made clear, and the message needs to be spread to researchers, their institutions, and their funders.

(Needless to say, closed, internal, non-displayed metrics are also feasible, where appropriate.)...

Discovery tools are adequate, access to results is not

Researchers and discovery services:  Behavior, perceptions, and needs, Research Information Network, November 2006.  A major study (113 pp.) commissioned by the Research Information Network (RIN) and undertaken by Rightscom. From the full report:

1.3 Key findings...

1.3.2 Users cannot always access the resources they have discovered

The main frustration is not with the research discovery services themselves but with the problem of subsequently accessing identified sources and materials. The 'last mile' of the process which actually delivers the document or other source that has been searched for is the focus of concern, with lack of access to journal articles because of a subscription barrier being the most frequently-expressed difficulty experienced. Librarians agree with researchers that the key problem is accessing online journals rather than problems with the discovery tools themselves. (Section 4.2.9)...

4.2.9 Satisfaction with resource discovery tools

Many researchers are satisfied with the resource discovery services available to support their research....The most generally-expressed concern was about securing access to source materials found by these discovery services. A regularly expressed frustration is the difficulty in seeing articles and other materials because an institution does not have access to the required journal or source.

Friday, December 08, 2006

New projects under IBM's Open Collaboration Principles

IBM, GT Continue Intellectual Property Reform, a press release from Georgia Tech, December 7, 2006.  Excerpt:

IBM and seven leading U.S. universities today announced several new open software research projects under a program designed in conformance with the Open Collaboration Research Principles, a set of guidelines announced previously to help promote an open approach to overcome university-industry intellectual property challenges.

Under IBM’s new Open Collaborative Research program, project results developed between IBM Research and top university faculty and their students will be made available as open source software code and all additional intellectual property developed will be openly published or made available royalty-free.

Universities participating in the program include Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Purdue University, Rutgers University, University of California at Berkeley, and the University of California at Davis....

The research aims for major advancements in the development of defect-free software, new healthcare solutions for better decision making by doctors and nurses, new technology to protect a person’s identity and secure a company’s data from thieves, and advanced mathematics to optimize methods for how we live and work everyday....

These research projects demonstrate continued benefit from the Open Collaboration Principles announced by the University & Industry Innovation Summit Team in December 2005....The IBM program is intended to accelerate the innovation and development of open software across a breadth of areas, thus enabling the development of related industry standards and greater interoperability, while managing intellectual property in a manner that enhances these goals.

Update on the continuing access tragedy at the EPA

EPA Scrubbing Library Website To Make Reports Unavailable, a press release from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), December 8, 2006.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

In defiance of Congressional requests to immediately halt closures of library collections, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is purging records from its library websites, making them unavailable to both agency scientists and outside researchers, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). At the same time, EPA is taking steps to prevent the re-opening of its shuttered libraries, including the hurried auctioning off of expensive bookcases, cabinets, microfiche readers and other equipment for less than a penny on the dollar.

In a letter dated November 30, 2006, four incoming House Democratic committee chairs demanded that EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson assure them “that the destruction or disposition of all library holdings immediately ceased upon the Agency's receipt of this letter and that all records of library holdings and dispersed materials are being maintained.” On the very next day, December 1st, EPA de-linked thousands of documents from the website for the Office of Prevention, Pollution and Toxic Substances (OPPTS) Library, in EPA’s Washington D.C. Headquarters.

Last month without notice to its scientists or the public, EPA abruptly closed the OPPTS Library, the agency’s only specialized research repository on health effects and properties of toxic chemicals and pesticides. The web purge follows reports that library staffers were ordered to destroy its holdings by throwing collections into recycling bins.

“EPA’s leadership appears to have gone feral, defying all appeals to reason or consultation,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that Congress has yet to review, let alone approve, the library closures. “The new Congress convening in January will finally have a chance to decide whether EPA will continue to pillage its library network.” ...

“One big irony is that EPA claimed the reason it needed to close libraries was to save money but in the process they are spending and wasting money like drunken sailors,” Ruch added, noting EPA refuses to say how much it plans to spend digitizing the mountains of documents that it has removed from library shelves....In spite of its pleas of poverty, EPA is spending millions on a public relations campaign to improve the image of its research program....“No one believes that EPA is closing libraries and crating up irreplaceable collections for fiscal reasons,” Ruch concluded. “Instead, the real agenda appears to be controlling access by its own specialists and outside researchers to key technical information.”

Lack of OA to public data costs the UK £500 million/year

OFT says more competition for public sector information would generate £1 billion extra annually, Free Our Data: the blog, December 8, 2006.  Excerpt:

[The UK] Office of Fair Trading...has just published into the commercial use of public sector information.

And it thinks there should be more, and that there should be less competition from the public sector information holders (PSIHs).

The key comment comes from John Fingleton, OFT Chief Executive, who said:

‘This is ground-breaking work for the OFT, looking at hidden markets in the economy. These monopoly public sector bodies cost the UK economy £500 million in lost opportunities. Our recommendations will help to make this valuable public asset more easily available for commercial uses which will benefit the economy and consumers.’

£500 million? The taxes on that would easily cover the £50 million in private sector funds that the Ordnance Survey needs, wouldn’t it? ...

Update. Michael Cross has more details on this OFT report in the December 14, 2006, issue of The Guardian.

Four OA mandates in Australia

Stevan Harnad, 4th Australian Mandate (7th Funder, 9th Institution, 16th Worldwide, Open Access Archivangelism, December 8, 2006.  Excerpt:

On the good authority of Arthur Sale (and Peter Suber), the classification of the Australian Research Council (ARC) self-archiving policy in ROARMAP has been upgraded to a mandate.

There are now 16 self-archiving mandates worldwide, 4 of them in Australia: A departmental and university-wide one at U. Tasmania, a university-wide one at QUT, and a funder mandate at ARC, soon to be joined by another funder mandate (NHMRC) and reinforced by the Research Quality Framework (RQF) (the Australian counterpart of the UK Research Assessment Exercise, RAE).

Congratulations to Australia and the Archivangelist of the Antipodes, Arthur Sale (and also to Tom Cochrane, Paul Callan and Colin Steele)!

U of New Mexico launches harvester and OA repository for Latin American culture

Harvesting Knowledge in the Americas, a press release from University of New Mexico, December 7, 2006.  Excerpt:

Not long ago scholars wanting to conduct in depth research about indigenous cultures in Latin America, for example, would have to travel to the region and visit different libraries and repositories. Maybe the researcher would be lucky enough to find needed documents, photos, books and resources critical to his research. But maybe the materials couldn’t be located, were unavailable or the library was closed. The days of time-consuming, expensive research in Latin American topics may soon be over, thanks to the Latin America Knowledge Harvester and Portal (LAKH).

The Harvester for Creating Knowledge Streams in the Americas Project, coordinated by UNM’s Latin American and Iberian Institute, addresses the challenge of identifying and maintaining stable and reliable Internet access to library and institutional collections and digitized archives in and about Latin America....

Cynthia Radding, director, Latin American and Iberian Institute, and Johann van Reenen, assistant dean, University Libraries, are co-PIs on the grant.

The idea for the harvester came from the Open Archives Initiative established in Santa Fe in 1999....

“The intent of the grant is to find new avenues of access to foreign information, preferably in translation and in a digital format,” van Reenen said. He added that the biggest challenge of the pilot project is creating a trilingual search engine and organizing the streams of information in the portal....

He said that LAKH allows for “harvesting” data from any intellectual asset that meets the standard anywhere in the world. By harvesting meta-data, information can be drawn from seemingly unalike repositories. “It will create easy interdisciplinary research. Essentially, it will allow users to mine information from sources not even thought about before,” he said.

LAKH resides at UNM as part of the institutional repository....

