Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Draft Oxford strategic plan includes green OA

University of Oxford: Strategic Plan 2008–2009 to 2012–2013, Oxford Gazette, January 30, 2008.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

...Following this consultation, the draft Strategic Plan will be reworked in the light of comments received and presented to Council and Congregation by the end of Trinity 2008. It is anticipated that it will then be submitted to HEFCE in the autumn....


(a) Ensure that the fruits of the University’s research activities are exploited and disseminated for the benefit of society and the economy....

65. The University supports the move to the digitisation of materials arising from research and has created the Oxford Research Archive (ORA), a permanent, free and secure online archive of selected research output and materials produced by members of the University. This will provide greatly expanded access to Oxford’s research corpus for students as well as other researchers and the public. The University will continue to invest in the development of the ORA and to maintain it at the forefront of public repositories nationally and internationally....

Comment.  This is very promising.  It's too early to say that Oxford is considering an OA mandate.  But the "strategy" is to "ensure" the dissemination of the university's research output, and the draft proposal is to use the institutional repository for "selected" parts of that research output.  It could be a mandate, however, and the "selected" parts could include peer-reviewed journal manuscripts.  The proposal is part of a consultation, and Oxford-connected friends of OA should make their views known:

Responses should be sent to Mr Jared the end of ninth week of Hilary Term. Where consent is given, responses will be posted on a Web site.

Interview with Hemai Parthasarathy, frmr. ed. of PLoS Biology

Bora Zivkovic, From the trenches of Open Access: Interview with Hemai Parthasarathy, A Blog Around The Clock, February 8, 2008. Parthasarathy was founding Managing Editor of PLoS Biology.
When, how and why did you become a believer in Open Access publishing? I find that phrase kind of odd - like being a "believer" in evolution. I'm not sure open access is something to believe in. Its just logical, inevitable... it basically falls out of thinking about scientific communication + the internet. So, I'd say I "believed" from my first exposure, which was the open signature campaign that launched the Public Library of Science (PLoS). The question of how to make it work given the legacy of the subscription-based system, was less clear when I joined PLoS, but the last five years have seen a lot of change towards that goal.

More on the need for OA

Open Access to Scientific Research—Sharing Information, Saving Lives, Open Society Institute, January 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

The following is an updated version of an article that originally appeared in the Open Society Institute 2006 Annual Report.

AIDS deaths, thousands of them, punctuate Mphatso Nguluwe’s memories of her nursing career at the Ekwendeni Hospital in the northern end of Malawi. The AIDS catastrophe has already reduced the average life expectancy in her country to about 37 years.

And Nguluwe —a single woman who, at age 38, laughs about being old— is marching at the forefront of the local effort to prevent the epidemic from worsening. Her job is to instruct students at Ekwendeni’s nursing school. She is desperate to teach them the best methods available for treating people living with the HIV virus and practical steps HIV-positive mothers can take to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to their infants. She knows that for Malawi’s people, some of the poorest in the world, this is a matter of life and death.

Nguluwe does what she can to keep up with the latest medical research on HIV transmission. Her closest access point is an Internet café about 20 kilometers from home. So, once a month or so, she makes the trip in a minibus down a pot-holed asphalt road.

If the Internet lines are working on the day she visits, Nguluwe combs the websites of medical journals from the developed world and pores over abstracts of peer-reviewed articles. The full journal articles Nguluwe needs are just a “click-here-to-purchase” away. But a single article costs more than an average monthly wage in Malawi, and the subscription prices are so high that looking at them is infuriating. So the only way Nguluwe can get the critical information contained in these articles is to rely on a network of friends living abroad. This, she says, can take months or years.

Without the best information, “millions more will die.” ...

Focused on her computer screen in Lawrence, Kansas, Julia Blixrud has collided with the same barrier that so infuriates Nguluwe in Malawi. In the spring of 2004, Blixrud developed breast cancer. Since then, she has wanted to know more about the disease and its treatments than the popular press offers: “You get your first diagnosis, and you dig around to find out about your treatment options. Then you want to know about the different kinds of medications they are going to shove into your body during chemotherapy.”

“The articles on the web are expensive. When I started totaling up the cost, it quickly came to more than a thousand dollars,” says Blixrud, who promotes open access to scholarly publications for an Open Society Institute partner, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition. “Many of the articles I sought were at the university’s medical library in Kansas City. But even the university can’t afford the licenses to give access to some journals to anyone other than doctors, students, and researchers. I also tried to obtain publications through interlibrary loan. But as a member of the general public, and not a faculty member or a student, I would be at the bottom of the list of requestors and I couldn’t wait forever for a document.”

Open access will transfer learning from rich to poor—and poor to rich.

Through its Open Access Initiative, OSI is working to help create online access to scholarly publications free of charge, so anyone from Ekwendeni to Kansas City can read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, and link the full texts of articles and use them for any lawful purpose. Removing existing access barriers to the journals, which contain the results of research funded primarily by taxpayers in the developed world and not by the publishing companies that own the journals and set their prices, will accelerate scientific research efforts and allow authors to reach a larger number of readers....

Lessons learned in India applied in Mexico

Sam Pitroda is the Chairman of India's National Knowledge Commission, which has repeatedly recommended an OA mandate for publicly-funded research in India (one, two, three, four).

He has now been asked to advise the Mexican government on how to make Mexico the knowledge capital of Latin America. 

Comment.  This is good news for OA in the country which produced the Declaration of Mexico in October 2006.  A national-level OA mandate in Mexico would be the first in Latin America.

OA can raise the profile of an institution

Stevan Harnad, New Ranking of Central and Institutional Repositories, Open Access Archivangelism, February 8, 2008.  Excerpt:

The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities has created a new Ranking of Repositories....

[T]he three first ranks go to "thematic" (i.e., discipline- or or subject-based) Central Repositories (CRs): (1) Arxiv (Physics), (2) Repec (Economics) and (3) E-Lis (Library Science). That is to be expected, because such CRs are fed from institutions all over the world.

But the fourth-ranked repository -- and the first of the university-based Institutional Repositories (IRs), displaying only its own institutional output -- is (4) U Southampton EPrints (even though Southampton's University rank is 77th).

Moreover, the fifteenth place repository -- and the first of the department-based IRs -- is (15) U Southampton ECS EPrints (making it 10th ranked even relative to university-wide IRs!).

None of this is surprising: ...Southampton's ECS...adopted the world's first Green OA self-archiving mandate, now also being emulated worldwide....

But these repository rankings (by Webometrics as well as by ROAR) should be interpreted with caution, because not all the CRs and IRs contain full-texts. Some only contain metadata....

[T]he university-wide mandate that U. Southampton has since adopted still has not been officially announced or implemented....

[T]he moral of the story is that what Southampton is right now enjoying is not just the well-earned visibility of its research output, but also a competitive advantage over other institutions, because of its head-start, both in creating IRs and in adopting a mandate to fill them....

I am not saying all this by way of bragging! I am begging other institutions to take advantage of the fact that it's still early days: Get a competitive head start too -- by creating an IR, and, most important of all, by adopting a Green OA self-archiving mandate!

Friday, February 08, 2008

Michael Geist on OA vs. copyright restrictions

The University of Melbourne's Information Futures Commission has posted a video of a presentation by Professor Michael Geist entitled Unlocking Access delivered at the university on February 5, 2008.
The case for open access publishing has become increasingly unassailable as researchers recognise the benefits of wider distribution and greater impact as well as the consequences of funder mandates. This talk will focus on another important aspect of open access - the role it can play in countering restrictive copyright laws and onerous contractual limitations on scholarly research and dissemination.

OpenWetWare looks at publishing

Julius B. Lucks, Publishing on OpenWetWare, Programmable Cells blog, February 7, 2008.

The Steering Committee has been talking about developing an alternative publishing system/model through openwetware. I wish I could give a more concrete definition of what we are trying to achieve, but we are still in a pretty active debate and nothing clear has emerged.

My personal opinion about it, is that the first thing to do is for OWW to build a publishing community by creating a free, open-access, moderated system to publish Synthetic Biology papers. These papers would not have to be strictly the same as traditional peer-reviewed papers, and could include descriptions of protocols, part characterizations/designs, etc. In addition these papers could use OWW url’s as citations, thus establishing a legitimate credit system for OWW contributions. Both of these are a little hard to achieve with current publishers, hence the need for our own channel. We would only start with synthetic biology because it is a small, young and vibrant crowd, and of course this would apply to all disciplines eventually - we just need to get on our feet.

