Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 22, 2007

More notes on Berlin 5

Here are Peter Murray-Rust's final blog posts from the Berlin 5 conference, which ended yesterday:

Friday, September 21, 2007

ATA webcast on public access and patient advocacy

Yesterday the Alliance for Taxpayer Access released a webcast recorded on August 30, The importance of public access to publicly funded research for patient advocates.  From the description:

In this brief (30-minute) and informative event, Pat Furlong (Founding President and CEO of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy) joins Heather Joseph (Executive Director of SPARC and administrator of the ATA) to review:

  • What is public access and why is it important to patient advocates?
  • What is the Alliance for Taxpayer Access?
  • Current public access legislative initiatives and their status
  • How you can help make public access to publicly funded research a reality

View the recording for:

Talking points for patient advocates reaching out to legislators

  • We support the Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health because taxpayers have a right to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars.
  • Access to health-related information is critical to patients and families who wish to make informed decisions about their care and who wish to ensure scientists and doctors have access to the research they need to advance therapy....
  • We ask that the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars be made available on the Internet, for free, as soon as possible and no later than 6 months after publication in a journal.

Tips on effective advocacy

  • Stay current on issue-related developments and in close touch with other advocates.
  • Use your personal story to convey the importance of access to information in your life.
  • Establish a relationship with your representatives. Keep them informed on how the issue impacts you on a regular basis – i.e. you were unable to access an article related to an ongoing trial, or just send casual updates on what you’re doing.
  • Make sure you thank them for each and every step.

More on the forthcoming Cape Town declaration

Eve Gray, Open Sourcing Education, Gray Area, September 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

After weeks of intermittent rain, the sun finally came out - bright but chilly - for a gathering of open education activists from around the world, meeting at the Shuttleworth Foundation's offices, set in beautiful gardens in the Cape Town suburbs. We were there to discuss the possibility of drafting a Declaration on Open Education Resources, The model for the exercise was the OSI's Budapest Open Access Initiative, so influential in profiling and driving the Open Access movement over the last 6 years. The Cape Town meeting followed on from the workshop sessions held at the iCommons Summit in Dubrovnik in June (which are reported on by Mark Surman and Phillipp Schmidt on the iCommons blog), and sought to codify and consolidate the understandings of open education mapped out in Dubrovnik.

The workshop was supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation and the Open Society Institute and was attended by an impressive array of leading names in open education, from Mark Surman, who helped facilitate the workshop, Darius Cuplinskas and Melissa Hageman from the OSI Information Programme, Helen King, Karien Bezuidenhout and Andrew Rens from Shuttleworth, Phillipp Schmidt from the University of the Western Cape, James Dalziel of Macquarie E Learning, Richard Baranuik from Rice University, Paul West from the Commonwealth of Learning, David Wiley from Utah State University, Peter Bateman from the Open University, Delia Browne from the Australian Copyright Advisory Group, Werner Westerman from Chile, student textbook activist David Rosenfeld from the US PIRG consumer group, Lisa Petrides from IKSME – and many more. The proceedings, which were very interactive, were tracked in a wiki during the course of the discussions, as the facilitators used a number of workshop techniques to collectively map the terrain, agree on values, identify strategies and brainstorm the selling points of open education resources.

What came out of this meeting for me? First of all, a realisation that the OER terrain is very complex, from a number of perspectives. Drafting a statement is going to  be an even more complex task than the Budapest Initiative and it will need to incorporate the diversity that emerged across the education system, vertically and geographically, in the course of our discussions. Most importantly, there are major differences between the provision of resources at different levels of the education system - not always acknowledged in the OER discussions....

The most contentious issue turned out to be that of the kinds of licence that would be appropriate and that would signal true openness. This is something on which consensus is going to need to be reached over the next few months. 

The availability of technology in the poorer countries of the world is a major concern and it was clear that this would need to be addressed if the vision of this group was truly to be a global one....

The next steps? A draft declaration will be drawn up by Mark Surman, working with three 'stewards', Ahrash Bissell of CC Learn, Delia Browne, an IP lawyer working for the Copyright Advisory Group of the Australian government and  James Dalziel from the E Learning Centre of  Excellence at Macquarie University, also Australia. This will then be circulated to the broader group for feedback before being more widely canvassed. High profile supporters from academe and the educational world will be sought as champions for the initiative.

As Darius Cuplinskas said, "We're about to launch a wave of creative disruption." I am looking forward to it.

More on the leaked AAP/Dezenhall documents

Alexis Madrigal, Traditional Journal Publishers' Anti-Open-Access PR Plan Revealed, Wired Science, September 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

Yesterday, New Scientist published a plan by PR firm Dezenhall Resources detailing how traditional science publishers could turn government opinion against open-access journals.

There’s nothing wrong with employing a famously tough PR firm, but the memo reveals that Dezenhall recommended sidestepping the real issues around peer review and the business model that powers it, in favor of “rhetorical campaign points” about Big Government and scientists’ hypocrisy.

The memo notes that the key issue is that “publishers are trying to protect their businesses and the integrity of the research they publish.” Yet, two of Dezenhall’s example messages focused on government “censorship” and “nationalization” of science. No one really believes, on either side, that government is taking over science publishing....

Another parallel between open source and open access

Glyn Moody, Defending Openness, Linux Journal, September 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

...Unfortunately the parallels between the two movements [open source and open access] even extend to the realm of FUD. The Prism Coalition is funded by a group of academic publishers who see their business models - and hefty profits - threatened by this new approach (sound familiar?), and is designed to discredit open access in the eyes of policy-makers and the general public.

What's interesting is that the Prism Coalition uses the same tactics as those seeking to undermine open source. For example, it uses insinuation - in this case, that open access is somehow incompatible with peer review, and hence threatens the very basis of science: even the name "PRISM", which stands for "Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine", tries to imply this. Open access is actually about how papers are distributed, not about the process of selection, which is just as rigorous as that of traditional scientific journals.

Prism also invokes that old red herring "innovation" in its attempt to prevent open access being required for government-funded research....

According to this view, government mandates that require free online access for all are somehow inimical to innovation, as if open access were not itself highly innovative. This is the same argument that a government preference for open source is unfair and detrimental to innovation, as if open source were never innovative, and even though it has clear advantages for governments in terms of transparency, competition and code re-use. It also employs the same redefinition of what constitutes diversity and choice as when Microsoft argues against competition based around a single, open standard - like ODF - in favour of multiple, competing and incompatible standards....

New OA journal of religion, conflict, and peace

The Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Plowshares Project, "a peace studies collaborative of Earlham, Goshen, and Manchester Colleges."  For more detail, see Joseph Leichty's editorial in the inaugural issue, The Genesis of Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace.

Comment.  I'm proud of the part played in this project by Earlham College, where I taught for 21 years, and pleased that I was able to help the journal think through the decision to become OA.  I wish it well.

Shared notebook science

Peter Sefton, Open Notebook Science and Not-so-open Notebook Science, PT's outing, September 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

Peter Murray-Rust introduced me to the term Open Notebook Science over lunch in June this year.

In this post I will look a little at open science, as practiced by chemists, and at a recent DLib paper by colleagues of mine from Monash [Andrew Treloar et al.] about the continuum of data form when it is collected to when it is published, or curated, in the context of the forthcoming Australian National Data Service (ANDS)....

I think that to cater to the access requirements noted by Andrew Treloar et al you might need a “Shared Notebook” approach as opposed to an Open Notebook approach. That is, the benefits of a unifying tools like Blogs and Wikis shared with colleagues but not open to all. ( I do realize that there's a bit of baggage that comes along for the ride if you substitute Shared for Open, but I think the term fits.)

In fact I've worked on a “Shared Notebook” project myself. RUBRIC. RUBRIC used a shared space in which to work, which included a wiki, although our blogs were open-access. Read Kate Watson and Chelsea Harper's paper for more about how we got on.

So, some research needs to be kept under wraps, and some people are happier collaborating within a trusted community....

Tipping points v. talk about tipping points

Stevan Harnad, Tripping on Tipping Points: Jubilatio Praecox, Open Access Archivangelism, September 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

Thomas & McDonald (2007) wrote:

"This study's findings only reinforce... predictions and arguments favoring institutional mandates. As the data in this article show, a mandate is arguably the "tipping point" described by Gladwell (2000) that can make depositing behavior among scholars not just widespread, but also more of an ingrained and complete behavior"
Sandy Thatcher, President, AAUP, responded:
'If you'll remember our prior discussion about open access, Stevan, I warned that just this "success" might be the "tipping point" to drive a host of commercial and society publishers out of the business of journal publishing. One "tipping point" causes another? Witness, as partial proof, the reaction of STM publishers represented by the PRISM initiative. I read that as a warning that, if the government forces a change in their business model, they may just walk away from the business. I assume you wouldn't consider that a bad thing at all, but my question would be what kind of structure will take its place and what expectations will universities have of their presses to pick up the slack?'

What is remarkable is how actual empirical facts (very few) are being freely admixed, willy-nilly, with fact-free speculations for which there is, and continues to be zero empirical evidence, and, in many cases, decisive and familiar counterevidence, both empirical and logical....

There has been no "tipping point." Just talk about tipping points, and that talk about tipping points has been going on for years.

There has been no one driven out of business, nor any empirical evidence of a trend toward being driven out of business. Just talk about being driven out of business, and that talk about being driven out of business has been going on for years.

And as to the "partial proof" in the form of the STM/PRISM "reaction" -- that very same reaction (with the very same false, alarmist arguments) has been voiced, verbatim, by the very same publisher groups (STM, AAP, ALPSP), over and over, for over a decade now. And they have been debunked just as often (see long list of links below). But that certainly hasn't been enough to make the publishers' anti-OA lobby cease and desist. Do you consider the relentless repetition, at louder and louder volume, of exactly the same specious and evidence-free claims, to be "proof" of anything, partial or otherwise?

And the phrase "the government forces a change in their business model" is just as false a description of what is actually going on when it is spoken in Sandy's own well-meaning words as when it is voiced by PRISM and Eric Dezenhall: The government is not forcing a change in a business model....

This quite natural (and overdue) adaptation to the online age on the part of the research community -- mandating Green OA self-archiving -- may or may not lead to a transition to Gold OA publishing: no one knows whether, or when it will. But what is already known is that OA itself, whether Green or Gold, is enormously beneficial to research, researchers, their institutions and funders, the vast R&D industry, and the tax-paying public that funds research and for whose benefit it is funded, conducted and published....

