Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 08, 2007

More on PRISM

Nadya Anscombe, Open Access debate gets personal, Research Information, September 7, 2007.  An overview of the public discussion of PRISM, with quotations from PRISM and AAP spokesman, Brian Crawford, and from PRISM critics, including me.  Despite the title, Anscombe doesn't show that the debate is getting personal, merely that the disagreements are sharp. 

MIT webcast on fair use and the cultural commons

MIT has released the webcast of a forum, Copyright, Fair Use, and the Cultural Commons, originally held on April 28, 2007.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  From the description:

Moderator William Uricchio [Co-Director, Comparative Media Studies Program and Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, and Professor of Comparative Media History at Utrecht University] sets the scene for panelists’ discussion of current copyright wars with a brief historical overview of copyright protection....Uricchio notes, “Bizarrely, the faster information circulates, the longer we’re extending copyright protection. It seems totally at odds with where our constitution framers and case law emerged from.” ...

Hal Abelson [Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, MIT School
of Engineering] offers his sense of how copyright concerns constrict life at the academy. MIT, he says, has begun putting fences up around its own course materials, including the most basic and central of thinkers. For instance, it has limited online, published versions of Aristotle, Pascal and Fermat to students in a particular course, for a single semester. Huge expense goes into getting permissions from faculty, and university lawyers are so concerned about offending copyright holders that they bar reams of material from MIT’s OpenCourseWare site. Abelson believes these fences risk “destroying the university as an intellectual community,” and recommends using open content (granting Creative Commons licenses) as much as possible, as well as aggressively exercising fair use.

PS:  Apart from Uricchio and Abelson, the other panelists were Wendy Gordon (Professor of Law at Boston University), Gordon Quinn (President Co-Founder of Kartemquin Films), and Pat Aufderheide (Professor of Communications at American University).

Where to expect an OA advantage and where not to

Stevan Harnad, Where There's No Access Problem There's No Open Access Advantage, Open Access Archivangelism, September 7, 2007. 

SummaryKurtz & Henneken (2007) report that the citation advantage of astrophysics papers self-archived as preprints in Arxiv is caused by (1) Early Advantage (EA) (earlier citations for papers self-archived earlier) and (2) Quality Bias (QB) (a self-selection bias toward self-archiving higher quality papers) and not by (3) Open Access (OA) itself (being freely accessible online to those who cannot afford subscription-toll access). 

K & H suggest: "[T]here is no 'Open Access Advantage' for papers from the Astrophysical Journal because in a well funded field like astrophysics essentially everyone who is in a position to write research articles has full access to the literature." 

This seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation for K&H's findings. Where there is no access problem, OA cannot be the cause of whatever higher citation count is observed for self-archived articles. 

We (Hajjem & Harnad 2007) have conducted a similar study, but across the full spectrum of disciplines, measuring the citation advantage for mandated and unmandated self-archiving for articles from four Institutional Repositories that have self-archiving mandates, each compared to articles in the very same journal and year by authors from other institutions (on the assumption that mandated self-archiving should have less of a self-selection Quality Bias than unmandated self-archiving). 

We again confirmed the citation advantage for self-archiving, and found no difference in the size of that advantage for mandated and unmandated self-archiving. It is likely that the size of the access problem differs from field to field, and with it the size of the OA citation advantage. It is unlikely that most fields are as well-heeled as astrophysics.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Rockefeller UP breaks with the DC Principles Coalition

Mike Rossner, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press, has allowed me to distribute the letter he sent to the DC Priniples Coalition:

I read with interest your letters to the Senate regarding the LHHS appropriations bill. The Rockefeller University Press will not sign these letters, and we hereby withdraw our support for the DC Principles coalition. Please remove our name from the list of signatories on your website.

Although the headline on the DC Principles website declares, "Not-for-Profit Publishers Commit to Providing Free Access to Research," it seems clear that your lobbying efforts are more closely aligned with those of the commercial publishers who keep their content under access controls. We at the Rockefeller University Press strongly believe in the release of journal content to the public after a short delay. In an ideal world, this would be done voluntarily by all publishers. Given the reluctance of many publishers to do so, however, the government has been forced to take action. We support these government efforts to make research funded by the public available to the public after a short delay, and we would thus like to remove any association of the Rockefeller University Press with the DC Principles coalition.


  • First some annotations:  The “LHHS appropriations bill” is the one from the House Subcommittee on Labor Health and Human Services Education and Related Agencies that would strengthen the NIH policy from a request to a requirement.  For details on the bill, see my article in the August 2007 issue of SOAN.  The DC Principles Coalition supports some kinds of free online access for research literature, but it lobbies vigorously against government policies that would encourage or require OA for publicly-funded research.  For examples of DCPC letters to Congress opposing the original NIH policy and opposing recent attempts to strengthen it, see its web site.
  • Last week (August 30) Mike Rossner and Rockefeller University Press released a letter to PRISM, “strongly disagree[ing] with the spin that has been placed on the issue of open access by PRISM” and asking it put a disclaimer on its website “indicating that the views presented on the site do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the AAP.”
  • Kudos to Rossner and Rockefeller for speaking up again.  The DCPC supports the removal of some access barriers to scientific research, but its lobbying campaign against OA for publicly-funded research harms science, researchers, and taxpayers.

Open source repository software for preservation

Kevin Bradley, Junran Lei, and Chris Blackall, Memory of the World: Towards an Open Source Repository and Preservation System, UNESCO, dated June 2007 but apparently released in September.  Recommendations to UNESCO on open-source repository software for long-term preservation (rather than OA), focusing on DSpace, Fedora, and Greenstone.

Supporting non-profit publisher concerns, but not PRISM

Fytton Rowland, The open access debate, UKSG Serials e-News, September 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Recently, the American Association of Publishers (AAP) launched the PRISM coalition (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine), an anti-Open Access (OA) lobbying group. This followed their taking advice from a PR consultant, Eric Dezenhall, who specialises in damage limitation exercises....

For-profit commercial publishers are legally required to defend their shareholders' interests, of course, but what of the not-for-profits that belong to the AAP? Interestingly, Rockefeller University Press (RUP) have written to the AAP (of which they are a member) asking that the PRISM statements should include a disclaimer that not all members of the AAP agree with PRISM's views, and stating categorically that RUP 'strongly disagree with the spin' put on OA by PRISM.

A large proportion of the scholarly literature is published by not-for-profits....OA presents these bodies with a dilemma. By their charters, their mission is to advance scholarship and they publish in pursuance of that mission. But their members or their proprietor universities have become used, in many cases, to surpluses from the publishing operations cross-subsidising other activities. The larger American learned society publishers, with some exceptions, have been particularly strong in their resistance to OA. Publishing staff of British learned societies also speak frankly, in private at least, in the same way. Smaller societies feel that OA threatens not just their surpluses, but their very existence, as I discovered in my research in New Zealand a few years ago. Yet, if they oppose unfettered access to published scholarly work, they may be failing to advance scholarship as their charters require.

I have always been a staunch advocate for the not-for-profit sector of scholarly publishing industry, having spent the first half of my career working in it, and I sympathise with my former colleagues about the difficult position that they are now in. But simply allying themselves with the oligopolists of the commercial scholarly publishing industry won't do. Their managers need to work with academics - who are their authors, editors, referees, readers and indeed their proprietors - to find new business models that protect the not-for-profits' existence and stability while allowing all the world's scholars and students unfettered access to published research work. OA isn't going to go away, and if existing publishers refuse to provide it, someone else will.


SPARC has released a letter to its members about PRISM, September 6, 2007.  It was written by Heather Joseph, SPARC’s Executive Director.  Excerpt:

I’m writing to bring to your attention the recent launch of an anti-open access lobbying effort. The initiative, called “PRISM – the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine”, was launched with development support from the Association of American Publishers and specifically targets efforts to expand public access to federally funded research results – including the National Institute of Health’s Public Access Policy.

The messaging on the PRISM Web site, which is aimed at key policy makers, directly corresponds to the PR campaign reportedly undertaken by the AAP earlier this year. As Nature reported in January, AAP publishers met with PR “pit bull” Eric Dezenhall to develop a campaign against the “free-information movement” that focuses on simple messages, such as “public access equals government censorship,” and suggested that “the publishers should attempt to equate traditional publishing models with peer review”. News of this proposed campaign met with immediate and heavy criticism in the academic community.

The new PRISM Web site closely tracks with the recommended PR strategy, highlighting messages that include:

  • Public access/open access will destroy the peer review system
  • Public access equals government censorship
  • The government is trying to expropriate publishers’ intellectual property

This campaign is clearly focused on the preservation of the status quo in scholarly publishing, (along with the attendant revenues), and not on ensuring that scientific research results are distributed and used as widely as possible. The launch of this initiative provides a timely opportunity for engaging faculty members, researchers, students and administrators in dialogue on important issues in scholarly communications.

To assist in this conversation, the Association of Research Libraries has prepared a series of talking points that explicitly address each of the PRISM messages listed above....

The reaction to the launch of PRISM by the academic research community has been immediate and quite strong. Of particular note are reactions by these important constituencies:

1) Some publishers have called for the AAP to post a disclaimer on the PRISM Web site, indicating that PRISM does *not* represent their views on the issues of open access and public access. (See open letter from Mike Rossner, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press.)

2) Some journal editors have also expressed displeasure with the initiative. For example, Tom Wilson, Editor (and Founder) of the International Journal of Information Management, resigned from that editorial board in protest of Elsevier's involvement with PRISM.

Others, including Peter Murray Rust of the University of Cambridge (UK), have written to publishers with which they are affiliated as author or editor and asked them to take action to publicly disassociate themselves with PRISM.

3) Researchers are also questioning how their choices may result in unwanted association with PRISM. Some are calling for colleagues to register displeasure over publishers’ involvement with PRISM by reconsidering submitting work, reviewing, or editing for publishers who support the coalition (See ). Others are going even further, calling for a boycott of those publishers....

PRISM developments will be of interest to many on campus – including those who follow open access and anyone who is involved with PRISM publishers as an author, editor, or subscriber. Please feel free to share this information. To stay abreast of related news, visit the SPARC Web site or Peter Suber’s Open Access News blog....

More FUD against the NIH policy

Copyright Alliance Urges Congress to Throw Out Proposal Eliminating Researchers’ Copyright Protections, Intellectual Property Today, September 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Copyright Alliance today urged Congress to eliminate a provision that would dramatically reduce the copyright protection from scientific research papers....

A provision included in the FY 2008 Labor HHS appropriations bill requires authors of scientific articles who have received grants from the National Institutes of Health to submit any subsequent papers they write for free access on the National Institutes of Health web site after the papers have been accepted for publication and undergone a peer review sponsored by that publication.

"It is reasonable and appropriate that Congress would wish to widely disseminate results of research partially funded by one of its agencies. However, the provision would require any researcher receiving NIH funds to surrender a manuscript – after acceptance by a publisher and after a full peer review – to the government to be posted for free to the world, no more than one year after publication. This has never been an obligation connected with NIH grants.....

"The unintended consequence of this measure is the chilling effect it could have on the ability of would-be publishers to conduct peer review and publish and disseminate their works....