Specifically, I am a strong advocate of trying out a model in which people write their papers/publishable bits on the OWW wiki. Once they are done (revised, commented on, etc.) we publish them to where the work is moderated and if accepted is then hosted there and in effect given a doi which is more citeable in conventional publication. From there it can be submitted wherever the author wishes. ...

To that end, I am trying out a little experiment. I am going to write a paper on the arXiv on a topic that would not normally be publishable in a peer-reviewed journal: about how I used the python programming language to perform all the computational work in a recent comparative genomics study. I will write the paper on OWW, send out the link to it for comments, and when I have revised it, I will submit it to the quantitative biology section of the arXiv.

Federated searching of open content

MasterKey is a new search engine specializing in federated searching, launched by IndexData in June 2007.  (Thanks to David Dorman, both on the BOAI Forum and in private emails.) 

The free version of MK currently searches a handful of OA sources, including OAIster, the Open Content Alliance, Open Directory, Project Gutenberg, Wikipedia, and several large library catalogs.  Over time it will search other sources as well. 

MK is also available as a fee-based service that will search over 100 sources, including user-selected library catalogs and OA or TA databases.  For a one-time fee, it will also add a source to the free version, which will then be available to all users.  (The size of the fee depends on the time it takes to set up the connection or fetch and index the metadata.)

Both versions run open-source software.  The difference between the two is not the software but the accompanying database of connectors to the searchable sources.  For now, IndexData is selling access to its own database of connectors, and reselling WebFeat's database of 6000+ translators for use with MasterKey. 

If there were a community-developed OA connector clearinghouse, IndexData would prefer to use it.  While there isn't such an OA clearinghouse today, IndexData would like to develop one and talk to other organizations interested in supporting such a project.

UNCTAD report recommends OA-style approaches in ICT policy

Science and technology for development: the new paradigm of ICT, Information Economy Report 2007-2008, UN Conference on Trade and Development, February 6, 2008.
[Information and communications technology] is a general-purpose technology and as such has a pervasive impact on the economy. It introduces a new paradigm to the configuration of economic activities, changing in a radical way the approach to technology for development, because of the importance of spillover effects of ICT economic applications. ...
  • Finally, ICT has given rise to new models for sharing knowledge and collective production of and ideas and innovations, which often bypass the incentive system provided by intellectual property rights. These "open access" models, whether in activities such as open source software, open innovations or common knowledge associations, can be an efficient channel for rapid diffusion of knowledge to less advanced countries and deserve greater attention. ...
It should be stressed that ICTs enable more rapid dissemination and better coordination of knowledge, thus encouraging open access to sources of innovation. An innovation policy framework that fully takes into consideration the changes generated by ICT must give prominence to open approaches to innovation, which present significant advantages for developing countries. ...
Comment. The report doesn't use the phrase "open access" in the limited sense employed here, but the report's descriptions apply equally well to the subjects of OA to scientific research and data; therefore, so too do the report's policy prescriptions.

New roles for IRs

Jean-Gabriel Bankier and Irene Perciali, The Institutional Repository Rediscovered: What Can a University Do for Open Access Publishing?, Serials Review, in press (posted online February 6, 2008). The full text is not OA, at least so far. Abstract:
Universities have always been one of the key players in open access publishing and have encountered the particular obstacle that faces this Green model of open access, namely, disappointing author uptake. Today, the university has a unique opportunity to reinvent and to reinvigorate the model of the institutional repository. This article explores what is not working about the way we talk about repositories to authors today and how can we better meet faculty needs. More than an archive, a repository can be a showcase that allows scholars to build attractive scholarly profiles, and a platform to publish original content in emerging open-access journals.
Comment. See also Stevan Harnad's comments on the piece.
The authors, B&P, note (correctly) that Institutional Repositories (IRs) did not fill spontaneously upon creation. But their article does not mention or take into account today's swelling tide of funder and university Green OA self-archiving mandates. ...

Mandates... have consistently proved highly effective [in accelerating the transition to OA], in every instance where they were adopted, and mandates are now growing rapidly. Researchers comply, and comply willingly. It is apparent that mandates play the role of welcome facilitation, not unwelcome coercion, serving to allay author fears about copyright and author uncertainty about priorities.

Climate conference recommends OA for data

Paul Garwood, World Climate Conference-3 To Seek More Support For Improving Climate Predictions, Innovations Report, February 7, 2008.
Next year's landmark WMO World Climate Conference 3 (WCC-3) will urge the international scientific community, including governments, to do more to improve seasonal climate predictions to enable the planet to adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change, saving lives and protecting economies in the process.

This was the call from more than 20 organizations, including many United Nations agencies, who today ended a three-day meeting in Geneva held to prepare for next year’s event, hosted by Switzerland, titled: "Climate prediction for decision-making: focusing on seasonal to inter-annual time-scales taking into account multi-decadal prediction." ...

Key points identified during this week’s first meeting of the WCC-3 International Organizing Committee included the urgent need to enhance global environmental observations and to preserve climatic records. Open access to climate data and information is also needed, as well as improvements of the accuracy, resolution and scope of climate analyses and predictions.

New approach to OA textbooks

Stian Håklev has translated (and slightly abridged) this press release issued today by the Indonesian government:

The Indonesian government buys the copyright to textbooks...

The Indonesian government has decided to buy the copyright of textbooks for primary, secondary and high school. The purpose is to bring down the price of textbooks to a quarter of the current price, and make books accessible to people. This was announced by president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in a press conference on the 6th of Feburary, 2008....

According to the president, one of the problems in the education sector is the price of text books. Because the books are expensive, many parents are not able to buy them, which inhibits the learning of their children. An important step is thus to reduce the price of text books. “One of the ways we’ll do this is through buying the copyright and giving the production rights to other publishers, so that the price of books can be reduced”, said the president. This step is also intended to avoid monopoly within the text book industry....

The target is more than 250 books....

From Stian's comment:

[W]e should really try to campaign to have them adopt Creative Commons licenses for the material, and put it online as well. This might not make a huge difference to Indonesian school children (yet), but since [government officials] own the copyrights anyway, they could make a huge contribution to projects like Wikibooks, Wikipedia etc. And hopefully in the future they can also produce better quality and cheaper teaching materials by adapting material from open resources....

Comment.  Stian is right.  The Indonesian plan is very promising but it stops short.  How about inexpensive print editions and free online editions? 

On the OA archive of Va. Tech shooting documents

With Archive, Virginia Tech Librarians Document Aftermath of Tragic Shootings, Library Journal Academic Newswire, February 7, 2008.
Virginia Tech librarians are working to archive artifacts documenting the outpouring of grief and support in the aftermath of the tragic April, 16, 2007, shootings that left 32 people on campus dead. Working with consultants from the Library of Congress, librarians and university staff have collected over 87,000 items expressing condolence, including 33,000 paper cranes received in one lot, said Tamara Kennelly, a university archivist and librarian who is leading the project. ...

Amid grief and raw emotion, librarians began working to establish the archive within days of the shootings. A team of consultants from LC came to campus, Kennelly noted, and librarians and staff began to coordinate the preservation of artifacts, both analog and digital, of the various efforts made to cope with the shocking events. "We wanted to ensure that all of us were working together," Kennelly explained, citing the university's Center for Digital Discourse and Cultures' April 16 Archive and the "DLVT416: A Digital Library Test Bed for Research Related to 4/16/2007 at Virginia Tech" as just "two of the efforts concerned with the long-term preservation of the materials."

In addition, Virginia Tech librarians consulted with their peers at other universities who developed archives after tragic events including Syracuse University, after Pan Am 103 was destroyed by terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, and Texas A&M University, where 12 students were killed and 27 injured during the construction of a bonfire.

The archive, officials say, will provide "primary source materials on the grieving and consolation process after a major tragedy." Items selected for the permanent collection will be organized, preserved, and housed in a climate-controlled environment, Kennelly noted. They will also be described in a finding aid that will be made available through the University Libraries' Special Collections website and the Virginia Heritage Project. Once the collection has been processed, the physical collection will be available through the Special Collections Reading Room on the first floor of Newman Library. In addition to the permanent collection, Kennelly said, librarians are also planning a traveling collection. ...
Comment. Peter blogged about the archive upon its launch.

Australian review of publisher OA policies

Anne Fitzgerald and Amanda Long, A Review and Analysis of Academic Publishing Agreements and Open Access Policies, Open Access to Knowledge Law Project, version 1, February 2008.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

1.2.  The OAK Law Project Report No. 1, Creating a Legal Framework for Copyright Management of Open Access Within the Australian Academic and Research Sector (“OAK Law Project – Legal Framework Report”) emphasized the importance of actively managing copyright in academic publications if open access is to be effectively achieved in the academic and research sector....

