Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Free online German journals from before 1930

The German Wikisource has put together an excellent list of free online German-language journals whose backfiles start before 1930.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Almost open arms for open access

Lois Lehman-McKeeman and Shelley Andrews, Open Arms for Open Access: Toxicological Sciences Joins "Oxford Open", Toxicological Sciences, December 2007.  An editorial.  Only this short fragment is free online, at least so far:

Effective January 2008, Toxicological Sciences will join a growing group of journals that provide an optional, voluntary author-pays open access model. This means that authors will be given the option to pay an open access charge to . . .

More on JASPAR

Jan Christian Bryne and eight co-authors, JASPAR, the open access database of transcription factor-binding profiles: new content and tools in the 2008 update, Nucleic Acids Research, November 2007.

Abstract:   JASPAR is a popular open-access database for matrix models describing DNA-binding preferences for transcription factors and other DNA patterns. With its third major release, JASPAR has been expanded and equipped with additional functions aimed at both casual and power users. The heart of the JASPAR database —the JASPAR CORE sub-database— has increased by 12% in size, and three new specialized sub-databases have been added. New functions include clustering of matrix models by similarity, generation of random matrices by sampling from selected sets of existing models and a language-independent Web Service applications programming interface for matrix retrieval. JASPAR is available [here]. 

More on ORegAnno

Obi L. Griffith and 29 co-authors, ORegAnno: an open-access community-driven resource for regulatory annotation, Nucleic Acids Research, November 2007. 

Abstract:   ORegAnno is an open-source, open-access database and literature curation system for community-based annotation of experimentally identified DNA regulatory regions, transcription factor binding sites and regulatory variants. The current release comprises 30 145 records curated from 922 publications and describing regulatory sequences for over 3853 genes and 465 transcription factors from 19 species. A new feature called the ‘publication queue’ allows users to input relevant papers from scientific literature as targets for annotation. The queue contains 4438 gene regulation papers entered by experts and another 54 351 identified by text-mining methods. Users can enter or ‘check out’ papers from the queue for manual curation using a series of user-friendly annotation pages. A typical record entry consists of species, sequence type, sequence, target gene, binding factor, experimental outcome and one or more lines of experimental evidence. An evidence ontology was developed to describe and categorize these experiments. Records are cross-referenced to Ensembl or Entrez gene identifiers, PubMed and dbSNP and can be visualized in the Ensembl or UCSC genome browsers. All data are freely available through search pages, XML data dumps or web services [here].

Swedish research libraries join SCOAP3

The Swedish National Library has joined the CERN SCOAP3 project.  The SCOAP3 news page explains that the library signed an expression of interest "on behalf of the BIBSAM consortium for Swedish research libraries."

Update. Also see the announcement from the National Library of Sweden. It adds these new details:

...All libraries involved in the licensing consortium that have High Energy Physics on the research agenda of their parent organization have expressed their interest to participate in the SCOAP3 and contribute to the financing of it by diverting potential reductions in subscription costs.

The Swedish participation has also been formally supported by the Swedish LHC Consortium and the Board of the Section for Elementary Particle and Astroparticle Physics of the Swedish Physical Society.

European Physical Journal C converts to no-fee OA

As of November 1, 2007, the European Physical Journal C --one of the eight journals in the EPJ family-- has converted to no-fee OA for all its research articles.  For the past year it has been a hybrid OA journal charging a fee for the OA option.  EPJ C is published jointly by Springer, EDP Sciences, and Società Italiana di Fisica.  From the announcement:

In anticipation of successful negotiations with interested Open Access funding agencies, as of today and until such negotiations have taken place before or by the end of 2008, all experimental papers submitted to and accepted by The European Physical Journal C - Particles and Fields will be published with full, online open access without any fees being incurred by the authors. The paper categories concerned are letters, regular articles as well as scientific notes and tools articles on experimental physics. (see the Aims & Scopes for a definition of these categories)

This extends the scope of the present default scheme for publishing with online open access in any of the EPJ journals at the strongly discounted price of EUR 1,000.-- per article, with letter articles already being free of charge and open access by default for EPJ A and EPJ C since November 2006 (see the Open Access Statement for more details)

PS:  I assume that the opening reference to negotiations with OA funding agencies alludes to the CERN SCOAP3 project.  If I'm wrong, I'd like to hear from anyone with better information.

OA to historical geodata

National Archives Joins Geospatial One Stop (GOS) Web Portal, a press release from the US National Archives, November 13, 2007.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

The National Archives has joined Geospatial One Stop’s (GOS) web portal. Select National Archives holdings are now searchable from the GOS Historical Collections Channel....

This new channel grants unprecedented access to data across a wide number of categories and format types, including administrative and political boundaries, environmental information, ocean and coast maps, and data files....

This new partnership greatly facilitates communication and sharing of geographic data and resources between government agencies and the public....

Geospatial One-Stop (GOS) is a geographic information system portal that serves as a public gateway for improving access to geospatial information and data. This portal makes it easier, faster, and less expensive for all levels of government and the public to access geospatial information....

Spread of institutional repositories in developing countries

Susan Veldsman, eIFL Institutional Repositories Setting the Platform for International Co-Operation, EPT blog, November 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

First from Barbara Kirsop's prefatory note:

The Open Society Institute-supported eIFL network has helped in the establishment of nearly one hundred OA Institutional Repositories in developing and emerging countries and is moving towards linking up with the EU DRIVER project! ...

Now from Veldsman:

Over the last year electronic Information For Libraries (eIFL) has been working hard to create a database and record all aspects of Institutional Repositories that have been developed in all our member countries. After a lot of correspondence and updating with countries, we can now report that 17 member eIFL countries currently have:

- 27 repositories in progress
- 69 active repositories,
- Total of 96 institutional repositories

This gave us the opportunity to look for international co-operation with other projects. Being so closely associated with SURF, the Netherlands, eIFL were quite aware of the DRIVER project and its follow up DRIVER II sister project....One of the objectives of DRIVER is to organize and build a virtual, European scale network (portal) of existing institutional repositories from the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Belgium.

eIFL saw the challenge and decided to piggy back on the expertise and technology infrastructure that the SURF/DRIVER project already had in place. Talks began with all parties involved and during June/July 2007 a similar portal (network) was created and can currently be viewed [here]....

This is only the beginning of a long journey. eIFL's ultimate goal is to develop these repositories to reach an international standard. This will be done by training e.g metadata, other standards, linking, setting up repositories, etc....

This is not the only activity we are envisaging, we are also busy to "mass register" eIFL repositories in IR registers and harvesters (OAIster and OpenDOAR) We are also looking at additional training that could be given to countries to "move" their repositories from an inactive to active status, as well as to start up new repositories.

Comment.  Kudos to eIFL for organizing this important development.  Institutional repositories are an affordable, effective way to provide worldwide open access to the research output of an institution.  They are a natural solution any research institution, even the most affluent, but are an urgent solution where money is tight and conventional forms of research visibility are low.  Unlike HINARI and related initiatives, which make some research from the North visible in the South, OA (through repositories or journals) is a two-way street and can make research from the South visible in the North.

ARL Bimonthly Report on university publishing

The ARL Bimonthly Report, no. 252/253 is a Special Double Issue on University Publishing.  Though dated June/August 2007, it apparently came out just last week.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)  The links in this TOC point to preprints:

Friday, November 16, 2007

PRO mirrors the GPO has struck again, this time by creating a mirror (or mirror-in-progress) of the whole web site of the US Government Printing Office.

PS:  Bravo to the tireless Carl Malamud and PRO. 

Free online access to books and journals for Pakistanis

HEC provides online access to 40,000 text books, [Pakistan] Daily Times, November 17, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has provided students and faculty members of universities across the country with online access to over 40,000 text books and research journals.

Under Digital Library Programme of HEC, an open-access online portal has been established through which all journals published in Pakistan have been made available for worldwide electronic access.

The portal allows international exposure of research conducted within Pakistan, and assists in the international peer-review process of indigenous publications.

In 2006, the HEC had commissioned a case study of its Digital Library by International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) that covered the content, training, marketing, finance, monitoring and evaluation and impact of the digital library....

Over 220 leading international publishers have been identified for the access, including Oxford University Press, Taylor and Francis, Blackwell Synergy, BMJ Publishing Group, Cambridge University Press, Emerald, John Wiley and Sins, McGraw Hill Book Companies, MIT Press, Springer Publishing Company, Stanford University Press, Sybex Inc, and United Nations University Press....

Pakistan has become one of the first few countries in the world in which the entire student community is being given free access to a large knowledge source....

Comment.  It looks like the government is providing subsidized priced access to the non-Pakistani journals, rather than open access.  But I can't tell about the Pakistani journals.  Also see the May 2007 announcement of the OA portal for Pakistani journals, and the National Digital Library itself.

DOAJ/SPARC Europe seal of approval program

An announcement from David Prosser of SPARC Europe (blogged with permission):

The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and SPARC Europe have been working together to develop a set of standards that we hope will be helpful to the publishers and users of open access journals.  Although there are a number of definitions of open access, there is great variation between individual open access journals.  In many cases, despite access to content being free, there is confusion surrounding issues such as reuse, data mining, preservation, etc. with rights either being ill-defined or not stated.  We hope to help alleviate this problem by defining a set of standards and providing help for publishers to meet those standards.

To date, we are working with a small group of open access publishers (chosen from the DOAJ) who are testing the criteria and providing feedback on their applicability.  When this is completed (in the next couple of weeks) we will formally launch the project and full details will be provided on the DOAJ and SPARC Europe websites.

Comment.  I like this approach.  I like the way it's bottom-up rather than top-down, and decentralized rather than centralized.  I like the way it focuses on the endorsement and support of respected organizations rather than on the control of word usage.  I like the way it will provide new clarity and precision without requiring the agreement of everyone using a certain word or phrase.  I expect that it will succeed in making OA journal policies, on average, more consistent and more open.  And I like the way it will have that kind of unifying effect while at the same time respecting pluralism through its compatibility with similar programs from other organizations supporting a different standard.  I look forward to the details.

Harnad on Esposito

Stevan Harnad, Publishing Management Consultant: "Open Access Is Research Spam", Open Access Archivangelism, November 15, 2007. 

SummaryJoseph Esposito, a management consultant, says Open Access (OA) is "research spam." But OA's explicit target content is all 2.5 million peer-reviewed articles published annually in the world's 25,000 peer-reviewed research journals. (So either all research is spam or OA is not spam after all!).

Esposito says researchers' problem isn't access to journal articles (they already have that): rather, it's not having the time to read them. This will come as news to the countless researchers worldwide who are denied access daily to the articles in the journals their institution cannot afford, and to the authors of those articles, who are losing all that potential research impact.

Search engines find it all, tantalizingly, but access depends on being able to afford the subscription tolls. Esposito also says OA is just for a small circle of peers: How big does he imagine the actual usership of most journal articles is?

Esposito applauds the American Chemical Society (ACS) executives' bonuses for publishing profit, even though ACS is supposed to be a Learned Society devoted to maximizing research access, usage and progress, not a commercial company devoted to deriving profit from restricting research access only to those who can afford to pay them for it (and for their bonuses).

Esposito describes the efforts of researchers to inform their institutions and funders of the benefits of mandating OA as lobbying, but he does not attach a name to what anti-OA publishers are doing when they hire expensive pit-bull consultants to spread disinformation about OA in an effort to prevent OA self-archiving from being mandated. (Another surcharge for researchers, in addition to paying for their bonuses?)

Esposito finds it tautological that surveys report that authors would comply with OA mandates, but he omits to mention that over 80% of those researchers report that they would self-archive willingly if mandated. (And where does Esposito think publishers would be without existing publish-or-perish mandates?)

Esposito is right, though, that OA is a matter of time -- but not reading time, as he suggests. The only thing standing between the research community and 100% OA to all of its peer-reviewed research article output is the time it takes to do the few keystrokes per article it takes to provide OA. That is what the mandates (and the metrics that reward them) are meant to accomplish at long last....