  • The CA is uninformed.  Most of its members are not in academic publishing and not even close (e.g. Motion Picture Association of America, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, National Football League, and the Walt Disney Company) and must be very new to this issue.  But two of its members are Reed Elsevier and the Association of American Publishers (AAP), which recently launched PRISM.  It appears that they made the kind of pitch to the larger organization that they made online through PRISM, and heads nodded around the table.  Now CA’s weight is behind their cause.  Too bad someone on staff didn’t check the facts.
  • The bill now in Congress that would strengthen the NIH policy would not “eliminate” copyright protections or “dramatically reduce” them.  Not for researchers and not for publishers.  It wouldn’t affect copyright protections at all.  Here’s the full text of the relevant part of the bill:
  • The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

    The bill is careful not to amend copyright law and explicit that the new policy must comply with copyright law.  What part of “consistent with copyright law” does CA not understand?

  • One sign of PRISM involvement is that the CA statement uses PRISM’s inaccurate and dishonest word “surrender” to describe what the bill would require.  Here, however, CA says that researchers would have to surrender their manuscripts while PRISM said that publishers would have to surrender their published articles.  Nothing of either kind is in play here.  The bill would archive copies of authors’ peer-reviewed manuscripts in PubMed Central.  Authors may keep their manuscripts, publishers may keep their publications.  Authors may still copyright their works, may still transfer copyrights to publishers, and publishers may still hold and exercise those copyrights.  The PMC copies wouldn’t even be the published versions of the articles, but only the versions approved by peer review and not yet copy edited.
  • Also like PRISM, CA asserts without argument that the bill would threaten peer review.  See my full-length rebuttal to that canard, just published last week. 
  • Publishers don’t like the bill to strengthen the NIH policy; that is clear.  They believe it will jeopardize their revenue.  But they don’t like to lead with that argument.  In this case they are pretending that the bill threatens researcher interests rather than their own.  But in fact mandating open access will have no effect on researcher copyrights (which they may and undoubtedly will still transfer to publishers) and it will directly benefit researchers by enlarging their audience and impact.  Whom do you trust to speak for the interests of researchers in this debate, publishers or the presidents and provosts of 132 American universities?  Publishers or 26 American Nobel laureates in science?

Gabriele Beger on OA

CheckPoint Learning has a short interview with Gabriele Beger on OA (in German).  Beger is the Director of the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg, the President of the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Informationswissenschaft, and a strong supporter of OA.  Read the interview in German or Google’s English.

How Germany's new copyright law obstructs OA

Antonia Loick, The New Copyright Act, Goethe-Institut, August 2007.  Also available in German.  Excerpt:

On 5th July 2007, the German Bundestag passed the Second Act Governing Copyright in the Information Society (the "Second Basket" of copyright law reform). Four years after the first reform, a new balance has been struck between the interests of authors, exploiters, equipment producers and end-users, none of whom are, however, especially happy with the compromise solution....

Open access: scientists and researchers versus science publishers

A further subject of dispute regulated by the Copyright Act concerns the interests of researchers and the scientific community, on the one hand, and science publishers, on the other. The dispute centres on the question of whether scientists have a basic right to access knowledge they have produced free of charge ("open access"), knowledge that has traditionally been published and sold by scientific publishers.

The bill had originally actually provided for schools, universities and non-commercial research institutes to be allowed to digitise copyrighted works for their own purposes and without having to obtain permission and to post them on an intranet or the Internet and reproduce them from there as often as they wished. This proposal was put forward by the Coalition for Action "Copyright Law for Education and Research" (Aktionsbündnis "Urheberrecht für Bildung und Wissenschaft“), set up jointly by major German research organisations such as the Max Planck Society, the Conference of University Directors and the Helmholtz Association. They argued that it is absolutely essential that the members of an information society should have free access to the findings of scientific research, especially if the lion's share of such findings has been generated via publicly funded research institutes. Although there are indeed a number of good reasons that speak in favour of this proposal, its statutory implementation would have ruined numerous publishing houses. This cannot be in the interests of society. The Act therefore contains a compromise solution: museums, libraries and archives may now digitise their collections and display them at electronic workstations. However, the number of reproductions of a particular work that may be shown simultaneously at such stations will be dependent on the number of copies of the work the library has in its collection. A further controversial issue was also regulated. In future, libraries will be permitted to transmit copies of newspaper articles or excerpts from books to their users if the pertinent publisher does not offer this service itself.

On 21st September 2007, the bill will go before the Bundesrat (Upper House). If no objections are raised, the new Copyright Act will come into effect before the end of the year. It can, however, already be safely assumed that the reformed Act, too, will require revision in the near future as a result of the rapid pace of technological developments. Many of today's opponents will then be found back in the arena, battling fiercely over the contents of the "third basket" of copyright reform.

Update. Germany's Bundesrat approved the bill on September 21, 2007, and the new rules take effect on January 1, 2008. For an English-language summary of the key provisions, see this document from STM (October 2007).

Monitoring the OA policies

To keep track of the growing number of OA policies, especially the OA mandates, see the following:

  1. the comparative table of funder policies from BMC
  2. the Juliet database of funder policies from SHERPA
  3. the ROARMAP list of funder and university policies from EPrints

More on the OA mandate from the AHRC

Stevan Harnad, 32nd Green OA Mandate: Kudos and Caveat, Open Access Archivangelism, September 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

The UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is now the 6th of the 7 UK Research Councils to adopt a Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate

That makes AHRC's the 18th funder OA mandate worldwide, in addition to 14 university and departmental mandates, 2 proposed multi-university mandates, and 4 proposed funder mandates, for a total of 38 Green OA mandates adopted or proposed so far.

Like most of the mandates adopted so far, the AHRC has some needless, easily-corrected flaws, but first, let us (with Dr. Johnson) applaud the fact that it has been adopted at all: Bravo AHRC!

Now the mandate's altogether unnecessary and ever-so-easily-corrected flaw:

In their anxiety to ensure that their policy is both legal and not needlessly worrisome for publishers, AHRC (and many of the other funder mandates, including yesterday's CIHR mandate from Canada) have allowed an embargo period before the article is made OA, if the publisher wishes.

That is fine. But it is a huge mistake to allow the time at which the article must be deposited to be dictated by the publisher's embargo.

The deposit should be required immediately upon acceptance for publication, without exception. If there is no publisher embargo, that deposit is also immediately made Open Access at that same time. Otherwise it is made Closed Access for the duration of the embargo period. (Only the bibliographic metadata are visible and accessible via the web, not the article itself.)

It may seem pointless to require an article to be deposited immediately if it cannot be made OA immediately. But the point of requiring immediate deposit either way is to close a profound loophole that could otherwise delay both deposit and OA indefinitely, turning the mandate into a mockery from which any researcher can opt out at the behest of his publisher....

PS:  Stevan then quotes my own comments on the AHRC policy, but I’ll merely point to them.  In short, I agree on the need for what Stevan calls immediate deposit / optional access (or what I call the dual deposit/release strategy), but I believe there should also be a firm deadline on the embargo period.

Update. Also see Arthur Sale's comments, building on Stevan's.

arXiv mops up after plagiarists

Aisha Labi, Turkish Professors Uncover Plagiarism in Papers Posted on Physics Server, Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, September 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

Dozens of academic papers containing apparently plagiarized work have been removed by moderators from arXiv, the popular preprint server where many physicists post their work before publication, Nature (subscription required) is reporting. According to the article, 67 papers by 15 physicists at four Turkish universities were pulled after an examination of their content revealed that they “plagiarize the works of others or contain inappropriate levels of overlap with earlier articles.”

Nature quotes Mustafa Salti, a graduate student at the Middle East Technical University whose name was on 40 of the problematic papers, defending his work: “Most of our papers have been published in the science citation index journals. Until now no one has claimed that we plagiarize.”

Suspicions were apparently stoked when, during oral defenses of their dissertations last fall, Mr. Salti and another student demonstrated a poor grasp of even the most basic of physics concepts....

The investigating professors notified the moderators of the arXiv site, which is based at Cornell University. The service’s founder, Paul Ginsparg, told Nature that the incident was the worst case of plagiarism the site had ever experienced.

Update (11/4/07). Because two of these papers were published in General Relativity and Gravitation, the editors conducted their own investigation of those two papers. They found that one was guilty only of self-plagiarism: "We do not see a serious problem in authors using such cutting and pasting techniques from their own papers for introductory material, even though we would prefer that material to be written anew each time." They found that the other was guilty of plagiarizing from other authors. See the editorial published on October 30, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).

Evidence against an OA advantage for The Astrophysical Journal

Michael J. Kurtz and Edwin A. Henneken, Open Access does not increase citations for research articles from The Astrophysical Journal, a preprint deposited in arXiv September 6, 2007.

Abstract:   We demonstrate conclusively that there is no "Open Access Advantage" for papers from the Astrophysical Journal. The two to one citation advantage enjoyed by papers deposited in the arXiv e-print server is due entirely to the nature and timing of the deposited papers. This may have implications for other disciplines.

Update. Also see Stevan Harnad's response.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

RSS feed of telescope data

Open Access Astronomy, Oh Inverted World, September 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Over at Astronomy Blog Stuart is currently working on a project to define an xml-based schema which could be used by the various institutions and organisations running the world’s professional telescopes to release information about their observing.

Science librarians as campus OA advocates

Elizabeth C. Turtle and Martin P. Courtois, Scholarly Communication: Science Librarians as Advocates for Change, Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship, Summer 2007. 

Abstract:   Science librarians are in a unique position to take a leadership role promoting scholarly communication initiatives and to aid in making scientific information more accessible. This article outlines steps and identifies resources that science librarians can employ to become scholarly communication advocates on their campuses.

Update. Also see Peter Murray-Rust's comments on this article.

If mediated deposit is the rule, and self-archiving the exception...

Dorothea Salo, Yes, IRs are broken. Let’s talk about it, Caveat Lector, September 5, 2007.

...Institutional repositories as a class are in serious trouble. They are not producing the outcomes they promised —or, indeed, much of any outcome in many cases. They are sucking up library staff time and development muscle, and libraries haven’t enough of either commodity to waste on a non-productive service.

Fundamentally, the value proposition on which IRs were sold to libraries was in error. Voluntary self-archiving in institutional repositories simply does not happen in the absence of deposit mandates. From a library perspective, this changes the picture from the original “build it, step back, and they will come” to “make a tremendous ongoing investment in marketing and library-mediated deposit services that may never pay off if other libraries at other institutions don’t do likewise.” It’s only sensible that many libraries back away from the latter commitment....

We are not confronting our error. Except for Stevan Harnad and Arthur Sale, we are by and large not so much as acknowledging our error —instead, we are papering it over with happytalk case studies....

To the best of my knowledge, no provisions have been made at any of the universities adopting the [CIC author] addendum to track addendum uptake among faculty and publisher response thereto, which in practice means I have no way to find out which faculty have successfully employed the addendum so that I can retrieve and archive their articles. “But they can self-archive!” Sure they can. They won’t without a mandate. The addendum doesn’t change that....

An example: mediated deposit. Repository systems blithely assume that the person pushing the buttons to make a deposit is the same person with authority to grant the repository’s license—that is, a person with intellectual-property rights over the content. This is wishful thinking. In most repositories, most deposits are done by a third party, be it a librarian, departmental staff, or a faculty member’s graduate-student assistants. None of the repository software packages or services I know of acknowledges this reality by separating the act of depositing content from the act of licensing it for preservation and display. I don’t even want to talk about how much time I have wasted building chicken-wire-and-duct-tape paper licensing workflows around this problem. Nor do I care to talk about how many faculty I’ve seen walk away from paper licenses they’d likely click through onscreen without a care in the world....

