Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Scanning and lending digital copies of orphan works

OCA to Scan Orphan Works; Publishers Float Orphan Works Solution, Library Journal Academic Newswire, October 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

It's beginning to look like there could be movement on orphan works in 2008 after a coalition of three professional publishing associations released the broad strokes of an understanding on their use. Separately, the Open Content Alliance said it would begin scanning some for distribution through a groundbreaking digital interlibrary loan system.

In a release last week during the Open Content Alliance's annual meeting, OCA officials said the Boston Public Library, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, and Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala City, in conjunction with the Internet Archive, would scan works that were out-of-print but in-copyright and pioneer "a digital interlibrary loan service" around them. "We believe this can be a tremendously valuable way to increase scholarly and public access to hard-to-find resources," OCA officials noted in a statement. "For every librarian who has received a request for a book that is out-of-print (as opposed to out-of-stock), this initiative will provide a mechanism to meet the library patron's needs." The announcement marks a departure of sorts, as the OCA has thus far stuck to scanning materials in the public domain or works with permission.

On the O'Reilly Radar blog, the University of California's Peter Brantley called the announcement "noteworthy." "[It] could be reasonably understood to be a reassertion of inter-library loan rights under the first-sale doctrine," he said. Brantley praised the idea, suggesting it would allow librarians to offer access to millions of orphan works currently collecting dust under "restrained but eminently useful" terms, although the devil, he conceded, is clearly in the details, including engineering "technical and policy systems which acceptably minimize risk of digital abuse."

Professional and scholarly publishers meanwhile issued a release of their own this week stating their current position on orphan works. The draft statement [from the the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers and the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division] outlines an emerging consensus among publishers that users who conduct a reasonably "diligent" copyright search would be subject only to "a normal license fee and will not be subject to any statutory, punitive or special fees or damages," should a copyright holder later emerge. The statement also put forth publisher's contention that "a private solution," as opposed to government intervention through legislation was the best course of action....

More on the victory in the Senate

After Years of Effort, Mandatory NIH Public Access Policy Passes Congress, Library Journal Academic Newswire, October 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

In a victory for libraries, the Senate on October 23 passed an appropriations bill that included a mandatory public access directive for research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Despite heavy lobbying from publishers against the public access provision, as well as White House opposition and the threat of two last-second amendments to gut it, the legislative battle culminated yesterday with overwhelming approval of the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations bill (75-19). If enacted with the NIH language fully intact, the law would require NIH researchers to deposit their papers in the NIH's PubMed Central database to be publicly available within a year after publication.

The legislative process, however, is far from over. The bill must now be reconciled with the House Appropriations Bill, which contains a similar public access provision. Negotiators from the House and Senate are expected to meet this fall. The final, consolidated bill will then have to pass the House and the Senate before being delivered to the President, where it is expected to be vetoed. Although the public access provision enjoys broad support, and the LHHS appropriations bill passed with hefty margins, the House bill passed with 279 votes, 11 short of the number needed to override a presidential veto.

Nevertheless, SPARC executive director Heather Joseph said even with many hurdles remaining, passage by Congress was "a milestone."
Indeed, getting a public access policy at NIH through Congress has been a three-year odyssey for SPARC, an early and integral champion of the policy. The initially proposed NIH policy was introduced in 2004 as a mandatory policy with a six-month embargo. In a bitter setback, it was gutted at the eleventh hour, and implemented in 2005 as a voluntary measure. Lawmakers and advocates, however, vowed they would monitor the policy's effectiveness. By 2006, the policy was failing so spectacularly (less than five percent of individual investigators deposited papers) that it no doubt helped marshal the heavy bipartisan support for the revised NIH policy passed on Tuesday....

Publishers, meanwhile, remain opposed to the NIH policy, contending it could undermine scholarly publishing, and they will likely have more opportunities to fight the public access mandate, either during reconciliation and/or if the LHHS appropriations bill is vetoed. They have also laid the groundwork for a legal challenge to the suit centered on copyright. While copyright experts doubt that claim could ultimately prevail, it could nevertheless delay implementation, giving publishers another chance to organize opposition in 2009.

PS:  This is a good brief recap of the three-year struggle to date.  For some dates and links to specific landmarks in that struggle, see my article in SOAN for August 2007.

The consequences of teacher ignorance of fair use

Renee Hobbs, Peter Jaszi, and Pat Aufderheide, The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy, American University School of Communications, September 2007.  (Thanks to Wired Campus.)  Excerpt:

The fundamental goals of media literacy education —to cultivate critical thinking about media and its role in culture and society and to strengthen creative communication skills— are compromised by unnecessary copyright restrictions and lack of understanding about copyright law....

In K-12, higher education, and after-school programs and workshops, teachers face conflicting information about their rights, and their students’ rights, to quote copyrighted material. They also confront complex, restrictive copyright policies in their own institutions. As a result, teachers use less effective teaching techniques, teach and transmit erroneous copyright information, fail to share innovative instructional approaches, and do not take advantage of new digital platforms.

This is not only unfortunate but unnecessary, since copyright law permits a wide range of uses of copyrighted material without permission or payment. Educational exemptions sit within a far broader landscape of fair use. However, educators today have no shared understanding of what constitutes acceptable fair use practices....

New OA encyclopedia

Ezclopedia is a new OA, user-written encyclopedia trying to do better than Wikipedia.  From the about page:

Ezclopedia is an online, knowledge sharing website that provides a better alternative for qualified individuals to share their knowledge and provide free, reliable, trustworthy information and get the credit and revenue sharing they deserve for their sincere, knowledgeable efforts.

The following are key concepts that differentiate Ezclopedia with other wiki, knowledge sharing websites:

  • We believe collaboration will produce high quality articles.
    We believe collaboration will produce high quality articles. An Author may write an article alone or work with two or more Authors who share the same opinion, belief or expertise. The Author who starts the article is called the Lead Author and Author(s) who contribute to the content of an article are called Co-authors. A Lead Author may invite other Author(s) to become Co-author(s) of an article....Authors who do not want their articles edited by others can still collaborate with other Author(s) by requesting a peer-review of an article. An Author can also apply to peer-review articles written by other Authors....
  • We believe healthy competition will produce high quality articles.
    We also believe healthy competition will produce high quality articles. Ezclopedia allows different Authors or groups of Authors to write articles using the same title. Since multiple Authors can write about the same topic, no single Author can prevent other Authors from expressing their different views. Readers will have the opportunity to learn about a topic or issue from several different points of view. Ultimately, readers will decide which articles should be ranked or rated higher than the others.
  • We believe Authors should receive the appreciation, recognition and reward they deserve.
    We know that the quality of our Authors is a key factor in the success of Ezclopedia, and in our effort to build an extensive, trustworthy online knowledge sharing website. Without them, there won't be any articles written or expert knowledge to share. Our Authors receive the appreciation and recognition they deserve. Furthermore, as a for profit organization, we believe it is unethical to directly or indirectly use content contributed by our Authors to earn profits without sharing these earnings with our Authors....

All articles published in Ezclopedia are available under the terms of the Creative Commons Licenses - Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike....

Since its inception, Ezclopedia has been a for-profit organization....Each article page will contain contextual advertising related to the contents of the article. Advertising revenue generated by each article is shared among Author(s) of the article and Ezclopedia....

Join now and start contributing to the accurate, collective knowledge of world civilization! Still have questions? Visit our FAQ page, Ezclopedia Community page, or our blog for additional information....

More on the White House involvement in the NIH debate

Robin Peek, Oh the OA Drama of it All, Wikis@GSLIS, October 27, 2007.  A preprint of a forthcoming column for Information Today (like this one).  Excerpt:

The Open Access (OA) movement has all the makings of a good opera. The drama becomes heightened and looks like it is about to climax to a happy ending; some politician comes around and dampens the mood. Many eyes around the world have been waiting, with expectant breath to see if the U.S. Congress was going to give the OA world what it was hoping for - a mandate for OA for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After the Appropriations bill came out of the joint House-Senate Committee last spring it seemed like OA may be on its ways to [achieving] what has been discussed for years - a [deposit] requirement for all NIH funded research....

The White House became a surprise player in OA when they issued the White House Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) threatening to veto the bill in its current form. As noted in my September column, the administration opposed S.1710 because it included “irresponsible and excessive level of spending and includes other objectionable provisions” ...

However, the Administration Policy also noted that the publishing lobby had managed to reach the White House....

Sen. James Inhofe drafted two amendments to the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill that affect the NIH open access mandate. Amendment 3416 would make provision to maintain the NIH voluntary research public access policy. And Amendment 3417 will modify provisions to maintain the NIH voluntary research public access policy. Amendment #3416 would eliminate the provision altogether. According to Peter Suber, author of the Open Access News, Amendment #3417 is likely to be presented to your Senator as a compromise that “balances” the needs of the public and of publishers. In reality, the current language in the NIH public access provision accomplishes that goal. Passage of either amendment would seriously undermine access to this important public resource, and damage the community’s ability to advance scientific research and discovery.

Despite whatever happens to the amendments, the probability is that Bush will veto the entire appropriations bill anyway and in doing so, send it back to the Appropriations committee as both the House and the Senate must approve the same Appropriations bill. This will present an interesting question for the proponents of Open Access, if this should happen, might it be better to wait for a better day to bring this issue back to the Congress.

Let’s be frank, the current problem is only in the White House for another 400+ days. The next holder of the office, particularly as universal health seems to be all the rage in the presidential campaign, may well be much more pro-OA. Yes, it has taken a long time to get this far but perhaps another year would be a better than getting tangled up in congressional wording written by politicians who, realistically, are more reactive than pragmatic....

Comment.  It may be that the next president will be friendlier to OA than the current one.  But I'm still optimistic that we can win an OA mandate at NIH this year, even if Bush vetoes the first version of the LHHS appropriations bill.  Two of the reasons are (1) bipartisan support for OA in Congress, and (2) Republican support for OA in both the legislative and executive branches.  I'll have more to say about this in the November issue of SOAN.  Meantime, thanks again to Information Today for permitting Robin to post these preprints.

October First Monday

The October issue of First Monday is now online.  This issue contains selected papers from the First International PKP Scholarly Publishing Conference (Vancouver, July 11-13, 2007).  Not coincidentally, with this issue First Monday has moved to Open Journal Systems, PKP's open-source software optimized for OA journals.  All 18 articles in this issue are relevant to OA.

Aaron Swartz on the Open Library

Aaron Swartz spoke on the Open Library at Harvard's Berkman Center on October 23.  See the 63 minute webcast or David Weinberger's blog notes on the talk.

Your thoughts on free/open/public databases in chemistry

Antony Williams, Request for Input from the Community - Public Chemistry Databases, ChemSpider Blog, October 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

I will be writing an article in the next couple of months regarding the value of Public Chemistry Databases. I am going to write this article with a bias towards databases with “structure intelligence” - databases where chemical structures form a part of the accessible content.

Rich Apodaca has already blogged about  Thirty Two Free Chemistry Databases and of course I will be reviewing many of these. There are others that have popped up since Rich posted.

I am interested in your suggestions of online chemistry resources that you use and that you find of value....

Visual exploration of an OA database

Chris Leonard, Browsing ADS visually, PhysMath Central blog, October 25, 2007.  Excerpt:

We are always interested in new ways of re-interpreting data (that's why we make all of our article data available in xml for data-mining) - but this visualization tool from Mark Holliman at the University of Edinburgh really is special.

PaperScope is a tool developed for graphically exploring the ADS [Astrophysics Data System]. It is designed to provide astronomers with a user friendly interface for mapping the Reference and Citation connections between published papers that are accessible through the ADS web interface. The visualization that PaperScope provides enables the user to see how papers are connected and therefore gain a better understanding of which papers are of interest to their work. Use it for constructing reference or citation chains, as well as identifying common references/citations between several key papers.  It is a tool designed to simplify the process of searching for relevant papers to an astrophysics researcher whether they be a professor, postdoc, or student.

