Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Free online podcast abstracts

JournalJunkie provides free online podcasts of the abstracts of articles in a growing number of medical journals.  You can listen to them online or download them to your MP3 player.  You can also "subscribe" for automatic downloads.  When the journals provide their own podcasts (as Lancet, BMJ, NEJM, and JAMA do, for example), JournalJunkie simply adds links and the layer of subscription management.  For journals that don't already provide podcasts, JournalJunkie makes its own.  All the voices on its podcasts are human --and it has a standing call for more human readers.

Data-mining PubMed for author information

Authoratory is a tool for data-mining information about authors with articles cited on PubMed Central.  From the site:

The content of Authoratory is produced by analyzing large amounts of data from PubMed....

Authoratory data-mining techniques make it possible to discover new information about the authors - the information that is not apparent by reviewing one or two of their articles. For each selected author Authoratory gives the following:

  • the author status: primary or non-primary (primary author publishes articles independently, while non-primary always publishes articles with another author or a group of authors)
  • the list of most frequent coauthors (navigate the social network between the authors using their join publications)
  • professional interests (as indicated by the MeSH keywords and by the statistical analysis of abstracts and publication titles)
  • the author's affiliated institution and contact information
  • the change of all these parameters across time
Authoratory keyword search is unique as well. It uses keyword frequencies to rank authors against each other. The more papers the particular author publishes for a specific keyword, the higher his rank is in the keyword listings. With Authoratory keyword search it 's possible to quickly find all authors with the expertise in a specific narrow topic....

New OA journal on estate planning

Wealth Strategies Journal is a new OA journal published by Joshua Tree Enterprises.  Its inaugural issue (November / December 2006) is now online.  (Thanks to PA Elder.)

Two OA journals from Simon Fraser University

OA Librarian has announced two peer-reviewed OA journals published by Simon Fraser University:

  1. Child Health and Education/ Santé et Éducation de l'Enfance (the link doesn't work for me at the moment but assume the problem is temporary)
  2. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership (launched in 2006, now in its third issue)

India launches OA knowledge portals on water and energy

The Indian government has launched OA "knowledge portals" on water and energy, the first two in a series.  From yesterday's press release:

A national drive to ensure access to knowledge and learning can transform India’s potential for development, lift young Indians to new levels of understanding and competence, and make India one of the leading knowledge societies in the world. This is the central affirmation of the National Knowledge Commission in its 2006 Report to the Nation, released here today. The Report was presented to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, by Commission Chairman Mr Sam Pitroda. The special function was also marked by the Prime Minister’s inauguration of two national knowledge portals, opening public access to knowledge and ideas on the issues of Water and Energy.

Appointed by the Prime Minister in October 2005 with a three-year mandate, the Commission is assigned to prepare a blueprint for radical improvement of knowledge access, knowledge creation and application, by and for the Indian people....The Commission has already submitted wide-ranging recommendations for action to the Prime Minister. The Report today made these recommendations public....

The inauguration of the two national web portals on Water and Energy marks the Commission’s bid to enhance public access to information and knowledge on these two critical development issues. To ensure that the recommended knowledge flow and outreach is available to everyone, similar access is envisaged through the media of print, audio-visual communication, library and information institutions and services, and live interaction processes, in all languages. The promotion of web portals on internet is just one of the Commission’s initiatives to open up knowledge sources and resources for public use. The portals are designed to be interactive, and will offer the user public web space to share information and ideas and to create knowledge resources. The Commission has sought the partnership of expert organisations to lead and ‘champion’ the development of the portals. The Water portal has been developed by the public charitable Arghyam Trust, and the Energy portal by TERI. Public use portals and other communication outreach are also likely on the issues of environment, health, citizen’s rights and employment....

Harnad on Lynch on OA

Stevan Harnad, Cliff Lynch on Open Access, Open Access Archivangelism, January 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

Summary:  Comments on Cliff Lynch's "Improving Access to Research Results: Six Points":

"Open Access Is Inevitable: How Best to Get There?"

Universities and research funders can and do mandate OA (Green) self-archiving. Cliff seems to be fixated on waiting instead for a transition to OA (Gold) Publishing (and a rather vague definition of OA as "reduced barriers"). He recognizes that Gold's asking price is too high, but not that the transition is also far too uncertain, has already wasted far too much time, and is out of the hands of the research community, whereas Green OA mandates are fast, sure, virtually cost-free, and entirely within the hands of researchers, their universities and their funders. Cliff thinks Green OA is "less optimal" for no reason other than that he thinks it will lead to "fragmentation": Of course it won't: the unifying glue for distributed journal articles is their metadata tags, including their journal's name, not the glue binding any journal's contents.

"Universities Have a Key Stake in the Future of the Scholarly Literature and Thus Should Support Faculty in Negotiations with Publishers."

Advice and support from universities (and funders) on retaining rights is welcome, but rights retention is not a necessary precondition for self-archiving, nor for mandating self-archiving; so if it poses any obstacle to agreement on immediate adoption of a self-archiving mandate (e.g., because researchers are concerned that rights retention might constrain their choice of journals or might put too big a negotiating burden on them), it should be dropped....

"We Need to Talk Directly about the Support of Scholarly Societies."

It is not at all clear why we need to do that! What we need is OA. Green Self-Archiving mandates provide 100% OA. Publisher permission -- whether Scholarly Society or commercial -- is not required for funders and universities to mandate immediate deposit. It is not a conversion to Gold OA publishing that is being mandated. (Funders and universities can only impose mandates on their fundees and employees, not on publishers.) In any case, the funding of Scholarly Societies' "good works" should not be subsidized at the cost of researchers' lost usage and impact. (Cliff does not disagree, but the reason he wants to talk is because he is thinking only of Gold.)

