Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Interview with Matthew Cockerill and Chris Leonard

Anna Winterbottom, BMC branches out: an interview with Matthew Cockerill and Chris Leonard, First Author, undated but c. January 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

BioMed Central (BMC)...has...continued to expand its range of services, most notably by launching two new portals that apply the BioMed Central model to the physical and chemical sciences. Chemistry Central was launched in October this year [2006] and hosts its own generalist Chemistry Central Journal as well as seven other open access publications....Its eagerly awaited sister site, PhysMath Central, is currently in discussions with the academic community in these areas to develop new open access journals....

So, how has this revolution in open access changed the practices of its prophets, what are their predictions for the future, and what will be unique about the new services for the physical and chemical sciences amid their host of rivals? First Author spoke to BMC’s publisher, Matthew Cockerill and to the head of the new PhysMath Central service, Chris Leonard, to find out.

FA: A recent press release described BioMed Central as leading the way in open access: could you discuss how you view the future of the open access movement? How do you see BioMed Central changing as it expands its remit?

MC: Open access publishing took off first in the biomedical sciences. This may partly be because open resources like PubMed and GenBank alerted biomedical researchers to the benefits of open access. Other fields have different starting points...[T]here has been increasing recognition that the benefits of open access for the publication of original research apply in all fields, although the most appropriate funding model may depend on the field.

For example, rather than leaving it to individual authors to find funds to pay publication charges, CERN is working to create a consortium of research labs that will collectively fund open access publication for all particle physics papers....As open access publishing continues to grow in scale, both within biomedicine and in other fields, we imagine it is likely that such models will proliferate. Open access can be funded in many ways, all of which are compatible with the underlying goals of open access as long as they do not depend on restricting access.

FA: As open access goes mainstream will the ‘author pays’ model be sufficient to cover the costs of high quality publishing, especially given exceptions for authors in less wealthy countries and/ or institutions?

MC: In general, the cost of open access publication (around $1500 in a typical BioMed Central journal) is very reasonable compared to the amount that libraries spend on journal subscriptions. For example, OUP quoted figures recently that for every article it published in Nucleic Acids Research in 2003, it received $4224 of subscription revenue....Such comparisons suggest that the costs charged by open access publishers such as BioMed Central are very reasonable. They are also realistic and sustainable. We have worked hard to develop efficient online systems for running online journals and managing peer review, and as a result we can offer a high quality service at a very competitive price. We expect to break even within the next 12 months, and overall we believe that the efficiencies introduced by open access publishers such as BioMed Central have the potential to save the research community significant sums of money that are currently spent on over-priced subscription journals....

BioMed Central routinely provides waivers for authors in low-income countries, and this has not proved to be an obstacle to creating a sustainable business model.

It is also important to recognize that whereas authors in low-income countries previously had to get their work published in rich-country journals for that work to be read and cited, open access means that it is now feasible for local journals to achieve wider readership and impact....

FA: How would you respond to Nature's recent claims that PloS has proved the model to be unsustainable without philanthropy? Do you have an opinion on hybrid models (in which the author can choose to pay to have their article freely available immediately) such as that piloted by the Royal Society?

MC: Starting new journals and making them profitable is hard work - that's true for subscription journals as much as for open access journals....

PLoS's approach initial approach was to start high-end journals which publish relatively few articles, and are expensive to run, but it is now broadening its remit with PLoS One, which should improve its finances.  BioMed Central has taken the broader approach right from the start. We have some journals which are highly editorially selective (Genome Biology and Journal of Biology, for example), but we have other titles such as the BMC-series which aim to publish all sound research, while highlighting the best. This has allowed us to create a business model which offers authors low publication charges, while also allowing us a realistic prospect of making a profit....

First Author spoke next to the head of the forthcoming PhysMath Central, Chris Leonard, about how the new service will meet the unique needs of the maths and physics community and learn from the experience of a technologically adept target audience....

FA: The physics and maths academic communities were pioneering in their adoption of open access. Notably, as you mentioned, with the founding of Arxiv. You also have experience in the commercial sector. How will you work with and borrow from the experience of both these sectors?

[CL:] We are a commercial company providing an open access service. From a commercial standpoint open access makes sense. Scientists are demanding it and it is almost seen as unethical in some fields to publish results in a subscription journal. It is difficult to see the future of subscription journals as rosy....

FA: You recently promised to take advantage of new technologies to communicate research findings clearly and to meet the challenges of the future. Can you give some examples of these technologies and how you believe they will change the ways scientists research, collaborate, and publish?

CL: Sure - this is one of the most exciting parts of working in open access. Not only can we develop tools and services around our data, but anyone can. All articles are available, for free, to anyone in fully-formed XML, so we hope to see some suite of services like 'Google Labs' develop around this data.

However, for our part we intend to use new technology to support the scientific process in many ways. Apart from the tight arXiv integration already mentioned we are also going to use wikis with the editorial board members to refine the scope of the journals, journal blogs to inform everyone of editorial developments, OAI-PMH to update A&I services, RSS for journal content updates, multimedia to support the online text, comments from readers on each article, and we are very keen in working on ways to further structure and open up our data to other services. Other developments, such as 'tagging' of articles and refining the peer-review process will be considered if there is an appetite for it from the community we serve.

There is also an increasing drive to make raw data of experimental results available alongside the article itself. For particle collision data, for example, this would be problematic given the sheer volume of data - but this barrier will come down with time and for some fields it is already possible to publish raw data, so we will be investigating this option in the coming weeks....

"The Wikipedia of curriculum"

Corey Murray, Curriki offers new world of course content, eSchool News, January 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

A new online community has emerged that promises to give educators around the world an opportunity to collaborate and share curricula in hopes of expanding the educational options available to schools. Called Curriki, the resource pairs the benefits of social networking with the freedom of open technologies to create an organic, constantly evolving online repository of free resources for teachers and students....

Dubbed the "Wikipedia of curriculum" by its creators, the online community known as Curriki...aims to provide a place online where educators from anywhere in the world can post curricula and lesson plans for review and use by fellow classroom teachers.

Like Wikipedia, the organic online encyclopedia that lets its users edit and update existing entries, Curriki employs a philosophy of open access, encouraging its members not only to use the content available on the site, but also to upgrade it, modify it, and tag it to suit the needs of their students, wherever they are.

