Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Anti-OA EU report withdrawn

La Quadrature du Net, Copyright dogmatism temporarily kicked out of European Parliament, press release, February 19, 2009.

La Quadrature du Net welcomes the confirmation that the Medina Report, the most ridiculous text about Copyright seen in years in the European Parliament, got kicked out. This dogmatic text got rejected thanks to awareness raised by massive citizen mobilization. ...

Multiple echoes from inside the European Parliament led us believe that the Medina Report was postponed "sine die". The JURI committee, where the text was initially voted, confirmed this information. The European socialist group (PSE), where Manuel Medina Ortega belongs, choose to block it, fearing a strike-back from their electors during the upcoming elections if it was put to votes. At such a short time from the renewal of the parliament, and as the author of this report isn't candidate for another mandate, it means that this text is definitely kicked out and doesn't have any chance of being voted anymore. ...

See also our past post on the Medina report.


Hacking WTO to support public goods, including OA research

In January, I blogged James Love's Knowledge as a Public Good: Two Mechanisms, a presentation at the Fórum Mundial Ciência E Democracia (Belém, Parã, Brazil, January 26, 2009).  But at the time I didn't appreciate the subtle suggestion he made there.  Thanks to David Bollier for pointing it out. 

First, David Bollier sets the stage:

Computer programmer Richard Stallman invented a famous “hack” around copyright law when he created the General Public License, which enables a community of hackers to create their own commons of software code. Copyright law is used as a vehicle to serve the commons.

It sounds improbable, but could something similar be done with the procedures of the World Trade Organization? Could a treaty apparatus designed to serve multinational corporations be exploited in a new way so that it does not just promote free trade in private goods and services, but enables countries to collaborate to create public goods?

That is precisely what James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International, recently proposed at the World Forum on Science and Democracy, held in Belém, Brasil....

Love’s brilliant idea is to re-purpose the portion of the WTO agreement that deals with the market for services, and try to use it as a procedural platform that would let different nations cooperate in the creation of such public goods as open source software, shared scientific research on drugs and global warming solutions, the translation of works into other languages, and much more.

Now from Love himself:

...There is much criticism of the GATS [General Agreement on Trade in Services] itself, much of it we share. However, as a model for creating binding commitments for a diverse set of obligations, it is quite interesting. Hence, the earlier reference to the “hack” of the WTO. We are interested in borrowing from the GATS the structure of accepting binding heterogeneous offers to supply -- in this case, not liberation of services, but the supply of public goods.

If such an agreement existed with the WTO, several countries could propose a collaboration to fund open source research on malaria. Countries could bind government agencies to require government funded research to be made available, for free, on the Internet, as was recently done by the U.S. NIH and in some other government research agencies. Like-minded countries could agree to make binding commitments to support the development of open source software, fund new databases, share the costs of hosting Wikipedia servers, pay for translations of scientific works into other languages, or for the creation of more accessible formats of books and articles for persons who are blind or have other reading disabilities. The lists of things that could be expanded and supported under such an agreement are endless.

In theory, all of these things could be done without a WTO agreement. The benefits of the WTO agreement would be several, however. First, it is quite costly to set up a separate treaty or agreement, particularly one that can so effectively enforce commitments, as can the WTO. Second, by introducing public goods into the WTO environment - the culture of the WTO would be profoundly changed. “Asks” and “offers” in the WTO negotiations would not longer be exclusively about the private goods market, or about the privatization and enclosure of knowledge itself. There would be an immediate shift to consider the competing benefits of greater openness, and a larger global commons. Knowledge that was produced to be “free” would have a new value, as a trading chip in the WTO environment.

Update (3/29/09). Also see Glyn Moody's article on Love's hack.

Comments on the Conyers bill, #5

Here are some more comments from the press and blogosphere on the re-introduction of the Conyers bill (a.k.a. Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, HR 801), which would overturn the OA policy at the NIH.  Also see our past collections (1, 2, 3, 4).

From the Association of Health Care Journalists:

The Association of Health Care Journalists supports full and timely public access to the results of government-funded research. It believes legislation introduced this month by U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr. and others would constitute a blow to the public's right to access vital scientific data....

The NIH Public Access Policy provides millions of Americans, including health care providers, researchers, patients and their families, and journalists, with critical health data funded by taxpayers. The Conyers bill would choke access to these crucial public resources. AHCJ believes more public access, not less, is required.

From Charles Bailey at DigitalKoans:

According to data from, Reed Elsevier Inc. made contributions to eight House Judiciary Committee members during 2007-2008.

  1. John Conyers, Jr., (D) Michigan, 14th, Chair: $4,000
  2. Howard Berman, (D) California, 28th: $3,000
  3. Howard Coble, (R) North Carolina, 6th: $4,000
  4. Darrell Issa, (R) California, 49th: $1,000
  5. Sheila Jackson Lee, (D) Texas, 18th: $1,000
  6. Jerrold Nadler, (D) New York, 8th: $1,000
  7. Lamar Smith, (R) Texas, 21st: $2,000
  8. Robert Wexler, (D) Florida, 19th: $2,000 ...

From John Hawks:

I think the existing [NIH] policy is not nearly as open as it should be. The free availability of most NIH-funded research after a year is very important; even scientists at most institutions may not have immediate access to research findings, since journal subscriptions have become so high....

[The bill's sponsors are acting] at the behest of scientific publishers' interests, naturally. Public open access to the products of the public's money is nowhere near as important as Congress' open access to lobbyists' money.

From Nathan Georgette at Open Access Blog:

I...began investigating the money trail on Conyers' campaign contributions...What I came upon sank my heart. According to Open Secrets, Conyers' third single largest campaign contributor in 2008 was the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), whose "Key Bills of the 111th Congress" include HR801. Surprised? Shouldn't be. Money talks, and big money talks that much louder....

But of course this private organization [AIPLA] has the interest of its members closest to its mission; I only had hoped that Conyers would do the same for his constituents....

From the open letter to Rep. Conyers on behalf of

[The bill] would harm Internet companies and retard innovation and economic recovery....

It is the mission of NetCoalition companies to help their users locate and access the information they need. The NIH public access policy furthers this mission by placing valuable publicly funded medical research in an online location where search engines operated by NetCoalition members can index and link to it. The public access policy thus simultaneously assists the broad dissemination of important healthcare information and promotes the growth ofthe Internet.

These benefits would be multiplied if other federal agencies adopted similar policies. For example, the broad availability ofpublicly funded research concerning energy generation, storage and conservation would accelerate the discovery, development, and adoption of solutions to the global warming and energy dependence crises. Unfortunately, H.R. 801 reverses the NIH policy, and prevents other federal agencies from adopting similar policies.

It appears that H.R. 801 is premised on the notion that the public access policy is inconsistent with copyright law because it requires the involuntary transfer of copyright. This argument threatens to disrupt the fundamental relationship between authors and the entities that pay them for the creation of content. A wide variety of entities, including Internet companies, book and magazine publishers, and marketing departments, pay authors in advance to create works such as articles, novels, and photographs. In exchange for the advance, the author agrees to transfer the copyright to the entity, or to grant the entity a license to use the work.

This system is beneficial to both the author and the entity....

From T. Scott Plutchak at T. Scott:

...[T]he argument isn't about making articles freely available -- [Heather] Joseph [opposing the bill] and [Martin] Frank [supporting the bill] agree on the importance and necessity of doing that.  It's about whether or not we should enable the government to dictate the terms under which this happens.  But this is not the way that SPARC has framed the public debate.

For me, personally, I'm somewhat more inclined to give the government the edge here.  Having started my career at the National Library of Medicine and being steeped in the history of that amazing institution, if I had to choose between relying on NIH/NLM to maintain the permanent archive of research publishing or relying on independent organizations, worthy though they might be, I'd go with NLM.  But that doesn't mean that I must therefore think that the NIH Public Access Policy, as currently implemented, is the best way to do that....

Primer on US copyright law for databases

Michael Carroll, Copyright in Databases, Carrollogos, February 20, 2009.  Excerpt:

I'm going to have more to say about data, databases, and intellectual property rights in the coming months. This longish post provides a basic primer on how U.S. copyright law applies to databases....

[A.1] a. Originality

...As a practical matter, this originality standard prevents copyright from applying to complete databases – i.e. those that list all instances of a particular phenomenon – that are arranged in an unoriginal manner, such as alphabetically or by numeric value. However, courts have held that incomplete databases that reflect original selection and arrangement of data, such as a guide to the “best” restaurants in a city, are copyrightable in their selection and arrangement. Such a copyright would prohibit another from copying and posting such a guide on the Internet without permission. However, because the copyright would be limited to that particular selection and arrangement of restaurants, a user could use such a database as a reference for creating a different selection and arrangement of restaurants without violating the copyright owner’s copyright.

Copyright is also limited by the merger doctrine, which appears in many database disputes. If there are only a small set of practical choices for expressing an idea, the law holds that the idea and expression merge and the result is that there is no legal liability for using the expression.

Under these principles, metadata is copyrightable only if it reflects an author’s original expression. For example, a collection of simple bibliographic metadata with fields named “author,” “title,” “date of publication,” would not be sufficiently original to be copyrightable. More complex selections and arrangements may cross the line of originality. Finally, to the extent that software is used in a databases, software is protectable as a “literary work.” A discussion of copyright in executable code is beyond the scope of this entry....

Durham statement on OA for legal scholarship

Law library directors meeting at Duke Law School in Durham, North Carolina, last November have released the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship (February 11, 2009).  Excerpt:

Objective: The undersigned believe that it will benefit legal education and improve the dissemination of legal scholarly information if law schools commit to making the legal scholarship they publish available in stable, open, digital formats in place of print. To accomplish this end, law schools should commit to making agreed-upon stable, open, digital formats, rather than print, the preferable formats for legal scholarship. If stable, open, digital formats are available, law schools should stop publishing law journals in print and law libraries should stop acquiring print law journals. We believe that, in addition to their other benefits, these changes are particularly timely in light of the financial challenges currently facing many law schools....

Call to Action: We therefore urge every U.S. law school to commit to ending print publication of its journals and to making definitive versions of journals and other scholarship produced at the school immediately available upon publication in stable, open, digital formats, rather than in print. We also urge every law school to commit to keeping a repository of the scholarship published at the school in a stable, open, digital format....

As a measure of redundancy, we also urge faculty members to reserve their copyrights to ensure that they too can make their own scholarship available in stable, open, digital formats. All law journals should rely upon the AALS model publishing agreement as a default and should respect author requests to retain copyrights in their scholarship.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Voting for OA at OOGL

While the OA proposal at Obama CTO continues to do well, there's another way to tell urge the Obama administration to require OA for publicly-funded research. 

I just added the same proposal to the Open Our Government List (OOGL) from the Sunlight Foundation.  But this time, I added a sentence about the Conyers bill.  Here's the whole proposal:

Require open access to the results of non-classified research funded by taxpayers. Extend the exemplary policy now in place at the NIH to all federal agencies.

Oppose HR 801, which would overturn the NIH policy.

The purpose of OOGL is "to add a public element to the crafting of [Obama's] Open Government Directive that is itself transparent, participatory, and collaborative."

Because OOGL is new, the #1 proposal has only 98 votes.  Hence, it shouldn't be hard to make the OA proposal rise quickly, if you take a moment to vote and spread the word. 

Is this just an empty exercise in casting votes that don't matter?  I don't think so.  The Sunlight Foundation has a good record in working effectively for open government in the US, and I'm counting on it to fight for the ideas which rise to the top of its list. 

See our past posts on the Sunlight Foundation.

