Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, September 27, 2008

"Hassles" from Elsevier on sponsored OA

Rosie Redfield has posted (1, 2, 3) about her experiences providing OA to her article accepted for publication in an Elsevier journal.
  • First she notes that Elsevier's publication agreement requires her to hand over her copyright to the journal, permitting her to self-archive the final manuscript but not the journal-quality PDF.
  • Then she notes that for $3,000, her article can be available OA from the journal's Web site, but this still requires a transfer of copyright and does not permit the use of Creative Commons licenses.
  • Finally, she shares her correspondence with an Elsevier customer service representative, going back and forth on how she can pay the $3,000 fee, since her funding agency (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) doesn't have a specific agreement with Elsevier on paying hybrid OA fees.
Update. Redfield has posted an update concluding that the hybrid option isn't worth it.

Update. See also Jonathan Eisen's comments.

Updates to Open Shakespeare

Jonathan Gray, What can you do with Open Shakespeare?, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, September 26, 2008.

We’ve recently updated Open Shakespeare. The project was started a while back as an open knowledge ‘exemplar project’ - i.e. as a simple ‘hello world’ type open knowledge package (for more on this see the FAQ).

It aims to:

  1. Provide the complete works of Shakespeare, along with textual apparatus (introduction, notes) and tools (concordance, search etc) all in an open form.
  2. Deliver this material as a knowledge package that allows for easy deployment, redistribution and reuse.

Recent changes include:

Blog notes on OA in chemistry

Jan Kuras, Chemistry Central host OA session at EuCheMS Congress, Chemistry Central Blog, September 26, 2008.

Chemistry Central hosted an engaging open session - An Introduction to Open Access Publishing in Chemistry - at the recent EuCheMS Chemistry Congress in Torino, Italy [(September 16-20, 2008)].

Jan Kuras, Associate Publisher at Chemistry Central, provided an overview of the strategy and business model of OA publishing and positioned it within the publishing landscape, highlighting the beneficiaries throughout the research community.

Dr Livia Simon Sarkadi, from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, then examined the benefits (as well as some disadvantages) of OA publishing to the chemistry community and shared some initiatives that could be implemented to progress OA in chemistry. These included: soliciting articles from leading chemists in areas of high topicality to raise the profile of an OA journal; engaging with young chemists for whom OA publications will be part of their careers; and seeking support for OA publishing from national societies and divisions. ...

Podcast on open publication models

On September 26, the MIT Libraries posted a podcast with Gari Clifford on author rights and OA.

More on OA to U.S. presidential debate videos

Lawrence Lessig, Free Debates: Round Two, Lessig Blog, September 25, 2008.

As reported on the LA Times blog, during the primaries, a bunch of us (both Democrats and Republicans) called on the parties to demand that the networks adopt "open" or "free debate" principles, to assure that the debates would be available to everyone to use or reuse as they choose.

We're back. In the extended entry below is another letter, signed by another bipartisan mix, calling on McCain and Obama to commit to "open debate principles." You can get a PDF of the letter here. ...

Specifically, we ask you to embrace these two “open debate” principles for the 2008 debates:

  1. The presidential debates are for the benefit of the public. Therefore, the right to speak about the debates ought to be “owned” by the public, not controlled by the media.
    During the primaries, a large coalition asked that media companies release rights to presidential debate video to ensure that key moments can be legally blogged about, shared on YouTube, or otherwise shared without fear of legal repercussion.

    CNN, ABC, and NBC agreed to release video rights. But one media company threatened legal action against Senator McCain for using a debate clip to spread a message. Such control over political speech is inconsistent with our democracy.

    We therefore call upon both candidates to commit to a principle that whenever you debate publicly, the raw footage of that debate will be dedicated to the public domain. Those in charge of the video feed should be directed to make it free for anyone to use. ...

See also our post on the earlier call for OA to the primary debates.

DSpace launches global outreach committee

The DSpace Foundation launched its Global Outreach Committee on September 23, 2008. Committee members are volunteers who manage repositories worldwide. The committee's goal is to facilitate regional support, trainings, user group meetings, and users resources. The committee still has open seats for members from Europe and/or Asia.

French journal drops its embargo on the OA edition

André Gunthert, Etudes photographiques revient en ligne avec ses images, Études photographiques, September 17, 2008Read it in French or Google's English.  (Thanks to Peter Hirtle.)

An editorial announcing the relaunch of the journal's online edition, which will now appear simultaneously with the print edition.  Gunthert concludes that embargoes (or moving walls) harm readers and that online and print editions serve different users in different ways. 

OAD list of videos about OA

The Open Access Directory (OAD) just opened a list of Videos about OA for community editing and enlargement.

Like the list of Educational materials about OA launched last week, this one is timed to support Open Access Day (October 14, 2008) and capture the many new resources now under development for it.

The first version of the list is short, just enough to justify a launch.  If you know of videos about OA (not just videos which happen to be OA), please take a moment to add them.  OAD contributors must register, but registration is free and easy.

Integrating seven OA databases of carbohydrate sequences

R. Ranzinger and three co-authors, GlycomeDB - integration of open-access carbohydrate structure databases, BMC Bioinformatics, September 19, 2008.  From the abstract:

Background: Although carbohydrates are the third major class of biological macromolecules, after proteins and DNA, there is neither a comprehensive database for carbohydrate structures nor an established universal structure encoding scheme for computational purposes. Funding for further development of the Complex Carbohydrate Structure Database (CCSD or CarbBank) ceased in 1997, and since then several initiatives have developed independent databases with partially overlapping foci. For each database, different encoding schemes for residues and sequence topology were designed. Therefore, it is virtually impossible to obtain an overview of all deposited structures or to compare the contents of the various databases.

Results: We have implemented procedures which download the structures contained in the seven major databases, e.g., the Consortium for Functional Glycomics (CFG), the Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG) and the Bacterial Carbohydrate Structure Database (BCSDB). We have created a new database called GlycomeDB, containing all structures, their taxonomic annotations and references (IDs) for the original databases. More than 100,000 datasets were imported, resulting in more than 33,000 unique sequences now encoded in GlycomeDB using the universal format GlycoCT. Inconsistencies were found in all public databases, which were discussed and corrected in multiple feedback rounds with the responsible curators.

Conclusions: GlycomeDB is a new, publicly available database for carbohydrate sequences with a unified, all-encompassing structure encoding format and NCBI taxonomic referencing. The database is updated weekly and can be downloaded free of charge. The JAVA application GlycoUpdateDB is also available for establishing and updating a local installation of GlycomeDB. With the advent of GlycomeDB, the distributed islands of knowledge in glycomics are now bridged to form a single resource.

Comment.  GlycomeDB illustrates a scenario that should become more and more common:  first make resources OA, and then make related resources consistent and interoperable.  OA resources are not only useful because users (human and machine) can access their contents, but because third parties can build on them to offer users (human and machine) the benefits of their combined strengths and synergies.

ElPub 2008 presentations

We've blogged many individual presentations from ElPub 2008, Open Scholarship: Authority, Community and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0 (Toronto, June 25-27, 2008), but I don't think we've blogged that fact that all the presentations are now online.  Many are OA-related.

Obstacles to OA in Sweden

Mathias Klang, Open access barriers: An action research, in Chrisanthi Avgerou, Matthew L. Smith, and Peter Van den Besselaar (eds.), Social Dimensions Of Information And Communication Technology Policy: Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Human Choice and Computers (HCC8), Pretoria, South Africa, September 25-26, 2008, Springer, 2008.  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far

ICT has provided the infrastructure to enable easy access to scientific information. Despite this, libraries are suffering from the rising of journal subscriptions. Additionally, the structure of scholarly publications is creating a wasteful situation where publicly funded research is being paid for several times over. University libraries are struggling to deal with these new realities at the same time as they provide a level of service with acceptable access to publications. The work of librarians is being heavily affected by the influence of copyright and licensing which together are creating barriers to open access. The work in this chapter draws from an action research in progress undertaken by Lund’s University in order to explore the barriers to open access to scientific research output in Sweden.

Open data from Scalablast

Darren Curtis, Elena Peterson and Christopher Oehmen, A Secure Web Application Providing Public Access To High-Performance Data Intensive Scientific Resources - Scalablast Web Application, a presentation at WEBIST 2008 (Madeira, Portugal, May 4-7, 2008).  Scroll about 1/8 down the file.  I've only been able to find this abstract:

This work presents the ScalaBLAST Web Application (SWA), a web based application implemented using the PHP script language, MySQL DBMS, and Apache web server under a GNU/Linux platform. SWA is an application built as part of the Data Intensive Computer for Complex Biological Systems (DICCBS) project at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). SWA delivers accelerated throughput of bioinformatics analysis via high-performance computing through a convenient, easy-to-use web interface. This approach greatly enhances emerging fields of study in biology such as ontology-based homology, and multiple whole genome comparisons which, in the absence of a tool like SWA, require a heroic effort to overcome the computational bottleneck associated with genome analysis. The current version of SWA includes a user account management system, a web based user interface, and a backend process that generates the files necessary for the Internet scientific community to submit a ScalaBLAST parallel processing job on a dedicated cluster.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another profile of Carl Malamud

Declan McCullagh, Tech activist takes on governments over 'copyrighted' laws, CNET News, September 25, 2008.

... "One of the most important products our government makes is information," said the 49-year-old tech activist, who created a Lego animation to buttress his point. "We forget the important role of the government in producing these vast databases of information. That to me is infrastructure no different from electrical lines or roads."

Malamud's solution typically has been to create a proof-of-concept Web site, with the hopes of embarrassing government entities into building that infrastructure themselves. In the 1990s, his activism was responsible for persuading the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Patent and Trademark Office to make their data available for free on the Internet. Now, on his Web site, he's resumed posting hundreds of thousands of pages of government documents--all of which are, or at least should be, in the public domain. ...

See also our many past posts on Malamud and Public.Resource.Org.

Update. See also yet another profile from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Open Access Day: 65 participating campuses (and counting)

The Open Access Day blog notes that the number of participating institutions is now up to 65. The participants are located in Australia, Canada, Chile, India, Ireland, Italy, Moldova, Mozambique, Peru, Romania, and the United States. Open Access Day is October 14 -- if your institution hasn't yet signed up to participate, there's still time to do so.

See also our past posts on Open Access Day.

First OA edition of Health and Human Rights

Corydon Ireland, Health, rights journal open to all, The Harvard University Gazette, September 25, 2008.

... [T]he journal Health and Human Rights (HHR) this month published its first open-access edition. Volume 10, issue 1, will still appear in print, and is still published by the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights (FXB Center) at the Harvard School of Public Health. ...

HHR’s new full-text, open-access format was discussed by [Paul] Farmer and others in a public panel last week (Sept. 17). The event drew a capacity crowd to the American Repertory Theatre’s Loeb Stage.

“The focus is not just to write for each other,” said FXB Center Director and HHR publisher Jim Yong Kim, “but to develop a robust community of practice.” ...

HHR is free to anyone with a computer, and so “aligns itself with a global movement for the democratization of scientific knowledge production,” said an HHR editor’s note co-written by Farmer.

“The right to health cannot be separate from the right to information,” agreed panelist Agnès Binagwaho, a pediatrician who runs Rwanda’s National AIDS Control Commission.

HHR was previously available only in print, and only by subscription. But now that it is online and free, the journal becomes a more powerful tool for reflection, education, and innovation, she said.

The Internet offers speed and efficiencies that print cannot, said Binagwaho, who used to cram her suitcases with medical literature on the way back from trips to the West, up to the airline’s limit of 20 kilos. “But how much knowledge is in 20 kilos?” she asked. ...

See also our post from March noting that HHR was converting to OA.

New OA journal of urology

Urology Annals is a new peer-reviewed OA journal, published by the Saudi Urological Association and Medknow. The journal's inaugural issue will be released in January 2009; the journal will be published quarterly. There are no article processing charges. The journal's contents will be released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license. The journal's site also notes that it "permits authors to self-archive final accepted version of the articles on any OAI-compliant institutional / subject-based repository."

Reminder: survey on repository copyright policies

The deadline to participate in the University of East Anglia's survey of copyright-related practices at institutional repositories is approaching. The survey will be open until September 30, 2008. (Thanks to Mark Jones.)

See also our past post on the survey.

More notes on the Brisbane conference

More commentary on Open Access and Research Conference 2008 (Brisbane, September 24-25, 2008): See also our past posts on the conference.

New release of Open Conference Systems

On September 24, Public Knowledge Project announced the release of version 2.1.1 of its Open Conference Systems software.

New medical blog network

Medbrains is a new, free platform for medical blogs. (Thanks to The 28-Hour-Day diet.)

More on how NIH encourages and monitors compliance

The NIH has released a Reminder Concerning Grantee Compliance with Public Access Policy and Related NIH Monitoring Activities, September 23, 2008.  Excerpt:

This Notice describes NIH Public Access Policy compliance monitoring efforts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009.  It also provides important reminders concerning grantee demonstration of compliance and the location of citations for papers in applications, proposals and progress reports. Grantees are responsible for compliance with the Policy, including ensuring that any publishing or copyright agreements permit submission to PubMed Central in accord with the Policy....

In FY2009, Program Directors/Principal Investigators (PDs/PIs) will be notified via an email from the Program Official if citations of papers included in applications, proposals or progress reports appear to fall under the Policy but lack a demonstration of compliance as described below.  The citations of concern will be explicitly listed. The Institutional Business Official will be copied on the email. 

