Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Blog notes on repository workshop

Ian Stuart, Understanding Organisational Cultures, the workshop, The thoughts of a Code Gorilla, September 10, 2008. Blog notes on Understanding Organisational Cultures: Impact on Repository Growth and Development (Cranfield, England, September 9, 2008).

... We started with two talks: one from Dr Colin Macduff (Robert Gordon Uni.) talking about his experience in submitting his eThesis, and how it changed the way he approached the whole thesis; and a second from Dr Bruce Jefferson (Cranfield Uni) taking the role of the sceptic, and pointing out all the things that he wants, and why repositories are not helping him.

We also had a quick overview of the national picture from Neil Jacobs, and three talks on ways to make changes, or recognising the opportunities for change to happen: Michael White (Stirling Uni); John Harrington (Cranfield); William Nixon (Uni of Glasgow).

What was particularly gratifying to see was that three of the six speakers were from Scottish Universities - are we ahead of the curve in this field? ...

Survey on repository copyright policies

The University of East Anglia is conducting a survey of copyright-related practices at institutional repositories. The survey will be open until September 30, 2008. (Thanks to Mark Jones.)

25 years of GNU, and what it means for OA

Glyn Moody, The Real Reason to Celebrate GNU's Birthday, open enterprise, September 11, 2008.

As you may have noticed, there's a bit of a virtual shindig going on in celebration of GNU's 25th birthday (including Stephen Fry's wonderfully British salute, which really, er, takes the cake....).

Most of these encomiums have dutifully noted how all the free and open source software we take for granted today – GNU/Linux, Firefox, and the rest – would simply not exist had Richard Stallman not drawn his line in the digital sand. But I think all of these paeans rather miss the point, which is that GNU represents the start of not just free software, but also many, many other movements, all based around the idea of sharing and collaboration. ...

One of the first and most obvious applications of this approach outside software was to content, specifically Wikipedia. It is no accident that Wikipedia uses the GNU Free Documentation Licence, since there was a conscious borrowing of many of free software's ideas to the collaborative creation of freely-available content ...

Ironically, science itself has moved away from these ideas of sharing in one particular regard. Until recently, the vast majority of scientific (and academic) papers were published in for-profit journals. To read the latest research – and hence build on it – scientists (or generally their institutions) had to take out often costly subscriptions. ...

This unfair and cumbrous system was hardly conducive to rapid exchange of ideas, and some began to wonder whether there weren't better ways – something along the lines of the free software approach, for example. One of those wondering was Paul Ginsparg.

At the beginning of the 1990s, he was looking for a solution to the problem of putting high-energy physics preprints (early versions of papers) online. As a result, he set up what became the preprint repository on 16 August, 1991 – nine days before Linus made his famous [announcement of the Linux operating system] posting. ...

Another important figure in this area is Stevan Harnard – an RMS-like figure who has provided much of the theoretical underpinnings of this whole area, and whose writings are well worth reading. ...

Since then, open access has been fighting an uphill battle against major academic publishers, which occupy a similar position to Microsoft – and often resort to similar tactics in their efforts to block this upstart's rise. ...

For a major research institution, the cumulative cost adds up to millions of pounds a year in subscriptions. This annual tax is very like the licensing fees in the proprietary software world. What an institution saves by refusing to pay these exorbitant subscriptions it can use to fund page charges, just as companies can use monies saved on software licensing costs to pay for the support and customization they need. ...

Alongside this deepening of open access, scientists have started to think about how other aspects of their research work could be opened up in a similar way. ...

The important thing to to note is that, despite the presence of the word “open” in their names, [the open access, open data, and open science movements] are all the spiritual descendants of free software. For all the amazing riches of GNU itself ... and, more generally, of free software and open source, it is this ever-widening range of new projects based around sharing and collaboration that is the real reason to celebrate these first, incredible 25 years of Richard Stallman's epoch-making project.

Videos from Repository Fringe now online

Videos of the presentations from Repository Fringe (Edinburgh, July 31-August 1, 2008) are now available. (Thanks to Philip Hunter.)

Patient perspectives on OA

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access added a new section to its site on September 5. The Perspectives page was launched with 4 patient advocates:
  • Sophia Colamarino, Vice President of Research, Autism Speaks
  • Pat Furlong, Founding President and CEO, Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy
  • Josh Sommer, Co-founder, The Chordoma Foundation and Duke University student
  • Sharon Terry, President and CEO, Genetic Alliance

New features at SHERPA/RoMEO

SHERPA/RoMEO announced some new features on September 11, 2008:
  • The RoMEO homepage now includes a "News" section.
  • The "Recently Added Publishers" section allows users to see the latest RoMEO additions at a glance.
  • An RSS feed is now available with the 12 latest additions to the RoMEO site.

Wellcome and DBT launch Indian research program with OA mandate

Indian biomedical research gets British funding, Times of India, September 11, 2008.  (Thanks to Subbiah Arunachalam.)  Excerpt:

Biomedical research in India has received a shot in the arm with the Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest health charity, entering into an agreement with the Indian government's biotechnology department to fund cutting-edge research....

The 80 million pound ($140 million) scheme jointly funded by the biotechnology department and the Wellcome Trust over five years aims to strengthen the research base of biomedical science by providing fellowship programmes to support researchers and senior fellows....

The programme will be executed by the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance. Each year, the alliance is expected to award around 40 early career fellowships, 20 intermediate fellowships and 15 research fellowships....

[Indian Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal] said the scientists working as Wellcome/DBT fellows will retain their intellectual property rights even if their projects are translated into effective healthcare schemes. He assured that if a scientific project is sold to pharmaceutical companies, the scientist, institutes and the people will benefit. A part of the money earned will be ploughed back for further research.
"We assure full transparency. Once a scientific probe is completed, its results will posted on the public domain - the Internet - within six months. Only the best can avail of it," the minister said....

PS:  Also note that the Wellcome/DBT India Alliance is looking for a grants manager.

"Almost OA"

Joseph J. Esposito, Almost Open Access, Publishing Frontier, September 9, 2008.  Excerpt:

...Way back in 2005 I posted a liblicense, on forming consortia for informally published material, the kinds of things that increasingly find their way into institutional repositories (IRs). (IRs also include copies of formally published work.) I called this proposal Almost Open Access and sketched a means by which the consortial repository could be made, if not entirely sustainable, at least far less expensive than some of the IR plans now in operation.

I have dusted off that proposal and reproduce it here, with a bit of editing for context-building. An interesting (to me) aspect of the original post was that it garnered a fair number of offline inquiries, all from commercial publishers. This was despite the fact that the post clearly stated that there was nothing in the proposal for commercial ventures. I interpret this response to indicate that publishers are studying all new business models for academic materials and are determined to come to the dance even when they are not invited.

Almost Open Access begins with institutional repositories, which align themselves, understandably, with their parent institutions. Since most institutions at least in part serve undergraduates, for whom the goal of creating “the well-rounded person” has not been entirely abandoned, IRs set out to cover everything –to put the universe into the university. Let’s call this the vertical axis....Researchers, on the other hand, tend to align themselves with other researchers in their fields.....Research thus is horizontal, straddling multiple institutions. This is the world of professional societies and academic fields (which are reflected in journals publishing). There is a tension here: libraries and IRs are being asked to face in two directions, vertically and horizontally, straining resources....

What I propose is that in addition to IRs...libraries organize disciplinary repositories or DRs. These would be horizontal, not vertical, and reflect the actual research activities of the global intellectual community....

How would this work? Progressively, I would hope. The larger institutions would take over the curation of more disciplines, but even the smallest would have to contribute something in order to get access to all the rest. The definitive DR on stem-cell research may be curated at John Hopkins and the history of Silicon Valley at San Jose State....

As for independent scholars without institutional affiliation, I propose that they would gain access by doing the equivalent of purchasing a library card from a member institution. For $50 you get everything....

Open Access purists will note that this plan falls short of full OA. That is correct: this is Almost Open Access, as it requires institutional affiliation (which you can get for the cost of a library card). The virtue of AOA as opposed to OA is that AOA is sufficiently suasive to ensure economic commitment and participation. Traditional publishers (for whom there is absolutely nothing in this plan) will remark that AOA is what they have advocated all along. That is also correct. But publishers will never grow comfortable with pure OA, as their business training will not permit them to expend 100% of their effort to satisfy 1% of demand.  But they are not needed for this plan, so their comfort is besides the point.

Update.  Also see Stevan Harnad's comments.  Excerpt:

Institutional Repositories (IRs) are for institutional research output (mostly their authors' final drafts of their published, peer-reviewed journal articles). IRs are not for institutional buy-in of the output of other institutions. (That would be an institutional library.) The way Open Access (OA) works is that an institution makes its own research output free for all online....By symmetry, the institution's users also gets access to the output of all other institutions' IRs, for free. No subscriptions, no fees, no consortia, no need for an institutional affiliation for anyone but the author of the work in the IR....

In contrast, Joseph Esposito’s “Almost OA” is just institutional consortial licensing. It has no more to do with OA than being Almost Pregnant has to do with parity.

PLoS v. Nature

Jens Lubbadeh, Monopoly des Wissens, Spiegel Online, September 9, 2008.  How the PLoS journals compare favorably to Nature.  Read the German original or Google's English.

Update.  Also see the comments by Klaus Graf, in German or Google's English.

OA book series from Co-Action Publishing

Co-Action has published its second dual-edition (OA/TA) book, Gloria Gallardo's From Seascapes of Extinction to Seascapes of Confidence, showing a commitment to a series.  Its first OA/TA book appeared in May 2008.  From the press release for Gallardo's book:

...To ensure the widest possible distribution of the book to those who can best utilize its content, the author has chosen to publish the book Open Access. The electronic edition of the book is available for free and can be read, downloaded and printed out without permission as long as the author is duly cited, for any educational or academic purpose. Print copies of the book may also be purchased through the book’s website....

