Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, December 30, 2006

OA journals from SUNY Cortland

The State University of New York at Cortland is launching its second and third online journals, one in sociology and one in disability studies and special education.  Yesterday's press release doesn't say whether the journals will be OA or TA, but because Cortland's first online journal, Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women's and Gender Studies, is OA, I'm guessing that next two will also be OA.

OA repository for technology enhanced learning

TeLearn is the first OA repository dedicated to research in the field of technology enhanced learning (TEL).  It's hosted by Kaleidoscope, the EU-funded project to promote TEL research.  For more information, see the TeLearn FAQ or the Kaleidoscope "about" page.  (Thanks to the INIST Libre Accès blog.)

Friday, December 29, 2006

Traffic data from an OA journal

Tom Wilson has posted traffic data from the last 11 volumes of his OA journal, Information Research, and makes this observation:

Probably the most interesting point is the way in which papers in the early volumes continue to attract hits - if you want your work to be used, publish in an open access electronic journal!

Benkler on OA publishing and global development

Olav Anders Øvrebø has posted an interview with Yochai Benkler to his blog, December 29, 2006.  Excerpt:

How do you see the role of Wikipedia and other freely licensed/commons-based projects (such as open access scientific publishing) in the context of global development? (Is Amartya Sen's claim that democracies with free media do not experience hunger crises a relevant context here?)

Benkler: This is similar to my prior answer. Sen's claim, to the extent it is true, certainly provides a context in which we can say that improving democracy can further development. Open access publishing can lower the costs of entry into the global information economy, and more basically, can allow people to live a richer life--informed and educated about their own culture and the world in which they live. Innovation and education are core components of development.

Open access publication help to overcome one major barrier to development in these areas....And yet, we cannot forget that the major reason for lack of education is the opportunity cost of a child's education for the family. No intervention has been more effective than paying families to send their children to school. While lowering the direct cost of education--through open educational materials--is important, it is not a silver bullet that solves the problems. It can only help within a broader, more complete and integrated solution to the problems of global poverty....

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Whether to make OA laws searchable in Guam

Simon Chester, Free Public Access to Legal Information? Slaw, December 26, 2006.  Excerpt:

Slaw readers may have missed the recent controversy in the legislative debates of Guam. A fight over access to legal information - and whether a publicly funded service constituted unfair competition. The full story is in today's Pacific Daily News and a month ago in the Marianas Variety

Guam's court system wants to improve public access to local laws, government rules, executive orders, court decisions and attorney general opinions. All this for a cost of about $1,000. That's all it will take to make the court's Compiler of Laws Web site searchable.

But Jacqueline Taitano Terlaje representing a competing legal research service said during a public hearing that it would go out of business if the court does that.

Existing online resources already provide "meaningful access" to Guam residents, she said. "The people of Guam are not crying out for a legal research database. The Guam government should have no business entering into the legal research market, which caters only to the legal community. The government, she added, should simply provide the basic service such as the listing of the documents and the “next level” should be left with the private business sector.

Guam law currently prohibits the Compiler of Laws from publishing text-based searchable data on its Web site. While Guam law and similar information is available for free on the court's Web site and other government Web sites, there is no search function, which means residents need to search through legal texts, rules and opinions on their own to find information about a specific topic....

I've omitted the text of the bill that would permit Guam's compiler of laws to add a search engine.

Comment.  It's hard to believe the premise here:  the laws of Guam are already OA, and the only question is whether to add a search engine.  A private company objects that a public search engine would put it out of business.  Where does one even begin? 

First, the need to know the law is not limited to professional lawyers.  Second, even lawyers need open access and searchability, and providing it benefits everyone.  Third, private-sector companies have an understandable private interest in protecting their revenue, even at the expense of the public interest, but government agencies are charged to put the public interest first.  Fourth, if adding a search engine to an existing online public resource, for a one-time cost of $1,000, would really endanger a private-sector company, then the company should already be looking for another line of work.  Even without Guam's public investment, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft might index the laws tomorrow, or a citizen might do so with a Google custom search engine.  Trying to keep OA information hard to find is a poor business model and an even worse public policy.

More on Scholarpedia

Ben Vershbow, scholarpedia: sharpening the wiki for expert results, if:book, December 27, 2006.  Excerpt:

Eugene M. Izhikevich, a Senior Fellow in Theoretical Neurobiology at The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego, wants to see if academics can collaborate to produce a peer reviewed equivalent to Wikipedia. The attempt is Scholarpedia, a free peer reviewed encyclopedia, entirely open to public contributions but with editorial oversight by experts.

 It sounds at first a lot like Larry Sanger's Citizendium project, which will attempt to add an expert review layer to material already generated by Wikipedia (they're calling it a "progressive fork" off of the Wikipedia corpus)....