The brainchild of Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, Curriki was founded as a way to provide disadvantaged teachers and students around the globe with open and unfettered access to high-quality educational content.

So enamored was McNealy with his vision that he decided to spin the company off from Sun into its own freestanding nonprofit organization.  Based in Washington, D.C., the group is led by longtime educational software designer Bobbi Kurshan....

After celebrating its official launch in October, organizers report that as of press time membership in the online community had ballooned to more than 15,000 registered users, with more educators coming online daily....

More on OA from the Italian university rectors

Roberto Delle Donne, Gli atenei italiani e l'informazione in Open Access, a presentation at Institutional archives for research : experiences and projects in Open Access, (Rome, November 30 - December 1, 2006).  In Italian but with this English-language abstract:

Over the last years, the CRUI (Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università Italiane) has acknowledged the importance of full and Open Access to information and data belonging to the public domain for scientific research and education. Therefore, it has been fostering the web dissemination of scientific knowledge produced by Italian Universities and Research Institutions.

In November 2004, the CRUI promoted the agreement of the Italian Universities to the "Berlin Declaration to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities", on the occasion of the Messina Conference on "Italian Universities for Open Access: towards Open Access for scholarly literature", in order to spread the advantages generated by open-access publishing.

At the beginning of 2006, within the CRUI Libraries Commission, the Italian Group for Open Access has been set up, targeted at carrying out the principles of the Berlin Declaration.

This Group is drawing up the guidelines, in order to make the academic community aware of the advantages due to Open Access, and to provide definite indications for the creation of open archives and the actualization of e-publishing initiatives. More precisely, the group is working on the laws and the methods of publishing Ph.D. dissertations in the archives, on the function that open archives may have in the research assessment procedures, on the best practices for the creation of Open Access journals.

OA as a remedy for narrow scientific orthodoxies

Alessandro Giuliani, Open Access as an antidote for the self-referential character of science, a presentation at Institutional archives for research : experiences and projects in Open Access, (Rome, November 30 - December 1, 2006).

Abstract:   If we are able to look beside the enthusiastic claims of a bright future and incredible success of nowadays science that fill the media, it is not difficult to recognize a deep crisis of current scientific thought. The production of innovative drugs experiences a dramatic fall since twenty years and we do not have any reliable basic principles to cope with complex problems on ecological scale. Moreover, the completion of human genome enterprise definitively falsified the premises from which that project was born: the so called molecular biology central dogma is untenable and, far to be the key to the unravelling of life mysteries, the genome project was a big lesson of humility for all of us.

Given these premises, an increasing number of scientists all over the world is involved in a deep re-thinking of the very bases of our scientific knowledge. This re-thinking has many facets, here I would like to discuss about an evident pathology of science with respect to other human activities: its increasing self-referential character that poses strong constraints to its innovative power. Basically only scientists of a specific field can judge about the merit of the work of other scientists of the same (or very related) fields. This gives rise to very self-referential cliques constraining science investigation into a very narrow "orthodoxy" with no room for real innovation.

Expanding the basis of the readers of scientific works by means of Open Access policies could be of help to try and face this evident limitation.

Friday, January 05, 2007

More on libraries as OA publishers

Christian Woll, Bibliotheken als Dienstleister im Publikationsprozess: Herausforderungen und Chancen alternativer Formen des wissenschaftlichen Publizierens, Verlag Dr. Müller, 2006.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  An extensive (157 pp.) guide to how libraries can take part in scholarly publishing.  Section 4 (pp. 29-82) is devoted to OA archiving and OA journals. 

Emerald launches a no-fee hybrid program

Emerald has launched Emerald Asset (Accessible Scholarship Shared in an Electronic Environment), an unusual no-fee hybrid program for its engineering journals.  From the site:

As a publisher of a range of high profile engineering journals, Emerald is piloting a new Open Access (OA) publishing model, for a trial period, via the Emerald Engineering web portal.

Unlike other OA models which require authors to pay a fee to have their article openly published, the Emerald Asset trial offers authors the opportunity to contribute, not in cash but in kind: In exchange for open publication authors will be asked to submit a summary of their research findings highlighting their practical application.

Summaries will be considered for publication on the Emerald Engineering website. Each summary will include a link to enable readers to gain free access to the full text of the published article.

Additionally, outlines of the summaries will feature in our bi-monthly Emerald Engineering e-newsletter which will be distributed free of charge to all website registrants and further serve to increase awareness of each featured author's work....

How to take part:  Authors can simply contact the Editors of journals they have published in, while readers should look out for the Asset logo. Any queries can be directed to Nancy Rolph.

[Quoting Roderick (Roddy) MacLeod, Senior Subject Librarian, Heriot-Watt University:]  "The new Emerald Asset trial is a significant step forward in increasing the accessibility of peer reviewed journal articles in the engineering sector. It will be welcomed by authors who wish to actively contribute to the wider promotion of their own work without incurring traditional OA author fees...."


  1. I like the way Emerald has traded fees for something else of value:  a second submission emphasizing the practical applications of the first.  The result is a lower hurdle for authors and more useful content for readers.  The announcement doesn't say whether participating authors can retain key rights, use CC licenses, or deposit copies in repositories independent of the publisher.  Nor does it say whether the free online articles will be accessible to readers who aren't clicking from one of the summary pages.
  2. By my count, this is the third no-fee hybrid program.  In July 2004, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced a hybrid program for its journal, Pediatrics.  The OA option is free of charge but the OA articles do not appear in the print edition.  Then in September 2006, the American Society of Plant Biology (ASPB) announced a hybrid policy for its journal Plant Physiology.  The OA option is free of charge for ASPB members.

Reimbursing UK universities that pay publication fees for faculty

When UK universities pay publication fees on behalf of faculty who publish in fee-based OA journals, there are two ways in which they can be reimbursed by the Research Councils UK for at least part of the expense.  For details, see Payment of Publication Fees, a December 2006 briefing note from the Research Information Network.

Comment.  This is important.  UK scholars who publish in fee-based OA journals, or who would like to, should make sure their universities understand these reimbursement procedures.  Editors and publishers of fee-based OA journals should also try to spread the word.