Publication of the book has been supported by the Centre for Sustainable Development (CSD), a joint centre between Uppsala University and SLU.

Access to Knowledge in Brazil

Lea Shaver (ed.), Access to Knowledge in Brazil: New Research on Intellectual Property, Innovation and Development, Yale Information Society Project, September 2008.  A new book in dual editions (OA/TA), and the first in a series of similar OA/TA books on A2K in different countries.  It's published under a CC-BY-NC-SA license.  From the announcement:

Access to knowledge is a demand for democratic participation, for global inclusion and for economic justice. It is a reaction to the excessively restrictive international IP regime put in place over the last two decades, which seeks to reassert the public interest in a more balanced information policy. With sponsorship from the Ford Foundation, the Information Society Project has embarked on a new series of access to knowledge research, in partnership with colleagues in Brazil, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Russia and South Africa.

The first book in this series, Access to Knowledge in Brazil, focuses on current issues in intellectual property, innovation and development policy from a Brazilian perspective. Each chapter is authored by scholars from the Fundação Getulio Vargas law schools in São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro and examines a policy area that significantly impacts access to knowledge in the country. These include: exceptions and limitations to copyright, free software and open business models, patent reform and access to medicines, and open innovation in the biotechnology sector....

The book was announced at the A2K3 Conference in Geneva on September 10.  The OA edition is available for downloading now, and the print edition will be available for sale on Open Access Day (October 14, 2008). 

More on filling your institutional repository

Dorothea Salo, Feeding Mr. Blue, Caveat Lector, September 9, 2008.  Excerpt:

...I say “voluntary unmediated self-archiving is not a viable model for institutional-repository population” and for some reason people hear “IRs are not viable.” ...No. Look at those adjectives again....

The classical way to attack “voluntary” is to come up with a mandate. If you are a repository manager, forget about it. You can’t do this [alone]. If you are a library dean, university librarian, whatever your institution calls it —well, I’m sorry, but you probably can’t do it either. If you find a Stuart Shieber among your faculty, by all means put all your clout and your persuasive ability behind him, because he might be able to pull it off....

The one mandate that can be successfully imposed over time is an ETD mandate. Frankly, I think that’s the place to start for most self-respecting IRs at institutions with master’s and doctoral programs. Don’t pull an Iowa, and it’s probably wise not to start it off as a mandate, but otherwise, go to town. Part of the reason to do this is that it brings the repository (and its rat) to faculty attention in a context that won’t make most faculty uncomfortable or suspicious....

Try bribery....It doesn’t take much, I suspect, to create a bribe program faculty will pay attention to (though, again, I wish Minho had been more forthcoming about that in their article)....

Attacking “unmediated” takes staff and resources; there is no way around this. That is an unpalatable reality....

Faculty stick their stuff on their own websites. They stick it in disciplinary repositories. They stick it all over the place....The barriers to going out and getting it for the repository are permission from faculty and automation.

Now, it’s nominally reasonable to turn a repository-rat loose to get faculty permission to canvass their websites for archivable material. The problem is that it doesn’t usually work, partly because it doesn’t scale (one repository-rat, legions of faculty), but largely because faculty don’t know the repository-rat from a hole in the wall and so will not respond well to her request. There are three ways past this:

  1. have the university librarian approach department chairs and deans for blanket permission
  2. have liaison librarians approach the departments they work with (which, again, will require action from management; liaison librarians won’t just spontaneously do this, and they may not even do it as a favor to their repository-rat colleague without a nudge from above), or
  3. most radically —don’t bother with permission, just give your repository-rat leave to go out and do it.

Faculty put this stuff on the public web. If they don’t mind Google and the Internet Archive picking it up, why are they going to mind you? Sure, sure, you want a backstop policy of pulling down something faculty have problems with until problems are resolved, and you may want a notification system as well, but how hard is that? I’ll tell you, it’s much less hard than getting permission! ...

Combining mediated deposit with a bribe program strikes me as promising. “We’ll toss your department a small grant if you let us turn our repository-rat loose on your material available on the public Internet” sounds like a winner—why would a department say no? ...

Video on Zurich's IR

The University of Zurich has posted Open Access und ZORA, a 10 minute video (in German) on ZORA, the university's OA repository.  (Thanks to Technik Forschung.)

Not waiting for PDFs

Stevan Harnad, Too Much Ado About PDF, Open Access Archivangelism, September 12, 2008.  Excerpt:

...[I]nsofar as the current and forward-going articles are concerned, the default option should be to deposit the author's final, peer-reviewed, revised, accepted draft (the postprint) in the author's Open Access Institutional Repository, not necessarily or even preferentially the publisher's PDF....

And, as Alma Swan and Cliff Lynch have pointed out, the PDF is the least useful for data-mining....

Comment.  I agree, as far as this goes.  But I'd draw one distinction and then go further.  We should distinguish the final text from the final file format.  When possible, we should self-archive the final text.  But even then, when possible, we should not self-archive the PDF.  If publishers have their reasons for producing PDFs of their published articles, they could (as many do now) at least offer alternate formats as well, such as HTML, ODF, or XML. 

Wiki on open data in Iceland

Hjálmar Gíslason has launched Opin gögn, a wiki on open data in Iceland.  (Thanks to Jonathan Gray.)

PS:  For background, see Gíslason's article from last month, The Case for Open Access to Public Sector Data (and my blog post about it).

Richard Poynder interviews Annette Holtkamp

Richard Poynder, The Open Access Interviews: Annette Holtkamp, Open and Shut?  September 12, 2008.  Another of Poynder's far-reaching and detailed interviews, ranging from the the prehistory of OA, and how SPIRES evolved into INSPIRE, to SCOAP3, open data, the affinities of physicists for OA, and Holtkamp's speculations on the future of open science.  (Also see Poynder's August 2008 article about INSPIRE and my blog post about it.)  Excerpt:

[R]ecently [Annette Holtkamp] has been heavily involved in the development of a new repository for the particle physics community called INSPIRE...INSPIRE will eventually become a full-text service like arXiv — something that in a recent survey HEP scientists said they wanted. Moreover, it will...use very sophisticated repository software which will, amongst other things, include a new search engine, a metrics system for measuring the impact of articles, and a number of specialist data management tools. It will also boast Web 2.0 functionality and, as with SPIRES, the data will be managed and curated by professional librarians....

...Holtkamp is a passionate advocate for Open Access. She is a member of the Open Access working group of the Helmholtz Society, and was on the working party that designed SCOAP3. And when Germany joined the SCOAP3 consortium she became the German contact for SCOAP3.  [She is also "an information professional at Germany's largest particle physics research centre Deutsches Elektronen Synchrotron (DESY)."]....

SCOAP3 is an ambitious project that hopes to "flip" the entire particle physics literature from today's primarily subscription-based model — in which researchers (or their institutions) pay to access published research — to an Open Access model, in which the HEP research community would instead pay to publish its research. (Not on an author-pays model, but through a single consortium that will facilitate the re-direction of subscription funds). In return, publishers would commit to making HEP papers freely available on the Web.

The development of INSPIRE, however, opens up the possibility that SCOAP3 could prove to be a transitory phase....

[O]ne consequence of the rapid rise in both subject-based and institutional repositories is that scholarly communication is moving from a journal model to a database model. This could see a second kind of flip take place: Where today researchers pass over their papers to publishers, who then become the official source and distributors of published research, in the future repositories could become the primary location for scholarly papers. They might also become publishing platforms, with publishers relegated to outsourced service providers paid simply to organise the peer review of the papers that have been deposited in repositories. This, for example, seems to be the model that the University of California is moving towards....

As important as [open data] issues are, the main concern for particle physicists today is that in the light of the increasing complexity of the experiments they conduct it isn't enough simply to keep data in its raw form (even if it is constantly migrated to new machine-readable formats), but to retain with it the knowledge necessary for anyone who did not take part in the original experiment to reuse and reinterpret it. As Holtkamp puts it, "We will have to develop what we call a parallel format — that is, a format that not only preserves the data itself, but also the necessary knowledge to be able to interpret it." ...

She adds, "I am pretty confident that Open Access will be the standard of the future for scientific papers, although it remains unclear when Open Data will become the norm." ...

So how might the research process look in this new world? We don't yet know. Holtkamp, however, has some ideas. "I can see a piece of research starting with a researcher simply putting an idea on a wiki, where it would be time-stamped in order to establish precedence," she says. "Others could then elaborate on the idea, or write a program or do some calculations to test it, or maybe visualise the idea in some way. Publication would then consist of aggregating all the pieces of the puzzle — all of which would be independently citable." ...

What is it about particle physicists that made them OA pioneers?

With a degree in sociology (as well as a PhD in physics), Holtkamp is better qualified than most to suggest an explanation. That physicists were so early in the game, she says, reveals something about their mentality. "If they encounter a problem they immediately want a solution. If nothing ready-made is available — a very common situation — their strong self-confidence and pronounced playfulness lead them to sit down and try to work it out themselves, and often with success."

It is a mindset that always saw physicists loath to have to wait months (or longer) before reading about a new piece of research. They have always wanted immediate, free access to the latest findings — something that the long lead time and subscription barriers inherent in the traditional journal publishing model could never properly satisfy.

From this perspective, one might want to suggest that it was not that the Internet provided the stimulus for scientists to change the way they did things, but that with its arrival physicists were finally able to share their research in the way they needed to....