Also see Stevan's follow-up today:

On Thu, 15 Nov 2007, Joseph Esposito wrote:

"Hey, Stevan, come off it. Read the article. Once again you pick a fight when I mostly agree with you."
I was commenting on your interview rather than your article, but if you insist, here goes. The comments are much the same. I think we are galaxies apart, Joe, because you keep on imagining that OA is about unrefereed peer-to-peer content, whereas it is about making all peer-reviewed journal articles freely accessible online....

PS:  I blogged a substantial excerpt from Esposito's article (not the interview) on November 6, and added a few comments.

More on the bill mandating OA at the NIH

Bruce Byfield, Open Access bill vetoed,, November 16, 2007.  This story is not quite up to date, for example, on yesterday's failure by the House to override Bush's veto, but it's worth blogging for the analysis by Matt Cockerill, publisher of BioMed Central.  Excerpt:

[On the original passage of the bill by both houses of Congress:] "It's very clear, and a matter of public record, that a good deal of money is spent by the publishers on lobbying about issues like this," Cockerill says. "But clearly in this case that wasn't enough to block the move toward increasing OA in research. The strength of feeling in government and among the research community has been able to overcome that strong lobby.

Just as importantly, Cockerill suggests that the three-year history of the effort to pass the NIH initiative into law has resulted in increasing awareness of OA among researchers, academic administrators, and elected officials. "The high profile of this bill has certainly kept OA in people's attention." he says. "A lot of the support for OA has been coming, not just from those directly involved in the research community, but also those who have an interest in medical research -- patients, disease-interest groups, taxpayers, and people who have an interest from a lay person's point of view. I think it has been very good in continuing to further awareness of OA."

Cockerill says that the rise of the Internet has increased the demand for accessibility in general. People, he says, are asking, "Who benefits from freezing access to data? Is it the public, or is it only special interest groups who want to maintain the status quo? That question is arising in many situations."

As one proof of the increased awareness, Cockerill cites a recent student forum he attended at Harvard Medical School. Several years ago, he suggests, such a forum would probably have debated the merits of OA. Now, the debate is over the most practical steps needed to implement it. Increasingly, the basic desirability of OA is being taken for granted....

Update. Byfield has updated his article to mention the House override vote.

Digitizing the Dead Sea scrolls

Simon Tanner of King's College London will lead a team in digitizing the Dead Sea scrolls.  (Thanks to digitizationblog.)  From the KCL announcement:

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is considered as one of the greatest manuscript finds ever. The scrolls were written or copied in the Land of Israel between 250 BCE and 68 CE, and were rediscovered in 1947 in the Judean Desert....

Work on the unpublished texts, consisting of thousands of fragments, was monopolized for 35 years by a group of ten distinguished scholars. Inevitably, the limited size of the team prevented the speedy publication of the documents. In the early 1990s steps were taken by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) to reorganize the publication efforts, and the publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls in their entirety was completed in 2001.

The conservation, preservation and documentation of the Dead Sea Scrolls have concerned both scholars and conservators ever since their discovery....

Since the more than 15,000 Scroll fragments were photographed only once, in the 1950s, the IAA has convened an international committee of experts, led by Simon Tanner, to digitise the Scrolls for the web....

PS:  Digitizing the scrolls "for the web" probably means "for free online access" if not full OA.  But it might mean "for access by paying customers".  Does anyone know which?

CC add-in for OpenOffice

Creative Commons has released an add-in for OpenOffice.  For details, see yesterday's announcement.

More notes on the Harvard publishing conference

Evie Brown has blogged some notes on the Harvard conference on Publishing in the New Millennium: A Forum on Publishing in the Biosciences (Cambridge, November 9, 2007).  Excerpt:

On Friday last week, I was lucky enough to happen to be in Boston at the same time as an event titled Publishing in the New Millennium at which PLoS founder Harold Varmus and PLoS ONE Community Manager Bora Zivkovic were speaking. It was a free event organized by Harvard graduate students and aimed at both faculty, students and interested parties.

The lecture hall packed out to hear Harold speak about Open Access, PubMed Central, the NIH, and PLoS, but all eyes and ears were firmly centred on the standoff between his ideas and those of Emilie Marcus, Editor of Cell. Emilie took part in a panel discussion which focused mainly on the financial pros and cons of publishing Open Access and the danger of an ‘author pays’ model leading to ‘vanity publishing’ – the idea that paying for publication can compromise editorial standards. Of course, here at PLoS, the editors do not see the financial disclosure information of authors, and thus it can have no effect on their editorial integrity. It is nonetheless an interesting question, and one which also led Stuart Shieber of Harvard to ask the question – if all journals did go Open Access, would new barriers to publication be created in the form of higher-quality journals charging higher publication fees?

The second forum focused on ‘Science 2.0’ and the semantic web – which John Wilbanks of Science Commons thinks is now a very real and imminent possibility. The web currently does not function that well for science, and the next big leap is taking place in projects like JoVE, Creative Commons, PLoS ONE, and SciVee. Both Nature Precedings and PLoS ONE encourage commenting on articles and interaction between scientific peers, but this can have varying results – Hilary Spencer stated the uptake of commenting on Precedings has not been great, though there is plenty of other activity, while PLoS ONE has had well over 1000 pieces of post-publication commentary....

Obama wants greater access to environmental data

Barack Obama has released his technology platform.  It doesn't expressly call for open access to publicly-funded research, but it seems to presuppose it, at least in some forms in some fields:

Greater access to environmental data, for example, will help citizens learn about pollution in their communities, provide information about local conditions back to government and empower people to protect themselves.

More on NEEO

Tracey Caldwell, Economists lead EU infonet, Information World Review, November 13, 2007.  Excerpt:

Economists are to get access to the recent research results of 500 economist peers from at least 16 academic institutions throughout Europe.

EU-funded project Network of European Economists Online (NEEO), an initiative of a consortium of academic libraries, began in September to work on portal access to the repositories of the 16 institutions.

Peter Williams, subject librarian for economics and political science at UCL, one of the participating institutions, said that if successful (the target is 50,000 references by 2010), the model could be transferable to other disciplines. He said the project continued the tradition of open access in the economics academic community.

The NEEO project is intended to be an opportunity to consider the way new business models in scholarly communication could be developed. It plans to include as many data sets as possible....

Librarians are leading the project. “Libraries are in close communication with the researchers, so they are at the heart of content production, preservation, classification and dissemination,” said Hans Geleijnse, director of library and IT services at Tilburg University and project director. “This is all very in line with what libraries have always done, but in the web environment research libraries have to focus more than ever on the information that our their institutions are producing on a day-by-day basis.”

OA to Swedish essays written in English

University essays from Sweden is an OA collection of English-language essays written by Swedish university students.  Apparently "essays" here includes theses and dissertations.  (Thanks to  From the site: gives non-Swedish speakers access to essays published at Swedish universities. is the English language version of the website ("Uppsatser", incidentally, means "essays" in Swedish.)

At the main site there are more than 30.000 essays and final theses, but most of these are written Swedish. Therefore, at you will only find the English-language essays....

From the about page:

Every year tens of thousands of Swedish university students spend many million hours researching and writing their final theses. The end result - all the essays - is a knowledge resource of great weight. However, up until quite recently, it was common that the finished essays where stored away in the darkest corners of the university libraries, where no-one would ever find them.

This problem led way to the Swedish website The website was launched in 2004, with the goal to become a knowledge platform that could bridge the knowledge-gap between university students, schools and companies in Sweden. - the English language version of, was launched in November 2007....About one fourth of the university essays in Sweden are written in English....

OA repositories in India

S.B. Ghosh and Anup Kumar Das, Open Access and Institutional Repositories – a developing country perspective: a case study of India, IFLA Journal, 33, 3 (2007).  Scroll to p. 229.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Abstract:   Open access facilitates the availability and distribution of scholarly communication freely, as a means and effort to solve the problem of inaccessibility, primarily due to financial constraints, particularly in the developing countries. In India there has been a gradual realization of the usefulness of open access among various institutions. Various open access initiatives have been undertaken and are operational. Many are in the developmental stage. Some initiatives have also been taken in the area of metadata harvesting services particularly public funded ones. The future of open access in India is dependent upon a proper policy and developing a proper framework. In the implementation of open access, LIS professionals should play a proactive role in the growth of collections in institutional repositories. The paper provides an overview about the present state of open access initiatives by various institutions of the country.

Elsevier launches a medical wiki

Elsevier has launched WiserWiki, a wiki on medical research aimed at both practicing physicians and lay readers.  (Thanks to Graham Steel.)  From the site:

This website was originally started with content from the “Textbook of Primary Care Medicine” (3rd Edition) by John Noble – a leading figure in primary care medicine. It is evolving to become a key source of authoritative, online medical information.

Like most Wikis on the internet (such as Wikipedia), WiserWiki can be read by anyone who has internet access. However, unlike most Wikis, WiserWiki can only be edited by board certified doctors to ensure that the information is as trustworthy and reliable as possible. Doctors can also use WiserWiki as a valuable resource to collaborate with each other and to determine best practices by group consensus....

As WiserWiki is currently in beta version, we are experimenting with various ways to make it a better site for you as a user. We hope that users will continually evolve the site to best suit their needs. Therefore, we welcome your feedback and suggestions! Please check back often as we hope to add additional features and functionality....

WiserWiki is provided as a free service by Elsevier....

Frequently Asked Questions...

Q: I see that there are ads on this site. Where does the revenue from these ads go?

A: We do not currently expect to generate a significant amount of revenue on WiserWiki and hope to use the proceeds to recover the costs of operating and managing the site....

Q: How accurate is the information on this site?

A: As WiserWiki is a collaborative project, it is up to the contributors to substantiate the accuracy of the information. Elsevier does not validate the accuracy of submissions. However, we hope to maintain a high level of relevancy and trustworthiness by ensuring that editorial privileges are restricted to medical professionals only....

Q: Does this site cost anything to access?

A: No. The site is free to users.

Q: Who holds the copyright to the information submitted on this site?

A: Contributors retain the copyright to information they contribute to WiserWiki. Please read our Terms & Conditions....


  • In light of Elsevier's OncologySTAT (see my blog comments), I shouldn't be surprised.  But I admit that I am.  Elsevier is continuing to experiment in interesting ways with free online access.  WiserWiki isn't as free as it could be (more below), but I commend the company for the experiment. 
  • Note that Elsevier did more than launch a medical wiki.  It provided free online access to John Noble's textbook, published by Mosby (an Elsevier imprint).  Should we expect more professional wikis from Elsevier?  More free online books?
  • The FAQ doesn't say whether contributions will be anonymous or attributed, and the site is so new that we can't learn the answer by looking at sample contributions.  Either there are no user contributions yet or they are invisibly mixed in with the rest of the content.
  • The FAQ says that contributors retain copyright.  But the terms and conditions page starts by asserting that "All content in this the property of Elsevier...."  Eventually it adds, "We do not claim ownership of any material that you provide to us...."  The second clause qualifies the first and I wouldn't normally quibble.  But there's more at stake here than asserting A and not-A when Elsevier could have asserted A and not-B.  If we can't tell by looking which parts are owned by Elsevier and which parts are owned by contributors, then we don't know whom to contact for re-use permissions.  We don't even know (yet) whether the site will provide contact info for the contributors.  Elsevier could solve this problem by acknowledging that this is a wiki, not a textbook, put the whole thing under an open license, and tell contributors that posting content will be construed as consent for the content to be covered by the open license. 

Thursday, November 15, 2007

House fails to override Bush veto of bill containing OA mandate for NIH

Andrew Taylor, House to Sustain Veto of Health, Ed Bill, Associated Press, November 15, 2007.  Excerpt:

House Republicans on Thursday night easily sustained President Bush's veto of a Democratic health and education spending bill.

