Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Libraries: 'Thanks for the NIH policy -- no rule-making please'

On February 12, eight library associations (AALL, ALA, AAHSL, ACRL, ARL, GWLA, SPARC, SLA) sent a letter of thanks for the NIH public access policy to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for health & human services, and Rep. David Obey (D-WI), chairman of the House Appropriations committee. On Feb. 14, the organizations sent the letter with some changes to Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt. Excerpt from the latter:

... We understand that a special interest group of publishers has requested that a rule-making procedure be initiated, which would further delay taxpayersí access to the results of our collective $29 billion investment in this important research. We wish to strongly reiterate that the Alliance and its members enthusiastically support the immediate implementation of the NIH Public Access Policy (NOT-OD-08-033) policy ...

Special interests must not be allowed to further stall NIH public access. ... Any delay will only hold back scientific advancement and impede the public's access to high-quality health information. The April 7, 2008 implementation date announced by NIH must not be held up. ...

Profile of BMC journals and the business value of OA

Donna Howell, Online Journals Gain Readers, Respect, Investor's Business Daily, February 14, 2008.

... The Malaria Journal recently became the most-cited publication in tropical medicine. But it operates entirely online, freely viewable, by necessity. For researchers in the developing world where malaria's a big problem, says editor Marcel Hommel, the cost and logistics of a paper-based journal would be prohibitive.

Within the World Health Organization, officials scour medical journals every week for new papers on malaria. Most open-access research gets reviewed and disseminated almost immediately.

If a paper is not open access ó if it can't be viewed immediately at no cost ó it's less apt to get looked at, Hommel says. He adds that even traditional research journals like Nature and Science tend to make their malaria studies open access.

The Malaria Journal is now one of nearly 200 peer-reviewed open-access journals freely viewable via BioMed Central, an open-access publishing house based in London that has put about 30,000 studies into print online since starting in 1999. Some scientific societies outsource their journal publishing largely to BioMed Central. Others, like the Malaria Journal, do their own prep work with the help of BioMed Central.

"We were the first publisher to say, 'We're never going to charge for research, we think it makes sense in the age of the Internet for research to be free,'" said BioMed Central Publisher Matthew Cockerill. "Having pioneered this model, it's gotten a huge amount of support from groups in the scientific community."

More ó but not all ó traditional journal publishers have embraced the idea, he says.

Successes like the Malaria Journal are helping soften opposition, he says. "It's the dominant journal in the field of tropical medicine, proving beyond a doubt the qualitative and economic viability of the open-access model." ...

Presentations from VALA 2008 conference

Presentations from the VALA (formerly the Victorian Association for Library Automation) 2008 conference (February 5-7, Melbourne, Australia) are now available online. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.) Many are OA-related. Session topics include: Library 2.0, Repositories, Publishing, and Intellectual Property.

New mailing list on commons research

A new mailing list is available on commons research. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.) Description:
Discussion among researchers studying the commons, for example the use and impact of peer production methods and communities and open licensing. We welcome researchers studying the commons in a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, economics, law, media studies, sociology...

Blog notes on Open Access Collections workshop

Peter Murray-Rust, APSR 2008, A Scientist and the Web, February 14, 2008. Notes from the Open Access Collections workshop by the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories (February 14, Brisbane).

... Australia has really got its act together on the e-infrastructure. Itís created repositories (not all full) and now the Australian National Data Service (couldnít find a home page). It got pulled off track last year by trying to make the repositories an instrument of research management for the RQF (Australiaís answer the the UK Research Assessment Exercise).

Moral: If you try to use the repositories for things other than helping authors, then you will lose the authors.

This was a strong theme. If you donít address what people need to do, then no technology or investment will save you. Australia is pragmatic and learns quickly. It means it can avoid the mistakes of putting lots of investment into cutting edge computer science and then wondering why no scientists go near it. Australia understands the need to concentrate on data. Have we learnt this in the UK? Not sure we have. ...

Update on the Duke Law School repository

Kenneth J. Hirsh, more on e repositories, Teknoids, February 14, 2008.

... Duke Law has maintained its own faculty scholarship repository hosted on a local server using EPrints software since December 2005. A joint project of the law library and the law school information technology departments, the faculty scholarship repository aims to include comprehensive holdings of the final versions of all works by current Duke faculty members, and to extend coverage retrospectively to cover works by everyone who has taught at Duke. At present, the repository holds over 1400 papers and is searchable on the Duke Law web site, as well as through Google and other general web search engines. Because the repository complies with the standards and protocols of the Open Access Initiative, its holdings are also searchable through OAIster and other harvesters of open access repositories, as well as through Google and other search engines.

Before ePrints and DSpace, we partnered with Tom Bruce and LII on the LEDA project, which was an ambitious OAI compliant system that also converted documents to PDF.

CC licenses for public data in Australia

Michael Cross, Australia set to give the go-ahead for Creative Commons licensing, The Guardian, February 14, 2008.  Excerpt:

...Last month, the government of Queensland approved the use of Creative Commons, which allows free re-use of copyright material subject to certain conditions, as part of a new licensing framework. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth (federal) government is expected to give the green light to creative commons in a new set of guidelines for the management of the government's intellectual property....

New OCLC Systems & Services

The new issue of OCLC Systems & Services (vol. 24, no. 1, 2008) is now online.  Here are the OA-related articles.  Only abstracts are free online, at least so far:

OA resource on European National Grid Initiatives

The  European Grid Initiative Design Study (EGI_DS) launched the EGI Knowledge Base, a wiki devoted to the National Grid Initiatives (NGI's) of Europe.  (Thanks to Innovations Report.)

Advisory Council for OKF definitions of open knowledge and open service

The Open Knowledge Foundation has announced a new Advisory Council, February 15, 2008.  From the announcement:

The Council will be formally responsible for maintaining and developing the Definitions and associated material found on the Open Definition site - including the Open Knowledge Definition and the Open Service Definition. As many of you will know, these definitions aim to provide clear and succinct sets of conditions for ‘openness’ in knowledge and services.

Jordan Hatcher of has kindly agreed to be Chair of the Council....

(Disclosure:  I'm a member of the new council.)

Two new essays by Larry Sanger

Here are two new essays by Larry Sanger, founder of Citizendium and co-founder of Wikipedia:

  1. Citizendium: A New Vision for Online Knowledge Communities.  Excerpt:  "The most interesting unexploited opportunity before the Internet today is high quality and high relevance. In short, if developing sheer quantity of content was the big exciting problem ten years ago, we’ve licked that one. The big exciting problem now is quality: how to create enormous amounts of high-quality and highly-relevant content. And this is --I guarantee it-- a much more difficult problem, and one that not nearly as many online projects will be able to solve...."
  2. How the Internet Is Changing What We (Think We) Know.  Excerpt:  "My worry is that the superabundance of information is devaluing knowledge. The more that information piles up on Internet servers around the world, and the easier it is for that information to be found, the less distinctive and attractive that knowledge will appear by comparison...."

More on OA for public geospatial data in the US

The pseudonymous author of the FortiusOne blog worries that the newly announced US National Geospatial Advisory Committee will not support OA for public geospatial data.


On Monday, LIS News named Open Access News one of 10 Non-Librarian Blogs To Read in 2008, along with Boing Boing, Lifehacker, and  Slashdot.  (Thanks, Blake.)

Universities' obligations under the NIH policy

Michael Carroll, Open Access - NIH, Carrollogos, February 13, 2008.

... This policy requires two big changes in behavior to business-as-usual biomedical publishing. First, universities as NIH grantees can no longer remain indifferent to how their faculty authors manage their copyrights. Beginning in Fiscal Year 2008, it is a term and condition of an NIH grant award that the grantee (the university) will ensure that NIH receives (1) the electronic manuscript and (2) a copyright license to publicly distribute that manuscript no later than 12 months after the date of publication.

These are contractual commitments made by the university to NIH. The issue for the university is that both the manuscript and the copyright start out in the hands of the Prinicpal Investigator or author(s) working under the PI's direction. So universities have to get a process in place quickly for ensuring that the PI's or their authors don't take any action that puts the university in a position in which the university cannot comply with this term and condition of the grant award.