...or publisher looking for potential referees!

I urge you to play with it as a uniquely powerful way to browse and search the ADS, which has spent a long time building up indices which would eventually support such tools as this.

Comment.  This is another good example of what I call the software strategy for OA --a very useful tool optimized for OA literature, creating new incentives for authors and publishers to make their work OA.

More on open access and open data in chemistry

I meant to blog this a month ago, but apparently forgot.  (Thanks to Richard Akerman for the reminder.)

Peter Murray-Rust, Open Chemistry, a preprint posted to Nature Precedings on October 1, 2007. 

Abstract:   An invited article on Open Chemistry discussing the importance of Open Access and Open Data and stressing the emerging role of the blogosphere.

Also see PMR's blog post on his submission and expectations.

More on CERN's SCOAP3 plan in high energy physics

Jens Vigen, Particle physicists push for publishing changes, Research Information, October/November 2007.  Excerpt:

Over the last 15 years the high-energy physics (HEP) community has achieved what is known as full green open access. This means that there is a wide dissemination of preprints of HEP articles via arXiv, a central subject repository managed by Cornell University. However, although green open access gives free access to the papers that are written, it does not alleviate the economic difficulties for libraries. They are still expected to offer access to the final published versions of the peer-reviewed literature so they still need to pay for subscriptions....

For these reasons, the particle-physics community is now aiming for gold open access.  In this model, all the final published versions are freely accessible to everybody at anytime. A working party is now working to bring together funding agencies, laboratories and libraries into a single consortium, called SCOAP3 (Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics). This consortium will engage with publishers towards building a sustainable model for open-access publishing.  The origins of this initiative go back to December 2005 when a tripartite Task Force, comprising funding agencies, publishers and research organisations, was set up to study the possibilities for open-access (OA) publishing in HEP. Its main conclusion was that a model whereby the costs of publishing were paid globally rather than on an article-by-article basis was the most appropriate.

It is interesting to observe that in the past few years all physics publishers have introduced OA options of one kind or another....

However, in spite of the fact that 90 per cent of the HEP articles published today in principle could have been published as OA, only a very small fraction of authors actually have the opportunity to choose this option. This is due to the fact that no funding mechanisms so far are put in place to cover the corresponding publication fees....

So how will SCOAP3’s alternative work? The proposed initiative aims to convert high-quality HEP journals to OA.

In this new model, the publishers’ subscription income from multiple institutions is replaced by income from a single financial partner, the ‘Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics’ (SCOAP3).  SCOAP3 is a global network of HEP funding agencies, research laboratories, and libraries. Each SCOAP3 partner will recover its contribution from the cancellation of its current journal subscriptions. This model avoids the obvious disadvantage of many current OA models in which authors are directly charged for the OA publication of their articles.

The price of an electronic journal is mainly driven by the costs of running the peer-review system and editorial processing. Most publishers quote a price in the range of 1,000–2,000 euros per published article. On this basis, we estimate that the annual budget for the transition of HEP publishing to OA would amount to a maximum of 10 million euros per year. In comparison, the annual list-price of a single ‘core’ HEP journal today can be as high as 10,000 euros; for 500 institutes worldwide actively involved in HEP, this represents an annual expenditure of five million Euros – and that is just for one core journal....

An allowance of not more than 10 per cent of the SCOAP3 budget is foreseen to cover publications from scientists from countries that cannot be reasonably expected to contribute to the consortium at this time.

In practice, the OA transition will be facilitated by the fact that the large majority of HEP articles are published in just six peer-reviewed journals from four publishers. Five of those six journals carry a majority of HEP content....

Leading funding agencies and library consortia are currently signing an Expression of Interest for the financial backing of the consortium.  Once sufficient momentum is gained, the tendering procedure will take place determining the exact budget envelope. A Memorandum of Understanding detailing the financial contribution of each country and the governance of SCOAP3 will then be signed. Contracts will then be established with publishers in order to make OA publishing in high-energy physics a reality in 2008....

Retrieval, copyright, and OA

Rainer Kuhlen, Vom erfolgreichen Scheitern, den Zugriff auf Wissen und Information zu verknappen, in Wege und Spuren: Verbindungen zwischen Bildung, Kultur, Wissenschaft, Geschichte und Politik: Festschrift für Joachim-Felix Leonhard, Verlag für Berlin-Brandenburg, 2007.  On scholarly information retrieval, copyright, and open access.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

OA repository for policy research

The Center for Governmental Studies (CGS) and the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) have launched Policy Archive, "a comprehensive, searchable, open access, online archive of public policy research."  (Thanks to The Exchange.)  From the site:

PolicyArchive will create a permanent, digital repository that will preserve public policy research in a comprehensive range of areas, and make it available to researchers around the globe.

PolicyArchive will create an online resource for public policy publications, free to all research seekers and available for upload to all policy research publishers. PolicyArchive will contain summaries and full texts of policy research - academic, foundation-funded, government - in a range of subject areas.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Another funding model for open knowledge projects

Cofundos - ‘community innovation and funding’, Open Knowledge Foundation weblog, October 26, 2007.  Excerpt:

Recently the Agile Knowledge and Semantic Web research group (AKSW) at Universität Leipzig launched Confundos aims to help people share, refine, fund and realise new ideas for open software and knowledge projects. It was founded and developed by Sören Auer, who leads the AKSW research group (and is on the OKF’s advisory board).

The Confundos model for project development is very simple. The How does Confundos work? page conveys it in a neat schematic picture, the contents of which are roughly as follows:

  1. Someone proposes an idea for an open software/knowledge project
  2. Others discuss and refine the idea, suggest their own requirements, and bid money
  3. Specialists offer to realize the project and propose a price/timeline
  4. Bidders vote (weighted according to their bid) on which offer to accept
  5. The selected specialist realises the project
  6. Bidders vote whether project was successfully realised
  7. Bidders donate the bid amounts to the specialist

So far there 34 projects and 79 bids (amounting to over €3000). It looks like a funding and development model with a lot of potential. Relatively small bids could add up to be a substantial funding source for community developed projects. It also looks like a model that will work particularly well for open knowledge/software - as any interested party can come along and further customise the relevant code, content and/or data to their own specific requirements, if, for example, the results were not precisely as they had hoped or envisaged.

We’ll certainly furnish the site with some open knowledge projects in due course!

Why publishers want authors to transfer full copyright

The International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM) has released a new position paper, Publishers Seek Copyright Transfers (Or Transfers Or Licenses Of Exclusive Rights) To Ensure Proper Administration & Enforcement Of Author Rights, October 2007.  It's one page long.  Excerpt:

...In general, publishers in the field of science, technology and medicine (STM) prefer assignments [granting publishers full copyright] over licences [granting publishers selected rights], mainly because:

  • authors are rarely in a position to defend themselves against infringers, plagiarists, pirates and free-riders, partly due to financial considerations;
  • authors, users, science and the public benefit from the broadest possible dissemination. Assignments facilitate efficient dissemination handled by a specialised distribution professional: the publisher; ...

Thus, an assignment enables the publisher:

  • to manage copyrights more effectively - how many authors would be willing and able to grant permission to third parties willing to use excerpts, find sub-agents, correspond with their coauthors or exploit rights that are “held back” under an exclusive licence?
  • to react more rapidly to copyright infringements, unauthorised derivatives and plagiarism;
  • to move a publication safely to new formats and invest in future publication platforms. There is no danger of having to leave an individual articles behind, as would be the case where rights limited to old technologies or obsolete formats are granted; ...

An assignment does not preclude:

  • the author and publisher from agreeing contractually to keep certain rights, eg the right to publish a version of the manuscript on the author’s website; ...


  • Publishers don't need full copyright to defend authors from plagiarists.  I've addressed this one before:  "First, the rights are rarely used this way.  Plagiarism is typically punished by the plagiarist's institution, not by courts --i.e. by social norms, not by law.  Second, if it's ever desirable to pursue a plagiarist in court and authors don't give publishers the right to do so on their own, then authors retain that right to use as they see fit.  Third, many authors would rather have a larger audience and impact than give their publisher the seldom-used legal tools to prosecute plagiarists.  Authors should make this decision, not publishers.  Finally, if an author discovers a plagiarist and the publisher really wants to get involved, the author can always delegate the publisher to act as his/her agent.  For this purpose, publishers do not need rights from the time of publication, nor do they need exclusive rights, let alone a policy to limit access to the author's work."
  • It's very true that "authors, users, science and the public benefit from the broadest possible dissemination."  But transferring full copyright to a publisher makes this important outcome less likely, not more likely.  It gives the access decision to the publisher, who will usually hide the work behind a price barrier and limit the audience to paying customers.
  • It's true that we must facilitate permissions for those who want to quote excerpts that exceed fair use, migrate the content to new media and formats, and so on.  It's also true that it's easier to ask one publisher than hundreds of authors.  But it's even easier not to ask at all.  The best solution is open access that permits all of these uses in advance so that no one ever has to ask permission. 
  • Although the document is short, it could be a lot shorter.  For toll access documents, full copyright helps the publisher protect its revenue.  For open access documents, publishers simply do not need full copyright.  The interests of authors are best served by open access, and harmed by toll access.  Publishers who want full copyright want to protect their own interests, not the interests of authors. 
  • Just for completeness:  authors don't need to retain full copyright to make OA possible.  They only need to retain the right to make an OA copy available from an OA repository.  Since the STM position paper acknowledges that (some version) of that right is compatible with full transfer of copyright to publishers, we might hope to find a win-win compromise giving each side all it needs.  For my pessimistic assessment of that possibility, looking at the STM's previous effort (May 2007) to balance author and publisher rights, see my article in SOAN for June 2007.

Clifford Lynch at ASIST 2007

Ken Varnum has blogged some notes on Clifford Lynch's talk at ASIST 2007 (Milwaukee, October 19-24, 2007).  Excerpt:

...We are crossing threshold where people are authoring not just for people but for machines. Not just for indexing purposes, but for understanding, at some level, of research. Data needs to be available in forms that can be synthesized. What does this mean? Lots of tagging and microformats for specific data types. Roles of publishers and authors in supplying this markup are unclear. How to attach structured data to article (and by whom?).

Overwhelming issues

1) Entire journal delivery system is not designed to allow text mining -- in fact, publishers stop this when they notice. Often contractually prohibited or limited. Some open access sites are text-mining friendly -- even zipping entire corpus and making it available. License and delivery mechanisms need updating.

2) Intellectual property issues vastly challenging. Definition (legally) or a derivative work is complex. Does an algorithm generate a derivative work? Legally not, probably. Output of a text summary tool may be a derivative work. Are your PubMed summaries derivative works? We're running up against a set of new challenges with very high stakes in copyright area.

Google is scanning everything, but in-copyright material is only provided as "snippets." Fundamental argument is that Google not doing economic damage by providing snippets. Google internally has a comprehensive database of literature which it can computer upon. We cannot know what they're doing with the results of computing on this database. This is a unique strategic asset. If they can develop text mining tools -- what can they do with it? It's a training set for a range of interesting purposes. Lexical analysis, AI systems... and more. We don't currently understand how to even talk about these questions....

Copyright remains a huge problem; most of the content that people will interact with was developed in living memory -- and therefore in copyright. How do we deal with that? ...

More on the journal pricing crisis

James Council, Warning! Rant Ahead: Academic Journals and the Publishers who Publish Them, An Academic in Libraryland, October 25, 2007.  Council is the Dean of Libraries at North Dakota State University.  Excerpt:

...Ours is not the only library that’s having trouble paying for materials, not by a long shot. And most of the blame lies with the publishers of academic journals....

I am appalled at how academic libraries are getting gouged by the publishers.

The continuing crisis referred to above comes from the fact that the publishers of academic journals routinely inflate the price of our journal subscriptions up to 10 percent a year, sometimes more. The NDSU Library maintains over 8,000 subscriptions to databases, journals, and other serial publications. This year, it will cost us about $148,000 more than last year just to keep our periodicals and electronic resources intact. This is not atypical - it happens every year.