"We Need to Think about What We Can Afford in Scholarly Publishing."

Cliff is right to be sceptical about Gold OA's current asking price but this is only an issue for those who for some reason want to promote immediate conversion to Gold OA, right now. For those who merely seek 100% OA now, the current price of Gold is irrelevant....

"Scholarly Publishing Is a Means to an End: Just because the existing scholarly publishing system has served the academy fairly well in the past does not mean that it has an intrinsic right to continue to exist in perpetuity."

The research community needs OA (to all peer-reviewed journal articles), now; publishing reform is a different agenda....

Friday, January 12, 2007

Michael Keller on Google book-scanning

Stuart Weibel has blogged some notes on Michael Keller's January 8 talk at OCLC, Mass Digitization in Google Book Search: Effects on Scholarship.  (Thanks to The Stoa Consortium.)  Excerpt:

Mike Keller delivered a presentation at OCLC today entitled Mass Digitization in Google Book Search: Effects on Scholarship. Mike is director of Stanford University Libraries, and wears an academic publisher’s hat as well, being responsible for High Wire Press and Stanford University Press. He commands a panoramic view of the digital scholarly landscape, and has the intellect and experience to convert view to vision. This vision is both breathtaking and, in some respects, disturbing....

Several salient observations from his remarks:

  • Digitization of the card catalog resulted in a 50 % increase in book usage
  • Google indexing is the #1 driver of article usage in High Wire – by a large margin (10 to 1 beyond the next highest, if I understood him correctly)....

It is difficult to resist Keller’s assertion that Google Book Search (GBS) is likely to revolutionize access to books more than any single factor in the library world – if not directly, then indirectly. It would be hard to be a librarian and not find chagrin in this realization.  Keller rightly urges us to focus on the larger picture and the many benefits....

Keller suggested that the most important thing about GBS is that it has occasioned a great debate about the importance of copyright in the intellectual life of the nation (and the world)....Perhaps for the first time, there are heavy hitters on both sides of the argument, which may result in a reinterpretation of fair use that makes more sense (to libraries and readers) in the digital age.  One may hope.

Keller pointed out the importance of healthy competition among various digitization projects: the Million Book Project, GBS, the Open Content Alliance, the Microsoft/British Library and Microsoft/Cornell efforts. Could we have imagined anything like this rush to mine the library shelves of the world even a few years ago? Could we (the library community) have marshalled either the vision or the resources to accomplish the task on our own?  It is unlikely.

On the dark side, he raised the image of libraries as herds of cows in these deals. Participants are kept in the dark, enjoined from sharing the details of their deals with other participants, let alone with their public constituencies....

What is evident is that benefits for the G-Libraries are substantial. The libraries involved receive a windfall of the digitized contents of their collections (though, Keller also points out that much is likely to have to be recaptured at higher resolution in the future)....

New line of OA books from U of Michigan Press

U. of Michigan Press, Library, Scholarly Publishing Office Launch Digital Studies Imprint, Web Site, Library Journal Academic Newswire, January 11, 2007.  Excerpt:

With its latest venture, the University of Michigan Press is exploring the cutting edge, both in terms of the content it publishes and how it publishes. Under a new collaborative program between the press, the library, and the Scholarly Publishing Office, the UM Press's new Digital Culture imprint will both sell books and offer the full-text of those books freely on its Digital Culture Books website....

As groundbreaking as some of the ideas, however, is the Press's decision to practice what many of its authors now preach, using the Digital Culture imprint to develop an "open and participatory publishing model" that seeks to "build a community" around its content. "Our goal is to give each project a robust online and print presence and to use the effort not only to introduce scholars to a range of publishing choices but also to collect data about how consumption habits vary on the basis of genre, age, discipline," MacKeen explained. "The data will help us to understand more about the economics of digital publishing, and will also, we think, offset any potential economic risks by developing the venture as a research opportunity." ...

Pochoda stressed that there is "more than a business model at stake," however, noting that the collaborative nature of the Digital Culture imprint represents the press' chance "to support open access in principle and practice while still acknowledging the obligation to survive as a business operation." Nevertheless, he has reason to believe the press will sell some books. The National Academy Press, for example, offers its book content online, Pochoda notes, and its data suggests a corresponding jump in sales.

OA to UK law may trigger OA to other public info

Government looks at data shake-up, BBC News, January 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

The way the government makes its vast amounts of data available to the public could be about to change.  It has decided to make access to a database of UK laws completely free for the public to access and re-use....

It is a victory for campaigners who think public sector information should be free for the public to use....

The focus of this issue has revolved around The Statute Law Database, a huge undertaking designed to catalogue all existing legislation in the UK.

It has been ten years in the making and has eaten up public funds along the way. Because of this, the government was keen initially to make some money back on it.

The decision to make it completely free is a landmark one, said Jim Wretham, head of Information Policy at the Office of Public Sector Information.

"It is a tremendously important resource. It marks a sea-change in the general thinking about the way government information becomes available," he said....

"In the case of Ordnance Survey the government is dependent on the income it generates to cover the cost of making the maps," said Mr Wretham.  But, he admits, the way government information is used in the public domain is due for a shake-up.  "The Office of Fair Trading recently published a report on the commercial use of public information and certain aspects of our licensing activities were questioned," he said.  "The time is ripe for improvement," he added.

