Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, June 28, 2008

OECD releases new recommendations on PSI

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released a new Recommendation of the Council for Enhanced Access and More Effective Use of Public Sector Information at its recent Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy (Seoul, June 17-18, 2008).
... [The Council] recommends that, in establishing or reviewing their policies regarding access and use of public sector information, Member countries take due account of and implement the following principles ...
  • Openness. Maximising the availability of public sector information for use and re-use based upon presumption of openness as the default rule to facilitate access and re-use. ...
  • Access and transparent conditions for re-use. Encouraging broad non-discriminatory competitive access and conditions for re-use of public sector information, eliminating exclusive arrangements, and removing unnecessary restrictions on the ways in which it can be accessed, used, re-used, combined or shared, so that in principle all accessible information would be open to re-use by all. Improving access to information over the Internet and in electronic form. ...
  • Asset lists. Strengthening awareness of what public sector information is available for access and re-use. ...
  • Quality. Ensuring methodical data collection and curation practices to enhance quality and reliability ...
  • Integrity. ... Developing and implementing appropriate safeguards to protect information from unauthorised modification ...
  • New technologies and long-term preservation. Improving interoperable archiving, search and retrieval technologies ...
  • Copyright. Intellectual property rights should be respected. There is a wide range of ways to deal with copyrights on public sector information, ranging from governments or private entities holding copyrights, to public sector information being copyright-free. Exercising copyright in ways that facilitate re-use ... and encouraging institutions and government agencies that fund works from outside sources to find ways to make these works widely accessible to the public.
  • Pricing. When public sector information is not provided free of charge, pricing public sector information transparently and consistently ... Where possible, costs charged to any user should not exceed marginal costs of maintenance and distribution ...
  • Competition. ... Requiring public bodies to treat their own downstream/value-added activities on the same basis as their competitors for comparable purposes ... Promoting non-exclusive arrangements for disseminating information so that public sector information is open to all possible users and re-users on non-exclusive terms.
  • Public private partnerships. Facilitating public-private partnerships where appropriate and feasible in making public sector information available ...
  • International access and use. ... [P]romote greater interoperability and facilitate sharing and comparisons of national and international datasets. Striving for interoperability and compatible and widely used common formats.
  • Best practices. Encouraging the wide sharing of best practices and exchange of information on enhanced implementation ...
Comment. This statement piles on previous recommendations by the OECD (e.g. as described here). See also the earlier report from the working group that prepared these recommendations.
  • The recommendations on competition and public-private partnerships align well with the Princeton model for OA to government data.
  • It's noteworthy that the recommendations call for greater online access, and that they suggest applying them to work funded by government agencies, not just that created by government employees. But the recommendations are for data, not scientific publications. Nevertheless, the principle should be somewhat transferable.
  • Managing copyright to facilitate re-use is a good recommendation; so is limiting user fees to those necessary to recoup the marginal costs of providing access. But the recommendations could have gone farther and called for government works to be in the public domain. They also stopped short of calling for greater clarity on the copyright status of data, and for the lifting of legal rights on data where they exist.

Blog for ELPUB conference

The ELPUB 2008 conference has started a blog. They've posted a list of links to video feeds from the conference.

On OA to U.S. legislative histories

Robb Farmer, Open Access to Compiled Federal Legislative Histories: Coming Soon?, Legal Sources Subject to Open, June 27, 2008.

... The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) produces compiled legislative histories for laws passed by Congress. The GAO has a current contract with Thomson West, whereby the publisher scans the thousands of pages produced and sells access to the information afterwards with the goal of turning a profit. The GAO can access the documents for internal use only, but that free access does not appear to extend to Congress or other governing bodies.

Not long ago, the GAO provided [Carl] Malamud digitized copies of a number of histories from the 67th & 68th Congress, as well as from a representative sample of histories from well-known legislation passed since then. These useful and interesting documents have been uploaded to for public viewing. In an another forward thinking move, Malamud proposed that, after the materials had been given to Thomson West to produce their commercial project, the same documents be used to develop an open access version at no cost to the GAO, other than the original person-hours required to produce the documents. The proposal included a similar arrangement where an outside entity, in this case the highly respected Internet Archive, scan the documents and that the GAO would be provided a digital copy of the scanned material that would be accessible to students, legal professions, and the public at large. ...

More on the Calgary OA Author's Fund

Philip Davis, OA Author’s Fund — 1% Solution, 99% Ideology, Scholar's Kitchen, June 26, 2008.  Excerpt:

The University of Calgary will join several other library initiatives in providing an Author’s Fund designed to pay for Open Access publication fees. While the C$100,000 fund sounds impressive at first, it amounts to only 33 articles published with Elsevier and Springer, or 38 articles published with Blackwell.

To get a sense of the scholarly output of this institution, I searched the Web of Science and found that U. Calgary faculty published nearly 3,000 articles in 2007 (a conservative estimate considering the limited scope of ISI). This means that if the new Author’s Fund is successful, they can aspire to cover about 1% of Open Access author processing fees.

While some argue that the majority of Open Access journals charge no fees, these are generally not the same caliber of journals that a research-intensive university faculty submit their articles. We should not expect that authors will start submitting their manuscripts to Acta Médica Portuguesa instead of JAMA....

When did publishing in Open Access journals become a sustainable and responsible course of action? Even early calculations at $1,500/article demonstrated that research-intensive institutions like the University of Calgary would pay far more money in an author-pays model than the traditional subscription model. Moreover, author charges are exceeding the price inflation of subscription journals by orders of magnitude. Is this an argument for sustainability? It certainly isn’t one for fiscal responsibility....


  • "While some argue that the majority of Open Access journals charge no fees...."  The link is to me and I appreciate it.  Davis calls this an argument.  But you could also call it a fact.  Many people overlook it, but nobody disputes it.  The fact has been better documented since I wrote the June 2006 article he cites.  See my  November 2006 article on no-fee OA journals, Bill Hooker's December 2007 survey of all full-OA journals in the DOAJ showing that 67% charged no publication fees, and the work Caroline Sutton and I released in November 2007 showing that 83% of OA journals from society publishers charged no publication fees.
  • "[T]hese [no-fee OA journals] are generally not the same caliber of journals that a research-intensive university faculty submit their articles...."  If this is a claim about quality, or about future submission patterns, as opposed to present submission patterns, then it's an assumption for which there is no evidence.  Nobody has done the studies.  Davis compares Acta Médica Portuguesa to JAMA, almost at random, as if they were representative of their categories.  But of course the comparison isn't really random and the journals aren't really representative.  If the idea were to use ridicule in place of evidence, someone could just as easily name a high-quality OA journal and a low-quality TA journal.  But what would that prove?  In the absence of studies, this is all we know:
    [T]here are strong and weak OA journals, just as there are strong and weak TA journals. Hence, any analysis focusing on weak OA journals and strong TA journals (as if to show the superiority of TA journals) would be as arbitrary as one focusing on weak TA journals and strong OA journals (as if to show the superiority of OA journals). Without some additional argument showing that the journals on which they focus are typical of their breeds, they would be guilty of cherry-picking and generalizing from an unrepresentative sample.

    This is true whether we are comparing OA journals with TA journals (which Davis ended up doing) or no-fee OA journals with fee-based OA journals (which he started out doing).

  • "Even early calculations at $1,500/article demonstrated that research-intensive institutions like the University of Calgary would pay far more money in an author-pays model than the traditional subscription model...."  Davis did this calculation at Cornell, and I pointed out its weaknesses in the article he cites in his blog post.  The calculation rests on two simplifying but unrealistic assumptions: (1) that all OA journals charge publication fees and (2) that universities are the only institutions willing to pay those fees.  Both assumptions are false today and I've never seen an argument that they will become more realistic as time passes.  The most that can be said for them is that they simplify the calculation and --depending on your point of view-- that they scare universities away from supporting OA journals.  Either way, the calculation doesn't show the future under OA journals so much as the consequences of the initial, simplifying and simplistic assumptions. 
  • In his blog post, as opposed to his Cornell calculation, Davis rectifies this to some extent by making clear that he is talking about fee-based OA journals (which he misleadingly calls "author pays" journals) rather than OA journals in general.   But for the same reason, he weakens his argument against Calgary.  Once we acknowledge that not all Calgary faculty publishing in OA journals will publish in fee-based OA journals, whether the fee-based publications are a majority or a minority, then we have to redo the calculated cost to the institution to see how it compares to the cost of subscriptions.
  • When Davis calculates that the Calgary fund would only cover 1% of Calgary's annual research output, he's making the same false assumptions:  that all of OA journals charge publication fees, and that there are no other institutions (like funding agencies) to pay those fees.  Even if all of Calgary's research output were published in OA journals, we'd see that the fund would cover more than 1% of it once we acknowledged that some serious fraction of those publications would be in no-fee journals and that some serious fraction of the fees at fee-based journals would be paid out of faculty research grants.
  • Much of Davis' criticism of the Calgary fund seems to presuppose that Calgary thought the fund would cover the entire research output of the institution.  But I don't see any evidence for that assumption.  The fund is a first step to help authors pay publication fees when they choose to publish in fee-based OA journals and don't have research grants to cover the fees.  It's one step to help support a new, OA generation of peer-reviewed journals.  This makes sense in part because OA has unmistakable benefits over TA.  But it also makes sense because there is reason to doubt the sustainability of the conventional, non-OA peer-reviewed journals.  Davis believes that OA journals are unsustainable (though he doesn't mention that Hindawi and Medknow OA journal programs are already profitable).  But the real question is how to give them support in proportion to our need for them, or how to give them a fair chance.  Calgary understands this well.  So does the U of California, which concluded in January 2004 that "The economics of [subscription-based] scholarly journal publishing are incontrovertibly unsustainable."

Interdisciplinary research promotes OA, and vice versa

Michael Jubb, Three Thoughts on Interdisciplinary Research, Michael Jubb's Blog, June 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

Many are the comments on how interdisciplinary research has become an increasingly common and important feature of the research landscape. In meetings I have participated in over the past couple of days, the impact on the scholarly communications system has come up in three interesting ways.

The first was a suggestion, perhaps a hypothesis, that interdisciplinary research will lead (has led?) to an increase in researchers’ interest in open access. The thought here is that researchers in some disciplines (notably some areas of the biosciences) are more inclined to adopt some form of open access in publishing their work; and that as researchers from other disciplines less inclined to open access join with, say, bioscientists in their research, they will be introduced to open access ways of thought. It seems a plausible hypothesis, and one that could fairly easily be tested. Does interdisciplinary research feature particularly prominently in OA journals, or in the contents of repositories?

The second thought comes from a presentation by Carol Tenopir of the findings of the latest Tenopir and King reader surveys. One of the interesting findings is that interdisciplinary researchers are more likely than other researchers to follow citation links as their means of getting access to journal articles; and that the latest article they have read is more likely to be in digital, as distinct from print, format. Why that should be is perhaps worth some investigation....

Comment.  I hadn't heard either of these observations before.  Very interesting.  Here's the converse of the first:  not that interdisciplinary research promotes OA, but that OA promotes interdisciplinary research.  Once we start searching for relevant new work online, rather than in a familiar corner of a print library, and once we start searching by keywords in multidisciplinary indices, rather than by journals or in disciplinary collections, we open ourselves to the serendipitous discovery of work beyond our own disciplines.  We find things we would have excluded from our searches in the past, almost from pride in our professional focus.  And when readers can easily find relevant new work outside their fields, authors feel encouraged to write and publish interdisciplinary work, without the fear that it would be invisible to most of the people who might be interested.  OA journal literature shares this property with digital, online non-OA journal literature.  But OA literature has it to a greater degree, or for more researchers, because it reaches everyone.