So the "tipping point" for Green OA itself would be an unalloyed benefit for everyone except the peer-reviewed journal publishing industry, whether or not it led to a second tipping point and a transition to Gold OA....

You ask "what kind of structure will take its place and what expectations will universities have of their presses to pick up the slack?" I presume you are referring to the multiple hypothetical conditional: if Green OA mandates reach the tipping point that generates 100% Green OA, and if that in turn generates journal cancellations that reach the tipping point that generates a transition to Gold OA? The answer (which I have provided many times before) is simple: That "structure" will be Gold OA, funded out of (a part of) the institutional cancellation savings....

Comment.  Well-put.  I made some of the same points in the September SOAN.  There's no evidence yet for a tipping point (or slippery slope), although there might be later.  And there's no evidence that a future tipping point would hurt peer review even if it did hurt revenues at some existing publishers.  On the contrary, there's strong evidence, so far, that OA and TA will coexist for some time, and strong reason to think that, even if OA grows at the expense of TA, research productivity and quality control would both improve.

More notes on Berlin 5

More blog posts from Peter Murray-Rust at the Berlin 5 conference:

Topaz expands beyond PLoS ONE

Richard Cave, Topaz Release Candidate 0.8, PLoS blog, September 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

...[W]ith this release candidate, the Topaz framework allows multiple journal websites to use a single repository. So the release candidate isn't specific to just PLoS ONE. Why is this important? Enabling multiple journals on one repository allows articles to be viewed across all sites accessing the repository. The interactive tools of PLoS ONE will be available for all journals hosted on Topaz. This will include articles originally published in PLoS Clinical Trials and articles soon-to-be published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Features implemented in Topaz RC 0.8:

  • Enable multiple journals using a single repository....
  • Filter search results by journal using OTM.
  • TrackBack linkbacks for articles. TrackBacks are used primarily to facilitate communication between blogs - a TrackBack allows a blog author to see who is linking back to a blog post. We're using this same feature, based on the Six Apart specification, to see who is linking back to a published article....
  • Citation download of the article. Many users have requested this feature and now you can download the citation for an article in the RIS file format (compatible with EndNote, Reference Manager, ProCite, RefWorks) or BibTex (compatible with BibDesk, LaTeX)....
  • Allow multiple email addresses for "E-mail this Article."
  • Administrative modifications to annotations.
  • Administrative interface for multiple journals....

The Canadian J of Sociology is converting to OA

The Canadian Journal of Sociology will convert to OA, starting in January 2008.  Editor Kevin D. Haggerty lays out the details in a candid editorial, Change and Continuity at the Canadian Journal of Sociology, in the Summer 2007 issue.  (Thanks to Heather Morrison.)  After listing 10 changes he plans to implement at CJS, Haggerty mentions this one:

11.  Transition the CJS/CCS to an “Open Access” format. This is the most fundamental change, and it can be captured in two propositions: 1. Starting in January 2008, the journal will no longer publish a hard copy edition, and 2. The journal will be freely available to anyone with an internet connection....

[N]ew articles will also be indexed by all of the major indexing services. The difference is that new articles will now also be available free of charge online.

Open access electronic journals are no longer idiosyncratic ventures existing at the margins of scholarly publishing and at the bottom of the hierarchy of journals. When the New England Journal of Medicine began to offer open access to all its contents, six months after articles had been initially published, it ended any notion that journals providing open access were of a lesser quality or prestige....

There are multiple reasons for this change. For authors, it means that your articles will have a greater impact....

There is also the principled position that open access ensures that a larger segment of the public can easily access research — research which the public has often helped to fund through taxes. As such, it advances current efforts to nurture a form of “public sociology” in Canada. Major institutions are increasingly expecting that researchers will publish in open access journals. Canadian Institutes of Health Research, for example, is about to release its policy requiring grant-holders to make a copy of any published work freely available within six months of publication and it seems likely that SSHRC will soon follow this open access mandate policy.  The Canadian Journal of Sociology/Cahiers canadiens de sociologie is excited to be among the path-breaking journals providing authors with the opportunity to publish their works in an established quality high-profile venue that is also open access. Indeed, we expect that it is only a matter of time before all of the major journals follow our lead.

Another advantage of the electronic format is that it loosens the degree to which editorial decisions are structured by financial considerations....

The financial implications of this move remain somewhat opaque, and I have agonized over this issue....Retiring the hard copy version of the journal eliminates subscription revenue, which is one of our major sources of funding. That said, mimicking wider publishing trends, the journal’s subscriptions have been substantially declining at the same time that our electronic readership (through Project MUSE and other venues) has increased dramatically. Moreover, it was always the case that most of our subscription revenues went to cover the costs associated with producing a hard copy volume, such as printing, subscription management and postage.

Ultimately, this move means that we are now more centrally dependent on SSHRC funding, but in practice that has been the case for some time. There is, however, reason for optimism about the funding situation. SSHRC has emerged as a major proponent of open access publishing and is now supporting open access journals. Given the prominence and reputation of the CJS/CCS I expect that we will continue to receive such funds....

Is the AAP/PSP distancing itself from PRISM?

The front page of the AAP's Professional/Scholarly Publishing division used to feature a link to the PRISM web site and a paragraph on its launch and goals.  But today the paragraph has disappeared and the page no longer mentions PRISM at all.  It was the AAP/PSP Executive Council that launched PRISM last month.

2008 Open Access Calendar

Alma Swan's calendars of OA quotations and original artwork and calligraphy are becoming an annual tradition.  Her 2008 Open Access Calendar is now online.  This year's calendar also features notable dates from the history of the OA movement.  From the description at Key Perspectives:

A 2008 Open Access calendar, created by Alma Swan, is now available on this website. Alma says "I hope you like it and that it will help to inspire you during the next year." We invite you to print and staple it together for your own use. Some people have already asked whether the calendar is going to be professionally printed and made available in bound form. This is feasible if enough people would like this to be done. The maximum cost, including calendar, board-backed envelope and postage would be 11 Euros or 16 US dollars, though it could be less if the print run is large enough. If you are interested in having a printed copy, please contact me at the following address: aswan AT In the meantime, please feel free to download the pdf version here.

Why not OA for fossil CT scans?

John Hawks, Openness, casts, and CT scans, john hawks weblog, September 20, 2007.

Background:  Paleoanthropologists need to compare fossils, but this is hard because fossils are usually stored in different places and rarely travel.  Plaster or plastic casts ease this problem, but they introduce some distortions and are still hard to produce or ship around to all who need them.  CT scans are more accurate than casts and should be easy to share.  Excerpt:

...Another aspect of gatekeeping behavior is the availability of CT scans. One of my correspondents wrote that CT scanning will make casting irrelevant, because everybody will have CTs of all the fossils and will be able to make their own casts when they want to. Boy, it sure seems like this ought to happen. After all, CT scans are even better than casts in some ways -- they let you see internal details and allow computer reconstructions, for example. They're not perfect, particularly for close details beyond the resolution used in today's CTs. But they should be very cheap to distribute. A world that can disseminate Craig Venter's complete genome to anybody who wants it ought to be able to find some way to get a few hundred CT scans sent around.

A number of efforts are starting to make CT distribution possible -- notably, NESPOS, the Vienna Virtual Anthropology group, and a few others. I expect these efforts will improve, and we will see more and more students able to access the essential data of paleoanthropology.

But for those who've been reading the blog for any length of time, you'll remember I wrote about this problem two years ago.

During the two years since that post, there has been a great deal of progress in scanning fossils. Most papers about new fossils are supported by data from scanning. A small proportion of these scans have been made available to paying professionals, or soon will be. Most are locked away, with no long-term prospect of ever being distributed. Today, none are openly available. Not a single scan of a hominid fossil can be obtained in the open, free of charge.

Why do I argue so strongly for completely open access? I believe it is a matter of credibility. A fundamental principle of science is replicability. If someone else cannot replicate your results, they have no reason to believe you. You have no scientific credibility....

The beauty of science is that it is self-correcting. You can read this blog to find the obvious mistakes in papers published in those marquee journals. This self-criticism is essential to science's credibility. But it is hampered by secrecy....

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Philosophy Research Network

The Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is expanding to cover many other fields.  One of the 16 fields in its forthcoming Humanities Research Network will be the Philosophy Research Network (PRN). 

The American Philosophical Association announced the PRN in August.  (Thanks to Vincent C. Müller for the pointer.)  From the APA front page:

...The Philosophy Research Network (PRN) is part of the Social Science Research Network, a massive website started 10 years ago or so by scholars in law, economics, business, and so forth. There are hundreds of thousands of papers and abstracts now posted on the SSRN, and in the last 12 months there have been over 3,700,000 downloads of papers through the site. In short, this service is a big success in the social sciences. It is a one-stop place for people to post working papers so that those dealing with related topics can have access to them (free of charge). It thus consolidates and organizes the sort of electronic exchanges that already occur via e-mail, or through private websites. And it improves on such exchanges by allowing users to access new work through keyword, abstract, or author searches.

The PRN will be formally launched later this summer, and you will see an announcement about it from the APA. But we are happy to say that the network is now accessible in a preliminary way, and we invite you to try it out by posting some of your work. You'll need a PDF version of the papers you want to post, and an abstract of each that you can cut and paste into a text box during the posting process....

The PRN will eventually have its own web address, but you can get to it now by going to the SSRN [here]. You will see a full list of the sub-networks. If you expand the Humanities Research Network list (by clicking on the + sign to the left), you will see the one for philosophy. And if you expand that, and then expand the list of "subject matter journals" in philosophy, you will see what we're up to. We recently put up papers of our own just to test-drive the system. Signing on and getting this done the first time is a little bit of a hassle, but after that it's very easy. And your papers can be found on your own personal page (created automatically when you sign up) and by perusing the subject matter areas in which you want them listed.

SSRN is based at the University of Texas, and supports its staff and infrastructure through university sponsorships and institutional subscriptions. The network does very light screening to exclude material of a non-scholarly sort, and to refine the classification of papers--for example, by increasing the number of cross listings. Otherwise there is no peer review, and this posting does not amount to a publication....

