Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, December 08, 2007

OA monographs in the humanities from new European consortium

Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN) is a new consortium of university and museum presses dedicated to publishing OA monographs with print-on-demand (POD) editions.  (Thanks to Jean Kempf.)  From the home page:

OAPEN is a project in Open Access publishing for humanities monographs. The Open Access movement has developed rapidly in the sciences and in journal publishing. The consortium of University-based academic publishers who make up OAPEN believe that the time is ripe to fully explore the possibilities of Open Access in the humanities and social sciences.

The OAPEN partners all currently have some involvement in the Open Access movement, and you are encouraged to view their pages on this site and on their own sites....

The partners (to date) are:

From the General Introduction:

While the current, rapidly changing world requires increased research and improved dissemination in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS), availability of and access to academic publications in many areas of HSS is actually fragmented and limited. Language barriers in Europe limit the national markets for publications and add to their costs. The high and increasing costs of international STM publications cut into the available budgets of University Libraries for HSS publications. This means smaller print runs and higher costs, resulting in higher barriers for new publications.

Faced with the serious economic restrictions surrounding the publication of scholarly books, University Presses all over the world have begun to recognise digital publishing as a viable alternative to disseminate works that would otherwise not have been published and as an important tool to increase the availability of works that otherwise would only have a very limited distribution....

However, many of the smaller and medium sized society- and university-publishers - in most cases operating on a not-for-profit basis - have difficulties to take up the full potential of digital publishing and its corresponding new business models. Digital Open Access publishing has focused almost exclusively on STM and journals. Monographs, edited volumes and archival materials, quintessential to the HSS, have so far largely been neglected....

Recently, Ithaka published its extensive report on 'University Publishing in the Digital Age' in which it is suggested that the online publication role of university presses should be expanded and that presses should collaborate on many functions related to online publication, as is already common in journal publishing. A collaborative electronic publishing infrastructure of presses and libraries will save costs, build scale, leverage expertise and promote innovation....

A clear example of the move towards digital publishing in HSS has been the revival of Rice University Press as the first fully digital university press in the United States and subsequently the announcement that Stanford University Press will be collaborating with Rice to publish a series of books reviewed by Stanford....

Comment.  This is an excellent idea, much needed.  I applaud the OA orientation, the HSS focus, the POD option, and the consortial collaboration.  Kudos to all involved.

Final report from the EPrints Community Project

Steve Hitchcock, Taking EPrints to the next level: Final Report from the EPrints Community project, EPrints Insider, December 8, 2007.

Repository software developers need to engage more with those who run the repositories, that is, those who choose and use the software. For open source software this would appear to be a natural process, but can it help make the software more sustainable? And can the community that evolves to do this be sustainable too?

The EPrints Community project set out to investigate both questions. It produced a sparkling new version of EPrints software (v3), but showed why successful and sustainable community involvement remains a difficult and elusive goal. The report has lessons for repository software, community building and the management and commercialisation of related services. How these approaches evolve and interact is going to have a big impact on which repository software is successful in the longer run.

To find out more, see the final report from the EPrints Community project.

Copenhagen presentations on OA

The presentations from the Seminar on Open Access (Copenhagen, November 29, 2007) are now online.  Some are in Danish and some in English.

Law journals should encourage OA archiving

Alfred L. Brophy, Advice to Law Journals, Part 18, PropertyProf Blog, December 7, 2007.

Just as journals should do everything possible to get content, they should do everything possible to facilitate distribution of that content.  This includes encouraging authors to post their articles on ssrn and bepress [OA repositories] before publication.  I've heard some journals don't want to let authors post their articles on the web before the articles are published --or even after they're published.  To use a colloquial term, that's nuts.  Journals need to get scholarship into the hands (or before the eyes) of readers....

Videos from Berlin 5

Videos of the presentations from the Berlin 5 meeting, Open Access: From Practice to Impact: Consequences of Knowledge Dissemination (Padua, September 19-21, 2007), are now online.  Thanks to Kaitlin Thaney, who also adds these comments:

...If you watch nothing else, I’d recommend watching the closing session of the conference.

Alma Swan takes on the task of the closing session, weaving together beautifully the main points touched on over the course of the event, ending on a positive note. She begins with a brief refresher on OA before delving into the meat of the session: strategies and tactics for Open Access. In this, she asks the ever important question, ” Can we make them work?” (Part 1, Part 2)

There are so many clips to recommend, covering a wide spectrum in terms of topic, but others to note: Peter Murray-Rust on Open Data, Ilaria Capua’s tale of her own “access” issues and Salvatore Mele on CERN’s new project, SCOAP3.

Looking for more information about the sessions? I blogged a short run down of the event, as did Peter Murray-Rust (in much more detail). Abstracts can also be found on the conference Web site.

PS:  The abstracts of the presentations were posted in September.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Award of Excellence for Citizendium

Citizendium received an Award of Excellence yesterday from the Society for New Communications Research.

PS:  Congratulations to Larry Sanger and all the citizens.

New OA journals from BMC

Here are two new OA journals from BioMed Central:

  1. BMC Proceedings.  See the announcement.
  2. Parasites & Vectors.  See the announcement.

Scientific American allows postprint archiving

Add Scientific American to the list of journals allowing postprint archiving, at least on request.  Graham Steel tells the story of one recent article on Lou Gehrig's disease, from request to deposit.

Open source knowledge management at Science Commons

D. Wentworth, What’s “open source knowledge management”? Science Commons blog, December 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

One of the biggest challenges we face at Science Commons is explaining what we do — and, much more important, why it matters....

[W]e’ve decided to publish a series of posts to bring more clarity to the terms and phrases we use. To make sure these posts are truly useful, we’ll be asking for your feedback. Got questions? Criticism? A better definition of a term than the one we’re proposing? We hope you’ll send us an email or add your comments to the post.

First up is a term we’ve been using to describe our Neurocommons project: “open source knowledge management.” This is a hybrid term that splices together concepts from the worlds of business and software development.

The first part, “open source,” is derived from “open source software.” Open source software is software that’s published with licensing to allow anyone to look under the hood at the underlying “source” code to see how it works. Any developer can copy the code and modify it — either to improve the original software, or build on it to create something brand new.

“Knowledge management,” or KM, is a term often used by businesses to describe the systems they have for organizing, accessing and using information — everything from the data in personnel files to the number of products on store shelves. One reason that it’s “knowledge” management rather than “information” management is that the word knowledge connotes use of information, not just its availability. Having the ability to use information is what makes it valuable. One classic example is Wal-Mart, which used real-time data about its inventory to realize tremendous, game-changing efficiency gains and cost-savings.

So how is our Neurocommons project an “open source knowledge management” project? In a nutshell, Science Commons is developing all of the key elements for a free, web-enabled KM system for biological research that anyone can use, and anyone can build on. Right now, scientists don’t know “what’s on the shelf” — either in terms of research data or materials. They don’t have an easy way to sort through or make sense of the terabytes of data being produced in laboratories around the world. They certainly don’t have “one-click” access to materials like cell lines. We want to change that. Our goal isn’t (simply) to increase efficiency in the research cycle and magnify the impact of investments in research. Ultimately, we hope to speed the pace of discovery — unlocking the value of research so more people can benefit from the work scientists are doing....

