Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, July 28, 2007

LATimes editorial for OA mandate at NIH

Accessing NIH research, Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2007.  An editorial.  Here it is in full:

Taxpayers pony up $28 billion annually for the National Institutes of Health, the world's largest source of funding for medical research. The payoff, in addition to the occasional spectacular breakthrough, is more than 60,000 published studies each year.
The first beneficiaries of that knowledge aren't doctors or patients. They are the publishers of the journals that review, print and sell the results to subscribers. Your tax dollars may have financed the clinical trial of a new treatment regime for the rare disease you've contracted, but you'll probably still have to pay to see the results.

Now, some lawmakers are trying to increase the public's access to this research. In a new funding bill for the NIH, the House of Representatives required that the results of the studies the government funds must be made freely available online within 12 months of their publication. The requirement builds on a 2-year-old NIH initiative to gather research in a free website called PubMed Central. That initiative was voluntary. But so few researchers complied -- less than 5% in the first year -- that proponents of "open access" to scientific research have lobbied to make it mandatory.

The main opposition has come from publishers, who argue that making research available free could ruin the smaller journals that serve some medical specialties. Libraries may stop subscribing to costly niche journals if they know the material will be available for free within a year. And if those journals die off, researchers will lose the valuable services they supply, such as rounding up experts to review studies before they're published.

While publishers have an important role to play, particularly in judging a study's credibility, that doesn't mean they're entitled to squeeze cash from that study in perpetuity. An open access requirement could force changes in some journals' business models, but a growing number have found ways to succeed while making research available for free -- for example, by charging researchers [or their sponsors] fees for publication. And the 12-month period of exclusivity enables publishers to continue selling journals to those with the most immediate need to see them.

At the same time, opening up access to NIH-funded studies will increase their impact on researchers around the world. That's very much in the public interest. The more information that's available, the more chance someone will leverage it into another medical breakthrough.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I'm still on the road and far from caught up.  I'll have more to blog at my next break.

From my current location I can download email but I can’t upload any.  Unfortunately some approved messages for SOAF will be delayed a while longer.

Rating countries by OA

Vexen Crabtree assesses Which Countries Set the Best Examples according to 17 criteria like human development, global peace index, life expectancy, gender equality, and economic freedom.  Criterion #10 is Open Access to Research

Comment.  Kudos for putting OA on the shortlist of criteria.  I only wish that the data on how countries rank on providing OA had been open and current.  Vexen’s OA rankings are from a May 2005 article in The Guardian and do not take into account the rapid, recent spread of OA repositories at universities and OA policies at public funding agencies.  Vexen gives no link for the May 2005 article and neither Google nor the Wayback Machine can find a copy online.  Vexen’s web page is dated “2005 +” but quotes some 2007 sources.

BTW, Vexen’s top 10 countries on providing OA are (from the top down):  Sweden, Netherlands, UK, Canada, Australia, Finland/Denmark (tie), Portugal/Belgium (tie), Germany, USA, and Hungary. 

UUK backs JISC on OA repositories

JISC has announced a podcast report on the Universities UK support for JISC’s work on OA repositories:

As President of Universities UK and Vice Chancellor of Liverpool University, Professor Drummond Bone’s thoughts on how education and research can maximise its impact across the world carry particular weight. In this podcast, Philip Pothen reports on JISC’s 2007 national repositories conference in Manchester where Professor Bone outlined his views on the importance of repositories to the UK.

University publishing in the age of the internet

Ithaka has released a new report by Laura Brown, Rebecca Griffiths, and Matthew Rascoff, University Publishing in a Digital Age, July 23, 2007. 

From the splash page: 

Scholars have a vast range of opportunities to distribute their work, from setting up web pages or blogs, to posting articles to working paper websites or institutional repositories, to including them in peer-reviewed journals or books. In American colleges and universities, access to the internet and World Wide Web is ubiquitous; consequently nearly all intellectual effort results in some form of “publishing”. Yet universities do not treat this function as an important, mission-centric endeavor. The result has been a scholarly publishing industry that many in the university community find to be increasingly out of step with the important values of the academy.

This paper argues that a renewed commitment to publishing in its broadest sense can enable universities to more fully realize the potential global impact of their academic programs, enhance the reputations of their institutions, maintain a strong voice in determining what constitutes important scholarship, and in some cases reduce costs.

From the body of the report:

Alongside these changes in content creation and publication, alternative distribution models (institutional repositories, pre-print servers, open access journals) have also arisen with the aim to broaden access, reduce costs, and enable open sharing of content. Different economic models will be appropriate for different types of content and different audiences. It seems critical to us that there continue to be a diverse marketplace for publishing a range of content, from fee-based to open access, from peer reviewed to self-published, from single author to collaboratively created, from simple text to rich media. This marketplace should involve commercial and not-for-profit entities, and should include collaborations among libraries, presses, and academic computing centers....

[A]s is often decried by open access advocates, universities sometimes must pay excessively high prices to gain access to published scholarship. (Open access efforts may be a solution to some of these problems, but we will argue that there is no one-size-fits-all solution across disciplines and types of content.)...

The academic community seems to be looking to open access models as a solution to these challenges. But while open access may well be a sustainable solution in STM disciplines, where federal and private research grants can conceivably be extended to support publication fees, one model will not serve as a panacea. A more desirable future, in our view, features a diverse set of publishing models ranging from fee-based to open depending on the nature of the content and the interests of stakeholders. Universities should have a stake in developing these models.

Also see the bulleted list at pp. 36-37 on the "often complementary strengths and weaknesses" of libraries and university presses "that could be harnessed to deliver a compelling new publishing enterprise."


  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution across disciplines and types of content….In its context, this assertion leaves the impression that OA advocates would disagree.  But all OA advocates I know acknowledge that the challenges and models differ from discipline to discipline (even if OA itself is desirable and feasible in each), and acknowledge that OA suits some types of content, like journal articles, better than other types, like books.
  • The authors seem unaware that most OA journals charge no publication fees.
  • In their questionnaire to university press directors (Appendix D, p. 46), the authors ask, “Is your university prepared to provide more subsidy to your press to make up for revenues lost to open access? How much more money would you be willing to budget for your press?”  These are fair questions, but there are no complementary questions along these lines:  “Are you aware of the evidence that some open access journals make a profit or surplus?  Are you aware of the evidence that some open access monographs stimulate a net increase in the sales of the print editions?”

More on the Sparky award

SPARC announced the SPARC Discovery Award for information sharing (the “Sparky”) last month, and has now followed up (July 25) with this year’s theme and judges:

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) today announced the launch of the first annual SPARC Discovery Awards, a contest to promote the open exchange of information. Mind Mashup, the theme of the 2007 contest, calls on entrants to illustrate in a short video the importance of sharing ideas and information of all kinds. Mashup is an expression referring to a song, video, Web site or software application that combines content from more than one source….