Three quick examples from the OAN archives:  research crossing the boundaries between physics and economics (stock market patterns), physics and biology (biomicrofludics), law and art (the commodification of music).

More on sharing and protecting traditional knowledge at the same time

Roy Mathew, IPRs policy proposes ‘knowledge commons’, The Hindu, June 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

The Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) Policy for Kerala, released by Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan here on Friday, puts forth the concept of ‘knowledge commons’ and ‘commons licence’ for traditional knowledge.

The policy says that all traditional knowledge, including traditional medicine, must belong to the domain of “knowledge commons” and not to public domain. The system should be introduced through legal arrangements. While community or family custodians will have rights to knowledge that belonged to them, the rest of the traditional knowledge will belong to Kerala State.

No entity registered as a medium or large enterprise may be deemed to have any rights over traditional knowledge. Any community or family custodian of traditional knowledge would have to register as knowledge-practitioner with the Kerala Traditional Knowledge Authority proposed by the policy.

All rights holders of traditional knowledge will be deemed to be holding their rights under a ‘commons licence’. Under this licence, the right holder permits others the use of the knowledge for non-commercial purposes. If any development is made using that knowledge, it will have to be put back into the ‘knowledge commons’ and cannot be patented anywhere. For commercial use by others, an agreement would have to be reached with the rights holder. In the case of rights held by the State, all actual practitioners of knowledge would have automatic rights for commercial use provided that they are not medium or large enterprises....

Comment.  I see the tensions here.  But these are very complex regulations.  What's wrong with the simple model embodied by India's Traditional Knowledge Digital Library?  The TKDL collects India's traditional knowledge, puts it into words, translates it into modern languages, documents its provenance, makes it freely available online, and affirmatively sends copies to patent offices around the world.  One goal is to block new patents and invalidate old patents through the doctrine of prior art.  It avoids new regulations on the use of knowledge and goes beyond the passive protection of traditional knowledge to the active gathering and promulgation of it to everyone with an internet connection.  For more, see our past posts on the TKDL.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Hot stories from OAN

I just introduced the Hot tag for OAN stories.  I'll use it to label the most important stories we blog.  The idea is to help people who are too busy to read everything we're putting out.

You can view the hot items online or subscribe to an RSS feed or email feed.

Jott users can even sign up for an audio feed.  On command, a computerized voice will read you the hot stories over the phone.

At the moment, I don't plan to tag hot items retroactively.  Just don't assume that there were no important stories before June 27, 2008!

Sometime next week I should be able to add the new feeds to the blog sidebar.

Update.  The email feed of hot stories works fine in the ways that matter most.  But unfortunately the emails suggest that you are subscribed to all of "Open Access News" and not just to the hot category.  I gave the feed a special name but Feedburner is disregarding it.  I'm working on the problem. 


Checklists for repository managers

The Repositories Support Project has posted a new set of checklists for repository managers, apparently on June 26:
... The planning checklists have been drafted and organised to match each functional area of the web site:

The questions are aimed at repository managers and are offered as a series of key questions designed to ‘make you think' about each topic. Please note that we have not crowded presentation by trying to offer answers to the questions, many of which may be local or specific to each institution. ...

OA and the public credibility of science

Peter Murray-Rust, Another reason why Data must be Open, petermr’s blog, June 27, 2008.

Ben Goldacre (The Guardian columnist on “Bad Science”) has unearthed a superb interchange between a scientist [Richard Lenski] and the creationists. ...

Inter alia RL was attacked by the creationists for failing to provide data to support his claims. RL replies that the data were in the paper ...

RL has taken great pains (many pages) to refute the claims of fraud and to assert that the data were visible: BUT this was only possible because the fulltext pf the paper was available:

Imagine what would have happened if RL had replied:

“I am sorry, but the article was published in a closed access journal and I have no rights to make the text , which contains the data , publicly available. You will just have to believe that the reviewers and editors agreed with my arguments and that the data supported it. Or each of you and your acolytes will have to purchase the article at a cost of 30 USD from the publisher. And don’t post it on your website - even just the graphs containing the data - or the publishers will send legal letters to you”.

So, in this case, Open visibility was essential to RL’s successful defence. However the “data not shown” was a potential serious weakness, which was not imposed by the author but by the publication process. Electrons and magnetic disks are infinitely cheaper than “pages” and there is no reason whatever to have “data not shown” in a modern article. ...

IF for Documenta Mathematica

Wolfram Horstmann, Impact of Open Access Journal Documenta Mathematica Confirmed, SPARC-OAForum, June 26, 2008.
With its first account of a Journal Impact Factor the open access journal Documenta Mathematica is ranked 13th of over 200 journals in Mathematics. Particularly remarkable is that this journal is not at all managed by a publisher or a learned society but only by mathematicians for mathematicians. ...

Intro to repositories

John Mark Ockerbloom, Repositories: What they are, and what we use them for, Everybody’s Libraries, June 26, 2008.

The JISC Repositories Support Project defines a digital repository as “a mechanism for managing and storing digital content.” I find this a useful definition, both for what it says and what it doesn’t say. It notes that repositories, as such, focus on content and its management. It doesn’t say anything about the kind of digital content managed by the repository, or about the use this content is put to.

A repository’s focus is related to, but distinct from, the focus of a library or an application. ...

At the same time, though, you can’t plan the development of a library without thinking about its repositories. Repositories really are essential infrastructure for libraries, but not simply as a place to “capture and preserve the intellectual output of university communities” (as a 2002 SPARC white paper put it), or, more pessimistically, as “a place where you dump stuff and then nothing happens to it” (as a 2005 JISC workshop annex put it). The Penn Libraries today rely on hundreds of digital repositories, mostly run by various publishers. We also manage a few important ones ourselves. ...

As you can see from these examples, libraries like ours have all kinds of different uses for repositories, and various ways we can develop and manage them. We’re not starting repositories because they’re what all the cool Research I libraries are doing this year. We’re managing them because they help us provide what we see as important services to our communities. ...)

Presentation on OA and open research

Cornelius Puschmann has posted the slides for his presentation, Open Science and Open Research - New Paradigms in Scholarly Communication, delivered to a virtual meeting organized of IBM’s Social Computing Group.

OA at Brazilian Ag. Research Corp.

Fernando César Lima Leite, et al., Open Access to scientific knowledge: a methodological model for scientific information and knowledge management at the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), 2nd International Conference on Knowledge Generation, Communication and Management (Orlando, June 29-July 2, 2008). Abstract:
This paper presents a methodological model for the establishment of Open Access to scientific information at Embrapa, as a strategy for scientific information and knowledge management. The model consists of elements that speed up scientific communication processes and allow for the research output management. The aim is to provide the necessary mechanisms to capture, store, organize, preserve and widely disseminate the scientific knowledge produced by Embrapa and by the scientific community involved in agricultural research, through the implementation of the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH). It is our contention that effective information management improves institutional scientific communication, which contributes for the betterment of scientific research related processes.
Update. See also this blog post on the paper.

White House calls for open data from 15 federal agencies

Section 1009 of the America COMPETES Act (August 2007) required the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to

...develop and issue an overarching set of principles to ensure the communication and open exchange of data and results to other agencies, policymakers, and the public of research conducted by a scientist employed by a Federal civilian agency...

The OSTP released its guidelines on May 28, 2008:  Core Principles for Communication of the Results of Scientific Research Conducted by Scientists Employed by Federal Civilian Agencies.  Excerpt:

Robust and open communication of scientific information is critical not only for advancing science, but also for ensuring that society is informed and provided with objective and factual information to make sound decisions.  Accordingly, the Federal government is committed to a culture of scientific openness that fosters and protects the open exchange of ideas, data and information to the scientific community, policymakers, and the public....

2.  Open Exchange of Research Data and Results by Federal Scientists

  1. Research data produced by scientists working within Federal agencies should, to the maximum extent possible and consistent with existing Federal law, regulations, and Presidential directives and orders, be made publicly available consistent with established practices in the relevant fields of research.

    1. Agencies should develop, and update as necessary, clear guidelines regarding processes for sharing research data and results generated by Federal scientists.  These guidelines should be consistent with the Information Quality Act guidelines.
    2. In developing the guidelines, agencies should endeavor to establish clear policies regarding preservation and storage of and access to publicly available data.
    3. Agencies should work to ensure awareness of and compliance with these guidelines, and ensure that responses to requests for publicly releasable information are made promptly, accurately, and completely....


  • The OSTP guidelines call for an OA mandate for the subset of publicly-funded research to which they apply.  That's very welcome and important.
  • Note two aspects of this subset:
    1. The guidelines only apply to research by agency employees, not research by grantees.  The distinction matters because under US law (17 USC 105), research by government employees is uncopyrightable. 
    2. The guidelines only apply to data, not texts.  This distinction also matters because (most) data elements are uncopyrightable facts. 
  • Hence, for two independent reasons, the OSTP guidelines apply to an uncopyrightable subset of publicly-funded research.  That wouldn't make an OA mandate any less welcome or important.  And it should disarm the kinds of opposition the NIH policy has attracted.  But it doesn't get us much closer to NIH-like policies at agencies beyond the NIH.
  • Should the OSTP could have gone further?  The statute directed it to develop guidelines for "data and results", not just for data.  Whether articles are "results" is open to interpretation, I concede.  And even if they were, OSTP guidelines on articles would very likely be weaker than these guidelines on data.  The section of the statute charging OSTP to write guidelines also charged it to "take into consideration the policies of peer-reviewed scientific journals in which Federal scientists may currently publish results."
  • The guidelines apply to research funded by 15 named federal agencies:  NASA, NSF, NIH, EPA, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Justice, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs.  OSTP is asking all 15 agencies to develop policies in accordance with the guidelines and submit a progress report by July 31, 2008.
  • OSTP is calling for an open data mandate, but may or may not succeed in getting one.  The statute requires OSTP to write the guidelines but it doesn't require the agencies to comply.  It does ask the OSTP to "ensure" that the agencies adopt policies in conformity with its principles, but it's unclear what power OSTP has to do that.  On the other hand, the agencies may comply voluntarily.  Not only will they face little or no counter-lobbying from publishers, but the OSTP developed the guidelines in the first place "in consultation with...the heads of all Federal civilian agencies that conduct scientific research" (COMPETES Act, Section 1009). 
  • On a slightly different front, Section 7010 of the COMPETES Act requires OA for the "final project reports" of NSF-funded research.  Because these are summaries and not full-text articles, let alone full-text peer-reviewed articles, this provision of the Act sets a much lower standard than the NIH policy.  For that reason the AAP likes to cite this provision as a model.  But the AAP offers no reason to prefer it except that it is "recent" and "rational", when the statute demanding the NIH policy is more recent and more rational.  However, if the AAP citations have led you to think of the COMPETES Act as unfriendly to OA, the OSTI guidelines may change your mind.