If you're wondering, the Obama transition team's Citizen's Briefing Book stopped accepting input on January 16.  It too contained an OA proposal (blogged here on January 11).

A tool for crowdsourcing digitization of public domain books

Patti Lane, reCaptcha: How to turn blather into books, Christian Science Monitor, February 19, 2009.

When you buy a concert ticket on Ticketmaster, post something for sale on Craigslist, or poke an old friend on Facebook, you may not know it, but you’re helping to put millions of books online in a vast free library.

To access these websites, you must decipher two squiggly words to prove that you’re not a computer program designed to spam the site. Once it knows you’re human, the website lets you continue.

Those two decoded words don’t disappear, however. In fact, your brain has deciphered words that had baffled the scanning software used for an enormous project to digitize every public domain book in the world. ...

Some 200 million of these words, dubbed “Captchas” for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, are typed every day by people around the world. ...

In 2007, [Luis von Ahn] came up with reCaptchas. Now, instead of frittering away their time typing random characters, Internet users spell actual words plucked from old books that computers have trouble reading.

The Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit group based in a San Francisco, has enlisted about 150 libraries and research centers to digitize as many printed works as it legally can and post them online for anyone in the world to read. ...

The scanned texts are sent to a server in California, where they’re run through optical character recognition software.

But computer programs are only 80 percent accurate in older books. They stump over blurry lines, places where the ink has bled together over time, and less uniform fonts.

Carnegie Mellon computers send the indecipherable words to more than 100,000 websites that use them in the reCaptcha security checks. Any website or blogger can sign up for the free service. ...

The system’s accuracy rate of 99.1 percent is about the same as professional human transcribers.

Web users now provide about 3,000 man-hours a day of free labor in 10-second bursts of human computation, correcting more than 10 million words every day. ReCaptchas have solved 5 billion words in less than two years. ...

UK Conservatives call for access to PSI

Adam Afriyie, Government must improve access to data, The Conservative Party, February 10, 2009. Afriyie is a Conservative shadow minister for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

The campaign to ‘free our data’ is an important one – all the more so at a time when our economy is in deep recession. ...

So my vision is for a more open, innovative and better connected society: a society where access to communication technology creates more powerful citizens and a less controlling state; a society where the free-flow of public information energizes entrepreneurs and social innovators.

Data will be the fuel of this new economy. And as the repository of the country’s public data, the Government already has a vital presence in the field. ...

There is now a growing literature arguing for more open access to public data. But the Government’s response, in our opinion, has been little and late. ...

See also the Free Our Data blog post on the event where Afriyie delivered the speech.

Review of SCImago database

Péter Jacsó, SCImago Country Rank Database, Péter's Digital Reference Shelf, February 2009. A review of the OA SCImago database of journal data.

... Scimago is a top-notch free system with extensive and very important bibliometric statistics about nearly 16,000 serial publications (that I did not review here) and more than 230 countries and territories. ... [T]he free Scimago Country Database (which is far more than a Country Rank list), is an excellent free ready-reference source.

See also our past posts on SCImago.

Free or discounted access to JSTOR in developing countries and JSTOR have signed an agreement to provide free or discounted access to institutions in eIFL member countries.

The project joins efforts such as HINARI (see our past posts) and OARE (see our past posts) to expand access to TA resources in developing countries.

Notes on Scottish repository conference

Sarah Gentleman, Making research accessible: repositories, open access and the issue of usage, Research Information Network, undated but recent. Notes on Open Access Research Repository - What's in it for you? (Stirling, February 13, 2009).

... The speakers covered why digital repositories are important for Scottish universities, why it’s important to populate repositories and what the challenges are, the legal perspective on open access publishing and bibliometrics and research assessment. ...

I think one issue might be the word ‘repository’ not being particularly attractive to researchers. The Netherlands seemed to cleverly get round this by calling their repository the Cream of Science which was originally set up by asking some of the top researchers to contribute and thereby encouraging others to follow suit. ...

Profile of CC @ the U. Michigan Library

Cameron Parkins, University of Michigan Library, Creative Commons, February 19, 2009.

Over the past year, the University of Michigan Library has shown itself to be particularly sensible in regards to open content licensing, the public domain, and issues of copyright in the digital age. The U-M Library has integrated public domain book machines, adopted CC licensing for their content, and independently had their Copyright Specialist, Molly Kleinman, articulate the importance of proper attribution in using CC licenses. We recently caught up with Molly to learn more about these efforts - primarily how they came to be and the results they have yielded - as well as discuss CC’s place in educational institutions at large and how CC and Fair Use interact in the academic sphere. ...

[Q:] Is there anything else our readers should know about the University Library? What are your plans for the future?

[A:] We have an event coming up that might of interest to your readers in or near Ann Arbor. From March 23rd - 27th we’re having Open Access Week, a series of events promoting and investigating the Open Access movement and its impact on scholarship. Creative Commons licenses play an important part in open access publishing, and I expect we’ll be talking about CC a lot that week. ...

Comparing 39 impact measurements

Johan Bollen, Herbert Van de Sompel, Aric Hagberg, and Ryan Chute, A principal component analysis of 39 scientific impact measures, a preprint deposited in arXiv February 12, 2009.  (Thanks to Philip Davis.)

Abstract:   The impact of scientific publications has traditionally been expressed in terms of citation counts. However, scientific activity has moved online over the past decade. To better capture scientific impact in the digital era, a variety of new impact measures has been proposed on the basis of social network analysis and usage log data. Here we investigate how these new measures relate to each other, and how accurately and completely they express scientific impact. We performed a principal component analysis of the rankings produced by 39 existing and proposed measures of scholarly impact that were calculated on the basis of both citation and usage log data. Our results indicate that the notion of scientific impact is a multi-dimensional construct that can not be adequately measured by any single indicator, although some measures are more suitable than others. The commonly used citation Impact Factor is not positioned at the core of this construct, but at its periphery, and should thus be used with caution.

OA companies on publishing industry hot list

Outsell has released its list of "30 to Watch" in the information industry. Included are the British Medical Journal, Flat World Knowledge, and Public Library of Science. See the December 18 press release or the (TA) report.

Your comments on the future of Depot

Consultation on Role of the Depot, EDINA, February 16, 2009.  Excerpt:

The role of the Depot must change before the end of 2009.

We have come to the view that we should not decide upon the future of the Depot without first consulting wider among those who are working to promote and enable sharing of research through Open Access (OA) self-archiving, both in the UK and internationally. For the first part of that consultation process we approached a small number of individuals and we are grateful for their comments; those have helped frame the options we are considering. We now seek your input in a short period of consultation over the next four weeks.

The initial role of the Depot has been to provide the UK academic community with an online deposit facility for eprints during the interim period while Institutional Repositories (IRs) were being set up. Among other policy issues this was to put in place material support for the prospect of mandates for Open Access self-archiving. The initial purpose for the Depot has been judged to have been completed, and the project funding from JISC for the Depot as part of JISC RepositoryNet is coming to an end.

The Depot was never planned to be a central repository that would rival institutional repositories; rather it has complemented them by assisting both researchers-as-authors by providing two support functions.  The first is that of re-direction, linking the potential depositor of an eprint with the appropriate UK institutional repository....The second is that of ingest, enabling deposit of that eprint, and thus exposure under terms of Open Access for those UK academic authors not having an appropriate IR. Both functions are computer-aided and without mediation by library or other support staff....

Could the Depot add value by continuing as support activity for the open access agenda, or else when and how to close the Depot? Please give us your views.

Preliminary discussion with advocates of OA self-archiving have indicated that there is value in continuing the Depot in order to assist OA sharing of research output internationally, especially where IR capacity is not yet comprehensive. There has also been discussion about how to develop the re-direction capabilities more generally, including support of OA deposit mandates by funding bodies - for example, by helping their funded researchers locate the appropriate IR.

The existing Depot service will be fully supported until at least 30 September 2009. Next month (March) or shortly thereafter we will decide what to do based upon feedback from yourselves, and any other developments, using the following six months to enact an agreed plan. This might include re-branding or change of mission and message, as well as arranging the transfer of the limited content that we have in the Depot to some other repository or even handing over the running of the Depot to another body.

Your comments are welcome, and should be sent to, marked 'Role of the Depot'.


  • I'm one who thinks that Depot plays a valuable role in supporting green OA for scholars who don't have an OA repository in their institution or field, and that Depot could play its current role internationally after its UK funding comes to an end.  But whether you agree with me or not, please let your views be known.
  • Also see our past posts on Depot.

Update (2/21/09).  Also see Stevan Harnad's comments:

Summary:  Please take the time to express your support for sustaining the Depot, a far-seeing and timely JISC Project that just happened to come slightly before its historical time! Please make sure the Depot is kept alive so that it can now come into its own, to perform the crucial role it was intended to perform, and set the example for the rest of the world. The reason the Depot has lain fallow (with only 66 deposits) to date is exactly the same reason virtually all of the world's Institutional Repositories (IRs) have been lying fallow: They are waiting for the "slumbering giant" (the world's universities and research institutions) to wake up and mandate deposit of their own research output. Meanwhile, funders have been providentially mandating deposit of the research they fund, but needlessly and counterproductively insisting upon institution-external, central deposit -- instead of mandating institutional deposit and central export (via SWORD) -- simply because not every institution has its own IR yet! Yet that is exactly the transitional role Depot was designed to fulfill: to provide an interim repository for any UK institution that has no IR yet, so its research output can be made OA until it sets up its own IR, to which its deposits can then be automatically exported. Well the token is at last beginning to drop for funders. So let's keep Depot alive to catch it, and help propel the UK (and by its example, the rest of world) to universal OA IR deposit mandates by funders and institutions alike.  

Combining wiki-style openness and expertise

Larry Sanger, The Fate of Expertise after WIKIPEDIA, Episteme, February 2009.  Sanger is the founder of Citizendium and co-founder of Wikipedia

Abstract:   Wikipedia has challenged traditional notions about the roles of experts in the Internet Age. Section 1 sets up a paradox. Wikipedia is a striking popular success, and yet its success can be attributed to the fact that it is wide open and bottom-up. How can such a successful knowledge project disdain expertise? Section 2 discusses the thesis that if Wikipedia could be shown by an excellent survey of experts to be fantastically reliable, then experts would not need to be granted positions of special authority. But, among other problems, this thesis is self-stultifying. Section 3explores a couple ways in which egalitarian online communities might challenge the occupational roles or the epistemic leadership roles of experts. There is little support for the notion that the distinctive occupations that require expertise are being undermined. It is also implausible that Wikipedia and its like might take over the epistemic leadership roles of experts. Section 4 argues that a main reason that Wikipedia’s articles are as good as they are is that they are edited by knowledgeable people to whom deference is paid, although voluntarily. But some Wikipedia articles suffer because so many aggressive people drive off people more knowledgeable than they are; so there is no reason to think that Wikipedia’s articles will continually improve. Moreover, Wikipedia’s commitment to anonymity further drives off good contributors. Generally, some decision-making role for experts is not just consistent with online knowledge communities being open and bottom-up, it is recommended as well.

From the conclusion:

...Wikipedia’s success is not best explained by its radical egalitarianism, its rejection of expert involvement, but instead by its freedom, openness, and bottom-up management, all of which are consistent with a low-key role for experts....

There is no doubt that many experts would, if left to their own devices, dismantle the openness and bottom-up nature that drives the success of Wikipedia. But the failure to take seriously the suggestion of any role for experts can only be considered a failure of imagination. One need only ask what an open, bottom-up system with a role for expert decision-making would look like.

