Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Stevan Harnad's response to Rep. Conyers

Stevan Harnad, Rep. John Conyers Explains his Bill H.R. 801 in the Huffington Post, Open Access Archivangelism, March 7, 2009.  Excerpt:

Reply to: Conyers, John (2009) A Reply to Larry Lessig. The Huffington Post. March 6, 2009.

Congressman John Conyers (D. Mich) is probably sincere when he says that his motivation for his Bill is not to reward contributions from the publishers' anti-OA lobby: He pretty much says up front that his motivation is jurisdictional.

Here are the (familiar, and oft-rebutted) arguments Rep Conyers refloats, but I think he is raising them less out of conviction that they are right than as a counterweight against the jurisdictional outcome he contests....(By the way, the original Bill was anything but secret as it made its way through the House Appropriations Committee, then the House, then the Senate, as Peter Suber's many OA News postings archived along the way will attest.)

Rep. John Conyers:
"[O]pponents [of mandating Open Access to publicly funded research] argue that, in reality, it reverses a long-standing and highly successful copyright policy for federally-funded work and sets a precedent that will have significant negative consequences for scientific research." ...

(3) Evidence of Positive Consequences: The actual consequences of self-archiving to date have all been positive ones, for research progress: enhanced visibility, access, uptake, usage, applications and impact for research findings.

(4) No Evidence of Negative Consequences: The "significant negative consequences" to which Mr. Conyers alludes (on the prompting of the publishing lobby) are the hypothetical possibility -- for which there so far exists no actual evidence whatsoever -- that OA self-archiving will cause subscriptions (largely institutional) to be cancelled catastrophically, making them unsustainable as the means of covering the costs of peer review....

Rep. John Conyers:
"These opponents argue that scientific journals expend their own, non-federal resources to manage the peer review process, where experts review academic publications. This process is critical....Journal publishers organize and pay for peer review with the proceeds they receive from the sale of subscriptions to their journals, thereby adding considerable value to the original manuscripts of research scientists."

All true. But no argument at all against Open Access self-archiving mandates! As long as subscriptions remain sustainable to cover the peer review costs...things continue exactly as they do now (and as they have done for over a decade in the few fields, such as high energy physics, where OA self-archiving has been going on spontaneously at close to 100% levels already with no detectable effect on subscriptions).

And if ever subscriptions fail, peer review will be paid on the OA publication-fee model that some OA journals such as PLoS and BMC already use today -- but paid for out of the universal windfall cancellation savings, instead of out of extra funds, poached from somewhere else (often scarce research funds themselves!), as now.

In other words, the ominous talk about a threat to peer review is patent nonsense....

To try instead to keep holding back OA, now...despite its demonstrated direct benefits to research, just in order to insure publishers' current subscription revenues and modus operandi from hypothetical risk is rather like trying to keep coal-fed steam engines or horse-drawn carriages in service in order to insure the revenues of stokers and the hay industry -- except it's more like trying to do that with hospital ambulances....

PS:  Also see my own response to Conyers' defense of his bill.

Panel to evaluate the ERC

The EC has set up a six-member panel to evaluate the European Research Council (ERC).  From the February 24 announcement:

...The aim of this review, which comes after two years of operations, will be to scrutinize the ERC’s structure and mechanisms, to take stock of its achievements and to give advice on the direction this pioneering research funding initiative should take for the future. The review will be conducted by eminent representatives of the science and policy domains from the EU and US.

The Panel will be chaired by Professor Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former President of Latvia (1999-2007) and former Professor of Psychology at the University of Montreal; since December 2007 she is also the Vice-president of the Reflection Group on the long-term future of the European Union.

The other members will be:

  • Yves Mény (Rapporteur), President of the European University Institute;
  • Fiorella Kostoris Padoa Schioppa, Professor of Economics at "La Spienza", Rome; former President of ISAE;
  • Lars-Hendrik Röller, President of European School of Management and Technology, Berlin and Professor of Economics, Humboldt University, Berlin;
  • Lord (David) Sainsbury (Vice-Chair), Former Under Secretary of State at UK Department of Trade and Industry with responsibility for Science & Innovation; Head of Gatsby Charitable Foundation;
  • Elias Zerhouni, Former Director of National Institutes of Health, USA (until Oct 2008); previous executive Vice-dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, USA....


  • If you recall, the European Research Council (ERC) launched in February 2007, having already pledged to adopt an OA mandate in December 2006.  It's the only funding agency I know which committed to OA before its own launch.  In September 2007 it issued a position paper reiterating the need for an OA mandate, and officially adopted its OA mandate in December 2007
  • Elias Zerhouni's inclusion on the panel is very welcome.  He's an experienced administrator of the OA mandate at the NIH, and can defend OA policies against objections and misunderstanding.  Unfortunately, on this job he may have to.
  • David Sainsbury was instrumental in blocking OA in the UK for two years.  He rejected the July 2004 OA recommendations of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, a policy setback from which the UK did not recover until the adoption of the RCUK commitment to OA mandates in June 2006.  In 2005, David Prosser used the UK Freedom of Information Act to uncover evidence that Sainsbury had not been fair-minded in hearing the views of both sides.  During the time when he was supposed to be evaluating the parliamentary OA recommendations, Sainsbury met with OA opponents roughly twice as often as with OA proponents, and met with the Reed Elsevier CEO three times more often than any other stakeholder.  I have no objection to Sainsbury's presence on the panel, but his record of partiality should preclude him from being Vice-Chair. 
  • I don't know the OA positions or experience of the other four.
  • See our past posts on Sainsbury, Zerhouni, the ERC.

At Harvard, waivers apply to OA, not to deposits

The Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication has updated two of the FAQs on the university's OA mandates.  I'm not posting all the new language, just the new answers to two existing questions:

From the Policy FAQ:

What do I have to do to comply with this policy? 

Here is the one-line answer: ADDENDUM or WAIVER but in any case DEPOSIT....

Whether or not you included the addendum or the publisher accepted it, you should always deposit the author's final version of your article in the DASH repository....

From the Procedural FAQ:

Should I include my article in the Harvard repository even if I have gotten a waiver for it?  [PS:  Formerly:  May I be able to include...?]

Yes. The repository accepts not only articles covered by the license granted to Harvard under the FAS policy, but also articles not covered by the license but for which the publisher grants, or the author has otherwise secured, sufficient rights. Even if you take a waiver, the publisher's agreement may provide, or you may be able to negotiate, sufficient rights to allow copies of your article to be made publicly available in the Harvard repository. The publisher may ask that certain conditions be met, some of which the repository can accommodate (for example, an embargo period during which the article will not be made publicly available)....

Comment.  The new language makes clear that the Harvard policies expect deposit even when faculty members obtain waivers and do not or cannot authorize OA.  This is an excellent policy and welcome clarification.

Fostering epidemics of knowledge

Walt Warnick, Science Depends on the Diffusion of Knowledge, OSTI blog, March 5, 2009.  Warnick is the Director of the Office of Scientific & Technical Information (OSTI) of the US Department of Energy.  Excerpt:

...According to the National Science Foundation, there are over 2.5 million research workers worldwide, with more than 1.2 million in the U.S. alone. If we look at all the articles, reports, emails and conversations that pass between them, we could count billions of knowledge transactions every year. This incredible diffusion of knowledge is the very fabric of science.

Given that the diffusion of knowledge is central to science, it behooves us to see if we can accelerate it.  We note that diffusion takes time. Sometimes it takes a long time. Every diffusion process has a speed. Our thesis is that speeding up diffusion will accelerate the advancement of science....

Science will progress faster if this diffusion lag time is diminished. The concept of global discovery is to transform this sequential diffusion process into a parallel process. This means that new knowledge flows directly to distant communities. The goal is to reduce the lag time from years to months and from months to days....

In thinking about how to speed up diffusion across distant communities, we have looked at diffusion research, including computer modeling. We are particularly interested in recent work that applies models of disease dynamics to the spread of scientific ideas. The spread of new ideas in science is mathematically similar to the spread of disease, even though one produces positive results, the other negative. Our goal is to foster epidemics of new knowledge....

You might ask "Why is the math of disease related to the math of knowledge diffusion?" It is because neither involves considerations of conservation of mass. This makes disease and knowledge diffusion unlike many other kinds of diffusion that obey laws of conservation of mass. Consider, for example, diffusion of pollution. If pollution diffuses from point A to point B, point A now has less of it. But if knowledge diffuses from person X to person Y, person X still has what he started with....

PS:  Also see our past posts on OSTI's research on knowledge diffusion.

"The benefits of more OA – however it is achieved – outweigh the costs"

Sally Whittle, Access all areas: the economic benefits of Open Access, JISC Inform 24, March 2, 2009.  Excerpt:

In a knowledge economy, the vast amount of research and scholarly information produced by UK higher education (HE) is incredibly important. ‘The full value of this knowledge can only be realised when it is effectively disseminated,’ argues Professor John Houghton of Australia’s Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, Victoria University. Guest writer Sally Whittle talks to Houghton to discuss a new report, co-authored by Professor Charles Oppenheim of Loughborough University and other colleagues.

On 27 January 2008, JISC published a report by Houghton et al. titled Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models....The authors’ conclusions is that the UK’s HE sector should embrace Open Access (OA) publishing, which currently accounts for less than 20% of academic publishing in the UK.

Discussion of alternative academic publishing models has been almost exclusively focused on the cost, but Houghton argues that this is missing the point.‘ ...

Given how much money the UK spends on research – more than £6bn a year in HE alone – Houghton believes it is only sensible to know what returns are being generated and how they might be increased. ‘We talk a lot about what this costs versus what that costs but, as an economist, it is much more interesting to think about what something is worth, cost-effectiveness or value for money,’ says Houghton.

‘The aim is to stimulate debate about whether Open Access is a more cost-effective approach. You cannot do that without looking at benefits as well as costs.’ ...

The key finding is that the benefits of more Open Access – however it is achieved – outweigh the costs.‘

It’s pretty clear,’ says Houghton. ‘If we look at Open Access publishing with producer side payments and an institutional Open Access archive or repository, both show benefits higher than the costs. That’s an important message.’

According to the new research, OA publishing for all UK HE journal articles in 2007 would have cost around £150m, of which £75m would have been authors’ fees. This would have represented a saving to the HE sector of £80m, based on the previous toll access model.

Based on the research, Houghton et al. predict that OA publishing for journal articles could potentially bring system savings of £210m per annum in the UK, of which £165m would accrue within the HE sphere. With the costs of OA publishing estimated at £170m for 2009, there are considerable savings to be achieved.