Open education learning from open access

Mark Surman, Learning from open access, Commonspace, June 26, 2008.  Excerpt:

Yesterday, Melissa Hagemann, Eve Gray and I led a workshop called Opening Scholarship at Elpub 2008. Our aim was to dig into a very specific question: what lessons can those of us working on open education learn from the open access to research movement. As the room was filled with experienced open access folks (that's the theme of the conference), it seemed like a good place to ask this.

It turned out we were right. There was three hours of fun and intense conversation about both open access and education. At the end, we brainstormed key takeaways with the group:

  1. Use the 'public access argument'. If public dollars are paying for educational materials, the public should be able to use (and evolve) them freely.
  2. Build coalitions. Bringing researchers, universities and taxpayer rights advocates together under the Alliance for Taxpayer Access banner was critical to the open access NIH victory.
  3. Be strategic about where to focus early open education efforts, looking for areas like vocational training where traditional publishers are weak.
  4. Engage business and think about business models early on. Open access has worked in part because progressive publishers are involved and because there isn't just one business model.
  5. Be patient and explain what you are on about consistently. It's only after years of calm explanations and experimentation that bigger publishers have come to open access.
  6. Invest in early test cases that show what is possible. Do research. Develop metrics. Write up the best cases.
  7. Build a network of champions and evangelists who can talk about these early successes. And make sure to start building leadership in emerging economies early on....

Comment.  This is a good list.  I'd elaborate a bit on #5.  It's not just that patient and consistent (and clear and calm) explanations helped encourage some large publishers to experiment with OA.  They also helped researchers themselves to understand it, try it, support it, and spread the word.  For OA, the primary beneficiaries were slow to pick up on the idea, not because they were opposed but because they were overworked, preoccupied, misled by myths and disinformation, and pressured by institutional incentives pulling for business as usual.  It may be the same with open ed.  I'd recommend:  make your primary appeals to the primary beneficiaries and the prime movers (people who can bring about the change unilaterally once they are persuaded).  For us, luckily, these are the same groups (researchers).  For open ed, they may be different groups.

ESF joins EuroHORCs in recommending OA mandates for European funders

In addition to its recent recommendations for OA mandates in 23 European countries, EuroHORCs has joined forces with the European Science Foundation to issue a joint Vision on a Globally Competitive European Research Area and Road Map for Actions to Help Build It, June 2008.  Excerpt:

A globally competitive ERA [European Research Area] requires: ...

8. Open access to the output of publicly funded research and permanent access to primary quality assured research data...

Common policy on Open Access and Permanent Access to research data

Addresses Vision point 8.

Whilst the crucial role of peer reviewed publications in both academia and research is recognised, there is also pressure to ensure that the results of publicly funded research are available quickly and publicly. Influential national and international funding and strategy bodies are formulating their own statements and policies. EUROHORCs Member Organisations, which account among them for over 18 billion Euros research funding in Europe, will develop a joint statement on Open Access. The formulation and adoption of such a common policy would have an immediate, beneficial and unifying impact.

The collection of research data is a huge investment. Permanent access to such data, if quality controlled and in interoperable formats, allows other researchers to use them, allows re-analysis of, for example, long time series and could play a role in ensuring research integrity. EUROHORCs and ESF will address how to best promote and ensure such permanent access to data generated with their funding.

Also see the EuroHORCs press release on the new statement (June 25, 2008):

..."EUROHORCs and ESF are committed to play a key role in shaping this ERA and this Road Map is the proof of that commitment.  This policy briefing is a result of our analysis of what is needed and how our members, together with other partners, could contribute." said ESF President Professor Ian Halliday and the President of the EUROHORCs Professor Pär Omling in a joint statement....


  • EuroHORCs has expressed strong recent support for OA.  But I believe this is the first time the ESF has publicly called for OA, let alone OA mandates across Europe. 
  • In April 2003, Alison Buckholtz, Raf Dekeyser, Melissa Hagemann, Thomas Krichel, and Herbert Van de Sompel wrote an important policy briefing for the ESF, recommending OA.  Although the ESF posted a copy to its web site two months later, I don't believe that it ever endorsed the paper's recommendations.
  • The ESF represents 77 members organizations from 30 European countries.


EuroHORCs recommends OA mandates as a minimum

EuroHORCs (European Heads of Research Councils) has announced a set of Recommendations on Open Access.  The document is dated April 18, 2008, but was apparently released on May 23, 2008.  Excerpt:

On 18 April 2008, the General Assembly of EUROHORCs agreed to recommend a minimal standard regarding Open Access to its Member Organisations [MOs]. At the same time, it acknowledges the fact that some MOs have adopted stricter rules already. It considers the proposed minimal standard as an intermediate step towards a system in which free access to all scientific information is guaranteed without jeopardizing the system of peer review, quality control, and long-term preservation. It encourages its members to continuously examine possibilities to move beyond the proposed minimal standard, to develop, jointly with the publishers, means to move toward full Open Access, and to reduce embargo time to not more than six months and later to zero.

Scientists and research organizations can support this recommendation in different ways:

Recommendations for scientists: ...

2. When choosing the appropriate means of disseminating scientific information, authors should always consider the issue of Open Access. If a variety of options are found to be appropriate, higher priority should be given to journals with Open Access rules which are in minimal accordance with the recommendations defined by EURAB in December 2006.

Recommendations for Member Organisations (MOs) of EUROHORCs

3. All MOs of EUROHORCs should sign the Berlin Declaration on Open Access (2003). It is strongly recommended that when ever possible they adopt the EURAB recommendations or at least a weaker version of it by excluding a compulsory limitation of the embargo time to 6 months or less.

4. The overwhelming majority of scientific journal support self-archiving already, but only a very small minority of scientists make use of this possibility. Thus, all scientists, either funded by or doing research for MOs, should be informed about the already existing mechanisms for Open Access and strongly advised to make use of them.

Background to the document ....

[T]he EUROHORCs statement should also send a clear message to scientific publishers that its recommendation on OA just represents an intermediate step; time should be used by the scientific community as well as by the publishers to develop better models for an Open Access scheme.


  • This is big.  The recommended minimum is strong (more below) and the recommender carries great weight with public funding agencies throughout Europe.  All the major public funding agencies in 23 European countries are members of EuroHORCs.
  • Kudos to all involved and especially to Dieter Imboden, who wrote the recommendations at the direction of the EuroHORCs General Assembly.  Imboden is the VP of EuroHORCs, a professor of environmental physics at ETH Zurich, and not coincidentally, president of the Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation, which adopted an OA mandate in August 2007.
  • The EuroHORCs recommendations are based on the exemplary EURAB recommendation of December 2006.  For a quick recap, see my blog comments on its strengths:
    It's a mandate, not mere encouragement. It gives authors a choice of repositories for deposit. It caps the permissible embargo at six months. It recommends deposit of the published version, if possible, and the final version of the peer-reviewed manuscript otherwise. It uses what I call the dual deposit/release strategy or what Stevan Harnad calls the immediate deposit / optional access strategy...There's no hint of compromise based on misunderstandings about copyright.
  • Note that the EuroHORCs is proposing a "minimal" OA policy.  The minimum is the EURAB recommendation minus the six-month cap on embargoes.  Hence, mandating OA to funded research is part of the minimum.  EuroHORCs "encourages its members to continuously examine possibilities to move beyond the proposed minimal standard."  That means reducing embargoes to the EURAB standard of six months, but then abolishing them altogether.  Like the Canadian Library Association, EuroHORCs sees embargoes as a temporary compromise which should eventually disappear altogether.


Free philosophy pledge

Terrance Tomkow (Philosophy Department, Dalhousie University) has proposed The Free Philosophy Pledge:

  1. I will make my academic writings freely available over the internet. I will do so before, or at least at the same time as, I (would) submit them to hard-copy journals.

  2. I will not submit my academic writing to journals whose policies forbid online pre- or post- publication by the author.

  3. I will endeavor to make copies of all my previously published academic writings freely available for on-line viewing.  I will encourage journals in which my work has appeared to make their archives of past issues open for general viewing.

  4. I will not submit articles to journals which charge fees to view any part of their content.

  5. Peer review is an essential part of academic life, but peer review does not require hard copy publication.  When I am asked to judge the quality of work of any scholar for any purposes including hiring, promotion and tenure I shall ignore whether that work has been published in hard copy.  I will instead make my own judgments or seek the direct advice of others whose opinions I trust.  I will also encourage and participate in the evolution of new practices and mechanisms for objective peer review and evaluation.

  6. The format of academic books and journal articles is, in part, a function of the requirements of hard copy publication.  On-line publication will make possible new forms and structures of expression.  Realizing this, I will not assume that excellent work must take traditional forms.

  7. I will encourage my colleagues and my department as a whole to take this pledge.  I will endeavor to have the standards proposed by this pledge to be explicitly incorporated into my department’s and my institution’s policies on hiring, promotion, tenure, and merit

Comments.  The pledge is still evolving in response to comments, which is a good thing.  As a philosopher who supports OA, I'd like to support the pledge.  But it still needs some work.

  • In general, it would help to talk about "open access philosophy" rather than "free philosophy" and to benefit from the long experience of the OA movement in refining definitions, evolving strategies, answering objections, recruiting allies, and adopting policies. 
  • #1 and #5 seem to confuse digital with free.  A journal doesn't become free just by becoming digital or moving online.  Most online journals still charge access fees (subscriptions or pay-per-view fees). 
  • #2 would offer more guidance to authors, and trigger less resistance from publishers, if it referred to "OA archiving" or "self-archiving" rather than "publishing".
  • #4 needlessly ties the hands of authors.  Authors needn't boycott TA journals in order to provide OA to their own peer-reviewed articles.  In fact, one of the best accelerators to OA is the fact that about two-thirds of surveyed TA journals allow some form of author self-archiving.
  • #5 seems to confuse OA with the absence or reform of peer review.  This is a mistake simply on factual grounds, since OA is compatible with every kind of peer review, from the most conservative to the most innovative.  It's also a tactical mistake.  There's no reason to delay the progress of OA until we agree on the best form of peer review, and no reason to dispense with allies who want both OA and strong peer review.

An OA journal for medieval studies?

There's a good discussion going on at In the Middle on whether the field of medieval studies needs another journal and, if so, whether it should be OA.

Serving the whole public

Les Carr, Inspirational Teachers, Repository Man, June 26, 2008.  Excerpt:

I listened to John Willinsky give an inspirational keynote at ELPub 2008 this morning. He banged the drum for Open Access and announced an OA mandate for the Stanford School of Education. According to the story, he was describing the Harvard mandate to his colleagues in a meeting and they instantly voted to adopt a similar mandate themselves. Way to go!

However, the message that I shall take home was his discussion of the connection between "public" forms of knowledge and "highly authoritative" forms of knowledge. He gave the specific example of the links made between between Wikipedia and the Stanford New Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ie opportunities where a general and democratic information resource links back to a resource which is written and governed by domain experts. A really very good thing, according to Willinsky, who believes that the sustainability of the entire research infrastructure is based on its perception as a Public Good, one that is open and encourages the participation and engagement of its sustaining community.

In other words, the fact that many non-researchers seem to be downloading papers from our repositories shouldn't be seen as a suspicious thing. "Things on the Web are just downloaded by teenagers and pornographers" according to some colleagues who are less than Web-friendly! "If a download isn't attributable to someone in a University then it shouldn't count - it's obviously a mistake or being read by someone who can't possibly understand it." ...