Year in review from CODATA

CODATA has posted a review of its activities on data sharing in 2008.
  • ... The G8 explicitly recognized the importance of data sharing issues in GEOSS
    G8 Declaration on Climate Change, Japan 08: "... To respond to the growing demand for Earth observation data, we will accelerate efforts within the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), which builds on the work of UN specialized agencies and programs, in priority areas, inter alia, climate change and water resources management, by strengthening observation, prediction and data sharing" ...

Interview with Science Commons' John Wilbanks

James Turner, ETech Preview: Science Commons Wants Data to Be Free, O'Reilly Radar, February 19, 2009. A podcast interview with John Wilbanks, with transcript.

... The Public Library of Science has become a very high-impact, very respected journal publisher. It's at the highest levels of scientific quality. And their business model is still developing. And I think that their new PLoS ONE venture, which is a new online only thing, and their upcoming hubs work which is going to build communities, those are going to be really interesting things to watch.

In terms of sort of proving itself from a business perspective, BioMed Central, who has nearly 250 journals, I believe, under Creative Commons licenses, was sold in December to Springer. My understanding is that BMC's annual revenues were in the 15 million pounds per year range. Again, not using any sort of copyright transfer when they were bought by Springer. And so that really was, I think, a vindication of the capability of a for-profit model that was open. And I love to point to Hindawi, which is in Egypt, which is also profitable, which has another few hundred journals under C.C. by license. So we're certainly seeing some proof points that this can be high-quality and this can be profitable. But there's still a lot of uncertainty as to how the existing journals adapt to that. ...

Update. See also the comments at Molecular Philosophy.

13 US universities join SCOAP3

Two US universities and a consortium of 11 others have joined the CERN SCOAP3 project:

Libraries to publishers: how you can help

The Association of Research Libraries has released the ARL Statement to Scholarly Publishers on the Global Economic Crisis, February 19, 2009.

From yesterday's press release:

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has released a statement on the current global economic crisis and its effect on publishing and library subscriptions....

Large libraries are far from exempt from the consequences of the current global economic crisis. Downturns in state support for public institutions along with substantial losses in endowment funds mean that many ARL member libraries are facing substantial reductions in both operating and materials budgets. In addition to cuts already made, there is strong evidence that most ARL member libraries are preparing for further budget reductions in the 2009–2010 fiscal year.

It is the common view among research libraries that they, like many smaller libraries, are facing protracted budget reductions and they expect that cuts being implemented now are permanent. Unlike earlier recessions and inflationary cycles, few are in a position to consider budget management strategies aimed at carrying collections budgets over a few lean years.

The ARL statement includes a set of recommendations that are based on the belief that scholarly publishers who are committed to enhancing the effectiveness of the scholarly communication system are prepared to act to minimize negative impacts on the system resulting from economic conditions. Among other strategies, the statements calls for publishers and vendors to adopt flexible approaches to pricing and avoid reducing content or access as libraries seek to renegotiate expenditures. ARL encourages publishers to consult widely with research libraries in developing responses to the current economic environment....

From the statement itself:

...ARL echoes the ICOLC statement’s advocacy for publishers to adopt flexible approaches to pricing and avoid reducing content or access as libraries seek to renegotiate expenditures....

Libraries serving research organizations are increasingly receptive to models that provide open access to content published by their affiliated authors in addition to traditional subscription access to titles. This kind of model can form a bridge from subscription models to models incorporating author-side payments....


  • The ICOLC statement (January 19, 2009) articulated two principles, the second of which was this (italics in original):  "It is in the best interest of both publishers and consortia to seek creative solutions that allow licenses to remain as intact as possible, without major content or access reductions. Content, once discontinued, will be very difficult to reinstate at a later date. While there may be practical limits to this principle, publishers, authors, scholars, and libraries will be best served by those solutions that retain as much access to as much content as possible."
  • The ARL statement says that its recommendations "can form a bridge from subscription models to models incorporating author-side payments."  If it meant full or hybrid OA journals, I wish it had said so.  Not all hybrid OA journals charge author-side publication fees, although most do.  Not all full OA journals charge publication fees, and in fact most do not.  If the ARL message is that institutions should support peer-reviewed OA journals as an alternative to subscription journals, then it should generalize its recommendation to cover all OA journals, not just the minority which charge publication fees.  Many of the no-fee OA journals depend on institutional subsidies, instead of fees, and any institutions willing to support OA journals with fees should be willing to support OA journals with comparable subsidies. 
  • Similarly, if part of the ARL message was that academic libraries should support OA archiving through an institutional repository, as another part of the bridge from subscription journals to OA, then I wish it had said so. Too many institutions don't yet have IRs, and too many with IRs don't yet have effective policies to fill them.  ARL has been a leader on this front.  I don't have recent data, but in August 2006, 43% of ARL member institutions hosted an IR and 35% more were planning one for 2007.
  • The overall message of the ARL and ICOLC statements is true, important, and goes well beyond OA.  But for more on the OA angle alone, see my article in SOAN for January 2009:

It will be harder than ever for libraries to renew all their current subscriptions...[and] harder than ever to justify new subscriptions....Even before the crisis, library budgets were growing more slowly than inflation and much more slowly than journal prices.  Now they will slow further or shrink.  Libraries will cancel larger percentages of their serials subscriptions than they have in decades.  That will reduce access to the TA literature, which will strengthen the case for OA among researchers, librarians, and administrators....

DEFF adopts the KE open license

Denmark's Electronic Research Library (Danmarks Elektroniske Fag- og Forskningsbibliotek, or DEFF) has adopted a Danish translation of the Knowledge Exchange's License to Publish.  The license previously existed in English, Dutch, and Spanish.  Here's how KE summarizes the main provisions of the license: 

  • Copyright in the published work remains with the author
  • The author grants the publisher a licence to publish the work
  • The licence takes effect as soon as the publisher has indicated that it wishes to publish the work
  • Once the article has been published, the author can make it publicly accessible – in the form in which it was published by publisher – by making it available as part of a digital scientific collection, a ’repository’.
  • If the publisher so requests, the start of public accessibility can be delayed for a maximum of six months.

PS:  Also see our past posts on DEFF and KE.  DEFF is one of the founding partners of KE.

The DiPP 3.0 license in English

Germany's Digital Peer Publishing (DiPP) project has released an English translation of the latest version (3.0) of the DiPP License.  DiPP has also updated the license FAQ, although it's in German only.

Also see our post from last November on the initial release of the 3.0 license.

Update on UK PMC

Frank Norman, UK PubMedCentral, Trading Knowledge, February 18, 2009.  (Thanks to Branwen Hide.)  Excerpt:

I went to another meeting today about UK PubMedCentral . For the first time I began to feel a bit excited about the resource this project is building....

I came away feeling that the intention of the UKPMC project participants is to build a truly excellent, useful and usable resource for health science researchers. I also felt confident that the participants have it within them to do the job.

Sophia Ananiadou from NaCTeM explained the work her group has done using text mining techniques on Medline abstracts....Her aim is to enrich the literature by automatically creating semantic metadata, and thereby to make “undiscovered science” accessible. The MEDIE system is the most vivid example she showed, allowing you to construct a query in the form “subject – verb – object”. For instance, you can ask “what does p53 activate” by searching for subject=p53, verb=activate. Or you can ask “what causes colon cancer” by searching for verb=cause, object=colon cancer. I tried verb=read, object=book but I’m not sure what question that was answering. Currently this MEDIE system is just searching abstracts, but even so it does a pretty good job. It gives a hint of the power of text-mining techniques; I look forward to them being applied to the full-text corpus that is growing in PubMedCentral.

I also enjoyed seeing Peter Stoehr’s demonstration of CiteXplore....[which] is going to be at the heart of the UKPMC search service....One advantage it has over PubMed is the coverage – CiteXplore indexes about half a million extra references covering plant and animal science (from the Agricola database); plus a large collection of biological patents and abstracts of Chinese biological journals....

I was surprised to see that CiteXplore also has citation data. When you display a record it shows the standard bibliographic fields and abstract but it also shows where that article has been cited. And that’s not all: instead of just showing the citing reference it also shows the sentence in which the original article was cited, thus making it easier to interpret the significance of each citation....

Finally, CiteXplore has some features that draw on text-mining tools. When you display results you can ask it to highlight proteins in the results. It will then highlight any occurrences of protein names and turn them into links to UniProt. You can do the same for genes or protein-interactions....

One caveat – all this does presuppose that UKPMC is successful in its aim to gather in the full-text of published research articles. Open Access mandates from the research funders (MRC, CRUK, Wellcome, DoH etc), who are also funding UKPMC, will hopefully help to achieve a high rate of deposition, but it requires the cooperation of biomedical researchers, who have thus far not proved to be very enthusiastic about Open Access. The promise of a better literature search tool may help to persuade them it is worth it.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

OA for the AAAI digital library

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) is converting the technical content in its its digital library to OA.  (Thanks to Cornelius Puschmann.)  From the January 16 announcement:

AAAI is delighted to announce the first step in its major initiative to open up access to the technical content of its digital library. All AAAI conference proceedings and technical reports are now freely available to the international research community by clicking on "Library" at [the AAAI web site]. During the coming months, AAAI will be migrating this section of the Library to an open area of the AAAI Open Journal System (OJS), the system that currently houses the archive of the AI Magazine. OJS will greatly enhance the user experience, by allowing readers to conduct extensive searches about articles and the author's other work without every leaving our site....

Access to the contents of the latest issues of the AI Magazine will remain part of AAAI membership benefits [PS:  OA after a 15 month moving wall]....

AAAI wishes to thank you for your ongoing support of this initiative and all AAAI programs through the continuation of your AAAI membership. We count on you to help us deliver the latest information about artificial intelligence to the scientific community. To enable us to continue this effort, we invite you to consider an additional gift to AAAI. For information on how you can contribute to the open access initiative, please see [the AAAI web site] and click on "Gifts."

More on the NIH's willingness to work with IRs

Stevan Harnad, NIH Open to Closer Collaboration With Institutional Repositories, Open Access Archivangelism, February 19, 2009.

Summary:  NIH's Acting Director, Raynard Kington, writes that "NIH [is] open to closer collaboration with institutional [repositories]... [D]irect feeds from [institutional repositories (IRs) are worthwhile [but] raise important technical and logistical challenges..."

All technical and logistical challenges to designating Institutional Repositories (IRs) as NIH's preferred locus of direct deposit (followed by "direct feed" to PubMed Central (PMC)) can be successfully met (most already have been):

(1) The SWORD transfer protocol has already solved the problem of automatically exporting IR deposits to other respoitories.

(2) "Author approval": Authors are mandated by NIH to deposit, and NIH specifies the locus of deposit.

(3) "Copyright permissions": If copyright is not an issue with PMC deposit, it is even less of an issue with direct institutional deposit in the fundee's own IR.

(4) "Quality control": The IR deposit can be exported by "direct feed" (via SWORD) to PMC, where exactly the same quality controls can be performed as are now being performed by PMC.

(5) "Formats for electronic transfer": The SWORD protocol does the electronic transfer, and the format for deposit of the author's final, refereed, revised draft is exactly the same.

The benefits of NIH/institutional collaboration on direct feeds will be enormous, and will far exceed the current reach of the NIH mandate. This should also be cited in the defense of NIH's historically invaluable public access policy against the Conyers Bill's attempt to overturn it....

Generalizing the OA impact advantage

Jan Velterop, Industry-funded research IFfy? The Parachute, February 14, 2009.  Excerpt:

In his column Bad Science, in The Guardian on Saturday 14 February, Ben Goldacre drew attention to an article in the British Medical Journal by Tom Jefferson et al in which the observation was reported that...