Comment.  On the one hand, I'm glad that my field, philosophy, will finally have a discipline-wide repository.  On the other, SSRN imposes restrictions unheard of at other OA repositories.  For example, it adds an SSRN watermark to the pages of some deposited articles and only allows links to SSRN papers in abstracts.  As Vincent Müller pointed out to me, it doesn't support data harvesting by ROAR.  And I don't like the PDF-only limitation.  I plan to monitor the site to see whether SSRN lifts these restrictions.

Background on the AAP hiring of Eric Dezenhall

Jim Giles broke the story of the AAP hiring of Eric Dezenhall in Nature for January 24, 2007.  Now Giles is telling more of the story.

In a post today at NewScientist's Short Sharp Science blog, Giles writes:

The link between the AAP and Dezenhall must have irked someone linked to one of the publishers, because emails connecting the two were leaked to me (the sender did not give a name). Dezenhall's strategy includes linking open access with government censorship and junk science – ideas that to me seem quite bizarre and misleading. Last month, however, the AAP launched a lobby group called the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine (PRISM), which uses many of the arguments that Dezenhall suggested.

I've written a comment article about this in New Scientist this week, and you can read the leaked proposal from Dezenhall here (pdf). Let us know what you think of the AAP's strategy, or about open access in general.

His story in NewScientist is TA and only the first two paragraphs are free online:

An unexpected package arrived on my desk earlier this year. The sender did not give a name, and the return address was false. Inside were copies of emails between senior staff at major scientific publishing houses. They were discussing a surprising topic: plans to hire Eric Dezenhall, a public relations guru who has organised attacks on environmental groups, represented an Enron chief, and authored the book Nail 'Em! Confronting high-profile attacks on celebrities and businesses. (See our related blog, plus the leaked proposal from Eric Dezenhall here)

Leaked emails and controversial characters like Dezenhall are not normally associated with the staid world of academic journals, but the big publishers are getting a little spooked. Over the past decade, researchers have started to demand that scientific results be set free. The majority of research is publicly funded and is reviewed, free of charge, by public-sector scientists....

The leaked two-page Dezenhall proposal to the AAP is apparently unabridged.  But it's a scanned image and I don't have time rekey it.  However I recommend it for showing more than we've seen to date on (1) the strengths of the OA movement that worry the publishing lobby (called "the coalition" here, perhaps in anticipation of PRISM) and (2) the coalition strategies and tactics for persuading policy-makers to defeat OA initiatives.

Update.  I just gained access to the full text of Jim Giles story in NewScientist.  Here are some more excerpts:

...The majority of research is publicly funded and is  reviewed, free of charge, by public-sector scientists. But it is then  placed in journals where it is available only to those who pay for a  subscription or belong to a library that has one. Many academics want  this system replaced with one that ensures access for all.

This is not a message that all publishers want to hear. The profits  from many academic journals rest entirely on subscription fees; if  articles are available for free, researchers may decide they need not  bother signing up. Publishing houses have ploughed millions of  dollars into the infrastructure needed to keep this business going  online. If everyone gets to expect free access, that investment will  look misguided. The publishers hired Dezenhall because they wanted a  PR campaign to counter these threats.

It's a shame they cannot see the bigger picture. Restricting access  to journals slows down the work of everyone involved in science, not  just researchers but also policy-makers, journalists and campaigners.  For scientists in poorer nations, often the places where the benefits  of research are most needed, access can be non-existent. Subscription barriers also hamper the integration of databases and research  papers, which many see as the future of scientific publishing.

These benefits are not incompatible with the survival of commercial  publishers. What is needed is a change of business model, not a  revolution....

The emails I received show that Dezenhall advised the AAP to  focus on what seem to me to be emotive and highly misleading  messages. Publishers were told to equate traditional journals with  peer review, even though open-access publications operate peer review  in exactly the same way. US government plans to boost access to  papers, which include making all publicly funded health research  available via a dedicated archive, were to be described as  "censorship" and "copyright theft", though it is hard to see what  possible basis these accusations can have....

Dezenhall's campaign launched last month. The AAP has formed a lobby  group, the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine  (PRISM), and most of what it says is in line with what Dezenhall  suggested. To anyone who has followed the debate on open access, the  messages look pathetic, and one AAP member - The Rockefeller  University Press - quickly said that it "strongly disagreed" with  what the association has done.

Those who would like to see open access win out should think twice  before dismissing PRISM. Its messages are designed not to win an  intellectual debate but to sway people who know little about what  open access means: the US senators who will soon vote on the archive  plans....

Long-term, however, PRISM looks like a desperate move. No successful  company wants to tear up its business model and start again, but  change is inevitable. Open-access journals are springing up faster  than ever (43 in the last month), and the better-established ones are  already profitable. In the last eight years, 12 whole editorial  boards have quit traditional journals in protest at high prices, and  launched rival open-access publications. The AAP's lobbying may delay  things, but the open-access movement has a momentum that not even  Dezenhall can reverse.

Update.  Blake Stacey has rekeyed original two-page proposal that Eric Dezenhall presented to the AAP.  Excerpt:

...It’s hard to fight an adversary that manages to be both elusive and in possession of a better message: Free information....

There are no clear villains. Government is looking to give taxpayers free access to the research that they fund and publishers are trying to protect their business and the integrity of the research they publish. The free internet movement is strong and getting stronger....


  • Supplement the Coalition’s lobbying efforts with communications “air cover”
  • Simplify the Coalition’s arguments into easily digestible concepts (e.g., censorship)....

Develop simple messages (e.g., Public access equals government censorship; Scientific journals preserve the quality/pedigree of science; government seeking to nationalize science and be a publisher) for use by Coalition members....

Paint a picture of what the world would look like without peer reviewed articles....

Inventory the Coalition’s adversaries, their arguments and weaknesses prior to launching communications....

Estimated Budget.  $300,000 - $500,000 for a six month program.

Defining open access for robots

Peter Murray-Rust, The laws of robotics; request for drafting, A Scientist and the Web, September 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

I have been asked about what we need for robotic access to publishers’ sites. Several publishers are starting to allow robotic access to their Open material. (Of course the full BBB declarations logically require this, but in practice many publishers haven’t made the connection). So let’s assume a publisher who espouse Open Access and allows robotic access to their site. Is, say, CC licence enough?

There are no moral problems with CC, but the use of robots has additional technical problems, even when everyone agrees they want it to happen....

I can see roughly two types of robotic behaviour:

  1. systematic download for mining or indexing....It would be highly desirable to minimise repetitious indexing and an enthusiastic publisher could put their XML material in a proper repository framework with a RESTful API (rather than requiring HTML screen-scraping of PDF-hack-and-swear). In return there could be a list of acknowledged robots so that these could act as “proxies” or caches.
  2. Random access from links in abstracts or citations. This is likely to happen when the bot is in PMC/UKPMC, or crystaleye, and discovers an interesting abstract and goes to the full-text on a publishers site. The bot may have been created by an individual researcher for a single one-time purpose.

So I’d like to come up with (three?) laws of mining robotics. Here’s a first shot:

  • A publisher should display clear protocols for robots, with explanations of any restrictions and lists of any regular mining bots.
  • A data-miner should use software that is capable of honouring machine-understandable guidance from servers. The robots should be prepared to use secondary  sites.
  • Mining software should be Open Source and should honour a common set of public protocols.

But I would like suggestions from people who have been through this…

More on the AnthroSource move to Wiley-Blackwell

When I first blogged the news that AnthroSource, the publishing arm of the American Anthropological Association, was moving from the University of California Press to Wiley-Blackwell, it was just a plan.  Now it's official.  From the Wiley-Blackwell announcement (September 19, 2007):

Wiley-Blackwell...and the American Anthropological Association (AAA) today announced that they have formed a new publishing partnership to commence in 2008.

Wiley-Blackwell will publish 23 anthropology journals and newsletters of the AAA including the American Anthropologist, American Ethnologist, Cultural Anthropology, and the Medical Anthropology Quarterly. Wiley-Blackwell will also host AnthroSource-the premier online portal to full-text anthropology articles serving the research and teaching needs of scholars and practitioners in the US and around the world.

The AAA Executive Board's decision to join Wiley-Blackwell was the result of a year-long process centering around a detailed request for proposals and evaluation of publisher submissions. In its development of AnthroSource in 2002, the core goals of the AAA included developing a portal that could provide scholars with innovative discovery tools for accessing scholarly content, in text, photo, audio and video media, and an electronic means to expand the reach of anthropological knowledge to additional readers worldwide....

To support the AAA's mission of disseminating anthropological knowledge, Wiley-Blackwell will work with the Association over the next several years to enhance the global dissemination of its publications, including expanding its free and reduced-price access programs in developing countries....

Comment.  In June 2006, the AAA signed a public letter opposing FRPAA without consulting its members and triggered a wave of member protests.  When the AnthroSource Steering Committee expressed its support for FRPAA, the AAA disbanded the committee.  Nevertheless, many anthropologists hoped that the AAA would convert AnthroSource to OA.  Now AAA lays those hopes to rest and will have to explain to members how this move advances anthropology more than OA and why the views of the membership, and even the AnthroSource Steering Committee, were systematically disregarded.

Update.  Also see the September 19 statement by William Davis and Alan Goodman (respectively, Executive Director and President of the AAA) and Jennifer Howard's story on the Chronicle of Higher Education News blog.  Excerpt from Howard:

...The deal features a profit-sharing arrangement under which the association will get 60 percent of “excess revenues over expenditures” each year, according to a memo circulated to the association’s journal editors and section heads and sent to The Chronicle. The association is also guaranteed a minimum yearly income that should be worth some $2.7-million over the contract’s five-year life, the memo says.

Initial reaction has been cautiously optimistic, although the association’s leaders continue to take fire for how they went about the search for a new publishing partner. “I can honestly say that I support the move, and that I think the AAA did the right thing,” wrote one poster on the anthro blog Savage Minds. But “the process by which it happened has been demoralizing — more evidence that as a scholarly society the AAA does not see any need to communicate with its membership at large, solicit their input, or operate in an even quasi-transparent manner.”