Contestants are asked to submit videos of two minutes or less that imaginatively show the benefits of bringing down barriers to the open exchange of information. Submissions will be judged by a panel that includes:

  • Aaron Delwiche, Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas
  • José-Marie Griffiths, Professor & Dean at the School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Rick Johnson, communications consultant and founding director of SPARC
  • Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC
  • Karen Rustad, president of Free Culture 5C and a senior at Scripps College majoring in media studies
  • Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia
  • Peter Wintonick, award-winning documentary filmmaker and principal of Necessary Illusions Productions Inc….

Submissions must be received by December 2, 2007. Winners – including a first-place winner and two runners up – will be announced in January 2008. The winner will receive $1,000 and a “Sparky Award.” The runners up will each receive $500. Winning entries will be publicly screened at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference in January 2008 in Philadelphia and will be prominently featured in SPARC’s international advocacy and campus education activities.

OA publishers discuss the challenges of sustainability

The presentations and audio from the SPARC panel, Course check: A conversation with three open access publishers about the challenges of sustainability (Washington, D.C., June 23, 2007, within the larger ALA annual conference) are now online.  All four presentations are relevant:

  • Alma Swan, Director of Key Perspectives
  • Mark Patterson, Director of Publishing at PLoS
  • Bryan Vickery, Deputy Publisher at BMC and Editorial Director at Chemistry Central
  • Paul Peters, Head of Business Development at Hindawi Publishing


Presentations on publishing and the library of the future

The presentations from the ALPSP meeting, Publishing the Library of the Future (London, July 11, 2007), are now online.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

An OA success story

Søren Bertil Fabricius Dorch, To students: Publish your essays and become world famous!  Copenhagen University Library (undated but recent).  Excerpt:

Perhaps the title sounds unrealistic, but it nonetheless describes the experiences of student Rasmus Bjørk over the course of approximately one month during the beginning of 2007. Rasmus was finishing his Master's Thesis on "Planet formation by disk instability collapse” in the Computational Astrophysics research group at the Niels Bohr Institute….[B]ack in 2005…he wrote an essay on “Fermi's paradox” and performed a series of computer simulations….The scientists in Rasmus' group encouraged him to submit a manuscript to the international Journal of Astrobiology, where it was subsequently accepted for publication on December 28 2006. As it has almost become tradition in astronomy, Rasmus also uploaded his paper as a preprint to the online archive….January 7th 2007 Rasmus' preprint could be downloaded from ArXiv, and then things began to accelerate!

[Rasmus said:] “I was contacted by New Scientist and The Guardian. Shortly thereafter BBC- Radio Five called me and asked whether I would participate in a live interview, and subsequently I have been contacted by all kinds of journalists”.

The news about Rasmus’ paper was featured in both “The Guardian” and on the website on Januar 18th. He was interviewed by BBC twice on Januray 19th and there were news features on the paper in both “New Scientist” and Danish newspaper “Berlingske Tidende” on January 20th, and in the institute newspaper “NBI Avisen” on the 26th  – same day that it was mentioned in the engineering newspaper “Ingeniøren” – and the paper was not even officially out yet! Actually it was not yet even listed under ”forthcoming” on the Journal of Astrobiology's website, but was eventhough mentioned on national Danish television and radio (radio news and the evening show on TV "Aftenshowet", where Rasmus was interviewed in the studio).

So what can one learn from this? Publish your excellent essay, and perferably in an online, open archive!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I'll be on the road for three days with few opportunities for blogging or email. I'll start to catch up on Sunday or Monday.

HHMI responds to criticism of its Elsevier deal

Tom Cech and four co-authors, A Reply from HHMI, Journal of Cell Biology, July 24, 2007.  A letter to the editor.  This is a response to the editorial by Mike Rossner and Ira Mellman in the June 11, 2007, issue of JCB, How the rich get richer

From the HHMI letter:

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) recently announced a policy on Public Access to Publications for its investigators and Janelia Farm Research Campus scientists. This policy requires our scientists to publish in only those journals that make original research articles and supplemental materials freely accessible through a public database within six months of publication.

The policy seeks to balance the goal of public access and the equally important value of scholarly freedom—the goal of our scientists to allow their graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to publish their work in the journal of their choice. To bring more journals into compliance with our policy, we have concluded agreements with Elsevier and Cell Press, as well as other publishers, including the American Society of Hematology. Such conversations will continue with both for-profit and non-profit publishers.

Rossner and Mellman have criticized HHMI for not using its influence to coerce Elsevier into making their content public after a short delay without compensation. It should be noted that the $1,000 we are paying for each Cell Press article and $1,500 for other Elsevier publications is not profit to the publisher, but a reimbursement for their lost revenue in providing accelerated free access and their time and effort in uploading HHMI manuscripts to PubMed Central. Furthermore, HHMI already makes payments at a similar level to a wide array of non-profit and for-profit publishers for immediate or accelerated access to publications, as does the Wellcome Trust....

From the response by Mike Rossner (Executive Director, The Rockefeller University Press) and Ira Mellman (Editor in Chief, Journal of Cell Biology):

It seems clear from the HHMI response that they missed the point of our Editorial. They note that they are providing public access to HHMI-funded research with their outlay of cash to publishers (both commercial and non-commercial). This fact was not in dispute.

They do not, however, address the effect of their actions on the public access movement—that is, the effort to get publishers (especially commercial publishers, who have refused to release the bulk of their content to the public) to provide public access to their holdings after a short delay. If the Rockefeller University Press does not need reimbursement to provide free access after 6 months, neither should other publishers. Elsevier already makes vast sums of money publishing publicly funded research, and they should feel an obligation to give something back to the public. Paying publishers to provide spotty access to just a few of the papers they publish (e.g., those authored by HHMI investigators) does not address the issue of public access to all of the scientifi c literature. HHMI had an opportunity to exert some pressure on publishers to achieve that goal, and they chose not to do so. Although they claim they were trying to find a balance between public access and “scholarly freedom,” they did not succeed. Instead, the public access movement has suffered because HHMI gave in to the selfi sh desire of some of their investigators to continue publishing in Cell. This serves neither the public, nor science.

Comment.  Rossner and Mellman are right.  In my evaluation of the HHMI-Elsevier deal in the April issue of SOAN, I responded to some of the HHMI points that Rossner and Mellman did not address:

…[D]eposit in a repository is a clerical task whose cost is negligible….The job is not worth thousands of dollars per paper, or hundreds, or even tens.  If the physical job of depositing papers is really what HHMI wanted, it should have put the job up for bidding.  It could have gotten a much better deal…. 

Under the HHMI deal, Cell Press will reduce its permissible embargo on OA archiving from 12 months to six.  That's a real concession and gave Elsevier a bargaining chip in the negotiation.  But Elsevier journals outside Cell Press already permitted immediate self-archiving and the HHMI deal will lengthen the embargo to six months (for HHMI-funded authors), moving the bargaining chip back to HHMI….