The argument for Open Access is strengthened by the possible increase in returns to R&D that might arise from enhanced access. Houghton found that with a 20% return on publicly funded R&D for the major categories of research expenditure in the UK in 2006, a 5% increase in accessibility and efficiency would have been worth £124 million in increased returns to HE R&D, with around £33m in increased returns for the research councils’ competitive grant-funded R&D.

Posting pre-print may increase the benefit of research, for delaying publication of knowledge through embargoes can have a serious impact on the returns from R&D. Houghton says that, ‘delays or embargoes can lose a lot of money over 20 years – perhaps £120m in reduced returns to higher education R&D.’ ...

The report makes several recommendations....Firstly, the most serious barrier to OA publishing in the UK today is a lack of information and knowledge. Appointing an advocate to help increase awareness of its benefits to key stakeholders is vital, with funders becoming more open to making funds available for producer-side payments.

Secondly, research assessment exercises (RAEs) need to consider OA publishing models....

Finally, Houghton et al. recommend focusing on quick ways of reducing the costs associated with scholarly publishing, with many specific actions outlined. These include removing the uncertainties and complexities that surround standard licensing conditions and permissions for use....

PS:  See our post on Houghton's latest study and all our past posts on his research on the economic impact of OA.

Another TA editorial about OA

M. Castillo, Citations and Open Access: Questionable Benefits, American Journal of Neuroradiology, February 2009.  An editorial.  Not even an abstract is free online, at least so far.

PS:  When this journal introduced an OA option last November, Castillo's editorial about it was also TA.

Hope in OA

Roberto Caso, L’Open Access alle pubblicazioni scientifiche: una nuova speranza, apparently a preprint, self-archived February 3, 2009.  In Italian without an English abstract.  Here are the title and abstract in Google's English:

Open Access to scientific publications: a new hope

Both in trade and in science there is the problem of control of (more briefly, but lost in accuracy, it also speaks of 'control of access). However, there is a gap between the control of information that, in business, relies heavily on intellectual property and what, in the perimeter of the scientific community, is based on informal rules. What is the impact of digital technologies on these different conceptions of control and on the relationships that arise between them? To try to answer the question my reasoning is structured according to the following scan logic.

In paragraph 2 are summarized the terms of the difference between intellectual property and informal rules of the scientific community. In paragraph 3 alludes to the traditional system of scientific publications and the problem of exponential price periodicals. In paragraph 4 shall briefly describe some basic features of digital technologies and their fallout on the forms of control. In paragraph 5 the focus is on abuse which is the power generated by the rigid and centralized control of information. In Paragraph 6, the complaint is a risk that the rigid and centralized control of information based on business logic colonises scientific knowledge, making it less accessible to scientists and the public. In paragraph 7 sets out how the scientific community is trying to counter this risk with the movement which is called the Open Access (OA) and how this movement is supported by statements, policies and guidelines of national public institutions and international. In paragraph 8 you go through some obstacles to the final statement of board as a model alternative (or complementary) to the traditional form of scientific publishing.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Rep. Conyers defends his bill

Rep. John Conyers, A Reply to Larry Lessig, Huffington Post, March 6, 2009.  Excerpt:

Congress is not perfect, and I respect Professor Larry Lessig's vigorous effort to change and improve it. Furthermore, as readers of the Huffington Post well know, I am firmly committed to tough oversight and great transparency in government, and I don't mind taking it as well as dishing it out. But Professor Lessig's recent comments on the the scientific publishing issue and my sponsorship of a bill on the subject simply cross the line....

To hear Professor Lessig tell it, I introduced a bill that is utterly without merit and entirely the product of shady special interest dealing....

Professor Lessig may or may not know that, last year, the publishing industry supported a version of the "Orphan Works" legislation passed by the Senate that dealt with the use of copyrighted materials whose authors are difficult to locate. This may well be the industry's highest legislative priority within my Committee's jurisdiction. I refused to consent to move that bill through the House, however, because I did not think there had been adequate opportunity for all views to be heard. Would a craven shill for "Big Paper" do such a thing? ...

First, there is a serious process issue at stake here. My bill would restore longstanding federal copyright policy in this area. It reverses a provision slipped into an appropriations bill in the middle of the night, with no consultation with the Committee which is actually supposed to write the law in this area, the Judiciary Committee, which I chair. Thus, Professor Lessig simply ignores that this so-called "open access" policy was not subject to open hearings, open debate or open amendment in Congress and itself represents the sort of process-compromised special interest provision that he generally rails against. Now the special interests here may be highly worthy, but an openness hawk such as Professor Lessig ought not countenance procedural gimmicks just because they yielded a favored result.

My bill lays down a marker indicating that issues this complex, with important values and convincing arguments on both sides, should not be decided by a few lawmakers without relevant jurisdictional expertise in the dark of night with no meaningful public scrutiny or input. Unlike the measure my bill would repeal, my bill is fully available to the public and has my name attached to it. If it moves through my Committee, which it has not yet, it will be subject to full public hearings - and open to criticism and improvement from all sides.

Second, on the narrow merits of the issue, Professor Lessig and proponents of "open access" make a credible argument that requiring open publishing of government-funded research information furthers scientific inquiry. They speak out for important values and I respect their position.

While this approach appears to further and enhance access to scientific works, opponents argue that, in reality, it reverses a long-standing and highly successful copyright policy for federally-funded work and sets a precedent that will have significant negative consequences for scientific research.

These opponents argue that scientific journals expend their own, non-federal resources to manage the peer review process, where experts review academic publications. This process is critical because it provides the quality check against incorrect, reckless, and fraudulent science and furthers the overall quality and vigor of modern scientific debate. Journal publishers organize and pay for peer review with the proceeds they receive from the sale of subscriptions to their journals, thereby adding considerable value to the original manuscripts of research scientists.

The policy Professor Lessig supports, they argue, would limit publishers' ability to charge for subscriptions since the same articles will soon be publicly available for free. If journals begin closing their doors or curtailing peer review, or foist peer review costs on academic authors (who are already pay from their limited budgets printing costs in some cases), the ultimate harm will be to open inquiry and scientific progress may be severe. And the journals most likely to be affected may be non-profit, scientific society based journals. Once again, a policy change slipped through the appropriations process in the dark of night may enhance open access to information, but it may have unintended consequences that are severe. This only emphasizes the need for proper consideration of these issues in open session.
I acknowledge that these are complex issues and that there are important values, strong arguments, and passionate supporters on both sides. And I look forward to the coming debate. But I hope as the discussion moves forward, we can focus on the merits. No one is well served by ad hominem attacks, baseless smears, or a distorted presentation of the facts.

Comment.  I posted a response at the Huffington Post.  But it's limited to 250 words and does not support links.  Here's the unabridged version with live links.

I thank Rep. Conyers for making a public defense of his bill [HR 801] in a forum which offers the public a chance to respond.  I also respect his record on other issues, including civil rights and bankruptcy, and his current efforts to compel the testimony of Karl Rove and Harriet Miers. On research publications, however, he's backing the wrong horse, and his arguments for siding with publishers against scientists and taxpayers are not strong.

(1) Rep. Conyers insists that the House Judiciary Committee should have been consulted on the original proposal for an open-access policy at the NIH. However, William Patry, former copyright counsel to the House Judiciary Committee (and now chief copyright counsel at Google), believes that "the claim that the NIH policy raises copyright issues is absurd," and that the Judiciary Committee did not need to be in the loop.  I understand that the House Rules Committee came to a similar decision when formally asked.  Even the US Copyright Office was unpersuaded by the alleged copyright connection.

Clearly Rep. Conyers disagrees with these views. But they should suffice to show that bypassing the Judiciary Committee was not a stealth maneuver.  Moreover, the provision in the appropriations bill directing the NIH to strengthen its OA policy was well-known to publishers, the research community, and the press, and not at all secretive; I myself wrote four articles about it (1, 2, 3, 4) and probably hundreds of blog posts.

If it's important to revisit the procedural and jurisdictional questions, I hope Rep. Conyers can do it without backing a bill from a special interest lobby that would reduce taxpayer access to taxpayer-funded research. A turf war is not a good excuse for bad policy. On the merits, see points 2 and 3 below.

For more independent views that the NIH policy does not raise copyright issues, see the open letter to the Judiciary Committee from 46 lawyers and law professors specializing in copyright.

(2) Rep. Conyers accepts the publisher argument that the NIH policy will defund peer review by causing journal cancellations. The short answer to that objection is that (a) much higher levels of open-access archiving, of the kind the NIH now requires, have not caused journal cancellations in physics, the one field in which we already have evidence; (b) subscription-based journals are not the only peer-reviewed journals; and (c) if the NIH policy does eventually cause journal cancellations, then libraries would experience huge savings which they could redirect to peer-reviewed OA journals, whose business models do not bet against the internet, public access, or the NIH policy.

For a detailed analysis of the objection that government-mandated open access archiving will undermine peer review, and a point-by-point rebuttal, see my article in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter from September 2007.

(3) Rep. Conyers writes that the NIH policy "reverses a long-standing and highly successful copyright policy for federally-funded work and sets a precedent that will have significant negative consequences for scientific research." It's true that the policy reverses a long-standing copyright policy.  But the previous policy was unsuccessful and perverse, and had the effect of steering publicly-funded research into journals accessible only to subscribers, and whose subscription prices have been rising faster than inflation for three decades. Both houses of Congress and the President agreed to reverse that policy in order to allow the NIH to provide free online access to the authors' peer-reviewed manuscripts (not the published editions) 12 months after publication (not immediately). This was good for researchers, good for physicians and other medical practitioners, good for patients and their families, and good for taxpayers. It was necessary to make NIH research accessible to everyone who could use it and necessary to increase the return on our large national investment in research. It was necessary from simple fairness, to give taxpayers --professional researchers and lay readers alike-- access to the research they funded.

On the "significant negative consequences for scientific research":  should we believe publishers who want to sell access to publicly-funded research, or the research community itself, as represented by 33 US Nobel laureates in science, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, and a host of patient advocacy groups?


Peter Suber


Track the spread of CC-licensed work

FairShare is a new site to help authors track the re-use of their CC-licensed work. (Thanks to Creative Commons.)

Update (3/19/09). See also this story from ContentBlogger.

Presentations from repository conference

The presentations from RSP Winter School 2009 (Lanark, Scotland, February 25-27, 2009) are now online.

Overview of recent university actions on OA

Elie Dolgin, Upping access to open access, The Scientist, March 5, 2009. (Free registration required.) Discusses recent actions at the University of California, Harvard University, Boston University, Griffith University, Nottingham University, and University of Calgary, among others, including OA policies and OA journals funds.

