Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 29, 2007

MIT and HP transfer DSpace copyright to DSpace Foundation

From yesterday's joint announcement by MIT, Hewlett-Packard, and the DSpace Foundation:

...It's now seven years since HP and MIT first collaborated to create the initial version of DSpace.  Since then, further developments by HP, MIT and a significant constituency of contributors have refined, added to and improved that initial version. DSpace has been widely adopted by the research library community worldwide so that DSpace is  the leading open-source institutional repository systems in use today.

In 2006 HP and MIT convened an advisory board comprised of representatives from organizations who were using or developing DSpace.  This group recommended that an independent not-for-profit organization, the DSpace Foundation, be established to continue to promote and develop the DSpace system on behalf of the user community. This year, HP and MIT have set up the DSpace foundation for this purpose.

As a result of the size and complexity the Dspace codebase has now acquired, as well as the significant DSpace user constituency, both HP and MIT now feel that it is time to pass over stewardship of the DSpace codebase to the new DSpace Foundation so that the Foundation can support the ongoing development of the code and seek funding that will be necessary to implement enhancements in the future. Both HP and MIT are still heavily involved as board members of the foundation, and both organizations are actively working to enhance the DSpace platform through code contributions and research.

As the joint owners of all copyright in Dspace, HP and MIT have transferred all copyright to the Dspace Foundation to enable it to achieve these aims. The code remains under the BSD license and the Foundation will ensure the code continues to be open-source and freely available....

WIPO reform will advance access to knowledge

William New, WIPO Launches New Agenda On IP And Development, IP Watch, September 29, 2007.  Excerpt:

The member governments of the World Intellectual Property Organization on Friday formally adopted a new Development Agenda, launching an enhanced development orientation across all of its activities, with details on implementation to be determined later....

The assembly approved the creation of a new Committee on Development and Intellectual Property, which will meet twice in the next year for five days each. The main task will be implementation of 45 consensus proposals for change at WIPO, 19 (which have little financial or human resource cost) of them immediately....

[W]ith a “whole series of issues” arising with new technologies, new concepts have arisen such as access to knowledge or alternative licensing methods. “The idea is to change a little bit the direction the organisation is going in order to face new challenges,” said [Guilherme Patriota, first secretary at the Brazilian mission]. “This is the beginning for many of these issues.” ...

The idea for a Development Agenda was introduced into WIPO by Argentina and Brazil at the General Assembly in 2004, and 13 other Friends of Development later joined with them to push it through three years of negotiations....

The Friends of Development are: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Kenya, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uruguay and Venezuela.

A variety of nongovernmental organisations played key roles in the Development Agenda process. Some of the groups included Knowledge Ecology International, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for International Environmental Law, IP Justice, Third World Network, International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions and the Library Copyright Alliance, and the Centre for Technology and Society at Fundacao Getulio Vargas Law School in Rio de Janeiro.

The 45 consensus proposals for reform are spelled out in a WIPO report from September 17.  Excerpt:

...CLUSTER B:  Norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and public domain....

Consider the preservation of the public domain within WIPO’s normative processes and deepen the analysis of the implications and benefits of a rich and accessible public domain....

To initiate discussions on how, within WIPO’s mandate, to further facilitate access to knowledge and technology for developing countries and LDCs to foster creativity and innovation and to strengthen such existing activities within WIPO.

To promote norm-setting activities related to IP that support a robust public domain in WIPO’s Member States, including the possibility of preparing guidelines which could assist interested Member States in identifying subject matters that have fallen into the public domain within their respective jurisdictions....

CLUSTER C:  Technology Transfer, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Access to Knowledge....

To encourage Member States, especially developed countries, to urge their research and scientific institutions to enhance cooperation and exchange with research and development institutions in developing countries, especially LDCs....

To undertake initiatives agreed by Member States, which contribute to transfer of technology to developing countries, such as requesting WIPO to facilitate better access to publicly available patent information....


  • This is important.  WIPO controls the direction of copyright and patent law worldwide, and the development agenda converts the WIPO mission from knee-jerk maximalism to something much closer to balance.  For background, see my previous posts on the WIPO development agenda, its connection to OA issues, and the earlier stages of the process that led to this week's stunning success.
  • The development agenda includes a number of Access to Knowledge (A2K) proposals, including a draft A2K Treaty (May 9, 2005), which includes a provision (Article 5-2) mandating OA for publicly-funded research.   (Disclaimer:  I took part in the drafting of the OA provision of this treaty.)
  • The 15 nations in the Friends of Development coalition, and the many associated NGOs, deserve all our thanks for tireless diplomacy in a system of Byzantine complexity.

Another TA article on OA

M. Carl Drott, Open Access, Annual Review of Information Science and Technology, September 28, 2007.  Not even an abstract is free online, at least so far.

Introducing PLoS Hubs

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) has added a section of Questions about the PLoS Hubs to its page of FAQs.  Excerpt:

What is a PLoS Hub?

A PLoS Hub is a window onto content in a specific field, and it will collect together open-access articles from many journals. A PLoS Hub allows a group of people who are interested in the same subject to share their opinions and knowledge and, ultimately, to build a dynamic, interactive community.

Open access is ideally suited to community building because everything published is available for anyone to download, print, and share, without restriction. The interactive tools for rating, annotating, and discussing articles included in the PLoS Hub allow users to enhance the value of research findings, to provide novel insights, and to accelerate scientific progress....

Why does the first PLoS Hub cover clinical trials?

Clinical trials research is a field in which the benefits of transparency are well documented, which is why PLoS is committed to publishing the results of all clinical trials regardless of outcome, and making this essential information freely and publicly available.

We can publish clinical trials research more effectively by merging PLoS Clinical Trials with PLoS ONE, and launching the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials. For authors of clinical trials articles published in PLoS ONE, this brings these added benefits:

  • Faster turnaround times (acceptance to publication in as little as three weeks)
  • Lower publication fees
  • Interactive tools and functionality—ratings, annotation, and discussion threads....

Can I submit a paper to the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials?

No —a PLoS Hub is not a journal. You should continue to submit your work to the PLoS journal that best suits your needs. If you submit your clinical trials paper to PLoS ONE it will automatically appear in the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials. If you submit your work to another PLoS journal a link to the paper will be provided on the PLoS Hub homepage, and the article will be fully incorporated into the PLoS Hub in the coming months.

Is the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials a work in progress?

Absolutely. We will be adding more PLoS content, as well as open-access content from other journals, and we will be launching more PLoS Hubs on different topics. We will also be adding new functionality to the site, and are launching the PLoS Hubs in "beta" so that we can work with the community to help shape this and future PLoS Hubs.

New OA journal on social policy

People, Place and Policy Online is a new peer-reviewed OA journal  from Sheffield Hallam University.  The inaugural issue is now online.  (Thanks to

An OA journal database for developing countries

Edward M. Corrado, An Open Source, Open Access Journal Database Appliance: A Proposal, a slide presentation at the IFLA meeting, Managing technologies and library automated systems in developing countries (Dakar, August 16, 2007).

Abstract:   This paper proposes the creation of an Open Access Journal Database Appliance using Open Source Software for use at libraries in developing countries. The paper introduces the reasons for building such a system, including the lack of reliable Internet connections. Some of the issues that will need to be considered during the creation, implementation, and maintenance of such a system are discussed.

Nature OA supplement on ageing

Nature has created another OA supplement, this time on Ageing.  (Thanks to Bayblab.)

BL and Microsoft digitize 19th century books

Cristina Jimenez, British Library books go digital, BBC News, September 28, 2007.  Excerpt:

More than 100,000 old books previously unavailable to the public will go online thanks to a mass digitisation programme at the British Library.

The programme focuses on 19th Century books, many of which are unknown as few were reprinted after first editions....

"What we can read now is predetermined by a long tradition of what has been considered great literature," ...added [Kristian Jensen, from the British Library]....

The first 25 million pages are expected to take two years to complete. Texts which are hard to get hold of will particularly benefit from the digitisation....

For example, authors who were only ever published outside the great centres of literary life have tended not to remain in print and have often been forgotten. Now, these authors will have a second chance to reach a readership.

"By digitising the whole collection, we give access to the books without the filter of later judgments, whether based on taste or on the economics of printing and publishing," Dr Jensen said.

The new category of digitised titles will supplement other early historic printed books which the British Library has already made available for viewing online through previous projects.

Those are included in two commercial resources: the Early English Books Online and the Eighteenth Century Collections Online.

Both collections are freely available to higher education institutions in the UK....