Friday, September 12, 2008

Transcript of OKF chat meeting

The Open Knowledge Foundation has posted the transcript of its IRC meeting on September 10, 2008.  The topics (from the email announcement):

  • translating open access journals,
  • Open Hogarth and Open Art History,
  • possibility of integrating CKAN + CC's content registries,
  • copyright in reproductions of public domain images,
  • cutup competition (a la Max Ernst) using PD illustrations.

Update (9/15/08).  OKF's Jonathan Gray wrote to tell me that the meetings are every Wednesday and open to everyone.  (Thanks, Jonathan.)

Blog notes on Science21 conference

Cathy Bogaart, untitled blog post, my life, by webgoddesscathy, September 9, 2008.
Right now I'm sitting in a session about Open Access in science at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo [Science in the 21st Century: Science, Society, and Information Technology, Waterloo, Canada (September 8-12, 2008)].

I'm surrounded by scientists. I'm not a scientist. But I'm interested in science. And I'm interested in open access. And, more than anything, I'm interested in technology and culture in the 21st century, which is ultimately what this conference is about. ...

And maybe you're not in an industry in which open access is important. More likely, you just don't KNOW that you're in an industry in which open access and sharing information and knowledge is important. But likely you ARE. Maybe you are a scientist, but maybe you're a farmer or a an engineer. It doesn't matter.

Maybe you'll read this and you'll look up the conference abstracts or proceedings and you'll think maybe you'll do some little thing different. Maybe you'll post your paper in PubMed, maybe you'll start a blog, maybe you'll open up your research to the public and let them participate from home, counting fish in their river or tracking the rainfall or whatever. Maybe you'll upload your preliminary findings or photos and make them part of the creative commons. Or maybe you'll just decide that you could really learn something from a scientist in a different discipline and read THEIR stuff and comment -- adding to the context of their information. ...

CanLII, OA law database, the most-used resource for Canadian lawyers

Michel-Adrien Sheppard, CanLII Survey, Library Boy, September 9, 2008.
According to a survey earlier this year commissioned by the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CanLII), the open access legal database is the electronic legal resource most frequently used by lawyers across Canada.

The percentage of those surveyed who used the following resources at least one a week:
  • CanLII - 39%
  • Provincial sites for legislation – 34%
  • Commercial services – between 17% and 29%
  • Various secondary material sources – 29%
  • Courts’ websites – 21%
  • Library services - 15%
The actual text of the survey and the methodology are not available on the CanLII website so caution is advisable. ...

Anthropology museum to provide OA to entire collection

Wake Forest University's Anthropology Museum to unveil online database of entire collection, press release, September 9, 2008. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

... [M]ore than 26,000 artifacts in the Wake Forest University Museum of Anthropology’s collections will be accessible online in a searchable database.

Beginning Sept. 9, the public will be able to search the online database and find a photograph and description of each object, including information about where it was collected. ...

The collections database was funded by more than $200,000 in federal grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). The project ... took more than three years to complete ... Wake Forest students helped take photographs, edit images, inventory objects and update records. ... With the help of another recently awarded IMLS grant, the museum will add archival records such as photographs and maps to help users better understand the cultural and environmental contexts of objects found in the online database. ...

OJS translated into Farsi

Open Journal Systems has been translated into Farsi. A plugin for the Persian calendar is also available.

Study recommends OA for patent info

Toward a New Era of Intellectual Property: From Confrontation to Negotiation, report of the International Expert Group on Biotechnology, Innovation and Intellectual Property, September 2008. (Thanks to Michael Geist.)
... Recommendation 15: Industry and patent offices around the world should collect patent-related information in a standard form and make this available to the public for free. Data should include information that will assist in assessing patent landscapes in targeted areas of technology, such as essential medicines. Patent databases should be linked so that a user can identify not only the patents in one country but related patents in other countries. These databases should be easily searchable. ...

Unintended consequences of the publishers' anti-OA bill

Michael Carroll, Attacking Public Access Through the Copyright Act, Carrollogos, September 12, 2008.  Carroll is a Visiting Professor of Law at the American University, Washington College of Law, and a member of the Board of Creative Commons.  Excerpt:

On September 9th, Mr. Conyers introduced H.R. 6845, "The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act", into the House of Representatives. There is nothing fair about this bill at all, and it should be opposed by anyone who cares about public access to publicly funded research....

The bill is an odd duck because it would do far more than simply end public access to NIH-funded research. It would also impliedly amend public procurement law and impliedly repeal portions of the longstanding "rights in data" contracting provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, the DFARS, and portions of the intangible property provisions of OMB Circular A-110.

Traditionally, the Copyright Act has not been used for this purpose. Certain journal publishers have asserted to NIH and to the Committee that the NIH policy is in some vague way inconsistent with the Copyright Act and U.S. international copyright obligations. This assertion lacks any basis in law, and a group of 47 professors at American law schools who teach or write about copyright law sent a letter to the committee making this point....

[PS:  Omitting an annotated summary of the bill.]

Comment.  This is very helpful.  But it raises some new questions.  Did the Judiciary Committee intend to amend public procurement law or any other federal law unrelated to public access for publicly-funded research?  Who will gain and who will lose by the amendment to procurement law, and do the losers know about this bill?


More on the Conyers bill to overturn the NIH policy

Greg Piper, "Open-Access Research Helps Public Without Hurting Publishers, House IP Hears," Washington Internet Daily, September 12, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

The public's right to government-funded health research online was weighed against publishers' intellectual-property rights at a House IP Subcommittee hearing Thursday....

Subcommittee Ranking Member Howard Coble, R-N.C., said he wasn't yet sponsoring Conyers' Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (HR-6845), which would repeal the NIH policy (WID Sept 11 p5), because he had heard that some countries imposed similar requirements without violating IP treaty obligations....

A proposal by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., for NIH to post only unreviewed articles to PubMed Central, with a disclaimer, gained little support. Oman said the idea "can't be that off the wall" because post-publication review is gaining ground in scientific circles. Frank said it would be "disastrous" for NIH to put its "imprimatur" on such articles, even with a disclaimer, since scientific journals reject nine submissions in 10. Zerhouni agreed.

Comment.  Some valuable detail not reported elsewhere.  Just one quibble:  "The public's right to government-funded health research online was weighed against publishers' intellectual-property rights...."  This would be more accurate if it referred to publishers' IP interests, or financial interests, rather than to their IP rights.  Publishers don't have any IP rights in NIH-funded research except the rights that NIH-funded authors voluntarily transfer to them.  Publishers want those rights, but they don't already have them and they don't have a right to demand them.

Turf politics and the fate of the NIH policy

Andrew Noyes, House Judiciary chairman slams Appropriations panel over jurisdiction, Government Executive, September 12, 2008.  Excerpt:

...On Thursday, Conyers slammed the powerful House Appropriations Committee for not consulting with his panel before pushing through the rule as part of a 2008 funding package.

"We have tried to communicate repeatedly with the leader of that committee ... and what did we get? Nothing," Conyers said at a hearing of the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee.

He said he viewed the silence as a blow-off by Appropriations Chairman David Obey and said he was frustrated that appropriators ran roughshod over the "sacred jurisdiction" of his committee to act "summarily, unilaterally and probably incorrectly." ...

Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee Chairman Howard Berman, D-Calif., said he saw merits to both sides but did not publicly endorse Conyers' bill...

He and...ranking member Howard Coble, R-N.C., said they needed more time to learn about the issue before taking a position. Berman told CongressDaily after the hearing that further action on the bill would probably be held over until the 111th Congress....


  • There are many backstage forces at work here.  One is publisher lobbying.  But another is turf jealousies among the powerful House committees.
  • Why did the House Appropriations Committee, which shepherded the OA mandate bill through to a vote, not run the language by the House Judiciary Committee?  I can only guess.  Perhaps because the Judiciary Committee only needed to be involved if the bill raised copyright issues, and it didn't raise copyright issues.
  • Who says the NIH bill didn't raise copyright issues?  One person who says so is William Patry, former Copyright Counsel to the House Judiciary Committee and now Senior Copyright Counsel at Google.  See my July 2008 blog post on his remarks.
  • Who knows how strong the Judiciary Committee would have found the publishing lobby's arguments on their own, without the secret sauce of turf rivalries?

Update.  Not only has Berman not endorsed the Conyers bill, but he publicly  opposes it.  See Andrea Gawrylewski in TheScientist (September 12, 2008):

...The new legislation would "turn back the clock" by prohibiting the NIH from mandating public access as a condition of researchers receiving funding, according to an introductory statement [at the hearing] by chairman of the subcommittee considering the issue, Howard Berman, Democratic representative from California....


AAUP also wants to overturn the NIH policy

The American Association of University Presses has released its September 10 letter to the Congressional sponsors of the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act.  Excerpt:

...This very important bill will ensure that future actions by the federal government will not diminish the copyright protection currently accorded to scholarly works whose research may be federally funded, in full or in part, but whose publication, in any medium, requires that significant value be added, and paid for, from other sources.

AAUP has 116 members in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico....On average, 90% of their operating revenue comes from their publishing operations, the vast majority of it from sales of the books and journals they publish, and only 10% as a subsidy from their parent institutions....

Copyright is the legal foundation that permits recovery of those costs and investment in publishing new work. Weakening copyright protection through federal mandates that publications resulting from government-funded research be made freely available undermines that foundation and threatens the very system that makes such work of high value in the first place....

The members of AAUP strongly support open access to scholarly literature by whatever means, so long as those means include a funding or business model that will maintain the investment required to keep older work available and continue to publish new work. However, trying to expand access by diminishing copyright protection in works arising from federally-funded research is going entirely in the wrong direction, and will badly erode the capacity of AAUP members to publish such work in their books and journals....


