Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 15, 2008


I'll be on the road Sunday-Tuesday with few opportunities for blogging or email.  But Gavin will be on the job and I'll start to catch up myself on Wednesday.

U of Zurich implementing its OA mandate

The University of Zurich has seen slow growth in the rate of deposits to its institutional repository (ZORA, Zurich Open Repository and Archive), despite the OA mandate it adopted in July 2005.  But now it's taking steps to boost the rate significantly.  From Alexander Borbely's communication to Stevan Harnad:

The implementation of the mandate to deposit all UZH publications on the institutional server is under way.

ZORA currently has 2241 documents with 35% "legal" full-text papers. There has been a delay due to the change of platform.

For the academic report of 2008 all scientific publications of UZH will be harvested from ZORA and for this purpose an automated interface will be established....

U of Ljubljana launches an IR

In January the University of Ljubljana launched DiKUL (Digitalna Knjiznica Univerza v Ljubljani), its institutional repository.  In February, it launched a blog to go with it.  (Thanks to Franc Nekrep.) 

More on the 'fifth freedom' and OA

If you recall, last month the Council of the European Union agreed that the EU "needs to create a 'fifth freedom' - the free movement of knowledge" (beyond the four freedoms guaranteed by the EU Treaty to assure the movement of goods, services, capital, and labor).   But in elaborating what the "free movement of knowledge" meant, the ministers did not mention OA, even though the original documents behind the idea tied it explicitly to OA.

Yesterday, Ziga Turk, the Slovenian Minister for Growth, blogged some notes on the Spring European Council (Brussels, March 8-9, 2008).  The prime ministers of the 27 EU member states apparently tied the new fifth freedom back to OA, concluding that it entailed:

facilitating and promoting the optimal use of intellectual property created in public research organisations so as to increase knowledge transfer to industry, in particular through an "IP Charter" to be adopted before the end of the year and encouraging open access to knowledge and open innovation.

Update (3/19/08).  Also see the EU press release (March 17) on the meeting, containing a slightly different version of the same language:

...Member States and the EU must remove barriers to the free movement of knowledge by creating a fifth freedom. This would involve enhancing the cross-border mobility of researchers, as well as students, scientists, and university teaching staff. It would also require facilitating and promoting the optimal use of intellectual property created in public research organisations and encouraging open access to knowledge....

Update (3/19/08).  Also see Ziga Turk's new post on the language of the press release.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Open Knowledge Definition in Slovenian

The Open Knowledge Definition has been translated into Slovenian.

Google Book Search API for OPACs

On March 13, Google released a new API for its Book Search service. The Google Book Search Book Viewability API facilitates library catalogs connecting to Google Book Search. A post by Bethany Poole at Inside Google Book Search points to some examples of the API in action. As with Book Search itself, books under copyright will display a brief excerpt, while OA full text is available for books in the public domain. (Thanks to Wired Campus.)

American Physical Society v. Wikipedia

Physicists slam publishers over Wikipedia ban, New Scientist, March 16, 2008.  (Thanks to Mathias Schindler.)  Excerpt:

Scientists who want to describe their work on Wikipedia should not be forced to give up the kudos of a respected journal. So says a group of physicists who are going head-to-head with a publisher because it will not allow them to post parts of their work to the online encyclopaedia, blogs and other forums.

The physicists were upset after the American Physical Society withdrew its offer to publish two studies in Physical Review Letters because the authors had asked for a rights agreement compatible with Wikipedia....

The authors of the rescinded papers and 38 other physicists are calling for the APS to change its policy. "It is unreasonable and completely at odds with the practice in the field. Scientists want as broad an audience for their papers as possible," says Bill Unruh at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, who has been lobbying separately against strict copyright rules.

Gene Sprouse, editor-in-chief of the APS journals, says the society plans to review its copyright policy at a meeting in May. "A group of excellent scientists has asked us to consider revising our copyright, and we take them seriously," he says.

Some publishers, such as the UK's Royal Society, have already adopted copyright policies that allow online reproduction.


  • I can't tell from the article exactly what the physicists want to do on Wikipedia.  If they want to describe their theories or results in new words, then no permission from a publisher should be necessary, and no copyright transfer agreement should stop them.  If they want to post large chunks of their published papers verbatim (chunks that exceed fair use), they'll probably run afoul of Wikipedia's rule against original research.  I think I'm missing something, and would appreciate any clarity on what it is.
  • APS allows postprint archiving.  If it allows full-text peer-reviewed manuscripts in OA repositories, why not large chunks on Wikipedia (assuming Wikipedia has no objection)?  Does APS object, or does it merely have to revise its contract language?
  • Nor can I tell exactly what happened at Physical Review Letters.  Is it true that APS "withdrew its offer to publish" the articles just because the authors "asked" for a more liberal license?  (I've never heard of that happening anywhere.)  Or did the APS deny the request for a more liberal license, and stand by its offer to publish under the original terms, leading to an impasse in which the authors withdrew the articles?
  • Related:  Chemists recently had a run-in with Chemical Abstracts Service over the use of proprietary CAS Registry Numbers on Wikipedia.  But after just one week of tussling (March 5-12), CAS changed its position and allowed chemists to use the CAS numbers on Wikipedia.

Update (3/19/08).  Thanks to Mathias Schindler for this piece of the puzzle:  the physicists in question are interested in posting their work to wikis other than Wikipedia, where there are no rules against original scholarship.  For details, see Jonathan Oppenheim's explanation (undated, but last revised March 15).

Update (3/19/08). Also see the short article in Library Journal Academic Newswire.

Update (5/20/08). Also see Robin Peek's article on it in the May issue of Information Today. The article isn't OA at the IT site yet, but there's an OA edition at LinuxInsider.

Blog notes from schol. comm. workshop at Wake Forest

Lauren Pressley, Open Access Notes, lauren’s library blog, March 13, 2008. Blog notes from an inter-library workshop on scholarly communication at Wake Forest University.

Bora Z on green vs. gold

John Dupuis, Interview with Bora Zivkovic, Crazy Uncle of the Science Blogging Community, Confessions of a Science Librarian, March 13, 2008. Zivkovic is the author of A Blog Around the Clock and Online Community Manager for PLoS ONE.
... When, how and why did you become a believer in Open Access publishing? In discussions of Open Access on science blogs, at meetings, between scientists and publishers, most people talk about Gold, while sometimes we librarians seem to prefer the Green approach to Open Access. Given the recent Harvard announcements about the Green approach, what's your current feeling about the balance between Green and Gold?

Back in grad school I was a fanatical downloader and reader of scientific papers. I read papers old and new in my field, in several related fields, and in some unrelated but interesting fields. I read, carefully, several papers per day. Then, a few months after I left grad school and started science blogging, my password expired for the school library and suddenly I realized what I never thought of before -- papers are actually NOT free and available for everyone to read. And I needed my daily dose of papers, both for blogging and for my, at the time, illusion of writing a Dissertation. I had to resort to begging friends for PDFs. When I look back, even to the early days of my science blogging, more and more of my blog posts were about papers in OA journals, mainly PLoS Biology (to which e-mail I was subscribed from the very beginning of the journal's existence).

I have mixed feelings about Green approach to Open Access. On one hand, it is a Good Thing -- papers previously unavailable become available for everyone to read. This is definitely an improvement over Toll Access. On the other hand, I have two main problems with it. First one is technical/practical: papers deposited in many places are more difficult to find and papers deposited with different formats are hard to machine-mine for data. I think all the papers should be in the same format, searchable from a single place and interconnected. Second problem I have is tactical/psychological. Settling for a semi-Good solution will slow down the movement towards the Good solution. Many people will be smugly satisfied with Green and will be hard to recruit to fight for Gold. ...
Comment. This interview is a role-reversal from last month, when Zivkovic interviewed Dupuis.

On OA in computing research

Matt Blaze, USENIX to make all its conference proceedings freely available, Exhaustive Search, March 13, 2008. (Thanks to Fernando Pereira.) Blaze serves on the board of USENIX. Commenting on the society's move to OA:

... For years, many authors have made their papers available on their own web sites, but the practice is haphazard, non-archivial, and, remarkably, actively discouraged by the restrictive copyright policies of many journals and conferences. So USENIX's step is important both substantively and symbolically. It reinforces why scientific papers are published in the first place: not as proprietary revenue sources, but to advance the state of the art for the benefit of society as a whole.