Digitised publications will be accessible in two ways -initially through Microsoft's Live Search Books and then via the Library's website....

Due to copyright restrictions and intellectual property issues, the agreement between Microsoft and the British Library covers only "public domain" materials....

Comment.  I can't tell whether access to these digital editions will be free of charge for everyone or only free of charge to higher education institutions in the UK.  Some Microsoft digitization projects are part of the Open Content Alliance, which is fully committed to OA, and some are not.  For other access concerns, see the blog comments by Andy Powell and Stephen Downes.

Shifting library resources from ILL to IRs

Heather Morrison, From interlibrary loans to institutional repository department: a natural transition, Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, September 28, 2007.  Excerpt:

When articles are open access, there is no need for interlibrary loan (ILL)....

[The growth of OA] frees up funds (from ILL charges), and staff time. Freed-up funds can be redeployed to offset article processing fees and subsidies for faculty OA publishing.

The greatest savings in staff time will be experienced by the largest research libraries with the biggest collections, as these libraries are the biggest net lenders.

It makes sense, then, to consider whether the staff that are currently involved in interlibrary loans, could be retrained for the work needed for the institutional repository. In my opinion, staff who are proficient at interlibrary loans, have an important skill set to bring to the institutional repository. These staff are accustomed to working with documents, and faculty members, on a one-on-one basis, paying careful attention to metadata and quality control with documents sent electronically.

Working in an area where activity and needs are decreasing is depressing; working in an area that is emerging and increasing in activity is energizing. A well-planned ILL to IR transition just might mean a library will have increasing staffing available for the IR in a pattern that somewhat reflects the shifting needs....

This post is a part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.

Friday, September 28, 2007

NSF/JISC workshop report endorses OA mandate

William Y. Arms and Ronald L. Larsen, The Future of Scholarly Communication:  Building the Infrastructure of Cyberscholarship, September 26, 2007.  Report of the NSF/JISC Repositories Workshop (Phoenix, April 17-19, 2007).  Excerpt:

Developments of cyberscholarship are hampered by the profusion of intellectual property rights and business practices that restrict access to information. Some of these restrictions are necessary, particularly those that protect privacy or trade secret information, but there is less justification for others. Science and scholarship have a privileged position in society. Governments fund scientific research and national libraries. Universities are supported by taxpayers, enhanced by the generous tax benefits given to not-for-profit organizations. A fundamental goal of the new infrastructure is to make the results of these efforts benefit the society that supports them.

Seeking patterns across heterogeneous collections is impossible without access. There is evidence that descriptions of research are more widely read if they are openly accessible [Lawrence]. This benefits the authors, future researchers who build on that work, and the agencies that fund the research. We strongly support the movement in both Europe and the United States to require open access to all papers that describe research supported by grants from the taxpayers. We also support efforts to require that the data products of such research be made available for future research in convenient formats, subject only to the constraints of privacy and the appropriate protection of trade secrets and classified information....

[Y]ounger scholars who have grown up with the Web have different expectations...grow impatient with clumsy and outmoded ways of protecting/locking down content, and regard recent interpretations of copyright law by certain media companies as a perversion of the very principles of respect for intellectual and artistic creations that copyright law is supposed to foster....

OA progress in Latin America

Dominique Babini, Web access to social science journals in Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean – the case of CLACSO's network, a slide presentation at the First International Public Knowledge Project (PKP) Scholarly Publishing Conference, Simon Fraser University, July 11-13, 2007.

Some highlights:  of 168 social science journals from 17 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, 63% of the journals offer OA to all their articles (slide 10), and these account for 97% the articles (slide 12).

More on no-fee OA journals

Tom Wilson, Open access again, Information Research Weblog, September 28, 2007.  Excerpt:

...Repositories and the 'author pays' models seems to be the only models discussed [at the Berlin 5 meeting] and mention of the collaborative, no-money-changes-hands model of Information Research (and of other journals covered in our Case Studies series) is non-existent.

Fred Friend of UCL and JISC tells the audience that JISC (the UK's Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Councils) "is now working with other organizations on models which fund gold OA publication charges as part of the research process and budget" having experimented with spending £384,000 to persuade publishers to adopt author-charges and finding that it 'did not scale' - i.e., it would cost to much to continue.

I wonder if JISC has any idea of how many OA journals, operating on a subsidy and collaboration basis, that amount of money could have funded? With a £10,000 start-up subsidy, JISC could have got 38 OA journals under way - or 15 journals could have been given a £5,000 a year for five years with the same amount of money (or, rather, a little less). That could have made a very significant impact on the development of open access in the UK and could have persuaded a number of small-circulation, scholarly journals to have converted to the OA route. As it is, £384,000 has gone into the pockets of shareholders. Great thinking, JISC!

Update. I just received a response from Fred Friend and post it with his permission:

The JISC issued an open invitation to tender for bids from journals in support of gold OA author charges, so any or all of the small circulation journals to which Tom Wilson refers could have applied for funding. The bids received were largely from small or medium-sized society or university publishers. The money was used to fund publication charges for OA authors and very little if any would have made its way into the pockets of shareholders. An independent evaluation report rated the funding a success in raising the profile of open access publication.

New OA journal on childhood studies

Childhoods Today is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Centre for the Study of Childhood and Youth at the University of Sheffield.  The inaugural issue was published in July.

Presentations on OA and development

Abstracts of the presentations from the Workshop of the Information Management Working Group (IMWG) of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) (The Hague, September 26-28) are now online.  All 11 presentations from yesterday were part of a panel on The relevance of Open Access for Global Development, Development Cooperation and Research.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fund-raiding milestone for Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

SEP Reaches Significant Fund Raising Goal! NEH Matching Funds Secured, an update from SPARC, September 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

Calculations by SOLINET [Southeastern Library Network] indicate that if the SEPIA [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy International Association] invoices sent out over the next 8 months are paid in a timely way, the SEP [Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy] will reach the intermediate goal of collecting $1.5 million in membership dues needed to secure the $500,000 in matching funds offered by the NEH under the terms of SOLINET's NEH Challenge Grant....

The SEP now has total pledges totaling just over $1,700,000 in membership dues to SEPIA from the library community. (So there have been over $50,000 in new membership pledges since our last notice...two months ago!) Once we add the $500,000 in NEH matching funds to this total, this means that the library community has raised just over $2,200,000 towards its overall goal of $3,000,000, leaving only $800,000 left to raise! Stanford University has raised its share of $1,125,000, towards the SEP's combined goal of $4,125,000.

We would like to draw attention to the following statistics. There are 118 institutions in the U.S. and Canada that offer a Ph.D. in Philosophy. 57 of those have pledged the full recommended amount of $15,000 in membership dues to SEPIA. 18 have pledged a smaller amount. This means 75 of the 118 Ph.D. institutions have made a pledge, leaving 43 non-contributing Ph.D. institutions. If all 43 pledged $15,000, we would have $645,000 -- which is 80.6% of the remaining goal. If, in addition, the partially contributing Ph.D. institutions were to raise their existing pledges to the full amount, we would have an additional $201,750, bringing us to $846,750. So we would like to encourage noncontributing and partially contributing institutions offering the Ph.D. in Philosophy to reevaluate the SEP....

Open science in Second Life

On Monday there was a panel discussion on open notebook science at Nature Island, Second Life.  From Science in the Open:

...Jean-Claude Bradley organised, moderated and spoke first followed by me [Cameron Neylon] and Jeremiah Faith. We all spoke about experiences and implementation of different approaches to open notebook science.

Jean-Claude has put the transcript up here....

Nigerian librarian honored for OA work

The Nigerian Library Association has honored Ezra Shiloba Gbaje for launching an institutional repository for Ahmadu Bello University.  From today's announcement by eIFL:

Ezra Shiloba Gbaje has been awarded the Dr. James O. Daniel prize for the Most Innovative Library-based ICT project by the Nigerian Library Association (NLA) for his Open Access work. Ezra installed and configured Dspace for his university, Ahmadu Bello University. During the award presentation at the NLA meeting this September, Ezra demonstrated the role of an institutional repository and there was great interest from the 400 participants to learn more. eIFL is working with Ezra to organize an open access workshop in Nigeria next year which will build upon this enthusiasm.

PS:  Congratulations, Ezra!

Free online access to public geodata in Norway

Michael Cross, Digital Norway sweeps away barriers to information sharing, The Guardian, September 27, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Scandinavian state requires public bodies responsible for geodata to share it freely....

Norway...has swept away commercial barriers to exchanging information between public bodies in a way that Britain could usefully emulate.

