Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The case for distributed over central OA archiving

Stevan Harnad, Central versus Distributed Archives, Open Access Archivangelism, December 16, 2006.  Excerpt:

Arxiv has been showing this same, steady, unswerving linear increase in the number of deposits per month (quadratic acceleration of the total content) since the year 1991, and Arxiv has been tracking its own growth, monthly, since then....

At this rate, Ebs Hilf estimates that it would take till 2050 to reach 100% OA in Physics. And that is without mentioning that Arxiv-style central self-archiving has not yet caught on in any other field (except possibly economics) since 1991. In contrast, distributed self-archiving in, for example, computer science, has already long overtaken Arxiv-style central self-archiving. See Citeseer (a harvester of locally self-archived papers in computer science, already twice the size of Arxiv):

Logic alone should alert us that ever since Institutional IRs and Central CRs became completely equivalent and interoperable, and seamlessly harvestable and integrable, with the OAI protocol of 1999, the days of CRs were numbered.

It makes no sense for institutional researchers either to deposit only in a CR instead of their own IR, or to double-deposit (in their own IR plus CRs, such as PubMed Central). The direct deposits will be in the natural locus, the researcher's own IR. And then CRs will harvest, as Citeseer, OAister -- and, for that matter, Google and Google Scholar -- do.

OA self-archiving is meant to be done in the interests of the impact, visibility, and recording of each institution's research output. Institutional self-archiving tiles all of OA space (whereas CRs would have to criss-cross all disciplines, willy-nilly, redundantly, and arbitrarily).

Most important, institutions, being the primary research providers, have the most direct stake in maximising -- and the most direct means of monitoring -- the self-archiving of their own research output. Hence institutional self-archiving mandates -- reinforced by research funder self-archiving mandates -- will see to it that institutional research output is deposited in its natural, optimal locus: each institution's own IR (twinned and mirrored for redundancy and preservation). CRs (subject-based, multi-subject, national, or any other combination that might be judged useful) can then harvest from the distributed network of IRs.

If OA harms publishers, libraries will pick up the slack

Dorothea Salo, Why I Am The Enemy, Caveat Lector, December 15, 2006.  Excerpt: 

...I am the enemy because I will become a publisher. Not just “can” become, will become. And I’ll do it without letting go of librarianship, its mission and its ethics —and publishers may think they have my mission and my ethics, but they’re often wrong. Think I can’t compete? Watch me cut off your air supply over the course of my career (and I have 30-odd years to go, folks; don’t think you’re getting rid of me in any hurry). Just watch....

There’s been a bit of a dust-up between Jan Velterop and Stevan Harnad over (you guessed, right?) green versus gold open access. I’m going to break a streak here and say that Harnad is right and Velterop wrong. Researchers do not have nearly the duty to journals qua journals that they do to their own careers and the wider dissemination of knowledge, and they have absolutely zero duty to journal publishers. Who serves whom here?

The problem with Velterop’s argument, to my mind at least, is that it presumes that breaking up the current journal-publishing system while we work on something else is a near-fatal blow to the scholarly-publishing mission. I find that a ludicrous notion. We’re smart people, here in libraries, and the researchers we serve aren’t stupid either. If and when Elseviley Verlag breaks up, we’ll find a way (probably many ways) to pick up the slack. In my meaner moments, I rather suspect this argument gets trotted out because nobody wants us to realize that Elseviley Verlag doesn’t contribute as much as they’d like us to believe.

About which, see above about me becoming a publisher-librarian. It’ll happen. I daresay I’ll even be good at it. And yes, Elseviley Verlag should fear me and my kind. If nothing else, we can’t be any slower than the current system!

Update (December 17, 2006). See Jan Velterop's comment on Dorothea's post.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wiki-based guide to developing OA digital libraries

From a Sukhdev Singh post yesterday on diglib_india (thanks to Chris Leonard):

Open Access and Digital Libraries Group (OADL - New Members Welcomed) intends to develop a "Guide to Develop Openly Accessible Digital Libraries". It would be distributed freely under Creative Commons license....

Developmental approach would according to the principles of "wiki" but would list all its major contributors....

You may contribute by:
1. Suggesting the Table of Content.
2. Contributing topics to it.
3. Sharing your experiences.
4. Editing it.
5. Refuting it.

If you are a member of the OADL Group than contribute directly through emails to the group. Otherwise send your emails to [OADL-owner].  Mature Drafts would available under files section of the group.

Five Italian rectors sign the Berlin Declaration

The rectors of five Italian universities signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge on December 6: Università degli studi di Ferrara, Università degli studi di Lecce, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore - Milano, Università Vita-Salute s. Raffaele - Milano, and Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia.

The incentives to share and collaborate

Francis Heylighen, Why is Open Access Development so Successful? Stigmergic organization and the economics of information, an ECCO Working Paper 2006-06 forthcoming in B. Lutterbeck, M. Baerwolff, and R. A. Gehring (eds.), Open Source Jahrbuch 2007, Lehmanns Media, 2007.  Self-archived December 14, 2006.  (Thanks to vsevcosmos.)

Abstract:   The explosive development of "free" or "open source" information goods contravenes the conventional wisdom that markets and commercial organizations are necessary to efficiently supply products. This paper proposes a theoretical explanation for this phenomenon, using concepts from economics and theories of self-organization. Once available on the Internet, information is intrinsically not a scarce good, as it can be replicated virtually without cost. Moreover, freely distributing information is profitable to its creator, since it improves the quality of the information, and enhances the creator's reputation. This provides a sufficient incentive for people to contribute to open access projects. Unlike traditional organizations, open access communities are open, distributed and self-organizing. Coordination is achieved through stigmergy: listings of "work-in-progress" direct potential contributors to the tasks where their contribution is most likely to be fruitful. This obviates the need both for centralized planning and for the "invisible hand" of the market.

PS:  This article is about projects like open-source coding and Wikipedia that are intrinsically more collaborative than most peer-reviewed research articles.  But how how far does Heylighen's analysis carry over?

Preview of Eprints 3

Steve Hitchcock, EPrints version 3 unwrapped, EPrints Insiders, December 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

...[The Eprints team presented] the unwrapping of EPrints version 3 to a receptive crowd of users and prospective users among the Christmas lights of central London.

We tend to think of repositories as being fairly static, but this view hides a high degree of social interaction which is only going to grow. Repositories will be at the heart of a huge amount of data creation and movement, both into and out of repositories, from data creation services, to user applications like citation managers and discovery services such as OpenURL. In EPrints v3 this movement of data is supported by plug-ins, which are clearly going to have an enormous impact. Plug-in applications are independent of the core EPrints software, and can therefore be written by third-party developers.

With its range of import and export plug-ins already growing, EPrints v3 is taking interoperability, adaptability and ease-of-use to a new level for repositories....

A brand new facility for name authorities that allows author names [demo] and even journal titles [demo] to be autocompleted after a few keystrokes recognises the need is to make fewer demands of users. This approach will be extended with automatic extraction of metadata from uploaded files, due in v3.1....

Overall, the meeting provided constructive feedback that has initiated a new round of requirements gathering, and generally delegates sounded positive about the prospects for the new version.

We have peeked under the Christmas wrappers and seen that EPrints v3 looks exciting. The v3 roadshow moves to San Antonio in January for the full launch.

Another update on Oxford's OA experiments

Richard Gedye, Open about open access: We share preliminary findings from our open access experiments, Oxford Journals Update, Issue 2, 2006 (scroll to p. 3).  Excerpt:

It’s over two years since Oxford Journals began experimenting with open access....

In July we marked the first full year of our optional Oxford Open model. Launched in July 2005, it gives authors the possibility of paying for their research to be made freely available online immediately upon publication in the participating journals. 49 journals are participating at present, across a wide range of subject areas.

The majority of interest in the first year has been in the life sciences, with ~10% of authors selecting the open access option across the 16 participating journals in this area, compared with ~5% in medicine and public health, and ~3% in the humanities and social sciences (equating to 4 open access papers in total). A few life science titles (Bioinformatics, Carcinogenesis, and Human Molecular Genetics) have seen up to 20% uptake. The highest of these was for Bioinformatics, which has published over 80 open access papers in 2006. In recognition of this, the 2007 subscription prices for these journals have been adjusted to reflect the expected proportion of open access content in the future....  

For libraries then, the likelihood, in the short term at least, is that a subscription model will continue to operate for a large part of our journal content, both for areas where open access is not taken up, and where extra content and functionality beyond primary research is on offer....

In June we presented the results from three separate studies into the effects of open access on our authors, usage, and citations. Some of the key results included the finding that immediate open access does seem to help increase usage, and may even have knock-on benefits to other subscription content, with an increase in downloads of subscription articles published in the same journal issue as open access content. However, the report also concluded that the increase in usage of open access journals is not as high as may have been expected, in fact there is strong evidence to suggest there are several factors driving up online usage, including search engines; open access may be just a small factor. A full report on the findings is available to download from the Oxford Journals website....

PS:  Thanks to William Walsh for alerting me to this article and for correcting Gedye's use of the misleading term "author pays". 

