Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 10, 2007

One publisher's critique of pitbull tactics

Following up my previous post:

At the end of his article in Jetzt, Philipp Berens touches on the "pitbull tactics" suggested to the Association of American Publishers by its new PR advisor.  He writes that "Not all publishers think such a campaign is a good idea," and follows with a quotation from Jan Velterop, the Open Access Director at Springer and former publisher of BioMed Central.  Here's Jan's own English, rather than Berens' German or Google's English:

That's a dismal state of affairs. It doesn't get us any further and can only do damage. We want a constructive dialogue with scientists and researchers, in order to find mutually satisfactory ways of economically sustaining formally published peer reviewed literature. If the EU conference can contribute to such a constructive dialogue, that would be great. I hope it will.

Jan also commented on the tactics in a January 26 post to the American Scientist OA Forum:

PR battles like this are extremely unsophisticated; perhaps that's in their nature. As a publisher, I wouldn't want to be associated with rather rabid sound-bites such as "Public access equals government censorship".

OA policies in Germany and the EU

Philipp Berens, Forscher fordern freien Zugang zu wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten, Jetzt, February 4, 2007.  On the OA mandate at Germany's DFG [Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft] and the petition calling on the European Commission to adopt a similar policy.  Read the original or Google's English.

Toward a standard for OA repository deposits

Julie Allinson and four co-authors, Repository Deposit Service Description, a slide presentation at Open Repositories 2007 (San Antonio, January 23-26, 2007).  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

FreeCulture students talk to the AAP

William Walsh, Who listens to and their 'radical' agenda? The AAP/PSP, for starters, Issues in Scholarly Communication, February 9, 2007.  Excerpt:

This morning, the AAP was publicly obsessed with and that organization's "radical" agenda.

This afternoon, we learn that attendees of the AAP/PSP's annual conference listened to --and held a lively Q&A session with-- a member earlier in the week.

From a post today by Asheesh Laroia to the blog:

This past Monday, I had a chance a chance to give academic publishers a piece of my mind.

The Professional and Scholarly Publishing division of AAP held a pre-conference meeting that Monday to talk about the way technology, specifically "Web 2.0?, was affecting the way students consume and use academic content....It was a very active, interested group attending our panel, and I really appreciated that.

From Laroia's recollection of the Q&A session that followed:

Q. What you've described sounds great from a student perspective. But if you continue your academic career, won't you want to be published in the most well-known journals?

A. That's a great question. (laughter) Sure, I'll want to advance my CV and publish in where everyone important to me will read my work. In natural language processing in computer science, that probably means conference proceedings, most of which are available on the web for free anyway. Later on in my career, when I'm established, I'll have the ability to choose where I publish, and if open access to my work is important to me, I'll be able to make sure that happens. But as I pointed out with NLP work, access and prestige aren't necessarily at odds....

I enjoyed Laroia's post, and I'm glad that AAP/PSP members were apparently interested in what he had to say.

Comment.  I commend the AAP/PSP for inviting students to give their perspectives and I commend Laroia for a straight answer to a curve-ball question.  The questioner was assuming that all high-prestige journals are TA and always will be.  Laroia saw through that, which even many publishing scholars fail to do.  I'd only add that publishing in a high-prestige TA journal is almost always compatible with OA archiving.  About 70% of TA journals give blanket permission for OA archiving, eliminating any need to worry about trade-offs. 

OA journals are a no-brainer

Ben Goldacre, Open access and the price of knowledge, The Guardian, February 10, 2007.  Excerpt:

There are some things which are so self-evidently right and good that it's hard to imagine how anyone could disagree with you. The "open access" academic journal movement is one of those things. It is a no-brainer. Academic literature should be freely available: developing countries need access; part-time tinkering thinkers like you deserve full access; journalists and the public can benefit; and most importantly of all, you have already paid for much of this stuff with your taxes. They are important new ideas from humanity, and morally, you are entitled to them.

But with old school academic journals, unless you have an institutional subscription, you have to pay to read them. Here is a not-so-fun example: an article called Impediments to promoting access to global knowledge in sub-Saharan Africa, about how difficult it is to get access to medical literature in developing countries, and how lack of access to knowledge represents a barrier to economic development and a further advantage for the rich west.  Get your credit card ready, this single study will cost you $25 (£13) plus tax to read.

Two online, open access publishing organisations have led the fight against the absurdity: ...PLoS...[and] BioMed Central....

But meanwhile, the old school, pay-for-access journals are so worried about open access that they've hired Eric Dezenhall, the famous American "pitbull of PR", and author of Nail 'Em! Confronting High-Profile Attacks on Celebrities and Businesses, to aggressively promote their interests, and undermine open access....

For reader comments on this article, see the author's blog entry on it.

Comment.  So far, so good.  But remember that OA is also possible through OA repositories, not only through OA journals.  Authors who want OA can submit their work to OA journals or deposit their peer-reviewed manuscripts in OA repositories (called self-archiving or OA archiving).  To increase the amount of OA for readers and users, support the national OA policies, like FRPAA, which uniformly depend upon OA archiving rather than OA journals.  To see such a policy adopted across Europe, sign the petition to the EC to mandate OA to publicly-funded research.

Update. See the STM response to Goldacre's article, February 13, 2007.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Hilf on OA

On February 3, Germany's dradio Kultur broadcast a 20 minute interview with Eberhard Hilf on OA, its benefits for authors, ways to persuade authors to take advantage of it, and the opportunities for commercial and intelligent add-ons for the corpus of OA literature.  The podcast (in German) is available for downloading.

A lab declares its commitment to OA

Francis Ouellette has posted an Open Access declaration for the Ouellette Laboratory on his lab's web site.  (Thanks to Heather Morrison.)  Here it is in its entirety:

Francis Ouellette and members of his laboratory at the UBC Bioinformatics Centre endorse and fully support Open Access (OA) publications of the publicly funded scientific work produced by or related to activities within the laboratory. We are resolute in professing the benefits of OA to science and to society, and vigorously encourage all of our collaborators to do the same. We strongly believe that the entire community needs full access to all work that has been funded directly or indirectly by tax payers of any country.

In the Open Access model, a publication can be downloaded from a publisher's website without the requirement of fees paid by the reader, or the institution she or he belongs to.

These are the reasons why OA is important, all of equal relevance:

  • If a scientist publishes a body of work, they should not wish to limit who can read it and gain insight from it. Publishing in a non-OA journal limits readership.
  • Science funded by our federal and provincial (public) agencies should be freely accessible and available to the whole scientific community. Other scientists should not have to pay for the work again.
  • It is our social obligation and responsibility as citizens of this planet to make sure that our work is accessible to all, not just the scientific community in universities that pay for the subscription to some of the journals. Parents of patients should have access to all the literature that describes the disease that is afflicting their child. Researchers in Africa should have access to the same literature we have access to in our North American or European universities.
  • OA publishing is essential for science. If we are to make any advances in text mining, we need to have the very best papers available as full text in PubMedCentral. Only in a database like that will we be able to extract and compute on the full text papers.

We have to be ruthlessly optimistic in knowing that this is the only way forward. This means thinking carefully about where we publish, and making sure that the journal and the publisher endorse an OA mode of operation.

Comment.  Kudos to Ouellette and his team.  More lab directors should take affirmative steps to ensure OA to their research output.  I'd only add that OA literature can be downloaded from OA repositories, not only from OA journals at publisher web sites.  For the same reason, labs should ask their researchers who don't publish in OA journals to deposit their preprints and postprints in an OA repository --perhaps even the lab's own repository or that of the university housing the lab.

German scholars criticize library-publisher deal

German researchers are criticizing an agreement struck by a German library association (Deutscher Bibliotheksverband) and a trade association of German publishers (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels), putting to rest some of their long-simmering differences over copyright restrictions on scientific literature.  The deal needlessly endorses TA over OA, does not reduce price or permission barriers or acknowledge the access problems they cause, limits simultaneous users of purchased copies, bars libraries from digitizing works when publishers offer digital editions under unspecified "appropriate conditions", limits digital interlibrary loan to DRM-locked image files, and prohibits interlibrary loan of journal articles unless the end-user pays a fee.

Thanks to Klaus Graf, who has blogged summaries of some of the criticism of the deal.  Read them in German or in Google's English.

Update. Several important German research libraries have signed an open letter protesting the agreement. Thanks to Klaus Graf for the tip, and for pointing out that this is very uncommon.

IWR on the AAP PR campaign

Mark Chillingworth, The perils of PR pitbulling, Information World Review, February 9, 2007.  Excerpt:

Put aside your opinions on open access (OA) as a publishing model, and consider for a minute the sad fact that the industry has reached the point where it feels it is necessary to hire the PR “pitbulls”. Men like Eric Dezenhall, the PR agent at the centre of the debate, contribute nothing to debates and lower the perceived value of an industry – and no-one wins if that happens.