[I]f repositories have a role in making collections of research material accessible, then perhaps we should be thinking about how to make them a bit more accessible to the public, in helping us become inspirational teachers with half an eye to the rest of society.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Column on NIH and Harvard policies

Karla Hahn, Two new policies widen the path to balanced copyright management: Developments on author rights, C&RL News, July/August 2008.
A light bulb is going off that is casting the issue of author rights management into new relief. On January 11, 2008, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced a revision of its Public Access Policy. Effective April 7, 2008, the agency requires investigators to deposit their articles stemming from NIH funding in the NIH online archive, PubMed Central. Librarians have been looking forward to such an announcement, especially since studies found that the voluntary version of the policy was achieving deposit rates of affected articles on the order of a few percentage points ...

The shift from a request to a requirement comes at a propitious time; academic libraries already have been building infrastructure to work with faculty on both rights management and repository deposit. Author rights management has been the most common focus of faculty outreach on campuses in recent years. ...

With the article deposit requirement, researchers can no longer simply sign publication agreements without careful review and, in some cases, modification of the publisher’s proposed terms. While this may be perceived as a minor annoyance, it calls attention to the value of scholarly publications and the necessity to consider carefully whether an appropriate balance between author and publisher rights and needs is on offer.

As institutions, as grantees, become responsible for ensuring that funded authors retain the rights they need to meet the NIH public Access Policy requirements, there is a new incentive for campus leaders to reconsider institutional policies and local practices relating to faculty copyrights as assets. ...

The February 2008 vote by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences to grant Harvard a limited license to make certain uses of their journal articles is another important indicator of an accelerating shift in attitudes about author rights management, and also reveals the value of taking an institutional approach to the issue. ...

With these two watershed developments, libraries have a new opportunity to educate and advocate for the development of a new generation of institutional policies on author rights management ...

Norms are always more difficult to change than technologies. We are now witnessing a key shift in norms for sharing scholarly work that promises a giant step forward in leveraging the potential of network technologies and digital scholarship to advance research, teaching, policy development, professional practice, and technology transfer. ...

OA mandate at the Stanford School of Ed

Today John Willinsky announced at ElPub 2008 (Toronto, June 25-27, 2008) that the Stanford School of Education has adopted an OA mandate.  (Thanks to Stevan Harnad.) 

I'll post details when I have them.

UpdateFrom Les Carr (June 26), who is live blogging the ElPub conference:

I listened to John Willinsky give an inspirational keynote at ELPub 2008 this morning. He banged the drum for Open Access and announced an OA mandate for the Stanford School of Education. According to the story, he was describing the Harvard mandate to his colleagues in a meeting and they instantly voted to adopt a similar mandate themselves. Way to go!

Update.  Here's the video of Willinsky making the announcement in Toronto on June 26.  (Thanks to Bill Mann.)  His talk starts at minute 24:45 and the policy announcement starts at minute 33:25.  New detail:  the Stanford policy was approved by a unanimous faculty vote, like the Harvard FAS and Law School policies.

Resistance or distortion?

Gloria Monday, A campus corner that is for ever medieval, Times Higher Education Supplement, June 19, 2008.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  Excerpt:

...I’ve sat in enough rooms where people’s PowerPoint presentations have failed to materialise to develop a healthy scepticism about claims of technological enhancement - especially in a place like ours, where the entire IT system collapses every six months or so. Big D, our vice-chancellor, has been getting hot under the collar about this, and we’ve seen at least four IT directors come and go in an unnervingly short time....

What makes this particularly irritating is that we are also getting daily e-mails (well, when the system is actually functioning) urging us to comply with Big D’s grand idea for us all to put everything we have ever written up on the web. One of his henchmen came to talk to our department to convince us that this would be another great leap forward. I asked about copyright and was told that it was irrelevant. “Look,” I said, “I may earn only a few pounds a year in royalties, but I don’t see why I should be deprived of that as well as having to pay additional parking charges.” ...

Comments.  Monday has chosen her slant --for example, the VC's rep was a "henchman".   But there's a lot wrong with her story even taking it at face value. 

  • No university in the world has proposed an OA policy to disseminate "everything [faculty] have ever written".  It's far more likely that Monday misunderstood, or exaggerates, than that her institution was the first.
  • No university with an OA policy believes that copyright is irrelevant.  It's far more likely Monday misunderstood, or exaggerates, than that her institution was the first.
  • No university mandates OA for royalty-producing work.  It's far more likely Monday misunderstood, or exaggerates, than that her institution was the first.

Gabriel Egan has posted a good response to the THES comment section for Monday's article:

The "grand idea" of putting academics' publications on the web did not originate with "Big D" and although Gloria Monday's resistance is understandable, some reflection ought to overcome it. Currently, academics give their research results (books and articles) to commercial publishers virtually for free (as Monday says, the royalties are tiny) and the publishers then sell these results back to the university in the form of expensive books and journal subscriptions.

The state thus pays for research twice: once by employing academics to discover things and a second time by buying the knowledge back from a third party (the publishers) to whom the academics gave it. This arrangement made some kind of sense when the dissemination of knowledge required extensive capital investment in printing presses, warehouses, and distribution chains. It's much harder to make the case now for allowing academics to sell their research outcomes to private publishing houses and compelling the university to buy it back again. Those academics who fear putting their own stuff on their university's Institutional Repository might want to take a look at what is already been given away on the Institutional Repositories of other universities. Having done that, they might well discover that even taking into account only the narrowest of self interests--namely their own access to the high quality research they want to read--they have more to gain than lose by this development.

SPARC honors Harvard FAS for its OA policy

The Harvard University Faculty of Arts and Sciences was just named the SPARC Innovator for 2008.  From today's announcement:

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) has named the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University as the newest SPARC Innovators for their unanimous vote in support of a policy that ensures Open Access to the faculty’s published research results.

A February 12 vote made the Harvard faculty the first in the U.S. to embrace an Open Access directive and the first to grant permission to the university to make their articles openly available. The policy, drafted by a 10-member provost’s committee, was ratified by unanimous vote of a quorum of faculty members....

“The FAS vote confirms that broadening access to their collective output is of fundamental importance to our faculty, and that they are willing to take strong and decisive action to ensure the accessibility of their works,” adds Stuart M. Shieber, professor of computer science at Harvard, Chair of the provost’s committee, and recently named director of the university’s new Office of Scholarly Communication.

The new SPARC Innovator profile details the process that led to the faculty’s ultimate vote.  It explores motivations behind the decision to take action, looks at how members of the faculty were informed and engaged, why the Open Access requirement and its opt-out provision emerged, and how Harvard has paved the way for other institutions to follow suit.

“People think Harvard can do this kind of thing because Harvard is so rich,” said Shieber. “The irony is that the reason people here got involved was the financial unsustainability – even at Harvard – of the current scholarly publishing regime, which has led to a steady erosion of access as we and other institutions must cancel subscriptions. The goal of this and future policies we will develop is not to save money. The goal is to broaden access.”

“Harvard’s leadership on this issue is an inspiration to academic institutions across the country,” said Diane Graves, University Librarian at Trinity University in San Antonio. “Thanks to Harvard’s prestigious reputation and the unanimous vote by the Arts and Sciences faculty, colleges and universities throughout North America have the incentive to start – or strengthen – similar conversations between their libraries and the faculty....”

“It always takes more work to be first,” said Michael Carroll, professor of law at Villanova University and consultant on the policy. “The trail has now been broken and it’s a lot easier for others to follow.” ...

PS:  Congratulations to Harvard FAS, and especially Stuart Shieber, for this well-earned recognition, and kudos once again for the pioneering OA policy and stunning, unanimous faculty vote.

More on whether gold OA should wait for green OA

Stevan Harnad, Waiting for Gold, Open Access Archivangelism, June 25, 2008.  Excerpt:

Richard Poynder asks (in the American Scientist Open Access Forum):

[1] Is it true that a Gold OA article-processing-charge model will create a situation in which "publishers are operating in a genuinely competitive market to offer a service that is good value for money"?

[2] If it is true, then is not Stevan Harnad's concern that before moving to Gold OA we must first "downsize publishing and its costs to just the costs of peer review" by "offloading access-provision, archiving and their costs onto the network of Green OA Institutional Repositories" a misplaced concern?

Excellent question(s)!

i. The answer to Question [1] would be "Yes" if all or most (refereed) journals today were Gold OA. But the vast majority of journals are non-OA. Hence the competition is just among a minority of journals (about 10-15%, and mostly not the top 10-15%).

ii. Meanwhile, without universal Green OA, the functions of access-provision and archiving -- and their costs -- continue to be a part of journal publishing, both Gold OA and non-OA, with all journals also still providing the PDF (with its costs) too....I just point out that this is a long way from providing just peer review alone. Nor does there look to be a transition scenario, in the absence of Green OA and a distributed network of Green OA Institutional Repositories to take over the function of access-provision and archiving.

iii. The answer to question [1] being hence "No," conditional question [2] becomes moot.

iv. There is a known, tried, tested way of scaling to 100% OA, and it has been demonstrated to work: Green OA self-archiving and Green OA self-archiving mandates.

v. Unlike Gold OA, which not only faces substantial scaling problems but is not in the hands of the research community, Green OA is entirely in the hands of the research community and can be (and has been) mandated (and the mandates work).

vi. So what are we waiting for?

Comments.  I agree that these are excellent questions. 

  • My answer to [1] is yes.  Not all OA journals are or will be fee-based.  But for those that are, there will be some market-like competition to deliver value comparable to the fee, or to keep fees within shouting distance of value.  I say "market-like" because there will still be forces at work reducing market competition, such as journal prestige, at least when that prestige is less a function of present value than past value, longevity, and support by conservative promotion and tenure committees.  There will also be hybrid OA journals feeling no pressure to keep fees low because they don't need author uptake and can always fall back on subscriptions.  With these qualifications, we should see some competition among fee-based OA journals on the level of the fee.  At least we should see more competition of that kind than we see today among subscription-based TA journals on the price of subscriptions.  In general, TA journals compete for submissions but not for subscriptions.  They are largely insulated from price competition by fact that they publish different papers, or are not fungible.  Hence, inexpensive and even free journals don't remove pressure on libraries to subscribe to expensive journals, even when the rival journals occupy the same research niche.  Of course competition among TA journals is also reduced by bundling, which makes it difficult for libraries to cancel even unused or second-rate journals.  Hence, to say that there will be more fee competition among fee-based OA journals than there is currently price competition among TA journals is to set the bar pretty low.  But I'm predicting that there will be at least that much competition.  There could be much more.
  • My answer to [2] is probably well-known and I won't dwell on it here.  We should pursue gold and green OA (OA journals and OA repositories) in parallel.  They are compatible and complementary, and neither needs to wait for the other.

OA video from OA portal of European national libraries

The European Library has launched a YouTube Channel.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Publishing guide now covers OA journals

The second edition of Abby Day's book, How to Get Research Published in Journals (Gower, February 2008) now includes advice on publishing in OA journals.  (Thanks to Annette Hexelschneider.)


  • I haven't seen what she says about OA journals but look forward to finding out. 
  • I'd like to see publishing guides explain that you can provide OA to your own peer-reviewed articles by (1) publishing them in OA journals or (2) by publishing them in conventional TA journals and depositing the peer-reviewed manuscripts an OA repository.  (I'm not saying that Day doesn't say this herself; I just don't know.)