1.3.  A staged approach has been adopted in implementing the actions proposed in the Legal Framework Report. The five implementation stages...are as follows:

Phase 1:  Collect and review a sample of publishing agreements used by the major publishers of Australian academic and research materials....

Phase 2:  Conduct a survey of academic journal publishers to obtain information about their policies and practices relating to open access....

Phase 3:  Conduct a survey of academic authors....

Phase 4:  Develop the OAK List, based on the findings of the review of publishing agreements (Phase 1) and the survey of academic journal publishers (Phase 2). The OAK List is an online, web-based, searchable database of information about publishing agreements and publishers’ open access policies and practices which can be accessed by authors, copyright administrators and repository managers in Australia and overseas.  [PS:  OAKlist was launched on February 6.]

Phase 5:  Develop...a set of model publishing agreements..., a set of standard clauses to be used by authors and publishers, in conjunction with standard publishing agreements..., lists of the rights held by authors and publishers respectively in open access systems....[and] a web-based copyright toolkit designed for use as a practical tool for the management of copyright in materials produced by Australian academic authors....

1.4.  This report deals with Phases 1 and 2....

9.2.  In Phase 1...[t]he analysis of publishing agreements found that they predominantly:

  • seek to assign copyright from the author to the publisher; and
  • do not expressly authorize authors to archive their academic publications in a digital repository or a personal web site.

9.3.  ...[I]n Phase 2...[t]he review of publishers’ open access policies and practices found that:

  • the majority of publishers did not have a formal open access policy;
  • only four of the total sample of 64 publishers surveyed had a formal open access policy;
  • 62.5% of the publishers were able to provide sufficient information to enable them to be “colour classified” using the SHERPA/RoMEO colour classification system to denote levels of open access;
  • using the SHERPA/RoMEO colour classifications:
    • 25% of the surveyed publishers were “green” (permitting archiving of the pre-print and post-print versions of published articles);
    • 4.7% were “blue” (permitting archiving of the post-print version);
    • 6.25$ were “yellow” (permitting archiving of the pre-print version);
    • 26.6% were “white” (archiving not formally supported)....

Profile of the IR at U. of British Columbia

Glenn Drexhage, How Information Gets to be Free, UBC Reports, February 7, 2008.
Dubbed cIRcle (, the site is designed to help store the vast array of UBC's research output. It’s currently in pilot mode but an official launch is planned for spring 2008. ...

cIRcle is based on an open access model, which means the site's contents are freely available to users anywhere. Embargoes may need to be placed on certain types of material depending on aspects such as publication dates and publisher permissions, but access for all remains a crucial underlying concept.

Indeed, many studies have shown that open access articles are cited more frequently than those in restricted journals. Also, by making their work openly accessible, authors contribute to the world's knowledge without copyright or financial restrictions. Nor do cIRcle contributors assign their copyright to the IR. Instead, they give cIRcle a non-exclusive licence to make their work openly available. Authors retain the moral rights in their works, so they must be properly attributed and cited when used by others. ...

Currently, cIRcle features two "communities" – the Faculty of Graduate Studies and UBC Library – that are submitting work to the site. A content recruitment group is busy pitching cIRcle to departments across campus. Although [UBC Library IR Coordinator Hilde] Colenbrander says it's too early to list adopters, she's encouraged by the feedback. "I'm actually overwhelmed by the amount of interest," she says, adding that many unsolicited inquiries have come her way. ...
Comment. See also Heather Morrison's comments.

Peter Murray-Rust and the data-mining robots

Richard Poynder, Peter Murray-Rust and the data-mining robots,, February 5, 2008. (Thanks to Thanks to Jennifer McLennan.)
Peter Murray-Rust, a reader in molecular informatics at the University of Cambridge, has a vision. In his vision, software robots roam the network collecting scientific information, which they aggregate and process to arrive at new insights. Sometimes they make scientific discoveries.

Before this can happen, however, an enabling infrastructure will need to be built - a task Murray-Rust has been dedicated to for 30 years. During that time he has also become a passionate supporter of the Open Data movement, which advocates for non-textual material such as chemical compounds, genomes, mathematical and scientific formulae, and bioscience data to be made freely available on the web.

Murray-Rust's epiphany came while on sabbatical in Zurich in the late 1970s, where he spent most of his time in a library, poring over the thousands of molecular structures published in chemical journals. "I spent six months going through the literature and came home with several hundred data points," he says. "Each data point was the product of a visit to the library to find a single piece of information in a journal."

For every molecule he wanted to research, he had to extract all the published data and then do a complex calculation. "A paper might give you the coordinates of the atoms of a molecule, for instance, but not the distances. So you had to do a little sum - and until you had done the sum you did not know whether the answer made sense," Murray-Rust says. ...

Leafing through the journals in Zurich, Murray-Rust was struck by how much valuable data was hidden within them, but was convinced that there had to be a better way of extracting them. ...

When the web exploded into life, Murray-Rust saw its potential immediately - particularly after Tim Berners-Lee outlined his vision of the Semantic Web, promising the advent of complex machine-to-machine interaction. Murray-Rust vowed to create a Semantic Web of chemicals. ...

[T]he main challenge is to persuade researchers and publishers to share their data, which is why Murray-Rust is now a passionate advocate of Open Data - a cause to which he spends an increasing amount of time, involved in activities such as lobbying publishers, educating researchers, and alerting the world to the issue via his blog.

He does not grudge this. "Sharing our knowledge is a necessary but not sufficient condition for saving the planet," he says. "And here I am not just talking about global warming - I am also talking about how we save the planet from disease, from ignorance, and from all sorts of other things. Open Data are a critical part of the infrastructure we need for 21st century living. And this goes way beyond science - it is also about things like map data, climate data, and traffic data. So you are going to be hearing a lot more about open data in the next five years." ...

New database of publishing agreements and publisher OA policies

OAKlist is a new database of information about publishing agreements and publishers' OA policies by the Open Access to Knowledge Law Project at Queensland University of Technology. From the announcement:
"OAKList is designed to enhance open access to knowledge and research innovation by making it possible to easily determine whether researchers are permitted by publishers to distribute academic publications via the internet - for example by depositing them into an online repository such as QUT E Prints," [OAK Law Project leader] Professor [Brian] Fitzgerald said.

"A key part of government policy across the world is to ensure that publicly funded research is available to the broadest possible audience in order to stimulate research innovation. OAKList will assist with this objective. ...

OAK Law project manager Scott Kiel-Chisholm said the list was a boon for managers of institutions' digital repositories who received articles from researchers for listing.

"They can instantly access the publishing policies for each journal without the time spent contacting the journal to ascertain the publishing agreements," he said.

"The OAKList is interoperable with the UK's RoMEO/SHERPA database of publisher agreements."

The OAKList was compiled after contacting 107 academic publishers in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and United States. A core sample of 95 publishing agreements, representing a total of 669 journals, was collected and analysed. ...

Update (from Peter). Also see the accompanying Review and Analysis of Academic Publishing Agreements and Open Access Policies or our blogged excerpt.

New BioMed Central journal on medical genomics

OA publisher BioMed Central has released a new journal, BMC Medical Genomics. From the announcement:
BMC Medical Genomics is an open access journal publishing original peer-reviewed research articles in all aspects of functional genomics, genome structure, genome-scale population genetics, epigenomics, proteomics, systems analysis, and pharmacogenomics in relation to human health and disease.

The medical research community is increasingly turning to the use of large-scale, high-throughput genomic techniques to address clinical questions. By providing information on the interaction between genes, drugs and diseases, genomic approaches to medicine promise to contribute to the delivery of personalized and individual medical treatment.

BMC Medical Genomics is a new journal in the highly successful BMC-series, from the publisher of journals such as BMC Genomics, BMC Medical Genetics and Genome Biology. BMC Medical Genomics publishes peer-reviewed research, software, database articles and technical advances, and published articles are immediately available without charge to readers. ...

Marquette launches first OA journal

The first of seven OA journals from Marquette, the Journal of Communication Studies, has been released. (Thanks to Humanities Info.) Peter previously blogged Marquette's plans to do so.

Comment. It looks as though Marquette has backslid on its initial plans: in the announcement that Peter blogged, the publisher named 8 journals, including the Russian Journal of Communication. That journal has in fact been released -- but only abstracts are available from Marquette, which now mentions publishing 7 free journals rather than 8.