Paying publishers for content they do not deliver

Andrea Foster, Academic Libraries Shortchanged on Electronic Content, Wired Campus, December 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

More than a third of college librarians questioned this fall said database vendors failed to deliver the amount of published material they said they would, and did not compensate libraries for the shortfall. The survey of libraries’ database-licensing practices for this academic year was conducted by Primary Research Group Inc. The survey also questioned librarians in corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations. Most respondents were in the United States, and the rest were in Britain, Australia, and Canada.

Other findings from the survey regarding college libraries:

  • They have an average of 67 database licenses....
  • About 29 percent have digital repositories. Ten percent are within a year of having one, and 16 percent said they would probably have one within two years.

Permissions would be expensive, therefore...

Legit book scanning price tag: $25 billion, WebProBlog, December 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Google would have to give up most if not all of its available cash to secure copyrights to books, which probably explains why they have been scanning books and given publishers an opt-out choice that teeters on legal grounds....

Weekly Standard staff writer Jonathan V. Last said the task of pursuing all of the copyright holders would be a formidable one. Google probably won’t be able to avoid that if the courts find in favor of the search ad company’s enemies:

If the courts were to find against Google, however, the Book Search would likely die on the vine. As Georgetown’s Band notes, it would be extremely difficult to construct a licensing regime for books modeled on the ASCAP/BMI models for musical compositions. And if Google were to try to go legit, the transaction costs of identifying, locating, and contacting copyright holders to seek permission could easily stretch to tens of billions of dollars. Band puts the best guess in the neighborhood of $25 billion.


  • It's true that seeking permissions would be very costly.  See Denise Troll Covey, Acquiring Copyright Permission to Digitize and Provide Open Access to Books (CLIR, October 2005).
  • But it doesn't follow that Google has to seek permissions or that its opt-out policy isn't already "legit" --a question-begging term in both the WebProBlog title and the WS article.  To figure out whether Google must seek permissions requires an inquiry into the law of fair use, not the economics of permission-seeking.  If we had to pay for each breath, the cost would be prohibitive, but it doesn't follow that free breathing violates some obligation to pay.

Open research in the life sciences is a new site for collaborative, open science.  (Thanks to Synthesis.)  From the front page:

YourSciCom is a community for scientists in all fields of life science. We offer a platform where you and other scientists can work together on completely open research projects and post individual experiments and ideas as the work proceeds. In addition, you can find and add protocols, publish the always so hard to find negative data, and interact with your peers. Create an account for free and start collaborating!

Presentations from NISO's IR meeting

The presentations from the NISO meeting, Getting the Most Out of Your Institutional Repository: Gathering Content and Building Use (Beltsville, Maryland, December 3, 2007), are now online.  (Thanks to Dorothea Salo.)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Milestones for the Caltech OA archives

The Caltech CODA (Collection of Open Digital Archives) reached a number of milestones in November.  From today's announcement:

...Overall, the archives provide access to more than 13,500 books, dissertations, articles, technical reports, patents, websites, and other scholarly materials.

The largest archive, CaltechAUTHORS, moved past the 8100 record level. It attracted the interest of one of our Nobel laureates as a possible tool for providing access to his entire body of work.  Librarians are actively working with the professor in securing the necessary rights and permissions from publishers to make his vision a reality.  More on this story as it develops.

CaltechETD passed the 4000 record level, providing online access to 45% of the Institute's almost 9000 dissertations.  Electronic theses have been mandatory at Caltech since July 2002 and became the version of record in 2007.

OA for student authors

Peter Becker and Jos van Helvoort, The Benefits of Open Access Publishing for Students in Higher Education, a YouTube video of a presentation at the Workshop of the Information Management Working Group (IMWG) of the European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) (The Hague, September 26-28, 2007).   From the abstract at the YouTube site: 

Most students in higher education have some experience with Open Access when doing their desk research. They appreciate the free access of scholar publications on the World Wide Web.

But students in higher education also develop their competences as junior researchers and publishers. Can Open Access Publishing help them to get some reputation in the international academic society? And how appreciate they the readers’ feedback on papers published on the internet?

The Millennium Generation has grown up with free accessible information. They are supposed to embrace the idea of Open Access Publishing. However, students also may be anxious for publishing (preprints of) their papers, for instance for copyright reasons. It seems that good communication about the possibilities of Open Access Publishing by their educators (tutors, professors and librarians!) is very important....

Also see the published edition of their talk, "Publiceren via open access in het hoger onderwijs," Informatie Professional, December 2007 (accessible only to subscribers).  The paper is in Dutch, but the video presentation is in English.  The same issue contains a paper by Marie Heijne, "Open access: vrije toegang tot wetenschappelijke publicaties?"

Presentations at DOE's High Energy Physics Panel

The presentations from the US Department of Energy's High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (Washington DC, November 29, 2007) are now online.  Two of them explicitly address OA.

The transition to e-only journals

Richard K. Johnson and Judy Luther, The E-only Tipping Point for Journals:  What’s Ahead in the Print-to-Electronic Transition Zone, Association of Research Libraries, December 5, 2007. 

This report examines the issues associated with moves toward electronic-only publication of journals. It is based in large part on interviews with two-dozen academic librarians and journal publishers. Interviews were conducted with collection officers and others at a dozen ARL member libraries; the rest of the interviews were with publishing staff of societies and university presses, publishing platform hosts, and publishing production consultants.

Publishers and libraries today find themselves in an extended transition zone between print-only and e-only journals. The persistence of dual-format journals suggests that substantial obstacles will need to be surmounted if the transformation to e-only publication is to be complete. Approximately 60% of the universe of some 20,000 active peer-reviewed journals is available in electronic form. Online journals are popular with readers; online use of library-provided journals exceeds print use by a factor of at least ten, according to a University of California study. While electronic formats offer powerful attractions for users, the costs of supporting hybrid collections are straining library resources and the economies of the e-only collection are still speculative....

A few publishers, having adjusted their pricing to the dual-format model, are trying to hasten the day when they can discontinue print and the associated costs. But most are either navigating a gradual transition or holding onto print....

Interviews with librarians revealed a remarkable uniformity of views about the forces driving their institutions toward adoption of electronic-only journals....

“The users have voted—and they want the convenience of electronic.” ...For many if not most campus users of journals, electronic access is a productivity enhancer. And for libraries, enhancing productivity is a potentially powerful means to demonstrate their return on investment....

Publisher motivations, like those of libraries, emerge from financial exigencies and user expectations. Just as libraries are straining under the burden of subscribing to dual formats, publishers’ financial statements also reflect the additive effect of producing dual formats....

Most publishers appear to recognize the risk that, even in the scholarly world, readers will eventually stop using information that is not available online....