Unfortunately, other major technical societies that sponsor conferences and journals still cling to the antiquated notion, rooted in a rapidly-disappearing print-based publishing economy, that they naturally "own" the writings that volunteer authors, editors and reviewers produce. These organizations, which insist on copyright control as a condition of publication, argue that the sale of conference proceedings and journal subscriptions provides an essential revenue stream that subsidizes their other good works. But this income, however well it might be used, has evolved into an ill-gotten windfall. We write scientific papers first and last because we want them read. When papers were actually printed on paper it might have been reasonable to expect authors to donate the copyright in exchange for production and distribution. Today, of course, such a model seems, at best, quaintly out of touch with the needs of researchers and academics who can no longer tolerate the delay or expense of seeking out printed copies of far-flung documents they expect to find on the web.

Organizations devoted to computing research should recognize this not-so-new reality better than anyone. It's time for [Association for Computing Machinery] and [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] to follow USENIX's leadership in making scientific papers freely available to all comers. Please join me in urging them to do so.

OA to USENIX conference proceedings

USENIX has announced "open public access to all its conference proceedings" (undated). According to Matt Blaze (writing on March 13), this means that
... Effective immediately, all USENIX proceedings and papers will be freely available on the USENIX web site as soon as they are published. (Previously, most of the organization's proceedings required a member login for access for the first year after their publication.) ...
The rationale for the decision, from the society's announcement:
... This significant decision will allow universal access to some of the most important technical research in advanced computing. In making this move USENIX is setting the standard for open access to information, an essential part of its mission. ...
Certain papers from past conferences are currently available OA from the USENIX site.

New OA brain imaging project

Alan Boyle, New brain map on tap, Cosmic Log, March 13, 2008.

With the backing of a billionaire, researchers today launched a project that builds on their earlier atlas of the mouse brain and goes after a challenge 2,000 times bigger: a 3-D genetic map of the human brain. And that's not all: They're planning to produce a similar map of the mouse spinal cord, as well as another atlas showing how the mouse brain develops from the fetus to adulthood.

The multimillion-dollar effort could help researchers develop new treatments for maladies ranging from spinal cord injury to autism.

Today's triple play marks a new phase for the Seattle-based Allen Institute for Brain Science, which was founded in 2003 with $100 million in seed money from software billionaire Paul Allen. The first phase of the Allen Brain Atlas focused on the mouse brain - and looked specifically at which genes were active in which areas of the brain. ...

[Chief scientific officer Allan] Jones emphasized that the data from the three new projects will be freely available over the Web, just as the mouse-brain database is today. Unlike most scientific projects, the Allen Institute doesn't hold back the raw data for its own big publication, but rather puts everything it has into the database as soon as it's available.

"These data sets are so massive that there's no way we can ever be comprehensive about these analyses, and it's better to get the data out there," Jones said. ...

See also past OAN posts on the Allen Brain Atlas.

Proposed OA Canadian genealogical project

Library and Archives Canada has a notice dated March 12 proposing a collaboration with The Generations Network to digitize Canadian records of genealogical value. According to the proposal, the records (which have not yet been identified) would be provided OA from Library and Archives Canada. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

On OA for orphan books

Peter Brantley, Homes for Good (Orphan) Books, Peter Brantley's thoughts and speculations, March 11, 2008. (Thanks to Adam Hodgkin.)

I've been thinking a lot recently about the availability of books in online searchable repositories, and the likely outcomes for publishers, libraries, and the public. Most particularly, I have been considering the impact of a possible settlement between publishers, authors, and Google involving the books that are currently under litigation in the Google Book Search product.

A significant portion of the implicated works are likely to be out-of-print, of uncertain copyright status, and no longer present in any publisher's archive -- available only in the less-visited shelves of the largest research libraries. This substantial category, numbering in the millions of books, incorporates a large number of what are called "orphan works" ...

What might break the logjam of access to these works, and frustrate the otherwise inevitable near monopoly of access that Google might obtain through a court proposed settlement? A digitization agreement involving universities and a suitable hosting service that would make this lost material broadly available on reasonable terms, with clear benefits that facilitate research and education, would make a strong counterpoint.

[Funding] arrangements, such as those pursued by the high-energy physics community's SCOAP3 journals project, might also be feasible, depending on the topology of interested parties. ...

Jan Velterop comments on his move

Jan Velterop, Onwards from open access, The Parachute, March 14, 2008.  Excerpt:

As many of my readers will already know, I have recently decided to leave my position of Director of Open Access at Springer for that of CEO of Knewco Inc. Several reactions that I have since received indicate to me that my move is not necessarily understood by everyone, and I’ve even seen speculations that my leaving open access might mean that it is not going anywhere at Springer.

Let me say the following to that. First of all, OA has developed some very solid roots within Springer and I am most confident that OA is being further developed with alacrity by my successors at Springer.

Secondly, I don’t feel that I am leaving open access....And open access is only one of the ways in which the speed, efficiency and quality of scientific discovery can be enhanced.

Looking back on my career, I feel that my motives haven’t changed much....

Open access logically follows on from [my work on IDEAL/APPEAL* (at Academic Press) in 1994-95 and later]. The challenge was – still is – to find appropriate economic models to sustain professional scientific publishing with open access. The recently agreed arrangements between Springer and the Max Planck Gesellschaft, the UKB (all the Dutch universities plus the Royal Library), and Göttingen University, may point to a way forward....

If the underlying motive is, however, to get the most out of the scientific knowledge that has been gathered, which it is in my case, then moving on from open access to the semantic web – the concept web, if you wish – feels, at least to me, an entirely logical step. Not all knowledge after all is captured in journal articles. There is much more besides those, in databases, for instance, and in less formal web conversations. (A case can even be made that journal publishing ‘destroys’ data, for instance by reducing them to simple pixels in graphs, taking away the underlying richness of the data). Also, the connections between knowledge fragments are not always easily made purely by reading journal articles, in may areas a problem exacerbated by the sheer numbers of articles published. And all relevant. We are in a situation of overwhelming – and growing – abundance of scientific information, and methods that deal with that abundance are clearly needed. This is what Knewco people are working on, and I am very excited to join them.

PS:  For background, see the original Springer announcement and my comments.


Jonathan Eisen, The Fake Science News:  Eisen Resigns in Disgrace Over Scandal, Tree of Life, March 14, 2008.  Excerpt:

In a startlingly swift fall from grace, the new Academic Editor in Chief of PLoS Biology Jonathan Eisen resigned Wednesday after getting caught in a pay-for-access scandal that made a mockery of his straight-arrow “open access only” image and left him facing the prospect of criminal charges and perhaps permanent exclusion from journal editorial boards.

"I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work," Eisen said, his weary-looking brother and Public Library of Science (PLoS) founder, Michael, standing at his side....

He made the announcement without securing a plea bargain with NIH prosecutors....

Eisen will be succeeded on Monday by Alex Gann, a fellow scientist who becomes PLoS Biology’s first foreign-born Academic Editor in Chief and the nation's first legally blind chief editor....

The resignation brought the curtain down on a riveting three-day drama — played out, sometimes, as farce — that made Eisen an instant punchline on science blogs and fascinated Americans with the spectacle of a crusading scientist exposed as a hypocrite....

Draft motion in support of OA for the European Parliament

Umberto Guidoni (Rapporteur), Draft Report on the European Research Area: New Perspectives, European Parliament Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, October 22, 2007.  Excerpt:

Motion for a European Parliament Resolution...

The European Parliament...

12. Believes that improvement of dissemination goes with the development of open access to scientific information and that, for example, the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities could be used to promote the internet as a way of better disseminating scientific findings widely; ...