PubMed Central and the Semantic Web

Paul Miller, PubMed Central ready for the Semantic Web and Open Data?, Nodalities blog, February 7, 2008. A blog post discussing open data in relation to publishing and open access repositories, and promoting the Talis Platform for use by PubMed Central.
Rather than 'simply' bolt some tags, curvy-edged boxes, and other Web 2.0 frippery onto the outside of a repository, why not think more radically? Why not throw the whole thing open, leverage the power of the Semantic Web that solutions like the Talis Platform offer, and see what we can do to maximise the value of those connections between papers, people, and areas of research... rather than simply expecting people to restate them, yet again, for some half-purpose?

Most of the data already exist. The technology already exists. Let's join the pieces together, and do something really interesting. ...

Past and future of the NIH public access policy

Ray English and Heather Joseph, The NIH mandate: An open access landmark, College & Research Libraries News, February 2008. Contains a discussion of the NIH public access policy, including its history, library community involvement, opposition, next steps and implications. See especially this paragraph on the impact of the NIH policy:
The NIH mandate should provide a strong impetus for the implementation of similar policies by other U.S. government agencies, by governments and governmental agencies in other countries, and by additional private research funders. It should also encourage further consideration of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which was introduced into the U.S. Senate in May 2006. The mandate is a critical step in the ongoing effort to establish public access to all funded research worldwide.
Comment. This seems to have been written before the NIH announced its implementation: "It is expected that the agency will create and make public an implementation plan within the first six months of 2008." In fact, the NIH made its plan public on January 11.

Filipino open textbook initiative

Bayanihan Books is a project to develop open textbooks for the Philippines, using wiki methodology and the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. (Thanks to Creative Commons.)

Remember self-archiving

Danah Boyd, open-access is the future: boycott locked-down academic journals, Apophenia, February 6, 2008.  Excerpt:

On one hand, I'm excited to announce that my article "Facebook's Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion, and Social Convergence" has been published in Convergence 14(1).... On the other hand, I'm deeply depressed because I know that most of you will never read it. It is not because you aren't interested (although many of you might not be), but because Sage is one of those archaic academic publishers who had decided to lock down its authors and their content behind heavy iron walls....

I agreed to publish my piece at Sage for complicated reasons, but...

I vow that this is the last article that I will publish to which the public cannot get access. I am boycotting locked-down journals and I'd like to ask other academics to do the same....

Here's what I'd like to propose:

  • Tenured Faculty and Industry Scholars: Publish only in open-access journals. Unlike younger scholars, you don't need the status markers because you're tenured or in industry. Use that privilege to help build new journals that are not strapped to broken business models. Help build the reputations of new endeavors so that they can be viable publishing venues for future scholars....
  • Disciplinary associations: Help open-access journals gain traction. Encourage your members to publish in them. Run competitions for best open-access publications and have senior scholars write committee letters for younger scholars whose articles are stupendous but published in non-traditional venues.
  • Tenure committees: Recognize alternate venues and help the universities follow....
  • Young punk scholars: Publish only in open-access journals in protest, especially if you're in a new field....
  • More conservative young scholars: publish what you need to get tenure and then stop publishing in closed venues immediately upon acquiring tenure....
  • All scholars: Go out of your way to cite articles from open-access journals....
  • All scholars: Start reviewing for open-access journals....
  • Libraries: Begin...adding them to your catalogue....
  • Universities: Support your faculty in creating open-access journals on your domains....
  • Academic publishers: Wake up or get out.... 

Comment.  I support most of Danah's suggestions, I strongly support OA journals, and I'm glad to see that her post has created good buzz in the academic blogosphere.  However, her post, and nearly all the posts I've seen in response, assume that publishing in an OA journal is the only way to provide OA to a peer-reviewed research article.  That's not so, and it needlessly ties the hands of researchers who want to make their own work OA.  (Boyd did self-archive a 2006 preprint of her article.)  Here's the comment I posted to her blog, with a few minor touch ups:

I support your decision to make your future papers open access (OA).  One way to do that is to submit them to OA journals.  But another way is to publish them in a conventional journal and then deposit copies of the peer-reviewed postprints in an OA repository.  Either method provides bona fide OA, and knowing your options can give you more choices about where to publish your work.

About two-thirds of surveyed non-OA journals allow some form of author self-archiving.  To find out whether a given journal or publisher does so, use the SHERPA/RoMEO database.

Sage, for example, allows self-archiving of the peer-reviwed postprint but only after a 12 month delay. That's a bad policy. I'd recommend publishing in an OA journal or in a conventional journal allowing immediate postprint archiving.

For more info, see Six things that researchers need to know about open access or my Open Access Overview.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Proposal for open science session at Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing

Friday is the deadline to submit letters of support for Shirley Wu's proposed Open Science session at the Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing. (Thanks to Bill Hooker.)
One thing that would really help outside of the proposal itself is to have actual letters of support. That way the organizers will know there is serious interest and commitment for a session on Open Science - it's a gamble for them, frankly, but much less of one if there is a good crowd on board.

So if you would like to support this proposal and are willing to commit to participating should it get accepted, please send me an email to that effect (with as many details of your anticipated participation as you can provide at this time), and I will include all the emails as "supplementary material" next Friday.
Update. The proposal was approved.

OA math, physics, and chemistry for Africa

The same group that launched e-Math for Africa in 2006 is now working on e-Physics for Africa and e-Chemistry for Africa.  (Thanks to Anders Wändahl.)

The goal of e-Math for Africa is "to coordinate the efforts to make an African consortium for e-journals and databases."  It includes both OA journals and TA journals discounted for African researchers.

Australian working group will study OA for publicly-funded research

Science to better service the nation, Campus Review, undated but apparently today.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

...The expert panel appointed [by Senator Kim Carr, Australia's Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research] to spearhead [Australia’s National Innovation System Review ] is expected to produce an issues paper as early as next month. It will be followed by a series of workshops across Australia in April and May before a green paper emerges in July.

Open access to publicly funded research...[is] among the ideas already flagged by stakeholders.

Carr said three working groups were being established...[one of which will] examine publicly funded research and the CRC [Cooperative Research Centres] program....

Professor Brian Fitzgerald, whose work at the Queensland University of Technology focuses on the legal aspects of open access, said he hoped the review would consider the notion of free and easy access to research findings as a driver of innovation and productivity.

“Whether it’s climate change, water management or indigenous health, if we can get more knowledge out there and researchers have more access, we might come up with solutions that we never dreamed about before,” he said....

Carr said he was already working toward an overarching statement or policy on open access....

More on OA textbooks

Paul F. deLespinasse, One Way to Rein In Textbook Costs: Make Them Free, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 1, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers).  (Thanks to Nicole Allen.)  Excerpt:

...Although I retired in 2000 and no longer need to select texts, I have been fascinated by recent reports that individual books now commonly cost more than $100 and have become a major burden on today's financially strapped students. In fact, the education committee of the House of Representatives has just proposed new requirements for publishers and colleges, in an attempt to bring prices down (The Chronicle, January 31)....

The production of standard textbooks involves two kinds of costs: organizing and writing the material contained in the text; and printing, distributing, and marketing it. All of those costs are avoidable today....

To start with the second group of costs, it is now possible to put the content of a text on a Web site very inexpensively. If the owner of the content gives permission to copy it, link to it, and even reprint it at no or little charge, putting it online is nearly as good as printing it up as a physical book and distributing copies to every library and bookstore on the planet. Any student who has access to the Internet can read and study an online text without paying anything, and can print or copy key passages into a file that is the equivalent of handwritten notes. And he or she can print a whole copy for about 5 cents a page, far less than the cost of a bound book.

Academic publications, including scholarly journals and publications like The Chronicle, could encourage and legitimize such texts....

For the first group of costs, naturally, writing a textbook is labor intensive and requires a great deal of skill. But that is also true of writing an encyclopedia, and over the past half-dozen years, Wikipedia has put together an outstanding reference work without paying any of its writers anything....

Paul deLespinasse has written four OA textbooks.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Self-archiving poster for anthropology

Kerim Friedman, Self-Archiving Made Easy (for Anthropologists), Open Access Anthropology blog, February 6, 2008. A poster encouraging anthropologists to self-archive their articles in the Mana'o repository.

Comment. See also the self-archiving posters by Les Carr and Ari Friedman, as well as SPARC's Author Rights poster.