Update (1/8/07). Also see Gedye's "Open Access: Walking the Talk," Against the Grain, November 2006. It appears to be another summary of Oxford's OA experiments, but this one is accessible only to subscribers, at least so far.

OA before copyright reform or OA through copyright reform?

Stevan Harnad, Well-Meaning Supporters of "OA + X" Inadvertently Opposing OA, Open Access Archivangelism, December 14, 2006. 

Summary:  There are many things that are delaying the onset of the optimal and inevitable outcome for research in the online age (100% Open Access). Among them is over-reaching: 100% OA is already within our reach; we need merely grasp it, by mandating self-archiving. But if we insist instead on holding out for something beyond our immediate grasp -- OA + "X" (such as copyright reform, data-archiving, publication reform) -- then we simply keep delaying the optimal and inevitable, gaining next to nothing for our pains. Chris Armbruster hopes the February meeting of the European Commission on Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area: Access, Dissemination and Preservation in the Digital Age will reach for radical copyright reform rather than grasping immediate Open Access by mandating self-archiving. Let us hope this will not turn into yet another meeting that misses the opportunity to reach the optimal and inevitable at last. All other good things will follow, but not it we insist they come first.

More on the PRC study of OA archiving and journal subscriptions

Stevan Harnad, President-Elect of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) on Open Access: An Exchange, Open Access Archivangelism, December 13, 2006. 

Summary:  Sandy Thatcher, President-Elect of AAUP is preparing a white paper on OA and asked about PRC's study "Self-Archiving and Journal Subscriptions: Co-existence or Competition? An International Survey of Librarians' Preferences." The PRC study tried to provide evidence, via simulation and modeling, on whether author self-archiving will cause librarians to cancel journals (because there is no evidence of this yet, and APS and IOPP have both reported that they can detect no correlation). 

A methodological flaw in the PRC study made it impossible to make any relevant predictions because OA self-archiving (green) had been treated as if it were an OA journal (gold), suitable for cancellation. In reality, author self-archiving of individual articles is distributed and anarchic, with no sure way of knowing how much of a journal's contents have become OA, and when; moreover, self-archiving mandates affect all journals at once, roughly equally. So the journal versus journal acquisition/cancellation options presented in the PRC simulations have no bearing on the question of self-archiving and cancellation. 

It is nevertheless likely that self-archiving will eventually induce cancellations, though no one can predict when, and how strong the pressure will be. What is certain is that journals can and will adapt; trying to deny research the demonstrated advantages of OA is no longer an option. Nor is there any need for authors' institutions or funders to pay for OA publication until and unless cancellation pressure makes subscriptions unsustainable; then, journals will cut costs, downsize, and convert to the OA publishing cost-recovery model. Till then, researchers need to provide immediate OA through self-archiving, and their institutions and funders need to mandate it. Journals too, will benefit from the enhanced impact. Ahead of us is a period of peaceful co-existence between mandated OA self-archiving (growing anarchically) and non-OA journal publishing, till we approach 100% OA; after that, the market itself will decide how long non-OA publishing and the subscription/licensing model remain sustainable, and whether and when there will need to be a transition to OA publishing. But meanwhile research will already be enjoying 100% OA, at long last.

OA portal and repository for South Asian studies

Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg has launched Savifa: The Virtual Library of South Asia.  Here are some details from an article in today's Telugu Portal

Savifa is...a bilingual English-German site.  It contains "information and literature" from and about South Asia and seeks to act as a subject gateway within the broad range of the regional sciences.

Up to now, some 1,300 resources have been catalogued and annotated in SavifaGuide, mostly in English, but also in many Indian languages, such as Urdu, Bengali, Assamese and Tamil.

Meanwhile, SavifaDok is an Open Access document server and electronic platform for publishing and archiving academic literature in the field of South Asian studies. It publishes books, articles and research papers as well as multimedia documents.

This publication platform offers free access to full-text documents....

Savifa is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and aims at serving as a gateway to both print and electronic media....

OA database on joint Indian-Japanese research

India and Japan have agreed to collaborate on research in many fields and to track the research in an OA database.

Milestone for the DOAJ

Today the DOAJ listed its 2,500th peer-reviewed open-access journal.  For more details, see the announcement.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hosting and tools for OA geodata

Thomas Claburn, Mapping the Future of Open Source Data, Information Week, November 27, 2006.  (Thanks to Richard Akerman.)  Excerpt:

In 2003, Sean Gorman, a George Mason University graduate student, used public data to create a map of the U.S. fiber optic network and the businesses it connected as part of his Ph.D. dissertation. Impressive--except to those like former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, who told The Washington Post the dissertation should be burned to keep it from terrorists.

Gorman's still trying to set public data free, but his latest effort has a profit motive --and is a bit less incendiary. By year's end, Gorman's startup company, FortiusOne, plans to open a public data repository and social network for data sharing to encourage online map mashups that combine multiple data sets....

Data sharing may be the next logical step in the movement toward open systems. But security concerns over what gets posted will continue. Gorman says FortiusOne won't post data the government considers sensitive.

The FortiusOne data repository could be an odd hodgepodge to start: U.S. census data and earthquake, landslide, and volcanic activity records, alongside the locations of bars and the addresses of spammers (based on work Gorman did for Most of the data is available elsewhere, but having it aggregated and supported by a social network of data-sharing aficionados should make it much more useful, valuable, and perhaps controversial. Gorman says his company is cleaning up the data sets and annotating them in a community wiki....

Google Library Project is two years old

Today is the second anniversary of the Google Library Project and ResourceShelf has put together a useful timeline of its major milestones and challenges over the past two years.

Social Science Open Access Repository

Two German research centers have agreed to launch a Social Science Open Access Repository (SSOAR). 

SSOAR will be funded by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft or DFG) and run by the Social Science Information Center (Informationszentrum Sozialwissenschaften) of the larger Society for Social Science Infrastructure Facilities (Gesellschaft Sozialwissenschaftlicher Infrastruktureinrichtungen or GESIS), and the Institute for Qualitative Research (Institut für Qualitative Forschung) at the Freie Universität Berlin (FUB).  For more details, see the press release from GESIS (December 13, 2006) or the press release from Center für Digitale Systeme at the FUB (November 21, 2006). 

So far SSOAR doesn't seem to have a web site and all the information I can find is in German.  I'll post more when I have more.

More on OA in the humanities

Linda Hutcheon, Thoughts on digital scholarship in the humanities, a new author interview in the Scholars Speak section of Create Change.  Excerpt:

In your field [English literature], what are the biggest areas of debate about sharing information digitally?

There hasn’t been a lot of debate in my field and that is one of the worries. I think it’s mainly because of a lack of knowledge. Scholars are using the Internet to access scholarly materials but they are not using it in many other ways. People know about databases and journals online. They don’t know much about self-archiving. As opposed to publishing, this is a form of open access that allows us to preserve digitally all of our work. Rather than using a personal web site, putting our work in an institutional repository has the advantage of getting us priority on Google and other search engines. It makes our material more accessible and therefore it potentially has more impact. Also, for social reasons, open access is important. When your research is taxpayer-funded it should be easily available to others. With self-archiving, people worry about things like the ease of submission, control once it is posted, and the permanence of it. Many wonder: Why should I bother? But they are missing out, I feel....

What is the biggest barrier to change?

Time. People need time to learn new ways of doing scholarship.  People are so busy with the day to day that they don’t have time to think about this issue. As new opportunities with open access become more available, more groups will get excited. And the younger generations will teach the older ones....

What is the value – to the humanities and to society – of more open scholarly communication?

Open access removes barriers. I find this very politically attractive. The sharing of knowledge it allows helps us get at economic inequities – experienced both by smaller academic institutions and, of course, by developing countries. Everybody wins.  More access and resource sharing lead to a democratized diffusion of knowledge....

EMBO adopts hybrid model for two journals

The EMBO Journal and EMBO reports to accept author-paid open-access articles, a press release from the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO), December 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and Nature Publishing Group (NPG) are pleased to announce that from January 2007 The EMBO Journal and EMBO reports will accept open access articles, subject to payment of a publication fee.

The journal is moving to a mixed-revenue model of subscription charges and publication fees. The open access option will be available to all authors submitting original research on or after 1 January 2007. The publication fee will be €2,000 + VAT (where applicable). Articles published with a publication fee will be clearly identified in the online and print editions of the journal with an EMBO Open logo.

Print subscription prices will not be affected. Site license prices will be adjusted in line with the amount of subscription-content published annually.

Editors will be blind to the author's choice, avoiding any possibility of a conflict of interest during through peer review and acceptance. Authors paying the publication fee will be entitled to self-archive the published version immediately on publication, in the repositories of their choice, and in any format.

Content that an author has decided to make freely available online will be licensed under the Creative Commons Deed 2.5. The author will thereby permit dissemination and reuse of the article, and so will enable the sharing and reuse of scientific material. It does not however permit commercial exploitation or the creation of derivative works without specific permission.

Other articles will continue to be published under NPG's exclusive License-to-Publish, where NPG's usual self-archiving policy will apply.

Original research published in Molecular Systems Biology, the open access journal published by EMBO and NPG will also be offered under the Creative Commons Deed 2.5 as of January 2007.