Update on the evolving OA mandate at Harvard Medical School

Carol Cruzan Morton, New Open-access Policy Under Discussion, Focus Online (News from the Harvard Medical, Dental, and Public Health Schools), March 6, 2009.  Excerpt:

...Many [NIH-funded] scientists are still learning what it takes to comply with the NIH public access policy. The key new tasks include negotiating conforming copyright-transfer agreements with the journals, depositing the accepted peer-reviewed manuscripts in PubMed Central if the journal does not submit the published paper, and noting the public access citations in reports back to NIH. Some researchers also wonder how they can make their work publicly accessible even if it is not funded by the NIH.

These issues could be solved by a new open-access policy under discussion in the Harvard medical community. A team at the Countway Library [at Harvard Medical School] has developed a two-pronged strategy to help scientists smoothly manage the latest changes in scholarly publishing and further expand the open-access model at Harvard.

For the last year, librarian Scott Lapinski has been holding drop-in brown-bag information sessions and by-request department tutorials on the Quad and at affiliated institutions to walk through the steps of complying with the new public access publishing rules.

A longer-term solution is an HMS-wide open-access policy and repository to streamline NIH-funded article deposits and to showcase the range of scholarly contributions by medical, public health and dental faculties, said Alexa McCray, co-director of the HMS Center for Biomedical Informatics at the Countway and HMS associate professor of medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

“The creation of new knowledge to benefit society is at the heart of a research university,” McCray said. “This is definitely true in biomedical research. The value lies in effective dissemination. Restricted access is at odds with that imperative.”

A voluntary online repository called HMScholar already exists at the Countway website for those authors who have retained the necessary copyright terms....

Under an open-access policy, the system would automatically make the NIH-required submissions to PubMed Central and enable the University to track NIH compliance better. “We would take care of everything,” McCray said.

The policy would simplify the copyright negotiations, allowing authors to retain copyright, granting nonexclusive publishing rights to the University and journal, and providing immediate full access to published papers. Open access facilitates scientific collaborations and enhances education, said McCray, who is in discussion about the policy with key HMS and affiliate groups. A waiver of open access would also be available.

The policy would be similar to those adopted last February by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences and in June by the Harvard Law School. The online collection would be integrated with the new University-wide open-access institutional repository DASH (Digital Access to Scholarship at Harvard) in Cambridge, said Amy Brand at the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication. Plans call for DASH to use the Countway mechanism for deposits to PubMed Central....

Comment.  We already knew that Harvard Medical School was developing an OA mandate.  But a couple of the details here are new and important.  I believe that HMS would be the first institution to blend a local OA mandate with an external funder mandate in order to minimize the burden on faculty obliged to comply with both.  I also believe it would be the first to arrange for local IR deposits to be redirected to PubMed Central and thereby satisfy the NIH policy.  Kudos to the Countway team for creative thinking, especially when it would have been easy to copy the first-rate policies already in effect at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences.


An OA mandate for the U of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh has adopted an OA mandate.  Here's an excerpt from the Open Access Publications Policy (January 27 - February 4, 2009), the proposal which the university's Electronic Senate approved on February 18, 2009:

This paper describes a Publications Policy which requires researchers to deposit their research outputs in the Publications Repository, and where appropriate in the Open Access Edinburgh Research Archive in order to maximise the visibility of the University’s research. The paper contains a section on the case for Open Access and Questions and Answers which researchers may have....

This policy will be implemented [i.e. become mandatory] from January 2010, and in the meantime, researchers are encouraged to deposit outputs....

The Publications Repository (PR) is a closed repository for use only within the University of Edinburgh and is an internal University tool for research output management? while Edinburgh Research Archive (ERA) is a public open access repository, making content available through global searching mechanisms such as Google.

This policy requires each researcher to provide the peer reviewed final accepted version of a research output to deposit. The policy encourages the deposit of an electronic copy of nonpeer reviewed research, particularly where this may be used for national assessments. Researchers (or their proxies, eg research administrators) will deposit these research outputs in the PR? and at the same time provide information about whether the research output can be made publicly available in ERA. It will then be automatically passed into ERA, where this is allowable, with no further input from the researcher or their agent....

There are several strong reasons for pursuing the requirement for the deposits of such research outputs at the moment:

1.  The impact of research is maximized because there is growing evidence that research deposited in Open Access repositories is more heavily used and cited

2. The deposit of outputs in ERA will support compliance with Research Council and other funding agency requirements that research outputs are available openly.

3. This will ensure that each research output has consistent metadata and ensures longevity which, for example, a researcher’s own website does not.

4. Items which are already in Edinburgh Research Archive are well used. The average number of times each item was downloaded during 2008 was 228, with the top countries downloading Edinburgh research being: United States, United Kingdom, Australia, China, Iran and India.

5. Researchers, research groups or Schools can use the PR to provide automatically generated output for their own websites, or for their curriculum vitae.

6. Future possible metrics based research assessment will require us to ensure that Edinburgh’s research be cited as much as possible, and this means that it must be as visible as possible....

9. This will become a competitive tool for Edinburgh’s research by enhancing its reputation and branding as a good place to carry out research....

11. The world of scholarly communication is changing—adopting this policy in Edinburgh will help us move forward within this changing environment. Other universities require their researchers to deposit research outputs. Harvard University, Stirling University—the first in the UK to do so, and very recently the University of Glasgow, have adopted institutional requirements for such deposit.

12. Such a deposit requirement is in line with other UoE policies on knowledge exchange, public accountability and serving the public good....

Since this initiative requires changed patterns of work from researchers, there will be many questions some of which are addressed in this section....

  • What happens if I don’t want to make the research output public? There will always be a
    variety of circumstances where it is not possible to deposit, for example where a
    researcher does not wish to go public with their research immediately, because they
    wish to publish further, or where commercial reasons exist or where there are copyright
    issues (considered below). In these cases the research output should be deposited but
    only the metadata will be exposed in the PR the item will not be passed into ERA until
    permission is given.
  • What happens if the publisher does not agree? You should try to avoid assigning the copyright to the publisher or granting them an exclusive license. Rather, you should aim to grant a nonexclusive
    licence which leaves you with the ability to deposit the work in the University Repositories and possibly make it available in other digital forms.
  • How should I communicate this with the publisher? There will be advice and guidance on how to achieve this and template forms to show how you can amend publishers’ copyright forms.
  • What about research outputs which are not journal articles? The PR and ERA can accept most research output types including books, book chapters, conference proceedings, performances, video, audio etc. In some cases – for example books not available electronically – the PR/ERA will hold only metadata, with the possibility of links to catalogues so that users can find locations....
  • What about my research data? Data supporting research outputs is also required by RCs to be made available? and this can be included where requested. IS is establishing a working group to consider research data issues....
  • I would like to publish in an author-pays Open Access journal. Does this mean that I also have to deposit?  Yes, please deposit the research output in the normal manner....

The comments offering objections or suggestions to the draft policy are apparently accessible only to UE faculty.


  • I applaud the mandatory language, the wide scope (going well beyond journal articles), and at least one form of the dual deposit-release strategy (requiring early deposit but permitting delayed OA).  Kudos to Sheila E. Cannell, Director of Library Services, who drafted the proposal, and kudos to all in the Electronic Senate who voted for it.
  • We know that the Electronic Senate adopted the proposal.  But I can't tell whether that makes it final or merely kicks the ball to another stage in the process.  If anyone knows, please drop me a line.
  • The policy could be clearer on one important point:  whether it creates a loophole for dissenting publishers.  There are several signs that it does:  for example, it moves deposits from the closed repository to the open one only "where this is allowable".  With that clause, the university policy seems to defer to publisher policies.  The policy discourages faculty from granting exclusive rights to publishers, and will provide an author addendum to help faculty retain key rights.  But apparently it won't require use of the addendum or require rights retention, even with an author opt-out.  On the other hand, it seems that the policy always requires deposit even if it doesn't always require OA.  If true, that would be important, but it still needs clarification.  Bottom line:  When Edinburgh faculty face a publisher unwilling to provide OA on the university's terms, the university discourages them from transferring exclusive rights and giving up the possibility of OA, but it doesn't require them to try the author addendum or to seek a waiver. 


Mandating green OA before funding gold OA

Stevan Harnad, More OA Somnambulism: Conflating the Journal Affordability and Research Accessibility Problems, Again, Open Access Archivangelism, March 5, 2009. 

SummaryUniversity of California and University of Calgary are both providing extra money to pay publishers to make their researchers' journal articles Gold OA. This makes no sense at all unless they also mandate that their researchers provide Green OA for all of their current and future published journal articles -- by depositing them in their university's Institutional Repository, as about 30 other universities and Departments, including Harvard's FAS and Law and Stanford's FE (plus 30 research funders), have already mandated (although Harvard's and Stanford's mandates should be upgraded to add a no opt-out immediate-deposit clause, whether of not the author opts out of making the deposit Open Access; deposits can be made Closed Access for the duration of embargoes or opt-outs,which meanwhile still makes it possible for "Almost-OA" to be provided through the repository's semi-automatized eprint requests, individually fulfilled at the author's discretion with one click from the requester and one click from the author). Such policies need to be mandates (i.e., requirements, not just requests, like Boston University's), otherwise, they will fail, as NIH's first deposit policy did, until it was upgraded to a mandate.

Update (3/9/09). Also see Stevan's March 9 follow-up.

Interview with David Bollier

Mike Linksvayer interviewed David Bollier at the Creative Commons blog, March 5, 2009.  Excerpt:

As promised in last week’s post on The Commons Video, here’s an interview with David Bollier, author of Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own, which we said in January “will likely establish itself as a definitive guide for those seeking to understand and discover the key players and concepts in the digital commons....”

How do you contextualize the movement to create, curate, and protect an intellectual commons (of which Creative Commons is a part) within the broad concept and history of the commons?

Unfortunately, Garrett Hardin’s famous 1968 essay in Science on the “tragedy of the commons” has cast a long shadow on the commons. Mainstream economists and conservative political groups seized upon the “tragedy” paradigm. They saw it as a way to promote the idea that only private property rights can truly solve the problem of over-exploitation of a shared resource. They helped turn the “tragedy of the commons into an economic truism that simply isn’t really true. (As he later admitted, Hardin was discussing an open access regime, in which there is no community and no rules, which of course is not a commons.)

With her 1990 book, Governing the Commons, however, Indiana University political scientist Elinor Ostrom marshaled many empirical examples of natural resources that have been managed as commons for decades or even hundreds of years. She identified some recurrent principles that seem to make a commons work – things like clearly defined boundaries around a resource; group monitoring of usage of the resource; and graduated sanctions against free riders or those who might abuse a resource....