Publication contracts, author rights and OA

Kevin Smith, Where does a publication contract fit in?, Scholarly Communications @ Duke blog, February 5, 2008.
...Another right that is becoming very important is the author’s right to post her work on a personal web page, in a disciplinary repository or in an institutional repository. Again, many publication agreements are allowing authors to retain this right in some form, but they often restrict what version of the article can be used or when the article can be placed in an open access database. So for this reason also, it is important to read a publication contract carefully.

When a publication agreement is a transfer of copyright, all these rights may be retain, but if they are not specifically mentioned, the author no longer has them. A transfer gives everything to the publisher unless it is explicitly retained. A license, on the other hand, gives only the right of first publication to the publisher, and the author retains all the rights that are not explicitly included in the license grant. Obviously, a license for first publication is the form of publication contract that is most beneficial to the authors, since it gives them maximum flexibility to use their own work after publication has occurred. This kind of contract is not the norm, but some publishers are now willing to accept a license for first publication, so many authors will find that it is at least worth asking.

Rapid rise in law review articles citing legal blogs

Some Evidence for the Assimilation of Blogs into the Structure of Legal Literature, Law Librarian Blog, February 5, 2008.  Excerpt:

Recently Balkinization's Jack Balkin and The Volokh Conspiracy's Orin Kerr observed that the law review citation rate for their blogs has increased somewhat significantly on an annual basis since 2004. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Blogs, as Jack Balkin writes "are being assimilated into the larger universe of legal writing and becoming part of the web of [legal] citations."

I took a quick look at annual blog citation rates for 2004-2007 recently and found similar increases....

At the outset, I should emphasize that this search method underestimates the number of blog citations, possibly by a wide margin....

According to this estimate, blog citations in law reviews and court opinions have grown from about 70 in 2004 to over 500 in 2007 (and still counting since many law reviews have not completed their 2007 publishing cycle). I believe it is fair to say that for 2005 and 2006 blog citations probably grew exponentially on a document count basis, doubling each year....

Author attitudes toward SPARC Partner journals

John Dupuis and Leila Fernandez, A study of Canadian authorship in selected SPARC Alternative journals in the early years after their introduction, a preprint self-archived February 5, 2008. 

Abstract:   The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) is an initiative of the Association of Research Libraries. In 1998 SPARC introduced the Alternative Program working with partners to launch new journals to compete with existing high-priced titles in the STM field. Currently there are 11 titles in this program listed on the website, three of which are freely accessible. This study examines the earliest adopters, Organic Letters and Evolutionary Ecology Research to determine author satisfaction with these journals. Organic Letters although originally a SPARC Alternative journal is no longer listed under this Program. A survey of Canadian authors in these journals in the first five years since inception provides insight into the reasons why they chose to publish in these journals and has definite implications for librarians. The results of these surveys are discussed in the larger framework of existing scholarly communication models.

OA and scientific revolutions

MIT is distributing a new 14.5 minute podcast by John Wilbanks on Barriers to the Flow of Scientific Knowledge.  John is the Executive Director of Science Commons.  From the MIT blurb:

Following the recorded interview, Wilbanks agreed to answer just one more question, which we did not have time to include in the recording:

Ellen Duranceau: I understand you majored in Philosophy as an undergrad. Is there is particular philosopher’s work that you draw upon to support his efforts with ScienceCommons?

Wilbanks responds: “Philosophy has turned out to be directly relevant to our work at Science Commons - the principles behind the Semantic Web are essentially the same as those investigated for centuries by philosophers from Hume to Plantinga. In terms of influence, I could list a dozen philosophers that have influenced one element or another of our work. I know that Thinh Nguyen, our counsel, is deeply influenced by the work of Daniel Dennett (and everyone involved in science should read Dennett’s “Darwin’s Dangerous Idea“). But I’m probably most influenced overall by Thomas Kuhn, who wrote “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and introduced the idea of the paradigm shift....[T]he core arguments about how ideas emerge in science, are beaten down by the establishment, and have to force general changes in the overall knowledge structure of science - those arguments resonate deeply with me. And a huge part of what we’re trying to do at Science Commons is enable the overall acceleration of the cycles Kuhn describes, to make it faster and faster and faster for ideas that deserve to emerge to emerge, and to let as many people into the process as want to be there.

This mix of accelerating research cycles and increasing participation in science through lowered barriers means that we get more revolutions, faster. It’s one of the only non-miraculous approaches available to us. We need theoretical breakthroughs in fields across the sciences, we need more revolutions, and Science Commons is trying to deploy the infrastructure of knowledge and that can make those revolutions easier to achieve.” ...

Comment.  I've also cited Kuhn in my own approach to OA.  From January 2003:

[T]the expectation by the rising generation of researchers that full-text journal articles ought to be free and online is one of the greatest assets of the [OA] movement. As Thomas Kuhn argued, doddering paradigms tend to topple not because someone produced sufficient evidence or a decisive experiment, but because the diehards died off and a new generation took their place. I welcome evidence that young researchers look first in free online sources. They should. That's by far the most convenient place to look. Our job is to put more information in that basket, not persuade researchers to start with less convenient sources. Students should understand that free online sources are not yet adequate in most fields. But the rest of us should understand that the best remedy is to make them adequate.

(Before anyone writes to insist that students should look at the best sources, whether free or priced, I say the same thing in the original piece.  I'm just editing to highlight the reference to Kuhn.)

DRIVER Summit proceedings

The proceedings from the first DRIVER Summit, Towards a Confederation of Digital Repositories (Göttingen, January 16-17, 2008), are now online.  (Thanks to Birgit Schmidt.)

Research metrics from repository metadata

Chris Armbruster, Access, Usage and Citation Metrics: What Function for Digital Libraries and Repositories in Research Evaluation? A preprint self-archived January 29, 2008.

Abstract:  The growth and increasing complexity of global science poses a grand challenge to scientists: How to organise the worldwide evaluation of research programmes and peers? For the 21st century we need not just information on science, but also meta-level scientific information that is delivered to the digital workbench of every researcher. Access, usage and citation metrics will be one major information service that researchers will need on an everyday basis to handle the complexity of science.

Scientometrics has been built on centralised commercial databases of high functionality but restricted scope, mainly providing information that may be used for research assessment. Enter digital libraries and repositories: Can they collect reliable metadata at source, ensure universal metric coverage and defray costs?

This systematic appraisal of the future role of digital libraries and repositories for metric research evaluation proceeds by investigating the practical inadequacies of current metric evaluation before defining the scope for libraries and repositories as new players. Subsequently the notion of metrics as research information services is developed. Finally, the future relationship between a) libraries and repositories and b) metrics databases, commercial or non-commercial, is addressed.

Service reviewed include: Leiden Ranking, Webometrics Ranking of World Universities, COUNTER, MESUR, Harzing POP, CiteSeer, Citebase, RePEc LogEc and CitEc, Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar.

The business model of WIT Press

Richard Poynder interviews Carlos Brebbia, director of WIT Press.  Excerpt:

Scholarly publishing finds itself at a difficult transitional stage today. In response, some publishers have decided to behave badly — as evidenced by the actions of publisher lobbying organisations like PRISM.

But as Alma Swan recently pointed out to me, most of this bad behaviour emanates from a small group of four or five large publishers, "not the hundreds and hundreds of publishers out there, most of whom are starting to understand that Open Access is the way of the future."

The problem for these other publishers, however, is that the behaviour of PRISM — along with the questionable activities of organisations like the Association of American Publishers (AAP), and the apparent greed of not-for-profit organisations like the American Chemical Society (ACS) — is tarring all publishers with the same brush, and making researchers understandably suspicious of anyone calling themselves a publisher.

This was demonstrated for me recently when I was passed an e-mail sent to a researcher by Carlos Brebbia, the director of a small academic publishing company called WIT Press, which produces two journals.  In line with WIT's new Open Access policy, the e-mail asked the researcher to pay a €50 per-page publication fee. Brebbia added, "I have checked our records and your institution has not yet subscribed. Will it be possible to request them to do so? It is cheaper to pay the subscription of €450/$550 rather than the €50 per page."

The e-mail was passed to me as evidence that WIT Press was behaving badly and, in the process, giving Open Access a bad name. So I contacted Brebbia and asked him about his journal publishing activities, and how he is adapting to a world in which, as he himself puts it, "Open Access is a reality." ...

I leave readers to reach their own conclusions....