The EMBO Journal and EMBO reports are published by NPG on behalf of EMBO. NPG publishes the open access title Molecular Systems Biology in partnership with EMBO....


  1. I commend EMBO and NPG for taking this step.  EMBO Open is better than most hybrid programs under my nine criteria.  It lets participating authors retain key rights, use CC licenses, and deposit the published edition of their article in an OA repository independent of the publisher.  It promises to reduce the site license fee, though not the subscription price, in proportion to author uptake.  On the other side, it doesn't (apparently) waive the fee in cases of economic hardship and it says nothing about authors with a prior obligation to their funding agency to provide OA to their peer-reviewed manuscript.  Will they have to pay their publisher in order to comply with their funding contract? 
  2. The fee is higher than some, lower than others, and (my guess) too high to generate much author uptake. 
  3. The EMBO Open policy will apply to the OA articles from the two journals, and the NPG self-archiving policy will apply to the non-OA articles.  Hence, participating authors may self-archive immediately, and may self-archive the published edition, but non-participating authors must wait six months and may not self-archive the published edition.  Despite the regrettable limitations, this is not a retreat from the previous policy for non-participating authors.
  4. This is not NPG's first involvement with hybrid OA journals.  It publishes the British Journal of Pharmacology on behalf of the British Pharmacological Society, and BJP switched to a hybrid model in March 2006.
  5. Don't overlook the unrelated announcement at the end of the press release.  Molecular Systems Biology, the full OA (not hybrid OA) journal from NPG and EMBO, now lets authors use CC licenses, a very welcome step.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Progress on The European Library

Bigger European Digital Library? Tell me more!  Euractiv, December 11, 2006.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

More than six million books, documents and other culturally significant works should become available online in the new European Digital Library during the next five years, thanks to the  information society technologies (IST) programme TEL-ME-MOR....

With the project due to complete its objectives by the end of January 2007, TEL-ME-MOR is well on the way to achieving its objectives. Content from eight out of the ten newly included national libraries has already been integrated into the European Digital Library....

OCA book scanning at the U of California

Mass Digitization: Open Content Alliance and the UC Libraries, CDLINFO Newsletter, December 14, 2006.  Excerpt:

On December 6, 2006, Microsoft released the beta Live Search Books, providing a new portal to access UC libraries books scanned by the Internet Archive (IA) for the Open Content Alliance....

The Open Content Alliance (OCA) is one of two mass digitization projects now underway within the UC libraries. (The other is Google, about which more will be forthcoming in future articles as its workflow and scope unfolds.) With the approval of the University Librarians, the UC libraries became one of the earliest contributing members of the OCA. OCA is a coordinating body whose purpose is to build open access electronic collections and make them available through the Internet Archive (IA). UC library books scanned with Microsoft funding for the Open Content Alliance are now available through both the Internet Archive interface and the Microsoft Live Search Books (beta)....

CDL [California Digital Library] is investigating the implications of integrating the content generated through the OCA and Google projects into our UC library access systems and will be consulting with UC library advisory groups as the issues are better defined. Content scanned by Google will be available through WorldCat, and discussions are underway to provide OCA-scanned materials through OCLC as well....

[T]o formalize the content selection process...[UC formed] a Mass Digitization Collection Advisory Committee (MDCAC).  MDCAC’s charge will include developing an internal process for the review, identification, and selection of collections for scanning across the UC libraries; developing criteria for evaluating potential collections for scanning....

Drexel's institutional repository

Jay Bhatt and Kevin Martin, E-repository at Drexel University: vision and evolution, a presentation at the IEEE Library Advisory Council Meeting (New York City, October 26-28, 2006).  Bhatt is the Information Services Librarian and Martin is the University Archivist at Drexel.

Self-archiving justified, regardless of effect on subscriptions

Stevan Harnad, Economies of Scale, Open Access Archivangelism, December 13, 2006.  

In "Scale and scalability," Jan Velterop writes:

"self-archiving is... not scalable. As long as... only a small number of authors... [self-archive] anarchically and unpredictably, it will work... [But] [t]ake the anarchy and unpredictability out of it... via self-archiving mandates – and... [n]o publisher... could afford to allow authors to self-archive... and ‘green’ would fade out of existence."

Individual journals making 100% of their own contents Open Access (OA) (gold), all at once, and all in one place, right now, is indeed likely to cause cancellations.

But individual authors making their own articles OA (green) by self-archiving them in their own Institutional Repositories, anarchically and distributedly, does not provide 100% of the contents of any individual journal, and its extent and growth rate is hard to ascertain. (In other words, individual mandates are just as anarchic as individual self-archiving with respect to the contents of any individual journal.)

Hence self-archiving is unlikely to cause journal cancellations until the self-archiving of all articles in all journals is reliably at or near 100%. If/when that happens, or is clearly approaching, journals can and will scale down to become peer-review service providers only, recovering their much reduced costs on the OA model that Jan favors. But journals are extremely unlikely to want to do that scaling down and conversion now, when there is no pressure to do it. And there is certainly no reason for researchers to sit waiting meanwhile, as they keep losing access, usage and impact. Mandates will pressure researchers to self-archive, and, eventually, 100% self-archiving might also pressure journals to scale down and convert to the model Jan advocates.

Right now, however, journals are all still making ends meet through subscriptions, whereas (non-self-archiving) researchers are all still losing about half their potential daily usage and impact, cumulatively. The immediate priority for research, researchers, their institutions and their funders is hence obvious, and it is certainly not to pay their journals' current asking-price for making each individual article OA, over and above paying for subscriptions: It is to make their own individual articles OA, right now, by self-archiving them, and to pay for peer review only if and when journals have minimized costs by scaling down to the essentials in the OA era if/when there is no longer any sustainable way of recovering those costs via subscriptions.

(By that time, of course, subscription cancellation savings will have become available to pay those reduced costs up-front. Today they are not; and double-paying up front would be pure folly.)

Gold OA scales, green OA doesn't

Jan Velterop, Scale and scalability, The Parachute, December 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

Scholarly publishing is a pretty large-scale pursuit....If the estimate of 25,000 journals is in the right ballpark, and each publishes 40 articles per year on average, about a million new articles is being added to the literature every year....And if the average rejection rate is 50%, these 25,000 journals actually process at least 2 million articles per year....

A veritable industry, this scholarly publishing. Good that there are professional, independent organisations that take on the drudge of all that work. Perish the thought that researchers would have to organise it all by themselves.

So everybody is thankful for what the publishers do? No. There is a problem: they want to be paid for what they do, and they don’t even do what we want them to do, which is to give everybody free, open access to whatever research they publish.

Two ‘solutions’ have been proposed. One that deals with the cost of publishing only; and one that deals with open access only, ignoring any issues of cost.

The solution that deals with cost only is the one that holds that the costs are too high and it’s all the fault of ‘commercial’ publishers. Instead, all scientific publishing should be done by not-for-profit scholarly societies. On the face of it, journals published by these NfPs (NfP journals don’t exist – just NfP publishers, who still wish to see their journals turn a surplus – the non-tax-payer's equivalent of, or euphemism for, profit) do seem to have lower subscription charges. Which is sort of easy, if one makes a subscription a compulsory part of membership. And levies page charges. And pays no tax. Many society publishers can offer relatively low-priced subscriptions, and still make revenues that on a per-article basis, are similar to what is being realised by commercial – I prefer to call them independent – publishers....

It certainly works. The point, however, is that such publishing is not scalable....[I]t isn’t the NfP status that is the cause of lower prices; it is the fact that the membership yields much of the revenues needed to support the journals. And imagine 25,000 journals each sustained by enough society members to result in low subscription prices. It just doesn’t stack up. Otherwise we should have seen strong growth in NfPs. Interestingly, the contrary took place. Independent publishers started to flourish because societies couldn’t deal with the growing volume of articles and the increased international and interdisciplinary nature of science....

The ‘solution’ that deals with open access only, ignoring any issues of cost, is of course what is known as ‘self-archiving’....

I couldn’t have said it better than Stevan Harnad himself, on 10 December 2006, on the AMSCI Open Access Forum (not yet archived there as I'm writing this): “I, for one, have never doubted that [publishers making journal articles open after a short embargo] could cause cancellations. But anarchic author self-archiving, of each author's postprints, in each author's own IR, in uncertain proportions and at uncertain rates, are [sic] another story”. Precisely.

Which means that self-archiving is also not scalable. As long as there is only a small number of authors engaged in self-archiving, and it is done anarchically and unpredictably, it will work. Publishers will have little practical problem with it and librarians will not cancel subscriptions on that basis alone. Take the anarchy and unpredictability out of it, however – for instance via self-archiving mandates – and it would all be, to borrow Stevan’s phrase, another story.

Putting it another way: if self-archiving were to succeed, it would fail....

It is possible, of course, that the chaos of self-archiving leads to a phase transition to a stable and truly scalable method, open access publishing, a.k.a. ‘gold’, but it seems a rather circuitous and acrimonious route to take. Why not stimulate ‘gold’ straight away, especially since a rapidly increasing number of publishers offer it? Why not lobby for an open-access-mandate, instead of for a self-archiving-mandate?...