Update. See the comments on Jennifer Howard's story on the Chronicle of Higher Education News blog. Here's one:

No indication that the AAA is concerned about the pricing of its journals, which I am prepared to bet will raise at at least 10% per year over the life of the contract. Letís be clear about what is going on here the AAA is using a private publisher to extract income from universities through their libraries. The bad news though is that university libraries will not be able to afford these increases. In the end fewer subscriptions will be sold and fewer people will have access to this scholarship. If the AAA really cared about scholarship in anthropology they would be pursuing an open access strategy.

Last two issues of Serials Librarian

The Serials Librarian, vol. 52, no. 1/2, is not the most recent issue but I overlooked it at the time it came out, c. August 2007.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey's Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog.)  Here are the OA-related articles.  Only abstracts are free online, at least so far.

And here's one from vol. 52, no. 3/4:

Launch of Irish OA library and repository

On Monday, University College Dublin and partners launched the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive Repository (IVRLA).  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)  From the announcement:

Monday September 17th will see the launch of the Irish Virtual Research Library and Archive repository (IVRLA), a key component in humanities research infrastructure for University College Dublin (UCD) and other third level institutions.

IVRLA is a digital archive containing a number of digitised collections from UCD’s holdings, of use and interest to Irish humanities researchers. The IVRLA has developed a sophisticated interface enabling users to browse, search, tag and cite digital objects and view or download them in a variety of file formats. This interface sits on top of an open source repository architecture that functions as the IVRLA’s base content store. An elaborate collection model has been developed ensuring all content is viewed within context and structure. This model is particularly suited for organic primary source collections and enables hierarchy and sub-division in how objects are arranged and held within collections....

OA library of Romani literature

From the September issue of The European Library Newsletter:

The European Library and the National Library of Serbia are collaborating in an ambitious project that aims at creating a pan-European bibliography of Romani language publications and a Romani Virtual Collection of digitised resources across Europe....

The project will be achieved in 4 steps. In the current and initial phase, available records are being collected and harvested from the national libraries across Europe. The second phase involves the selection of material for digitisation. This digitized material will form a virtual library, bringing together the diaspora of Romani people and their cultural heritage. Such digitization also helps in its long term preservation .

The following countries have contributed by providing bibliographic records or keywords for harvesting purposes: Serbia, Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, The Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

Notes from Berlin 5

Peter Murray-Rust is blogging life at the Berlin 5 conference:

  • Open access - both easy and difficult.  The opening plenary address by Sijbold Noorda
    of the European University Association.
  • Open Data: What am I going to say?  Some OA activists he's met and pre-talk ruminations on what he'll say.
  • Plenary 1.  Brief notes on talks by Fred Friend (JISC and University College London), Jens Vigen (CERN), Subbiah Arunachalam (M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation), and Hiroya Takeuchi (Chiba University).
  • Monetizing informatics - a fantasy.  More ruminations on what he might say in his own talk.  "Given that the EU already has an economic model where farmers are paid not to grow crops but to preserve the countryside, we could argue that publishers might be paid not to ban people from reading “their property”. This would then create a lively market in doing something useful with the data. If the publishers wanted to be in this market they would need to actually do something NEW, or someone will eat their lunch.  Tell me that this is not a fantasy."
  • SCOAP.  Notes on the talk by Salvatore Mele (CERN).
  • Chris Armbruster; green ==> gold.  Notes on Chris Armbruster's talk.

Berlin 5 now in progress

The Berlin 5 conference --Open Access: From Practice to Impact: Consequences of Knowledge Dissemination-- started yesterday in Padua and ends tomorrow.  Abstracts of the presentations are already online.

Greetings to all my friends who are gathered there.  I'm sorry I couldn't attend myself.

How to foster an information economy

Cory Doctorow, Free data sharing is here to stay, The Guardian, September 18, 2007.  Excerpt:

Since the 1970s, pundits have predicted a transition to an "information economy". The vision of an economy based on information seized the imaginations of the world's governments. For decades now, they have been creating policies to "protect" information — stronger copyright laws, international treaties on patents and trademarks, treaties to protect anti-copying technology.

The thinking is simple: an information economy must be based on buying and selling information. Therefore, we need policies to make it harder to get access to information unless you've paid for it.

That means that we have to make it harder for you to share information, even after you've paid for it....

But this is a tragic case of misunderstanding a metaphor. Just as the industrial economy wasn't based on making it harder to get access to machines, the information economy won't be based on making it harder to get access to information. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true....

It used to be that copy-prevention companies' strategies went like this:

"We'll make it easier to buy a copy of this data than to make an unauthorised copy of it. That way, only the uber-nerds and the cash-poor/time-rich classes will bother to copy instead of buy."

But...a third option [now exists]: you can just download a copy from the internet. Every techno-literate participant in the information economy can choose to access any data, without having to break the anti-copying technology, just by searching for the cracked copy on the public internet....

And, of course, as Paris Hilton, the Church of Scientology and the King of Thailand have discovered, taking a piece of information off the internet is like getting food colouring out of a swimming pool....

Many of us sell information in the information economy — I sell my printed books by giving away electronic books, lawyers and architects and consultants are in the information business and they drum up trade with Google ads, and Google is nothing but an info-broker — but none of us rely on curtailing access to information.

Like a bottled water company, we compete with free by supplying a superior service, not by eliminating the competition....

Openness and the ethic of sharing

Rufus Pollock, Talk at Law 2.0: Openness, Web 2.0 and the Ethic of Sharing, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, September 18, 2007.  Excerpt:

Yesterday I was at the SCL’s “Law 2.0? : New Speech, New Property, New Identity” talking on Openness, Web 2.0 and the Ethic of Sharing. The full text of my talk is inline below, there are companion slides up online (more graphics!) and for those who like source here a link to the markdown original....

One of the first printed texts of which we have record is a copy of the Buddhist Diamond sutra produced in China around 868AD. In it can be found the dedication: “for universal free distribution”. Clearly, the idea of open knowledge, that is knowledge you are free to use, reuse and redistribute, has been present since humanity first began to formally transmit and share ideas. It is also likely that the urge to keep ideas secret, particularly those that had ‘commercial’ value, is equally old....

With the introduction of formal monopoly rights such as patents and copyrights during the sixteenth and seventeenth century there was now a halfway house of sorts whereby the monopoly (and the associated profits) of secrecy was combined with openness in the form of the disclosure of the work....

Free, unencumbered access to a piece of knowledge whether it be a film or a database, is the most obvious way that openness delivers benefits. Because it is cheaper and easier to get hold of open knowledge it may be much more widely used than it would otherwise. Each such extra user, who gains access because open knowledge is cheaper or easier to get hold of than ‘closed’ knowledge, derives a benefit that increase the well-being of society.

Let me give a few examples of how profound these effects may be....

While the benefits of openness for users are obvious, by contrast, the benefits for production are much less so. After all, by removing the possibility of monopoly provided by secrecy or intellectual property, openness may eliminate one of the primary means by which producers finance their activities. Nevertheless there are a variety of ways in which openness can be beneficial (as well as several reasons why it may not be as harmful for revenues as one might think)....

The main point to make is that in industries which are cumulative, that is new ideas and inventions build upon old, proprietary rights mean having to ask ‘permission’ (and pay for it) — while openness does not. With openness it is easier for subsequent innovators and creators to produce new work while with proprietary rights one have increased transactions costs as well as a whole bunch of bargaining issues — most prominently the risk of ‘hold-up’. Particularly in cases where the initial creator today may be the reuser tomorrow the benefits of openness in freer and more rapid reuse and cumulative innovation may outweigh the losses from lower immediate revenues....

Free searching for images in the humanities literature

David R. Gerhan, Wanted: One Principal Search Engine for Digital Images, College & Undergraduate Libraries, 14, 2 (2007).  Full-text not yet available.

Abstract:   The growing online universe of digital images supporting humanities, history, and cultural heritage scholarship prevents many researchers and reference librarians from remaining current with new developments. Commercial generic image search engines provide one approach. The Open Access Initiative has stimulated another set of search engines developed largely by the academic and professional sector. Seven search engines in all meet criteria of public availability without fee and breadth of both subject coverage and participation by repositories. They are subjected to testing to determine if a single one is emerging as the OCLC or the RLIN for digital images supporting the humanities.

Free ebooks for UK universisties

National e-books project makes taught course texts freely available, a press release from JISC, September 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

From today and for the next two years a collection of 36 taught course texts is being made freely available to all higher education institutions as part of JISC’s national e-books observatory project....

The aim of the national e-books observatory project is to make available a critical mass of freely available e-books in order to gather much-needed evidence on the use of a greatly under-used but potentially enormously important resource....

In addition JISC is funding a deep-log analysis study to discover the precise ways in which the core e-books are used....

Funding by JISC to publishers via the aggregators will mitigate the risk of revenue loss caused by the possible impact on print sales....

Wall Street Journal may follow NYTimes

Andrew Clark, Murdoch hints that all online Journal content will be free, The Guardian, September 19, 2007.  (Thanks to Ben Toth.)  Excerpt:

Rupert Murdoch again raised the prospect of ditching subscriptions for the Wall Street Journal online yesterday, hours after the New York Times dropped charges for premium sections of its website.

As the trend gathers pace towards free-of-charge news publishing on the internet, Mr Murdoch suggested he was leaning towards making the Journal site free once he completes a $5.6bn buyout of its owner Dow Jones.

The Journal is often held up as a rare example of a paper with premium content that can afford to charge without losing too many readers. It charges an annual $99. Mr Murdoch told a conference in New York that making the site free would help boost readership and revenues. "If you make it free, it will hurt the paper? - I don't think so," he said according to a Reuters report. He added: "That looks the way we're going." ...

Vivian Schiller, general manager of, said the change was motivated by a shift towards search engines for finding news in cyberspace. The volume of traffic funnelled through search engines such as Google News and Yahoo! was so great that the newspaper had concluded it could maximise advertising revenue by throwing open the entire site.

Some of the NYT's star columnists have been calling for their writing to be available to the widest possible audience. Since the paper introduced charges two years ago, 227,000 paying subscribers have signed up, generating $10m annually.