  • The AAUP is more candid on the primacy of revenue than other publishers who have endorsed the bill.  But it still asserts too strong a connection between the revenue problem and a supposed copyright problem:
  • Before the NIH policy, NIH-funded authors typically transferred full copyright to publishers.  Under the new mandatory version of the policy, NIH-funded authors must retain the non-exclusive right to authorize the NIH to disseminate their peer-reviewed manuscripts.  They may, and still typically do, transfer all other rights to publishers.  As a result, publishers are receiving something slightly less than the full bundle of rights they formerly received.  But that's not "reduced copyright protection" for publishers.  Publishers still have full protection to exercise the rights they acquire from authors.  They're just upset that they're acquiring fewer rights from authors.  The reduction may be a problem for them and it may (or may not) affect their revenues.  But it doesn't follow that it's a legal injury which Congress ought to remedy, rather than, say, a financial risk that publishers must accept as part of life in a changing world.  Nor does it follow that the publishers' preferred remedy isn't itself a kind of "reduced copyright protection" --for authors, who are the first copyright holders here and who should be protected in their freedom to bargain away one of their rights in exchange for a large research grant.  There's no reason why the Judiciary Committee should care more to protect publishers from financial risk than to protect authors in disposing their copyrights as they see fit. 
  • I'm very aware that the NIH policy is mandatory.  But we shouldn't misunderstand what that means.  The NIH is putting an OA condition on a voluntary contract.  It isn't requiring OA unconditionally, and couldn't possibly do so.  The relevant author freedom here isn't the freedom to deposit in PMC, which existed under the previous (non-mandatory) version of the policy, but the freedom to accept a research grant which requires deposit in PMC.  The guardians of "copyright protection" should want to protect the freedom of all rightsholders (authors, publishers, or other) to exercise the rights they hold when they hold them.  The publishers are calling on Congress to tilt an unbalanced copyright system further toward themselves.
  • Is your institution a member of the AAUP?  If so, does your institution want to overturn the NIH policy?  Does your institution realize that the AAUP is speaking for it in its letter to the Judiciary Committee?  If you don't want the AAUP to speak for your institution this way, make your complaint known to the AAUP, to the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee (John Conyers, Chairman, D-MI, and Lamar Smith, Ranking Member, R-TX), and to the public.


More on the arguments to overturn the NIH policy

Jocelyn Kaiser, Congressional Committee Moves to Block NIH Public Access Policy, Science Magazine, September 11, 2008.  Excerpt:

...NIH says compliance [with the new, mandatory version of the policy] has risen [from less than 10%] to 56%, or about 3300 papers submitted each month, since the rule took effect in April. (The agency could potentially suspend the grant of an investigator who ignores the policy but is so far relying on less punitive measures, such as reminders). Meanwhile, some commercial and society publishers, such as the American Physiological Society (APS), have complained that the policy infringes on their copyrights and will put them out of business by cutting into their subscription base....

Representative John Conyers (D–MI)...questioned the need for the policy when the public can already obtain the papers through a subscription or at a library. Moreover, most journals make their content free after 12 months.

NIH Director Elias Zerhouni defended the policy. He argued that PubMed Central is enhancing the papers by linking to molecular databases and other papers. "The real value is the connectivity," Zerhouni said. He also claimed that "there is no evidence that this has been harmful" to publishers. In response, APS Executive Director Martin Frank, whose society publishes 14 journals, disagrees, telling Science that some journal editors believe the new policy is leading to "fewer eyeballs coming to their sites." ...

There is no companion bill in the Senate, and Congress is not expected to act on the [Conyers bill] before it adjourns later this month. Jonathan Band, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents the American Library Association, which favors open access, says the bill's sweeping provisions are a fatal flaw. "It goes far beyond the NIH policy. It limits a lot of what the federal government can do," he says....


  • "Representative John Conyers (D–MI)...questioned the need for the policy when the public can already obtain the papers through a subscription or at a library."  Rep. Conyers doesn't understand the problem.  Public libraries seldom subscribe to peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journals, and university libraries have to cancel titles by the hundreds every year because prices are increasing significantly faster than library budgets.  This is a "let them eat cake" response.
  • "[M]ost journals make their content free after 12 months."  It's odd that publishers would this as an argument against the NIH policy.  If it's true, then publishers have to stop arguing that OA to NIH-funded research would kill their revenues, kill their journals, and kill peer review.  If it's not true, or if the NIH policy goes significantly further than publishers would voluntarily go on their own, then they have drop the "wasteful duplication" argument.  They can't have it both ways.
  • As soon Congress first called for the NIH policy in 2004, we started hearing opposition from publishers who already, voluntarily provided gratis OA to their articles on the same 12 month timetable allowed by the proposed policy.  They weren't the majority or even close (and still may not be today).  But I wrote an article about them and made this point:
    [T]heir objection does not seem to be to OA as such.  The objection is that the NIH plan will provide OA on the NIH's terms, not on the publishers' terms.  The problem is control....Who should decide which access barriers to remove, when, and on what terms? ...Publishers who object to this loss of control are defending the remarkable proposition that they should control access to research conducted by others, written up by others, and funded by taxpayers.  More:  they claim that they should control access to this literature even when it is given to them free of charge and even though the prices they demand for it have risen four times faster than inflation for nearly two decades....When we start to replace this inherited system with a more rational one, the former gatekeepers protest, but I have yet seen them offer a principled objection....Their objections...have been naked assertions of economic self-interest at the expense of the public interest.
  • In response to Elias Zerhouni's claim that "there is no evidence that [the NIH policy] has been harmful" to publishers, "Martin Frank...[told] Science that some journal editors believe the new policy is leading to 'fewer eyeballs coming to their sites.'" ...That's the harm?  It's well-known and not surprising that OA archiving can reduce downloads from publisher web sites.  But there's no evidence that these reduced downloads are reflected in reduced subscriptions. If there were, then publishers would cite the reduced subscriptions instead of the reduced downloads, to strengthen their case that the policy causes harm.  Moreover, the downloaded manuscripts contain citations and links to the published editions (the NIH sees to it), helping to spread the journal's brand, increase its audience, and increase the citations to its papers.  But even if the downloads didn't cite and link to the published originals, should our representatives in Congress deny the public interest in public access to publicly-funded research in order to steer more eyeballs to publisher web sites?  (For more on the reduced downloads phenomenon, see Section 8 of this article from September 2007.)


The ACS supports the bill to overturn the NIH policy

The American Chemical Society also supports the Conyers bill to overturn the NIH policy.  No surprise there.  Susan R. Morrissey has details in the September 11 issue of Chemical & Engineering News:

"The legislation comes in response to concerns that publishers have —whether real or perceived— about the federal government taking the works that exist in our journals after we have expended considerable labor, effort, and costs associated with evaluating and filtering research articles," says Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, which publishes 14 research journals....

"We believe that it is in the public interest to foster this beneficial publishing activity," ACS President Bruce. E. Bursten says in a letter to the bill's sponsors. He adds that this bill will help sustain the publishing enterprise.

The bill creates the category of "extrinsic work," which is work resulting from multiple-source funding. Work that falls into this new category would be protected by copyright laws and would not fall under federal policy, including NIH's open-access policy, which mandates that final, peer-reviewed manuscripts must be made freely accessible. This new category would apply to research funded by any combination of federal and private sources. It would also apply to articles published in journals, regardless of who funds the research, because the articles are the result of a peer-review and publication process funded by a nongovernment source....


  • "Work that falls into this new category would be protected by copyright laws..."  Note to the ACS:  research articles by NIH-funded researchers are already protected by copyright law (unless they are written by NIH employees), and Congress has already insisted that they be protected by copyright law.  As I pointed out in an article in August 2007:
    [N]ote that the language [in the appropriations bill adopted by Congress in December 2007] contains a curious proviso: "That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law." ...[W]e have to distinguish two questions: whether the [NIH policy] does in fact violate copyright and whether this proviso gives publishers any leverage they didn't already have. The second question shows why the proviso is so curious. It goes without saying that an agency shouldn't violate copyright law, just as it shouldn't violate laws against speeding, spitting, or cutting hair without a license. The proviso is what lawyers call surplusage; it spells out an obligation that would apply even if not spelled out.
  • But Congress spelled it out anyway, which should help everyone stay focused.  If federal law already requires the NIH to conform to copyright law, and Congress reaffirmed that principle just last year, then why are the publishers back in Congress asking for more?  Because they want more than compliance with copyright law.  They want the cushy old arrangement in which publicly-funded research was turned over to private corporations (for-profit or non-profit) for dissemination at any prices that the market would bear. 
  • Publishers are in a hard spot.  The NIH policy already conforms to copyright law, but they have to use copyright as the pretext to get the attention of the Judiciary Committee (which has jurisdiction over copyright, not science or science funding).  This creates pressure to disguise revenue arguments as copyright arguments.  Will this fool anyone?  Will supporters of the content industry in Congress vote with the publishing lobby even if they see that it doesn't really have a copyright complaint?
  • Even the focus on revenue, however, makes two dubious assumptions beyond the dubious copyright assumption:  that the NIH policy really will diminish publisher revenues and that this will undermine peer review.  I address both assumptions at length in an article from September 2007.


More on the publishing lobby's rejection of compromise

Jennifer Howard, Congressional Hearing Over Public Access Filled With High Drama, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 12, 2008 (accessible only to subscribers). Excerpt:

A life-and-death battle is going on over public access to federally financed research —life for taxpayers and many scientists, and death for publishers. Or so each side claims....

Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the NIH, led off with a passionate case for PubMed [Central] as "a vital component of 21st-century science." He presented a timeline of breakthroughs related to the Human Genome Project to demonstrate what he called "a true explosion in scientific discovery," one accelerated by researchers' access to unprecedented amounts of data.