Dezenhall, as the Nature and IWR stories reveal, can cook up a good soundbite, but nothing he says will benefit the OA debate or the companies paying his hefty fees. In the long term, spin doctors simply lower the quality of the debate, and in doing so decrease interest in it....

No business can progress without meaningful debate, and misguided soundbites are a major obstruction to development. As one publisher said to me: “It is a shame that some publishers devote so many resources to the defence of the status quo, rather than looking forwards and working with the community. PR and marketing are not evil – they are essential to this industry; but it is disproportionate to focus on OA’s threats.”

The AAP, Elsevier and Wiley have hired Dezenhall because they don’t feel the OA debate has had a proper airing. Many would disagree. IWR would like to extend an open invitation to both sides to contact us and, within the normal constraints of publishing, we will give each side a platform to air its views....

PS:  I appreciate Chillingworth's offer to use IWR to air both sides of the debate.  I've just written to him express my willingness to participate. 

OA/DINI presentations now online

The presentations from the Workshop: Open Access und das DINI Zertifikat 2007 (Frankfurt, February 7-8, 2007) are now online.

Update.  See Juergen Luebeck's blog notes on the workshop, in German or in Google's English.

More on OA archiving in France

Pierre Baruch and Franck Laloë, Archives ouvertes : quels atouts? Pour la Science, February 2007.   A primer on OA archiving and HAL for the French edition of Scientific American.  Read the original or Google's English; in both cases, only the first paragraph is free online, at least so far.

Jens Vigen on OA on video

PhysMath Central has posted a video of Jens Vigen, Scientific Information Officer at CERN, talking about OA.  (Thanks to Christopher Leonard.)

Publishers take the low road

Rick Weiss, Research-Result Battle Now Pits PR 'Pit Bull' Against Barbie Blenders, Washington Post, February 9, 2007.  Excerpt:

The fracas over free access to government-funded research results has come to this: a battle between a widely feared "pit bull of public relations" and an organization that made its name by celebrating the stuffing of Barbie dolls into blenders....

At issue is a movement spearheaded by patient advocates and others [PS:  researchers, universities, and libraries] who say they should not have to buy subscriptions to expensive scientific journals to read the results of research they paid for with their taxes....

Last month, leaked documents revealed that the Association of American Publishers [AAP], led by former Colorado congresswoman Patricia Schroeder, had decided to boost its firepower by hiring Eric Dezenhall, the take-no-prisoners guru of message management who has been nicknamed "the pit bull of PR."

Dezenhall told publishers to simplify their message with lines such as "the government [is] seeking to nationalize science."  Advocates for public access denounced the move as evidence that the publishers were jettisoning their scholarly principles in favor of a dirty disinformation campaign.

Now, the publishers are getting in a few jabs of their own with the news that public access proponents have linked up with, the loose-knit, guerrilla-style student organization perhaps best known for creating "National Barbie-in-a-Blender Day." ...

Now, has joined forces with the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, which supports a pending bill in Congress that would require free posting on the Internet of all published data from any federal agency with a research budget of at least $100 million.

"It is odd timing to start such a campaign," said Peter Banks of Banks Publishing, a Fairfax-based publications consulting firm. "Having howled about publishers working with a flamboyant public relations guy, open access advocates now turn around and decide to work with a group that engages in acts of political theatre." ...

"American taxpayers pay millions of dollars per year to fund this huge output of scientific knowledge," said Gavin Baker, a University of Florida student who is leading the group's public access campaign. "The question is whether we want to live in a hegemonic world where everything of value is owned by someone else, and they have extreme control over it, and they have no obligation to let you use it or see it."

Such language shows the movement's radical agenda, Schroeder said. "I'm glad they are showing their true colors," she said. 

Banks, who has called for a more reasoned debate, sees no winners.  "It goes to show that media messaging is how business gets done in Washington," he said. "It's not the power of one's argument but how simply and colorfully it is framed."


  1. Here it comes.  Barbara Meredith, VP of the AAP, said that news stories about the AAP's pitbull tactics were inaccurate and that "reporters picked up on some early proposals that were not adopted."  I thought that was a sign that the AAP might take the high road.  But Pat Schroeder and Peter Banks have decided to take the low road after all, and have adopted the tactic of "media messaging" instead of reasoned debate.  This is the script according to its new PR consultant, as reported by Nature.  Shame on the Washington Post for playing along.
  2. If anyone is paying attention, the disanalogy is clear.  FreeCulture is one of many groups that has joined the campaign for OA because it believes in the cause.  (Just ask it.)  We welcome every kind of support and in this case we specifically recognize that students have their own strong interest in OA, just like faculty, university administrators, librarians, doctors, medical patients, and taxpayers.   The OA movement isn't paying FreeCulture a dime, let alone $300,00 - $500,000 (which the AAP's PR consultant reportedly requested for six months' work).  Moreover, FreeCulture never said "if the other side is on the defensive, it doesn't matter if they can discredit your statements."  And FreeCulture isn't recommending Barbie blending as a tactic to support OA.  (For a true example of his style, see Gavin Baker's hard work in June 2006 to get the Student Senate at the University of Florida to adopt a strong resolution in support of OA.) 
  3. However, I'm glad to publicly disavow Barbie blending as a tactic to support OA.  Now will Pat Schroeder and Peter Banks publicly disavow the tactics reported by Nature, in their campaign against OA?  Will any of the publisher-members of the AAP publicly disavow those tactics?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Bibliography on OA for developing countries

Ismael Peña-López, A Reader on Open Access for Development, ICTlogy, February 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

The debate of Open Access is really benefits from open science, self-publishing and self-archiving become clearer and clearer and, on the other side, there are new and imaginative deal with the (a) inevitable...costs of publishing and (b) the benefits of peer review, the quintessence of scientific publishing.

While the balance among costs and benefits is a matter of arguments in the developed countries...the benefits side of open access seems to gain weight when the scales are placed on developing countries....

I here present a gathering — a reader? — of selected articles that should allow the reader to get a rough picture of the subject of Open Access for Development....

Self-archiving in economics

Ted Bergstrom and Rosemarie Lavaty, How often do economists self-archive?  A preprint, self-archived February 8, 2007. 

Abstract:   To answer the question of the paper's title, we looked at the tables of contents from two recent issues of 33 economics journals and attempted to find a freely available online version of each article. We found that about 90 percent of articles in the most-cited economics journals and about 50 percent of articles in less-cited journals are available. We conduct a similar exercise for political science and find that only about 30 percent of the articles are freely available. The paper reports a regression analysis of the effects of author and article characteristics on likelihood of posing and it discusses the implications of self-archiving for the pricing of subscription-based academic journals.

From the body of the paper:

Some economists and librarians have noted with alarm that commercial publishers have taken advantage of libraries’ relatively inelastic demand for academic journals and the difficult coordination of new entrants, by setting prices that are much higher than average cost. As more content becomes available in open access archives, publishers are faced with greater availability of close substitutes for their products and library demand for journals is likely to become more price-elastic. The increased price-responsiveness means that profit-maximizing prices will fall. As a result, it can be hoped that commercial publishers will no longer be able to charge subscription prices greatly in excess of average cost. Thus the benefits of self-archiving to the academic community are twofold. There is the direct effect of making a greater portion of the body of research available to scholars everywhere and the secondary effect of reducing the prices charged by publishers who exploit their monopoly power.

Panel wants to loosen shackles on public info in the UK

Michael Cross, Yes, minister, it's time for the data debate, The Guardian, February 8, 2007.  Excerpt:

The government made much of its precision in identifying its useful and "unneeded" assets with the publication last month of the updated National Asset Register. Yet oddly, some of its assets - particularly the intangible ones - were overlooked: such as its huge and valuable stores of public sector information, including the Ordnance Survey's National Geographic Database. As the repository of data from which the official maps of Britain are drawn, the database must have a significant value; but you'll look in vain for its appearance in the register.

Such overlooking of valuable public sector information is the sort of thing that has frustrated the Advisory Panel on Public Sector Information, which has just issued its third report. The panel was set up in 2003 "to advise ministers and officials on the opportunities for the information industry that flow from the greater use of public sector information". But are ministers listening? ...

Throughout the report, there is frustration at the low priority given by ministers to questions of public sector information. Members of the panel "have been disappointed in the past year with our inability to stimulate and secure ministerial interest", the report reveals....

The report notes several recent policy developments which may generate interest in high places. In 2009, the UK must implement the European INSPIRE directive, which requires government bodies to make geospatial information freely available. Ministers will also have to respond to the Office of Fair Trading's study into the commercial re-use of public sector information, which warned of unfair practices in the market. The advisory panel is expected to back the OFT's findings when it comments on the report.