In these days of flat budgets, the consequences of ever-inflating subscriptions can be devastating. Just do the math. Let’s say you have a million dollars worth of subscriptions (we have much more, in fact) and 10% inflation. Next year, holding even will cost you $1,100,000, the year after, $1,210,000, the year after, $1,331,000, ad nauseum. As a result of these increasing costs, we have cut our journals until we can’t cut any more, and are now cannibalizing our book budget....

As publishers are going increasingly electronic, they don’t have nearly the costs for printing and mailing that they used to. Yet they keep raising their prices. Why do they do it? Because they can....

(I think it’s pretty ironic that our faculty don’t get paid for their articles by the journals that are getting rich off of them.)

Publishers have even started selling individual articles at steep prices to force libraries to purchase subscriptions rather than buy information article by article. A particularly egregious example of this strategy is The Journal of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, an important publication in that area. An online subscription to this journal is $3000 per year, and it would cost $21,000 for the entire run of the journal). Individual articles from this journal cost from $200 to $600 each.

Do we have to keep taking it, even though we’re mad as hell? Maybe not. Recently, the Max Planck Institute of Germany canceled 1200 Springer journals due to Springer’s refusal to negotiate reasonable prices (see story in Open Access News). According to a post to a librarian’s listserv by George Porter of Cal Tech, “The Max Planck Society, for those unfamiliar, operates 80 research institutes with more than 12,000 staff members and 9,000 Ph.D. students, post-docs, guest scientists and researchers, and student assistants….In US-centric terms, my interpretation is that this is roughly equivalent to all of the National Institutes of Health, the DoE labs (Los Alamos, Livermore, Fermi, Brookhaven, etc.), and the NASA research centers (JPL, Dryden, Langley, Glenn, Ames, etc.) canceling all Springer titles for all locations.”

Some collective action along these lines by American universities might have a salutary effect on profiteering by the publishers of academic journals.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Detailed intro to OA

Carolina Almeida A. Rossini, The Open Access Movement: opportunities and challenges for developing countries, Diplo Foundation, 2007.  Apparently a preprint.  A detailed general introduction to OA with special attention to copyright law and developing countries.

Microsoft joins the Open Geospatial Consortium

Microsoft has become a "principal member" of the Open Geospatial Consortium.  From Sunday's announcement: Excerpt:

According to David Schell, Chairman and CEO of OGC, "Microsoft's support of OGC's standards process signifies the further maturation of world markets for products and services which require geospatial capabilities. We believe that Microsoft's participation in the consortium is positioned to make a major contribution to furthering the adoption of geospatial interoperability in key industry and government sectors. This will strengthen OGC's role in shaping the policies and best practices needed to grow and support development of effective spatial data infrastucture worldwide. As dependency on geospatial information resources for dealing with such global issues as climate change and disaster preparedness continually increases, it is of the greatest importance that the work of the consortium be supported by the deep infrastructure and information resources which Microsoft represents."

Through its involvement with OGC, Microsoft is able to ensure the geospatial interoperability of its technology, including its flagship geospatial offerings -- the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform - and Microsoft SQL Server 2008, which is scheduled to ship in the second quarter of calendar year 2008. Microsoft will submit the SQL Server 2008 geometry datatype for compliance to the Open GIS® Simple Features for SQL standard, a significant move towards ensuring that geospatial data can be seamlessly layered upon and integrated within SQL Server 2008. By making its products OpenGIS compatible Microsoft will support both developers and users who wish to work with the most extensive assortment of the world's geospatial data resources currently available....

NYU students ask university to join OCA

NYU should digitize library content, Washington Square News, October 24, 2007.  An editorial arguing that New York University should join with the Open Content Alliance, not the Google Library project, to digitize the books in the NYU library.  Excerpt:

Since 2004, Google has been making thousands of books available to readers - including college students - online; Microsoft has also joined this effort. Both work with major university and research libraries, covering the costs of book scanning while requesting a non-exclusive agreement in return. Once a library has signed on, its scanned materials become solely accessible through either the Microsoft or Google search engines.

The program, which counts universities such as Harvard, Oxford, and Stanford as participants, has recently come under criticism from a non-profit group called the Open Content Alliance.

OCA raised concerns voiced by many other libraries: By trusting either Google or Microsoft to scan, store, and allow access to these libraries' content, the public would end up being dependent on the decisions of either corporation. While access is free today, what would stop either company from charging an access fee for its contents tomorrow?

The Open Content Alliance, and the like-minded Boston Library Consortium, counters this oligopolist vision by arguing for a consortium of universities and private contributors who would create, finance and manage a similar book-scanning effort. Theoretically, this diffuse membership would prevent the type of unilateral decision-making some fear from Google or Microsoft.

This option is not without its costs. While Google and Microsoft scan a library's contents for free, OCA members must pay up to $30 per book.

We believe this is a price worth paying....Such a database would better serve all NYU students by saving on research and check-out time while, more significantly, expanding each student's access to content by freeing it from its physical quantity and location....

We recognize that costs must be investigated before NYU can or should commit itself to either system. Whatever the numbers, we urge the administration to digitize NYU's library content.

OA for sustainable development in Africa

The International Journal of Technology Management (IJTM) has issued a call for papers for a special issue on Knowledge and Technology Management for Sustainable Development in Africa.  Guest editor Allam Ahmed, University of Sussex, expressly includes open access among the topics "of particular interest" for the issue.  Titles and abstracts of submissions are due by November 15, 2007.

Poynder interviews Pilch on OA to patent information

Richard Poynder, Interview with the EPO's Wolfgang Pilch, Open and Shut? October 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

When an inventor is granted a patent he enters into a contract with society: In return for a 20-year monopoly on the exploitation of his invention, the patentee is required to provide full details of the invention, and an explanation of how it works.

This information is then made available to the public by the patent office so that others can learn from the invention. The aim, says Wolfgang Pilch, principal director for patent information at The European Patent Office (EPO), is to create a "positive feedback mechanism." As he explains, "The published information helps stimulate new R&D, and so encourages further innovation."

How is this information made available to the public? Historically, it was accessed in the reading room of the issuing patent office....

For entrepreneurs...the problem was a good market opportunity, and wily individuals began to collect, translate and aggregate information from the different national patent offices, which they then sold on to other patent offices, to patent attorneys, and to private industry....In short, distributing public domain information turned out to be a very lucrative business, and access to patent databases was soon attracting premium rates.

When the Internet became widely available in the mid-1990s, however, patent offices began to distribute this information online themselves, a development that led to growing conflict between the PTOs and commercial vendors, as the latter faced a classic distinermediation dilemma.

Nowhere has this conflict been more visible than in the increasingly bitter debate over the actions of the EPO, which decided not to restrict itself to distributing its own patent data, but information from other patent offices too. Consequently, today the EPO's online service — esp@cent — contains around 63,000,000 patent records, and 50 million images of patent documents....

The EPO maintains that it is justified in doing this, since it has a duty make patent data available. As Pilch puts, "It is my sincere belief that the patent offices have an obligation to serve the public and to ensure that information on patents is readily available to all." ...

Those who follow the debate about Open Access to the scholarly literature may find some interesting parallels....

Distinguishing the Open Knowledge definition from Creative Commons

Rufus Pollock, The Open Definition and Creative Commons, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, October 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

This chemspider blog post expresses considerable uncertainty as to the respective roles and relationship of the Open (Knowledge/Data) Definition and Creative Commons. This kind of uncertainty, particularly as to whether the OD and CC are in some way competing ’standards’, is something I’ve increasingly encountered over the last year or so. I therefore really think this is something that it is important to clarify. Below is my effort to do so.

1. The Open Knowledge/Data definition is (like it says) a definition. It is not a license. In this respect it resembles the open source definition (on which it is modelled).

2. Its aim is to lay out a set of simple principles that make it clear what we mean when we say a ‘work’ (be it a dataset of a sonnet) is ‘open’. Informally this involves providing freedom of access, reuse and redistribution to the work (or rather providing freedom of access under a license that permits these things). The full set of principles can be found in the definition.

3. Like the open source definition it has a list of ‘conformant/compatible’ licenses. These may be found at:

4. This is unlike Creative Commons whose explicit aim is to provide licenses. While all of the CC licenses are more ‘liberal’ (or ‘open’ even) than traditional copyright not all of the licenses are ‘open’ in the sense of the Definition.

5. This is not surprising — CC is about providing license choice and flexibility, not about providing a consistent set of licenses embodying a particular approach. In particular it is not the case that a particular CC license is ‘compatible’ with a given other CC license in the sense that one can intermix material made available under the different licenses. For example, any CC non-commercial license is incompatible with the CC Attribution-ShareAlike (by-sa) license.

6. By contrast one would hope and expect that any license which is conformant with the Open Knowledge/Data Definition would be compatible with any other such license — in the sense that one could freely combine two separate works made available under (different) open licenses together. This is important as one of the major benefits of an openness is to permit freedom of sharing and reuse in the open knowledge ‘commons’. Again this is very similar to the situation with the Open Source Definition.

7. Thus, in my opinion, the Definition is not a rival to Creative Commons but a complement which seeks to do something different. In particular the Definition does not develop licenses but CC does (many of which are conformant with the Definition). CC does not attempt to define a ’standard’ but the Definition clearly does. By linking to a CC license you are saying: my stuff is available under this specific license. When you link to the Open Definition you are saying: my stuff meets this general standard.

As an aside: I think this is where some people may get misled by the Creative Commons name since the set of CC licenses do not (necessarily) result in the creation of a “commons” — works made available under different CC licenses cannot necessarily be mixed together. (This is not a criticism of CC, by the way. At lease in terms of licenses, CC is about a wide choice. However it is noteworthy that recent CC project’s such as ccLearn have, I belive, explicitly focused on a particular (open) license — in ccLearn’s case CC Attribution).

Universities needn't wait for Congress and the President

Stevan Harnad, NIH Green OA Mandate Now Passed By US Senate: No Need for Universities to Keep Waiting to Implement It, Open Access Archivangelism, October 24, 2007. 

The US Senate has now passed the ">NIH Green OA Mandate by a big majority. There is now no need for US Universities to keep waiting (to see whether it is implemented, or vetoed by President Bush). Knowing they have the blessing of both Houses of Congress, universities can already go ahead and adopt Green OA Mandates their own institutional research output to be deposited in their own Institutional Repositories -- and not just the NIH-funded biomedical research, but all their research output (along the lines of the US Federal Research Public Access Act [FRPAA], which is also soon to be revived). Research funders (including the NIH!) can go ahead with their mandates too. The handwriting is on the wall, and it is Green. Meanwhile, daily, weekly, monthly research access and impact are still being lost, needlessly, and cumulatively, at the expense of research productivity and progress for us all.


  • Stevan is right.  Even if Bush vetoes the Senate bill and all our post-veto strategies fail, universities can still assure OA to the NIH-funded research by their own faculty.  Universities never needed a green light from Congress to do this.  But if they were waiting, they have it now.  Moreover, universities can assure OA to all the research by their own faculty, NIH-funded or not, and always could.
  • But for the record:  Our post-veto strategies will not fail.  Stay tuned.

Bad reasons for withholding public data

Edward Lotterman, Decision to disclose information can enter gray area,, October 24, 2007.  Excerpt:

NASA made news this week when it was reported the agency had conducted a major study of aviation safety, interviewing over 20,000 pilots, and then sat on the data. An official defended that decision because the findings could damage the public's confidence in airlines and affect airline profits, according to an Associated Press story.

Similarly, the Minnesota Department of Health recently sat on information about deaths of mining workers from mesothelioma. Then-Commissioner Dianne Mandernach said the delay in releasing the data was necessary while the department designed a research program to study them.