The 277-141 vote looked deceptively close, falling just two votes short of the two-thirds tally required to overturn Bush's veto. But as they did on three previous occasions, GOP leaders confidently managed their ranks to make sure Bush would not be embarrassed.

Some of the congressional combatants already were looking past the veto in hopes that it might prompt the White House to negotiate on that measure and 10 other bills that provide money to Cabinet departments for the budget year that began Oct. 1.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that when Congress returns in December from a two-week Thanksgiving recess, Democrats would send Bush a catchall spending bill combining Congress' unfinished budget work — after cutting about $11 billion from them.

Democrats have written domestic spending bills adding more than $22 billion to Bush's budget, prompting a wave of veto threats from the White House. Reid promised to cut that amount in half, saying it was a fair compromise.

"We're going to bundle these bills up and send a bill splitting the difference," Reid told reporters. If Bush vetoes that bill, Democrats might just put the government on autopilot at current spending levels for weeks, months....

Comment.  OK, on to Plan B.  The OA mandate for the NIH is a small part of a big bill to pay for about one-thirteenth of the federal government.  Some version of the appropriation will certainly pass and get the President's signature.  You can already see the jockeying between Congressional leaders and the White House about the contours of that version.  There are four grounds for optimism:

  1. The OA mandate was approved by both houses of Congress.  The easiest provisions to delete are those approved by just one chamber and kept by the House-Senate conference committee.
  2. The OA mandate has bipartisan support in Congress and Republican friends in the Executive Branch.
  3. The President has expressed strong objection to some of the policy provisions of the bill, but his stated concern about the OA provision is very mild by comparison.  If Congress deletes some of the more sensitive provisions in the spirit of compromise, it needn't touch the OA mandate.  In fact, deleting the OA provision would do virtually nothing to ingratiate the President.
  4. To reduce overall spending levels in the bill, Congress will cut some of the appropriations.   But the OA mandate is a policy change, not an appropriation.  There's no need to cut it to satisfy the President's fiscal objections to the current bill.   Stay tuned.

First batch of open data from the Pleiades project

Rufus Pollock, Pleiades: Lots of Ancient Geodata Released! Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, November 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

We’ve written about the pleiades project a couple of times before:

Organized by the Ancient World Mapping Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, U.S.A., Pleiades brings together a global community of scholars, students and enthusiasts to expand and enhance continually the information originally brought together by the Classical Atlas Project (1988-2000) to support the publication of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (R.J.A. Talbert, ed., Princeton, 2000).

Last month they released the first batch of their data, and what a great job they’re doing. The material is impeccably laid out, in particular:

  • They’ve ensured there’s a proper open license on each collection of material (in this case a CC Attribution license)
  • They’ve made the material available in bulk as well as through a search facility

More information about the datasets available as well as links can be found on the pleiades site or on the ckan pleiades package page. This really is a perfect example of what an open knowledge project can be and so a big well done to the pleiades team for the work so far (and long may it continue!).

Opening educational resources

The November-December issue of Educational Technology is devoted to Opening Educational Resources.  The issue isn't yet online, but the journal has allowed authors to post OA copies of their articles online.  Here's one:

Eve Gray, The Other End of the Telescope:  Opening Educational Resources in a South African University, Educational Technology, November-December, 2007.

Abstract:   This article explores the question of opening educational resources in the context of an educational technology unit, the Centre for Educational Technology at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa. It describes the impact of a high level of policy intervention for the transformation of higher education and of a diverse, multilingual student body, many with apartheid-inherited deficits in academic preparedness. In this context of very particular needs, the article questions the appropriateness of a focus on content alone, rather than educational process as it addresses particular contexts. Where content does become important is in the need to grow the volumes of Africa-relevant content, something that is inhibited by traditional publish-or-perish policies.

Update. Here's another OA edition of an article from the same issue: Judith Breck, When Educational Resources Are Open.

Update. Here's another: Sarah Whitcher Kansa and Eric C. Kansa, Open Content in Open Context.

Update (8/3/08). The full issue is now OA.

OARE enters Phase 2

The Online Access to Research in the Environment (OARE) entered Phase 2 on November 6.  Details from SciDev.Net:

OARE's goal is to reduce disparities in access to scientific research between developed and developing nations.

Five hundred institutions from 72 countries subscribed a year ago under the first phase of the project.

With this second phase, interested institutions from another 36 developing countries will have access to an environmental and related sciences research database.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and Yale University sponsor the public-private consortium initiative. Around 350 publishing and society partners also support it....

OARE's members come under two categories. The first includes institutions in 72 countries with a gross national income (GNI) per capita under US$1250, which have free access.

The second group includes institutions in 36 countries with a GNI per capita US$1250–3500. For them, the first three months are free of charge, after which they are asked to pay an annual enrolment fee of US$1000....

PS:  OARE is not OA, but offers free and discounted access to developing countries.

Perseus opens its source code

Charles Bailey, Perseus Digital Library Code and Content Now Freely Available, DigitalKoans, November 13, 2007.  Excerpt:

The Perseus Digital Library Project has released both the source code for Perseus 4.0 and a significant amount of the project's digital content. The Perseus Java Hopper code is open source; the content is under a Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States license....

PS:  Perseus is one of the oldest digital libraries, launching on CDs in 1987 and moving to the internet (where it was free of charge) in 1994.

An OA journal spells out its access policy

The Python Papers has released a Statement on Open Access.  PP is an OA journal devoted to the Python programming language.  From the new statement:

The Python Papers has received a number of inquiries relating to the republishing of articles from the journal, especially in the context of open-access repositories. Each issue of The Python Papers is released under a Creative Commons 2.5 license, subject to Attribution, Non-commercial and Share-Alike clauses. This, in short, provides a carte blanche on republishing articles, so long as the source of the article is fully attributed, the article is not used for commercial purposes and that the article is republished under this same license....

Archiving Articles in Open-Access Repositories

The Python Papers was asked about the official policy towards authors archiving their journal articles into open-access repositories, especially institutional repositories.

We believe it is clear from the distribution license that this is clearly permitted....

If the general license is not compatible with the goals of any particular open-access repository, we would encourage publishers to contact us to organise special permission.

Drafts, pre-prints, post-prints and other alternative versions of articles ...

The editors of The Python Papers need to be sure that drafts and alternative versions - which may or may not be decorated with a Creative Commons licence and/or reference to The Python Papers - cannot be confused with the final, approved version we published.

The license under which each issue is released covers only the final, approved version. Especially for academic papers, The Python Papers believes it is inappropriate for article pre-prints to be published as though they had met the academic review process. As such, we would be unlikely to give permission for authors submitting academic papers to publish a draft, pre-print or revision of the final version. Articles which are submitted as nonacademic are not subject to the same peer-review standards, but published articles are still a reflection of the standard of The Python Papers as a whole. Permission may be specially granted in some cases, but we require authors and other publishers to contact us on a case-by-case basis....

What kinds of repositories may use content from The Python

The Python Papers has been asked to clarify whether its position on article re-use is different for university institutional repositories, personal websites, or other repositories.

Any institution may include abstracts and meta-information in their databases. However, they may not necessarily be able to hold actual copies of The Python Papers....Any repository which is not run on a commercial basis may freely and without special permission use content from The Python Papers. This may include a university institutional repository, if that repository does not operate on a commercial basis. If, however, the institution requires a payment before content may be accessed, they are not permitted to use content from The Python Papers....

Comment.  I appreciate this kind of explicitness (and have previously called for it).  However, the statement seems to prohibit authors from self-archiving preprints and revised versions of the postprint, even when they make clear that they are not the same as the published edition.  That restriction is unnecessary and hard to reconcile with the CC-BY-NC-SA license. 

Search engine for the spoken word

Here's a useful combination:  OA audio file of the spoken word + speech recognition software + search engine. 

Two MIT researchers have made OA lectures much more useful by making them searchable.  They've set up a prototype for searching audio lectures within the large collection at MIT's Open Courseware.

For details see MIT News.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

FASEB working for override of Bush veto

Bob Grant, Bush vetoes NIH budget increase, The Scientist, November 14, 2007.  You know the basic facts.  But here's what's new:

US President George W. Bush on Tuesday (Nov 13) vetoed a spending bill that aimed to boost federal funding for the National Institutes of Health. The bill, which was passed by Congress last week, sought to increase NIH funding by about $1 billion from a 2007 budget of about $29 billion to a 2008 budget of about $30 billion....

"We were hoping that [Bush's veto] wouldn't be the case," Carrie Wolinetz, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) spokesperson, told The Scientist. "But the threat had been there."

The NIH budget has been stagnant over the past few years, with government funding increasing by only about $1.4 billion between 2003 and 2006.

The vetoed bill also included a provision requiring NIH-funded researchers to post the full text of their research papers on the National Library of Medicine's publicly accessible PubMed Central website within a year of publication. This provision survived an attack by Republican Senator James Inhofe in October to remain intact in the final version of the bill sent to the president.

The bill cleared the House of Representatives only three votes shy of the two-thirds majority it would have needed to avoid Bush's veto. As H.R.3043 returns to Capitol Hill, where legislators will hold a veto override vote, Wolinetz said that FASEB will continue encouraging its 80,000-strong membership to urge their legislators to support the bill and overturn the presidential veto....

If Bush's veto of the bill is not overridden by Congress, [then the bill] will be renegotiated, and legislators will vote on the funding package again. Open access advocate Peter Suber said that even in the face of these potential renegotiations, the open access provision in the bill is likely to remain unchanged.  "If they have to revise the appropriation," he told The Scientist, "then I'm optimistic that the open access provision will survive intact [because it was approved by both houses of Congress]." ...

Comment.  What's new and welcome here is that FASEB is working for the override in order to save the billion dollar budget increase for the NIH.  FASEB has opposed a strong OA policy at the NIH in the past (see one, two, three), but clearly believes that it would be a price worth paying for the overall budget increase.

Are donated manuscripts taxable income to publishers?

Michael Carroll, Tax Problem for Commercial Publishers?  Carrollogos, November 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

In arguments about open access, commercial publishers do their utmost to minimize rhetorically the value they receive from free articles and free labor by referees or peer reviewers and some editors.

When the audience changes, these same publishers have suggested to investors in the past that it is precisely because they don't have to pay for these critical inputs and that demand for their publications is relatively inelastic that their business is so profitable.

I wonder what story they tell the taxing authorities about whether these free inputs are part of their gross income? In the United States, "gross income means all income from whatever source derived," 26 U.S.C. s. 61(a). "Any source" would seem to include in kind inputs such as free articles of value and free labor. right?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WHO IGWG2 waters down draft OA mandate

Manon Anne Ress, Require or Encourage? IGWG text on open access, KEI Policy Blog, November 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

One of the outcomes of the Nov. 5-10, 2007 second session of the WHO Intergovernmental Working Group on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property (IGWG2) is a provision on access to government funded research.

Where did this provision come from, and how did it it evolve from “requirements” to “strongly encouraging” that “all investigators funded by governments submit to an open access database an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts,” and what does it mean?

The open access access issue was not in the original July Secretariat draft Global Strategy document. It appeared for the first time in the so called “Rio Text,” that came out of two meetings (one in Bolivia in August and one in Brazil in September)....

The following was how it was presented in the Rio text:

(2.5) Ensuring access to knowledge and technology relevant to meet public health needs of developing countries
(a) put in place measures that safeguard the public domain.
(b)promote public access to the results of government funded research, through requirements that all investigators funded by governments submit to an open access database an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts.
(c)support the creation of open databases and compound libraries, including unrestricted access to drug leads identified through the screening of compound libraries,
(d) encourage developed countries, universities and donors to require that publicly or donor funded medical inventions and know-how be made available through open licensing for use in developing countries on reasonable and affordable nondiscriminatory terms....