The Digital Norway plan requires all public bodies responsible for geodata to "collaborate in the establishment, operation and maintenance of a common national infrastructure". Data "must be clearly and easily available", the plan says.

Instead of negotiating licences with each other, custodians of official data about Norway's environment, land and marine topographies make their data available to all their official colleagues through a national portal, geoNorge....

Norway's national mapping agency Statkart, last week demonstrated some of the mashup possibilities that arise....

Olaf Ostensen, the head of Statkart, says such ideas have become much easier to realise since a government decision four years ago that data should be shared between public bodies.  He explains: "Instead of buying information from each other, we all put money in to a joint fund to finance an information infrastructure we can have for free." ...

Norway is no nirvana of free data, however. Although the public has access to data on the geoNorge portal, anyone wishing to re-use data in a commercial product must negotiate a licence with the government information agency Norsk Eiendomsinformasjon, or NE, a limited company owned by the Ministry of Justice. Our [Free Our Data] campaign argues that it would be better to make such data freely available to all comers, in the interests both of democracy and nurturing the knowledge economy....

An IR for the Open University

The Open University has officially launched its institutional repository, Open Research Online.  (Thanks to Les Carr.)

Presentations from Berlin 5

The presentations from Berlin 5 Open Access: From Practice to Impact: Consequences of Knowledge Dissemination (Padua, September 19-21, 2007) are now online.  There are abstracts and in most cases full-texts as well. 

In the case of the important closing keynote by Mariano Gago, Portugal's Minister of Science Technology and Higher Education, there should be both full-text and video, but at the moment both are unreadable.  (I'd assume the problem is temporary and keep trying both links.)

U of California supports an OA mandate at the NIH

The University of California has released a September 24 letter from Provost Wyatt Hume to Senator Diane Feinstein, supporting an OA mandate at the NIH.  Here's the entire letter, minus the salutation and valediction:

On behalf of the University of California, I write in support of Section 221 of S.1710, the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2008. Section 221 directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to change its Public Access Policy requiring all investigators funded by NIH to submit an electronic version of their final peer-reviewed manuscripts to the on-line archive of the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central (PMC), which would then make the manuscript available within twelve months of the official date of publication and in a manner consistent with copyright law. An identical provision is included in the FY 2008 LHHS bill approved by the House in July.

This change in research publication policy was requested by NIH to achieve goals that are shared by UC health scientists and by researchers worldwide: to expand use of NIH research findings in the advancement of science and public health, enhance management of NIH's invaluable research portfolio and provide for a timely, sustainable and openly accessible archive of research results arising from the substantial investments of U.S. taxpayers, and of public and private institutions where that research is conducted, including the campuses of the University of California.

The provision maximizes research impact and dissemination of new knowledge and appropriately recognizes and preserves the integrity of peer-reviewed journals, whose role is vital to the conduct of science, by providing a twelve month embargo period that protects publishers’ subscription revenue.

The University of California echoes the sentiments of a recent open letter of 26 Nobel laureates (four of whom are affiliated with UC, including UC San Francisco Chancellor Michael Bishop), that stated, “the time is now for Congress to enact this enlightened policy to ensure that the results of research conducted by NIH can be more readily accessed, shared and built upon to maximize the return on our collective investment in science and to further the public good.”

Thank you for your tireless support of the University of California and our commitment to enhancing the nation’s public health through the endless pursuit of knowledge and scientific discovery.

Comment.  Kudos to the U of California and Provost Hume.  I hope this will inspire other institutions, and individual citizens, to contact their Senators before the week is out. 

HHMI deal with Springer

HHMI Expresses Support for Springer Open Choice, a press release from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, September 27, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has expressed support for Springer's Open Choice program whereby articles are — if accepted for publication after a process of rigorous peer-review — immediately published with full open access and deposited in repositories such as PubMed Central, at a flat-rate fee per article of $3,000. Springer's Open Choice programme applies to all its journals.

HHMI has a strong commitment to ensuring public access to original research articles. Beginning with papers submitted for publication after January 1, 2008, HHMI will require its scientists to publish their original research articles in journals that allow the articles and supplementary materials to be made freely accessible in a public repository within six months of publication.

HHMI is the largest private funder of biomedical research in the U.S. and commits more than $500 million a year for research and distributes $80 million in grant support for science education.

HHMI investigators already publish a significant number of research articles in open access journals or in journals with open access options. Under the new policy, HHMI will pay up to $2,000 in open access charges per article with the balance coming from laboratory budgets or other sources....

In Springer Open Choice, authors are not required to transfer their copyright to Springer; instead, these articles are published under a Creative Commons License....

Also see the (same) press release from Springer.

Comment.  I applaud this step.  As I said about HHMI's similar deal with BMC:

Unlike the agreement with Elsevier, in which HHMI paid for green OA, HHMI is here paying for gold OA.  I’ve long recommended that funders who can afford to do so should offer to pay publication fees when their grantees choose to publish their research in fee-based OA journals.

Risks to publishers are not risks to peer-reviewed journals

Stevan Harnad, Journal Title Migration and University Resource Reallocation, Open Access Archivangelism, September 27, 2007. 

Summary:  (1) If some publishers (commercial or otherwise) should ever decide to abandon journal publishing because of lowered profit prospects, their titles and editorial boards will migrate, quite naturally, to Gold OA publishers. (2) If ever faced with the (currently hypothetical) question "Do we use our newfound windfall cancellation savings from our former publication buy-in to pay (2a) for our newfound publication costs for our research publication output, or (2b) for something else, letting our research output fend for itself?" universities will find their way, quite naturally, to the obvious solution....

Comment.  Exactly.  Stevan has more detail in the body of his post (I've quoted just the summary) and I have more detail as well in Sections 12-15 of this article from the September issue of SOAN.

More on PRISM

Alexis Madrigal, Foundations of Science: Research Integrity or Publisher Profits?  Wired News, September 26, 2007.  Excerpt:

We'd like to introduce a new regular feature here at WiSci that we're calling, The Foundations of Science (FOS). These posts will scrutinize organizations that claim the mantle of science but may or may not be scientific at all. We'll provide you with information about who funds these groups, their biases, and why they were founded to help you evaluate the claims that these thinktank-like outfits make each day in the media.

Up first is the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine (PRISM). During the past week, we've been covering the PR war between traditional science publishers and their open access counterparts. Traditional publishers created PRISM in response to potential government legislation that they think could impact their bottom-lines.

Organization: Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine
Acronym: PRISM
The Wired Take: As a contribution to the debate about open access, PRISM is not a good resource. While it represents the polemics of one side of the debate well, it does not answer the real question we're all asking publishers: why should their traditional subscription model for scientific journals be the dominant avenue for dissemination of peer reviewed scientific research?

Funded By: The Executive Council of the Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP)
Council Chair: Brian D. Crawford, Senior VP, Journals Publishing Group, Publications Division, American Chemical Society
Council Vice Chair: Michael Hays, Managing Director, Global Publishing McGraw-Hill Higher Education
Primary Purpose:
Governmental lobbying, public relations
Statement to Wired: “At this time, anything we have to say is contained on the website.” Sara Firestone, Director, Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division

The organization's name is misleading. The group's primary purpose is not "research integrity," even according to the group's own website. The site's stated mission is to "educate policy makers and the American people about the risks posed by government intervention in scholarly publishing." It takes several logical steps, and maybe some leaps, to link that mission to research integrity....

PRISM’s bigger argument is that mandating open-access would hurt science itself by dismantling the peer review process. Some worry that the law would, as one Wired commenter put it, "weaken the peer-review journals; mak[ing] them vulnerable financially by curtailing their revenue streams. Who wins? Cooked science." This reasoning conflates the survival of traditional publishers’ current business with the survival of peer-review itself. This can’t really be supported by the facts. While traditional journals are the dominant practitioners of peer review, some open access journals are also peer reviewed. If we believe in markets, it also stands to reason that there is significant money to be made in peer-reviewed scientific literature, and that some entrepreneur (social or traditional) would find a workable model....

What’s interesting is that PRISM's real targets are not open access journals themselves, but its own customers, i.e., libraries. Take a look at who is behind the public website promoting FRPPA: the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, which is run by "an initiative" of the Association of Research Libraries. We assume that at least one reason they support OA is that it would allow them to cut their journal costs, which PRISM would call its publishers' revenue.