Comment.  If this becomes a trend, it won't directly spill over to scholarly journals, which can raise much less money from advertising than newspapers.  On the other hand, their expenses are much lower and there may be some indirect spillover, for example, through new user expectations and better data on the connection between free online access and heightened impact.  See my February 2006 article on advertising as a supplementary (not necessarily sufficient) source of revenue for OA journals, and on Google AdSense ads as a way to avoid both the real and the perceived problems of editorial corruption.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

BMC partnership with WebCite

Matthew Cockerill, Webcite links provide access to archived copy of linked web pages, BioMed Central blog, September 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

...[The] lack of permanence of web links (sometimes known as link rot) is a general phenomenon across the web, but it is a particularly problem in the case of published scientific research. On the one hand, the coherence of the published scientific record depends on being able to refer back to the articles including the online material that they refer to. But on the other hand, the character of scientific research projects (which tend to be funded for a few years at a time) and of scientific careers (which tend to involved frequent shifts between institutions) mean that scientific web pages become inaccessible with worrying regularity....

So, since late 2005,  BioMed Central has been working in partnership with the WebCite initiative, based at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation at Toronto General Hospital, to preserve archival copies of all web pages linked to from BioMed Central articles.

Wherever you see a [WebCite] logo, whether in the body of an article, or in the reference section, you can click on that link to view a version of that page that has been archived at WebCite....

For example, this Journal of Biology article links to the BioGRID database. The WebCite copy provides a snapshot of the BioGRID home page, including stats on the database, as it was at the time of publication....

[I]n order to provide long term digital permanence, it is important that the WebCite project itself should have long term sustainable support. To this end, we encourage other publishers to participate in the initiative, and to consider ways of supporting it, perhaps via a similar collective model as that used for the CrossRef linking initiative....

Biosciences Federation position statement on OA

The Biosciences Federation has issued a Position statement on Open Access, September 19, 2007.  The BF represents over 50 scientific societies and other bioscience organizations in the UK.  I haven't checked but I imagine that most of the societies publish journals.  Here's the executive summary from the position statement:

Maximising access to research articles is very important to learned societies in fulfilling their missions. Open Access publishing is a way to achieve this, providing it is adequately funded so that the viability both of journals, and of the various activities which are made possible by journals income - conferences, meetings and other educational events as well as grants, bursaries and research funding - is not compromised.

The Biosciences Federation believes that a number of practical issues need to be addressed if Open Access publishing is to succeed, and is keen to enter into dialogue on these issues with the higher education community, funding bodies and government. The major issues identified are:

  • Adequate funding needs to be available, and authors need to be aware of this.
  • Publication charges will necessarily vary between journals.
  • Authors must understand clearly their funder’s or institution’s requirements.
  • In some disciplines, research funding is modest or non-existent; an alternative way forward needs to be found for these areas.
  • Consideration must be given to publication which takes place after the end of the grant, and to work which is not carried out under the terms of a specific grant.
  • The balance of costs will change; those who publish relatively little will save money, while research-intensive universities will have to find more money than under the subscription model.

The Biosciences Federation’s members see the alternative route to Open Access – self-archiving – as being more problematic unless Open Access publication is in place:

  • Journals are likely to face widespread cancellations when a ‘tipping point’ of free access to their content is reached.
  • Should some journals disappear as a result, so too would the framework within which they currently manage peer review.
  • The significant contribution which learned societies make to the research community through conferences, training, bursaries and other grants, research funding, etc. – partly supported at present by publishing revenues – would be reduced.
  • Authors have the task of depositing their articles, with accompanying metadata.
  • Readers will be confused by the availability of multiple versions.
  • Institutions have the labour and expense of creating and maintaining copies of articles in their databases.

In order to inform the debate, the Federation has commissioned research to establish the scale to which publishing income supports member society activities; additional research will explore learned societies' current and future response to Open Access initiatives, and their members' attitudes and behaviour in relation to Open Access. The results will be published early in 2008.

The members of the Biosciences Federation believe that if Open Access publication can be made to work, and can be funded at appropriate levels, then the problems and risks currently surrounding self-archiving would disappear. Institutions would be free to link to the definitive version and/or to store a copy of the definitive version themselves.

Also see the BF press release.


  • It's very understandable that society publishers should want assurances of adequate revenue before they consider a move to OA.  But to want adequate funding for "conferences, meetings and other educational events as well as grants, bursaries and research funding" before they consider removing access barriers to research is to give all these other society missions a higher priority than the mission of accelerating research and sharing knowledge in the field.  This may be a responsible ranking of the priorities.   But how many of these societies have asked their members for their priorities?  How many adequately cover all these missions with subscription revenue today?  How many assume that the subscription model itself is sustainable (and hence, feel no pressure to find an alternative unless it comes with revenue guarantees)? 
  • The BF seems to believe that all OA journals charge publication fees, when in fact most do not.
  • As OA archiving spreads, it may or may not cause journal cancellations.  In the field in which it has spread the furthest and been practiced the longest (physics), it has not caused journal cancellations.  I summarized the evidence in an article earlier this month (see esp. Section 5).  All we can say today is that other fields may or may not be like physics in this respect, and that publisher fears not only lack evidence but are currently opposed by counter-evidence.
  • It's true that if a peer-reviewed subscription journal disappeared, then "the framework within which [it] currently manage[s] peer review" would also disappear.  But it's not true that a peer-reviewed subscription journal facing a critical number of cancellations would necessarily disappear (it might convert to OA), and not true that its disappearance would necessarily deprive the field of a peer review provider (the money formerly spent on subscriptions would be freed up to support peer-reviewed OA alternatives).  I spell this out in more detail in the same article I cited above (see esp. Sections 12-14).
  • Publishers can avoid the multiple version problem, insofar as it's a problem, by allowing authors to self-archive the published edition.  Publishers should also understand that version differences bother publishers and librarians much more than they bother readers, especially if the versions are well-labeled.  (The versions deposited in PubMed Central under the NIH policy, for example, need not be the published editions, but they always cite and link to the published editions.)
  • BF should be careful not to overstate the cost and labor of maintaining an institutional repository.  First, many of the cost estimates in the literature are for multi-purpose repositories that do much more than simply provide OA to the research output of an institution.  Second, repositories cost a lot less than journal subscriptions.  They don't do the same work.  But the money spent on a repository is a good investment in the visibility and impact of the articles, authors, and institution, and a good investment in a superior form of scholarly communication. 
  • You could even say that the cost of providing OA is much less than the cost of doing without OA.  For example, John Houghton and Peter Sheehan have shown that the (already low) cost of OA archiving hugely amplifies the return on investment in research:  Quoting their July 2006 study:  “With the United Kingdom's GERD [Gross Expenditure on Research and Development] at USD 33.7 billion and assuming social returns to R&D of 50%, a 5% increase in access and efficiency [their conservative estimate] would have been worth USD 1.7 billion; and...With the United State's GERD at USD 312.5 billion and assuming social returns to R&D of 50%, a 5% increase in access and efficiency would have been worth USD 16 billion.”
  • Having said all that, I applaud BF's support for OA journals (if the money exists) and OA repositories (if OA journals exist).  As it studies the issues, I believe it will discover fewer obstacles, and more opportunities, than it now suspects it will discover.

Update (9/21/07). Also see Stevan Harnad's comments.

Hong Kong decides to encourage OA, not to require it

At its June 2007 meeting, the Hong Kong Research Grants Council (RGC) decided not to mandate OA for RGC-funded research.  However, it did encourage publicly-funded Hong Kong universities to encourage OA. 

Here's the relevant part of the minutes of its June 2007 meeting, which were sent to all Hong Kong university vice-chancellors and presidents on August 6, 2007.  The "UGC institutions" are the eight universities supported with public funds by the University Grants Committee.  I thank the RGC for permission to reproduce this paragraph:

Open-access Repositories for Research Results from UGC Institutions

15.  Some countries have already adopted policies that require results of publicly funded research be made publicly accessible via open-access repositories, and a suggestion has been made to the RGC that we shall adopt similar practice in Hong Kong.  After deliberation, the RGC decided not to make it compulsory for the Principal Investigators (PIs) to allow open access of their research outputs.  However, the RGC strongly encourages your institution and researchers to make available the research output via open-access repositories on a voluntary basis, and/or other publication venues such as journals and books.

Update.  See Stevan Harnad's comment:

Hong Kong's RGC is alas out of step, and -- perhaps unaware of the history of requesting vs. requiring OA -- is fated to repeat that history. Adopting a request rather than a requirement is an already tried and true recipe for failure in providing open access to research (cf. the failed NIH "strong encouragement" policy (compliance rate: <4%) that is now under strong momentum toward upgrading to a mandate).

It may just be a coincidence, but possibly it is pertinent that China was the odd man out in Swan & Brown's 2005 international/interdisciplinary survey of researchers worldwide: Most respondents said they would not self-archive unless their institutions and/or funders required it. When asked whether they would comply with an institutional or funder requirement to self-archive, the international average was about 95% compliance: over 80% willing compliance and less than 15% reluctant compliance. (This has since been confirmed by Arthur Sale's comparative statistics on actual compliance). But for some reason, China was the most reluctant of all, with only 58% willing compliance, and 31% reluctant (Figure 3)....

Combining OA journal articles and social networking tools

Molly Knapp, Bells, Whistles & Bandwagon 2.0, Task Force on Social Networking Software (of the Medical Library Association), September 18, 2007.  Excerpt:

It seems BioMed Central is the next content provider to jump on bandwagon 2.0 . Their current newsletter reveals they’ve added an option to post articles to social networking sites:

You can now easily post articles to sites including Cite-U-Like, Connotea and Facebook, using links conveniently placed at the foot of the new navigation box....

[L]et’s break down how this can benefit you and your library constituents....

Digg describes itself as “democratizing digital media”. To me it’s a fusion of a bookmarking tool, discussion board, and the world’s most awesome RSS feed. The way digg works: users submit and classify content, whether it’s news, video, podcasts. Other users rate or “digg” the links, and comment on them. The most recent items are displayed on the main page for other users to sort, read, rate or comment upon. I use digg to keep tabs on rumors and industry buzz. It’s great for staying current on news, but you may have to go through 15 articles about low carb diet fads to find one scientific paper on nutrition.

That is why integrating social bookmarking tools into BMC is pretty cool - if you want people to know that skipping meals makes teens fat, you can submit it to digg & start a discussion. The ’social’ side of digg allows users to build networks and commentary. Imagine a network of users with similar research interests having a digg discussion on a peer reviewed article. The potential for collaboration is there....