The NIH's public-access policy, Dr. Zerhouni argued, helps speed up the pace of discovery by making knowledge widely available. "We fully believe it is consistent with copyright law," he said. He also pointed out that the NIH policy allows for an embargo twice as long as the standard period in Canada, Australia, and parts of Europe.

Heather D. Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, or Sparc, expressed "serious reservations" about the legislation. Ms. Joseph's group speaks for many research libraries, which have been stalwart supporters of public access. Undoing the NIH policy, she said, would limit taxpayers' access to "crucial, health-related information that can make a life-or-death difference in the lives of the American public." ...

Yet Ralph Oman, a copyright lawyer who lectures in intellectual-property law at George Washington University Law School, made the case to the committee that "a mandatory federal policy requiring these works to be made available for worldwide distribution is in inherent conflict with copyright" and would threaten publishers' continued existence....

Both the Association of American Publishers and the Association of American University Presses issued strong statements of support for the bill.

So did Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, which publishes scientific journals. He repeated the publishers' mantra that they make "a significant value-added contribution" to the research they publish, even if the NIH pays for it. "Articles should not be taken from those of us responsible for their creation," he told the subcommittee.

One group was not well represented in yesterday's wrangling: the scientists who actually do the research being fought over, as a subcommittee member, Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, noted. Most of these researchers sign their copyrights over to their publishers as a condition of being published. One glimmer of how some of them feel came in an open letter to Congress submitted by 33 Nobel Prize winners in chemistry, physiology, and medicine.

"The current move by the publishers is wrong," the laureates wrote. "The NIH came through with an enlightened policy that serves the best interest of science, the scientists who practice it, the students who read about it, and the taxpayers who pay for it." ...


  • I've already commented at length, twice (Sept 5 and Sept 11), on publisher claims for the new bill and I won't repeat those comments here.  But here's a comment on Martin Frank's assertion that "Articles should not be taken from those of us responsible for their creation."  (I don't have a transcript or the full context, just this quotation from the CHE story.)
  • The claim is breathtakingly one-sided.  Of course publishers have a role in the creation of published research articles.  But who else has a role?  How about the researchers who did the research and wrote the articles?  How about the public funding agency which paid for the research and the taxpayers who stand behind the funding agency? 
  • There are two things wrong with Frank's claim.  First, it assumes that publishers are the only parties responsible for the creation of research articles.  Second, it assumes that the NIH policy "takes" those articles from publishers.  On the second of these, see my comments yesterday on the increasingly common but false publisher claim that the NIH policy forces them to "surrender" their articles.  But here's a bit more on the first assumption.
  • I acknowledge that publishers add value.  For example, here:  "Speaking for myself, I've never denied that journals add value. To me the question is not whether a journal adds value but how to pay for the most essential kinds of added value without creating access barriers for readers."  But do publishers acknowledge that authors and funders add value?  If not, let them say that in public.  But if so, then they must accept the need for compromise among value-adders and drop the self-serving demand that all their interests be served first and that all other stakeholders, including taxpayers, should make do with what is left.
  • Here's how I put the argument in an article from August 2007:
    Publishers like to say that they add value by facilitating peer review by expert volunteers. This is accurate but one-sided. What they leave out is that the funding agency adds value as well, and that the cost of a research project is often thousands of times greater than the cost of publication. If adding value gives one a claim to control access to the result, then at least two stakeholder organizations have that claim, and one of them has a much weightier claim than the publisher. But if publishers and taxpayers both make a contribution to the value of peer-reviewed articles arising from publicly-funded research, then the right question is not which side to favor, without compromise, but which compromise to favor. So far I haven't heard a better solution than a period of exclusivity for the publisher followed by free online access for the public. This compromise-by-time is buttressed by a second compromise-by-version: publishers retain control over the published edition for the life of copyright while the public receives OA to the peer-reviewed but unedited author manuscript. Publishers who want to block OA mandates per se, rather than just negotiate the embargo period, are saying that there should be no compromise, that the public should get nothing for its investment, and that publishers should control access to research conducted by others, written up by others, and funded by taxpayers.
  • Elias Zerhouni was completely right to say in the hearing that "the NIH policy allows for an embargo twice as long as the standard period in Canada, Australia, and parts of Europe."  The NIH policy is already a compromise and one that gives publishers more than any other OA mandate from a medical research funder.  Apart from the NIH, here's a complete list of the medical research funding agencies worldwide with OA mandates, public and private.  Every single one uses an embargo of six months, instead of the NIH's 12:  the Arthritis Research Campaign (UK), British Heart Foundation, Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, European Research Council, Cancer Research UK, Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive Health Department, Department of Health (UK), Fund to Promote Scientific Research (Austria), Genome Canada, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Joint Information Systems Committee (UK), and the Wellcome Trust (UK).
  • Why do all these medical funders choose six month embargoes instead of 12?  Nobody has combed through their policy documents and juxtaposed their statements of rationale.  But I suspect the answer is this:  (1) Any delay in public access to publicly-funded research is a compromise with the public interest, (2) delays are more harmful in medicine than in any other field, and (3) medical funding agencies are dedicated to the public interest in advancing research, health, and healthcare.  But if that's true, then why do they allow any embargo at all rather than require immediate OA?  Roughly for the reasons publishers have been citing.  Publisher interests are already built into these policies, and have already been weighed and valued. 

Update.  Here's an OA version of the article.


APA finalizes its no-fee green policy

The American Psychological Association has finalized its self-archiving policy after a two-month re-examination.

If you remember, on July 15, 2008, the APA announced a policy to charge NIH-funded authors $2,500 to deposit their articles in PubMed Central, and to prohibit authors from depositing manuscripts on their own in PMC or any other repository.  Even after paying the fee, the APA would not deposit the published version of the article, would not allow OA release for 12 months, would not not allow authors to deposit in any other OA repository, and would not allow authors to retain copyright.  After immediate and widespread protest, the APA announced an interim policy on July 19, rescinding the fee, reaffirming the APA's long-standing green policy, and promising to re-examine the policy before making it final. 

The key paragraph of the final policy is identical to the corresponding paragraph of the interim policy of July 19:

Authors of manuscripts to be published in APA journals may post a copy of the final peer-reviewed manuscript, as a word processing, PDF, or other type file, on their personal Web site or on their employer's server after the manuscript is accepted for publication. The following conditions would prevail: The posted article must carry an APA copyright notice and include a link to the APA journal home page, and the posted article must include the following statement: "This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.” APA does not provide electronic copies of the APA published version for this purpose, and authors are not permitted to scan in the APA published version.

Comment.  The new policy is very conservative, but much better than the July 15 original.  I'm happy to repeat my response to the July 19 interim policy:  "I applaud the APA for reaffirming its green policy for all APA authors, including NIH-funded authors, and I applaud it for dropping the deposit fee."


Thursday, September 11, 2008

International participation in Open Access Day

The Open Access Day blog has a post on How can international folks get involved?:

... Open Access is an international movement so folks in Japan, the UK and Europe (to name but a few regions of the world) want to participate but they are finding the timing of the Webcasts (7pm East and West Coast USA) tricky. We chose 7pm because we want students to participate and for that to happen, we have to avoid conflicts with class times.

Firstly, we apologize for this. We had relatively short notice of this project and for reasons of expediency we decided to organize two webcasts this year at times to suit that US, Canadian and South American time zones.

Should other advocacy groups in this or other related fields, wish to organize a Webcast for others in their time zone to gather around, we would like to hear from you.

Here’s what you can to participate, wherever in the world you are based:

Webcasts - will be available for re-broadcast approximately 24 hours after the event (we’ll confirm finally when we know more) and so you could schedule your own Open Access Day the 2nd business day following October 14, 2008.

Folks in the US, who don’t live on either coast (and there are a fair few of you out there!), you can always adjust your event timing and sign on to either coastal event depending on which makes more sense. ...

Videos - a commissioned series, from a teacher, librarian, research funder, student and patient advocate about why they support open accesss, will be available from October 14, 2008. You could use those as a basis for organizing an event on the day (if you are outside the core time zones for the Webcasts but want to participate on October 14, 2008), and undertake other activities such as an overprice tagging at the library.

Join our discussion list - when you sign up on the contact form, you become eligible to join a forum to share ideas and solve problems with others, this goes live on 9.8.08.

More on today's hearing in the Judiciary Committee

Library Journal Academic Newswire has two stories on today's hearing on the Conyers bill to overturn the NIH policy:

New Bill Would Forbid Copyright Transfer as a Condition for Federal Funding.  Excerpt:

... “Government does not fund peer-reviewed journal articles—publishers do,” Allan Adler, AAP VP for government and legal affairs said in a statement, adding that HR 6845 would help “preserve the incentives for peer-review publishing."

But at a legislative hearing on the law held today, SPARC executive director Heather Joseph, one of four witnesses (see story below), explained to a congressional subcommittee that peer review was done by fellow scientists on a volunteer basis, without compensation, and that publishers’ investment was limited to the administrative task of “sending some emails.” Another witness, American Physiological Society executive director Martin Frank, did not disagree, but said that APS spent $13 million annually to publish 14 journals, and that “sending those emails” accounted for about 20 percent of his publishing costs ($2.6 million).

NIH director Elias Zerhouni told lawmakers that NIH spent about $300,000 in taxpayer money for every paper produced, and that he simply sought to maximize the return on that investment for the public, and for scientists. “This is not an issue of economic impact. This is not an issue of peer review,” he concluded. “This is about control.”

At Hearing, Witness Says NIH Policy Will “Destroy” Commercial Scientific Publishing.  Excerpt:

At a hearing held today, ostensibly held to discuss H.R. 6845, the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, focused almost entirely on the current NIH public access mandate....[T]he legislation motivating the hearing barely discussed....