  • This draft motion is in response to the green paper, The European Research Area: New Perspectives, by EU Research Commissioner, Janez Potocnik, April 4, 2007.  See my blog comment on the green paper at the time it was released, my comment when the public comments on the green paper (overwhelmingly supporting an OA mandate) were released in October 2007, and my most recent comment last month when the Council of the European Union supported the general conclusions of the green paper but without mentioning OA.  (Also see my other past posts on the green paper.)  The new draft motion to the European Parliament doesn't call for an EU-wide OA mandate, as the public comments on it did.  But it does endorse OA as a way to improve the dissemination of research.  Should we count ourselves lucky? 
  • Does anyone know what has become of this draft motion since October?  If it has not yet been introduced, does anyone know how to influence its shape before it is introduced?

Update (3/15/08).  The draft motion was revised and adopted on January 31, 2008.  I even blogged the adopted text with comments at the time --something I didn't realize yesterday when I was only looking at the original version of the language.  Thanks to David Prosser, Director of SPARC Europe, for sending me the revised text. 

But instead of just pointing back to my January post, I'll re-post the adopted language in order to contrast it with the original, above.  From the new text (p. 47):

[The European Parliament...] Believes that investments in infrastructure, functionality and electronic cross-reference initiatives have enabled major improvements in the dissemination and use of scientific information and that the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities is an example of how opportunities for experimentation with new models have been opened up by the internet; underlines the importance of respecting authors' freedom of choice and intellectual property rights (IPR), ensuring the continuation of quality peer reviews and the trusted secure preservation of refereed work, and encourages stakeholders to work together through pilot projects to evaluate the impact and viability of alternative models, such as the development of Open Access....

Note how the new draft weakens the original:  instead of endorsing open access, it endorses experiments and the importance of respecting IPR.  The diluting amendment was proposed (p. 18) by Teresa Riera Madurell, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, and Alejo Vidal-Quadras.

New OA journal on the performing arts

Agôn is a new French-language, peer-reviewed OA journal on the performing arts.

Library criteria for journal subscription and renewal

There's a good discussion thread on LibLicense in response to Heather Morrison's suggestion that librarians should take a journal's policy on author rights and OA into account, as one factor among others, when deciding whether to subscribe or renew.


  • Heather's idea is an excellent one.  An important variation on it was included in the EC-commissioned report on STM publishing and OA in Europe (January 2006).  Recommendation A3 asked universities to go beyond impact factors to more comprehensive and nuanced ways of measuring journal quality.  In particular, universities should add "quality of dissemination" --which includes permission for OA archiving-- to the other criteria they current use.  (In the same report, Recommendation A1 called for an EU-wide OA mandate for publicly-funded research.)
  • Librarians can go even further than taking journal access policies into account.  They can demand better access policies when negotiating licensing terms for subscription or renewal.  OhioLink has done this since 2006.  (OhioLink is a consortium of 86 academic libraries in Ohio representing more than 600,000 faculty, students, and staff.)  In a May 2006 document, it said: "In parallel with individual author action, OhioLINK will seek to add a clause to its licenses with publishers in its Electronic Journal Center. This clause will seek to automatically provide the recommended self archiving and access rights to all personnel of Ohio higher education institutions."  I know of at least two major universities trying to do the same thing, but so far without making their efforts public.  All universities should do what they can to negotiate better terms for their authors, not just better terms for their readers.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Demo of French digital book project to launch

Barbara Casassus, France launches Google books rival,, March 12, 2008. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

France is to launch its challenge to Google's book search next week. French Culture Minister Christine Albanel said today (12th March) that a pilot scheme for the Gallica 2 digitised book project would go live immediately after the Paris Book Fair, which opens on Friday (14th March) and runs for six days.

The project, to be unveiled at the fair, will offer more than 60,000 digitised works from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) and 2,000 from about 50 publishers, some of whom received subsidies for the purpose. The BNF plans to add another 40,000 books imminently, with those copyrighted books supplied by publishers expected to quickly exceed 10,000. ...

Comment. The article doesn't make clear what's different about Gallica 2 vs. Gallica. I can't find an announcement on the Gallica site, and I can't reach the Ministry of Culture site, so I guess we'll find out on Friday.

See also past OAN posts on Gallica.

Update. After reviewing the relevant documents (1, 2, 3), I still can't tell what's new about Gallica 2 or what its relationship is with Gallica.

Update. It appears Gallica 2 is indeed the next version of Gallica, with the intention that the new version will permanently replace the old at the end of 2008. Gallica 2 will add new types of works (such as magazines and newspapers) as well as changes to the interface, including the ability to search full-text inside books. A description in French is here (thanks to Jean-Claude Guedon).

Faculty survey on OA awareness

Jan Dawson, two roads to open access science information, 7/8 librarian, March 12, 2008.
... Kumiko Vezina, Electronic Resources Coordinator at Concordia University, was a guest lecturer on Open Access in our Science & Technical Information class this evening. Vezina has been performing research on open access science information in Quebec, which you can read about on page 8 of the Winter 2007 issue of Bibliofile. She administered a survey to science faculty in six educational institutions and was pleased with her response rate of 20% (anything above 13% is good!). Some results: more than half of the faculty surveyed were aware of OA, 27% of the faculty members had published in OA journals, 87% of faculty members didn’t know if there was an institutional repository in Quebec, 86% did not know if their own institution owned a repository, 83% would comply to deposit copies of articles in an oa archive if it was manditory at their institution. Conclusions: faculty are interested, but are lacking information. ...

2 new OA journals from Springer

Humana Press, an imprint of Springer, has announced two new OA journals: Comment. The announcement for Ocular Biology says the journal "will be available via open access through 2009". Does that mean it won't be OA after that time?

OA is "the new normal"

Roger Cullman, Michael Geist on E-publishing and the Law, blogTO, March 12, 2008.

Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa Law School professor and internationally renowned expert on law and the internet, outlined new distribution methods of information, what he terms "the new normal" during a talk at the MaRS Centre in Toronto March 6. ...

Geist's talk described many open source initiatives that are changing the way people think about access to information and services. ...

One of these initiatives involved the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), after a dispute with its editorial board over what they perceived to be editorial interference from the CMA said Geist.

"Those same medical professionals turned around and created an open access, peer-reviewed medical journal called Open Medicine," says Geist. ...

"They are now actively publishing under a Creative Commons license to not only make copies, but to build on the research and data that gets posted. They have found that they are doing things with Open Medicine that they simply couldn't do with the CMAJ.

"They have open chat forum, where experts debate the value of the research. And there can be an ongoing dialogue between people who are published as well as people who are reading and using that research. There are tremendous moves towards open access taking place certainly within the health field, but also in a range of other places with a distinctly Canadian flavour." ...

Podcast on Welsh Journals Online

JISC has a podcast on Welsh Journals Online. The podcast, dated March 11, is an interview with project director Arwel Jones.

More information on the project is available from JISC or the National Library of Wales. The two pages disagree on the details, but the project will apparently digitize and provide OA to hundreds of thousands of pages of post-1900 Welsh publications, in Welsh and English.

New issue of Information Research, and an OA advantage anecdote

The March issue of Information Research is now online. At least these articles are related to OA (plus reviews and conference announcements): From the editorial:

... Over the past thirteen years we have moved from a very local journal, publishing working papers on the work of the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield, first to a fully peer-reviewed journal and on to a journal covered by all of the major indexing services, including the Web of Knowledge, to one whose 'impact factor' challenges the established journals and surpasses many of them.

There is no doubt in mind that this latter phenomenon is due in no small part to the fact of the journal being freely and openly available on the Web. Before about 1995, electronic journals took the form of rather crudely produced text files accessible by ftp or delivered by e-mail. In those circumstances, open access journals could not flourish. The Web changed all that and the production values of open access journals compete with, and in many cases exceed, those of the commercial publishers. The fact that many open access journals use HTML files rather than pdf, which is adopted by all commercial publishers, is, to my mind, a major element in their success. HTML files are easily manipulated in a browser, require no additional 'reader' than the browser, and are fully searchable. Consequently, the papers are found by the search engines and tend to be cited more readily and faster.

The rise of Information Research is quantitatively documented by the new SCImago Journal & Country Rank, to which I have referred in my Weblog. The four-year 'SCImago Influence Measure' or SIM, as I have designated it, is particularly interesting, since it allows for a longer period of time within which citations may be earned than does ISI's Journal Impact Factor. I explored this measure, not expecting to discover much that I didn't already know about the journal's influence, and was surprised to find the data that produced [this figure]:

As you see, the figure compares the data for Information Research and Journal of Documentation and the curves hardly demand any commentary. The simple fact is that Information Research has risen from nowhere to challenge the space occupied by one of the oldest journals in the field. ...