Beyond sustainability to OA

Oren Sreebny has blogged some notes on John Willinsky's talk at ECAR 2006.  Excerpt:

...We need to move beyond something like sustainability - as a guitarist he notes that you have to work your fingers to keep the sustain, not just wait. Sustainability is just the status quo - but we know in our hearts that's not what this is about - we need to be very conscious of the values we want to sustain. And in access to knowledge the status quo is not working - we have degradation in that access.

Sustainability speaks to a business model - which in his business as an academic is the evil twin - what would Socrates have said when asked for a business model? ...

Google has changed the equation in terms of access to knowledge. Google has offered to digitize all back issues of journals, with the journals maintaining the copyright ownership and only showing ads when the journals ok it, and sharing the revenues with the journals when they do. Only one journal in Canada has taken them up on the offer.

The situation is one of corporate concentration. John Wiley just offered to purchase Blackwell. This creates a publishing house of 1200 journals. Reed-Elsevier, 2000 journals, etc. 6000 titles owned by four corporate entities. Libraries are having to buy in bundles of titles, having to sign non-disclosure agreements on the pricing. Only very few of those bundles allow you to cancel single titles.

The effect is on academic freedom - the ability to start, subscribe to, and stop new journals is at the heart of academic freedom....

What does it mean when a journal goes corporate? 45% of journal titles are in corporate hands. When an association's journals go corporate, the price goes up. The scholarly societies don't see a choice - they need support for the electronic distribution of knowledge, and the publishers have very sophisticated mechanisms for that. Ted Bergstrom at UCSB has done work on comparing prices for non-profit vs. commercial journals. He has measured price per citation - in non-profit sector it's $15, in commercial it's $90. The commercialization is increasing cost, and unless budgets are rising that means a reduction in the access to knowledge. But this is in an era where the cost to disseminate knowledge is decreasing....

The principle is to increase access - anything that increases access to knowledge adds to the public good....

Publishers agree that authors have the right to put articles in institutional repositories or faculty web sites. Repositories are the first step - but how do we get people to fill them? Most faculty think publication is the end of the process. But it's to the advantage of the faculty, department, and institution to have the article in the repository - it will increase your citation rate. There are figures that suggest a 40% increase in readership from appearing in open access repositories....

Instead of sustaining the future, we want to envision a better future. We should be willing to create futures that increase access to knowledge.

OA is the gift that keeps on giving

The Sacramento News and Review recently ran a cover story on Jonathan Eisen's research on glassy winged sharpshooter symbionts, leading Jonathan to blog this comment about the publicity:

[T]hey were able to use a figure from my paper since of course, the paper in fully Open Access. So my work gets some extra exposure that might have been more difficult for the paper to pull off if it was published in a non Open Access journal. In essence, Open Access publishing is the gift that keeps on giving. As long as I keep getting credit for it, it is great for me that people do not have to get permission or pay a fee to use figures from my papers.

Bethesda statement in Chinese

Anthony Mao has translated the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing into Chinese.  (Thanks, Anthony!)

Another TA editorial on OA

Joseph C. McDonald, Open Access, Radiation Protection Dosimetry, November 15, 2006.  An editorial.  Only the first three and a half sentences are available to non-subscribers, at least so far.

Update. I've learned that this one-page editorial merely introduces readers to the Oxford Open program, in which the journal participates. (Thanks to Mel DeSart.)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Gary Price on Microsoft Live Search Books

Gary Price, History and Overview: Microsoft Live Book Search (Beta) Now Online, ResourceShelf, December 6, 2006.  The best account I've seen of the background to this initiative.  I can't excerpt it without cutting most of the details that make it valuable.

An OA magazine collection

Heather Morrison, Open Access Magazine Collection for CUFTS, a letter to the British Columbia Electronic Library Network (BC ELN), December 7, 2006.  Excerpt:

Several open access collections are already available in CUFTS, such as the Directory of Open Access Journals and the SFU Library Open Access Collection. BC ELN partner libraries have expressed an interest in developing another open access collection, which may include magazines as well as peer-reviewed journals. Once this list is developed, libraries will be able to include the list, or selected titles from the list, within their services.

To view the discussion, go to the reSearcher Software Forums.

To add titles, you need to register. This is a very simple process which only takes a couple of minutes. Please have available: the title, ISSN, fulltext start date, and the journal URL. From the initial post, click "post reply" to add a message to this thread.

While this initiative is the inspiration of BC ELN partner libraries, participation and benefits are available to all reSearcher libraries. If there is interest, a team may be formed to facilitate the work of coordinating the list.

PS:  CUFTS describes itself as "an open source (GPL) OpenURL link resolver designed for use by library consortia."  The acronym doesn't stand for anything.

A call for data sharing in psychology

A fair share, Nature, December 7, 2006.  An unsigned editorial.  Excerpt:

In psychology there is little tradition of making the data on which researchers base their statistical analyses freely available to others after publication. This makes it difficult for anyone to independently reanalyse research results, and prevents small data sets from being combined for meta-analysis, or large ones mined for fresh insights or perspectives.

Psychologists need to rethink their reluctance to share data....

The need for more data sharing has just been amply demonstrated by Jelte Wicherts, a psychologist specializing in research methods at the University of Amsterdam, who tried to check out the robustness of statistical analyses in papers published in top psychology journals.

He selected the November and December 2004 issues of four journals published by the American Psychological Association (APA), which requires its authors to agree to share their data with other researchers after publication. In June 2005, Wicherts wrote to each corresponding author requesting data, in full confidence, for simple reanalysis. Six months and several hundred e-mails later, he abandoned the mission, having received only a quarter of the data sets. He reported his failure in an APA journal in October (J. M. Wicherts et al. Am. Psychol. 61, 726–728; 2006).

Researchers often have valid reasons for constraining access to their raw data, such as the privacy of research subjects. But data from most studies based on confidential information can be coded in a way that will guarantee their subjects’ anonymity. The few cases where this is not possible can be exempted from the move towards data sharing.

A second factor deterring openness is a natural desire to retain exclusive access to data that took years of care and attention to collect....

The APA’s editors and publishers are now planning their response to Wicherts’ report. One result should be the acceleration of moves, already under discussion, to require the deposition of data as supplementary electronic material in APA databases. Where the APA leads, other psychology journals are likely to follow.

Granting bodies must also play a part. In 2003, the US National Institutes of Health introduced rules requiring the public sharing of data in psychology studies for grants exceeding $500,000, allowing exemptions where confidentiality issues cannot be circumvented. Other agencies should follow suit. And university departments need to do more to teach the basics of note-keeping and data presentation, to prepare their students for an era in which data sharing will increasingly become the norm.

Comment.  Kudos to Nature for this call for open data (and for appropriate exceptions).  I hope that the APA will take the arguments to heart.  Sharing data can improve research without compromising confidentiality.

More evidence that OA helps detect and deter plagiarism

John Timmer, Trolling the arXiv for plagiarism, Ars Technica, December 6, 2006.  Excerpt:

In a subscription-only report on an upcoming conference presentation, Nature spills the beans on what may be our best handle yet on plagiarism in the world of academic science. Most research into this area has been limited by the inaccessibility of many of the peer-reviewed journals, which require subscription access. As such, it's hard to build a global picture of the literature. In physics and astronomy, however, many publications appear in the arXiv database, which typically hosts them in advance of publication.

Researchers created an arXiv crawler, and had it parse each paper into seven-word pieces. After throwing out common phrases (such as acknowledgments of support and affiliation), the program then looked for high numbers of shared text fragments. Plagiarism was defined as cases where there were high amounts of shared text, but no shared authors. Here, the news appears good: out of over 280,000 publications scanned, only 677 possible cases were identified. A detailed examination of 20 of these showed that just three were cases with serious, paper-wide duplications....Considering that arXiv manuscripts are often not in their final form, the real rate of problems may be even lower than that seen by the authors, as more citations may be added later in the preparation process....