[The Wellcome Trust] and Elsevier struck a deal last September…but [WT] got more for its money.  WT got immediate OA, while HHMI is getting embargoed OA.  WT got OA to the published edition, while HHMI is getting OA to an unedited edition.  WT got a Creative Commons license or equivalent; while HHMI could use CC licenses on deposited, unedited manuscripts, the published editions will remain under Elsevier's copyright with no significant reuse rights…. 

Elsevier is collecting fees for permitting embargoed green OA, and for making the deposits, when all its publishing costs are already covered by subscription fees….

Interview with Chemistry Central's Bryan Vickery

David Bradley has interviewed Bryan Vickery for Reactive Reports, July-August 2007.

Bryan Vickery did his BSc in chemistry at Liverpool University, and then studied electrochemistry there for his PhD....He is currently Publisher at BioMed Central with special interest in Chemistry Central....

How is the chemistry wing of BioMedCentral fulfilling the promise of a chemical web?

...Our job is to make the literature and data available freely, for datamining, etc., in a useful and meaningful way, and to employ linking technologies to make finding your way seamless. One of the main benefits of open access is that anyone can download the article, figures, schemes and data for reuse....

Why is it taking so long for researchers to fully engage with open journals?

Researchers have, for too long, been kept in the dark when it comes to the cost of publishing their research. It's strange to think that "publications" are a "library thing", especially as research output is increasing and library budgets are static. Researchers also put up with terrible customer service and delays in publication....Authors generally think "but why should I pay?" but never consider that the librarian is being held to ransom, and paying huge sums on their behalf. In fact, library budgets are, in part, funded through the indirect costs from research grants so researchers are paying without knowing it.

We strongly believe that publication is part of the research process, and should be funded as such. By making our costs visible and transparent we want authors to know how much it costs. As more and more publishers move to open access, we can fix this dysfunctional market and authors and their institutions can choose where to publish based on quality, service, prestige and price....

In the wake of Nature Precedings, which in turn simply reinvented the ChemWeb Preprints wheel, might we see Chemistry Central papers "published" as preprints to be reviewed live?

We'll be doing just that with PhysMath Central in fact. Our new launch into physics, mathematics and computer science allows authors to upload their files directly from arXiv, and upon acceptance PhysMath Central will deposit, immediately, the final version back into arXiv. What is more, any article submitted directly to us will also be deposited in arXiv....

OA medical journal moves to BMC

Asia Pacific Family Medicine moves to BioMed Central's Open Access Platform, a press release from Asia Pacific Family Medicine, July 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

BioMed Central, the world’s largest publisher of online open access scientific journals, today announced that the journal Asia Pacific Family Medicine (APFM) will join BioMed Central’s family of independent, open access journals….

APFM, the regional journal for the World Organization of National Colleges, Academies and Academic Associations of General Practitioners/Family Physicians (WONCA), is an academic society journal which publishes high quality, regionally-focused research aimed to enhance the standards of family medicine by focusing on best practices.

Family medicine is one of the fastest growing medical fields in the Asia Pacific region. By moving to BioMed Central’s open access publishing platform, APFM will widen the exposure of its family medicine research. While APFM's articles were already freely available online, they were not widely indexed or available through open access archives. Under the agreement between APFM and BioMed Central, the society journal’s entire archive of back-issues will be archived in PubMed Central and other key global repositories. In addition, all new research published in APFM will be immediately indexed through BioMed Central's partnerships with major indexing services….

The move to a fully open access platform will also help to integrate APFM’s excellent regional family medicine research into the worldwide body of medical knowledge. Editors at APFM expect to see more international submissions to their journal as a result of the increased exposure, leading to the greater globalization of the publication. Additionally, APFM expects the move to help increase awareness of the practice of family medicine in the region’s developing countries.

“We believe open access represents the future of academic publishing and BioMed Central provides the best platform,” said Dr. Tai-Pong LAM, co-editor of APFM. “The open access platform provided by BioMed Central will help to expose APFM to an international readership and authorship which will enhance the quality of publication in APFM….”

Update.  A second journal made the same move today:  The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (from the International Society of Sports Nutrition) has also joined BMC.  See the BMC press release

Legal scholarship on blogs

Paul Horwitz, 'Evaluate Me!': Conflicted Thoughts on Gatekeeping in Legal Scholarship's New Age, Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 07-34, Connecticut Law Review, Vol. 39, 2007 (Thanks to Michel-Adrien Sheppard.)

Abstract:   This short contribution to the Connecticut Law Review's new online supplement, CONNtemplations, offers some thoughts on status and gatekeeping in the online age of legal scholarship. Bloggers, SSRN, and online law review supplements like this one have increasingly routed around and weakened, if not undermined, the traditional gatekeepers who certified legal scholars and their scholarship. Is this a good thing?

The paper proceeds by examining this question in light of a pair of opposing views and values. The first is Julius Getman's discussion of the eternal tension between elitism and egalitarianism in the life of the scholar. The second is a pair of comments on the role of blogs and other online media in legal scholarship - a positive and optimistic comment by Larry Solum, and a more pessimistic and critical view presented by Brian Leiter. Ultimately, I tend to agree with Solum's optimistic view: the online age has provided new thinkers and writers with multiple routes around the old gatekeepers, and this development should be welcomed.

At the same time, I suggest candidly that many legal scholars who have benefited from blogs and other online media (including myself) have used those new media to seek certification and enhanced status from the same traditional gatekeepers that we have criticized. In Getman's terms, we have talked egalitarianism and done elitism. The old tension continues. I link this tension to a variety of broader phenomena: the insecurity of the legal academic, the legal academy's increasing fixation with rankings, and the economy of prestige.

TA progress report on OA

Peter Morgan, Alive and kicking: a progress report on Open Access, institutional repositories, and health information, He@lth Information on the Internet, August 2007.   Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

The concept of Open Access has made substantial progress in some areas, not least that of biomedical research; but it has been slow to affect the healthcare environment.

Voting v. acting

Dorothea Salo, Mandate Me! Caveat Lector, July 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Talk about open-access mandates in institutions has tended to irk me rather. I’d love an institutional mandate. I can’t create one. (On twenty-six campuses? All by myself? With no support from above, no institutional power, not even so much as a line in my job description to back me up? Of course I can’t.)

I’m scoffing a bit less, though, after reading this short Surowiecki piece on the discrepancy between the fuel-efficiency standards Americans vote for and the fuel efficiency of the vehicles they actually buy.

Perhaps that’s what’s going on with open access. Faculty are nominally in favor of the idea, but putting their articles where their opinions are could (they believe) entail career difficulties. If everyone has to do it because of a mandate, the playing field levels and they can comply without worry….