Since pricing for the electronic version is typically based on the print, it has taken time for publishers to decouple the pricing for print and electronic formats....

Electronic versions are more often sold as a package with other society titles or additional years of content. To price the package attractively for a broad range of large and small institutions may require tiered pricing or consortia discounts. Handling these electronic sales involves staff with the expertise to manage consortia negotiations and complex relationships with multiple agents globally....

There is a widely held belief among publishers that discontinuing print will result in some subscription loss....

Also see the ARL press release, December 5, 2007.

Comment.  The report does not discuss OA, and applies more to TA ejournals than OA ejournals.  But there are nevertheless implications for OA.  As I argued recently:

As high-quality, high-prestige journals make this transition [from print to electronic-only], scholars who still associate quality and prestige with print will (happily or unhappily) start to unlearn the association. At the same time, the rise of high-quality, high-prestige OA journals will confirm the new recognition that quality and medium are independent variables. TA publishers are joining OA advocates in creating an academic culture in which online publications earn full credit for promotion and tenure. Online publications need not be OA, of course, but changing the culture to accept online publications is more than half the battle for changing the culture to accept OA publications.

The trajectory for IRs: up or down?

Dorothea Salo has a couple of predictions for OA in 2008:

...When I got home [from the NISO/PALINET workshop], I took the opportunity to glance through Peter Suber’s annual predictions list. I am going to disagree slightly with one of his predictions and add another that I doubt he would make.

I do not think that there will be significantly more open-access institutional repositories in the United States at the end of 2008 than there are today. This is only a slight disagreement with Peter Suber, because he didn’t specify IRs, just open-access repositories, and there likely will be a few more of those, especially outside the States. I also think that if, as Suber suggests, self-archiving hits the tipping point once we get an NIH mandate and a few mandates like it, institutional repositories will not be winners. Nothing will counteract scholars’ natural gravitation toward their disciplines.

I also predict that there will be at least one high-profile IR failure in the United States before the end of 2008. The exact form of this failure I’m not sure about. It could be an outright closure, which will touch off a furious debate about repository succession planning that we really should have had years ago. It could be a more graceful handoff, or a consolidation into a consortial repository. It could be a major defunding; the repository’s materials will remain accessible, but staff time and money thrown at the repository will be reduced significantly or eliminated. (I add that this is most likely at schools that have zero to one dedicated repository-rats, rather than a team-based IR program involving digitization, mediated deposit, meaningful copyright assistance, software hacking, and all that good stuff. But most IRs have zero to one dedicated repository-rats, so I haven’t excluded much.) ...

And as is the way of these things, one high-profile failure really means ten more that nobody noticed....Look, it’s simple. Institutional repositories are money pits, and the returns are negligible. The cost-per-item-archived is absurd. Libraries may be idealistic, but they’re not stupid, and they do move on from failed experiments, especially when those experiments have a heavy technology component....

Consider the effects when my prediction comes true and a big IR folds. How likely do you think it is that libraries will take up a vastly larger project than an IR, with much more nebulous goals and means, once they decide (as I believe they will) that IRs burned them?

I would love to be patient, as Suber suggests I do. Unfortunately, if we’re going to keep even enough preservation infrastructure (by which I chiefly mean librarians engaged with these issues and employed specifically to deal with them) to start addressing digital collection and preservation in libraries, I just don’t think I can afford to be patient. My New Year’s resolution for 2008 is already made: yell about all this, yell loudly, and yell a lot until important decisionmakers actually start listening....

More on the state of OA in chemistry

Rebecca Trager, Chemistry's open access dilemma, Chemistry World, December 2007.  Excerpt:

...The ACS wants the NIH policy to remain voluntary. 'Depending on how they implement this, it could represent a federal taking of copyrighted materials,' ACS spokesman Glenn Ruskin told Chemistry World.

A compulsory policy would need costly monitoring and penalisation systems, Ruskin said. 'Why expend monies on a mandatory policy, when they could get to their endpoint a lot quicker if they just worked more cooperatively with the publishers?'

'The idea of public access to research information is a little bit specious,' added Robert Parker, managing director of RSC publishing. 'The UK government will be funding the London Olympics in 2012, but that doesn't mean that everybody can have free tickets - there is a big difference between funding something and having it be freely available.'

But the open access provision is endorsed by a coalition of more than 200 academic libraries, the US Chamber of Commerce, and numerous scholarly societies. 

They're concerned that the academies are acting more like profit-hungry companies than scholarly associations. And in October, an anonymous memo from an alleged 'ACS insider' ratcheted up the tension by accusing the society of working to undermine the open access movement. Circulated to librarians, university administrators, and to at least one public listserv, it claims that 'management is much more concerned with getting bonuses and growing their salaries rather than doing what is best for membership.'

The ACS argues that staff bonuses are tied to the financial performance of the entire organisation. 'If we weren't financially viable, that would position us poorly to advance our members' needs,' Ruskin said.

Meanwhile, a campaign launched a few months ago by the AAP to communicate the risks of government interference in scientific and scholarly publishing is becoming increasingly controversial.

The Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine (PRISM) argues that the Congress bill could damage peer review by compromising the viability of non-profit and commercial journals. Predictably, the campaign has sparked outrage among open access lobby groups. In the wake of the furore, nine publishers have disavowed PRISM, including Cambridge University Press, Oxford University Press, Columbia University Press and University of Chicago Press. The ACS - which had been closely involved with PRISM - has now also played down links with the campaign....

[Despite the progress of OA in other fields] chemistry...has yet to embrace either open access or pre-print archives (see 'Surfing Web20', p46) . While there are more than 60 small open access chemistry journals..., no major chemistry publications are fully open access.

According to Bryan Vickery, editorial director of Chemistry Central - an offshoot of open access publisher BioMed Central - the most important resources for chemists, like Chemical Abstracts and the Beilstein Database, are still locked behind hefty subscription fees....

As a result, the steps taken by the RSC and ACS to enter this new world of publishing [with hybrid OA journals] have received a stilted response from chemists.

For roughly a year, the RSC has had an Open Science service that allows authors to pay to make their article freely accessible to all. The basic fee for a primary research article is £1600 with a 15 per cent discount for RSC members, owner societies of RSC journals, and authors from subscribing organisations. So far, just four authors have participated. 

Likewise, only 40 articles are available through AuthorChoice, the ACS's one-year-old foray into open access, which has an upfront fee of $3000 for non-ACS members with discounted rates for members and subscribing institutions.

'Most practising chemists in the first world have reasonable if not excellent access to the journals they need or want,' explained Steven Bachrach, a computational chemist at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, US. 

'OA just does not really offer much advantage for these people - and a serious disadvantage because now they have to pay to publish - and where is that money going to come from? Not from their grants.'

However, Vickery believes that a growing number of members of not-for-profit learned societies are questioning whether the large surplusses they earn from their journals are being wisely spent - a point roundly refuted by the societies in question.