Another journal with a blog

Computing Reviews from the ACM is the latest peer-reviewed journal to launch a blog.  (Thanks to STLQ.)

OA and the arguments from distributive justice

Jim Till, Distributive justice and open access, Be Open Accessible or Obscure, December 7, 2006.  Excerpt:

Some of the more powerful ethics-based justifications for open access continue to be ones based on the concept of “distributive justice”. These justifications can also be regarded as ones based on concepts of “fairness”, or “equitable-access”. An eloquent example of a justification of this kind was provided by Jean-Claude Guédon, in a presentation to the May 2001 meeting of The Association of Research Libraries, entitled: In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow.... He wrote: “Librarians can (and ought to) help create a navigable, worldwide ocean of knowledge, open to all; and, like Odysseus, they will know how to help negotiate the tricky ebbs and eddies, the vortices and the undertows of chaotic knowledge flows that necessarily accompany the development of a distributed intelligence civilization - a civilization open to all that are good enough (excellence), and not only to those who can afford it (elites)“....

Justifications based on concepts of distributive justice are especially relevant in relation to access to health-related information. An example has been provided by an article entitled Equitable access to scientific and technical information for health, in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2003(Oct); 81(10), by Hooman Momen (Editor, Bulletin of the WHO)....An excerpt: “Health is perhaps the area of most intense demand for greater access to scientific and technical information, partly because failure to obtain it can be literally fatal“. Thus, the “global health” justification for open access is based on the “distributive justice” justification. An eloquent summary, by Barbara Kirsop, of the “global health” justification for open access is included in a message that she sent to the American Scientist Open Access Forum on 2 January 2004, on the subject Re: Free Access vs. Open Access.

Excerpt: “Scientists (and patients with malaria) in the developing world need the information now, asap, in any format that can best be provided, don’t wait til everything is perfect, just do it. And science in the developed world equally needs the highly relevant research from the developing regions now - though it mostly doesn’t recognise this knowledge gap“....

FRPAA to be re-introduced in the new Congress

Mark Chillingworth, US elections delay open access articles bill, Information World Review, November 30, 2007.  Excerpt:

The mid-term elections in the US are likely to delay the introduction of the Federal Research Public Access Act, with the bill having to be re-introduced to the US Senate in 2007. Despite the delay, the volume of support for the bill grows ever louder....

“It is likely the bill will have to be re-introduced,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resource Coalition (SPARC)....

“Scholars and the public are on the right side of this matter. FRPAA should become law,” said David Shulenburger, vice president for Academic Affairs at the National Association of State Universities and Land Grant Colleges (NASULGC). He backed up his call: “We now have significant experience with journals that have voluntarily permitted articles they published to be made available for free after delay periods… evidence is not consistent with an apocalyptic collapse of the subscriber base.” Shulenburger added that those journals which have volunteered to make content freely available have not seen a collapse of their subscriber base.

Duane Webster, executive director of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), said: “The research library community vigorously advocates passage of FRPAA. This legislation is an essential step towards broadening access to widely needed information resources.”...

Sorry for the downtime

OAN was down all night last night. I discovered and fixed the problem first thing this morning. Apparently my last upload yesterday got far enough to delete the old file but no further. My apologies, and curses to the FTP gremlins.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Gowers report on UK IP law

The UK government has released the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property (December 2006) and all the research, testimony, evidence, and public comments collected by the Gowers commission during its review of UK IP law.  From the report:

Recommendation 1: Amend section 60(5) of the Patents Act 1977 to clarify the research exception to facilitate experimentation, innovation and education....

Recommendation 3: The European Commission should retain the length of protection on sound recordings and performers’ rights at 50 years.

Recommendation 4: Policy makers should adopt the principle that the term and scope of protection for IP rights should not be altered retrospectively....

Recommendation 8: Introduce a limited private copying exception by 2008 for format shifting for works published after the date that the law comes into effect. There should be no accompanying levies for consumers.

Recommendation 9: Allow private copying for research to cover all forms of content. This relates to the copying, not the distribution, of media.

Recommendation 10a: Amend s.42 of the CDPA by 2008 to permit libraries to copy the master copy of all classes of work in permanent collection for archival purposes and to allow further copies to be made from the archived copy to mitigate against subsequent wear and tear.

Recommendation 10b: Enable libraries to format shift archival copies by 2008 to ensure records do not become obsolete....

Recommendation 13: Propose a provision for orphan works to the European Commission, amending Directive 2001/29/EC....

Recommendation 30a: The Patent Office should publish and maintain an open standards web database, linked to the EPO’s esp@cenet web database, containing all patents issued under licence of right.

Recommendation 30b: The Patent Office should publish and maintain an open standards web database, linked to esp@cenet containing all expired patents....


  • All the report's recommendations that bear on research are good for research, even if the report omits other recommendations that would have been good or better.  The overall thrust of the report is to restore balance to copyright and patent law, not to continue the trend of giving IP maximalists all that they want.  That's good.  But while the commission was wise and courageous to refuse to lengthen the term of copyright for sound recordings, for example, I can't understand why the same reasoning didn't apply to writings.
  • I used to cover copyright law in detail, at least insofar as it affected scholarly research and publication.  But as news of hard-core open access developments has grown in volume, I've had to narrow my scope, and copyright is one issue I've had to prune.  So I won't be covering the aftermath of this important report except where there is a clear OA connection.

The public interest in OA and FRPAA

Judea Franck, Who should have access to federally funded research? Inside the 2006 Federal Research Public Access Act, Library Connection (from Colorado State University), Fall 2006.  (Thanks to Jennifer McLennan.)  Excerpt:

Who should have access to federally funded research? Researchers? Professors? Students? Taxpayers? Should research findings be freely available on the Internet? What would be the impact if colleagues in all fields could exchange information with the click of a mouse and without the barriers of membership, subscriptions, or dues?  These questions have recently been brought to the forefront by the introduction of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA)....

After his experiences on the battlefields of World War I, Alexander Fleming made a shocking discovery—bacteria could be an even deadlier force than enemy artillery. In the startling conditions of trench warfare, infection caused 15 percent of war-related fatalities, or roughly 5.5 million out of 37 million total deaths. Fleming returned to his London laboratory driven to find some way to prevent these deaths. His pursuit eventually led to the discovery that mold, specifically penicillin, could kill bacteria....[W]hen Fleming published his findings in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in 1928, his work raised little interest and was nearly lost to scientific obscurity. It was not until 1938, ten years later, that British scientist Ernst Chain and Australian scientist Howard Florey rediscovered Fleming’s article....

[I]n today’s world, with information increasingly at one’s fingertips, it is amazing to note that some of the very same barriers that resulted in the ten-year delay of penicillin research and countless other discoveries still exist....

Just imagine if Fleming could have sat down at a computer and told colleagues in England and beyond about the miracle mold that could knock out staph bacteria. In fact, the number of visitors to digital content on Web sites so far outnumbers traditional journal circulations that the potential to broadly, widely, and immediately impact the scientific community via publishing online is nearly limitless. Take, for example, the journal Science. Science is one of the most commonly cited journals and boasts 130,000 print subscriptions. Yet its Web site, which contains a mix of free and subscription-required portions, receives 1.8 million weekly visits....

[There] is a growing movement to grant taxpayers access to research that is funded with taxpayer dollars. Led largely by the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, an organization in which CSU is a founding member, the movement insists on developing open, online access to federally funded research. Its main advocates include universities, libraries, consumer groups, and perhaps most notably a long list of patient advocate groups including the Genetic Alliance, a coalition of 600 disease-specific organizations that advocates for better healthcare treatments.