In his introduction to the annual report, the panel's chair, Richard Susskind, notes another development: for the first time, public sector information has become "a focal point for a national newspaper". Technology Guardian's Free our Data campaign has "raised public awareness of the topic", he says....

e-Infrastructure and OA in the UK

Developing the UK’s e-infrastructure for science and innovation, a report of the e-Infrastructure Working Group of the UK Office of Science and Innovation (OSI), February 8, 2007.  (Thanks to Clifford Lynch.)  Excerpt:

...Appropriate strategic and fiscal policies are needed to encourage and reward the sharing of research outputs and use of the shared e-infrastructure, including an acceptance of the open access policies currently being developed by the UK Research Councils and others. Greater recognition and appropriate reward structures are also needed in the acquisition and making available of research data. It is vital that digital preservation becomes an integral part of academic life and that researchers are equipped with the necessary skills to embed preservation methods and processes into the workflow of their organisations....

Key recommendations [on technology development for data and information creation]...

5.  Interoperating distributed data repositories for depositing and accessing data to appear to the user as if it were provided by a single seamless repository....

Key recommendations [on integrating e-research with physical research]...

3. Developments in open access and data citation. The research culture must evolve to provide a system of academic review and credit for use and citation of all forms of research outputs and data, as well as publications, negative as well as positive results, licences, patents, software etc....

Key recommendations [on a national information infrastructure]...

4. Federated institutional repositories based in universities and colleges....

Comment.  It's important that the OSI Working Group report endorses the OA mandate adopted by the RCUK.  OSI is a branch of the UK Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), which has opposed an OA mandate for the UK.  Of course there's room for slippage between the OSI e-Infrastructure Working Group and OSI itself, and again between OSI and DTI.  But at least now there's a home-grown endorsement of the RCUK policy within a DTI office.

BMC's first OA research awards

BioMed Central announces winners of first open access research awards, a press release from BMC, February 8, 2007.  Excerpt:

BioMed Central, the world's largest publisher of peer-reviewed, open access research journals, is proud to announce the winners of the first BioMed Central Research Awards. The awards, given in the categories of medicine and biology, recognize excellence in research that has been made universally accessible by open access publication in one of BioMed Central's journals.

Award winners and honorable mentions will be officially celebrated at BioMed Central's Open Access Colloquium being held today at The Royal College of Physicians in Regents Park, London. The colloquium, entitled "Open Access: How Can We Achieve Quality and Quantity?" will bring together a range of today's leading authors, researchers, funders, librarians and publishers to examine the value of open access publishing....

Lalit Dandona, M.D., Senior Director of the George Institute for International Health in Hyderabad, India, received the BioMed Central Research Award in the field of medicine for his article, "A population-based study of human immunodeficiency virus in south India reveals major differences from sentinel surveillance-based estimates."

Flavio R Zolessi Ph. D., Universidad de la Republica in Montevideo, Uruaguay, and Researcher Grade 3 at PEDECIBA, an autonomous research organization also located in Montevideo, received the BioMed Central Research Award in the field of biology for his article, "Polarization and orientation of retinal ganglion cells in vivo."

Congratulations to Dandona and Zolessi.  See the whole press release for details on their award-winning research and eight honorable mentions.

More on the ASCB successful OA business model

Cell-Biology Journal Embraces Open Access and Says It Still Makes Money, Chronicle of Higher Education News blog, February 7, 2007.  Excerpt:

Scientific journals can be made freely available to the public and still make money, says Gary Ward, treasurer of the American Society for Cell Biology. For the past six years, the society has made reports published in its monthly research journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell, available online to nonsubscribers two months after publication. The journal has not only remained financially sound but also continues to generate profits while following an open-access business model, the society reports. Those profits help pay for educational, career-development, and public-policy programs, including continued support of efforts to require the results of biomedical research financed with federal money to be made freely accessible no more than six months after they are published.

The push for open access has led many scholarly associations to fear that the free release of research findings would undermine the business models of their journals, which often are key sources of revenue for entire associations. While some societies seem open to the idea of open access, it’s unclear if it can be fashioned into a viable business model. And some publishers, dead-set against open access, have fired back by hiring an aggressive public-relations firm to fight off the movement.

More on the CERN plan for journals in particle physics

Salvatore Mele, Demystifying Open Access, a public lecture yesterday at CERN.  The talk itself is apparently not online (text, slides, audio, video), but CERN has posted this abstract:

The tenets of Open Access in scientific publishing are to grant anyone, anywhere and anytime, free access to the results of scientific research. Toll-access journals, with their spiralling costs, are in net contrast with this philosophy and with the mandate of many research institutions, among which CERN. CERN has now taken the lead to establish a consortium, SCOAP3, to make Open Access publishing in Particle Physics a reality. We propose a business model, transparent for authors, where journal subscriptions are replaced with single contracts between SCOAP3 and publishers of Open Access journals. Publishers would be thought of as service providers, charged with the quality assurance of the scientific literature and would receive financial compensation for the costs incurred in the organisation of the peer-review service, while assuring Open Access to the accepted articles. This short talk summarises recent developments in establishing Open Access publishing in Particle Physics, discusses the details of the SCOAP3 model and presents an outlook for the future steps for a fast and successful transition of Particle Physics publishing to Open Access.

Elsevier's response to the PR controversy

Kristen Philipkoski, with Randy Dotinga, and Scott Carney, Open-Access Debate: Elsevier's View, Wired News, February 8, 2007. 

The Elsevier company is one of several publishers that have reportedly hired a p.r. firm to advise it on how to fight back against legislative efforts to make open access mandatory. (See previous posts for more.)

I emailed the company with some questions, and spokeswoman Shira Tabachnikoff responded with this statement, which seems to have been very carefully vetted:

Elsevier has always believed that the essential role of the publisher is to help scientists communicate and preserve quality research. Scientists have some absolute requirements for publishers. They need to know that their work and the work of others has been vetted and certified through peer review. They also need to know that research findings will be preserved in unaltered form and available permanently for future generations of scientists.

Researchers today have more access to more peer-reviewed articles than ever before, and we are always experimenting with new approaches that widen access, like sponsored articles and delayed open access, and providing our journals free to developing countries and patient groups. As we test new approaches, we carefully measure results to ensure that we are upholding our obligation to keep the scientific record reliable, trustworthy and accessible for the long term. We embrace any innovation that can sustainably enhance quality, access and cost-effectiveness without compromising the absolute requirements upon which scientists depend to conduct sound science.

Comment.  Fine.  But of course this doesn't respond to any aspect of the controversy triggered by the Nature article, and nobody was challenging peer review or preservation. 

AAP's letter to Nature

Kristen Philipkoski, with Randy Dotinga and Scott Carney, Open-Access Debate: Wiley's View, Wired News, February 8, 2007.  

While researching a story about open access, I've been in touch with the publishing firms that reportedly hired a p.r. firm to help them create a message in opposition to pending legislation regarding open access.

A spokeswoman for Wiley declined to comment and referred me to a letter to the editor that publishers spokesperson Brian Crawford (see more about him in a previous post) sent to Nature after it broke the story of the hiring of the publicists:

To the Editor:

The premise of the Jan. 24 article by Jim Giles raises disturbing questions, and was extremely misleading by its omissions and errors. In an attempt to portray in a negative manner the intentions of our Association (of which Nature’s parent firm is itself a member, a fact Mr. Giles chose not to report), the article used innuendo and ad hominem attacks rather than facts in an attempt to smear a group of fine organizations and individuals who are working in the interests of science and the public good.

The genesis of Mr. Giles’ report should also prompt concern. Why are some people more interested in PR firms than real issues? Are they afraid of other voices entering the debate? Why is there no reporting on the millions of dollars spent by open access advocates to promote their perspective?

What these parties don't want others to know is that Association of American Publishers partners with the World Health Organization to provide free access to thousands of medical journals in developing countries; how AAP publishers are helping the National Institutes of Health to archive and link articles for public access; how AAP publishers were instrumental in conceiving with top health organizations to provide free medical research information to patients and their caregivers, and how millions of research articles are freely available by publishers’ independent actions.

Non-profit and commercial publishers today give scientists, doctors and the public more access to more information than ever before. It is publishers who invest in peer-review, print and online dissemination, and archiving, not taxpayers. All this debate boils down to is some people wanting something for nothing.

The unintended consequences of government mandated open access are real and potentially damaging, and we will fulfill our responsibility to communicate those risks because doing so is in the best interest of science and society.

Brian D. Crawford, Ph.D.
Chairman, Executive Council
Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division
Association of American Publishers

Also see a follow-up conversation with Brian Crawford (same authors, same source, same day).