The government has until the end of March to respond to the findings of the Office of Fair Trading....

It could mean that fees are removed completely and would be a huge victory for campaigners and websites keen to exploit the vast resources of government databases....

PS:  For background on OA to the Statute Law Database, see my blog post from December 21, 2006.  For background on the Office of Fair Trading report supporting the case for OA to public information, see my post from December 8, 2006.

India's NKC recommends OA for publicly-funded research

The Working Group on Libraries for India's National Knowledge Commission has released its December 7, 2006, letter to the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh.  (Thanks to Subbiah Arunachalam, a member of the Working Group.)  The group recommends OA in Section 8:

8.0....To enable equitable and universal access to knowledge resources, libraries should be encouraged to create more digital resources by digitizing relevant reading material in different languages, which can be shared at all levels. Peer reviewed research papers resulting from publicly funded research should also be made available through open access channels, subject to copyright regulations.  It is recommended that open standards and free and open source software may be used for the above....

In a separate December 21 letter to the Prime Minister, the NKC recommends a National Knowledge Network for India.  This would essentially bridge the digital divide for the country's research institutions and make any OA policy more effective.

Comment.  Kudos to Subbiah Arunachalam and the rest of the Working Group on Libraries and NKC.  I hope that Prime Minister Singh will quickly approve these practical and much-needed recommendations.

New OA journal of communication

The International Journal of Communication is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the USC Annenberg Center for Communication.  (Thanks to Adrian Ho.)  The inaugural issue is now online.  From its open access policy:

Open Access enables authors to obtain the maximum possible exposure for their work. Freely available papers are read more, cited more, and have more impact than ones available only to paid subscribers. As an experiment, enter a research topic into a search engine like Google and see how many links you obtain to papers published in traditional journals. You will find that most references are to working papers, not to published papers, because working papers are freely available.

The advent of the web has made free dissemination of research feasible and financially viable. Because existing specialty journals obtain revenues from selling subscriptions, primarily to libraries, access to the research they publish is limited. The attractive revenue stream that such subscriptions provide makes it unlikely that these journals will convert to Open Access. Thus a need exists for new refereed Open Access journals to replace existing journals. We believe that the establishment of a major Open Access journal in communication study will lead others to establish Open Access journals for many sub-fields and specialities in communication, reclaiming full control for the profession of its research output. We hope that this will lead the profession to a new norm in which all research is freely available.

What is open radio?

Richard Poynder, Open Radio, Open and Shut, January 11, 2007.  Excerpt:

At the end of last year I received an email from a US community radio station called KRUU-FM, which is based in Fairfield, Iowa. While surfing the Web Sundar Raman, the host of a show called Open Views, had come across the interviews I have been doing with leaders of the various free and open movements, and he wanted to talk to me about them on air.

Sympathetic to the notion of community radio, and intrigued by the raison d'être of Open Views — to explore the open source and free culture movements around the world "stretching beyond the limits of software" — I agreed to do the interview, which was broadcast in December (and can be heard here). 

It was only after the interview was over, however, that I realised that KRUU is more than just a community radio station: it is also a grassroots initiative with a deep commitment to the principles advocated by the various free and open movements. Or as station manager James Moore more extensively described it during the inaugural Open Views programme, KRUU is "grassroots, community, public, non-profit, open radio." ...

Review of three blogs on OA

Andrea Marchitelli, Open access weblog, Biblioteche oggi, 24, 10 (2006) pp. 54-55.  In Italian but with this English-language abstract:

In this review the author examines three weblogs about open access, to demonstrate that is possible to be so different talking about the same things.

The three blogs reviewed are DigitalKoans by Charles Bailey, Open Access Archivangelism by Stevan Harnad, and Open Access News by yours truly.

Five Catalonian libraries join the Google Library project

The National Library of Catalonia (Biblioteca de Catalunya) and four other Catalonian libraries have joined the Google Library project.  From Google's announcement:

The mission of the Library of Catalonia is to collect, preserve, and spread Catalonian bibliographic production and that related to the Catalonian linguistic area, to look after its conservation, and to spread its bibliographic heritage while maintaining the status of a universal center for research and consultation.

This translation of the National Library of Catalonia's mission statement makes it clear why the National Library of Barcelona, Catalonia's largest library, and four affiliate Catalonian libraries have decided to join the Google Book Search Library Project. By digitizing these libraries' out-of-copyright books, millions of people around the world will be able to trace Catalonian history and culture through centuries of text....

PS:  Google is expanding its coverage of libraries outside the English-speaking world, begun in September 2006 when Complutense University of Madrid joined the project.  And the National Library of Catalonia is expanding its commitment to free online content, begun in April 2006 when it signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

All the digitized books fit to print

Peter Brantley, Print on Demand and Digitization, Peter Brantley's Thoughts and Speculations, January 11, 2007.  Excerpt:

...One of reasons for the interest in print on demand among libraries is the possibility that they may soon have access to significant digital repositories.  The most prominent example, and one near and dear to my present heart at the University of California, is the potential digital largesse of works being made available via the Google Book Search Library partners program.  In the program, libraries get back a digital copy of their works scanned by Google.  Obviously, for works that are in copyright, there is a very limited number of things that libraries can do with these copies.  For public domain works, however, almost anything is fair game, including printing off your own copies.

One of the challenges of the Google Book Search program for libraries is that the quality of the images delivered to libraries is uneven, and certainly not archival.  Without belaboring the details, it is fair to say that Google's effort is focussed on the indexing of the texts to power discovery, and a marred display image is an acceptable compromise to make in order to reach the magnitudes of digitization necessary to make the operation - an industrial one in scale - sustainable.   But  not-pretty images pose a problem for print on demand....