The question of what information should be available to whom - and when - is a knotty one. Information is valuable to an economy. More information generally lets people and businesses make better decisions. Markets function more efficiently when information is plentiful for buyers and sellers than when it is scarce.

However, personal privacy rights and legitimate needs of business confidentiality dictate that much government information be withheld from the public....

In both the NASA and state Health Department cases, an administrator decided that because the pubic might not interpret information correctly, it should not be released at all. This is patronizing to the public. Mining workers exposed to asbestos can make better decisions about their own health care if they know the full risk of their past exposure. The public can make better decisions about flying if they have more information about safety. If there are serious concerns about data being misleading, that can be addressed when the data are released.

Moreover, public disclosure of data allows others to analyze them. They can announce findings that confirm, refute or alter initial impressions created by the raw data. Open access to data that permits others to replicate research is a key aspect of modern science....

A major Brazilian OA initiative

The day before 14 European university rectors met at the University of Liege to launch a European campaign to persuade research institutions to adopt strong, local OA policies, six Brazilian rectors did the same.  Here's a report from Sely Costa of the Universidade de Brasília:

On Wednesday, October 17, the Rector of the University of Brasilia (UnB), in Brazil, hosted the rectors of six major Brazilian universities, as well as the chairman and a director of the Brazilian Institute for Information on Science and Technology (Ibict).

The purpose of the meeting was to establish the foundations of a Brazilian movement for Open Access to scientific and scholarly publications: the Brazilian Open Access Task Force. Despite a number of manifestos and declarations launched in the country in a variety of occasions, few universities have actually implemented a vigorous open access policy. That is why the Chancellor of UnB wanted to gather in Brasilia the senior leadership of the Brazilian universities to launch an initiative that provides a practical follow-up to manifestos and declarations already signed by research institutions in the country.

The meeting resulted in the creation of the Brazilian Open Access Task Force, whose goal will be to continue efforts by informing the Brazilian university communities about the opportunities available to researchers today for providing open access, as well as to establish, in the universities and research institutions in Brazil, institutional repositories, mandate policies and the OASIS.Br, a central service to both repositories and e-journals published in the country.

The University of Brasilia, which is positioning itself as a pioneer, and clearly much of this is now considered the way of the future for scientific publication. The ambition is to spread this message across Brazil.

Moreover, the ambition is also to spread the message to Potuguese-speaking countries, through the initiatives of the ALemPLus (Open Access in Portuguese Speaking Countries), a initiative launched at the University of Minho, last year....

Comment.  Kudos to all involved in Brasilia, especially to the Chancellor.  Universities are clearly realizing that they have their own interests in OA and needn't wait for funders, legislators, or publishers in order to bring it about.  I hope the Brasilia-Liege movement spreads to other every other nation and region. 

Elsevier one of Sen. James Inhofe's top contributors

Thanks for Charles Bailey for unearthing this information:

In a list of Sen. James Inhofe's top contributors for the 2001-2006 Senate election cycle, Opensecrets.Org identifies Reed Elsevier Inc. as his 11th largest contributor, with $13,250 in contributions....

Before he withdrew them, Sen. Inhofe was the sponsor of two amendments to delete or weaken the NIH Open Access Mandate in the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill.

Opensecrets.Org also provides summary information about Reed Elsevier's 2006 lobbying activity, which includes a chart showing 1998-2007 totals.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More on the economics of distributing information

End of Paying for Information on the Net? Knowledge@Wharton, October 10, 2007.  (Thanks to Subbiah Arunachalam.)  Excerpt:

...“The cost model for information production is unlike that of other industries,” says Ajay Kohli, a chaired professor of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. “Consequently, the pricing model is different, too.”

For example, regardless of the level of efficiency attained by an automobile or other manufacturer or service provider, the production of each individual good or the rendering of each service for each buyer incurs incremental material and/or labor costs. Because these incremental costs are discrete, or may be traced to an individual unit of production or service, a manufacturer or service provider will generally cover them by charging each consumer a price for each unit of product or service.

But when it comes to information or other digital content such as music or movies, the costs of production are generally only incurred a single time, notes Kohli. This makes it imperative for information providers to distribute their content to as many consumers as possible.

By distributing their content widely, they can amortize their production costs across a large number of fee-paying customers. Alternatively, if they choose to not charge a fee, their broader consumer reach makes them more attractive to advertisers, he notes.

“That is why, for example, television and radio developed as so-called free mediums,” says Kohli. “The cost for each unique show was only incurred once, during production. Their wide reach made them attractive to advertisers that wished to reach targeted geographic and demographic markets, and advertisers were willing to pay television and radio stations for access to their consumers (audiences)....

Kohli says these developments led directly to the no-fee business model that was initially followed by many newspapers that migrated to the Internet. Publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which bucked the trend and charged for their content, may have believed that their brand strength would enable them to charge a premium.

“If so, that may have been a mistake,” he says. “Branding is not the primary issue here. Instead it is the extent to which people are interested in paying for information content....”

Federation of OA repositories for crystallography data

Charles Bailey has done a good job pulling together the recent news from the eBank UK project.  I'll let him tell it:

JISC's eBank UK project, which is now in phase three, has released A Study of Curation and Preservation Issues in the eCrystals Data Repository and Proposed Federation, which addresses key issues related to the establishment of the eCrystals Federation.

Here's an excerpt from "eBank Phase 3: Transitioning to the eCrystals Federation" that explains the overall project:

This project will progress the establishment of a global Federation of data repositories for crystallography by performing a scoping study into the feasibility of constructing a network of data repositories: the eCrystals Federation. The Federation approach is presented as an innovative domain model to promote Open Access to data more widely and to facilitate take-up....

A distribution system optimized for tag-based discovery

Jon Ippolito, ThoughtMesh Helps Writers Connect Ideas, Interarchive, October 20, 2007.  Ippolito is a co-developer of ThoughtMesh.  Excerpt:

Last week saw the launch of the first public release to emerge from research by the Interarchive working group. ThoughtMesh is an unusual model for publishing and discovering scholarly papers online. It gives readers a tag-based navigation system that uses keywords to connect excerpts of essays published on different Web sites.
Use ThoughtMesh to post your essay online, and you get a traditional left-hand navigation menu plus a tag cloud that enables nonlinear access to text excerpts. You can navigate through excerpts both within the original essay and from related essays across the mesh.

Unlike the Google hack previously investigated by the Interarchive group (and described in this blog), ThoughtMesh offers an alternative to depending on commercial search engines. To be sure, researchers can still use Google to find essays meshed with this new software....But ThoughtMesh also offers a completely independent, tag-based discovery system: search for "media" + "installation" and you'll see the relevant excerpts in the current essay as well as any others meshed to date.

One other handy feature is ThoughtMesh's automatic tag generation, based on Chirag Mehta's spiffy Tagline software. Authors who want to customize their tags can, but those short on time can let the software do it for them.

For more on ThoughtMesh features, see the essay "New Media Scholar? Distribute and Connect!"...

ACS editor makes the case for ACS Author Choice program

Lawrence J. Marnett, AuthorChoice: A Great Way to Get Your Papers Read, Chemical Research in Toxicology, September 17, 2007.  An editorial.  (Thanks to George Porter.)  Excerpt:

The American Chemical Society instituted a new program last fall called ACS AuthorChoice, which enables authors to purchase immediate and permanent Open Access status for their accepted manuscripts in ACS journals. Pricing is on a sliding scale, depending on whether the author is an ACS member and/or is affiliated with an institution that has a site license to ACS journals. The highest price is $3000, and the lowest price is $1000. ACS AuthorChoice is the Society's response to the Open Access movement, which has been the subject of much sound and fury over the past few years....

The Society is blending its conventional subscription revenue with a small amount of AuthorChoice revenue (at least at the outset) to offset the cost of peer review and publication. The solid institutional subscription base for ACS journal publications has enabled the Society to institute the very reasonable rates noted above ($1000 for an ACS member at a subscribing institution).

So how is the experiment going? It's a little early to tell, but some very interesting data have already been generated. So far, there aren't many ACS AuthorChoice logos sprinkled around the tables of contents of ACS journals (all ACS AuthorChoice articles are available [here]). So, at first glance, it looks as though our authors aren't too committed to Open Access, at least when they have to pay for it. If that is true, it's too bad, but even if it is true, I think authors should reconsider because they are missing an important point.

Why do authors publish papers? So people will read them, and ACS AuthorChoice is a great way to get them read! I've published five articles via ACS AuthorChoice since last October and have been monitoring the downloads in consultation with ACS staff. It's too early to determine statistical significance, but so far, the trends look very good. In fact, the first article that I published as an ACS AuthorChoice article (in October 2006) ranks as one of the top downloaded articles in CRT for 2007....

I am planning to make all of my publications in ACS journals AuthorChoice —It's a no-brainer. If my papers are downloaded more, they will be read more and will be cited more....Frankly, the cost of publishing an article as ACS AuthorChoice is a real bargain and a good reason to join the ACS. One-thousand dollars is trivial as compared to the cost of conducting the research that we are reporting....Because ACS doesn't charge an author ANYTHING to publish in its journals, the ACS AuthorChoice charge is all one has to pay, and one can forget about reprints. That is a deal that is hard to beat.

There is another subtle point about ACS AuthorChoice of which authors need to be aware. Designating an article ACS AuthorChoice means that it is freely downloadable as soon as it is mounted on the web, and with ASAP publishing, this is often several weeks before the print version appears....This suggests that the ACS AuthorChoice model may provide higher “impact value” for authors than the delayed free access that other societies offer. So, I congratulate ACS Publications for listening to its editors and authors and for formulating a realistic policy to Open Access that accomplishes the most fundamental goal of journal publishing —getting articles read!

Comment.  This is the most enthusiastic defense of ACS Author Choice --the ACS hybrid OA journal program-- that I've seen.  See my less enthusiastic review in SOAN for April 2007.  Despite the limitations of Author Choice, however, Marnett is right that OA boosts author impact, which is the best reason for authors to arrange for OA to their work.

More on rising journal prices and flat library budgets

Chris Manzano, Journal subscriptions remain high despite shift to electronic format, Daily Nebraskan, October 19, 2007.  Excerpt:

...Judy Johnson, UNL [University of Nebraska - Lincoln] libraries coordinator of acquisitions and electronic licensing, said library employees face many challenges when acquiring E-journals because a lot of time is spent negotiating licenses for databases when contract periods are up.

"The process is very labor intensive as the licenses' are usually reworked several times between the publisher and the institution," Johnson said.

The National Information Standards Organization sought to solve this problem with its creation of The Shared E-Resource Understanding, which began its trial period June 20 and seeks to standardize the licensing process between libraries and journal publishers. The program could go a long way towards streamlining the acquisitions process, Johnson said.

The university has also experimented with open access publishing options such as BioMed [Central] and The Digital Commons....

The BioMed [Central] publication, sponsored by the college of biological sciences, is an open source journal partly funded by the university. Alan Kamil, chairman of the biological sciences department, said the university will sometimes help junior faculty members to publish their work. The publishing process can cost anywhere between $1,500 and $3,000 per article, and even with membership discounts sold by the publishing companies to the UNL, the cost of open access publishing remains high.

The price of scholarly journals rises by an average of 7 to 9 percent per year, and the state-aided materials budget for library materials has not increased during the past six or seven years, Busch said.

This makes it difficult for the library to fund open access projects and move away from the subscription business model....

OA for small business owners

Open Access News was just named one of The 100 .edu sites every Entrepreneur Should Read.  The list was compiled by Bootstrapper, the blog for small business owners.

I admit I'm a little surprised.  I know that OA can help small business owners --see for example the Chamber of Commerce support for the OA mandate at the NIH earlier today.  But I don't believe I've ever heard from a small business owner about OA, apart from small publishers.  If you're a small business owner who benefits from OA research literature, drop me a line.  I'd like to hear about what you're doing.