So, it's not just disinterested angels of pure science on the open access side versus evil corporate hacks on the traditional side. All parties are looking out for their own interests and pushing the business model that works best for them. Of course, research libraries, with their good-looking if a bit bookish librarians and more limited budgets, cut slightly more sympathetic figures than Elsevier or McGraw Hill....

As a contribution to this real debate, PRISM is not a good resource. Its orientation is polemic, not scientific.


  • For a full-length rebuttal to the PRISM claim that OA will undermine peer review, see my article in SOAN from earlier this month.
  • Libraries and library organizations make no bones about their support for OA.  There's nothing secretive or deceptive about it, and nothing dishonest in their arguments for OA.  They want OA in part to make their slow-growing budgets go further in serving faculty and students, especially in the face of skyrocketing journal prices, and they want it in part to advance their long-standing, pre-OA, and pre-internet mission to facilitate access to knowledge.
  • It's a mistake to leave the impression that libraries are the only stakeholders fighting for OA or that the only interests at stake are financial.  For example, there are more patient advocacy groups than libraries on the membership list of the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, and they want OA in order to accelerate medical research that will help patients.  Period.  Researchers have career incentives but not financial incentives to want OA:  it helps authors by increasing their audience and impact, and it helps readers by removing access barriers to the research they need.  Taxpayers want OA for publicly-funded research in part for simple fairness, in part to make that research as useful as possible, and in part to maximize the return on the very large public investment in research.   For a good statement of many of these interests, see the open letter from 26 Nobel laureates in science calling for an OA mandate at the NIH (July 2007).
  • We don't have consider anyone a "disinterested angel of pure science" in order to recognize that the stakeholders working for OA are many and varied and that their interests in advancing OA are not analogous to the financial interests of PRISM members in opposing it.

More on the pricing crisis: Michigan cancels 2,500 subscriptions

Emily Barton, To save money, 'U' cuts journals, The Michigan Daily, September 24, 2007.   (Thanks to LIS News.)  Excerpt:

To save money, the University's libraries are canceling some of their journal subscriptions because of budget cuts and the increasing costs of the subscriptions.

Many of the cuts are to print subscriptions only, while the University continues to subscribe to the journals online.

University Librarian Paul Courant said that about 2,500 were canceled this fiscal year. In many cases, Courant said, the University starts by canceling duplicate subscriptions, leaving one copy of the journal in at least one library, as opposed to in multiple libraries. The University's other prominent case is when subscriptions were cancelled to journals with lower demand....

Courant said it's possible that a journal might not be available through [inter-library loan] if it becomes too obscure for universities to maintain a copy.

"It's a real concern," he said....

The University Library budget has gone up by an average of 3.1 percent per year since 2004.

According to Library Journal magazine, the average subscription price of national arts and humanities journals has increased 6.8 percent per year since 2003. National social science journals increased 9.2 percent and national science journals increased by 8.3 percent....

Comment.  The U of Michigan Library is one of the largest and best-funded in the US.  Large-scale cancellations like this one belie publisher claims that everyone who needs access to subscription journals already has access.

Harvard Faculty Council recommends an OA policy

Alexandria Hiatt, Profs Might Make Their Articles Free, Harvard Crimson, September 27, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Faculty Council, the 18-member governing body of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), advanced a measure yesterday that would make articles written by Harvard professors in scholarly journals available online at no cost.

The proposal would create a system of “open access” whereby the authors could make their work available either on a personal or university Web site for free, according to Weary Professor of German and Comparative Literature Judith L. Ryan, who serves on the council.

Professors would have the option to opt out of the new system, Ryan said.

“The problem this is supposed to address is the increasing monopoly that has developed on the part of scholarly journals, who are now making it increasingly difficult for people to access the material they publish,” she said.

“Libraries everywhere are paying huge amounts to scholarly journals,” she added, “and that means the amount of money they can spend on other purchases is increasingly squeezed.”

The program has been spearheaded by Welch Professor of Computer Science Stuart M. Shieber. According to Ryan, Shieber has appeared before the council three times in the past year and a half and has worked closely with the University Office of General Counsel to address any possible legal issues....

The proposal will now come before the full faculty for a vote. Ryan said she expected it to be addressed at a Faculty meeting this term.

The measure will immediately take effect if passed, according to Ryan, and the publishers will have little recourse.

“It is pretty certain that other universities would follow,” she said, “And that is crucial because it would put pressure on big publishers.”

Comments.  Kudos to Stuart Shieber and the Faculty Council.  The details of the policy are not yet public.  It appears to go much further than a mere request or recommendation, however, and actually shift the default from non-archiving to archiving.  Faculty may opt out but must make an affirmative decision to do so.  I'll post more later as I learn more.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

OA to back run of Saudi J of Gastroenterology

The Saudi Journal of Gastroenterology (already OA) has created OA to its full back run.  SJG is owned by the Saudi Gastroenterology Association and published by MedKnow.

Barbara Kirsop on Berlin 5

Barbara Kirsop has blogged some notes on the the Berlin 5 conference (Padua September 19-21, 2007).  Excerpt:

...I was [in Padua] to participate in a session devoted to the impact of OA on developing country science. Organised and chaired by EPT Trustee Subbiah Arunachalam, Chennai, India, the speakers included D K Sahu (MedKnow Publications, Mumbai, India), Stefka Kalavanova (FAO, Rome) and myself. The session was held in parallel with one on ‘Open Issues on Open Access’. Unfortunately, this attracted the bulk of the ~300 participants, and we spoke only to ~ 23 people. This was particularly disappointing as the presentations contained highly significant statistical evidence of the impact of OA on access to research knowledge in the 80% of the world where the main problems exist. Presentations showed that usage of OA articles by developing country researchers is remarkably high and at the same time, the emergence of the ‘invisible’ research findings from these regions into the international scene is quite dazzling, with usage, submissions, impact and even subscriptions growing significantly. I urge people to view the ppt presentations that will shortly be available [here], and take particular note of the usage figures that are included (for example, 2.5 million requests in 2006 for full text articles from ~60 OA journals published in developing countries and distributed by Bioline International, and similar statiustics from MedKnow, India and SciELO, Latin America). Although there is a long way to go, OA is already making a measurable difference.

What were the take-home messages for scientific research in the developing world? Well, the establishment of institutional repositories and OA journals continues to grow and is now a fixture in the academic world, but there was growing interest in the parallel sharing of research data (OpenData) and the inevitable benefits that will arise from this in all scientific disciplines – particularly for the resolution of the global problems of infectious diseases, climate stability, HIV AIDS etc.

Which presentations stood out? ...I shall remember the following in particular:

- Ilaria Capula, a veterinary virologist disturbed us all with her description of the consequences of avian influenza, she described the development by her laboratory of valuable sequence data to aid its containment, and shocked us by the fact that she had to struggle to make this information OA by deposit in Genbank, being required initially to deposit the data in a WHO database with ID/Pwd control .She was applauded for her integrity and persistence.

- Peter Murray-Rust stimulated the audience with online (no ppt for Peter!) demonstrations of the inadequacy of past publishing technologies to advance chemistry through static mechanisms and demonstrated the way research benefits immeasurably through web-based Open Data developments.

- The Conference ended with an up-beat presentation by Alma Swan encouraging everyone to adopt a ‘can-do’ approach to OA (as all Italians do when parking cars, she showed), to forge ahead with scientific integrity, and to remember the words of Gandhi that with radical new concepts, ‘first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’.

In the corridors: I was particularly concerned to learn that as the quality of the developing country journals improve through the work of local publishing initiatives - as visibility, impact, submissions and even subscriptions grow - a few large commercial publishers are approaching publishers of the most successful local journals with attractive offers to take them over and ‘help’ their development further. Publishers, authors and editors from hard-pressed countries may find it difficult to remember that by retaining their journals in-country they strengthen their own research base. Understandably, they may be tempted to break faith with those that have put years of effort into helping their journals reach a standard considered worthy of take over, but this practice should be publicised and local publishers encouraged to retain their journals in-country.

It reminds me of the situation with the UN publishing donor programmes, in which, as the economy of a country becomes stronger, it moves out of the eligible range for access to donated publications. Sometimes, in developing countries, the harder you work and the greater progress you make, the more you may be exploited. OA is clearly the only long-term solution to unequal access to essential research findings.

Update. Also see Barbara's report on Berlin 5 for the BMC blog, emphasizing OA progress in developing countries.

Siva Vaidhyanathan's real-time OA book on Google

Siva Vaidhyanathan is writing his new book --The Googlization of Everything-- in real time, with OA for each new draft and installment, and OA to a steady stream of reader comments, at a web site provided by the Institute for the Future of the Book.