In his remarks, NIH director Elias Zerhouni, the first witness, strongly defended the NIH mandate saying there was “no real evidence of any deleterious impact” on publishers, and said in no uncertain terms, despite publishers claims, the policy did not impinge on copyrights. Zerhouni said that his mandate was aimed to maximize the return on investment for the public, which funds the research, and for the scientific community.

In his testimony, former Register of Copyrights Ralph Oman, said he didn’t “have a dog in this fight,” but clearly had a favorite breed: Oman bluntly told lawmakers that in his opinion, the NIH mandate would “destroy the market” for commercial scientific journals, and cause a “dilution” of copyright....Perhaps Zerhouni “misunderstood,” Oman said, noting that Congress directed him to address “public access” not “free public access.” In written testimony worthy of a presidential campaign TV commercial, Oman suggested that “the hairy snout” of government be kept out of science publishing, drawing a good-natured rebuke from Rep. John Conyers (D-MI).

SPARC executive director Heather Joseph, (a late addition to the witness list who was announced just this morning) did address the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, saying its passage would negatively impact the public’s access to critical healthcare information funded by taxpayers. She then amplified Zerhouni’s testimony, saying the policy did not run afoul of copyright law, and would not effect library cancellations, because of the embargo period allowed by NIH. “After a year, scientific information is old,” she testified. No library, she said, could cancel subscriptions and simply wait to access research a year later via NIH. She also added a moving personal note, telling the committee that her five year-old son was recently diagnosed with diabetes, and about the information she was able to access, thanks to the NIH policy.

Anchoring the day’s testimony the American Physiological Society’s Martin Frank, a noted opponent of the NIH policy, bluntly reiterated publishers’ longstanding complaints: “The NIH has become a publisher,” Frank said, asserting the NIH was now competing with scientific publishers, taking unfair advantage of publishers’ value-added efforts in editing and peer-review, and diminishing copyright. Frank also testified that he believed in free access after 12 months, but not as the NIH has currently implemented, suggesting that an alternative model, closer to the America COMPETES Act, under which the National Science Foundation offers abstracts and links to publisher content, was preferable to satisfy public access concerns....

Cory Doctorow's "Content", includes essays on free books

Cory Doctorow's latest book, Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future, was released on September 9, 2008. An OA edition is available for download. The book includes essays on topics including OA books.

More coverage of A2K3

More coverage the Access to Knowledge 3 (A2K3) Conference (Geneva, September 8-10, 2008): See also our past posts about the A2K3 conference.

Australian govt report recommends OA, CC

The Australian government on September 9 released the final report of its Review of the National Innovation System. (Thanks to Creative Commons.) The official title is VenturousAustralia but most Australians are calling it the Cutler Report. The report includes this recommendation:
... Australian governments should adopt international standards of open publishing as far as possible. Material released for public information by Australian governments should be released under a creative commons licence. ...
See also this article about the report from Australian Life Scientist.

See also our past posts on Senator Kim Carr, Australia's Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, who commissioned the report.

Update. See also Stevan Harnad's comments.

Update (PS).  See these specific recommendations from the report (thanks to Glen Newton):

  • Recommendation 7.7: Australia should establish a National Information Strategy to optimise the flow of information in the Australian economy. The fundamental aim of a National Information Strategy should be to: ...maximise the flow of government generated information, research, and content for the benefit of users (including private sector resellers of information).
  • Recommendation 7.8: Australian governments should adopt international standards of open publishing as far as possible. Material released for public information by Australian governments should be released under a creative commons licence.
  • Recommendation 7.9: Funding models and institutional mandates should recognise the research and innovation role and contributions of cultural agencies and institutions responsible for information repositories, physical collections or creative content and fund them accordingly.
  • Recommendation 7.10: A specific strategy for ensuring the scientific knowledge produced in Australia is placed in machine searchable repositories be developed and implemented using public funding agencies and universities as drivers.
  • Recommendation 7.11: Action should be taken to establish an agreed framework for the designation, funding models, and access frameworks for key collections in recognition of the national and international significance of many State and Territory collections (similar to the frameworks and accords developed around Australia's Major Performing Arts Companies).
  • Recommendation 7.14: To the maximum extent practicable, information, research and content funded by Australian governments ­ including national collections ­ should be made freely available over the internet as part of the global public commons. This should be done whilst the Australian Government encourages other countries to reciprocate by making their own contributions to the global digital pubic commons....

And some of these reflections:

Governments and public agencies are centrally involved in the provision of research, information and content across a very broad range of activities.  For some years now, both commercial and policy focus has turned towards the economic and social benefits flowing from open access to these resources, and by contrast, the potential costs and 'value damming' that can be involved in 'business as usual' models where content is more tightly held....

Open access requirements are increasingly being introduced by research funding organisations and research institutions worldwide.  To date progress in Australia has been patchy and lacking the comprehensiveness and boldness of leading countries such as the UK....

Also see the transcript of a speech given by Kim Carr on September 9.  Excerpt:

The last big idea in the report I want to touch on is open access.

It is embodied in a series of recommendations aimed at unlocking public information and content, including the results of publicly funded research.

The review panel recommends making this material available under a creative commons licence through:

  • machine searchable repositories, especially for scientific papers and data
  • cultural agencies, collections and institutions, which would be funded to reflect their role in innovation
  • and the internet, where it would be freely available to the world....

Australia takes justifiable pride in the fact that it produces 3 per cent of the world’s research papers with just 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, but that still means 97 per cent of research papers are produced elsewhere.

We are and will remain a net importer of knowledge, so it is in our interest to promote the freest possible flow of information domestically and globally.

The arguments for stepping out first on open access are the same as the arguments for stepping out first on emissions trading – the more willing we are to show leadership on this, we more chance we have of persuading other countries to reciprocate.

And if we want the rest of the world to act, we have to do our bit at home....

Also see coverage and comment by Michael Geist, Michael Jubb, and Kate McDonald.

Update (1/21/09). John Kapeleris criticized the OA recommendations in this report as "commercially naïve and potentially damaging to Australia’s interests." He seems to be unaware of the Houghton/Steele/Sheehan research showing that OA to publicly-funded research in Australia would achieve "a benefit/cost ratio of 51...(i.e. the benefits are 51 times greater than the costs)."


More on the NeuroCommons

Donna Wentworth, Toward a global platform for open science, Science Commons blog, September 8, 2008.

Watching the new video about the NeuroCommons project, I was struck by how many different elements are necessary for making knowledge from one domain in science interoperable — or “remixable” — with knowledge from another. ...

The past ten years have brought the rise of a robust infrastructure for sharing and remixing cultural content, and thanks to the emergence of innovative tools like Google Maps, more people are grasping the power of open systems for connecting information from disparate sources to make it more useful. Yet we remain in the early stages of building an open infrastructure for science that would make it easy to integrate and make sense of research and data from different sources.

The NeuroCommons is our effort to jumpstart the process, with the goal of making all scientific research materials — research articles, annotations, data, physical materials — as available and as useable as they can be. ...

See also our past posts on the NeuroCommons project.

OA advocate wins $250,000 Heinz Award

Molecular biologist honored with $250,000 Heinz Award, press release, September 9, 2008.
... Dr. Joseph DeRisi, 38, of San Francisco, Howard Hughes Medical Investigator and professor of biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco, and one of the world's foremost researchers in the application of molecular genomics to the study of infectious disease, is among five distinguished Americans selected to receive one of the $250,000 [Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment] awards, presented by the Heinz Family Foundation.

"Joe DeRisi ennobles the field of science not only by way of his pioneering advancements in the laboratory but by virtue of the altruistic and caring nature with which he carries out his work," said Teresa Heinz, chairman of the Heinz Family Foundation. "As a scientist, Dr. DeRisi has made breakthrough discoveries that have provided clarity and insight into the detection of some of the world's most threatening viruses, and his work in finding a cure for malaria offers hope to the hundreds of millions of people afflicted annually by the disease. As a humanitarian, he has distinguished himself as a generous and tireless advocate for the free and open sharing of scientific research. ..."

... Dr. DeRisi pioneered the development and use of the ViroChip, a band-aid-sized glass wafer that contains a microarray of 22,000 DNA sequences from more than 1,300 viral families. This "diagnostics on a chip" enables scientists to not only quickly and accurately identify existing viruses, but also to detect new viruses that could emerge as pandemic threats.

Befitting his commitment to Open Access publishing within the scientific arena, Dr. DeRisi has not pursued a patent for the ViroChip, allowing researchers around the world to use the invention for free. ...
See also Jonathan Eisen, who gives DeRisi his Open Access Pioneer Award.

See also our previous post on DeRisi.

Two public statements from the anti-OA lobby

The DC Principles Coalition (DCPC) and the Professional/Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers (AAP) released their joint letter to the House sponsors of the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (FCRWA), September 10, 2008.  This came out before today's hearing on the bill.  One of the letter's co-authors, Martin Frank, was a witness at the hearing.  Excerpt:

...A recent congressional mandate at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) forces publishers to surrender their copyrighted scientific journal articles for free public access twelve months after publication and sets a dangerous precedent. This mandate in effect reduces copyright protection for this important class of works to only one year. The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act rightly prevents the government from imposing mandates that diminish copyright protection for private-sector, value-added research articles....

Also see the Statement on the FCRWA from Patrick Ross, Executive Director of the Copyright Alliance, September 10, 2008.  Excerpt:

...A recent congressional mandate at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) forces publishers to surrender their copyrighted scientific journal articles for free public access 12 months after publication....

“The mere fact that a scientist accepts as part of her funding a federal grant should not enable the federal government to commandeer the resulting research paper and treat it as a public domain work....[T]aking the scientist’s copyrighted interpretation of the data is not fair to other funders, and it is certainly not fair to the publisher. A publisher improves the work through a rigorous peer review process and develops it for publication. Authors and publishers don’t need the feds playing Rumpelstiltskin by returning after a year to take their children away.