Open Knowledge Definition in Basque

CAS will cooperate with open chemistry initiatives

Last week I blogged the controversy surrounding the decision by Chemical Abstracts Service not to allow the proprietary CAS Registry Numbers to organize the growing body of chemical information on Wikipedia.

Yesterday CAS changed its mind.  (Thanks to Mathias Schindler and Martin Walker.)  From the new CAS statement:

CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society, is pleased to announce that it will contribute to the Wikipedia project. CAS will work with Wikipedia to help provide accurate CAS Registry Numbers® for current substances listed in Wikiprojects-Chemicals section of the Wikipedia Chemistry Portal that are of widespread general public interest....

CAS views Wikipedia as an important societal tool for the general public, and this collaboration with Wikipedia is in line with CAS' mission as a Division of the American Chemical Society....

From Antony Williams:

I think this is excellent....For CAS to offer support to the Wikipedia team for the curation project is, for me, an indication of commitment to public service and I am indebted to the participants in this decision....My sincere appreciation is extended to the CAS management team and decision-makers. My gratitude to WP:Chem for staying engaged in the conversation to get to this outcome. My encouragement to us all to get this project done and have a high quality validated dataset of chemicals available as a public resource. Onwards and upwards!

From Peter Murray-Rust:

...I add my thanks - especially in what could have become polarized. It is good news for us in Cambridge as we are building a molecular repository of common chemicals and the CAS number is a valuable linking tool orthogonal to trivial names, systematic names and connection tables.

Although there are (I think) over 20 million chemicals with CAS numbers  the vast majority are likely only to have been reported once or a very small number of times. It is the CAS numbers for the common compounds (perhaps 10,000) that are valuable. They are widely used and available in catalogs, safety data, etc. Most of these will find their way into Wikipedia where chemists and other scientists will add information and annotations....

Comment.  Kudos to CAS for changing course and kudos to the open chemistry community for raising the issue and pressing for a solution.

Controversy over OA for fine arts theses and dissertations

Andrea Foster, U. of Iowa Writing Students Revolt Against a Plan They Say Would Give Away Their Work on the Web, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 13, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers).

Graduate students in the University of Iowa's writing programs are up in arms. A new university procedure, they fear, will make their novels, plays, and other creative works "done as dissertations" freely available on the Web. That could undermine the commercial value and possibly embarrass the authors, they charge.

Some students, alumni, and professors in Iowa's nonfiction-writing program, playwrights' workshop, translation program, and the renowned writers' workshop typically try to market their theses "­in original or modified forms" to editors, agents, and publishers. If the manuscripts are already on the Web, no one will want to publish the works, the students say....

At the center of the conflict is a routine form that students and their faculty advisers sign for depositing students' theses with the Graduate College. Language added to the form this semester says that the University of Iowa Library will scan hard-copy theses and "make them open-access documents," which it defines as freely available over the Internet and retrievable "via search engines such as Google." ...

Students can request to have Internet publishing delayed for two years, the form states, but it adds that the default assumption is that students want their theses disseminated online. All graduate students must sign the form, due in early April, in order to graduate....

[Nicholas Kowalczyk] and nine other graduate students in the nonfiction-writing program sent an e-mail message this week to all university students on track to earn master-of-fine-arts degrees. The message urged students to send e-mail messages to the president of the university's Graduate Student Senate to complain about the new form....

The controversy has hit the blogosphere. James Hynes, a novelist who graduated from a writing program at Iowa, said on his blog on Tuesday that the new form alarmed him because creative works are fundamentally different from dissertations in the sciences or related fields.

"For those who are writing or have written scholarly dissertations, this may not be a bad thing," he wrote, "but for those of us who graduated from the writers' workshop or one of the other creative-writing programs at Iowa, it's pretty infuriating." ...

Also see C. Max Magee, Thorny Technology: Open Access Causes Problems at the Iowa Writers Workshop, The Millions, March 13, 2008.  Excerpt:

...[The Iowa OA policy would apply to] MFA theses, which, according to our own Workshop grad Edan, might typically consist of a "book-length manuscript... poems, short stories or a novel (either completed or partially completed)." She added, "I turned in a bunch of stories, and I might not have included a couple if I knew they would be made public online...they were experiments more than anything, writing by a student." ...

As is so often the case with these thorny technology issues, however, we should take care not to paint the situation with too broad a brush, otherwise we run the risk of sounding shrill and out of touch, while progress marches inexorably onward....

In academic communities, Open Access has potentially huge importance, allowing scientists and scholars to easily gain access to the work of their colleagues. After all, scholarship in nearly all fields is built upon the work of scholars that went before.

Of course, the Iowa writers are arguing, with creative work, the calculation is different. Writers learn from reading other writers, but a novel doesn't cite previous novels explicitly. Ernest Hemingway doesn't direct his readers via footnote to Sherwood Anderson, for example. And so, the Open Access framework would appear to be flawed when it comes to theses produced by the students in the Iowa Writers Workshop, as it is both irrelevant to their discipline and potentially damaging to their future careers.

At the same time, it would seem to me that the Iowa Writers Workshop, and any MFA programs that follow the same practice, do their students a disservice by deciding to call their students' culminating works, "graduate theses." In the academic world, terms like this have concrete meanings, and there are - sometimes unwritten - rules that govern their usage. Perhaps it would be too much too suggest that calling the final projects of MFAs "theses" is overcompensation by programs that have an inferiority complex when compared to the more grounded academic disciplines, but Iowa and other programs should be aware of these rules in the first place....


  • I defend OA for electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs) and even argue that universities should mandate OA for ETDs.  On the other hand, my arguments focus on non-fiction works of scholarship in the sciences and humanities.  I've never thought about OA for works of fiction and creative writing submitted for degree requirements in an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) program like the Iowa Writer's Workshop.  I suspect that many universities with OA policies for ETDs haven't either.
  • However, in my argument for mandating OA for ETDs, I make a point of adding that "[g]rad students who have good reasons to be exempt from the mandate should be exempted, not coerced."
  • BTW, when the University of Iowa's Graduate Student Senate unanimously adopted a resolution in support of OA two years ago (March 22, 2006), it didn't distinguish non-fiction scholarship from creative writing either.  Some of its statements could easily apply to both:  The Student Senate "[e]ncourages higher education to support these changes through...reward mechanisms, and by providing incentives and support for those advancing alternative models."
  • The fear that OA will disqualify a thesis or dissertation for future publication has been well-studied and laid to rest, at least for non-fiction works of scholarship.  See for example, Gail McMillan, Do ETDs Deter Publishers? College and Research Libraries News, June 2001.  But I don't know any studies of the same question for works of fiction and creative writing.  If the student fears are justified, that would be a good reason to modify the Iowa policy:  either to exempt MFA students from the OA requirement, or to require deposit in the Iowa repository with delayed OA.  (In the absence of a study, the two-year delay already available to Iowa students on request seems more than adequate to me.)
  • While I might buy the "reduced-odds-of-publication" argument for creative writing, I don't buy the embarrassment argument.  Any kind of work, fiction or non-fiction, can embarrass its author years later.  Students aiming for a master's or doctoral degree should submit work of publishable quality, and faculty should expect work of publishable quality.   The risk of future embarrassment is part of the game, just as (for non-fiction scholarship) the risk of disagreement from others in the field is part of the game. 
  • Moreover, as I argued in my earlier article on OA for ETDs, this risk is a legitimate goad to produce good work:  "All teachers know that students work harder and do better work when they know they are writing for a real audience --large or small-- beyond the teacher....OA gives authors a real audience beyond the dissertation committee and real incentives to do original, impressive work...."  I'd be suspicious of any university that said a work was good enough to earn a graduate degree but not good enough to disseminate without embarrassing the author.
  • Some of the blog protests of the Iowa policy are over the top.   For example, Grendel writes, "It seems the UI means to place some deal with Google above the interests of its own students....You can't just hold someone's degree hostage until they agree to your sketchy deal with a big corporation."  Like other schools that require OA for ETDs, Iowa wants the good work it nurtures to be widely available to others who can use or build on it.  Google is one of many means to make OA work visible, and Google indexing does not require any kind of "deal" with the university.  Iowa's motivation is the standard and commendable academic motivation to share knowledge, not to profit at the expense of students or even to profit at all.  There may be reasons to rethink the policy for MFA theses.  But let's keep the conversation on track.