Another TA editorial on OA

Robert J. Stanley, The Open Access Issue Revisited, American Journal of Roentgenology, October 2007.  An editorial.  Not even an abstract is free online, at least so far.

Update. I just got access to the full text. There is no abstract and I won't bother to blog an excerpt. Stanley believes the current NIH policy was requested by PLoS (when it was ordered by Congress). He seems to believe that all OA journals charge author-side publication fees (when the majority do not). He believes the primary rationale for government OA policies is to provide access for lay readers (when it is to provide access for researchers whose institutions cannot afford subscriptions). He acknowledges that journal prices are rising faster than library budgets, but responds by pointing out problems with the business models of some OA journals. He seems unaware that some OA publishers are already profitable. He seems to believe there's no problem for OA to solve, because he hasn't seen data showing that lack of access to research impedes research.

PLoS consolidates two journals

PLoS Clinical Trials is moving to PLoS ONE.  In the process, it will cut its publication fee in half, from $2,500 to $1,250.

Update. Also see the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials, launched this month. From the site:

Currently, the PLoS Hub for Clinical Trials features articles originally published in PLoS Clinical Trials, along with clinical trials articles from PLoS ONE.

In the future, this new resource will expand to include articles from all the PLoS titles that publish clinical trials. It will also feature open-access articles from other journals plus user-generated content.

Presentations at Web2forDev

The Web2forDev conference (Rome, September 25-27, 2007) is now in progress.  The topic is Web 2.0 and knowledge sharing to stimulate development, and many of the presentations have an OA connection.  Presentation abstracts are already online, as are videos for the presentations already given.  You can also tune in to a live stream of the current presentation.

Update. Ismael Peña-López is at the conference and blogging it under this category at ICTlogy. To find other bloggers, he recommends following the "web2fordev" tag at, Flickr, and so on.

Interview with Michele Kimpton

Mary Grush interviews Michele Kimpton in Campus Technology, September 26, 2007.  Kimpton is the Executive Director of the new DSpace Federation.  Excerpt:

CT: What's the vision behind the creation of the DSpace Foundation?

Kimpton: The role of the foundation is to be a central organization that can supply leadership and support to the overall community of DSpace users. The vision is to be able to promote and increase open access to scholarly works by using DSpace and advocating for open access. At the end of the day, all scholarly works would be available to anyone, at any time, in any part of the world, to further research, foster collaboration, and promote open access to knowledge.

What needs to happen in order to achieve more universal open access to scholarly works?

I think we're making strides, in that there's already DSpace and other open source repository platforms. Universities and other academic institutions are starting to put content that they create in house up online, but it's only a small fraction of the total content today. So I think to get to the stage where all content is available, you really have to hit critical mass in terms of institutional participation.

What barriers have kept institutions from participating?

...The barriers at this stage relate to enabling institutions tactically to be able to do this. Many institutions would rely on their libraries that don't necessarily have the technical infrastructure. So, DSpace has tried to solve this problem by making a very simple open source application to run and install without a lot of technical expertise.

Another barrier to overcome is for the creators of these works to embrace the value of putting them up online. Five or six years ago, when the Internet was just ramping up, the value proposition wasn't as clear. Now, I think we're starting to approach critical mass as faculty and researchers are getting more exposure and wanting to share their works in an easier fashion. One of the goals of DSpace is to make it easier for these creative works to have value, once they are up online.

So it's not just a question of technology -- there are some cultural elements as well.

Yes -- absolutely.

Are traditional publishers somewhat of a barrier as well?

The publishers are coming around -- though not all of them -- and adapting their strategies and policies. And there are open access advocacy organizations that are working with the publishers and tracking which ones are more prone to let creators have rights over their content, and which try to lock it down. Also, we try to give the creators of works -- faculty and researchers -- the knowledge so that when they are talking to publishers they understand their rights as authors. We've used Creative Commons licensing to help drive some of that....

John Willinsky's keynote at PKP conference

David Mattison has posted a 107-minute recording of John Willinsky's keynote at the First International PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference (Vancouver, July 11-13, 2007).

Note that for technical reasons Mattison had to divide his recording into 11 separate files, while the conference site has an MP3 of the same presentation, apparently all in one file.

Update to Bailey bibliography

Charles W. Bailey Jr. has released version 69 of his monumental Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography. The new version cites and organizes over 3,120 print and online articles, books, and other sources on scholarly electronic publishing.

Steps toward OA for Australian public sector data

Dylan Bushell-Embling, Private eyes on public data, Sydney Morning Herald, September 25, 2007.  (Thanks to Anne Fitzgerald.)  Excerpt:

Public sector data [PSD] a potential goldmine. [Are] we are doing enough to spread the wealth? ...

Today the US Government...offer[s] all that [geospatial, mapping] data free. In Australia, spatial data of this sort primarily originates from either state, territory or federal governments. But Australian governments have traditionally treated spatial information, as with much of its accumulated Public Sector Data (PSD), as primarily a revenue source....

Every time [Scott] Powell has tried to expand [his mapping business] into the Australian market, he's found the cost of procuring the raw data he needs far too expensive, and restrictions on how he may reuse the data far too constraining....

Terry Cutler, principal of the specialist consulting firm Cutler & Company and CSIRO board member, believes that in an information age, a dearth of cheap access to government data can stifle the entire country's economic growth....

"Generally in Australia a compilation of data will have some copyright attached that the government will own," says QUT professor Brian Fitzgerald....Because various departments' licensing regimes were developed independently, they are often very disparate. Differing state laws just make the problem worse.

"It's likely that across Australia there are dozens if not hundreds of different licence agreements that need to be signed up to in order to permit a data-set to be moved from government to a private sector user," says Peter Woodgate, CEO of the Co-Operative Research Centre for Spatial Information.  One Queensland government study identified 20 different licences from a mere five departments.

However government is not blind to the problem. Politicians and bureaucrats across all levels of government are considering ways to make more information freely available....

The change of heart rippling throughout all levels of government is primarily brought on by two economic arguments. The first is that governments collect data using taxpayer money....

The second argument is that the potential economic benefits of releasing government data free far outweigh the funds accrued by selling the data....

A handful of government departments are already experimenting with offering free PSD.

Since 2005, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has offered nearly all its statistical information at no charge on its website, partly because of this argument. Mr Cutler calls the decision to remove charges for ABS data "the best thing the Federal Government's done in recent times"....

Special Minister of State Gary Nairn notes the decision to release all ABS data for the cost of reproduction was not the first such experiment in Australian government. Mr Nairn says he's seen the economic benefits of releasing data for free....

The Queensland Government has commissioned a project exploring the possibility of adapting the [Creative Commons] licences for the entire state's PSD. The Queensland Spatial Information Council (QSIO) is working with Professor [Bryan] Fitzgerald and other government departments on the project....

Update on FRPAA

Alexis Madrigal, Mandated Open Access Bill Stalled in Senate, Wired News, September 25, 2007.

The Federal Research Public Access Act, co-sponsored by Senators Cornyn (R-TX) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), doesn't look like it's going to make it out of the Senate machinery soon.

According to a conversation this afternoon with Brian Walsh, Senator Cornyn's Communications Director, the bill has not been introduced in the current 110th Congress yet. This move would have to precede any further action by the Senate, like a vote. The reintroduction is something that Cornyn has pledged to do, but no real timeline is available. The act, which would require that all publicly funded research be made accessible at no cost within 6 months of publication, was introduced in the Senate in May 2006, but never made it to a floor vote....

Comment.  We already knew that Cornyn planned to re-introduce FRPAA in the current session of Congress and hadn't done so yet.  The fact that he doesn't have a timetable is not surprising and not a problem.  Right now all Congressional attention is focused on the appropriations process (the new fiscal year starts in five days) and all OA energy is focused on the bill to strengthen the NIH policy, which is part of the appropriations process.  First let's win the battle for the NIH policy and then we can refocus on FRPAA.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reminder to US citizens

Please contact your Senators this week, and ask them to support an OA mandate at the NIH.  Here are some links to help:

  • The alert from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.  This includes some useful background and talking points.  (Also see my blog post on it with comments.)
  • The alert from the American Library Association.  This includes a web form to make it easier to get your message to your Senators.  You can compose your own message or modify and personalize the message put together by Charles Bailey.  (Also see my blog post and comments.)