Comment.  I do believe this is one factor in the complex explanation of why researchers spontaneously self-archive at low rates (about 15%) but declare, at high rates (81%), that they would willingly comply with an institutional or funder mandate.  I like the fuel efficiency analogy, and once made a similar argument (SOAN for January 2002) using similar examples:

There are many…situations in which everyone wants to make a certain choice but no one wants to go first.  For example, all merchants in a town may want a day of rest (say, on Sundays), but the first to close on Sundays will lose customers to those who do not.  Or, all the states in the U.S. may want a relief fund for the poor, but the first to raise taxes first in order to provide one will lose businesses, hence taxes, to those that do not….[One solution is to] legislate so that all who want the outcome, but hesitate to go first, are compelled to move at the same time.  This is how towns provide a day of rest and how the U.S. federal government solved the circular hesitation of the states to adopt social security.

More on Pat Schroeder's comments on the NIH policy

William Walsh, Schroeder follows Dezenhall's script, Issues in Scholarly Communication, July 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

There's a nice story on the NIH proposal this morning in Inside Higher Ed. (See Peter Suber's comments on it.) In it, Pat Schroeder, president of the AAP, seems to be following the script laid out for publishers by pricey consultant Eric Dezenhall.

Schroeder, of the publishers’ association, acknowledged that opinion in higher education has shifted in favor of open access. But she said that was based on a lack of knowledge. “Any time you tell somebody they are going to get something for free, they think ‘yahoo.’ ” The problem, she said, is that “no one understands what publishers do.” If academics realized what publishers did with the money they charge — in terms of running peer review systems — they would fear endangering them.

You'll recall that the January 2007 Nature article on the relationship between publishers and Dezenhall stated:

[Dezenhall] hinted that the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review, and "paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer-reviewed articles".

As for Schroeder's other claims: 1) Saying that increased support for OA in higher education is based on lack of knowledge seems silly. Is she really calling these academic leaders ignorant? 2) I don't think anyone thinks they are getting something for free here. 3) I think most people understand what publishers do and are aware of the value they add. The most important thing they do--as Schroeder points out--is organize the peer review system. As she is aware, however, OA is compatible with peer review.

Jacso reviews dLIST

In his Digital Reference Shelf for June 2007, Péter Jacsó reviews dLIST.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

Two years ago I chose dLIST as one of the picks in the Peter's Database Picks and Pans column . At that time, there were only about 400 documents in the depository, but its potential and importance for the practitioners, educators, and students of library and information science & technology justified in my eyes its selection as one of my picks.

DLIST was established in 2002, the same year as E-LIS, its only peer in the discipline, of which I just published a detailed review in the May issue of Digital Reference Shelf….

The last time that I not only used but also systematically reviewed this depository in the Spring 2005, it had less than 400 documents. In July 2007, there are close to 1,100 documents. This makes it still much smaller than the E-LIS depository, which has more than 6,000 documents, but still it shows the growth of dLIST….

It may be surprising but there are a few items dating from the 1930s and 1950s – these are very well justified, as the oldest document in dLIST is the book of Five Laws by Ranganathan, which we educators often quote from, but could not expect students to read because few libraries had it. Now, there is no excuse….

The journal mix is impressive in dLIST….

Small, but equally impressive is the collection of entire books and chapters of books….

Allow me a short detour here about how open access can be turned into closed access and no access by the whims of purely business-minded people. [John Willinsky’s “very informative and substantial article about the indexing of scholarly journals published in 2001 in the open access Journal of Electronic Publishing (JEP)”] never received the acknowledgment and use it would have deserved — for a simple reason. Soon after its publication, Columbia University Press acquired the journal from University of Michigan Press. In its first move, CUP stopped providing access to the JEP archive and then there were no more moves and no more issues of JEP….

dLISt uses the excellent, open source ePRINT software, as do so many other depositories and repositories. It offers a simple and an advanced search mode. The number of search options and filters in the advanced mode is unusually high….

The usage statistics provided by eprints software are very useful. They give a good indication about the interest in the topic and the specific documents. They show how many times the abstract from the detailed record was looked up, and how many times the document was downloaded since it was posted. Breakdowns are available for specific time periods, and time periods distribution of users by countries

The only serious weakness is the lack of full-text searching (available in E-LIS, by the way), which would make the laudable idea of providing open access to important documents in a very focused, high-quality preprint and reprint collection even more appealing….

PS:  dLIST is one of two OA repositories (the other is E-LIS, which Jacso reviewed in May 2007) that have agreed to host scholarly papers on open access regardless of the author’s institutional or disciplinary home.

More on the student movement for access to medicines

Sandeep P. Kishore and Prabhjot S. Dhadialla, Student-Led Campaign to Help Tackle Neglected Tropical Diseases, PLoS Medicine, July 24, 2007.  (Thanks to Gavin Baker.)  Excerpt:

The neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a group of chronic infections that are often considered together because they primarily affect one billion of the world's poorest people and attract little attention from the global medical community....

Universities are uniquely positioned to provide biomedical and clinical expertise, and they boast core missions that seek to promote the public welfare. The university motto of the Rockefeller University, for instance, is: “pro bono humani generis,” or “science for the benefit of humanity”. In this article, we propose that innovative student-led campaigns to address NTDs can and do make a practical difference. We discuss these efforts at our universities.

In coming to medical school, several of us had like-minded interests in global health and were committed to making a practical difference. We formed a small caucus of medical and graduate students at the Weill Cornell Medical College, Rockefeller University, and Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute Tri-Institutional (Tri-I) campus in New York to explore the issue. We partnered with a growing student-led movement across universities, called Universities Allied for Essential Medicines. This movement recently [November 2006] catalyzed the creation of the Philadelphia Consensus Statement to promote equal access to university discoveries in the developing world and to promote university research on global health concerns. We brought the movement to our local campuses to find how our homegrown resources could be best leveraged....

University students are by no means passive players in the efforts to increase biomedical attention to the developing world....

PS:  For more background, see my 11/18/06 post on the Philadelphia Consensus Statement.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

India launches OA registry for clinical drug trials

India launches Clinical Trials Registry, Times of India, July 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

Clinical trials conducted for testing efficacy of new drugs are set to become transparent with the launch of a national registry for recording such an exercise.

The Clinical Trials Registry - India (CTRI), the first such initiative in Asia, was launched at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) here on Friday.

Any researcher who plans to conduct drug trials on humans is expected to declare the details of the exercise in the Registry, that is jointly funded by the Department of Science and Technology, WHO and ICMR.

Such prospective registration of clinical trials in humans before enrolling the first participant, and making sufficient information of ongoing research available to all those involved in healthcare decision making is now a national and international priority.

"With the launch of this registry, India will be among the few select countries like Australia, UK and the US that are making researchers accountable through public disclosure," N K Ganguly, ICMR Director-General said…. "The CTRI will ensure that a complete view of ongoing research is available at the click of a mouse," Ganguly said….

Only trials properly registered will be considered for publication in international research journals.

Augmenting interoperability for repositories

Simeon Warner and five co-authors, Pathways: augmenting interoperability across scholarly repositories, International Journal on Digital Libraries, May 15, 2007.   Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

In the emerging eScience environment, repositories of papers, datasets, software, etc., should be the foundation of a global and natively-digital scholarly communications system. The current infrastructure falls far short of this goal. Cross-repository interoperability must be augmented to support the many workflows and value-chains involved in scholarly communication. This will not be achieved through the promotion of single repository architecture or content representation, but instead requires an interoperability framework to connect the many heterogeneous systems that will exist.