New OA journal on men and masculinities

The Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality is a new peer-reviewed, OA journal.  (Thanks to Integral Options Cafe.)

OA publishing in law: the Lewis & Clark symposium

The Winter 2006 issue of the Lewis & Clark Law Review contains the proceedings from the L&C Spring 2006 symposium, Open Access Publishing and the Future of Legal Scholarship.  The articles are not themselves OA, at least not from this source and not yet.  But I've already blogged several that have been self-archived. 

Chinese translations of Budapest and Berlin statements

Anthony Mao has translated the Budapest Open Access Initiative and the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge into Chinese (here and here, respectively).

Anthony had previously translated the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing into Chinese

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The British Library will digitize journal backfiles

The British Library has launched a program to digitize journal backfiles.  From yesterday's press release:

The British Library has launched a new service that offers a ‘one-stop-shop' for publishers who wish to digitise archival material from their journal collections. The Publisher Digitisation Service [PS: no web site yet] draws on the unrivalled breadth of the Library's collections as well as its expertise in converting large volumes of print material into digital format.

Backfiles represent a substantial untapped asset for many publishers, but as long as substantial portions of each title's run remain in analogue format, a cost-effective way of exploiting that content will not be fully achievable. Most academic publishers are either planning, or have already begun, the process of digitising archival material from their journals collections and making it available online.

For many, however, one of the first major hurdles they face is sourcing the full text content they need to do this. For a variety of reasons, few publishers have maintained comprehensive archives of all their titles – current and defunct – and some have had to source as much as 75% of their archival content from third parties in order to carry out digitisation. Because of the vast extent of its serial collections, the British Library can save publishers time and money in locating such material.

One of the Publisher Digitisation Service's earliest customers was SAGE Publications....

As well as offering the full range of the UK national library's collections, the Publisher Digitisation Service also offers logistical advantages: content is located and digitised in one place and can be delivered to the publisher by FTP, thereby avoiding the risks and costs associated with obtaining material physically from a variety of sources....

Comment.  Just last month, I wondered whether journals might find better terms for backfile digitization than Google's.  This is at least another choice, but so far the BL isn't making it easy to assess.  The announcement doesn't say whether the BL program costs the journal anything (the Google program is free), whether it lets journals charge for access to the resulting files (the Google program is only for free online access), or whether it's exclusive (the Google program is non-exclusive).  But BL clients do, apparently, get to keep the digital files (Google clients don't). 

December update to PQDT

ProQuest Information and Learning has completed the December 2006 update to ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (PQDT).  From the site:

With the December 2006 release of PQDT successfully completed, there is only one more migration phase, currently scheduled for some time in the second half of 2007. When the final migration phase is released, ProQuest will also retire PQDD [ProQuest Digital Dissertations] as a dissertation database access point....

[S]ome of the highlights of the December 2006 release include:

  • Release of "Dissertations & Theses @" - Previously known as "Current Research @", this feature allows universities that actively publish dissertations and theses with UMI Dissertation Publishing to view all of their own university's titles free of charge on the ProQuest platform. Titles from the university already in PQDT in full-text PDF will be available as free downloads....

NSF recommendations on data sharing

NSF and ARL Conduct Workshop on Digital Data Stewardship, ARL Bimonthly Report, December 2006.  Excerpt:

To explore the challenges of digital data stewardship and preservation, ARL and the National Science Foundation (NSF) conducted a workshop in September 2006 on New Collaborative Relationships: Academic Libraries in the Digital Data Universe....The workshop report provides a wealth of information on the issues of digital preservation; the Executive Summary follows....


  • The stewardship and sharing of digital data produced by members of the research and education communities requires sustainable models of technical and economic support....
  • It is critically important that NSF and other funding agencies raise awareness and meet the needs of the research community for the stewardship and sharing of digital data....


6. NSF should encourage the development of data sharing policies for programs involving community data. Discussion of mechanisms for developing such plans could be included as part of a proposal’s data management plan. In addition, NSF should strive to ensure that all data sharing policies be available and accessible to the public....

Journal intimidation of faculty who want better terms

James V. Maher, The Research University And Scholarly Publishing: The View From A Provost’s Office, ARL Bimonthly Report, December 2006.  This paper was originally presented at the ARL/CNI/SPARC conference, Improving Access to Publicly Funded Research (Washington DC, October 20, 2006).  Maher is the Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor at the University of Pittsburgh.  Excerpt:

...I worry about the intimidation of faculty that has gone on by some of the journals. I know that attempts to get the faculty engaged and to use the faculty’s inherent strength to deal with problems of scholarly publishing —in particular, access constraints due to the common practice of transferring copyrights to publishers— have really been thwarted by the faculty’s fear that the journals would not publish their work and that, particularly, they wouldn’t be able to get their work into the right journals. But many faculty have tried, albeit fitfully, to have an influence, and their positive results are most evident in the improved cooperation exhibited in recent years by many of the scholarly societies.

Intimidation of the faculty is a real thing and must be dealt with by anyone who sincerely wants to work on this problem and who wants to try to work with the faculty to solve these problems....

Why environmental research should be OA

Daniel M. Kammen, The need and challenge for Environmental Research Letters, Environmental Research Letters, October-December 2006.  (Thanks to Sustainable Research.)  An editorial in the inaugural issue of a new OA journal.  Excerpt:

As the first open-access journal to cover the whole of environmental science, our aim for ERL is to offer:

Completely free access to original research of the highest quality.  The environmental research and action community is diverse, both intellectually and geographically. ERL's open-access publishing model will make it a truly unique resource for scholars in developed and developing nations, as well as for environmental non-governmental groups, public servants, businesses and industry groups, and anyone who would not normally find their way, or have the financial means, to access an academic journal. Our goal to remain open-access will require that ERL secure a commitment of financial support—ideally from a foundation, individual, or a national or international research agency—so that the journal can publish in this fashion without the support of significant article publication charges. In this area we call on you to consider supporting, or to direct our editorial staff to groups who want to support, this venture....