Either of these should suffice.  Pick one, compose your message, and get it off.  If you don't use the ALA web form, then get your Senators' contact info from CongressMerge.  But if you'd like more help in writing your message, here are some more sources:

This year is our best chance ever to win an OA mandate at the NIH.  But the opposition from the publishing lobby is fierce.  Remember that the AAP/PSP has launched PRISM, the behemoth Copyright Alliance has weighed in, and Elsevier has hired an extra lobbying firm.  If you're a US citizen, please do what you can:  contact your Senators and spread the word.

Update. Also see Bill Hooker's letter to his Senators.

Documentary videos on OA

A collection of documentary videos on OA is a giant step closer to a screen near you, thanks to a grant from the Open Society Institute.  See the September 17 announcement from Intelligent Television and BioMed Central:

The Open Society Institute has awarded a grant to support the production and distribution of the Open Access Documentary Project, a collection of online videos celebrating the benefits of open access to scientific and medical research.  Intelligent Television and BioMed Central are co-producers of the Project. 

The Open Access Documentary Project will facilitate the ongoing work of BioMed Central and Intelligent Television in promoting open access to science and medicine in fields as diverse as malaria research and particle physics. 

The producers are now assembling an international editorial board and contacting institutions that hold archival and production resources that will be vital to the project.  Principal production has begun in London, New York, and at CERN in Geneva, featuring video interviews with publishers and consumers of scientific and medical information in the developed and developing world —and with other stakeholders in open access including foundations, government agencies, and the media....

Gabriele Beger keynote on OA at GMW 2007

Gabriele Beger, Was ist und was kann Open Access beim eLearning bewirken?  A Quicktime webcast of her keynote address at the 2007 meeting of the Gesellschaft für Medien in der Wissenschaft (Hamburg, September 11-12, 2007).  Beger is the Director of the Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek Hamburg and the President of the Deutschen Gesellschaft für Informationswissenschaft.

More on PRISM

Bruce Byfield, PRISM Coalition lobbies against open access,, September 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Forces are marshaling to oppose the open access movement, the open source-inspired movement to make academic research publicly available online. The American Association of Publishers (AAP) recently announced the creation of the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM)....

"It's really designed to oppose open access with all kinds of misinformation," says Leslie Chan, a senior lecturer at the University of Toronto and one of the founding members of the open access movement.

Little is known about PRISM or its supporters, aside from the fact that they are using AAP resources.'s request for an interview received a response from Sara Firestone, the director of the professional and scholarly publishing division of the AAP, asking what questions would be asked. We submitted a list of questions, but Firestone and the AAP ignored subsequent attempts at contact....

The first result of the [AAP] meeting with Dezenhall seems to have been the resistance in the last year to the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a bipartisan bill introduced in the United States last year. According to Chan, the AAP responded to the bill by distributing a letter to enlist the paid staffs of academic professional associations in the resistance to it.

In many cases, this effort resulted in a split between the staff and boards or steering committees of professional associations. For instance, in the American Anthropological Association, the executive director endorsed the AAP letter on behalf of the association without consultation, arguing that the letter demanded an urgent response. When the steering committee of AnthroSource, an online database of anthropological arguments, wrote a letter protesting the unilateral action and attempted to pass a bylaw that would prevent the executive director from similar unilateral arguments in the future, a conflict ensued that ended with the association staff forcing out the members of the steering committee.

"Debate never reached the members," said Chan, who was a member of the AnthroSource steering committee. "That was unfortunate, because one of the things we were hoping for was public debate. But it never really materialized."

Meanwhile, by creating similar situations throughout the North American academic community, the AAP was able to create the illusion that a majority of its members opposed open access -- even though at least some of them were advocating it.

Now, with PRISM, the AAP appears to be creating a similar illusion....PRISM's Web site and public statements are written to "create the impression that all members of the AAP are behind the initiative," says Chan, while the group remains vague on exactly whom it represents....

Chan suggests that PRISM represents an industry that advocates protectionism instead of embracing new innovations. "The publishers have only themselves to fear," he says. "They shouldn't be fearing government or people who advocate open access. They should be afraid of other smart people who are going to run with the open access business model. It's like the music publishers being so afraid of the little guys downloading that they forgot to look out for Apple [with iTunes]." ...

Springer statement on the NIH policy and the surrounding debate

Springer Statement on the Debate on the NIH’s Public Access Policy, an announcement from Springer, September 14, 2007.  Here it is in its entirety:

Researchers should have a choice
Funding bodies, including government funding agencies, should leave it up to researchers to decide where to publish their results. 

No such thing as a free lunch
If funding agencies desire the results to be published in an open access format, they should make this financially possible for researchers and their institutions by providing the means to do so.  Unfunded mandates put researchers in an unfair position from which they have no proper means to escape. 

Added value must be financed
As a result, we fully support open access mandates that take into account the economic value of a proven, useful system of ordered, layered and certified scientific knowledge that is currently performed by academic peer-reviewed journals.  Unfunded mandates are not a sustainable route to open access. The question of funding the system of stratified certification must be addressed properly.

Springer supports dialogue
Springer is committed to participating in a scholarly, and respectful, debate with all parties concerned with the future of scientific publishing.  Our track record speaks for itself:  In 2005, we launched Springer Open Choice™ which gives researchers and their institutions the option of deciding, after the completion of the peer-review process, whether to publish in an open access format for a fee, or by using a traditional, subscription-based model.


  • The NIH allows grantees to decide where to publish their results and it allows grantees to use grant funds to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals. 
  • The second and third paragraphs are confused and confusing.  In the second paragraph, if "published in an open access format" refers to gold OA, then it's not relevant to the current debate.  Neither Congress nor the NIH is considering a policy to require publication in an OA journal.  If "published in an open access format" should be taken more broadly to include green OA, then the rest of the argument is not relevant to the current debate.  The NIH's green OA program is fully funded.
  • In the third paragraph, is Springer saying that it only supports green OA mandates when they include money for gold OA?  (If so, does it support a green OA mandate at the NIH, given that the NIH does provide money for gold OA?)  Or does it only support gold OA mandates?  Either way, the reference to "unfunded mandates" is misleading.  Neither the green OA policy nor the gold OA policy is unfunded, and for the time being neither is a mandate.
  • If Springer is saying (in both the second and third paragraphs) that a green OA mandate will undermine subscriptions at peer-reviewed journals, and thereby undermine peer review, then see my detailed answer to that objection in this month's SOAN.
  • In the final paragraph, I think I detect a polite rebuff to PRISM?  Do you?

Monday, September 24, 2007

Consortial digitization project for the OCA

Boston Library Consortium Partners with Open Content Alliance to Provide Public Access to Digitized Books, a press release from the Boston Library Consortium, September 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Boston Library Consortium, Inc. (BLC) announced today that it will partner with the Open Content Alliance to build a freely accessible library of digital materials from all 19 member institutions. The BLC is the first large-scale consortium to embark on such a self-funded digitization project with the Open Content Alliance....

The Consortium will offer high-resolution, downloadable, reusable files of public domain materials. Using Internet Archive technology, books from all 19 libraries will be scanned at a cost of just 10 cents per page. Collectively, the BLC member libraries provide access to over 34 million volumes....

According to Doron Weber, Program Director, Universal Access to Recorded Knowledge, at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, “The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which has supported the Open Content Alliance from its inception in 2005, salutes this bold move by the BLC and its 19 member libraries to step up to the plate and embrace the great potential of mass digitization in a truly open, non-profit and non-exclusive basis. Unlike corporate backed efforts by Google, Microsoft, Amazon et al, which all impose different, albeit understandable, levels of restriction to protect their investment, the BLC has shown libraries all across the country the right way to take institutional responsibility and manage this historic transition to a universal digital archive that serves the needs of scholars, researchers and the general public without compromise. Bravo for the BLC and the Open Content Alliance!” ...

The BLC’s Executive Director, Barbara G. Preece commented, “...The BLC/OCA project will ensure that materials digitized will remain free and open to scholars and the public.” ...

Update (9/25/07).  Also see the story on this deal from Library Journal Academic Newswire.  Excerpt:

...The announcement comes shortly after OCA founder Brewster Kahle told Library Journal that Boston Public Library officials had chosen not to pursue the chance to participate in commercial projects, choosing instead to work with OCA. "Revolutions aren't started by majorities," Kahle said. "They come from leaders who see things that need to be done. Boston Public Library, for example, has been courted by Google, but it has said it is going to remain open." ...