Easier proof that PD books are PD

David Weinberg, Did lord knows how many books just enter the public domain, thanks to Google and some good-hearted folk?  Joho the blog, June 25, 2008.  Excerpt:

Jacob Kramer-Duffield at the Berkman Center explains the significance of Google’s new ability to search the copyright renewal notices for books published between 1923 and 1963. Publishers of those books had to file a renewal notice to hold on to their copyrights. It’s been very difficult to determine whether those notices were ever filed, so, when in doubt, we’ve assumed that they’re protected, even though most of them undoubtedly are not. This is known as the “orphaned works” problem.

But, thanks to a gargantuan effort by a whole bunch of people — thank you! — that information has been digitized and Google can search it. Google Book Search and The Open Content Alliance will use this list to provide open access to works that otherwise were kept out of the hands of the public because their copyright status just couldn’t be determined.

Project Gutenberg, The Universal Library Project, and the Distributed Proofreaders deserve a lot of credit, praise, and hosannahs for accomplishing this task.

Comment.  It can be incredibly difficult to determine the copyright status of a given work, even when we know the author, year and country of publication.   See for example the flowcharts from Cornell, Harvard, and the U of North Carolina, the problem of orphan works, and Denise Troll Covey's important research on Acquiring Copyright Permission to Digitize and Provide Open Access to Books.  But as long as the determination depends on published information, it was only a matter of time before the relevant information was digitized and made open to search engines.  I love the way we'll now be able to move a large number of books from the domain of unknown status, where institutions feel impelled to err on the side of assuming copyright, to the provable public domain.  I also love the way we can now use free information to free information.

Update.  For much more detail, see Barbara Quint, 1923–1963: Google Book Search Targeting More Books for Public Domain? Information Today NewsBreaks, June 26, 2008.

University presses and author addenda

Sanford G. Thatcher, "From the University Presses," Against the Grain, June 2008.  Not even an abstract is free online.  But here's the blurb from the table of contents:

Does a publisher need to worry about the development and use of the author’s addendum?

Commentary on GSK cancer data

Latha Jishnu, GSK's big bang on open drug discovery, Business Standard, June 25, 2008.
It was unexpected and went almost unnoticed. Last Friday, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the world's second largest drug maker, announced in Philadelphia that it was donating an important slice of its research on cancer cells to the cancer research community to boost the collaborative battle against this disease. Only a couple of specialty wire services in the US picked up this news; the mainstream press ignored what appears to be a marked — and dramatic shift — in the approach to drug discovery.

What we are seeing is the first big bang contribution to open source drug discovery (OSDD), an initiative to rope in researchers, universities and companies to make drug breakthroughs less expensive and time-consuming. ...

[The GSK data] is a godsend for small research units and academic institutions which will have access to this information without incurring what the company describes as "the prohibitive cost and time involved in identifying and cataloguing each cell line". The hope is that somewhere, sometime, some brilliant researcher or two will make a stunning breakthrough sifting through this data.

The critical component in OSDD is, of course, the information network that supports it. ... caBIG, already a huge repository of genetic information, is a network that will allow all constituencies in the cancer community — from researchers and physicians to patients — to share information that is aimed at accelerating the discovery of new approaches for the detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer. ...
See also our earlier post on this story.

Update. See also the comments on the Science Commons blog:
... Why would a major pharmaceutical company give away information that its researchers painstakingly uncovered? Put simply, if the goal is to speed the translation of data into drugs, it helps significantly to have more researchers looking at the data and identifying leads. ...

Award for PANGAEA data repository

International Award for Information Technology Goes to Research Institutions in the German Federal State of Bremen for the Data Library PANGAEA, press release, June 25, 2008.
The Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in the Helmholtz Association (AWI) and the Center for Marine Environmental Sciences (MARUM) received the 21st Century Achievement Award of the Computerworld Honors Program in the category Environment, which is one of the most prestigious awards in information technology.

The award has been granted in response to PANGAEA's implementation and successful operation of a unique information system for archiving, publishing and processing of earth system data. ...

During the last decades the capability and precision of tools used to sample and analyze our earth have increased exponentially - with an analogous increase in the resulting data output. At the same time, the information technology has made significant advances, which allow storage, distribution and processing of a nearly unlimited amount of data. Not concurrent with this progress is, however, the development of a related culture for a sustainable delivery of scientific data to future research. It is no longer feasible to publish data in publications. In spite of this, the bibliographic archiving of primary data from projects and publications is still not an integral part of the scientific workflow and thus most of the data are getting lost while hardware and software are changing quickly. Today this is considered to be one of the most crucial deficiencies in science. Various institutions, foundations and international organizations like the OECD are currently formulating recommendations for an improved data archiving.

Thanks to the support of AWI's computer centre, scientists at AWI and MARUM after many years of work were able to build a sustainable information system. PANGAEA, as a universal data library, is also a publication system and allows integration of data in the established process of scientific publications. Thus Pangaea is an information system, which encourages scientists to freely archive their data in an open access environment.

Through a well-defined editorial workflow, the archived data are related to any information required for its understanding being citable and accessible in formats following international standards. ... Extraction of individual subsets from the inventory is enabled through a data warehouse ...

On OA to law and OA to PSI

Ed Felten, Copyright, Technology, and Access to the Law, Freedom to Tinker, June 24, 2008.

... Suppose I gave you a big stack of paper containing all of the laws ever passed by Congress (and signed by the President). This wouldn’t be very useful, if what you wanted was to know whether some action you were contemplating would violate the law. How would you find the laws bearing on that action? And if you did find such a law, how would you determine whether it had been repealed or amended later, or how courts had interpreted it?

Making the law accessible in practice, and not just in theory, requires a lot of work. You need reliable summaries, topic-based indices, reverse-citation indices (to help you find later documents that might affect the meaning of earlier ones), and so on. In the old days of paper media, all of this had to be printed and distributed in large books, and updated editions had to be published regularly. How to make this happen was an interesting public policy problem.

The traditional answer has been copyright. Generally, the laws themselves (statutes and court opinions) are not copyrightable, but extra-value content such as summaries and indices can be copyrighted. The usual theory of copyright applies: give the creators of extra-value content some exclusive rights, and the profit motive will ensure that good content is created.

This has some similarity to our Princeton model for government transparency, which urges government to publish information in simple open formats, and leave it to private parties to organize and present the information to the public. ...

All of this changed with the advent of computers and the Internet, which made many of the previously difficult steps cheaper and easier. ...

What does this mean for public policy? First, we can expect more competition to deliver legal information to the public, thanks to the reduced barriers to entry. Second, as competition drives down prices we’ll see [more diverse market actors]. More competition and lower prices will mean better and more effective access to the law for citizens. Third, copyright will still play a role by supporting the steps that remain costly, such as the writing of summaries.

Finally, it will matter more than ever exactly how government provides access to the raw information. If, as sometimes happens now, government provides the raw information in an awkward or difficult-to-use form, private actors must invest in converting it into a more usable form. These investments might not have mattered much in the past when the rest of the process was already expensive; but in the Internet age they can make a big difference. Given access to the right information in the right format, one person can produce a useful mashup or visualization tool with a few weeks of spare-time work. Government, by getting the details of data publication right, can enable a flood of private innovation, not to mention a better public debate.

New OA Egyptology journal in French

i-Medjat is a new OA journal of Egyptology published in French by the Unité de Recherche-Action Guadeloupe. The inaugural issue is now available. (Thanks to Charles Ellwood Jones.)

Scholars' perspective on scholarly archiving

Catherine C. Marshall, From writing and analysis to the repository: taking the scholars' perspective on scholarly archiving, 8th ACM/IEEE-CS joint conference on Digital libraries (Pittsburgh, June 15-20, 2008). Abstract:
This paper reports the results of a qualitative field study of the scholarly writing, collaboration, information management, and long-term archiving practices of researchers in five related subdisciplines. The study focuses on the kinds of artifacts the researchers create in the process of writing a paper, how they exchange and store materials over the short term, how they handle references and bibliographic resources, and the strategies they use to guarantee the long term safety of their scholarly materials. The findings reveal: (1) the adoption of a new CIM infrastructure relies crucially on whether it compares favorably to email along six critical dimensions; (2) personal scholarly archives should be maintained as a side-effect of collaboration and the role of ancillary material such as datasets remains to be worked out; and (3) it is vital to consider agency when we talk about depositing new types of scholarly materials into disciplinary repositories.
See also the comments by Les Carr:
... [The article] reports on a small scale study of the information management practices of research authors as they go about the task of writing papers, and the implications for repositories. The paper is noteworthy because it highlights the role of email as a personal archiving solution and argues that any repository platform will need to do better than email in a range of criteria to gain user acceptance.

Well, it's a new target for repository developers, and perhaps a new marketing slogan to look forward to (EPrints: Sucks Less Than Hotmail). ...

Spanish article on progress of OA

Ernest Abadal and Reme Melero, Las universidades y el apoyo institucional al Open access [Universities and institutional support for open access], ThinkEPI, June 19, 2008. (Thanks to Documenea.)

The article discusses the EUA recommendations, the SPARC/Science Commons white paper on institutional OA policies, and recent actions by the University of Barcelona and the University Rey Juan Carlos I. From the conclusion [roughly translated]:
Why must universities play a role in the free diffusion of knowledge? Traditionally reference is made to the two basic missions of the university: teaching and research. In recent years a third mission has received emphasis, the transfer and diffusion of knowledge, which emphasizes the importance that the creation of knowledge pass beyond the walls of the university so that it may be enjoyed by other organizations and people ...
Update. See also this Dutch translation of the article.

Online publications now valid for zoological nomenclature

The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature has issued a Statement on Validity & Electronic Publication, clarifying earlier confusion over whether online publications are taxonomic naming purposes. Excerpt:
... [T]he Commission recognises that peer-reviewed, high-quality scientific journals with electronic-only versions and digital archiving are becoming increasingly common and desirable places to publish. We are currently working on Code amendments to enable the validity of nomenclatural acts published in such journals. We anticipate resolution of this issue within the next year (March 2009). ...
See also Matthew Cockerill, ICZN takes first step towards bringing zoological species nomenclature into the electronic age, BioMed Central Blog, June 24, 2008:
... The difficulties involved in publishing species descriptions in online open access journals are ironic, given that the closed-access traditional publishing model causes even more problems for taxonomists than for other researchers. Because species are defined by the articles which first describe them, taxonomic work often depends crucially on access to previously published articles, and copyright restrictions on use present a major problem for taxonomic databases, to which open access publication is the natural solution. ...

Update. Correction: Online publications are not yet valid for zoological nomenclature but may soon become valid. Thanks to Donat Agosti for the correction.

ACRL permits CC licenses

The Association of College and Research Libraries has posted a new Publications Agreements FAQ for authors in its serials and monographs. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.) From the FAQ:
What about Creative Commons?
We didn’t want to require our authors to publish their works using a Creative Commons license, but you are welcome to attach the CC license of your choosing to your work after it is published by ACRL. ...
Comment. This doesn't look like a new policy: the FAQ also states that authors only relinquish right of first publication and various non-exclusive rights, and retain copyright. That means authors are still able to license and sub-license (e.g. with a Creative Commons license) their work to others. This new statement just makes that right explicit.