Outstandingly high article visibility.  ERL's open-access publishing model will guarantee its authors high article visibility, capturing a wide audience that includes both specialists and the wider community. The journal will serve its broad readership by publishing Perspectives that put disciplinary papers in a wider context, and explore the intellectual and policy impacts of broader, cross-disciplinary papers. A significant fraction of the research articles published in ERL will appear with 500–1000 word commentary pieces—solicited from not only leading scholars, but also leading political, business, legal, and community leaders—that extend and expand the dialog of the papers. Several articles published in the inaugural issue of the journal will be accompanied by such Perspectives....


An unnamed "independent publishing house committed to providing immediate open access to peer-reviewed research" is looking for a public relations manager.

Germany withdraws from Project Quaero

Mark Chillingworth, Franco/German partnership dissolves over intended rival to Google, Information World Review blog, January 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

The German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) has announced that they would be withdrawing from Project Quaero, the plan to launch a Euro search engine challenger to Google and Yahoo writes Daniel Griffin.

According to the French Agency for Industrial Innovation (AII) who spearheaded the consortium, the split has been put down to differences over technology between them and the BMWi who also announced they will be setting up their own research project, dubbed Theseus. Theseus is intended to be an “information and technology service” rather than just a search engine. The French meanwhile wanted to focus more on the multimedia search side with the indexing of text, images and video.

Since its initial launch in January 2006, the project has been dogged with a perceived lack of commitment from the German side of the partnership....

A ministry spokeswoman from the BMWi told The Guardian: “The French wanted a search engine. We wanted something else.” ...[It is] expected the French will continue to develop the initiative without partnership from the Germans.

Update. Also see Philip E. Ross, What's the Latin For "Delusional"? IEEE Spectrum, January 2007 --written before Germany's withdrawal but predicting failure for other reasons.

ERC pledges to adopt an OA mandate

The Scientific Council of the European Research Council has issued a Statement on Open Access (December 2006).  Here it is in its entirety:

1. The ERC Scientific Council stresses the fundamental importance of peer-reviewed journals in ensuring the certification and dissemination of high-quality scientific research and in guiding appropriate allocation of research funds. Policies towards access to scientific research must guarantee the ability of the system to continue to deliver high-quality certification services.

2. While the certification quality of the scientific publication system is not in doubt, the high prices of some journals – which do not seem to be chiefly driven by cost considerations – raise significant worries concerning the ability of the system to deliver wide access and therefore efficient dissemination of research results, with the resulting risk of stifling further scientific progress.

3. These considerations lead the ERC Scientific Council, like other research funding bodies, to stress the attractiveness of policies mandating the public availability of research results – in open access repositories – reasonably soon (ideally, 6 months, and in any case no later than 12 months) after publication.

4. Of course, general open-access policies are not trivial to implement because: (i) the speed of ‘obsolescence’ of knowledge varies across disciplines; and (ii) so does the availability of open access repositories. Moreover, coordination between research funders (at EU level, across parts of the Framework Programme for example, but also at the level of Member States and their regions) is highly desirable.

5. This being said, it is the firm intention of the ERC Scientific Council to issue specific guidelines for the mandatory deposit in open access repositories of research results – that is, publications, data and primary materials – obtained thanks to ERC grants, as soon as pertinent repositories become operational.

6. The ERC Scientific Council moreover hopes that research funders across Europe will join forces in establishing common open-access rules and in building European open access repositories that will help make these rules operational. To facilitate this process for EUfunded research, it recommends that the European Commission sets up a task force including representatives from the various FP7 programmes (Cooperation, Ideas, People, …) to develop an operational FP7 policy on open access by the end of 2007 (which takes in particular into account disciplinary differences and technological constraints).


  1. This isn't a policy but it's a public commitment to adopt a policy when the infrastructure is ready ("as soon as pertinent repositories become operational").  Moreover, it's a commitment to adopt the right policy:  an OA mandate for ERC-funded research --including data.  Kudos to the ERC for taking this step.  
  2. The ERC is new and still getting off the ground.  For example, it still has no web site of its own.  (As soon as it does, I'll blog it.)  However, we know that it will fund about €1 billion worth of research every year and will have some influence with national funding agencies throughout Europe.
  3. The fact that the ERC is waiting for OA repositories to become operational suggests that it will rely on distributed repositories, not a central ERC-hosted repository.  On the one hand, that's the better policy.  But on the other, delaying the policy may be worse than relying on a central repository to supplement the existing distributed repositories.  There is already a wide distribution of OA repositories throughout Europe.  The distribution is admittedly uneven and many institutions still have to launch their own.  But that could happen quickly, especially with ERC's prodding or assistance.  In any case the ERC could work toward that state without delaying its policy.  It could mandate deposit in the author's institutional repository, when one exists, or in a new ERC-hosted repository otherwise.  As new institutional repositories spread, the ERC repository would take fewer direct deposits but continue to harvest content from the network of institutional repositories.
  4. It's possible that I'm all wrong in point 3 and that ERC is only waiting to set up its own repositories.  I'll try to find out.

Karger adopts a hybrid OA model for eight journals

Karger Medical and Scientific Publishers has adopted a hybrid OA model for eight of its journals.  From today's press release:

Karger Publishers is pleased to announce Author's Choice, a new service which will enable authors to choose whether their articles are to be distributed under the traditional publishing model, or whether they will be freely available for all to access online in exchange for payment of a publication fee....

Karger Publishers is currently conducting a trial with 8 journals:

...[A]uthors choosing to publish their articles under Author's Choice will be required to pay a publication fee of USD 2'500.- and also sign a licencing agreement [see this sample], giving them the right to re-use their content for educational and research purposes, but not for commercial purposes, on condition that the author and journal are properly acknowledged. Karger Publishers will continue to act as a central point for commercial requests and will seek to protect the author's work from misuse. Since all articles will continue to be available in print, any additional standard publication charges will still apply, such as for color images or supplementary pages. The publication fee does not replace these costs.

Author's Choice will in no way affect any editorial decisions. All articles will receive the same consideration and service. They will be peer-reviewed, copy-edited and professionally produced, and will be available both online and in print. To this effect, the choice will be offered to authors only after their work has been accepted for publication.