OA for genetic data on autism

Autism Genome, Phenotype Data Goes Open Access, Scientific Blogging, October 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Autism Consortium has completed the first genome scan for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) through its Autism Gene Discovery Project and has released the reference data set to a database that autism researchers around the world can use. The scan was conducted...on genetic data from more than 3,000 children with ASD and their families.

“Today’s release of genetic and phenotypic data on autism marks a significant achievement for the autism research community,” said Thomas Insel, Ph.D., Director of the National Institute for Mental Health. “Progress in finding the causes and cures for autism spectrum disorders rests in large part on improving the rapid access and sharing of data and resources. That the Consortium is making the data available to the scientific community even before its own researchers have fully analyzed the information, demonstrates their high degree of commitment to and leadership in advancing autism research.” ...

DNA samples for this scan were provided by the Autism Genetic Resource Exchange (AGRE), a program of Autism Speaks, dedicated to accelerating the pace of autism research....

The prepublication release of such a significant trove of data is a dramatic departure from the traditional less open culture of research science and a landmark achievement for the Consortium....

PS:  For more on AGRE, which is OA, see my post from June 2006.

Lecture series on data sharing in archaeology has announced a virtual lecture series.  Nearly all the lectures are on data sharing in archaeology.  All past lectures are archived as streaming video at Archaeoinformatics.

Official launch of Pronetos

Pronetos ("Professor's Network") has officially launched.  From yesterday's announcement:

Our development team at OpenSourcery has put the finishing touches on the site, and it’s now open for general use!...

What you see before you now is just the beginning. In the next 60 days, to augment the community, we will be rolling out some unique publishing tools designed especially around the needs of scholars. First and foremost, these tools reinforce our commitment to Open Access. In fact, we hope that our members will immediately begin using Pronetos as a global research archive, as Paul Ginsparg has described.

The next iteration of Pronetos, due in the next 30 days, will have document versioning and threaded comments. You can already post content to the site, and get comments on it, but the next iteration will be a huge step forward. The community of experts that gathers at Pronetos will be able to peer-review works in any field. And we’ll archive that work forever. And we’ll never lock your work away in a private subscription database. We want people to see your research. On Pronetos they will....

PS:  Pronetos is a combination networking site and repository.  I first blogged it when it went online in May 2007.

Funder and university policies can make up for weak publisher policies

Stevan Harnad, AAAS (Green), Nature (Pale-Green), ACS (Gray), Open Access Archivangelism, October 23, 2007. 

Summary:  AAAS is fully Green on immediate OA self-archiving of the peer-reviewed postprint. Nature started out being Green, but then back-slid to pale-Green in 2005, introducing a 6-month embargo on self-archiving. But the ACS (American Chemical Society) is Gray. Rumored to be one of the three publishers that backed PRISM, ACS is the only Gray publisher to ask its authors to pay extra for the right to self-archive: paying for Green!

Chemists are among the most difficult to rally in favor of OA, but they can definitely be aroused in favor of data-archiving. The surest and fastest antidote for ACS's grayness, however, is for universities and research funders to adopt the Immediate-Deposit (ID/OA) Mandate, which allows a Closed Access Embargo, but requires deposit of the postprint immediately upon acceptance for publication (allowing the Institutional Repository's semi-automatized "Email Eprint Request" or "Fair Use" Button to provide almost-OA almost-immediately, to tide over any embargo period).

OA for publicly-funded biofuels research

The US Department of Energy has given a $4.4 million grant to South Dakota State University for biofuels research that will all be made OA through BioWeb.  For details, see yesterday's announcement.

More on the victory in the Senate

Mandate for Public Access to NIH-Funded Research Poised to Become Law, a press release from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, October 24, 2007.  Here's the statement in full:

The U.S. Senate last night approved the FY2008 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations Bill (S.1710), including a provision that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to strengthen its Public Access Policy by requiring rather than requesting participation by researchers. The bill will now be reconciled with the House Appropriations Bill, which contains a similar provision, in another step toward support for public access to publicly funded research becoming United States law.

"Last night's Senate action is a milestone victory for public access to taxpayer-funded research," said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, a founding member of the ATA). "This policy sets the stage for researchers, patients, and the general public to benefit in new and important ways from our collective investment in the critical biomedical research conducted by the NIH."

Under a mandatory policy, NIH-funded researchers will be required to deposit copies of eligible manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine's online database, PubMed Central. Articles will be made publicly available no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The current NIH Public Access Policy, first implemented in 2005, is a voluntary measure and has resulted in a de deposit rate of less than 5% by individual investigators. The advance to a mandatory policy is the result of more than two years of monitoring and evaluation by the NIH, Congress, and the community.

"We thank our Senators for taking action on this important issue," said Pat Furlong, Founding President and CEO of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy. "This level of access to NIH-funded research will impact the disease process in novel ways, improving the ability of scientists to advance therapies and enabling patients and their advocates to participate more effectively. The advance is timely, much-needed, and ­ we anticipate ­ an indication of increasingly enhanced access in future."

"American businesses will benefit tremendously from improved access to NIH research," said William Kovacs, U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president for environment, technology and regulatory affairs. "The Chamber encourages the free and timely dissemination of scientific knowledge produced by the NIH as it will improve both the public and industry's ability to become better informed on developments that impact them ­ and on opportunities for innovation." The Chamber is the world's largest business federation, representing more than three million businesses of every size, sector, and region.

"We welcome the NIH policy being made mandatory and thank Congress for backing this important step," said Gary Ward, Treasurer of the American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB). "Free and timely public access to scientific literature is necessary to ensure that new discoveries are made as quickly as feasible. It's the right thing to do, given that taxpayers fund this research." The ASCB represents 11,000 members and publishes the highly ranked peer-reviewed journal, Molecular Biology of the Cell.

Joseph added, "On behalf of the taxpayers, patients, researchers, students, libraries, universities, and businesses that pressed this bill forward with their support over the past two years, the ATA thanks Congress for throwing its weight behind the success of taxpayer access to taxpayer-funded research."

Negotiators from the House and Senate are expected to meet to reconcile their respective bills this fall. The final, consolidated bill will have to pass the House and the Senate before being delivered to the President at the end of the year.

ACS concedes incentive pay for publishing executives

J.J. Hermes, Chemical Society Rebuts Anonymous Accusations of Self-Interest in Opposing Open Access, Chronicle of Higher Education, October 24, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  The Chronicle talks to the ACS about allegations that ACS executives earn bonuses based on revenue or profits from ACS publications.  The ACS responds to the first memo from "ACS Insider" but not the second memo.  By the way, while the "ACS Insider" allegation is anonymous, the same allegation was made earlier, for attribution, by Paul Thacker in an article in the Summer 2007 issue of SEJournal from the Society of Environmental Journalists.

The Chronicle article contains one new disclosure from Madeleine Jacobs, executive director of the ACS: 

Ms. Jacobs did confirm that senior executives and some managers in the publishing division have a "small portion" of their overall incentive compensation "based on meeting certain financial targets." She did not agree that such incentive pay, however small, represented a conflict of interest in the group's opposition to open-access legislation, and called that argument "spurious."

New memo from "ACS Insider"

PZ Myers has reprinted a new memo from "ACS Insider".  The new memo is a response to the ACS statement from Judith Benham published Monday in The Scientist.  (Also see my blog comments on the Benham statement.)  From the new ACS Insider memo:

Several of you contacted me about a memo from Judith L. Benham which claimed that the American Chemical Society is not protesting Open Access in order to preserve profits and bonuses for the Society's executives. You can find that memo attached to this email....

The most obvious falsehood is this passage: "Our Society's position is also represented by the Association of American Publishers, a non-profit organization whose membership encompasses the major commercial and non-profit scholarly publishers, including ourselves. ACS is not alone among scholarly publishers in reaching out to...."

The statement comes apart once you know the names of the players involved. The position of the AAP was developed by Brian Crawford, who is chairman of their scholarly division . Brian Crawford is also head of publishing at ACS....

So what we have are two organizations speaking from the same mouth.

This allows for clever gamesmanship by ACS executives.. Just last year, Rudy Baum wrote his second editorial in Chemical & Engineering News where he called Open Access "socialized science." To buttress his argument, Rudy cited --who would have ever guessed!?-- the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers, which "has taken a strong stand" against the Open Access bill.

Rudy also wrote that the AAP's scholarly division had written letters to senators opposing the bill.. What Rudy forgot to disclose to his readers is that the letters were signed by the chairman of the AAP's scholarly division, who is Brian Crawford, also head of publishing at ACS. Crawford is now apparently Rudy's boss.

Yes, Baum is that ridiculous. But it must be hard for a man to fully inform readers when his wallet tugs at his conscience. gets better.

Brian Crawford holds up his end of the bargain by penning letters against Open Access on behalf of the AAP, such as the letter last year to the Los Angeles Times. Brian wrote, "government bureaucracy continues to impede participation and undermines the successful expansion of information access." Crawford's byline was credited: "The writer chairs the executive council of the professional and scholarly publishing division of the Assn. of American Publishers.

I guess that Brian forgot to mention to the Los Angeles Times that he is also a publishing executive at the American Chemical Society. He might also have troubled editors with the minor fact that his bonuses will plummet if ACS publishing profits drop.

So now you see how their political campaign against Open Access works. First, Crawford creates the policy position at AAP's scholarly division; ACS executives then point to AAP policy for cover with their members. But it is all a shell game that quickly falls apart once anyone spends five minutes on Google....

PS:  For background, see the first ACS Insider memo.

More on Inhofe

Andrew Leonard, What is James Inhofe trying to keep secret?  Salon, October 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

Fans of open access to government-funded research have been pinning their hopes on an appropriations bill currently under consideration by the Senate. The bill, already passed by the House, would require that any manuscripts by researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health must be made publicly available "no later than 12 months after the official date of publication."

Late last Friday, a Republican senator introduced two amendments aiming to sabotage the open access provision. One would eliminate it entirely, the other would simply gut it.

Who is this man who would deny Americans access to the research that their tax dollars fund? A man scientists everywhere already love to hate: Oklahoma's James Inhofe, better known across the world as the politician most dedicated to preventing the United States from addressing the challenges of climate change; a man famous for calling global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

The straightforward explanation for Inhofe's meddling is that he is doing the bidding of the publisher's lobby. But I think there's a more insidious strategy at play. Restricting access to peer-reviewed research makes it harder for the general public to get their hands on the state-of-the-art research documenting how human activity is causing global warming. Crafty, Sen. Inhofe, very crafty!

Comments.  Note that Leonard's piece came out before last night's historic vote.  Inhofe withdrew his anti-OA amendments earlier in the day and as a result the bill passed with the OA mandate for the NIH intact.  However, Inhofe did file a "colloquy" (statement for the record to be included as part of the legislative history) objecting to the NIH provision and asking the House-Senate conference committee to reconsider it.  We should have the text of the colloquy later today.

Update. Also see Leonard's follow-up on Elsevier's financial contributions to Inhofe.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

OA mandate at NIH passes the Senate

Tonight the Senate passed the Labor-HHS appropriations bill containing the provision to mandate OA at the NIH.  More, the vote was a veto-proof 75-19. 


  • Neither of the harmful Inhofe amendments was part of the final bill.
  • Yes, this is big, even if we cleared this hurdle only to face a Bush veto.
  • When the same language was adopted by the House (July 19, 2007), it only received 276 votes, when it needed 290 to be veto-proof.  Hence, it's not at all clear that the full Congress will be able to override a Bush veto, something both sides know very well.  However, as we go into post-veto strategies, we're much better off with this language having passed both houses than having passed only one.  More later.

More on the Max Planck cancellation of 1,200 Springer journals

Max Planck Society Dumps Springer Deal Over Pricing, Library Journal Academic Newswire, October 23, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Max Planck Society (MPS), a major German research organization, issued a strongly worded statement this week to announce it was cancelling access to Springer's online collection of journals over pricing. The cancellation will take effect as of December 31, 2007. MPS Vice President Kurt Mehlhorn said negotiations to extend the deal failed because, according to an MPS evaluation based on factors including usage and comparisons with other publishers, Springer was intent on charging "approximately double the price" the organization regarded as "reasonable." ...