However, last week the IGWG negotiators met, and made changes. The good news is that there is still an open access provision, apparently accepted by consensus. But the “requirements” language has been replaced with a watered down “strong encouragement” language in the version of the text distributed Saturday at the end of the meeting (Geneva Nov.5-10, 2007). (See [the Draft global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property], ...November 10 2007).

Draft global strategy and plan of action on public health, innovation and intellectual property
Progress to date in Drafting groups A and B...

(2.5) Promoting greater access to knowledge and technology relevant to meet health needs of developing countries. (consensus)

a) promote the creation and development of accessible public health libraries in order to enhance availability and use of relevant publications by universities, institutes and technical centers, especially in developing countries. (consensus)

(b) promote public access to the results of government funded research, by strongly encouraging that all investigators funded by governments submit to an open access database and electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts. (consensus) ... 

Apparently, during last week meeting, there was opposition to the “requirement” language by some European countries.

It looks a lot like the “old and failed” NIH non-mandatory policy that the US Congress is trying to change, and may disappoint open access advocates. However, it also means that there is a global, yes, global agreement that government funded research should be open access, and when the IGWG plan of action is designed, it will be seeking to implement this A2K initiative. We will be following this carefully.

Comment.  Thanks to Manon and KEI for this alert.  I'd like to hear from any readers who might know which national delegations inserted the strong language in the first draft and which wanted to weaken it in the new draft.  I'd welcome other, more specific details on the opposition and the procedure going forward.  If you send me anything, please let me know whether it is confidential or whether I may make it public.

Update. Also see Stevan Harnad's comments.

Update. Also see Katherine Nightingale's story in SciDev.Net for November 19, 2007. She doesn't identify the source of the original strong language or the subsequent weakening, but she does quote some apt comments:

"Strong encouragement does not work: we already know this from the failure of other non-mandatory policies, whether by researchers' funders or researchers' employing institutions," [Stevan] Harnad, professor of Cognitive Science, Electronics and Computer Science at the UK-based University of Southampton, told SciDev.Net.

"The only thing that works is a mandate. The WHO could have helped accelerate open access momentum, but if it does not upgrade again to a mandate recommendation, it will either not help, or it may even reduce momentum," he adds.

"The WHO have immense opportunities to benefit health in the poorest nations and if they put their considerable influence and resources into open access, things would progress far faster," says Barbara Kirsop of the Electronic Publishing Trust for Development.

"It is only too clear that if there is just a 'request' to deposit research publications in open access institutional repositories, it won't work as scientists are just interested in the next bit of research and forget all about ways to increase the impact of their work," she adds.

"Fortunately, because establishing open access institutional repositories, for example, is so low-cost, things are moving ahead anyway, particularly in Latin America."

Update (11/27/07). Also see the story by Daniel Griffin at the Information World Review blog.

More from ACS Insider2

"ACS Insider2" (a.k.a. "Miss Phlogiston") reports that the American Chemical Society (ACS) has a plan in case the NIH adopts an OA mandate:

I've been told by multiple colleagues that ACS executives are creating a bogus controversy that Open Access will impede scientists' copyright privileges in regards to the studies they publish.  ACS has already begun to "educate" scientists about intellectual property rights, with hints that this "education" will help them protect the integrity of their studies....

ACS might force a court case against the federal government based on copyright law, but management and lawyers are not sure that this will work.  At best it might just delay the inevitable....


Most UK museums and libraries not using open licenses

Research Reveals More Museums and Libraries Need to Enable Public Use of Online Resources, a press release from Eduserv, November 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

Eduserv, the not-for-profit IT services group, today announces the findings of a study which reveals that while many UK museums, libraries and archives share their collections online with the public, the majority are not familiar with the use of open content licences which would allow the public to use texts, images and other materials legally for their own projects....

The survey, which was completed by 107 organisations, revealed that most cultural heritage organisations, such as libraries, museums and archives, are sharing parts of their collections online. Yet, 40 percent of those surveyed were unfamiliar with open licensing  and only 22 respondents are currently using or planning to use open licences, which would help the public to use digital materials  from organisations’ collections for their own projects.  

Of the digital material being made available, the organisations surveyed were most likely to share text and images online (71 and 77 respondents out of 107 respectively). Multimedia materials were among those that many organisations were planning to make available for the first time (29 out of 107 respondents). In contrast, many organisations surveyed did not have audio materials available online, nor were they intending to do so in the future (32 respondents out of 107).

Jordan Hatcher, a legal consultant at and principal researcher on the study, comments: “Placing digital materials online without licensing information doesn’t make resources accessible for the public. Open licences are a way, when appropriate, for the cultural heritage sector to ensure their online resources can be easily and legally accessed. Without clear licensing information, students, teachers, artists and other members of the public cannot be sure whether they’re able to use the resources for their own websites and other projects without violating the law.”

Andy Powell, Head of Development at Eduserv, adds: “...Making more digital resources available online would be an important contribution to learning and research, and we hope that this study will encourage organisations to explore ways to share their collections with the public.”

PS:  For background, see my post on the launch of the survey in July 2007.

Update. For the report itself, see the body of the text and the appendices.

Updated list of society publishers with OA journals

Caroline Sutton and I have posted an updated version of our spreadsheet of society publishers with OA journals.  For some background (but not up to date totals) see our article in the November SOAN.

Sources for OA editions of public domain books

Sean Aune has collected 20+ Places for Public Domain E-Books.  (Thanks to LIS News.)

OA to a hoard of US case law

1.8 million pages of federal case law to become freely available, a press release from Public.Resource.Org, November 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

Public.Resource.Org and Fastcase, Inc. announced today that they will release a large and free archive of federal case law, including all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 to the present and all Supreme Court decisions since 1754. The archive will be public domain and usable by anyone for any purpose.

“The U.S. judiciary has allowed their entire work product to be locked up behind a cash register,” said Carl Malamud, CEO of Public.Resource.Org. “Law is the operating system of our society and today's agreement means anybody can read the source for a substantial amount of case law that was previously unavailable.”

Fastcase, the leading developer of next-generation American legal research, has agreed to provide Public.Resource.Org with 1.8 million pages of federal case law. This is a marked departure for the online legal research industry, which traditionally has charged expensive subscription fees to access this information....

Fastcase has reversed the traditional subscription model for lawyers, contracting directly with 11 state bar associations to make the national law library free for lawyers in their states. “Through this agreement with Public.Resource.Org, we are proud to expand our efforts beyond lawyers, and to make more of the law available to the general public at no cost,” Walters said.

The agreement calls for definitive paperwork approved by both parties within 30 days with Public.Resource.Org making developer snapshots of the archive available in early 2008. Public.Resource.Org is represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation in this transaction. The cases will be marked with a new Creative Commons mark—CC-Ø—that signals that there are no copyrights or other related rights attached to the content.

This transaction represents a one-time purchase of a copy of data. This corpus will be integrated into the ongoing public services from organizations such as AltLaw and the Legal Information Institute, thus providing continuity of coverage into the future. Further announcements will be forthcoming on the availability of other case law, including Federal District and pre-1949 Appellate decisions.

Public.Resource.Org intends to perform an initial transformation on the federal case law archive obtained from Fastcase using open source “star” mapping software, which will allow the insertion of markers that will approximate page breaks based on user-furnished parameters such as page size, margins, and fonts. “Wiki” technology will be used to allow the public to move around these “star” markers, as well as add summaries, classifications, keywords, alternate numbering systems for citation purposes, and ratings or “diggs” on opinions.

Comment.  Another victory for the public and the public domain, thanks to Carl Malamud and  Kudos to PRO, Fastcase, and all involved.

Update. Also see John Markoff's story in the November 14 New York Times.

New OA database on material properties

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has launched a new OA database, Material Properties.  For detail, see the Chemistry Central blog.

New discussion list on "the new politics of knowledge"

Citizendium has launched a new discussion list, SharedKnowledge.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  From the description:

SharedKnowing is a mailing list for both discussion and announcements, not specifically affiliated with any project, but hosted by the Citizendium.

Well-reasoned, polite discussion of the nature of online knowledge production communities, with special but not exclusive focus on community policy (production, governance, management) questions; "the new politics of knowledge" broadly speaking. Though participation is by no means restricted to philosophers, we would like the list to have a more theoretical or philosophical focus, as opposed to being concerned with the specific minutia of specific communities (such as Wikipedia).

The collaborative knowledge community component of the list is important. It is not a list about Internet communities generally, much less the Internet generally. It's about Internet communities that are both collaborative and aimed at compiling knowledge....

Knowing when you may self-archive

Peter Murray-Rust, Communal repositability wiki? A Scientist and the Web, November 13, 2007.  Excerpt:

I continually find it difficult to know what the formal publisher rules are for self-archiving....[T]here is a huge variation in publisher policies (some seemingly internally inconsistent and many drafted in the era of printing presses). Many of these deserve challenging but are so fuzzy that it’s like punching cotton wool. I used to think this was simple carelessness - now I think it’s deliberate obscurantism....

A few months ago I suggested to some of my Blue Obelisk colleagues that we carry out a systematic survey of Open Access policies in Chemistry, and particularly whether the publisher allowed re-use of the data (e.g. was it Open Data?). There were (only) about 60 journals, some very small, so it didn’t seem difficult. However after struggling through about 10 publishers pages I was worn out with the difficulty of getting any sort of grip. So we have put this on hold (but not before we had alerted one published to the value of adopting a CC-BY licence).

Yesterday Elin Stangeland from our DSpace@Cambridge told us how to self-archive and I think it’s generating useful interest and commitment in my colleagues. Unfortunately chemistry is almost the worst subject for any sort of OA. Am I allowed to post my preprint of an article  in an ACS (American Chemical Society) journal? After all I wrote it - surely the ACS doesn’t own the copyright before I’ve submitted it? No, it doesn’t. but as Peter Suber reminds us:

Retention of copyright is neither necessary nor sufficient to allow authors to self-archive. It’s not necessary because authors don’t need the full bundle of rights in order to authorize self-archiving. It’s not sufficient in the sense that many journals (for example, Nature and Science) say that they let authors retain copyright but in the fine print insist on exceptions that deprive authors of the right to self-archive. However, retaining copyright simpliciter or without qualification is more than enough to allow authors to self-archive.

Did you get it right? The answer seems to be that copyright is irrelevant if the publisher requires you to sign that you will not self-archive. There are a zillion publishers, many with umpteen pages of fuzzy pseudo-legal waffle embedded in the promotional material on the mastheads of their journal. So you have to know it for each one.

Now SHERPA/RoMEO - Publisher copyright policies & self-archiving has more-or-less definitive statements about publishers’ policies. Of course the publisher has the correct version and it’s possible for the sites to be inconsistent. Not SHERPA’s fault. It’s a large job. In addition many publishers will actually waive copyright transfer if you ask nicely or are sufficiently feared/valuable. But, since many of us still find it difficult work out. So I suggested it would be useful to have an informal website/wiki where people could record their experiences of self-archiving - either as authors or as repository managers. Dorothea Salo replies…

Dorothea Salo Says:
November 13th, 2007 at 2:44 pm e

I thought about this a year or so ago. I even started experimenting with wiki software. I’d be willing to run it… but it’s not going to work without the investment you mention, and that is a hard problem.

Imprimis, many repository “managers” (scare quotes used advisedly) are part-timers who had the repository loaded on to an existing full-time job. These people are not clued into the zeitgeist. A lot of them don’t even know about SHERPA.

Secundus, a lot of us have “better safe than sorry” imprinted on our brains by management and by the general culture of risk aversion in librarianship, and so if SHERPA doesn’t have the answer, we don’t investigate any further.

Tertius, there aren’t obvious places to get out the word on something like this. We have no journal. The only conference dedicated to us, Open Repositories, travels more than we can afford to. We have no online gathering-place (and if we did, how many of us would know about it? see point the first). And nobody’s leading. I’ve tried. I failed.

Quartus, it’s been tried on a disciplinary basis in law. The results were not outstanding.