It's always struck me more as a simplistic fantasy of ivory tower-common folk détente than any reasoned community-building plan. We'll see if Walesism and Sangerism can be reconciled in a transcendent whole, or if intellectual class warfare (of the kind that has already broken out on multiple occasions between academics and general contributors on Wikipedia) -- or more likely inertia -- will be the result.

The eight-month-old Scholarpedia, containing only a few dozen articles and restricted for the time being to three neuroscience sub-fields, already feels like a more plausible proposition, if for no other reason than that it knows who its community is and that it establishes an unambiguous hierarchy of participation. Izhikevich has appointed himself editor-in-chief and solicited full articles from scholarly peers around the world. First the articles receive "in-depth, anonymous peer review" by two fellow authors, or by other reviewers who measure sufficiently high on the "scholar index." Peer review, it is explained, is employed both "to insure the accuracy and quality of information" but also "to allow authors to list their papers as peer-reviewed in their CVs and resumes" -- a marriage of pragmaticism and idealism in Mr. Izhikevich.

After this initial vetting, the article is officially part of the Scholarpedia corpus and is hence open to subsequent revisions and alterations suggested by the community, which must in turn be accepted by the author, or "curator," of the article....I'm very curious to see if this will be treated by the general public as a read-only site, or if genuine collaboration will arise.

It's doubtful that this more tightly regulated approach could produce a work as immense and varied as Wikipedia, but it's pretty clear that this isn't the goal....

One problem of open source knowledge projects is that they're often too general in scope (Scholarpedia says it all). A federation of specialized encyclopedias, produced by focused communities of scholars both academic and independent -- and with some inter-disciplinary porousness -- would be a more valuable, if less radical, counterpart to Wikipedia, and more likely to succeed than the Citizendium chimera.

Citations trump other game-theoretic incentives for OA

Stevan Harnad, The Name Game: Names Get In Our Way, Open Access Archivangelism, December 28, 2006.  This is a comment on the article I excerpted in my previous post.  Excerpt:

In "Quantum Game Theory and Open Access Publishing," Hanauske et al (2006) try to use game-theoretic modeling -- pitting "author-reputation" (in the form of citations) against "journal-reputation" -- to show that authors will inevitably switch from "traditional publishing" to "open access publishing." This would be a welcome conclusion if Hanauske et al's underlying assumptions and their definition of OA publishing had been valid. But the article defines "Green OA" as self-archiving in an Institutional Repository, "Gold OA" as publishing in an OA journal, and "OA Publishing" as a "third option," with self-archiving in Arxiv (a Central Repository) as its prime example. In reality, of course, self-archiving in Arxiv is not OA publishing at all, but simply another example of OA self-archiving (Green OA). Hence the assumption that "OA Publishing" (in this incorrect sense) pits "author-reputation" (citations) game-theoretically against "journal-reputation" (with citations eventually winning) is invalid too. The correct conclusion, requiring no game-theoretic modeling at all, is that OA will inevitably win over non-OA eventually (especially once accelerated by Green OA self-archiving mandates), simply because more citations are better than fewer citations. Nothing to do with OA publishing (Gold OA) in particular, which also benefits from more citations, nor with traditional publishing, which likewise benefits from more citations....

OA strategy and quantum game theory

Matthias Hanauske, Steffen Bernius, and Berndt Dugall, Quantum Game Theory and Open Access Publishing, a preprint, self-archived in arXiv December 24, 2006.  (Thanks to Stevan Harnad.)

Abstract: The digital revolution of the information age and in particular the sweeping changes of scientific communication brought about by computing and novel communication technology, potentiate global, high grade scientific information for free. The arXiv for example is the leading scientific communication platform, mainly for mathematics and physics, where everyone in the world has free access on. While in some scientific disciplines the open access way is successfully realized, other disciplines (e.g. humanities and social sciences) dwell on the traditional path, even though many scientists belonging to these communities approve the open access principle. In this paper we try to explain these different publication patterns by using a game theoretical approach. Based on the assumption, that the main goal of scientists is the maximization of their reputation, we model different possible game settings, namely a zero sum game, the prisoners' dilemma case and a version of the stag hunt game, that show the dilemma of scientists belonging to ''non-open access communities''.

From an individual perspective, they have no incentive to deviate from the Nash Equilibrium of traditional publishing. By extending the model using the quantum game theory approach it can be shown, that if the strength of entanglement exceeds a certain value, the scientists will overcome the dilemma and terminate to publish only traditionally in all three settings.