The biggest risk for universities and the PI's themselves is that authors will continue to routinely sign away copyright without reading the publisher's copyright transfer form.

The NIH requirement forces authors to take greater responsibility for their own copyrights. Some universities and some authors are likely to grumble about this. If it's really a problem, perhaps they should ask Congress to declare that federally funded research articles get no copyright at all - which is true for articles written by NIH employees. This was what Congressman Sabo proposed some time ago.

If these authors want the privileges of copyright protection, then they can't be heard to complain when NIH requires them to also accept the duty of managing their copyrights responsibly.

Friday, February 15, 2008

OA workshop presentations

OCLC grant to study OAI-compliant data sharing for museums

On February 12, Online Computer Library Center announced it had received a $145,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for projects related to data sharing. The funds will be used "to build an information architecture and model behaviors that museums can use to routinely exchange data" using the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Museums participating in the project with OCLC Programs and Research include the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Art; Princeton University Art Museum; Yale University Art Gallery; Victoria & Albert Museum (research aggregation only); and the Cleveland Museum of Art (research aggregation only).

The Metropolitan Museum of Art hosted a kick-off meeting January 28-29 to bring participants together and begin work on this initiative. The project is expected to be completed by the end of March 2009.

More on the Harvard mandate

Heidi Ledford, Harvard adopts open-access policy, Nature News, February 15, 2008.  Here are some new details:

...The language of the policy makes it clear that any request to opt out of the programme will be granted, says [Stuart Shieber, a computer scientist at Harvard, who proposed the new policy]. “If the author requests a waiver, the dean will provide a waiver,” he says....

[T]he university has not yet established a time limit for submission, nor have they defined what constitutes a ‘final’ draft of the paper. Harvard intends to establish an ‘office of scholarly communication’ to define these issues....

Demo launch of European digital library

Europeana, a demo of the European digital library, opened to the public on February 11, 2008. From the announcement:

...The website, branded Europeana, will break new ground by bringing together millions of digitised resources from Europe's archives, museums, libraries and audio visual collections through a single portal. ...

The European Commission, a strong advocate of a European digital library, expressed its support for Europeana. Horst Forster, Director of Digital Content and Cognitive Systems in the Information Society Directorate, attended the conference, and commented, "Europeana is ambitious in its scale and scope. It's making the connections between the whole network of cultural heritage digitisation programmes in Europe, and promises to be a very powerful service. It will enable citizens to explore how ideas were transmitted between countries, how political or social trends developed, how artistic movements influenced the whole continent." ...

The European digital library project began to develop the Europeana web portal in autumn 2007 with funding from the European Commission. This is the first public showing of the look and feel of the site and its potential functions and content.

Users' responses to the demonstration site are being surveyed online and in focus groups around Europe. Thorough testing will continue throughout the building of Europeana. This is being done to ensure that when the prototype is launched in November 2008, it will give users all the functionality that they expect.

November's prototype will give direct access to at least 2 million digitised objects, including books, photos, maps, sounds, films and archival records from Europe's libraries, archives, museums and audio-visual collections.

The Europeana project is directed by the European Digital Library Foundation ...

Ireland's Health Research Board adopts an OA policy

Ireland's Health Research Board has issued a Position Statement in Support of Open and Unrestricted Access to Published Research (Open Access).  (Thanks to Robin Adams via David Prosser.)  The HTML edition, above, is undated, but the PDF edition includes the date, January 25, 2008.  Excerpt:


The Health Research Board (HRB) funds a wide range of health-related research in approved host institutions, with the aim of improving human health. The main output of this research is new ideas and knowledge, which the HRB expects its researchers, both clinical and nonclinical, to publish in quality, peer reviewed journals. The HRB has a fundamental interest in ensuring that the availability and accessibility of this material is not adversely affected by the copyright, marketing and distribution strategies used by publishers (whether commercial, not for profit or academic).

Position Statement

The HRB supports the principle that ideas and knowledge derived from publicly-funded research should be made available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly and effectively as practicable....With advances in internet publishing, the HRB seeks to encourage initiatives that broaden the range of opportunities for quality research to be widely disseminated and freely accessible.


  1. The HRB strongly encourages authors of research papers to maximize the opportunities to make their results freely available, and where possible, to ensure that copyright is retained by their employer or institution.
  2. The HRB requests the deposition, in PubMed Central (PMC) or other recognised Open-Access repository, of electronic copies of any research papers that have been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, and are supported in whole or part by HRB funding.
  3. If author/institution-ownership of copyright is not permitted by the publisher, the HRB would encourage authors to publish in journals that permit the deposition of published papers in PubMed Central (PMC) or other recognised Open-Access repository.
  4. The HRB strongly encourages authors to make freely available those papers as soon as possible after the journal’s official date of publication, taking into account any embargo period imposed by the publisher.
  5. This position statement applies to peer-reviewed, original research publications that have been supported, in whole or part, by the HRB. This position statement does not apply to book chapters, editorials, book reviews or conference proceedings.

General guidance relating to this position statement can be found in the HRB Guidelines for Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from HRB-funded Research (Open Access). Please refer these guidelines for more information on how to be Open Access compliant and for links to the current policies of major publishing houses and journals.

This position statement owes much to the Wellcome Trust Position Statement in support of Open Access and the Medical Research Council Policy on Open Access.

Comment.  The HRB policy puts institutional repositories on a par with PMC, and it asks authors who cannot persuade a publisher to let them comply with the HRB policy to find another publisher.  That's good.  But there's no blinking away the fact that HRB is merely encouraging OA archiving, despite the fact that the NIH has documented the failure of mere encouragement and the HRB's own models (Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council) go beyond mere encouragement to explicit mandates.  I hope the HRB can strengthen the policy and make it mandatory at the first policy review.  If it wants to respect publisher embargoes (#4 above), then it can require "dark" deposit immediately upon acceptance for publication, release OA metadata immediately, and release OA full-text only after the embargo has run --what I call the dual deposit/release strategy and Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access.

More on the struggle for OA in anthropology

David Glenn, Some Anthropologists Continue the Slow Push Toward Open Access, Chronicle of Higher Education, February 15, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

When the American Anthropological Association announced in September that it would move its publishing apparatus from the University of California Press to Wiley-Blackwell, anthropology blogs and e-mail lists buzzed with discontent. Some advocates of open-access publishing complained that moving to a for-profit publisher seemed like a step backward. And the switch would almost certainly mean higher prices for libraries, they said, which might spark a decline in subscriptions.

"What good is the AAA to its members if its primary goal is survival, rather than the promotion and dissemination of our research?" asked Christopher M. Kelty, an assistant professor of anthropology at Rice University, on the group blog Savage Minds, when the deal was announced.

In 2008 most of the association's 22 journals have seen only slight price increases. Two of its most prominent publications, however, have become much more expensive. In 2006-7 the California Press charged $232 to institutions for American Anthropologist. Wiley-Blackwell's price is $432. And while California charged $138 for American Ethnologist, Wiley-Blackwell's price spiked to $338. "I have to wonder how relevant these journals will be when libraries start dropping the sectional journals to make up the cost of the flagships," wrote John Hawks, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, on his blog in November....

In a notably civil exchange in the February issue of Anthropology News, the association's internal newsletter, five scholars debate the merits of open access....

[Jason Cross, a graduate student at Duke University who organized the Anthropology News symposium] would like to see the association move toward a fully open-access model in which scholars (or the institutions that employ them) subsidize the cost of their own publications. But he acknowledges that his proposal raises a host of thorny questions. "Bloggers and open-access advocates like me...[are] not representative. A lot of triple-A members have never heard of this stuff...."

In 2006 the anthropology association created a new panel, the Committee on the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing, which will (among other tasks) advise the association about the potential strengths and drawbacks of open-access models. Meanwhile, some anthropologists are charging ahead with their own open-access projects. Alex Golub, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, has organized an online repository called the Mana'o Project, which invites scholars to submit theses, articles, and book-length manuscripts. The site is still in development, but it already contains works by more than 120 authors....

Mr. Kelty, of Rice, writes in the symposium that for the first time in his career, he feels some resentment when he is asked to peer- review articles. Wiley-Blackwell has "an enormous profit margin," he writes, and he wonders whether the association is receiving fair compensation for the unpaid peer-review labor that he and hundreds of other scholars provide.