I really will do this if someone convinces me there’s a snowball’s chance in Hades of it actually accomplishing something. Thus far, not convinced.

PMR: This is very useful. The law site is actually nicely laid out and although not heavily populated is exactly what is required. I could see that 1-2 repositorians could reasonably populate the wiki and keep it up-to-date. I shan’t finger anyone but there are organizations dedicated to the Opening of publications and they could find it useful to help support an effort like this....


  • SHERPA is wonderful, but PMR is right that it doesn't include all the details one might want --and also right that SHERPA is not responsible for publisher policies that are vague or silent on key details.  Before supplementing it, however, or even asking whether it would expand to include some discoverable extra details, I'd think about the goal.  If the primary question is whether one is allowed to self-archive after publishing in a certain journal, then supplementing SHERPA (except to cover more journals) is not necessary.  One should self-archive whenever SHERPA says it is permissible, subject to later notification that SHERPA was in error or the journal changed its policy.  This option is less work and yields more OA, even if it leaves certain questions unanswered.
  • There are two tools that already supplement SHERPA.  One is Lund's JournalInfo (launched in June 2007), a guide to both OA and TA journals, with a raft of useful information on each one.  It already does much of the work that SHERPA does, and more.  If it doesn't cover certain details, then (as with SHERPA) one might ask whether it would expand to include them.  The second is Eureka Science Journal Watch, which is already a wiki.  At Eureka, users can start a page on a science journal and record whatever info they can dig out of its editorial pages and recount their experiences when relying on that info.

Two pretexts for dismissal

Mary Page has blogged some notes on Deborah Wiley's talk at Charleston 2007 (Charleston, November 7-10, 2007).  Excerpt:

Deborah E. Wiley [is the] Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, John Wiley & Sons, Inc....

What is the most over-discussed scholarly communication issue: OPEN ACCESS!  Ms. Wiley observed that there is much repetition of principles and declarations. Not enough...attention is focused on the business model, and scholars themselves not that interested.

Comment.  It's not fair to criticize such a short paraphrase of longer remarks.  So I'll be hypothetical:  if anyone were inclined to make these claims, I'd have to reply that they were not paying attention.  First, there is far more discussion nowadays of practical implementations of OA, including business models, than declarations.  Look at any week of my blog archive as an example, or the "round-up" section of any issue of my newsletter.  Second, every study of scholar attitudes toward OA shows much less lack of interest than lack of understanding and lack of familiarity with the options.

An unsustainable profit model at the expense of researchers

Mark Montague, Scientific publishing in need of a fix soon, The California Tech, November 12, 2007.  (Thanks to George Porter.)  Excerpt:

...This week Congress is contributing to a shake up by requiring free public access (in PubMed Central) to all research funded by the National Institutes of Health within a year of its initial publication.

While this specific bill will have a direct impact on the many researchers at Caltech who receive NIH funding, there are larger questions --which a recent panel and online forums at Caltech have discussed-- of what the future of scientific publishing should look like. While some of this is the natural adaptation of new media, a great deal of it is driven by increasing awareness of serious problems.

The fundamental cost of getting the research results of one scientist to the appropriate academic peers has fallen dramatically. In many regards, the exorbitant costs of journals are no longer justified by needs, but are maintained only by tradition and a strategic hoarding of copyrights by the publishing companies to create an artificial economy of scarcity. The journals may provide editorial and archival contributions, but those are not really tied to the business model at all.

Publishers do provide an important, and perhaps even vital, contribution to the process of science —they coordinate peer review. There are certainly those who argue that this alone is worth supporting the current model, because the ability of academia to produce validated scientific results depends on it. In some ways, there is no clear answer: the conservative “stick with what works” approach is often prudent, but the progressive “embrace new technologies and ideas” attitude is also part of the tradition of researchers.

The current trend is not stable, though. Academic publishing is a lucrative business, and the numbers of journals and their total costs to universities is on the rise. Some figures suggest that the increasing price of journal subscriptions for universities is unsustainable at the current rate of increase....

The bottom line is that the scientific publishing industry, despite claims by lobbyists that the status quo is vital to the scientific endeavor, is actually on an unsustainable course of maintaining the lucrative profit model of a bygone era at the expense of the researchers and funding agencies that it originally came into being to serve....

Update. See the comments by Dana Roth.

OA to the research output of Catalonia's PRBB

Catalonia's Parc de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona (PRBB) is creating a search engine, rather than a repository, for OA editions of its research papers.  From yesterday's announcement on PRBB News:

As a service to all members of the PRBB centers, as well as any external visitors interested in the research taking place on them, a search engine is going to be re-launched at the PRBB website that will allow to search for articles published by any scientist associated with any of the six PRBB centers, i.e. IMIM, CEXS-UPF, CRG, CMRG, CREAL and IAT. This search engine will retrieve a PDF copy of the full-length article, which will be freely and immediately accessible to the reader.

This initiative is similar to that of self-archiving articles in institutional repositories in parallel to publication in journals, a practice that is very common nowadays all over the world....

The PRBB initiative of linking the PDF articles to the search engine is not an institutional repository, but it is an alternative and simple way of ensuring a major visibility of the work being done. As scientists, we are particularly dependant on ready and unrestricted access to our published literature, the only permanent record of our ideas, discoveries and research results. And having such advanced communication resources as the Internet, it would be foolish not to use them to share our research in an equally advanced way. We are all aware of the importance of increasing general awareness of our work, and of how a faster and wider sharing of articles and research data stimulates the advance of knowledge.

What about the journal's copyright?

At the moment, most journals retain the full copyright of the articles they publish, although according to the most authoritative resource on journal policy for self-archiving, more than 90% of journals allow some form of self archiving.  Furthermore, awareness is growing by authors and their funders that assigning full copyrights to publishers may not be in their best interests. That is why universities, governments, and other organizations are suggesting that authors now retain their copyrights and then grant publishers a license to publish the work....

Finally, and despite the journals' current restrictions, it is common practice for scientists to have links to their own published articles on their websites. A study in 2005 showed that the final version of more than one third of articles in high-impact journals were freely available online. This is the result of an ever-growing ideology that we at the PRBB share: the belief that it is fair that the results of publicly-funded research be also public and available for everyone, both scientists and the general public; that a faster and wider dissemination of information such as that possible through the internet fuels the advance of knowledge; that it is this knowledge upon which future scientific activity and progress are based; and that scientific progress is both a right and a necessity for our society and we as scientists have the obligation to do what is in our hands to stimulate it. We believe that the search engine of the PRBB will be a good step in this direction.

New free online journal on digital conservation

E-Conserv@tion is a new free online peer-reviewed OA journal.  It calls itself OA, but it requires users to register, and click their agreement with the CC-BY-NC-ND licensing terms, before they are allowed to read any articles.  Even then, you cannot download individual articles but only an entire issue in a single PDF.

The inaugural issue (October 2007) is now online and includes an article on OA, The Open Access Concept (pp. 14-19).  I'd link to it but the journal doesn't support deep links to individual articles.  The article presents the results of a survey of attitudes toward OA among conservators.  I'd post an excerpt here, but I just ran into one more frustrating limitation:  cutting/pasting a paragraph of readable text creates an unreadable mess full of random spaces. 

Wall Street Journal to become free online

Rupert Murdoch is about to remove price barriers to the online edition of the Wall Street Journal.  See coverage, for example, here, here, and here.  His idea is to make more money from advertising than he now makes from subscriptions.  The online WSJ now has about one million subscribers paying $99/year.

Note that the New York Times took this step in September 2007, and for the same reason.  In the same month, Murdoch began hinting that he would do the same for the WSJ. 

Also remember that Elsevier is doing very much the same thing with OncologySTAT.


  • As I've said before, the newspaper models may affect scholarly journals indirectly, for example, by reinforcing user expectations for OA and confirming the many studies showing that free online access increases impact.
  • But could the newspaper models also get OA journals to think more seriously about advertising, and advertisers to think more seriously about OA journals?  Insofar as advertising rates depend on circulation, OA publications should be able to charge more than TA publications --perhaps enough more to support the conversion from TA to OA.  Or if the rates are about the same, then advertisers should prefer to advertise in OA publications, and advertisers who never quite thought about why are now being educated by the NYT and WSJ.  Granted that scholarly journals in most fields have much less attraction for advertisers than newspapers, they also have much lower expenses.  How does this net out?  For example, if many (not all) OA journals would like to generate more revenue from advertising, how far is that interest reciprocated by advertisers who would like to reach more eyeballs by advertising in OA journals?  Will advertiser interest in OA journals increase as the logic of the NYT and WSJ strategies sinks in?
  • See my February 2006 article on Google AdSense ads (and the growing number of equivalents) as as a supplementary source of revenue for OA journals raising none of the usual problems of real or perceived editorial corruption.

No-fee paths to OA

Stevan Harnad, No Need To Keep Waiting For Gold OA, Open Access Archivangelism, November 14, 2007.  Excerpt:

On Tue, 13 Nov 2007, Michael Smith [MS] (Anthropology, ASU, wrote in the American Scientist Open Access Forum):

MS: "The practice of author payment for open access journals may work for the hard sciences, but it presents major difficulties for various categories of scholars..."

Paying to publish journal articles presents difficulties for any author who does not have the money to pay, regardless of field. But it is not an obstacle to providing Open Access (OA) itself:

Although only about 10% of journals are OA journals ("Gold OA Publishing"), over 62% of journals are "Green," meaning that they have already given their green light to all their authors to make their own peer-reviewed final drafts ("postprints") OA by depositing them in their own Institutional (or Central) Repositories (IRs) upon acceptance for publication -- and immediately making them OA ("Green OA Self-Archiving"). Another 29% of journals endorse immediate OA self-archiving of the pre-refereeing preprint, with embargoes of various lengths on making the postprint OA....

OA self-archiving (Green OA) costs nothing. But it should also be pointed out that the majority of Gold OA journals today do not charge for publication -- and those that do, waive the fee if the author cannot afford to pay....

Comment.  Stevan is right.  To summarize:  there are at least three ways for authors to avoid fees and still provide OA to their peer-reviewed postprints.  (1) At fee-based OA journals, many authors can get a fee subsidy from their funder or employer, and many others can get a fee waiver from the journal.  (2) Most OA journals charge no fees in the first place.  (3) Green OA or self-archiving charges no fees. 

Recognition for founder of Dutch e-Depot

Royal decoration for founder of KB’s e-Depot, a press release from the Dutch Koninklijke Bibliotheek.  Excerpt:

Johan Steenbakkers, Director of e-Strategy and Property Management of the KB [Koninklijke Bibliotheek], the National Library of the Netherlands, has been appointed Knight of the Order of Oranje Nassau on account of his achievements in developing the e-Depot, the digital repository of the KB. The ceremony took place during the international digital preservation conference Tools & Trends, which was organized by the KB on the occasion of Steenbakkers’ retirement.

Steenbakkers played a vital role in developing a storage system for digital publications. The first ideas for such a system were developed in the early 1990s, when electronic publishing was first introduced and the KB decided that e-publications should be included in the national deposit collection. Dr. Steenbakkers not only developed an innovative vision on the future of electronic publications and the KB’s role, but he also came to be the moving force behind a joint IBM/KB project to develop a repository system which met the demands of long-term storage and access. Thus the e-Depot came to be, a world first in the storage of electronic documents, journals and websites.
Ten million articles in the e-Depot.

Dr. Steenbakkers’ knowledge, drive and enthusiasm allowed the KB to gain an international reputation in the area of digital preservation. Considerable interest was roused worldwide and twelve major publishers, including Springer, Elsevier, Blackwell and BioMed [Central] concluded archiving agreements with the KB. Just before Steenbakkers’ retirement, the 10 millionth journal article was ingested....

Also see the RAND Europe report on e-Depot published last week (and blogged here just a minute ago).