"Publication in prestigious journals is associated with partial or total industry funding, and this association is not explained by study quality or size."

...Goldacre doesn't have an explanation. The suggestion is given in his column (he admits it is an "unkind suggestion") that it may have to do with journals' interest in advertisements and reprint orders – which can indeed be massive – from the very same industry that funds the research these journals publish. He doesn't say it, but this could mean, of course, that the journals accept articles based on research funded by industry, particularly the pharmaceutical industry, more readily than articles based on publicly-funded research.

I don't have an explanation for the phenomenon, either, but I doubt that journals accept industry-funded articles more easily than public sector articles....

A hypothesis I can imagine, however, is different and less sinister, although also to do with the massive numbers of reprints disseminated by the pharmaceutical industry. But this hypothesis would reverse cause and effect. Might it be that because of the wide dissemination, availability, and visibility of these reprints, the industry-funded articles are cited more often? After all, we know that articles are not only cited because they are the most appropriate ones, but also simply because they are the appropriate ones known to the author....If articles based on industry-funded research are cited more often, the journals in which they appear get a higher Impact Factor.

If this hypothesis holds water, it would mean that wide availability is one of the important factors – with dissemination and visibility, and of course relevance – for being cited. In other words, could the results described in the BMJ article constitute evidence that open access could have a similar effect on Impact Factors as that – still hypothetically – caused by the massive numbers of reprints that the pharmaceutical industry purchases and disseminates?...

Comment.  Jan's hypothesis suggests a fascinating and potentially testable way to generalize the thesis behind the OA impact advantage:  any kind of increased access should also increase impact.  OA increases access in a large and conspicuous way.  Systematically distributing non-OA reprints increases access in a smaller way, and for people outside medicine, a less conspicuous way; but it may carry its own impact advantage.  As usual, the difficulty is to identify an appropriate control group so that we test the hypothesis by comparing apples with apples.  Would it be enough to compare reprinted articles with unreprinted articles from the same journal?  The same issue of the same journal?  Would it be enough to compare the impact of an article before and after it was reprinted?  What other kinds of access enhancements, short of OA, could be tested for an impact advantage?  TA journal circulation? 

More confirmation of the OA impact advantage

James A. Evans and Jacob Reimer, Open Access and Global Participation in Science, Science Magazine, February 20, 2009.  (The DOI-based URL is broken, at least for now.)  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

Previous investigations into the impact of open-access journals on subsequent citations confounded open and electronic access and failed to track availability over time. With new data, we separated these effects. We demonstrate that a journal receives a modest increase in citations when it comes online freely, but the jump is larger when it first comes online through commercial sources. This effect reverses for poor countries where free-access articles are much more likely to be cited. Together, findings suggest that free Internet access widens the circle of those who read and make use of scientists' investigations.

Also see Stevan Harnad's comments.  Read his full post or this summary:

Evans & Reimer (2009) show that a large portion of the increased citations generated by making articles freely accessible online ("Open Access," OA) come from Developing-World authors citing OA articles more. It is very likely that a within-US comparison based on the same data would show much the same effect: making articles OA should increase citations from authors at the Have-Not universities (with the smaller journal subscription budgets) more than from Harvard authors. Articles by Developing World (and US Have-Not) authors should also be cited more if they are made OA, but the main beneficiaries of OA will be the best articles, wherever they are published. This raises the question of how many citations – and how much corresponding research uptake, usage and progress – are lost when publishers embargo their authors for 6-12 months from making their articles OA....

For other comments, see Elie Dolgin, Online access = more citations, The Scientist, February 19, 2009 (free registration required).  Excerpt:

...In the most extensive study to date -- covering around 26 million articles from more than 8,000 journals published from 1998 to 2005 -- University of Chicago sociologist James Evans, together with neurobiology grad student Jacob Reimer, found that making an article freely available on the internet increased the number of citations, but only by about 8%, which was far less than some previous claims.

When the authors looked just at poorer countries, however, they found that the influence of open access was more than twice as strong. For example, in Bulgaria and Chile, researchers cited nearly 20% more open access articles, and in Turkey and Brazil, the number of citations rose by more than 25%. Free online availability "is not a huge driver of science in the first world, but it shapes parts of science in the rest of world," Evans told The Scientist. "Scientists and scholars in poorer countries are disproportionately citing articles that are freely available to them."

"The results make a lot of sense," Gunther Eysenbach, a health policy and e-health researcher at the University of Toronto who was not involved in the research, told The Scientist. "In countries with lower income, the [open access] effect is bigger than in countries where researchers have access to the literature anyway -- that's quite intuitive."

Stevan Harnad, an open access advocate and cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Quebec at Montreal who was not involved with the study, said that the authors should have compared public and private institutions closer to home to test whether the same effect was true in the developed world. "[Evans] looked at the big picture, but he could have cut the cake a bit finer and found the same effects if he compared the Harvards and the have nots," Harnad told The Scientist. "It's a shame that with such rich data he didn't look at other such important and pressing questions."

Free online access conferred the greatest citation advantage in the life sciences, and no significant influence in three areas -- chemistry, physics and the social sciences -- which the authors chalked up to a culture of pre-print databases and personal archiving....

Philip Davis, a Cornell University grad student in science communications who also studies the effects of open access on citation records, praised the article's size and breadth, but noted that Evans "can't measure the article-level details, he can only look at the journal level." The study lumped together articles from entire journal volumes, which overlooks author-pay models that make some but not all articles in a journal freely available, Davis noted....

Evans dismissed Davis' criticism....The study compared, for example, articles published in Science in 2003 and cited in 2004 -- when the journal was still under its one-year embargo period -- to the same articles cited in 2006, at which point the papers were freely available. When he didn't use fixed effects and compared journals to each other, Evans noted, the open access effect was much larger -- by at least an order of magnitude -- and the numbers of authors and pages significantly influenced the results. "In my reported estimation this is not the case."

Also see Yun Xie, Open, electronic access to research crucial for global reach, Ars Technica, February 19, 2009.  Excerpt:

...It may come as no surprise that gross national income greatly influences the importance of open access. In countries with a gross national income of $2,300 per capita, open access to articles can increase their citation by up to 30 percent. Geographically, the effects were most apparent for developing nations in the Southern Hemisphere. Although open access benefits poorer countries the most, there is a limit to what it can achieve. Since it requires electronic access, some of the poorest countries cannot enjoy its full benefits. Electronic access is an essential factor in the success of a journal article; in well-funded Northern and Western nations, online availability alone was about 40 percent more important than open access.

The influence of open access varies greatly depending on the discipline of research, as well. Fields like chemistry, physics, and social sciences show no observable change, while economics and business get over a 20 percent boost in citations....

Regarding the overall importance of open access, Evans and Reimer state that their “work provides clear support for its ability to widen the global circle of those who can participate in science and benefit from it.” ...

Also see Philip Davis, Open Access and Global Participation in Science, Scholarly Kitchen, February 19, 2009.  Excerpt:

...Advocates for open access will see this article as supporting their cause.  But those who spend time reading the methodology will notice that message is not as clear as the article implies.

The researchers are not comparing open access journals with subscription-access journals, as reported in the recent article by Tove Faber Frandsen.  Evans and Reimer are comparing the effect of freely available articles to subscription-access articles.  But this is still an oversimplification.

Due to the size of the study (26 million articles published between 1998 and 2005 in over 8,000 journals), the researchers were unable to code individual articles as being OA or not, so they coded entire volumes.  For example, articles from the journal Science are OA when they are older than one year.  Articles from PNAS are all subscription-access in the first six months (in spite of the fact that about one-third are author-pays OA), after which they are all coded OA.  Because of the macro-level of the study, no attempt was made to find other sources of free copies.  In other words, this study focuses entirely on open access publishing.  Some freely available articles will be coded as subscription-access articles, and the result is an overly conservative estimate of the open access effect.

The important detail that may be missed is that the source of the vast majority of OA articles in this study were published by non-profit scientific societies who use the subscription model in tandem with a delayed-access model.  If anyone should be claiming victory, it should be them....

Also see the interview with James Evans from the National Science Foundation, February 19, 2009.

Update (2/24/09). Also see Mike Eisen's comments:

...This paper - and the response to it - has many flaws. A few of the most egregious:

1) The analysis shows that there are a lot of scientists out there benefiting from free access 

First, the authors and a lot of people responding to this paper seem to assume that the modest increase in the number of citations arising from the transition to free access is somehow an argument against free access. This is silly. Even if free access didn’t change citation numbers at all, it would still be an unambiguously good thing for a wealth of other reasons that I won’t rehash here.

The reason that open access opponents are so excited by the supposed conclusions of this paper are that a small citation increase associated with free access bolsters one of their favorite tropes - that all the important people (i.e. people who might eventually cite your paper) already have access to it because they are affiliated with a major research university in the developed world. If this were true journals making their contents freely available would have very little effect on which articles they read and cite.

But even this paper - now being cited as evidence that free access is unimportant - reports at least an 8% increase in the number of citations associated with free access - suggesting that there are a significant number of active researchers out there who are getting access to articles only because they are available freely online. This may sound like a small number, but collectively across the global scientific community we’re talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of scientists.

Do the publishers really want to argue that even this modest increase in citations is unimportant? If so, I’ll remind them of it next time they issue a press release touting the 5% increase in their impact factor…

2) The 8% number comes from analysis of a lot of old articles. If you look only at articles that become freely online within two years of publication, the increase in citations is 20%....

So, for articles that are less than 2 years old, the effect is close to 20%. And the curve is clearly rising as you get to shorter time frames. Doing a little extrapolation it looks like the effect of immediate free access should be at least 50%.

3.) The raw data for the paper are not available to confirm and/or reanalyze the authors’ claims

Where the hell is the data for this paper? I’d love to look at the validity of their analyses and to do some of my own. But, whoops, I can’t. Because the data are private, and not provided anywhere by the authors or Science. This is even though Science’s own publication policy makes it clear that:

After publication, all data necessary to understand, assess, and extend the conclusions of the manuscript must be available to any reader of Science....

Update (2/25/09).  Also see Stevan Harnad's two elaborations on his first comments (1, 2), which I've blogged separately here.

How is unauthorized downloading affecting university presses?

Scott Jaschik, Pirates vs. University Presses, Inside Higher Ed, February 18, 2009.

... [T]hose involved with anti-piracy efforts say that university presses are now targets of a number of sites. In a particularly disturbing trend, some presses are reporting that pre-publication digital editions are ending up on these piracy Web sites, raising concerns about the need to better track who has access to such versions.

Princeton University Press has emerged as something of an expert on the issue — a distinction the press wishes it didn’t have. Over the summer, an author the press declined to identify informed the publisher that his book was being made available for downloading in its entirety on one of these Web sites. For several months, Princeton had a staffer focused on identifying piracy sites with its books, and following up with “take down” notices that threaten legal action for keeping the books up. Some of the Web sites take the books down, but then others pop up. ...

Daphne Ireland, director of intellectual property for the Princeton press, said that in the last year, it has succeeded in having several hundred books removed from Web sites where they were being offered free ...

Some university presses — along with other publishers — are trying to join forces to deal with the problem. The Association of American Publishers has helped a group of publishers jointly support the monitoring of pirate Web sites to identify violations. ...

N.B. Several comments on the article suggest OA as an alternative.

Student op-ed on open textbooks

Catherine Simpson, Online freedom, The Diamondback, February 19, 2009. The Diamondback is a student newspaper at the University of Maryland, College Park.

... On top of budget cuts, tuition hikes and lack of resources, college is becoming too expensive for the average student and leaving millions in debt. Shouldn't we start to take control of our expenses?