For these repositories to be acceptable, [John Mark Ockerbloom] points that what we should do is to establish a clearing house or registry of these digitized works....

[I]f a faculty member requested a print of a book, a librarian could verify whether it met minimal standards and could give it a rough grade, certifying it to a certain level.  They wouldn't try to correct or itemize the errors, but rather merely note this was a readable work, or readable but for the preface.  In such a fashion, particularly if universities could ever figure out how to work together to make a centralized repository of public domain works, one could know simply by looking up the work whether it was printable or not....

PLoS at Net Tuesday San Francisco

Rich Cave and Barbara Cohen, The Public Library of Science: Open-Access Publishing and Advocacy, a slide presentation at Net Tuesday San Francisco, January 9, 2006.  The podcast will soon be available here.  (Thanks to NetSquared.)

The UN should support OA

Barbara Kirsop, Leslie Chan, Subbiah Arunachalam, Open access essential to improve information exchange, SciDev.Net, January 11, 2007.  A letter to the editor.  Excerpt:

We fully support Donat Agosti's contention that open access is the only way for publicly-funded research to be shared not only between the North and South, but also between developing countries (see 'Free access to research should not be limited').

It is also our view that UN-supported projects like the Online Access to Research in the Environment, Health Internetwork Access to Research Initiative and Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture initiatives only provide 'sticking plaster' solutions to information deprivation....

We do not understand why influential UN organisations such as the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN Environment Programme — whose remits are to support international health, agriculture and environmental programmes — are not encouraging the open access movement. By concentrating on the above projects and working with commercial publishers, they hamper research into issues such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and avian flu.

Meeting these challenges requires strategies to increase information exchange. Why, then, are these agencies solely supporting programmes that have limited global beneficiaries? For example, countries like India with low gross domestic products are barred from collaboration. These agencies should also be working to promote open access to all publicly funded research information....

UNESCO is the only UN agency that seems to have understood the importance of open access having endorsed its use in the draft programme and budget for 2006-2007. We urge other UN agencies and key funding bodies around the world to follow suit.

The path from here to there

Stevan Harnad, The Green Road to Open Access: A Leveraged Transition, a Technical Report for the Department of Electronics and Computer Science, Southampton University, self-archived January 10, 2007.

Abstract:   What the research community needs, urgently, is free online access (Open Access, OA) to its own peer-reviewed research output. Researchers can provide that in two ways: by publishing their articles in OA journals (Gold OA) or by continuing to publish in non-OA journals and self-archiving their final peer-reviewed drafts in their own OA Institutional Repositories (Green OA). OA self-archiving, once it is mandated by research institutions and funders, can reliably generate 100% Green OA. Gold OA requires journals to convert to OA publishing (which is not in the hands of the research community) and it also requires the funds to cover the Gold OA publication costs. With 100% Green OA, the research community's access and impact problems are already solved. If and when 100% Green OA should cause significant cancellation pressure (no one knows whether or when that will happen, because OA Green grows anarchically, article by article, not journal by journal) then the cancellation pressure will cause cost-cutting, downsizing and eventually a leveraged transition to OA (Gold) publishing on the part of journals. As subscription revenues shrink, institutional windfall savings from cancellations grow. If and when journal subscriptions become unsustainable, per-article publishing costs will be low enough, and institutional savings will be high enough to cover them, because publishing will have downsized to just peer-review service provision alone, offloading text-generation onto authors and access-provision and archiving onto the global network of OA Institutional Repositories. Green OA will have leveraged a transition to Gold OA. 

First prize to PLoS

Christine Gorman, Name That Life Saver! Time Magazine, January 8, 2007.  Excerpt:

Forget Myspace. You should see what the Web 2.0 revolution is doing to medical journals. There’s a contest to name the most important medical advance since 1840 over at the venerable British Medical Journal. (Results to be posted on Jan. 18) ...

But first prize still has to go to the Public Library of Science journals..., which jumped on the open-access research bandwagon early, and has been shaking up the paid-subscription journals ever since. No special licenses are required for doctors in poor countries to read high-quality PloS articles in full. As long as readers have internet access, the articles are free.’s latest offering: PloS One, where research articles from a wide variety of disciplines undergo minimal pre-publication review. The heavy lifting comes from what the editors call “community peer review,” which is done completely transparently through reader annotations on the web....

PS:  Is this first prize as a life saver or first prize as an example of Web 2.0?  Both? 

Note to Gorman:  While there were OA journals before PLoS, it's more true to say that PLoS helped create the bandwagon than jumped on it.

Testing Google's restrictions on Google-scanned public-domain books

Philipp Lenssen, Freeing Google Books, Google Blogoscoped, January 10, 2007. 

Google Book Search allows you to download full PDFs of books which are in the copyright-free zone of the public domain. I think Google, as well as the libraries which offered their books to be scanned by Google, deserve credit for this. However, Google wants to impose some restrictions for those books, and in their usage guidelines ask you to:

Make non-commercial use of the files ... we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes. ... Maintain attribution ... Please do not remove [the Google "watermark"].

But Wikipedia defines the public domain as (my emphasis) "...the body of knowledge and innovation (especially creative works such as writing, art, music, and inventions) in relation to which no person or other legal entity can establish or maintain proprietary interests within a particular legal jurisdiction. This body of information and creativity is considered to be part of a common cultural and intellectual heritage, which, in general, anyone may use or exploit, whether for commercial or non-commercial purposes." ...