How much more uptake would we have if we could offer a service enabling departmental IT staff to batch-deposit papers which (once individual faculty have responded to the email requesting licensure) appear magically as prettily-formatted HTML citations on faculty and departmental web pages? It’s technically feasible. We haven’t done it because we’ve fixated far too strongly on the “self” in “self-archiving.”

How much more uptake would we have if we maintained a system that welcomes and cares for unfinished work as well as curating and displaying the finished products of that work? I can say with some authority that I’d have a great many more preprints and postprints if faculty could find their preprints and postprints in the first place! ...

The business side of OA repositories

Alma Swan, The business of digital repositories, in K. Weenink et al. (eds.), A DRIVER's Guide to European Repositories, Amsterdam University Press, 2007.  Self-archived September 6, 2007. 

Abstract:   This chapter is aimed at those who are involved in planning, setting up and running a digital repository for an institution or community. It covers making a business case, costs, staffing requirements, managing growth and change and other sustainability issues. A number of repository case studies across Europe were used to derive data to inform the study.

OA for biodiversity data

Donat Agosti, "That's life" - is it?  Biodivcontext, September 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

...[I]n todays New York Time (Sept 6) you can read an Op-Ed contribution by EO Wilson, "That's life"....

The [Wilson-inspired] Encyclopedia of Life is a very secretive initiative administering data collected by third parties. There is no substantial budget, nor are science plans there, to create new data. In fact, the proposed support for the affiliated Biodiversity Heritage Library has been cut - the only place, where EOL could have helped to convert existing data into a digital, all accessible and open form.

Wilson's own commitment to open access is dubious, and his credentials to develop new ways to provide access to biodiversity data are non existent....

There are ways to be more efficient at very little cost.

  • Open Acccess: Assure, that all the forthcoming taxonomic and ecological literature is open access, either by the green or the gold road.
  • Commit the publishers to insert taxonomic specific tags (such as provided by taxonx the schema), so new names and descriptions can automatically be harvested.
  • Support by our government of Name Registries for all the world orgasnisms, such as IPNI and Zoobank.
  • Provide targeted access to legacy publications, digitize and mark them up, so that they can be harvested, their names, descriptions and distribution records, and provide doi or handles for all of these records.
  • Commit the members of the Conservation Commons to deliver: provide access to their data.
  • Bridge the gap between the conservation, industry and sytematics community, so that a link between data exists.
  • Implement the OECD guidelines to provide access to publicly funded scientific data....

Interpreting the numbers on the growth of OA journals

Heather Morrison, DOAJ: strong growth, and understanding the numbers, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, September 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is a list of peer-reviewed, fully open access journals. DOAJ's clearly defined vetting process makes it attractive as a means of measuring open access publishing. DOAJ numbers, over the past couple of years, have consistently indicated strong growth in fully open access journals (for details, see The Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series). An examination of DOAJ titles by start year as of today indicates strong, continuing addition of recent new titles (e.g. 289 with a start date of 2005, 311 with a start date of 2004)....

Recent data, DOAJ titles by start year
2006 and 2007 are not presented here. Please see explanation below.

2005: 289
2004: 311
2003: 278
2002: 281
2001: 295
2000: 269
1999: 155
1998: 151
1997: 154
1996: 112
1995: 77
1994: 28
1993: 27
1992: 11
1991: 14
1990: 19

For full data, see the Open Data Edition.

...The start year in DOAJ is the first year articles are available as OA, not the first year the journal started. An older journal which converts, but does not have older copies online, will have a different start date in DOAJ than the first year of publication.

Recent start years are always likely to be understated.  New titles must be identified by DOAJ, or present themselves to DOAJ. Also, DOAJ is a vetted list. New titles are only added after they have gone through this process, to ensure that the title is indeed open access and meets peer-review or equivalent quality control status, and after enough articles are published to warrant inclusion. What this means for DOAJ numbers: recent title figures will always be understated. Many journals begun in 2006 have not yet gone through a full year of publishing, and these titles will not have completed the DOAJ vetting process. The current year will always be understated, for this reason and also because, until the year is complete, new journals are likely to start....If short-term growth dips a little at DOAJ, it most likely means that someone is on vacation.

DOAJ start years are subject to change.  This may be counterintuitive: due to changes in open access status, or digitization of back issues, DOAJ start years are likely to change....Journals that no longer meet the DOAJ criteria and are weeded from the list will cause a drop in their start year count.

This explains how Sally Morris, based on research conducted in the early part of 2005, came to the erroneous conclusion that OA journal start-ups had peaked in 2001, with slightly fewer than 180 journals counted. Sally and her group of volunteers counted only 80 journals in DOAJ with a start-up year of 2004, and concluded that OA journal start-ups had dropped. At the time of counting, journals that had started in 2004, and some in 2003, are likely to have still been unknown to DOAJ, or not yet completed the vetting process....

At the time of counting early in 2005, Sally reports that there were 1,443 journals then listed in the DOAJ. As of today, there are 2,842, nearly twice as many. This illustrates an increasing trend towards OA publishing, not a decline.

The year 2004,the low point on Sally's chart, is today's apparent peak. Sally and her group counted about 80 journals in DOAJ with a start year of 2004; today, DOAJ records 311 journal start-ups in 2004, nearly 5 times more than at the time of Sally's count. This illustrates two things: my point that titles in recent years will always be understated in DOAJ, and also that OA start-ups at the time of Sally's study were not declining, but rather increasing....

Sally Morris' conclusions and data can be found in the Personal View (not peer reviewed) article, When is a journal not a journal? in the subscription-based Learned Publishing Vol. 19:1, January 2006....

Oxford UP distances itself from PRISM

Last week Peter Murray-Rust wrote an open letter to Oxford University Press, asking whether it supports PRISM, and yesterday he received a reply from Martin Richardson, the Managing Director of Oxford Journals.  From Richardson’s reply:

Oxford University Press is not part of the PRISM initiative, and we do not intend to become a signatory to the PRISM Principles.

OUP is very active in several Open Access initiatives, all of which are extensively documented on our website. Our approach has been to develop an evidence-based understanding of the implications of OA on scholarly research dissemination, and to share that with the wider community, and this is our preferred method of contributing to the OA debate.

PS:  Kudos to Martin Richardson for this direct statement and to Peter Murray-Rust for his initial letter.  I also second PMR’s own comment:

This is very good news from a major publisher with an early OA strategy.

We have now had several publishers distancing themselves from the PRISM initiative. Unfortunately the PRISM site is closely linked to AAP and so poorly constructed that it is impossible to separate membership of AAP from PRISM....

I try to be fair on this blog and...[it] would make things much easier if the actual membership of PRISM were published - if it actually has one. Failing that publishers would save themselves from unnecessary confusion if they were to publicly state their non-affiliation as OUP and others have done.

After all, I am not the only one who can write letters… (and since this blog has a CC licence anyone can adapt the format of my letter(s) without my permission).

AHRC announces its OA policy

The UK Arts & Humanities Research Council announced its long-awaited OA policy today.  You can find it on the AHRC access policy page and in Appendix 9 of its lengthy (111 pp.) Research Funding Guide for 2007/08:

It is the AHRC’s position that authors choose where to place their research for publication. It is for authors’ institutions to decide whether they are prepared to use funds for any page charges or other publishing fees. Such funds could be part of an institution’s indirect costs under the full economic costing regime....

The AHRC requires that funded researchers:

  • ensure deposit of a copy of any resultant articles published in journals or conference proceedings in appropriate repository
  • wherever possible, ensure deposit of the bibliographical metadata relating to such articles, including a link to the publisher’s website, at or around the time of publication

Full implementation of these requirements must be undertaken such that current copyright and licensing policies, for example, embargo periods and provisions limiting the use of deposited content to noncommercial purposes, are respected by authors.

The final paragraph is emphasized (in bold type) in the Funding Guide but not emphasized on the access policy page.


  • I applaud the mandatory language.  But the policy is sketchy on most other important details.  It doesn’t indicate which version should be deposited or what counts as an appropriate repository.  It urges immediate deposit for metadata but doesn’t do so for the text itself.  It gives no timetable for depositing the text and no maximum length for the delay or embargo. 
  • It gives nearly as much space to the exception as it does to the policy, and creates the same gigantic loophole as the new CIHR policy and the older ESRC policy.  If publishers don’t want their authors to make any version of their articles OA, they only have to adopt a house rule to that effect and suddenly the AHRC policy does not apply to AHRC grantees who submit work that that publisher.
  • The AHRC is the sixth of the seven Research Councils UK to announce its OA policy.  If this kind of mandatory language qualified by a vitiating exception can be called a mandate, then it’s also the sixth to adopt a mandate. The other five are at the BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, and STFC.  The EPSRC is still deliberating.  Of the six RCUK OA policies, three allow authors to use grant funds for publication fees at fee-based OA journals (MRC, NERC, STFC) and three do not (AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC).

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More OA docs from ERIC

Digitization Project News - ERIC Releases Second Wave of Full-Text Documents, a press release from ERIC, September 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

More than 8,000 additional full-text documents have been released to the public as ERIC's Microfiche Digitization Project continues. To date, more than 30,000 documents published on microfiche by ERIC between 1982 and 1992 have been made available in full text. Digitized content will continue to be released on a monthly basis.

The Microfiche Digitization Project is an ongoing initiative to convert microfiche documents indexed from 1966-1992 to electronic format. Digitization is progressing in reverse chronological order. ERIC continues to seek the permission of copyright holders to release their older works in electronic full text. If you or someone you know has work in ERIC that is available in microfiche only, please go to the digitization page. Granting permission will ensure that older materials are widely accessible.

PS:  For background, ERIC (one of the world’s oldest OA resources in continuous operation) is digitizing more than 40 million microfiche documents for OA and released the first batch of about 20,000 back in June.

FAQ for DRIVER Guidelines

DRIVER has written an FAQ to accompany the DRIVER Guidelines.  It focuses on technical questions that arise in running a DRIVER-compliant repository.  For example:

The records in my institution's repository all link to the full text of the article which is free to access. However, some of these articles are not stored on my institution's server. For example when an academic joins my institution, records of their previous publications are added to our repository and linked to the file still held on their old institution's repository and server. Will this cause any difficulty for DRIVER in harvesting from my repository?

No this will not cause a problem for DRIVER. DRIVER searches for a URL in the metadata record that links to the document. There are no specific constraints regarding the URL as long as it is valid.

Association of Research Libraries on PRISM

AAP PR Campaign against Open Access and Public Access to Federally Funded Research: Update re the PRISM Coalition, an ARL issue brief, September 5, 2007.  This is an update to ARL’s issue brief from January 2007 on the AAP’s Dezenhall hire.  Excerpt: 

A new initiative has been announced in an ongoing public relations campaign sponsored by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) against initiatives concerning access to federally funded research (public access) and open access generally. PRISM (Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine), a new coalition, is attracting substantial criticism from a broad spectrum of researchers. The PRISM message corresponds directly to plans described in internal publisher documents leaked to reporters to “develop simple messages (e.g., public access equals government censorship)” that are aimed at key decision makers.

As news of this initiative evolves, it presents an opportunity to engage in conversations with members of your campus community concerning the changes to the scholarly communication system and how this may affect scholarly journal publishing. This memo provides talking points to assist you and your staff in working with members of your campus community with regards to the recently disclosed publishers public relations campaign against open/public access initiatives and legislation concerning access to federally funded research....

[N]either public access policies to federally funded research or open access journals alter the traditional practice of peer review.