Sharon Terry became the coalition’s president after she and her husband encountered astounding barriers to research literature that would help them understand the debilitating genetic disorder from which both of their children suffered. The Terrys worked around those barriers by volunteering at a hospital and gaining access to the hospital’s library. Armed with the research that they were first denied, the Terrys became experts on their children’s disorders and, working with a network of scientists, became co-discoverers of the gene responsible for the disorder.  Although it is uncommon for lay individuals to make such a significant impact in the research community, 80 percent of taxpayers, according to a recent Harris interactive poll, support a right to “open access” and have a strong desire not necessarily to view research findings themselves, but rather to feel the real-world benefits reflected when their own doctors, pharmacists, and other practitioners have better access to cutting-edge discoveries....

PS:  This is one of the best articles I've seen on the public interest (as opposed to the self-interest of researchers as authors and readers) in OA and FRPAA.

Why does Google share less?

John Battelle reports that Google scientists don't present their research at conferences as often as Microsoft or Yahoo scientists.  (Thanks to Doug Caverly.)

More on the EPA library closings

Fred Stoss, ALA and the EPA National Library Network, Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Fall 2006.  Excerpt:

Last February, the nonprofit group, PEER -- Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility -- sent out a press release that shocked the library world: The proposed budget submitted by the Executive Office of Management and Budget included a reduction in the fiscal year 2007 budget for the EPA Libraries of roughly 80 percent. $2.0 million would be cut from a $2.5 million operating budget for the U.S. EPA National Library Network (27 regional, laboratory, research, and other libraries), along with an additional reduction of $500,000 (roughly 50 percent) in the agency's subscriptions....

Since the FY 2007 budget was passed retaining the drastic cuts to the EPA Libraries, several regional libraries have closed (Dallas, Chicago, Kansas City, and New York City, which has replaced its Region 2 Library web site with a series of environmental quotations). Others have greatly reduced services to EPA research, regulatory, policy, and enforcement staff (Boston, San Francisco). EPA Headquarters Libraries have closed or are in the process of closing, and nearly all public access to the EPA Libraries has ceased....

Could ALA and others have prevented these closings and the catastrophic losses associated with what was most likely the world's largest environmental library and information network?  I doubt it....

What could have been a shining example of transforming a 35-year old, time-tested, and battle-hardened National Library Network for the Environment, has become just one more example of the actions of a presidential administration that has been one of the most hostile to its own library, information, and data resources....

PS:  For more background see my blog postings on the EPA library closings.

Imagining the ideal scholarly portal

Laura Cohen has sketched her idea of the Ideal 2.0 Scholarly Portal.  (Thanks to Richard Akerman.)

A home for OA data

Swivel was founded last year (December 2005) but I just ran across it (thanks to Glyn Moody).  Although it's a year old, it's still in preview mode and should launch next week.  From the site:

We built Swivel because we wanted a Web site for data.

Like many business folks, we had spent a bunch of time editing spreadsheets, reading other people's spreadsheets and emailing spreadsheets back and forth. We had learned a bunch of macros, shortcuts and tricks for editing data. However, when it came time to share data with other people - so they could explore the data themselves - it was...less good. We, unfortunately, had to freeze the data in the form of a document or presentation because only other power users could really go nuts exploring the data....

[W]hen we say Swivel is a Web site for data we're talking about those three things:

  • we use farms of powerful computers and algorithms at the Swivel data centers to transform a lonely grid of numbers and letters into hundreds - sometimes thousands - of graphs that can be explored and compared with any other public data in Swivel
  • we have ratings and comments and publishing shortcuts for bloggers, so folks can share ideas, talk about insights and understand data together
  • we transform the sometimes tedious task of reading someone else's spreadsheet into a fun experience of clicking through a Web site full of images, graphs and color.

How are we going to pay the bills?...The rules will be simple:

  • If you upload data for the public, Swivel is free.
  • If you upload data and choose to keep it private and secure, there will be a fee....

Swivel lets you explore data and share your insights with others. Swivel has data about politics, economics, weather, sports, business and more....

Once you find an interesting graph, share it. Swivel makes it easy to post great graphs to your blog or link to a graph through email. When other folks see your graph it's not just a dull image —no way! People can click it and start their own cycle of exploring, comparing and sharing.

  • Post a graph on your blog
  • Email a graph link to your friends and colleagues.
  • Have folks click on your graph and explore and compare the data themselves.
  • Keep track of how many times people have viewed and clicked on your graphs.

Swivel is designed for sharing....

Here's Michael Arrington's description from TechCrunch:

Swivel Co-founders Dmitry Dimov and Brian Mulloy start off by describing their company as “YouTube for Data.” That’s a good start for someone trying to understand it, because the site allows users to upload data - any data - and display it to other users visually. The number of page views your website generates. Or a stock price over time. Weather data. Commodity prices. The number of Bald Eagles in Washington state. Whatever. Uploaded data can be rated, commented and bookmarked by other users, helping to sort the interesting (and accurate) wheat from the chaff. And graphs of data can be embedded into websites....

But then the real fun begins. You and other users can then compare that data to other data sets to find possible correlation (or lack thereof)....And better yet, Swivel will be automatically comparing your data to other data sets in the background, suggesting possible correlations to you that you may never have noticed.

Academic types are going to go nuts over this. I spent a summer in college running regression analysis models on economic data. Being able to simply upload data to Swivel and then begin to slice and dice the data would have saved a lot of time. And being able to compare our data to what others were doing in related fields could have yielded results that we would never have aimed for....

Look for Swivel to launch later this week after a year of quiet development....

Comment.  Swivel isn't just a home for OA data.  It's a tool to automate the process of comparing data, turning data into active or clickable graphs, sharing data, and rating, discussing, and analyzing data.  I hope OA-minded scientists will try Swivel for their scientific data and that science-minded OA activists will try Swivel for their data about OA.  I have two reasons:  I want to *use* data about OA in this easy and flexible way, and I want OA data to become so transparently useful that it will inspire others to make their data OA as well.

Open civic information

The presentations from the Open Knowledge Foundation Forum on Civic Information No. 2 (London, November 28, 2006) are now online.

Melissa Hagemann honored

SPARC has named Melissa Hagemann of OSI the latest SPARC Innovator.  From yesterday's announcement

SPARC has selected Melissa Hagemann, the Program Manager of the Open Access Initiative at the Open Society Institute (OSI), as the newest SPARC Innovator.  Hagemann was chosen in recognition of the new possibilities that now exist for scholars, institutions, and the public since the introduction of the Open Access movement and in honor of Hagemann's seminal role in launching the movement with her OSI colleagues.

For Hagemann, the Open Access movement is the realization of an ideal that can benefit thousands of institutions and millions of people, including those in transitional and developing countries who would otherwise have to do without the benefits of critical research findings.  To achieve her goal, Hagemann has worked closely with OSI colleagues, deploying critical resources to launch the Open Access movement.  Most significantly, OSI convened the December 2001 gathering in Budapest that culminated in the Budapest Open Access Initiative. Since that landmark meeting, OSI has funded about $3 million in individual and institutional grants related to Open Access.

Despite the grant and funding assistance, however, Hagemann's contributions to the Open Access movement are not primarily financial. Her intellectual creativity and far-reaching vision led her to strategize on a way forward within OSI to unify the Open Access movement by linking together open access journals with open archiving strategies, an idea conceived by the participants in Budapest.

"Melissa's recognition in 2001 that the time was right to bring people together to create the Open Access movement was critical," said SPARC Director Heather Joseph.  "The initial BOAI gathering set out the principles of OA to foster change on a systemic level, rather than on a journal-by-journal basis.  Her clear focus was on defining this new concept, and then supporting education to plant the concept of OA around the world.  Open Access would simply not have had the tremendous impact it has had so far without this crucial first step."

"It is an immense honor to be profiled this way, along with my colleagues at OSI and those who participated in the meeting in Budapest which lead to the BOAI," Hagemann said.

Hagemann's strategic, behind-the-scenes planning on behalf of the Open Access movement during the past five years set in motion a series of events that have affected scholarship around the globe.  To read the complete SPARC Innovator profile detailing Hagemann's role, please see [this page].... 