In other words, Google imposes restrictions on these books which the public domain does not impose. I’m no lawyer, and maybe Google can print whatever guidelines they want onto those books... and being no lawyer, most people won’t know if the guidelines are a polite request, or legally enforceable terms**. But as a proof of concept – the concept of the public domain – I’ve now “set free” 100 books I downloaded from Google Book Search by republishing them on my public domain books site, Authorama. I’m not doing this out of disrespect for the Google Books program (which I think is cool, and I’ll credit Google on Authorama) but out of respect for the public domain (which I think is even cooler). It’s great to have Google mirror & distribute our culture, and it’ll be even greater if we join in and help them with the mirroring & distribution.

Thanks to Charles Bailey at DigitalKoans for alerting me to this post.  Charles adds these comments:

Since Lenssen has retained Google’s usage guidelines in the e-books, it’s unclear how they have been "set free," in spite of the following statement on Authorama’s Books from Google Book Search page:

The following books were downloaded from Google Book Search and are made available here as public domain. You can download, republish, mix and mash these books, for private or public, commercial or non-commercial use.

Leaving aside the above statement, Lenssen’s action appears to violate the following Google usage guideline, where Google asks that users:

Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

However, in the above guideline, Google uses the word "request," which suggests voluntary, rather than mandatory, compliance....Note the use of the word "please." ...

So, do Google’s public domain books really need to be "set free"? In its usage guidelines, Google appears to make compliance requests, not compliance requirements. Are such requests binding or not? If so, the language could be clearer....

Comment.  There's no doubt that Google puts some restrictions on its scanned public-domain books, and I've complained about these in the past.  OCA puts fewer restrictions on its scanned public-domain books, and I've always preferred its access policy to Google's.  Charles is right that Google isn't very clear on whether its requested restrictions are binding or even supposed to be binding.  I suspect that in US copyright law there's an arguable but still-murky distinction between the status of a public-domain text and the status of a newly-made digital file of a public-domain text, just as there is between a public-domain painting and a new photograph of that painting.  If so, then there might be three reasons why Google used the language of "request" rather than stronger language to describe the restrictions it wanted to impose:  (1) it didn't want to use stronger language; (2) the law clearly doesn't allow it to use stronger language; or (3) the law is unclear.  We may find out soon.

Update. Danny Sullivan has commented on Lenssen's project and added some new information from Google:

I'm checking with Google to see what they think about the project and the legality of trying to impose restrictions on public domain books, just because they've scanned them.

Postscript: I've now heard back from Google, which says:

We have gotten this question in the past. The front matter of our PDF books is not a EULA [end user license agreement]. We make some requests, but we are not trying to legally bind users to those requests. We've spent (and will continue to spend) a lot of time and money on Book Search, and we hope users will respect that effort and not use these files in ways that make it harder for us to justify that expense (for example, by setting up the ACME Public Domain PDF Download service that charges users a buck a book and includes malware in the download). Rather than using the front matter to convey legal restrictions, we are attempting to use it to convey what we hope to be the proper netiquette for the use of these files.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

December issue of Access

The December 2006 issue of Access is now online.  This issue has articles on OARE, OpenDOAR, Google Scholar, the Asean Library, the British Academy report on copyright barriers to social science and humanities research, and the Publishing Research Consortium study on journal cancellations. 

How medical journals are using the web

David L. Schriger, Sripha Ouk, and Douglas G. Altman, The Use of the World Wide Web by Medical Journals in 2003 and 2005: An Observational Study, Pediatrics, January 2007.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Abstract:

Objectives. The 2- to 6-page print journal article has been the standard for 200 years, yet this format severely limits the amount of detailed information that can be conveyed. The World Wide Web provides a low-cost option for posting extended text and supplementary information. It also can enhance the experience of journal editors, reviewers, readers, and authors through added functionality (eg, online submission and peer review, postpublication critique, and e-mail notification of table of contents.) Our aim was to characterize ways that journals were using the World Wide Web in 2005 and note changes since 2003.

Methods. We analyzed the Web sites of 138 high-impact print journals in 3 ways. First, we compared the print and Web versions of March 2003 and 2005 issues of 28 journals (20 of which were randomly selected from the 138) to determine how often articles were published Web only and how often print articles were augmented by Web-only supplements. Second, we examined what functions were offered by each journal Web site. Third, for journals that offered Web pages for reader commentary about each article, we analyzed the number of comments and characterized these comments.

Results. Fifty-six articles (7%) in 5 journals were Web only. Thirteen of the 28 journals had no supplementary online content. By 2005, several journals were including Web-only supplements in >20% of their papers. Supplementary methods, tables, and figures predominated. The use of supplementary material increased by 5% from 2% to 7% in the 20-journal random sample from 2003 to 2005. Web sites had similar functionality with an emphasis on linking each article to related material and e-mailing readers about activity related to each article. There was little evidence of journals using the Web to provide readers an interactive experience with the data or with each other. Seventeen of the 138 journals offered rapid-response pages. Only 18% of eligible articles had any comments after 5 months.

Conclusions. Journal Web sites offer similar functionality. The use of online-only articles and online-only supplements is increasing.

From the body of the paper:

The Web-only model of journal publication eliminates printing costs, and this savings has made open access journals (the authors pay for the peer review services, and the article is available free to all with Web access) financially possible.  The growth of Web-only journals from Biomed Central (now >140 journals) and Public Library of Science (6 journals) is clear evidence that the WWW is changing scientific publication....