The advantages of ‘gold’ are huge. Immediate open access to the research literature; costs move – up or down – with the research activity itself; a functional market, with fair price levels as a consequence; discouragement of spurious, speculative, or ‘ultra-light’ submissions; elimination of visibility as an element in perceived quality; and I’m probably forgetting to mention a few.

Also see Stevan Harnad's reply.

Why do librarians want OA?

T. Scott Plutchak, Can You Have It Both Ways? T. Scott, December 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

"Myth: Everything is available for free on the Internet."

If there is one frustration I hear more than any other on the part of hospital librarians, it's the need to combat this notion.  In the recently released Myths and Truths About Library Services it occupies a central place in the justification for maintaining hospital libraries.   And the myth is false, of course -- according to the document, only 30% of the medical literature is freely available on the web, and only 60% of article content published since 1992 is available electronically at all.

A couple of months ago, there was some discussion on the Hospital Library Section list about the upcoming MLA Symposium on open access.  Several correspondents said they wouldn't attend such a symposium since they didn't see how it was at all relevant to their situations.  They're much more concerned with justifying their existence by trying to convince their feckless administrators that everything isn't freely available on the internet.

Perhaps they should be more concerned about their colleagues at the symposium who will be trying to figure out how to change the scholarly communication system so that everything is available for free on the internet.

I get a similar sense of cognitive dissonance when I hear librarians holding fast to the argument that publishers needn't fear FRPAA because there's no reason to think that libraries are going to cancel subscriptions if there's a six-month embargo.  Personally, I think that is largely true -- but wasn't the point of librarian support for open access that it was going to save us money?  And how is that going to happen if we're not able to cancel subscriptions?   Have we abandoned the notion that we should be supporting open access because it will help libraries financially? ...

I'm just looking for some consistency.  It seems to me that if the end point of the open access movement is to have everything freely available on the internet, we had better start coming up with new arguments for the value of hospital libraries, and quick; and we should be honest with the publishers and say that if we get what we want, we're going to quit subscribing to their journals and that FRPAA is just one tactical step along the way.

Also see this comment by William Walsh, a librarian at Georgia State University:

I've been supportive of OA [not to help libraries financially but] because, like every other librarian, I'd like our patrons to be able to get at the resources they need to do their work.  I'd gladly continue spending our current materials budget (with annual inflationary increases, when granted), if that solved our access problem.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

NIH launches new OA database

The NIH has launched a new OA database on genome wide association studies.  From today's announcement:

The National Library of Medicine (NLM), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announces the introduction of dbGaP, a new database designed to archive and distribute data from genome wide association (GWA) studies....

In order to protect research participant privacy, all studies in dbGaP will have two levels of access: open and controlled. The open-access data, which can be browsed online or downloaded from dbGaP without prior permission or authorization, generally will include all the study documents, such as the protocol and questionnaires, as well as summary data for each measured phenotype variable and for genotype results. Preauthorization will be required to gain access to the phenotype and genotype results for each individual; this individual-level data will be coded so as to protect the identity of study participants....

"The dbGaP project marks a new milestone in data sharing," said NLM Director Donald A. B. Lindberg, M.D. "Researchers, students and the public will have access to a level of study detail that was not previously available and to genotype-phenotype associations that should provide a wealth of hypothesis-generating leads," he said. "These data will be linked to related literature in PubMed and molecular data in other NCBI databases, thereby enhancing the research process." ...

Synergies between wikis and the OA movement

The Wikimedia Foundation is hosting a Wikimedia Open Access chat this Sunday, December 17.  From the wiki-based announcement:

The open access movement is set to liberate scientific publishing. Science is contingent upon the free exchange of ideas; global communication networks enable it. Yet, in traditional publishing, copyright law is used to impede the distribution of even the most relevant scientific findings. Pioneering open access publishers such as the Public Library of Science and BioMed Central publish their findings under Creative Commons licenses -- specifically, licenses which permit free distribution, modification, and even commercial use.

These are the same principles of free content followed by the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit organization which operates Wikipedia and its sister projects. All Wikimedia project content is freely licensed, with the exception of fair use images....

What are the synergies between those two movements? This is what we want to explore in a moderated dialogue. Specifically:

  • Which open access licenses are compatible with Wikimedia content?
  • What types of open access content are potentially relevant to Wikimedia projects?
  • Which file formats, feeds and protocols should be used?
  • How can we make sure that relevant content is detected and used?
  • How could Wikimedia's reliability and accuracy potentially benefit from the open access community?
  • Beyond Wikimedia, where do wikis as tools fit in the open access movement?
  • Edit this page and add your agenda item!

We will meet on Sunday, December 17, 21:00 UTC (time conversion). The chat is set to have an official duration of 2 hours; after that, people will of course continue to be able to mingle. The chat will be moderated by initiator Erik Möller, who is a member of the Board of the Wikimedia Foundation....

For more connection details, see the rest of the announcement.

MIT's new Scholarly Publishing Consultant

MIT has hired a Scholarly Publishing Consultant to advise faculty about their OA options.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  From the announcement on the MIT Libraries News blog:

The MIT Libraries now have a half-time position supporting MIT faculty and researchers who have questions about their options and rights in the world of scholarly publishing, which has evolved dramatically with the advent of the digital age. This position has been made possible with support from the Provost’s office.

In what ways would a faculty member make use of this new position?

For example:

If you would like to discuss any of these issues, please contact Ellen Finnie Duranceau, who moved into the new position in mid September....

PS:  Another great idea from MIT.  Until OA is as familiar as email, every university should have something like this. 

OA journals in Middle East Studies

John Russell, Open Access and Middle East Studies, MELA Notes:  The Journal of the Middle East Librarians Association, 79 (2006).  (Thanks to Chuck Jones.)  A short introduction to OA followed by an annotated list of 12 peer-reviewed, open-access journals in the field of Middle East Studies.

"An open access sea change is happening"

Bernard Lane, ARC sold on open access to research, The Australian, December 13, 2006.  Excerpt:

Australia has taken a great leap towards research results being freely available to all, supporters of the open access movement say.

The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council - with total annual grants worth more than $1billion - are about to announce their first open access policies.

"An open access sea change is happening," said Arthur Sale, professor of computing at the University of Tasmania. "It will take about a year to become fully fledged and unmistakable to all, but it is inexorable."

Federal Education, Science and Training Minister Julie Bishop welcomed the new approach as "well balanced". She said given the scale of public investment, it was reasonable that research results be available to the community and other researchers, thereby maximising the benefits.

Although the ARC policy is voluntary, researchers who decide not to use open access repositories in a timely way must explain why in their final report to the agency. The same approach is expected to apply to NHMRC grant programs.

"It is a mandatory policy in that it is easier to deposit than write why not," said open access advocate Colin Steele, former librarian at the Australian National University. Mandatory open access policies are rare and contentious....

The ARC had looked at mandatory policies but "at this stage we want to keep our options open". If researchers were to expect money to cover costs of publishing - via open access or more traditional means - the ARC would have to rethink its budgets.

Professor Sale said he doubted researchers would be able to mount a convincing argument as to why they chose to confine the fruits of their publicly funded labour to commercial publishers and subscribers.

"Given that the research articles will have been published, I cannot imagine any good justifications," he said in an open access forum. "'I ignored the statement and signed away my rights to a publisher' will probably be considered a poor excuse by the ARC and may be considered by researchers to have deleterious effects on future grant success."

New OA journal and info portal on health threats

The Journal of Global Health Protection is a new OA journal on threats to global health.  It has a companion Forum for Global Health Protection, a portal of OA information.  From today's announcement:

The Forum for Global Health Protection (FGHP) is being established to respond to calls from the scientific and policymaking communities for a source of easily accessible, authoritative information about new and emerging health threats.

Independent from governments and focusing on new and emerging health threats, the not-for-profit Forum will collate and disseminate a wide range of information, making it available free of charge to enable informed decision-making.

Areas covered by the FGHP will include: [1] emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, [2] hazardous chemicals and poisons, [3] ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, [4] natural and man-made disasters, [5] emerging environmental hazards, [6] deliberate or malicious release of chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear material, and [7] emergency preparedness and response.

The FGHP works in close association with – but independent from – the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) and has strong links with other health-related organizations across the globe.

Professor Pat Troop, head of the Forum’s International Scientific Advisory Board and CEO of the HPA, said:  “It is critical that up-to-date, accurate information on new and emerging health threats is made available – quickly and easily. To address this, the FGHP will use an Open-Access model, meaning that the full text of content on the FGHP website and all FGHP publications will be accessible free of charge, from the day of publication.  Uniquely and importantly, this Open-Access policy also extends to authors. No charge will be made for publication in the Forum’s academic journal, the Journal of Global Health Protection, scheduled for launch in January 2007.” ...

Free full-text feeds increased feed subscribers and ad revenue

John Blossom, Full-Text Feeds Paying Off: Moving Beyond Fear to Profits, Content Blogger, December 11, 2006.  Excerpt:

Digital Inspiration notes the impact that full-text feeds have had on their operations. According to their analysis a conversion from feeding partial excerpts of an article to subscribers via their RSS feed resulted in a 20 percent increase in RSS subscribers in only a month. Moreover revenues from ads on their Web site appear to have increased several times over from their previous months' income, though the graph provided does not give scaling to determine just how much more. DI also notes an increase in engagement from readers with more comments in weblogs.