Professors Allen Stairs and Sonya Michel proposed that faculty should come together to save students money and make use of the wide array of digital and textbook alternative resources available to faculty members right now. The university's chapter of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group is already working on organizing a forum to bring faculty members together this semester to discuss what options exist.

Open textbooks are the best alternative option. ...

Reports from JISC developer conference

Reports from the JISC Developer Happiness Days (London, February 9-13, 2009) are highlighting new repository technologies, e.g.:
  • Michelle Pauli, Cool code: EPrints export plug in allows preview magic, dev8d, February 13, 2009.

    ... Chris Gutteridge’s speedy work on JSON exports for the EPrints software should have a real impact on the ease of use of the popular EPrints service. Chris explains:

    “I have built an export plugin for the EPrints software which allows records and searches to be dumped as JSON. This will allow other Dev8D delegates to built new tools on top of this data.”

    JSON makes it much easier to use your data in mashups on third party sites. ...

  • Leslie Carr, Microsoft Office at #dev8D, RepositoryMan, February 13, 2009.
    ... [O]ne of the Fedora developers suggested that the repository could expose new "endpoints" (i.e. points of access) for the kinds of complex documents that were normally encountered as a take-it-or-leave-it package. Documents like Microsoft Word files, which are now stored as explicit bundles of text, media, metadata and relationships. ...

More on AgEcon Search

Julie Kelly and Louise Letnes, RePEc archives: AgEcon Search, The RePEc Blog, February 18, 2009.

Over the past few months, the papers that make up AgEcon Search have been added to RePEc. All papers are available in full text, and they include working papers, conference papers and articles from smaller journals.

AgEcon Search includes a wide range of topics in applied economics, including agricultural, development, energy, environmental, and resource economics. Over 170 groups from 20+ countries contribute their work. As of early 2009, 27 journals are included.

The journals that are included in AgEcon Search are mostly small press journals with limited circulation, and for many it is the only electronic access that is available. Some have volumes back to the 1940s, and a number obtained small grants for the digitizing of older materials. A few have one or two year embargoes on the newest issues, but most do not. Recently, several of the journals have dropped their embargoes.

AgEcon Search began in 1994 as a local solution for the applied and agricultural economics working papers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Wisconsin. It is housed at the University of Minnesota, and co-sponsored by the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA).

The involvement of the large professional associations has been critical to the success of AgEcon Search. Economists presenting Contributed Papers at the annual AAEA meeting must submit their full papers to AgEcon Search prior to the meeting, or they will be dropped from the program. The European Association of Agricultural Economists and the International Association of Agricultural Economists have adopted similar procedures. ...

See also our past posts on AgEcon Search.

Report on EU digital libraries meeting

JISC's Kate Fernie has posted a report on the EU's Information Day on the third Call for Proposals of the ICT Policy Support Programme on digital libraries (Luxembourg, February 17, 2009); see also this blog post. From the report:

... A budget of 25 million euros is allocated to digital libraries in the 2009 call. The main goals of this call are contributing to Europeana (the European digital library) and maximizing the impact of European research results. The specific objectives are:

  • Developing services to improve the usability of Europeana
  • Aggregating content for Europeana
  • Digitising content for Europeana
  • Open access to scientific information
  • Use of heritage content for education ...
See also our past posts on Europeana.

OA Harvester v. 2.3.0

The Public Knowledge Project has released Open Archives Harvester 2.3.0.  From yesterday's announcement:

This is a major rewrite of numerous parts of the Harvester code, including metadata storage and indexing. It increases indexing flexibility to support plugin-based indexing, including Lucene/SOLR support. It also adds OAI Data Provider support, including the potential to convert between metadata formats (currently from various formats into Dublin Core)....

OA proposal moves up a rank at Obama CTO

The proposal to require OA for publicly-funded research is now ranked #11 on Obama CTO, the unofficial web site collecting recommendations for the Obama administration. 

Yesterday it was #12.  Thanks to all who responded to my call to spread the word and muster up additional votes.  Every little bit helps in making the case for the NIH policy, and against the Conyers bill, to Congress and the Obama administration.

Americans: Contact the House Judiciary Committee

US citizens:  The American Library Association has created an action alert to send a message to your representative in support of the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill.  It only works if your representative is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.  (If you don't know whether your representative is a member, you needn't look it up; once you enter your 9 digit zip code in the form, it will tell you.)

If your representative is not a member of the Judiciary Committee, it would still help to send him or her a message.  The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has drafted a sample letter, which you can revise for maximum impact.

If you have the time, it would help even more to send a message to each member of the Judiciary Committee, not just your own representative.  Charles Bailey has collected the contact information for each member.


Notes on repository policy event

Gareth J. Johnson, Repositories and policy - SUTEr Event at the National Library of Wales, UoL Library Blog, February 19, 2009. Notes on SUETr Repository Policy Event (Aberystwyth, February 18, 2009).

... The best part of the day was a workshop looking at policy, splitting the delegates into groups of have and havenots in policy terms. I was in the discussion with those present whose repositories do already have policies in place. I found it interesting that whilst we all had used the OpenDOAR policy tool, each had set slightly different policy. I was especially interested during the discussions about the idea of allowing repository metadata to be reused commercially. The [Leicester Research Archive] does not allow this currently, in contrast Northampton does with a mind that the more this is exposed to commercial re-use the more likely the repository’s contents is to be found. ...

After lunch we had a series of mini-case studies, starting from Kultur (Andrew Gray). This is taking in every kind of material and all formats, especially multimedia. They have an advisory group with representation not just from senior management, but also research administrators. ... Next was Ann from Buckinghamshire New University/Bucks Knowledge Archive. They have a PhD deposit mandate and are facing in particular the challenge of archiving web based resources or other not easily quantifiable outputs ...

Helen Standish Manchester Metropolitan University (Espace) talked next about Mandates ... She also talked about their Open Access Publication policy, which is technically a mandate though they have avoided the terminology due to its negative connotations. In essence their policy is to make all non-commercially funded research output freely available ...

Next Miggie Pickton from Northampton spoke about NECTAR. They used the OpenDOAR tool like most other people to formulate their policies, and also made significant re-use of other people’s sites to clarify other issues ... The University of Northampton annual research report is generated entirely from NECTAR; and material that is not ingested is not considered within the promotion cycle.

Then Nicky Cashman from Aberystwyth spoke about mandates and etheses and CADAIR. Noted resistance to mandate for theses internally, with concerns over student resistance to attend Aber as a result. However, currently nearly 30 universities have mandates in the UK she argued and that Aber risked being out of step as a result. Noted arguments coming especially from the humanities sector, so spoke directly to publishers. ...

Slides and notes from the day’s event will be available from the SUTEr Wiki in the near future.  And as before, a twitter feed from the event:

New OA wiki of physiotherapy

Physiopedia is a recently launched OA, FDL-licensed wiki for physiotherapy. (Thanks to Jason Harris.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A survey on how scholars use Wikipedia

PLoS is helping the Wikimedia Foundation run a survey of Wikipedia use among the scholarly community.  (Thanks to Donna Okubo.)  From the site:

Welcome to the first survey about professional usage and opinions of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, within the scholarly community. The goal of this survey is to increase understanding of the use and opinions about Wikipedia among this group. Completing this survey will only take 3 minutes of your valuable time. The results will be used to inform possible future decisions about new ways to enhance Wikipedia to make it more valuable to scholarship.

This survey will be open until February 26 midnight PST.

CC licenses for dissertations

Jane Park, CC Licensing Your Dissertations, Creative Commons, February 17, 2009.

... Two [University of California,] Berkeley graduates from the School of Information have [used] CC licensing their dissertations. In the words of The Daily Californian, UC Berkeley’s independent, student-run newspaper:

... Two recent Berkeley students to file their dissertations using a Creative Commons license are Joseph Lorenzo Hall and danah boyd. Hall navigated through much bureaucratic red tape, but found that most of his difficulty came from simple formatting issues, not any ideological disagreement by the university. Another School of Information graduate, danah boyd, also filed her dissertation under Creative Commons shortly thereafter.

On Jan. 28, the Dean of the Graduate Division committed to make Creative Commons licensing available to future students. All students interested in contributing to the effort to make education more affordable and accessible should consider using Creative Commons instead of traditional copyright. ...

Both danah’s and Joseph’s dissertations are licensed CC BY-NC-ND and are respectively entitled “Taken Out of Context — American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics” and “Policy Mechanisms for IncreasingTransparency in Electronic Voting“.

We hope that other institutions and individuals will also embrace the significant benefits gained by CC licensing academic outputs such as dissertations. ...

Comment. Peter notes that use of CC licenses for dissertations dates to at least 2006; see this example from Caltech. See also the comments on the CC blog post for other examples.

Update. See also danah boyd's comments.

Medpedia beta launches

Medpedia, an OA medical wiki, launched its public beta on February 17.

See also our past posts on Medpedia.

eIFL and Bioline collaborate

Iryna Kuchma, and Bioline International signed the Memorandum of Understanding to promote open access, eIFL, February 16, 2009. and Bioline International have identified an opportunity for cooperation in order to advance the development of Open Access and in particular open access journals in developing and transitional countries. Joint activities will aim to encourage more publishers to make available their journals on an Open Access basis, and will attempt to encourage more libraries to use and to promote this valuable free source of peer-reviewed scientific information.

OA proposal moving up on Obama CTO

The proposal to require OA for publicly-funded research is ranked #12 on Obama CTO, the unofficial web site collecting recommendations for the Obama administration.  But it's only 21 votes away from spot #11. 

Can we spread the word further and drum up a couple dozen more votes?  Every little bit will help in making the case to Congress and the Obama administration for the NIH policy and against the Conyers bill.

Comments on the Conyers bill, #4

Here are some more comments from the press and blogosphere on the re-introduction of the Conyers bill (a.k.a. Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, HR 801), which would overturn the OA policy at the NIH.  Also see our past collections (1, 2, 3).

From The Last Psychiatrist:

...Open access articles isn't nearly as big a threat to publishers as simply unbundling the journals from each other, letting universities decide which ones to buy....

But wait: [the Conyers bill blocks] the open access policy of the NIH that was put in place last year.  Why weren't researchers putting their stuff up on the internet before that, anyway? ...

From Peter Murray at Disruptive Library Technology Jester:

...This is, in my humble opinion, bad. I continue to think that open access to federally-funded research is an appropriate expectation based on the use of taxpayer money — both individual and corporate money — to fund such research. To the extent that the proposed legislation would prevent this from happening, I oppose it....

From the open letter to the House Judiciary Committee from 10 library associations, scientific publishers, public interest groups (AALL, ALA, ASCB, ACRL, ARL, GWLA, PK, PLoS, SPARC, and SLA):

...H.R.801 presupposes that the NIH Public Access Policy undermines the rights of the author and conflicts with U.S. copyright law. As library organizations and allies we fully respect copyright law and the protection it affords content creators, content owners, and content users. NIH-funded research is copyrightable and copyright belongs to the author. The NIH Policy requires only the grant of a non-exclusive license to NIH, fully consistent with federal policies such as Circular A- 110 and Circular A-102. This policy leaves the author free to transfer some or all of the exclusive rights under copyright to a journal publisher or to assign these anywhere they so choose. Attached please find an issue brief detailing how the NIH Public Access Policy does not affect copyright law.

The NIH Public Access Policy advances science, improves access by the public to federally funded research, provides for effective archiving strategies for these resources, and ensures accountability of our federal investment. Given the proven success of the revised NIH Public Access Policy and the promise of public access to federally funded research, we firmly oppose H.R.801 and ask that you do the same. Thank you for considering the stake and position of the key constituencies in this discussion.