Starting in the 1980s and 1990s, an entirely different group of academics – mostly law scholars – helped develop the idea of the intellectual commons. Peter Jaszi, David Lange, Pamela Samuelson, Jessica Litman, James Boyle, Yochai Benkler, Larry Lessig and others took the public domain seriously. A number of notable activists such Mitch Kapor, John Perry Barlow, Fred von Lohmann and Gigi Sohn also helped bring the problems of copyright law to public attention.

As the Internet took off in the 1990s, and the film and record industries began to win major expansions of copyright protection, these law scholars and activists helped re-conceptualize the public domain. They re-cast it as something worth protecting. People started to realize that the public domain is necessary for new types of creativity. This challenged the orthodoxies of mainstream copyright law and economics....

What parts of the book did you find most fun and most frustrating to write?

It was great fun interviewing key figures in the free culture movement – Larry Lessig, Richard Stallman, Joi Ito, Ronaldo Lemos, Jamie Boyle and many others — to ask questions that had always perplexed me, and to figure out how the movement evolved fitfully over time....

It was exciting to learn that this movement is not just about law scholars tweaking boring copyright licenses – but about the rise of a new type of international political culture. The licenses have attracted passionate musicians from Brazil, resourceful hackers from Amsterdam, talented remix artists from Japan, educators from South Africa concerned with open education and open access publishing....

The most difficult challenge in writing Viral Spiral was identifying the overarching narrative. There was such a dense, confusing mass of material, participants and historical developments to sort through. I had to immerse myself in vast quantities of information, interviews, Web content and personal experiences – and somehow tease out an intelligible storyline. If my book achieves anything, I hope it confirms that the rise of the digital commons is truly one of the great stories of our time....

PS:  Also see our past posts (1, 2) on Viral Spiral and our posts on Bollier.

Aiming criticism at the right target

Thank goodness the buzz in support of the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill is on the rise.  Most of the buzz I've seen is based on good understanding.  However, two objections to the bill miss the target:

  • It's not true that the bill would prohibit OA to NIH-funded research.  It would prohibit federal agencies, including the NIH, from requiring OA to the research they fund.  More precisely, it would prohibit the elegant and now-lawful method the NIH uses to secure permission for that OA, namely, requiring grantees to retain the right to grant the government a non-exclusive license to distribute OA versions of their peer-reviewed manuscripts. 
  • It's not true that the bill would prohibit or kill open access journals.  The NIH policy does not require submission to OA journals, and the Conyers bill would not prohibit submission to OA journals.  Both are about green OA (through repositories), not gold OA (through journals).  The Conyers bill wouldn't even prohibit green OA; it would only prohibit federal agencies from mandating green OA and requiring authors to retain the right to authorize it or make it permissible. 

I point these out because we don't make justified headway against a bad idea by shooting at different bad ideas.  Let's not make it easy for the bill's supporters to say that the critics simply don't understand.

It's still possible to use some shorthand for convenience.  The Conyers bill would repeal the OA mandate at the NIH (not OA itself, and not OA journals), and block similar mandates at other federal agencies.  Or, the bill would repeal the NIH policy to require deposit in an OA repository.

For more detail on the bill, including the NIH method for providing OA without copyright infringement, see my article from October 2008, when Conyers first introduced the bill.  For details on how the political circumstances have changed since then, see my article from last week.

Update (3/7/09).  Also see Stevan Harnad's similar corrective, Conyers Bill H.R. 801 Has Nothing to Do With Open-Access Journals, and his March 8 follow-up.

Update (3/8/09). Also see Jan Velterop's comment on my post.

More comments on the Conyers bill, #7

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, 5, 6).

From Ed Brayton in The Michigan Messenger (from Conyers' own state):

...I don’t think the numbers in the MAPLight report support Lessig and Eisen’s contention that the bill is a “money-for-influence scheme.” But I do agree with them that the bill is very bad idea and that Conyers should be ashamed of trying to prevent the publication of scientific data that was paid for by the public in a forum the public can access.

From Tom Davidson, in an open letter to Senator Michael Enzi:

...I fully support the existing NIH requirements of publishing findings via open access methods and would support more regulation of government funded projects to publish the findings and work under the Creative Commons. The idea that non-regressive, publicly funded projects should be kept in exclusivity or controlled by a few is morally repulsive....

From Lawrence Lessig on his blog (following up his related post with Mike Eisen, already blogged here on March 2) :

...[U]nlike the ordinary market for creative work, here, the author isn't paid for his work through the copyright system. It is the government (indirectly) paying for the research that the author (a scientist) creates. Scientists write articles as part of their job; other scientists peer-review those articles (usually for free); and journals then publish those articles without paying the author anything. Those journals, however, then charge libraries across the world an increasingly high rate to get access to the research in those journals. As the industry has become more concentrated, those rates have skyrocketed -- rising much faster than inflation.

The "open access movement" was born to create an alternative to this. Even if restrictive copyright was a necessary evil in the days of dead-tree-based publishing, it was still an evil. High costs restrict access....

Pushed by scientists everywhere, the NIH and other government agencies were increasingly exploring this obviously better model for spreading knowledge [OA]. Proprietary publishers, however, didn't like it. And so rather than competing in the traditional way, they've adopted the increasingly Washington way of competition -- they've gone to Congress to get a law to ban the business model they don't like. If H.R. 801 is passed, the government can't even experiment with supporting publishing models that assure that the people who have paid for the research can actually access it. Instead, if Conyers has his way, we'll pay for the research twice.

The insanity in this proposal is brilliantly described by Jamie Boyle in this piece in the FT. But after you read his peace, you'll be even more puzzled by this. For what possible reason could Conyers have for supporting a bill that 33 Nobel Prize Winners, and the current and former heads of the NIH say will actually hurt scientific research in America? More pointedly, what possible reason would a man from a district that insists on the government "Buying American" have for supporting a bill that basically subsidizes foreign publishers (for the biggest players in this publishing market are non-American firms, making HR 801 a kind of "Foreign Publishers Protection Act")?

Well no one can know what goes on the heart or mind of Congressman Conyers. But what we do know is what published yesterday: That the co-sponsors of this bill who sit on the Judiciary Committee received on average two-times the amount of money from publishing interests as those who haven't co-sponsored the bill.

Now maybe that's just a coincidence. Maybe Conyers and his friends had a reason of principle to support a bill said by experts to "harm science in America." But if he did, then he more than anyone else should want a system for funding elections that makes it impossible for people like me to suggest that maybe it wasn't reason that led him to his silly support for such a stupid bill....

At the very minimum, ask Congressman Conyers to explain exactly why -- if it wasn't the money -- he's so keen to hurt science.

From Hal Plotkin at What I Really Want to Say:

...Stopping this legislation may not be easy. The other side will undoubtedly try to muddy the waters in the months ahead with a variety of dubious claims backed up, no doubt, by some of the few scientists who still prefer closed publishing systems. But [Lessig] is absolutely right. I made a similar argument in a column ten years ago. We are talking about research paid for by taxpayers. The results should be available to taxpayers. So in that sense, Conyers' H.R. 801 really represents an attempted theft of public funds.

Conyers is a pretty sad case. Thirty years ago, he was a hero of the labor and civil rights movement. In more recent years, though, he's often been a stooge for a variety of big money broadcasting and publishing interests.

From Brandon Q at Super Spade:

Bless his heart, Rep. John Conyers is on the wrong side of a very important piece of legislation he sponsored known as the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act....

I flew to DC to get Rep. Conyers to sign the Health Care for Americans Now principles and I applaud his views on the need to reform our health care system but the fact is simple, citizens should get access to health research that they pay for, period. The larger point is that this bill is one shot across the bow to target open access, an important principle which means that citizen peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly literature should be free and more available on the internet....

Rep. Conyers, do the right thing and think about the implications that your bill will have on starving citizen-driven activism from the one thing they need most to hold the powers that be accountable…information....

From Megha Satyanarayana in the Detroit Free Press (from Conyers' own state):

Like many parents of children with a chronic illness, Sally Nantais of Wyandotte invests a lot of time looking into ways to help her 17-year-old son, Austin, battle Fragile X Syndrome.  That hunt often leads her to PubMed Central, a government Web site where everyone has free access to many federally-funded studies.

But a new bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., would make it tough and costly to get to those studies. The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act would reverse a National Institutes of Health policy set last year that held that the public should not have to pay to see the results of medical research funded with taxpayer dollars. The bill would prevent other agencies from making similar rules regarding free public access to published studies.

The bill, still in committee, has patient advocates, scientists, librarians and others up in arms.

"I'm concerned I'm going to lose something very vital to me to help my son," Nantais said.

Others fear that if the bill becomes law, cutting-edge information will stop moving freely among the people who create medical breakthroughs and the people who benefit from them.

The reasoning behind the bill has puzzled observers who note that Conyers is a staunch advocate of universal health care. He has a history of pushing for laws that strengthen copyright protections, too.

In more than a half dozen phone calls and e-mails this week, Conyers' office was asked for comment about the bill, but did not respond by Wednesday night....

"I don't think there's a good thing to say about this bill. It's basically a corporate giveaway," said Jessica Litman, a copyright law professor at U-M....

From Jan Velterop at The Parachute:

Should you need any further evidence that the American democracy is in essence a lobbyocracy, the anti-open-access bill of congressman John Conyers provides it....

It is amazing how misguided the reasoning is of Conyers' bill (Peter Suber does a sterling job exposing the fallacies in his Newsletter). "Fair copyright in research works", huh? For a scientist, fair copyright is a notion used to ensure attributed plagiarism, otherwise known as ‘citation’. It is one of the most important things about copyright. No, it is the most important thing about copyright. For a researcher.

For publishers it’s different....

From David Wiley, in an open letter to Rep. John Conyers:

...Please let me very briefly explain the two reasons I oppose HR 801.

First, as a member of the taxpaying public, if I pay for research to be conducted I don’t expect to pay a second time to gain access to the results of the research. When the public pays for research, the research belongs to the public. In a time when budget shortfalls are at historically high figures, the idea that HR 801 would create or continue a situation in which taxpayers pay TWICE for access to research is appalling. The people’s representatives in government should now be looking for any and every opportunity to be better stewards of the people’s money. To the extent that government represents the people’s interest, our representatives in government should act vigorously to strengthen and uphold the NIH mandate and similar initiatives that insure the public only pays once for research.

Second, as an individual faculty member and researcher, under the traditional publisher system I am expected to...[do research, write it up, and then] surrender all my rights to the written results of my research to a publisher.