The public announcement represents a rather extraordinary moment. While it's not at all uncommon for budget-pressured academic libraries to cancel or scale back their journal deals, the Max Planck Society is an extremely well-funded, world-leading research institution with more than 12,000 staff members, 9000 Ph.D. students, post-docs, guest scientists and researchers, and student assistants working in over 80 affiliated research institutes. To have their price point broken, MPS officials said, represents "a watershed" in how the Society would deal with "various globally-active scientific publishing houses." Open access advocate Peter Suber said the announcement was indeed big news. "For the combination of an affluent institution and large hit list," he told the LJ Academic Newswire, "the Max Planck cancellation may be unprecedented."

In a statement, MPS officials suggested the breakdown in negotiations with Springer was representative of "extreme price developments in the supply of information, as well as usage restrictions," and that scientific organizations throughout the world should "rethink" their information policies. "If publishers have the market power to effectively implement such prices and if legislators are unwilling to subject such inappropriate behavior to legal controls, the only way left open to science will be to take matters into their own hands."

More on the Liege meeting

Alma Swan has blogged some personal notes on the Liege meeting last week that launched EurOpenScholarship.  Excerpt:

Thursday 18 October 2007: In the tradition of the best fairy tales, the castle was surrounded by wooded hills turning through the gold and russet and red hues of autumn. The sun shone from a clear blue sky; the air was still, and slightly chill, and when the car stopped outside the elegant front of the 14th century castle it suddenly seemed that things were going to happen, and happen well, that day.

And they did. The taxis shuttling delegates from Brussels and the airport arrived in quick succession. Our host, the engaging and energetic Bernard Rentier, rector of the University of Liege, in the ownership of which the Castle resides, beamed at each guest and welcomed them to his medieval retreat. As the guests assembled, representatives of twenty or so research institutions across Europe (with the good wishes and demand for feedback from a number of others that could not be represented on the day), an air of warm anticipation developed.

The occasion was a gathering to discuss what needs to be done by the research institutions of Europe to move things along towards the promising new world of enhanced and more effective scholarly communications. The prize is a more visible, more open, more competitive Europe, the goal of the Lisbon Agenda, fed by the i2010 Vision and the Bologna Process.

More will be announced from this meeting over the coming weeks. The initial meeting is reported here and here and these reports make clear that there is much to come. You will see that the second of those reports is Bernard's blog. He is unique - the only rector in the world who blogs about Open Access. Maybe he'll start a trend.

Gavin Baker presentation on OA

Gavin Baker, Sustaining Scholarship:  The Case for Open Access Academic Literature, a presentation at Florida State University, October 14-16, 2007.

Abstract:   Sustainability in the knowledge society requires the use of knowledge and information based on the principle of sustainability.  As with physical resources, sustainable management of knowledge and information relies upon a proper valuation of the commons. One resource with a convincing case for being managed as a commons is the body of academic knowledge. The scholarly output of the world’s academics, particularly journal literature, is dedicated to the advancement of human knowledge. The Internet allows the unprecedented transmission of this knowledge at close to zero marginal cost. This situation creates remarkable new possibilities. Academics are increasingly realizing this opportunity, in what is termed the open access movement. However, there remains a need for further awareness and implementation. In this field report, I describe the status of the open access movement, examine the questions facing free scholarship, and explore the consequences for social sustainability.

Radio interview with John Willinsky

Thomas Hill is interviewing John Willinsky about open access right now on WVKR FM 91.3.  In about 45 minutes or so, there should be a link to the podcast at the program page.

Update. Here's the 48 minute MP3 file.

More on the Humanities Research Network at SSRN

SSRN Announces New Humanities Research Network (HRN), a press release from the Social Science Research Network, October 19, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Social Science Research Network (SSRN) is pleased to announce the creation of the Humanities Research Network (HRN). HRN will provide a world-wide, online community for research in all areas of Humanities, following the model of the other subject matter networks within SSRN.

We expect HRN to become a comprehensive online resource for research in humanities, providing scholars with access to current work in their field and facilitating research and scholarship. Initially, HRN will begin with the following networks:

HRN CLASSIC RESEARCH NETWORK Director: Lesley Dean-Jones, University of Texas at Austin

HRN ENGLISH & AMERICAN LITERATURE RESEARCH NETWORK Director: Susan Heinzelman, University of Texas at Austin

HRN PHILOSOPHY RESEARCH NETWORK Directors: Lawrence Becker, Hollins University and Brie Gertler, University of Virginia

The abstracting eJournals for each of these networks are listed below [PS: omitted here]. You can view the expandable Humanities Research Network taxonomy [here]....

SSRN provides worldwide free access to all papers included in all of our Institutional Research Paper Series, and all other papers uploaded to the eLibrary directly by an author.

SSRN's objective is to provide rapid, worldwide distribution of research to authors and their readers and to facilitate communication among them at the lowest possible cost. In pursuit of this objective, we allow authors to upload papers without charge. And any paper an author uploads to SSRN is downloadable for free, worldwide.

SSRN reinvests all of the net cash it receives (principally from subscriptions to our abstracting journals and from institutions that use us to distribute their research papers), after expenses and servicing debt, to enhance our services to authors and users. SSRN's shareholders have not received any return on their investment, including dividends. To minimize potential conflicts with authors and users, SSRN has no outside investors.

Also see Jennifer Howard's story in yesterday's Chronicle of Higher Education.  Excerpt:

The Social Science Research Network, an online clearinghouse for current research popular among social scientists, has created a Humanities Research Network along the same model.

The new network will cover three areas: philosophy, classics, and English and American literature. More disciplines will be added in the coming months.

Authors can upload abstracts or PDF files of working papers, or share published papers as long as they hold the copyright. There is no charge to upload a paper or, in most cases, to download one that is posted. Each author’s contact information appears along with the article so that readers can offer comments.

Scholars involved say that the network, known as the HRN, meets an urgent professional need....

PS:  For more background, see my post from last month on the Philosophy Research Network and some restrictions at SSRN unheard of at other OA repositories.

Lax enforcement of data-sharing policies

Climate Change Research, United States Government Accountability Office, September 2007.  The report's lengthy subtitle serves as a short abstract:  Agencies Have Data-Sharing Policies but Could Do More to Enhance the Availability of Data from Federally Funded Research.  Excerpt:

According to the scientific community —as represented by the National Academies and professional scientific associations— four key issues that data-sharing policies should address include what, how, and when data are to be shared, as well as the cost of making data available to other researchers. First, the information necessary to support major published results should be made available to other researchers. However, there are statutory limits on data sharing —such as intellectual property protections— as well as practical limits such as the lack of appropriate archives. Second, when the appropriate infrastructure exists, data should be made accessible through unrestricted archives. Third, data should generally be made available immediately or after a limited proprietary period to allow for analysis and publication of results. Fourth, data should be made available at no more than the marginal cost of reproduction and distribution. Finally, the extent to which specific policies address these key data-sharing issues may vary, depending on the type of research.

Although some program managers at all four agencies [DOE, NASA, NOAA, and NSF] have included data-sharing requirements in grant awards, these agencies rely primarily on policies and practices to encourage researchers to make climate change data available. An interagency policy, as well as numerous agency, program, and project-specific data-sharing policies, encourages researchers to make climate change data available. The policies range from broad statements calling for open and timely access to data to more detailed policies that define the mechanisms and timelines for making the data accessible. Further, these policies often vary according to the needs of specific research programs or projects. Beyond their written requirements and policies, all of the agencies also rely on unwritten practices to facilitate data sharing. For example, two program managers withhold grant payments if data have not been made available for use by other researchers.

While the four agencies have taken steps to foster data sharing, they neither routinely monitor whether researchers make data available nor have fully overcome key obstacles and disincentives to data sharing.  Because agencies do not monitor data sharing, they lack evidence on the extent to which researchers are making data available to others. Key obstacles and disincentives could also limit the availability of data. For example, one obstacle is the lack of archives for storing certain kinds of climate change data, such as some ecological data, which places a greater burden on the individual researcher to preserve it. Preparing data for future use is also a laborious and time-consuming task that can serve as a disincentive to data sharing. In addition, data preparation does not further a research career as does publishing results in journals. The scientific community generally rewards researchers who publish in journals, but preparation of data for others’ use is not an important part of this reward structure. Consequently, researchers are less likely to focus on preserving data for future use, thereby putting the data at risk of being unavailable to other researchers....

We provided draft copies of this report to DOE, NASA, NOAA, and NSF. The four agencies generally agreed with our findings and recommendations....


  • Thanks to Steve McIntyre, who is frustrated by the reluctance of many publicly-funded climate scientists to share their data and the reluctance of their funding agencies to enforce their own policies.
  • I support data sharing (no surprise) and the GAO recommendations that US funding agencies should monitor, enforce, and improve their existing policies.  But for the full picture, it's important to know that the GAO report was requested by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) who has a history of selective support for data sharing, and a tendency to use it more to intimidate scientists who believe that human activity is a major cause of global warming than to advance research and follow the evidence wherever it may lead. 
  • This background, however, does not taint the GAO report.  On the contrary, we should implement its recommendations precisely because we deserve data sharing by publicly-funded scientists whether or not they support Joe Barton's theory of climate change.

Future of institutional repositories

Christina Pikas has blogged a virtual transcript of the panel on the Future of Institutional Repositories (October 21) at ASIST 2007 (Milwaukee, October 19-24, 2007).

Update.  Dorothea Salo was one of the panelists.  Also see her blog notes on the event.

Update. Bora Zivkovic has also blogged some notes on the panel devoted to Opening Science to All.

Boston libraries chose OCA over Google for its openness

Katie Hafner, Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web, New York Times, October 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

Several major research libraries have rebuffed offers from Google and Microsoft to scan their books into computer databases, saying they are put off by restrictions these companies want to place on the new digital collections.

The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available.

Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services. Microsoft places a similar restriction on the books it converts to electronic form. The Open Content Alliance, by contrast, is making the material available to any search service.

Google pays to scan the books....[But] it costs the Open Content Alliance as much as $30 to scan each book, a cost shared by the group’s members and benefactors, so there are obvious financial benefits to libraries of Google’s wide-ranging offer, started in 2004....

But the resistance from some libraries, like the Boston Public Library and the Smithsonian Institution, suggests that many in the academic and nonprofit world are intent on pursuing a vision of the Web as a global repository of knowledge that is free of business interests or restrictions....

“There are two opposed pathways being mapped out,” said Paul Duguid, an adjunct professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley. “One is shaped by commercial concerns, the other by a commitment to openness, and which one will win is not clear.” ...

The Library of Congress has a pilot program with Google to digitize some books. But in January, it announced a project with a more inclusive approach. With $2 million from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the library’s first mass digitization effort will make 136,000 books accessible to any search engine through the Open Content Alliance. The library declined to comment on its future digitization plans.

The Open Content Alliance is the brainchild of Brewster Kahle, the founder and director of the Internet Archive....

Although Google is making public-domain books readily available to individuals who wish to download them, Mr. Kahle and others worry about the possible implications of having one company store and distribute so much public-domain content.

“Scanning the great libraries is a wonderful idea, but if only one corporation controls access to this digital collection, we’ll have handed too much control to a private entity,” Mr. Kahle said....

Microsoft joined the Open Content Alliance at its start in 2005, as did Yahoo, which also has a book search project. Google also spoke with Mr. Kahle about joining the group, but they did not reach an agreement.

A year after joining, Microsoft added a restriction that prohibits a book it has digitized from being included in commercial search engines other than Microsoft’s.