Comment. The Karger program is better than many others under my criteria for hybrid OA journals.  The license is closely modeled on the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial license and allows authors to retain key rights and deposit their copies in repositories independent of the publisher.  The OA edition is apparently the full published edition.  SHERPA doesn't say whether Karger has been green up to now, but nothing in today's announcement retreats from green (e.g. imposing embargoes or fees on self-archiving).  On the downside, Karger does not promise to reduce subscription prices in proportion to author uptake, and doesn't say whether authors under an OA obligation from a prior funding contract must pay Karger's fee in order to comply. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Not on the A List for 2007

Shore Communications' forecast of publishing in 2007, Reality Checks for New and Old Forms of Publishing,

focuses on six key "A"s for the new year: Audience, Aggregation, APIs, Alternatives, Acceleration and Asia....

But not Access. 

However, its four-point summary of major trends in 2006 devotes one to OA:

Peer-driven publishing also helped to fuel a broadening acceptance of open access scholarly publications for scientific researchers.

Two pieces on OA in Der Standard

Yesterday's issue of Austria's Der Standard had two pieces on OA (in German):

  1. Forschung offen zugänglich machen, Klaus Taschwer's interview with Stevan Harnad on the differences between green and gold OA and the importance of green
  2. Zugang strengstens erlaubt, a short intro to OA, including the new OA mandate from Austria's Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung (FWF)

Voss and Enderby debate OA

Rüdiger Voss and John Enderby, The open-access debate, PhysicsWeb, January 2007.

From Voss, a senior researcher at CERN and editor of CERN's June 2006 report Open-access publishing in particle physics:

The scientific community has welcomed the idea of open access to the research literature through the Internet with open arms. Various initiatives, statements and declarations in recent years have all recommended free access to scientific results through self-archiving, the creation of new open-access journals and the conversion of subscription journals into open-access publications. Increasing numbers of funding agencies even force their grant holders to make their papers freely available online.

Physicists have always been at the forefront of the open-access revolution, which seeks to disseminate research findings as widely as possible. They...pioneered the preprint system...through preprint servers such as or the SPIRES database. Indeed, more than 90% of the research literature in particle physics is now freely available on the Web....

However, publishing papers via open-access Internet databases – rather than in reputable open-access journals – has been a mixed blessing. If an advance copy of almost every journal paper in a particular field is freely available online, libraries are more likely to cancel subscriptions in these self-archiving fields than in those where the practice is not as prevalent. What this means is that an increasing number of researchers – some in prestigious universities – can no longer read important journals in particle physics and related fields. A rift is fast developing, in which fewer and fewer scientists have access to the final, peer-reviewed version of a paper, while the rest have to make do with a preprint that is rarely identical to the final published version.

If journal publishers continue to hike subscriptions well above the rate of inflation in the face of declining circulation, journals will eventually cost so much that only a small number of major libraries and institutions will be able to afford them. Obviously, this business model is not sustainable for publishers in the long term and there is a big risk that it could collapse....

Open access to the final, peer-reviewed version of scientific literature is the only way out of the dilemma. It will...let them live in peaceful co-existence – but on an equal footing – with institutional repositories.

However, high-quality open-access publishing comes at a price....[Critics say] this funding model is unstable: why would a researcher pay to put their work in open-access journal X when they could just as well publish it for free in equally prestigious journal Y? ...[This] concern is more serious, but it can be overcome by a large-scale transition to open access, of the type that CERN is promoting....

From Enderby, immediate past president of the Institute of Physics and a paid adviser to its publishing arm.  He has also been a VP of the Royal Society and head of its publishing activities.

...In its purest form, open-access publishing would offer all material in its final, edited, formatted and paginated form freely available, with the publication costs being entirely borne by the authors of papers or the people who funded their work. The traditional "subscription" model, again its purest form, makes material accessible only to those who pay for it, with authors paying nothing towards publication. Between these two extremes is a continuum of business models.

I have great difficulty with open access in its purest form. Economic models in which the producer pays – but the consumer does not – are, to say the least, unusual. At the moment, if researchers do not like a particular journal, they can choose to publish elsewhere. But if all journals were open access, consumers would not be able to exercise any influence over the market. Instead, presumably, the funding agencies would have the upper hand, having to decide how much of their resources would go to publication costs....

I am also worried about the implication for developing countries. If author charges became the norm, there may be pressure from aid agencies for scientists from these nations to publish their work in less prestigious, low-impact journals that charge less because their acceptance rates are high. At present, all authors can have their research reviewed free of charge in any journal of their choice. Open-access publishing could therefore lead to journals being dominated entirely by scientists from the richest nations.

And finally those countries with an active scientific workforce would be out of pocket in two ways. Researchers in the UK, for example, produce about 75,000 papers a year, which means they would have to pay about £100m in author fees if all journals were open access. This sum is far higher than the £90m they currently pay in library subscriptions....

I do, however, have some reservations about the subscription model in its purest from. As a trustee of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications, which seeks to make papers available to developing nations, I am aware of the problems of making people pay for information. Thankfully, the open-access debate has forced publishers to tackle some of the disadvantages of the subscription model....

My view is that market forces will lead to variety of models. However, for us all to move to open-access publishing, which is a so far unproved business model, is not in the best interests of science until experimentation has revealed some of its unintended consequences. I am therefore uneasy about governments or anyone else imposing new rules on authors as these could lead to unforeseen distortions in the market....

Comment.  Two of Enderby's chief objections to OA journals (that they discriminate against indigent authors and would cause high-output countries to pay more than they pay now for subscriptions) are derailed by the fact that the majority of OA journals charge no author-side fees, which I am surprised he did not know.  For other answers to his first objection, see my article from November 2003, and for other answers to his second objection, see my article from June 2006.

OA for a book in need

Open access in action: a Pacific example, Open Access Anthropology, January 2, 2007.  Excerpt:

In November 2006, Tonga was swept by a wave of civil disorder. One of the casualties of this was the Friendly Islands Bookstore, one of the few places in Nuku’alofa (the capital of Tonga) where you could go to purchase academic books.

Enter Michael Evans, a professor of anthropology at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Mike knew that some of the few remaining copies of his book Persistence of the Gift: Tongan Tradition in Transnational Context were destroyed and that few now existed. As a result he got in touch with his publisher and asked whether it could be made available online. The publisher agreed, and you can now download Persistence of the Gift in its entirety for free....