  1. This is the second public response from the AAP asserting that the Nature article is inaccurate but declining to point out specific inaccuracies.  (See my comment on the first.)
  2. The Nature article has generated a wave of criticism of the AAP, Elsevier, Wiley, and the ACS.  But in this letter, Crawford chooses to ignore the actual criticism and respond to non-existent criticism.  I haven't seen anyone say or imply that they are afraid of other voices entering the debate or that the public should not know about the AAP's commitment to HINARI and patientINFORM.  Of course the AAP should honestly communicate any risks it sees in OA policy proposals.  The real criticism that Crawford doesn't address in this letter, or his previous letter, is that the AAP appears willing to subordinate that honest job to a campaign of disinformation ("Public access equals government censorship") and diversion ("[I]f the other side is on the defensive, it doesn't matter if they can discredit your statements").  If the Nature version of the facts that gave rise to this criticism is inaccurate, Crawford could do everyone a favor by showing it.
  3. Do supporters of national OA mandates like FRPAA want something for nothing?  No.  We want something for something.  Crawford is forgetting that taxpayers have already paid for the underlying research and that publishers pay nothing to receive the written results.  Yes, publishers add value to those results.  But if publishers and taxpayers both make a contribution to the value of peer-reviewed articles arising from publicly-funded research, then what's the best way to split this baby?  The FRPAA solution is a reasonable compromise:  a period of exclusivity for the publisher followed by free online access for the public.  If the AAP wants to block OA mandates per se, rather than just negotiate the embargo period, then it's saying that it wants no compromise, that the public should get nothing for its investment, and that publishers should control access to research conducted by others, written up by others, and funded by taxpayers.  I'd call that getting something for nothing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Open Context for OA data in archaeology

The Alexandria Archive Institute has officially launched Open Context.  From the announcement in the AAI's January 29 Newsletter:

In April 2006, we proudly launched the Beta version of Open Context, our new open access publication system that enables researchers to distribute their primary field data, notes, and media (images, maps, drawings, videos) on the World Wide Web. Open Context provides an easy to use, yet powerful, framework for exploring, searching, and analyzing excavation results, survey data, and museum collections.  Open Context represents an important advance. For the first time, research data can be pooled, compared and explored in a “Web 2.0” system that enables the community to add value, organization, and meaning to the content. Open Context was developed over two years with a series of grants from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation....

Open Context currently contains over 100,000 items from ten projects, including over 2000 images from sites in Turkey and Iraq. Projects range from comparative collections to archaeological excavation data to slide collections. Of particular interest to users is that each item in the Open Context database can have multiple, high-quality images associated with it. The searchability and easy access to these images provides an excellent resource for teaching. Open Context is currently taking in new projects, including excavation data from Nineveh (Iraq), Petra (Jordan), and a massive zooarchaeological reference collection from Mesoamerica and the southern United States....

Ohio U moves closer to ETDs

Keita Mochizuki, OU plans for theses, dissertations to go digital, The Post Online, February 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

Ohio University is working to have more thesis and dissertation information online, looking to require graduate students to submit part of their papers electronically sometime next academic year.

Currently, graduate students can submit theses or dissertations as an electronic file or in printed form...

However, for those who submit theses or dissertations in printed form, it might become a requirement to upload the abstract of their papers to university’s server sometime in the 2007-08 academic year, said Angela McCutcheon, OU’s electronic thesis and dissertation (ETD) program director....

OU’s Russ College of Engineering and Technology and the Center for International Studies already are requiring that entire theses and dissertations be submitted electronically with no paper submission option....

Drew McDaniel, interim director of the Center for International Studies said the center wanted to make its students’ theses and dissertations accessible to people worldwide....

The number of graduate students who choose the electronic option has grown rapidly, at an average of 80 percent per year, according to research McCutcheon conducted. In the 2005-06 academic year, 70 percent of graduate students filed their papers electronically....

McCutcheon said more graduate students are choosing the electronic option because it eliminates paper and printing costs and makes the document viewable worldwide.  “It allows other people in the world and in the scholarly community to view the research of Ohio University,” she said.

Julia Zimmerman, dean of libraries at OU, said that while paper theses and dissertations will be looked at 1.5 times in their life on average, ETDs sometimes are viewed hundreds of times.

Comment.  Mandating electronic submission of abstracts is the tiniest possible step in the right direction and it looks like even this step is not assured.  But kudos to OU's Russ College of Engineering and Technology for mandating electronic submission of the whole text.  As I argued in a July 2006 article, for theses and dissertations, achieving mandatory electronic submission is the hardest part of achieving OA:

In principle, universities could require electronic submission of the dissertation without requiring deposit in the institutional repository.  They could also require deposit in the repository without requiring OA.  But in practice, most universities don't draw these distinctions.  Most universities that encourage or require electronic submission also encourage or require OA.  What's remarkable is that for theses and dissertations, OA is not the hard step.  The hard step is encouraging or requiring electronic submission. For dissertations that are born digital and submitted in digital form, OA is pretty much the default.  I needn't tell you that this is not at all the case with journal literature.

OA to backfiles of four more Middle East research journals

Charles Ellwood Jones announces that the Digital Library for International Research and the Middle East Research Journals Project now offer OA to the backfiles of four more journals:

Update on the OA petition to the EC

Here's an update I just sent to several discussion lists on the petition to the European Commission for guaranteed public access to publicly-funded research results.  Excerpt:

As of this morning, there were 18,476 signatures (in the 24 days since the petition was launched on January 14).

The petition welcomes signatures from any individual or institution but especially from European researchers and European research institutions. Please help by signing the petition yourself, asking your institution to sign as an institution, and spreading the word.

Here are some of the notable institutional signatures:

* European research funders

Association of Medical Research Charities (UK)
Austrian Science Fund
British Heart Foundation
CNRS (Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique)
European Research Council
Deutsche Forschungsgemeinshaft (German Research Foundation)
INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique)
Max Planck Society
Medical Research Council (UK)
Spanish National Research Council
Volkswagen Foundation
Wellcome Trust

* European university associations

Assocation of Swedish Higher Education
Conference of Italian University Rectors
Finnish Council of University Rectors
Hochschulrektorenconferenz (Germany)
Irish Universities Association
Portuguese Rectors Conference

* National academies in Europe

Academia Romana (Romanian Academy)
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
Lithuanian Academy of Sciences
Royal Flemish Academy of Arts and Sciences
Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences
Royal Scientific Society of Jordan
Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History & Antiquities
Schweizerische Akademie der Geistes- und Socialwissenschaften

* European research institutions other than universities

Brain Health Centre, Rome
CERN (European Centre for Nuclear Research)
CNRS-Paris Descartes Laboratory
BESSY (German Synchrotron Radiation Research Centre)
DESY (German Electron Synchrotron: Helmholtz Association)
Herder Institute, Marburg
IFO Institute for Economic Research, Munich
Istituto Superiore di Sanita (National Institute of Health, Italy)
Istituto Universitario di Scienze Motorie, Rome
Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering
Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
Netherlands Space Research Institute
Nordic Cochrane Centre
RWI Essen (Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung)

* European universities

National Pedagogical University, Lithuania
Università degli Studi del Molise
Università degli Studi della Tuscia ­ Viterbo
Università degli Studi di Messina
Università degli Studi di Teramo
Università degli Studi di Torino
Universidad de Huelva
University "G. d'Annunzio" of Chieti-Pescara
University of Bristol
University of Cyprus
University of Genoa
University of Ghent
University of Giessen
University of Göteborg
University of Goettingen
University of Groningen
University of Konstanz
University of Kristianstad
University of Liege
University of London Birkbeck College
University of London Royal Holloway College
University of London School of Advanced Study
University of Lund
University of Macerata
University of Minho
University of Naples 'Parthenope'
University of Porto
University of Southampton
University of Stockholm
University of Strathclyde
University of Twente
University of Umea
University of Westminster
University of Wolverhampton
University of Zurich

* European research organizations

ERCIM (European Research Consortium for Information and Mathematics)
ESIB (National Unions of Students in Europe)
euroCRIS (European Organisation for Current Research Information Systems)
European Educational Research Association
Euroscience (European Association for the Advancement of Science & Technology)
World Academy of Young Scientists

Kudos to the petition organizers for generating this remarkable response. The voice of the European research community is coming through loud and clear.

Remember that the petition is still open and welcomes signatures from every quarter.

Update. Here are a few more notable institutional signatories:

  • Cybertheses (Francophone and multilingual network of storage and publication of ETD in OA)
  • Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (INRA)
  • Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions
  • Open University
  • Presses Universitaires de Lyon
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

More from Nature on OA

Randy Dotinga, Nature Publishing Group Tackles Open Access, Wired News, February 7, 2007.  Dotinga interviewed David Hoole, head of brand marketing and content licensing for Nature Publishing Group.  Excerpt:

1. What is Nature Publishing Group's policy on open access?

NPG doesn't have a position for or against open access....The internet has changed the publishing immeasurably, and there are certainly new opportunities with new business models, which we are keen to explore. But it is self-evident that more journal articles are now more accessible than ever before. The STM [scientific, technical and medical] publishing industry has done an amazing job of moving to web publishing over the past 10 years.   