The most provocative essay in the Anthropology News symposium comes from Melissa Cefkin....Instead of purchasing a few journal subscriptions as a "product," she suggests, members should view their dues as supporting a wide range of activities that support the dissemination of scholarship....

Another source of OA law

PreCYdent is a new OA database and search engine for primary sources in law, now available in alpha.  (Thanks to Robert J. Ambrogi via Bonnie Shucha.)  From the about page:

PreCYdent is based on two fundamental principles. First, we at PreCYdent believe that all lawyers, law librarians, law students, and the general public should have access to state-of-the-art search technology to help them navigate through the large and complex body of legal authority....Second, we believe judicial opinions and statutes must be in the public domain, in practice as well as in theory. To us this means that effective legal research in all of these materials should be free to the user -- not expensive, not inexpensive. Free. We believe this principle is of vital importance not only to the United States, but to all nations that practice or aspire to practice the rule of law.

PreCYdent search technology ranks results by "authority", using mathematical techniques, such as eigenvector centrality, similar to those used by advanced Web search engines, as well as proprietary techniques we have developed that are specialized to the legal domain. PreCYdent search technology is able to mine the information latent in the "Web of Law", the network of citations among legal authorities. This means it is also able to retrieve legally relevant authorities, even if the search terms do not actually occur or occur frequently in the retrieved document.

This alpha version contains only U.S. Supreme Court and U.S. Court of Appeals cases. We are working hard on extending our service to cover all U.S. federal and state cases and statutory materials.

But we want to go further the simple search. You can contribute and participate directly in our effort and our campaign. On our web site you can register and upload any kind of legal document, including judicial opinions that are in the public domain.

From an interview last month with founder Tom Smith:

...[T]he PreCYdent algorithm outperforms by a wide margin in search recall and precision (standard measures in the industry) the Westlaw natural language search engine, which is clearly the natural language search engine to beat in the industry. This means that if you were to ask an expert to list the top 20 cases he would want to see in response to a five-word query in a "Google-style" search, you would be a lot more likely to find a number of those cases in the first 20 PreCYdent search results than in the Westlaw natural language results....

You may notice that the site has ads in the margins. This is because our plan is to make all US federal and state law available free to users, and to generate revenue by advertising.  We believe legal materials in the public domain ought to be public in practice as well as in theory, and to us that means available free and with effective search to anybody with an internet connection. We believe this model is commercially viable, but we also think it will make American and later other law available to interested persons all over the world, and promote the spread of the rule of law....

We are very interested in vendor-neutral citation systems, and that is on our to do list. You may also notice various Web 2.0 features of the site, such as tagging and rating of cases. We believe users may contribute useful content to a site such as ours....

Also see the FAQ.

More comments on the Harvard OA mandate

Here are some more comments on the new Harvard OA mandate.

From Gavin Baker at the Journal of Insignificant Inquiry:

...I want to focus on the fact that the faculty, through their own governance process, themselves approved this mandate. Despite earlier evidence of the willingness of faculty to comply with OA mandates, and the support of researchers for public access legislation, this is the strongest indication yet: Yes, Virginia, scientists do want open access....

From Alexandre Enkerli at Disparate:

...In other words, this is a big victory for scholarship. Too bad publishers see it as a defeat....

From Adrian Ho at Transforming Scholarly Communication:

...Harvard FAS's decision is unquestionably a boost to the open access movement.  It is now interesting to find out how FAS is going to implement the policy, what impact it will generate, and how publishers will react to the implementation.  I wonder whether the university press would have a role to play in the long run in this new initiative to disseminate FAS faculty's articles.  Meanwhile, I think it is a good time for organizations such as the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), EDUCAUSE, and the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) to come together and encourage major research institutions to start a discussion of enacting a similar policy. 

From Andis Kaulins at LawPundit:

The biggest academic news of the year is the adoption by the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences of a mandatory "open access" opt-out policy regarding scholarly articles published by that faculty....

From Dorothea Salo at Caveat Lector:

...I would be afraid, very afraid, right now if I were a journal publisher who believed my profits depended on preventing widespread self-archiving or playing dog-in-the-manger with copyright. The Harvard policy puts publishers in an extraordinarily weak position. They can’t denounce it; that’s tantamount to denouncing faculty, which would be utterly suicidal. (Publishers can and do slag librarians. They can and do slag government. They can’t slag faculty, and they know it.) I don’t think they can sue....They can’t prevent eager librarians at Harvard from setting up and filling a repository. Even their standard lines of FUD won’t work —they can’t seriously spin this as “a vote against peer review,” because really, is Harvard going to do anything that damages peer review? Of course not! All the publishers can realistically do is plead poverty, and a look at their lobbying budgets and profit margins scotches that argument....

Another viciously clever move was the per-article, in-writing petition requirement for opting out. Suddenly a publisher who wants its articles out of the Harvard IR has to contact each and every Harvard faculty member who publishes with them, for every single article published. Can you imagine the backlash from faculty? ...

Stopping other institutions from following in Harvard’s footsteps is a completely different game from stopping legislation in Washington....[T]he opprobrium the AAP faced over PRISM would be a wet firecracker by comparison. Whereas Washington is a single big fat noisy target, faculty governance bodies are legion, and they tend to do their work quietly and in private....

I have a feeling the deafening silence coming from publishers right now is deliberate. Their only realistic hope is that the Harvard policy sinks like a stone in a vast sea of institutional indifference, and the best way for them to create that outcome is to keep their mouths shut so that the initial flurry of coverage and interest fades quicker.

The ball is in our court now, we open-access advocates. We can’t let Harvard’s fusillade go quiet. Come on, Cornell. Come on, California. Come on, MIT and Yale and (dare I say it?) Wisconsin. Let’s do this thing.

Providing access to everyone

The presentations from the BOBCATSS 2008 conference, Providing Access to Information for Everyone (Zadar, Croatia, January 28-30, 2008), are now online.  (Thanks to Informationssplatform Open Access.)  Many are on OA; all are in English.

Free online access to the Brockhaus Encyclopedia

Germany's 30-volume Brockhaus Encyclopedia will drop its price barrier and be free online starting in mid-April.  (Thanks to Heise Online via Informationsplattform Open Access.)

DOAJ growth rate still accelerating

Heather Morrison reports that the rate at which the DOAJ is adding new OA journals is still accelerating:

...In my last (December 2007) update of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access, I hinted that the growth rate as measure by DOAJ appeared to be accelerating.

Today, it is my great pleasure to confirm this trend. As of today, DOAJ has added 136 titles in the last 30 days, a growth rate of 4.5 titles per calendar day; a significant increase in growth from last year's already amazing rate of 1.4 titles per calendar day....

Google Library Project a boon for books

Charles Edward Smith, A Few Thoughts on the Google Books Library Project, EDUCAUSE Quarterly, January-March 2008.

... About ten years ago, while writing a dissertation, I also started research on an article that CAUSE (now EDUCAUSE) published in 1999. It was no easy task because the Internet at the time had just begun to show its promise. Nonetheless, performing my first real research on the Internet for that article provided a window through which I could see at least some small part of the future.

I had heard of problems at San Francisco's main library when it introduced hundreds of computer terminals to facilitate Internet research. So, I did something we all take for granted today, which was near magic to me back then: I searched the Internet for the San Francisco Chronicle. Surprisingly, it had a homepage. Then I searched for topical articles, found one, and printed it outóand then printed out some more, obtaining just the information I needed. And, I had the information in my hands without a trip to the library, searching for articles on microfilm, or any of that. I glimpsed the future for a moment, and it was thrilling. ...

Those early lessons on the potential of the Internet and digital content not only have never left me but serve as a touchstone when things (as they are wont to do) get complicated. Google's initiative will not make books obsolete; it will make the information in them more widely available.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Beta version of the Public Library of Law

Fastcase has launched the beta version of the Public Library of Law.  Excerpt:

Searching the Web is easy. Why should searching the law be any different? That's why Fastcase has created the Public Library of Law -- to make it easy to find the law online. PLoL is the largest free law library in the world, because we assemble law available for free scattered across many different sites -- all in one place. PLoL is the best starting place to find law on the Web.

What is available on PLoL?