“Unlike Google, there are no restrictions on the distribution of these copies for academic purposes across institutions,” said Jay Girotto, group program manager for Live Book Search from Microsoft. Institutions working with Microsoft, he said, include the University of California and the New York Public Library....

On Wednesday the Internet Archive announced, together with the Boston Public Library and the library of the Marine Biological Laboratory and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, that it would start scanning out-of-print but in-copyright works to be distributed through a digital interlibrary loan system.

PS:  For more background, see post from September 24 on the Boston Library Consortium decision to work with the Open Content Alliance, and my article from November 2005 comparing the OCA and Google book-scanning projects.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Removing obstacles to the sharing of physical material

Thinh Nguyen, Science Commons: Material Transfer Agreement Project, Summer 2007.  (Thanks to Kaitlin Thaney.)  Excerpt:

Access to unique research resources, such as biological materials and reagents, is vital to the success and advancement of science. Many research protocols require assembling a large and diverse set of materials from many sources. Yet, often the process of finding and negotiating the transfer of such materials can be difficult and time-consuming. The ability to locate materials based on their descriptions in journal articles is often limited by lack of sufficient information about origin and availability, and there is no standard citation for such materials. In addition, the process of legal negotiation that may follow can be lengthy and unpredictable. This can have important implications for science policy, especially when delays or inability to obtain research materials result in lost time, productivity, and research opportunities. These transactional barriers for material transfer may ultimately have more impact on the productivity of basic laboratory science than concerns related to patents or other intellectual property....

Science Commons’s Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) Project seeks to reduce unnecessary barriers to the transfer and reuse of basic research materials and reagents, for both United States and international scientific collaboration, by proposing a scalable and flexible infrastructure for searching, negotiation, and tracking....

Reducing the time it takes for scientists to obtain basic research materials is vital for accelerating scientific discovery. Standardization of policy, contracts, and technology is necessary in order to deliver the relatively frictionless transaction systems that have revolutionized Web commerce. The system that we propose, which includes greater use of standard contracts, a Web-based rights description framework, and other educational tools, is the first step in that direction. The possible benefits will accrue not only to immediate stakeholders, in the form of cost savings and increased productivity, but ultimately to society as a whole from greater innovation and scientific progress.

More on bonuses for ACS executives

Andrea Gawrylewski, Unrest in the ACS, The Scientist, October 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

An anonymous Email that was circulated on October 10 calls into question the practices of the non-profit publishing giant, the American Chemical Society (ACS), which has long been under scrutiny.

The Email, signed only by "ACS insider," was sent to college librarians, ACS administrators, and a science writing listserv. It said that the ACS is growing more corporate in structure and described how it manages the 36 chemical journals under its purview. Among other criticisms, the anonymous Emailer wrote that the bonuses given to ACS executives are tied to the profits of the publishing division, and such bonuses explain why the society has had such a strong stance against open-access publishing.

The anonymous author responded to requests from The Scientist for more information about his or her identity only with "I just have to remain anonymous." He or she did not provide any confirmable evidence that bonuses to executives in the society were linked to profits in the publishing division.

The Email is believable, Christopher Reed, distinguished professor of chemistry at the University of California, Riverside, and outspoken critic of the ACS, told The Scientist in an Email. "Staff are intimidated about speaking out, they must do so anonymously. The profit motive has distracted ACS management from its constitutional purpose."

The Email called into question the high salaries and bonuses paid to ACS CEO Madeleine Jacobs, Chemical & Engineering News editor-in-chief Rudy Baum, and president of the ACS publishing division Brian Crawford, stating that the bonuses are directly proportional to the profits of the publishing division. Crawford is also the chairman of the Association of American Publishers, who, in August, launched the controversial Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM) coalition, an anti-open-access group.

A statement sent to The Scientist from Judith Benham, chair of the ACS board of directors, said: "The anonymous author makes erroneous and misleading claims about the compensation of these employees and alleges that the compensation is somehow related to the Society's position on open access."

According the tax information submitted to the IRS for fiscal year 2005, three top executives, including Bob Massie, president of Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) -- one of ACS's most successful publications -- make more than $750,000 a year, including bonuses. Benham added that compensation for executive employees is meant to be competitive, but not higher than other publishers in the market place, and that "no ACS employee's compensation is linked to the society's positions on open access."

Baum declined to say whether his bonuses were linked to publishing profits, but only that the anonymous letter had more incorrect information in it than correct information. "When anonymous material comes into the office I throw it out right away," he told The Scientist.

Several former ACS employees contacted by The Scientist, who wished to remain anonymous, said that while they were employees at the ACS, it was well known that upper level managers got bonuses that were linked to publishing profits. Sylvia Ware, former director of the ACS education division, declined to comment about bonus practice at the society....


  • For background, see Paul Thacker's article in SEJournal, alleging that ACS executives earn bonuses based on the profits of its publications, and the ACS Insider memo, repeating the allegation.  Also see the comments to the Gawrylewski story, at the bottom of the page.
  • Parse the ACS statements carefully.  Thacker and "ACS Insider" charged that bonuses were tied to publication profits, not to the society position on OA.  If bonuses are tied to publication profits, then you can draw your own conclusion about the personal interest of ACS executives in opposing government OA mandates.  When ACS executives frame the question their own way, it becomes whether bonuses are tied to the ACS position on OA, and they readily tell the press that the answer is no.  But when asked directly whether bonuses are tied to publication profits, they decline to answer.
  • But as I commented on the Thacker article, there's a larger issue here than what might or might not be happening at the ACS:  If your professional society has opposed government OA policies, try to find out whether its executives earn bonuses based on the revenues or profits of its publications.  If they do, ask in a public meeting whether they believe this is a conflict of interest.

Inhofe's amendments to undermine the OA mandate at NIH

Charles Bailey, Text of the Inhofe Amendments That Affect the NIH Open Access Mandate, DigitalKoans, October 22, 2007.

Below is the text of Sen. James Inhofe's amendments to the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill that affect the NIH open access mandate (thanks to Heather Joseph at SPARC).

Amendment 3416:

To strike provision to maintain the NIH voluntary research public access policy

Beginning on page 76 strike line 24 and all that follows through line 7 on page 77.

Amendment 3417:

To modify provisions to maintain the NIH voluntary research public access policy

On page 77 line 7 insert before the period the following:

'and in addition only where allowed by and in accordance with the policies of the publishers who have conducted the peer review and accepted the manuscripts for publication'

Here's the affected section of the bill:

Page 76

24 SEC. 221. The Director of the National Institutes of
25 Health shall require that all investigators funded by the

Page 77

1 NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National
2 Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic
3 version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon ac-
4 ceptance for publication to be made publicly available no
5 later than 12 months after the official date of publication:
6 Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access
7 policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

Comment.  Note precisely how the second of these two amendments would weaken the OA provision:  the OA mandate would apply "only where allowed by and in accordance with the policies of the publishers...."  If that sounds familiar, the reason is that it's nearly identical to the loophole in the OA mandate adopted last month by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).  The CIHR policy mandates OA for CIHR-funded research "where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies...."  Here's what I said about the loophole in the CIHR policy at the time:

The exception swallows the rule.  Any publisher who doesn't want OA within six [or 12] months, or ever, can easily block it, and CIHR invites them to do so....

Publishers clearly agree and want the same easy opt-out from the NIH policy.

OA as an unprecedented public good

Heather Morrison, Open access as an Unprecedented Public Good: The Transformative Potential of the Internet for Scholarship and Society, a presentation prepared for Internet Research 8.0 (Vancouver, October 17-20, 2007).

Abstract:   This brief presentation introduces open access as one illustration of the transformative potential of the internet. Open access is defined, and the two basic approaches to open access (publishing and archiving). The extent of open access today, and its dramatic growth, are reviewed, using the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), with over 2,800 journals and a growth rate of 1.2 new titles per calendar day and OAIster, with 13.6 million items in 896 repositories and a 42% growth rate over the past year, as illustrations. E-LIS is discussed, as one example of an open access archive. E-LIS is a global collection, with contributions from many countries and in many languages. E-LIS is also a global collaboration, with its team of volunteer editors from around the world. The author discusses her scholarly blog, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, specifically the series on Creative Globalization. An example is highlighted, a blogpost on the idea that developing countries may have more incentive to find cost-efficient solutions, and that this would be a very good reason for people in developed countries to pay more attention to the work of researchers in developing countries. Note: this presentation was prepared and the powerpoint sent (without the notes), but not delivered in person due to a last-minute family emergency.

Update on the evolving Cape Town Declaration

Here's an update from Heather Ford on the drafting of the Cape Town Declaration, iCommons, October 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

On recommendation from the participants of the Open Education Track at the Dubrovnik iSummit (don’t forget to read the great report on the results by Philipp Schmidt and Mark Surman.) the Open Society Institute, the Shuttleworth Foundation and Hewlett Foundation organised a meeting of around 30 of some of the world’s pioneering figures in open education in Cape Town. The goal was clear: to develop a shared map of the global open education space and to discuss strategies that would lead to a ‘Declaration on Open Education’ for others in the world of education to follow.
It was a really exciting meeting – attended by education commoners from Australia to Chile, the United States to Uganda, and of course, the inimitable South Africans.

The group agreed on most ‘long term’ vision statements and goals, but an exercise to understand where people stood in the licence debate showed how divergent at least these opinions are. We were asked to line up along an imaginary ‘opinion line’ from 100% “yes” on the one side and 100% “no” on the other, and respond to the statement: ‘It’s not and open education resource unless anyone can use it for any purpose, including commercial purposes’. The views, as you can imagine, were split almost 50/50 between 100% yes and 100% no.
This used to bother me. Surely the fact that people within the same movement had such divergent views on such an important issue was a problem?

Now this seems academic. The fact that the first, great draft of the ‘Cape Town Open Education Declaration’ has already been circulated, the fact that its impact was not ‘watered down’ by this “dispute”, and the fact that this group has recognised that standing together in our shared vision of what education should look like in the future is more important than the (important but less important) differences of opinion about copyright licences. This is a conclusion that I had long ago but didn’t know how to express: this movement has very little to do with copyright and everything to do with people; it has very little to do with being free to share content and everything to do with sharing perspectives and fellowship....

KEI letter to the Senate

Knowledge Ecology International has released its letter to the Senate in support of an OA mandate at the NIH and opposing publisher amendments to block or weaken it.  

Dear Senator:

Knowledge Ecology International (KEI) opposes proposed Amendments #3416 and #3417 to the FY 2008 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations bill (S.1710).

Both amendments are naked attempts to eliminate public access to government funded research, in order to protect a handful of publishers.

KEI wrote the Senate on July 23, 2007, supporting the current provisions in the appropriations bill that require the deposit of manuscripts in the National Library of Medicine’s online database to be made publicly available within one year of publication in a peer-reviewed journal.  One of the proposed Inhofe amendments (#3416) would return to the failed voluntary NIH policy now in place, while the other (#3417) would effectively eliminate the obligation whenever it was contrary to "the policies of the publishers who have conducted the peer review and accepted the manuscripts for publication." 

Amendments like these are shocking reminders that citizens have to fight for access to the very research they have paid for as taxpayers.

As it stands, the open access provisions in the appropriation bill are not very strong.  The Senate could have provided for public access with six months of first publication (as  proposed in recent World Health Organization negotiations over access to knowledge standards),  or much stronger measures, such mandatory obligations to publish only in open access journals that provide for immediate access.

Americans pay about $100 per capita to support the NIH, and deserve policies that promote access.  When everyone has access to the research, science advances faster, and the expanded dissemination of new knowledge benefits doctors, patients and others who make more informed decisions. 

KEI joins the growing movement of consumer groups, libraries, academic researchers and citizens who ask you to vote NO on Amendments #3416 and #3417.

Comment.  Kudos to the KEI.  US citizens:  don't forgot to write your own and to do it today.  For for three excellent models, use the KEI letter, the ATA sample letter, or the ALA action alert.