This is but one relatively small weblog's experience, but the threats and fears that they note - loss of site visits and exposure to sites stealing full-text content - are the same as most publishers might have in exposing their content to full-feed distribution. As noted in our earlier News Analysis on feeds the need to embrace feeds is only increasing. Feeds are not perfect - they are still too crude in most instances to provide the full value of a Web site's content - but if publishers focus on providing more value in their feeds they will be standing out from the crowd in a unique way that can build both traffic and loyalty.

More quantified research is needed to look at all of the various aspects that go into successful feed campaigns - sponsors, anyone? - but in the meantime the evidence to date seems to indicate that robust feeds that serve an audience well are going to be money-making endeavors that serve the long-term and short-term goals of publishers quite well.

CommentDigital Inspiration, which ran this experiment, is an OA blog.  Because it didn't charge subscriptions, it didn't fear the loss of paying subscribers.  It feared reduced click-throughs for the ads on its web site and increased plagiarism.  Those are the fears it laid to rest.

How to make data open

Peter Murray-Rust, Open Data - what can I do? Simple, legal, viral suggestion, A Scientist and the Web, December 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

Following discussion on the SPARC Open Data list I got a mail:

I’d like to hear more discussion on open data, too. In particular, what are the practical approaches that will help adoption of open data by researchers themselves? ...

PMR: The simplest think that researchers can do is to add a Creative Commons license to their data. It costs nothing, is a simple cut-and-paste, and could be trivially made a template in any data production tool....

Similarly scientific software developers could output the additional line:  “The data output by this program are offered under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license” (or better in a machine-readable XML/RDF format like the creative commons already do).

We might add the following:

“The authors regard these as not copyrightable Open Data. Some publishers wish to claim that if published alongside a journal article they own the copyright on them. This license effectively forbids them to claim copyright without the authors permission and acquiescence."

I think the effect of this would be dramatic. Scientists would start to see these messages and think: “Why should I give these data to the publisher?” And if the publisher simply adds a copyright notice saying “all these data are copyright the publisher - you cannot use them for X, Y, Z without permission” this would be in violation of the authors’ license. The author would have to deliberately remove this statement to hand over the IPR to the publisher....

If the scientific programmers buy into this it is unstoppable.

Lessig's Code version 2.0, in print and OA editions

Lawrence Lessig has released Code version 2.0.  From his blog announcement:

So Code v2 is officially launched today. Some may remember Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, published in 1999. Code v2 is a revision to that book — not so much a new book, as a translation of (in Internet time) a very old book. Part of the update was done on a Wiki. The Wiki was governed by a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. So too is Code v2.

Thus, at, you can download the book. Soon, you can update it further (we’re still moving it into a new wiki). You can also learn a bit more about the history of the book, and aim of the revision. And finally, there are links to buy the book — more cheaply than you likely can print it yourself.

Most important, however, as we come to the $185,000 mark of the CC fundraiser: All royalties from Code v2 go to Creative Commons, in recognition of the work done by those who helped with the wiki version of Code v1.

Profile of John Willinsky and the PKP

Heather Morrison, John Willinsky and the Public Knowledge Project, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, December 11, 2006.  Excerpt:

The University of British Columbia's Dr. John Willinsky, founder of the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), is - most remarkably - world-renowned for both theoretical and practical contributions to the open access movement. The idea of public knowledge embraces open access, but goes beyond to encompass the transformative potential of open access for society as a whole, while the free, open source Open Journal Systems has greatly facilitated the development of open access publishing.

While some open access leaders focus exclusively on increasing access for researchers, the public knowledge approach is broader. John talks about access to knowledge as transformative for society as a whole. Historically, it was an increase in access to knowledge that made public libraries, and subsequently public schools, possible. The transformative potential for our society with open access to our scholarly research is as difficult for us to imagine, as public universities might have been in the days before the printing press.

John Willinsky's outstanding theoretical contributions have been recognized by the American Library Association, who awarded the 2006 Blackwell Scholarship Award for John's book The Access Principle (also available in DLIST). Links to more of John's works can be found from the PKP Publications page.

The Public Knowledge Project (PKP) is best known for its open source software - particularly Open Journal Systems (OJS), a free, open source journal publishing software platform. Since its release on November 8, 2002, an event noted on Peter Suber's Open Access Timeline, OJS has become the publishing platform for over 800 journals, in 10 languages, around the world, greatly facilitating open access publishing....

Recently, PKP was the sole Canadian winner of the first annual Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration.  PKP is a partner of, and endorsed by, the Scholarly Publishing and [Academic Resources] Coalition....

This post is the second in the series Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement.

Digitization fiasco

Yves Miserey, CNRS : le scandale d'une numérisation ratée, Le Figaro, December 10, 2006.  (Thanks to Netbib.)  Apparently CNRS spent 32 million Euros on a project to digitize 196 journals for OA, but abandoned the project after two years with nothing to show for it.  Read the original French or Google's English.

PS:  I'll say more when I learn more --preferably from an English-language account.

OA mandate at Bharathidasan University

R. Krishnamoorthy, Web site on research papers, a hit, The Hindu, December 12, 2006.  Excerpt:

A month after it started a web site of research papers to provide a one-stop service to academics, the Bharathidasan University Repository of Research Publications has received over 25 publications in digital format.

The papers from refereed journals, national seminars and research theses will soon be posted [in the repository].

The repository expects a quantum jump in the number of publications in the coming days since several teachers have asked for time to digitise the hard copies of research materials with them.

The current collection consists of recent publications and the university had requested its staff and those of affiliated colleges to make available their earlier publications in a digital format.

Last month, the university made it mandatory for all faculty members publishing in refereed journals to send their papers to the University Informatics Centre (

The university came up with the idea of the web site as a way of sparing researchers the trouble of searching far and wide for refereed papers. The web site would help them avoid duplicating research, said the Vice-Chancellor, C. Thangamuthu....

The university stands next only to the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, in implementing the concept in the country, and it has taken the lead among general universities.

The university believes that the repository will increase the citation of publications and boost interdisciplinary research collaboration among the faculty.

Comment.  Kudos to everyone at Bharathidasan University involved in the decision to mandate OA to the peer-reviewed research papers written by faculty.  This is only the second institutional OA mandate in India (after the National Institute of Technology, Rourkela), and I believe it's only the second time anywhere, after the University of Tasmania School of Computing, that an institution has launched a repository and adopted an enlightened policy to fill it at the same time --an excellent sign that the full message is spreading.

Microsoft and OA: Richard Poynder interviews Tony Hey

Richard Poynder, A Conversation with Microsoft's Tony Hey, Open and Shut?  December 12, 2006.  This is another of Richard's wonderfully long, detailed interviews.  Even the subset directly on OA is too long to excerpt here.  So read the whole thing for Tony Hey's take on data sharing, open source code and licensing, open standards, the need for OA, the need for pragmatism and compromise in advancing OA, what Microsoft has to gain by supporting OA, and Microsoft's role in developing Portable PubMed Central, the NLM DTD, and the Windows version of EPrints.  Excerpt:

After thirty years as an academic at the UK's Southampton University, and four years in charge of the UK's e-Science Programme, last year Tony Hey surprised everyone by accepting a post as corporate vice president for technical computing at Microsoft.

Below Hey explains to Richard Poynder why he took the job, and why he believes his decision to do so is good news for the global research community and good news for the Open Access Movement....

RP: You support Open Access?

TH: I'm passionate about Open Access.

RP: That makes sense. The premise of e-Science, presumably, is that scientific information needs to be freely available?

TH: Indeed. As I said, the key part of the cyberinfrastructure — although it is not always mentioned — is not so much the network and the middleware, but enabling Open Access, both to the scientific literature and to scientific data. So yes, the assumption is that there will need to be some form of Open Access. This, however, is now inevitable, and you can see it beginning to happen [e.g. with FRPAA in the US]....There is also an EU proposal, and a number of initiatives from the UK Research Councils. And of course The Wellcome Trust has already introduced a self-archiving mandate. So it is only a matter of time....

RP: Microsoft is committed to facilitating Open Access as part of its mission of helping to build the infrastructure for e-Science then?

TH: We are certainly helping. And, as I said, while I didn't expect it when I joined the company, I was amazed to discover that Microsoft was already supporting Open Access....

RP: How then do we characterise what Microsoft can bring to e-Science, and to Open Access?

TH: Microsoft can make these things more easy to use, and provided it does that in an interoperable way, and in a way that doesn’t get up the nose of the community, that is good for everyone....

RP: And how do you see Microsoft helping in the Open Access space?

TH: We've discussed some of the things we are doing. In addition, I have been working with the Mellon Foundation, with Herbert Van de Sompel, and with Carl Lagoze, looking at how we can create interoperable repositories that are searchable at a more fundamental level than is currently possible with the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) and using Dublin Core....

I am also hoping to work with the publishers, and with the Open Access community, to see if we can find out what is wanted on campuses....For that reason I am talking to people like Nature, and I am trying to do a project with Wiley, looking at Open Access, and looking at new business models that are not so unfair on universities.