Update (3/14/08).  Today's blogosphere is full of comments on the Iowa policy.  Most criticize it.  Some criticize it as applied to creative writing theses but support it for non-fiction works of scholarship, and some fail to draw this distinction.  Some attribute dark motives to the university.  Some repeat the embarrassing "embarrassment" argument.  Some stick to the argument that OA may reduce the chances of future publication.  As I said yesterday, I'm open to persuasion on the last point, and looking for evidence pro or con.  Unfortunately, while many of the new blog posts repeat the dire prediction, none points to evidence. 

Update (3/14/08).  The University of Central Florida is another school that mandates OA for theses and dissertations.  But it may allow a five-year delay before the OA edition is released, in contrast with the two-year delay allowed at Iowa.  Melissa Patterson's article in the Central Florida Future (thanks to Gavin Baker) doesn't say whether the new embargo would only apply to creative writing ETDs or to all ETDs. 

Update (3/15/08).  Several bloggers (1, 2, 3) have criticized my suggestion that a two year embargo might be adequate for works of creative writing.  They might be right. 

Update (3/19/08).  I've been traveling and therefore am late to blog this important update.  Iowa's interim provost, Lola Lopes, released a statement (March 17) explaining that UI has not adopted the controversial policy.  Excerpt:

In recent days a number of people have been upset about what they believed was a plan by our library to publish the creative thesis work of students in our writing programs on the Internet without their permission. Let me say as simply and clearly as I can, there is no such plan nor will there be. I regret sincerely that we did not convey this message when students and faculty first voiced their concerns.

For some time now our library, like most major academic research libraries, has been exploring ways to make its collections more accessible by digitizing some materials. As part of that process, there has been discussion about the possibility of making graduate student dissertations and theses available in electronic format. But any such process must be preceded by developing policies and procedures that allow authors to decide whether and when to allow distribution....

Also see Andrea Foster, U. of Iowa Reverses New Policy That Would Have Made Nearly All Theses Freely Available Online, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 18, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

..."It was only a germ of a thought to begin with," Ms. Lopes said in an interview. "And we have squelched it." ...

Ms. Lopes said a separate thesis-deposit form will probably be drafted for graduate students in research programs. She is organizing a meeting for Friday to discuss open-access policies with students and professors in those programs.

She acknowledged that the university had not thought through the implications of distributing students' creative-writing projects electronically. Graduate students in sciences and other scholarly fields often prefer to have their theses and dissertations widely disseminated online because that can lead to more citations of their research, which in turn can lead to professional advancement....

Update (3/19/08).  Just before I hit the road over the weekend, I had a very helpful email correspondence with Amy Charles, a 1995 graduate of the Workshop.  Among other things she shed new light on what I called the "embarrassment argument".  While some workshop participants don't want to distribute their theses because they are not proud of them, some have other reasons.  From Amy's email (with her permission):

...Regarding embarrassments:  I'm of two minds about this.  Yes, you're right, the work should be good.  On the other hand, it's conventional to start out writing little psychodramas modeled obviously on our families, boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, friends enemies.  You cannot reasonably tell 25-year-old writers not to do this.  Neither can you tell them to make their treatment of these thinly-disguised characters wise and kind and humane and balanced and all sorts of things they won't be for another 20 years.  Happily, most of this stuff is never published, and until last week the presumption was that if it went into your UI thesis, it'd be buried safely in the UI library.  So yes, if you tell students that this is going to be published on the internet, you're going to inhibit their experiments, and that's probably not a good idea.... 

Update (4/11/08). Also see the advice of Karen Schneider, librarian and creative writer, written in May 2007, well before the Iowa controversy erupted.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

TopCited lists most-cited papers by disciplines

On March 11, Scopus released TopCited, a free service which lists the most-cited recent articles in various disciplines, using the Scopus API. Users can view the top 20 articles from the past 3, 4, or 5 years in one of 26 subject areas, and view the authors' institutions on a Google Map. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Update. Per Klaus Graf, all of the current top 20 papers (across all subjects, from the past 5 years) have OA versions online. Coincidence?

Another site for OA video lectures

Public University Online is a Web site for links to OA video lectures, announced on March 7. The site appears to be human-curated.

Comment. See also recent OAN posts on similar topics (1, 2).

Plan for Oxford data repository project

Oxford University has released its project plan for Scoping Digital Repository Services for Research Data Management, "to scope the requirements, including for the underlying infrastructure and interoperability, for digital repositories services to store, curate, disseminate and preserve research data generated at Oxford." The plan was last modified February 27. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

... Objectives:

  • Capture and document researchers’ requirements for digital repository services to handle research data.
  • Participate actively in the development of an interoperability framework for the federated digital repository at Oxford.
  • Make recommendations to improve and coordinate the provision of digital repository services for research data.
  • Initiate and develop collaborations with the different repository activities already occurring to ensure that communication takes place in between them.
  • Raise awareness at Oxford of the importance and advantages of the active management of research data.
  • Communicate significant national and international developments in repositories to relevant Oxford stakeholders, in order to stimulate the adoption of best practices. ...
Comment. We previously posted about the project's blog.

Open science and scientific publishing

MIT has released a 76 minute video of Hal Abelson, John Wilbanks, and Anna Gold speaking on Open Science and Scientific Publishing (November 13, 2007).  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  From the blurb:

Scientists and educational institutions in a digital age must push back forcefully against the old paradigms for scholarly communications, or risk imperiling the course of scientific research. These speakers describe how traditional modes of publication have constricted public sharing of ideas on which scientific progress is based, and propose approaches more appropriate for a web-based world.

John Wilbanks believes “This thinking about knowledge as a product you sell and lock up, versus something you integrate is basically causing systemic failure.” Even while we’re witnessing “all science … moving from individuals doing work to machines generating and transmitting data at levels never seen before,” says Wilbanks, publishers are restricting access online to this information, preventing reuse by machines or software....Scientists must be able to use the net “to build on and validate research,” and the only barriers are legal and social, believes Wilbanks....

[T]here must be open access to content that grants “users’ affirmative rights to scholarly literature” including the right to spider, web crawl, make copies, distribute, even mash up -- with a new kind of license....Wilbanks says, “If we want science to move quickly, these are no-brainer ways to make it go faster… It takes the will of institutions and funding agencies to decide this is how they’ll practice scientific culture.”

As one of MIT’s top librarians, Anna Gold knows the harmful impact of exorbitant fees for science journal subscriptions, and the loss to research when scientists can’t access and build on their colleagues’ work. She envisions “new ways of using the record of science” that will enable sophisticated new forms of text mining; take advantage of semantically rich XML documents; and offer a cyber infrastructure containing “rich, flexible units of scholarly communication such as data visualizations.

To achieve these goals, researchers must demand open access publishing channels for their work, such as creative commons licenses, rather than sign over all rights to publishers. Gold also recommends that research libraries support archival arrangements that ensure “tomorrow’s science will have a scientific record to work with.” She cites MIT’s D-Space as one example. And finally, Gold advocates partnerships among publishers, research libraries and funders to pay for the collection and maintenance of a long-term digital record, “an insurance policy against disaster.” ...

Rollins College is considering an OA mandate

Rollins College is at least thinking about an OA mandate.  After the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences adopted its OA mandate, the Executive Committee of the Rollins Arts and Sciences Faculty asked Jonathan Miller, Director of the Library, to write a memo on the issues raised by the decision.  Miller has posted the memo to his blog. 

Comment.  Kudos to Rollins for asking and kudos to Miller for posting.  I imagine that many colleges and universities took a similar step after the Harvard vote (one month ago today), and I'd be glad to publicize all those that are willing to go public.