Individuals can nominate potential SPARC Innovators at [this page].

Comment.  This honor is much-deserved.  I'm especially glad to see it because Melissa's many contributions have been behind the scenes and are not widely known.  To appreciate them, do see SPARC's longer account of her role in the OA movement.  (Disclosure:  I gratefully acknowledge that I'm funded by OSI and that the funding decisions have been Melissa's.)

Milestone for the Wayback Machine

The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine has archived more than 85.8 billion web pages, all of them OA.  For details, see yesterday's announcement.

Oxford wants disclosure from Oxford Open authors

Oxford University Press has tweaked the policy for its Oxford Open hybrid program.  The following is new as of yesterday or today:

Oxford Journals asks authors to state the source of funding used to pay the Open Access publication charge, after having a manuscript accepted. This provides transparency for readers, funding bodies, and the publisher. If appropriate the information will be added to the Acknowledgement section of the article. It is not compulsory to provide this information, but we encourage all authors to do so.

PS:  Oxford Open is the first hybrid program to adopt such a policy.

New OA journal of medical case reports

The Journal of Medical Case Reports is a new OA journal from BioMed Central.  From yesterday's announcement:

BioMed Central, the leading open access publisher, today announced the launch of Journal of Medical Case Reports, the only journal in the world that is devoted purely to case reports. An online, open access peer-reviewed journal, Journal of Medical Case Reports is expected to publish its first articles in early 2007. The journal is now accepting submissions....

"Case reports that expand the field of medicine are of interest and value to clinicians. Publishing case reports helps fulfil the need to gather more comprehensive data about individual cases. This potentially valuable resource is currently neglected by many medical journals, so Journal of Medical Case Reports will provide an important outlet for these studies." says Professor Deborah Saltman, BioMed Central’s Editorial Director for Medicine....

Listserv comments on the Beckett/Inger report

Steve Hitchcock, Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition?  Eprints Insiders, December 5, 2006.  A useful compendium of listserv comments on the report by Chris Beckett and Simon Inger, Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition? An international Survey of Librarians' Preferences, Publishing Research Consortium, October 26, 2006.

Comment. This is not only a helpful companion to the Beckett/Inger report, but a good idea that should spread to other major reports and studies.  Even though listserv postings are open access and remain online indefinitely, they are rarely cited, quickly fade from memory, and are very hard to collect retroactively.  I hope this idea catches on, much like the now-common practice of blogging conference presentations.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Declaration of Mexico

The Declaration of Mexico was issued at the close of the meeting Open access: an alternative of access to scientific information (Fifth International Conference on University Libraries, Mexico City, October 26 - 27, 2006)  (Thanks to Rick Luce.)  It's short, so here it is in full:

Informed and aware that "guaranteeing that research results may be freely available for everyone is the best way of maximizing their usefulness" and that "Open access is good for science, for the research community, and for humanity" we who sign permit ourselves to recommend to all Latin American institutions, and especially to our national governments, the adoption of Open Access policies and the inclusion of Open Access resources in the mechanisms of institutional evaluation of academic and scientific performance, as a means of stimulating the free generation of knowledge.

This group promises to create and maintain a network of research, exchange, promotion, diffusion, digital preservation and formation of personnel in the technological tools required to carry out the stated mission as well as the creation of a union catalog of contributions. We invite and open the doors so that all institutions may join this effort signing this declaration.

In Mexico City, Mexico, Friday, October 27, 2006.

Agents of the Declaration:

Of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Alberto Castro Thompson
Of the Ibero American Science & Technology Education Consortium, Henry Jerez
Of the São Paulo State University, Mariangela Fujita
Of the Colombian Ministry of National Education, Alvaro Arias
Of the University of the Andes, Venezuela, Jacinto Dávila
Of Emory University, Richard Luce

Research students on an OA repository for Loughborough

Margaret Pickton and Cliff McKnight, Research students and the Loughborough institutional repository, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 38, 4 (2006).  Excerpt:

This article investigates the potential role for research students in an institutional repository (IR). Face-to-face interviews with 34 research students at Loughborough University were carried out. Using a mixture of closed and open questions, the interviews explored the students’ experiences and opinions of publishing, open access and the proposed Loughborough repository. As both authors and readers, students were most interested in access to complete theses, postprints and conference papers. The ability to disseminate their work and to receive feedback and commentary were the most important motivators to students depositing work in the IR, closely followed by the principle of open access. The greatest deterrents were the risk of being unable to publish elsewhere later, the ownership of copyright and plagiarism. Appropriate recommendations are made for the implementation of an institutional repository.

Update. Also see Pickton and McKnight, Is there a role for research students in an institutional repository? Some repository managers' views, a preprint forthcoming from the Journal of Librarianship and Information Science. (Thanks to Steve Hitchcock.)

Abstract: Although a number of studies have investigated the attitudes of published academic authors with respect to open access (OA) publishing and institutional repositories (IRs), none have considered the views of other institutional stakeholders. Research students, in particular, are a group that could make a major contribution to an IR, both currently and in their future careers. But how acceptable is their work to those responsible for IRs? The project described here investigates the views of repository managers. A short email survey was carried out, comprising questions about student use of the repository, advocacy undertaken and attitudes toward research student content. Responses were received from representatives of 35 universities in the UK and abroad. Repository managers were overwhelmingly in favour of permitting the deposit of research student work, albeit under specified conditions. One half of the respondents mentioned allowing, or even encouraging, the deposit of theses and dissertations. The relative newness of many repositories meant that advocacy to student authors was limited, although a number of managers were including the repository as an information source in routine research training sessions. The paper concludes that there is a need for clear guidance on the quality of repository content; that evidence of use should be sought, and that IR policy should accommodate the needs of all stakeholders.

Steve Hitchcock also points out that both the above are apparently based on Pickton, Research students and the Loughborough institutional repository, Loughborough University Institutional Repository, MSc dissertation, 2005. From the abstract:

This dissertation investigated the potential role for research students in a new institutional repository at Loughborough University. The project began with an extensive search for information concerning stakeholders’ attitudes towards open access publishing and institutional repositories. It was apparent from this review that no previous research had focused on the needs and potential contribution of research students in this area. Two studies were therefore carried out. The first, an email survey of managers of existing institutional repositories, investigated student use of their repositories, advocacy undertaken, and attitudes toward research student content. Responses were received from 35 universities in the UK and abroad. The second study comprised face-to-face interviews with 34 research students at Loughborough University.

OA coming for TA database on the transatlantic slave trade

Rufus Pollock, The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database: Is It Going to be Made Open?  Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, December 4, 2006.  Excerpt:

Over a four year period in the mid-1990s a team of scholars centred on the Du Bois institute at Harvard compiled a comprehensive database of transatlantic slave-trading voyages. Over 27,000 individual journeys were recorded for the period 1650-1867 covering more than 2/3 of all voyages that took place. The data includes extensive demographic (and mortality) information for the African slaves as well as similar information for the crew, details of the ship and durations of the voyages. This was an amazing feat of collaborative scholarly effort resulting in a dataset of immense value in furthering our understanding of an incredibly important (and terrible) historical episode.

So what happened to this data, was it made open, free for all, scholars and public alike, to use and reuse? Sadly not. Instead it was published on CD-ROM by Cambridge University Press priced at $250.00....

Fortunately, change seems to be in sight. A look at the database’s home page on the Du Bois Institute’s website reveals that The project directors are now working to make the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database part of an open-access web site. Their goal is to create a dual-tier interface to accommodate a range of aptitudes for the internet, and, in addition to the open access feature, it offers the novel prospect of being constantly up to date in perpetuity....

PS:  Thanks to the Du Bois Institute for sharing their hard work.

Update. Emory University has grants from the NEH and Du Bois Institute to create the OA edition of this database. See Emory's July 2006 press release. (Thanks to John Russell.)