And some chemists now see the rise of open access as inevitable. 'Daily we see more people coming onboard . any company or publisher who fails to prepare for open access is being very foolish,' said Peter Murray Rust, a chemist who leads a research team at the University of Cambridge, UK, and is an ardent open access advocate.

Indeed, there are calls for bold and decisive leadership on this increasingly divisive issue from all sides of the chemistry community. 'Vision is needed. Where we are at the moment is unacceptable,' said the ACS's Ruskin.


  • According to ACS spokesman, Glenn Ruskin, "Depending on how they implement [the NIH policy], it could represent a federal taking of copyrighted materials." 

    Ruskin should re-read the bill in Congress that would mandate OA at the NIH.  After describing the policy to be adopted, the relevant provision of the bill concludes, "...Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law."  If he's saying that the NIH could disregard this proviso, then his position is a tautology:  if the policy violates copyright, then it will violate copyright.

  • "A compulsory policy would need costly monitoring and penalisation systems, Ruskin said." 

    The bill in Congress says nothing about monitoring and penalization, and the NIH has said nothing about them either.  Most OA mandates around the world have no penalties for non-compliance and rely on the expectations created by the mandatory language.  The minority with sanctions usually say that past compliance will affect future funding.  This does not require an expensive bureaucracy.  If the NIH took this route, it could simply revise its grant application form:  Have you received any previous grants from the NIH (since the OA mandate took effect)?  If so, have you published any articles in peer-reviewed journals based on the funded research?  If so, please provide URLs to OA copies all such articles.  Click.

  • According to RSC spokesman Robert Parker, "The idea of public access to research information is a little bit specious...The UK government will be funding the London Olympics in 2012, but that doesn't mean that everybody can have free tickets - there is a big difference between funding something and having it be freely available." 

    What's specious is this misfit analogy.  Tickets to the Olympics are rivalrous goods, which means that possession or consumption by one person excludes possession or consumption by others. But knowledge and digital representations of that knowledge are non-rivalrous. They can be shared with everyone without diminishing possession or consumption by anyone. There is a huge difference, therefore, between giving taxpayers free access to publicly-subsidized seats in a stadium and giving taxpayers free access to publicly-subsidized knowledge.

  • Against the charge that ACS executives receive bonuses based on the profits of its publications, Ruskin answers, "If we weren't financially viable, that would position us poorly to advance our members' needs." 

    That's true but evasive.  The charge is that ACS executives face a conflict of interest when they receive such bonuses and decide that the society will officially oppose government OA policies.  And by the way, Madeleine Jacobs, executive director of the ACS, confirmed to the Chronicle of Higher Education (October 24, 2007) that ACS executives do receive such bonuses.

  • The RSC and ACS say that their hybrid OA journals have very low rates of author uptake (4 and 40 articles respectively) because chemists already have adequate access to TA journals, making OA is unnecessary.  I have another explanation.  Both hybrid journal programs charge high fees and offer few benefits.  Neither program lets fee-paying authors retain copyright or use CC licenses.  Neither program promises to reduce subscription prices in proportion to author uptake; hence both embrace a frank "double charge" business model. For details, see my blog reviews of both programs (RSC and ACS).

Complete 50 year backfile for Medieval Archaeology now free online

Alun Salt, An early Christmas present from the Society for Medieval Archaeology, Clioaudio, December 6, 2007.  Excerpt:

Good news from the Society for Medieval Archaeology and the wizards at the Archaeology Data Service.  The first fifty (50) issues of Medieval Archaeology are available for free online. Its not quite open access, because the issues can’t be archived elsewhere, but that’s no real problem as long as the ADS stays funded....

But the real reason to celebrate is that the journal is very good....

PS:  Medieval Archaeology publishes one issue per year, so 50 issues is 50 years.  The free online backfile starts with the first issue in 1957.

Subscription business models are like the QWERTY keyboard

Rosie Redfield, Subscription-supported journals are like the qwerty keyboard, RRResearch, December 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Tomorrow afternoon I'm participating with several other faculty in a panel on open access/scholarly communication....My theme will be "Why subscription-supported journals are like the qwerty keyboard."

As you probably know, the arrangement of letters on the 'qwerty' keyboard that all our computers come with is far from optimal for efficient typing. The original mechanical typewriters had the keys arranged alphabetically. But this caused levers to jam up if their letters were typed in rapid succession, so a key arrangement was devised that interspersed the commonly used letters with uncommon letters, and split up commonly-used sequences of letters. This was a good solution: although it slowed down the speed at which a skilled typist could hit the keys, it eliminated the time they would otherwise have to spend unjamming the levers. You can read all about this on Wikipedia....

Now everyone uses computers - these of course have no levers to jam, and can quite easily be switched to, for example, the Dvorak simplified keyboard.

But switching the users is a lot harder. We're used to doing our typing the hard way, and unlearning one keyboard and learning another seems so daunting that very few of us ever even try.

Using reader subscriptions to support the cost of scientific publishing is a lot like the qwerty keyboard. The first scientists disseminated their results by sending letters to their colleagues. The cost of disseminating the research (paper, ink and postage) was seen as part of the cost of doing the research.

Later the desire to reach more readers, and to reach readers not known to the author, led to the first scientific journals....A large part of the cost of publishing a journal was physical, and required specialized facilities that only a professional publisher could afford....

As subscription costs rose, university libraries spent more and more of their budgets on journal subscriptions....As the publication costs got higher, some journals, especially those that wanted to remain independent of advertisers, introduced 'page charges' to the authors. As subscription fees rose higher and higher, fewer and fewer people could afford them, so publishers began charging individuals much less than the supposedly deep-pocketed institutional libraries. publisher profits got higher and higher, because there was no competition to hold them in check.

Now that journals can be published online, the costs of producing and mailing paper copies are gone, and there is no need for massive printing presses. In principle we should be able to go back to the original state, where the dissemination costs are considered part of the cost of doing the research, rather than a price the reader pays for the privilege of access....

But we're tied down by history. Our reputations depend on rankings of the journals we can get our papers into, so we're very reluctant to shift to new ones of dubious reputation....

Are there solutions? One reason for optimism is that changing how we pay the costs of disseminating research is not an all-or-nothing change like switching from qwerty to Dvorak keyboards. Some new open-access journals are very prestigious. Granting agencies are giving strong 'in-principle' support to open access publishing, and my last grant proposal's budget included a hefty amount for open-access publication charges. And libraries are looking for ways to escape the burden of subscription charges.

Depositing chemical data in ChemSpider

Antony Williams, The Benefits to Depositors of Putting Data on ChemSpider, ChemSpider blog, December 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

We’ve just deposited our ChemSpider structure collection onto PubChem. It amounted to just shy of 18 million compounds. We set a target of 20 million compounds in our database by end of year....

We already rolled out an alpha version of the structure deposition gateway and had feedback from a few testers. There has been some re-engineering on the back end and some significant improvements to speed up the approval process for publishing the data online. It will unveil in the next few days....