Social scholarship and OA in the humanities

Signs that social scholarship is catching on in the humanities, Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, March 11, 2008.  Excerpt:

...Recently...I’ve observed several trends that suggest increasing experimentation with collaborative tools and approaches in the humanities:

1) Individual commitment by scholars to open access

Recently several prominent humanities scholars have voiced strong support for open access publishing. For instance, Nick Montfort has stated that he will no longer review articles for non-open access journals. Likewise, dannah boyd has declared that she will no longer publish in journals where content is not freely available and that “scholars have a responsibility to make their work available as a public good.” As part of a forum on open access in Anthropology News, Chris Kelty articulated his reluctance to peer-review articles “for a multinational corporation with shareholders and an enormous profit margin” ....

2) Development of open access publishing outlets

The commitment to publish only in open access journals won’t go very far if there aren’t appropriate forums for this scholarship (unless authors choose to self-publish their work). Already the Directory of Open Access Journals lists 554 humanities journals....Yet some open access journals struggle with the lack of resources and, perhaps more significantly, the lack of contributors. According to Sigi Jottkandt and Gary Hall, leaders of the new Open Humanities Press, the most significant obstacle “is still the general perception by our colleagues that open access publication is not as academically rigorous as traditional print-based journals and books” .... To tackle the perception that open access journals are somehow less scholarly, the Open Humanities Press emphasizes the prestige of its editorial board....Academic and commercial publishers are likewise experimenting with open access publishing models....

WIPO Copyright Cmte. considers limitations & exemptions

The World Intellectual Property Organization's Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights is meeting in Geneva on March 10-12. Included on the agenda was a discussion of exemptions and limitations to copyright.

The basis for discussions on the item was a proposal by Brazil, Chile, Nicaragua and Uruguay. According to the latest notes by Knowledge Ecology International, some aspects of the proposal were approved:
  • ... The [WIPO] Secretariat was requested to make, in addition of the existing study reports, a study on exceptions and limitations for the benefit of educational activities, including distance education and the trans-border aspect in it.
  • The Secretariat was requested to organize, in conjunction with the next session of the SCCR, an informative session on existing and forthcoming studies.
  • The Committee will prepare a more detailed work plan on this item in its next session.
  • The matter will be maintained on the agenda of the next session of the SCCR. ...
See also coverage at Intellectual Property Watch (1 and 2), blog notes by Sherwin Siy of Public Knowledge (1 and 2) and Manon Ress of KEI, and observer statements by KEI, European Digital Rights, Electronic Information for Libraries, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, and Library Copyright Alliance. See especially the EFF and LCA statements for a discussion of potential impacts for access to knowledge.

KEI's James Love reports that a group of WIPO members, led by the EU countries, seeks to load up the agenda at future Copyright Committee meetings, in an apparent effort to distract focus from progress on limitations & exemptions.

For background on the context of limitations & exemptions and their relationship with access to knowledge, see my OAN post from March 8.

Update. A group of developed countries, led by the United States, has announced its opposition to any norm-setting activities for limitations & exemptions, according to James Love and Manon Ress of KEI.

Update. See also the statement by Consumers International and a final update by James Love.

Update. See also the closing summary from Intellectual Property Watch.

Update. See also the statement by the International Federation of Library Associations.

Update. See also the coverage by SUNS (1 and 2).

Update. See also the coverage by Robin Gross of IP Justice. Update. See also the official conclusions of the session and the background on the issue by Thiru Balasubramaniam of KEI.

Create Change interview on music therapy & indigenous studies

On March 11, Create Change posted an interview with Carolyn Kenny in its Cases in Point section. Kenny is a professor of human development and indigenous studies at Antioch University and co-editor-in-chief of the OA journal Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy.

... Tell us about Voices: World Forum for Music Therapy. How did this online journal come about?

About seven years ago, my Norwegian colleague, Brynjulf Stige and I launched Voices We felt there was a need for a better way to network internationally. Today we have 22 volunteer editors from all over the world and a paid managing editor. We wanted a forum for encouraging dialogue and debate. We resisted the idea of being a research journal. We want content that will stimulate discussion. It’s amazing how many hits we get. Every month there are several thousand. It’s being used in classrooms and students are writing articles about it. It’s really exciting.

How are the costs of publishing supported?

The costs are minimal since we have so much help from volunteer editors. We just pay our Managing Editor, who also serves as our Webmaster. He receives a fair half-time salary, which is sponsored at the present time by the Grieg Academy of Music in Bergen, Norway. We are also exploring corporate and government sponsors for the journal. ...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

List of open literacy programs

Rebecca Kahn, World Book Day and The Commons,, March 10, 2008.
In celebration of World Book Day, on April 23 2008, iCommons asked members of the community to list some of their favourite Open Literacy projects. From computers that talk back, to teaching materials, the following projects are an excellent example of the useful, tangible, and exciting projects that are making the magic of reading accessible to people all over the world. ...

Open education report by UNESCO

Susan D'Antoni, Open Educational Resources: The Way Forward, released March 7, 2008. The report is the result of online discussions facilitated by UNESCO's International Institute of Educational Planning to identify priorities for the OER community.
... The academic community has always shared knowledge, and the scientific method and peer review processes are based upon this approach. However, the availability of content in digital format facilitates significantly its sharing and the ease of adaptation, localization and translation, should it have an open license. It means that educational materials can be made widely available. ...

Through its deliberation on the key issues and the lead stakeholders, the international community on OER has sketched out a way forward for the movement, as well as for its own actions. ...

First priority: awareness raising ...

Second priority: communities and networking ...

Third priority: developing capacity ...

Fourth priority: quality assurance ...

Fifth priority: sustainability ...

Sixth priority: copyright and licensing ...

More on OA for legal scholarship

Carol Parker, Institutional Repositories and the Principle of Open Access: Changing the Way We Think About Legal Scholarship, New Mexico Law Review, Summer 2007.

Abstract:   This Article begins by looking at the traditions and cultural values that make open access to primary legal sources and governmental information essential, and that make open access to legal scholarship the next logical step. This Article then traces the evolution of the open access movement that has given rise to institutional repositories, and which has become a global phenomenon affecting all academic disciplines. Further, this Article examines in detail the effects of applying open access principles to legal scholarship, current options for law schools wishing to establish a repository, and the growing number of law school repositories currently in existence. This Article explores how legal scholars use repositories in creative new ways to publish digital objects, changing the landscape of legal scholarship. Finally, this Article concludes that open access to legal scholarship is a principle that should be adopted by U.S. law schools because it is consistent with the American tradition of citizen access to government and legal information.

Update.  Also see Stevan Harnad's comment:

...Though a bit out of date now in some of its statistics, because things are moving so fast, this article gives a very good overview of OA and concludes that, no, Law Reviews are not a special case: Those articles, too, and their authors and institutions, would benefit from being self-archived in each author's Institutional Repository to make them OA.

Professor Parker conjectures that most potential users worldwide already have affordable subscription access to all the law journal articles they need via Westlaw and Lexis, so the advantage of OA in Law might be just one of speed and convenience, not a remedy for access-denial....

Comments on new NIH policy

The NIH is hosting an Open meeting on public access (Bethesda, March 20, 2008).  The purpose of the meeting is to air public comments on the new NIH OA policy.  The agency is soliciting public comments in advance of the meeting, and about 50 commenters will be given five minutes each to present their comments to the meeting (total:  four hours). 

Comment.  This meeting is one NIH response to publisher complaints that the new policy is based on insufficient public consultation.  (See my latest response to that complaint.)  Publishers are sure to send in their comments, and it's important for friends of OA to do the same.  In case it helps compose your comment, see my February newsletter article on the new policy.  NB:  the deadline for comments is March 17, 2008, at 5:00 pm EST.  Spread the word.

Tools for accessing online content in the humanities

Mississippi State University just received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  From yesterday's announcement:

Project Description: Development of open source web tools for accessing online digitized collections in the humanities via a system that communicates with multiple database types while protecting the integrity of the original data sets.

Publisher groups criticize attempts to help authors retain more rights

STM/PSP/ALPSP Statement on journal publishing agreements and copyright agreement “addenda”, a new statement from STM, PSP, and ALPSP, March 2008.  Excerpt:

Our respective trade associations, representing the global community of scholarly publishers, support open dialogue and informed communication on the use of published material. Putting these principles into practice, we have engaged in discussions with the academic community and worked within our own community to encourage best practices in recognition of the needs of authors and their institutions.