2. What have you done in response to growing interest in open access?

We are experimenting with an open access journal, Molecular Systems Biology, and some of our society-owned titles have switched to a hybrid model, where authors can choose an open access option, subject to payment of a publication fee. 

We have also been supportive of self-archiving, and we were one of the first publishers to encourage self-archiving in national repositories such as PubMedCentral. We are therefore compatible with the access policies of major funders such as NIH, Wellcome and MRC. 

3. Do you have anything on the drawing board, open-access-wise?

It will take several years to see the results of our open access experiments, and we won't be making any major changes without good evidence. But it is already clear that a journal like Nature would struggle under an open access business model. We reject 90% of the articles we receive, and spreading the cost of peer review over the few authors who do get published would be very unfair (and would probably deter submissions). We have approximately 1000 authors, and 60,000 subscribers. It seems fairer to spread the costs over the subscribers. But of course the picture is somewhat different with a low circulation journal. It may make more sense to introduce publication fees instead of subscriptions on those titles.             

4. What do you think of the efforts by other publishers to battle open access?

I think the publishers feel they have been pushed into a corner by the open access campaign. "Public access to publicly funded research" sounds logical, and appealing. But it is really not the point.

Any researcher is free to announce their results, on their web site, their funders web site, or elsewhere....

All businesses have an obligation to maximise shareholder value, so shouting at them to change business model on valuable brands 'on a whim' is futile. We either let the market decide, or we collectivise the industry....

Ultimately, I don't really see why there is such a division - why can't we just get on with innovative publishing, experimenting with a range of business models? ... 


  1. OA to publicly funded research "is really not the point".  Not the point to whom?  Like many publishers, Hoole is assuming that "the point" is the prosperity of private-sector publishers (profit and non-profit).  But for government funding agencies, the point is the advance of science and research.
  2. Who is "shouting at [publishers] to change business model...'on a whim'"?  Is that really what David Hoole thinks is happening?
  3. "We either let the market decide, or we collectivise the industry."  Hoole is forgetting that government spending permeates this "market":  it pays for most research, most researcher salaries, and most journal subscriptions.  To say that government spending should continue to prop up research, researchers, and publication, but that government policy should keep its hands off, is a recipe for serving private interests at the expense of the public interest.  More:  Hoole is assuming, without evidence (actually, in the face of evidence), that the only alternative to a market here is collectivization.  Where did that come from?

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

RIN/Rightscom report on UK funder policies

Research Funders' Policies for the management of information outputs, a new report commissioned by the Research Information Network and prepared by Rightscom, January 2007.  (Thanks to Steve Hitchcock.)  Nearly all of this long and detailed report is relevant to OA.  These excerpts from the executive summary hit the main conclusions and points that are not widely known:

In October 2005 the Research Information Network (RIN) commissioned Rightscom to conduct a study into the policy and practice of UK research funders in managing their research outputs....[T]he study examined the policies and practice of a selection of around 25 of the largest research funders across the public, voluntary, and private sectors including: the eight Research Councils; seven universities; and a selection of Government Departments, of research charities, and of industries that invest significantly in R&D in the UK....

1.2 Key Findings

1.2.1  Context

...Policy development in the UK has been influenced by international initiatives, and has been dominated over the past two years by moves towards a Research Councils UK (RCUK) position statement, finally published in June 2006, on access to research outputs. The key policy objective for many funders – although not always clearly articulated - is to enhance the efficiency of the research process and the dissemination of research results by making it easy for anyone interested in research results to gain access to them....

1.2.3 Policies Regarding Different Categories of Published Outputs

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

...Two issues have arisen as to the arrangements to meet such [publication] fees [at fee-based OA journals]. Research Councils affirm strongly that researchers themselves should choose where to place their articles; and that it is for researchers’ employing institutions to decide whether or not to pay publication fees. Under the Full Economic Costing regime for funding research projects which was introduced in 2005, universities can include in the indirect costs specified in their grant applications provision for meeting such fees.

None of the universities interviewed had yet developed a detailed policy on payment of publication fees, and none had modelled the potential cost. But none expressed any objection in principle to paying such fees, so long as the costs could be contained. Among charities, the Wellcome Trust has introduced a scheme to meet publication fees for researchers in some key universities; but both Leverhulme and the Royal Society expressed reservations about the model, although the Royal Society has recently launched an open access trial for its own publications. The Government Departments interviewed will not pay publication fees; and none of the commercial organisations interviewed had had any discussion with researchers about payment of such fees....

1.2.5 The Development and Role of Repositories

...Six of the eight Research Councils now require the deposit of journal articles in “an appropriate repository”, but many Councils express caution about the utility of institutional repositories. Their concerns focus on sustainability, and the difficulties in creating a coherent and consistent system across a large number of universities....

Many universities are now developing repositories, stimulated by the RCUK position statement and commitment from librarians, and by funding from JISC. Universities see repositories as a way of providing a showcase for the university and its research, and of improving the efficiency of research and scholarly communications. These two motivations are interlinked, but variation in the emphasis given to each of them carries implications for policy and practice....

1.3 Conclusions

A successful research and innovation system depends on the open exchange of ideas, information and knowledge. In order to produce high-quality research, researchers must have easy and rapid access to as wide a range as possible of the data and information produced by other researchers....

Research funders are struggling, as outlined in this Report, to find the most effective responses to these changes....

Key areas that need to be addressed include: ...

  • Costs and Funding. There is remarkably little information available about the current overall costs of managing the information outputs of research in the UK and providing access to them. Similarly, little work has been done on the likely costs of current and new developments, and of how they might best be met in a sustainable way....
  • Benefits. A focus on costs should not exclude evaluation of the benefits from investment in provision for managing information outputs effectively, in improving the efficiency of research, and in enhancing its impact. Failure to invest in putting effective arrangements in place will have damaging consequences....
  • Intellectual Property. There is evidence of some inconsistency of approach among funders in seeking to resolve the tension between the aims of widespread and rapid dissemination of research results on the one hand, and protection and exploitation of IP on the other. There may be inevitable variations as between different funders’ positions on IP; but where research is funded as a public good, it is important that priority should be given to making results accessible as widely and rapidly as possible.
  • Repositories. With one or two exceptions, repositories are not yet well-established, but their development is likely to have a major impact in this country and overseas. There is as yet, however, lack of clarity as to the roles of subject-based as distinct from institutional repositories. And for universities in particular there is a need for greater clarity as to the key purposes that repositories are designed to fulfil, the scope of their content, whether researchers should be required to deposit certain kinds of outputs, and the mechanisms for deposit and the creation of metadata.
  • Open Access Journals. If the open access journals that rely on publication fees as a key part of their business model are to be sustainable in the long-term, research institutes and other funders must establish mechanisms for the payment of such fees. The Research Councils and the Wellcome Trust have begun to establish procedures, but other funders are cautious or hostile. Researchers and research institutes need greater clarity and consistency of approach....

One society publisher's strong endorsement of OA

The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) has released the ASCB Position on Public Access to Scientific Literature, January 31, 2007.  (Thanks to the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.)  Excerpt:

...The ASCB believes strongly that barriers to scientific communication slow scientific progress. The more widely scientific results are disseminated, the more readily they can be understood, applied, and built upon. The sooner findings are shared, the faster they will lead to new scientific insights and breakthroughs. This conviction has motivated the ASCB to provide free access to all of the research articles in Molecular Biology of the Cell two months after publication, which it has done since 2001....

The vast majority of the biomedical research conducted at American universities and colleges is funded by taxpayers. The ASCB believes that taxpayers are best served when all scientists, educators, physicians, and members of the public – including patients and their families – have access to publicly funded research results. So long as significant access barriers remain, taxpayers are not fully benefiting from the work that they fund. With the proliferation of networked technology, we have an unprecedented and cost-effective means to overcome such barriers. For the first time, it is possible and practical to offer free access to every potential user. It is incumbent upon us, as scientists and citizens, to take full advantage of this opportunity.

Some publishers argue that providing free access to their journal’s content will catastrophically erode their revenue base. The experience of many successful research journals demonstrates otherwise; these journals make their online content freely available after a short embargo period that protects subscription revenue. For example, as noted above, the content of Molecular Biology of the Cell is free to all after only two months, yet the journal remains not only financially sound, but profitable. The data clearly show that free access and profitability are not mutually exclusive.

Our goal should be to make research articles freely available as soon as feasible so that science and the public benefit from their expanded use and application. At the same time, it is important that nonprofit societies and other publishers generate sufficient revenues to sustain the costs of reviewing and publishing articles. We believe that a six-month embargo period represents a reasonable compromise between the financial requirements of supporting a journal and the need for access to current research.