PS:  Another reason to read Richard's original is to get active links.  Adobe makes it incredibly difficult to copy linked phrases without dropping the links or even to go back and copy the URLs separately for hand-coding. 

New discussion forum on OA

Open Access and Digital Libraries is a new Yahoo Group launched earlier today by Sukhdev Singh.  From Sukhdev's inaugural post,

I welcome you all in this Group on Open Access and Digital Libraries. I hope together we would be able to promote Open Access philosophy and provide a forum to support and build Digital Libraries which are accessible openly to all humankind.

To start with let us share our experiences in building Digital Libraries as such and problems faced if any.

Complete works of Mozart free online

New Mozart Edition online, a press release from the Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum (ISM), December 11, 2006.  (Thanks to Glyn Moody.) Excerpt:

The Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum (ISM; International Mozart Foundation) has digitized Mozart’s music, and in this groundbreaking project is making it accessible to everyone [free of charge] on its web site. The ‘NMA Online’ is a digital version of the Neue Mozart Ausgabe (NMA; New Mozart Edition), a scholarly edition of Mozart’s complete works that was compiled by musicologists from around the world in the last 50 years. ‘NMA Online’ has been produced by the ISM in Salzburg in cooperation with the Packard Humanities Institute in Los Altos, California....

With its 125 volumes the NMA contains the complete text of Mozart’s works based on the critical examination of all available sources. This monumental venture was begun in 1954 by the ISM in cooperation with the Mozart cities of Augsburg, Salzburg and Vienna, and its successful completion is imminent. The project documents Mozart’s productivity in some 24,000 pages of music. Also included are 8,000 pages of critical reports with commentary on the state of the sources and giving detailed information on the variants found in the main sources.

Starting on December 12, 2006 the ISM and the Packard Humanities Institute will make the complete musical texts of the NMA available to everyone for private, scholarly, and educational use as NMA Online. Free access will be provided on the Internet [here]....

Update (December 14, 2006). Mike Carroll reports that the Mozart files are not as free as they appear to be:

Digital copies of Mozart's scores are now "freely" available here. These works are in the public domain for copyright purposes, which means you are free to copy them without restriction.

However, the International Mozarteum Foundation...has imposed a click-through agreement requiring visitors to agree to limit their use of the public domain to personal and fair use copies.

Digitizing copyright's public domain is to be applauded. Locking it behind contractual fences is not. There are other and better cost recovery models for this kind of transitional effort.

Kind words for an honorary librarian

Heather Morrison has been writing a series of posts at OA Librarian on notable librarians working for OA.  She just made me an honorary librarian in order to fit me into the series.  Thanks for your kind words, Heather.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Advancing OA to data

C. Baker and five co-authors, Open exchange of data: the eGY pathway towards capacity building, a presentation at COSPAR 2006 (Beijing, July 16-23, 2006). 

Abstract:   The Electronic Geophysical Year, 2007-2008 (eGY) uses the 50-year anniversary of the acclaimed International Geophysical Year to advance open access to data, information, and services.

The International Polar Years of 1882-1882 and 1932-1933 taught us that free and open exchange of data between nations is cost effective. The International Geophysical Year (1957-1958) taught us that free and open exchange of data between scientific disciplines generates new and exciting research. The worldwide network of data centers and data standards initiated during IGY continues to foster research to this day. And better things lie ahead.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the IGY, the development of distributed data systems allows worldwide connectivity to data and services at a level never before possible. Such systems (virtual observatories, and so forth) expand the free, open, and cross-disciplinary exchange of data by allowing users worldwide to access and manipulate data from principal data centers as well as from small, previously isolated, research groups.

The new information and communication technologies require that we adopt community-developed standards for data storage and description. They also demand that we recognize and accommodate the shift in effort from the user to the provider that accompanies a change from the traditional user-pull to a modern provider-push data environment.

eGY provides an opportunity for coordinated discussions on data storage and description standards. These standards have implications for the infrastructure needed to access and process data. eGY also provides an opportunity to revisit the challenges of data discovery, rescue, and preservation. We will present examples and discuss ways to participate in the eGY process.

More on open data

Rebeca Cliffe, Research Data: Emerging From The Shadows?  EPS Insights, December 11, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

The journal article continues to be the key mechanism for communicating research findings, but in an online context, where space is not an issue, it becomes possible to publish the raw data on which those findings were based. At the RIN workshop, research funders and practitioners discussed current initiatives and how best to exploit opportunities for making more raw data available online....Centre, data is increasingly important as evidence. "Experimental verifiability is the basis of science, and if the journal article is the only evidence we have it is less verifiable than if we also have the raw data"....

One of the key challenges is to persuade researchers to deposit data systematically, something that Juan Bicarregui, e-Science department, CCLRC, pointed out "will require a huge cultural change; education will be key". In a sentiment echoed by a number of speakers, David Shotton argued that "we need to create tools to make it easy for researchers to create metadata as part of their workflow. Even then, it will still require effort, so we must make it clearly advantageous for researchers to do so". Peter Dukes, Research Management Group, Medical Research Council, spoke of the "absence of a grassroots movement for data sharing" and researchers' concerns about possible loss of control over their data and the implications for their reputation.

In discussion, it became clear that while there are common challenges and opportunities across the scholarly community, there are also differences in how the question can be addressed across the different disciplines....

Another goal cited by Bicarregui and others was that the future e-infrastructure should support the use for research purposes of data collected for other purposes....

Knowledge as a commons

Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom (eds.), Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice, MIT Press, 2006.  From MIT's blurb:

Knowledge in digital form offers unprecedented access to information through the Internet but at the same time is subject to ever-greater restrictions through intellectual property legislation, overpatenting, licensing, overpricing, and lack of preservation. Looking at knowledge as a commons --as a shared resource-- allows us to understand both its limitless possibilities and what threatens it. In Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, experts from a range of disciplines discuss the knowledge commons in the digital era --how to conceptualize it, protect it, and build it.

Contributors consider the concept of the commons historically and offer an analytical framework for understanding knowledge as a shared social-ecological system. They look at ways to guard against enclosure of the knowledge commons, considering, among other topics, the role of research libraries, the advantages of making scholarly material available outside the academy, and the problem of disappearing Web pages. They discuss the role of intellectual property in a new knowledge commons, the open access movement (including possible funding models for scholarly publications), the development of associational commons, the application of a free/open source framework to scientific knowledge, and the effect on scholarly communication of collaborative communities within academia, and offer a case study of EconPort, an open access, open source digital library for students and researchers in microeconomics. The essays clarify critical issues that arise within these new types of commons --and offer guideposts for future theory and practice.

Contributors:  David Bollier, James Boyle, James C. Cox, Shubha Ghosh, Charlotte Hess, Nancy Kranich, Peter Levine, Wendy Pradt Lougee, Elinor Ostrom, Charles Schweik, Peter Suber, J. Todd Swarthout, Donald Waters


  • These articles arose from the Workshop on Scholarly Communication as a Commons, hosted by the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, March 31-April 2, 2004.  But the book is more than a volume of conference proceedings.  We were asked to write out full-text articles before showing up, and we revised them thoroughly for publication in light of the workshop and post-workshop conversations themselves.  As a result, the book has more heft and coherence than most conference proceedings, thanks especially to Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom, the workshop organizers and book editors.
  • All the preprints are OA through Digital Library of the Commons (DLC), the OA repository for commons research hosted by Indiana University.  If you run a search in DLC on an author or title from the book's Table of Contents, you'll find the OA preprint.  I don't know how many postprints are OA at different sites around the web, but mine is:  Creating an Intellectual Commons through Open Access.   MIT is providing OA to the preface, glossary, and index.

Alma Swan on institutional repositories

The new OA policy from SISSA/IOPP

SISSA (Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati) and IoPP (Institute of Physics Publishing) have published a Proposal for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (November 2006).  Excerpt:

JHEP [Journal of High Energy Physics, published by SISSA and IOPP] was set up many years ago in order to fight the overwhelming power of commercial publishers, who make huge profits at the expense of the scientific community....JHEP currently operates successfully as a high-quality online-only journal under a traditional subscriber-pays model.

In addition to the above, JHEP also offers other methods to access full-text peer reviewed content:

  1. Recent JHEP articles are made available as open access via IOP Select. In this service, all articles published within the last 30 days are made free.
  2. JHEP also operates a so-called “delayed” Open Access policy where the JHEP archive (1997-2004) is freely available in 2006. A subscription to the current year is required to gain access to current year plus prior year’s content. 
  3. IOP and SISSA offer several ways for researchers in low-income countries to gain free or low cost access to their journals including JHEP. These methods include eJDS (ICTP) and the eIFL and PERI programmes....

JINST [Journal of Instrumentation, also from SISSA and IOPP] is a new journal launched under the same principle “run by scientists for scientists”. Launched in 2006, the journal has got off to a flying start with more than 100 articles submitted and approaching 40 published. JINST is free to all in 2006.

The objective of the “Task Force on Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics” that was set up at CERN is to work towards a transition of the current subscription model for journals to a more stable, more competitive and more affordable future for the dissemination of quality-assured scientific information adapted to the electronic era....