I hope you can appreciate why I am opposed to a situation in which I and my team spend thousands of hours of effort on the research - only to have a publisher who spends a dozen or so hours coordinating the review of our article and editing our article claim complete ownership of our written work. And then they want to charge me for access to copies of my own work.

Please, do the right thing for the public. Represent us. Oppose HR 801. The only conceivable explanation for supporting HR 801 is that you have placed the public interest in a position secondary to the publishing industry’s perceived self-interest....

An IR for U. Bradford

Bradford Scholars is new IR for the University of Bradford. From the announcement:

The Bradford University Repository Project - BURP! is soon coming to its close. The 1-year project has been offering a lot of challenges but the Project Team are happy to announce the forthcoming launch of Bradford Scholars - the University of Bradford online research archive. The archive is already available to users for viewing existing materials and contributing new content.

We currently host almost 400 full digital objects ranging from traditional journal articles and conference papers to theses and video recordings. Sign up for RSS feeds to learn about new content being added daily. ...

Bradford Scholars is registered with a number of repository registries, hubs and search services, including OpenDOAR, ROAR, Scientific Commons, Intute Repository Search and NDLTD.

Staff and students at the University of Bradford may be interested in knowing that Bradford Scholars interacts with our current Blackboard VLE, Metalib and the forthcoming new library catalogue Encore. The new content management systems soon to roll out on campus will also permit staff to receive live feeds from the repository to their personal webpages.

Staff at the University of Bradford are eligible to contribute their research by first registering at the Bradford Scholars homepage. A number of guides and information sheets have been made available to contributors and personal help is available via telephone, email or face-to-face. ...

Researcher reliance on online information

Hamid R. Jamali, What is not available online is not worth reading?, Webology, December 2008. Abstract:
This short article discusses an emerging trend in the information-seeking behaviour of scientists, i.e. mere reliance on online information. Based on a study of physicists and astronomers, this article shows that more scientists now assume that if articles are of enough quality and significance, they must be available online and vice versa. Though still in a low minority, a number of scientists believe that what is not available online is not worth the effort to obtain it.
Update. See also Dorothea Salo's comments:
... I wonder how hard it is to extend that idea to “if it ain’t OA, how important can it be?” In the continuing wrangling about impact factors and the effect of OA on article-citation rates, one of the hypotheses advanced is that people make their good stuff OA, which accounts for the extra citations. Academics are imitative folk; if we can make this meme stick, it could help us.

OA Week 2009 announced

SPARC, Open Access Week declared for 2009, press release, March 5, 2009.

To accommodate widespread global interest in the movement toward Open Access to scholarly research results, October 19 – 23, 2009 will mark the first international Open Access Week. The now-annual event, expanded from one day to a full week, presents an opportunity to broaden awareness and understanding of Open Access to research, including access policies from all types of research funders, within the international higher education community and the general public.

Open Access Week builds on the momentum generated by the 120 campuses in 27 countries that celebrated Open Access Day in 2008. Event organizers SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition), the Public Library of Science (PLoS), and Students for Free Culture welcome key new contributors, who will help to enhance and expand the global reach of this popular event in 2009: (Electronic Information for Libraries), OASIS (the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook); and the Open Access Directory (OAD). ...

This year’s program will highlight educational resources on Open Access that local hosts can use to customize their own programs to suit local audiences and time zones. OASIS will serve as the centerpiece of the 2009 program, delivering resources for every constituency and every awareness level. The Open Access Directory will again provide an index of participants on five continents, as well as their growing clearinghouse for all OA resources. Through the collaborative functionality of the two initiatives, OA videos, briefing papers, podcasts, slideshows, posters and other informative tools will be drawn from all over the Web to be highlighted during Open Access Week.

The organizers will also work with registrants to develop a variety of sample program tracks, such as “Administrators’ introduction to campus open-access policies and funds,” “OA 101,” and “Complying with the NIH public access policy” that take full advantage of available tools. Participants are invited to adapt these resources for local use, and to mark Open Access Week by hosting an event, distributing literature, blogging — or even just wearing an Open Access t-shirt. ...

See also our past posts on:

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Suber podcast interview

The latest episode (March 3, 2009) of Radio Berkman is an interview by David Weinberger with Peter Suber on OA. (Thanks to Open Education News.)
SPARC and their allies promote an alternative to the high expense and limited reach of the traditional research and publishing treadmill – which they call “Open Access”. Under Open Access, a scholar’s work is published free of copyright and free of charge online. Supporters say that removing these barriers will “accelerate research, enrich education, share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich.” But this model faces stiff opposition, and we may just be at a turning point. ...

Senator calls for OA to CRS reports

Heather West, Sen. Lieberman to Congress: Free the CRS Reports, PolicyBeta, March 4, 2009.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports have long among the most sought after unclassified government documents. Despite the fact that these documents are produced with taxpayer money, they have been deliberately kept from easy public accessibility despite repeated calls to “Free CRS Documents.” ...

Senator [Joe] Lieberman has long been an advocate for public access to CRS reports, and his newest letter urges Sen. Schumer as chair of the Committee on Rules and Administration to become an advocate as well. ...

Given that many recent CRS reports are now available on third-party websites, it only makes sense to make them available—online–from the government. As Sen. Lieberman notes, it is high time for an officially sanctioned, free way to distribute the reports to the people.

See also our past pasts on CRS or Joe Lieberman.

U. Salamanca adopts an OA policy

On February 27, in conjunction with signing the Berlin Declaration, the University of Salamanca adopted a new OA policy. The policy mandates OA through the university's IR (to be launched soon) for doctoral dissertations, master's theses, and publications resulting from research funded by the university.

If you know more, please contact me.


The importance of open data

Ian Davis, Why Open Data Is More Important than Open Source, Internet Alchemy, March 4, 2009.

Last week I delivered the keynote for the final day of code4lib 2009 [Providence, February 23-26, 2009]. ...

The title of my keynote was “If you love something… set it free“ ...

I hope to come back to various points raised in my presentation over time, but right now I want to focus on one area that has sparked a good deal of debate (such as here, here and here with much twittering too). Right in the middle of the presentation I offered three conjectures, the first of which was data outlasts code which lead me to then assert that therefore open data is more important than open source. This appears to be controversial. ...

My point was that code is tied to processes usually embodied in hardware whereas data is agnostic to the hardware it resides on. The audience at the conference understand this already: they are archivists and librarians and they deal with data formats like MARC which has had superb longevity. Many of them deal with records every day that are essentially the same as they were two or three decades ago. Those records have gone through multiple generations of code to parse and manipulate the data. ...

It’s true that you need code to access data, but critically it doesn’t have to be the same code from year to year, decade to decade, century to century. Any code capable of reading the data will do, even if it’s proprietary. You can also recreate the code whereas the effort involved in recreating the data could be prohibitively high. ...

Here’s the central asymmetry that leads me to conclude that open data is more important than open source: if you have data without code then you could write a program to extract information from the data, but if you have code without data then you have lost that information forever. ...

Of course we want open standards, open source and open data. But in one or two hundred years which will still be relevant? Patents and copyrights on formats expire, hardware platforms and even their paradigms shift and change. Data persists, open data endures.

The problem we have today is that the open data movement is in its infancy when compared to open source. We have so far to go, and there are many obstacles. One of the first steps to maturity is to give people the means to express how open their data is, how reusable it is. The Open Data Commons is an organisation explicitly set up to tackle the problem of open data licensing. If you are publishing data in any way you ought to check out their licences and see if any meet with your goals. If you licence your data openly then it will be copied and reused and will have an even greater chance of persisting over the long term. ...

New OA collection of polar exploration images

JISC, 20,000 photos from 150 years of polar exploration available online, press release, March 4, 2009. (Thanks to Jonathan Gray.)

Over 20,000 images capturing over 150 years of polar exploration have been made accessible online by the Scott Polar Research Institute, thanks to a digitisation programme funded by JISC.

As part of the preservation programme, negatives, daguerreotypes and lantern slides, which form part of a rich but fragile archive held by the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, will be made available to scientists, researchers, scholars and members of the public.

From today, anyone interested in the 19th century exploration of the Arctic and the Antarctic expeditions of Captain Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton and their modern counterparts such as Sir Ranulph Fiennes can simply visit the Freeze Frame site.

As well as being able to view a range of images, including Herbert Ponting’s glass plate negatives from the 1910-13 British Antarctic Expedition, that are so fragile they will never be on public display, visitors to the website will also be able to read extracts from diaries, expedition reports, letters and other personal papers of expedition members. ...

Building a network of curators of OA data

The Biolibrarian Proposal to create "new positions at university libraries around the world" to "act as a liason between researchers and [biological] databases to facilitate retrieval of information and entry of curated information by local researchers", starting with the University of Oslo. (Thanks to Francis Ouellette.) Here's the OA angle:
... Data will be made freely available ... under a Creative Commons License. ...
A survey on the proposal is also available.

More on Sage, Merck's open data project

Bryn Nelson, Something wiki this way comes, Nature, March 4, 2009. (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)

... With logistical support from Merck and US$5 million in catalyst money from private sources, [Stephen Friend and Merck scientific director Eric Schadt] hope to lay the foundations for a non-profit, open-access research platform called Sage. Its aim: building comprehensive databases that scientists can use to develop more predictive models of disease. ...

[Q:] How will Sage be structured?

Eric Schadt: We want this to be open access, and we don't want it to be perceived as owned or dominated by anybody. ...

[Q:] How do you envision the evolution of this open-platform system?

ES: We view the incubation period as being 3–5 years. ... [A]t the end of 3–5 years, we'd be opening up: a truly open-access public platform. ...

[Q:] Where do you see this effort heading within the next 10 years?

ES: My vision, 5–10 years from now, is of an open-access platform through which research scientists, clinicians and maybe even patients can access petabyte and maybe even exabyte scales of data. Where models of disease are actively being used to inform decision-making. And not just where people take, but where they contribute back. So as scientists query their data sets against this platform, they are actively contributing that data to the platform to make it even better. ...

See also our past post on Sage.

New repository software from U. Rochester

The University of Rochester has released an alpha version of its new repository software, irplus. From the announcement:

... It contains the following features:

  • Personal authoring work space
  • Collaborative authoring and versioning
  • Publishing
  • Publication Versioning
  • Faceted searching
  • Researcher pages
  • Statistics ...

You can visit our test system which has over 6,000 loaded items from our existing repository system. ...

The software was developed during a two year grant from the IMLS foundation. During the grant period the university applied its user centered design approach to design a repository for not only today’s users but also the next generation of academics. ...

See also our past posts on the study that led to the development of this software.