Interview with Christine Borgman

Scott Jaschik interviews Christine Borgman in today's issue of Inside Higher Ed.  Excerpt:

It’s hard to meet academics these days whose work hasn’t been changed by the Internet. But even if everyone knows that the world of scholarship has changed, it’s not always clear just how or the way those evolutions fit into the broad history of scholarship. Christine L. Borgman sets out to do just that in Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure and the Internet, just published by MIT Press. Borgman, a presidential chair in information studies at the University of California at Los Angeles, responded to e-mail questions about her book.

Q: In terms of the creation of scholarship, how do you view the significance of the changes brought by the digital age — in contrast to changes brought by earlier revolutionary changes (atomic age, age of mass non-digital communication, etc.)?

A: ...Most new publications are distributed in digital form and vast portions of the print archive are being digitized. Scholars (at least in the developed world) have ubiquitous high-bandwidth connectivity to the Internet, online access to digital content in their fields (both free and by university-paid licenses), and the tools and services to make use of these resources. Taken together, this environment offers a wealth of opportunities for new kinds of data-and information-intensive, distributed, collaborative, interdisciplinary scholarship.

However, the availability of this environment does not lead directly to changes in scholarly practice. The scholarly communication system has evolved over a period of centuries — it doesn’t shift quickly. Scholarly journals still look a lot like they did in the 17th century, for example. The tenure system is a much stronger driver of scholarly infrastructure than is technology. Scholars are rewarded for publishing journal articles and books, in the right places. They are not rewarded for good data management, except in a very few fields. Rewards for open access publishing are indirect, such as more citations, and recognition of these benefits has been slow to emerge....

Q: Has the digital age resulted in professors having less ownership of their intellectual property than they had before?

A: Yes, although “control” is more the issue than is “ownership.” The set of rights associated with copyright ownership is even greater for digital than for printed works. If authors sign over all associated rights to a publisher, they indeed have even less ownership than before. Many universities and funding agencies are encouraging (or increasingly, requiring) authors to hold back certain rights from the publisher, such as the rights to self-archive on Web sites or in repositories, to use the work in their teaching, or to make their own derivative works. A growing number of authors are using Creative Commons licenses to distribute their work, which reserves rights such as attribution to the author and places limits on reuse for commercial purposes.

The other side of the coin is that the extension of copyright term (70 years after the death of the author, and longer in the case of commercial works) means scholars have greater difficulty obtaining access to recent materials....

Now that the Internet makes wider dissemination possible, copyright laws and contracts are restricting dissemination. The “open access” movement is a response to these limits on access to scholarly works. Funding agencies in Europe, and increasingly in the U.S., are encouraging or requiring grantees to make their publications, and sometimes their data, available within a specified period (usually 6 to 12 months) by submitting them to an open access repository. These policies do not restrict where researchers can publish; they just require that the publications also be deposited....

Q: What do you see as the key unexplored policy issues raised by digital scholarship?

A: The overarching policy issue is what the new scholarly information infrastructure should be. Cyberinfrastructure is the policy answer of the moment. My concern is whether this is a solution in search of a problem that we don’t yet fully understand. Building something is much easier than is determining what to build – the risk today is that we construct a new infrastructure that locks in a number of questionable assumptions about what scholarship is and what it could be in the future.

Some aspects of a successful new scholarly infrastructure are these:

  • It would support both collaborative and independent research and learning.
  • It would provide relatively easy and equitable access to information resources and to the tools to use them.
  • It would provide scholars in all fields with the ability to use their own research data and that of others to ask new questions and to visualize and model their data in new ways....
  • Open access would prevail, and access to digital content would be permanent.
  • Institutional responsibility for obtaining and maintaining digital content would be clear and would be sustainable....

Comment.  I like all of Christine's answers, and just have a quick comment on the first one.  It may be true that the benefits of OA for authors are "indirect".  (I say "may" because I'm not sure what's more direct than increased visibility, audience, and impact.)  But we shouldn't draw the conclusion that the benefits from conventional, TA publication are somehow more direct.  Authors are not paid for their journal articles by either kind of publisher.  Their rewards in both cases lie in intangible, perhaps indirect, benefits like citation impact, prestige, and career advancement.  Whether the OA is gold or green, delivered by an OA journal or by an OA archive after the author publishes in a conventional journal, OA and TA do not differ primarily in the kinds of rewards they bring to authors.  Assuming that authors publish in journals of equal quality or prestige, the chief differences are that OA brings these rewards sooner and in greater degree.  For details, see Steve Hitchcock's bibliography.

Digital preservation with an eye on the rise of OA

Stijn Hoorens and four co-authors, Addressing the uncertain future of preserving the past:  Towards a robust strategy for digital archiving and preservation, RAND Europe, November 6, 2007.  (Thanks to Matt Cockerill.)  Research prepared for the Dutch Koninklijke Bibliotheek.  To keep my load manageable, I've generally stopped blogging digital preservation news, but this report has a clear OA connection.  Excerpt:

As part of the public responsibility of the national library of The Netherlands to archive publications with a Dutch imprint - general publications as well as scholarly output - the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (KB) has undertaken to develop a digital archive, the national e- Depot. The ‘e-Depot’ system has been devised and implemented to maintain and preserve the delivered content for perpetual access. In addition to items having Dutch imprint, the KB archives international publications in the areas of science, technology and medicine (STM). Because the progress of scholarly knowledge feeds on the scholarship of the past, this is a task of great significance. Agreements have been made with the major international STM publishers, and with this global application of the e-Depot, KB aims to extend its public deposit function for electronic publications to the international level. In so doing, KB intends to become part of a global ‘safe places network’ consisting of a limited number of digital repositories for international electronic publications....

The principles upon which the KB’s strategy is based can be summarised as follows.

  1. Archiving and preservation of digital objects. As scholarly output is moving toward the exclusive use of electronic form, a digital archive is needed for KB to continue fulfilling its deposit task as a national library....
  2. International deposit function. Since the concept of imprint (location of publication) is no longer valid for digital publications, KB extends its national deposit function to the international level. In so doing, KB offers to become part of a global ‘Safe Places Network’, consisting of a number of digital repositories for international electronic publications. Because of the required scale of investment in equipment, skills and expertise, as well as a consequence of publishers’ archiving policies, it is expected that there will be a limited number of such ‘safe places’.
  3. Perpetual access. KB acknowledges research libraries’ concern about the threat of permanent loss of electronic journals and disrupted access to journals for a protracted period following a trigger event, such as a publisher going out of business or a library cancelling a journal subscription (see Section 2.2). An e-Depot would provide a way to manage this threat. Following a trigger event, e-Depot would provide affected libraries with either temporary or permanent access to a specific set of serials and volumes in its archive....

See Chapter 3 on Scholarly dissemination and publishing:  a complex and dynamic environment (pp. 15-32), especially 3.3, Trends and uncertainties in scholarly dissemination and publishing (pp. 26-32), covering trends, including the rise of OA, that e-Depot is designed to accommodate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Bush vetoes LHHS appropriations bill

The headline says it all, but here's some detail from Jennifer Loven for the Associated Press:

President Bush, escalating his budget battle with Congress, on Tuesday vetoed a spending measure for health and education programs prized by congressional Democrats....

The president's action was announced on Air Force One as Bush flew to New Albany, Ind., on the Ohio River across from Louisville, Ky., for a speech criticizing the Democratic-led Congress on its budget priorities.

In excerpts of his remarks released in advance by the White House, Bush hammered Democrats for what he called a tax-and-spend philosophy....

More than any other spending bill, the $606 billion education and health measure defines the differences between Bush and majority Democrats. The House fell three votes short of winning a veto-proof margin as it sent the measure to Bush.

Rep. David Obey, the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, pounced immediately on Bush's veto.

"This is a bipartisan bill supported by over 50 Republicans," Obey said. "There has been virtually no criticism of its contents. It is clear the only reason the president vetoed this bill is pure politics."

Since winning re-election, Bush has sought to cut the labor, health and education measure below the prior year level. But lawmakers have rejected the cuts. The budget that Bush presented in February sought almost $4 billion in cuts to this year's bill.

Democrats responded by adding $10 billion to Bush's request for the 2008 bill. Democrats say spending increases for domestic programs are small compared with Bush's pending war request totaling almost $200 billion....


  • First, don't panic.  This has been expected for months and the fight is not over.  Here's a reminder from my November newsletter:  "There are two reasons not to despair if President Bush vetoes the LHHS appropriations bill later this month.  If Congress overrides the veto, then the OA mandate language will become law.  Just like that.  If Congress fails to override the veto, and modifies the LHHS appropriation instead, then the OA mandate is likely to survive intact."  (See the rest of the newsletter for details on both possibilities.)
  • Also expected:  Bush vetoed the bill for spending more than he wants to spend, not for its OA provision.
  • Second, it's time for US citizens to contact their Congressional delegations again.  This time around, contact your Representative in the House as well as your two Senators.  The message is:  vote yes on an override of the President's veto of the LHHS appropriations bill.  (Note that the LHHS appropriations bill contains much more than the provision mandating OA at the NIH.)
  • The override votes --one in each chamber-- haven't yet been scheduled.  They may come this week or they may be delayed until after Thanksgiving.  But they will come and it's not too early to contact your Congressional delegation.  For the contact info for your representatives (phone, email, fax, local offices), see CongressMerge.
  • Please spread the word!

Update. If you want some language, Charles Bailey has put together a very good message that you may cut/pastea into an email or web form. (Thanks, Charles.)

Wiley's Wrox Press uses wiki for new series of free online books

Ashley Jones, Publishing in Real Time: Wrox Stays Current with Near-Time, EContent, November 13, 2007.  Excerpt:

A recent partnership launched between Near-Time, Inc. and Wiley Wrox Press has opened the door to interaction among P2P digital publishing communities. Announced on October 30, this joint venture enables Wrox Press --a traditionally fee-based information service-- to, for the first time, provide free online access to book content by implementing the ASP3wiki, powered by Near-Time....

Wrox Press, established in 1992 as a division of John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is a digital publishing company that specializes in books written by computer programmers, specifically for computer programmers.

Wrox Press, like many other digital companies, recognized that there are two main platforms driving the Web 2.0 movement: blogs and wikis. Through the company's new ASP3wiki, publishers can now discuss Beginning Active Server Pages 3.0 in a forum, thus opening up communication and engaging community members. "This is an important relationship and initiative for Wrox because it's our first venture into the world of wikis," says Joe Wikert, VP and executive publisher of Wrox. "Wrox has been firmly built upon community principles, hence our commitment to the extremely popular p2p forum on We believe wikis represent an interesting way for us to encourage and enable even more community participation with our content." ...

Australia's plan for access, preservation, and re-use of publicly-funded research data

Towards the Australian Data Commons:  A proposal for an Australian National Data Service, ANDS Technical Working Group, October 2007.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)  From the Overview:

The expression heard most often during the consultation process of developing the investment plan for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy Platforms for Collaboration capability was, simply, “it’s all about data”....

The development of ANDS [Australian National Data Service] is intended to provide the essential meeting place where the Australian path forward for research data management can evolve and where a vision can be achieved. This vision will articulate over time policies and guidelines that are readily understood and interpreted while simultaneously creating exemplars of best practice covering:

  • research data ownership and the roles and responsibilities associated with ownership;
  • access to research data collected and maintained with public funding; and
  • best practice for the curation of experimental, research and published data....

The technical quality of the outcome will be determined by the ease with which research data and research outputs from all sources can be discovered and reused across disciplines and over time through an integration of repositories and data centres supporting national and specialist discovery services.

This paper is designed to encourage, inform and ultimately summarise the discussions around the appropriate strategic and technical descriptions of the Australian National Data Service....

From the body of the report:

While simplification is desirable, the obvious simplification of dealing only with public accessible data is not possible. The complexity in managing data for federated access and reuse begins when the data is collected, where access may rightly be strongly restricted, and continues throughout its lifecycle including its ultimate publication where some or all of the data is made public. Therefore, ANDS services and activities must encompass restricted access to data across its entire life cycle rather than merely considering data after it is released to open access....