Proposal for JHEP and JINST

  • Starting from January [2007], JHEP and JINST will introduce an annual fee to be called the institutional membership fee. The institutional membership fee entitles an institution paying the fee to have articles from their institution to be published open access and made available in this way to the entire world. Article made open access in this way would remain open access in future years.
  • The institutional membership fee also entitles readers at that institution to access the full-text of all of the journal’s content regardless of the status of the paper.
  • The institutional membership fee would scale according to the number of papers published from that institution in the previous year. There would be a number of bands according to publishing output....[PS:  Omitting a worked example.]   

We strongly believe that this approach is fully in line with CERN’s objectives and is scalable and affordable for the SCOAP consortium. It also provides institutions with choice to take up the OA model or maintain a low-priced subscription.

SISSA and IOP will promote the institutional membership option and monitor uptake with a view to accelerating take up of this option thereby making JHEP and JINST OA.

After the first, experimental year, we will change both our subscription and institutional membership fee price list according to the results achieved.

Institutions in developing countries (who do not pay for subscriptions on current terms) would continue not to be charged and would have free access to the peer review for their authors.

Comment.  This is an interesting new variation.  First, it's a hybrid in which the fees are paid by institutions on behalf of all of their authors and all their articles.  In that respect it differs from the hybrids we've seen to date in which the fees are charged article by article, each author making an individual choice.  Of course it also differs from conventional TA journals in which fees are paid by institutions on behalf of their readers.  PLoS and BMC offer institutional memberships, but not in hybrid forms that coexist with subscriptions.  Second, it's designed to mesh with the ongoing CERN project to convert all particle physics journals from TA to OA.  I commend SISSA and IOPP for working within the constraints of the CERN project, for setting the institutional membership fees so that they're competitive with the subscription prices, and for promising to reduce their subscription prices in proportion to institutional uptake.

Distinguishing the AIP and APS positions on OA

Stevan Harnad,  Don't confuse AIP (publisher) with APS (Learned Society), Open Access Archivangelism, December 10, 2006.  Excerpt:

In Open Access News, Peter Suber excerpted the following from the AIP Position On Open Access & Public Access:

"AIP is fearful of and against government mandates that provide rules in favor of one business model over another.  AIP is against funding agencies mandating free access to articles after they have undergone costly peer review or editing by publishers."

It is important not to confuse AIP (American Institute of Physics) with APS (American Physical Society). AIP is merely the publisher of the journals of APS, which is a Learned Society (and one of the most progressive on OA)....

Don't take the grumbling of AIP too seriously. The APS/AIP division-of-labor is optimal, because it allows us to separate the scientific/scholarly interests from the publishing interests (which are so thoroughly conflated in most other Learned Societies, notably the American Chemical Society!)....

The AIP is basically saying that the interests of generating and protecting AIP's current revenue streams and cost-recovery model trump the interests of research, researchers, their institutions, their funders, and the interests of the tax-paying public that funds their funders....

(By the way, self-archiving mandates do not "favor of one business model over another": They are not about business models at all. They are about maximizing the access, usage and impact of publicly funded research.).

AIP is the publishing tail, yet again trying to wag the research dog. Soon we will see an end of this sort of nonsense.

On the NIH policy and FRPAA

Genevieve J. Knezo, Open Access Publishing and Citation Archives: Background and Controversy, Congressional Research Service, October 10, 2006.  (Thanks to Adrian Ho.)  Excerpt:

Controversies about open access publishing and archiving confront issues of copyright and governmental competition with the private sector. Traditional publishers typically charge subscriber fees that fund some of the costs of publishing and distributing hard-copy and/or online journals. In contrast, most open access systems charge authors publication fees and give readers free online access to the full text of articles or bibliographic citations. Supporters of the open access “movement” object to the rising costs of journal subscriptions; [are sometimes reluctant] to do free reviews for journals rapidly escalating in price; and [hold] the belief that scientific collaboration, advancement, and utilization will be hastened by free access to information. Traditional subscriber-pays commercial publishers and some scholarly associations object to most open access publishing [PS: archiving?] because it may duplicate what publishers sell, weaken the publishing industry, and erode profits. Some critics seek to limit free government-run repositories to include only articles and citations from federally sponsored research; others oppose fees in the thousands of dollars charged to authors to pay the costs of publishing articles or view as unreliable foundation donations that sustain some open access activities....

Controversial issues include modifying NIH’s Public Access policy to require the government to link to the original journal’s website to read articles; limiting federal systems to scientific information developed using federal funds; monitoring the added costs of expanding PubMed Central; determining if other agencies will use governmental nonexclusive licensing to allow access to commercially published journal articles, regardless of copyright ownership; assessing the quality of science published in open access journals; and evaluating the economic impacts of open access publishing [PS: archiving?] on traditional publishing. This report will be updated as needed....

This report begins with an inventory of basic information: definitions and guides to histories of the growth of open access publishing and citation archives and descriptions of selected major open access activities. It moves on to summarize major points of difference between proponents and opponents of nongovernmental open access publishing and databases, and then highlights federal, including National Institutes of Health (NIH), open access activities and contentious issues surrounding these developments. The report also briefly describes open access developments in the United Kingdom (where a number of governmental and nongovernmental initiatives have occurred) and in the international arena. Finally, controversial issues which could receive attention in the 109th Congress are summarized.

Comment. This report makes no policy recommendations, and only tries to summarize the questions and controversies.  I'll say more when I've read more, but it doesn't start well by appearing to confuse OA journals with OA repositories; by asserting that "most open access systems charge authors publication fees" when in fact most do not; and on the first page by introducing the concept of OA by putting an essay by Martin Frank et al. on a par with the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

Michael Geist renews call on Canada to mandate OA

Michael Geist, Let loose the flow of digital knowledge, Toronto Star, December 11, 2006.  Excerpt:

...Synergies, an initiative led by five Canadian universities including the University of Toronto, plans to digitize Canadian social science research. Once fully operational, it will provide researchers with a new outlet to disseminate their work and give Canadians open access to cutting-edge research.

Canadian museums are transforming their collections into digital archives that serve users around the world. For example, Montreal's McCord Museum of Canadian History has already digitized more than 125,000 images, all of which are freely accessible....

[T]he federal government would do well to resist introducing expensive new initiatives by first maximizing the benefits that can be extracted from the current set of policies and programs. For example, Canada spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year on research funding through its three federal granting institutions in the health, sciences, and social science fields. The government should mandate an open access model that would require that all taxpayer-funded research be made available to the public at no charge within six months of initial publication.

Ottawa could also amend the legal deposit program that requires all Canadian publishers to provide the National Library with two copies of every newly published book. By expanding the program's requirements to also include a digital copy, the government would effortlessly build a digital library featuring thousands of new books....

Crown copyright, the archaic policy that grants the government copyright over its own work, should be dropped, thereby enabling thousands of documents to instantly enter into the public domain. The elimination of crown copyright would not only facilitate access, but also spur new commercial innovation as businesses follow the U.S. model of providing new services on top of freely available government data....

PS:  At least three times before (one, two, three), Geist has called on Canada to mandate OA for publicly-funded research.

Copyright reform and OA to legal knowledge

Ann Bartow, Open Access, Law, Knowledge, Copyrights, Dominance and Subordination, Lewis & Clark Law Review, Winter 2007. 

Abstract:   The concept of open access to legal knowledge is at the surface a very appealing one. A citizenry that is well informed about the law may be more likely to comply with legal dictates and proscriptions, or at a minimum, will be aware of the consequences for not doing so. What is less apparent, however, is whether an open access approach to legal knowledge is realistically attainable without fundamental changes to the copyright laws that would recalibrate the power balance between content owners and citizens desiring access to interpretive legal resources. A truly useful application of open access principles would require adoption of compulsory licensing regimes with respect to proprietary legal resources, and significant government subsidies as well. Because affluent individuals today are both more likely to gain access to information and more likely to have the resources to use it, this Article concludes that the open access construct currently does little to actually empower access to legal information in any significant way.

Comment.  First, let's distinguish royalty-free legal publications (statutes, judicial opinions, law review articles) from royalty-producing legal publications (indices, treatises, encyclopedias, etc.).  The OA movement has always focused on the former, as the low-hanging fruit, even if there are long-term ways to extend it to the latter.  It's low-hanging fruit either because it's in the public domain from birth (statutes and opinions) or because the original copyright holders can consent to OA without losing revenue (law review articles).  Hence, achieving OA for this category requires no copyright reform.   That is, it requires no statutory reform, like compulsory licensing.  Moreover, achieving OA for this category would be a significant boon for legal researchers, lawyers and non-lawyers alike.  It goes without saying that OA to two categories of literature would be more useful than OA to just one, but that's no objection to the usefulness of achieving OA for the large and primary category that's already within reach.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Access to NASA data for non-scientists

K. Ward and D. Herring, NASA Earth Observations (NEO): Moving Data Access Forward for Outreach and Education, a presentation at the American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2006 (San Francisco, December 11-15, 2006). 