It’s time for us to utilize the collaborative nature of social networking tools to initiate dialogs about topics other than Britney Spears. Incorporating these tools into ’serious’ resources like BMC is a good step....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Walt Crawford on PRISM

The October issue of Walt Crawford's Cites & Insights is now online.  This issue contains a lengthy section on Library Access to Scholarship, entirely devoted to PRISM and titled, "PRISM: Enough Rope?"  He starts with verbatim quotations from the PRISM press release and my same-day blog comments, and then follows with a look at the PRISM principles and a wide-ranging set of comments from scholars, librarians, and publishers.  Excerpt from his own comments:

...What’s going on here? Nothing terribly surprising, if a touch disappointing. AAP hired a bulldog PR person whose advice was to keep hammering on simple points even if they were known to be deceptive. AAP created a new “coalition” that appears to be carrying out the bulldog’s advice. If you pay good money for advice, you’re inclined to take that advice.

Nonsense like this couldn’t happen at all except for one unfortunate truism of open access, both within the academy and (I’m afraid) within librarianship. That truism: Most people just don’t care. But that’s a separate essay…maybe next time around....

Within a couple of days of the PRISM news release, at least one AAP/PSP member had opted out. Mike Rossner of Rockefeller University Press sent an open letter to AAP [asking for] "a disclaimer...on the PRISM website indicating that the views presented on the site do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the AAP."...So far, I’ve been unable to find any such disclaimer on the PRISM site. That means the so-called coalition is explicitly failing to pay attention to its own members....

Brian Crawford ingenuously said “We did not expect to have encountered the sort of criticism we have seen thus far” and claimed that PRISM was “a way to have a very productive dialogue.” ...

There are two long pieces you must read in the original. I can’t do justice to either one in a summary. Those two pieces will conclude this sad story as well as anything. PRISM is a stunt—an underhanded stunt that may have been predictable. I believe it’s a stunt that will backfire badly. I hope it will have the effect of alerting scholars and librarians to the sheer deviousness of some (certainly not all) scholarly publishers and to the need for reform within the scholarly communication system. Open access may not be all of that reform, but it’s a significant part of it.

That said, go readWatch your language” by Alma Swan, posted September 4, 2007 at OptimalScholarship, an impassioned commentary by one who finds herself “very sad and, secondarily, disappointed.” After that, read Issue 113 of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter. The prime essay, “Will open access undermine peer review?” runs 12 single-spaced pages and offers well-documented, detailed discussion of the strawman that PRISM and other anti-OA forces keep raising again and again and again.

Rockefeller UP asks again for a disclaimer on the PRISM web site

Earlier today Mike Rossner, Executive Director of Rockefeller University Press, sent a new letter to the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and has allowed me to reproduce it here:

To The Association of American Publishers:

We at the Rockefeller University Press are pleased to see that the AAP has made an effort to tone down the rhetoric on the PRISM website. However, there is still no disclaimer indicating that the views of PRISM do not necessarily reflect those of all AAP members, as requested in my letter of August 29th.

The statement, "Scholarly publishers themselves are not unanimous in their views on this topic," does not provide sufficient distance between our views and those of PRISM. We are disturbed that the AAP continues to send such a strong message on behalf of its members, especially given your awareness that not all members support PRISM. We thus repeat our request that you place a disclaimer on the website. We also think it is important to include a list of supporters. Any publisher that stands behind PRISM should be prepared to do so publicly.

PS:  For background on the changes at the PRISM web site, see my post from yesterday.

Review of Richard Smith on medical journals

John Hoey, An editorial dissection, Open Medicine, September 18, 2007.  A book review of Richard Smith's The Trouble with Medical Journals, Royal Society of Medicine Press, 2006.  Excerpt:

...The penultimate section, which contains Smith’s analysis of the ethics of medical journal publishing, addresses the vested financial interests of both commercial corporations such as the giant Reed Elsevier (publisher of The Lancet, among many others) and of medical societies and associations who publish journals. According to Smith, both species of publisher achieve (through pharmaceutical and classified advertising and reprint sales) levels of profit that cannot be justified by their costs or by the “value added” to the research they publish. Smith cites the impressive profits of Reed Elsevier and the important share of this contributed by scientific content, and takes a guess at the revenues of the New England Journal of Medicine (owned by the Massachusetts Medical Society). The fact is that very few people know exactly what kind of money is made from the publication of research that is handed over by its authors, along with copyright, for no payment.

The BMJ must have made money for the British Medical Association during Smith’s tenure, but how much this might have been is not revealed....

Smith’s analysis challenges the ethics of a publishing model whereby association publishers support their own interests by raising money from pharmaceutical advertisers while the contributing authors (most of whom are not association members) are either unpaid or receive only token rewards for their intellectual contributions.

This is what is wrong with the current system of publication by most professional societies. The desire to make money to further the ends of the society—in essence, a lobby group for its professional members—on the backs of authors and other contributors who receive no financial return for their contributions, and by charging university and public libraries, academics and the public (who through tax dollars pay for the research being published) prohibitive subscription rates and download charges is both abhorrent and unethical....

Smith writes, “My answer is that if the society and the research have value then other ways will be found to fund them. If they don’t, then they shouldn’t be funded anyway....”

There is little in Smith’s analysis that is encouraging for the conventional model of medical journal publishing....

The editorial costs of handling a growing amount of relevant medical- and health-related information may soon overwhelm even the deep pockets of large professional societies and commercial publishers. Increasingly, communities of individuals are taking this on (for example, the growing medical pages on Wikipedia and even this journal, Open Medicine), driven not by commercial goals, but by the desire to exchange ideas and the fun of working together.

Smith is cheering us on.

DLF Aquifer working towards openness

Katherine Kott, What does sharing publicly accessible material mean?  Aquifer, September 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

From the time a distributed open digital library was a glimmer in the eye of Digital Library Federation leaders, the words "shared collections" rarely appear in DLF writings without being modified by "publicly accessible" or "openly accessible". We are now implementing services for shared collections and asking contributing libraries to sign a submission agreement as we include their collections in Aquifer. The submission agreement is broad and asks libraries to agree to allow both metadata and digital objects to be aggregated within Aquifer. Some libraries have pushed back on agreeing that the objects can be collected and have marked up the submission agreements, restricting aggregation to metadata only. At this point, we can accept the restricted agreements. Currently, we are only aggregating metadata.

However, it is clear that to meet our goal of making material easier to use as well as find and identify, we will need to pool or cache more than descriptive metadata--likely some kind of surrogate for the item, as defined by asset actions. Although it is unlikely that we would need to aggregate copies of the objects themselves, future plans to enable object re-use begin to call into question what exactly we mean when we talk about "publicly accessible" or "openly accessible" collections. Do we mean that anyone can view the object or that anyone can capture the object for educational use or for commercial use? Are there any restrictions on further distribution, re-use or re-mixing?

Within the Aquifer initiative, we are considering a variety of activities to help with definitions, including...Creative Commons licenses. One goal would be to confidently re-expose Aquifer collections as open educational resources....We welcome ideas and suggestions for other activities and approaches we should consider.

Call for OA to database of copyright registrations

Tim O'Reilly, Carl Malamud Tackles the Copyright Office, O'Reilly Radar, September 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

Carl Malamud and Peter Brantley just let me know about another public interest letter, this one sent off to the Copyright Office this afternoon:

We are writing to you today to ask you to provide bulk access to the copyright catalog of monographs, documents, and serials on the Internet. Today this information is available through two means:

  1. The Copyright Office maintains a web-based application that allows the public to search for individual records. However, no bulk access is available: one cannot download the entire database.
  2. The Cataloging and Distribution Service of the Library of Congress sells a current subscription for $31,500 and makes the retrospective database available for $55,125 for a total cost of entry of $86,625. The Library of Congress Terms of Use assert copyright on this data.

The copyright catalog of monographs, documents, and serials is not a product, it is fuel that makes the copyright system work. Anybody should be able to download the entire database to their desktop, write a better search application, or use this public domain information to research copyright questions.

A price tag of $86,625 places this database beyond the reach of university libraries, small businesses that wish to provide a better copyright search service, and academics or citizens wishing to analyze the copyright registration process. Additionally, setting copyright restrictions on the copyright database, a “work of the United States Government,” runs directly counter to the well-established principle that such works shall be in the public domain. ...

As a short-term expedient, should the Copyright Office be unable to obtain permission to make these data freely and directly available, we would like to offer to set up a collective fund for purchase of a single copy of the database, making it available for anyone to use. This would provide a public distribution channel--a safety valve for public access to this vital public database. We ask only that you help us clarify that there is no copyright on the database so that we may freely redistribute it.

P.S. In email to me, Carl mentioned the circumstances that led to this letter, which, in addition to Carl, is signed by Peter Brantley, executive director of the Digital Library Federation; Michael Keller, the University Librarian for Stanford University; noted copyright law professor Pamela Samuelson of UC Berkeley; Duane Webster, the executive director of the Association of Research Libraries; Gigi Sohn, president of the advocacy group Public Knowledge; H. Carton Rogers, the Vice Provost & Director of Libraries, University of Pennsylvania; Ann Wolpert, the library director at MIT; Robert Darnton, the director of the Harvard University Library; Thomas C. Leonard, the head librarian at the University of California, Berkeley; and Rick Prelinger, the board president of the Internet Archive....

Comment.  I'm delighted to see Carl Malamud strike again, and delighted to see his latest campaign gather so many weighty allies.  He and his organization, Public Resource, have a knack for finding public information locked down under erroneous copyright claims and a knack for prying it loose.

Update. The Copyright Office responded in a blog post on September 26, 2007. In short, the answer is no. The Copyright Office provides access to the database on a cost-recovery basis, without responding to the argument that it should provide OA instead. Nor does it respond to the argument that the database is in the public domain.

Update. Success! For details and comments, see my post from October 1, 2007.

U of Chicago Press dissociates itself from PRISM

Jennifer Howard's article on PRISM from the September 11 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education (blogged here the same day) has been updated for the September 21 issue.  From the update:

Other [AAP] members share...[the] displeasure [of James Jordan, Director of Columbia University Press]. Nawin Gupta, who is journals manager of the [University of] Chicago press and a member of the [AAP/PSP Executive] council [which launched PRISM], said his press "does not support or endorse the spin that is being put at the Prism site." He also questioned "whether Prism really reflects the overall membership of the PSP in any way."