Of course not all of us have to wait for riots before we make our work open. Rather than assume that our publishers will say ‘no’, why don’t we approach them and ask them if we can put our old and out-of-print books up online? As Mike’s example shows, publishers are often more receptive to this idea than we might imagine.

PS:  Kudos to Michael Evans for the idea and to Wilfrid Laurier University Press for permission to let it happen.

Eprints 3.0 as journal management software

Steve Hitchcock, Using EPrints v3 plugins to produce an OA journal, Eprints Insiders, January 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

The versatility of EPrints v3 plugins to support new applications is already becoming evident, as this enquiry from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH, shows. I am grateful to Michel Avital of Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western and Tim Miles-Board from the EPrints team for permission to reproduce this dialogue.

Q (MA) We're in the process of setting up a working paper journal. The journal is set to be OA and peer-produced.

We found ePrints impressive and would like to use it for the management of our journal....However, ePrints treats an uploaded document as a black box or a fixed object and (to my understanding) lacks any way of changing it. We found this a limitation in our instance because we'd like to have some control over the layout of the uploaded papers. At minimum, we'd like to add a cover page that includes a masthead, keywords, and a copyright notice....

A (TM-B) Adding a cover page to a PDF document is something that has been implemented by a member of the EPrints community for EPrints 2.

The latest version of EPrints, v3.0 introduces a plugin architecture for many types of plugin, including conversion plugins....

I see your requirements being met by a PDF-to-"SpecialPDF" conversion plugin which utilises one or more of [the existing PDF manipulation] tools (or other conversion plugins!) to produce a PDF that includes a cover note, header/footer and page numbers....

May I direct you to the Journals section of our Example EPrints Repositories page....Some additional EPrints-based journal repositories are listed on ROAR (Registry of Open Access Repositories).

How institutions can do better on research assessment exercises

Steve Hitchcock, Why repository mandates, research assessment and metrics are connected, Eprints Insiders, January 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

So you have a new institutional repository, or are planning one, or have an under-used IR and want to make it used by all researchers in the institution. How do you do it? First, you need an institutional mandate, requiring all papers published by your researchers be deposited in the IR. Second, you use the IR for evaluation exercises: in the UK and Australia, for example, these might be used as a tool for submitting to the RAE and RQF research assessments. As a carrot, you tell researchers they can enhance the impact of their work by self-archiving their papers in the IR.

OK, so you know about these already, and they require decisions at the highest level of the institution. There is no escape from that, but here is another approach. Tie these issues - mandates, evaluation and metrics - together, as Stevan Harnad did recently.

"There is now a natural synergy growing between OA self-archiving, IRs, OA self-archiving mandates, and the online "metrics" toward which both the RAE/RQF and research evaluation in general are moving.  Each institution's IR is the natural place from which to derive and display research performance indicators: publication counts, citation counts, download counts, and many new metrics, rich and diverse ones, that will be mined from the OA corpus, making research evaluation much more open, sensitive to diversity, adapted to each discipline, predictive, and equitable.  OA Self-Archiving not only allows performance indicators (metrics) to be collected and displayed, and new metrics to be developed...."

It may be necessary for IR managers to make [administrators] aware of this simple fact: the institution will do better in the assessment exercises in 2009 and beyond with an IR and a mandate than without.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The NIH's newest OA database

Gene Russo, NIH offers free access to wealth of disease data, Nature, December 21, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).  Thanks to Gavin Baker both for the alert and for excerpting the article on his blog.  Since I don't have access myself, I'll gratefully use his:

An unprecedented repository of disease-related data is bringing together information about the genes, health and lifestyles of thousands of subjects studied over many years. The web-based portal will allow any interested investigator to search across multiple epidemiological studies, in the hope of identifying new links to disease.

The ‘database of Genotype and Phenotype’ (dbGaP) is funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was launched earlier this month...

It is the first time that some of these big studies, such as the Framingham, have been available to interested parties. And researchers will now be able to mine the vast stores of genetic, phenotypic and study-protocol data simultaneously. “This is really going to change the scope and efficiency of access to the data,” says Chris O’Donnell, associate director of the Framingham study.

There is particular focus on addressing concerns over privacy...

Also at issue is how much of a publishing advantage should be given to the researchers who may have devoted the best part of their careers to collecting the patient data. The proposed NIH policy calls for a nine-month period during which only the original study investigators can submit a paper for publication based on the data, although all researchers are free to analyse them immediately....

January SOAN

I just mailed the SPARC Open Access Newsletter for January 2007. This issue reviews the progress of OA in 2006. The round-up section briefly notes 73 developments from December alone.

More new year's resolutions

Bill Hooker, OA/Open Science resolutions, Open Reading Frame, January 2, 2007.  Excerpt:

Taking my cue from Jonathan Eisen, herewith the things I plan to do this year to the benefit of Open Science:

1. Get my act together in the lab and publish some quality papers in OA journals, complete with Open Data....

One of the most important things researchers can do is to increase awareness of the issues by making OA-centric choices with their own work. Jonathan's entry brings to mind the difference between what he -- that's Professor Eisen, with a CV as long's your arm! -- can do for OA, and what I can do. I think it could also be useful to have a lowly postdoc publicly choosing OA journals, refusing to deal with Elsevier, and so on. I've heard a number of colleagues say that such choices are the sort of thing they will put off "until after tenure" -- and I suppose Jonathan has heard "well, it's OK for you, you have a lab and tenure and so on, the risk is lower for you". Thing is, I don't think these choices add up to a risk. There are clear advantages to having my work available under Open Access conditions, and I think similar advantages will accrue as a result of my willingness to provide Open Data (and, when I can get colleagues to agree, Open Notebook access to my work). I think I've said this before, but I view it as a sort of experiment. My hypothesis is that Open Science will be good for my career, and there's only one way to test it! (I know, no control, yadda yadda. Call it "money where my mouth is" if you prefer.)

The rest of these are swiped from Jonathan's list, and from Peter Suber's "what you can do" list:

2. Find an OA, OAI-PMH-compliant repository for my existing postprints and future pre/postprints. In the case of published papers, I think I can get 'em into ePrintsUQ (as discussed here). In the case of future papers, I've already made tentative contact with the relevant people where I work, and I'm going to try to get an IR up and running. Further possibilities to discuss: everything on Peter Suber's list for administrators.