  • Peer review is already built into open access journals and to policies concerning access to federally funded research thus showing the fallacy of the predicted demise of peer review.
  • The peer review system, based almost completely on the voluntary free labor of the research community, is independent of a particular mode of publishing, or business model.
  • Publishers’ own studies have found that open access journals are peer reviewed as frequently as comparable subscription journals.
  • The existing National Institutes of Health (NIH) policy and legislation concerning access to federally funded research called for submissions from only peer-reviewed journals and “includes all modifications from the publishing peer review process.”
  • Finally, journal publishers do not create the content they publish, nor do they generally pay authors for that content or compensate reviewers for the time they spend ensuring the quality of published research through their contributions to the peer review process. The academy supports and provides the peer review.
  • Public access to federally funded research policies proposed to date have all incorporated embargo periods to protect publishers from any rapid shifts in subscription revenues....

Update. Also see the brief story on the ARL issue brief in Library Journal Academic Newswire for September 6, 2007.

Update. There is now a Slashdot thread on the ARL issue brief.

More access barriers at the BL document delivery service

Peter Murray-Rust, Copyright paralysis from the British Library, A Scientist and the Web, September 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

I posted recently (Copyright madness - story 2) about a colleague who wished to access an eighty-five year old scientific paper (in the transactions of the Transylvanian Haematological Society) and had bizarre restrictions put in her way. Now she wishes to access an even older paper and it gets worse:

The absurdities apply equally to very old articles, which should be well out of copyright. Thus  I am looking into the early origins of [garlic as a blood clotting agent], having traced the concept back to 1899, and a journal (and author!)  long since deceased.  Only the  British Library still has it,  but a request for an inter library loan to them is only granted if I agree to the BL’s own copyright terms, which include my not being able to
a) copy what they send me
b) give my copy to anyone else
c) have it translated for me (it’s in Transylvanian)
d) or acquire it in digital form should I wish to pass it through OSCAR or other text mining.
I will in fact go and try to collect it....I will let you know what happens!

PMR: This is grotesque. There is no way this document is in copyright. A colleague confirmed that the British Library has effectively decided that the simplest management technique is to copyright everything they issue as an Interlibrary loan. And they have some sort of protection from the law by doing this.

Comment.  See the BL response when the PLoS Director of Publishing, Mark Patterson, asked why the BL was charging for copies of PLoS articles, which are all OA.  At first I thought the BL was saying, in effect, that it doesn’t have the resources to see whether an article is under an open license (or in the public domain).  But it’s more complicated than that, and the more I re-read it, the less I understand it.  In the case of PLoS articles, the BL charges a copyright fee set by UKCLA and passes the fee on to UKCLA, keeping nothing for itself.  But it doesn’t explain why UKCLA believes that PLoS articles should carry copyright fees.

Update. I just received this message from a colleague:

The BL doesn't keep any of the copyright fee for itself (whether for OA or non OA publishers), but it does keep the service charge.

There's nothing wrong with a service charge, of course (as long as the article is CC-BY licensed, rather than CC-NC). The key problem is charging a copyright fee which should not be levied, passing it on to someone other than the copyright holder, and then most frustratingly, adding a standard wrapper around every article saying 'this is copyright material and you can't do anything with it without permission of the copyright holder' which is a flat out untruth...

The BL is very much aware of this and committed to fixing it, I believe. Unfortunately, the gap between the BL recognizing that something isn't working right, and fixing it, would seem to generally be measured in decades....

Update. PMR has blogged a sequel to his original post, showing what his correspondent did next.

Update. My comment above led PMR to investigate how the BL is treating his own OA work. He found that it is charging an access fee for one of his OA articles. ("I am now gobsmacked.") He has written an open letter to the BL asking it to explain.

Why open education needs open access

I mentioned last week that Gavin Baker would be a guest blogger on open education and open access at Terra Incognita

His post appeared today:  Open Access Journal Literature is an Open Educational Resource.  It starts with a good intro to OA for those who are already familiar with FOSS.  This excerpt starts after that intro:

...Here are four reasons why advocates of OERs [Open Educational Resources] should support OA journal literature:

  1. As direct learning content in tertiary education
  2. As “outside-the-classroom” learning content
  3. As learning content for self-learners
  4. As “raw materials” for re-use in free learning content

1. Journal literature as direct learning content, particularly in tertiary education

As long as professors assign readings from scholarly journals, learning content will not be fully free if the journal literature is not free....

Who profits when students pay [for coursepacks containing journal articles]?  The copy center or book store will receive a portion. Another portion may go to a rights licensing middleman, such as the Copyright Clearance Center. But most of the revenue will go to the article’s copyright holder – which, as a rule, is the journal publisher, not the article’s author.

Open access cuts out these middlemen: once peer review and editing have been performed, and the article has been published, the article is forever free to the world for educational use.

Other approaches to circumventing the middlemen will not prove as sustainable a solution as OA:

  • Relying on fair use as legal grounds to distribute copies of the articles to students is a perilous position.
  • E-reserves are similarly problematic.
  • “Virtual coursepacks,” which link to copies of the articles in electronic databases via the institution’s library subscriptions, only shift the cost from students to libraries....

2. Journal literature as indirect or “outside-the-classroom” learning content

Journal literature is often encountered in educational contexts other than where an article has been assigned for reading.

Most commonly, a tertiary student will consult journal literature as a source for coursework. Tertiary students are frequently assigned to write research papers which cite articles from scholarly sources, including peer-reviewed journals. The process of conducting this search, filtering and reviewing relevant literature is an educational process. Broad access to this literature enhances the student’s education. Unfortunately, as long as scholarship is disseminated on a “toll-access” basis, some students will be priced out of access. This is particularly notable for students at educational institutions in developing countries....

3. Journal literature as learning content for self-learners

If one considers education as lifelong learning, then journal literature must be acknowledged as learning content with great value for self-learners.

Many parents of children with uncured diseases have an unquenchable thirst for information about the condition – particularly for rare diseases which receive little coverage in the mainstream press. Journal articles which report original research are of incredible value to help parents understand their child’s condition. Unfortunately, many of these parents express frustration with obtaining access to relevant literature. (Many organizations which represent these parents are members of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access for this very reason.)

Less dramatically, newspapers report daily on the latest findings of scientists and health research. Usually, the coverage reports findings originally published in a peer-reviewed journal. But the curious reader who desires to read the original paper himself is frequently stymied, not having a subscription to the journal. (For a light-hearted example to the contrary, see this recent article from the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which points readers to an article deposited in the arXiv.)

Going a step further, consider that prized tool of self-learners, Wikipedia. Imagine if each Wikipedia article on a scientific subject was fully referenced (a goal of the project). Imagine further that each citation linked to a freely-available copy of a relevant journal article. Those links would prove tremendously valuable to the self-learner who aspires to deepen his understanding of the topic.

Beyond access barriers, removing permission barriers opens even more possibilities: translation, summary, annotation and commentary, to name a few.

4. Journal literature as “raw materials” for re-use in free learning content

OA journal articles can be cited in free textbooks, listed as recommended reading at the end of a textbook chapter, included as learning modules (with or without annotation, translation, summary, etc.), or repurposed for use in other learning content (need a graph or illustration? Just borrow it!).

OA journal literature represents a broad body of scholarly-quality content, without price or permission barriers, available for re-use to enrich OERs....

Counting the ways that OA libraries are useful

Giannis Tsakonas and Christos Papatheodorou, Exploring usefulness and usability in the evaluation of open access digital libraries, Information Processing & Management, September 4, 2007.  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

Advances in the publishing world have emerged new models of digital library development. Open access publishing modes are expanding their presence and realize the digital library idea in various means. While user-centered evaluation of digital libraries has drawn considerable attention during the last years, these systems are currently viewed from the publishing, economic and scientometric perspectives. The present study explores the concepts of usefulness and usability in the evaluation of an e-print archive. The results demonstrate that several attributes of usefulness, such as the level and the relevance of information, and usability, such as easiness of use and learnability, as well as functionalities commonly met in these systems, affect user interaction and satisfaction.

Profile of Jim Till, OA activist

Heather Morrison, Jim Till: Be Openly Accessible - or Be Obscure, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, September 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

Now that the Canadian Institutes for Health Research's Open Access to Research Outputs Policy Announcement has been released, it is high time to celebrate the Chair of the CIHR Advisory Committee on Access to Research Outputs, one of Canada's most noteworthy open access advocates, Dr. Jim Till.

Formerly a member of the Open Access News team when it was a group blog, Jim is now the author of one of the most thoughtful and thought-provoking blogs on open access on the web: Be Openly Accessible or Be Obscure. What I love about Jim's blog - aside from the delightful name, and wonderful concept - is that his posts are original works, often profound reflections and new perspectives on open access. Jim's work has inspired and sharpened my own thinking on topics such as the economics of article processing fees. Jim often points to particular articles, that are OA - or not, and what the consequences are. If you read my writings often, you may have noticed phrases such as unless you're aiming for obscurity creeping in; definitely an influence!

Jim's first foray into public open access advocacy was in 2000, when he wrote this message to The American Scientist Open Access Forum, where he muses about the difference in self-archiving behavior between physicists and the biomedical community....

Jim's participation in The American Scientist Open Access Forum led to an invitation to publish in a toll-access journal, Learned Publishing, on the topic of self-archiving. This was also his first experience with self-archiving, of the article, Predecessors of preprint servers, Learned Publishing 2001; 14(1): 7-13, available OA in arXiv (with the permission of Learned Publishing).

Jim's first experience with open access publishing came earlier, however, with the article Peer Review in a Post-Eprints World: A Proposal, in the Journal of Medical Internet Research....

Jim has already accomplished far more than most of us; prior to CIHR, Jim was instrumental in the development of the Open Access Archive of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance (CBCRA)....

This post is part of the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.

PS:  Thanks, Heather, for celebrating Jim’s long and dedicated work for OA, including his work on OAN.  Congratulations, Jim! 

Heather Morrison on the CIHR policy

Heather Morrison, Open Access Policy: let's put the public good first! Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, September 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Access to Research Outputs Policy is exemplary in its strong support for immediate open access, whether through OA publishing or self-archiving. This is not the clear mandate that we would like to see, but it is a important step forward, and an important contribution to the debate.

One weakness of this, and other OA policies both existing and in development, from my point of view, is the acceptance of embargo (delay) periods to accomodate for-profit publishers.

Since when does public policy put profits first - in this case, before the advances in research that can improve our health, the rights of taxpayers to maximum benefit from their investment?

Do we shy away from public policies requiring building developers to make buildings accessible to the disabled, earthquake-proof, or asbestos-free, out of fear of diminishing the profits of developers?

Another strength of the CIHR policy is the call for annual review. Let us hope that OA activist Dr. Jim Till continues in his role as Chair. Already, here is my suggestion for the first review: brook no delay - require immediate OA!


  • I agree that immediate OA is in the public interest, but I’m also willing to accept an embargo as a compromise to get a policy approved. 
  • I have to disagree that the CIHR policy is exemplary in its strong support for immediate OA.  It’s exemplary in most other ways.  But its gigantic loophole —mandating OA only “where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies”— removes all the teeth from the policy and legitimates publisher resistance.  Publishers who don’t want immediate OA, or OA within six months, or OA ever, may simply say so, and from that moment the policy will no longer apply to CIHR grantees who submit their work to those publishers.  Like Heather, I’d be very happy if the CIHR amended its policy to require immediate OA.  But I’d also be happy if it amended the policy to require —really require— OA within six months.