What we are looking for now are more depositors who are interested in depositing their data onto ChemSpider. These data can be from commercial databases, open access/free access databases or from personal data collections. There are significant benefits to the depositors in terms of creating awareness for your data and hopefully driving traffic to your websites (if appropriate). I’ve put together a short overview [18 slides] regarding the benefits for depositors and you can read it here....

OA for genome research from Nature

Shared genomes, Nature, December 6, 2007.  An editorial.  Excerpt:

...[Nature and the Nature journals] have long been freely available to researchers in the 100 or so poorest countries through the World Health Organization's Hinari initiative and others like it. Machine access is being enhanced by the open text-mining initiative of the Nature Publishing Group (NPG). Preprints of original versions of papers can be deposited in arXiv and Nature Precedings without compromising their acceptability for publication. And final authors' versions of papers can be deposited in PubMed Central and other public servers from six months after publication. Authors retain copyright of their work, whereas NPG retains the licence to publish it.

For many years, a more generous arrangement has been made for papers reporting full genome sequences. (The paper reporting the sequence and analysis of 12 species of Drosophila is the most recent example, see Nature 450, 203; 2007). These papers are freely accessible on NPG's website from the moment of publication. This recognizes a consistent character of 'genome' papers: they represent the completion of a key and fundamental research resource, describing and reflecting on what has been revealed but not usually providing insights into mechanism. Although some papers in other disciplines might also be characterized in this way, the fundamental character of the genome has led NPG to make a systematic exception.

In the continuing drive to make papers as accessible as possible, NPG is now introducing a 'creative commons' licence for the reuse of such genome papers. The licence allows non-commercial publishers, however they might be defined, to reuse the pdf and html versions of the paper. In particular, users are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt the contribution, provided this is for non-commercial purposes, subject to the same or similar licence conditions and due attribution.

In 1996, as human genome sequencing was getting under way, leading players stated: "It was agreed that all human genomic sequence information, generated by centres funded for large-scale human sequencing, should be freely available and in the public domain in order to encourage research and development and to maximise its benefit to society" (see [the Bermuda principles]). These principles have continued to guide the field, and NPG has consistently made genome papers freely available in keeping with them. This new licence allows us to formalize the arrangement.


  • I applaud this policy and am especially intrigued by the principle behind it: 

[Genome papers] represent the completion of a key and fundamental research resource, describing and reflecting on what has been revealed but not usually providing insights into mechanism. Although some papers in other disciplines might also be characterized in this way, the fundamental character of the genome has led NPG to make a systematic exception.

  • Is Nature willing (and perhaps preparing) to make the same systematic exception for equally fundamental research in other fields?  Are other publishers? 
  • It's easy to understand why research of this description is fundamental.  But when we ask exactly why, according to Nature, research of this description should be OA, the answer seems to be that all fundamental research should be OA.  At first, I admit, that sounds like an unfair paraphrase.   But the editorial doesn't help us sharpen it.  It does cite other specific features of genome research --that it completes a fundamental research resource, and reflects on what it reveals without providing insights into mechanism.  But what's the connection between that specific feature and OA?  Again, it seems that the answer is that research of this description is very basic and very useful.  If so, the principle is of very wide application and should affect access policies (at least at Nature) on many other topics.

Update (12/7/07). Also see Andrea Gawrylewski's article in The Scientist.

Update. Also see NPG's December 5 press release to accompany the editorial.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Info on OA from the MLA

The Medical Library Assocation has released three cards on OA to accompany its November 20 webcast, Scholarly Publishing and Open Access: Straight Talk.  From the Philadelphia chapter of the MLA:

On Tuesday November 20, 2007 over twenty of MLA-Phil colleagues viewed the latest MLA Webcast on scholarly publishing and open access at Thomas Jefferson University’s Herbut Auditorium....

One of the resources discussed was a Toolbox Card about Open Access [for MLA members only]....Here is a PDF file of Cards 18-20 [for everyone, OA]....One correction needs to be noted on Card 18:  The PDF link to the ARL publication “Framing the Issue…” is now [this].

David Prosser on OA in Europe

Listen to a 13 minute interview in which David Prosser (Director of SPARC Europe) talks to Dick Kaser (VP of Content for for Information Today) about OA in Europe.

OA at the U of Zurich

See a 12.5 minute video interview with Alexander Borbély on open access (in German).  Borbély is the former VP of Research at the University of Zurich and the person most responsible for Zurich's OA mandate.

Vision for an IR

Leslie Johnston, Goals and vision for a repository, Digital Eccentric, December 5, 2007.  Excerpt:

Last week I had the opportunity to have a lengthy conversation with some folks about our Repository [at the University of Virginia]. In doing so I was able to get at some really simplified statements about our activities.

Why a Repository?

  • A growing body of the scholarly communications and research produced in our institutions exists solely in digital form.
  • Valuable assets -- secondary or gray scholarship such as proceedings, white papers, presentations, working papers, and datasets -- are being lost or not reproduced....
  • Open Access, Open Access, Open Access and Preservation, Preservation, Preservation.
What's the vision for a Repository?
  • A new scholarly publishing paradigm: an outlet for the open distribution of scholarly output as part of the open access movement.
  • A trusted digital repository for collections.
  • A cumulative and perpetual archive for an institution.
What does success look like?
  • Improved open access and visibility of digital scholarship and collections.
  • Participation from a variety of units, departments, and disciplines at the institution.
  • Usable process and standards for adding content.
  • Content is actively added.
  • Content is used: searched and cited and downloaded.
  • There is a wide variety of content types....

OA to publicly-funded research in Germany

Germany's Green Party has called for open access to publicly-funded research

To read the key passage, scroll to p. 8, search for the English phrase "open access", or read it excerpted on Eric Steinhauer's blog (in German or Google's English).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Winners of first Open Archaeology Prize

The Alexandria Archive Institute has announced the winners of its first Open Archaeology Prize (November 30, 2007):

Scholars from UC Berkeley swept the Open Archaeology Prize competition, held at the 2007 meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research (ASOR). One of a series of award competitions around “open archaeology” led by the Alexandria Archive Institute and funded primarily by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, this particular Open Archaeology Prize targeted members of ASOR, a long-standing organization of archaeologists conducting research in the Near East. The winners, who were selected based on their project’s scholarly merit, potential for reuse in research or teaching and availability on the web in a free and reusable format, were announced last week at ASOR’s annual meeting in San Diego. First prize for a Senior Scholar was awarded to the team led by Ruth Tringham (Professor, Department of Anthropology) and Noah Wittman (Program Manager, [Open Knowledge and the Public Interest]) for their website Remixing Çatalhöyük. First prize for a Junior Scholar was awarded to Catherine Foster (PhD student, Department of Near Eastern Studies) for her project Household Archaeology and the Uruk Phenomenon: A Case Study from Kenan Tepe, Turkey. A second prize of $200 in books, co-sponsored by the David Brown Book Company, was awarded to Justin Lev-Tov (Statistical Research, Inc.) for his project Hazor: Zooarchaeology.