  • Cases from the U.S. Supreme Court and Courts of Appeals
  • Cases from all 50 states back to 1997
  • Federal statutory law and codes from all 50 states
  • Regulations, court rules, constitutions, and more!

PLoL also includes free links to paid content on Fastcase....

PS:  For some of the background, see my posts (one, two) on the Fastcase-Public.Resource.Org joint project to provide OA to US federal case law.  PLoL, however, goes well beyond federal case law.

Three on the Harvard OA mandate

Today's issue of Library Journal Academic Newswire has three stories on the new Harvard OA mandate.

1.  A Shot Heard 'Round the Academic World: Harvard FAS Mandates Open Access.  Excerpt:

...[T]he Harvard vote provided a resonant "shot heard 'round the world" for the open access movement....

Critics, however, including OA pioneer Stevan Harnad, questioned whether "potential author resistance to perceived or actual constraints on their choice of which journal to publish in," could hamper the policy—in other words, if the most prestigious journal in a researchers' field requires exclusivity, will that be enough to motivate a researcher to opt-out?

Valid questions, among many others, that will surely be examined in practice: the motion provides for an analysis of the legislation's effectiveness, with a report to be delivered in three years. "There are of course many details of implementation still being worked on," Shieber told the Newswire. "In general, these will be worked out under the principle of serving the faculty best in the distribution of their scholarly writings."

2.  After Harvard, the Open Access Deluge?  Excerpt:

With the passage of Harvard's open access (OA) mandate this week, is a tipping point at hand? After the historic Harvard vote on Tuesday, and with open access policies now being considered at other major universities, OA has already received a jolt of momentum in 2008. "Harvard is inserting the wedge and making it easier for other universities to follow suit with similar policies," noted Peter Suber, in an excellent roundup of reactions to the open access mandate approved at Harvard on his Open Access News blog.

Similar OA policies, Suber notes, are now actively being considered by faculty at a number of universities, including the University of California, and the University of Oregon....Suber observed that the Oregon measure was "not so much a response to Harvard as the fruit of an independent, simultaneous consideration of the same underlying policy issues. The Harvard vote along with the Oregon vote and the dozen or so preceding university-level OA mandates will undoubtedly inspire similar actions in time."

Indeed, it is hard not to take stock of how far things have come...."What is clear is that the need for open access, and the failure of the traditional model of scientific publishing to make full use of the Internet's potential in this respect, are no longer issues of interest only to librarians or to activists," observed Matt Cockerill, president of open access publisher BioMed Central on his blog after the Harvard vote. "Open access is no longer just a nice idea," he added, "but a concrete objective. Over the course of 2008, the key focus will be not on rhetoric, but on the practical issues necessary to make wide-scale open access a reality."

3.  Shieber: Librarians Very Involved with Harvard OA Motion.  Excerpt:

"There is no question that scholarly journals have historically allowed scholars to distribute their research to audiences around the world," said Stuart Shieber, the Harvard University professor of computer science who put forth the historic open access mandate approved by the Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences this week. "But, the scholarly publishing system has become far more restrictive than it need be." ...

LJAN: How did you become involved with open access? Was there a high level of engagement with Harvard's FAS on this issue prior to the motion?

Shieber: I've been involved on various library committees for almost my entire career as a faculty member and have followed open access and related issues closely. Among faculty, there is a wide range of levels of engagement with these issues. But observations of dysfunction in the scholarly publishing systems are quite widespread.

Usually, it seems faculty become aware of the cost of serials after a cancellation exercise. What was the key driver of the policy at Harvard?

I think that different people have different motivations for support of the policy. My own interests are in seeing that our writings have the broadest distribution feasible. We've also gone through stringent serials reviews with large levels of cancellations, even at Harvard, whose library is the largest academic library in the world. If we can't afford a sufficiently broad set of journals here, you can imagine the constraints that other research institutions are in. The open access policy just voted is intended to make sure that our writings are widely available in the face of these widespread cancellations....

With tenure and advancement very much tied to publication, any thoughts on how this motion might affect publication issues?

It is important to keep in mind that the kind of open access distribution through repositories is completely separate from the process of reviewing, vetting, editing, and imprimatur in the journal system. Open access repositories are not a substitute for journals. They are a complement to them. It is important that those processes continue, and to the extent that they involve expenses, universities and funding agencies will have to continue to pay for them.

Stevan Harnad's proposed revisions to the Harvard policy

Stevan Harnad, Weaken the Harvard OA Mandate To Strengthen It, Open Access Archivangelism, February 14, 2008.  This excerpt is based on an email which slightly updates the blog post:

...Here are a few small but crucial changes in wording that will immunize the deposit requirement against any opt-outs from the copyright-retention requirement in Harvard's Open Access Mandate.  Note the re-ordering of the clauses, and the addition of the underscored passages.  (Other universities may also omit the two indented clauses preceded by asterisk ** if they wish):

Proposed revision: The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy:

[DEPOSIT MANDATE] To assist the University in providing Open Access to all scholarly articles published by its Faculty members, each Faculty member is required to provide, immediately upon acceptance for publication, an electronic copy of the final version of each article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office. This can be done either by depositing it directly in Harvard's Institutional Repository or by emailing it to the Provost’s Office to be deposited on the author's behalf.

**[COPYRIGHT RETENTION POLICY] Each Faculty member is also encouraged to grant to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.

**[COPYRIGHT-RETENTION POLICY OPT-OUT CLAUSE] The copyright retention and licence-granting policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

PS:  For my comments on many (but not all) of these issues, see my post from February 12.

More on the Harvard OA mandate

Here are some more comments on the new Harvard OA mandate.

From Mike Carroll at Carrollogos.  Mike has blogged a handful of posts on the new Harvard policy (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).  Here are some bits from #3 and #6:

...It's huge.

First, this is a bottom-up initiative....While faculties at various institutions have adopted resolutions supporting open access as a principle and as a goal, this is the first time that faculty authors as a group have stepped up and really acknowledged that the Internet matters and that business-as-usual publishing fails to take advantage of the Internet as a means for spreading knowledge throughout the world.

Second, by precommitting themselves in this fashion, the faculty has recognized that copyright is an author's right. With rights come responsibilities. These authors have committed to each other that they will take greater responsibility for managing their copyrights and for providing the public with free access to their work....

1. There is reason to believe that the impact of, and citations to, Harvard scholarship will increase because it is freely accessible.

2. Harvard researchers will be able to use the rich archive of Harvard scholarship to experiment with for a variety of purposes, including developing new research tools.

3. Harvard librarians will get greater expertise than exists at competing institutions at developing, managing, and adding value to the university's digital library because they will have a regular flow of new scholarship to manage....

Faculty at competitor institutions should take note. There's an early mover advantage to be had here. Who's next?

From Matthew Cockerill (BMC publisher) at the BMC blog:

...It is hugely encouraging to note the rapid pace of change in the United States on open access issues since the passing of the bill late last year, which made mandatory the National Institutes of Health's Public Access Policy....

What is clear is that the need for open access, and the failure of the traditional model of scientific publishing to make full use of the internet's potential in this respect, are no longer issues of interest only to librarians or to activists These issues are now recognized to be important ones that all serious research institutions need to consider. The recent steps taken by Harvard and Berkeley show that universities are just as willing as research funders to take a stand on this issue. Open access is no longer just a nice idea, but is a concrete objective and over the course of 2008, the key focus will be not on rhetoric, but on the practical issues necessary to make wide-scale open access a reality.

From the editorial board of BCHeights, the independent student newspaper of Boston College:

...What We Think: Time to jump on open access bandwagon....

We applaud this initiative, for we believe that it will allow for a greater readership among both university faculty and interested students....

Although Tuesday's decision only applies to the Harvard Arts and Sciences faculty, we encourage Boston College to pursue a similar option for its professors....

From the editorial board of Washington Square News, a student newspaper for New York University:

What will it mean to be a top-tier university 20 years from now? ...

Frankly, its old news: Technology, and how universities choose to use it, will be the anvil on which new reputations will be forged....This access....

Everyone stands to benefit [from a policy like Harvard's]: students, professors, universities and the many who seek study for its own sake....[This would give] new life to NYU's old motto: "A private university in the public service."