UM digital book collection growing rapidly

Roy Tennant, Growing Collection of Open Access Books, Tennant: Digital Libraries, June 24, 2008.
When the University of Michigan announced that it was providing a set of records for harvest via the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH) of all the public domain books digitized by Google, I promptly grabbed them and put up a prototype search service. At the time (December 2007) there were nearly 110,000 records.

Now there are about 130,000. If this growth rate continues to hold, it means that an additional 40-50,000 public access books will be added by the University of Michigan each year. If additional Google libraries do as the University of Michigan is doing, we may soon have several hundred thousand or more open access books available. Since the University of Michigan is offering MARC records for harvesting, there really isn't anything preventing libraries from adding these records to their catalogs and perhaps dramatically increasing access to books for their local users. ...

UNESCO report on journal access programs for developing countries

Improving Access to Scientific Information for Developing Countries: UK Learned Societies and Journal Access Programmes, a new report from the Improving Access to Scientific Information Working Group of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, May 2008.  Excerpt:

...While the open access movement continues to gain positive ground in increasing access to research findings, most up-to-date scientific literature is at present still made accessible on a subscription-only basis. Strengthening scientific capacity in developing countries has therefore been greatly hampered by their inability to afford essential scientific literature due to the combined forces of the high cost of journal subscriptions, declining institutional budgets and currency weaknesses. In a survey conducted by the World Health Organization in 2000, researchers and academics in developing countries ranked access to subscription-based journals as one of their most pressing problems; in countries with annual incomes of US$1000 and less per person, 56% of institutions surveyed had no current subscriptions to international journals....

This report was undertaken by the UK National Commission for UNESCO?s Natural Sciences Committee to assess the participation of UK scientific learned societies in existing journal access programmes which provide free or low access to scholarly literature to developing countries. It is based on the results of a survey of 40 scientific learned societies in the UK, conducted between August and October 2007....

Based on the findings detailed in this report, and the conclusions drawn from these, the UK National Commission for UNESCO makes the following recommendations...:

Participation by All Scientific Learned Societies and Organisations

  • ...Journal access programmes for developing countries play a hugely important role in providing essential access to up-to-date scientific literature.
  • Those learned societies, and their third party publishers, which participate in these access programmes provide a highly commendable service for countries in need. Wider participation is urgently required to make journal and other relevant content, such as databases and reference books, available to institutions and readers in developing countries....

Also see Naomi Antony, Journal access programmes 'need wider input', SciDev.Net, June 25, 2008.  Excerpt:

Wider participation in access programmes is essential to make journals and other relevant content available to developing country researchers, says a report....

The survey found that 25 of the societies participate in one or more journal access programmes, with the PERI (Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information) programme of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) the most popular.

Societies who currently did not participate in access programmes cited lack of awareness as a key reason....

Richard Reece, a member of the working group that produced the report and a professor of life science at the University of Manchester, told SciDev.Net that, in the past, there might have been reluctance from some learned societies to participate in such programmes due to fears regarding intellectual property ? perhaps from those whose work they publish.

But he added, "I don't think that is the case [now]. I think that we have to try and level the playing field out and give those that don't have access to this [scientific] information much more ready access." ...

[According to Natasha Bevan, natural sciences programme secretary for the UK National Commission for UNESCO,] "We need to see whether or not, based on this feedback, UNESCO would be able to play a facilitating role. It all depends on the interest that we get."


  • The chief differences between these journal access programs and OA are that (1) OA literature is free for everyone with an internet connection, not just for those at designated research institutions in designated developing countries, (2) OA requires no passwords for access, and no methods for sharing passwords with beneficiaries and hiding them from everyone else, and (3) OA journals can easily remove permission barriers as well as price barriers, but TA journals in an access program cannot easily do so.
  • The UNESCO report urges society publishers to participate in a journal access program, but doesn't urge them to support OA, not even green OA (allowing author-initiated self-archiving).  The report discusses OA, but makes no recommendations for or against it.  This may be due to the report's narrow focus on access programs.  But it recommends access programs in part for their "hugely important role in providing essential access to up-to-date scientific literature", a criterion on which OA is clearly superior.  The omission is especially regrettable in light of UNESCO's past support for OA.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Motivating and automating repository deposits

EM-Loader - Open Access deposits made easier, an announcement of the EM-Loader project from EDINA, June 24, 2008.  Excerpt:

One of the most commonly heard complaints about institutional repositories is that it can be time-consuming to deposit content via the 'self-archiving' method. The EM-Loader project is investigating a possible solution using integrated personal publication list management tools.

We will show proof of concept at an early stage by building a web service module that connects two existing services: the Depot, the JISC repository for researchers who do not have other provision; and, a service for researchers to build a web page listing their publications. Instead of recreating interoperability standards from scratch, the project has adopted and expanded the SWORD Deposit API.

In our revised approach we suggest that depositing papers into repositories can be made easier and rewarding for researchers by concentrating initially on compiling a personal publications list with complete metadata and then performing a batch submission to the repository.

Traditionally stage 1 - compiling a personal bibliography - is by manual entry, but this can be made much easier with batch search and select of items from citation databases such as Web of Science and PubMed, and import from personal bibliography tools such as BibTeX, EndNote and Reference Manager. Full text of papers can be uploaded and attached to metadata in stage 2....

We believe this complete approach to repository submission is easier for researchers than direct submission of individual papers. By adopting this workflow within the Depot service, we hope to help populate more open access repositories, by making it simpler and more rewarding for researchers to submit their papers....

ElPub presentations

ElPub 2008:  Open Scholarship: Authority, Community and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 (Toronto, June 25-27, 2008) starts today, but the presentations are already online.

Thanks to EPT, which links to some of the presentations most relevant to OA in developing countries.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Variables that affect online sharing

Study Finds Men More Than Women Share Creative Work Online, a press release from Northwestern University, June 23, 2008.  (Thanks to Wired Campus.)  Excerpt:

A Northwestern University study finds that men are more likely to share their creative work online than women despite the fact that women and men engage in creative activities at essentially equal rates.

“Because sharing information on the Internet today is a form of participating in public culture and contributing to public discourse, that tells us men’s voices are being disproportionately heard,” says Eszter Hargittai, assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University. Hargittai co-authored the study with Northwestern researcher Gina Walejko.

Overall, almost two-thirds of men reported posting their work online while only half of women reported doing so. When Hargittai and Northwestern's Walejko controlled for self-reported digital literacy and Web know-how, however, they found that men and women actually posted their material about equally.

“This suggests that the Internet is not an equal playing field for men and women since those with more online abilities -- whether perceived or actual -- are more likely to contribute online content,” says Hargittai.

The study titled “The Participation Divide: Content Creation and Sharing in the Digital Age” recently appeared in the journal Information, Communication and Society.

“It appears that lack of perceived skill is holding women back from putting their creative content out there,” says Hargittai.  She says that other factors that may be responsible for the observed difference, although not measured in the study, may relate to lack of confidence in the quality of one’s work or privacy concerns....


  • This study was limited to creative works like music and movies.  Does anyone know of a similar study on research literature or data?   For example, has anyone looked at how self-archiving breaks down along sex lines?
  • Note this important qualifier:   "When Hargittai and Northwestern's Walejko controlled for self-reported digital literacy and Web know-how, however, they found that men and women actually posted their material about equally."  Hence, if you're looking for causes, look more for differences in web skills (actual and self-reported) than for some hypothetical sex-based difference in willingness to share.  That raises an intriguing question.  Do differences in web skills (actual and self-reported) affect the rates of self-archiving in similar ways?  Is it possible that lack of web skills (actual and self-reported) is a little-noticed but gradually-vanishing obstacle to green OA?
  • The article is online here.  It's not OA.

Update.  See our earlier post on RePEC data on the balance of male and female self-archiving in economics.  Women represent 19% of economics faculty in the US but 14.5% of RePEc authors.  On the 1000 top-cited economists on Tom Coupé’s list, 32.4% of the men are not represented in RePEc, but 44.4% of the women are not represented in RePEc.

Database of book info goes OA

On May 20, FictionDB began providing free access to its basic data (authors, new releases, pseudonyms, series, reviews, book detail). Premium features are still available only to subscribers. (Thanks to Information Today.)

Guidelines for reporting the results of medical research

Iveta Simera and four co-authors, Guidelines for Reporting Health Research: The EQUATOR Network's Survey of Guideline Authors, PLoS Medicine, June 24, 2008.  Excerpt:

...Unclear reporting of a study's methodology and findings prevents critical appraisal of the study and limits effective dissemination. Inadequate reporting of medical research carries with it an additional risk of inadequate and misleading study results being used by patients and health care providers. Patients may be harmed and scarce health care resources may be expended on ineffective health care treatments through such inadequate reporting. There is a wealth of evidence that much of published medical research is reported poorly....

Reporting guidelines are not routinely used on a large scale, and their potential is not being fully realised....

Also see the PLoS press release on this article.

Comment.  The article surveys 37 different sets of guidelines for reporting the results of medical research.  But it doesn't indicate whether any of them recommend OA as a way to advance the goals of the guidelines:  critical appraisal of the work and uptake for further research and patient care.

Open data, flawed data, and science

Peter Murray-Rust, Data-driven science and repositories: consideration of errors, petermr’s blog, June 24, 2008.
... As we have blogged earlier (CrystalEye - an example of a data repository) CrystalEye
was developed by Nick Day as part of his PhD work. The primary aim is to see if large amounts of data - larger than a human can inspect - can be reliably used for scientific work. Before describing this I shall briefly review “errors” and indicate the implications for data repositories.

... [W]e all know that the scientific literature contains “errors”. ... My discussion will be very superficial and is not intended to be a systematic or authoritative coverage; it’s more an indication to data-driven scientists and data repositarians of issues they should address.

“Errors” can include:
  • variance in the original experiments ...
  • systematic errors (bias) in the measurements ...
  • misunderstandering or misreporting of the physical quantity or measurement ...
  • omission of relevant independent variables. ...
  • omission of units of measurement ...
  • Transcription and typographical errors ...
  • Our inability to describe effects comprehensively ...
We therefore need to know which of these are important. If typographical errors are very low (e.g. less than 1% probability in a data set) we can concentrate on effects which occur more frequently (say 20% of the time). If there is a typo in every data set we may have to use statistical methods to detect them or even abandon the effort. If we estimate a quantity by two different methods and the variance between them is low, then this gives confidence in the precision of each (though says nothing about the accuracy). ...

Overview of OA in Brazil

Sely M. S. Costa and Fernando C. L. Leite, Brazilian open access initiatives: key strategies and challenges, ELPUB2008: 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing (Toronto, June 25-27, 2008). Abstract:
This overview of key Open Access (OA) strategies in Brazil over the last three years describes the guidelines, tools and methodologies needed for Brazil to become an effective actor in the worldwide open access movement. We review general trends and awareness of OA, as well as ongoing developments and policies, opportunities and challenges, both national and international. The institutionalization of Brazilian scientific research is described, along with advances in open access journals and repositories, as well as institutional and governmental policies and the problems that have slowed their progress. Among the major actions targeted recently are plans and actions specific to Portuguese-speaking countries, as well as international collaboration. We conclude with challenges and opportunities ahead.