The PD/PI will be asked to respond via email to both the Program Official and the Institutional Business Official with confirmation that papers listed in the email are in compliance.  Confirmation should include the citation for the paper plus the appropriate identifier as described below under Demonstrating Compliance. If the paper is not covered by the Policy, the PD/PI should provide an appropriate explanation (e.g., manuscript was accepted for publication prior to April 7, 2008; the paper was not peer-reviewed).  Grantees are reminded that compliance with the Policy is a Term and Condition of the award....

Grantees are reminded to demonstrate compliance with the Public Access Policy when submitting an application, proposal, or progress report to the NIH....

NIH expects citations in an application, proposal or report to include the most up-to-date information concerning the status of compliance with the Public Access Policy....

Penn State's experiment with OA/TA books

Shaun Manning, Penn State Press and Libraries Come Together for Digital Publishing, The Exchange Online (newsletter of the AAUP), September 19, 2008.  Excerpt:

...Given that the [Penn State Press] Romance Studies titles are available for sale in a print format as well as having significant portions available for free online, there was...some concern as to whether the availability of these free chapters would ultimately hurt sales of the print volume. “Indeed there were concerns, and the jury’s still out,” said [Patrick H. Alexander, Co-Director of Penn State’s Office Digital Scholarly Publishing (ODSP)]. “We wrestled with the conflict of interest between an Open Access online version and a printed edition. If the volume were available online, who would buy the print?” He added that the press’s partnership with the library alleviated many costs associated with digital publishing and distribution, but that print sales were still very important to offset the editorial, production, and other overhead costs of publishing.

“We weighed various options: no access, partial access, degraded print access, and full access,” Alexander said. ODSP’s solution was to offer all of books’ content available as chapter-by-chapter downloadable PDFs, but only around 50% of each book will be printable from these files. “It’s possible that some potential readers of Romance Studies titles will be happier to get a single chapter or do a short check online, rather than buy a book. But the online reading experience will not replicate the in-print experience, nor will printing out a whole book on the laser printer really replace the book.” He noted that the open access model presents an opportunity for greater dissemination of scholarship, but that questions remain as to how a majority of users will interact with the material in digital and print formats. For example, are the PDFs read on screen or printed out? What would each case indicate as to how Penn State should offer the Romance Studies books? Are users likely to print out an entire book, if all chapters were available, rather than simply purchasing a bound copy? “The problem is that we won’t be able to definitely prove these assumptions unless we can discover what motivates our readers’ behavior,” Alexander said....

“The Penn State Romance Studies series also represents a commitment to experimenting with ‘open access’ to book content that was emphasized as an imperative in AAUP’s Statement on Open Access drafted by our director, Sanford Thatcher, so as to help bridge the growing ‘digital divide’ between book and journal content in the OA world.”

Citation links connecting OA journals

Alireza Noruzi, Citation-Linking between Open Access Journals, Webology, June 2008.  An editorial.  Excerpt:

Reference-links in OA journals allow readers to directly access and browse the full-text of the cited references by simply clicking on the hypertext links. Hitchcock et al. (1997) argue that citation-linking improves access to online journals. Citation-linking can also be used to interconnect journals (Harnad & Carr, 2000)....

The new generation of citation indexes like Google Scholar and CiteSeer are based on this assumption....

This study examined whether Yahoo reveals all the citation-links to six OA journals....

It can be concluded that reference-links in OA journals are equivalent to conventional citations....

The hyperlinked connectivity network seems to represent the real inter-relationships and inter-communication between OA journals. Hyperlink network analysis of OA journals enables researchers to identify an invisible network of inter-journal and intra-journal communication. Hyperlink network analysis has rendered visible a latent network among journals.

Citation-links increase readership and at the same time they give a journal (its papers) a better ranking on the search engines especially Google. Citation-links also increase link popularity, traffic and visibility of OA journals....

Gary Hall book on OA now available

Gary Hall, Digitize This Book!  The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now, a new book on OA just released by the University of Minnesota Press.  Hall is a professor of media and performing arts at Coventry University, a founding co-editor of the peer-reviewed OA journal, Culture Machine, director of the OA Cultural Studies e-Archive, CSeARCH, and co-founder of the Open Humanities Press.  Here's the blurb from the book's home page:

How open access can transform academia for the better.

In the sciences, the merits and ramifications of open access —the electronic publishing model that gives readers free, irrevocable, worldwide, and perpetual access to research— have been vigorously debated. Open access is now increasingly proposed as a valid means of both disseminating knowledge and career advancement. In Digitize This Book! Gary Hall presents a timely and ambitious polemic on the potential that open access publishing has to transform both “papercentric” humanities scholarship and the institution of the university itself.

Hall, a pioneer in open access publishing in the humanities, explores the new possibilities that digital media have for creatively and productively blurring the boundaries that separate not just disciplinary fields but also authors from readers. Hall focuses specifically on how open access publishing and archiving can revitalize the field of cultural studies by making it easier to rethink academia and its institutions. At the same time, by unsettling the processes and categories of scholarship, open access raises broader questions about the role of the university as a whole, forcefully challenging both its established identity as an elite ivory tower and its more recent reinvention under the tenets of neoliberalism as knowledge factory and profit center.

Rigorously interrogating the intellectual, political, and ethical implications of open access, Digitize This Book! is a radical call for democratizing access to knowledge and transforming the structures of academic and institutional authority and legitimacy.


  • I haven't had a chance to look at it, but it appears to be the first book on OA to focus on the humanities and the role of universities in the sharing of knowledge.  Congratulations, Gary.
  • Also see yesterday's announcement for endorsements by Kembrew McLeod and Jonathan Culler, and the OAN blog post from July 2008 when the book was first announced.
  • Apparently the book doesn't have an OA edition. 

ACS will accommodate more funder OA mandates, for a fee

Fred Campbell, ACS open access agreement, Chemistry World, September 2008.  Excerpt:

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is expected shortly to finalise an agreement under which, for a fee, it will deposit published articles into open access repositories, such as PubMed Central, and allow their content to be text-mined, hyperlinked, copied and redistributed, for non-commercial research and education purposes.

The altered model would have direct consequences for researchers funded by the UK funding bodies, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome Trust, who require that all manuscripts be deposited into open access repositories but are currently advising authors to avoid publishing with the ACS....

Researchers funded by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) were recently granted a policy change, whereby the ACS would deposit the article on the author's behalf under the AuthorChoice [hybrid OA journal] system; this will now be extended to non-NIH authors.

Also in the current system, the licence that accompanies the articles restricts any further hyperlinking or text-mining of the deposited manuscript; the new licence will lift those limitations. An improved agreement would likely end the UK funding bodies' recommended boycott.


  • This is a not a step forward, but merely glissade from one bad policy to another.  NIH-funded researchers who publish in ACS journals must pay ACS in order to comply with their prior, independent funding contracts.  Now ACS will offer the same "benefit" to researchers funded by the MRC and Wellcome Trust. 
  • For background see my article from April 2007, Paying for green open access.
  • The NIH, MRC, and Wellcome Trust use a strong form of OA mandate.  Instead of letting authors opt out when they want to publish with a recalcitrant publisher, like the ACS, they require authors to look for another publisher.  That's the sense in which these funding agencies have been "boycotting" or "advising authors to avoid publishing with the ACS", although it's more fair to say that the ACS has been boycotting authors funded by those agencies.  Under its new policy, the ACS will no longer exclude them, but merely charge them.  I like the evidence that even the large, wealthy, and very recalcitrant ACS can't continue its boycott of researchers funded by these important agencies.  But researchers shouldn't have to pay any publisher to comply with their own funding contracts, and shouldn't have to pay for gold OA if they only want green OA.  Researchers funded by NIH, MRC, or the WT should save their money and continue to steer clear of ACS journals.

Update and correction (9/27/08).  The ACS currently offers NIH-funded authors three options, one of which requires no fee and no ACS membership.  The problem it is trying to fix with its forthcoming revision is to make the fee-based AuthorChoice option compatible with the requirements of the Wellcome Trust and MRC.  Those funders will pay fees on behalf of authors, but only for publishers who go beyond gratis to libre OA.  If the ACS does start to offer libre OA for its AuthorChoice fees, that would be a step forward, especially if it continues to offer a no-fee option for NIH-funded authors.


When does open geodata help develop geodata infrastructure?

B. van Loenen, Developing geographic information infrastructures: the role of access policies, International Journal of Geographical Information Science, September 9, 2008.  (Thanks to GeoData Policy.)  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

Within societies, information availability is a key issue affecting society's well-being. For geographic information, a geographic information infrastructure (GII) facilitates availability and access to geographic information for all levels of government, the commercial sector, the non-profit sector, academia, and ordinary citizens. Although the importance of access policies in the development of a GII is commonly understood, research that has assessed the impact of access policies on this development is scant. This article adds this perspective. Based on information acquired from case-study and literature research, the author argues that open-access policies do not always promote GII development and in specific instances are counter-productive. These findings may explain why many nations still adhere to cost-recovery policies instead of following access policies recommended by research. The article provides alternatives for changing current policies into new access policies that promote GII development.

Notes from the Brisbane OA conference

Alma Swan, Open Oz, OptimalScholarship, September 26, 2008.  Excerpt:

The last three days have seen the Open Access and Research 2008 conference take place in Brisbane, Australia. Over a year in the planning, the meeting was oversubscribed, busy, buzzy, expectant and excited. Excited because recent national developments in Australia have meant that the conference was particularly auspiciously timed....

Australia's new government has been busy since it was elected at the end of last year and earlier this month published the final report from the Review of the National Innovation System. The report, VenturousAustralia (the 'Cutler Report'), makes a large number of recommendations, many particularly pertinent to Open Access, including (but  not only) the following:

  • 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 7.14: 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 commons...

Australia's Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Kim Carr, addressed the meeting via a pre-recorded video, re-emphasising the sentiments expressed in these recommendations. His words set the tone for the rest of the conference, pervading the event with a rather special spirit of optimism and confidence....

The presentations were all recorded and the recordings and presentation files will be added to the conference website in due course....

There were...three popular and busy half-day workshops on:

  • Open Access - Making it Happen
  • Managing the Legal Issues and Research
  • Access and Innovation....

It will anyway have its place as a landmark event in the history of open access, but it is also to lay down a more tangible marker of having happened. For, focused - as ever - on outcomes, Arthur Sale bounced into action to draft a 'Brisbane Declaration' - well we WERE in a city beginning with B, after all - and that will be published shortly....

I am immensely proud of Australia and delighted to have been part of this event. As well as reuniting happily with old OA-Warrior (as Peter Suber calls us) friends, it was a wonderful opportunity to make many new ones and I thank the organisers for including me. The leadership of Tom Cochrane (Deputy Vice-Chancellor at QUT and the first person in the world to implement a mandatory university open access policy) and Brian Fitzgerald (QUT and the OAK Law project), plus the organisational abilities - and seemingly endless energy - of Scott Kiel-Chisholm (OAK Law project manager), Amy Piekkala-Fletcher (QUT's events manager) and the rest of the organising team made this an outstanding conference. It will influence open access developments, not just in Australasia but around the world.

More on the OA commitment of the German science alliance

If you remember, in June 2008 a group of important German research institutions and funding agencies launched the Allianz der deutschen Wissenschaftsorganisationen (Alliance of German Science Organizations), which committed itself to support green and gold OA, among other goals.

The Alliance's founding document from June 11, 2008, is now available in English.  (Thanks to Neil Beagrie.)  Excerpt:

Equipping scientists and scholars with the information infrastructure best suited to meeting their research needs is the guiding principle of this priority initiative. In the digital age, this entails digital access to publications, primary research data, and virtual research and communication environments, available to the user without costs or other barriers. It also requires a sustainable, integrated digital research environment that can provide all German researchers the broadest possible access to published knowledge and the relevant primary research data....

The Alliance of German Science Organisations therefore agree to coordinate the activities of the individual partner organisations and to expand on the ideal of the innovative information environment by means of a Joint Priority Initiative from 2008 to 2012 with the following goals:

  • to guarantee the broadest possible access to digital publications, digital data and other source materials
  • to utilise digital media to create the ideal conditions for the distribution and reception of publications related to German research....

The Priority Areas in Detail ...

Priority Area 2:  Open Access

The term Open Access describes the goal of making knowledge globally accessible and usable in digital form without financial, technical or legal barriers....

The activities of the Alliance’s existing Open Access working group – perhaps including further members – will be stepped up, so that the open access to texts, primary data and other digital objects can be promoted and implemented by means of science policy and other concrete steps.

A primary goal of this Priority Area is to expand the scope and network of institutional and disciplinary digital repositories. To achieve this, incentives will be developed in the context of the alliance’s activities: First – with reference to the research institutions – to undertake the standardisation, networking and quality assurance of publication servers; and second – with reference to the individual scientists and scholars – to make (secondary) publications available via the so-called “green road” of Open Access.

The second essential goal is to further develop the so-called “golden road” of Open Access (an article is freely accessible as soon as it is published in a journal) through coordinated action. This will require the development of new business and funding models as well as new forms of cooperative financing. Pilot projects will be used to track the way in which subscription fees and publication costs can be correlated and/or rearranged. Models will be developed and tested in discipline-specific settings with the goal of financing publication costs as the final step of the research process. Suitable budgetary measures must be developed to ensure that research budgets are not strained as a result....