From Fernando Pereira at Earning My Turns:

...Not again! How is Conyers different here from Santorum, who wanted to close open access to weather data to protect commercial weather data interests? We pay for this knowledge to be created with our taxes. We should not pay again some private party to get access to it. A private party that has most of its editorial work done by academics whose salaries are paid by tuition and by (directly or indirectly) government research grants. If bailout is a bad word, we have been bailing out scientific and technical publishers for decades now. That's why I refuse to review submissions to any closed access journal, and I write that to its editor when I am asked....

Call for an OA mandate for publicly-funded research in Germany

Jonathan Gray, Public interest information policy in Germany, Open Knowledge Foundation Wiki, February 17, 2009.  The unabridged English version of an article, in German, from Das Progressiv Zentrum, January 29 2009.  Excerpt:

...In general there is significant support for open access [to research] in Germany. At the time of writing there are over 146 open access journals and over 150 open access repositories based at German institutions. Several research funders, such as the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), have supported open access in their funding policies. Though open access still has a relatively low public profile, there are traces of discussion in political debate. For example, last month the Green Party recently called for open access at the 27. Ordentliche Bundesdelegiertenkonferenz.

However its not all good news. Though there is significant support for open access in Germany - this is not mainstream. Recent amendments in copyright law, coming into force at the end of 2008, mean that authors may have to intervene to retain rights enabling them to deposit their work in open access repositories. Only one institution, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, has a mandate requiring open access - which came into effect earlier this year. Public pressure for more mandates requiring open access to publicly funded research - such as adopted by the Wellcome Trust in the UK, or NIH in the US - could help to keep Germany at the cutting edge in this area....

Policy recommendations

  1. Support legislation as well as licensing and pricing policies that support public re-usability of Public Sector Information. The creation of a national register of PSI assets, and the commissioning of a country-wide and cross-sector report would help to inform appropriate activity in this area.
  2. Support mandates for open access to publicly funded research. These should target higher education institutions, as well as funding bodies and umbrella organisations.
  3. Keep the public domain in the public domain. Encourage publicly funded cultural heritage institutions to allow digital copies of their holdings to be re-used by the public. Encourage the adoption of intellectual property law and policy that takes account of public interest, as well as private interests.

OA mandate at SFI now in effect

The beautifully strong OA mandate at Science Foundation Ireland took effect on February 1.  SFI is the largest research funder in Ireland.

Thanks to OA@UCD and Niamh Brennan for the alert and for this piece of news:

Apparently discussions are underway in the only Irish research funding council without an OA policy, the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS).

Also see our past posts on Science Foundation Ireland.

Another call for an EU-wide OA mandate

Jean-Claude Guédon, Between Excellence and Quality : The European Research Area in Search of Itself, a preprint, self-archived February 3, 2009. 

Abstract:   The Bologna process aims at fostering a European Higher Education Area. In this presentation, we shall focus on the research side of this project and examine how a European Research Area can be designed and implemented. We begin by criticizing the use of neutral and largely undefined words such as “area” and submit that the European Union should design a research topography positioned between two worlds, a smaller one comprised of the member states on the one hand, and a bigger one corresponding to the rest of the world. Distinctions between science and society, and applied versus pure or theoretical science should also be revisited along the lines suggested by the concept of “mode 2” production of knowledge introduced by Michael Gibbons and his colleagues in 1994. Finally, the concepts of quality and excellence should be carefully distinguished. The former deals with minimum standard assurance while the latter identifies the very best. This distinction will require universities carefully to delineate their own internal behavioural boundary between quality assurance and the quest for excellence. We believe the European project should clearly focus on quality thresholds and leave the issue of competitive excellence to member states. With these tools in place, this paper identifies how a networked, distributed approach to research (largely inspired by the free software movement) is the best solution for European universities to address the concern for quality without inhibiting the quest for excellence. Finally, an implementation strategy is sketched: it targets mainly (but not exclusively) younger researchers while underscoring the importance of fully supporting Open Access to both the literature and the data.

From the body of the paper:

...[I]f more modest, and probably poorer, institutions are to be involved, access to the scientific literature is a crucial issue....The published literature is the code of science and it too needs to be open....[S]olving the issue of access to the relevant literature is a big part of the whole picture. Furthermore, research data complements the published literature. For institutions lacking the instruments to produce such data, access to data means the possibility of learning, of checking and verifying, and even of revisiting prior interpretations.

When access to the literature is denied, good scientific work cannot be done. Why is it denied ? Generally, and simply, for economic reasons. Many of the leading journals in science are extremely expensive and most libraries do not enjoy the kinds of budgets that would allow them to follow the steep rise in subscription or licensing costs. This is the reason why Open Access is a crucial piece in the building of a European Research Area....

Clearly, if a European Research Area is to be created, and if Open Access to the literature is crucial for its working correctly, a mandate to self-archive is needed. In fact, all research funded by European institutions should be placed in Open Access and a European mandate to that effect should be enacted....

Only with Open Access can the scientific literature and data be fully used....

Group to set standards for OA to diversity data

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) is seeking nominations for a group to develop a framework for the "management and dissemination of ‘primary biodiversity data’ following open access principles."  Nominations are due by February 27, 2009.  (Thanks to Vishwas Chavan.)

Strong support for the NIH policy

Raynard Kington, Analysis of Comments and Implementation of the NIH Public Access Policy, Federal Register, February 18, 2009.  Kington is the Acting Director of the NIH.  This document is the official version of a document released by the NIH last September.  Excerpt:

...The current Public Access Policy is the culmination of years of effort and community interaction. Prior to passage of Section 218, the NIH undertook extraordinary public outreach concerning the issue of public access to the published results of NIH-funded research. These outreach efforts included a review of over six thousand public comments and the establishment of an independent advisory group to review NIH's implementation of a voluntary Public Access Policy. Additionally, as part of the process to implement Section 218 in a transparent and participatory manner, the NIH formally sought public input through an open meeting and a Request for Information (RFI) seeking public comment. This open meeting occurred on March 20, 2008, and was designed to ensure that a discussion of stakeholder issues could occur. The feedback from the open meeting helped define questions for an RFI, which was published on the NIH Web site on March 28, 2008 and in the Federal Register on March 31, 2008 (73 FR 16881-16895). The RFI was designed to seek input on the NIH Public Access Policy, as it was revised to incorporate Section 218, and the responses to frequently asked questions (FAQs) concerning it. The RFI was open for sixty days following publication in the Federal Register, from March 28 to May 31, 2008.

In response to the open meeting and RFI, the NIH received 613 unduplicated comments from a broad cross-section of the public, including NIH-funded investigators, members of the general public, patient advocates, professional organizations, and publishers. This report summarizes these comments....

[NIH] efforts [to improve compliance] appear to be working. The NIH estimates approximately 80,000 papers arise from NIH funds each year, and this total serves as the target for the Public Access Policy. During the voluntary policy, from May 2005 to December 2007, the NIH was able to collect a total of 19 percent of targeted papers, from all sources. Under the first five months of the Section 218 requirement (April to August 2008), this rate jumped to an estimated 56 percent of papers per month....

The most common theme among comments, expressed in a large majority of all comments, was support for the Policy as written. When reasons for support were offered, the most common were as follows: (1) The perceived benefit to patients and their families, (2) the belief that the American public has a right to access papers arising from NIH funds, and (3) the expected potential of the policy to advance scientific discovery. A small minority of comments expressed general disagreement with the Policy and/or felt that increasing access to papers arising from NIH funds was unnecessary....

The second largest number of comments, second only to general support for the Policy, were comments advocating reducing the period of time before papers are made publicly available on PubMed Central. A large number of commenters argued for a shorter maximum delay period-- many suggested 6 months, many no delay period at all, and a few suggested 3 months....

A few comments expressed concern that some journals would refuse to allow manuscripts to be posted to PMC in accordance with the Policy, and authors would not be able to publish in those journals....The NIH agrees that author choice of publication is a very important issue, but if [a publisher would not allow public access on the NIH's terms] an author might have to find an alternate journal. Therefore, the NIH encourages authors to clearly communicate with and address these issues before they may transfer their copyright and potentially lose their ability to comply with the Policy....Whether because of NIH's direct efforts, clear communication from authors and institutions or because of publisher support for the Policy, NIH did not receive comments indicating that publishers or publishing agreements have actually prevented authors from complying with the Policy. To the best of our knowledge, this concern currently remains a hypothetical risk and not a manifest problem....

As a way to relieve compliance burdens on their faculty, a few institutions requested direct feeds from their repositories to PubMed Central or the NIH Manuscript Submission system.  The NIH believes that these are worthwhile suggestions, but it is concerned that they raise important technical and logistical challenges regarding author approval, copyright permissions, quality control, and formats for electronic transfer. The NIH remains open to closer collaboration with institutional archives and will consider this issue as the Policy matures. National Library of Medicine representatives met with representatives from academic communities to discuss this issue in November 2008....

As described in FAQ F10, released September 2008, the NIH is not aware that there will be a substantial impact of the policy on Publishers. An increasing number of journals already provide the public with free access to the published article immediately or within one year of the publication.  The NIH Public Access Policy does not affect authors' freedom to choose the vehicle or venue for publishing their results....The NIH has posted thousands of papers to PubMed Central under the NIH Public Access Policy without evidence of harm to scientific publishing or to journals. Only a portion of articles published in scientific journals result from research funded by the NIH. Of these articles, only the final peer-reviewed manuscript is required to be posted, and it need not be made publicly available for up to 12 months post publication. Further, the NIH continues its practice of allowing publication costs, including author fees, to be reimbursed from NIH awards (see for more information)....


Arbitrary and incoherent restrictions on self-archiving

Stevan Harnad, John Wiley on RoMEO and John the Baptist on Supererogation, Open Access Archivangelism, February 17, 2009. 

Summary:  Publishers are increasingly adapting to the growing number of Green OA self-archiving mandates now being adopted by universities, research institutions and research funders worldwide. Some of the conditions they impose are reasonable (such as endorsing the self-archiving of the author's refereed final draft but not the publisher's proprietary PDF, or endorsing institutional repository deposit but not institution-external, 3rd-party repository deposit) and pose no problem for authors, their institutions or their funders. Some conditions are less reasonable (such as 6-12-month embargoes on making access to the deposit Open Access), but these can be adapted to by authors, institutions and funders for the time being, with the help of the Institutional Repositories' "email eprint request" Button. Some of the conditions, however, are technically arbitrary or even incoherent (such as the distinction between the author's institutional website and the author's institutional repository, or conditions based on metadata or metadata harvestability, rather than the full-text). Technically arbitrary or incoherent conditions should accordingly be ignored by authors, institutions and funders. They are merely leftovers of paper-based thinking that simply do not make sense in the digital medium.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More on the Varmus memoir

Robert Cook-Deegan, Dr. Varmus Goes to Washington, American Scientist, March-April 2009. A review of Harold Varmus' memoir, The Art and Politics of Science.

... The Art and Politics of Science ends with three chapters addressing the public-policy concerns into which Varmus has poured his energies: research on embryos, cloning and stem cells; global health and global science; and open-access publishing. These chapters, which can largely stand alone, concisely summarize the stakes in debates that will continue. Varmus reviews many salient events quickly, in language accessible to nonscientists. He fair-mindedly recounts most of the best arguments of his adversaries as well as his own views. This section of the book could be very useful in academic courses on science policy. ...