The OCA has been making steady, if quiet progress in comparison to its commercial counterparts. It now counts 40 members and regional scanning centers in six cities scanning up to 12,000 books a month, over four million pages. Unlike with commercial scan plans, there are no restrictions on public domain books scanned by OCA members. Users are not forced to use proprietary interfaces, and OCA scans are not hidden from rival search engines. Books scanned under the BLC initiative will be hosted by the Internet Archive and available to "be indexed by any search engine following the BLC and OCA's philosophy of open access to digitized content," Kahle said....

Draft open data license now open for comment

Jordan Hatcher, Open Data Commons - Licence now out, OpenContentLawyer, September 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Introducing the draft Open Data Commons - Databases licence

This licence was inspired by the Talis Community Licence, and draws heavily from the work of others in the open source, free software, and open content community. Many of the ideas and phrases from the licence are derived from the unported Creative Commons licences, the Creative Commons Scotland set of licences, and we owe the many contributors to these licences a debt of gratitude. It was drafted by myself, Jordan Hatcher, and by Dr. Charlotte Waelde of the AHRC Research Centre for Studies in Intellectual Property and Technology Law at the University of Edinburgh School of Law....

This licence covers copyright and database rights over databases. It doesn’t cover the rights over the contents of the database — this is so that the licence can be useful for databases that have contents with different sets of rights. More on this aspect can be found in this post, Thoughts on drafting an open data licence.

The posting of the licence is the first step in what will hopefully be an ongoing conversation about the development of the licence....

Open Data Home — This is the homepage for links and resources for the licence.

Open Database Licence — The draft version of the licence itself. This is the core licence applied for databases.

Open Data Factual info licence — This is a supplemental licence for those that deal with factual information, or for copyrighted works that the Licensors want to allow as broad a use as possible. This licence is included because of the separation of ‘Data’ and ‘Database’ in the main licence.

Open Data blog posts — Does what it says on the tin — all the blog posts on this site in the category ‘Open Data’.

There is a discussion list for the licence....

More on the Smithsonian-Showtime deal

Jacqueline Trescott and James V. Grimaldi, Smithsonian Channel To Make Its Debut, But Only on DirecTV, Washington Post, September 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Smithsonian's controversial cable television programming will debut Wednesday, but right now only [subscribers to DirecTV's premium high-definition service] will be able to see it....

Several groups objected to the contract because the Smithsonian signed over to Showtime semi-exclusive rights to produce films built around the national institution's resources....

Members of Congress, who control the 70 percent of the budget the Smithsonian receives from the federal government and who also oversee its operations, expressed doubt about the arrangement from the beginning. Both Republicans and Democrats voiced concern about independent filmmakers' access and that the shows would be available only to select viewers who could pay more....

Carl Malamud, president of [PublicResource], a nonprofit that seeks to make more government information public, had objected to the secrecy of the contract. "I think it is very sad that after a year and a half all they have managed is to snag a DirecTV distribution agreement, when any high school kid can upload a video to YouTube and have 100 million viewers," Malamud said....

PS:  For background, see my earlier posts on the Smithsonian-Showtime deal.

Update. For a more detailed analysis, see Richard Kurin, Commentary: the Smithsonian goes cable, Museum Anthropology, 30, 2 (2007) pp. 89-100. (Thanks to Jason Baird Jackson.)

OA to dark data

Thomas Goetz, "Mind the Gaps," Wired Magazine, October 2007. 

The article is not yet online, but Attila Csordás has rekeyed and blogged some excerpts:

Positive, published scientific data form the tip of the iceberg of any scientific data produced in labs. As at least 90% (my guess) of all experiments are failed or lead to negative results, those data sets become "dark data". But those dark data are as important for making science happen as positive data and this information must be free - argues Thomas Goetz Wired’s deputy editor (and another SciFoo camper) in an opinionated piece in the October issue of Wired (available only offline at this moment), called Mind the gaps. The idea is to push open access science to its limits.

“Liberating dark data makes many scientists deeply uncomfortable, because it calls for them to reveal their “failures”. But in this data-intense age, those apparent dead ends could be more important than the breakthroughs….Your dead end may be another scientist’s missing link. Freeing up dark data could represent one of the biggest boons to research in decades, fueling advances in genetics, neuroscience, and biotech.”

“Advocating the release of dark data is one thing, but it’s quite another to actually collect it, juggling different formats and standards. There’s the issue of storage….Google, among others, is lending a hand with its Palimpsest project, offering to store and share monster-size data sets (making the data searchable isn’t part of the effort.)” ...

Here is my favorite part out Goetz’s article about the science culture problem of freeing dark data:

“If their research is successful, many academics guard their data like Gollum, wringing all the publication opportunities they can out of it over years. If the research doesn’t pan out, there’s strong incentive to move on ASAP, and a disincentive to linger in eddies that may not advance one’s job prospects.” ...

Enough said, I recommend that freeing negative data should be a post publication depending on publishing related positive data first. At least, in this world, where open-access science is not by default.

What follows in the article is well-known amongst the readers of this blog....

“There are some island of innovation. Since 2002, the Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine has offered a peer-reviewed home to results that go negative or against the grain. Earlier this year, the journal Nature started Nature Precedings, a Web-based forum for prepublication research and unpublished manuscripts in biomedicine, chemistry and the earth sciences. At Drexel university, chemist Jean-Claude Bradley practices “open notebook” science - chronicling his lab”s work and sharing data via blog and wiki. And PloS is planning an open repository for research and data that is otherwise abandoned.” ...

Goetz goes further with journalistic enthusiasm: “These are great first steps. But freeing dark data should be the norm, not the exception. Once the storage and format problems are solved, scientists will need easy ways to search and retrieve each other’s data. Congress should be mandate that all federally funded research be disseminated, whatever the results.” ...

Update (9/25/07). Goetz' article, It's Time to Free the Dark Data of Failed Scientific Experiments, is now OA at the Wired site.

More on OncologySTAT

Barbara Quint, Elsevier Launches Vertical Portal With Ad Revenue Support: OncologySTAT, Information Today NewsBreaks, September 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

Elsevier has launched an end-user portal focused on cancer research called OncologySTAT. The site carries a broad array of content....However, what seems to have elicited the most comments on the new service is its business model —free to the registered user, paid for by advertisers. Despite the burst of hope that the success of such a model might someday alleviate the sufferings of Elsevier’s licensees and subscribers, both the statements of Elsevier representatives and the current design of the system seem to confirm that the new portal aims to find new revenue through services targeted at end users without threatening existing revenue through “migration” or “cannabilization.” ...

For titles targeted at cancer, users could expect to retrieve all or most of the articles; for journals with a broader range, cancer-related articles will be selected for inclusion....Since Elsevier does not publish all the leading cancer journals, OncologySTAT offers journal scans, consisting of substantive, lengthy (500–700 word) abstracts of important research articles published in 25 other leading journals....

[W]hen it comes to broadening research outside the time limits of 1 year’s worth of Elsevier journal content or even outside of oncology into other medical subjects, OncologySTAT turns to every health researcher’s friend —the National Library of Medicine’s Medline....

Some contend that OncologySTAT may lead to a drop in subscriptions to print publications or their subscription-based online equivalents. Such a migration might play into the hands of the dreaded open access advocates that seem to threaten all STM publishers. Clearly the Elsevier people intend OncologySTAT and any subsequent end-user vertical portals now in development or under consideration to add to their revenue flow, not cannibalize their current revenues.

The chance of OncologySTAT substituting for library or institutional subscriptions to print or Elsevier digital packages, such as Science Direct, range from minimal to nonexistent. For one thing, [Monique Fayad, senior vice president at Elsevier and publisher at OncologySTAT] made it very clear that the journal offerings would never go back further than a year. The Medline searches may find earlier references, but OncologySTAT enables no links to library collections. Fayad said, “We have no plans for it, no live URLs, no detection of users at institutions. OncologySTAT is designed as a one-stop shop to stay current, but not as a hard core research tool.”

The company’s announcement of the new service pointed out that there are more than 1 million oncologists, hematologists, oncology nurses, and other healthcare professionals involved in treating, caring for, or diagnosing cancer patients. And that’s in the U.S. alone....

Fayad pointed out that the prices for Elsevier publications are much lower on the medical and health sciences side than those on the sci-tech side. When combined with discounted prices for individuals, as compared to institutional charges, and other significant discounts through scholarly society membership deals, prices for subscriptions were not that great. She also stated that more than 80 percent of oncology practitioners were in noninstitutional settings that probably did not have access to medical library or institutional collections. At this point, Elsevier hopes to add some 150,000 users to OncologySTAT within the first year of launch.

When it comes to estimating the probabilities of Elsevier’s success in applying an advertising supported model, the odds look pretty good....