Researcher attitudes toward OA in Quebec

Kumiko Vézina, Libre accès à la recherche scientifique : opinions et pratiques des chercheurs au Québec, Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 1,1 (2006).  Read it in French or Google's English.

Users can enhance tool for OA archaeology

Eric Kansa, Open Context: Community Data-sharing and Tagging, Academic Commons, December 4, 2006.  Excerpt:

The Alexandria Archive Institute is now “beta-testing” Open Context.

Open Context is a free, open-access online database resource for archaeology and related fields. It is a highly-generalized tool that pools and integrates individual researcher datasets and museum collections....

Open Context has a variety of demonstration datasets now available for exploration and testing. These include field archaeology contextual records and finds registers, geo-archaeological samples, and a variety of zooarchaeological analyses. We are also adding museum and reference collection datasets....

To help make sense of this widely varying body of material, we have developed a user folksonomy system. Individual users can add value to the pooled content by identifying and annotating items of interest using a tagging system....

We are working toward interoperability with other systems and developing partnerships to assist in OAI standards compliance and support from institutional repositories. We are also working with the Science Commons to find "some rights reserved" frameworks that create incentives for sharing primary data.

We would also like to see some of this framework incorporated into institutionally-backed digital repository systems. Thus, we are eager to partner with other related initiatives. We already have an established a partnership with the University of Chicago OCHRE project....

Free science or open science?

Bill Hooker, The bottom line, and an idea, Open Reading Frame, December 3, 2006.  Excerpt:

...[I]f you're not familiar with the "schism" [between free and open source software], there's some background. I've argued that the same sort of openness as brought to mind by Free/Open Source Software is vital for the future of science, and since a movement needs a name I've tentatively proposed Open Science as the banner under which open access, open data, open standards, open licensing and open source might assemble to their greatest mutual benefit. As it happens though, one of the earliest movements towards what I am calling "open" science was called the Free Science Campaign, run by Stefano Ghirlanda. (The page is offline now. I ran across it while doing my graduate studies, and it is an enduring regret that I never signed up.)

Here's the idea, then, for all that it opens up an awful can of worms: should we be calling the campaign to free up scientific information (text, data and software) "Free Science", for the same reasons Stallman insists on "Free Software"?

It would be rather too much to just toss that out there, so here's my view. While I have great sympathy with Stallman's arguments in favour of Free, and am personally committed to do as much of my science completely in the open as I can, I know my tribe. Scientists are a cynical, self-interested lot. For instance, I was scoffed at for recommending BioRoot to colleagues -- the whole idea of sharing tends to be seen as naive, asking to be taken advantage of. It's been my experience that the first response of most scientists to any "open" scheme (like BioRoot, or Open Notebook Science) is not "how cool!" but "what about bad actors? how will you keep from being robbed?". (Which says something about what the culture of science does to a person, but I digress.) To my mind, this largely explains why BioRoot hasn't taken off as I would have hoped/expected, and is something of which to be wary. I am concerned that "Free Science", particularly if explicitly connected with "idealistic" Stallman (as contrasted with the "pragmatic" OSI), might meet with a chorus of sneers from the people who need it most. So for now, I think we should stick with "Open Science".

OA to experimental data

A.J. Chen, Why publish experiment data?  Web2express, December 5, 2006.  Excerpt:

...The current scientific publishing model has worked pretty well for centuries. However, it also has obvious problems. This first main problem is lack of free access, i.e. access to the published materials is mostly limited to paid-users. This problem is being addressed by the Open Access movement.

The second main problem with current publishing model is that publishing research paper is not an efficient way to share data. There are several reasons for this....

These inefficiencies really hamper data sharing and information discovery. So, new ways of publishing are needed in order to increase the efficiency of sharing research information. I think direct publishing of experiment data on the web presents a good solution....

Experiment data can be represented at different levels of granularity. is approaching the data sharing problem from the opposite end of the spectrum comparing to the bioscience projects like MGET. It’s developing shallow ontology to represent data across all scientific fields, such as life sciences, computer, social science, etc. Early version (v0.2) of SPE ontology for self-publishing of experiments is being reviewed within W3C HCLS interest group, and demo publishing tool is available online for testing and download.

More from Online Information 2006

William Pollard, Sharing Knowledge on the Web, Ohmynews, December 5, 2006.  Many one-paragraph notes on presentations at Online Information 2006 (London, November 28-30, 2006).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Brunel launches an IR, one school adopts an OA mandate

Brunel University in West London has launched an institutional repository, BURA (Brunel University Research Archive), and its School of Information Systems Computing and Mathematics has adopted an OA mandate.  From today's announcement:

...BURA will make journal articles conference papers, doctoral theses, recordings and images freely available via the internet, allowing users to read, download and copy material for non-commercial private study or research purposes.

Presently, there are more than 100 items on BURA and the number is increasing every day....

John Murtagh, project manager of BURA said: "If you want the university to be more research-focused, you have got to get your research out there." The impetus for BURA has come from an increasing awareness that most research is publicly funded, and, therefore, should be publicly accessible.  He added: "There are obvious advantages for an academic. Self-archiving can increase the citation rate of a piece of written work by 25 to 250 per cent."

Brunel's School of Information Systems Computing and Mathematics is supporting the initiative to make it compulsory for researchers to deposit their journal articles and theses in BURA.

"This is not only very good news for the long-term success of BURA but for academics it will make readily available their research to the world. If it is successful, it could also lead onto the whole university adopting mandatory self-archiving."

Australia's ARC expects OA for ARC-funded projects

The Australian Research Council (ARC)  has published the Funding Rules for funding commencing in 2008 (undated but apparently released December 3, 2006).  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

1.4.5.  Dissemination of research outputs The Australian Government makes a major investment in research to support its essential role in improving the wellbeing of our society. To maximise the benefits from research, findings need to be disseminated as broadly as possible to allow access by other researchers and the wider community. The ARC acknowledges that researchers take into account a wide range of factors in deciding on the best outlets for publications arising from their research. Such considerations include the status and reputation of a journal or publisher, the peer review process of evaluating their research outputs, access by other stakeholders to their work, the likely impact of their work on users of research and the further dissemination and production of knowledge. Taking heed of these considerations, the ARC wants to ensure the widest possible dissemination of the research supported under its funding, in the most effective manner and at the earliest opportunity. The ARC therefore encourages researchers to consider the benefits of depositing their data and any publications arising from a research project in an appropriate subject and/or institutional repository wherever such a repository is available to the researcher(s). If a researcher is not intending to deposit the data from a project in a repository within a six-month period, he/she should include the reasons in the project's Final Report. Any research outputs that have been or will be deposited in appropriate repositories should be identified in the Final Report.

Comment.  Kudos to the ARC for this important step.  The policy doesn't use the language of a mandate, but it takes an approach that may be functionally equivalent:  beyond requesting compliance, it shifts the burden to non-complying grantees to justify their non-compliance.  This creates a strategic consideration that is not a sanction but more consequential than anything to be found in some of the policies that use mandatory language.

What's happening to books?

The December 1 issue of Forbes is running 12 essays on the future of the book in the age of the internet.  From the short preface by editors Michael Maiello and Michael Noer:

Are books in danger?

The conventional wisdom would say yes. After all, more and more media--the Internet, cable television, satellite radio, videogames--compete for our time. And the Web in particular, with its emphasis on textual snippets, skimming and collaborative creation, seems ill-suited to nurture the sustained, authoritative transmission of complex ideas that has been the historical purview of the printed page.

But surprise--the conventional wisdom is wrong....

Two of the best from OAN's point of view are Cory Doctorow's Giving it away and Ben Vershbow's The Networked Book.