In the chapter on open-access publication, Varmus argues forcefully for “universal and unfettered delivery of knowledge.” He acknowledges the arguments and interests of the publishers and scientific societies that disagree with his views, but he stands his ground and makes it clear that the battles are not over. ...

See also our past post on the memoir or all past posts on Varmus.

Norwegian universities recommend green OA for Norwegian research

Last July, Norway's Ministry of Education and Research (Kunnskapsdepartemente or KD) asked the Norwegian Association of Higher Education Institutions (Universitets- og høgskolerådet or UHR) for advice on how to provide OA for the nation's research output.  In September the UHR launched an OA working group to develop recommendations, and the working group issued its report January 30, 2009.  (Thanks to Karen Marie Øvern.)

Because the report is a PDF, I can't link to a machine translation.  But here's the one sentence announcement in Google's English:

A working group established by the research committee UHRs on assignment from the [Ministry of Education and Research] submitted its report and suggest that the ministry give priority efforts for the development and use of the institutional archives.

Here's a slightly longer blurb from the working group home page in Google's English:

UHR sent 30 January 2009 a report to the Ministry of Education in response to your call for advice in relation to stimulate more open access to research results....UHR believes that access to scientific results is an important research policy issues. A positive attitude Open Access Initiative Ministry of Education will be of great significance for the development of institutions. Ministry of Education should support free access in policy formulation and in the follow-up of universities and colleges. Ministry of Education should encourage institutions to develop strategies and policies that contribute to open access to scientific publications in their strategies for research.


  • Can any of our Norwegian readers provide details on the UHR recommendations?  For example, is it recommending university-level OA mandates?  A nation-wide OA mandate for publicly-funded research, directing deposits into IRs?  Something else?  If you can help with a summary or translation, please drop me a line or post directly to SOAF.
  • See our past posts (1, 2) on the KD request for advice from the UHR on providing OA to the nation's research output.

Update (later on 2/17/09).  While Google Translate doesn't digest PDFs, it will accept cut/pasted text.  Charles Bailey has identified the recommendations from the report and cut/pasted the text into Google Translate.  (Thanks, Charles.)  Here's some of the output:

[p. 20] Ministry of Education should encourage institutions to develop strategies and policies that contribute to open access to research....

Ministry of Education should give priority to the development and use of institutional archives. Such commitment does not rule out publishing in Open Access journals. ...

[p. 25] Norwegian Ministry of Education should encourage institutions to strengthen the employees' awareness of their rights so that they may better retain the right to disclosure of personal archives, [disciplinary repositories] or institutional archives.

The working group distinguishes between the filing and disclosure. The working group believes there are grounds to make demands on the submission of scientific papers in the institution's archives. Institutions should assess whether they want to incorporate such requirements in their policies....

Sherpa / Romeo should be encouraged to expand to include the Norwegian and Nordic journals that Norwegian researchers publish in. It can be done by NORA, in cooperation the other Nordic countries....

[p. 31] [T]he working group recommends that the compulsory submission implemented only when the infrastructure and support system is in place.

The working group supports the establishment of the Norwegian Science Index.  A linking to full text via a research system will represent a valuable addition to the service, either the full text made available in an open archive, or through a license agreement with limited access to external, or both so that the user can select.

NORA should be continued for 2009. Further national function that NORA has generated should be assessed and viewed in the light

[p. 37] Ministry of Education should consider measures to finance the publishing in Open Access journals to provide more knowledge and experience to this business model. Payment for publication should not be charged to the individual researcher or research. A system of payment for publication must be based on the automatic release of funds to avoid these potential problems....

PS:  If we can trust this machine translation, I'd say that UHR is recommending an OA mandate, with deposit in institutional repositories, to be implemented when the repositories are in place. 

Update (2/18/09).  Stian Håklev has done a human translation of the new OA policy at the Norwegian Research Council, blogged here on February 5, and the new OA recommendation from the UHR to the KD, blogged above.  (Thanks, Stian!) 

First, from the NRC policy:

...When the NRC mandates that researchers self-archive copyright-protected materials in institutional archives, the NRC must ensure that such archiving does not contradict the legal rights to this material by the author and the publisher....

Second, from the UHR recommendation to the KD:

...The long-term goal should be that all scientific articles that result from publicly financed research should be publicly available, unless there is a strong reason for limiting access. The short-term goal should be that 50% of all published scientific articles are openly accessible within 2015....

KD should prioritize supporting the further development and use of institutional archives. This does not preclude publishing in OA-journals....

The [OA] work group separates between the submission itself, and the public dissemination of the published articles. The group believes that the institutions can demand submission of scientific publications because of the need for oversight, testability, and institutional memory. The submission of a published article will not automatically lead to it being made accessible, that requires permission from the researchers. [PS:  The group is recommending what I call the dual-deposit release strategy or what Stevan Harnad calls the immediate deposit / optional access strategy.]  The group believes it to be probable that most people who are asked to do so, will give their permission, given that they have been well-informed, the question of rights has been taken care of, and the infrastructure is in place....


Dissertation on efficiencies in copyright licensing

Herkko Hietanen, The Pursuit of Efficient Copyright Licensing — How Some Rights Reserved Attempts to Solve the Problems of All Rights Reserved, dissertation at Lappeenranta University of Technology, December 9, 2008. (Thanks to Creative Commons.) Abstract:

This dissertation analyses the growing pool of copyrighted works, which are offered to the public using Creative Commons licensing. The study consist of analysis of the novel licensing system, the licensors, and the changes of the "all rights reserved" —paradigm of copyright law.

Copyright law reserves all rights to the creator until seventy years have passed since her demise. Many claim that this endangers communal interests. Quite often the creators are willing to release some rights. This, however, is very difficult to do and needs help of specialized lawyers.

The study finds that the innovative Creative Commons licensing scheme is well suited for low value - high volume licensing. It helps to reduce transaction costs on several le¬vels. However, CC licensing is not a "silver bullet". Privacy, moral rights, the problems of license interpretation and license compatibility with other open licenses and collecting societies remain unsolved.

The study consists of seven chapters. The first chapter introduces the research topic and research questions. The second and third chapters inspect the Creative Commons licensing scheme's technical, economic and legal aspects. The fourth and fifth chapters examine the incentives of the licensors who use open licenses and describe certain open business models. The sixth chapter studies the role of collecting societies and whether two institutions, Creative Commons and collecting societies can coexist. The final chapter summarizes the findings.

The dissertation contributes to the existing literature in several ways. There is a wide range of prior research on open source licensing. However, there is an urgent need for an extensive study of the Creative Commons licensing and its actual and potential impact on the creative ecosystem.

Audio interview with ibiblio founder

Frank Stasio and Susan Davis, Meet Paul Jones, The State of Things, February 16, 2009. (Thanks to Truth Happens.)
In the digital realm, Paul Jones is a rock star. He invented ibiblio, a contributor-run, digital library of public domain and creative commons media in the Office of Information Technology Service at UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a clinical associate professor at UNC-Chapel Hill's School of Journalism and Mass Communications and a clinical associate professor in the School of Information and Library Science. And, he's the guy who put Roger McGuinn’s catalog online. He also writes poetry and knows his Tar Heel history. Today host Frank Stasio meets the real Paul Jones.

UK research assessment: constrained metrics from conflicted provider

Stevan Harnad, UK's HEFCE Squandering Its Credibility and Assets In Assessing Research Assessment, Open Access Archivangelism, February 15, 2009.  Excerpt:

Corbyn, Zoë (2009) "Conflict of interest warning over Evidence sale" [to Thompson Reuters]. Times Higher Education Supplement. 22 January 2009

There is indeed not only a potential but an actual conflict of interest when the party that is comparing and assessing the different candidate data and databases that can be used in UK national research assessment is the commercial producer of one of the candidate databases.

HEFCE [Higher Education Funding Council for England] is sleep-walking in letting this happen, and in several other decisions it is making without thinking them through properly, including the failure to test and validate a rich variety of other potential research-assessment metrics....especially the ones provided by the growing worldwide network of Open Access Repositories....

Indiana U. suggests shared CI for e-publishing

Indiana University's new Strategic Plan for Information Technology includes a recommendation to develop a shared cyberinfrastructure for e-publishing. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

... IU has limited ability to unilaterally affect scholarly communication models. IU does, however, have great opportunities to lead like-minded institutions and other stakeholders in collective efforts to pioneer new models. These may include partnerships and consortia with other universities that are also examining such directions, new relationships with publishers and the commercial sector, and new approaches for engagement with professional associations to help achieve mutual aims.

One area for exploration is the possibility of a publishing infrastructure that is owned (or managed as a back-office production contract) by colleges and universities. This "Big Digital Machine" could provide efficiencies and economies of scale as a means for professional societies, journal editors, university presses, and others to produce, distribute, and preserve their scholarly communications without a need to put university and commercial values in conflict. ...

IU recently named David Lewis as assistant vice president for digital scholarly communications, which will be charged with implementing the recommendations. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

See also our past posts on IU or David Lewis.

Discussion on creating a new OA journal for computational geometry

Jeff Erickson, New free computational geometry journal?, Ernie's 3D Pancakes, February 15, 2009.

Joachim Gudmundsson and Pat Morin are discussing the possibility of establishing a new open access computational geometry journal, which would be completely free, for both readers and authors. So far, there are three relevant posts at Joachim's blog ...

Is this just a screw-you replacement for Elsevier's ridiculously overpriced Computational Geometry: Theory & Applications (like similar efforts against Journal of Algorithms or Topology and Its Applications), with the same topical coverage? ...

The computational geometry community (traditionally defined) doesn't need yet another journal. Three computational geometry journals is already at least one too many. The only real way to make this fly, at least as a traditional computational geometry journal, would be to convince the editorial board of CGTA to resign en masse, like the boards of J. Alg and Top. Appl. did, and adopt the new home Joachim and Pat are building for them.

Hey, I'm all for that. Any journal that charges $31.50 for a single-page listing of its editorial board deserves to freeze in the coldest circle of hell. ...

OA to autism research among top autism research events of the year

The OA mandate at Autism Speaks leads the organization's Top 10 Autism Research Events of 2008.  From its summary:

As of December 3 2008, all peer-reviewed research articles resulting from new Autism Speaks funding will be deposited in PubMed Central, the National Library of Medicine's popular online science archive, where it will be freely available to all within a year of its publication. With this step, Autism Speaks becomes the first US-based non-profit advocacy organization to implement a public access policy.

Traditional publishing modes only allow access to published articles by scientists at major research institutions that can afford expensive journal subscriptions. This limitation slows the advancement of scientific progress and hinders its broad application. But today the internet makes it practical to openly share research findings with all potential users around the globe – families, researchers, clinicians, and students alike. Recognizing this opportunity, the NIH recently implemented a public access requirement ensuring its own funded research is available in PubMed Central. Now Autism Speaks' policy will open the door for autism research, and donors who paid to sponsor the research do not have to pay again to get the published results of that research....

It is our hope that by removing [access] barriers, progress in helping all those touched by autism will proceed as fast as possible.

PS:  Also see our November 2008 post on the Autism Speaks OA mandate.

PEER project site launches

The Web site for the PEER (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research) project has launched, including a new presentation introducing the project.

See also our past posts on the PEER project.