As for future development of the site, Fayad indicated that Elsevier might examine Scirus’ open Web content in the future. The company is hoping to add more journals within the next few months and has begun approaching the sci-tech side of Elsevier to add more titles. She also indicated that Elsevier was evaluating several other areas for potential vertical portals....

October issue of Learned Publishing

The October issue of Learned Publishing is now online.  Only abstracts are free online, at least so far.  Here are the OA-related articles (to judge only from their titles and abstracts):

  • Chris Armbruster, Moving out of Oldenbourg's long shadow: what is the future for society publishing?  Abstract:   "The Internet and the rise of e-Science alter the conditions for scholarly communication. In signing declarations against open access mandates, society publishers indicate that they feel most threatened by the emergence of institutional repositories and the self-archiving mandates that these make possible. More attention should be paid to the impact of e-Science, the rise of Internet-based guild publishers, and the entrance of players from the new economy. Society journals should stop aspiring to such functions as registration and archiving and should shed electronic dissemination, while enhancing certification and investing in (new) navigation services." [PS: Armstrong has archived an OA edition of this article.]

  • Pierre Baruch, Open access developments in France: the HAL Open Archives System.  Abstract:   "This article presents an overview of open access publishing and open access archiving in France. In natural sciences, most articles are published in international journals; authors must therefore comply with the policies of their publishers, irrespective of their nationality. For humanities and social sciences, where publication tends to be distributed among many small journals, portals have been created to provide electronic publishing, with varied access policies. Open archives repositories have been in existence in France since 2001; from 2006, a proactive policy led the main research agencies and universities to coordinate their actions towards a common archiving platform, HAL (Hyper Articles on Line), operated by CNRS (Centre National pour la Recherche Scientifique), with individual portals, either thematic or institutional. HAL stores now the majority of open access records - presently some 10-15% of French output - and is growing almost exponentially." 

After PRISM, try CIA

Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Here's Some Advice That Won't Cost the AAP $500K, DigitalKoans, September 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

After the PRISM fiasco, it may be time for the Association of American Publishers to consider a new initiative: CIA (Change Instead of Annihilation).

CIA would have a single goal: to develop new business strategies so that AAP members could survive and thrive in a scholarly communication system where open access prevails. The AAP doesn't have to embrace open access to launch CIA —CIA can be a contingency plan. However, CIA will fail if its participants do not take the underlying premise that open access can succeed seriously, and CIA will require intense brainstorming that lets go of long-held beliefs about conventional publishing models....

It may sound crazy, but ask yourself this: Who do you want to be if open access gains enough momentum to trigger the collapse of conventional publishing models, the guy with a plan or the guy without a plan? It looks to me like Elsevier is starting to think outside of the box with initiatives such as OncologySTAT and Scirus, and Elsevier has always been a tough, smart competitor in the publishing marketplace. If the day of reckoning comes, how far behind Elsevier do you want to be? ...

PS:  Exactly.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Librarians need to showcase the benefits of OA"

Dean Giustini interviews Courtney Crummett, UBC Academic Search - Google Scholar Blog, September 23, 2007.  Crummett is an Associate Librarian at the US National Library of Medicine.  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?

...Librarians need to position themselves on the front lines of scholarly communication and showcase the benefits of OA. We can show our users the reputable OA journals within their discipline and comparable citation statistics. Librarians need to be advocates for author rights and copyright initiatives, and explain both to faculty to ensure that we provide access to research published by our faculty. The success of OA depends on us partly, and we will need to sell it to faculty, researchers and students....

New OA journal in computational linguistics

Linguistic Issues in Language Technology is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from Stanford's CSLI Publications.  (Thanks to the Jason Adams.)

Ringing an OA subtotal for OneWebDay

Gavin Baker, Sixteen and counting: sharing science on the Web, This place is pretty ugly, September 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

...[T]oday – OneWebDay – seems an opportune moment to consider where we are going.

What, then, became of the Web’s original goal: to enable scientists to share information?

First, the good news. A vibrant and growing movement has developed to lobby and labor for the cause of access to scientific information – not only for other scientists, but for everyone. An impressive array of thinkers and civic leaders have collaborated to build remarkable software, Web sites, journals, organizations, and legal code. The models they have constructed are more equitable, more sustainable, and more effective at promoting human development.

With open access, the cost of scholarly communication is no longer a royalty, but an investment. The result is the ability to do better science, more quickly, for less cost.

The members of the open access movement are no mere theorists:

  • Nearly 3,000 peer-reviewed academic journals are now made freely available online, in full text, from the minute the newest issue is released.
  • Of the journals that do not provide free access themselves, the overwhelming majority nevertheless permit their authors to post their own articles for free access on a Web site at their university or in their discipline.
  • Funders of research, both public and private, are increasingly requiring their grantees to make their resulting articles available online for free.

Following behind academic journal literature is a move for access to scientific data. The Nature family of journals has editorialized in favor of free online access to this data and adopted policies to encourage its authors to comply. Along with data sets, the sharing of data artifacts such as laboratory images and computer visualizations will not be long. By the day, the tools to collect, search, and manipulate these data improve.

A few bold researchers are going so far as to invite their colleagues – and the public – into the process of research as it takes place....And many of today’s students – a generation which grew up the Web – are sharing their academic work as naturally as they share photos from their summer vacation.

There are challenges to be solved, technical as well as social and political. But as the evidence accumulates, much apprehension dissolves, and stakeholder consensus aligns in favor of open access. Piece by piece – or, since this is the Web, should I say bit by bit? – an information commons grows. Sixteen years later, we are here.

The Web was built for scientists to share information. Let’s make it happen....

Free networking service for life scientists

The PrometeoNetwork is a "free, online, global network of doctors and researchers in life sciences".  Launched in January 2007, its members can already reach more than 4,000 colleagues.  From the site:


To build a trusted and solid community where Researchers and Physicians benefit from networking, sharing knowledge and promoting scientific collaborations.

To promote the formation of subgroups based on scientific topics or nationality, to enhance benefits of our Members.

To give visibility to our Members' work by publishing it in our website news and/or through Press Agencies.

To make the latest scientific news available to our members on our website and through our partner-site, Within3.

To organize fund-raising events to give grants and  scholarships for research projects or training of researchers in Life Sciences.

To facilitate participation of our Members to conferences, supporting them financially, when possible.

To make information and resources in Life Sciences more attainable within the network....

Temporary free online access to books

Adam Hodgkin, Exact Editions for Book Publishers, ExactEditions blog, September 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

...We [at Exact Editions] have for some weeks been testing how Exact Editions works as a promotional service to book publishers and the first customisation is now in the open for Berkshire Publishing....

Berkshire Publishing is a young and highly innovative publisher of academic and general reference titles (Berkshire MA not UK). They have produced a list of outstanding and ambitious multi-volume reference works in the last decade. We are pleased to be helping promote these great resources in a web environment. The entire books are available and searchable for a limited period through this promotional service. A typically bold move from Berkshire's CEO, Karen Christensen. Her decision makes me wonder why publishers do not as a matter of course make their new titles available for free for a limited period through the web? Surely there is no better way of promoting a title? Opening access for a limited period makes complete sense. Complete commercial sense if the aim is to sell more books.

The Berkshire Encylcopedia of World History runs to well over 2,000 large format, double column, pages. It employs three different page numbering schemes over five volumes. So it was quite a challenge for our automated clickable-indexing system....


  • I don't normally blog promotional offers of temporary free access.  But this is the first time I've seen that strategy used for books, as opposed to journals, and I agree with Adam that it should increase net sales.  (There's evidence that permanent free access increases net sales for some kinds of books, like monographs, but that's another story.)  I'd like to see more book publishers try this, in part to help authors and readers, even briefly, and in part to test the waters of OA publishing.  Publishers who worry that an OA edition will reduce net sales can always switch the digital edition from open to closed after an initial promotional period.  But I hope they will also be ready to switch it back from closed to open again when sales drop below a critical level or when they are ready to test the theory that visibility and access boost sales.
  • There may be good reasons why TA journals tend to lead with closed access and follow with open access (after the embargo period or moving wall) rather than vice versa.  But there may not.  Very few journals are even trying the second model.  The only ones I know are the three journals of the London Mathematical Society published by Oxford UP.  It may be that net sales of books and journals would both benefit from an initial period of free online access, just as they would both benefit from permanent free online access after a certain period.  The more experiments we see, the more we'll know about when OA does and doesn't add more to sales than it subtracts.