PS:  The founding members of the Alliance are the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst (DAAD, German Academic Exchange Service), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation), the Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren (Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers), the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (HRK, German Rectors Conference), the Leibniz Society, the Max Planck Society, and the Wissenschaftsrat (WR, German Council of Science and Humanities).

Apparently the Alliance still doesn't have a web site.  But if I'm wrong, I'd love to be corrected.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dismissing the "smallness" of OA

Barbara Kirsop, OA 'a small idea'?, Electronic Publishing Trust for Development, September 22, 2008.

A recent contributor to the [American Scientist Open Access Forum], Joe Esposito, made statements that need addressing. He said, in relation to the semi-automated ability to request copies of papers of articles archived in OA Institutional Repositories, ‘Most authors, of course, will not be troubled much with requests because the articles are indeed available to most researchers through institutional subscriptions’, and later ‘. . . OA has little impact’, and finally ‘OA is a small idea’. ...

If it is true, as he states, that ‘the articles are available to most researchers through institutional subscriptions’, how is it that when material *is* made OA, hundreds and thousands of articles are downloaded daily? ... Researchers in the developing world – as has been reported many times and is now well acknowledged – can afford few or even no subscriptions (see for eg New England Journal of Medicine 350, no. 10 (2004): 966–968, showing that in a WHO survey of medical institutes in developing countries there had been *no* subscriptions to journals over the previous 5 years by 56% of institutes in the poorest countries). Globally, no library can afford all the journals it would wish to subscribe to.

In spite of research findings to the contrary, he also concludes that ‘OA has little impact’. But people have different interpretations of what is ‘impact’. To some, it just means citations. Important, yes, but as all researchers know, at the start of a new project, it is standard practice to find and read a considerable number of papers, some recent, some not, and the knowledge this provides feeds into their future work, directing their understanding, broadening their horizons, providing technical information (methods, procedures . .) and only a little of this will be cited in future publications. This ‘impact’ arising from their reading and discussions with colleagues is near-immeasurable, but is essential to the successful conduct of research programmes. If impact equals recorded future usage, statistics of the magnitude of downloads being shown from OA IRs ... and OA Journals ... now demonstrate clearly that this information, previously locked away in vaults, is needed and downloaded by researchers for professional purposes, not for fun. ...

Top 5 collections of open university courses

Dan Colman, The Top Five Collections of Free University Courses, Open Culture, September 24, 2008. Here are the collections -- see the article for information and links:
  1. UC Berkeley
  2. Yale
  3. MIT
  4. Indian Institutes of Technology
  5. Stanford

Notes on Repository Fringe conference

Edinburgh Repository Fringe 2008, EDINA newsline, September 2008. Notes on the Edinburgh Repository Fringe (Edinburgh, July 31-August 1, 2008). See also our past posts on the Repository Fringe.

Open API for Google Books

Alex Diaz, Book Search everywhere with new partnerships and tools, Inside Google Book Search, September 22, 2008.
... We're launching a set of free tools that allow retailers, publishers, and anyone with a web site to embed books from the Google Book Search index. We are also providing new ways for these sites to display full-text search results from Book Search, and even integrate with social features such as ratings, reviews, and readers' book collections. ...

NIH funds 6 genome studies, data to be OA

NIH's Genes, Environment and Health Initiative adds 6 studies, press release, September 24, 2008.

The Genes, Environment and Health Initiative (GEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) today awarded grants, estimated to be up to $5.5 million over two years for six studies aimed at finding genetic factors that influence the risks for stroke, glaucoma, high blood pressure, prostate cancer and other common disorders. ...

Data from the genome-wide association studies will be deposited in the database of Genotypes and Phenotypes (dbGaP) at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a part of the National Library of Medicine at NIH, which will manage the vast amount of genetic, medical and environmental information that emerges from GEI. To encourage rapid research advances, and in keeping with the principles pioneered by the Human Genome Project, all data generated through these initiatives will be made available to researchers, consistent with NIH's data-sharing policy for NIH-supported, genome-wide association studies ....

For researchers who want to view genome-wide association data produced by GEI, dbGaP offers two levels of access. The first is open-access, which means the information will be available without restriction on the Internet, and the second is controlled-access, which requires preauthorization for the individual researcher seeking to view it. The open-access section will allow users to view study documents, such as protocols, questionnaires and summaries of phenotype data. The second is the controlled-access portion of the database, which allows approved researchers to download individual-level genotype and phenotype data from which the study participants' personal identifiers, such as names, have been removed. ...

See also our past posts on dbGaP.

OA search engine seeks professional reviewers

hakia Issues Open Call to Librarians and Information Professionals: Help Us Guide Web Searchers to Credible Web Sites, press release, September 22, 2008.
Semantic search engine hakia today announced an open call to librarians and information professionals to participate in a new program to unlock credible and free Web resources to Web searchers. Currently, hakia is generating credibility-stamped results for health and medical searches to guide users towards credible Web content. These results come from credible Web sites vetted by the Medical Library Association. Now, hakia is aiming to further its coverage to all topics, with the participation of librarians and information professionals. ...

Blogs as conversation between researchers and the public

Shelley A. Batts, et al., Advancing Science through Conversations: Bridging the Gap between Blogs and the Academy, PLoS Biology, September 23, 2008.
Scientific discovery occurs in the lab one experiment at a time, but science itself moves forward based on a series of ongoing conversations, from a Nobel Prize winner's acceptance speech to collegial chats at a pub. When these conversations flow into the mainstream, they nurture the development of an informed public who understand the value of funding basic research and making evidence-based voting decisions. It is in the interests of scientists and academic institutions alike to bring these conversations into the public sphere. ...

Because many science bloggers are practicing scientists or experts in their field, they can provide a unique educational bridge between academia and the public and distill important experimental findings into an accessible, interactive format. Yet academic institutions have been slow to appreciate blogs as valuable mediums for facilitating scholarly discussion ...

The state of open data in Finland

Arja Kuula and Sami Borg, Open Access to and Reuse of Research Data – The State of the Art in Finland, Finnish Social Science Data Archive, July 2008.  (Thanks to Stuart Macdonald.)  Excerpt:

In 2004, Ministers of science and technology of the OECD countries adopted a Declaration on Access to Research Data from Public Funding. In this declaration, they recognised the importance of access to research data and invited the OECD to develop a set of guidelines based on commonly agreed principles to facilitate optimal cost-effective access to digital research data from public funding. This request was taken up by OECD’s Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy, which launched a project by asking a group of experts to develop a set of principles and guidelines. Next, the developed principles and guidelines were submitted to an extensive consultation process, after which they were approved by the OECD’s Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy in October 2006, attached to an OECD Recommendation, and endorsed by the OECD Council in December 2006.

In 2006, the Ministry of Education in Finland allocated resources to the Finnish Social Science Data Archive (FSD) to chart national and international practices related to open access to research data. Consequently, the FSD carried out an online survey targeting professors of human sciences, social sciences and behavioural sciences in Finnish universities. Some respondents were senior staff at research institutes. The respondents were asked about the state and use of data collected in their department/institute. Almost half of the respondents considered the preservation and use of digital research data to be relevant to their department. The number of respondents (150) is large enough to warrant statistical analysis even though response rate was low at 28%....

6.4 Extensive cooperation needed to support the implementation of the OECD Recommendation

...The cooperation should involve publicly funded research organisations collecting data, key research funders, and scientific organisations from various disciplines. From the point of view of the Ministry of Education, the key actors include the Academy of Finland, Finnish universities, the Finnish Council of University Rectors, the National Advisory Board on Research Ethics, and the Committee for Public Information. Promoting open access to digital data can take the form of extensive discussion forum, for instance. The agenda of the forum could include at least the following issues:

1. National-level discussion and conceptualising of the general operational models of implementing the OECD Recommendation.

2. Developing research design and agreement practices that support the long life cycle of research data.

3. Clarifying the rights and responsibilities of actors connected to research data.

4. Improving data life cycle management through training and education.

5. Encouraging research funders and data collectors to create data policies.

6. Discussion and proposals for recommendations and research funder policies that would promote the reuse of data....

Some issues can be solved in a reasonably short time. The means for changing the prevailing operational and cultural practices are mostly in the hands of research funding bodies. The Academy of Finland has reacted to the prevailing problems by starting to require this autumn (2008) that a long-term data management plan must be submitted with funding applications, which should lead to better planned data collection, processing, and preservation measures....

From the Brisbane OA conference

Anna Salleh, Australia to gain from open access to research, ABC News, September 25, 2008.  Excerpt:

Australia is poised to take a lead in the move to free up the results of publicly-funded research, say international experts.

The comments follow an expression of support by Federal Science Minister Kim Carr for making Government-funded research freely available on the internet under a creative commons licence - one of the recommendations in the recently-released Cutler Report on innovation....

Senator Carr told the Open Access and Research Conference in Brisbane this week by video link[,]..."The Government is weighing these recommendations and will respond to them in an innovation policy white paper."

UK open access expert Dr Alma Swan is among a number of conference participants who welcome the minister's comments....Dr Swan says less than 20 per cent of publicly-funded research is freely available....

Dr Swan adds that the public is also increasingly wanting direct access to scientific research....She gives the example of US patient advocate, Sharon Terry, who is the mother of two sons with an extremely rare genetic disease.  "Her family doctor knew nothing about it and couldn't help her," Dr Swan said.  Ms Terry was driven to find out what she could to get some kind of treatment and stimulate research to help her sons.  But she found research referred to on the internet was inaccessible....Dr Swan says Ms Terry formed Genetic Alliance and campaigned for open access to research....

John Wilbanks, executive director of the US-based Science Commons project of Creative Commons describes the Cutler report proposals as "unprecedented and visionary...If implemented it really gives Australia the chance to be first in the world," he said....

Dutch open access researcher Frederika Welle Donker says a further constraint on open access to publicly-funded research comes from Government researchers trying to commercialise their research.  But Senator Carr says this is a "failed" strategy....

"To quote the OECD: 'commercialisation requires secrecy in the interests of appropriating the benefits of knowledge, whereas universities may play a stronger role in the economy by diffusing and divulging results'."

On the OA mandates at Harvard and the NIH

Norm Medeiros, Harvard, NIH, and the balance of power in the open access debate, OCLC Systems & Services, vol. 24, no. 3, 2008.  A self-archived version of a TA article.

Abstract:   This article reviews the recent decision by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts & Sciences to submit scholarly articles to the University’s institutional repository prior to (or in lieu of) publication in a journal. The remarkable decision, the first of its kind in the United States, reverberated quickly across the open access landscape, making many wonder which universities will follow Harvard’s lead. This article also looks at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy, which as of 8 April 2008, requires NIH-sponsored investigators to place into PubMed a copy of their peer-reviewed journal articles. The impact of this legislation will be enormous, as some 80,000 articles per year result from NIH-sponsored research.

Blog notes on Wilbanks presentation

Andrew Newman, Who Holds the Power?, More News, September 24, 2008. Blog notes on a presentation by John Wilbanks at an event apparently entitled Publishing in Today's Environment (location unknown, apparently September 22, 2008).
... There's a power struggle occurring between researchers and publishers to make data, papers and the like freely available. The power used to be on the side of publishers but as the producers band together (by country, university, faculty and so on) the power is going back to them. ...

The kind of behavior that publishers have exhibited appears to be on the way out and seems to be going the other way. This is where databases interoperate with each other, papers can link to the original data, and tools, data and papers are all part of an integrated experience. ...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Presentations from BMC forum at Festival of Science

BioMed Central has posted the presentations from its forum, "How science addresses developing world issues," at the Festival of Science (Liverpool, September 6-11, 2008). Several discuss OA:

Profile of OA advocate Joseph DeRisi

Art Chimes, Joseph DeRisi Battles Malaria with Innovation and Openness, Voice of America, September 22, 2008.

For a guy who spends most of his time in a laboratory at UCSF – the University of California, San Francisco – Joe DeRisi has a pretty high profile.

A few years ago, Esquire magazine described him as a "rock star among molecular biologists," featuring him as one of their "best and brightest" honorees.

That was after he had won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Often called the "genius award." It's given to people who show "extraordinary originality" in their work, no matter what field.

And earlier this month he was named winner of another high-profile honor. The Heinz Family Foundation selected him for their annual technology award. The quarter-million dollar prize was not only for his "pioneering advancements in the laboratory," but also for what they called the "altruistic and caring nature with which he carries on his work." ...

In 2003, when the virus that causes the respiratory disease SARS was identified, it was thanks to a DeRisi innovation known as the ViroChip. ...

Patenting the ViroChip might have made DeRisi a lot of money, but instead it's in the public domain. Likewise, he's published papers in open-access journals, where you can read them for free on the Internet.

Jonathan Eisen, editor in chief of one of those journals, PLoS Biology, said DeRisi is particularly open about his work.

"What sets Joe DeRisi apart is not just his ability to do really cool science and really good work, but his passion about making sure those discoveries and tools are available quickly and broadly to the entire world," Eisen explained.

"And if you want to accelerate the pace of, say, development of new anti-malarial drugs, which Joe DeRisi is interested in, the best way to do that is to make sure that all the great scientists around the world have access to the latest techniques and to the latest knowledge about malaria in order to do their work." ...

See also our past posts about DeRisi.