3. Review papers for OA journals (or do anything else they ask me to, pretty much), but for non-OA journals, decline and explain....

4. Find a way to work at least a quick push for OA/Open Science into every presentation.

5. At least ask the administrators of any conference or meeting I attend about providing Open Access to proceedings.

6. Discuss OA/Open Science with colleagues (note to self: avoid hectoring!).

7. Discuss OA/Open Science with everyone; use blog for same. As Jonathan notes, public support is going to be necessary to get mandates and such working.

8. Sign the BOAI (you can do this as an individual, whereas Bethesda is closed and Berlin only open to organizations).

New year's resolutions

Jonathan Eisen, My Open Access New Years Resolutions, Tree of Life, January 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

Well, 2006 is over and in terms of Open Access to Biomedical type publications, I think it was a pretty good year....But of course, more needs to be done. So I am posting here my personal list of Open Access New Years resolutions. These are things I hope to do and hope to convince others to do too (these are in no particular order).

1. Convince more collaborators to publish papers in Open Access journals.

2. Release more of my labs data in a more usable format to Open Data archives (see Bill Hooker's Open Reading Frame blog for more details about doing this).

3. Discuss Open Access to publications and data in all my scientific presentations/talks....

5. Convince some existing journals to switch to a more Open Access stance (e.g., I wish this would happen with Journal of Molecular Evolution --- I resigned my position as an Academic Editor when they would not shift but there is still hope).

6. Submit as many of my past papers that were not in Open Access journals to self-archiving repositories (see the comments on my previous blog about this - it seems that this is possible even for Nature papers).

7. Work with Pubmed Central to make self archiving possible there for more papers. Right now it is only possible to submit your own work to Pubmed Central if it was NIH or Wellcome Trust funded.

8. Discuss Open Access with more scientists. Some still have not heard about it and some do not realize what the issues are.

9. Discuss Open Access with more non scientists. To get Congress to pass more rules regarding Open Access, it will help to have more pressure from non scientists. When I have described the current publishing system to non scientists, they are usually astonished by the (1) wasted money and (2) closed nature of much scientific work.

10. Work to get researchers who publish in Open Access journals "extra credit" in promotions, tenure review and grant proposal review. These people are frequently taking risks for the betterment of the scientific community and to advance scientific knowledge. They deserve credit for taking these risks.

PS:  A very good list!  For publishing researchers, the most trusted and persuasive bearers of the OA message are other publishing researchers.  Talk to your colleagues --on campus and at conferences, in print and in hallways.  And above all, provide OA to your own work, either through OA journals or OA repositories. 

Two more Elsevier alumni move to OA

Tracey Caldwell, Elsevier duo say the future is open, Information World Review, January 2, 2007.  Excerpt:

Two senior publishers have departed Elsevier and joined rival Biomed Central, placing their bets on an open access future for scientific research.

Bryan Vickery joins as deputy publisher, with responsibility for the Chemistry Central portal launched in August. He will also develop a portfolio of open access journals in chemistry.

Chris Leonard will lead the development of open access titles in physics, maths and computer science. At Elsevier, Vickery experimented with open access chemistry resources with This work led to his belief in the pressing need for open access. “There needs to be a change for
the science and technology community, and Biomed Central is leading the way.” He highlighted further issues in scientific publishing. “SMEs don’t have access to literature and have a need for better indexing.”

Vickery joined Biomed Central because it has been developed as a totally open access publisher. “It is streamlined and the business model is transparent, so we can keep costs down and offer good products and services. Traditional publishers could all move to open access tomorrow, but the loss of revenue to shareholders would be too great to bear,” he said.

He added, “The cost of publishing to research communities is too high. Once we all get into open access we can start competing properly. We are seeing lots of publishers trialling OA as they are under pressure from funding agencies, such as RCUK and Wellcome Trust, which want to see greater value from the research they fund.” ...

Leonard has a background in physics publishing, along with experience in Web 2.0 technology. He is currently researching the needs of the physics community before launching new titles in 2007. “With major research organisations such as CERN backing open access, and with many scientists calling for open access options in their field, the time is right to develop open access journals that can take full advantage of new technologies to communicate research findings openly, and to meet the challenges of the future,” Leonard says.

Monday, January 01, 2007

OA archiving unlikely to trigger journal cancellations

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Will Self-Archiving Cause Libraries to Cancel Journal Subscriptions? DigitalKoans, December 21, 2006.  I just regained access to Charles' excellent blog after about a month of mysterious obstacles.  This is a post I would have blogged 10 days ago.  Excerpt:

There has been a great deal of discussion of late about the impact of self-archiving on library journal subscriptions. Obviously, this is of great interest to journal publishers who do not want to wake up one morning, rub the sleep from their eyes, and find out over their first cup of coffee at work that libraries have en masse canceled subscriptions because a "tipping point" has been reached. Likewise, open access advocates do not want journal publishers to panic at the prospect of cancellations and try to turn back the clock on liberal self-archiving policies. So, this is not a scenario that any one wants, except those who would like to simply scrap the existing journal publishing system and start over with a digital tabula rosa.

So, deep breath: Is the end near?

This question hinges on another: Will libraries accept any substitute for a journal that does not provide access to the full, edited, and peer-reviewed contents of that journal?

If the answer is "yes," publishers better get out their survival kits and hunker down for the digital nuclear winter or else change business practices to embrace the new reality. Attempts to fight back by rolling back the clock may just make the situation worse: the genie is out of the bottle.

If the answer is "no," preprints pose no threat, but postprints may under some difficult to attain circumstances.

It is unlikely that a critical mass of author created postprints (i.e., author makes the preprint look like the postprint) will ever emerge....For the worst to happen, every author of every paper published in a journal would have to self-archive the final publisher PDF file (or the publishers themselves would have to do it for the authors under mandates).

But would that be enough? Wouldn’t the permanence and stability of the digital repositories housing these postprints be of significant concern to libraries? ...

If the above problems were overcome, a significant one remains: publishers add value in many ways to scholarly articles. Would libraries let the existing system of journal publishing collapse because of self-archiving without a viable substitute for these value-added functions being in place? ...