If we want to know what it will take to become a top-tier research university, we don't have to look far. Let's just hope it's not old news before NYU catches on.

From Punya Mishra on Punya Mishra's web:

...[Here] is my motivation for thinking this is a good idea. The bottom line, at least for me, is ensuring that what I write is read by as many people as possible. Since I work at a state funded university, I believe, the results of my research and scholarship should be freely available to the people who have paid for it.  [It also helps authors.]  If Matt and I had not put our TCRecord piece out there on the web, I doubt our ideas would have received half the attention they did. People discovered the article, shared it with their colleagues and their students, and everything that has happened since then (the book, the special sessions at NTLS, SITE etc. etc.) is a consequence of its easy and immediate availability....

From T. Scott Plutchak at T. Scott:

I'm inclined to think that the Harvard vote may be more significant than the passage of the NIH policy.  That it is driven by the faculty rather than being imposed from the outside is a very positive sign.  Most important, however, is that a major university is taking a significant step towards managing its own scholarly production.  [By contrast] it is ironic in the extreme that one of the unintended consequences of the NIH policy may be a strengthening of the dominance of the commercial publishers at the expense of the society publishers.  A non-librarian colleague who works with a lot of the biomedical societies tells me that there has been a noticeable uptick in bids from the commercial guys to buy up the publishing programs of some of the societies....

If the Harvard vote represents a movement on the part of faculty toward taking more control of their own scholarly production, then that's a very good thing.

From Gregory Qualtheim at inappropriate response:

...A connected world will only develop our collective knowledge if we're willing to share what we know. Kudos to Harvard for taking the plunge.

From Robert VerBruggen at National Review Online:

...Given that this is academic work, often made possible by university salaries and research budgets, I do think it's legitimate for schools to place some restrictions on it. (My sneaky second reason for liking this is that, as a journalist, I sometimes find it difficult to get a hold of academic articles.)...

Oregon faculty senate recommends OA

The University of Oregon Faculty Senate adopted a resolution in support of OA, February 13, 2008.  (Thanks to J.Q. Johnson.)

...[T]he University of Oregon University Senate:

  1. Encourages all faculty who publish scholarly works to study the issues of copyright ownership and liability, for example as laid out by the Association for Research Libraries SPARC initiative
  2. Recommends that if faculty sign a copyright transfer agreement for their work they should include an Author's Addendum as part of the transfer, retaining rights at least to archive their own work and to continue to use their own work in their teaching and research; suggested addenda include the Science Commons addenda
  3. Directs the President of the Senate to establish an ad hoc working committee, that shall
    1. foster educational opportunities for UO faculty related to copyright and copyright liability during spring term 2008.
    2. propose additional steps to implement this resolution....Such proposals should include at a minimum whether a UO-specific Author's Addendum should be recommended or required.
    3. report to the full Senate no later than 28 May 2008.
Financial impact: There is no direct financial impact to this motion. However, widespread adoption of the recommendations could protect faculty from expensive litigation, allow faculty to re-use their own works in teaching without paying royalties, and potentially make faculty publications more widely available, for example in the Scholars' Bank institutional repository.

Statement of Need: This resolution addresses trends in the use of scholarship driven by new technology: for example, it is common practice to post a copy of one's publications on a public website or extract portions for use in a class, but those practices violate the terms of most traditional copyright transfer agreements. More generally, it addresses an increasingly pressing issue, the commercialization of scholarly publishing, the increasing treatment of knowledge as property to be controlled rather than widely disseminated, and the increasing willingness of copyright holders ranging from RIAA to journal publishers to threaten to sue academics for copyright infringement.


  • The Oregon vote took place on February 13, one day after the Harvard vote.  But because these resolutions require a lot of preparation, especially in drafting, discussion, and education, it's not so much a response to Harvard as the fruit of an independent, simultaneous consideration of the same underlying policy issues.  But the Harvard vote, along with the Oregon vote and the dozen or so preceding university-level OA mandates, will undoubtedly inspire similar actions in time.  Kudos to all at Oregon who made this happen.
  • The new Oregon resolution strengthens and supersedes a resolution from April 11, 2001.
  • The Oregon policy now asks faculty to retain the right to deposit their eprints in the UO repository.  What's missing is a policy to encourage or require them to make the deposits or a policy (such as Harvard's) for the university to make the deposits on its own.  Permission for OA archiving is far from OA archiving itself.  I hope the new working committee (under C.b) will supply the crucial, missing piece of the policy.

Happy birthday, BOAI

Happy birthday to the Budapest Open Access Initiative, which is six years old today.

The BOAI "statement of principle,...statement of strategy, and...statement of commitment" was released on February 14, 2002.  It wasn't the first initiative in the OA movement, but it was the first to offer a public definition of OA, the first to use the term "open access", the first to call for OA journals and OA archives as complementary strategies, the first to call for OA in all disciplines and countries, and the first to be accompanied by significant funding.  I wouldn't say that it launched the OA movement, which was already under way, but that it was one of the first significant steps to catalyze, energize, and unify the OA movement.

(Disclosure:  I helped draft the BOAI and I receive support from the Open Society Institute, which funded the BOAI.  I hope my high opinion of the BOAI is justified, not biased.  But I gladly make this disclosure and invite you to decide for yourselves.  If you think I'm biased, please write your own birthday greeting!)

For some quick reviews of the progress of OA since the launch of the BOAI, see Open Access in 2007, Open Access in 2006, Open Access in 2005, Open Access in 2004, and Open Access in 2003. I didn't write an OA review for 2002, but I did review OA archiving activity in the first six months after the BOAI launched. And for the details missing from these reviews, there's always my timeline.

Happy birthday, BOAI, and many happy returns.  To all who have worked for OA worldwide, Happy Valentines Day.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Roundup of commentary on Harvard OA policy

Peter wrote earlier about the policy adopted by Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Here are some reactions.

Stevan Harnad, Harvard Adopts 38th Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate, Open Access Archivangelism blog, February 13, 2008.

Absent any new information (or amendments) to the contrary, Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday February 12 adopted the world's 38th Green Open Access Self-Archiving Mandate -- the 16th of the institutional or departmental mandates.

An OA mandate from Harvard is especially significant, timely and welcome for the worldwide Open Access movement, as Harvard will of course be widely emulated, and many other universities are now proposing to adopt OA mandates.

The objective of the Harvard (Faculty of Arts and Sciences) mandate is to provide Open Access (OA) to its own scholarly article output. This objective is accomplished by making those articles freely accessible on the web by depositing them in a Harvard OA Institutional Repository.

The means of attaining this objective is to mandate OA, which Harvard has now done. But Harvard has gone further, and mandated copyright retention as well. Copyright retention is highly desirable and welcome, but it is not necessary in order to provide OA, and mandating copyright retention has also necessitated the adoption of an opt-out clause because of potential author resistance to perceived or actual constraints on their choice of which journal to publish in.

In order to prevent the copyright-retention requirement from compromising the deposit requirement, I accordingly urge a few small but crucial changes in the wording of the mandate. ...

Chris Armbruster, Harvard Open Access and the significant move of Copyright Retention, A2k mailing list, February 13, 2008.

In a very interesting move, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University on 12 February 2008 not only to adopted an open access mandate (online dissemination of scholarly articles from an institutional repositories that is accessible freely) but also adopted the following

[COPYRIGHT RETENTION POLICY] Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.

I am particularly interested to see the effects of this over the coming years. In an article written for the Yale A2K2 conference, I advocated that universities should take a more pro-active approach to copyright and that non-exclusive licensing was the optimal way to create a competitive market that is highly compatible with open access to scientific knowledge (OA2SK). For now, the Havard copyright retention policy enables opt-out on a case-by-case basis (in writing, to the Dean). The policy will be reviewed in three years. I consider this the optimal university policy.

Andy Guess, Harvard Opts In to 'Opt Out' Plan, Inside Higher Ed, February 13, 2008. (Thanks to George Porter.)

... The decision, which only affects the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, wonít necessarily disrupt exclusivity agreements with journals or upend the academic publishing industry, but it could send a signal that a standard bearer in higher education is seriously looking at alternative distribution models for its faculty's scholarship. Already, various open-access movements are pressing for reforms (from modest to radical) to the current economic model, which depends on journals' traditional gatekeeping function and their necessarily limited audiences but which has concerned many in the academic community worried about rising costs and the shift to digital media.