Intute wins 2007 Farradane Award

Intute has won the 2007 Jason Farradane Award from the Journal of Information Science.  For details, see JISC's announcement this morning:

This year’s Jason Farradane Award for outstanding work in the field of information science was today presented to Intute, the JISC-funded free online search service.

With over 120,000 links to academic content on the Web, as well as a suite of virtual training tutorials and Internet information services, Intute has grown from its origins in JISC’s 1996 e-Lib programme to become a community resource, contributed to by subject specialists in libraries and other organisations across the UK....

The committee felt that ‘Intute's model of shared services has made the UK a world leader in delivering Internet services for education and research on a national level.’ ...

EC endorses European Digital Library Foundation

European Digital Library Foundation welcomed by the Commissioner, a press release from the European Digital Library, November 28, 2007.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

Yesterday, the European Commission endorsed the work of the European Digital Library Foundation....“Europe's citizens should all be able to enjoy our rich cultural heritage. This Foundation is a significant step towards making that ambition come true," Commissioner Viviane Reding, responsible for Information Society and Media commented. "It shows the commitment of Europe's cultural institutions to work together to make their collections available and searchable by the public through a common and multilingual access point online."

Foundation members include the key European heritage and information associations. Their statutes commit members to work in partnership to:

  • Provide access to Europe's cultural and scientific heritage though a cross-domain portal
  • Co-operate in the delivery and sustainability of the joint portal
  • Stimulate initiatives to bring together existing digital content
  • Support digitisation of Europe's cultural and scientific heritage

The European digital library is developing its prototype site for launch next year. To coincide with the formal handover to the Commissioner, the Foundation announced the CITY as the first of the site's themes....

The digital library project is gathering digitised content from European archives, museums, audio-visual collections and libraries. It will use maps, artefacts, photos, sound, film material, books, archival records and artworks to explore two millennia of connectivity between Europe's cities....

BASE expands its index and adds multi-lingual searching

The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) now indexes over 500 OA repositories.  From yesterday's announcement:

At the end of October 2007, BASE has indexed the 500th repository. At present BASE includes 519 sources, which means an increase of some 80 % compared to November 2006 (283 sources). For details please see [this chart].  (the blue line represents the number of documents, the red bar graph represents the number of repositories).

Since OpenDOAR lists some repositories without OAI-interface, we decided to show that BASE can also crawl repositories. At special request of Nature Publishing, we crawled and indexed two Nature repositories, which do not yet provide an OAI interface: Nature Precedings and Nature's Signaling Gateway.

Primarily in international professional circles, the multilingual search option in the BASE-Lab aroused great interest. Therefore we decided to integrate the option into the BASE search forms. By using the Eurovoc-Thesaurus you can now broaden your search. If you choose "basic terms only" a search term will be searched in up to 21 languages at the same time (no matter which language you use), provided that the search term is included in Eurovoc (for every language 6,500 basic terms are included). If you choose "basic terms and used-for-terms" synonyms for this search term will be searched additionally. All in all 239,000 terms are included in Eurovoc.

OA to 39 years of Folklore Forum

Folklore Forum has deposited all 39 years of its backfile to the institutional repository of Indiana University.  For details, see yesterday's announcement.

Monday, December 03, 2007

No more secret anthropology

David Glenn, Anthropologists Vote to Clamp Down on Secret Scholarship, Chronicle of Higher Education News blog, December 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

In the latest round of conflict over anthropologists’ cooperation with the U.S. military, members of the American Anthropological Association voted on Friday to ban certain kinds of secrecy in ethnographic work. In a motion passed by a voice vote during the organization’s annual business meeting here, members decreed that “no reports should be provided to sponsors [of research] that are not also available to the general public and, where practicable, to the population studied.”

The strongly worded motion is not binding, however....

The motion would restore four anti-secrecy clauses that were added to the association’s ethics code in 1971, but removed in 1998. A report issued this week by a special committee of the association urged that the secrecy rules be tightened....

The new anti-secrecy motion would affect not only military anthropologists. It would also cast a shadow over the burgeoning field of private-sector anthropologists who conduct ethnographic research about consumer behavior for corporate clients. Such researchers are often contractually required to keep their findings confidential. During the business meeting, the motion’s primary author, Terence Turner, a professor emeritus at Cornell University, explicitly said that the motion applies to proprietary corporate research....

Profile of OJS and OCS

Andrea Marchitelli, OJS and OCS: upgrading journals, conferences and scholarly communication to Open Access, apparently a preprint forthcoming in European Science Editing

Abstract:   Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and mostly free of copyright and licensing restrictions. Besides the need of publishing e-journals on the World-Wide Web to achieve more impact and visibility effects, the editorial workflow needs to be managed through some automation. OJS (Open Journal Systems) is the most used tool for the creation of ejournals. Conference papers and presentations which often disappear without any form of publishing can also increase their visibility. Open Conference Systems (OCS) developed by the PKP is an open source Web publishing tool that creates a complete Web presence for a scholarly conference.

New data showing that most OA journals charge no publication fees

Bill Hooker, If it won't sink in, maybe we can pound it in..., Open Reading Frame, December 2, 2007. 

First Bill recaps existing evidence (1) that most OA journals charge no author-side fees, and (2) that a larger percentage of TA journals charges such fees than do OA journals.  I'm very grateful to see him hammering on this issue, which I've been doing nearly alone for two years.  But he goes further and adds new evidence:

All of the above got me to wondering what proportion of journals in the entire DOAJ database charge author-side fees (since Suber and Sutton showed that when the dataset was expanded, at least among society publishers, the no-fee percentage went up considerably).

Fortunately, the DOAJ now includes a metadata field indicating whether or not a particular journal charges author-side publication fees. Unfortunately, that field is not included in the downloadable comma-delimited metadata file they make available. Fortunately, it's not a whole lot of work to make a replacement file by copy-and-pasting from the "browse by title" page. Unfortunately, you have to do this from the new "for authors" section, because the front-page browsing interface doesn't include the "fee/no fee" field. What's unfortunate about that, for my purposes (though it's a wonderful thing overall), is that the "for authors" browse does include hybrid journals, in which regular articles are subscription-only but authors can pay extra to have their work made OA. (In fact, even the logo at the top is different; on the front page you are seeing the Directory of Open Access Journals, but in the "for authors" section it becomes the Directory of Open Access and Hybrid Journals.) The front page says 2971 journals are indexed, but if you browse by title from the "for authors" page, the totals add up to 4638, the database having apparently added 1667 hybrid journals.

There's probably a smarter way to do this using the OAI-PMH, but that syntax is as impenetrable to me as Ancient High Martian, so I simply pasted the browse-by-title pages into a text document and imported that (colon-delimited) into Excel. Then I filtered on "publication fees", sorted by yes/no/missing and read off the totals from the row numbers. Horrible hack, but it worked.