We present a simple data model and service architecture that augments repository interoperability to enable scholarly value-chains to be implemented. We describe an experiment that demonstrates how the proposed infrastructure can be deployed to implement the workflow involved in the creation of an overlay journal over several different repository systems (Fedora, aDORe, DSpace and arXiv).

PS:  Also see an OA paper of the same title (“Augmenting Interoperability Across Scholarly Repositories”) by two of the co-authors of the current paper (Jeroen Bekaert and Herbert Van de Sompel), blogged here August 5, 2006. 

German perspective on the momentum for OA at the NIH

Peter Mühlbauer, Erfolg für Open Access in den USA, Telepolis, July 24, 2007.  German press coverage of the House bill to establish an OA mandate at the NIH, with some comparisons to the state of OA in Germany.  Read the German original or Google’s English.

BMC open to open notebook science

Heather Piwowar, Conversation with BMC on Open Notebook Science, Research Remix, July 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

I just had a conversation with Matt Hodgkinson, Senior Editor of the BMC series, which was worth the trip to Vienna all by itself….Matt Hodgkinson will be familiar not only as an editor at BMC, but also as the author of the blog Journalology (”Science publishing trends, ethics, peer review, and open access”)….

The bottom line: BMC has no hesitation considering research which has been previously posted to personal websites, blogs, wikis, and pre-print servers (as part of Open Notebook Science or otherwise), as long as it has not also been published in some formal way.

The details: Formal publishing is of course slightly difficult to nail down (they used to say “anything with a DOI”, but now Nature Precedings has a DOI without being considered a formal publication). A rule of thumb may be “anything with an ISSN.” Peer-review, or being indexed by PubMed, are not relevant to BMC when ascertaining prior formal publication status. Posters and abstracts are ok, conference proceedings are usually considered formal publications. Again, pre-print servers (Nature Precedings, arXiv) are fine.

Our conversation also touched on publishing clinical trial data and protocols, negative results, the fact that publishers can and do help recover data from authors who don’t respond to reader requests, the BMC policies for data sharing relative to that of other journals, and the potential for publishing about ONS….

More on the Nat'l Library of Australia as an OA publisher

Bobby Graham, Open Access to Open Publish, National Library of Australia, June 27, 2007.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Abstract:   Academic and scholarly journals are in trouble: small print runs, part?time editors, and dwindling funds are conspiring to crush them. But help is at hand: new trends in open access publishing support free, digital and open access to research literature, bringing writing and discourse to new and wider audiences.

The National Library of Australia has created an Open Publish web space, using the Open Journal Systems (OJS) digital publishing software to manage, host and deliver an online open access journal service.

The Library’s objective is to establish ‘new ways of collecting, sharing, recording, disseminating and preserving knowledge’. We want ‘to ensure our relevance in a rapidly changing world, [by participating] in new online communities’. For these reasons, the Library decided to engage in an open access journal publishing trial.

This paper outlines the collaboration between the Library and the Association for the Study of Australian Literature to migrate their peer?reviewed journal, JASAL, to an online format.

The successful outcome has informed the Library’s decision to include Open Publish journals in the Library’s collections.

More on the NIH policy

Scott Jaschik, Momentum for Open Access, Inside Higher Ed, July 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Last year, a proposal in Congress to require all federally supported research to be placed online, freely available, attracted considerable attention and debate — and ultimately stalled.

This year, a measure that is narrower — it would apply only to research supported by the National Institutes of Health — appears within reach of passage. The proposal is part of the appropriations bill for the Education Department and the NIH, and passed the House of Representative without debate last week. The Senate Appropriations Committee has already approved the measure, which has attracted bipartisan support.

While supporters of the “open access” movement continue to want a similar provision to apply to all federally supported research [FRPAA], they view the prospect of a win on NIH-supported research as a significant breakthrough. “The long term vision is that public access to federally supported research is the place to be,” said Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, one of the groups pushing for open access. Passing the NIH bill would show that this is “sound and prudent public policy” and that “the sky won’t fall.”

But Patricia S. Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, said that her group’s opposition to the legislation was not lessened at all by its being limited this year to the NIH. Large publishers will be fine, but she predicted that the bill could eventually kill some small, nonprofit publishers that play key roles in advancing research....

Publishers have furiously opposed the legislation, saying that it would discourage many libraries from subscribing to journals and that it would make it impossible for journals to support the labor-intensive and vital work they do in peer review and in presenting work for publication. Some scholarly societies have faced tough debates over the issue, with professors pushing for open access so they can see more research and the societies’ journal publishers fearful of lost subscription revenue....

Joseph, who has been pushing the open access bill, said that the result has been “incredible bipartisan support.” She predicted that a broader bill would eventually pass as well, although this year the focus is on the NIH. And while higher education was initially divided on open access, there have been more signs in the last year of a coalescing of support around it, with groups of provosts of research universities or presidents of liberal arts colleges coming out in favor of open access. The Alliance for Taxpayer Access, a coalition of groups favoring the bill, has released a series of endorsements from library groups, scholars and others.

Schroeder, of the publishers’ association, acknowledged that opinion in higher education has shifted in favor of open access. But she said that was based on a lack of knowledge. “Any time you tell somebody they are going to get something for free, they think ‘yahoo.’ ” The problem, she said, is that “no one understands what publishers do.” If academics realized what publishers did with the money they charge — in terms of running peer review systems — they would fear endangering them.

She also said that the requirement to put research online would force professors to spend time processing their papers, and she compared the requirement to one that would force police officers to spend less time fighting crime and more time on paperwork. “I want researchers doing research,” Schroeder said.

Proponents of open access have generally said that the publishers are exaggerating the impact, and overlooking the way researchers would benefit from having access to research currently denied them when their libraries cancel journal subscriptions they can no longer afford.

Because this year’s bill is focused on the NIH, some scholarly groups that opposed last year’s legislation are staying on the sidelines — although they are still watching with interest. The American Anthropological Association is among the groups that opposed the open access bill last year, although plenty of anthropologists strongly backed it and some were critical of the association’s stance.

Bill Davis, executive director of the association, said that some anthropology research does receive NIH support, but it is “not a major source of funding.” As a result of the “limited scope” of the bill this year, his group is not taking a stance. He acknowledged a “continuing set of concerns” over how open access would affect the society’s journal operations....