It isn't clear how or whether Harvard will ensure that professors who haven't opted out will submit finished papers, and even what "finished" means. Can academics submit non-peer-reviewed work? Can they selectively upload articles and withhold others for prestigious journals? Either way, most publishers don't seem overly fazed by the development; many contracts with scholars already allow authors to post their work independently of publication in a journal, and the Harvard plan both protects authors' own copyright to their works and avoids forcing a decision on its faculty. ...

"This is a large and very important step for scholars throughout the country. It should be a very powerful message to the academic community that we want and should have more control over how our work is used and disseminated,"said Stuart M. Shieber, the James O. Welch Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science, who sponsored the bill before the faculty governance group.

In an op-ed published in The Harvard Crimson on Tuesday, the director of the university library, Robert Darnton, wrote: "In place of a closed, privileged, and costly system, it will help open up the world of learning to everyone who wants to learn ... ideas would flow freely in all directions."

At that sentiment, Allan R. Adler, vice president for legal and governmental affairs at the Association of American Publishers, scoffed: "To some people, that sounds like a description of Harvard itself."

Publishers don't oppose open-access plans per se, Adler said. It is mandates they take issue with, such as the requirement imposed by Congress last year that National Institutes of Health-funded research be published online at PubMed Central. With Harvardís opt-out provision, he said, there's still "some degree of choice." ...

Laura Brown, a senior adviser to the Ithaka project, which studies how information technologies can be applied to higher education, including electronic publishing, said she thinks the move could place Harvard in a leadership role on the issue. But she suggested that the effort was directed more at motivating faculty to fill the institution's electronic repository. At other colleges, she said, such repositories often languish because there is no mandate. And with more content in the repositories, she said, it would be easier to study which methods of digital delivery work and how scholars use such databases. ...

Gavin Baker, Harvard faculty say yes to OA, Journal of Insignificant Inquiry, February 13, 2008.

...I want to focus on the fact that the faculty, through their own governance process, themselves approved this mandate. Despite earlier evidence of the willingness of faculty to comply with OA mandates, and the support of researchers for public access legislation, this is the strongest indication yet: Yes, Virginia, scientists do want open access.

So when Allan Adler of the AAP says

Publishers donít oppose open-access plans per se, Adler said. It is mandates they take issue with ... With Harvard's opt-out provision, he said, there's still "some degree of choice."

Ė then he will be well-served to remember what dastardly external force imposed such an onerous requirement on the researchers. Oh, right: it was the researchers themselves.

David Weinberger, Harvard to vote on open access proposal, Joho the Blog, February 12th, 2008. (Thanks to Mathew Ingram.) Weinberger is a fellow at Harvard Law's Berkman Center (which is not part of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences).

... I like this idea a lot. I only wish it went further. Faculty members will be allowed to opt-out of the requirement pretty much at will (as I understand it), which could vitiate it: If a prestigious journal accepts an article but only if itís not been made openly available, faculty members may well decide itís more important for their careers to be published in the journal. ...

Robert Mitchell, Harvard to collect, disseminate scholarly articles for faculty, Harvard University Gazette, February 13, 2008. (Thanks to George Porter.)

... "The goal of university research is the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge. At Harvard, where so much of our research is of global significance, we have an essential responsibility to distribute the fruits of our scholarship as widely as possible," said Provost Steven E. Hyman. "Today's action in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences will promote free and open access to significant, ongoing research. It is a first step in the creation of an open-access environment for current research that may one day provide the widest possible dissemination of Harvard's distinguished Faculties' work." ...

"Today's vote in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences," said Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and director of the University Library, "addresses an issue that is of great concern to all of the Faculties of the University. All of us face the same problems and all of us can envision the public benefits of open access. Harvard Medical School, for example, is already working with its faculty to comply with a congressional mandate that articles based on funding from the National Institutes of Health be openly accessible through PubMed Central. By working, as individual faculties and together as a single University, we can all promote the free communication of knowledge."

See also the coverage at the Chronicle of Higher Education's News Blog and at Slashdot. There's plenty more to come.

Educating biomedical researchers about OA in Italy

Paola De Castro, et al., Educating authors of biomedical publications to the benefits of Open Access journals, European Association for Health Information & Libraries Workshop 2007, September 12-15, 2007; deposited on February 10, 2008. Abstract:

The scientific research community worldwide is gradually adopting the Open Access (OA) publishing model in order to gain wide visibility and impact of its research output. The number of OA articles is rapidly increasing together with the awareness of the benefits of this movement considered as a real cost-effective alternative to the traditional publishing model represented by biomedical commercial and learned society publishers of major STM journals.

In spite of the advantages of this new generation of journals (OA journals) some reluctance to support the OA concept still persists among scientific authors. This is mainly due to the lack of or low value of impact factor (IF) of OA journals which leads researchers to consider them as no high quality sources. Some OA journals are however quickly gaining IF and thus they are becoming more "appealing".

Educating scientific authors regarding the benefits of OA is the core purpose of an ongoing initiative aimed at establishing a pilot group of Istituto Superiore di Sanitŗ (ISS, Italian National Institute of Health) researchers supporting the OA paradigm: their activity as starters of an innovative publishing policy is targeted to favouring OA principles among ISS research staff.

The publishing practice of ISS researchers with respect to OA journals is being investigated with the objective to find the best strategy to educate authors and foster this new model of publication that guarantees free access to research results in favour of the entire scientific community.

On openness and OA

Bora Zivkovic, Openness is Essential Freedom: Interview with Vedran Vucic, A Blog Around the Clock, February 9, 2008. Vucic is president of the board of GNULinux Centar in Belgrade.

... How did you get interested in promoting everything Open: Open Source, Open Classroom, Open Science?

I really think free software, open access, open classroom, open science, web accessibility, open hardware are very important milestones for our planet. There is still too much poverty, unjust activities, violence in the world. I think that citizens themselves can contribute a lot to promote knowledge, the development, education, freedom. Phenomena as free software, open science etc. are not just scientific and technological terms. They are very powerful social, political tools too. ...

At the Conference, you led a session on The Obstacles to Open Science in the Developing World. Can you summarize here briefly, what are those obstacles? Are they primarily structural (e.g., lack of electricity, computer or Internet access) or is the social fear of openness (perhaps protection of power structure, nepotism, etc.) a bigger obstacle for the spread of Open Access Publishing, science blogs, etc.?

Obstacles are sometimes very big, but also, in many cases, big obstacles may be overcome by many small efforts. Many activities related with improvement of the educational system, health care, culture, transfer of knowledge and technologies may be done by using science and education blogs. For example, Serbia and Albania have the highest rates of infectious diseases in their populations. Many women in Serbia die because of cervical cancer which is not so hard to prevent. Thus, access to information related to health, education, teenage pregnancy, AIDS, human rights, work with people with disabilities, environment may be helpful in solving hard issues that keep people in misery, bad health, uneducated and potentially prone to destructive political movements.

I think that media can do a lot in promoting openness and that access points to scientific and educational materials may be set up. Thus, small kiosks, computer classrooms and tele-centres with access to information and knowledge may be very helpful in overcoming existing fear from openness. ...

Podcast of opinion on OA publishing

Arunn Narasimhan, Open Access Publishing Podcast, Unruled Notebook blog, February 10, 2008. A 17-minute audio recording of comments on OA publishing, with transcript. Excerpt:

... As a researcher, I do all the hard work, think of an idea, find the research methods and tools, find the funding if necessary to accomplish certain tasks to realize the idea and see its merit, write the results using the idea and analyze the pros and cons of the idea and send that research article usually to a research journal office comprising of other researchers. The subsequent peer review process that qualifies my idea for its worthiness as original useful scientific knowledge is done by these academics and researchers mostly for no fee. It is a service they all must perform because it will be reciprocated in kind and quality by other researchers in the community to uplift their research work. Strict but free of money.

In this reasonably democratic process of scientific knowledge generation, where is money and cost and profit involved? Only in the actual publishing of the journal? Then why can't that be supported by one of the many democratic ways possible? ...