Update.  KEI Director James Love also posted the KEI letter to the Huffington Post, which should definitely help spread the word. 

Update.  For another strong letter to use as a model, see Bill Hooker's on Open Reading Frame.

Presentations from IATUL 2007

The presentations from IATUL 2007, Global Access to Science: Scientific Publishing for the Future (Stockholm, June 11-14, 2007), are now online.  More than 20 of them are strongly relevant to OA.  (Thanks to Paul Peters.)

Urgent reminder to US citizens

The appropriations bill (S.1710) containing the provision that would mandate OA at the NIH is in trouble, and today is your last chance to ask your Senators to save it. 

  • What's the problem?  Late Friday afternoon, just before the filing deadline, the publisher lobby persuaded Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) to file two amendments to the bill.  One would delete the OA provision and one would significantly weaken it.  The strategy appears to be to use the first in order to set up the second as a reasonable compromise.
  • What can you do?  Contact your Senators today.  The Alliance for Taxpayer Access recommends contacting them before close of business today, while the American Library Association recommends contacting them before noon today.
  • For more background, see the ATA call for action (blogged here on Saturday) or the ALA call for action.  The ATA message includes a sample letter you can fax or email to your Senators.  The ALA message includes talking points and a web form with an editable, default message for sending to your Senators.
  • If you contacted your Senators before the Friday amendments were filed, please contact them again.  The new message is to oppose amendments #3416 and #3417.  If you haven't contacted your Senators at all yet, please do so now, by phone, fax, or email.
  • Please act now and spread the word!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

New issue of OCLC Systems & Services

The new issue of OCLC Systems & Services (vol. 23, no. 4, 2007) is now online.  Only abstracts are free online, at least so far.  Here are the OA-related articles:

More on the international race to the bottom

Michael Geist, Canadian Public Domain Told To Cease and Desist, Michael Geist's blog, October 21, 2007.  Excerpt:

The International Music Score Library Project was a quiet Canadian success story.  Using wiki technologies, it emerged over the past two years as a leading source of public domain music scores, hosting thousands of scores uploaded by a community of students, teachers, and others in the music community.  The site was very careful about copyright - only those works in the public domain (as many readers will know, public domain in Canada is life of the author plus an additional 50 years) were hosted on Canadian servers and the site was responsive to complaints about possible infringements.

On Friday, the site was taken down.  Universal Edition AG, a German publisher, retained a Toronto law firm to send a cease and desist letter to the Canadian-based site claiming that the site was infringing the copyright of various composers.  It appears that the issue was not that posting the works in Canada infringed copyright but rather that some of the works were not yet in the public domain in Europe, where the copyright term runs for an additional 20 years at life of the author plus 70 years.  As is so often the case, a labour of love for a large, non-profit community was wiped out with a single legal demand letter.

In this particular case, UE demanded that the site use IP addresses to filter out non-Canadian users, arguing that failing to do so infringes both European and Canadian copyright law.  It is hard to see how this is true given that the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that sites such as IMSLP are entitled to presume that they are being used in a lawful manner and therefore would not rise to the level of authorizing infringement.  The site was operating lawfully in Canada and there is no positive obligation in the law to block out non-Canadians. 
As for a European infringement, if UE is correct, then the public domain becomes an offline concept, since posting works online would immediately result in the longest single copyright term applying on a global basis.  That can't possibly be right.  Canada has chosen a copyright term that complies with its international obligations and attempts to import longer terms - as is the case here - should not only be rejected but treated as copyright misuse.

Comment.  This is an important problem and the worst possible way to resolve it.  Here's how I commented (October 2004) on a similar case in which the heirs of Margaret Mitchell demanded that Project Gutenberg of Australia take down a copy of Gone with the Wind which was in the public domain under Australian law but not under US law:

One the one hand, it's true that users from the U.S. or any other country can download the book from the Australian site. On the other hand, if that were a reason for the Australian site to take down the book, then suddenly all countries in the world would have a term of copyright effectively equal to the longest term in force anywhere. Conversely, of course, if it were not, then all countries in the world would have a term of copyright effectively equal to the shortest in force anywhere. Since either resolution is likely to equalize copyright terms around the world, de facto if not de jure, this issue is much too important to depend on a lawyer's cease-and-desist letter to a cash-strapped non-profit. Project Gutenberg of Australia needs some serious legal and financial help.

In my newsletter for 11/16/01, I looked at the possibility that IP-tracking software could solve this problem without all countries on Earth having to harmonize their copyright rules.  But kudos to the Canadian Supreme Court for making that question moot and ruling (in effect) that the IMSLP needn't use IP-tracking software.  Now it's time for Canada to protect conduct that is lawful in Canada.

Update.  Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg has offered a most welcome rescue.  (Thanks to Glyn Moody.)  Excerpt:

Project Gutenberg has volunteered to keep as much of the IMSLP Project online as is legally possible, including a few of the items that were demanded to be withdrawn, as well as, when legal, to provide a backup of the entire site, for when the legalities have finally been worked out.

Update. Barbara Krasnoff has blogged a response from the German publisher, Universal Edition. In short: it only wanted IMSLP to remove the scores under German copyright and not to shut down the site.

Legislating immediate OA

Heather Morrison, Would a bold politician speak up for an unprecedented public good? Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, October 20, 2007.  Excerpt:

Debates around open access to date have tended to focus on the pros and cons for researchers and their funders. Now that open access mandate policies have entered the political sphere, it may be timely to consider open access from a political perspective.

Politicians who support open access initiatives have an unparalleled opportunity to report to their constituents that they have supported an unprecedented public good in the form of open access.
One open access policy initiative currently under debate is the move to change the U.S. National Institutes of Health' Public Access Policy from a request, to a requirement, to make NIH-funded research publicly available after 12 months.

Here is an idea and opportunity for a bold politician: suggest an amendment requiring that results of NIH-funded research be made open access the moment they have completed peer review and are ready for publication.

Rationale: the public has already funded the research, and they have rights to the results. The purpose of public funding of medical research is to advance our understanding of medicine, so that we can, as quickly as possible, develop new ways to cure, treat, and prevent illness....

The reference to an unprecedented public good refers to the Budapest Open Access Initiative... - excerpt: An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet. The public good they make possible is the world-wide electronic distribution of the peer-reviewed journal literature and completely free and unrestricted access to it by all scientists, scholars, teachers, students, and other curious minds....


  • Small point:  Friday (October 19) was the filing deadline for amendments to the bill that would provide OA to NIH-funded research.  So we can't file new amendments, even if we have to mop up after some harmful amendments filed at the last minute by the publishing lobby.  But I like Heather's idea from a tactical point of view.  Just as the publishers introduced one amendment (deleting the entire OA provision) in order to set up their other amendment as a reasonable compromise (severely weakening the OA provision), we might have introduced an amendment to demand immediate OA in order to set up the default bill (embargoed OA) as a reasonable compromise.
  • Larger point:  Heather is right to take a political perspective.  But politically, this is a two-sided issue.  On the one hand, immediate OA is in the public interest, but on the other, we should be ready to compromise in order to get a bill passed.  My most recent attempt to capture both sides of the issue was in the Richard Poynder interview, published two days ago:

I believe that any embargo is a compromise with the public interest....But...compromise may be politically necessary....I would like publishers to recognise that embargoes are a satisfactory way to meet their legitimate interests. I would like them to accept that the cost of a research project is almost always greater than the cost of publication, sometimes thousands of times greater, and therefore that the agencies funding research — and in the case of public funders, taxpayers — add at least as much value to peer-reviewed research articles as publishers do. If so, then publishers can't trump all the other stakeholders just because they "add value" and want to dig in their heels. But neither can we expect publishers to continue to add value without compensation. So we have to compromise. I believe the best compromise is a period of exclusivity for the publisher followed by unqualified open access for the public. I would like publishers to accept OA mandates for publicly funded research and focus their concern on the length of the embargo.  But for that to happen, OA proponents must accept the legitimacy of compromise. If they don't, ironically, they'll create a new kind of embargo — an indefinite delay of strong OA policies in the name of purity.

Update. Also see Heather's response to my blog comments.

Notes on Willinsky's keynote at AoIR

Axel Bruns, Pushing Towards Open Access Scholarship, SnurBlog, October 21, 2007.  Some blog notes on John Willinsky's keynote address at Internet Research 8.0 (Vancouver, October 17-20, 2007), the annual conference of the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR).  Excerpt:

...[T]he keynote speaker today is John Willinsky from the Public Knowledge Project. He begins by noting issues of civic participation and access to knowledge as a key question of today, and relates these especially also to academic publishing: 'you make all the content, they take all the wealth' also applies in this environment, and the moral economy of academic work must be carefully considered....[W]e, too, should aim to make our work more public, and connect it to wider civic concerns. This goes well beyond questions of technologies of access and distribution - it requires a shift of thinking; we need to 'get in the game'....

John speaks here specifically also to the future development of AoIR, and suggests that we may want to consider developing an open access journal for the Association....

The Canadian government is now explicitly supporting open access journals, in fact, and offers funding support for such journals. What's emerged here is a kind of gift economy, and an economy which trades in status rather than currency.

The DOAJ, and the Open Journal System which John has been instrumental in developing, are tools developed explicitly to support such change; there are now over 1000 journals in the world using OJS as their publishing system....

Even commercial publishers are slowly coming to the game - Taylor & Francis's Information, Communication, and Society (which is now forming an association with AoIR) has introduced an open access clause, for example, allowing authors to post pre-print or post-print versions of articles on their own Websites, if under some very stifling conditions.

So, as scholars we could make a great deal of this work freely available for our peers now, under these conditions, and John passionately argues that we do. There are two roads to open access....

Such open access publishing increases visibility and readership; it demonstrably increases citation levels (and as a result may increase financial returns to scholars where citation levels are linked to funding or promotion outcomes); it improves status and impact in the field. In developing nations, in particular, open access journals are incredibly important, as they both improve local scholars' access to information, and local scholars' ability to publish their own work to a wider audience. John notes the role of open access journals, and particularly of the PubMed site, in alternative medicine scholarship as another example - where practitioners are especially frustrated with the limited level of access to scholarly information....

[W]e can and should point [from Wikipedia] to further information available in open access content repositories. Doing so would further boost civic participation and participatory culture, as it would help to connect scholarly work and wider public interests; it would transfer scholarly ideas from within the academic domain into a wider public discourse. We have the legal right and the moral sensibility to make these connections - so we ought to do it. (Indeed, John suggests that we must especially also create an expectation in our students that such open access is required.)

Finally, there is also a question of academic freedom here, as some journals (especially in medical and other expensive fields) are closely associated with large government and corporate interests; open access journals are able to operate more cheaply, with less dependence on large funders, and therefore with greater freedom from interference....

Another business model for OA

Mark Ware, Sermo - an unusual business model, Putting down a marker, October 19, 2007.  Excerpt:

A newish social networking site for US doctors, Sermo, has an unusual business model. The site is (unsurprisingly) free for doctors (and some 31,000 have apparently joined to date) and the owners have also promised to keep the site clear of advertising, because:

Sermo is extremely professional. It is free of advertising and pharmaceutical promotion

So how do they plan to make money? Their idea is based on

“information arbitrage”, the opportunity that arises when breaking medical insights intersect with the demand for actionable, market-changing events in healthcare

In other words, they want to charge pharmacos, financial institutions, healthcare companies and others to participate and listen in on the community:

Clients pay a subscription fee and in return can post questions to the Sermo community. If you vote on one of these postings, you may be financially rewarded for your astute observations....

As the WSJ notes, this looks like a risky strategy for both parties. It’s not obvious to me that doctors will prefer to “talk candidly” with Pfizer’s shills over having to endure advertising on the site, and given the attention the pharma industry has received for some of its more dubious marketing practices (such as ghost-writing) and what has been seen as its undue influence over the whole medical profession (including, let us not forget, medical publishing), the arrangements are likely to come under some scrutiny from regulators.