Including hybrid journals, we get:

charge publication fees: 2185 (47%)
don't charge pub fees: 1998 (43%)
fee information missing: 455 (10%)
total no. of journals: 4638
Given the DOAJ definition of hybrid journal, those should obviously be excluded and the data reworked. This is where a smart person would have stopped and waited for the DOAJ to autogenerate the numbers, but I went ahead and deleted the hybrid entries by hand. (Shut up. I wanted to know, OK?) That yields:
charge publication fees: 534 (18%)
don't charge pub fees: 1980 (67%)
fee information missing: 453 (15%)
total no. of journals: 2967
The second total should presumably be 2971 and it would make sense for the "missing" totals to be the same in both sets, so either there are some errors in the database or I made a couple myself. In either case the errors appear small and make no difference to the percentages, and anyway did I mention this kept me up to 4 am? Actually I suspect some inconsistencies in the database, because the front-page total does not update as quickly as the actual entries, and because there are in fact hybrid journals which don't charge fees (e.g. Emerald Engineering's model).

So now we have three studies (OK, two studies and one ungainly hack) showing that a (strong) majority of OA journals do not charge author-side fees, and one of those studies further showing that a strong majority of non-full-OA journals do in fact charge author-side in addition to subscription fees.

Now, can we please put to rest the myth/FUD/whatever that there is only one OA model, the author-side fees/PLoS model? While we're at it, let's have a few more closely related ideas go the way of the dodo: that OA journals discriminate against indigent authors (because they charge publication fees -- except that most of them don't); that OA journals will compromise on quality (in order to collect payment for manuscripts -- except that most of them don't); that if most journals went OA, universities would have to pay more in author-side fees (which, remember, most OA journals don't, but most non-OA journals do, charge) than they do now in subscription fees.

I swiped that list of candidates for memetic extinction from Peter Suber, and you should go read his full discussion, which offers a lot more detail, especially on that last point. Me, I'm going to take a nap and go back to my blog hiatus. But the next time you hear someone talk about the "cost" of publishing in OA journals, please point 'em here.

British Library calls (again) for rebalancing copyright law

Balance in IP “not working”, a press release from the British Library, November 30, 2007.  Excerpt:

The British Library’s Chief Executive Lynne Brindley has chaired a significant debate about Intellectual Property in the digital age and called for the IP debate to move beyond music to include society, culture and the economy....

Affirming the British Library’s stance Lynne Brindley told the invited audience: “We believe at the British Library that the debate on intellectual property is too heavily focussed on teenagers, music and the consumer industries. It is important to realise that many areas of our society, culture and economy are affected by IPRs....It seems to me, as CEO of the British Library and therefore representing the researcher in part, that the balance that is referred to here, between private rights and public domain, between free competition and monopoly rights – is not working; it is being undermined by a number of things from our perspective including:

  • A restrictive use of new technology (Digital Rights Management)
  • Poor or outmoded legislation (i.e. too complex, increasing durations and harmonising durations ever upward etc)
  • The public interest aspects of copyright being undermined and made irrelevant by private contract

“I think we at the British Library, echoing the intent of the Adelphi Charter, believe that while market economics are very important, the public interest also needs to be actively protected – this can be done in many different ways but one important, if not the most important way, is through enlightened and well informed legislation balancing the conflicting public and private interests that seek to create and inform our IP regime. There is a need for real innovation in business models and for the legislation to become fit-for-purpose for the digital age.”

PS:  For background, see the British Library's IP Manifesto from September 2006 and the Adelphi Charter (a model of balance, including a call for OA to scientific research) from October 2005.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Survey of open chemistry

Richard Noorden, Surfing Web2O, Chemistry World, December 2007.  Excerpt:

The rapid evolution of the world wide web is creating fresh opportunities - and challenges - for chemistry....

  • The internet is becoming flooded with free chemical information: from blogs to videos and databases

  • Linking this data together and interacting via the 'social web' could revolutionise the practice and teaching of chemistry 

  • So-called 'Open Chemistry' faces many challenges: not least maintaining data quality and co-existing with trusted subscription databases...

[Jean-Claude] Bradley's idea is simple: most failed experiments are discarded, yet their data could be useful to someone else. Even published papers don't always sufficiently explain the workings behind a successful experiment. In contrast, all Bradley's research and raw data is now documented transparently and almost in real-time. Anyone can see it, comment on it, and use it; and the internet is the perfect vehicle for hosting it. 

Open Notebook Science is just one of many new routes for chemical information to appear on the internet. From searchable molecular databases to the user-editable Wikipedia; from video recordings of experimental protocols to the informal news, gossip and argument posted on chemistry blogs; a huge amount of chemistry can now be retrieved at no cost....

In this 'social web', swamps of data could be powerfully linked together. Search engines can trawl it to pick out whatever another user asks for. And user 'tagging', together with underlying machine-readable descriptions, means that related information can be easily linked. For example, clicking on a molecule could eventually bring up not just a 3D picture and a list of properties, but also the related online articles, experiments, videos and blog posts that refer to it....

'Mainstream chemistry has no tradition of openness and electronic collaboration. This is a bottom-up movement, largely composed of young researchers,' explains Peter Murray-Rust, a chemical informatics academic at the University of Cambridge, UK, and a keen advocate of what he terms 'Open Chemistry'. 

But as Murray-Rust also admits: 'chemistry is the best subject to do this with, but the hardest to sell it to'. The open chemistry model has to prove its worth alongside trusted, high-quality subscription databases and journals.... 

[R]esearchers are beginning to post videos of their own experiments on sites such as the Journal of Visualised Experiments and SciVee....

One of the most speculative projects includes blogger Mitch Andre Garcia's nascent Chemmunity- which asks chemists to take part in 'a global collaboration to solve interesting and novel chemistry questions. We will take a chemistry question from hypothesis to peer-reviewed chemical paper with all Chemmunity participants in the author list or acknowledgements.' ... 

One effective example of how the web can enhance content has been provided this year by the RSC's Project Prospect, whereby electronic journal articles are enriched with extra computer-readable metadata. It means readers can click on named compounds, scientific concepts and experimental data in an article to download structures, understand topics, or link through to electronic databases like Iupac's Gold Book....  

[T]he greatest source of established free information for research chemists on the internet are the 60+ small open-access journals some delayed open-access archived journals and, especially, the free online chemistry databases that aggregate together information on millions of molecules.

PubChem, 'the granddaddy of all free chemistry databases', as former medicinal chemist Rich Apodaca puts it, allows users to search almost 11 million compounds. It is maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), part of the United States National Institutes of Health....

Open chemistry advocates are frustrated by the way chemical data is fragmented between different closed databases. They reluctantly concede that gaining 'Open Access' to chemistry journals is a tough cause to fight . But 'Open Data' is quite a different proposition - publishers could well restrict access to journal papers while still freeing online records of their molecules and spectra, for example. 

The possible benefits of this approach to the chemical community are already apparent, via an online service called ChemSpider, which launched in March 2007....

Murray-Rust's own CrystalEye project is aggregating x-ray crystal structures, from the CIFs (crystallographic information files) that publishers demand as supplementary material for online articles. These don't fall under copyright laws, so it is possible to build up a free online database of crystal structures, even though they belong to closed-access papers.... 