There are other angles in which open access can be seen as the only correct way to do report research at least in the future.

I am a faculty selected and appointed by a selection committee that includes experts nominated in principle by the President of India. I work in an educational institute of India funded by the Indian government. In short, I am a government employee earning my salary from tax payers money. ...

What about my indirect responsibility to those tax payers? If one such informed tax payer wants access to my research, want to know how his money is spent by the government on me, should I not oblige? Why should I do my research using tax payers money given to me through an academic or government sponsored research grant but publish it in journals controlled by middleman who control the access of such information for their own ends? I think the public of a country has a right to have access to the research content that their tax money funded.

Rating health policy journals by impact, cost, and OA policies

Jim Till, Assessing health services research journals, Be openly accessible or be obscure blog, February 11, 2008. Contains a discussion of journals in the field of health services research, especially from a Canadian perspective, including ranking (by SCImago, Eigenfactor, etc.), cost-effectiveness, self-archiving policy, and processing fees for OA. Excerpt:

So, what lessons might be learned from these comparisons? Some points to consider:

a) The policies of publishers about Green OA (archiving of post-prints) for these journals range from non-compliant (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins) to complex (Blackwoods) and/or obscure (Project Hope, Blackwoods). The effort required to try to obtain unambiguous information about these Green OA policies is sometimes ridiculous, to an extent that is almost comical.

b) The preferred alternative to Green OA is Gold OA (paid open access to the full text of journal contents). The most prominent OA publisher in the HSR field is BioMed Central (BMC).

c) Some publishers (e.g. Blackwell, Longwoods) do provide Hybrid OA (paid access to individual articles), but the article-processing fees are expensive (e.g. in comparison with BMC's Gold OA journals). Such programs may also have other drawbacks. See Peter Suber's "Nine key questions to ask about any hybrid journal program"...

OA student publishing as an assessment tool

Jos van Helvoort, Student publishing as an assessment tool for assignments and research papers, Open Students blog, February 13, 2008.

... As a teacher in Library & Information Studies I often give my students assignments to investigate a business case or to construct information management instruments. Usually, one of their products is a research paper. More and more, students publish these papers on the Internet, in best cases via a document sharing platform like Scribd. Those "YouTubes for documents" offer comment functions and are for that reason very popular. However, from my point of view as a teacher, those platforms miss the use of judgment of the documents in advance. Happily we now can use Open Access resources for self archiving (like E-LIS or CoRR) that are moderated and for more than one reason are extremely sufficient for an authentic means of assessment:

  • Quality of the report or paper submitted is measured by the professional environment (a moderator or peer researchers)
  • Students have to reflect about the metadata that they are going to add to their paper. This means that they have to apply their knowledge about indexing and subject analysis
  • Studentís work is not done for school or university but for the studentís own development.

As has been argued for many years (see for instance Carrie Denman, 1995) the authentic task of publishing motivates students extremely. So why should I not use the publishing act in a peer reviewed journal or a moderated repository as an assessment tool for my students?

OA books on African politics and history

Sweden's Nordiska Afrikainstitutet or Nordic Africa Institute publishes over 600 books in dual (OA and non-OA) editions on African politics, economics, social issues and modern history.  It recently announced six new titles and a new series on Policy Notes.  (Thanks to Jan Szczepanski.)

New book on OA journals

David J. Solomon, Developing Open Access Journals:  A Practical Guide, Chandos Publishing, 2008.  From the author's note on the web  site:

Developing Open Access Electronic Journals: A Practical Guide is to my knowledge the first comprehensive book on creating an open access (OA) journal. Thousands of OA journals have been developed over the last 15 years and are becoming an important means of disseminating research and scholarship. While creating a new OA journal need not be difficult, it takes a wealth of specialized knowledge that most people interested in creating such journals lack. The goal of the book is to provide the essential information needed and guide someone through the process of designing and operating a successful OA journal.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this project and will particularly appreciate feedback on the book . Please feel free to contact me at I will to add resources to the site to facilitate the development of OA journals. I would also appreciate suggestions for resources to be included in the annotated resource links page.

PS:  Congratulations, David!

Swedish and Belgian groups sign Berlin Declaration

The Kungliga Vetenskapsakademien (Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences) and the Federaal Wetenschapsbeleid (Belgian Science Policy) have signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.

More on the OA mandate in Ukraine

Iryna Kuchma, Open Access, Equity, and Strong Economy in Developing and Transition Countries: Policy Perspective, Serials Review, February 12, 2008.  (Thanks to Stevan Harnad.)  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

Abstract:  Since January 2007, Ukraine has a law mandating open access to publicly funded research. Most of the Parliament members supported it. The law is already the second parliamentary inquiry mandating the Cabinet of Ministers to take actions on creating favorable conditions for developing open access repositories in archives, libraries, museums, and scientific and research institutions with open access conditions to publicly funded research. Nevertheless, the “bottom-up” approaches of Ukrainian universities and research centers as well as political support from the principle legislative body in the country, have still not resulted in a network of well-functioning institutional repositories. The article highlights recent open access developments and presents the lists of open access benefits for the developing and transition countries and regions.

PS:  For background, see my previous posts on OA policy in Ukraine.

Update. There is now an OA edition of this article.

Access to charitable research in Canada

The Canada Revenue Agency has issued draft Guidelines for Research as a Charitable Activity and invites public comments.  (Thanks to David Bearman.)  Excerpt:

2. ...[T]o be considered charitable, the research results must be disseminated and made freely available to others who might want access to it. [Footnote 4]...

30. There is no universal requirement under common law that a charity that conducts or funds research as a charitable activity must disseminate it to others....

32. On the other hand, the common law does require a charity with an educational research purpose, which, aims to advance learning or public knowledge through the discovery or improvement of knowledge, to disseminate that research and make it available to anyone who might want access to it. [Footnote 34] The reason for this is that such a purpose could not be achieved unless the results of the research are put into the public realm.

33. Dissemination and accessibility can take many forms. An organization might publish the results in a journal, submit the research to an online database of publications, or simply post it on its publicly accessible Web site. [Footnote 35]...

PS:  Comments are due by February 29, 2008, and may be sent by email to <>.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Text of the Harvard policy

Here's the full text of the motion submitted today to the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.  (Thanks to George Porter.)  We know it was approved. I assume that it was approved without change, but if I hear of any amendments I'll post them here.

On behalf of the Provost’s Committee on Scholarly Publishing, Professor S. Shieber will move:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean’s designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.

To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost’s Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office. The Provost’s Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository.

The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

PS:  For my first thoughts on the policy, see my post from February 12.  I'll have more to say in the March issue of SOAN.

Harvard votes yes

I haven't seen the news from an official Harvard source yet, but the Chronicle of Higher Education confirms that the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences adopted the OA policy defended by University Librarian Robert Darnton earlier today in the Harvard Crimson.

Comment.  This is very good news.  For my first thoughts, see my comments this morning on Darnton's op-ed. 

I'm spending the night in a gate at the Philadelphia airport, too groggy to think and too uncomfortable to doze off.  I won't be in a condition to compose second thoughts or digest other responses until I can sleep and catch up (probably Thursday).

More on the imminent OA mandate at Harvard

Robert Darnton, The Case for Open Access, Harvard Crimson, February 12, 2008.  Darnton is the Director of the Harvard University Library.  Excerpt:

The motion before the FAS [Faculty of Arts and Sciences] in support of open access to scholarly articles concerns openness in general. It is meant to promote the free communication of knowledge. By retaining rights for the widest possible dissemination of the faculty’s work, it would make scholarship by members of the FAS freely accessible everywhere in the world, and it would reinforce a new effort by Harvard to share its intellectual wealth.

The University Library has taken a leading role in that endeavor. Far from reserving its resources for the privileged few, it is digitizing its special collections, opening them to everyone online, and cooperating with Google in the attempt to make books in the public domain actually available to the public, a worldwide public, which extends everywhere that people have access to the Internet. If the FAS votes in favor of the motion on February 12, Harvard will make the latest work of its scholars accessible, just as it is creating accessibility to the store of knowledge that it has accumulated in its libraries since 1638.