OA to refugee research

Elisa Mason, Open Access, Researching Refugees, September 23, 2008.
... How open are forced migration journals ...? I listed 17 periodicals in my forced migration guide that focus specifically on issues relating to forced migration and/or humanitarianism (excluding two that report on statistics). Of these, four make all of their issues available online free-of-charge (Forced Migration Review, Humanitarian Exchange, International Review of the Red Cross, and Journal of Humanitarian Assistance). Three of these titles are not peer-reviewed and are practice- rather than academic-oriented. (The exception is the International Review of the Red Cross, which is peer-reviewed. While its publication was recently outsourced to Cambridge University Press, current issues are still being posted online.)

Several journals adhere to a "delayed open access" policy. For example, issues of Refuge are made available online 12 months after first being published in print. The full-texts of back issues of Disasters, International Journal of Refugee Law, and Journal of Refugee Studies are provided through Forced Migration Online (FMO), typically with a three- to five-year lag time.

So roughly half of these (randomly selected, unrepresentative sample of!) journals and other periodicals are open access to one degree or another. Of course, there are many other journals that publish forced migration articles and that may be open access, such as Conflict and Health and Migration Letters. ...

Open access archives or repositories normally house preprints, conference papers, theses, and other research publications that are not peer-reviewed. Forced Migration Online recently received funding to develop an Open Access Repository System (OARS) and migrate its information resources to an open source platform. This would make its journals (described above) and grey literature digital library more interoperable with other open systems ...

Remembering Fritz Hollings

Andrew Albanese, University of South Carolina Names New Library for Senator Fritz Hollings, Library Journal, September 23, 2008.

Comment.  Fritz Hollings?  In 2002, Hollings introduced a bill in Congress (the Security Systems and Standards Certification Act, or SSSCA, later renamed the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act, or CBDTPA) which would require all computers to contain government-approved, hardware-level DRM to prevent anyone from reading, copying, or downloading copyrighted content without the machine-readable permission of the copyright holder.  It would criminalize any attempt to bypass or remove the DRM, build a new computer without it, or log into the internet with an unsecured (i.e. uncrippled) computer.  Violators would face 5-20 years in prison and fines from $50,000 to $1,000,000.  Fred von Lohmann said the CBDTPA would be like "putting the dinosaurs in charge of evolution."  I called the bill "a war against universal Turing make the world safe for entertainment."  Most relevant to the University of South Carolina, Siva Vaidhyanathan said the bill "would fundamentally change the way libraries use electronic databases and CD-ROMs.  You could no longer have widespread access to materials....You would have to start paying libraries for access because they would not be able to afford it on their own." 

Call for partners to digitize Caribbean newspapers

Laurie Taylor, Invitation to Participate in Caribbean Newspaper Digitization Project, Digital Library Center Blog, September 23, 2008. (The call is also posted in Spanish at the same address.)

The Digital Library of the Caribbean (dLOC) is issuing a call for partners in a new effort to ensure preservation of and increase access to newspapers in the Caribbean. ...

dLOC is seeking Caribbean partners with historical newspaper collections that are interested in digitizing these titles and providing them online for free, open access to researchers, students and citizens. In addition, we are seeking partnerships with newspaper publishers to provide archival services of their current issues to ensure future preservation. The holding institution will retain all rights to the newspapers, and will provide the dLOC with permission to distribute the digital images for educational use. ...

We are in the process of preparing the application for funding. If you are interested in more information about how to participate in this important initiative, please contact the dLOC project coordinator, Brooke Wooldridge, at ...

Zerhouni will step down from the NIH next month

Elias A. Zerhouni to End Tenure as Director of the National Institutes of Health, a press release from the NIH, September 24, 2008.  Excerpt:

Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., the director of the National Institutes of Health, today announced his plans to step down at the end of October 2008 to pursue writing projects and explore other professional opportunities.

Dr. Zerhouni, a physician scientist and world-renowned leader in radiology research, has served as NIH director since May 2002. He led the agency through a challenging period that required innovative solutions to transform basic and clinical research into tangible benefits for patients and their families. One of the hallmarks of his tenure is the NIH Roadmap for Medical Research, launched in 2003, after extensive consultations with the scientific community....

Key Accomplishments of Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. ...

[PS:  I'm including only two of the 22 sections.]

Molecular Libraries
The NIH Roadmap identified one key "new pathway": the need for molecular libraries. The Molecular Libraries initiative resulted in development of a nationwide consortium of 10 small molecule screening centers; including NIH; a database, PubChem; and new tools and technologies to better serve investigative needs. PubChem provides free access to discoveries about the chemical structures and biological activities of small molecules....The Molecular Small Molecule Repository currently contains over 300,000 small molecules....

Public Access to NIH-funded Published Research
In February 2005, Dr. Zerhouni announced an unprecedented policy designed to expand and accelerate public access to published articles resulting from NIH-funded research. The policy was the first of its kind and called on scientists to release manuscripts from research supported by NIH as soon as possible, and within 12 months of publication. Publications are made available in a web-based archive managed by the National Library of Medicine. At a time when demand for such information is on a steady rise, the online archive increases the public's access to health-related publications....


  • This is big.  Elias Zerhouni has headed the NIH through both its voluntary and mandatory OA policies.  He once approved the voluntary policy, but changed his mind and testified before Congress three times on the need for an OA mandate.  He's heard all the publisher arguments and answers them forcefully.  He's a strong friend OA and will be missed.
  • He'll leave next month, well before the fate of the Conyers bill is settled.  But Congress has heard from him on the issue --his most recent testimony was at the September 11 hearing on the bill-- and he may be available in the future to testify as a private citizen with deep knowledge of the issue and long institutional memory. 
  • Whether his retirement is a setback for OA will depend on who succeeds him.  President Bush will choose his successor unless the financial crisis, the war, and the election postpone the appointment long enough to hand it off to Bush's own successor.  Bush had minor objections to the NIH OA mandate, but they were not strong enough to prevent him from signing it into law.  In any case, the other issues facing this very large agency will dwarf the access policy in the selection of the next Director, and Zerhouni himself was a Bush appointee.  Moreover, it seems to me that scientists with the knowledge and policy background to run the NIH tend to support public access to publicly-funded research.  One of Zerhouni's predecessors as NIH Director was Harold Varmus (1993-1999). 
  • Elias Zerhouni in July 2004:  "The public needs to have access to what they've paid for....The status quo just can't stand."
  • Elias Zerhouni in February 2005:  "Scientists have a right to see the results of their work disseminated as quickly and broadly as possible, and NIH is committed to helping our scientists exercise this right. We urge publishers to work closely with authors in implementing this policy."
  • Elias Zerhouni in March 2007:  "We need to make [public access] a condition of federal fund granting."
  • More later, as this unfolds.

Update (9/25/08).  Here's some background, especially to the "why now?" question.

From Jeffrey Young at The Hill:

...Zerhouni...told the president of his plans “several weeks” ago....

As a presidentially appointed, Senate-confirmed official, Zerhouni would have had to resign when the next president takes office. He explained that he wanted to depart before then so Bush’s successor has to act quickly to replace him.

“I felt it would be in the best interests of the NIH for me to leave before the election,” Zerhouni said. With a vacancy in the directorship, he explained, when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) wins the presidential election in November, he would be more inclined to name a replacement, he said.

“I would want people to focus on NIH as early and as soon as possible after the election,” Zerhouni said, rather than assume the agency is in good hands already. Zerhouni said he has no interest in remaining in office under the next administration.

Zerhouni stated that “there’s no precipitating event” that led to his decision to vacate his position and rejected characterizing his departure as a resignation. “It’s just basically stepping down at the right time,” he said. “I’ve always said I would end my tenure at this time." ...

The NIH’s efforts to increase public access to government-funded research...met with resistance from medical journal publishers and some researchers. As with his ethics reforms, Zerhouni said these steps were necessary to restore public trust in the agency....

From Jocelyn Kaiser at Science Magazine:

...Zerhouni told reporters today that his departure follows "the natural cycle of tenures for this position," which are historically held for about 6 years. He wanted to step down before the November presidential election so that the next Administration can "focus on NIH as early and as soon as possible," he said. Although he has been considered for the presidency of JHU, he does not have a job lined up and said he wanted to "take some time out." President George W. Bush has not yet named an acting NIH director, but Zerhouni said he expects it will be NIH's current deputy director, Raynard Kington....

Update (9/27/08).  Also see the statement from Genetic Alliance.  Excerpt:

...Earlier this month, Dr. Zerhouni rallied for more open health systems; defending the public's right to view the results of taxpayer-funded research as provided by the NIH Public Access Policy during a legislative hearing on H.R. 6845, the 'Fair Copyright in Research Works Act.' The NIH policy is essential to translating biomedical research into clinical results. Individuals, families and healthcare providers now have open access to publicly funded research, and this achievement will be a hallmark of Dr. Zerhouni's tenure....

Update (10/9/08). Also see Andrew Albanese's story in Library Journal.


Five more research institutions sign the Berlin Declaration

Five institutions have signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge since June 2008. (Thanks to Anja Lengenfelder.)

What's wrong with this picture?

Gavin Baker, Ludicrously closed access; or how to alienate readers and look foolish, A Journal of Insignificant Inquiry, September 23, 2008. 

Gavin found a TA article about OA, with no abstract (Ross Singer, "Opening Up Access to Open Access"), published in a new journal (Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship) from Haworth, a division of Taylor & Francis.  The journal has an online digital edition and Haworth offered a complimentary copy of the inaugural issue on request.  The denouement?

...I emailed to request a copy, and eventually received a reply:

Can you please send me your mailing address?

Having little interest in waiting several more days (at least) to get my hands on the article, I replied:

Can you send me an electronic copy?’s the response from T&F:

We do not have electronic copies available. You can only view the journal online if you already have a subscription. Sorry for any inconvenience. ...

New RSP lists of repository software and supportive services

The UK Repositories Support Project launched two new services yesterday:

From the announcement:

These directories provide a listing of repository related software and services that are being used worldwide in repository environments.

Each entry in the directory gives a brief description of the software or service and a link to the homepage of the item, where more information can be found. The repository software directory has been arranged into categories by type to ease navigation....

We hope the directories are comprehensive but if you think there are any software or services missing from this list, please e-mail your suggestion to the RSP team at

PS:  Also see the OAD list of Free and open-source repository software.

More on Kim Carr's call for OA in Australia

Bernard Lane, Carr favours open access, The Australian, September 24, 2008.  Excerpt:

Innovation Minister Kim Carr today will flag the possibility that researchers who win grants from public funding agencies will have to make their results freely available over the internet.

"Australia may want to consider making its own competitive research grants conditional on recipients sharing their research results through open-access repositories," Senator Carr will say in a video address to the Open Access and Research conference in Brisbane.

Funding agencies overseas, including the British Wellcome Trust and the US National Institutes of Health, have adopted mandatory open-access policies.

The Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council only encourage open access.

In his innovation report, consultant Terry Cutler says: "(Open access) progress in Australia has been patchy and lacking the comprehensiveness and boldness of leading countries such as the UK."

In his address Senator Carr strongly endorses Cutler's open access recommendations, saying: "If we are serious about boosting innovation, we have to get knowledge and information flowing freely." ...

Interoperable preservation repositories

The Florida Digital Archive has received a major grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for a project on Interoperable Preservation Repositories.

(Thanks to Charles Bailey, whom I'm happy to see back online after a damaging encounter with Hurricane Ike.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

OAD list of educational materials about OA

The latest list from the Open Access Directory (OAD) is devoted to Educational materials about OA.  Dorothea Salo has seeded the list, and it's now open for community editing. 

It's launching this week in order to support Open Access Day (October 14, 2008), and to capture the many teaching and learning materials currently under development for it.

The list is looking especially for materials that other users can mine for ideas, and use with attribution, when preparing their own talks, slide shows, brochures, posters, videos, podcasts, and workshops.  (OAD merely links to these materials; it doesn't host its own copies.)

OAD is a wiki and appreciates your help in keeping its lists comprehensive, accurate, and up to date.


List of English-language OA LIS journals

S. N. Chari has posted a list of OA English-language journals in library and information science, dated September 23, 2008.

Video on CC in business

Publishing Open Content is a new documentary on using Creative Commons in business applications. It includes an interview with Timo Hannay, publishing director at (Thanks to Creative Commons.)

Call for end to copyright in gov. publications in Canada

Canadian Library Association, Unlocking the Public Interest: The views of the Canadian Library Association on Bill C-61, An Act to Amend the Copyright Act, report, September 2008. (Thanks to Michael Geist.) See especially point 11:
Crown Copyright

With most government information now exclusively distributed by the Internet, there is a pressing need for clarity that making copies of this information for preservation and dissemination purposes does not violate copyright. The government should introduce legislation that clearly states that copyright does not apply to Crown publications and that all such publications are in the public domain. ...

Bioline budget in jeopardy

The University of Toronto is scheduled to cut its funding for Bioline International at the end of this month.  For details, see two comments recently posted to Richard Poynder's interview with Leslie Chan, a professor at Toronto and Associate Director of Bioline.  From the comment by Marla Miller:

...[An earlier comment by Peter Mitchell is correct to say] that funding promised to Bioline was revoked. Since I am the “silent partner” in Bioline, the librarian who made the 5 year funding commitment to the project, beginning with May of 2007, I would like to offer some clarification, in part to make sure that it is understood that I am not the person who withdrew the promised funding....

[T]he Chief Librarian of U of T...gave her consent to our 5 year funding plan [2007-2011].  However, when the new budget year came around in May of 2007, to my complete surprise, the Dean of Leslie Chan’s campus stated that he was rescinding the approval of funding previously granted by the Chief Librarian....