Canadian presence in the BOAI

Heather Morrison, Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement: Budapest, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, December 3, 2006.  Heather kicks off a series of posts on Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement with profiles of the three Canadian OA warriors who took part in the Budapest Open Access Initiative:  Jean-Claude Guédon, Leslie Chan, and Stevan Harnad.

Tell Congress to stop the destruction of the EPA libraries

The Union of Concerned Scientists has created an action alert on the closing --actually, the trashing-- of the EPA libraries.  If you're a US citizen, please consider using it to send a message to your Congressional delegation.

PS:  For background, see my blog postings on the problem.

DeRisi recognized for his research and OA work

Joseph DeRisi has won this year's Alumni Achievement Award from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in part for his work on OA.  From the citation: 

Joseph DeRisi is best known for his work leading to the identification of the type of virus involved in the SARS outbreak, prompting USA Today to describe him as a “rock star” of science. A Crown College graduate, DeRisi received his B.A. in biochemistry and molecular biology from UCSC in 1992 and later earned his Ph.D. at Stanford. In 2004, he was named a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellow --the no-strings-attached $500,000 award often called a “genius grant.”

DeRisi has been a strong supporter of free and open access to scientific discoveries, posting his results online and in journals supporting open access....

Congratulations, Joseph!

Against OA

W.S. Snyder, Open Access to Data - Central Role for Geoinformatics, a presentation at the American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2006 (San Francisco, December 11-15, 2006).  Excerpt:

Abstract:   The open access to scientific information has become a contentious issue. In the United States there are calls to make all published literature available for free within 6 months of publication, the notion being that this will promote better science and policy decisions based on science. Here, I argue that this is the incorrect approach to the issue of open access to scientific information. A fundamental problem raised by the call for open access to government-supported research results is the viability of our not-for-profit professional scientific societies. These societies provide the base level framework for the exchange of scientific ideas, and hence the very core of how we do science and how scientific knowledge is advanced. Why should a scientist subscribe to a journal if they can read the article for free in six months? A large portion of a society's operational costs come from these subscriptions and the sale of specialized books, all of which contain the results of federally-funded research. Without revenue from journal subscriptions and book sales, not only will these publications disappear, but many of societies may as well. Without a broad venue to publish and in which to interact, our science suffers - many subdisciplines may fade or even die - those that don't "sell well." Very popular publications such as "Nature", "Science", "Tectonics", and "Geology" will continue to thrive, but what about the more specialized journals such as "Journal of Paleontology"? They are costly to publish yet fill a very critical niche for our science. Many will still pay for reading the Nature/Science/Tectonics/Geology article, but where do we publish the mainstream science paper? We have to guard against becoming a "Hollywood Science" - where only the glitzy gets published because those are the articles that sell. We must have peer-reviewed, independent publications and viable professional societies, or our science will severely suffer. We can better approach the need for open access to scientific information by concentrating on the data versus the written word. The written word can and should be copyrighted. This protects the viability of the journals of many societies - large and small - and therefore the viability of the societies and the science they support. Furthermore, the written word is largely interpretation - some of which flows directly from the funded research, but much of which reflects the accumulated knowledge of the scientists; knowledge that has been derived from sources that cannot be tracked. Interpretations and conclusions differ among scientists - that is what drives the progress of science, and that is the written word. The notion that all journal articles must be free to all effectively says that ideas and interpretations cannot be protected by copyright. It should also be noted that all articles are available in libraries as they are published, so it is hard to argue that they are not "freely available." What hinders science and public policy decision making, is the lack of complete access to all relevant data and metadata. To require that all relevant data and metadata be publically available six months after publication is a viable solution. The government dollars clearly pay for the data, but the source of support for scientific interpretation and discussion is impossible to determine. Once the data are public, they are free for all to reinterpret and to use as the basis for additional studies that reflect the unsolved issues of the previous study. Many of the government agencies that supply research funds already have data policies in place. What may be required is the funding base to allow them to implement these policies in consultation with the academic community that they serve.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

"What would a Web 2.0 repository look like?"

Andy Powell, Repositories and Web 2.0, eFoundations, November 27, 2006.  Excerpt:

At a couple of meetings recently the relationship between digital repositories as we currently know them in the education sector and Web 2.0 has been discussed....I found myself asking "What would a Web 2.0 repository look like?"....

More recently, there has been a little thread on the UK list about the mashability of digital repositories.  However, it struck me that most of that discussion centered on the repository as the locus of mashing - i.e. external stuff is mashed into the repository user-interface, based on metadata held in repository records.  There seemed to be little discussion about the mashability of the repository content itself - i.e. where resources held in repositories are able to be easily integrated into external services.

One of the significant hurdles to making repository content more mashable is the way that identifiers are assigned to repository content.  Firstly, there is currently little coherence in the way that identifiers are assigned to research publications in repositories.  This is one of the things we set out to address in the work on the Eprints Application Profile.  Secondly, the 'oai' URIs typically assigned to metadata 'items' in the repository are not Web-friendly and do not dereference (i.e. are not resolvable) in any real sense, without every application developer having to hardcode knowledge about how to dereference them.  To make matters worse, the whole notion of what an 'item' is in the OAI-PMH is quite difficult conceptually, especially for those new to the protocol.

Digital repositories would be significantly more usable in the context of Web 2.0 if they used 'http' URIs throughout, and if those URIs were assigned in a more coherent fashion across the range of repositories being developed.

Open source research in chemistry

Jean-Claude Bradley has posted a transcript to complement the slides and podcast he previously posted of the talk he gave at the American Chemical Society meeting, September 14, 2006, UsefulChem Project:  Open source chemical research with blogs and wikis.

Using an author's addendum

Author’s right agreements: how to make them work for you, Open Access Anthropology, December 2, 2006.  Excerpt:

These days it is easy to put things on line....The problem is not technical, its legal — every time you publish an article you sign an “author’s agreement” with a journal. If you are like me, you probably never read those agreements in detail and probably couldn’t understand the legalese even if you did. As a result a lot of us don’t feel comfortable putting PDFs of our articles on the web for anyone to access because we are afraid that we are violating our author’s agreements when we do so. Is there some way to avoid this problem? The answer, luckily, is yes.

Peter Hirtle has an excellent (and short!) solution to this problem in his article Author Addenda: An Examination of Five Alternatives First he summarizes the problem....

One solution, he says, is an author’s addendum — a little bit of legalese that you add to the agreement with your publisher and sign that lets you save the rights you need in order to make your work open access.

Luckily, you do not have to write these addenda yourself — several organizations have already created legal boilerplate that you can use....

Now, some would say: Will my publisher ever allow me to use these addenda? The answer, surprisingly, is yes. Publishers often want your copyright so that they will not have legal problems everytime they want to add their collection to JSTOR or include their pieces in a reader or whatnot. An addendum that allows everyone — including them — access to your piece makes this easier for them. The other big concern of publishers is that you are going to put the same article in one of their competitor’s journals which of course is not the point of these addenda. On the whole, publishers are quite flexible if you let them know you are just going to include a copy of your article on your own website or on your institution’s website....

Comment.  All true and useful.  Just remember that all OA journals and about 70% of non-OA journals already allow authors to self-archive their peer-reviewed postprints.  At those journals, no negotiation or author's addendum is needed.

Nebraska IR growing fast

Zak Pluhacek, UNL online information database ranks 4th in U.S., Daily Nebraskan, December 3, 2006.  (Thanks to tdaxp.)  Excerpt:

It took just 18 months for University of Nebraska-Lincoln archivists to create the Digital Commons, a now internationally ranked online database of more than 15,000 papers, essays and articles.

The archive was recently bumped to the fourth largest in the U.S. and is in the top 15 worldwide in terms of size, ac-cording to grading by the Registry of Open Access Repositories, or ROAR.

The directories of the University of Michigan, Ohio State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are the only three in the nation with more materials than the UNL commons. Each has been available for more than five years.