In a recent white paper entitled Author and Publisher Rights For Academic Use: An Appropriate Balance we set out our views that:

  • Academic research authors and their institutions should be able to use and post the content that such authors and institutions themselves provide (most publishers already provide for this) for internal institutional non-commercial research and education purposes; while
  • Publishers should be able to determine when and how the official publication occurs (in the journal or online) and to derive the revenue benefit from its publication and posting.

Recent statements, recommendations and papers published by a number of organizations take the rhetorical position that authors of journal articles will not be able to use their papers for educational or scholarly purposes if they sign standard publisher journal agreements. The suggestion is made that authors of journal articles should attempt to amend standard publishing agreements to obtain greater usage and scholarly rights for themselves and their institutions.

What these suggestions omit is that, under existing journal publishing agreements, authors already have many of the rights sought in copyright addenda. Standard journal agreements typically allow authors:

  • To use their published paper in their own teaching and generally within their institution for educational purposes
  • To send copies to their research colleagues
  • To re-use portions of their paper in further works or book chapters, and
  • To post some version of the paper on a pre-print server, their Institutional Repository or a personal web site (though sometimes not for the weekly news-oriented science or medical magazines, for public health and similar reasons)....

All of these activities are supported by publishers and are made possible by grants of copyright or publishing rights. The grant of these rights provides the legal incentives necessary for publishers to undertake the investments needed to disseminate “the minutes of science” worldwide and to maintain the integrity of the scientific record. The integrity of intellectual property is an essential criterion for the advancement of science as well as for innovation and creative activity....


  • First, the publishers are right to point out that many journals already allow author-initiated self-archiving and other kinds of scholarly re-use.  I point this out myself whenever it comes up.  For example, as of today, SHERPA reports that 56% of surveyed publishers allow postprint archiving, and 67% allow either preprint archiving, postprint archiving, or both.
  • However, the new document seems to suggest that funders and universities are wrong to take steps to secure permissions for OA --for example, as new policies at the NIH and Harvard do by asking grantees and faculty to retain certain rights rather than transfer full copyright to publishers. 
  • That suggestion or criticism just doesn't follow.  First, these funders and universities are well aware of the fact that some publishers already provide the needed permissions.  The problem in a nutshell is that some publishers do and some don't.  A related problem is that many who do provide permission put harmful restrictions on it, for example, requiring fees or embargoes or attempting to limit use to the author's own institution.  Finally, all publishers who provide permission are in a position to rescind their permission at a moment's notice.  As I argued in SOAN this month,

    If you had to drive across a friendly border every day to get to work, and knew that two-thirds of the time you would be waved through, it would still make good sense to carry your passport.  Likewise, Harvard's permission mandate makes good sense precisely because Harvard wants OA for all of its research output, not just for the fraction for which publishers are already granting permission.

  • The STM, PSP, and ALPSP assert that "all" publisher programs and experiments with free online access are based on "grants of copyright".  If they mean an unqualified grant of copyright, in which authors retain no rights, then it's untrue.  It's even inconsistent with their own acknowledgment that many publishers permit author-initiated self-archiving.  If they mean a qualified grant of copyright, in which both publishers and authors have the rights they need, then they beg the question.  Which rights do publishers really need?  Do they need more than the right of first print and electronic publication?  If so, why?  Do they really need to oppose the new permission-based policies of the NIH and Harvard?  If so, why? 
  • They point out that they've already addressed some of these questions in their earlier document, Author and Publisher Rights For Academic Use: An Appropriate Balance (May 2007).  That's true too, and I encourage people to read it along with my detailed critique in SOAN for June 2007.

Update.  Also see the comments by Thinh Nguyen, Counsel for Science Commons.  Excerpt:

...Copyright addenda are needed because most authors don’t have a lawyer, much less a whole legal department or law firm (as most publishers have) to parse the legal language of publication agreements for them. They also don’t have the time to search through journal Web sites for hard-to-find policies and to stay up to date with journal policy changes. By attaching a standard addendum, scholars can ensure that they retain those rights that they expect to have without having to be a lawyer themselves. With more private and public funders mandating open access, scholars need now more than ever greater clarity and transparency....

Monday, March 10, 2008

Steven Harnad in defense of IRs

Steven Harnad, Open Access Koans, Mantras and Mandates, Open Access Archivangelism, March 9, 2008.

Harnad frequently makes the claim that institutional repositories are the optimal point of deposit for self-archiving. Here, he defends this claim in response to criticism by Andy Powell.

... AP: most [IRs] remain largely unfilled and our only response is to say that funding bodies and institutions need to force researchers to deposit when they clearly don't want to of their own free will. We haven't (yet) succeeded in building services that researchers find compelling to use.
We haven't (yet) succeeded in persuading researchers to publish of their own free will: So instead of waiting for researchers to wait to find compelling reasons to publish of their own free will, we audit and reward their research performance according to whether and what they publish ("publish or perish").

We also haven't (yet) succeeded in persuading researchers to publish research that is important and useful to research progress: So instead of waiting for researchers to wait to find compelling reasons to maximise their research impact, we review and reward research performance on the basis not just of how much research they publish, but also its research impact metrics.

Mandating that researchers maximise the potential usage and impact of their research by self-archiving it in their own IR, and auditing and rewarding that they do so, seems a quite natural (though long overdue) extension of what universities are all doing already. ...

Consequences of Harvard policy for OA in anthropology

Christopher Kelty, “Now you have two problems…”: On mandating Open Access, Open Access Anthropology, March 9, 2008.

... If Harvard is the entity actually providing the work most widely, circulating it and allowing people to read it, what exactly does the [American Anthropological Association] or [Wiley-Blackwell] provide for you?

This isn’t a stupid question, in fact it’s at the heart of both the old problem AAA had (how to pay for the costs of publication) as well as the new problem it has (how to pay for the costs of publication when authors and their universities are giving it away for free). The answer, to my mind is actually simple: what AAA can provide is, among other things:

  1. prestige;
  2. high quality peer review;
  3. creative, path-breaking editorial vision;
  4. promotion and marketing;
  5. public policy relevance and creative use of new information technology and new networking and publicity possibilities. ...

However, how many of these things do AAA and WB adequately provide today? ...

So this puts us back in the same place as before: what exactly is the AAA providing that we can’t get elsewhere? ...

Webcast on implementing NIH Policy now online

An archived version of the March 7 Webcast on Institutional Compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy: Ensuring Deposit Rights, by the Association of Research Libraries and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, was made available today.

Open access at the Open University

Richard Poynder, Open University studies open access to research, ComputerWeekly, March 10, 2008.  Excerpt:

...Each year, Open University researchers produce more than 1,000 books, book chapters and peer-reviewed journal articles....

Over the last seven years...the Open University has seen its electronic journal subscriptions bill more than triple, from £284,000 to £997,000....

From this crisis, the open access movement developed....

[After a slow start in 2002, the OU institutional] repository was reprieved in 2005, when [research support librarian Bill Mortimer] was appointed. Tasked with supporting Open University research staff, he launched an advocacy programme, and began attending faculty meetings. His pitch was: open access fits the ethos of the Open University like a glove, and benefits the university faculty as well as external researchers.

The Open University was founded in 1969 by the then Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, and its mission is to be "open to people, places, methods and ideas", says Mortimer. What better demonstration is there of that than to support open access?

Mortimer also drew the faculty's attention to studies showing that making scholarly work freely available on the web significantly increases the number of times the work is cited....

[A] turning point came in 2005, when the Open University appointed Brigid Heywood as pro-vice-chancellor research. With the national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) fast approaching, Heywood needed a centralised record of the research output of every full-time member of the university....

But the information Heywood needed was spread across a patchwork of departmental systems, most of which were incompatible, and many of which had incomplete records. However, the Research School discovered that the library had the foundations of something they could use for the RAE, says Mortimer. "So, in early 2006, the institutional repository underwent a major reincarnation and was relaunched as Open Research Online, or ORO." ...