AAA invites its members to think about OA

The February issue of Anthropology News is devoted to OA.  Anthropology News is published by American Anthropological Association (AAA), which encourages members to comment on the new AN articles through the AAA news blog.  The articles:

Comment.  The AAA has a history of opposing OA and disregarding the views of its members.  For some background, see my short SOAN articles from July 2006, November 2006, December 2006, or my many blog posts on the subject.  It looks like the February Anthropology News, and the invitation to members to comment, represent a thaw.  AAA members should take advantage of the opportunity and make their views known.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Making OA books even more useful

Exact Editions has produced a mini-library of the OA books of Lawrence Lessig.  From today's post about it at the Exact Editions blog:

...[W]hat our service adds to the readily available PDF file versions are some features that will matter to close students of Lessig: (1) the books can be searched quickly, severally or individually (2) each page can be cited or linked as a separate url (3) the Tables of Contents and the Indices provide clickable navigation (4) the works should be accessible from any web-enabled device with no special software required (eg from an iPhone as well as ordinary computers).

Here are some interesting pages: a highly clickable index, a page with a diagram, a search for 'rivalrous' and a search for 'Posner'.

Our service is pro bono. It does incidentally demonstrate some of the advantages of the Exact Editions systems (that is pro our bono) and it also may help to generate some donations for Creative Commons and some sales of the books. On every page there are links to CC and to Amazon for the purchase of printed copies.

Letters on OA publishing

The February issue of Physics Today includes four letters to the editor in response to Paul Guinnessy, Stakeholders Weigh Costs of Open-Access Publishing, Physics Today, August 2007.  The article is TA, but the letters are OA.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  Excerpts:

From Dana Roth:

I was surprised that Paul Guinnessy's story "Stakeholders Weigh Costs of Open-Access Publishing" (PHYSICS TODAY, August 2007, page 29) didn't mention page charges as an alternative to open-access author charges. A number of society-published journals, Physical Review Letters and the Journal of Chemical Physics among them, continue to balance reasonable page charges with reasonable subscription rates....

I share David Stern's concern about the possible loss of quality that may accompany widespread open access. Open access is primarily driven by the needs of the medical community and its patients. Shouldn't open-access experiments be conducted and refined there first, before we attempt to impose it on all of science and technology?

From Robert Bronsdon:

The discussion about stakeholders and open-access publishing is a great one, weighing points pro and con, but I believe that it misses the underlying problem with having organizations formed around the intent to profit from the publishing of scientific research. We, as scientists, must decide if a refereed paper that is locked in a vault is as valuable as one that is not refereed but is accessible to everyone on the internet. It is no wonder that authors who avoided the pay-for-play trap have found their citation numbers increasing dramatically. Search engines could locate the papers and present them to people with an interest, and those people could read them without having to pay. I find it difficult to see how it would go unnoticed that freely available papers would get read more frequently than ones that have to be paid for. But then people are making money on all the papers that are behind closed doors....

From Thomas E. Phipps Jr.:

As a footnote to the article on open-access publishing, let me point out that among the main beneficiaries of such publishing are people like me, trained and interested in physics but not directly involved or institutionally affiliated. Such "outsiders" are openly discriminated against by the preprint arXiv at Cornell University. We are denied the option to contribute unless vigorously endorsed by a member of the academic in-group....

Comments.  Two quick comments on Dana Roth's letter:

  • The case for OA in medicine is especially strong, but OA itself is not "primarily driven by the needs of the medical community and its patients."  Different fields are making progress toward OA at different rates, and medicine is near the front of the pack for both gold and green OA.  But OA has homegrown sources of demand and momentum in every field. I don't know anyone who wants OA in (say) mathematics, history, or literature on the ground that it's desirable in medicine.
  • If David Stern's concerns about "the possible loss of quality that may accompany widespread OA" were quoted in Guinnessy's article, I haven't been able to read them.  But there are good reasons to think that OA will not reduce the quality of research articles and will even increase it.

Helping to implement the new NIH policy

SPARC has created a page of information to help universities and libraries help researchers comply with the new NIH public access policy.  Excerpt:

The NIH has provided a comprehensive set of resources to explain the details of the policy:

You also may find it useful to refer researchers on your campus to these resources provided by NIH:

  • List of journals that currently deposit articles in PMC on behalf of their authors
  • Article from NIH’s Office Extramural Research Newsletter outlining what the new policy means to NIH-funded investigators

As libraries and administrators explore local approaches to education and compliance, please keep in mind these additional helpful resources that are currently available:

  • SPARC Web resource on the NIH policy
  • The SPARC Author Addendum, which specifically enables authors to retain the rights they need to deposit articles in PMC after publication in a journal.
  • The Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Generator, from SPARC and Science Commons, which offers authors the choice of four different sets of rights in addenda that may be completed online.
  • The SPARC Author Rights Forum, a new, private discussion list where libraries can together explore the needs and opportunities that emerge as they consider how best to implement this policy. (To request membership, send any message to The list is moderated by Kevin Smith, JD, of Duke University Libraries.
  • A letter to SPARC Directors and Advocates pointing to these resources

For background on the widespread community support for the NIH Public Access Policy, visit the Alliance for Taxpayer Access Web site.

Slides and audio from SPARC-ACRL Forum on student engagement

The slides and audio are now available from the SPARC-ACRL Forum on student engagement at the 2008 ALA Midwinter meeting. Peter has previously blogged the video of the forum and the Sparky Awards winners.

New mailing list on author rights

SPARC has created a new mailing list for discussing author rights. The list is moderated by Kevin Smith, Scholarly Communications Officer for Duke University Libraries. To request membership, send a message to

NIH Director visits Australia

Bernard Lane, NHMRC urged to refine its message, The Australian Higher Education, February 6, 2008.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

"I believe the NHMRC [Australia's National Health and Medical Research Council] should have a much higher public profile," said Elias Zerhouni, director of the US National Institutes of Health, which dedicates 1 per cent of its $US29 billion ($32billion) budget to public communication and has the most visited health website in the US.

Dr Zerhouni, who visited Australia last week to take part in an unprecedented international review of the NHMRC, said the Australian agency needed a "much bigger footprint on the web". He said researchers associated with the NHMRC were already influential, given that Australia ranked third, after Canada and Britain, in the fierce competition for NIH grants among non-US scientists....

Last month, public access to research entered a new era when the NIH adopted a policy requiring all the scientists it funds to send copies of their papers to the free, web-based journal PubMed Central for publication no later than a year after they appear in traditional journals.

Dr Zerhouni told the HES that under the old voluntary system, only 17 per cent to 20 per cent of papers found their way to PubMed Central.

"A voluntary system doesn't work because there's lots of opposition, or because the scientists don't want to take the time," he said.

He said the reaction from publishers - especially multinationals and some scientific societies - to the new mandatory policy was "not good, (they are) very concerned".

But many journals already had been giving articles to PubMed Central for delayed publication without any effect on their revenues, he said.

Roundup of news on OA and developing countries

Charlotte Webber has a post on the BioMed Central blog of recent news on the state of OA for developing countries. Includes news from the Berlin 5 conference, the One Laptop Per Child project, low-cost satellite Internet access, the digital divide and health care in Cuba, open science in the developing world.

UN University launches OpenCourseWare

United Nations University has launched an OpenCourseWare Portal. From the announcement:
Resources available in the initial phase of the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal include six courses on electronic governance, developed by the UNU International Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST, Macao); five Ph.D. training courses on the economics of technical change, innovation and development, developed by the UNU Maastricht Economic and Social Research and Training Centre on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT, the Netherlands); and a course on integrated water resources management developed by the UNU International Network on Water and Health (UNU-INWEH, Canada). Several more UNU system units are currently preparing course materials for inclusion in the portal later this year.

Notes from UK PubMed Central meeting

Matt Day, Where next for UK PubMed Central?, Nature Nascent blog, February 4, 2008. A report from a meeting on the future of UK PubMed Central. There is also an online survey for others to share their thoughts.

OA mandate at CIHR takes effect

CIHR's Policy on Access to Research Outputs is Now in Effect, an announcement from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), February 4, 2008.  Excerpt:

On September 4, 2007, CIHR released its "Policy on Access to Research Outputs", which aims to improve access to research publications and biomolecular data. Under this new funding policy, recipients of CIHR grants awarded after January 1, 2008, must:

  • ensure that all research papers generated from CIHR funded projects are freely accessible through the Publisher's website or an online repository within six months of publication;
  • deposit bioinformatics, atomic, and molecular coordinate data into the appropriate public database (e.g., gene sequences deposited in GenBank) immediately upon publication of research results;
  • retain original data sets for a minimum of five years (or longer if other policies apply); and
  • acknowledge CIHR support by quoting the funding reference number in journal publications....