“That publisher has earned the right as a copyright owner to pursue a return on his investment, a pursuit made more difficult when its copyright term is essentially reduced to one year....”


  • Both documents use the inaccurate and dishonest word "surrender" to describe what the NIH policy makes publishers do to their publications.  First, the NIH policy regulates grantees, not publishers.  Second, the policy merely archives copies of authors' peer-reviewed manuscripts in PubMed Central.  It doesn't archive the published versions of the articles, let alone deprive publishers of them or nullify any of the rights in them that authors may have transferred to publishers.  When NIH grantees transfer rights to publishers, publishers may hold and exercise those rights in full.
  • Note that the use of the word "surrender" in this context was pioneered by the first press release (August 23, 2007) from PRISM, the anti-OA lobbying organization widely ridiculed last year for claiming (among other things) that "public access equals government censorship".  Whether or not PRISM is back as an organization, its dishonest advocacy is back.
  • The Copyright Alliance reaches new heights of rhetorical excess with the word "commandeer".  (It would be at least as accurate to say that the traditional publishing model commandeers publicly-funded research, and holds it for ransom.)
  • Both documents say that the NIH policy essentially reduces the term of copyright to one year.  Not true.  The free online PMC edition (released within the first year after publication) is not the copy-edited, formatted, paginated published edition.  Publishers retain full control of the published edition, and may refuse permission for free online access until the copyright expires 70 years after the author's death.
  • The Copyright Alliance document says that after the 12 month embargo runs, the US government treats deposited manuscripts as "public domain work[s]".  Is this deeply uninformed or deliberately deceptive?  Do you expect better from an organization specializing in copyright?
  • Even putting that flat falsehood to one side, both documents leave the impression that the NIH policy infringes publisher copyrights.  But it doesn't.  NIH grantees retain the non-exclusive right to allow PMC to disseminate their peer-reviewed manuscripts; they may transfer all other rights to a publisher.  So when PMC does disseminate those manuscripts, it has the permission of the copyright holders.  As I put it in a February 2008 article on the policy, "publishers cannot complain that this infringes a right they possess, only that it would infringe a right they wished they possessed."  As the debate unfolds, remember this:  There is no copyright infringement here.  There may be reduced publisher revenues, and there may not.  But there is no infringement.
  • The DCPC/AAP/PSP letter is signed by 43 publishers.  I'd like to know whether all 43 actually approve of this harmful bill or whether they are just members of either the DC Principles Coalition and/or the AAP/PSP.  At least 34 signatories are society publishers.  Did they consult their membership before opposing the NIH policy?  (BTW, compare these 34 with the 425 societies publishing 450 full OA journals.)
  • Researchers:  Has your professional society signed on to the DCPC/AAP/PSP letter?  If so, let your society know internally and online that it's not speaking for its members, that it's putting its interests as a publisher ahead of its interests as a scholarly society, and that it's acting more like a commercial firm than a non-profit organization dedicated to research.  At the same time, send copies of your message to the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee (John Conyers, Chairman, D-MI, and Lamar Smith, Ranking Member, R-TX).  Organize other members of your society to deliver the same message --to the society itself, to the Judiciary Committee, and publicly online-- and elect leadership that will speak for interests of researchers.
  • The last time PRISM overplayed its hand, nine important academic publishers disavowed it or took public steps to distance themselves from it.  It's time for publisher-members of DCPC or AAP/PSP who think their organizations' rhetoric goes too far to step forward.  Please don't just make a public statement; send your statement to the leadership of the House Judiciary Committee.

Update.  Also see the AAP/PSP press release on the new bill, and the DCPC press release on Martin Frank's testimony, both September 11, 2008.

Update (9/19/08).  The American Institute of Physics also supports the Conyers bill.  See the summary of its position, its arguments, and its September 11 letter to the Judiciary Committee.


Publisher simplifies contract for NIH employees

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology has revised its journals' publication agreements to automatically include the cover sheet used by authors employed by the National Institutes of Health, for authors so employed. The change does not affect NIH grantees. (Thanks to George Porter.)

Google Scholar starts to flag gratis OA content

Klaus Graf points out (by email) that Google has started to mark some gratis OA resources with a right-pointing green triangle. 

I've run some tests of my own.  It's true.  Google doesn't come close to marking all the gratis OA resources, but at least it's marking some.  Perhaps the coverage will improve with time.  I haven't found any explanation of the new feature at the site.

Here are some sample searches:

Note the first item on the return list for this search:

The green triangle points to a version of an article with a Google address.  Is Google also entering the OA archiving business?

Update (9/15/08).  Also see Stuart Lewis' comments:

...This should make Google Scholar much more useful, as one of the common arguments held against it in the OA world is that it puts the publishers version first, even if it isn’t open but there is an open version available. Thanks Google!

As a closing remark, I’ll comment on Peter Suber’s closing remark in his blog post:

Note the first item on the return list for this search:

The green triangle points to a version of an article with a Google address.  Is Google also entering the OA archiving business?

For all we know Google may be entering the OA archiving business, but in this case it is just a PDF hosted on a ’Google Page Creator’ site (now ‘Google Sites’) which is a simple hosting facility provided by Google to anyone.

Update (11/21/08).  Also see John Willinsky's comments.  Excerpt:

...Google Scholar’s identification of open access versions alleviates the frustration of seeing a system so adept at harvesting the location of every mention and citation of a paper, and then not making readily apparent this one extremely valuable piece of information --can I read the work, if I don’t happen to belong to a library with a subscription or cannot bring myself to spend $31.50 to read it?

Having said all of that, I have to add that Anurag Acharya, chief Google engineer on Google Scholar, disagrees. He explained to me that the green marker indicates materials that are “available to a specific user and NOT what is open access (i.e., it is customized for each user and is not a global marker).” So, if I have library privileges to an article, it should get a green marker. If I am working in a low-income country, journals that have policies offering access in such circumstances should have green markers. And if a journal or a repository offers open access to its content, it, too, should have a green marker. “For example,” he added, “if you were testing from, say, India or Ghana or Kenya, and were searching for articles from PNAS, you would see a different set of links marked. Also, it as yet depends on the number of publishers that make accessibility information available to us. We expect this number to grow.”

You be the judge. It sounds like a shout out to open access to me....

Google Scholar’s latest step in organizing all the world’s information can make all the difference for a whole new set of users, the difference, that is, between grasping at a glance what knowledge can be readily pursued and having to wonder if one’s feeling lucky.

Dramatic Growth of OA series now in Japanese

Heather Morrison's Dramatic Growth of Open Access series is now available in Japanese. See the blog post here.

A2K3 presentations

Most of the presentations from the A2K3 Conference (Geneva, September 8-10, 2008) are now online (see bottom half of the left sidebar).  The rest will be put up shortly.

More on attempts to undo the NIH policy

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property held a hearing on the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, H.R. 6845. The text of the legislation was introduced on September 9. The legislation would overturn the National Institutes of Health's mandatory public access policy.

The witness' written testimony is now available: See also the blog notes on the hearing by Karen Rustad:

... The only reason this has even made it to public comment (I think) is a bunch of representatives feeling slighted because a bill passed Congress without going through their committee (the Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and IP–the measure was part of an Appropriations bill, so it went through that committee). The grumbling at the opening of the session about how important their committee is, prestige of the Appropriations committee be damned, rah rah rah, I think bears this out. So the representatives have been receptive to the patently ridiculous argument that the NIH mandate *changed* copyright law and, thus, should have fallen under their purview. ...

Bottom line: it’s a contract. It’s not a copyright law! The only way the NIH OA mandate conflicts with copyright law is if you change copyright law, which is what the publishers are trying to do now. After all, if it really conflicted, why haven’t the publishers just sued the NIH (as they have also rattled sabres about)?

Maybe because they’d lose. ...

  • Now that we have the text of the bill, we see that it would prevent any federal agency from taking a license in a work resulting from its funding, or from adopting any policy that would "restrain or limit the acquisition or exercise of [copyright] rights".
  • This is strictly my personal opinion, but this bill doesn't seem likely to become law, at least this session. With hotly-contested elections less than two months away, and a new Congress and administration to take office in January, there's not enough time for the bill to move; there's not even a Senate companion bill. I'd call this a stalling tactic. Advocates of public access, who could be working to adopt policies at other funding agencies, instead have to divert their energy to fend off this ludicrously-named bill. The agencies themselves may hesitate to move forward with new policies until the legislation is resolved. And this could change the narrative about the NIH policy: instead of talking about how well it's worked, the media and policymakers will be talking about the opposition to the policy. It's a setback, and a cynical tactic, but the odds of this bill actually becoming law are slim.
  • See also our past post about the bill.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Google to digitize newspaper archives

Punit Soni, Bringing history online, one newspaper at a time, The Official Google Blog, September 8, 2008.
... Today, we're launching an initiative to make more old newspapers accessible and searchable online by partnering with newspaper publishers to digitize millions of pages of news archives. ...

This effort expands on the contributions of others who've already begun digitizing historical newspapers. In 2006, we started working with publications like the New York Times and the Washington Post to index existing digital archives and make them searchable via the Google News Archive. Now, this effort will enable us to help you find an even greater range of material from newspapers large and small, in conjunction with partners such as ProQuest and Heritage, who've joined in this initiative. One of our partners, the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph, is actually the oldest newspaper in North America ...

This effort is just the beginning. As we work with more and more publishers, we'll move closer towards our goal of making those billions of pages of newsprint from around the world searchable, discoverable, and accessible online.
See also the article in the New York Times.