I am of the opinion that Dean acted improperly and that the University should fulfil the commitment that was made. With representation from my Faculty Association, I am now pressing for a review of the Dean’s decision....

Comment.  Bioline is an OA pioneer and success story, directly helping researchers in developing countries and reflecting well on the U of Toronto.  See our 33 past posts on it.  Just yesterday Michael Geist highlighted it in his column in the Toronto Star: 

...[T]he University of Toronto provided the lead support for BioLine International, which was founded in 1993 to bring scientific journals, largely from developing countries, to the Internet. Today, BioLine hosts 70 [OA] journals from 15 countries. Last year, more than 3.5 million full-text articles were freely downloaded from the site....


Rockefeller UP disavows AAUP support for Conyers bill

Mike Rossner, Executive Director of the Rockefeller University Press, has released his letter to the American Association of University Presses (AAUP), protesting its support for the Conyers bill.  He sent the letter today.  Excerpt:

I am writing to take issue with your letter of September 10th, supporting the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, which seeks to overturn the mandate on public access to NIH funded research.  I would be grateful if you could let your member presses know on what basis you claim to speak on their behalf.  We deserve an accounting of how many member presses are indeed affected by the NIH mandate (that is, how many publish research articles resulting from NIH funded research), how many of those presses were consulted, and how many of them supported your ef forts to overturn the mandate.  Without this information you are replaying the PRISM fiasco of the AAP - a lobbying effort that no-one would admit to supporting.

The Rockefeller University Press, as a member organization of the AAUP, strongly opposes your efforts to overturn the NIH mandate. In your letter you claim that "Copyright is the legal foundation that permits recovery of [our] 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."  However, you do not provide any data to back up this statement.  We at the Rockefeller University Press have the data to show that this is not true.  We have released our content to the public 6 months after publication since January, 2001, but our revenues have grown every year since then.  In May of this year, we took the additional step of allowing authors to retain copyright and distribution rights to the articles published in our journals.  Third parties can use all of our content under a modified Creative Commons License. I do not anticipate that these new policies will affect our revenues.

I fully understand the value added by publishers.  However, our authors create the works we publish and should thus have rights over their distribution.  The public pays for NIH-funded work and should thus have access to the results.  The problem here is not the government trying to usurp publishers' rights, but the fact that publishers have for so long usurped these rights from authors and the public.


  • Kudos to Mike Rossner for speaking out (again).  His letter makes two important points:  (1) that some university presses support the NIH's OA mandate, as is, and (2) that the AAUP did not consult its members before claiming to speak for them in trying to overturn the NIH mandate. 
  • We need to hear from other university presses who don't believe the AAUP is representing them on this issue.  Faculty and librarians:  talk to the press on your campus.
  • Also see my comments on the AAUP letter

Update (9/24/08).  Also see Peter Givler's response to Mike Rossner's letter.  Givler is the Executive Director of the Association of American University Presses (AAUP).  Excerpt:

Thank you for your letter, which I am forwarding to the Board.

For the record, though, allow me to point out that you're accusing me of doing something the letter very carefully and deliberately did not do, namely, attack the NIH mandate itself.  If the bill is passed its most likely immediate effect will be to roll the NIH's public access policy back from mandatory to voluntary, but the bill itself addresses a much larger issue:  whether any federal agency should have the authority to claim a copyright in what the bill defines as "extrinsic works" solely by virtue of funding the underlying research.  That is a policy question with very broad and serious implications for all of scholarly publishing; it isn't limited to journals publishers in the health sciences, as important as they may be. My letter to Chairman Conyers and the other sponsors of the bill expresses the belief that the bill addresses that policy question appropriately.

I have three quick comments on Givler's response to Rossner:

  • Rossner said that AAUP opposed the NIH mandate, which is true.  The Conyers bill would overturn the mandate and the AAUP supports the Conyers bill in hopes that it will overturn the mandate.
  • Givler didn't address one of Rossner's important questions:  "I would be grateful if you could let your member presses know on what basis you claim to speak on their behalf."
  • Finally, on Givler's main point ("whether any federal agency should have the authority to claim a copyright in what the bill defines as 'extrinsic works' solely by virtue of funding the underlying research"):  (1) The NIH isn't claiming a copyright, merely a non-exclusive license; (2) the license is granted by the copyright holder, the author, in consideration for a large publicly-funded research grant; publishers are not a party to that contract; (3) publishers who don't want to publish articles under these circumstances don't have to.  They know when submissions are from NIH-funded authors.  The policy takes nothing from publishers, but merely changes the terms of a business proposition ("will you publish this article?").  Publishers may want a sweeter deal, but they don't have a right to a sweeter deal.  By contrast, authors have the right to transfer all, some, or none of their rights to publishers, and taxpayers have a right to access the results of non-classified publicly-funded research.


New WIPO director wants to "reduce the global knowledge gap"

William New, Idris Bids WIPO Farewell; Newly Appointed DG Gurry Outlines Initiatives, Intellectual Property Watch, September 22, 2008.
Australian Francis Gurry became the next [director general] of the World Intellectual Property Organization Monday, and promptly signalled a programme of increased multilateralism and bolstered global and local relevance for the United Nations body. ...

Gurry, who will take office on 1 October until 2014, laid out the makings of a diverse programme with several new initiatives ... He plans to announce his detailed strategy on 20 October, consulting with members until a meeting of the WIPO Programme and Budget Committee approves a new budget in December.

Gurry said urgent attention is needed for ... using intellectual property to reduce the global “knowledge gap” and build capacity in least-developed countries [among other goals] ...

Gurry devoted significant attention to the idea of using intellectual property to reduce the gap in knowledge and increase participation in the benefits of innovation and the knowledge economy.

To this end, he called for translating “political consensus into concrete and effective projects.” WIPO can construct a “global knowledge infrastructure, comprising public, freely available databases of technological and scientific information and operating on common standards for data interchange,” he said. ...
Update. See also my comments at Excerpt:
  • ... Gurry calls upon countries to develop “National Intellectual Property and Innovation Strategies”. His own country, Australia, recently released a report on its innovation system which called for OA to public sector information and to publicly-funded research. ...
  • Not all of Gurry’s comments are so favorable. ... That Gurry gives such credence to content industry concerns suggests a certain bias in favor of protectionism and against openness ...
  • More broadly, Gurry’s comments focus largely on economic rather than scientific concerns, although both are subject to the same IP system over which he now presides. ... Based on the priorities evinced in his acceptance speech, the interests of scientists and students will be of less concern to Gurry than those of Miramax and Metallica.

Joint interview on OA

Cy Dillon, More Access, More Impact:  Updates on the Open Access Movement from Peter Suber and Jonathan Band, Virginia Libraries, April/May/June 2008.  

From my part of the interview:

...VL: From your point of view as a...writer and active scholar, how will OA improve scholarly communication?

PS: ...OA removes friction from the system of finding and retrieving relevant work. It overcomes the artificial barrier of institutional wealth, allowing scholars to publish for everyone in their field, and read work by everyone in their field, without regard to the budgets of their own libraries or the budgets of libraries elsewhere.

We're well into the era in which all serious research is mediated by sophisticated software. All digital literature, free or priced, is machine-readable and supports new and useful kinds of processing. But non-OA digital literature minimizes this opportunity by shrinking the set of inputs to this sophisticated software through access fees, password barriers, copyright restrictions, and software locks. By removing price and permission barriers, OA maximizes this opportunity and fosters an ecosystem of tools for searching, indexing, mining, summarizing, translating, querying, linking, recommending, alerting, and mashing-up....One important goal of the OA movement is to give these tools the widest possible scope of operation, and free up the universe of literature and data for all future forms of analysis....

VL: What serious threats do you see to the future of OA, and are you confident these can be overcome?

PS: ...[T]he largest barrier is still widespread ignorance and misunderstanding. Some of it is natural. In the big picture, OA is still fairly new, and the stakeholders who most need to know about it --researchers themselves-- are overworked, preoccupied, and temperamentally disinclined to act as a bloc. But some of it is the result of publisher lobbying campaigns to perpetuate certain myths about OA --for example, that it violates copyright or bypasses peer review. But good understanding of OA is spreading faster than the harmful myths, and every month influential institutions commit themselves to OA....

From Jonathan Band's part of the interview:

...VL: Suppose a writer wants the impact of open access, but also wants to retain rights such as the right to republish the material elsewhere. Is this possible under current copyright law?

JB: Yes --copyright law gives the author a great deal of control over the use of his work. Copyright lawyers refer to copyright as a bundle of rights, and an author can allocate the rights any way he chooses. So, he can license one publisher online distribution rights for free, while licensing hard copy publication rights to another publisher for a standard royalty. This assumes, of course, that the publishers agree to these terms. But it is important to remember that there are lots of publishers clamoring for good content, and authors often have the ability to secure the terms they need to accomplish their objectives.

VL: How might a journal like Virginia Libraries, a member of the Directory of Open Access Journals, assure that it takes no more rights from its contributors than absolutely necessary for OA publishing?

JB: Journals should take a hard look at what they really need to sustain their business models, and ask authors to license only those rights. Journals, like other entities, have a tendency to ask for more than they need because they want to keep their options open in an unpredictable future....

VL: Finally, please tell us a bit about why you are or are not optimistic about the future of open access publishing.

JB: I am very optimistic about the future of open access publishing. Universities around the world will follow the lead of the Harvard FAS. Likewise, governments and other granting agencies will adopt policies similar to the NIH public access policy. While publishers that add real value to authors will continue to flourish under the existing model, over time open access publishing will gain an increasingly large share of the scholarly communication market.

More on the Conyers bill

Rick Weiss, Kicking the Doorstop on Open Access, Science Progress, September 22, 2008.
... I also happen to agree with [Allan] Adler, of the [Association of American Publishers], that Congress did not handle this in the most upright fashion. The mandate was handled through the appropriations process rather than through conventional legislation, and hearings could have helped hammer out a more perfect and perhaps more flexible system. But for better or worse, a lot of federal policymaking is accomplished through the appropriations process. Potentially lifesaving research on human embryonic stem cells and other studies on early human development have been stalled for more than a decade in large part because of appropriations language. If Adler wants to reform that Congressional shortcoming, I am all for it. But I would start by going after approps language that is really harming society in a big way, not language that is leaning on scientific publishers to share their material more equitably.

In any case, I have not seen any evidence that any of these journals are at serious risk under the NIH plan. Most subscribers (scientists and academic libraries in particular) are not going to dump their subscriptions just because a fraction of each month’s contents will be available for free on the Web within a year. Indeed, the publishers should perhaps be counting their blessings that legislation proposed by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), which would expand the NIH rules to most other federal agencies that dole out research grants, is as stalled in Congress as the Conyers bill appears to be.

The open access system is in place, on a limited scale. I say, “Let the experiment go on.” It’s a great opportunity to see if it works. And it’s a great inspiration for ink-and-paper publishers to start thinking about more modern ways to continue to profit in the inevitably lucrative business of onpassing new scientific findings.

OA for secondary education

Rick Kopak, Open Access and the Open Journal Systems: Making Sense All Over, School Libraries Worldwide, July 2008. (Thanks to Bryn Samuels.) Abstract:
At a time when students are increasingly turning to the Web as their primary source of information, it is well worth continuing to consider ways and means of taking advantage of this trend, and to perhaps relocate attention to traditional information sources presented in new ways. This paper makes the case that Open Access to electronic scholarly journals creates an opportunity for schools and school libraries to benefit from use of these journals. Furthermore, the article describes work being done by the Public Knowledge Project in creating a technical infrastructure for the creation and use of Web based electronic journals through the development of the Open Journal Systems, and the ongoing development of an interactive reading environment for these journals.

OA to Nature supplement

The supplement to the current issue of Nature Reviews Genetics, on genomic medicine in developing countries, is available gratis with free registration. The supplement will apparently be OA indefinitely, not temporarily. (Thanks to Jim Till.)

Update. Chalk this up as yet another NPG experiment with OA.

Estimate: # of gold OA articles doubles from 2006 to 2008

Heather Morrison has blogged an estimate speculating that the number of articles published in gold OA journals in 2008 will be double the number published in 2006.

ALA journal to convert to OA

Earlier this month, we blogged a call by Brian Kenney for OA to journals published by the American Library Association. In the comments on Kenney's article, Leonard Kniffel, editor in chief of the ALA journal American Libraries, reports that that journal will convert to OA this fall. (Thanks to Bryn Samuels.)

Three more US institutions join SCOAP3

Regional OA publishers advance science in the global South

Wieland Gevers, Regional journals can boost science capacity, SciDev.Net, September 19, 2008.  Gevers is the chair of the Academy of Science of South Africa's Committee on Scholarly Publishing and, until recently, the Academy's CEO.  Excerpt:

...Participating in the ["highly profitable Western system of commercial journal publishing "] often brings extensive conference and workshop opportunities, sharing of special materials, and exchanges of students and post-docs. It is also a 'must' for career advancement — you 'publish-or-perish'.  Yet these benefits largely fail to reach scientists in the developing world....

In choosing which journals to index, [Thomson Scientific] assumes that 20 per cent of journals — the biggest, best established and most respected — contain 80 per cent of the real value of scientific output. This is a self-fulfilling principle....

Systematic interventions are needed to create a less skewed and self-perpetuating scholarly literature system — one where the downward spiral of 'have-nots' can be reversed in sustainable ways on a regional level.