CIHR believes that greater access to research publications and data will promote the ability of researchers in Canada and aboard to use and build on the knowledge needed to address significant health challenges. Open access enables authors to reach a much broader audience, which has the potential to increase the impact of their research. In fact, evidence shows that open access publications are more often read and cited than closed access publications. From a Knowledge Translation perspective, this policy will support our desire to expedite awareness of and facilitate the use of research findings by policy makers, health care administrators, clinicians, and the public, by greatly increasing ease of access to research.

Adhering with the new policy - Open access publications

For journal publications, there are two ways to adhere with the policy:

  1. Submit your manuscript to a journal that offers immediate open access (e.g., CMAJ, PLoS, BMC) or offers open access to the paper on its website within six months (e.g., NEJM).
  2. Submit your manuscript to a journal that does not offer open access, but will permit you to archive the peer-reviewed manuscript in a central or institutional repository within 6 months of publication.

CIHR considers open access publishing fees to be an eligible grant expense....

CIHR has developed a suite of tools and resources that will help clarify this new policy and how it will affect grant recipients:

PS:  See my comments from last September on the CIHR policy.

Eight countries join European Library

The national libraries of 8 Balkan countries and former Soviet states have joined the European Library in January. The new members, called by their collective initials FUMAGABA, are: the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Ukraine, Moldova, Albania, Georgia, Armenia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Azerbaijan. The project to integrate the 8 countries is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The new members will participate in the European Library's efforts to provide free online access to the digitized contents of Europe's national libraries. The most recent issue of the European Library's newsletter has an interview with the Armenian national library's director, David Sargsyan, about joining.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The OA argument is won

The open access argument is won, says leading advocate, a podcast interview from JISC with David Prosser, Executive Director of SPARC Europe, February 4, 2008.  The blurb:

A petition organised by JISC, European partners and SPARC Europe attracted nearly 25,000 signatures in 2007, including a number of Nobel Prize winners, as well as more than 800 education and research organisations. SPARC Europe's director David Prosser talks about what the petition achieved and why he thinks the open access argument has finally been won.

Interview on U.S. environmental data and Web 2.0

Joab Jackson, EPA the Web 2.0 way, Government Computer News, February 4, 2008. An interview with Molly O'Neill, Chief Information Officer of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. (Thanks to FreeGovInfo.)

GCN: What is unique about the type of data EPA works with?

MOLLY O'NEILL: We have a lot of scientific data, so for us, data standards are really important. We also have a lot of regulatory data — that is, the data that industry gives to government. But we delegate much of the implementation of our regulations to the states. So the data goes from industry to the states to EPA. We have to ensure the data quality from the time the samples were pulled.

This is a role that the National Environmental Information Exchange Network plays. One of the most important things about the network is that it facilitates the exchange of the data among all the parties. The idea is that we don't touch it. It is all done in [Extensible Markup Language] and Web services. So we're not trying to reformat. We don't break interfaces or do double data entries, which may compromise the data quality or our decisions when we use this data for analysis. ...

GCN: Why do you think federal agencies have such a hard time disseminating information on the Web?

O'NEILL: For us, there are three reasons. One is that there is such a huge demand. We have so many stakeholders who want information in different ways.

People can't get enough environmental information. And if they can't find it, they get upset.

Sometimes the taxonomy is confusing.

Another issue is some of the data is stored in older databases.

It is harder to disseminate to people. As we update our old data systems, we are architecting in a way to more easily get the data in and out.

But the third reason is that we tend to organize data in a way that it makes sense to us. Although this is changing a little bit now, at EPA we still primarily organize our data by how we are organized as an agency. People outside the agency don't think of things that way. They get frustrated because they want all the information about a subject, like climate change or environmental indicators. So where do they go? We're doing a lot to improve search on our site. When you do a search on the main page, it will give you folder options. When you type in "waste water," it will organize by folder topics like stormwater or industrial effluent.

Also, because we're science-based, we get spelling issues or problems with chemical names.

Someone might search for "trichloroetheline" instead of "trichloroethelyne" and get totally different results. Therefore, we're doing the "Did you mean?" feature, similar to what Google provides.

But we also need to think about how we organize, present and disseminate data. One of the things we are doing here in my office is to start a national dialogue where we'll go out and ask people how they want us to disseminate our information.

We know we're going to get different ideas from different focus groups, but we need to hear them. And this will help us write a plan for addressing the issue of better information access. It's not just how the Web site is designed but how we service or disseminate the data. Do we want more e-mail lists? RSS feeds? We need to ask about those kinds of questions. The hope is that we'll make some helpful changes along the way.

OA and universities as intellectual infrastructure

Gavin Baker, Free Culture and the University: Innovation, Information Sharing, and the Future of the Academy, a presentation at Knowledge Rights and Information Sharing in the 21st Century (University of Central Florida, January 30 - February 1, 2008). Excerpt from slides:
  • An institution to address the needs of the knowledge society
  • Universities as the intellectual, cultural, and innovative infrastructure of society
  • Like public roads & parks, their product should be free
The Free University
  • Open access to research publications & proceedings
  • Open access to research data
  • Open educational resources
  • Free & open source software
  • Open access to library holdings
  • Open standards & file formats
  • Socially responsible patent policies
  • The values of free culture are the values of academia
  • To fulfill their mission, universities must put their values into practice in their own administration

U. of Michigan places 1 millionth scanned book online

The University of Michigan has reached the 1 million book milestone in its OA digitization program. That figure represents around 13% of the 7.5 million books in the library's collections. The books are available via the library's catalog or via Google Book Search, as part of the Michigan Digitization Project. (Thanks to the Chronicle Wired Campus blog.)

Update. Also see the article in Library Journal Academic Newswire for February 5, 2008.

Wikitravel Press launches OA print titles

Wikitravel Press, a publishing company formed by the founders of Wikitravel, has released its first print titles, travel guides for Chicago and Singapore. The guides are based on content from the Wikitravel site, which is free to access and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. (Wikitravel runs on MediaWiki, the free software developed by the Wikimedia Foundation which also powers Wikipedia.) The guides are available for sale from print-on-demand publisher Lulu. (Thanks to Creative Commons.)

Bentham OA journals in Chem Abstracts

Chemical Abstracts is indexing the OA journals in chemistry from Bentham Open.  (Thanks to Kevin Lindstrom via Jean-Claude Guédon.)

Introduction from Gavin

Hello, Open Access News readers. I'm Gavin Baker, the new assistant editor of OAN. I'm very pleased to join Peter in maintaining this important blog, and grateful for the support of SPARC to make it possible.

My goal here is to help Peter keep up with the quickening pace of developments in OA (and to return a bit of his time to work on other things). Through it all, I hope to uphold the high standards readers have come to expect from this blog, so that OAN can continue to be a valuable resource to the OA movement.

You can read about my involvement with the OA community in the introduction Peter posted yesterday. I also invite OAN readers, especially students, to visit the new Open Students blog which I maintain. Finally, I also write a personal blog at Readers can reach me via email at; please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.

I'm happy to be here, and look forward to covering the news of the OA movement for you. Thanks for having me!

More on the AAP objections to the NIH policy

Sophie Rovner, It's All About Access, Chemical and Engineering News, February 4, 2008.  Primarily about digital preservation, but along the way Rovner recaps the AAP's objections to the OA mandate at the NIH.  (I responded to the AAP objections back in January.)

Max Planck and Springer strike a deal

The Max Planck Society (Max Planck Gesellschaft, or MPG) and Springer have struck a deal giving MPG researchers access to Springer content as readers, and pre-paid publication fees as authors when they publish in Springer's Open Choice journals.  From today's announcement:

The Max Planck Society and Springer have reached an agreement which allows the scientists working at the 78 Max Planck Institutes and research facilities across Germany access to all content on SpringerLink, and which also includes Open Choice(TM), Springer's open access scheme, for all researchers affiliated with a Max Planck Institute publishing in Springer's journals. Springer's Open Choice(TM) program offers full and immediate open access for articles that are accepted for publication after a process of rigorous peer-review....

The new agreement is based on combining the subscription model with open access, and is set up as a 2-year experiment to investigate whether this construct is a more sustainable business model for scholarly publication.

"During the period of the agreement, Springer and the Max Planck Society will evaluate the effects of open access on both authors and users...," said Peter Hendriks, Springer's President of STM Publishing.