Michael Geist on the CIHR policy

Michael Geist, CIHR Introduces New Open Access Policy, Michael Geist, September 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

...Critics will rightly note that the policy is not iron-clad - publication in an online repository is conditional on the publisher's policy.  Accordingly, if a publisher refuses to allow researchers to post their articles, the researcher does not violate the grant requirements by not posting.  This leaves publishers with a measure of control, though a growing number of them do permit this form of archiving....

While it is tempting to say that this does not go far enough, it is an exceptionally important development for open access in Canada. 

First, even with its faults, the policy will help ensure that five percent of the world's health research scholarship - tens of thousands of articles (CIHR funds approximately 5,000 researchers annually producing as many as 30,000 articles) - are generally freely available. 

Second, this is the second stage in the CIHR's move toward open access.  Clinical trial data is already made available online and the granting council supports expenses related to open access publishing.  As the global move toward open access accelerates, it is well positioned to do more.

Third - and perhaps most important - it places renewed pressure on SSHRC and NSERC, the other two major granting councils, to at least match CIHR.  The same principles apply - taxpayer funded research should be made available to the public that pays the bills and with CIHR now on board, it is now clearly time for the other two councils to adopt open access policies.

The OA mandate tallies

Stevan Harnad, Canada's CIHR: 31st to Adopt a Green OA Self-Archiving Mandate, Open Access Archivangelism, September 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has just announced the official adoption of the Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate it had proposed last year.

This is the 31st Green OA Mandate adopted worldwide, but the 1st in North America....

In all, 14 departmental and university self-archiving mandates plus 17 funder mandates have so far been adopted worldwide. In addition, 2 large multi-university mandates (Brazil and Europe) are in the proposal stage, as are 4 proposed funder mandates (two of them in the US and very big).

The UKis still substantially in the lead for OA mandates adopted, but if the pending US and European mandate proposals are adopted, OA will have prevailed unstoppably worldwide.

The next big growth area will be the sleeping giant of university Green OA mandates, fueled by both the OA movement and the Institutional Repository movement. The UK universities and the European ones are moving in concerted directions here. Time for US university provosts (who signed in support of the FRPAA Green OA mandate proposal) to go into action too!

Stay tuned...

Victory for First-amendment review of copyright law

Lawrence Lessig, A big victory: Golan v. Gonzales, Lessig blog, September 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

The 10th Circuit decided our appeal in Golan v. Gonzales today. In a unanimous vote, the Court held that the "traditional contours of copyright protection" described in Eldred as the trigger for First Amendment review extend beyond the two "traditional First Amendment safeguards" mentioned by the Court in that case. It thus remanded the case to the District Court to evaluate section 514 of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (“URAA”) under the First Amendment, which removed material from the public domain.

This is a very big victory. The government had argued in this case, and in related cases, that the only First Amendment review of a copyright act possible was if Congress changed either fair use or erased the idea/expression dichotomy. We, by contrast, have argued consistently that in addition to those two, Eldred requires First Amendment review when Congress changes the "traditional contours of copyright protection." In Golan, the issue is a statute that removes work from the public domain. In a related case now on cert to the Supreme Court, Kahle v. Gonzales, the issue is Congress's change from an opt-in system of copyright to an opt-out system of copyright. That too, we have argued, is a change in a "traditional contour of copyright protection." Under the 10th Circuit's rule, it should merit 1st Amendment review as well.

I suspect this decision will weigh heavily in the Supreme Court's determination whether to grant review in the Kahle case....

The opinion by Judge Henry is well worth the read. The argument was one the best I have seen. All three judges knew the case cold. It is a measure of how good courts can be that they took such care to review this case....

Comment.  The OA connection is indirect but powerful.  This decision expands the range of First-Amendment scrutiny of copyright legislation.  In its wake, federal courts could overturn the Uruguay Round Agreements Act, which retroactively copyrighted material already in the public domain (i.e. committed piracy against the public domain), and could overturn the 30 year old opt-out system that copyrights tangible expressions by default, from birth, and eliminates the need for registration and renewal.  If it had either of these effects, then it would enlarge the public domain and thereby enlarge the set of works that could be made OA without further permission.

Removing permission barriers for translation, mining, and more

Gavin Baker, WHO’s journal has backwards approach to open access, Gavin Baker, September 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

The World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations, is ostensibly an organization dedicated to the public interest. The fourth point of the WHO agenda is “harnessing research, information and evidence”. In support of these goals, the agency publishes a scientific journal, the Bulletin of the World Health Organization....

The Bulletin is no scientific backwater; it’s a relatively influential journal:

  • Eigenfactor: Ranks 14th out of 119 journals in the field (2005)
  • Article Influence: Ranks 11th by out of 119 journals in the field (2005)
  • Impact factor: Ranks 6th out of 89 journals in the field (2006 – Journal Citation Reports)

As the publication of an organization dedicated to advancing human health, the Bulletin should strive for the widest-possible distribution of its articles, and facilitate any responsible scientific re-use of its contents....The Bulletin gets one major point right:

In keeping with its mission statement, the peer-reviewed monthly maintains an open-access policy so that the full contents of the journal and its archives are available online free of charge.
(from “About the Bulletin”)

Another point in the Bulletin’s favor: the full text of articles is available in both HTML and PDF formats. This increases the “findability” of Bulletin content by search engines such as Google. It may also improve accessibility to handicapped users and to users of low-powered PCs (you might be able to view a Web site on a mobile phone, but you probably can’t view a PDF)....

The Bulletin is published in English, with article abstracts and MeSH descriptors of main articles translated into Arabic, French and Spanish. This is not a complete solution to overcome language barriers, but it is a good start. (No journal has the resources to translate its content into every human language, or even the six official languages of the UN.)

This is where things start to go downhill.

If the Bulletin wants to facilitate solutions to overcome language barriers, it should grant users the right to freely make translations of articles. The Public Library of Science journals and others do this by adopting Creative Commons licenses that permit derivative works. In fact, PLoS maintains a list of translations of its articles, enabled by the CC Attribution license....

Translation (to overcome language barriers) is not the only beneficial use enabled by open licensing. As I note in my post at Terra Incognita (forthcoming), removing permission barriers also opens possibilities such as summary, annotation and commentary. Such uses overcome what might be called “specialization barriers”: enabling non-specialists to better understand the content. This is particularly beneficial in the field of public health, since it permits the public to better understand risks and how to protect themselves. However, such uses are beneficial even for specialists, because they lower barriers and open new opportunities, which supports the advancement of science.

Another use which supports the advancement of science is computer-facilitated research, e.g. data mining....

As icing on the cake, the Bulletin adheres to the Ingelfinger rule....

It’s time for the Bulletin to amend its policies: to reflect the realities of research in the 21st century, and to maximize the WHO’s investment in human health.


  • This is a good argument for full OA that removes permission barriers in addition to price barriers.  But the benefits go even further than the freedom to translate and mine.  Removing permission barriers also gives users the freedom to quote long excerpts (in blogs, online discussions, or formal publications), to print full-text copies, to email copies to students or colleagues, to distribute copies on CDs in bandwidth-poor parts of the world, to make an audio recording of the text, to distribute a semantically-tagged or other enhanced version of the text, to archive copies for long-term preservation without further payment or permission, and to migrate copies to new formats and media to keep the text readable as technology changes.
  • I like the term “specialization barriers” and certainly agree we should try to remove them.  But I don’t believe that even all-rights-reserved copyright blocks summary, annotation, and commentary, at least not unless the commentary includes a full-text copy. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Microsoft sponsors BMC awards for OA research

Microsoft will sponsor BioMed Central’s 2007 Research Awards.  From today’s announcement:

BioMed Central, the world’s largest publisher of peer-reviewed, open access research journals, is pleased to announce that Microsoft has agreed to be the premium sponsor of the BioMed Central Research Awards for 2007. The BioMed Central Research Awards, which began accepting nominations in late July, recognize excellence in research that has been made universally accessible by open access publication in one of the publisher’s 180 journals.

"Microsoft’s External Research group is proud to be a sponsor of the BioMed Central Research Awards and feel it is important to recognize excellence in research," said Lee Dirks, director, scholarly communications, Microsoft Research. "We are very supportive of the open science movement and recognize that open access publication is an important component of overall scholarly communications."

Nominations for the awards are now being accepted and will close December 21, 2007. Anyone who publishes original research of major significance in one of BioMed Central’s journals during 2007 is eligible for nomination. Two awards of $5000 (US) will be made – one for biology research, and one for medical research. The winning articles will be selected by a panel including BioMed Central editorial team members and external experts in biology and medicine. Winners will be announced at the BioMed Central Research Awards dinner in early March 2008....

PS:  Lee Dirks was a co-editor, with Microsoft’s Tony Hey, of the last month’s special issue of CTWatch on The Coming Revolution in Scholarly Communication and Cyberinfractructure.

The rise of OA as a case study for internet commerce researchers

Roger Clarke and Danny Kingsley, ePublishing's Impacts on Journals and Journal Articles, a preprint forthcoming in the Journal of Internet Commerce.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)

Abstract:   The primary vehicle for formal communications in most disciplines and research domains is articles published in journals. The digital era as a whole has had many impacts on the activities of article creation and use. Of particular significance is the availability of the Internet as a distribution mechanism. This is bringing about significant changes in the economics of journal publishing. The dimensions of those changes are examined within the context provided by models of the roles of journals in the mid-to-late twentieth and the early twenty-first centuries. Several early indicators of fundamental changes in the process and product of the journal are considered. Tensions between for-profit and open-access publishing are identified. The new potentials for community-based endeavour create the likelihood of upheaval in what has been a highly profitable industry sector.

The budget battle that will decide the OA mandate at the NIH

If you remember, the House of Representatives has passed an appropriations bill containing language directing the NIH to upgrade its OA policy from request to a requirement.  The Senate did not vote on comparable language before its recess, and President Bush threatened to veto the House bill on grounds unrelated to the OA provision.  Now that Congress is back in session, things are heating up.

Richard Simon has a good preview of the upcoming rumble in today’s Los Angeles Times.  Excerpt:

With lawmakers returning today from their summer recess, the Democratic-controlled Congress and the White House are headed for what could be the biggest budget fight in more than a decade -- and both sides are relishing it.

"There is going to be a big showdown," said Robert L. Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a budget watchdog group, "because both sides believe they have something to gain politically. I don't get the sense that either side is interested in compromise."

President Bush, under pressure from fiscal conservatives in the Republican Party to take a firm hand in erasing the red ink in the budget, is threatening to veto nine of the 12 appropriations bills approved by the House. The White House said a number of the bills called for "irresponsible and excessive" spending.

Democrats, writing their first budget bills since taking control of Congress in January, vigorously defend the legislation, eager to increase spending on domestic programs they believe were neglected under Republican rule.

Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W. Va.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, mocked the president who inherited a budget surplus from his Democratic predecessor and has presided over six straight years of deficits. "It is truly remarkable that President Bush presumes to lecture Democrats in Congress -- or anyone for that matter -- on the subject of fiscal restraint," he said.

Setting the stage for what one budget analyst predicted would be "great budgetary theater" is the clock. The 2008 fiscal year begins Oct. 1, and Congress has yet to send to the president a single appropriations bill needed to keep government agencies running. The House has passed all 12 appropriations bills, but the Senate has passed just one....

GOP activists see a budget fight as a way to get back into the good graces of conservatives angry at the growth of government spending under a Republican president and previous [Republican] Congress....