In 2006, the Academy of Science of South Africa published a comprehensive study of about 250 South African journals (20-24 of them indexed by Thomson Scientific) accredited by the local Department of Education as "valid research outputs.” This study strongly supported building up an indigenous system of high-quality, mostly open access, scholarly journals. The academy now has a scholarly publishing programme with several sub-projects....

In Brazil, the publically funded SciELO organisation has established a quality- controlled regional journal system that represents a fully indexed, open access publishing platform for just under 200 journals, out of more than a thousand published in the country....

More on OA for communicating with lay readers

It’s not just about access, it’s about accessibility, Morning Coffee Physics, September 22, 2008.  Excerpt:

...As it stands, not all, but too much of the general public has a deeply ingrained skepticism about scientific research....It seems as though many members of the general public would rather listen to, and believe, a few quacks rather than the world wide network of specialists....

So, what should we do? ...

Some have advocated that, so called, Open Access would be a tactic to create greater familiarity with science in the public. The idea is that by using the Internet as a tool to provide free access to scientific papers, the public could gain a better knowledge and appreciation of science because of the ease at which one could acquire the information. I should mention that there are more reasons for moving to an open access framework of scientific publishing, however, any feasible implementation of open access for the purpose of promoting science to the general public can’t just consist of giving out scientific papers for free. Chad of Uncertain Principles explains it nicely:

I’ve never been all that fired up about the idea of Open Access publishing, for the simple reason that I’ve seen the physics arxiv. I have a Ph.D. in physics, and I can’t make heads or tails of 80% (or more) of what’s on there. [ ... ] I don’t really think that the free access to preprints will have any hugely transformative effect on the general public, because the knowledge base required to read any of those papers is so large and specialized.

John Willinsky of UBC gave a nice talk (video here) at the Science in the 21st Century conference about Open Access publishing. He mentions two things people require to learn: motivation and context....The public already has motivation, but giving access to these sources is not enough in and of itself (it’s a start). The public also needs context; background information given to them about the topic....

[S]cience blogs are most likely to be maintained by scientists that are truly motivated to share their knowledge with the public. I think this is really the major key to bridging the gap....

Comment.  I agree with Willinsky on this.  The problem with Chad's view (as quoted) is the way it forgets the benefits of OA for professional researchers, regardless of the benefits for lay readers.  For my take, see this comment from May 2006:

...I'm not so optimistic as to think that simply making primary science easily available online will do much to foster scientific literacy and scientific knowledge among non-scientists, let alone convert creationists to evolutionists. Easy access completes the puzzle when there is antecedent interest and background, and we need help from teachers, journalists, and politicians to create that interest and background. For the same reason, however, I'm not so pessimistic as to think that OA will make no difference.

There are two mistakes to avoid here. One is to think that OA has no role to play in helping non-scientists understand science. We can call this the Royal Society mistake, after the RS's recent report on educating lay readers about science that doesn't even mention OA. The other mistake is to think that the overriding purpose of OA is to educate lay readers. No OA advocates believe this, but some publisher-opponents of OA either believe it or pretend to believe it in order set it up as a straw man and knock it down. (The most recent example is the American Society of Human Genetics, as quoted in the NYTimes for May 8 [2006].) To avoid both mistakes we have to accept that the problem and solution are both complicated. OA will play a role in public education about science --it's neither irrelevant nor sufficient-- and the size of that role is up to all of us.

Jean Kempf on OAPEN

Anne-Marie Badolato has interviewed Jean Kempf, in French and English, for the INIST-CNRS News site, September 17, 2008.  From the English edition:

Jean Kempf, director of Lyon University Press (Presses Universitaires de Lyon - PUL), presents the European Open Access Publishing in European Network (OAPEN) project. Seven scholarly publishers from six European countries have committed to the OAPEN scheme including France’s Lyon University Presses. Five other University presses and two technological and research universities are involved, representing Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Italy and the Netherlands....

Question : The Open Access Publishing in European Networks (OAPEN) was launched with a meeting in early September [2008]. Could you give us a brief overview of the ideas behind this project which is financed by the European Commission and of the shared values of the project’s partners?

Jean Kempf : OAPEN is essentially a project involving medium-sized scholarly publishers and is centred on the publication of human and social sciences monographs....The OAPEN project will receive funding for three years within the framework of the eContentplus programme, one of the conditions of which is the adoption of the Open Access model for the electronic version to be made available on the project’s platform....

Q. : There are important implications for Open Access in this project. What type(s) of economic model(s) are you considering to facilitate long-term success for such a service ?

J.K. : Within this project, publishers will be doing their traditional job but based on new economic models. This is an ideal framework for studying the viability of the different modes of financing which are already in use by other Open Access initiatives and how these might be combined. One idea is that the author pays which already occurs when authors have a particular source of financing. Another possibility would be for university libraries to invest on an overall basis, becoming a kind of sponsor whose role would evolve accordingly. At the same time, paper copies would still be sold and indirect revenue might also come from the provision of publishing services.

Q. : In general, author copyright is often viewed as an obstacle to the development of Open Access. What are your views on this point ?

J.K. : Royalties are low anyway on research material and OA does not change the authors’ moral rights. An author’s return on investment is not actually financial ; it tends to be more about achieving recognition. Tools such as the Creative Commons licences can be seen as a formalisation of what already exists in practice. The OAPEN project will conduct a study in this field and make recommendations....

Update.  Anne-Marie Badolato conducted the interview with Thérèse Hameau, and the French original was translated into English by Richard Dickinson.

Cornell library supports the NIH policy

The Cornell University Library released its letter to its Congressional representative, supporting the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill.  (Thanks to the ATA.)  The letter is undated but was apparently sent before the September 11 hearing on the anti-OA bill.  Excerpt:

...The benefits of the [NIH] Policy have been wide-spread. For faculty authors, deposit in PubMed Central (PMC) will maximize the visibility of their NIH-funded research, thus benefiting the authors and the journals in which they publish.

From the perspective of the Library, the Policy addresses one of our major concerns: the long-term preservation of research results published in electronic form. A decade’s worth of research by Cornell Library staff has demonstrated the fragility of most electronic publishing schemes and the difficulty faced by libraries in meeting their traditional role as preservation repositories for published literature. Deposit in PubMed Central ensures that the research results will be preserved in a state-of-the-art digital repository.

For the general public, free access after twelve months ensures that researchers and students around the world can eventually read and build on the work, regardless of their (or their library's) ability to subscribe to the journal in which the research is published. Public access to publicly funded research contributes directly to the mission of higher education.

The NIH Public Access Policy has also played an important role in the University’s copyright education initiatives. It highlights an important truth about copyright: namely, that copyright consists of a bundle of rights that the copyright owner (the author) can assign or keep as he or she sees fit....

The need to preserve the rights needed to comply with the NIH Policy when negotiating copyright transfers with publishers has led some faculty to consider what other rights in their work they may wish to preserve. The NIH Policy has helped make them more-informed copyright owners....

AIDS coalition supports the NIH policy

The AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition has released its September 19 letter to its Congressional delegation, supporting the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill.  (Thanks to the ATA.)  Excerpt:

...AVAC is a volunteer and nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to accelerating ethical research and global delivery of vaccines and other HIV prevention options to fight the AIDS pandemic. We are writing to you because we strongly support the NIH Public Access Policy. That policy facilitates more rapid public access to federally funded research findings and is a critically important new step in developing cures and treatments for diseases such as HIV/AIDS. We believe that the best hope for the development of new HIV prevention tools such as an AIDS vaccine rests with the synergies, efficiencies and collaborations that are effected when government funded research is widely available....

This consumer-centered measure [the NIH policy] is a long over-due means to enhance public health education, speed the translation of scientific advances into quality, affordable health care, and empower patients in their health care decisions. Given this significant investment of public funds, patients, academics and researchers deserve to have free, timely, and complete access to these articles and should not have to pay thirty dollars or more for the privilege of viewing a single article. This is not an insignificant expense since a single health issue may involve citation to dozens of related individual articles....Our tax dollars underwrite this research, and we have a right to access the results of this critical biomedical information....

The traditional system for sharing research results is fundamentally imbalanced, restricting access to research – funded by tax dollars – to the institutions that can afford access. The NIH policy begins to restore balance to this system, by beginning to unlock the billions of dollars in research funded by the taxpayers each year, and make it available to the scientists, researchers, doctors, patients, and taxpayers who need it....

Guidance on paying publication fees at OA journals

An announcement from the Research Information Network (undated but apparently in the last day or two):

The Research Information Network and Universities UK have set up a working group to look at the arrangements of paying open access publication fees: that is, fees levied by some journals for the publication of scholarly articles so that they can be made available free of charge to readers, immediately upon publication. The group aims to produce guidance for universities and other research institutions, publishers, research funders, and authors....

[O]pen access journals have become a growing part of the scholarly publishing landscape over the past few years. But ways of paying publication fees have grown up haphazardly and are not standardised: fees are sometimes met from unallocated funds available to researchers from research grants or other sources, but sometimes have been met from researchers’ own pockets.

The group includes representatives from the library, publishing and research administrator communities, and they will be looking at the issues to be addressed in establishing coordinated and strategic approaches to the payment of publication fees and aim to provide practical guidance on the implementation of such an approach. The guidance will be published later this autumn.

Also see the RIN December 2006 Briefing note on the payment of publication fees (and my blog post on it), describing two methods by which UK universities could be reimbursed by the RCUK when they pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals. 

Winner of ORE app contest

The winner of the ORE Challenge from RepoCamp 2008 (Washington, July 25, 2008) was announced on September 19, 2008. A prize of $2,000, sponsored by Microsoft Research, was awarded to Ross McFarlane for OREsome, for the the best prototype that uses and promotes OAI-ORE, the Open Archives Initiative Object Reuse and Exchange specification. (Thanks to the HatCheck Newsletter.)

"Top tips" on rights and repositories

The Repositories Support Project posted a series of documents from its Rights & Repositories workshop (London, September 5, 2008) on September 22. The documents provide "top tips" on the following topics:

Where's the conversation on OA for school libraries?

Bryn Samuels, Open Access and K-12 School Libraries, Scholarly Communication Issues, September 19, 2008.
A quick search for articles on open access and scholarly communication in the K-12 [primary and secondary] school library world reveals very few articles and even fewer full-text links. Either the conversation is not happening or I just can't get to it. ...

New Canadian petition for OA to PSI

I Believe In Open is a new petition to the Canadian government. (Thanks to Heather Morrison.) The fourth point of the petition:
Support reforms allowing free access to scientific and survey data gathered by government institutions.

The federal government currently charges citizens various fees for access to data that was gathered by government institutions and funded by the public through taxes. Recent studies have shown that the benefits to the government of making this data freely accessible, in tax dollars, greatly outweigh the money recovered via access fees.

In honouring this pledge, the candidate will support reforms that abolish access fees for scientific and survey data gathered by government institutions. ...

Monday, September 22, 2008

New OA journal of tropical medicine

Annals of Tropical Medicine and Public Health is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Africa Health Research Organization and Medknow. There are no article processing charges. The inaugural issue is now available.

Americans: Don't forget to contact Congress

American citizens who support the NIH policy and oppose the Conyers bill

Please don't forget to notify your Representative and Senators by end of business on Wednesday, September 24, the day after tomorrow.  Congress adjourns on Friday and members have to hear from you before they leave town.  Even if the Conyers bill doesn't move, the language may be attached to another bill that is moving. 

For details and a draft letter you can adapt, see the ATA's call to action I blogged last Thursday.


More on the Conyers bill

Robin Peek, Fair Copyright in Research Works Act Challenges Federal Funding, Information Today, September 22, 2008.

...Some publishers have joined forces with the recording industry to support the bill as part of the Copyright Alliance, a lobbying group started in May 2007. On the website they invite people to join "one voi©e: a network of like-minded, creative individuals who speak with a collective voice in upholding creator rights." Here they make their argument: "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. A copyright owner is supposed to control the right of reproduction, distribution, and public performance and display. But those uses are now all being exercised by the federal government without consent of the copyright owner. If these were in fact government documents no legislative steps would have been necessary. This is a disturbing precedent, a government taking that doesn’t even come with the requisite compensation for the owner." ...

"NIH has undermined our publishing activities by diminishing a basic principle under copyright—the right to control the distribution of the works we publish," [Martin] Frank said. "The NIH could have provided access to their funded research without diminishing copyright protections." ...

In my opinion, one of the most outrageous comments perhaps made on the subject came from Allan Adler, Association of American Publishers, vice president for legal and governmental affairs, who stated that "Government does not fund peer-reviewed journal articles —publishers do," and that the bill would "preserve the incentives for peer-review publishing." ...

As the Congress is about to recess on Sept. 26, all indications are that the bill will be shelved until next year, although there are concerns that the bill’s language could be re-introduced into another bill. The ATA is calling on supporters of the NIH policy to communicate their support to the leaders of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees before Sept. 24.

For a more in-depth (and opinionated) view of this bill, see my Focus on Publishing column in the November issue of Information Today.