  • Pat Schroeder continues to focus on the harm to publishers --and worse, hand-waving references to this harm-- without acknowledging (1) the evidence from the field with the highest levels and longest history of OA archiving, physics, where this harm has not materialized, (2) the enormous benefit to research and to the public which depends on this research, or (3) the mission of the NIH to advance the public interest in research and health care, not the private interests of publishers. 
  • Schroeder:  The requirement to put research online would force professors to spend time processing their papers, and she compared the requirement to one that would force police officers to spend less time fighting crime and more time on paperwork.  “I want researchers doing research.”  This is uninformed.  Grantees will have to give the NIH copies of their publications, but this is part of the ordinary reporting already required at the end of a grant period.  All the processing of the manuscript is done by the NIH.  Naturally Schroeder doesn't mention the fact researchers will do research better and faster if they have access to the primary sources.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Australia's e-Research Strategy

Mike Sargent, An Australian e-Research Strategy and Implementation Framework, the Australian Department of Education, Science and Training and the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, April 2006.  Excerpt:

…In 2004, the Australian Government recognised that a cohesive and coordinated approach to accelerate the uptake of e-Research by the research community was needed….In April 2005, the e-Research Coordinating Committee was established…to provide expert advice to the Government about developing Australia’s e-Research capacity….This report is the culmination of the e-Research Coordinating Committee’s work and proposes the implementation of a strategic framework and activities to accelerate the development of Australia’s e-Research capabilities….

A key enabler for e-Research in Australia is to give researchers seamless access to resources, including each other. Resources are distributed in various areas of Australia and overseas and include: digital data repositories….

It is important to researchers, students and the public that research results be accessible as early as possible in the research cycle to better inform their research endeavours and taking into account confidentiality requirements.

The Australian Government is committed to developing a Research Accessibility Framework for publicly funded research to ensure that information about research and how to access it is available to researchers and the wider community….

The Australian Government has spent close to $40 million on projects that are paving the way for improved access to research data….

The e-Research consultation process around Australia highlighted the critical need for researchers to have access to data, whether it be scientific data generated by scientific facilities or humanities and social sciences data from historical records and whether it is held in Australia or overseas….

More on CC licenses for Australian govt info

Anne Fitzgerald, Prof. Brian Fitzgerald, and Jessica Coates, Serving the Public: CC and Australian Governments,, July 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

…The growing interest in open access to government copyright products has been driven not only by technological advances in software and hardware and a growing appreciation of the economic advantages to be gained by states which enable access to and re-use of public sector information, but also by user demand….Furthermore, industry, artists, researchers and scientists, as well as the general public and other government bodies, are increasingly demanding the ability to re-use this material, rather than merely acting as passive consumers. There is now widespread recognition that such re-use is crucial not only because of its contribution to state economic development but also for creative, educational and scientific purposes. The consequence has been exponentially increasing activity directed at the development and implementation of systems and procedures to make materials generated and held by governmental entities and publicly-funded research institutes more readily available for access and re-use. The task ahead is to map out how governments can best approach the management of their copyright materials in order to foster social, cultural and economic innovation.

Where large amounts of publicly-funded creative, educational and scientific materials are subject to government copyright, there exists an enormous opportunity to unlock this material for re-use in the name of innovation and education….

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the last few years have seen exponentially increasing interest in open content licensing, and the Creative Commons licences in particular, by governments and public sector authorities around the world.  Examples of this can be seen in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Creative Archive Licence Group project, the findings of the UK’s Common Information Environment Report and the involvement of the US National Institutes of Health with the Public Library of Science and other open publishing bodies.  At the Australian level, this interest is represented by initiatives such as the National Education Access Licence for Schools being developed by the Ministerial Council for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, the Department of Education, Science and Training’s Open Access to Knowledge Law project and the long-standing AEShareNet project….

Having considered the applicability of a range of open and closed licensing models to various types of information made available by government, and having consulted extensively with Creative Commons Australia, the GILF project’s Stage 2 report, released in March 2007, came to the conclusion that the Creative Commons licences were the most appropriate available for the licensing of government material….

More avian flu data goes OA

Vítor Faustino, Flu data goes public, Innovations Report, July 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

Statistical data of more than 400,000 questionnaires on flu incidence has been made available this week on [GripeNet] and [GriepMeting].

These data were obtained between November 2006 and May 2007 by the GroteGriepMeting Project in the Netherlands and Belgium and the Gripenet Project in Portugal, a seasonal online surveillance system that monitors influenza-like illness (ILI) activity in these countries. Approximately 20.000 Dutch, 7.000 Dutch-speaking Belgian and 4.200 Portuguese citizens participated in this project. Another 1,000,000 questionnaires of past flu seasons for the Netherlands and Belgium (since 2003) are also available at [GripeMeting].

The data base currently being made available is to be used by scientists and interested researchers in their respective projects, with the intent of stimulating data sharing among research groups. This data allows, for example, the simulation of epidemic and pandemic scenarios….

More on publisher resistance to OA at the NIH

Andrew Albanese, Congress Backs NIH Access Policy, But Publishers Resist, Library Journal, July 23, 2007.

After two ineffective years of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy that requested researchers to deposit copies of their final papers in PubMed Central (PMC), both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have included provisions in their 2008 appropriations bills that would require deposit of NIH-funded researchers’ final papers within one year of publication. While public access advocates hailed the policy, passed by the House July 19 and headed for a Senate vote, publishers remain bitterly opposed to the policy and have seemingly laid the groundwork for a legal challenge.

Unlike in 2004-2005, when the NIH first attempted to require public access to the research it funds only to see that policy gutted at the eleventh hour under heavy lobbying from publishers, the process to draft and implement this policy took place largely behind the scenes. However, publishers introduced a new argument, charging that the policy conflicts with the rights of copyright owners. Indeed, language added in the final draft of the House bill requires the NIH policy be applied "in a manner consistent with copyright law," setting up a potential challenge.

Although experts say the NIH is within its legal rights to require public access as a condition of receiving funds, the copyright issue could delay implementation. However, with Congress taking note of the previous policy’s ineffectiveness—voluntary deposit in PMC lagged at around five percent last year—Heather Joseph, executive director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), suggested there was enough momentum in Congress to hold firm. Meanwhile, some NIH supporters raised concerns about the new policy, questioning whether mandating deposit in a single government database with a one-year embargo would be effective in an increasingly distributed Internet age, where open access publishing and author self-archiving are also making strides.

Comment.  To be more precise, a lawsuit would delay implementation even if copyright law would not.  And delay would be the sole purpose of a lawsuit.  There’s no doubt that an OA mandate at the NIH could be implemented “in a matter consistent with copyright law”.  There are many ways to do it.  For example, the NIH could use the fact that the OA editions will not be the published editions on which authors transfer copyright but merely the final versions of the authors’ peer-reviewed manuscripts.  Or the NIH could use the the existing government-purpose license to distribute the results of publicly-funded research.  Or the NIH could make the OA condition an explicit term of the funding contract and require grantees to make any subsequent copyright transfer agreements subject to the terms of the prior funding contract.  Publishers who try to boost voluntary compliance with the current policy, as a tactic to head off a mandate, are effectively conceding that compliance need not cause copyright problems.

Emerging consensus for OA in Australia

Arthur Sale has posted some notes on the recent meeting of Australia’s National Scholarly Communication Forum, Improving Access to Australian Publicly Funded Research (Canberra, Australia, July 16, 2007).  Excerpt:

The convener, Colin Steele, will provide an official summary on the website of the Academy of the Humanities….