OA for taxpayers and "the second layer of knowledge"

James Boyle, The irony of a web without science, Financial Times, September 4, 2007.  Excerpt:

The US National Institutes of Health invests $28bn annually in research. European spending is lower, although the European Union is closing the gap, helped by a shortsighted American policy of "flatlining" many scientific research budgets. (Perhaps this is because scientists have an annoying tendency to discuss things that conflict with the Bush administration's view of reality, such as global warming, evolution, the insufficiency of the New Orleans levee system and the medical potential of stem cells.) ...

What about the output? After all, paying for research is not enough. We have to get it to the scientists who might use it which, in an increasingly interdisciplinary world, is hard to predict beforehand....

The outputs of scientific research come in a variety of forms, but the most important is an article in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. While some journals, such as those produced by the Public Library of Science, are "open access" - available in full for free online - most are not.

They can be extremely expensive. The cost of journals has dramatically outpaced both the rate of inflation and the cost of monographs over the past 15 years. These journals may be available online - but they are behind firewalls, available only on payment of a fee.

It is easy to be shocked at some of the excesses - a journal subscription more than $20,000, or the $150 per student that the Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology demands for the right to photocopy a single page. Or one can be indignant that the public sometimes pays once to have the research done, again for the salary of the scientist who peer reviews it, and then a third time to read the results.

These are natural reactions. But they miss a more fundamental point; our failure to apply what we learned from the world wide web to the world of scientific research.

The genius of the web is that it is an open network. Anyone can link to any part of this page, or that article, and anyone else can link to that link. That web of interconnections, cross-citations and linkages is then captured by search engines. We gain not only the knowledge in the content, but the knowledge supplied by those who read the content, who make connections the original author could not.

It is this second layer of knowledge that assesses the first layer and makes searching it possible - something that scientists should understand. Peer review and citation play the same roles.

However, it is this second layer that a world of firewalled scientific knowledge will never develop, even if a line or two of the contents can be glimpsed from Google's search page.

This is no Voltairean call to strangle the last commercial publisher with the entrails of the last journal rep.  Commercial journal publishers and learned societies play a valuable role in the assessment and dissemination of scientific knowledge....Copyright, too, has a legitimate part to play, including maintaining the utterly crucial role of attribution. Thus I do not support the proposal that all articles based on state-funded research must pass immediately into the public domain. But there are more modest proposals that deserve our attention.

Pending legislation in the US balances the interest of commercial publishers and the public by requiring that, a year after its publication, NIH-funded research must be available, online, in full....

But even these proposals, limited to state-funded research outputs,have attracted the ire of commercial publishers. Their objections to open access proposals have been debunked succinctly by, among others, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web.

There are many ironies here. Even if the modest open access proposal reaches President George W. Bush's desk he will probably veto it . . . because the same bill has funding for stem cell research. The battle will then begin again.

The greatest irony, though, is this. The world wide web was designed in a scientific laboratory to facilitate access to scientific knowledge. In every other area of life - commerce, social networking, pornography - it has been a smashing success. But in the world of science itself? With the virtues of an open web all around us, we have proceeded to build an endless set of walled gardens, something that looks a lot like Compuserv or Minitel and very little like a world wide web for science.

Update. Michael Mabe, CEO of STM, replied to Boyle's column in a letter to the editor, September 10, 2007.

OA mandate at the CIHR

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) announced its long-awaited OA mandate today.  From the policy:

5.1 Guidance on Access to Research Outputs...

  • For now, CIHR has decided to limit this policy to peer-reviewed journal publications and publication-related biomedical research data, which is typically deposited into public databases as a condition of publication. CIHR is committed to improving access to research outputs and will explore broadening the policy to include research materials and other research data in the future....

5.1.1 Peer-reviewed Journal Publications

  • Grant recipients are now required to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible through the Publisher's website (Option #1) or an online repository as soon as possible and in any event within six months of publication (Option #2).
  • Under the second option, grant recipients must archive the final peer-reviewed full-text manuscripts immediately upon publication in a digital archive, such as PubMed Central or the grantees institutional repository. Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies. Grant recipients may use the SHERPA/RoMEO database to locate summaries of publisher copyright policies. The SHERPA/RoMEO database will help grant recipients determine which journals allow authors to retain copyright and/or allow authors to archive journal publications in accordance with funding agency policies. However, CIHR recommends confirming with editorial staff whether archiving the postprint immediately, and making it freely accessible within six months, is permissible.
  • Grant recipients may also wish to submit their manuscripts to a journal that provides immediate open access to published articles (if a suitable journal exists). CIHR considers the cost of publishing in open access journals to be an eligible expense under the Use of Grant Funds.
  • Book chapters, reports, monographs, editorials, or conference proceedings arising from CIHR-funded research are not currently covered under this policy.
  • Grant recipients must now acknowledge CIHR contributions in all peer-reviewed publications, quoting the funding reference number.

5.1.2 Publication-related Research Data

  • Recognizing that access to research data promotes the advancement of science and further high-quality and ethical investigation, CIHR explored current best practices and standards related to the deposition of publication-related data in openly accessible databases. As a first step, CIHR will now require grant recipients to deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database, as already required by most journals, immediately upon publication of research results (e.g., deposition of nucleic acid sequences into GenBank). Please refer to the Annex for examples of research outputs and the corresponding publicly accessible repository or database.
  • CIHR now requires grant recipients to retain original data sets arising from CIHR-funded research for a minimum of five years after the end of the grant. This applies to all data, whether published or not. The grant recipient's institution and research ethics board may have additional policies and practices regarding the preservation, retention, and protection of research data that must be respected.
  • 6. Monitoring and Adherence
    • Grant recipients are reminded that by accepting CIHR funds they have accepted the terms and conditions of the grant or award as set out in the Agency's policies and guideline.  In the event of an alleged breach of CIHR funding policy, CIHR may take steps outlined in the CIHR Procedure for Addressing Allegations of Non-compliance with Research Policies to deal with the allegation.

    From the press release:

    Today, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) unveiled a new policy to promote public access to the results of research it has funded. CIHR will require its researchers to ensure that their original research articles are freely available online within six months of publication. 

    “Timely and unrestricted access to research findings is a defining feature of science, and is essential for advancing knowledge and accelerating our understanding of human health and disease,” stated Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “With the development of the internet it is now feasible to disseminate globally and easily the results of research that we fund. As a publicly-funded organization, we have a responsibility to ensure that new advances in health research are available to those who need it and can use it – researchers world-wide, the public and policy makers.”

    In developing its policy, CIHR struck a broadly representative national task force of leading researchers, chaired by Dr. James Till of the Princess Margaret Hospital. CIHR consulted widely with Canadian researchers and stakeholders in government, research, publishing and the library communities. CIHR also looked to the experiences of funding agencies in other countries who have established similar policies. The consultation process was thorough and carefully planned in order to preserve academic freedom while promoting the value of public access....

    Under this new Policy, which will apply to all grants awarded after January 1, 2008 that receive funding in whole or in part from CIHR, grant recipients must make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed research articles are freely available as soon as possible after publication. This can be achieved by depositing the article in an archive, such as PubMed Central or an institutional repository, and/or by publishing results in an open access journal. A growing number of journals already meet these requirements and CIHR-funded researchers are encouraged to consider publishing in these journals.

    Additionally, grant recipients are now required to deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data, as already required by most journals, into the appropriate public database immediately upon publication of research results. 


    • This is a major policy with a major loophole:  “Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies.”  The exception swallows the rule.  Any publisher who doesn't want OA within six months, or ever, can easily block it, and CIHR invites them to do so.  But for that, the policy would be exemplary:  the mandatory terms, the reasonably short embargo, the equal standing of central and distributed repositories, the willingness to pay publishing fees at fee-based OA journals, the OA data policy, and the implicit sanction for non-compliance. 
    • The draft policy released last October did not contain this loophole.  On the contrary, it said that “A publisher-imposed embargo on open accessibility of no more than 6 months is acceptable.”  BTW, it also implemented the dual deposit/release strategy (or what Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access), requiring immediate deposit and permitting delayed OA.  But CIHR dropped that too from the final version of the policy.
    • The Wellcome Trust and several of the Research Councils UK have found an elegant way to close the loophole the CIHR that left open:  they require OA archiving on a certain timetable, as a condition of funding, and take advantage of the fact that researchers sign funding contracts before they sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers.  In short, they require grantees to live up to their funding contracts and, therefore, to transfer copyright on their funded work, if at all, only subject to the terms of the prior funding contract.  If a publisher is unwilling to let the author comply with the funding contract, the author must look for another publisher.  I do hope the CIHR will move in this direction at its next policy review, and close or at least shrink the gigantic loophole in the present policy.

    More on PRISM

    Here are a few more recent observations from around the web.

    From David Sewell in a comment at Effect Measure:

    I'm part of a university press, though not one that's an AAP-PSP member. The other day I posted a negative reaction to the PRISM website on the main email list used by the North American university press community and can confirm based on offline responses I got that I'm not alone in being upset.

    The fact is that the PRISM lobbying effort was authorized by a majority decision of an executive council consisting of a small subset of all the publishers who are AAP members. Mike Rossner's request for a disclaimer is reasonable. It should be supplemented by an opt-in list of individuals and organizations who explicitly identify themselves as PRISM Coalition members. (Though I realize that the basic principle of astroturfing is to make it seem like your base is far larger than it actually is.)

    From John Inglis in a comment at Tree of Life:

    I'd like to make it clear that membership in AAP does not imply or require endorsement of the arguments made by PRISM. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press is currently a member of AAP but our access policies are our own. We were not involved in the formation of PRISM and do not support many of the statements being made on its behalf.

    From Kevin Smith at Duke Scholarly Communications

    ...Equally simple-minded is the new campaign (PRISM) launched by the American Association of Publishers against public access for federally-funded research in health. The publishing industry lost in Congress earlier this year, when a mandate for public access to research funded by the National Institute of Health was included in an appropriations bill. Now they hope to reverse that loss by convincing the public that mandated access for taxpayers is “government interference.” Why it is not government interference for tax money to finance the research in the first place is not clear, except to note that publishers get a free ride on such research. The researchers, of course, are seldom paid for the articles they write based on the government-sponsored research, and publishers can charge outrageous rents to let the public see the results. Little wonder that they want to protect their golden goose. But the irony of accusing the government, which paid for the research, of wanting to free-load off the publishers, who do not, is a bit too much....

    From Peter Murray-Rust at A Scientist and the Web:

    ...The supreme irony is that the PRISMoids primary products are quality and integrity. And this is precisely what they are destroying before our eyes....incredibly risky because when (not if) this bubble bursts they are left with nothing....

    Problem at an OUP OA journal

    Peter Murray-Rust, OUP wants me to pay for my own Open Access article, A Scientist and the Web, September 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

    ...Here is another unacceptable lack of clarity and commitment from an Open Access journal from a major publisher.  I had been investigating OUP’s site for another reason (PRISM: Open Letter to Oxford University Press) and since I had published with them thought I would have a look at papers I had written (“I” and “my” include co-authors) [in OUP’s full OA journal Nucleic Acids Research]. This is what I found...  [PS: Omitting the screenshot.]

    The electronic article is accompanied by a sidebar with “request permissions”. I followed this and the result is shown above. The journal wishes to charge me 48 USD to:

    • use my own article
    • on which I hold copyright
    • for non-commercial purposes (teaching)

    The journal is therefore

    • selling my intellectual property
    • without my permission
    • against the terms of the licence (no commercial use)

    I am lost for words....The only charitable conclusion I can draw is that the publisher ritually attaches the awful Rightslink page to every article automatically and that this is a genuine mistake....