ANDS will also need to assist those communities which have already developed separate, discipline specific ‘data commons’ to engage within this broader framework, so that the collective national investment in research data is made in ways that ensure the data can be more widely discovered and reused. This would involve registering the various repositories where data resides and providing access to the aggregated metadata so that data sources relevant to a discipline, community or project can be discovered, viewed, processed and reused....

The development of an Australian research data commons is framed around managing access to data stored in a network of repositories, sustained at an institutional level. It success will depend on Australian research data being routinely deposited into stable and sustainable data management and preservation environments.  Therefore ANDS will need to improve, supplement, and integrate the available repositories at institutions....

Monday, November 12, 2007

Radio interview on OA

Sundar Raman interviewed me for his show, Open Views, on radio KRUU FM.  We did the interview on October 12, 2007, and I don't know when it was broadcast, but the 60 minute podcast is now available for downloading.

More on the Global Text Project

Andrea Foster, Software Group Gets Online Textbooks to the Developing World, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 16, 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

Learning is valuable, but in Africa it is more than that: It is prohibitively expensive. In Ethiopia, where the per-capita income is about $100 a year, a single textbook at Addis Ababa University can cost $50.

In order to get more textbooks to students in developing nations, two people are leading an ambitious project to produce and freely distribute 1,000 original titles online.

Richard T. Watson, interim head of the department of management information systems at the University of Georgia, and Donald J. McCubbrey, a professor of information technology and electronic commerce at the University of Denver, have started what they call the Global Text Project. This semester the project's first book, Information Systems, is being used at Addis Ababa University and at Atma Jaya Yogyakarta University, in Indonesia.

The endeavor relies on professors and experienced professionals worldwide to each write, pro bono, at least one chapter of a book. Each chapter is reviewed by a scholar. Editors then assemble the chapters into complete books. The books are written using wikis....

The endeavor is part of a larger movement to provide free academic material online....

The Global Text Project intends to publish books in Arabic, Chinese, English, and Spanish....

Already the University of Concepción, in Chile, has agreed to donate about 350 books, written by faculty members, for digitization in the Global Text library....

Once enough books are online, Mr. McCubbrey hopes to find sponsors who will provide money to keep the project growing. He says he may ask big companies, like Accenture, a consulting firm, and the 3M Company to pay for development. In return they would get their logos on the covers and at the beginning of each chapter....

Established academic publishers have not contributed to the project, but Mr. Watson is not counting them out. He is a consulting editor for John Wiley & Sons, and although he offered to resign from this post when he started the project, officials of the textbook publisher asked him to stay on and keep them in the loop....

One possibility is the donation of old textbooks. A lot of publishers have books lying around in warehouses that they could donate to the project in exchange for a tax break, he says. The books could be updated, digitized, and edited like other Global Text offerings.

"I'd rather work with the publishers to try to help them develop a new business model than have this be an antagonistic situation," says Mr. Watson.

His most immediate concern, though, is rounding up volunteers. "I might speak to an audience of 100 and recruit five or six people," he says. Most of the recruits are seasoned professors, since colleges typically don't count contributions to the project toward tenure or promotion....

Notes on the Harvard publishing forum

Kaitlin Thaney has blogged some notes on one of the panels at the Harvard Medical School conference, Publishing in the New Millennium: A Forum on Publishing in the Biosciences (Cambridge, November 9, 2007).  Excerpt:

Each panelist gets five minutes to introduce themselves and to identify a few key issues.  The panelists:

John Wilbanks - Vice President of Science Commons at Creative Commons

Wilbanks kicked off his 5 minutes by distinguishing the difference between the "social web"/ Web 2.0 and the "research web". This provided a great segue into the Neurocommons work, an open source knowledge management tool. While Science Commons uses a few technologies that fall into the "Web 2.0" category - blogs, tags, comments and feeds - our focus is more on the research web, which Wilbanks succinctly explained.

He started by illustrating how bad the Web works for science. This is where you can start to focus on "research web", in hopes of bringing some of the power of the Web (think of what it did for commerce in terms of eBay, Amazon, etc) to the scientific research cycle. Our Neurocommons project works towards this goal.

His most recent post on Nature Network actually looks at this exact issue [PS: see my excerpt below.] ...

Moshe Pritsker - Editor-in-Chief / Founder of the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) video publication for biological research....

Hilary Spencer - Product Manager, Nature Precedings

Precedings is a pre-print server, for prepublication research, preliminary findings and other documents of scientific interest. Spencer provides a bit of background about the server, noting that Precedings does not publish materials regarding clinical trials since the material on the server is not peer-reviewed. Due to that, Precedings does not accept materials that make specific therapeutic claims....

Why post research to a non-peer reviewed preprint server? Spencer touches on the following incentives for those in the research community: ability to record the provenance of an idea, Precedings serves as a permanent repository, enables authors to get pre-publication feedback, greater exposure, and authors retain copyright. Content is indexed, as well, in Google Scholar and BASE (an academic search engine).

Bora Zivkovic - Online Community Manager, PLoS One
PLoS One - now 10 months old. Bora shows some of the tools that PLoS One employs....

This journal operates on Topaz software, allowing community members to add content / value to a scholarly work after it's published. This includes a rating system, comments and the ability to post annotations.

A few questions to highlight ...

Q: How much of the community comments on material (directed towards PLoS One and Precedings)?

A: Spencer: Commentary on Precedings is actually quite low. Not sure why. Precedings does not allow anonymous posts, which could be why the numbers are so low. But not sure.
Zivkovic: PLoS One has quite a bit of commentary, 1,000 back in July and growing since then.

Q: There was a considerable amount of work done on the Semantic Web years ago, talk of it being a "cool" technology. What makes you think this will work now?

A: Wilbanks: The SW allows for one to add context to links between two things. The difference this time is that this is a public effort, bringing the power of Metcalfe's and Moore's Law to science. Wilbanks thinks this (being the NC and our SW work at Science Commons) is useful enough to justify the pain of working with RDF. This provides a single point of access to the public domain and information....

Making the web work for research the way it works for pizza

John Wilbanks, Director of Science Commons, has reactivated his blog at Nature Network.  The blog subtitle is "Agitating for innovation through open licensing and good technology." 

He launched the blog in July 2006, but stopped posting the same month until he could "work out the intellectual property aspects of posting [t]here."  From his first post since then:

To be totally open, I’ve been waiting for Creative Commons licenses to come to the Nature Network before investing myself into blogging. It’s hard for us at CC to work otherwise. And while there is movement on the copyright aspects of this site, it’s not there yet.

However, I’ve been itching to start talking here anyway, and in the short term, I’ll be posting the fulltext of my comments into Nature Precedings under CC-BY 3.0, so that the text itself will indeed be available under an open sharing license....

From today's important post on The Research Web:

We need to start talking about the Research Web....

We need the Research Web because the existing Web doesn’t work for research. Here’s what I mean: Googling a phrase like signal transduction genes in pyramidal neurons doesn’t get you a list of genes. It should get you a list of genes. No amount of collaborative filtering makes it easy to read 188,000 papers – and this is stuff where you tend to want experts moreso than the “wisdom of crowds” – advice from someone who doesn’t understand signal transduction tends to be less reliable than from someone who does.

The Research Web is about integrating lots of stuff that wasn’t designed to be integrated with anything. It’s about getting precise answers to complicated questions instead of a mess of Web pages. It’s about the move to industrialize the way scientists annotate data. The Research Web is about making the Web work in a complex data environment, where machines make and transmit terabytes of content that humans have to interpret.

There’s a lot of phrases out there for this. Network Science. Cyberinfrastructure. E-Science. I like Research Web a lot more, because it ties into the ideas of the Web and what it means to us day to day. Research Web means that search engines work for research, like they do for pizza....

It doesn’t require anything deeply novel to make a Research Web. The “and then a miracle happens” problem doesn’t surface. The Research Web doesn’t tell you anything that isn’t yet known.  We’re just talking about re-designing information that is already digital into a format that works better for research – a format with more context and more structure.

It’s hard and annoying to do this – it takes discipline to use the right URIs, to harmonize existing ontologies, and reading the stuff natively is misery perfected....

It’s worth going through the pain and annoyance because the payoff is so significant: the ability to really thoroughly use all the databases and literature on the Web....

But there is frequently an assumption that the Social Web renders the Research Web unnecessary, that the wisdom of crowds will sweep away journals, that folksonomy renders ontology irrelevant....And it isn’t going to happen, at least, not any time soon....

That means boring disciplined work like re-using the same names for things instead of creating new ones. Work like minting stable names for new things, that pass strict Web standards. It means designing information for interoperability, for collaboration at the queryable machines level, not the human level. The Social Web doesn’t give us that....

And of course, both the Social Web and the Research Web require sanity in licensing. The Research Web totally fails when a thousand terms of use bloom. When papers are locked behind firewalls and databases can’t be integrated, the whole idea behind the Research Web seems almost unachievable. Research Web is built on Open Access to information, content, tools, software, and data. Period....

Sun's high-capacity storage system integrated with OA archiving software

Tim Stammers, Sun breaks out Honeycomb, CBR, November 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

Officially dubbed the Sun StorageTek 5800 storage system, the device was first publicized by Sun under its code-name Honeycomb almost three years ago, in January 2005.

Now Sun says the device is generally available, and that it has already shipped 400TB to some resellers and early customers, in the education, healthcare and scientific research industries.

Given the size of the systems involved, that total capacity is likely to involve less than a dozen Honeycombs. The server giant named six colleges and a library in North America and the UK to which it said it had shipped Honeycomb systems....

The only other applications [apart from BakBone Software] that Sun said have been integrated with the Honeycomb are open source "archive preservation" applications created by Fedora, DSpace, VTLS and ePrints...and its own SANQFS archiving tool.

If customers want to link any other applications to the Honeycomb, they must do so through an interface based on the CIFS and NFS file-access protocols....

Sun's initial focus on open source applications for the Honeycomb is linked to its overall enthusiasm for open source, and its promise it made at the beginning of the year to make the code running the Honeycomb open source....The company argued that the open sourcing of the Honeycomb will diminish customers' anxiety about the long term storage of archive data for what might be several years, on storage systems that might become obsolete....

Google's OpenSocial for scholarly networking

Michael J. Hemment, OpenSocial Scholarship, ResearchForward, November 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

Google’s recent announcement that it is providing a common set of APIs for social applications across multiple websites (their OpenSocial initiative), has potentially grand implications for scholars. Using simple JavaScript and HTML, academic Web developers will now be able to create subject-specific research apps that can be shared across multiple social networks.

Here is Google’s You Tube video describing the OpenSocial standard....

Imagine if a group of molecular biologists decided to create their own version of MySpace or to simply form a research group or virtual community within an existing social network like Orkut. The purpose of the group would be to connect experts in their field, share ideas, exchange data, create a repository of research papers, etc. OpenSocial would not only allow them to customize apps to meet the needs of their professional community, but also to share these same apps across other social networking sites that support the OpenSocial standard. A common set of APIs means that the potential size of their virtual research community, as well as the resources they share, are no longer limited by the social networking platform they happen to be using.

The real excitement will begin when academic technologists devise ways to seamlessly interconnect these “scholarly social networks” with one another, as well as with key resources like the growing number of open access repositories at major universities. A common development standard marks a very important step in this direction.

Educators need access to education research

Sandra Porter, Evidence-based teaching, open access, and the digital divide, Discovering Biology in a Digital World, November 12, 2007.  Excerpt:

...Science instructors are often unaware of the findings from education research because they don't see them....


It's not either not accessible or it's not indexed by our favorite search tools.

If I use PubMed Central for example, and I browse the PMC journal list with the word "education," I find only four journals....Only one of these journals concerns teaching science to undergraduates.