From the conclusion:

This article focuses the question why the open access model is only successfully adopted by a few scientific disciplines. We have constructed a game theoretical model, where the scientists’ incentives where described with a reputation dependent payoff matrix. Three game settings where addressed, namely a zero sum game, the prisoners’ dilemma and a stag hunt version of the open access game. By calculating the outcome of the games within a classical game theoretical framework, we have shown that in all cases the scientists face a dilemma situation: Considering a potential loss in reputation, incentives to perform open access are missing. These findings change, if quantum strategies are allowed. If the entanglement overruns a certain barrier, quantum strategies become superior to the former Nash equilib- rium strategies. In none of the three different game settings the choice of traditional publishing remains to be a rational strategy for the players, if their strategical choices are maximally entangled. The results of this article therefore indicate one possible explanation of the differing publishing methods of scientific communities. In quantum game theory parlance one would say, that scientific disciplines, like mathematics and physics, which had been successful in realizing the open access model, consist of scientists, whose strategical operations are strongly entangled. In contrast, if a scientific community is still imprisoned in the Nash equilibrium of non-open access, there would be a lack of entanglement between the strategical choices of the related scientists of the community.

Comment. I'm having trouble translating this technical result into street-level recommendations for OA strategy.  Quantum game theory allows the "entanglement" of different player strategies, just as quantum theory allows the entanglement of different particle wave functions.  But in street terms, what does it mean for two scholars to have entangled strategies and what variables affect the degree of entanglement?  I can guess, but I'd rather know what the authors had in mind.  If you can help, please drop me a line or post a note to our discussion forum.

Developing countries need OA

Donat Agosti, 'Free' access to research should not be limited, SciDev.Net, December 28, 2006.  Excerpt:

All scientists — rich or poor — should have free and open access to published data; any attempt to restrict such access is unacceptable....

[T]he high cost of journal subscriptions can prevent scientists in developing countries from learning about the latest research....

One initiative intended to address the access issue is the Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE) initiative launched in October 2006. Like its sister programmes, the Health InterNetwork Access to Research Initiative (HINARI) and Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA), OARE seeks to benefit developing country researchers by offering them access to scientific journals at heavily reduced prices.  

But all three programmes are setting a poor precedent for the dissemination of scientific knowledge. These initiatives should be promoting a roadmap for open access to all published scientific articles. But instead, they have settled for a halfway house of limited access and unhelpful restrictions.

OARE, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Yale University in the United States, will provide scientists in the developing world with free access to over 1000 online environmental journals. But to benefit from the scheme, scientists must belong to a local, public and non-profit institution....

Countries with a gross national product (GNP) per capita of less than US$1000, as defined by the World Bank, qualify for free access to the materials; those with a GNP per capita under US$3000 must pay US$1000 per year for access.  However certain countries, namely Brazil, China, India and Indonesia — whose scientists outnumber all the other OARE beneficiaries — are excluded, despite meeting the second criterion....

If UNEP and Yale University really want to support development they should not be teaming up with commercial publishers to create an unnecessary layer of control over scientific literature....

Knowledge transfer is a key ingredient in many international medical, agricultural and environmental treaties, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.  Providing unconditional open access to all new information generated around the globe — if combined with a one-off cost to digitise libraries' published records — would allow countries to meet rapidly, without recourse to external agents, a large part of these commitments....

[O]pen access to information can spark scientific creativity in unexpected ways. Free access to high-resolution spatial data from the US National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) and Google Earth (a map of the Earth using real photographs and satellite images), for example, has triggered a surge in geospatial research and innovative applications.  Amazonian Indians, for example, have started using Google Earth to protect their local rainforest by mapping the forests they live in to monitor deforestation and guard against illegal intruders....

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

More on SPARC's comment to the ARC draft OA policy

Stevan Harnad, On SPARC's Advice to the Australian Research Council, Open Access Archivangelism, December 25, 2006.

Summary: The Australian Research Council (ARC) has proposed to mandate OA self-archiving by its fundees. SPARC has advised ARC (1) to require retaining non-exclusive rights as well, (2) to require OA self-archiving within 6 months of publication, and (3) to earmark ARC funds for OA journal publication costs, so OA can be immediate. I suggest instead (1) that to mandate self-archiving it is neither necessary nor desirable to mandate retaining non-exclusive rights at this time, (2) that deposit should be mandated immediately upon publication, with any allowable 6-month delay applying not to the timing of the deposit itself but only to the timing of the setting of access to the deposit (as Open Access rather than Closed Access), and (3) that it is neither desirable nor necessary at this time to earmark ARC funds to pay to publish in OA journals for immediate OA: Institutional Repositories' EMAIL EPRINT REQUEST button will be sufficient to tide over user needs during any 6-month embargo interval between deposit and OA. (Australia's OA specialist Arthur Sale concurs.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rates of OA growth in France

Stevan Harnad, OA Progress in France, Open Access Archivangelism, December 25, 2006.  Excerpt:

Here are actual and projected growth rate statistics for France's national OA Repository, HAL, kindly supplied by HAL's architect and helmsman, Franck Laloe. France's annual research output is about 12,000 articles per month, so HAL's present spontaneous deposit rate of 1600 articles per month is about the same as the baseline of 15% for spontaneous (unmandated) self-archiving worldwide today....