OA recommendations for India

India's National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has released the Report of the Working Group on Open Access and Open Educational Resources, undated.  There's internal evidence that it came out before 2007 (it refers to OARE as "scheduled to be launched in January 2007").  But the Development Gateway Foundation blogged it yesterday as "recently published".  Excerpt:

One of the many steps NKC recommends to address these pressing problems is to increase the amount of Open Educational Resources (OER) and Open Access (OA)....

The importance of open access for fundamental as well as applied research and education cannot be over emphasized....

Majority of the world population cannot access the research findings from the developed nations, where most of the cutting edge research is being conducted, because of the financial constraints. At the same time, research conducted in third world countries representing 80% of the world’s population is largely invisible to the global research community due to financial and governmental restraints. Yet, solving many of the world’s problems like emerging infectious diseases, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, environmental disasters, or climate change cannot be achieved without the participation and incorporation of research conducted in developing countries as well. Open Access will help scientists around the globe to develop collaborations with previously unknown colleagues and avoid repetitive research while tackling major regional problems....

Published books out of copyright protection are a prime target for Open Access to help disseminate vital information contained in these books....Currently, major libraries only exist in urban areas and rural India doesn’t have access to the resources present in these large libraries. Open Access remedies this problem by allowing socially and economically disadvantaged individuals to access all the information if there is a free internet connection....

The working group, after taking into consideration the current status of Open Access in India and worldwide, has the following recommendations to increase Open Access content from India, increase the public awareness and utilization of OA material.

  • On a policy level, all research articles published by Indian authors receiving any government or public funding must be made available under Open Access and should be archived in the standard OA format on his/her website. Further, as a national academic OA portal is developed, these same research articles should be made available through this portal.
  • The government should allocate specific funding to increase the current digitization efforts of books and periodicals which are outside copyright protection....
  • A training program needs to be developed to take the materials available under Open Access to remote towns and villages. One possible mechanism for this is to outfit a vehicle with mobile internet connectivity and a high speed printer and binder....
  • On a systemic level, our nation’s universities and various academic institutions need high bandwidth connections and a national backbone which will provide advanced networking capabilities....

The working group suggests the following model to continue and expand the number of research papers being put in Open Access.

The publishers of any Open Access journal will recover the cost of publishing and maintaining the journal on the web from the individual authors. Thus, the authors have to pay for each research article that they publish in such journals. To make this possible, the authors’ parent institution should pay the publication cost. The institution should get a certain percentage as reimbursement through government grants depending upon the citation index of the journal....

A second model could be that the government establishes a specific fund for Open Access research publications. At the end of each fiscal year, money should be transferred to each OA journal depending upon the number of papers published by Indian authors....

Irish Research Council drafts an OA mandate, calls for comments

The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering & Technology (IRCSET) is calling for public comments on an IRCSET policy on open access to published research papers.  (Thanks to OpenAccess@UCD.)  From the site:

The Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering & Technology (IRCSET) invites submissions from the research community, and other interested parties, regarding a proposed IRCSET policy on...Open Access to Publications.

IRCSET intends to put in place a policy whereby researchers will be required to make their publications available on an open access basis - where these result in whole or in part from IRCSET funded research - as soon as possible after publication. The requirement will be that these should be made openly accessible within a period of 6 months at the latest following initial publication.

All interested parties (including organisations and individuals) are invited to make their views known.

The closing date for opinions or submissions is Friday 28th September, 2007.

Submissions should only be made by emailing a word document to and should ideally not exceed 1,000 words in length. Please ensure to include the word “CONSULTATION” in the subject box of your email....

This draft policy is set out in detail below. It is in line with the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) Policy in relation to scientific publication. To download the full copy of the EURAB document, please click here.



  1. All researchers must lodge their publications resulting in whole or in part from IRCSET-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, to be made openly accessible within 6 months at the latest.
  2. The repository may be a local institutional repository and/or a subject repository;
  3. Authors should deposit post-prints (or publisher’s version if permitted) plus metadata of articles accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and international conference proceedings;
  4. Deposit should be made upon acceptance by the journal/conference. Repositories should release the metadata immediately, with access restrictions to full text article to be applied as required. Open access should be available as soon as practicable after the author-requested embargo, or six month, whichever comes first;
  5. Suitable repositories should make provision for long-term preservation of, and free public access to, published research findings....

A consortium of Irish universities are now engaged in the development of the Irish Universities Association Libraries National Research Portal – an open access repository system connecting the repositories of each participating institution for fuller public accessibility....

The IUA Librarians are committed to supporting Irish researchers to make their research papers available on open access and each institution will provide, to the best of its ability, assistance in copyright clearance, deposit of papers and other matters of possible concern.


  • This is a superb draft policy (in part because it's based on the superb EURAB recommendation) and I hope IRCSET will adopt it without dilution.  I particularly applaud the mandatory language, the firm six month deadline with no loopholes for resisting publishers, the equal standing of central and distributed repositories, and the full implementation of the dual deposit/release strategy (or what Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access). 
  • I'm sorry that I didn't learn about this consultation until today.  The deadline for comments is only 10 days away.  Please spread the word especially to Irish researchers and Irish research institutions.

Update.  Also see Stevan Harnad's comments.  Excerpt:

...If the Irish mandate is adopted in its present form, it will immediately become the best of the adopted funder and national mandates, and the one for all subsequent funder and national mandates to model themselves upon....

Return to free online access for NYTimes columnists

Starting tomorrow, the New York Times will abandon TimesSelect, its two year old experiment to charge for online access to its leading columnists. 

Comment.  When I wrote about TimesSelect two years ago, two months after it launched, it was already profitable and I suspect that it was profitable right up to the decision to shut it down.  However, the Times believes that it will gain more in advertising revenue than it will lose in access fees.  It will also gain in impact.  From my blog post two years ago:

Mickey Kaus calculates that the increase in NYT revenue is about $6.1 million and wonders whether it was worth it. He asks a good question:  if a rich conservative offered the paper $6.1 million to reduce the impact of its liberal columnists, would it have taken the offer?

"Librarians must be public advocates for open access"

Dean Giustini interviews Robin Featherstone, UBC Academic Search - Google Scholar Blog, September 17, 2007.  Featherstone is an Associate Librarian at the US National Library of Medicine currently working at Yale's Cushing/Whitney Medical Library.  Excerpt:

...There's been a lot of discussion lately about open access, and the de-emphasis of print collections. What do you think this means in the longer term, for our work as librarians?

Print still has a place, and libraries will always have books. But the benefits of digital information are worth heralding. The goal of the modern library should be to achieve the fastest means of transmitting the greatest amount of accurate information to the widest audience possible.

Unfortunately, e-journal costs are a major cause of concern. Libraries won't survive if we keep paying high subscription fees. And we have been at the mercy of the data vendors and aggregators for too long. Why do we pay for a package of journals to get access to one or two core titles? Why do we accept embargoes and non-cancellation clauses and heavily restricted site licenses? And why do we depend on vendors to provide us with usage data on their own products? Libraries have lost control of their collections. Open access is the only way for us to turn the corner.

Information will find a way to be free. And librarians must be public advocates for open access. We need to support our faculty members in retaining their copyright. We must encourage the use of federally funded open access repositories. It is an absolutely injustice that tax payers fund research that they cannot afford to read. Further, we need to support open access models through involvement with publishing....

September/October D-Lib

The September/October issue of D-Lib Magazine is now online.  Here are the OA-related articles:

More on OA to clinical drug trial data

Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Opening up the findings of drug trials, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2007.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  Excerpt:

...Now [after the Avandia controversy] Congress, scientists and advocacy groups want to open up the world of [drug] trials in hopes of heading off problems with new drugs sooner.

"Human subject research is only ethical if it is used to advance science, not the interests of a particular company," said Sean Hennessy, an epidemiology professor at the University of Pennsylvania medical school....

Although there is wide agreement that the system for reporting on clinical trials needs an overhaul, there are sharp disagreements on just how to do it....

For one thing, there is no central, easily searchable database to which drug makers are required to post all trial results....

[S]ince most decisions on drug safety involve balancing benefits against risks -- almost no drug is 100% safe -- making it easier to examine clinical trial data helps patients and doctors decide whether a drug is right for a particular situation....

The dispute is over how to publish the results of trials.

The House bill directs the NIH to set up a database showing results in addition to the current clinical trials registry. The results database would include a nontechnical summary of each clinical trial and its outcome, as well as basic technical findings on effectiveness and safety that are of interest to researchers and regulators.

Results would have to be posted within 12 months after the research is finished.

The Senate bill does not lay out such a specific blueprint. Instead, it directs the NIH to conduct a feasibility study on how to set up the results database. The agency would have to seek input from all interested parties, including industry, the medical community and advocates for patients. Under the legislation, that process could take up to 2 1/2 years.

"The House version is likely to lead to a pretty good database quite quickly, whereas it's much less clear with the Senate version," said Peter Lurie, deputy director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group. "The concern is that the Senate version will lead to a kind of purgatory in which the database is promised but never emerges in a useful form." ...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Note to US citizens

The American Library Association has created an action alert to simplify the process of asking your Senators to support the strengthening of the NIH policy.  However, it doesn't contain a default message and requires users to compose their own or paste one in.

Charles Bailey has solved this problem with a strong, ready-to-paste message based on public texts (in particular, this one and this one) by the ALA, ARL, ATA, and SPARC .

No more excuses.  If you're a US citizen, please contact your Senators before September 28, and please spread the word to others.  (Thanks, Charles!)

Update.  If you start with Charles' prepared message, please modify and personalize it.  That will greatly enhance its credibility.  Here's some good advice from Kara Malenfant of the ALA:

ALA and ACRL recommend that you personalize your messages to Congress. The ALA alert contains talking points, instead of a form letter, and we hope you will use them to construct your own message. There is a huge issue right now with Congressional offices disregarding stock emails and letters. (In fact, over half of Congressional staffers believe the form-emails they receive from constituents are sent without the constituents' knowledge.) We encourage you to show your legislators the real effect that this legislation will have on people in your community. Personal stories bring the message to life. For help read tips on telling an effective story from the ALA Washington Office.

Update. Another possibility is to use the new (September 20) letter at ProgressiveSecretary. (Thanks to Dorothea Salo.) However, users don't have an opportunity to modify or personalize the text. In light of Kara's advice, above, it may be better to write your own or modify the Bailey text, and then use the ALA form to deliver it.