    It is all indicative of an industry that simply isn’t trying hard enough.  Recommendation:

    Open access articles on publishers’ web pages should never be accompanied by rightslink or other permission material. instead the publisher should pro-actively point out the nature of oa and ensure that the reader and re-user is fully aware of their rights.

    After all, the author has paid for this…

    Comment.  OUP adopted CC licenses for Nucleic Acids Research (as well as for most of its hybrid OA journals) —presumably to replace RightsLink pages and permission fees.  So it is especially disappointing to see this mistake continue.  Appearing to leave permission barriers in place is as bad as actually leaving them in place, at least for conscientious readers who will seek permission for uses that exceed fair use or give up and err on the side of non-use.  Publishers should not want to make readers less conscientious in this sense, just as they should not want to give authors less than what they paid for and provide less than what they promise.

    Update. Also see the Slashdot thread on PMR's post.

    Update. See PMR's blog response to the mountain of Slashdot misunderstandings.

    Update. See this response from Kirsty Luff, Senior Communications and Marketing Manager at Oxford Journals, posted as a comment on PMR's blog:

    It is not Oxford Journals' policy to charge any users for downloading and using Open Access articles for non-commercial purposes. As stated in the copyright line, all Oxford Open articles are published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

    Rightslink functionality should not be appearing on any of our OA articles, and we are in the process of removing it. For Nucleic Acids Research, the links are not displaying on tables of contents with immediate effect, and will be removed from all article pages as soon as possible. For the OA content in journals participating in Oxford Open, we will also remove any references to Rightslink. In addition to the existing copyright line and the embedded machine-readable licence, we will also display the Creative Commons logo to help make the licence terms clearer to users.

    For clarification, it has never been our policy to charge our own authors for the re-use of their material in the continuation of their own research and wider educational purposes, and this includes authors of articles published under a subscription model.

    Update. PMR has found that the problem didn't stop at OUP. Ingenta charges for access to the OUP article. See his two-part account of the Ingenta problem (one, two).

    More on OA in developing countries

    From Charlotte Webber on the BMC blog:

    Following the launch of our Open access and the developing world portal, we invited authors and readers living and working in low-income countries to share their experiences. So far we have received contributions from a range of authors based in developing countries such as China, Nigeria, Thailand, Zambia and Ethiopia. Here you can read about the authors' thoughts on the internet, open access and how this has affected their research. There are also pictures of the authors working in their field and details of their publications with BioMed Central.

    Do you have a similar experience to share? Send us your pictures and stories about how the internet or open access is making a difference to a research or healthcare project in a developing country by 30 September 2007. BioMed Central is offering a contribution of $1000 to be used towards computer equipment, for the lab or project of your choice based in a developing country, for the best entry. To find out more please visit the share your story page on our Open access and the developing world portal.

    A very personal protest of PRISM

    Tom Wilson, Resignation from Editorial Boards, Research Information Weblog, September 3, 2007. 

    I suggested, last week, that academics should resign from editorial boards of journals published by the supporters of PRISM. Clearly, then, I had to do so myself. Below is a copy of my letter to the Editor of the International Journal of Information Management (a journal I founded). I have written in similar terms the editor of Education for Information.


    Dear Philip,

    I have felt for some time that there is a conflict of interest in my membership of the Editorial Board of the International Journal of Information Management, given my advocacy of open access publishing and, more to the point, the fact that I am publisher and editor of an open access journal.

    This feeling was strengthened by the recent announcement of the lobby group PRISM, established, as I understand by the commercial publishers as an attempt to discredit the open access mode of publishing. In particular, their claim that open access threatened the peer review process is nothing less than the 'big lie' - the propaganda technique of Dr. Goebbels - and, clearly, I cannot let my name continue to be associated with a publisher who is prepared to use this kind of tactic.

    You and I both know that this claim is nonsense and it is a very great pity that the publishers are prepared to employ the services of a lobbyist who adopts this kind of strategy: it does little to encourage trust in their motives.

    I particularly regret that I have to resign from the Board of a journal that I founded and with which I have been associated for so long, but in the present circumstances no other course of action is available to me.

    Given that one of the claims of the PRISM Website is that the publishers spend significant amounts of money on supporting the peer review process, and given that, in common with other academic referees, I have never benefited from that spending, I shall in future refuse to undertake unpaid refereeing work for any journal which is not an open access publication.

    I shall be copying this message to my colleagues on the Editorial Board and to my Weblog, in support of the open access movement.

    With regrets and kind regards to you, personally,


    Editorial in a new OA journal of systems biology

    Matt Hodgkinson and Penelope A. Webb, A system for success: BMC Systems Biology, a new open access journal, BMC Systems Biology, September 4, 2007.  An editorial in a new peer-reviewed OA journal from BMC.

    Abstract:   BMC Systems Biology is the first open access journal spanning the growing field of systems biology from molecules up to ecosystems. The journal has launched as more and more institutes are founded that are similarly dedicated to this new approach. BMC Systems Biology builds on the ongoing success of the BMC series, providing a venue for all sound research in the systems-level analysis of biology.

    Alma Swan on PRISM

    Alma Swan, Watch your language, OptimalScholarship, September 4, 2007.  Read the whole thing, but here’s an excerpt to get you started:

    I know that I am late in writing about the launch of PRISM, the coalition of publishers and, well, publishers, that purports to represent ‘research integrity’. I hope I don’t sound too new age if I say I was exploring my reactions to their opening salvo. I know a lot of bloggers and journalists have had a field day doling out ridicule, and others have patiently demolished PRISM’s arguments point by point (once again), and yet others have given vent to outrage. I’ve decided that primarily I just feel very sad and, secondarily, disappointed. 

    Why? Because of the level of dishonesty and distortion in PRISM’s language, primarily, and because of further evidence that the partners in this ‘coalition’ are just not doing what I had hoped they would eventually do, which is to see clearly and act well....

    Many people argue for Open Access on the grounds that publishers make too much profit, but that is skating on very thin ice. There are very good reasons for Open Access but this isn’t one of them....And yes, I know all the arguments about how this particular market doesn’t work properly, but we can’t expect businesses operating in it to come over all soppy and turn themselves into public services.

    That, however, is exactly what they appear to be trying to do in this PRISM blurbage. And they are not only portraying themselves as mediators and curators of the integrity of research (and they know full well that the term ‘research integrity’ already has a very specific, community-embedded usage) but as custodians of the moral high ground. Their language is carefully contrived to tell untruths in the most plausible way. Phrases like ‘surrender to the government’ do sound risible, I know, and my first reaction was to giggle, but the more I read, the more incredulity settled upon me. The PRISM publishers (it is not clear who exactly they are but the list of members of the sponsoring body, the AAP, is long and includes the big commercial publishers, scholarly societies and university presses) are conflating peer review, governmental influence in the form of legislation that all publicly-funded research results should be freely available (spectacularly termed ‘censorship’ at one point: hey, don’t hold back, PRISM publishers), creator copyright, and preservation all into one argument, which is essentially that without the current scholarly publishing ‘free market’ [sic: their terminology] the whole shebang would implode. They know very well that it won’t, that peer review continues as usual under an Open Access model, and that there is no question of censorship by government. There is even an attempt to equate Open Access with ‘junk science’. Dishonourable conduct, ladies and gentlemen.

    Should we be surprised, after the Dezenhall/pitbull revelations? Frankly, yes. Seeing what advice such a person would come up with was a legitimate tactic, worth exploring, and par for the course in the world of big business. Wherever there are lots of dollars to be made, play gets tough. There is, though, a difference between playing tough and playing dirty. Dirty this is, and that’s one reason why I’m sad about it all.

    Pat Schroeder, quoted on the PRISM website says: “We want to share as much scientific and medical information as possible with the entire world. That’s why we got into this business in the first place.” No, ma’am. Your business works by restricting access to the information you have in your grasp. As long as that is your business model, you can’t claim the opposite. You got into the business to do what such businesses are expected to do, which is to make money. There is nothing shameful in that, but there is in telling porkies.

    I said I was both sad and disappointed....Along with a raft of threats, [there are] a whole host of opportunities for publishers who are uniquely placed to solve the problems that will roll along with the changes, all the way along the value chain. I’d really like publishers to look a bit more strategically at the course of events and use their business skills to capitalise on them, providing for the research community the new services it will need over the next decades. A few, and two big publishing names in particular, are already doing so. Let’s hope others follow. There are a lot of moving targets, to be sure, and that invokes nervousness. At such times, one nervous twitch can mean shooting yourself in the foot (viz PRISM). Better to put the gun down and do something constructive....

    Monday, September 03, 2007

    Using arXiv in teaching

    Susan Ramlo, and Physics Education, The Physics Teacher, September 2007.  Only the abstract is free online, at least so far, and it’s only elementary info about arXiv, not a summary of the author’s position in the article.

    ERC reiterates need for OA mandates in Europe

    The Scientific Council of the European Research Council (ERC) has issued a new position paper on Relaunching the European Research Area (ERA), September 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

    The Scientific Council of the ERC was asked by Commissioner J. Poto?nik to contribute ideas towards the re-launching of the European Research Area, specifically as related to the Commission’s Green Paper....

    [A]ccessible repositories for materials and research tools are already a necessity rather than an option. In the age of the Internet, free and efficient access to information, even in the form of original data, will be the key for sustained progress. To achieve this, significant investment is required to establish repositories for data, publications and materials where needed, or to upgrade and maintain existing repositories. Sustained investment is mandatory to secure curation of very large data sets, such as genomic and related biological information, and to guarantee open, efficient accessibility to it. Open access to publications and more generally processed data (information) is a concept already strongly supported by the scientific community. The ERC is on record with a recommendation that the outcome of research it supports be published in print or electronic publications, and be freely accessible as soon as possible, preferably no later than 6 months from publication.

    The importance of additional access to unprocessed data is now beginning to be widely understood: it allows fresh analysis and utilisation beyond what the originator of the data had in mind. A number of repository resources for data and material exist in Europe, but suffer from lack of sustained support, simply because there have been no instruments in the European Framework Programmes for funding infrastructures of this kind.

    The EU should also encourage the ongoing efforts to support and, where appropriate, to enforce open access to scientific information, while not endangering long trusted peer review systems based on scientific integrity and the quality of scientific publications. Critical for such systems are high quality and affordable journals, including those that are published by scientific societies and thus recycle publication profits to support scientific activities. A prerequisite for this policy is the existence of reliable, freely accessible repositories for scientific publications. While the physical sciences, mathematics and computer science have the worldwide, US-based and federally-funded arXiv Internet preprint library, the biomedical and life sciences currently rely mostly on the US-based and federally-funded Pub Med Central which has a mirror at the Hinxton (UK) Genome Campus. Ideally, such infrastructures should encompass not only preprints but also the final publications in an Internet-accessible, searchable format, connected to repositories that allow access to and free utilization of primary data for further research, per the previous paragraph. Europe can and should pioneer development of similar repositories in all fields, including the humanities and social sciences. Filling these deficits and building upon new opportunities should be a major objective of ERA, towards optimal utilization of scientific data and information that has been secured by public investment, to the benefit of both science and society. It should be noted that the ERC is currently refining its policies concerning open access and intends to contribute actively to the ongoing debate and to developments in this important area....

    DRIVER and LIBER working together for EU repositories

    News from DRIVER:

    Initiatives to build the European Digital Repository Research Infrastructure have received new support from the collaboration between LIBER - the European Association of Research Libraries - and DRIVER.