The forum was attended by around 100 people from around Australia, with several international speakers. There were several important differences from the Forum held 2 years ago (which I also attended).

  • There is now an overwhelming consensus that research data and research publications should be made available free on the Internet, as soon as possible, and justified by the public good. There was probably only one ambivalent voice.
  • Good evidence was provided by John Houghton that the public good was synonymous with economic good – indeed Australia was vastly losing out on research impact without open access to its research outputs and research data. John’s report on Research communication costs in Australia (with Steele & Sheehan)…deserves to be read by everyone in the open access arena….
  • The overwhelming consensus was described by almost every speaker from DEST through academics to outsiders as a “presumption that open access should be provided” ameliorated by
    • In the case of research publications, taking into cognizance that the publishing industry was interposed between research outputs and accessibility.
    • In the case of research data, there were some exceptions that needed to be made, primarily of commercial reasons (ie exploitation) but also governmental and aboriginal cultural reasons.
  • It was widely acknowledged that the current business models for publications used by most publishers were unsustainable. The oligopoly rents which are charged, and the bundling models (‘big deals’) used to minimize competition, were simply not going to be acceptable nor economically sustainable long term. Moves to other models were inevitable.
  • Some discussion took place on the funding of author-side fees for “Gold” OA journals. It was felt that Australia would need to do a significant amount of work on these to reach what the Wellcome Trust had provided, or what was possible under RCUK rules. Aistralian library subscriptions were devolved to universities, and diverting a fraction of them to author-side fees would take some negotiation.
  • It was noted that the present RQF activity would not do much for opening access to Australian research, since much of the documents to be mounted in repositories would have restricted access….There were three positive factors from the RQF:
    • All Australian universities would have an institutional (or consortial) repository by end 2007,
    • DEST was determined to press on with its Accessibility Framework, outside the RQF, and 
    • The ‘Research Impact’ part of the RQF could accommodate publications that did not fit the paper journal mould.
  • Linkages with JISC, the OECD and the USA are highly valued.

I left the Forum thinking that much of the work we have been doing since 2005 has been fruitful. All decision-makers are now aware of the value of open access, and are convinced that it is the way of the future and Internet-ready. Publisher arguments and traditional subscription models are almost universally regarded as being self-serving/unsustainable. The logic of ‘mandates’ is accepted, though there is still some reluctance to take the final steps, seeming to prefer to let others do it first. Australia may not be in the vanguard of open access changes (we produce 2-3% of the world’s research), but it is monitoring them closely and will follow as soon as it is expedient to do so….

Update.  The presentations from the meeting are now online.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

Measuring the OA Quotient of a research topic

Matt Cockerill, How open is your research area?  BMC blog, July 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

Using PubMed’s "Limits" tab, it is easy to filter searches by date of publication, and also by whether an article has a link to an online full text, and whether that online full text is freely available….

One handy side effect of this is that it is possible to search PubMed for articles in the last 60 days, and to calculate an Open Access Quotient to quantify just how open a particular research field is – i.e. what fraction of the research in that area is available with open access immediately following publication.

[Open Access Quotient = (PubMed results with open access fulltext links for last 60 days) / (PubMed results with fulltext links for last 60 days)]

The OAQ for PubMed as a whole currently stands at 6.8%, but this overall figure conceals major variation between fields.

[Malaria 19.8%, microarray 16.9%, genomic 12.9%, influenza 12.3%, AIDS 11.3%, cancer 7.2%, cardiovascular 5.0%, clinical trial 4.0%, PutMed average 6.8% …]

Is there a research area with a higher Open Access Quotient than malaria? Why not help us find out?

We'll send an "I'm Open" BioMed Central T-shirt to whoever can identify the biomedical field with the highest Open Access Quotient (and we'd also be interested to know what fields seem to have the lowest).

To qualify, a PubMed Search should be based on conceptual keywords (not author or journal names) and should return at least 100 articles which have online fulltexts published in the last 60 days.  Send your findings to …

Comment.  For topics covered by PubMed, the OAQ is a great idea.  I’ve been hoping for such a measurement for all topics since 2002, but it’s impractical (so far) for fields where there is no PubMed or equivalent.  By all means, however, let’s start with PubMed and measure what is measurable

OA in Greece

P.A. Kostagiolas, and Chr. Banou, Managing Expectations for Open Access in Greece : Perceptions from the Publishers and Academic Libraries, in Leslie Chan and Bob Martens (eds.), Proceedings ELPUB2007: The Eleventh International Conference on Electronic Publishing - Openness in Digital Publishing: Awareness, Discovery and Access, pp. 229-238, Vienna, 2007.  Self-archived July 23, 2007.

Abstract:   In Greece, there seems to be a growing level of awareness regarding open access among scholars, faculty staff and information professionals. Indeed, consensus regarding the necessity of open access initiatives in Greece is gradually established. The present of open access in other European settings may however be revealing the expected, though distinct, future of open access in Greece. This work focuses upon some current aspects for open access and attempts to investigate them for the Greek setting. The investigation includes five (5) important aspects of open access, i.e. a) ETDs management from the academic libraries, b) university repositories development, c) regulation of digital and/or printed scientific material quality requirements, d) cooperation and competition between libraries and academic publishers, e) understanding the role of scientific work dissemination in developing future professionals and scholars. The paper initially provides an outline for the Greek publishing industry, focusing on STM publishers and on the way they take advantage of the changes mainly in editorial and marketing terms, in a hybrid technological era. The Greek publishing industry may be representative of other national small publishing markets. Further, an empirical research is providing in order to illuminate open access from two different points of view: that of STM publishers and that of academic libraries' directors in Greece. The empirical investigation took place in February and March of 2007 and is based on seventeen experts' perceptions. The methods employed are outlined and include the development of the questionnaire for semi-structured interviews. Finally, the unexpected agreement from both publishers and academic libraries' directors regarding open access development is discussed and some specific for Greece conclusions are drawn.

New OA journal of cancer

eCancerScience is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan.   It has issued a call for papers and plans its official launch for September 23.  From the site:

With Open Access publishing a reality and an urgent need for improved cancer communications, ecancerscience fits the 21st century bill for a cancer journal. We see the future as free; free to publish, free to read and free to comment.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The journal pricing crisis in Germany

Hilde Braun, Kündigungswelle im Zeitschriftenregal, a Deutschlandfunk radio broadcast from July 20 on the journal pricing crisis in Germany, library cancellations, and OA.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  Replay the broadcast, read the transcript in German, or read the transcript in Google’s English.

More on the coming OA mandate at the NIH

Brandon Keim, One Small Vote for House, One Giant Leap for Open Science, Wired News, July 20, 2007.

The House of Representatives yesterday [July 19] approved a bill mandating that all agency-funded research be made freely available within a year of publication.