It could be argued that the only thing keeping print versions of full-length articles extant is the pharmaceutical industry's willingness to purchase print advertisements and the journals' need to put something between these ads....

In 2005, 57% of journals posted articles to their Web site before their appearance in print, and 12% of journals offered readers a forum for responding to each article. We were surprised that more readers did not take advantage of the postpublication review feature; 82% of such pages had no entries. Is this because readers do not read the articles, do not have anything to say, or are not interested in participating in such a forum? In the face of such low participation rates, how do we explain that the British Medical Journal averaged 6 postings per article on the 80% of articles that had postings? Perhaps it is because all of the British Medical Journal content was free to all at the time of this study or that the British Medical Journal has had a stronger Web presence for a longer period of time than many other journals and has cultivated a group of users who are comfortable using the WWW in this way....

Participate in the NSDL

The US National Science Digital Library (NSDL) has issued a general call to participate in NSDL.  Excerpt:

NSDL encourages contributions of educational resources from NSF grant awardees, library users, community members, resource developers, content providers, educators, learners of all ages, and other collection builders. Contributions can range from individual lesson plans or websites to collections of thousands of items, to technology-based tools and services that aid educational applications of digital resources. This enlarges and strengthens the library and encourages reuse and sharing of materials....

NSDL provides access to web-based educational resources, data sets, pedagogic materials or assessments, research materials, images, graphics, photos, simulations, games, activities, curriculums, visualizations, lesson plans, collections, reports, journal articles, etc....

JISC will fund a survey of different forms of research output

JISC is soliciting proposals to create a survey of "different forms of research output" used by researchers.  From the invitation to tender:

1. This Invitation To Tender invites proposals to undertake, on behalf of the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), a survey on the use by researchers and teachers of different forms of scholarly output.

2. Funding of £15,000 is available for this work (including VAT and related travel and subsistence).

3. The deadline for proposals is 13:00 hours on Wednesday 7th February 2007....

5. A key performance indicator in JISC’s Strategy and Operational Plan is to develop an overview of the barriers to effective scholarly communication and the emerging behaviours and different activities being funded worldwide to improve the position....

8. The use of different forms of scholarly output opens issues of means of access and of rights of access for researchers and for teachers. The use of images is governed by a different IPR regime to that for the use of research articles. An individual book chapter may be more difficult for students to trace and access than a journal article. Data sets related to research articles may require the user to have access to substantial computing facilities....

EURAB recommends an EU-wide OA mandate

The European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) recommends an OA mandate for EU-funded research.  Here's today's press release in its entirety:

The European Commission should consider mandating all researchers funded under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) to publish the results of their research in an open access repository within six months of initial publication, according to the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB).

While some concerns over open access are justified, such as the quality of the peer review process, preserving long term access, and the viability of smaller circulation publications, the overwhelming benefits far outweigh these concerns, states a new report by EURAB.

The open access debate has been triggered by the rapid and radical change in science communication brought about by the rise of the internet. There is also a desire to disseminate more widely the results of publicly funded research in order to raise awareness of the benefits of investing in science, and at the same time to bring down the costs of research for public authorities. Public funding bodies are currently paying three times for research, according to EURAB. First they pay for the research itself, then for peer review, and finally for a library subscription to the journal in which the resulting paper is published. Additional author-side fees levied by traditional toll-access journals may be considered a fourth cost.

The Commission has three roles to play in drafting and implementing a policy on open access, says EURAB: as a funding body, a policy body, and a supporting body.

As a funding body, the Commission seek to increase the visibility of, and improve access to, research funded by the Commission without compromising the freedom of scientists to publish where they feel is most appropriate.

A key recommendation is that the Commission considers instructing those receiving FP7 funding to lodge any publications resulting from their research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication. The paper should be made openly accessible within six months.

EURAB says that the repository could be a local institution or dedicated to a specific subject. Deposit should be made once a journal or conference has accepted it for publication, and the repository should release the metadata immediately, with access restrictions to the full text article to be applied as required. Open access should then be implemented as soon as practicable after the author-requested embargo, or within six months, whichever comes first.

EURAB suggests that the Commission begins the roll out of such a complex policy issue with research funded by the European Research Council (ERC), which came into being with the launch of FP7.

As a supporting body, the Commission should place emphasis on streamlining the process of deposit for researchers, and on standards for supporting interoperability. In this context, the Commission should introduce a specific supporting action in every FP7 thematic priority to facilitate the use of deposit in open access repositories, states the EURAB report.

The Commission's role as a policy body should be to encourage all Member States to promote open access publication policies for all of their publicly funded research.

A communication on scientific publishing is expected shortly from the European Commission.

To read the EURAB paper in full [December 2006], please click here.


  1. This is excellent news for many reasons.  First, the policy would apply across Europe, not just within a single country or institution.  Second, it encourages member states to adopt their own OA policies to buttress this EU-wide policy.  Third, EURAB is an independent agency created by the EU to make recommendations on research-policy questions of exactly this kind.  This report should carry weight. 
  2. Fourth, the policy it recommends is superb.  It's a mandate, not mere encouragement.  It gives authors a choice of repositories for deposit.  It caps the permissible embargo at six months.  It recommends deposit of the published version, if possible, and the final version of the peer-reviewed manuscript otherwise.  It uses what I call the dual deposit/release strategy or what Stevan Harnad calls the immediate deposit / optional access strategy (except that here, flipping the switch on the deposited article from closed to open is delayed but mandatory, not optional).  There's no hint of compromise based on misunderstandings about copyright.
  3. The only part of the EURAB recommendation not summarized in the press release is this:  "FP7 should include an action to invite proposals for an enhanced ranking of journals which includes not only traditional indicators of impact but also open access policies."
  4. Just one caveat:  The authors write that "some concerns over open access are justified, such as the quality of the peer review process...."  However the full report does not elaborate or justify this claim.  For a rebuttal, see my article, Open access and quality (October 2006). 