U.S. agencies' recommendations on data policies

Interagency Working Group on Digital Data, Harnessing the Power of Digital Data for Science and Society, report to the National Science and Technology Council, January 2009. See also the full report. (Thanks to Clifford Lynch.)
... The report includes three key recommendations to pursue this vision. The first is to create an Interagency Subcommittee under NSTC that will focus on goals that are best addressed through continuing broad cooperation and coordination across agencies. The second key element of the strategic framework is for departments and agencies to lay the foundations for agency digital scientific data policy and make the policy publicly available. In laying these foundations, agencies should consider all components of a comprehensive policy to address the full data management life cycle. The third key element is for all agencies to promote a data management planning process for projects that generate scientific data for preservation. ...
See also our past post on the IWGDD. The recommendations were also discussed at the National Academies' Board on Research Data and Information meeting, which we blogged about previously.

Update (Peter, 3/7/09).  An excerpt from the report:


...[A] critical requirement for American competitiveness is to establish and continuously improve a robust and pervasive information infrastructure to maximize access to digital scientific data.

Scientific information in an accessible and interoperable digital environment has the characteristics of a public good. The information is not destroyed and its value is not diminished upon use. On the contrary, digital access has a catalytic effect, multiplying the value of information through repeated use by a wide variety of users in a diversity of settings and applications. This requires effective coordination, extensive interoperability, and innovative tools and services across the full spectrum of digital preservation and access resources....

More on the Boston U. policy and the supposed threat to peer review

Jon Marcus, Publishers struggle to cope with open-access tide, Times Higher Education, March 5, 2009.

Boston University has become the first major US higher education institution to post its academics' research online, bypassing the traditional route of publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals, which it said restricts public access. ...

But John Tagler, director of the professional and scholarly publishing division of the Association of American Publishers, said this was an overstatement. Most scholarly publishers give extensive rights to authors to reuse the intellectual content they provide. "It's not as restrictive as they're positioning it here."

Mr. Tagler said the validation process that research must go through to be published in journals is essential to maintain standards.

"There's a real difference between posting (research) on your university website versus going through a peer review, which gives it certification among international experts."

As more data go online, peer review will become more vital, he said.

"How (else) will you separate the wheat from the chaff?"

  • It's hard to find an interpretation of "Boston University has become the first major US higher education institution to post its academics' research online" that would make it an accurate statement. Dozens of IRs for U.S. institutions are listed on OpenDOAR or ROAR. Boston also isn't the first university to adopt a policy supportive of OA or encouraging its faculty to self-archive. If it had adopted a university-wide OA mandate, it would have been the first in the U.S., but it didn't.
  • Moreover, no part of the Boston policy "bypass[es] the traditional route of publishing papers in peer-reviewed journals". In fact, the policy specifically recommends "publication in peer-reviewed Open Access journals".
  • And the AAP continues to wage its disinformation campaign equating OA with a lack of peer review -- claims which Peter has thoroughly rebutted previously, and which the article doesn't counter.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

A commons for polar data

The Polar Information Commons: A Framework for Long-term Stewardship of Polar Data and Information, press release, February 23, 2009.

... CODATA, the Committee on Data for Science and Technology, is starting a new initiative to establish a Polar Information Commons (PIC), to further the process of ensuring long-term stewardship of and access to polar data and information coming out of the IPY.

This project: The Polar Information Commons (PIC): Establishing the Framework for Long-term Stewardship of Polar Data and Information, aims to establish a sustainable long-term framework for the preservation and access of polar data, building on recent “commons” approaches developed in other scientific fields and entraining new stakeholders and participants into polar data management.

Experiences in other scientific communities, such as the biodiversity/conservation and neuroscience communities, has shown that a “commons” approach will strengthen incentives for scientists, research institutions, nations, and other groups to contribute and document data, reduce barriers to data sharing, and provide a focal point for community efforts to fill in data gaps, improve data quality, and promote data access and usability.

CODATA looks forward to working with its supporting partners, the International Arctic Science Council (IASC); the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR); the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG); the World Meteorological Organization (WMO); the IPY International Program Office (IPY IPO); the World Data System Transition Team and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and many stakeholders in the development of this project and it thanks ICSU, the International Council for Science, for its support in the launch of the activity.

See also our past posts on CODATA.

Update. See also this interview on the International Polar Year:

[David Carlson:] We established in IPY a free and open data access policy. It wasn't something we spun out of clear air, we have experience in other big programmes, especially in the climate community, of what a free and open access policy means. It means rapid sharing of data, more collaborations, more publications, better science. But even though everyone in this broad community of IPY checked the box saying "yes I agree to this policy", actually making it happen is very hard. It’s a technical problem and it’s also a behavioural problem. I send it out every month at the top of my monthly messages – "register your data".

The other message for polar researchers is that we’ve shown in IPY that we can make our science open and accessible to the public as we do it, not just when we're done and we're ready to file a report with a summary for policymakers. As we do the science, we can show our adventures, our excitement, our challenges, our failures. Because we're in the polar regions and people are interested in that, we can engage people in the process of doing our science through blogs and podcasts and YouTube and experiential learning and expeditions and all the hundreds of things that have gone on through IPY. ...

Article on science 2.0

David Larousserie, Comment le Web révolutionne la recherche, Sciences et Avenir, February 2009. (Thanks to Odile Contat.) Discusses science blogs, video, wikis, social networking sites, and rapid dissemination online.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Organizational changes at OA-mandating funder

In February, the National Cancer Institute of Canada became integrated into the Canadian Cancer Society. The NCIC had adopted an OA mandate in 2008, and retains the policy now as part of CCS. (Thanks to Jim Till.)

See also our past posts on NCIC.

Journal issue on digitization and cultural heritage

The theme of the latest issue of Culture & Recherche is the digitization of cultural heritage. The contents comprise the proceedings of Numérisation du patrimoine culturel (Paris, November 27-28, 2009). (Thanks to Fabrizio Tinti.)

Notes on library conference

Jennifer Howard, Switch-Tasking and Twittering Into the Future at Library and Museum Meeting, Wired Campus, March 2, 2009. Notes on the WebWise Conference on Libraries and Museums in the Digital Age (Washington, D.C., February 26-27, 2009).

... [Participants] seemed to agree with Michael Edson, director of digital media strategy at the Smithsonian Institution, who said in a presentation that “the future of knowledge creation is about putting it out there and building it collaboratively.” That’s how “tomorrow’s scholars” will operate, he said. ...

Shelley Bernstein, chief of technology at the Brooklyn Museum, told a story about how social networking can benefit a cultural institution. The museum posted some images from its collection on The Commons, a space on the photo-sharing site Flickr dedicated to public photo collections. Not much happened at first, she said, and the museum was about to abandon the experiment until a group of devoted Flickr users began to make use of the material. One was so taken by the museum’s photos of the 1893 Chicago Exposition that he started adding tags to identify different buildings. Like a good curator or archivist, he even provided sources. “Now we see people who have a real investment in these materials looking at them and helping us,” Ms. Bernstein said.

See also our past posts on Flickr Commons.

IRs for 3 Danish schools

Three Danish colleges (Copenhagen University College of Engineering, VIA University College, and University College of Northern Denmark) have contracted for the PURE repository software.

See also our past post on PURE.

Kahle: Orphan works at the heart of Google Book settlement

Brewster Kahle, It’s All About the Orphans, Open Content Alliance, February 23, 2009.

... After digesting the proposed Google Book Settlement, it becomes clear that the dizzyingly complex agreement is, in essence, an elaborate scheme for the exploitation of orphan works. The class action mechanism allows the Authors Guild (8,500 members) and the AAP (260 members) to extrapolate themselves to include millions of unfindable and unknowable rightsholders to orphan works. It is to this end–the certification of a class that includes the orphans–that the parties need the blessing of the court.

The upshot, if the Settlement is approved, would be legal protection for Google, and only for Google, to scan and provide digital access to the orphan works. ...

With orphan works legislation, orphan works could have been opened up to digitization by anyone: not just Google but competitors to Google, libraries, Open Content Alliance partners, and others. ...

This Settlement, if approved by the judge, will accomplish things appropriate to a legislative body not to private corporate board rooms. Let’s live under the rule of law, as arduous as that might be, and free the orphans, legitimately, not for one corporation but for all of us.

See also our past posts on:

February update from RePEc

Christian Zimmermann, RePEc in February 2009, The RePEc Blog, March 3, 2009.

A short, but busy month considering we were close to beat[ing] our monthly traffic records, with 859,562 file downloads and 3,115,704 abstract views. We also continue adding material at a tremendous pace, about 500 items a day and 15 new authors register every day.

The following archives joined RePEc:, Università di Roma Sapienza, University of Nottingham (II), Management and Organization Review, CEFIG Budapest, Latvijas Banka, University of Pisa, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences, South Dakota State University. ...

See also our past posts on RePEc.

Submissions to Hindawi journals top 1,000 per month

Hindawi's Monthly Submissions Exceed 1,000, press release, March 2, 2009.

Hindawi is pleased to announce that it has received more than 1,000 monthly submitted manuscripts in its Open Access journal collection for the first time in February 2009. Hindawi's monthly submissions exceeded 500 for the first time in May 2007, less than two years ago.

"We are very pleased with the success of our Open Access journal collection," said Hesham Youssef, Hindawi's Business Manager. "Our targets for the growth in our submissions during 2009-2010 are even more aggressive than what we have achieved over the past couple of years."

"If you look at the growth of our individual subject collections, you see significant growth in almost all subject areas," said Paul Peters, the company's Head of Business Development. "Most impressive is the growth that we have seen in Biology and Medicine, where our submissions have nearly tripled over the past 12 months. These journals still represent only about 20% of our total submissions and we expect them to continue their strong growth for the foreseeable future." ...

See also our past posts on Hindawi.

New project for OA to top S. African journals

Munyaradzi Makoni and Christina Scott, Top South African journals to go open access, SciDev.Net, March 2, 2009.

A new scheme aims to put African research on the map by providing free access to a range of the country's top academic journals.

The South African Journal of Science (SAJS) will lead the way, becoming the first high-profile open access journal by the end of March in a pilot project lasting two years.

Robin Crewe of the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSA), the publisher of the journal, announced the project at the African Science Communication Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, last month (19 February). ...

The project is based on the Brazil-based Scientific Electronic Online Library (SciELO). ...

Susan Veldsman, director of ASSA's scholarly publishing unit in Pretoria, said the aim is that the African version of SciELO will have 35 journals freely available online by the end of 2009.

The SAJS journal will launch its new open access edition and convert the last two years of print editions into an open access format at the end of March, according to its incoming editor Michael Cherry — a zoologist from South Africa's University of Stellenbosch.