If HAL's monthly deposit growth rate is indeed exponential, then HAL will reach 100% self-archiving in 5 years without a mandate; if it is a power curve ("puissance") it will take 15 years; if (like Arxiv) it is linear, it will take even longer. (Arxiv's power exponent has been unchangingly quadratic for 15 years, HAL's so far seems ternary)...

Franck Laloe: [translated from French] "There are also some small research institutes in France which are already self-archiving 100% of their research output, for example IN2P3, a component (high-energy physics) of CNRS. A team of 3 documentalists deposits 100% of IN2P3 article output in Hal-IN2P3, because on a small scale this is possible. Another example is IFREMER, a small institute for research on seas and oceans. They have a small, well-done archive containing 100% of their output. As to my own field of research, it has been self-archiving at 99% in ArXiv for a long time…"
There seem to be two morals to this story: (1) Even a centralised national archiving system in a centralised country like France, cannot succeed without a national deposit mandate; (2) until France adopts a national deposit mandate, it too, like all other countries, will have to rely on individual institutional (and research-funder) mandates.

OA journals on ebook readers

An anonymous blogger at Collectivate is excited about the prospect of reading OA journals on portable ebook readers.

Update on Google-Michigan book scanning

Jenny Rode, Book-scanning agreement works for U-M, Ann Arbor News, December 24, 2006.  Excerpt:

University of Michigan library officials say Google's efforts to digitize the university's seven million books and journals is going "extremely well.''

The California-based Internet search company is electronically scanning millions of volumes from U-M libraries and making them available online through, its book search division.

John Wilkin, associate university librarian at U-M, said he's not sure how far along the project is, but said it's within five years of being finished.

"We're just cranking through things in terms of the scanning at a rate that would exceed one million (volumes) a year,'' Wilkin said. He added that the project's progress puts to rest the skepticism expressed by some early on that the amount of work to be scanned wasn't feasible....

Wilkin said there are several benefits to putting the university's books, journals and magazines online. "Scholars are encountering things they wouldn't otherwise,'' he said. "They are making extraordinary finds they never would have known about. People around the world are having access to knowledge and scientific and technical literature that they wouldn't have had access to before.''

He also said the digitization is good for preserving materials. Before 1990, high-acid paper was used that is now deteriorating on the shelves.

Searching OA philosophy

Tony Beavers has launched the beta of Noesis 4.0, a search engine for OA philosophy.  From the announcement:

Noesis is a limited area search engine for open access, academic philosophy online. Built with Google's new Co-op program, Noesis allows users to search the combined webspace of our set of indexed professional associations, philosophy departments, faculty websites, online journals and reference works. Each area can also be searched independently. For more information, see [the "about" page].

At present, the dataset is small, but search return sets are nonetheless informative. Please help this initiative by submitting additional links via the "submit" page on the website.

From the "about" page:

The first version of Noesis: Philosophical Research On-line appeared on the Internet in 1998. It was born out of insights acquired while implementing two earlier search engines, Argos: Limited Area Search of the Ancient and Medieval Internet (1996) and Hippias: Limited Area Search of Philosophy on the Internet (1997). These projects were based on the notion that if users could search a carefully selected sub-section of the Internet, search engines could implement a kind of peer review, separating the wheat from the chaff and harnessing the power of the Internet for scholarly purposes. Both Argos and Hippias limited their scope by searching a set of "associate sites" and everything to which they linked, in effect passing editorial control over their search spaces to the editors of the various associate sites. Their decisions directly determined content....

The current version of Noesis runs on the backbone of Google through an interface provided as part of the Google Co-op. In addition to allowing designers to specify individual documents for inclusion in a particular search engine, the interface also allows them to include whole websites in a single pass and to label them for subset searching. This feature results in greater flexibility for shaping a search space, while inviting a more regional approach to the problems mentioned above....

By indexing regions, in effect, directories and subdirectories, rather than their contents, Noesis passes editorial control of its search space over to the individuals who, in managing their own web resources, add to, edit, and delete from the content searchable by Noesis....The result is that the shape and texture of Noesis's search space is determined organically by credentialed scholars whose actions directly determine content....

Comment.  I'm proud to disclose that I'm an editorial consultant for Noesis 4.0, was co-editor of previous versions of Noesis, and was general editor of Hippias (one of Noesis' ancestor projects).  Noesis 4.0 is a simple and powerful way to approach the problem of discipline-limited search (hence, the problems of information overload and false positives) and one of the most systematic scholarly adaptations of Google Custom Search.  I can praise Noesis openly because I've already divulged my lack of objectivity and because the lion's share of the credit goes to Tony Beavers, not to me.  But the point of my disclosure is that you shouldn't take my word for it.  Check it out for yourself.