Abstract:   NASA Earth Observations (NEO) dramatically simplifies public access to georeferenced imagery of NASA remote sensing data. NEO targets the unsophisticated, non-traditional data users who are currently underserved by the existing data ordering systems. These users include formal and informal educators, museum and science center personnel, professional communicators, and citizen scientists and amateur Earth observers. NEO currently serves imagery from 10 different datasets with daily, weekly, and monthly temporal resolutions (including 3 datasets that also have 5-minute regional resolutions). There will be an additional 13 datasets added by the end of 2006. Users are able to view and manipulate georeferenced browse imagery within the NEO interface itself (e.g., applying color palettes, subsetting, and importing to NASA's Earth Observatory's Image Composite Editor), open NEO imagery directly using third party software (e.g., Google Earth, any GeoTIFF or WMS capable application), and, if they desire, download or order the source HDF data directly from the data provider via a single, integrated interface.

Virtual conferences to improve access

B.W. McGee, Enhancing Scientific Collaboration, Transparency, and Public Access: Utilizing the Second Life Platform to Convene a Scientific Conference in 3-D Virtual Space, a presentation at the American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2006 (San Francisco, December 11-15, 2006). 

Abstract:   Recent studies reveal a general mistrust of science as well as a distorted perception of the scientific method by the public at-large. Concurrently, the number of science undergraduate and graduate students is in decline. By taking advantage of emergent technologies not only for direct public outreach but also to enhance public accessibility to the science process, it may be possible to both begin a reversal of popular scientific misconceptions and to engage a new generation of scientists. The Second Life platform is a 3-D virtual world produced and operated by Linden Research, Inc., a privately owned company instituted to develop new forms of immersive entertainment. Free and downloadable to the public, Second Life offers an imbedded physics engine, streaming audio and video capability, and unlike other "multiplayer" software, the objects and inhabitants of Second Life are entirely designed and created by its users, providing an open-ended experience without the structure of a traditional video game. Already, educational institutions, virtual museums, and real-world businesses are utilizing Second Life for teleconferencing, pre-visualization, and distance education, as well as to conduct traditional business. However, the untapped potential of Second Life lies in its versatility, where the limitations of traditional scientific meeting venues do not exist, and attendees need not be restricted by prohibitive travel costs. It will be shown that the Second Life system enables scientific authors and presenters at a "virtual conference" to display figures and images at full resolution, employ audio-visual content typically not available to conference organizers, and to perform demonstrations or premier three-dimensional renderings of objects, processes, or information. An enhanced presentation like those possible with Second Life would be more engaging to non-scientists, and such an event would be accessible to the general users of Second Life, who could have an unprecedented opportunity to witness an example of scientific collaboration typically reserved for members of a particular field or focus group. With a minimal investment in advertising or promotion both in real and virtual space, the possibility exists for scientific information and interaction to reach a far broader audience through Second Life than with any other currently available means for comparable cost.

Providing OA to pre-1975 govt tech reports

From a post to the SLA-ENG list (thanks to STLQ):

In mid-November, the GWLA/CRL Federal Technical Reports Digitization Project Task Force issued a call for interest. The text of that announcement is copied below. For those of you who have already responded, we very much appreciate your interest. For others of you who have been intending to respond soon or who are concerned they may miss the originally requested deadline, we want to make sure that you are given every opportunity to respond. Please send your response to the call for interest to Alice Trussell at by Friday, December 15, 2006. This is a week longer than the originally requested date....

Below is the original call for interest:

The Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) and the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) are collaborating on a pilot project to ascertain both the practicality of and impediments to digitizing and making openly available selected pre-1975 U.S. government agency technical reports....

There is a vast amount of potentially valuable information contained in hundreds of report series that is quite difficult to access due to limited distribution, format issues, and the cataloging practices (or lack thereof) associated with these types of materials at many institutions at the time these materials were published. Many libraries have no record of what was published in many tech report series or what series/reports are available at different institutions. Some institutions have, or are considering, withdrawing large portions of their paper technical reports collections, in part because they use up valuable shelf space and in part because they tend to get low use. But part of the reason for that low use is the lack of cataloging and/or other access options to that material. The results of this project would help remedy both of those issues for institutions worldwide.

As part of the pilot project, sample collections have been identified for digitization, one collection (the entire Monograph Series of the National Bureau of Standards) is currently being scanned, an appropriate metadata schema has been agreed upon, and an interface for searching collections is being created.

Assuming this project continues past the pilot (and there's every indication thus far that it will), it is anticipated that:
- the project will expand beyond GWLA and CRL member institutions;
- the collections of scanned technical report series will be distributed across many institutions;
- the scanned reports will be stored in existing institutional repositories and searched collectively via the interface currently being designed.

Part of the charge of the task force coordinating the pilot project is to ascertain the interest among other institutions in the various facets of this project. So, with that in mind, please reply to this message with answers to the following questions.

1--Is this kind of project of interest or value to your institution? From your library's (and its users') perspective, is this a worthwhile project?

2--If this kind of project is worthwhile, what content (or set of reports) would you like to see digitized first? (list up to three series)

3--Do you see your institution as being interested in being involved in this project in the future?

At this point we're only trying to gauge interest from institutions. We're not looking for any sort of commitment at this time. For those institutions that DO indicate an interest in this project, we will contact you after the pilot project and provide you with a copy of the metadata schema, a sample report (so you can view the quality of the scans), and access an alpha version of the user interface that will search the collections of reports. At that time, we will also ask in what way your institution wishes to participate in this project. Possible forms of participation include:

- donation of local collections for scanning
- scanning content locally
- acting as a repository for the electronic (or print) content of one or more report series

If your institution might be or definitely is interested in this project, please also supply us with contact information (name and e-mail address) for the most appropriate person or persons at your institution to contact about this project in the future....

Mellon prize for the PKP

Good news from the Public Knowledge Project (PKP), December 4, 2006:

PKP Among 1st Mellon Prize Winners for Open Source Projects

PKP was the sole Canadian winner ($50,000 USD) among the ten prizes awarded and the one prize given for scholarly communication software for its Open Journal Systems and Open Conference Systems in the first annual Mellon Awards for Technology Collaboration sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support open source software development in higher education.

Here's the Mellon citation:

$50,000 to the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC) for the development and contribution of the Public Knowledge Project (PKP). The University of British Columbia was recognized for its creation and support of the Public Knowledge Project, an initiative that provides a variety of open source tools supporting open scholarly communications. The Committee particularly noted PKP’s potential for the creation of vital academic disciplines and publications in developing countries. UBC plans to use the award to conduct a series of workshops, surveys, and other activities aimed at paving the way for adoption of the Public Knowledge Project tools by Latin American academics.

PS:  Several of the other winners have an OA connection:  The Internet Archive's Heritrix web crawler; the open-source Moodle course management system; the open-source Sakai course management system; and the WPOPAC online public access catalog. 

AIP's position on OA

The American Institute of Physics (AIP) has issued a statement spelling out the AIP Position On Open Access & Public Access.  See the Fall 2006 issue of Professional Scholarly Publishing Bulletin, p. 3.  The statement is dated October 2006.

AIP’s mission and policy is to achieve that widest dissemination of the research results and other information we publish.

  • Since the arrival of the Web, AIP believes it has achieved wider and more affordable dissemination than ever before in history, with more subscribers, more readers and more libraries and other institutions and people using our journals than ever before. Some use them free or at very low cost under various open access models.
  • AIP believes it has been extremely successful in using and investing in technology and new online platforms towards that end.
  • AIP has instituted and experimented with many business models, including free and open access.

AIP believes that publishers should be free to experiment with various business models in the market place of ideas and economics. 

  • AIP is fearful of and against government mandates that provides rules in favor of one business model over another. 
  • AIP is against funding agencies mandating free access to articles after they have undergone costly peer review or editing by publishers.

AIP is against the government posting or distributing free copies of articles that publishers have invested in producing.

  • AIP believes that funding agencies have every right to report their results to the public, but that if they choose to use publisher-produced, peer-reviewed material to do that, then the publisher should receive appropriate compensation. 
  • AIP is also fearful about what government agencies might do with articles they receive under any deposit system.  In particular, AIP is fearful of mission creep with government agencies using the deposited material beyond the goal of public access, for example in enhanced publications that compete with the private sector.

PS:  The same issue of the PSP Bulletin (pp. 4, 8) reprints the September 22 letter from 10 provosts to Senators Cornyn and Lieberman, opposing FRPAA.  See my September 22 comments on the letter.

Comment.  No doubt peer review is added value.  It may be added by unpaid editors and referees, but there are transaction costs and they are paid by publishers.  On the other side, government OA mandates only apply to research funded by taxpayers.  Since publishers and taxpayers both make a contribution to the value of peer-reviewed articles arising from publicly-funded research, what's the best way to split this baby?  The current method is a reasonable compromise:  a period of exclusivity for the publisher followed by free online access for the public.  More, even after the embargo period ends, the existing policies and proposals only mandate access to the author's peer-reviewed manuscript, not to the published edition.  Publishers who want to block OA mandates per se, rather than just negotiate the embargo period, are saying that they want no compromise, that the public should get nothing for its investment, and that publishers should control access to research conducted by others, written up by others, and funded by taxpayers.