For these reasons, the ASCB supports efforts to require that the results of federally funded biomedical research be made freely available to the public, no more than six months after they are published. 

Comment.  This is an exemplary statement.  You might think that the ASCB position jeopardizes its journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBC).  But in fact, when MBC liberalized its access policy, offering OA after a short two-month embargo, its submissions and subscriptions both increased.  See the testimony of Elizabeth Marincola, former Director of ASCB, or Kuan-Teh Jeang's study of the MBC's numbers.

A promising business model

Scott Aaronson has written a review of John Willinsky's The Access Principle for a future issue of SIGACT News.  Because he says a lot more about OA itself than Willinsky's book, I'm not distorting his position by excerpting only some of the former:

I have an ingenious idea for a company. My company will be in the business of selling computer games. But, unlike other computer game companies, mine will never have to hire a single programmer, game designer, or graphic artist. Instead I'll simply find people who know how to make games, and ask them to donate their games to me. Naturally, anyone generous enough to donate a game will immediately relinquish all further rights to it. From then on, I alone will be the copyright-holder, distributor, and collector of royalties. This is not to say, however, that I'll provide no "value-added." My company will be the one that packages the games in 25-cent cardboard boxes, then resells the boxes for up to $300 apiece.

But why would developers donate their games to me? Because they'll need my seal of approval. I'll convince developers that, if a game isn't distributed by my company, then the game doesn't "count" -- indeed, barely even exists -- and all their labor on it has been in vain.

Admittedly, for the scheme to work, my seal of approval will have to mean something. So before putting it on a game, I'll first send the game out to a team of experts who will test it, debug it, and recommend changes. But will I pay the experts for that service? Not at all: as the final cherry atop my chutzpah sundae, I'll tell the experts that it's their professional duty to evaluate, test, and debug my games for free!

On reflection, perhaps no game developer would be gullible enough to fall for my scheme. I need a community that has a higher tolerance for the ridiculous -- a community that, even after my operation is unmasked, will study it and hold meetings, but not "rush to judgment" by dissociating itself from me. But who on Earth could possibly be so paralyzed by indecision, so averse to change, so immune to common sense?

I've got it: academics!

Everything I described with computer games would work even better with academic papers. For then it wouldn't be the academics themselves who were footing the bill, but their universities' libraries. So, under the academics' noses, I could gradually gain control of much of the world's scientific output -- a unique and irreplaceable resource, worth almost any price I'd care to name.

Alas, my idea has already been taken, by Elsevier and the other publishing conglomerates....

More on the AAP PR campaign

Mark Chillingworth, Leaked plan to attack open access has science in uproar, Information World Review, February 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Hiring a PR agency to take control of the open access (OA) debate has backfired on the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and three of its most prominent members, John Wiley & Sons, Reed Elsevier and the American Chemical Society.

The scientific and information sectors have greeted with derision the news that the STM giants have engaged the services of “PR pitbull” Eric Dezenhall, a PR agent noted in the US for his work on behalf of disgraced Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling....

Defending its choice of PR agent, the AAP would only release a statement saying: “Not-for-profit and commercial publishers, as a group, have a responsibility to make the case on important issues regarding science and research.”  Neither Elsevier nor Wiley would comment beyond the statement.

According to the Washington Post, an organisation’s recruitment of Dezenhall is an admission of defeat: “If word gets out, you stand to be seen as on the ropes and willing to do anything to win.” ...

Nature revealed that Dezenhall had advised the STM publishers to focus on a simple message of “public access equals government censorship”, and to “paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles”....

JISC consultant Fred Friend said: “It would be galling if publishers are using large sums of money derived from taxpayer-funded subscriptions to pay a media consultant to formulate messages against taxpayer interests.  It is an extreme example of the lobbying publishers have been undertaking to thwart the clear wish of many members of the academic community to disseminate the results of publicly funded research more widely.” ...

Some publishers have come out in defence of the AAP.

Peter Banks of Banks Publishing in the US said: “For years, the OA camp has used media messaging, with its attending distortions and gross simplifications, to great effect.”

CC licenses and OA

Tracey Caldwell, Commons touch on rights, Information World Review, February 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

...Creative Commons (CC)...licences are widely used globally, mostly by authors seeking to define the rights attached to their works. Microsoft has thrown its weight behind CC, and will it incorporate into Vista , its latest version of Windows....

[M]ainstream publishers are also using them to support new sales models....Yale University Press has made [Yochai Benkler's] The Wealth of Networks available for free download under a CC licence.

The open access (OA) community has welcomed CC licences. Blogger Peter Suber, author of Open Access News says: “Creative Commons licences are terribly useful. They are very easy to implement. They come in a good variety of flavours, including several that closely match the best public definitions of open access.  Each one has three versions: human-readable, lawyer-readable and machine-readable. The machine-readable versions make it possible for search engines to filter results by licensing terms, helping users find resources that are both relevant and free to read and use. Google, Yahoo and the CC search engine already incorporate this option.”

OA journals can use CC licences....

CC licences have not been widely adopted in traditional academic publishing because they entail open access, but they have been embraced in OA publishing. PloS, BMC and Biomed use CC, as do Springer and OUP for their hybrid OA journals.

“Most hybrid publishers don’t let authors who select their OA or OA-like option retain copyright or use OA-friendly licences,” says Suber. “But I think that’s a mistake: it makes the option less valuable to authors, and will keep author uptake low.  Neither Springer nor OUP originally offered CC licences for their hybrid journals, but both changed their minds. That’s a good sign and I expect that some of the other hybrid journal publishers will also come around.”

Elsevier , though, sees little benefit in CC. Mark Seeley, Elsevier senior vice-president and general counsel, says: “The most important thing for STM authors is scholarly use of their own materials. The principles for this could be set out in a Creative Commons licence, but frankly what authors are looking for is generally well covered....”

Seeley is chair of the copyright committee of the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers. Its draft paper, Appropriate Balance for Academic Publishing and Academic Use, states: “The management of the scholarly publishing system is best done by publishers as professionals, and it is important to remember that publishers are in the business of making content available to the widest possible audience, provided they can do so in financially viable fashion. Exclusive rights are critical to administering the scientific record and ensuring viable business models for journals.”

Matt Cockerill, publisher at BioMed Central, which makes all its content available under CC licences, points to the practical benefits.  “BioMed articles supplied under a Creative Commons licence are free to be redistributed in NCBI’s standard full-text XML form by the NCBI [National Centre for Biotechnology Information]. Other articles, while they may be free on the publisher’s websites and even on PubMed Central, are not available for reuse and mining in this way.

“Because CC licences were designed from the start to encourage digital reuse, they are designed for machine readability. Web spiders can automatically recognise all articles published by BioMed Central as being open access and redistributable, thanks to the Creative Commons metadata embedded in every page.” ...

John Wilbanks, executive director of Science Commons, believes open access is the key to CC acceptance. “CC licences are simply a free, standard way to go OA. We have had a lot of conversations with traditional publishers, and the questions are far more skewed towards ‘Should we go open access?’ than ‘Should we use Creative Commons?’...”

[Rachel] Bruce says that JISC projects within the repository programme are looking at using CC licences, and that JISC hopes to come out with guidance on the use of Creative Commons....

Science Commons is working on new licences specifically for scientific research and all the indications are that CC licences will play an important part in future access to scientific research.

Princeton joins the Google Library project

The Princeton University library has joined the Google Library project.  From Princeton's announcement, February 5, 2007:

A new partnership between the Princeton University Library and Google soon will make approximately 1 million books in Princeton's collection available online in a searchable format.

In a move designed to open Princeton's vast resources to a broad international audience, the library will work with Google over the next six years to digitize books that are in the public domain and no longer under copyright....

[Quoting University Librarian Karin Trainer:]  "Having the portion of that collection not covered by copyright available online will make it easier for Princeton students and faculty to do research, and joining the Google partnership allows us to share our collection with researchers worldwide...."

Princeton is the 12th institution to join the Google Books Library Project. Books available in the Google Book Search also include those from collections at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, the University of California, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas-Austin, the University of Virginia, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the New York Public Library, the University Complutense of Madrid and the National Library of Catalonia.

Also see Google's announcement.

OA issues in information theory

Asarwate has blogged some notes on the Panel discussion on publication issues at Information Theory and Applications 2007 (San Diego, February 4, 2007).  Excerpt:

Paul Siegel was the moderator and led off with three binaries to spark discussion “paper versus plasma” (the medium of publication), “prophets versus profits” (the financial model), and “peer review versus page rank” (quality measurements)....

Dave Forney talked about the spiraling costs of Elsevier-owned journals to libraries and urged people to just say no. He implicated those professors who choose to be on the editorial boards of such journals as being part of the problem, and urged them to divest from Elsevier, as it were. In general, he wanted faculty to be more proactive and aware of these important issues, a stance that I was 100% with. He then turned to ArXiV, and told everyone to submit their preprints to ArXiV so that people could know what research is being done. He said usage was increasing, but too slowly.