[B]etween January and July 2006 alone, [Mortimer] harvested between 2,000 and 3,000 items from departmental databases. Today ORO has more than 6,000 records, including peer-reviewed journal articles, books and book chapters, conference papers and patents.

But the downside of Research School support for ORO was that the original objective of making the Open University's research freely available was diluted - for RAE purposes, it was enough to input the bibliographic details of researchers' publications....

Nevertheless, open access remains an important goal for the Open University, says Heywood. While stressing the need for ORO to "provide management information about research activity, provide support to researchers, and profile the expertise and richness of the university's research portfolio", she also insists it is "critical that the outputs from publicly funded research are disseminated and shared with the widest possible audience"....

For the Open University, the issue is whether to introduce its own mandate. "The university is currently reviewing mandatory engagement with ORO and is taking advice and guidance from other institutions and agencies that have developed such policies," says Heywood. "We expect to reach a decision by the summer of 2008."

NISO may recommend IR deposit tool and standards

Thought Leader Meeting on Institutional Repositories Proposes Common Deposit Mechanism Tool, NISO Newsline, March 2008.  Excerpt:

A portion of the 2007 Mellon grant received by NISO was designated to proactively foster new standards activities through a series of "Thought Leader" meetings, where a group of experts on a particular topic convene to identify potential areas for NISO to lead a standards-based or recommended practice solution to recognized barriers.

Participants in the first Thought Leader meeting, held February 12 on the topic of Institutional Repositories, were Charles W. Bailey, Jr. (University of Houston), Catherine Candee (California Digital Library), Sayeed Choudhury (Johns Hopkins University), Paul Curran (Bournemouth University), Teresa Ehling (Cornell University), James Hilton (University of Virginia), Michele Kimpton (DSpace Federation), Larry Lannom (CNRI), and Rob Tansley (Google).

In a pre-meeting conference call, the group contemplated the pain points that are blocking deeper and wider adoption of institutional repositories....

At the meeting on February 12...[t]here was a collective belief that scholars have resisted institutional repositories at least in part due to the duplication of effort that depositing one's electronic content typically involves. The group strongly advocated investigation of a solution that renders the incremental cost of depositing across multiple domains virtually zero....

The group proposed that a NISO working group develop a common deposit mechanism "tool" that would allow institutional repositories to capture objects as close to their creation point as possible. The capture of these objects should be part of a larger context that will allow for their exposure across a variety of domains, such as journals, subject matter repositories, and course management systems. Commercial versions of the tool might offer advanced functionality, such as deposit destination suggestions and rights management guidance. Content destinations from the different domain areas could make themselves eligible to receive the exposed objects by adhering to the developed standard or protocol. NISO could facilitate a common deposit pilot project for the protocol and, subsequently, the deposit process could be opened to any entities that adhered to the NISO-developed standard.

The NISO Discovery to Delivery Topic Committee will be reviewing the IR Thought Leader groups' recommendations and refining a working group charter....

Elsevier allows free use of limited content in MIT OpenCourseware

MIT, Elsevier Offer Free Content From More Than 2,000 Journals, a press release from MIT, March 7, 2008.  Excerpt:

In a move to encourage open education, MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) and Elsevier have agreed to make available figures and text selections from any of Elsevier's more than 2,000 journal titles for use on OCW.

As a result of this landmark agreement, select Elsevier content can now be included within the open access OCW course materials - to be freely downloaded, used and shared under a Creative Commons license. The Elsevier content includes up to three figures (including tables and illustrations) per individual article (or ten per journal volume) and up to 100 words from a single text extract (or 300 words from a series of extracts)....

Cecilia d'Oliveira, acting executive director of OCW said, "We hear from thousands of students, educators, and self learners everyday about how OCW materials have helped changed their lives. Offering additional resources to these people will make an even greater impact on open learning and education. We hope this agreement will inspire other publishers to join in these efforts to unlock knowledge and empower people around the world."


  • I've praised Elsevier before for its experiments with free online access (most recently for WiserWiki and OncologySTAT), and I'm prepared to do so again.  But I must say that the MIT deal is only good news if the snippets it covers exceed fair use.  If they don't, then the deal has the harmful effect of codifying a lower ceiling for fair use.  For example, three tables per article seems to exceed fair use, but the limit of 10 per volume seems to fall short.  The limit of 10 tables per volume could easily work out to zero per article for many articles.
  • This wouldn't be a problem if faculty could still take advantage of fair use to exceed the limits Elsevier lays down in this contract.  But does the contract rule that out?  And even if it doesn't, will the contract act as a de facto limit? 
  • On the other side, remember that Wiley once threatened legal action when Shelley Batts blogged one chart from one article.  In that light, we can appreciate that at least the MIT/Elsevier deal creates a zone in which MIT faculty may freely use Elsevier material without the usual fear of liability, and therefore without the usual pressure (often amplified by university counsel) to give up on fair use and err on the side of non-use.

Update.  Also see Jeffrey Young's story in the Chronicle of Higher Education, March 10, 2008.  Excerpt:

What if you’re not at MIT?

Mark Seeley, vice president and general counsel at Elsevier, says the company has also agreed to a new policy on copyright, set up by the International Association of Scientific, Technical, & Medical Publishers, allowing any college to post small bits of journal material online. The policy doesn’t allow quite as much as the deal with MIT does, however....

Update.  I can now clarify one point raised in my original comment above.  The MIT-Elsevier contract does not waive or limit the fair-use rights of MIT faculty.  According to Steve Carson, External Relations Director for MIT's Open Courseware project (quoted with permission),

This agreement provides the terms under which we can publish Elsevier materials under an open license on our site and does not address circumstances protected by fair use.  It is our preference to publish all materials under a clear and consistent license to ensure our site users understand how the materials may be used, and this agreement helps us to achieve that goal.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Society publisher abandons DRM after library boycott

Ellen Finnie Duranceau, Following Removal of DRM, MIT Resubscribes to SAE Database, MIT Libraries News, March 4, 2008.

MIT faculty, students, and staff have access to the Society of Automotive Engineer’s technical papers over the web again, because the SAE listened to MIT and other universities when they spoke out against the imposition of Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology.

Last spring, the MIT Libraries cancelled their web access to the (SAE) technical papers, because the society was imposing a DRM plug-in called FileOpen that seriously impeded normal scholarly use.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering and SAE fellow Wai Cheng presented MIT’s concerns at the SAE’s Publication Board meeting in April 2007, which resulted in an immediate stay of DRM implementation on university campuses, and ultimately (November 2007) in a changed policy: FileOpen would not be required for university access to the SAE Digital Library.

While the MIT Libraries have not been able to get all the assurances we would like regarding SAE’s plans for implementing other DRM tools in the future, after consulting with faculty we have decided, as Professor Cheng put it, to “work with SAE in good faith,” reentering what we hope will be a productive partnership. ...

See also the comments at Boing Boing, and past OAN posts on this topic.

Update. See also the story from Library Journal Academic Newswire.

On making OA data findable

Chris Rusbridge, Data, repositories and Google, Digital Curation Blog, March 7, 2008.
... So: in the first place, Google et al are unlikely to index data, particularly unusual data types. And in the second place, repositories encourage metadata, which does get indexed. So from this point of view at least, a repository may provide better exposure for your data (and hence more data re-use) than simply making the files web-accessible.

This doesn't mean that current, library-oriented repositories are yet fit for purpose for science data! Far from it...

American Society of Civil Engineers and OA

Heather Morrison, American Society of Civil Engineers and Open Access, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, March 8, 2008. Abstract:
This post explores the publishing policies of the American Society of Civil Engineers as one example of a society publisher that is obviously making some progress in the transition to open access. A strong feature of ASCE is clear information for Authors, including permission to post the author's open postprint within 90 days after publication. Weaknesses include the 90-day embargo and the requirement for authors to transfer copyright. Like many societies, ASCE has reasonable subscription fees; for example, Cold Regions Engineering is less than 10% of the average subscription price for an engineering journal. This suggests that ASCE, like many society publishers, would likely be very competitive in an open access environment

Guidance on complying with the NIH policy

The University of Minnesota Libraries have created a web page for NIH-funded Minnesota researchers on how to comply with the new NIH policy.