    LIBER represents and promotes the interests of research libraries in Europe and assists these to become a functional network across national boundaries. LIBER and DRIVER share the vision that research libraries should contribute actively and cooperatively towards a common, pan-European data and service infrastructure based on digital repositories.

    On Wednesday 29th August, Hans Geleijnse from Tilburg University and President of LIBER and Norbert Lossau from Goettingen University and Scientific Coordinator of DRIVER, signed in Tilburg, the Netherlands, a Memorandum of Understanding in order to progress and enhance the provision, visibility and application of European research output through digital repositories - that is, systems that provide access to texts, data or other types of cientific and scholarly content.

    LIBER and DRIVER will also take into account developments in the area of subject based or disciplinary repositories and actively seek collaboration with the organisations involved.

    Update. Also see the joint DRIVER/LIBER press release.

    States slowly providing OA to legal documents

    Robert Schwaneberg, States slow to put documents on internet, Star-Ledger, September 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

    ...While the federal courts continue to expand their [free] online offerings, however, state court systems are dragging their feet. One reason is the cost of converting millions of pieces of paper into electronic forms. Another is the fear court records contain personal details that, when laid out on the Web for anyone to see, could be used to steal someone's identity or invade their privacy.

    Dozens of state court systems, including New Jersey's, have formed committees to study this question: Just how public should public court records be? ...

    Few people can invest the time and money to travel to a courthouse, negotiate the bureaucracy, wait while paper records are retrieved and pay sometimes prohibitive fees, said [Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the University of Missouri School of Journalism]. The Internet, he added, overcomes all of those obstacles and "frees this information up for anyone to use it."

    The Supreme Court of the United States is in the forefront, providing free online access to its opinions and docket sheets, as well as a link to an American Bar Association Web site that posts the briefs -- or written arguments -- filed by lawyers.

    The highest courts of only five states -- Florida, Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota and Texas -- match that level of online access. At the lower courts, the disparities are even greater; only a few scattered counties provide anything approaching that level of online access. A few have retreated, removing documents that had been online for years....

    In November 2003, the Florida Supreme Court, generally a leader in providing public access, imposed a statewide moratorium on putting court documents on the Internet. It required the clerk for Manatee County to block public access to civil cases and criminal charges that had already been posted on the Web.

    The clerk, R.B. "Chips" Shore, had been posting civil filings online for two years and criminal records for one year. Privacy advocates complained some of those records contained information, including Social Security numbers, that should have been confidential.

    "There were a lot of Social Security numbers sitting out there," Shore said. "We'd never had a problem."  On the other hand, Shore said he refused to put traffic tickets online because the combination of a home address and driver's license number is too valuable to identity thieves.  "I'm committed to the public having access to their records in as safe a way as possible," Shore said. "I think that's our job."

    Now Shore is at the forefront of an effort to return court records in Florida to the Internet. He got permission from the state Supreme Court to conduct an experimental program using software to block sensitive information such as Social Security numbers from appearing online....

    The case for OA in Africa

    Eve Gray, Achieving Research Impact for Development: A Critique of Research Dissemination Policy in South Africa with Recommendations for Policy Reform, a policy paper for the Open Society Institute, 2007.  This major (174 pp.) report is based on a year’s worth of research, ending in July 2007.  From the abstract:

    This paper reviews the policy context for research publication in South Africa, using South Africa's relatively privileged status as an African country and its elaborated research policy environment as a testing ground for what might be achieved - or what needs to be avoided - in other African countries. The policy review takes place against the background of a global scholarly publishing system in which African knowledge is seriously marginalised and is poorly represented in global scholarly output. Scholarly publishing policies that drive the dissemination of African research into international journals that are not accessible in developing countries because of their high cost, effectively inhibit the ability of relevant research to impact on the overwhelming development challenges that face the continent.

    In this study, South African research policy is tracked against the changing context provided by digital communication technologies and new dissemination models, particularly Open Access. These impact not only on publication but also on the way that research is carried out and they bring with them a growing recognition of the value, particularly for developing countries, of non-market and non-proprietary production in delivering research impact. The paper thus pays particular attention to the potential for new technologies and new publishing models in helping to overcome the global knowledge divide....

    [T]here is...a largely uncharted clash between South African national research and innovation policies focused on development and access on the one side, and the traditionally-accepted model of academic publishing on the other....[T]here is a signal failure of research policy to focus on the question of the swift dissemination of research results, through Open Access publishing, especially to places where these results could have a useful impact - caused by a set of largely unexamined assumptions about academic publishing. It is in the developing world, and perhaps most markedly in Africa, that the negative effect of this set of contradictions is demonstrated most clearly....

    On the one hand, the government has an expectation of social and development impact from the university in return for its investment in research funding. At the same time, there are increased pressures towards privatisation of the universities, with a decline in traditional financial support from the state and, linked to this, pressure on the university to demonstrate results in the form of greater Intellectual Property Rights enclosure. Thus, while South African research and innovation policies stress the need for development impact, performance measures focus on patents or publication in internationally-indexed journals, effectively inhibiting the effective dissemination of research and thus greatly retarding its potential development impact.

    The paper makes recommendations at international, national and institutional levels for addressing this situation, arguing that Open Access and collaborative approaches could bring substantially increased impact for African research, with marked cost-benefit advantages.

    Update. Eve has also posted a summary of her policy recommendations. Excerpt:

    There is a need for advocacy to promote the importance of effective and broad-based research dissemination as a way of achieving greater impact for African research, nationally, regionally and globally....[A]dvocacy is needed to spell out the advantages of Open Access - particularly in the developing world context - in increasing research impact and reach.....

    Access and participation: At an international level, policy initiatives that address the global knowledge divide need to move from an approach driven by the idea of access - in other words the idea that developing world problems would be solved by providing greater access to global knowledge resources - to a recognition of the need for greater participation by African countries in knowledge production. This would also require international policy documents to move beyond narrowly-focused proprietary and commercially-driven metrics for the evaluation of research performance to recognition of the importance of non-proprietary, collaborative approaches to knowledge production and dissemination.

    Access to publicly funded research: An important strand of such a policy environment would be the creation of policies supporting Open Access to publicly funded research, along the lines proposed by the OECD Declaration and the Salvador and Bangalore Declarations....

    The WIPO Development Agenda: This programme (which is now showing signs of being accepted for implementation) if implemented, could deliver a less punitive and more open international IP dispensation, offering more equitable access to knowledge and more flexible regimes for the fostering of innovation and creativity in developing countries....

    Intellectual Property Law: Greater openness for research dissemination could be achieved without the need for changes in IP law. However, there is a need to address the inconsistencies in South African IP legislation in relation to Fair Dealing and special provisions for educational and library use.....

    Access to research from Public Funding: Policies for Access to Research from Public Funding could provide mandates for the deposit of research publications in institutional repositories, for national harvesting, opening up the availability of research knowledge.

    Support for Open Access research publication: As recommended by the Academy of Science of South Africa, there needs to be financial and logistical support for scholarly publication at a national level. This could include the provision of funding derived from top-slicing a small percentage of the Department of Education remuneration for research publication in accredited journals. An alternative listing and indexing system for journals could contribute to raising quality standards while at the same time ensuring the national relevance of journals. Support for Open Access publication would increase visibility and impact....

    Integrated communications management: There would be a good deal to be gained if institutions were to take an integrated approach to scholarly communications and the use of digital media. This could include policies for the creation and management of institutional Open Access repositories; support for the management of the contracts signed by academic authors; and addressing the publishing needs of the institution and providing support for research dissemination and publication. In other words, the institutions would endorse the centrality of research dissemination and publication, as well as access to research knowledge.

    New book on IRs and OA

    Chandos Publishing in Oxford has just published Catherine Jones, Institutional Repositories: Content and Culture in an Open Access Environment (Chandos, August 14, 2007).  It’s already available, e.g. at Amazon.  From the Chandos blurb:

    Catherine [Jones] is the Library Systems Development Manager in the Library and Information Services for the Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Oxford, UK. She is responsible for Library IT strategy, policy and development and is the manager of the CCLRC’s Institutional Repository. Catherine has a degree in Computer and Communication Systems. She joined the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in 1988 as a Database Applications Programmer/Analyst and moved into the Library and Information Services in 1994 where she has since held a variety of posts, most relating to IT.

    This book provides a practical guide to current Institutional Repository (IR) issues, focussing on content - both gaining and preserving it and what cultural issues need to be addressed to make a successful Institutional Repository. Importantly, it uses real-life experiences to address and highlight issues raised in the first half of the book....

    Key features:

    • Written by a successful Institutional Repository project manager
    • The author has detailed knowledge of Institutional Repository issues
    • Draws on practical knowledge and experience gained from organisational use


    • Introduction
    • Changing information environment - how developments in journal publishing and organisational needs are effecting the information environment and strategic decisions for Library Services
    • Content decisions - what types of material, strategies for gaining content, metadata standards and good practice and copyright issues
    • Preservation - discussion on what to preserve, how to preserve and emerging standards
    • Practical experiences - some case studies on practical experiences
    • Looking into the future - what will the information landscape be like, what functionality will there be in the future
    • Conclusions

    Hybrid OA journals should be clear on what publication fees buy

    Peter Murray-Rust, Scientist accuses OA policies of being unclear, Information World Review, September 3, 2007.  Excerpt:

    ...Scientist Peter Murray-Rust...resigned from one journal after finding that Springer had retained the copyright after authors had paid $3000 to make their papers Open Access.

    “I am a scientist who believes that there is a major advance taking place with data driven science, using data as a primary route to understanding. I believe all scientific data should be published openly, relying on the BOAI declaration which implies that any data associated with open access should be openly and freely used without any permission,” he told IWR.

    Murray-Rust was researching publishers to see to what extent they were enabling and encouraging the re-use of scientific data. When he looked at publishers with author pays business models he was shocked to find how imprecisely their open access policies were worded and the lack of clarity about data.  “I had assumed Open Access meant the author would retain copyright and Open Access would be enabled by the journals adding licences such as Creative Commons,” he says.

    Jan Velterop, Springer senior director of Open Access, said, “I disagree with Murray-Rust that the Open Access is not clear. If it is open, it is open and that is clear. There are flaws in the way that is presented and we are addressing that technically. If it is a new article that is Open Access the author’s name will be on the copyright line. If it is retrospective, Springer’s name will be on the copyright line as it was before, as we don’t want to change the printed record.”

    He added, “We have made some changes as a result of this as we will refer to the Creative Commons licence used in the article itself.”

    Velterop does not have high hopes of the publishing community working together to create a consistent and proactive Open Access policy: “It is difficult as these things need co-ordination and the publishing industry is analogous to the scientific community in that it is fairly anarchic.”

    Murray-Rust asked all the publishers to respond to his concerns but by press time only Springer and Libertas Academica had done so. “It is difficult to escape the conclusion that that the publishers do not have their hearts in this process and want to keep their options open,” said Murray-Rust.

    Sunday, September 02, 2007

    Open letter to Oxford UP about PRISM

    Peter Murray-Rust has sent an open letter to Oxford University Press, asking whether it supports PRISM and whether AAP/PSP consulted its members before launching PRISM.  The letter is similar (but not identical) to his open letter to Cambridge University Press from yesterday.

    Guide to open licensing

    The Open Knowledge Foundation has launched A guide to open licensing.  It’s short, useful, and still growing.

    September SOAN

    I just mailed the September issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.  This issue takes a close look at the common objection from publisher trade associations and lobbyists that OA mandates will undermine peer review.  The round-up section briefly notes 66 OA developments from August.