Andrea Goldsmith said that she found ArXiV to be of limited use since articles posted there are not peer reviewed, and the value of an article is only guaranteed via publication in the Transactions. For the publication model, she stressed the importance of access to the Transactions for the entire IEEE, so that the IT Society should not drift off. She also urged faculty to pur institutional pressure on Elsevier by boycotting.

Steve McLaughlin also brought up the ties that bind IEEE and IT. The online Transactions are a major source of revenue, and it was the IT Society that spurred the creation of IEEExplore. He lauded ArXiV as a good impetus to embrace new ideas and models for publication, and floated the idea of an Open Access (OA) journal to complement the Transactions....

Vince Poor, the current Editor-In-Chief [of IEEE Transactions on Information Theory], talked about copyright issues in the age of ArXiV and pointed out how reasonable the IEEE is. He seemed to indicate that Elsevier doesn’t affect our community much, but I didn’t really follow his argument there....

Rüdiger Urbanke was very excited about ArXiV because it could provide timestamps, and since the field is moving faster these timestamps are important....

In the Q&A...Someone else asked why we need timestamps from ArXiV when there are timestamps on the IT Transactions papers already, but Urbanke said that it has to do with time scales more than anything, and ArXiV lets you track revisions. Another person complained that ArXiV could become a repository for erroneous results and rejected papers, but Forney was quick to note that ArXiV’s value lies in showing who is working on what, and clearly there are no guarantees on the veracity of the claims made there....

I was most disappointed that nobody took up Steve McLaughlin’s comment on making an OA journal that is peer-reviewed and pay-to-publish. I’ve already written about having a new letters journal, but an OA journal would provide an alternative place to publish papers that is not evil and possibly has faster review turnaround than the IT Transactions. Given there are 900 papers submitter a year to the IT Transactions now, it seems like the benefits would be great. It would also help alleviate the Elsevier-feeding publication need. But the IT Society could never endorse such a project and thus a panel like this would not address that issue. You’d have to get professors without their official IEEE hats on to discuss this freely, and that wasn’t going to happen at this panel. I think if the OA option is on the table it could get modified into something more palatable and friendly to the IEEE, but it of course would take some discussion and a desire to make it happen.

Also see the video of the panel discussion.

OA to research on global warming

We need OA to research on global warming.  This follows directly from the principle that the more knowledge matters, the more OA to that knowledge matters

I've been thinking about it for some time and friends have started mentioning it in private emails.  Many people (including me) have mentioned global warming as one compelling reason to provide OA to publicly-funded research.  But I haven't seen much focused discussion on OA to global warming research itself.  Michael Ferrari took this focus in a blog post yesterday:

In light of the current release of the results from the 4th Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the full report will be released in sections throughout the year), we will hopefully begin to see more of an emphasis placed on developing economically feasible ways to both mitigate the negative impacts, and adapt to whatever changes are imminent. As such, it is probably high time to think about the creation of an open access style journal that encompasses all viewpoints that can be openly discussed and shared, to encourage transparency. The climate issue was framed as a 'debate' for far too long; in truth, once the evidence from multiple sources started to come in, it really wasn't much of a debate. However, those who chose to cast doubt (which is their right) continued to cry afoul that they were being ignored by the more prominent scientific journals and that they were in effect being 'muzzled'. Using this as experience, it would be foolish to hinder the attempts to move forward on the development of comprehensive solutions by not presenting the range of ideas in an open access forum. Rather than create another journal that focuses purely on the science, I suggest the creation of a new open access journal that deals with the applied aspects of climate change economics, adaptation, and mitigation in the 21st century.

Comment.  I welcome Ferrari's post and this chance to say more on the same subject.  I agree with much of what he says but would take a slightly different direction on a few points.  I want to see OA for all the relevant sciences as well as OA for what Ferrari calls adaptation and mitigation.  I don't care whether the research was originally published in OA journals or self-archived after being published in TA journals. I want honest and rigorous peer review even if it aggravates doubter complaints about bias.  This is not a special wishlist for climate research; it's my usual wishlist for every kind of research.  If there's something special here, it's the momentous topic and the urgency of making headway on it.  A common line in some newspapers is that we know all the relevant science already and only have to act on it.  It's true that we already know enough to act and true that action is urgently needed.  (So let's get moving.)  But that's not a reason to neglect unsettled scientific questions about climate, climate change, and global warming.  To facilitate progress on those questions, to inform all the stakeholders of all the results, and to undermine the ideological underminers, we need OA to the basic peer-reviewed research.  Sometimes TA journals will make articles of unusual public importance OA, simply to accelerate research (thereby acknowledging that it does accelerate research).  I'd like to see more journals do that for climate research, prospectively and retroactively.  Sometimes overworked and preoccupied scientists are still unaware of OA, or unaware that OA archiving is compatible with publishing in a non-OA journal.  I'd like to see climate scientists use the urgency of their topic as a reason to enlighten their colleagues about OA.  Sometimes non-scientists aren't aware of promising research to solve serious problems; but in the case of global warming, non-scientists are increasingly able to see what's at stake and should use their knowledge to demand OA to publicly-funded research.

OA news in sociology

The Intute social sciences blog reviews some recent OA developments in sociology.  Excerpt:

The number of sociology and interdisciplinary open access journals and newsletters continues to grow in 2007. The Urban Theory and Research (UTR) Study Group of the British Sociological Association have just launched their Newsletter The Word, available in pdf format. Medical Sociology News (MSN) has now been replaced by Medical Sociology Online (MSo) and the first issue of this free access British Sociological Association publication is now available.

Last week the Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS) published its tenth anniversary issue. At present it has over 90,000 web page reads every month.

Wikis are a new social science resource. January this year saw the launch of Critical Realism Wiki. It incorporates feeds from online activities relating to the subject as well as reference and event information.

Some new subscription based sociology journals for 2007 include Cultural Sociology, Environmental Communication and International Political Sociology

Intute: Sociology provides a list of the best open access publications. Filter your search by the resource type “Journals- full-text” under each of the browse headings.

Belgian officials endorse OA

Next week, 13 senior officials in Belgian research and education will sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.  From today's announcement:

On Tuesday 13 February 2007 a national conference for Open Access to Belgian research will be held at the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences in Brussels in the context of DRIVER, a European project for the advancement of open access to scientific research. On that occasion the Berlin declaration will be ratified by the signature of ten Belgian university rectors, the president of the Flemish Council of Schools of HE and the two regional Ministers of Science (Minister Fientje Moerman and Minister Marie-Dominique Simonet).

Apart from the signing ceremony of this Declaration, scientists from different disciplines will give a talk on the advantages of Open Access for their field of expertise. In short, the Belgian scientific world rallies around the same principle, which benefits the international renown/reputation of Belgian research. It is a clear signal to the researchers that their administrations and authorities support them in the transgression to the new paradigm and shows Belgium as a unified country, ready to take on a strong position in the global knowledge economy.

The names of the Berlin Declaration signatories are:


  • Minister Fientje Moerman, Vice-President of the Flemish Government, Minister of Economy, Enterprise, Innovation, Science and Foreign Trade for the Flemish Government
  • Minister Marie-Dominique Simonet, Vice-President of the French Community, Minister of Higher Education, Scientific Research and International Relations for the French Community, Minister of Research and New Technology and Foreign Affairs for the Walloon Region


  • Prof. P. Van Cauwenberge, Universiteit Gent (UGent)
  • Prof. B. Van Camp, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)
  • Prof. P. Vincke, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)
  • Prof. M. Scheuer, Facultés Universitaires Notre-Dame de la Paix Namur (FUNDP)
  • Prof. Dr. L. De Schepper, Universiteit Hasselt (UHasselt)
  • Prof. B. Rentier, Université de Liège (ULiège)
  • Prof. M. Vervenne, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven)
  • Prof. F. Van Loon, Universiteit Antwerpen (UA)
  • Prof. C. Delporte, Faculté Universitaire Catholiques de Mons (FUCaM)
  • Prof. A. Thewis, Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux (FSAGx)
  • Prof. S. Boucher,  Faculté Polytechnique de Mons (FPMs)
  • Prof. B. Coulie, Université Catholique de Louvain (rector UCL)


  • Prof. B. Hoogewijs, President of the Flemish Council of Schools of Higher Education (VLHORA)

Comment.  This is a spectacular display of national support for OA.  It's important for Belgium and OA.  But its timing also makes it important for Europe:  the signing ceremony will take place in Brussels just two days before the EC-hosted conference, also in Brussels, Scientific Publishing in the European Research Area (February 15-16, 2007).