Not all journals are eligible to join the project — only those listed under international indexes are under consideration. A series of independent review panels are assessing journal quality ...

See also our past posts on the Academy of Science of South Africa or on SciELO.



I'll be on the road for the next three days, with few opportunities for blogging or email.  But Gavin will be on the job and I'll start to catch up on Friday.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Publisher money behind the Conyers bill

Lawrence Lessig and Michael Eisen, Is John Conyers Shilling for Special Interests?  Huffington Post, March 2, 2009.  Excerpt:

You may have heard of Big Oil, but have you heard of "Big Paper"? We know, it sounds absurd, but check this out.

Right now, there's a proposal in Congress to forbid the government from requiring scientists who receive taxpayer funds for medical research to publish their findings openly on the Internet.

This ban on "open access publishing" (which is currently required) would result in a lot of government-funded research being published exclusively in for-profit journals -- inaccessible to the general public.

Why on earth would anyone propose this? A new report by transparency group shows that sponsors of this bill -- led by Rep. John Conyers -- received twice as much money from the publishing industry as those on the relevant committee who are not sponsors.

This is exactly the kind of money-for-influence scheme that constantly happens behind our backs and erodes the public's trust in government.

Can you join us in fighting back? The first step is to join Change Congress's "donor strike" today -- pledging to fight the underlying cause of this corruption by not giving a penny more to politicians who don't support reforming our campaign finance system. Click here to take action now.

When you sign, we'll email a phone number where you can call your members of Congress to ask them to oppose H.R. 801 -- the corrupt publishing industry bill. We'll also send John Conyers' number....

Who's against the corrupt publishing bill? 33 U.S. Nobel laureates in science, 46 law professors, the American Library Association, the Alliance for Taxpayer Access, and open access advocates....

The MAPLight report on the Conyers bill shows how much money each member of the House Judiciary Committee received from "periodical publishing interests" during the 2008 election cycle (January 2007 - December 2008).  The co-sponsors of the Conyers bill received an average of $5,150 each, and the non-sponsors of the bill received an average of $2,506 each.

More on the groundswell for OA

Jennifer Howard, A New Push to Unlock University-Based Research, Chronicle of Higher Education, March 6, 2009 (accessible only to subscribers).  Excerpt:

...The [NIH] policy, which went into effect in April 2008, came under assault last year when Rep. John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, introduced the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, which would have overturned it. Many publishers strongly supported the legislation; open-access advocates opposed it with equal fervor. The bill was shelved.

But this month Mr. Conyers reintroduced it, and both sides are gearing up for what promises to be a hot legislative battle this spring.

Mr. Conyers may discover he is fighting a rear-guard action. Away from the high drama centered on Capitol Hill and the NIH, the concept of public access has been gaining traction at individual institutions and in calls to action from professional and scholarly groups. For example, the University of Tennessee recently created an Open Publishing Support Fund to help faculty members publish in open-access journals.

At a symposium on the future of scholarly communication held in mid-February at Texas A&M University at College Station — in another sign of the changing times, such gatherings have become more common — Charles Backus, director of the university's press, in a news release, summed up the general movement of late as seeking "the path toward a freer and more timely flow of information across disciplines, across campuses. and to a wide variety of institutions." Two recent developments — a call to universities to take charge in making scholarship widely available, and the creation of an open-access repository at Boston University — suggest the gathering strength of that flow.

A 'Call to Action': Last month, the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, the Coalition for Networked Information, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges put out a statement that urged universities to seize the day and becomes leaders in spreading research and scholarship. The document is worth a read in part because it brings together several influential groups that, together, represent (and influence policy at) a cross-section of academic institutions.

"This is the moment to take action," the statement said....

All of that puts pressure on universities, deeply invested in scholarship, to step in....[T]hey...need to recognize that "the efforts of researchers and scholars are wasted" if few people get to see the results. The statement also stresses the need for institutions to hold on to some rights to scholarly content to make sure it remains "as usable and broadly accessible as possible." (Don't sign it away to publishers or other outside parties, in other words.) ...

The statement also mostly stays away from the phrase "open access," which to some ears carries the unwelcome sound of revolution....

Nasulgc, for its part, "is more behind the term 'public access,'" David E. Shulenburger, the group's vice president for academic affairs, told The Chronicle in an interview. He defines it as "access with some delay" — as required by the NIH policy, for instance — which gives publishers a chance to sell subscriptions but doesn't require the world to wait forever to see research. Mr. Shulenburger said that most academic officers now find the idea of public access "a fairly comfortable position."

"Research universities have always expected faculty members to publish their research, but we've been less concerned about ensuring that it was available to the public and other scholars," he said. "That's what's changing now."

Free for All: At Boston University, the push for free and widespread access comes straight from the faculty, according to Wendy K. Mariner, professor of health law, bioethics, and human rights and chair of the Faculty Council, and Robert E. Hudson, the university librarian. Both are centrally involved with the university's newly announced open-access repository....

Unlike another repository set up by Harvard University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Boston University archive covers the entire institution, and it does not require researchers to opt out. "They're certainly being encouraged" to opt in, Ms. Mariner said, "but nobody's arm is being twisted," Ms. Mariner said....

"We recognize that publishers have their costs and that neither the university nor the publishers should ram things down each other's throats," Ms. Mariner said. "There should be some concern for what can realistically happen. But we do think that, over time, things are moving toward open access for everyone."

PS:  All good news.  But for the record, nobody's arm is being twisted at Harvard.  Nor is Harvard even trying to ram things down publisher's throats.

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

Report on national data sharing policies

Raivo Ruusalepp, A Comparative Study of International Approaches to Enabling the Sharing of Research Data, report for the Digital Curation Centre and JISC, November 30, 2008.

... JISC has commissioned this study to survey the different national agendas that are addressing variant infrastructure models, in order to inform developments within the UK and for facilitating an internationally integrated approach to data curation. ...

This study found no evidence of either a universal model or agreement on what a data sharing policy should include.

On an international level, the key players (organisations like OECD, UNESCO, EU and interest groups like CODATA, ESFRI) have concentrated their policy statements around the principle of open access to publicly funded research outputs. While OECD, UNESCO and CODATA have policies explicitly for data sharing, the European Commission is looking at data sharing issues in the broader context of open access to public domain information.

No national level policies or strategic documents that explicitly mandate the sharing of research data were found. Nevertheless, the provision of access to research data is seen as a vital element of the general research infrastructure, and all research infrastructure development strategies acknowledge the need to develop the means for accessing data. Applying Open Access principles to data is discussed at the national level in Germany.

The main burden of developing and implementing data sharing policies is currently being carried by research funding agencies, with an expectation (but not a mandate) that individual research institutions and departments will follow these up with their own policy statements. Measures to motivate researchers into sharing their data incorporate conditions being attached to funding schemes or the provision of data sharing policies backed up by services offered to recipients of funding. The prospect of a more pro?active stance in mandating the sharing of data is evidenced in the recent initiatives of funding agencies to agree on common principles for data sharing.

Typically, but not in all cases, the funding agency policies draw on the following incentives and enablers: [Note: omitting table.] ...

The emerging institutional policies still remain ad hoc and do not appear to be well coordinated. To develop uniform data sharing policies and put them into practice, the institutions will currently require significant help and guidance. ...

Freebase and Wikipedia on Amazon Web Services

The contents of Freebase and Freebase's Wikipedia extract are now available as public data sets on Amazon Web Services.

See also our past post on AWS public data sets.

New OA marine science image library

NOAA Offers New Online Media Library Featuring Ocean-Related Photos and Videos, press release, February 11, 2009. (Thanks to ResearchBuzz.)

[The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has launched a new online multimedia library offering public access to thousands of high-resolution, ocean-related photos and videos taken by NOAA scientists, educators, divers and archaeologists.

“This robust online library offers thousands of images from all 14 marine protected areas managed by NOAA,” said Michiko J. Martin, national education coordinator for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. ...

The National Marine Sanctuaries Media Library is a comprehensive database containing a collection of high-quality still images and video footage featuring all 13 national marine sanctuaries and the Papah?naumoku?kea Marine National Monument. The database is fully searchable by keyword, category and location, and all the images are tagged with relevant information including resolution and usage rights. ...

See also our past posts on NOAA.

New issue of Ariadne

JISC/NEH digitization grants favor OA projects

Guidelines for the JISC/NEH Transatlantic Digitization Collaboration Grants were posted on January 12, 2009. The grants provide up to $300,000 for digitization projects involving collaboration between U.S. and English/Welsh institutions. Proposals are due March 26. See especially:

... Both [National Endowment for the Humanities] (as a taxpayer-supported federal agency) and JISC endeavor to make the products of their grants available to the broadest possible audience. Our goal is for scholars, educators, students, and the public in the United States, England, and Wales to have ready and easy access to the wide range of NEH and JISC grant products. For projects that lead to the development of Web sites, all other considerations being equal, NEH and JISC give preference to those that provide free and open access to the public. ...

Grantees should provide broad access to all grant products through the Internet, on-site use, interlibrary loan, or duplication of materials at cost, insofar as the condition of the materials and intellectual property rights allow. We strongly encourage projects that offer free and open public access to online resources. All other considerations being equal, preference will be given to projects that provide free, online access to digital materials produced with grant funds. ...

Notes on open education from the ALA midwinter meeting

Paula J. Hane, Open Educational Resources (OER) and Libraries, Information Today, March 2, 2009.  Excerpt:

...Another open trend that is growing quickly is the adoption of open source textbooks....But, the more broadly named movement has come to be known as open educational resources (OER). OER focus not only on textbooks, but also on full courses, course materials, modules, journals, streaming videos, tests, software, and any other tools, materials, or techniques that are critical in the learning environment.

At the ALA Midwinter meeting in Denver, I attended a forum sponsored by SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL)....Speakers argued that OER are a logical extension of what the library community supports in the Open Access movement, and underscored the need for the larger playing field on which scholarly communication takes place to be made more equitable.

Richard Baraniuk, an architect of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, which aims to accelerate efforts to promote open resources, technology, and teaching practices in education, is founder of Connexions, an environment for collaboratively developing, freely sharing, and rapidly publishing scholarly content on the Web. He’s also professor of electrical & computer engineering at Rice University. He cautioned that publishers are in fact pricing themselves out of business —our current model is unsustainable. He says that OER results in better, faster, stronger education and a more collaborative faculty environment. OER provides outreach to the world and brings welcome "inreach," or give-back from others....