The motion also represents an opportunity to reshape the landscape of learning. A shift in the system for communicating knowledge has created a contradiction at the heart of academic life. We academics provide the content for scholarly journals. We evaluate articles as referees, we serve on editorial boards, we work as editors ourselves, yet the journals force us to buy back our work, in published form, at outrageous prices. Many journals now cost more than $20,000 for a year’s subscription.

The spiraling cost of journals has inflicted severe damage on research libraries, creating a ripple effect: in order to purchase the journals, libraries have had to reduce their acquisitions of monographs; the reduced demand among libraries for monographs has forced university presses to cut back on the publication of them; and the near impossibility of publishing their dissertations has jeopardized the careers of a whole generation of scholars in many fields. It would be naïve to assume that a positive vote by the FAS on February 12 would force publishers to slash their prices. But by passing the motion we can begin to resist the trends that have created so much damage....

The Harvard University Library will set up an Office for Scholarly Communication to make the open-access repository an instrument for access to research across all disciplines in the spirit of the “one-university” environment that the HOLLIS catalog now provides for holdings in all the libraries, more than 80 of them, throughout the University system. The Office for Scholarly Communication will also promote maximum cooperation by the faculty. Many repositories already exist in other universities, but they have failed to get a large proportion of faculty members to submit their articles. The deposit rate at the University of California is 14 percent, and it is much lower in most other places. By mandating copyright retention and by placing those rights in the hands of the institution running the repository, the motion will create the conditions for a high deposit rate.

What further sets Harvard’s proposal apart from the others is its opt-out provision....Whereas other repositories depend on faculty opting in by volunteering to provide digitized copies of their work, the Harvard system would have all faculty members grant a non-exclusive permission to the President and Fellows of Harvard to distribute their articles. The system would be collective but not coercive.  Anyone who wanted to retain exclusive rights to her- or himself could do so by obtaining a waiver. Of course, those who cooperate with the system will also retain full rights to the publication of their work. By sharing those rights with Harvard, they sacrifice nothing; and they will have the collective weight of Harvard behind them if they resist a journal’s demand for exclusive rights. We have designed a legal memorandum called an author’s addendum to reinforce them in negotiations with commercial publishers....


  • For background, see my earlier blog posts on the evolution of the Harvard policy.
  • If FAS votes yes today, Harvard will be the first university in the US to adopt an OA mandate.  The Harvard policy will also be one of the first anywhere to be adopted by faculty themselves rather than by administrators.
  • The Harvard proposal, like the draft proposal under consideration at the U of California, is what I call a permission mandate rather than a deposit mandate.  Instead of requiring faculty to deposit their postprints in the IR, it merely requires them to give the university permission (non-exclusive permission) to host the postprints in the IR.  Then the university will take on the responsibility of making the deposits itself.  I described the advantages in SOAN for December 2007:  "This model reduces the demands on faculty and increases the certainty about permissions.  As long as the university is willing to pay people, usually librarians, to make the actual deposits, it could be a faster and more frictionless way to move the deposit rate toward 100%."  If Harvard votes yes, I believe it will also be the first university anywhere to adopt a permission mandate.
  • It's true that most TA journals (about two-thirds) already permit postprint archiving, and authors who publish in them needn't retain any rights in order to self-archive.  But some of those journals may rescind their permissions over time; some already put harmful restrictions on their permission (fees, embargoes, or prohibitions on deposit in certain repositories) and some may add restrictions later; and about a third of TA journals don't permit self-archiving at all.  A permission mandate is an easy way to provide a continuing legal basis for green OA to all of an institution's research output.
  • It's also true that a university could require the deposit of peer-reviewed manuscripts immediately upon acceptance for publication, and then switch them from closed to open access after the publisher's embargo runs (what I call the dual deposit/release strategy and Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access).  That has the advantage of not requiring authors to retain any special rights, and the disadvantage of accommodating publisher embargoes.  When embargoes are inevitable, the dual deposit/release strategy is preferable; but in a case like this, embargoes are not inevitable.  Moreover, since no universities have yet adopted permission mandates, this is a good chance to see how well they work.  Harvard could provide immediate OA if its deposit procedures are fleet and efficient, and merely delayed OA if not. 
  • A permission mandate is a university version of the kind of policy pioneered by the Wellcome Trust and adopted last month by the NIH.  Faculty must retain permission to provide green OA to a copy of their peer-reviewed manuscript, and may transfer all other rights to a publisher.  Publishers will have all the rights they need to publish (and more) and authors will have the one right they need to self-archive.  As I put it when describing the NIH policy earlier this month, "publishers cannot complain that [green OA under these conditions] infringes a right they possess, only that it would infringe a right they wished they possessed."  It's simple and elegant. 
  • Publishers who dislike the idea could respond by refusing to publish work by Harvard faculty.  But that will not happen.  Harvard is inserting the wedge and making it easier for other universities to follow suit with similar policies.

Update.  Also see Patricia Cohen's story on the Harvard policy in today's New York Times.

Update.  Also see Stevan Harnad's comments.  Stevan argues for an immediate deposit / optional access policy rather than a permission mandate.

Update.  Also see the article in Library Journal Academic Newswire.

Monday, February 11, 2008

OA to more US case law

1.8 Million Pages of U.S. Case Law Available Now for Developers, No Restrictions on Reuse, a press release from Public.Resource.Org and Creative Commons, February 11, 2008.  Excerpt:

Creative Commons and Public.Resource.Org announced today that the first revision of a substantial corpus of U.S. federal case law is available for download by developers. The files are all clearly marked with the new Creative Commons CCØ label, indicating that the contents are Works of the United States Government and are thus free of copyright or other restrictions for their dissemination and reuse.

Developers may access this information [here]....

Today’s release covers all U.S. Supreme Court decisions and all Courts of Appeals decisions from 1950 on. The release is equivalent to 1,858 volumes of case law in book form, a stack of books 348 feet tall....

The source of this case law is a transaction previously announced with Fastcase, Inc....

Purchase of this valuable data was made possible by generous donations from a group that includes the Omidyar Network and several individuals including David Boies, the Elbaz Family Foundation, and John Gilmore.

David Boies, whose distinguished career includes service as Special Trial Counsel for the US Department of Justice in its antitrust suit against Microsoft, and who represented former Vice President Al Gore in connection with litigation relating to the Florida vote count in the 2000 election, had this to say:

Practical access for all Americans to legal cases and material is essential to the rule of law. The Legal Commons is an important step in reducing the barriers to effective representation of average citizens and public interest advocates.

The data from Fastcase is one of several sources emerging for unrestricted case law. William S. Hein & Co. has contributed high-quality scans of the 30 volumes of the Federal Cases, which are the earliest records of the courts before the Federal Reporter was created. Justia, Inc. has contributed over 50,000 “PACER” documents, which include the current decisions of district courts.

The cases made available to developers today will be used throughout the Internet. For example, the AltLaw service from Columbia and Colorado Law Schools has announced they will incorporate the information in their free service. Creative Commons and Public.Resource.Org are donating a copy of the data to the U.S. Courts and the Government Printing Office for their archives. A number of commercial legal research providers have announced they will also incorporate this data in their services....

The Fastcase transaction is the first of a series of initiatives to be announced in the upcoming months with a goal of creating a distributed, sustainable, unencumbered system for accessing the law....

This initial release of the data will undergo a 30-day Request for Comment period, during which the XML format, the CSS markup, the SHA1 signatures, and other aspects of the formatting and packaging will be discussed and tested. Additional enhancements scheduled for subsequent releases including citation identification and resolution and pagination.

According to Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org:

Developers and interested members of the public are invited to join our open discussion group which will evaluate the format of this public domain data. These cases and codes are America’s operating system and for the first time Americans can use them with freedom.

PS:  For examples, see the new Legal Commons editions of the Federal Reporter 2d (vols. 178-999), Federal Reporter 3d (vols. 1-491), and US Reports (vols. 1-546).  For background, see the first announcement of the PRO-Fastcase project back on November 14, 2007.  Kudos to PRO, CC, and Fastcase for this invaluable service.  Developers and users interested in bulk downloads should see the readme file.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


In just a minute I'll be on the road for three days with few opportunities for blogging or email.  By chance, Gavin will also be unavailable on Sunday and Monday.  Except for odd moments here and there, we'll start to catch up on Wednesday.