Comment.  Both the Copyright Alliance and Martin Frank argue as if publishers were the copyright holders and the NIH policy prevented them from exercising their rights.  But this is uninformed or deceptive.  The NIH policy requires grantees to retain a non-exclusive right for the NIH to disseminate their peer-reviewed manuscripts.  Grantees may transfer all their other rights to publishers (and typically do).  Hence, publishers receive less than the full bundle of rights they formerly received.  They don't like that, and it may be a problem for them, but it's not the problem they describe to the press and Congress.  They speak as if they simply are the copyright holders, without qualification, yet without the usual freedoms or privileges of copyright holders.  But they are not the copyright holders without qualification.  They lack the right authors retain:  the key right which authorizes OA.  Hence, publishers never even acquire the key right which would allow them to deny permission for OA or claim infringement.  With respect to all the other rights, which publishers do acquire, the NIH policy does nothing to diminish publishers' freedom to hold and exercise those rights. 

Announcing a wiki-based encyclopedia of history

Docupedia will be a wiki-based encyclopedia of history designed to complement Wikipedia with expert historical scholarship.  Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, it will be coordinated by the Zentrums für Zeithistorische Forschung Potsdam, and Humboldt-Universität Berlin's Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften and Computer- und Medienservice.

The project hasn't launched yet and apparently has no home page.  But today it launched a blog, and the first entry announces the project.  Read the announcement in German or Google's English.

Today is OneWebDay

See the press release from the OneWebDay organizers:

On the third annual “Earth Day for the Internet”, communities across the country are holding events to learn about and advocate for that marvel of modern infrastructure, the Internet. It happens in the United States and around the world on OneWebDay, Monday, September 22, 2008.

“Earth Day was the model when I founded OneWebDay in 2006,” says Susan Crawford, a professor of law specializing in Internet issues at the University of Michigan. “In 1969, one man asked the people to do what their elected representatives would not: take the future of the environment into their own hands.” By 1972, the United States had a federal agency devoted to protecting the environment, the E.P.A., and today a worldwide citizens’ movement has put the environment front and center politically. According to Crawford, “peoples’ lives now are as dependent on the Internet as they are on the basics like roads, energy supplies and running water. We can no longer take that for granted and we must advocate for the Internet politically, and support its vitality personally.” ...

The online hub for OneWebDay 2008 is [a place where] anyone can: plan or find out about activities in their community; learn ten things individuals can do to support the web; contribute their own stories; read posts from 100 OneWebDay ambassadors; and learn about Internet advocacy groups....

A complete description of events worldwide, including in India, Tunisia, Australia and Europe is at the OneWebDay Wiki....

PS:  Don't confuse this with Open Access Day, which is three weeks away on October 14, 2008.  Does anyone know of any OA-related events as part of OneWebDay?  A search of the OWD wiki turned up nothing.

Call to strengthen Canadian commitment to OA

Michael Geist, Canada missing out on open access momentum, Toronto Star, September 22, 2008.  Excerpt:

...[The Canadian Liberal and Conservative parties both support increased funding for research.]  While the research and business communities will undoubtedly welcome the increased financial commitment, it is worth contrasting the Canadian emphasis on more spending, with the Australian approach on greater access to the research itself. Australian Senator Kim Carr, who serves as the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, recently committed to "promote the freest possible flow of information domestically and globally."

Carr's comments follow a major policy review that concluded that "to the maximum extent practicable, information, research and content funded by the Australian governments ... should be made freely available over the Internet as part of the global public commons. This should be done while the Australian Government encourages other countries to reciprocate by making their own contributions to the global digital public commons."

The Australian move toward a national open access policy is part of an international trend that prioritizes using the Internet to facilitate public access to publicly-funded research. In recent months, the United States and the European Union have taken strong steps in this direction, including legislative mandates that require researchers who accept public grants to make their published research results freely available online within a reasonable time period.

Many universities have followed suit. Faculties at Harvard and Stanford have voted to adopt open access policies....

Although there have been some lobbying attempts to reverse these developments, including an ill-advised bill recently introduced in the U.S. Congress, the momentum is clearly with open access.

That is generally true in Canada as well. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the federal health research granting council, has adopted an open access policy and the two other major research councils appear to be moving in the same direction.

Canadians have also played a prominent role in supporting open access for the developing world. Open Journal System, an open source software platform that facilitates open access publishing, was developed in Canada and now supports 2,000 journals worldwide.

Similarly, the University of Toronto provided the lead support for BioLine International, which was founded in 1993 to bring scientific journals, largely from developing countries, to the Internet. Today, BioLine hosts 70 journals from 15 countries. Last year, more than 3.5 million full-text articles were freely downloaded from the site.

While the Canadian success stories cannot be overlooked, there remains a sense that Canada is falling behind in the area.

Political leaders have not addressed the issue, while few Canadian universities have emerged as global leaders. Indeed...the University of Calgary stands as the only institution to allocate specific financial support for faculty open access publishing. Even the success of BioLine International is in jeopardy as the University of Toronto inexplicably recently reneged on an earlier commitment to provide ongoing support. As it happens, Oct. 14 is both the date of the federal election and the first international open access day. While open access is not a ballot box issue, Canada's approach says much about how it views its future as a research and innovation leader.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NYT science reporter calls for OA

Amy Harmon is a science reporter for the New York Times. In answering a recent set of questions from readers, she mentions OA. (Thanks to Jonathan Eisen.) Excerpt:
Q. I teach literacy courses, including a course in science literacy, at Adirondack Community College (SUNY). A question: What do you see as the greatest limit on or obstacle to the development of science literacy among those who are not scientists themselves ...?

A. I’m no expert on this subject, but I can give you my personal perspective. Many of the stories I’ve written in the last two years have required me to learn about aspects of science so that I could understand, and hopefully explain to readers, the impact it is having on people’s lives. A lot of scientists I asked were generous with their time. Others were not. But it strikes me as a problem that there is no incentive, or imperative, for scientists — who are largely financed with taxpayer dollars — to explain their work to the general public. Sure, scientists talk to the press when they have a new paper in a scientific journal that they want to publicize. Like anyone else, they like to have their name in the paper. But there is no systematic way for non-scientists to communicate with scientists, and I think both sides suffer for that. I think it would be great if there was some kind of “public service” requirement built into the grants that the public supports to facilitate this kind of communication.

Of course, the one way scientists do, theoretically, communicate with the public is by publishing their results. Since these papers are written for other scientists, they can be hard to understand. But even for people game to wade through them, they are often hard to obtain. The two leading scientific journals, Science and Nature, and many others, require people to pay for access to papers whose authors have been financed by taxpayers. “Open access” publishers like the Public Library of Science do not, so it would be nice to see scientists choosing — or being required — to publish in journals that are open to the public. ...

Roundup of recent items on open science

Shirley Wu, Corpus callosum: 1st edition of open science round-up, I was lost but now I live here, September 19, 2008.
... For the most part, this round-up is concerned with writings, papers, and websites from the last couple weeks that have to do with open communication, open access, open data, open research, and the tools and policies that affect these endeavors. The hope is that by collecting these materials regularly we can make connections and communicate more easily on the subject. ...

Access to old journal articles via Google Book Search

Brian Switek, I love Google Books, Laelaps, September 18, 2008.
It can really be a chore to track down old papers. While many journals have digitized their collections and placed them online, a subscription is often required to access old papers (even from the 19th century!) ...

Enter Google Books. While many of the papers by naturalists like T.H. Huxley are cordoned off behind subscription walls, there used to be a practice of collecting the complete technical papers of scientists and publishing them in a series of volumes. ... These books are hard to find outside of libraries today, but thanks to digitization projects many of them have wound up as free pdfs on Google Books. Because they are so old, the copyright on the books is expired, allowing anyone to download the complete scientific works of a number of important researchers. ...

Wellcome Egyptian collection in the World Digital Library

Story of early eastern medicine to be revealed to the world, press release, September 15, 2008. (Thanks to 24 Hour Museum.)

A new partnership between the Wellcome Library, one of the world’s leading resources for the history of medicine, and Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) in Egypt, the leading institution for the documentation of Egyptian, Arabic and Islamic cultural heritage will reveal the story of early medicine in the Eastern world.

The Wellcome Library contains a diverse collection of rare materials relating to both Ancient and Modern Egypt, from papyri to Arabic medical manuscripts and even relics of Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1789.

The Wellcome Library will make these rare resources available in digital form to Bibliotheca Alexandrina, making them universally accessible for the first time.

... Ismail Serageldin, [director of Bibliotheca Alexandrina, said,] ”For us, this partnership is a major step forward in our vision to make all knowledge available to all. ... We have the possibility to make this material available to a new generation of scholars, who have been brought up with the internet, on Facebook and on YouTube, who will be able to find the treasures of the past, in the forms of the present and the future.” ...

The new stream of documentation, which will eventually become part of BA’s own digital library, consists of visual, documentary, manuscript and printed material in several languages, and will also be available for inclusion in such collections as the World Digital Library - a fully searchable portal to cultural content worldwide, supported by Unesco, Google and the Library of Congress. ...

The project is part of an ambitious programme of digitisation taking place within the Wellcome Library.

Stress-testing IRs in low-resource environments

Gayatri Doctor, Determining the number of simultaneous users of an institutional knowledge repository at a management institute in India, VINE 38(3), 2008. Only this abstract is OA, at least so far:
Purpose – Digital repositories are still in nascent stages of development in academic institutions especially in developing countries like India. To identify the intellectual capital, facilitate knowledge sharing and management among the faculty and research staff at management institutions, the creation of digital institutional repositories is becoming a necessity. Management institutes in a developing country like India have constraints on infrastructure, manpower and funding. Thus identifying the resource requirements to establish an institutional knowledge repository keeping in view these constraints is necessary. The paper aims to describe a simulation on an institutional knowledge repository (IKR) test bed at a Business School using a performance and load testing tool to determine the number of simultaneous users that the IKR on a minimal server configuration can support on the institute intranet.

Design/methodology/approach – An institutional knowledge repository (IKR) at ICFAI Business School, Ahmedabad, is built on a system with a minimal configuration using open source DSpace Institutional repository software to capture the intellectual capital and enable knowledge sharing. A simulation on the IKR test bed at ICFAI Business School, using a performance and load testing tool, to determine the number of simultaneous users that the IKR on a minimal server configuration could support on the institute intranet, is described.

Findings – The simulation exercise helped determine that about ten-15 simultaneous users could be supported on the institute intranet in the current minimal configuration that the IKR test bed was built on. The simulation exercise when repeated with a server with higher memory indicated support for 15-20 simultaneous users. For institutions with less than 20 full time faculties and in the initial stages of IKR development this minimal system configuration was sufficient, though an IKR server with higher memory was recommended.

Research limitations/implications – Keeping in mind IT infrastructure constraints like disk space, memory and network in an academic institute; a minimal server configuration was chosen as the IKR Server and made available on the institute intranet as a part of the IKR test-bed for the simulation exercise.

Practical implications – An IKR helps in capturing the intellectual capital and enabling knowledge sharing in a business school. An IKR can be initiated even with a minimal configuration at management institutes in a developing country like India.

Originality/value – It is critical that business schools in India should identify the intellectual capital, facilitate knowledge sharing and management among the faculty and research staff, by initiating the creation of an institutional knowledge repository. A business school with a small number of faculties can initiate the process of setting up an institutional repository even with constraints of infrastructure, manpower and funding. The IKR is of value to the faculty and institution.

NIH to work toward policies to "encourage or require investigators to share data"

The U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Center for Research Resources released its strategic plan for 2009-2013 on September 16, 2008. (Thanks to Heather Piwowar.)

Strategic Initiative IV (Informatics Approaches to Support Research) contains the following action item under "Strategy 1: Facilitate information sharing among biomedical researchers":
Action Items: NCRR will:
  • Work to implement policies that encourage or require investigators to share data collected with NIH support and to describe their data-sharing plans in detail in their applications. ...


Report on Mozambique IRs and OA workshop

Aissa Mitha Issak, Workshop on Institutional Repositories and Open Access in Mozambique, eIFL, September 17, 2008.
A Workshop on Institutional Repositories and Open Access was held in Maputo, Mozambique, in July from 28 to 30, 2008. 30 participants from higher education and research institutions ... attended the workshop. On the July 30th an open session was organized about Open Access and a broader audience attended this event.

The workshop was facilitated by Eloy Rodrigues, director of Documentation Services in Minho University, Portugal, which [is] one of the champions of Open Access in Portugal.

Topics covered during the workshop included the origins, scope and definitions of Open Access; the two roads for Open Access, journals and repositories; creation and development of institutional repositories and experience gained working with the repository of the of Minho University, Portugal.

In terms of financing, this was a joint activity, involving ... Universidade Politécnica in Mozambique ... and Eduardo Mondlane University/ Documentation Services Directorate ...

The major outcome of this workshop was the intention of building a joint repository for Mozambique, gathering the intellectual production of the academic and research staff in the country. This repository will be funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture and, at the start will be covering three institutions. It’s hoped that, in the future, more institutions will join the project. The technical support will be assured by the University of Minho.

More on Flat World Knowledge

Nate Anderson, Flat World Knowledge: an open-source textbook revolution?, Ars Technica, September 17, 2008.
... Flat World is going through two rounds of private beta testing at the moment with 20 universities, using four of the company's [OA textbooks]. The platform that allows professors to edit the books goes live in mid-December, and Flat World will then double the beta pool to 40 universities in January. The system will come out of beta next summer and be ready for use during the Fall 2009 semester. ...
See also our past posts on Flat World Knowledge.