The University of California's archive, which UNL surpassed to gain ROAR's fourth-place ranking, is more than 10 years old.
"We've been working very hard to populate (the UNL data-base) with content. We're probably the fastest growing digital archive in the United States at this point," said Paul Royster, UNL's Digital Commons director.

Royster began uploading around 10,000 doctorial dissertations written by UNL faculty members to the database in 2005. Since then, he and his staff of five students have added more than 5,000 other materials, and continue to add to the service piece by piece.

"There's been a movement for the past two or three years, and Nebraska Libraries is in the front rank because we're interested in electronic access," Royster said....

"(It) showcases our faculty and student research, increasing the visibility of their work and providing an easy way for potential students to see the breadth and depth of the work done at UNL," said Joan Giesecke, dean of libraries for UNL, in a press release Tuesday.

The Digital Commons aver-ages around 2,000 hits, or view or searches of content, per day. More than 800 documents are downloaded on average each day....

Amidst the recent popularity of open source systems, registries like ROAR have become more common as well.
ROAR has existed in its current form for two years, said the registry's director Tim Brody....ROAR tracks archives based on size, type and growth. "We want to encourage both the setting up, but more importantly, the filling of repositories," [Brody] said. "In order to encourage the filling of repositories we need to know how much stuff there is in them."

Comment.  This is an OA success story.  Kudos to UNL for wanting to make it happen.  Special credit goes to Paul Royster and Jean Giesecke for delivering.  Another part of the campus OA culture not mentioned in the article is that UNL provost Barbara Couture signed the July 2006 GWLA Provost Letter endorsing FRPAA. 

Review of Open Journal Systems and GAPworks

Heinrich Stamerjohanns, Michael Schlenker, and Kim Braun, Open Access Journal Systems / Online Publications Systems. Delivered at CERN workshop on Innovations in Scholarly Communication (OAI4) (Geneva, October 20-22, 2005).  Self-archived December 2, 2006.

Abstract:   We will look at Open Journal Systems. GAPworks, a workflow software of the project German Academic Publishers (GAP) will be presented. The system allows the setup of a complete publication workflow for publishing institutions including a web-based peer review. The workflow supports different review models, can be configured to meet local requirements, and can also be used as an institutional repository with an embedded OAI Data-Provider. We will also look at the SEER/OJA system of IBICT in order to find areas of overlap as well as differences in the approach. Despite these more technical presentations, we will look at strategies how to set up Open Journals and how academic researches be motivated to contribute their papers to such journals.

Heather Ford on iCommons

Heather Ford gave an interview to "Paul" at Chilibean, December 3, 2006.  Heather is the Executive Director of iCommons.  Excerpt:

What is iCommons?

iCommons is an organisation, incubated by Creative Commons, that aims to bring together the free culture, free software, open access, and open science communities around the world to debate and contribute towards a global ‘commons’ of knowledge and creativity.

What is the relationship between iCommons and Creative Commons?

Well, we’re currently a subsidiary of Creative Commons which means that CC has been really critical in getting us up and running and supporting us in the initial phase of our development. That means that we are part of the CC team and make use of their infrastructure and support.

What do you see as iCommons’ role here in South Africa?

From the very beginning I was determined that, even though the organisation is registered in the UK, that we build our headquarters in the South. Our mandate is to serve the global commons community - but because we’re in South Africa and are reporting on local projects and issues, we have quite a keen focus on the local commons environment and we’re seeing some really great benefits to the South African commons by our presence here....

What do you see as Creative Commons’ role in the protection of content creators’ rights in and to their content?

Creative Commons is centered around the creator making their own decisions about how they wish to share and enable others to experience their creativity. CC provides creators with free tools and also shares stories of people who have used the tools to empower themselves and their communities through what CC CEO, Lawrence Lessig calls a ’sharing culture’....

Interview with Joi Ito

Daniel Terdiman interviewed Joi Ito for, November 27, 2006.  Excerpt:

Ito is, among other things, general manager of international operations for Technorati, chairman of Six Apart Japan, founder and chief executive of venture capital firm Neoteny, and a board member of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the Creative Commons and the Open Source Initiative....

What kind of positive change can Creative Commons make?

Ito:...One of the keys for me, personally, is that Creative Commons is able to integrate into technology. For instance, Flickr, Google and Yahoo all recognize Creative Commons markup. And by getting it embedded into services and technology, we can allow the market to help spread the ability for people to choose to share rather than have to fight it all out in courtrooms and protests....

You like to talk about the "sharing economy." Can you explain that and why you think it's important?

Ito:...The idea of the "sharing economy" is to show that "sharing" isn't about being a communist or taking value from the economy and giving it away. But it's important to think about how sharing can help the economy and how hurting sharing can hurt it.

Having a market-driven component of a socially important position is always good. When electric vehicles were first introduced, all of the car companies tried to discredit it and stop it. But when the first EV1 trials in California showed that people liked them, the car companies started developing full-speed and we didn't have to argue with them anymore....

Papers of Harold Varmus

The National Library of Medicine has released an OA collection of the papers of Harold Varmus, Nobel laureate, former director of the NIH, president and director of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and co-founder of the Public Library of Science.  Sloan-Kettering has its own collection.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Open Access Declaration of the Portuguese University Rectors

In mid-November the Council of the Rectors of Portuguese Universities approved a declaration on open access, which they presented at the Second Open Access Conference at Minho University (Braga Portugal, November 27-28, 2006).  (Thanks to Eloy Rodrigues.)  Excerpt:

The practical realities and the economics of the diffusion of scientific knowledge and cultural heritage have been radically changed with the spread of the internet.

In view of these new realities it is becoming clearer that the university mission to disseminate knowledge will only be accomplished if the corresponding information is rapidly made available to society at large through the new paradigm of Open Access via Internet.

The debate about the access to scientific publications has intensified over the last years, in particular with respect to peer review journal's publications. This results from the recognition that the present system, by limiting the accessibility, and subsequently the use of research results, represent a major obstacle to the scientific and technological progress....

The benefits of Open Access for each researcher and author of scientific publications, can be observed, not only in a larger dissemination and impact of his/her results, as well as a better access to research carried out by other researchers in its scientific area....

As a result the Council of Rectors of the Portuguese Universities decided to adopt the following position:

  1. To state its support and adhesion to the Open Access to scientific publications principles, subscribing, through its President, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to knowledge.
  2. To recommend all Portuguese Universities to establish by themselves or on a cooperative basis, institutional repositories where researchers may place their scientific and academic publications.
  3. To recommend all Portuguese Universities to define institutional policies calling for its members to place their scientific and academic publications in those repositories and making them available for open access whenever possible.
  4. To explore together with internationally recognised scientific journals ways to place in Institutional repositories papers authored by Portuguese researchers and published in those journals thus preserving the legitimate priority to publish in those journals. 
  5. To recommend the Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education (MCTES) to enforce policies determining that publications resulting from research projects directly or indirectly funded  by the MCTES be placed at least in one Open Access repository, therefore making publicly available results from research supported by public funds (following present discussions in the USA - Federal Research Public Access Act 2006 - and the EU recommendations - Study on the Economic and Technical Evolution of the Scientific Publication Markets in Europe.
  6. To support networking and interoperability between institutional repositories of Portuguese Universities and the establishment of a single portal website for accessing national scientific publications and requesting to the relevant Government authorities and agencies the necessary financial support for this project, which is critical for the production and dissemination of knowledge, innovation and technological development.


  • This is an excellent statement, one of the few to call on both universities and public funding agencies to mandate open access.  Kudos to the rectors, and I hope we'll soon see it translated into action.
  • If there's an exception, it's point 4, whose meaning is obscure.  It did not appear in the Portuguese version but was added to the English translation by the President of the Council. 
  • When I posted a copy of the declaration to SOAF, I said that it was approved in mid-October.  But I think I erred and the correct date is in mid-November.  When I get the exact date, I'll post it here.