Update. See also this article in Information Today:
[T]he company has offered free digitization to any newspaper publisher willing to put all or any part of its archives onto the web for access through Google News Archive. ...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Contemplating the impacts of OA on journals

Michael E. Smith, What if the Society for American Archaeology were to make its journals Open Access?, Publishing Archaeology, September 7, 2008.
What would be the positive and negative impacts if the [Society for American Archaeology] were to transform its scholarly journals ... from Toll Access to Open Access (“OA”)? This entry is a thought experiment whose purpose is to stimulate thinking about OA issues. ...

Faculty attitudes toward IRs

Aaron Lercher, A Survey of Attitudes About Digital Repositories Among Faculty at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, September 2008. See also the author's self-archived version. Abstract:
This paper gives the result of a 2007 survey of faculty at eight academic departments at Louisiana State University, asking them about the usefulness for their needs of an extension of the scholarly communication system by digital repositories.

New OA journal of emerging health threats

Emerging Health Threats Journal is a new peer-reviewed OA journal on emerging threats to human health. The journal is published by the Emerging Health Threats Forum. Authors retain copyright, and articles are published under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence. See the inaugural editorial:
... Open access journals have become increasingly popular, with a number of professional associations and organisations making their journal article collections either partially or fully available on the Internet. As one of our journal partners, the Wellcome Trust, notes, ‘the benefits of research are derived principally from access to research results’, and publishing in an open access journal is an effective way to achieve that access for a global audience. A number of authors and funding authorities are taking this further, arguing that ethically all biomedical research should be published open access. Although this is not the forum to have that debate, there is good evidence that open access journals do provide the approach required to get emerging health threats and potential solutions to a wide audience, many of whom may have only limited access to other biomedical journals. There is also a clear citation advantage for open access articles, which should make publishing in the journal attractive to future authors and reviewers. ...

Digitization stops at Yale after Microsoft pull-out

Derek Tam, Library digitization efforts stall, Yale Daily News, September 4, 2008.

After the recent collapse of an ambitious digitizaion project, most of Yale’s books will remain exclusively on shelves — at least for now.

In May, only seven months into what was supposed to be an 18-month-long effort to put images of 100,000 of Yale’s libraries’ books on the Web, Microsoft unexpectedly withdrew funding from its partnership with the University. Although the software giant has pledged to complete scanning of the approximately 32,000 volumes already sent to the scanners, the remaining 68,000 tomes that were part of the original contract will not move off the stacks. ...

Out of the 32,000 books already sent away, the library ultimately expects that about 5,000 will not be able to be scanned because of their age and fragility, said Jennifer Weintraub, the library’s digital collections specialist. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Kirtas should finish digitization by late 2008, she said. ...

The library is considering other ways of continuing the digitization, Prochaska said. In addition to drawing upon specific endowments set aside for Yale’s library collections, she said, the library will seek new funds from donors and grants. Another obvious alternative is a partnership with Google. ...

... Yale’s library will allow free public access to the digitized books through not only the library Web site but also the Open Content Alliance, a Yahoo-backed nonprofit organization aimed at making digital collections as accessible as possible. ...

Podcast on OAI, repositories

Talis' Paul Miller has posted a podcast interview with Herbert van de Sompel of the Los Alamos National Laboratory discussing the Open Archives Initiative and repositories. The recording is about an hour long.

New version of Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography

Charles Bailey has released Version 73 of his Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography. See this blog post for information on what's been updated.

Lynch on copyright and academia

The Center for Intellectual Property at the University of Maryland University College has posted OA a chapter from its Handbook. The chapter Cliff Lynch's Copyright Law, Intellectual Property Policy, and Academic Culture, based on a presentation he delivered at UMUC in 2005. (Thanks to Georgia Harper.)
This paper ... examines the interplay between copyright law and academic values. While it identifies a number of areas in which copyright law as currently shaped presents serious barriers to academic inquiry and the research and teaching missions of our universities, the paper also focuses on policy choices that the academic community makes about various rights that are granted under copyright and the very significant ways in which these choices can influence, facilitate, or impede the academic mission within the existing framework. The academy is not simply a victim of current copyright laws and their consequences, however convenient and comforting it may be to fall into that role, and I argue here that it needs to do much more than simply advocate for legislative change and relief; universities can and must take a key leadership role in helping to alleviate many—though certainly not all—of the problems that the current copyright law creates for scholarship by making explicit policy choices that are consistent with fundamental academic values, and they can lead (and, hopefully, help to shape) the broader public thinking about these issues by their example. Some of these choices are difficult, in that they involve renouncing the possibility of enjoying certain (usually in reality nominal) revenue streams in favor of remaining true to fundamental mission imperatives. In this sense, the paper offers an agenda for reflection and self-examination by institutional communities within higher education about intellectual property policy choices and their relationship to fundamental academic values. ...

New OA STM journal

Scholarly Research Exchange is a new peer-reviewed OA journal publishing work in all areas of science, technology, and medicine. The journal is published by Hindawi. Authors retain copyright, and all articles are published using the Creative Commons Attribution License. There are no article processing charges.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blogging the third Access to Knowledge conference

Several people are live-blogging the Access to Knowledge 3 (A2K3) Conference (Geneva, September 8-10, 2008), which started just a couple of hours ago.  The event is sponsored by the Information Society Project at Yale Law School.  Follow the talks and comment on them through the conference blog.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Nature on Big Data

The September 3 issue of Nature is a special issue on Big Data.

Community cleverness required, editorial. Excerpt:
... Researchers need to be obliged to document and manage their data with as much professionalism as they devote to their experiments. And they should receive greater support in this endeavour than they are afforded at present. Those publicly funded databases that have taken on preservation responsibilities, such as GenBank and UniProt, are only a small part of the data landscape. Universities and funding agencies need to provide and support curation facilities, tools and training.

As is amply highlighted in this issue, all of these worthy aims require incentives. These include pressure from, and recognition through, journals. ...
The next Google. Excerpt:
Esther Dyson: I'm on the board of 23andMe of Mountain View, California, which makes genetic information accessible to its owners — and lets them share it for research if they want to. ...

As hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, of people take part, the genetic information collected will enable us to know so much more through data mining, combined with analysis of the interactions of genes and other factors. We'll be able to pre-empt many diseases and treat others better. In addition, I hope this technology will change people's behaviour and encourage them to eat better and exercise more, because they'll have a better understanding of the impact of their behaviour on their health. ...

Joi Ito: The next big thing will come from connecting people and ideas together with a Google-like simplicity — making Wikipedia, Facebook and all sorts of other things completely seamless. ...

I think that a key part to it will be software that automatically gives attribution for the various parts of content we access and share. People want to share content with each other, but the infrastructure and legal framework makes it more difficult than it should be. Legal friction is holding back a lot of creativity. If you have software that works out who owns what for you and gives credit where it is due, and if it can support all different kinds of content, then you start to have a network that enables a great deal more creativity. ...
David Goldston, Data wrangling. Excerpt:
... Even without a [Bureau of Environmental Statistics], the US government releases a lot of environmental data. Much of this is information to determine compliance with regulations, but increasingly just making data available is seen as a way to encourage companies to clean up their operations. The model for such efforts is the Toxic Release Inventory (TRI), established by Congress in 1987, which requires companies to publicly report their annual emissions of certain chemicals. The TRI has resulted in substantial cutbacks in emissions as companies try to 'green' their reputations. ...

Data sharing by individual, non-governmental scientists has increasingly become a topic for public debate. Charging that a scientist has been unwilling to share data is a good way for politicians to raise suspicions about someone's work, especially when the work itself is too technical to be easily evaluated by laymen. But different fields have different mores about data sharing, and the issue is not clear-cut. ...
Mitch Waldrop, Wikiomics. Description:
Pioneering biologists are trying to use wiki-type web pages to manage and interpret data, reports Mitch Waldrop. But will the wider research community go along with the experiment?
Clifford Lynch, How do your data grow? Excerpt:
... Because digital data are so easily shared and replicated and so recombinable, they present tremendous reuse opportunities, accelerating investigations already under way and taking advantage of past investments in science. ...

Funders now rightly view data as assets that they are underwriting and so seek the greatest pay-off for their investments. They demand that researchers and host institutions document and implement data-management and data-sharing plans that address the full life cycle of data — including what happens after a grant finishes. Host universities thus find themselves with legal and ethical obligations to provide a legacy of faculty data. Publishers must also identify the most effective ways to connect publications with data and preserve the scientific record. ...

Launch of Bergen Open Access Publishing

The University of Bergen has launched Bergen Open Access Publishing (BOAP), a new service to publish OA journals, publish OA monographs, and facilitate OA archiving for several Bergen-area research institutions.  It starts life with a list of three OA journals.  Read the BOAP home page in Norwegian or Google's English.  (Thanks to the OpenAccess.No wiki.)

Update (9/16/08).  Here's some additional information from Jan Erik Frantsvåg, by email.  (Thanks Jan Erik.)

At a later stage institutions from all of Norway might be included. The Bergen University Library will host the technical infrastructure and make technical support available. It is our hope that this will lower the threshold for journals/editors contemplating starting new OA journals or transitioning existing ones to OA. As technical infrastructure costs money, even with open source software, we see it as imperative that we cooperate, having only a small handful of OJS installations but making them available for all interested parties. It is the setting up of infrastructure that costs, whether 1 or 100 journals utilize it doesn't really affect costs much - so sharing is the only policy that makes sense.

Currently, we know of 3 OJS installations in Norway:

  • University of Oslo, with 1 journal, Acta Didactica Norge
  • BOAP (Bergen) with 3 journals
  • University of Tromsø, with 2 journals (and 2 more coming, we're just waiting for an upgrade)

Both Bergen and Tromsø are actively looking for more journals to "fill" their OJS installations.