In process: a founding declaration for the open education movement

Mark Surman, Cape Town Declaration, coming soon to an inbox near you, CommonSpace, September 17, 2007.  Surman is Director of and a Fellow of the Shuttleworth Foundation.  Excerpt:

With my plane now somewhere over Eastern Ontario, I've little time to write about last week's amazing meetings in Cape Town. Let me just report this: 30 amazing brains from universities, government ministries and foundations gathered to come up with a statement to rally and accelerate the open education movement. Drawing on a tremendous amount of laughter, kindness and wisdom, we came up with the raw material for a declaration that we hope many hundreds (thousands?) of other people and organizations will sign. I will be crafting this with the help of people from the New South Wales Dept of Education, Creative Commons, Macquarie University and Utah's Centre for Open and Sustainable Learning over the coming weeks.

The idea of a 'declaration' stems from the experience of the Budapest Initiative, which used a similar document to build huge momentum for the open access movement. The Budapest document was a mix of vision, values, definitions and strategies supported by the people who drafted and signed it. We're looking at a similar mix of ideas in the Cape Town Declaration....

Changes at the PRISM web site

PRISM has made several changes to its web site since yesterday.  Here are the major ones.

On the home page, it added these paragraphs:

The Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM) was formed to advocate for policies that ensure the quality, integrity, and economic viability of peer-reviewed journals.

PRISM supports new approaches to access and new economic models that offer choices to suit diverse budgets and needs. Publishers have been at the forefront in testing new models to expand access for subscribers and non-subscribers alike.

PRISM expresses concerns about the unintended consequences of unfunded government mandates and mandatory one-size-fits-all policies that underestimate the complexities and differing needs of the scientific community and scientific journals.

PRISM seeks to educate all stakeholders about the importance of maintaining the integrity of published information, and sustaining the incentives for all publishers to invest in the system of independent publishing that continues to sustain the public's trust in scientific and medical research.

Scholarly publishing is complex, as are the issues surrounding the debate about federally mandated free access. Scholarly publishers themselves are not unanimous in their views on this topic, but all are united in their commitment to the advancement of science and the improvement of life through the wide dissemination of research results. 

And deleted these:

What's at risk

Policies are being proposed that threaten to introduce undue government intervention in science and scholarly publishing, putting at risk the integrity of scientific research by:

  • undermining the peer review process by compromising the viability of non-profit and commercial journals that manage and fund it;
  • opening the door to scientific censorship in the form of selective additions to or omissions from the scientific record;
  • subjecting the scientific record to the uncertainty that comes with changing federal budget priorities and bureaucratic meddling with definitive versions; and
  • introducing duplication and inefficiencies that will divert resources that would otherwise be dedicated to research.

The about page added these paragraphs:

Government mandates that ignore the need for sufficient and sustainable financial support for peer-reviewed journals -- whether the source of support is from users, authors, or sponsors -- risk undermining the very fabric of the system of independent, formal peer-reviewed publication, a system that is of crucial importance for scholarly communication and the preservation of scientific knowledge.

In support of scientific objectivity and integrity, the PRISM Principles affirm the importance of broad access and dissemination; preservation of knowledge; and sustainable business models to ensure continued investment and innovation. We believe serving the needs of the academic community is best achieved through a wide array of business models, competing in an open marketplace.

And deleted this sentence:

The coalition is guided by the PRISM Principles, which affirm the key role that publishers play in peer review, access and dissemination, and preservation of knowledge, and which advocate sustainable business models to ensure continued investment and innovation in these essential contributors to scientific objectivity and integrity.


  • The new home page says correctly that "Scholarly publishers themselves are not unanimous in their views on this topic."  But it does not add "a disclaimer...indicating that the views presented on the site do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the AAP", as Rockefeller University Press asked it to.  PRISM still appears to want to speak for all the members of the AAP.
  • The Orwellian claim that OA opens the door to censorship is gone from the front page.  PRISM still alludes to censorship on the page of principles, but doesn't assert any connection between it and OA.
  • All in all, these changes reduce the polemical temperature of the two front pages, which is welcome.  But they are more about tone than substance, and they are limited to the two front pages.  PRISM still insists, on the front page, that its mission is "to educate all stakeholders about the importance of maintaining the integrity of published information."  But we know that another part of its mission is to oppose OA mandates.  It leaves the impression, then, that it believes OA mandates jeopardize the integrity of research publications.  The revised "about" page is explicit:  "Government mandates...risk undermining the very fabric of the system of independent, formal peer-reviewed publication."  And that's only the two front pages.  The internal page on FRPAA is unrevised and still asserts that FRPAA (which would mandate OA for publicly-funded research from 11 agencies of the US federal government) "might as well have been called 'The Advancement of Junk Science Act of 2006.'  By threatening the viability and the very existence of peer-reviewed journals, [FRPAA] risked the opening of the floodgates for non-peer reviewed junk science to enter the marketplace."  As before, PRISM is trying "to equate traditional publishing models with peer review" (as Eric Dezenhall recommended to the AAP, according to Nature).  And as before, the claimed threat to peer review is unargued and easy to refute.

Update. Also see Jennifer Howard, Publishers' Group Tones Down Language in Anti-Open-Access Lobbying Campaign, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 18, 2007.

Update. Also see Tom Wilson's comments on these changes.

The affordability of publication fees at hybrid OA journals

Paul Guinnessy, Stakeholders Weigh Costs of Open-Access Publishing, Physics Today, August 2007.  Only the first two sentences are free online, at least so far:

When Franco Nori of Japan's RIKEN research institute published a paper on electromagnetic surface waves in Physical Review Letters earlier this year, he and his coauthors took an unusual step: They paid to make their paper freely available for anyone to read. The scheme, called “Free to Read” by PRL's publisher, the American Physical Society (APS), is part of the burgeoning open-access publishing market....

Update (2/5/08). Also see the letters to the editor in response to this article. The letters are full-text OA.

Including grad student work in IRs

Margaret Pickton and Cliff McKnight, Is there a role for research students in an institutional repository? Some repository managers' views, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 39, 3 (2007) pp. 153-161.  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

Although a number of studies have investigated the attitudes of published academic authors with respect to open access (OA) publishing and institutional repositories (IRs), none have considered the views of other institutional stakeholders. Research students, in particular, are a group that could make a major contribution to an IR, both currently and in their future careers. But how acceptable is their work to those responsible for IRs? The project described here investigates the views of repository managers. A short e-mail survey was carried out, comprising questions about student use of the repository, advocacy undertaken and attitudes toward research student content. Responses were received from representatives of 35 universities in the UK and abroad. Repository managers were overwhelmingly in favour of permitting the deposit of research student work, albeit under specified conditions. One half of the respondents mentioned allowing, or even encouraging, the deposit of theses and dissertations. The relative newness of many repositories meant that advocacy to student authors was limited, although a number of managers were including the repository as an information source in routine research training sessions. The paper concludes that there is a need for clear guidance on the quality of repository content; that evidence of use should be sought; and that IR policy should accommodate the needs of all stakeholders.

Does self-archiving correlate with grant-writing success?

Heather Morrison, 60% OA Track Record for Successful Grantees, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, September 16, 2007.  Excerpt:

Is there a correlation between an author's open access track record and success in obtaining grant funding? Some analysis of recent grant awards by Jim Till in the blogpost Better Access to Cancer Care in Canada found that 60% of articles recently published by successful CIHR grant applicants were freely available. This is less than the 100% OA we would like to see, and Jim muses about how to move toward 100%. From my perspective, another very interesting perspective emerging from this analysis is that there appears to be a very high percentage of spontaneous open access provision by successful grantees, not only before the CIHR Open Access Policy came into effect, but even before it was announced.

While this sample is too small to be considered conclusive proof, this data may suggest a trend that would be worth exploring. There are several factors which seem likely to create a correlation between authors' tendencies towards providing open access to their work, and success in obtaining grant funding. These include the preference of funding agencies for open access, differential accessibility of previous research to grant reviewers, the open access citation advantage (OA articles are more likely to be cited more), and the open access quality bias (the best works by the best authors are more likely to be made openly accessible, whether by the authors or their funders).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More on defining an OA journal

Anita Palepu, Open Medicine and open access, Canadian Medical Association Journal, September 11, 2007.  A letter to the editor.  Palepu is a co-editor of Open Medicine.

Although the endorsement by CMAJ's editors of open-access medical publishing is welcome, we would like to point out that there is an important distinction between open- and free-access publication. The editors of Open Medicine have not only adopted the principle of free access, that is, making content fully available online, but we also endorse the definition of open-access publication set out in the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing. This definition stipulates that the copyright holder grants to all users a free, irrevocable, worldwide and perpetual right of access to, and a licence to copy, use, distribute, transmit and display the work publicly and to make and distribute works derived from the original work, in any digital medium for any responsible purpose, subject to proper attribution of authorship. Given that the Canadian Medical Association holds copyright for all material published in CMAJ and charges fees for reprints and in some cases for other uses of CMAJ content, it is not in fact an open-access journal.

In comparison, Open Medicine does not assume the copyright of its authors' work. We believe that it is only fair and just that authors retain the ownership of their work; as such, Open Medicine does not charge reprint or other reproduction fees. We use a Creative Commons Copyright Licence that also ensures derivative works are available through an open-access forum. It is through this creative and unlimited use of published material, with due attribution, that we believe scientific discourse can flourish. This truly open-access forum also has a contribution to make to a journal's integrity, independence and freedom.3 Proof of this potential to flourish lies with PLoS Medicine, an open-access medical journal launched in 2004 that is now the fourth-leading medical journal in the world, with an impact factor of 13.8.

University of Liege launches an OA journal

Reflexions is a new OA journal published by the University of Liege.  (Thanks to Bernard Rentier.)  Reflexions does not appear to be peer reviewed.  Instead, its purpose is to showcase the research of UL researchers and share it with the world, which it does in three ways:  by describing it in lay terms, by publishing in French and English, and by providing OA. 

UL adopted an OA mandate in March 2007 and this journal is a natural extension of that commitment.  UL wants to disseminate the research of its faculty, and Reflexions is an affirmative step to make that research accessible and intelligible to a larger audience.