Bottom line: a perfect storm is not impossible, but it is unlikely.

More on citation analysis, OA, and impact

Lokman I. Meho, The Rise and Rise of Citation Analysis, forthcoming in Physics World, 2007.  Self-archived December 31, 2007.

Abstract:  With the vast majority of scientific papers now available online, this paper (accepted for publication in Physics World) describes how the Web is allowing physicists and information providers to measure more accurately the impact of these papers and their authors. Provides a historical background of citation analysis, impact factor, new citation data sources (e.g., Google Scholar, Scopus, NASA's Astrophysics Data System Abstract Service, MathSciNet, ScienceDirect, SciFinder Scholar, Scitation/SPIN, and SPIRES-HEP), as well as h-index, g-index, and a-index.

From the body of the paper:

Another problem with Web of Science is that it ignores the fact that scientists increasingly publish or post their papers online via open-access journals, personal homepages, e-print servers or in institutional repositories so that others can freely access the material....Relying exclusively on Web of Science and a single citation measure will, in many cases, no longer be an option for making accurate impact assessments.

Scientists now need to make it their job to disseminate their work on as many platforms and in as many different ways as possible, such as publishing in open access and high-impact journals, and posting their work in institutional repositories, personal homepages and e-print servers, if they want their peers to be aware of, use and ultimately cite their work. Publishing a journal article is now only the first step in disseminating or communicating one’s work; the Web provides a multitude of methods and tools to publicize its scholarly worth.

OA repositories and ebooks in Australia and beyond

The Spanish Job Team has posted a long and useful list of the Best free digital libraries in Australia.  After listing 12 OA libraries and repositories in Australia, it throws in a much longer list from beyond Australia, and then adds lists of free Australian ebooks, other free ebooks in English, free ebooks in other languages, and free ebooks in a large number of selected topics.

PS:  There's a lot of material here --so much that it becomes hard to navigate.  If you have a specific query, you can use the search engine on your browser.  But for anything more general, it would help to have a clickable table of contents.

Dramatic recent growth in OA

Heather Morrison, Dramatic Growth December 2006 & Predictions for 2007, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, December 31, 2006.  Excerpt:

Synopsis.  The dramatic growth of open access, both publishing and self-archiving, continued in the final quarter of 2006. The Directory of Open Access Journals passed a significant milestone in December, exceeding 2,500 journals; about 10% of the world's peer-reviewed journals are now fully open access. When new journals are created, there is evidence that they are at least 30% likely to be fully open access. This trend is likely to accelerate as more journals become knowledgeable about new, efficient, freely available open source software such as Open Journal Systems, which greatly facilitates online and open access publishing.

Strong growth continues in open access archiving, with more archives and more full-text documents; all archives tracked showed very strong growth in 2006.

There are signs of an open access movement that is on the verge of emerging from the innovative edge into the mainstream. Open access has become an academic area unto itself, and a challenge to study, as those who have read even a portion of Peter Suber's more than 10,000 well-selected, thoughtful blogposts can attest. Open access education, however, is just beginning. PhD students in librarianship, for example, are finding open access and related topics an interesting field of study. Students are beginning to hear about open access in their courses, but soon they will be taught by teachers for whom this is their area of expertise.

My predictions for 2007 are continued, and accelerating, growth in open access. The most important trends I see for 2007, however, are less tangible in nature; a shift in focus from debate on the pros, cons, and feasibility of open access, to more solid work on the details of implementation. For librarians, a key will be a shift in perspective on collections, from the idea of purchasing or leasing what our users need, to building and preserving the collections our researchers and others produce. I see this trend as beginning in 2007....

PS:  That's just the synopsis.  See the whole post for a raft of specific numbers. 

My own predictions for 2007 came out last month and my review of OA in 2006 will come out in tomorrow's issue of SOAN.

Launch of the Free Culture Foundation

The Free Culture Foundation launched today.  (Thanks to Glyn Moody.)  From the announcement

The Foundation provides an accessible, independent introduction to the free culture movement, now a global phenomenon thanks to the Creative Commons licenses, [and] organisations like Open Business....

The Foundation defines 'free culture' in terms of four simple principles: the freedom to use, create, share and learn. In recognition of the controversy surrounding the Creative Commons licenses, the Foundation's new web site presents a set of essays that discuss precisely what these might mean. Future plans include packaging free art for free software users and commissioning a set of essays to explain the issues.

Rob Myers, digital artist, said "we fill a gap left by the likes of Creative Commons, popularising a coherent set of principles. We don't pretend to have all the answers, but want people to think more about how technology and the law help or hinder our ability to watch films, write novels, share music with friends and learn to paint." ...

PS:  At least so far, the foundation focuses on culture as art.  Neither the foundation's list of essays nor its list of projects mentions OA or free-culture issues related to science and scholarship.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Graphing the rise of OA journals

Heather Morrison, The newer the journal, the more likely it is open access, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, December 30, 2006.  Excerpt:

Data derived from Ulrich's Periodicals Directory illustrates a strong and positive correlation between the recency of a journal's start date and open access: the more recent the start, the more likely the journal is open access. None of the titles started in the 1700's that are still active are open access. The percentage of titles started from the early 1800's to the end of 1999 never rises to the double digits. The number of titles started in 2000 rises to 19%, while the percentage of new journals classified as open access by Ulrich's is about 30% in this millennium.

It should be noted that the accuracy of Ulrich's classification of journals as open access is limited; open access journals are likely understated. It may be of interest that, according to Ulrich's, new journals have been created in 2006 which are not even online, never mind open access. 

Open data and a detailed explanation of the limitations of the data are available [here].

Basic data in spreadsheet and chart form follows....

Also see Heather's related post from the same day, Ulrich's and DOAJ: an idea:

To its credit, Cambridge Scientific Abstracts' for-profit Ulrich's Periodicals including open access journals. The Directory of Open Access Journals provides the highly valuable service of vetting journals both for appropriate scholarly quality controls, and open access status. Surely a business relationship would make sense here? The benefits would be consistent, quality information on open access journals for Ulrich's, saving Ulrich's staff time on the vetting process; and, funds for DOAJ, to help establish a sustainable business model for this essential service....