Anyone who's ever had to finagle access to expensively firewalled journal articles knows how great this is. And heck, I usually want the articles for a story or my own science geek entertainment. Do this for doctors and researchers, and a lot of good could come out of it.

(If that doesn't move you, just be selfish. We funded the research, so we deserve to see it. And no whining about government meddling -- under the current NIH Public Access Policy, which stipulates the same thing but makes it voluntary, only 5% of eligible manuscripts are submitted to the public.)

A similar bill will be considered by the Senate later this summer. So look up your own senators and send 'em an email: free the science!

OA publishing at Goettingen University Press

The university press at Georg August Universität Göttingen makes most of its publications OA.  I can’t tell whether this policy is new, but it’s new to me.  (Thanks to Jim West.)  From the English-language version of the press’ home page:

The focus of our publication work is broad awareness and accessibility for the publications in order to illustrate the scholarly performance of Goettingen's Scholars. For that reason, we are aiming to make most of our publications available on the university's Institutional Repository (GOEDOC) by terms of Open Access….

Which publishers allow harvesting of public-domain data?

Peter Murray-Rust, Request to Elsevier for robotic extraction of data from their journals, A Scientist and the Web, July 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

In previous posts I have written on the value of robotic extraction of data in scientific articles. By default Elsevier do not allow robotic extraction:

…You may not engage in systematic retrieval of Content from the Site to create or compile, directly or indirectly, a collection, compilation, database or directory without prior written permission from Elsevier.

The Site may contain robot exclusion headers, and you agree that you will not use any robots, spiders, crawlers or other automated downloading programs or devices to access, search, index, monitor or copy any Content

PMR: So I have written the following letter:

Subject: Permission to extract crystallographic data robotically from Elsevier publications

…I and colleagues have built a repository of crystallographic information published in scientific journals. This data is factual, and not copyrighted by the original authors. Major publishers such as the International Union of Crystallography and the Royal Society of Chemistry encourage (and often demand) the publication of such data as part of the scientific record and mount it on their sites as “supporting information” or “supplemental data”. It is of extremely high quality and over the last 30 years the crystallographic and chemical community have shown that it is an essential resource for data-driven science….

We have built robots which have analysed over 50,000 papers on publishers’ sites and extracted the crystallography. Note that the major publishers I have referred to do NOT require a subscription to access this information. We have agreed protocols whereby our robots run at times and frequencies that do not cause denial of service (DOS) - i.e. we try to be responsible.

Elsevier journals do not expose this as public supplemental information but I believe it is available to toll-access subscribers.  I would like permission to extract crystallographic data from any Elsevier journals using robotic techniques and to make the TRANSFORMED extracted data public under  a CC-BY licence (Creative Commons) or an OpenData license from the Open Knowledge Foundation. All data so extracted would be referenced through the DOI of the article thus allowing any user (human or robot) to give full citation and therefore credit to the authors and the journal….We need not store the actual documents….

I am guessing that Elsevier journals (e.g. Tetrahedron, Polyhedron, etc.) contain a total of ca 20,000 relevant papers - until we are able to examine them robotically I can’t be more precise. Obviously I cannot write for permission for each paper individually so I am asking for general permission to carry out robotic extraction of crystallographic data from all Elsevier journals to which I have access through my institution. And I would obviously agree to devising a robotic protocol that was friendly to your web server….

If you and colleagues wish to be convinced of the value and quality of this cyberscience please have a look at [CrystalEye] where you can see the aggregated material from the other publishers. Although we haven’t published the results formally yet, two graduate students have carried out thousands of days’ work of theoretical calculations on the data which we believe have led to new insights into crystal and molecular structure….

Note that this is a public request - I have explained the reasons on my blog in which this letter is contained. Since this is a matter of considerable current public interest I request permission to post your replies - if there is material that you wish to remain confidential please send a separate mail to me indicating confidentiality which I will honour.

Glimpse of the case for OA

Elizabeth Church, Turning the ivory tower into an open book, Globe and Mail, July 21, 2007.  Only a three-sentence blurb is free online, at least so far.  Thanks to Richard Akerman for the alert and this longer excerpt:

This year, the University of Toronto's library system will spend $20-million on acquisitions. But less than one-third of that money will go to books. The majority will pay for the rising subscription costs of academic journals. "It's alarming," says Carole Moore, the university's chief librarian.

Along with colleagues across the country, she has watched the price of the latest research skyrocket, with top titles such as medical journal Brain Research now hitting $21,000 or more for annual subscriptions….

"This is very big money," says Jean-Claude Guedon, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Montreal who founded Canada's first electronic, open-access journal, Surfaces, in 1991. "This is research that is financed by government and the articles are paid for by libraries funded by government. Then there are these guys in the middle that extract profit."

To get around that, the open-access movement is attempting to establish high-quality publications to rival the titles of established houses. At the forefront is the Public Library of Science, a non-profit organization that has established several journals with the help of some deep-pocketed supporters, including Bill Gates.

There also are efforts to create collections of research apart from the traditional journal format. PubMed Central, maintained by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is a digital library of peer-reviewed manuscripts. Several universities are following suit by posting archived faculty work.

But this research must be submitted by researchers themselves. And so far uptake has been weak. That has led some funding bodies - including the powerful NIH and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research - to consider requiring researchers to post work that they help pay for in an open-access format.

"I think of it as a democratic question. Open access is part of the public's right to know," says University of British Columbia professor John Willinsky.

Update. Also see the comments of Jim Till.

New OA journal of shoulder surgery

The International Journal of Shoulder Surgery is a new peer-reviewed OA journal.  Its second issue (April-June) is now online.

Measuring and publicizing OA visibility

Stevan Harnad, Making Visibility Visible: OA Metrics of Productivity and Prestige, Open Access Archivangelism, July 21, 2007.

Summary:  There is no problem at all with the visibility -- to their would-be users webwide -- of the 15% of articles that are already being self-archived in IRs. But there definitely is a problem with the visibility of that visibility and usage -- to the authors of those articles -- and especially to the authors of the other 85% of articles, the ones that have not yet been self-archived (as well as to their institutions and funders, who have not yet mandated that they be self-archived, to make them Open Access [OA]).   

Hence OA metrics -- the visible, quantitative indicators of the enhanced visibility and usage vouchsafed by OA -- have to be made directly visible to all, immediately and continuously (rather than just being published in the occasional study); and not only absolute metrics but comparative ones. That will make the greater visibility of the self-archived contents visible, thereby providing an immediate, continuous and palpable incentive to self-archive, and to mandate self-archiving.    

These are the kinds of visibility metrics that Arthur Sale at U. Tasmania, Les Carr at Southampton, Leo Waaijers at SURF/DARE and Tim Brody's citebase have been working on providing. The biggest showcase and testbed for all these new metrics of productivity and prestige, and of OA's visible effects on them, will be the 2008 UK Research Assessment Exercise. Then universities and research funders will have a palpable sense of how much visibility, usage, impact and income they are losing (absolutely, and to their competitors), the longer they delay mandating OA self-archiving.