Overview of chemical compound databases

Dana L. Roth, Web-Accessible Chemical Compound Information, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, September 4, 2008. See also this OA self-archived version (free registration required). Abstract:
Web-accessible chemical compound information resources are widely available. In addition to fee-based resources, such as SciFinder Scholar and Beilstein, there is a wide variety of freely accessible resources such as ChemSpider and PubChem. The author provides a general description of various fee-based and free chemical compound resources. The free resources generally offer an acceptable alternative to fee-based resources for quick retrieval. It is assumed that readers will be familiar with The Merck Index, Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, and Knovel Critical Tables.

What makes IRs successful?

Carole L. Palmer, Lauren C. Teffeau, and Mark P. Newton, Identifying Factors of Success in Institutional Repository Development - Final Report, Mellon Foundation, August 2008.  (Thanks to Clifford Lynch.) 

Abstract:   With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the GSLIS Center for Informatics Research in Science and Scholarship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign undertook a one-year pilot study to investigate advances in institutional repository (IR) development. The aim was to learn about successes and challenges experienced by IR initiatives at university libraries that had made a substantial commitment to developing and sustaining an IR. Three sites were studied using the comparative case study method. They were purposefully selected to represent varying approaches to IR development undertaken at research libraries with similar missions and users.

The report doesn't identify the three institutions studied.  However, it does say this (p. 7):  "The three institutions were at different stages of development, but all had made substantive commitments to their IR initiative as evidenced by dedicated IR staff and a relatively high level of ongoing IR-related activities."

From the Executive Summary:

...The normal course of content acquisition was far from routine and unevenly paced. Faculty recruits have been important for sustaining deposit activity. Some faculty have contributed to their IR as open access advocates who believed in the importance of freely accessible scholarship for their research community or their university. Perhaps most important to the viability of IRs, however, were the faculty who found that the IR could solve a particular information problem they faced in the everyday practice of scholarship.

Faculty freely discussed barriers to IR adoption, which included copyright complications and reservations about trends in open access. Some academic units were helping to increase faculty awareness and participation through influential administrators and high-profile scholars who are active advocates. There seemed to be little outright rejection of deposit mandates, with evidence of a patchwork of quasi-mandates emerging among academic units in response to IR initiatives....

Within the cases, there were strong indications that IRs can make important contributions to scholarship, particularly in solving specific information visibility, management, or access problems experienced by faculty. At the same time, some of the assumed benefits of IRs are perceived as redundant by scholars who practice other forms of open access dissemination, or are considered risky by the standards of some disciplinary cultures. In general, the basic aims of universities in investing in IRs —to collect, preserve, and provide access to their research output— seem misleadingly simplistic compared to what IRs are actually attempting to accomplish, and what they will need to do to identify and successfully implement functions that are not redundant or risky and of high value to faculty. While the cases show lower levels of participation by humanities faculty and academic units, the traditional role of the research library as the laboratory for humanities scholarship is recognized, but exploration of the potential for IRs to better support humanities research processes has not yet been prioritized....

The many achievements and ongoing activities documented here can serve as proven approaches for making strong inroads for long-term IR programs....Research questions needing further investigation include:

  • What specific problems can IRs solve for faculty? How do these align or compete with the basic needs of the university to preserve and promote their scholarly assets? In particular, what functions can benefit disciplines that have been traditionally dependent on the library for research materials, or those not well-served by disciplinary repository efforts?
  • Which IR aims should be addressed locally, and which are better organized cooperatively with other university-based IRs? How can these efforts best intersect with and leverage current library operations and consortial efforts? How can established best practices in collection development and liaison-based public services be better exploited?
  • How can IRs interface with disciplinary and cross-disciplinary literature and data repositories and become an integral part of the growing network of digital repositories?

Update (9/22/08).  Also see Dorothea Salo's detailed praise for the report.

The rise of science blogging

User-generated science, The Economist, September 18, 2008.  (Thanks to Matt Rhodes.)

This article is about blogging science without peer review.  But how far do its questions and observations carry over to every other kind of OA science, including green and gold OA to peer-reviewed research?  Excerpt:

...Earlier this month Seed Media Group, a firm based in New York, launched the latest version of Research Blogging, a website which acts as a hub for scientists to discuss peer-reviewed science. Such discussions, the internet-era equivalent of the journal club, have hitherto been strewn across the web, making them hard to find, navigate and follow. The new portal provides users with tools to label blog posts about particular pieces of research, which are then aggregated, indexed and made available online.

Although Web 2.0, with its emphasis on user-generated content, has been derided as a commercial cul-de-sac, it may prove to be a path to speedier scientific advancement....

Blogging is all well and good for tenured staff but lower down in the academic hierarchy it is still publish or perish, laments [Jennifer Rohn, a biologist at University College London and a prolific blogger].

To help avoid such incidents Research Blogging allows users to tag blog posts with metadata, information about the post’s author and history. This enables priority of publication to be established, something else peer-reviewed journals have long touted as their virtue....

With the technology in place, scientists face a chicken-and-egg conundrum. In order that blogging can become a respected academic medium it needs to be recognised by the upper echelons of the scientific establishment. But leading scientists are unlikely to take it up until it achieves respectability. Efforts are under way to change this. Nature Network, an online science community linked to Nature, a long-established science journal, has announced a competition to encourage blogging among tenured staff. The winner will be whoever gets the most senior faculty member to blog....

Dr [Adam] Bly [founder of Seen Media Group] points to a paradox: the internet was created for and by scientists, yet they have been slow to embrace its more useful features. Nevertheless, serious science-blogging is on the rise. The Seed state of science report, to be published later this autumn, found that 35% of researchers surveyed say they use blogs. This figure may seem underwhelming, but it was almost nought just a few years ago. Once the legion of science bloggers reaches a critical threshold, the poultry problem will look paltry.

Guerilla OA

Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, unsigned but apparently by Aaron Swartz, July 2008.

...The Open Access Movement has fought valiantly to ensure that scientists do not sign their copyrights away but instead ensure their work is published on the Internet, under terms that allow anyone to access it. But even under the best scenarios, their work will only apply to things published in the future. Everything up until now will have been lost.

That is too high a price to pay. Forcing academics to pay money to read the work of their colleagues? Scanning entire libraries but only allowing the folks at Google to read them? Providing scientific articles to those at elite universities in the First World, but not to children in the Global South? It’s outrageous and unacceptable.

“I agree,” many say, “but what can we do? The companies hold the copyrights, they make enormous amounts of money by charging for access, and it’s perfectly legal — there’s nothing we can do to stop them.” But there is something we can, something that’s already being done: we can fight back.

Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world. And you have: trading passwords with colleagues, filling download requests for friends.

Meanwhile, those who have been locked out are not standing idly by. You have been sneaking through holes and climbing over fences, liberating the information locked up by the publishers and sharing them with your friends.

But all of this action goes on in the dark, hidden underground. It’s called stealing or piracy, as if sharing a wealth of knowledge were the moral equivalent of plundering a ship and murdering its crew. But sharing isn’t immoral — it’s a moral imperative. Only those blinded by greed would refuse to let a friend make a copy.

Large corporations, of course, are blinded by greed....

There is no justice in following unjust laws.  It’s time to come into the light and, in the grand tradition of civil disobedience, declare our opposition to this private theft of public culture.

We need to take information, wherever it is stored, make our copies and share them with the world. We need to take stuff that's out of copyright and add it to the archive. We need to buy secret databases and put them on the Web. We need to download scientific journals and upload them to file sharing networks....

Also see the Guerilla OA mailing list.


  • I support all the legal tactics recommended here (and then some) and none of the illegal tactics.  It's legal to self-archive and it's legal to make public-domain texts OA.  It's not legal to make copyrighted texts OA without the copyright holder's permission, even if you paid for your own copy.
  • I don't oppose the illegal tactics because I think current copyright law is just.  On the contrary, I think it is grotesquely unbalanced and unjust.  Nor do I oppose civil disobedience.  But I don't accept that copyright infringement is civil disobedience and, more importantly, I don't accept that advancing OA through deliberate violations of copyright law would do more good than harm. 
  • I have three basic reasons:  (1) OA is already lawful and doesn't require the reform or violation of copyright law, even if it could leap forward with the right reforms.  (2) OA activists will never match the publishing industry's funds for litigation.  (3) One of the most persistent and harmful misunderstandings of OA is that it violates copyright law.  We've come a long way in educating policy-makers out of that misunderstanding.  But the Orwellian Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (a.k.a. Conyers bill) is just one recent piece of evidence that we still have a lot of educating to do and that publishers can still make a lot of hay from the misunderstandings which remain.  A campaign to give the publishing lobby its first valid evidence that OA violates copyright is the last thing we need. 
  • For an earlier take on some of these issues, see my 2003 article, Not Napster for Science.
  • It's not true that OA movement is doing nothing about previously published research.  There are many initiatives to provide retroactive OA, from the PMC Back Issue Digitization Project to the Wellcome Trust's Medical Journals Backfiles project.  However, it is true that the OA movement gives priority to new research, if only because it is lower-hanging fruit.  Retroactive OA faces some serious legal, financial, and logistical difficulties, which Aaron Swartz knows firsthand through his admirable, pioneering work on the Open Library and (see e.g. my blog posts, here and here).  But those difficulties make solutions desirable; they don't justify unlawful solutions.  Providing access to past literature is a good reason for legislators to change the law (even if they never will); but it's not a good reason for OA activists to disobey the law, especially if it would discredit the thousands of lawful projects now under way around the world.
  • We're much better off if "OA" means "lawful OA" resting on permission or the public domain.  In that world, as I put it in my OA Overview, "there is no vigilante OA, no infringing, expropriating, or piratical OA."  But if some OA is lawful and some is not, then we burden ourselves with the need to explain which is which and justify that which shouldn't need justification; we further confuse well-disposed stakeholders who are already confused about copyright; and we hand the publishing lobby a propaganda gift.
  • A companion site, Content Liberation Front ("the guerillas of the open access movement") proposes methods for providing OA to uncopyrightable data sets and sufficiently old journal articles (now in the public domain).  I consider that a legal strategy and a very desirable one, and I've applauded every similar initiative for uncopyrightable public information undertaken (for example) by Carl Malamud and
  • I should say for the record that one problem with current copyright law is that it leaves the line between legal and illegal tactics very fuzzy.  By criticizing illegal tactics, I don't mean to leave the impression that it's always easy to tell what they are.  By recommending only lawful tactics, I don't mean that we shouldn't push the envelope.

Which printed reference books are still essential?

If you have internet access, which printed reference books do you still want at hand?

Fred Shapiro asks the question at the Freakonomics blog, and points to an article by Donald Altschiller in the The Wall Street Journal listing five must-have titles.

Comment.  Despite the rise of OA, my own list is not empty and starts with the Oxford English Dictionary.  I say this even though I have prepaid access through Earlham to the electronic edition with its wizardly and wonderful query language.

Update (9/22/08).  Blake Stacey has picked up the question and started a discussion at LIS News.

EC adopts new tone in describing the OA debate

The EC's Digital Libraries Initiative page on Scientific and Scholarly Information made some interesting changes this weekend. 

In the section on Online Accessibility, it deleted these words:

Disseminating research results efficiently to strengthen Europe's capacity to innovate, while ensuring an adequate reward for organisations and companies that invest in the scientific dissemination system.

The digital revolution has led to intense discussions between the research community and scientific publishers on the most efficient models to distribute scientific articles. Scientists advocate a system of open access, where publications and related data are freely accessible to all on the internet to maximise their use. Scientific publishers point to the value they add through the peer review system and enhanced services. This added value is essential for the functioning of the system and comes at a cost.

The aim is to guarantee wide access and usability of publications and research data, while at the same time rewarding investments in the scientific publishing system. Two basic options to make publications accessible for all through the internet are currently being envisaged:

  • Author pays publishing in which the author of the article (usually the funding body that supports the author) pays for the publication instead of the user.
  • Self-archiving in which the author deposits the peer-reviewed version of the article in an open archive, sometimes after an embargo period to allow the publishers to get a return on investment.

and replaced them with these:

Many researchers argue for an open-access system, with publications and data available to all online, free of charge.

Publishers often disagree, pointing to the large amounts they invest in the peer review system and other valuable services.

The challenge is to combine wide access with a fair return on investment for publishers. Two basic options are currently being considered:

  • Author-pays publishing – the author of an article (or the body funding the research) pays for publication rather than user
  • Self-archiving – the author deposits the peer-reviewed article in an open archive, sometimes after an embargo period – a delay to allow publishers to get a return on investment.


  • The revisions are more about tone and accent than substance.  The first version made the debate appear intractable, while the second makes it appear resolvable.  (It's relevant that the EC came to its own resolution of the debate last month with its OA pilot project for 20% of its 2007-2013 research budget.)  The first version set out the possibly hopeless goal of mediating an intractable dispute, while the second faces up to the "challenge" of "combining" the goals of each side.  The first said that gold and green OA were "being envisaged" while the second says they are "being considered".  The first suggested that all researchers support OA and all publishers oppose it, while the second refers with less alarm to "many researchers" and "some publishers".  The first highlighted the value publishers add, while the second highlights the money they spend.  The first said that the value publishers add is "essential for the functioning of the system" while the second drops that claim and refocuses on giving publishers a "fair return on investment."
  • Unfortunately the page still hasn't replaced the inaccurate and misleading term "author-pays".
  • BTW, the page on the Digital Libraries Initiative itself was revised at the same time, and changed its description of the program focus on research from "scientific information - an important driver for innovation" to "scientific information – making research findings more widely available online and keeping them available over time."