David Wiley, also a leader of the Cape Town Declaration, is "Chief Openness Officer" for Flat World Knowledge (FWK), a new approach to college textbooks that offers rigorously reviewed textbooks online free of cost to students.  He is also associate professor of instructional psychology & technology at Brigham Young University. He explained that the OER movement involves 4 types of permissions... —the "4Rs," which are Reuse, Redistribute, Revise, and Remix....

CRKN interested in SCOAP3

The Canadian Research Knowledge Network has agreed to an "expression of interest" in the CERN SCOAP3 project.  Quoting the report from Research Money, February 27, 2009:

Canada’s organization in charge of licensing journals for  university libraries will consider the global high-energy physics (HEP) community’s bold proposal to establish a new model of open access for journals, even though it is drawing mixed reactions within the library and broader academic communities. The Canadian Research Knowledge Network (CRKN) agreed at its board meeting in January to proceed with an “expression of interest” to gauge support for becoming the Canadian focal point for SCOAP3.

(Thanks to Research Money, via CARL-ABRC, via Jim Till.)

PS:  Also see our past posts on CRKN.

March SOAN

I just mailed the March issue of the SPARC Open Access Newsletter.  This issue takes a close look at the re-introduction of the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act (a.k.a. the Conyers bill, HR 801), which would repeal the OA policy at the NIH and block similar policies at all other federal agencies.  The round-up section briefly notes 129 OA developments from February.


Sunday, March 01, 2009

From containers to service providers

Andrew Albanese, Institutional Repositories: Thinking Beyond the Box, Library Journal, March 1, 2009.  Excerpt:

In February 2008, the faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University made history, unanimously passing a revolutionary open access mandate that, for the first time [in the US], would require faculty to give the university copies of their research, along with a nonexclusive license to distribute them electronically....

If Harvard's vision portended a major role for IRs in the future, the reality today is that IRs remain largely empty, ineffective, and hobbled by everything from questions over their mission to lagging technology to the lack of meaningful institutional engagement. If they are to succeed as Harvard envisions, the next generation of IRs will require something of a reinvention—and a significantly higher level of institutional commitment. That will be no easy feat, given the current economic collapse, organized publisher resistance, institutional dysfunction, rapidly changing technology, and, most beguiling, the lingering confusion about exactly what IRs are and what they can —and should— do....

IRs have failed to catch on for a multitude of reasons, explains [Caveat Lector blogger Dorothea Salo], not the least of which is that the first generation was hopelessly passive about their collection activities....

If librarians have learned anything from the failure of IRs thus far, it is that “build it and they will come” is not a viable collection strategy, nor any way to foster the digital library of the future. The next wave of IRs, she stresses, must be reimagined around specific services that have value to faculty and can be marketed to them —and supported by an administrative mandate....

“Some IRs opened in the last year to 18 months are avoiding their predecessors' mistakes,” Salo says, “and in that I see the stirrings of hope.”

The University of Missouri, for example, recently launched its MOSpace repository, with librarians actively soliciting and depositing materials for faculty, thus increasing their authors' web profiles....

At the University of California (UC), California Digital Library's (CDL) eScholarship repository has, in the words of a recent Association of Research Libraries task force report, been “unusually” successful.

“I find the term successful fascinating when used around institutional repositories,” says eScholarship Publishing Group director Catherine Mitchell. “How do you even measure success with a repository? We have about 26,000 full-text objects in our repository. But our faculty produce 26,000 objects every year. By that measure, our numbers do not suggest we've done a good job integrating the repository into the scholarly workflow at UC.”

UC is now embarking upon an initiative to establish more deeply the eScholarship repository as a suite of publishing services—not an alternative publishing system, although it is open access and is alternative—but, just simply, a better one....

“It's hard to make the case for institutional repositories to faculty,” Mitchell says. “We've decided we don't even want to try.” In fact, eScholarship officials are so wary of the antipathy faculty seem to feel toward institutional repositories, they are planning to ditch the term entirely.

That's just fine with Salo....“It's not about 'the box' any more. We can't be talking about the box—we need to focus on all the stuff that can be in the box and the services we can offer [to faculty].” ...

[CNI's Clifford Lynch] says,...“I think the big, important mission for institutional repositories revolves around preserving access to underlying data and things that don't look very much like traditional publishing,” he says. “Open access is an important discussion,” he adds, but only a small slice of the role repositories must play.

“The monster I see coming,” Lynch says, “is that funding agencies, like the [National Science Foundation], [National Institutes of Health], or [Andrew W.] Mellon [Foundation], are recognizing that data is an important asset that they fund and are starting to get more formal about what's going to happen to that data, where it will be preserved, where it is going to be put. As this rolls forward, faculty will want help from their institutions in satisfying the requirements of their funding organizations. Well-designed institutional repository services can be the answer there.”

If Lynch is “queasy,” it's because he questions whether institutions —in particular, libraries— are biting off more than they can chew and swallow by conflating IRs with an alternative publishing mission....

Salo doesn't necessarily disagree with Lynch. IRs can —and should— serve as places for faculty to preserve and access all kinds of data. She came to IRs through the OA movement, however, and, given her experience, sees wisdom in repositories retrenching around meaningful publishing services. “It is a legitimate decision,” she says. “Sitting around and waiting for stuff to come in is not working, so becoming a publisher, offering services, and going out and getting this stuff make perfect sense.” ...

In his opening keynote at the 2008 SPARC Digital Repositories Meeting in Baltimore, John Wilbanks, director of Science Commons, spoke about what would move IRs forward: incentives....

Salo says there are openings for IRs to make big strides in the coming years. “The key stumbling blocks,” she says, “are resources and will.”

Looking at citations from, rather than to, OA journals

Fredrik Åström, Citation patterns in open access journals, and the National Library of Sweden, undated but apparently February 25, 2009.  (Thanks to Jan Hagerlid.)  Abstract:  

Introduction. Along with the great expansion of research being published in Open Access (OA) journals over the last decade, the interest for analysing the OA literature using informetric methods has also increased. Most studies have focused on the citation impact of OA journals and whether OA publishing increases the chances of a research publication being cited. Fewer analyses, however, have investigated whether OA and non-OA journals in the same research fields are citing the same literature; and to what extent this reflects whether it is the same kind (and thus comparable) research that is published in the two forms of scholarly publications.

Method. The analyses were performed on articles from 45 journals in five different fields: three OA journals, three non-OA and a control set of three more non-OA journals. The citation structures in the journals were analysed through MDS maps building on co-citation analyses, as well as a more thorough comparison investigating overlaps of cited authors and journals between the different journals.

Results. The results are not unambiguous: in biology and biotechnology there are signs of differences of research orientation in-between journals, however not related to whether the journals are OA or non-OA publications; whereas genetics and microbiology show a strong core of journals and authors being cited by all journals. Yet another pattern is found when analysing zoology, where the separation of research areas within the field seems more dependent on whether research was published OA or non-OA.

Conclusions. The results of the analyses suggests that it is hard to draw any overall conclusions on the matter of whether research published in OA journals is likely to have a larger citation impact or not. The differences between research fields are simply too substantial to make any claims on a more general level. It should however be noted that the results should be interpreted with some caution. The subject categories used in the analyses are those of Thomson Reuters’ Journal Citation Reports, a subject classification that is not entirely unproblematic. And at the same time: using journals as basis for field definitions, and the journal selection process in itself, is also related to a set of different problems.

Digital library and DHQ issue in honor of Ross Scaife

The OA Perseus Digital Library is developing the Scaife Digital Library as a special, OA library distributed among institutional repositories.  From the Perseus description:

Named after the late Ross Scaife, the Scaife Digital Library is being developed as a distributed collection and a method whereby humanists from around the world can automatically aggregate their content. The Scaife Digital Library contains durable objects that (1) have received peer review, (2) are in sustainable formats such as the epiDoc TEI stylesheet, (3) have a long-term home such as an institutional repository separate from the producer of the object, and (4) are available under open licensing for third-party redistribution and/or further development....

For more details, see Christopher Blackwell and Gregory Crane, Cyberinfrastructure, the Scaife Digital Library and Classics in a Digital age, Digital Humanities Quarterly, Winter 2009.

The Blackwell/Crane article appears in a special issue of DHQ in honor of Ross Scaife.  (Thanks to the Stoa Consortium.)


  • The distributed digital library and DHQ issue are beautiful, fitting ways to honor Ross Scaife (1960-2008).  Ross was one of the leading proponents of OA in the field of classics, which has been one of the leading fields of the humanities in exploring the possibilities of OA. 
  • I knew Ross and admired his work.  Although my own field (philosophy) is in the humanities, and I was thinking about OA in the humanities while working for OA in the sciences, it was Ross, and his colleague Barbara McManus, who first nudged me to write about OA in the humanities.
  • See my past posts on Scaife and his OA work.

Major university associations back the NIH policy

The Association of American Universities (AAU) and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (NASULGC) have released their February 19 letter to the House Judiciary Committee, supporting the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill

The online letter is an image scan and I only have time to rekey a short excerpt:

...The memberships of AAU and NASULGC include the major public and private research universities in the United States....

Our associations and their member universities have supported NIH's PubMed Central from its outset...

Because PubMed Central operates in manner that preserves the ability of journal publishers to continue to play their valuable role in the dissemination of new knowledge and discoveries, the only effect of H.R. 801 would be to deprive the public of the benefit of expanded access to the results of federally funded research....

Comment.  This is important.  It's the first time that the AAU has weighed in on behalf of the NIH policy, or the principle of OA for publicly-funded research.  The AAU has great weight in Congress on copyright issues affecting research and higher education, and great weight with its member institutions.  NASULGC is an equally significant voice, but this is not its first public endorsement of the NIH policy.  Kudos to John Vaughn (at AAU) and David Shulenburger (at NASULGC) for taking this step.

Another perspective:  With this letter, the major university associations in the US are joining the major library associations in supporting the NIH policy.


RePEc is weathering the storm

How is RePEc surviving the economic crisis?  Christian Zimmermann explains:

...On the revenue side, we are happy to report that it is stable, at zero. On the expense side, we seem to be unchanged, at zero as well. RePEc is completely run by volunteers so that it does not rely on funding and can provide its services for free to everyone....

That does not mean that there are no risks. RePEc services also rely on hardware and hosting services. So far, we have managed to find sponsors for those. We have little slack, though. If a machine were to fail, or a host were to give up a slot, we would have to scramble for solutions. We are therefore always on the lookout for new opportunities. We even have a new project currently looking for a home....

Winter issue of JEP

The Winter 2009 issue of the Journal of Electronic Publishing is now online.  All five articles in the issue are OA-related:

PS:  My piece is a slightly revised version of an article in SOAN for January 2, 2009.