Citations to and from OA journals

Bhaskar Mukherje, The hyperlinking pattern of open-access journals in library and information science: A cited citing reference study, Library & Information Science Research, February 5, 2009.  (Thanks to Pintiniblog.)  Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:

Abstract:   Using 17 open-access journals published without interruption between 2000 and 2004 in the field of library and information science, this study compares the pattern of cited/citing hyperlinked references of Web-based scholarly electronic articles under various citation ranges in terms of language, file format, source and top-level domain. While the patterns of cited references were manually examined by counting the live hyperlinked-cited references, the patterns of citing references were examined by using the cited by tag in Google Scholar. The analysis indicates that although language, top-level domain, and file format of citations did not differ significantly for articles under different citation ranges, sources of citation differed significantly for articles in different citation ranges. Articles with fewer citations mostly cite less-scholarly sources such as Web pages, whereas articles with a higher number of citations mostly cite scholarly sources such as journal articles, etc. The findings suggest that 8 out of 17 OA journals in LIS have significant research impact in the scholarly communication process.

Videos from OA Day at Duke

Videos from Open Access Day (October 14, 2008) at Duke University are now available. (Thanks to the SPARC videoblog.) See also our past posts on OA Day 2008, including Kevin Smith's notes on OA Day at Duke.

U of Tennessee launches an OA journal fund

Olivia Smithscott, Fund for open access publishing offers opportunities for faculty, The Daily Beacon, February 17, 2009.  Excerpt:

A new fund sponsored by the Office of Research and the University Libraries is intended to encourage and assist publishing in open access journals, according to their Web site....

“The university pays twice for journal articles,” said [Linda Phillips, head of scholarly communication]. “We pay faculty to write articles, and then we pay high prices for subscriptions to the journals where they’re published.”

The fund, which was founded in the fall semester of last year, provides money to faculty and graduate students wishing to publish in an open access journal. According to the Web site, [some] open access publishers charge money to the authors rather than the readers to cover the costs of publishing.

The money for the fund comes from an opportunities fund used for the pursuit of various research and scholarly opportunities, said Gregory Reed, vice chancellor for research administration. The Open Access Fund, at the moment, contains $20,000 for assistance.

Another huge advantage, besides considerable financial savings, Phillips said, is that the author may keep the copyright of their material....

Recently, Phillips said, due to ever-increasing subscription fees sometimes numbering around $10,000 a month, the scholarly community has begun to seek out better ways of sharing their research....


  • All who support OA journals should support university funds to help faculty pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals.  Kudos to all involved at the U of Tennessee
  • On the other hand, any university which understands the need for OA should also adopt a strong policy to ensure green OA for its research output, or for the research that isn't already gold OA.  Unlike a gold OA policy, a green OA policy covers all the peer-reviewed articles published by faculty, regardless of the journals in which they choose to publish.
  • Also see our past posts on the U of Tennessee.

Boston U adopts an OA policy

Art Jahnke and Jessica Ullian, University Council Approves Open Access Plan, BU Today, February 17, 2009.  Excerpt:

Boston University took a giant step towards greater access to academic scholarship and research on February 11, when the University Council voted to support an open access system that would make scholarly work of the faculty and staff available online to anyone, for free, as long as the authors are credited and the scholarship is not used for profit.

“We believe this is the first time that a university as a whole has taken a stand on behalf of the university as opposed to a single school or college,” says Wendy Mariner, the chair of the Faculty Council and a professor at the School of Law, at the School of Public Health, and at the School of Medicine....

“The resolution passed by our University Council is a very important statement on the importance of open access to the results of scholarship and research created within the University,” says BU President Robert A. Brown....

The council vote has approved an initiative to establish an archive of the research and scholarship produced by the faculty of the University. Mariner says that one goal is to make it easier for faculty to be able to share their own research with students. and colleagues.

The increased ownership and control is good news for researchers such as Barbara Millen, a professor and chair of the graduate nutrition program at the School of Medicine. Working on a book about nutrition research at one point in her career, Millen found herself in the paradoxical position of having to seek permission to use her own data after it was published in a journal that retained the copyright to her work. The challenge, says Millen, who cochaired the University Council committee that recommended the open access initiative, will be providing faculty with the tools to make their research available online.

“Open access will really highlight the tremendous productivity of our faculty,” says Millen. “Among the more important things needed to make it work is a collaboration between the libraries and our faculty to get their research onto the Web. It’s not an inconsequential task.”

Traditionally, academic journal publishers have used subscriptions to cover the costs of printing, marketing, and distribution. Many also charge a per-page fee to researchers whose work they publish, which can add up to thousands of dollars. The journals control access to the published papers, because they often hold exclusive copyright....

Last year, according to an editorial in Environmental Health, only about 10 percent of published scientific articles were accessible without restrictions. But a 2006 survey by the Washington, D.C.–based Association of Research Libraries found that 43 percent of its member universities and research institutions already had open-access archives and 35 percent were planning one. “Open access is an irresistible tide,” says David Ozonoff, a professor of environmental health at SPH and an editor-in-chief of Environmental Health. “The publishers see this. They’ve been trying to prevent it, but it’s impossible.”

News of the University Council vote was welcomed by Robert Hudson, the director of Mugar Memorial Library, and as cochair of the University Council committee on scholarly activities and libraries, a key force behind the move toward open access. Hudson says the effort to maintain an up-to-date collection of scholarly journals costs the University approximately $8 million a year. Annual subscription rates can reach $20,000 and tend to increase 6 to 10 percent each year; as a result, expanding the library’s scholarly archive has been a financial challenge.

“This vote sends a very strong message of support for open and free exchange of scholarly work,” says Hudson. “Open access means that the results of research and scholarship can be made open and freely accessible to anyone. It really has increased the potential to showcase the research and scholarship of the University in ways that have
not been evident to people.”


  • At least BU is launching an IR.  It also seems to be adopting a policy to fill it ("We believe this is the first time that a university as a whole has taken a stand on behalf of the university as opposed to a single school or college").  But if it's a policy, Jahnke and Ullian don't tell us what it is.
  • If it's an OA mandate, it would be the 28th university-wide OA mandate worldwide, not the first.  But it would be the first for the US, which is a significant breakthrough.  The earlier mandates at Harvard and Stanford only apply to certain schools within the university, not (yet) university wide.  All those who voted for the BU policy and prepared the way deserve our thanks and congratulations.
  • But is it a mandate?  The text is still unavailable and we can't tell whether it requires deposit in the new IR, whether it contains a faculty op-out (like Harvard and Stanford), a publisher opt-out (or loophole), whether it requires faculty to retain the right to authorize OA through the IR, or whether it requires deposit in the IR at the time of acceptance. 
  • Nor can I tell whether the University Faculty Council vote is the last step in the formal adoption of the policy, or whether it merely clears the way for a faculty-wide vote.  However, the vote within the Council was unanimous, sending a very strong signal about the university's commitment to OA.
  • Also see our past posts on Boston University.
  • I'll blog more when I have more.  If anyone has details, please drop me a line or post the information and links directly to SOAF.

Update (later on 2/17/09).  The text (PDF) adopted by the University Council is now online, with links from the article itself.  (Thanks, BU.)  When I blogged the article this morning, the links had not yet been added. 

The Council approved two recommendations:  first, to launch an IR, and second, to promote OA "in routine operations" which include the following:

  1. use of non-exclusive copyright agreements with publishers;
  2. publication in peer-reviewed Open Access journals;
  3. equal consideration of peer-reviewed Open Access journals during tenure and promotion; 
  4. support of libraries in negotiating licenses and contracts with publishers to lower costs and retention of titles;
  5. encourage Boston University journals to participate in Open Access

All five ways of promoting OA are desirable.  But BU omitted one that would be even more desirable:  requiring the deposit of peer-reviewed journal manuscripts in the BU IR. 

If BU faculty "routinely" use non-exclusive copyright agreements with publishers, as recommended, then they could retain the right to authorize OA through the IR.  But is BU encouraging them to use retained rights to authorize OA through the IR?  Is it encouraging them to deposit their work in the IR?  Will it require either step, with or without an opt-out?

Update (2/18/09).  Also see Dorothea Salo's comments:

It is not a mandate of any kind. It is not a typical rights-retention resolution, either; there is no author addendum attached. Instead, it is a fascinating middle-ground. It mentions gold as well as green OA. It mentions building a faculty publications database, not just an IR; this is important because like it or not, faculty publications databases have real-world uses for faculty and administrators that IRs simply don’t. It takes on tenure and promotion practices straightforwardly.

It is, in short, a start toward a university-wide open-access strategy. That’s fascinating, and to the best of my knowledge, completely novel. The breadth of the conversation is certainly a vast improvement over the library starting an IR all by itself that it then doesn’t promote or work to fill. It’s also an improvement over putting all the local open-access eggs in one basket, whether that basket is an IR or an author’s addendum or a gold-fee fund....

I like this, though; frankly (and somewhat radically), I think it a better bet for OA than a mandate just now. I will keep watching it, and I hope it succeeds. I do believe it has a fair shot at racking up some wins, if only because all its eggs aren’t in a single basket. Kudos to Boston University!

Update (2/19/09).  Also see Andrew Albanese's story in Library Journal:

...Robert Hudson, director of BU’s Mugar Memorial Library and co-chair of the University Council on scholarly activities and libraries, was a key force behind the move toward open access—but he is quick point out that BU policy was all about the faculty. “The key words here,” Hudson told the LJ Academic Newswire, “are faculty, faculty, faculty.”

As it was with Harvard’s historic vote —and as it will be at any institution— action, Hudson stresses, must come from faculty. “Because, this is, at its heart, a faculty issue about scholarly communication,” Hudson explained. “If OA was presented as a library-only issue, the vote would have been much more difficult. Although we talked about things like subscription costs, the conversation quickly turned to how best to communicate what the university is about, to showcase faculty excellence, and promote scholarly development in all its dimensions.”


Monday, February 16, 2009

Where HINARI doesn't go

The Nerdy Doctor, HINARI: Flattering to Deceive, Nerdoc, February 12, 2009.

The HINARI is a commendable endeavor on behalf of the WHO to bring to the carers in developing countries the power of evidence either at no cost or greatly reduced costs. This is in keeping with the global move for Open Access to evidence published in medical journals. ...

With this definition in view, the HINARI is apparently excellent news for medical carers and researchers from the developing nations. But, within the initiative lies a small issue. The countries eligible for HINARI membership are classed into two bands. Band 1: Countries with a GNI < 1000$, where the institutions are eligible for completely free membership to the HINARI and Band 2: Countries with a GNI of $1000-3000 which can register for a somewhat reasonable fee of 1000$/year/institution. The GNI values are on the basis of the World Bank data for 2006. However, the crux of the case lies in the fact that countries like India, Pakistan and China (with GNI 2006 of 820$, 770$ and 2010$ respectively) have been omitted. ... At this juncture, the HINARI reveals that several eligible countries are not listed in the HINARI because ‘the publishers participating in HINARI have not, for the time being, extended their offer to countries where they have significant levels of existing subscriptions and, in some cases, local sales staff.’ Translated, it stands that the publishers smell big money in these developing countries and hence the hold out.

Issues like these are a big blow to the development of the proper dissemination of the Open Access initiative and unless such financial pettyfogging is overlooked, the real goals of the commendable HINARI will not be fulfilled. ...

See also our past posts on HINARI.

On cataloging OA journals

Beth R Bernhardt, Dealing with Free E-Journals: Are they worth the effort?, presented at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting (Denver, January 23-28, 2009). A 19-slide presentation. (Thanks to Fabrizio Tinti.)

Presentation on U. Calgary's OA fund

Andrew Waller, The University of Calgary's Open Access Authors Fund, presented at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, January 27, 2009), Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Ontario, January 27, 2009), and Ryerson University (Toronto, January 28, 2009).
This presentation described the origin of and policies and procedures relating to the recently-established Open Access Authors Fund at the University of Calgary. Other Open Access activities at the University of Calgary were also briefly discussed.
See also Waller's past presentation on the University of Calgary's OA fund.