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hindawi launches 10 new OA journals

Hindawi Publishing has added 10 titles to its OA journal collection.  From today's announcement:

Hindawi Publishing Corporation is pleased to announce the launch of ten new journal titles, which will join the company's rapidly expanding collection of open access journals. The addition of the following journals marks the further growth of Hindawi's publishing program in two of its core areas, engineering and biomedicine:

  • Advances in Acoustics and Vibration
  • Advances in Human-Computer Interaction
  • Advances in Pharmacological Sciences
  • Advances in Urology
  • Dermatology Research and Practice
  • Distributed Information Systems
  • Gastroenterology Research and Practice
  • International Journal of Plasma Science and Engineering
  • International Journal of Reacting Systems
  • Journal of Artificial Evolution and Applications

Accepted articles in these journals shall be made immediately available online under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits the unrestricted use of all published material provided that it is properly cited, and will go through a thorough in-house production process, including markup, copy editing, and reference linking.

"With every journal added to one of our existing OA subject collections, the whole collection benefits from increased visibility in the scientific community," commented Nagwa Abdel-Mottaleb, co-founder and VP of Hindawi. "This is especially true for engineering, where we have almost 30 OA journals and expect to grow to over 50 by end of 2007."

Comment.  This may be the largest group of OA journals ever launched by one publisher at one time.  Kudos to Hindawi for continuing to expand the OA universe.

Update. Matt Cockerill has reminded me that BioMed Central launched its series of OA journals with 57 titles in May 2000. I gladly post the correction.

National Library of Australia gears up to publish OA journals

Bobby Graham, Open Publish: Open access to scholarly research, a paper presented at Information Online 2007, February 1, 2007.  (Thanks to Gary Price.)

Abstract:   The National Library of Australia is trialling the Open Journal Systems (OJS) digital publishing software to advance their understanding of managing an online open access journal publishing service. Findings from the project will be used to inform the development of a sustainable business model for hosting an online, open access journal publishing service at the Library.

The trial is being conducted in conjunction with the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) to migrate their peer-reviewed journal, JASAL, to an online format. In addition, the OJS software will be used to examine issues related to persistent citation and preservation of journal articles.

This paper highlights the process of working with the JASAL editorial team, using OJS to assist with every stage of the refereed publishing process, from submissions through to online publication and indexing. The process includes the integration of past issues into OJS as well as the publication of the current journal in both print and digital format. The trial is available [here].

Cyberinfrastructure presentations

The presentations from the conference, Designing Cyberinfrastructure for Collaboration and Innovation (Washington D.C., January 29-30, 2007), are now online.  The conference was sponsored by sponsored by the US National Science Foundation, the University of Michigan, the Council on Competitiveness, and Science Commons.

Also see some blogged notes on the conference by an unnamed contributor to the iCommons blog

Is China blocking OA to Chinese Marxist texts?

Noam Cohen, Who’s Attacking an Online Marxist Archive? China Is Suspected of Trying to Block Access to Texts, New York Times, February 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

...According to the Marxist Internet Archive, an online community that produces and organizes an ever-growing [open access] Marxist attacks primarily from China are jeopardizing its ability to provide Marxist texts, perhaps forcing the library to stop providing material in Chinese.

“We are not 100 percent sure this is the Chinese government; there are a lot of possibilities,” said Brian Basgen, who has worked on the archive since 1990. But he noted that the archive has been temporarily banned by the Chinese government before, about two years ago. “There is a motive,” he said. “They have done it to us in the past. What they are doing is targeting just the Chinese files.”

Since January there have been hundreds of “denial of service attacks,” Mr. Basgen said, 99 percent of which emanate from China....He said the site has managed to stay ahead of the attackers by creating “mirror sites” around the world, but the attacks have prevented the archive from updating its collection since they began....

Also see the archive's own annotated log of the attacks.

More on Emerald's no-fee hybrid journal program

Tracey Caldwell, Emerald OA experiment pays in kind, Information World Review, February 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

In exchange for open publication on Emerald Asset authors will be asked to submit a summary of their research findings highlighting their practical application.

Emerald Asset will run throughout 2007. The level of author participation and the quality of the summaries will be reviewed at the end of the year when a decision will be made about whether to continue the trial....

This groundbreaking open access model has been some time in gestation. Several years ago Emerald worked with SPARC Europe to try and convert one of its library journals to an author pays open access model....

Authors will be asked assign copyright of their work to Emerald on the basis that authors retain key rights to re-use their work as they wish, including self archiving their Microsoft Word version (including editorial and peer review changes) of their article, with acknowledgement. Emerald is Romeo coded green, allowing authors to archive both pre-print and post-print copies.

[Gill Etienne, Emerald's head of corporate communications] said, “Participants in the Asset trial will continue to retain key rights to re-use their work as they wish both for their research paper and their summary. The summary pages link to the definitive published version of the research paper in the Emerald database. As such, it will be freely accessible in both the EMX journal database and via the summary on the Emerald Engineering web site.”

PS:  For my comments on Emerald Asset, see my blog post for January 5, 2007.  Quick recap:  "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...."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Two publisher reps reflect on turmoil in the industry

Miriam A. Drake, Scholarly Communication in Turmoil, Information Today, February 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

Scholarly communication is in turmoil. It is not clear how scholarly publishers will cope with change or if journals will even survive. That’s why we turned to two leading experts to provide some insight into scholarly publishing now and in the future. Sally Morris —former chief executive of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP)— and Michael Mabe —chief executive of the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM)— both take a broad look at scholarly communications. They are keenly aware of the trends affecting scholarly publishing and the changing ways scholars communicate with their readers and each other.

The key issues confronting scholarly publishing include open access (OA), peer review, institutional re­positories, multiple versions of articles, increasing author awareness of copyright issues, archiving and preserving, and faster communication tools such as blogs, Web sites, RSS feeds, and podcasts. The newer communication tools speed up communication and bypass journals....

The current state of scholarly publishing is marked by confusion, uncertainty, and the lack of a clear path for the future. “I think there is a lot of turmoil,” said Morris. “People are focusing very much on open access and self-archiving in institutional repositories in parallel to publication in journals.” However, she said she suspects that people are looking in the wrong place. “A potentially far more significant development is that scientists are beginning to work and to communicate in completely different ways made possible by the Web,” she said. What this means is that if publishers continue to focus entirely on what’s happening to the article as we know it, the danger is that other people will make copies available for free, and therefore publishers won’t make money selling articles. “We may be worrying about the wrong thing,” she said.

Mabe also focused on the turbulence in publishing. “I think there are a number of competing trends interfering with each other like wave patterns interfere when you drop two stones in the water,” he said. “What you are seeing is the first phase of the digital transition as far as publishers are concerned. Add in the political and economic trends, and the end result is, I think, a very unpredictable mix.” ...

Comment.  This is a long, detailed article.  I've excerpted only the preface and encourage you to read the rest.  Both Morris and Mabe know the publisher perspective on this turmoil very well --which is not to say that I agree with all of their diagnoses.  I'm only sorry that Information Today assumed that the only experts on this turmoil were publishers.  I'd like to see a follow-up in which we hear from researchers themselves and others (librarians, funders, legislators) who have been working for just those new models of scholarly communication that are causing turmoil for some publishers.  The interests of publishers are not the only interests at stake here.

Backlash against the AAP

PR Nightmare? Science Publishers' Consultation with PR "Pit Bull" Raises Questions, Library Journal Academic Newswire, February 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

...According to a report in the journal Nature "employees from Elsevier, Wiley and the American Chemical Society," attended a meeting arranged last year by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) at which Eric Dezenhall, described as a PR "pit bull," attempted to help publishers craft a campaign to fight calls for public access.

Citing emails, Nature reported that Dezenhall advised publishers to focus on "simple" and sometimes misleading messages, such as "public access equals government censorship" ...But the foray into a possible PR effort now appears to be generating negative publicity. The publishers were blistered by critics in a range of articles including Scientific American, the Washington Post, and Salon, where Andrew Leonard blogged, under the headline "Science Publishers Get Stupid," that "any publisher of scientific research who even begins to entertain the notion that free access to scientific information can or should be equated with government censorship should be mocked mercilessly...for their disingenuous mendacity."

Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC, one of the earliest and biggest supporters of public access initiatives, said the consultation with Dezenhall is "a sure sign" that the public access movement is gaining momentum. "I think [the PR consultation] has already has backfired," Joseph said of publishers' meeting with Dezenhall. "The research community as a whole is certainly abuzz over this. We've seen a couple of dozen stories and blog postings highlighting the distaste that individuals have for this kind of behavior. Once these tactics are exposed, it's extremely difficult to regain credibility."

Joseph predicted that the Federal Research Public Access Act, legislation that would mandate public access to federally funded research across the spectrum of government agencies, will almost certainly be re-introduced and that when that happens advocates will be sure to remind legislators of this episode. "I can't imagine that Congress and Congressional staff members will look too kindly on these kinds of disinformation tactics," she added....