If I use Google, I find lots of things, but I can't read any of them on-line.

Very few science education journals are open access. Journals like "Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education," and "Journal of natural resources and life sciences education" and "Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education," keep their articles locked away, out of public view.

And certainly away from most instructors.

I find it appalling that in a day and age, when we're struggling to teach students how to think like scientists, we have so little access to the tools that would help us practice these principles in our own daily work.  College instructors need to become more familiar with the concepts and benefits of evidence-based teaching. That familiarity would develop more easily if college instructors had more access to the results of education research.

If we are ever to use science to help us teach science, if evidence-based teaching is ever to replace teaching by anecdote, we're going to need to share strategies and information, not lock them away.

New OA journal of anthropology

After Culture is a new peer-reviewed OA journal of anthropology.  The inaugural issue is now online.  (Thanks to

PS:  For background, see my post from January 2006 in which Matthew Wolf-Meyer proposed this journal.  He's now the editor.

Waking up from an access nightmare

Heather Morrison, Is the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia asleep? Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, November 11, 2007. 

Abstract:  While Canada's main research funder in medicine, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), calls for open access to CIHR-funded research, the Canadian Journal of Anesthesia is among the small, and shrinking, percentage of journals that do not even allow author self-archiving! Canadian anesthesiologists: did you know that Harvard and Cal State do not subscribe to the journal produced by your society? Researchers there can read the articles, but not until they are a year old, unless they are willing to pay a temporary access fee of $20 US per day, for access at one computer. It seems unlikely that many researchers at Harvard or Cal State would purchase under these bizarre terms; in the developing world, these fees may amount to an enormous sum of money. If you're a member of the Canadian Anesthesiologist's Society, please tell your society to ask the folks at the journal to wake up, and realize how much Canadian anesthesia has to gain by moving to the optimal dissemination that is open access!

From the body of the post:

This is mind-boggling. $20 per article, and only 1 day's access from 1 computer? If you start reading an article at the hospital library, get called away to attend to a patient and want to continue reading from your office, you're expected to pay again? ...

Comment.  Hear, hear.  Yesterday I blogged a letter to the editor published in CJA.  I wasn't surprised that the letter was TA, since the whole journal was TA.  But I was surprised that access cost $20 for one day from one computer.  For a letter to the editor.  I'd supplement Heather's call to members of the CAS with a call to authors:  Do you really want to hide your research in this lockbox?

Profile of Harold Varmus and his work for OA

Bernadine Healy, Making Science Free to All:  Harold Varmus, scientist, US News and World Report, November 12, 2007.  Healy, like Varmus himself, is a former director of the NIH.  Excerpt:

Harold Varmus is a man on a mission—a quest to liberate scientific knowledge from the bounds of journals and copyrights and make it free to all. This is no small issue to the Nobel laureate, cancer researcher, and president of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In fact, it is emblematic of Varmus's view that science is critical to improving the human condition and, thus, must be shared.

To Varmus, what scientists do, how they think, and what they write should be immediately and freely available online throughout the world. And if taxpayers support science, he says, sharing should be mandatory. Varmus began promoting "open access" in 1999 during his last year as director of the National Institutes of Health. Later, with a few colleagues and hefty philanthropic support, he established the Public Library of Science to show the way by publishing several prestigious open-access journals....

It sounds sensible, but the author-pay approach has faced resistance on several fronts. Some scientists, particularly those younger and less well funded, worry that the fees will limit their publishing. Others are concerned that hundreds of millions of NIH dollars will be diverted from research and into publishing. Journals fault a model that burdens relatively few researchers with costs now shared by the large reader base. And others worry about government intrusion.

The push-back is something Varmus concedes he underestimated. But he got an inkling when an effort he led in 2000 fell flat. Thousands of scientists had pledged to boycott journals unwilling to make their articles free through the National Library of Medicine, but few kept their promise. Scientific careers still depend greatly on publishing in established journals.

But Varmus persisted. He stressed that lay readers, not just scientists, were being deprived of knowledge. And now, more organizations are endorsing the concept. A bill in Congress would require scientists supported by the NIH to submit work only to journals that agree to make it free online within a year.

Varmus, 67, admits that the project has consumed more time than he had hoped. But it is succeeding so far because of his leadership. On this, he gives a nod to his Nobel Prize. "I don't believe that some of the things that I've been able to do in the last few years would have been possible without that little trinket," he says....

As he does, he urges researchers to go beyond the lab, to become scientific activists for a better world. Access to scientific literature is only one step; poorer nations also need a greater share of scientific investment, he says....

Comment.  Just a quick note on Healy's reference to the "author pays" model.  She could have noted that (1) most OA journals charge no publication fees at all; (2) even when they do charge publication fees, "author pays" is a misleading and harmful term for their business model, since the fees are generally paid by the author's funder or employer, or waived by the journal, not paid by the author out of pocket; (3) while the NIH is willing to pay publication fees for grantees who submit their work to fee-based OA journals, the bill to mandate OA at the NIH does not mandate that it pay such fees; (4) OA through repositories rather than journals (green rather than gold OA) requires no fees.

OA in Brazil

Sely Costa, The Open Access Movement in Brazil, EPT, November 12, 2007.  (Thanks to Barbara Kirsop.)  Excerpt:

The open access movement in Brazil, as everywhere else, has constituted a challenging cause to embrace. Both IBICT [Instituto Brasileiro de Informação em Ciência e Tecnologia] and SciELO [Scientific Electronic Library Online] have been involved with the movement, taking the lead in most of the initiatives in the country.

Declarations to support OA

From 2005, a number of declarations have been issued in Brazil, undersigned by either individuals or civil society entities, by means of their representatives. There are, so far, at least four major declarations issued in Brazil, following the Berlin Declaration. One has been issued by IBICT at the 57th Annual Meeting of SBPC. The other three have been issued by a Psychology Learned Society, the participants of an international conference in health sciences and a group of researchers from the state of São Paulo.

Events to promote OA

A number of events that have taken place in Brazil include OA in their programmes. The last three annual meetings of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC) had a special session on OA (see [this] and [this]). Proceedings of the 59th meeting, when Stevan Harnad and Brazilians leaders of the movement participated in a special session, will be available soon. OA has also featured in annual meetings of learned societies (eg in information science, health sciences, communication science and psychology.

In April 2006, the First Cipecc - Ibero American Conference in Electronic Publishing in the context of Scholarly Communication, Brasilia, was very successful, with participants from 6 countries (Mexico, Chile, Portugal, Spain, Brazil and Canada), and 13 Brazilian states. It offered a unique opportunity to make open access, institutional repositories and other topics known and discussed by people from Ibero-America as a whole and Brazil in particular. The conference website contains all papers and presentations. In November 2006, a group of researchers from Brazil, along with researchers and librarians from Portugal, as well as a librarian from Mozambique held a meeting at the University of Minho, in Portugal, to discuss the open access movement in Portuguese speaking countries.  From this meeting, the Minho Commitment resulted as an important document to this community. As a follow-up to this, on November 13th 2007, a seminar, Open Access Seminar to the Scientific Knowledge in Portuguese Speaking Countries, is taking place in Rio de Janeiro, as part of a Brazil/United Nations meeting. Representatives of 8 Portuguese speaking countries are expected to sign up the Rio de Janeiro Protocol, which establishes the aims of the commitment. Notices of this event will be delivered soon after the meeting at Dr. Kuramoto’s blog and at the Open Access in Portuguese Speaking Countries web page, a site dedicated to the topic for this community.

Steps to implement OA initiatives

One of the most promising recent Brazilian initiatives was the meeting held at the University of Brasilia (UnB), as a joint event by IBICT and the university. 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 (BOAT Force). This initiative aims to establish, at 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 is positioning itself as a pioneer, with the unprecedented support of its rector, Professor Timothy Martin Mulholland. Clearly, much of this movement is now considered the way of the future for scientific publication and the ambition is to spread this message across Brazil.

Publications to disseminate OA

A growing number of articles have been published on open access and the open archives initiatives in Brazilian scholarly journals. Early articles mostly describe open archives initiatives. A special issue of Ciência da Informação, published by IBICT in 2006, is entirely dedicated to the subject, with articles from Kuramoto, Southwick, Sinay; Michelson, and Rosales, Bauste, Guzmán and Bianco reporting ongoing projects in Latin America countries. A new ‘open philosophy’ and a new model for scholarly publishing was the subject of Costa. Mueller discusses the degree of acceptance related to the level of legitimacy in which open access publications are held. Finally, Schirmbacher, from the Humboldt University at Berlin, describes some actual changes that are taking place in communication processes, in services department held by research institutions, libraries and computer centers. Another recent article from Baptista, Costa, Kuramoto and Rodrigues was published in a special issue of Encontros Bibli, published by the Post-Graduate Programme in Information Science at the University of Santa Catarina and also dedicated to OA.

Courses to teach OA

In a very recent activity, OA is being taught in a special seminar, as part of the Post-Graduate Programme in Information Science at the University of Brasilia. The seminar is part of the activities of the research group in electronic publications, named moitarah and lead by professor Sely Costa. The seminar includes collaboration of specialists like Stevan Harnad, Peter Suber, Leslie Chan and John Willinsky, who have provided suggestions on both the content of the seminar and readings for the students. Besides studying the topic, students are working on a book to be published. The specialists are also expected to contribute with a chapter to the book, and some of them should participate in the next event on OA, to be held at the University of Brasilia, in April 9-11, 2008. The OA Brazilian book will be launched during the event, and openly distributed on the Internet. News about April’s meeting will be available soon at moitarah blog and, later on its own web page.

Note: a number of the URL’s in this piece are from sites or blogs still under construction, and many in Portuguese.

Comment.  This is a wonderfully useful and heartening report of very impressive progress. 

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Letter on open data

D. John Doyle, Understanding the open access data movement, Canadian Journal of Anaesthesia, November 2007.  A letter to the editor.  Not OA, at least so far.

Growth of open education resources

Greg Toppo, Free online materials could save schools billions, USA Today, November 7, 2007.  Excerpt:

Since March, Dixon Deutsch and his students have been quietly experimenting with a little website that could one day rock the foundation of how schools do business.

A K-2 teacher at Achievement First Bushwick Elementary Charter School in Brooklyn, N.Y., Deutsch, 28, has been using, a reading instruction program that allows him to download, copy and share lessons with colleagues.

He can visit the website and comment on what works and what doesn't. He can modify lessons to suit his students' needs and post the modifications online: Think of a cross between a first-grade reading workbook and Wikipedia....

If Deutsch wants to see a lesson taught by someone who already has mastered it, he clicks on a YouTube video linked to the site and sees a short demo. "I find it's more teacher-friendly than a textbook," he says.

Oh, and it's free.

Colleges for years have tapped open-source materials....But the idea has been slow to make a mark in the less technologically savvy K-12 world.

That may soon change. Websites such as offer free materials tied to high school textbooks, and several college-level open-source projects are trickling down to K-12 schools.

The California-based William and Flora Hewlett Foundation is funding K-12 open-source projects worldwide....

But perhaps the most significant development is at the most elementary level. Last fall, a Florida textbook adoption committee approved Free-Reading....Florida is one of the top five textbook markets in the USA, so its move could lead to the development of other free materials that might someday challenge the dominance of a handful of big educational publishers....

Could Free-Reading offer a glimpse of the future, when big, bulky — and expensive — textbooks go the way of the film strip?

[Adam Newman of Eduventures] thinks so. "This is a shot across the bow for a lot of people," he says.

Schools spent $4.4 billion for textbooks in the 2006-07 school year, according to Eduventures. While that's only about 1% of total expenditures, the prospect of free, state-approved materials could profoundly influence how schools spend money — and what publishers offer, Newman says.

"If suddenly you don't have to spend $100 million every four years on textbooks, it's not found money, but certainly it's money that could be applied to other kinds of educational endeavors." ...