More on the ASPB's no-fee hybrid OA model

Katie Newman, Open Access: the View from a Scholarly Society's Journal Editor, Biotechnology Information Center News, January 9, 2007. 

Starting with the January 2007 issue of the journal Plant Physiology, all articles published by members of the scholarly society that publishes the journal, the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), are open access at no additional cost to the member. Of the 43 articles in the January issue, 25 are freely available to all scholars with no lag period. Some of these may have been authored by non-members who paid $1,000* in order to provide open access to their article, but I suspect not many. [*$1000 if the corresponding author's institution does not subscribe to Plant Physiology, if it does subscribe it is $500.]

The editor of the journal, Donald Ort of the University of Illinois, wrote an editorial for the ASPB News, "Real-Time Plant Physiology: My View of What’s in It for Authors, the Journal, and ASPB". Following several avenues of analysis, he concludes that open access articles are more highly read than non-open access articles, which in turn he feels will enhance the stature of the journal. He also presents an interesting table listing the top 10 plant research journals and their open access option. Most have a provision for open access if the author pays; Plant Physiology will be the only one that offers free open access publishing to it's member authors. Of course, another perk with offering free open access publishing to members might be a jump in the membership count.

Interestingly, the editorial that Ort wrote for the ASPB Newsletter was only available online to members until he deposited it in the University of Illinois' digital repository, IDEALS, where it is now freely available to all. I would recommend it to the editors of other scholarly journals.

It can also be noted that the ASPB has for several years provided free online access to The Arabidopsis Book through a collaboration with BioOne.

"Funding pressure changes everything."

Cory Doctorow, The Foundations of Open Access, Free Culture @ NYU, January 9, 2007.  Excerpt:

So, this weekend is the Open Access summit and I wanted to share some thoughts on how to help bring this on a widespread basis.

Closely tied to open access is encouraging funding organizations to include language in their grant proposals which promotes open access, for code and content. This is in the foundation’s best interest - call it “philanthropic ROI”.

On the educational institution’s side of the fence, funding pressure could really tip the scale in favor of opening their work....Funding pressure changes everything....

Already, the Hewlett Foundation is moving in this direction, but if/when others follow it could be very decisive force in the campaign for Open Access.

The Hewlett Foundation’s Education Division provides grants in the area of Open Educational Resources, and all grant applications have to describe their approaches to
intellectual property in the terms below (these are copied directly from the grant application).

There’s more at Open Educational Resources.

...If you are developing content or producing articles, reports, white papers, or other written materials, please identify which of the Creative Commons licenses you will use to license the content....

If you are developing software, please identify which of the Open Source Initiative-approved licenses you will use to license the software....

If your work involves the creation of data sets, please see [the Science Commons FAQ on database licensing] and be prepared to discuss the open license plans with program staff.”

So, one way to put pressure on folks is to convince more funding agencies to begin stipulating for Open Access....

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Best free online reference sites of the past 10 years

The Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of American Library Association (ALA) has assembled a list of the best free online reference sites of the past 10 years. 

There's no point singling out the OA winners --they're all OA.  But you'll notice some familiar sites, like the DOAJ (a winner in 2005), and some unfamiliar ones, like the Big Cartoon Database (a winner in 2006). 

MARS picks winners every year and this web site is a compilation of all the winners for the past 10 years.  That explains why some are out of date.  For example, it includes my Guide to Philosophy on the Internet, because it was a winner in 2002, even though I officially (publicly, emphatically) stopped updating it in February 2003.  For just the newest winners, see the list for 2006.

Another academic VP for FRPAA

David S. Stern, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs of Hamline University, has added his signature to the SPARC list of U.S. university presidents and provosts endorsing open access to publicly-funded research and the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA). The tally is now up to 132.

eIFL on copyright and OA

Q&A about OA in Germany has published the transcript of a live chat interview with Wolfgang Coy (in German) on new publishing with open access and open content.  Coy is a professor computer science at Humboldt University Berlin.  The interview questions came from a large number of logged-in users.  Read the German original or Google's English.

Measuring OA progress through tags

James Till, Tags Indicate That Open Access Is Flourishing, Philica, January 8, 2007.  Excerpt:

On the basis of qualitative evidence, awareness of the open access (OA) movement increased substantially in 2006....Could a simple quantitative indicator be used to measure growth of interest in OA?

Social bookmarking services, such as Connotea (Lund, 2006), can be used to tag noteworthy articles. There were 104 entries in Connotea tagged “open access” in 2005. This number increased dramatically in 2006, to 738 (a 7-fold increase).

However, social bookmarking itself increased markedly during the past two years.

For example, entries tagged “internet” in Connotea increased from 299 in 2005 to 907 in 2006 (a 3-fold increase) and entries tagged “neuroscience” increased from 177 in 2005 to 491 in 2006 (also a 2.8-fold increase)....Because awareness of topics such as these were not expected to have increased significantly between 2005 and 2006, it was assumed that these 3-fold increases were a result of the increasing popularity of tagging via Connotea, and not of increased interest in the topics themselves.