Code4Lib Journal adopts CC BY license

The Code4Lib Journal announced on June 23 that it had adopted the Creative Commons Attribution license for its articles. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.) From the editorial:
... In order to facilitate the ability of our readers to build upon the ideas presented in the Journal, beginning with Issue 3 all articles are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license. The CC-BY license lets you reuse, share, and build upon the work presented in the article, as long as you credit the author for the original creation. This licensing is required for inclusion in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and to receive a SPARC Europe Seal. Code snippets included in the text are included under the CC-BY license. For other code included with an article, we recommend, but don’t require, an open source license. We are contacting all authors with articles published in previous issues to request they license their previously published Code4Lib Journal articles under the CC-BY license. ...
Comment. The editorial is correct that the CC BY license is required to receive the SPARC Europe Seal for Open Access Journals. But it's not correct that the license is required for inclusion in the DOAJ: open licensing is not part of the DOAJ selection criteria.

Publishing or privatizing?

Les Carr thinking out loud:

Why do they call it "publishing"? Wouldn't it be much more accurate to say "I've just had a paper privatised?"

More on flipping TA journals to OA

SCOAP3 and the pre-emptive "flip" model for Gold OA conversion, Open Access Archivangelism, June 23, 2008. 

Summary:  Journal articles are purchased by institutions, or consortia of institutions, in bulk (jointly aggregated in journals, multi-journal fleets, or even multi-publisher fleets of fleets), whereas individual articles are published by authors individually, in their journal of choice (and only if and when they successfully pass that journal's peer review).

Mark Rowse, former CEO of INGENTA, a journal subscription aggregator, has suggested that institutions and institutional consortia could "flip" collectively, from paying annually for subscription licenses that buy-in journals in bulk, to paying annually instead for the publishing (Gold OA) of their own institution's outgoing articles, likewise in bulk, in the same fleet of journals.

SCOAP3 is an experimental implementation of a pre-emptive Rowsean flip, but it is local, and in a unique field (particle physics) that already provides 100% Green OA by self-archiving. SCOAP3's is hence simply a consortial subsidy ("sponsorship") to replace former subscriptions.

This is unlikely to be globally scalable across disciplines, institutions, authors, articles and (competing) journals, not only because the asking price today is too high, but because successfully passing peer review is an individual author - article - journal - referee matter rather than something to be annually "bulk-subscribed" to, consortially, in advance. 

By way of an alternative, institutional Green OA self-archiving and mandates, unlike a Rowsean flip, can not only scale universally to provide 100% (Green) OA, but they can also prepare the ground for an eventual non-pre-emptive, non-Rowsean "flip" to Gold OA, by first offloading access-provision, archiving and their costs onto the network of Green OA Institutional Repositories, thereby helping to downsize publishing and its costs to just the costs of peer review.

Those remaining costs can then be covered on an individual paper basis (non-bulk, non-consortial, non-aggregated, non-subscription, non-annual, non-pre-emptive) out of individual institutional subscription cancellation savings -- if and when Green OA should ever make subscriptions globally unsustainable. (Till then, no need for any pre-emptive conversion at all.)


  • Stevan links to Mark Rowse's one-paragraph description of the flip model from a 2003 interview.  For much more detail, see the article-length elaboration I wrote with Rowse in October 2007.  The long version answers most of Stevan's objections.  For example, the model does not require high publication fees.  It's compatible with any low fees that actually cover a journal's expenses.  In fact, the model includes incentives to reduce fees over time.  (In my article I even sketch ways in which a journal could flip to a no-fee OA journal rather than a fee-based OA journal.)  The model does not say that all journals can flip successfully, and identifies the conditions that would enable them to do so.  It doesn't claim to work for all journals in all fields, although it would claim to work for journals outside physics and SCOAP3.  The model does not depend on the consortial purchasing arrangement adopted by SCOAP3.  It can be adopted by single journals or by a publisher's suite of journals, whether or not the institutions that formerly paid subscriptions are working in concert.  Or to put the final point another way, the Rowsean flip is a journal initiative, not a subscriber initiative, and does not depend on subscriber consortia.  (In my article, however, I sketch ways in which university consortia could invite or persuade publishers to flip their journals.)
  • I completely agree with Stevan on the need for green OA mandates at universities.  But those mandates are entirely compatible with the Rowsean flip model.  Green OA mandates, for example, don't require universities to cancel TA journals.  And conversely, subscription payments may be onerous, but they don't prevent universities from adopting green OA policies.  But if universities with green OA policies can continue to pay for TA journals, then they can continue to pay the same amounts to the same journals after they have flipped to OA.  The compatibility is even clearer if those amounts do in fact decline over time.

Interview with Jens Vigen on SCOAP3

INIST-CNRS has interviewed Jens Vigen for Libre Acc?s ? l'information scientifique & technique on the CERN SCOAP3 project, June 13, 2008.  Read the interview in French or in Google's English.

OA publishing fund at U of Calgary

U of Calgary funds Open Access Authors Fund, a press release from the U of Calgary, June 23, 2008.  (Thanks to Jennifer McLennan.)  Excerpt:

University of Calgary professors and graduate students will now have access to a $100,000 Open Access Authors Fund designed to increase the amount of publicly available research.

The new fund, announced today by Thomas Hickerson, Vice-Provost, Libraries and Cultural Resources and University Librarian, is the first of its magnitude in Canada....

The new fund will provide U of C faculty and graduate students with financial support to cover Open Access author fees. Open Access publishing is a rapidly expanding development in the exchange of research information. An increasing number of academic journals make research literature openly available via the internet without the restrictions on authors and without the high costs to users imposed by traditional subscription-based publications.

This new publishing model does, however, often require that authors pay fees contributing to the costs of publication. With the establishment of this new fund, researchers at the University of Calgary will have the freedom to exercise their own choice in publishing decisions....

?The Open Access movement is a significant initiative in bringing our research activity more quickly and broadly to the awareness of the scholarly community and to the public at large,? said Dr. Rose Goldstein, Vice-President, Research. ?The establishment of this fund by Libraries and Cultural Resources is a crucial development for our faculty and graduate students.?

Open Access publishing allows authors to retain copyright control over their work and promotes broad educational use of the latest information.  Open Access is also a key means by which university research can serve the larger community, providing public access to the new findings in everything from cancer treatment to global warming....


  • Kudos to Calgary for joining half a dozen other universities worldwide in launching such a fund.  It's important for universities to join funding agencies in their willingness to support publishing fees at fee-based OA journals (as I once put it) "today as an investment in a superior scholarly communication system, tomorrow from the savings on canceled subscriptions." 
  • On the other hand, any university willing to pay these fees should also be willing to adopt a strong policy encouraging or requiring OA archiving for the research output of the institution.  The two strategies (gold OA and green OA) are compatible and complementary.  But a green OA policy costs less and covers all the peer-reviewed articles published by faculty, regardless of the journals in which they choose to publish.  Calgary has an institutional repository, but as far as I know it doesn't yet have a policy to fill it. 

Sharing data on human subjects

Stuart Macdonald, Anonymity and consent, DataShare Blog, June 19, 2008.
On Tuesday 17th June I attended a RELU / UK Data Archive workshop at the University of Edinburgh [Managing and sharing research data (Edinburgh, June 17, 2008)] on managing and sharing research data. The workshop addressed issues surrounding confidential research information and personal data; developing consent agreements; anonymisation techniques and access regulations to enable use and sharing of research data. It was apparent that there were no real broadbrush solutions to anonymisation, consent, sharing issues in the social sciences and that each data set, each audience, each set of participants have to be looked at in turn to determine optimal effectiveness.

There were parallels to be drawn with regards to data repository policies on the subjects of disclosure and consent however what was evident from this well organised and well presented workshop was that social science data does not lend itself to open access environments the same way that data from the primary and natural sciences do. In addition to confidentiality, disclosure and consent, we also have the issue of hierarchical relationships between files (longitudinal/panel surveys etc) in addition to ethical and legal implications. ...

Monday, June 23, 2008

1 year anniversary of Nature Precedings

Hilary Spencer, Nature Precedings: One Year Later..., Nascent, June 19, 2008.
Nature Precedings launched back in June 2007 with the support of several partner organizations, including the British Library, the [European Bioinformatics Institute], Science Commons, and the Wellcome Trust. Since then it's been an exhilarating year. Wired described Nature Precedings as an island of innovation and several editorials in Nature journals throughout the past year have discussed how Nature Precedings can enhance scientific communication ...

Over the past year, researchers in a variety of disciplines ... have posted 475 documents and 180+ comments. Thousands of readers have signed up to comment, vote, and submit documents on the site, and we’ve seen steady growth in site traffic and posted documents. The Nature Precedings group on Nature Network has become a lively place with discussions on many topics including “findability” , posting negative results on Precedings and academic search engines.

In response to suggestions from you, our users and contributors, we’ve rolled out a number of new features ...

As we celebrate one year of Nature Precedings, we'll be releasing new features on the site in the upcoming weeks and making some additional announcements. We look forward to the year ahead!

GSK releases cancer genomic data via caBIG

GlaxoSmithKline announced on June 20 that it had released

... genomic profiling data for over 300 cancer cell lines via the National Cancer Institute’s cancer Bioinformatics Grid (caBIG) ...

The genomic data being shared by GSK through caBIGTM come from cell lines derived from a wide variety of tumors, including breast, prostate, lung and ovarian cancers. Researchers at academic institutions, small research facilities and non-profit organizations may benefit by not having to incur the prohibitive cost and time involved in identifying and cataloging each cell line. ...

Interested researchers can download this free data through caArray. GSKdata caArray, like all the tools in the caBIG suite, is free and open-source. ...
(Thanks to Wired.)

Presentations from CNI Task Force meeting

The presentations from the Coalition for Networked Information Spring 2008 Task Force Meeting (Minneapolis, April 7-8, 2008) are now online. Several are OA-related. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

Nature supplement on quantum coherence

Paying for fair use

I'm not covering in detail the Associated Press' unilateral attempt to limit fair use.  But the AP's latest move, charging fees for quotations, has a strong OA connection.  Cory Doctorow and Patrick Nielsen Hayden put it well:

In the name of "defin[ing] clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt" the Associated Press is now selling "quotation licenses" that allow bloggers...[and others] to quote their articles. The licenses start at $12.50 for quotations of 5-25 words. The licensing system exhorts you to snitch on people who publish without paying the blood-money, offering up to $1 million in reward money (they also think that "fair use" -- the right to copy without permission -- means "Contact the owner of the work to be sure you are covered under fair use.").

It gets better! If you pay to quote the AP, but you offend the AP in so doing, the AP "reserves the right to terminate this Agreement at any time if Publisher or its agents finds Your use of the licensed Content to be offensive and/or damaging to Publisher's reputation."

Over on Making Light, Patrick Nielsen Hayden nails it:

The New York Times, an AP member organization, refers to this as an "attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt." I suggest it?s better described as yet another attempt by a big media company to replace the established legal and social order with with a system of private law (the very definition of the word ?privilege?) in which a few private organizations get to dictate to the rest of society what the rules will be....Hey, why have laws? Let?s just ask established businesses what kinds of behaviors they find inconvenient, and then send the police around to shut those behaviors down. Imagine the effort we?ll save....

Freeing up PSI in the UK

Michael Cross, Austrian mountains: now 93% cheaper, The Guardian, June 19, 2008.  Excerpt:

In a remarkable turnabout in public policy, Britain is emerging as the champion of moves to require European governments to make data gathered and held by public bodies freely available to the knowledge economy....