[Y]et, Bachrach insists, the biggest problem is cultural - persuading chemists that they would benefit from access to other people's data is not easy, particularly as many chemists already have access to paid-for databases. 'Chemistry is a conservative subject,' fumes Murray-Rust. 'The chemical information market is now holding back opportunities.' ...

Wikipedia is free to relicense under CC

From the Wikimedia Foundation resolution (December 1, 2007):

  • The Foundation requests that the GNU Free Documentation License be modified in the fashion proposed by the FSF to allow migration by mass collaborative projects to the Creative Commons CC-BY-SA license;
  • Upon the announcement of that relicensing, the Foundation will initiate a process of community discussion and voting before making a final decision on relicensing.

From Jimmy Wales (on the Jamendo blog):

...If Wikipedia had been founded after CC it would certainly have been under a CC license but [CC] didn’t exist at the time, so we started with a license called the [GNU] Free Documentation License [GFDL] which is a good license but very complicated and very difficult to use.

So a couple of years ago, Larry and I were walking in a park in Barcelona and started talking about license compatibility and how important this is....[W]e said, “How can we make [Wikipedia] compatible with the whole CC movement?”

So we went through a long process of negotiation with the Free Software Foundation [which drafted the GFDL], many many different conversations, very complicated and with lots of legal aspects.

What I’m happy to announce tonight is that just yesterday the Wikimedia Foundation board voted to approve a deal between the FSF and CC and Wikimedia. We’re going to change the GFDL in such a way that Wikipedia will be able to become licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license....

From an unnamed contributor to the Jamendo blog:

So what does this mean for Wikipedia? A lot of people will now be able to legally mix Wikipedia and Creative Commons content. This announcement marks the end of a lack of interoperability of the licenses that was making the content less “free” for the users....

Anyway, Creative Commons will definitely have more weight and credibilty tomorrow than it had this morning. 4 out of the 10 biggest websites in the world now integrate Creative Commons....

From Lawrence Lessig (on his blog):

...[T]here has been important progress in making Wikipedia compatible with the world of Creative Commons licensed work. But we should be very precise about this extremely good news: As Jimmy announces, the Wikimedia Foundation Board has agreed with a proposal made by the Free Software Foundation that will permit Wikipedia (and other such wikis) to relicense under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.

That is very different from saying that Wikipedia has [already] relicensed under a CC license. The decision whether to take advantage of this freedom granted by the FSF when the FSF grants it will be a decision the Wikipedia community will have to make. We are very hopeful that the community will ratify this move to compatible freedoms. And if they do, we are looking forward to an extraordinary celebration....

My endless thanks to everyone who has helped make this possible, from Richard Stallman and the FSF board, to the important leaders within the Wikipedia community who [saw] yet another legal obstacle to freedom that they could remove.


  • I can tell from blog comments elsewhere that this is confusing.  Here's my take.  Wikipedia is licensed under the GFDL.  The Wikimedia Foundation (WF) has formally asked the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to modify the GFDL so that it is compatible with the CC-BY-SA license.  The thanks and celebrations suggest that FSF has already agreed to do so, although the modified GFDL has not yet been released.  When it is released, the WF will ask the Wikipedia community to decide (by "a process of community discussion and voting") whether to relicense Wikipedia under the CC-BY-SA.  But even if the Wikipedia community votes no, the new GFDL will still be compatible with CC-BY-SA, allowing users to mix contents under the two licenses in the same work. 
  • Disclaimer:  I'm on the advisory board of the WF.  The WF request came from the board of trustees, not the advisory board, and I had no role in it.
  • This is a major step.  It not only makes a premier example of open content compatible the premier family of open licenses.  It highlights the problem of license interoperability and shows that thorny incompatibilities can be overcome.  Open licenses need interoperability more than closed licenses.  They may permit important kinds of reuse, but that fulfills only part of the promise of openness.  As far as possible, the new uses should be compatible with one another so that users are free to use them together, not just separately.

Interview with Richard Smith

Peter Mansbridge interviewed Richard Smith, November 24, for Mansbridge One on One.  Watch the 30 minute video.  Thanks to Graham Steel, who reports that the primary discussion of OA (there is more than one) starts at 7:37 minutes.

Author-owned journal cooperatives

Gavin Baker, Author-owned scholarly journal cooperatives: a win-win situation?  This place is pretty ugly, December 1, 2007.  Excerpt:

Abstract: Rewarding authors and referees with ownership stakes in the journal could provide attractive incentives for individuals and rein in abusive publisher practices.

From the body of the post:

Since becoming a freelancer, I’ve spent a fair amount of time looking for publications that might want to publish my writing. One criterion I look for is: Do they pay? I’ve been surprised by how many publications are sustained without paying their contributors — and not just academic journals....

In theory, the authors could publish anywhere — potentially earning author fees — but the academy rewards the prestige of a publication within a specific and relatively fixed hierarchy. Scholars want a promotion, that fat grant, and their peers’ attention, so they publish without honorarium — even though the journal turns a healthy profit from the publication. In some journals, the author even pays the publisher, on top of the free labor. Academics also serve as reviewers for no remuneration.

The free labor aspect of academic journal publishing is frequently noted in a variety of contexts, such as:

  • “If academics write and review for free, why are some subscription journals so expensive? I don’t understand where the money goes.” (To which I say: profit! — for commercial journals, at least.)
  • “Since academics write and review for free, journal subscriptions should be more affordable. We deserve a better quid pro quo.”
  • “Because academics write and review for free in the journal system, that makes it easier to convert the system to open access — authors will be less concerned with loss of royalties from the change in business model.”
  • “The problems in the peer-review system — the delays, the sometimes arbitrary decisions — stem from the fact that reviewers are busy people and don’t have much incentive to do a good job.” ...

What if journals — in lieu or in addition to other payments or incentives — offered authors and reviewers a stake in ownership? There are a number of forms this could take:

  • A workers’ cooperative, where a given number of articles authored or refereed qualifies the individual for membership
  • A consumers’ cooperative, run by subscribers/members, where authors or referees are rewarded with a free membership
  • A corporation where authors or referees are rewarded with equity shares of stock....

[T]hese ownership shares could prove helpful incentives to attract and retain authors and referees, and to encourage prompt reviewing. And unlike honoraria, these ownership stakes don’t require payment up front — the author only earns a dividend if the journal makes money....

While there’s been a fair amount of previous discussion of cooperative academic publishing, most of it seems to posit the institution (university, scholarly society, etc.) rather than the individual as the actor-unit. Although we use the same word, the implementation and implications would be quite different due to the difference in the scale....

December SOAN

I just mailed the December issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.  This issue tells the November chapter of the continuing saga of the OA policy at the NIH, especially the Bush veto, the failure of the House to override it, and prospects for the future.  It also offers some predictions for open access in 2008.  The round-up section briefly notes 101 OA developments from the past month.