A chi-square test of association..., in which the observed numbers of entries for “open access” in 2006 and 2005 (738 and 104) were compared with those obtained for “internet” (907 and 299) in a 2x2 contingency table, indicated that the difference in the 2006/2005 ratios for these two tags was highly significant at the P < 0.0001 level.

These results provide preliminary quantitative evidence that interest in OA is indeed burgeoning, and that frequencies of Connotea tags may provide a useful indicator for tracking these changes.

First OA journal on OA

Open Access Research is a new peer-reviewed OA journal sponsored by the Georgia State University Library.  It's the first peer-reviewed journal devoted to OA itself.  (Disclosure:  I'm on the editorial board.)  From the call for papers:

Open Access Research (OAR), is a peer- reviewed, open-access journal that will enable greater interaction and facilitate a deeper conversation about open access, including topics such as:

  • open access journals
  • institutional support for open access
  • open access publishing services and software
  • open access repositories (both institutional and subject-based)
  • electronic theses and dissertations
  • the impact of open access on scholarly research and communications.

If you are engaged in research relating to open access, or if you have an article in mind, please contact us. OAR's first issue will be in August, 2007 and will subsequently be published three times a year....

Editors-in-Chief: John Russell (University of Oregon), Dorothea Salo (George Mason University), William Walsh (Georgia State University), Elizabeth Winter (Georgia Institute of Technology)....

Monday, January 08, 2007

UKPMC and a handful of OA mandates

UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) launched today.  From the JISC press release:

From today scientists will be able to access a vast collection of biomedical research and to submit their own published results for inclusion in a new online resource. Based on a model currently used by the US National Institute of Health, UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) will provide free access to a permanent online archive of peer-reviewed research papers in the medical and life sciences.

A nine-strong group of UK research funders, including JISC and led by the Wellcome Trust, awarded the contract to develop UKPMC to a partnership between the British Library, The University of Manchester and the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI) last July....

Members of this group now require that articles describing the results of research they support are made available in UKPMC with the aim of maximising its impact. The UKPMC service will ensure that articles resulting from research paid for by any member of the funding consortium will be freely available, fully searchable and extensively linked to other online resources.

Initially UKPMC mirrors the American PubMed Central database (hosted by the NCBI at NIH). From today, UK scientists will also be able to submit their research outputs for inclusion in UKPMC. Through 2007, and beyond, the partners will develop innovative tools for UKPMC to further support biomedical research. In this way, UKPMC will grow into a unique online resource representing the UK’s biomedical research output.


  1. Note that the announcement says that the members of the funders group "now require" OA to the research they fund.  This is bigger news than the launch of UKPMC itself.  For links to the policies, see the UKPMC's Open Access Policies page.  Three of the eight mandates listed there are well-known:  The Wellcome Trust policy, the Medical Research Council policy, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council policy
  2. Of the others, two are apparently new:  the  Arthritis Research Campaign policy, the Chief Scientist Office policy.  Three are under development:  those of the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, and the Department of Health.  JISC is the only member of the funders group not (yet) represented on the OA policies page.
  3. For my timeline, I'd appreciate it if any readers could help me discover the dates of adoption for the OA mandates at the Arthritis Research Campaign and the Chief Scientist Office.  (I do know that the ARC policy took effect on January 1, 2007.)
  4. The ARC mandate is strong and detailed.  Grantees must deposit a copy of their final, peer reviewed manuscript in UKPMC no later than six months after publication.  If a grantee publishes in a fee-based OA journal, ARC will pay the fee.  If a grantee publishes in a TA journal that doesn't give permission for OA deposit on ARC's terms, ARC offers some negotiating suggestions.  But if the journal still doesn't budge, ARC takes the Wellcome Trust approach:  "then the author should not proceed with the submission to that journal and should reconsider where to publish."
  5. The CSO mandate fits into one sentence (Section 13.7):  "A copy of the final, peer-reviewed version of all papers arising from the funded research and accepted for publication must be deposited in a publicly accessible repository (UK PubMed Central when this is established) and be made freely available within 6 months."

Norwegian libraries reject Blackwell journals because of high prices

Four Norwegian university libraries issued a joint statement on January 2:

This autumn Norwegian university libraries have attempted to reach an agreement on access to electronic journals from Blackwell Publishing. The negotiations have come to an end without a successful result.

Therefore from January 1, 2007 library patrons at the universities will no longer be able to access the 778 e-journals in Blackwell electronic portfolio. The reason for this is that the university libraries feel that Blackwell Publishing has stipulated unacceptable conditions and price increases.

“Blackwell has journals covering all universities disciplines, so this will affect all our users,” says library director Helge Salvesen of Tromsø University Library. Libraries experience that publishers no longer negotiate but dictate prices and access conditions.  The university library directors are in unanimous agreement that this situation is no longer acceptable....

Journal prices exceed the general retail price index, and moderate increases in library budgets cannot close the gap....

The statement is signed by the library directors of the University of Trondheim, University of Tromsø, University of Oslo, and University of Bergen.

What the Canadian government can do for OA

Michael Geist, Time's choice could prove inspired, Toronto Star, January 8, 2007.  Excerpt:

The [Canadian] federal government can also play an important role by improving Canadians' access to the content it controls or helps fund. There are a surprising number of possibilities, each of which can be implemented at minimal cost and without new legislation:

  • Elimination of crown copyright, the archaic rules that grants government control over taxpayer-funded work.
  • Introduction of open access requirements for federally-funded research to help leverage the hundreds of millions of dollars invested in federal granting institutions for health, science, and social science research.
  • Establishment of new incentives in book publishing and television production funding programs to encourage open business models....