Carol Tullo, head of the Office of Public Sector Information, last week backed proposals for reforms to give more teeth to a European directive governing the re-use of information collected by public bodies....

Tullo...was addressing an EU-funded network, ePSIplus, set up to examine the 2003 European directive on public sector information (PSI) and recommend new provisions. If adopted, the recommendations would encourage governments to make data available unless there was demonstrable reason not to, and to charge no more than the marginal cost of disseminating data - in effect, zero for digital information....

Call on the EC to free up public sector information

Recommendations and Supporting Evidence to the EC's 2008 Review of the PSI Re-use Directive.  A draft report from the EC's ePSIplus program.  (Thanks to Michael Cross.)  Excerpt:

4 Access to PSI

The challenge of ensuring that PSI can be discovered (i.e. is made available for discovery by public bodies) in order that it can be re-used remains an area in which progress is slower than it could or should be....

Whole tranches of PSI (perhaps especially data held by local authorities) remain holed up in inaccessible "silos" across every Member State....Gains in free access to information made under national FOI/access legislation and e-Government initiatives do not in general address the need to mine "deep" data held within the public sector.

In part this is a matter of the implementation of the right standards and infrastructure. In part it is also a matter of public sector attitudes and the lack of policy or operational incentives to prioritise the exposure of data on the web in a systematic way, for the purposes of re-users and others.

The solution may in future take a number of forms, including: the creation of national information asset registers with their own portals; creating and maintaining metadata in repositories which can be harvested by any service provider at national or European level; or of ensuring that information is exposed on the web to initiatives such as Google PSI. The potential benefits of newer semantic web and Web 2.0 technologies in enhancing access to and creative re-use of PSI is also a subject of rising interest which deserves attention.

Recommendation 4

4.1 ...Concertation between European bodies and frameworks such as the CEN/ISSS e-Government standards focus group, INSPIRE and the European Digital Library Initiative should be established by the Commission in order to arrive at a suitable set of standards, an infrastructure and an Action Plan which brings about steadily improving discovery of access to the full range of PSI.

4.2 Practical initiatives to create "asset registries" or other PSI infrastructures supporting re-use should be supported at national level and where cross-border in nature, at European level....

It has become macro-economic article of faith that by making PSI freely and easily accessible for re-use (the USA Federal model -- marginal costs pricing plus copyright waiver -- is often cited), the returns from taxation on growing business activity will greatly exceed the revenue expectations of public sector bodies which commercialise their information and data operations.

Studies and initiatives continue to occur sporadically with a view to demonstrating the case (e.g. the "Cambridge Study" into the UK Trading Funds, research initiated by OECD etc.) and continue to support this line upon which is, in essence, the main economic rationale on which the Directive depends.

Where public accounts are available and sufficiently transparent, the evidence suggests that profits from public sector commercialisation are frequently very modest and likewise that high proportions of income generated are made by charging the public sector for information which it provided itself in the first place, at the expense of the same taxpayers....

Recommendation 6

In the view of ePSIplus, no other course of action remains other than to continue and intensify work to establish and disseminate the economic case for low or no charges conclusively. The Commission should seek the support of at least one Member State in which conditions for longitudinal work can be established in at least one PSI sector, in order to create a convincing basis for effective dissemination to others....

Carl Zimmer on OA for science journalism

An anonymous blogger at SciBlog has interviewed Carl Zimmer.  Excerpt:

...How do you feel about open access publishing like PLOS/BMC?

I blogged about this here. I believe that open access papers will get more coverage in old and new media than papers published in traditional subscription journals. There are huge time advantages in reading open access journals. I can Google for a topic and in 2 seconds can be reading the entire article. If I come across a paper in a closed journal, I can?t get it immediately. The extra steps involved will inevitably push people toward open access models.

Another factor playing in open access?s favor is that it doesn?t create pointless conflicts between a journal and the people who write about what?s in it. One striking example involved a blogger who had written about a paper sourced from a subscription journal: This individual reproduced a figure and got an email threatening legal action. This looked really bad for the publisher and [the] blogosphere revolted. If I write a piece that is sourced from a PLOS paper and reproduce a figure on my blog, I know I won?t be harassed....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Blog notes on open law

Liveblogging the CALI Conference 2008: Open Access to the Law, Law School Innovation, June 21, 2008. Blog notes from the Conference for Law School Computing (Baltimore, June 19-21, 2008).

Open access law is here (or coming soon), but law schools aren't big players in advancing it, or more importantly, doing interesting things with all that law. These new players are all different birds: they have different motives, are decentralized, are administratively independent, differently funded, and operating in a wide variety of national settings. And they are not going away, nor federating under one banner. So Tom Bruce at Cornell Law School is building OAI-PMH, a framework for querying and harvesting from these repositories to enable some technological federation. ...

And using this standard should allow educational efforts like eLangdell® to tie materials to caselaw.

John Joergensen at Rutgers is experimenting with one Open Law initiative,, and has integrated it into the library's own federal law search page, with features enhancements to the results display and associated metadata. This is leading Rutgers to consider dropping Lexis to cut costs down the road, though doing so would sacrifice the Lexis database of secondary, non-legal materials. Furthermore, law schools are worried about the future of Hein Online: many no longer receive paper copies of journals and are entirely dependent on Hein. A backup, owned by law schools themselves, presents more safety.

It looks like [the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction] will be jumping in to provide some leadership and coordination of future, joint efforts. Stay tuned.

Data sharing and reuse in astronomy

Carol Minton Morris, The Petabyte Problem: Scrubbing, Curating and Publishing Big Data, HatCheck, June 16, 2008.

[Alex] Szalay presented the third and final keynote, “Scientific Publishing in the Era of Pedabyte Data,” at [the Joint Conference on Digital Libraries ( Pittsburgh, June 16-20, 2008)] on June 19, 2008.

He opened with a look at the evolution of science: 1,000 yrs ago science was empirical; during the last few hundred years science was theoretical using models and generalizations; a computational branch emerged in the last few decades, and; today science is about data exploration.

Scientific data doubles every year which has fundamentally changed the nature of scientific computing. Today scientific computing cuts across disciplines and has become unwieldy making it more difficult to extract knowledge. ...

Szalay has been personally involved in the expotential growth of astronomy data from the late 1990s to 2008 due to his role with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) that has been “mapping the universe” as part of the Virtual Observatory activities for the last ten years. SDSS is now complete, and is in the process of developing the final data release. The completed SDSS archive will contain over 100 terabytes and will be managed by Johns Hopkins University. Sky Survey user sessions show a constant and increasing use of the SDSS data.

Data versioning was SDSS’s biggest challenge, and he emphasized that there is a need to develop automation for more steps of the steps in curating data ...

Szalay believes that scientific discoveries are made at the edges and boundaries or large data sets–the places where you might not naturally be looking. The [greater the] number of connections that can be made among data sets the more likely that something new will be discovered along the edges suggesting data federation is significant.

Scientific projects that generate data are often short term–3-5 years. Data is only “uploaded” at the end of a project–the data will never catch up with the published discoveries. He advocates for projects becoming more active data curators and publishers further up stream in the investigative process. ...

To answer the question, “How can you publish data so that others might recreate your results in 100 yrs.,” he referred to Gray’s laws of Data Engineering: scientific computing revolves around data; scale-out the solution for analysis; take the analysis to the data; start with 20 queries, and; go from working to working.

One successful experiment in scaling out the solution for analysis came about because the Sloan Digital Sky Survey generated more data than scientists have time to study or classify, coupled with the fact that astronomy is attractive to the public. Astronomers asked citizens for help in classifying over a million galaxies by establishing the Galaxy Zoo.

This public science analysis solution has received enormous publicity and has allowed 100,000 citizens from all over the globe to contribute to discovery by helping to classify galaxies online while viewing beautiful images of unknown locations in the universe. For example, a German teacher found and called attention to an object that she had no experience in analyzing. Her observation turned out to be a significant discovery. The object that proved to be a Voowerp.

Szalay believes that the educational impact of this work is enormous. Data sharing and publishing would benefit from the establishment of specialized journals for data. He emphasized that scholarly communications are no longer characterized by a paper trail, but rather by an email trail along with resources collected by the Internet Archive, wiki pages, some science blogs, collaborative workbenches, and even instant messages.

Technology plus sociology plus economics must come together to continue to work on how to preserve our intellectual data resources. ...

Profile of EthicShare

Cecily Marcus, University of Minnesota's EthicShare Pilots a New Approach to Online Scholarly Research, CLIR Issues, May/June 2008.

EthicShare, a new online research environment, explores novel approaches to facilitating scholarship by taking advantage of social technologies and the expertise of the research communities it seeks to serve. An interdisciplinary and multi-institutional undertaking, EthicShare is developing a research Web site for the practical ethics community that incorporates a database of source materials and tools to enable community interaction and engagement. ...

... The Web site incorporates high-quality content and resources, access and discovery systems, and mechanisms for collaboration and community engagement. A critical aspect of the project is to define the governance structures needed to support sustainable models of collection building, technological development, and community participation.

EthicShare's content database brings together the disparate sources and materials used in practical ethics research: articles from the scholarly and popular press, multimedia objects, preprints, and archival documents from fields as diverse as medicine, biology, philosophy, law, religion, public health, public policy, gender studies, environmental studies, and beyond. Resources will be harvested from scholarly indexes, Open Archives Initiative sources, government documents, RSS feeds, and monograph record sources.

Key to EthicShare's mission is the investigation of the role of communities of scholars in a social research environment. ...

CrystalEye, "an exemplar of open data"

Peter Murray-Rust, CrystalEye - an example of a data repository, petermr’s blog, June 22, 2008.
I shall be writing a number of posts about (chemical) crystallography - which may be of wider interest to those interested in data quality assessment, robotic harvesting, robotic calculation, hyperlinking, repositories and the free access to scientific data. I’ll start by talking abour CrystalEye - what it is and where it may be going.

We are generally interested in the area of data-driven, or data-enabled science in the scientific “long-tail”. Can machines extract useful information from the hetereogeneous mass of data that increases daily. And - because we are chemists - we have chosen to do this in chemistry, although it has serious problems of restrictive access to data. The area which has turned out to be most fruiful has been chemical crystallography - the determination of the structures of “small molecules” by diffraction methods. In this we pay great tribute to the International Union of Crystallography which is probably unsurpassed in its commitment to data quality and data preservation. ...

The basic questions included:
  • Can machines aggregrate enough public data to be useful? ... The answer is definitely yes ...
  • Is the data of high enough quality to do useful work with? This is difficult to answer ...
  • Is the data of scientific value? ... [T]he answer is generally “yes”. ...
We chose to expose the aggregated data to the world as “Open Data” since we feel it is fundamentally Open. ...

The initial reason for exposing CrystalEye was (a) because Nick has created a valuable resource in its own right (b) as an exemplar of Open Data. We are happy for anyone to do whatever they wish (subject to acknowledging us) but we make no claims for the data or its value. ...

We also see CrystalEye as a starting point for the Departmental or domain repository for chemistry, and perhaps more widely for long-tail scientific data. ...

Finally there is the emerging concern over whether crystallographic data (a) should be and (b) is free and Open. There is no technical reason against this - the costs are so marginal that they are negligible. It’s simply a question of allowing or requiring another piece of supplemental information. ...