From today's blog comments by Jan Velterop, Springer's Director of Open Access:

This is one of a few - so far experimental - deals, similar in nature (the others are with the UKB - a consortium of the Universities and the Royal Library of The Netherlands - and with the Georg-August University of Göttingen in Germany) that aim to find a way forward in reconciling the desire for universal and immediate open access to peer-reviewed scientific journal articles with the need to ensure the economic sustainability of peer-reviewed journals.

Implicit in these arrangements is that they mix the subscription model with the author-side payment model during a transition to a fully and properly funded open access model across a whole spectrum of journals and disciplines. In the process, any differences in the ability to publish with immediate open access (the 'gold' route) between well-funded and poorly funded disciplines are evened out.

These experiments could quite conceivably see an increase in article submissions to Springer journals by authors from Max Planck Institutes, Dutch universities, and the University of Göttingen, particularly where the choice of journals for those authors is between a Springer journal which will publish with OA and a more or less equivalent journal, in terms of status, impact factor and the like, from another publisher. In fact, such an increase is expected, over time.

In any event, even without such further increases, these arrangements already entail a substantial growth in the number of high-quality peer-reviewed open access articles.


  • One piece of background:  last week, MPG agreed to pay the publication fees for MPG authors when they publish in any of the 17 OA journals from Copernicus Publications
  • Another, bigger piece:  last October, MPG canceled 1,200 Springer journals.  Today's deal essentially restores those subscriptions. 
  • One incentive for MPG to restore its subscriptions is that Springer is waiving (all or most) publication fees for MPG authors when they publish in Springer's Open Choice journals.  (All Springer journals are Open Choice journals.)  This means that MPG authors needn't pay extra for the OA option at these hybrid OA journals, and therefore will routinely select it, increasing (as Jan points out) the number of gold OA articles by MPG authors.
  • Springer didn't cook up this deal simply to win back MPG as a subscriber.  As Jan points out, Springer had already made similar agreements with UKB (Universiteitsbibliotheken en de Koninklijke Bibliotheek) in June 2007 and Georg-August University of Göttingen in October 2007.  See my blog comments on those two deals (UKB, Göttingen).
  • From my predictions for 2008 (in SOAN for December 2007):

    We'll see more publisher-university deals, like the Springer deal with Göttingen and the similar deal with the Universiteitsbibliotheken en de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. These deals create a new body of OA content --articles by faculty at participating institutions-- for about the same price that institutions currently pay for subscriptions. They don't make whole journals OA, and hence don't make subscriptions unnecessary, but they do make articles OA. We'll see more of them because they benefit both parties. They benefit universities by delivering more bang for the library budget buck and by widening the dissemination of some faculty work. They benefit publishers by [increasing submissions and] reducing the risk of cancellation .

    These deals give universities two goods --access for readers and OA for authors-- for the fee that previously bought just one. Because they preserve access fees for readers [of the non-OA articles], I view them as suboptimal, but that doesn't change the fact that they are bona fide cases of mutual benefit....

Update.  See Bernd-Christoph Kämper's supportive comments on the deal.

Update. Also see the article in Library Journal Academic Newswire for February 5, 2008.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Gavin Baker joins OAN

I'm happy to announce that Gavin Baker will join me at Open Access News

For two or three years now, the volume of OA-related news has outstripped the time I could give to finding and blogging it, not to mention the time I needed for digesting it.  I responded by narrowing my scope and working too much.  Neither solution would scale with the continuing growth of OA.

Friends and colleagues suggested that I hire a blogging assistant.  I always liked the idea, but I didn't have funds to pay anyone and I worried that I'd spend more time on training and supervising than I'd save.  These two problems were solved back to back when SPARC agreed to pay for an assistant's time and Gavin agreed to join me.  I'm very grateful to them both.

Gavin is the founder of the Open Students, the only blog about OA directed to students.  He's also the force behind The Right to Research, the SPARC web site on the student campaign for OA, and the author of some first-rate blog posts (one, two, three), presentations (one, two, three), and articles on OA.  When he was still a student, he co-founded the Florida chapter of Free Culture, and organized a successful campaign to get the University of Florida Student Senate to adopt a strong resolution in support of OA.  It's no surprise that when SPARC honored the student campaign for OA with its Innovator Award in December 2007, it singled out five students as notable agents of change and named Gavin "The Professional".  He was interviewed last week in Library Journal Academic Newswire.

Welcome, Gavin! 

How publishers can stop betting against the internet

Kevin Kelly, Better Than Free, The Technium, January 31, 2008.  (Thanks to Gyn Moody.)  Excerpt:

The internet is a copy machine....

Yet the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order....

When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied....

Trust cannot be copied. You can't purchase it. Trust must be earned, over time. It cannot be downloaded. Or faked. Or counterfeited (at least for long). If everything else is equal, you'll always prefer to deal with someone you can trust. So trust is an intangible that has increasing value in a copy saturated world.

There are a number of other qualities similar to trust that are difficult to copy....I call them "generatives." A generative value is a quality or attribute that must be generated, grown, cultivated, nurtured. A generative thing can not be copied, cloned, faked, replicated, counterfeited, or reproduced....

Immediacy -- Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released -- or even better, produced -- by its creators is a generative asset....



Authenticity -- You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don't need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You'll pay for authenticity....

Accessibility -- Ownership often sucks....Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our "possessions" by subscribing to them. We'll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it....Acme backs everything up, pays the creators, and delivers us our desires. We can sip it from our phones, PDAs, laptops, big screens from where-ever. The fact that most of this material will be available free, if we want to tend it, back it up, keep adding to it, and organize it, will be less and less appealing as time goes on.

Embodiment...PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather....

Patronage -- It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators....

Findability -- Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention -- and most of it free -- being found is valuable.... 

These eight qualities require a new skill set. Success in the free-copy world is not derived from the skills of distribution since the Great Copy Machine in the Sky takes care of that. Nor are legal skills surrounding Intellectual Property and Copyright very useful anymore. Nor are the skills of hoarding and scarcity. Rather, these new eight generatives demand an understanding of how abundance breeds a sharing mindset, how generosity is a business model, how vital it has become to cultivate and nurture qualities that can't be replicated with a click of the mouse....

Comment.  This seems very right to me.  Business models that would be defeated by free and easy copying are doomed.  Just as a warming climate selects for warm-weather adaptations, and a cooling climate selects for cool-weather adaptations, the internet selects for business models that charge for forms of value or layers of utility that cannot easily be copied.  These business models aren't just good ideas, for example, to make OA possible.  They are necessities for survival.  For publishers, self-interest should be the primary driver for OA.

Update.  Also see Jan Velterop's comments.

More on the NIH OA mandate

Robin Peek, What’s Next Post Mandate? A preprint of her Focus on Publishing column to appear in the March issue of Information Today.  The preprint will come down at the end of this month and the postprint will go up three months after publication.  Excerpt:

...NIH tells submitters that: “Before you sign a publication agreement or similar copyright transfer agreement, make sure that the agreement allows the article to be submitted to NIH in accordance with the Public Access Policy.’ However what the NIH does not explain how the mandate will work with publishers who are not already in compliance with the guidelines. The NIH notes that,” Institutions and investigators are responsible for ensuring that any publishing or copyright agreements concerning submitted articles fully comply with this Policy.

Peter Suber, author of the SPARC Open Access News, observes “the policy makes no exceptions for dissenting publishers, does not depend on publisher consent, and simply requires grantee compliance. This clearly implies that if a publisher does not accommodate the NIH policy, and grantees cannot obtain special permission to comply with it, then they must look for another publisher.” ...

One thing to keep in mind is that not all publishers object to this law as a good number of biomedical research journals...[already] submit [their articles] to PMC. Despite the strongly worded press releases from the major lobbying groups such the Association of American Publishers and the STM Publishers vowing to keep up the fight opposing the law...fighting the Congress and the President really has become old and its time to move on to other things. For example, Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, noted in a January 11, 2008 issue of Science. ‘Journals will have to step up their policing by asking NIH to remove articles that have been mistakenly posted because they are still under embargo or are too old to fall under the policy.”

The later part is just plain strange --where is logic of vanquishing the items submitted voluntarily? I am sorry, when did this become as issue? ...I wish that the enlightened publishers who are already successfully working with the voluntary policy try to positively influence the implementation plan and not participate with publishing lobbies who provide us with more silly side street distractions.

But with the law will come the necessity to charge up the education machine. As Heather Joseph, the Director of SPARC stated in an interview with LJ Newswire: “In terms of the immediate future, librarians are going to be extremely busy educating their administrators, faculty members, researchers, and students as to how to comply with the policy, and also on what it means to each constituency. Successful implementation of this policy must be a high priority for the coming year.” ...