Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Utrecht's OA portal of research in veterinary medicine

The March issue of Igitur includes an interview with Astrid van Wesenbeeck about the U of Utrecht's Ivy Academic Search, its OA portal for veterinary medicine.

What is a “subject repository”?

Our subject repository (Ivy Academic Search) is an open access search portal for a specific subject area that provides users with metadata for scientific content and directs them to the full text documents that match their search results. The results are collected from a variety of academic repositories and from PubMed Central, as well as relevant journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). This selection process is called “harvesting”. With a so-called harvester system, we are able to send digital requests to other repositories and they can send us all of their relevant data for indexing in our subject repository.

Current Ivy Academic Search participants include: PubMed Central, DOAJ, Wageningen Yield, RIVM, Ghent University, Queensland University, Glasgow University, OpenMed, University of Melbourne, University of Zürich and, of course, Utrecht University.

Are other organizations also working on subject repositories?

Ivy Academic Search is not the first subject repository in the world. Tilburg University has Economists Online and many people may know arXiv, the subject repository for Physics, Mathematics, Computer Science, Quantitative Biology, Quantitative Finance and Statistics, which is run by Cornell University in the US. The main difference between our subject repository and, for example arXiv, is that Ivy Academic search simply collects and offers metadata, while they have a...deposit function. We help the user locate a document by indexing it in our records and then direct the searcher to the full text, which is located in the home repository. This means that authors must deposit their full text articles in their own academic repository....

What was your biggest challenge?

...[W]e discovered that some academic repositories do not yet adhere to the standards of Open Access. In addition, some of the academic repositories we encountered contained a very small amount of content or content that was poorly organized. This means, for example, that not every article was accompanied by the required structuring data such as: author, source title, publication year, abstract, keywords, etc. Due to the relatively poor standard of the general bibliographic data, we decided to develop a basic search system. If things improve over time, we can always refine the search facility.

The biggest eye opener was the current status of academic repositories; this subject is not on all academic agendas yet! Repositories are not all filled with the most recent articles and many articles are not archived Open Access. But the world is changing fast, so we expect to connect to more repositories in the future, which is an ongoing process. Actually, this growth should never stop....

[M]ore and more institutions need to understand the importance of Open Access and to embed the use of repositories in their daily lives.

PS:  Also see our past post on this service.

Another site combines OA and user ratings

Bob Butler has launched BestThinking.  From today's announcement: completes two years of development with a public launch on Albert Einstein's birthday....

BestThinking is an open access website focused on transparency and collaboration where identity-verified thinkers create, search and share reliable content and expertise....As its name suggests, BestThinking is for the wide variety of topics that have no certain conclusions, only the current best thinking of the best minds available. BestThinking joins Wikipedia and Google Knol as a place for people with a passion and expertise for knowledge-based content.

BestThinking believes it can overcome the challenges of other open access websites through its dedication to transparency, and by applying the latest thinking on content rating systems and enhanced peer moderation. Transparency at BestThinking means all contributors must have their identities verified and all editing, moderation, discussion and rating are done openly and on the record....

"The BestThinking content rating system limits bias and manipulation and represents a significant advancement over the commonly used 5-star rating system. Our peer moderation system provides recourse for contributors faced with moderators acting in bad faith," said Todd Carlson, CTO. At BestThinking, a moderator's rejection of a proposed revision can be appealed to other moderators. If a consensus cannot be reached, a new linked topic can be created representing supporting, dissenting, compromise or alternative viewpoints....


  • I welcome new ways to combine OA with user comments or ratings.  But the phrase knowledge-based content reminds me of cheese-like product.  When the announcement refers to the challenges of other open access websites, it seems to mean the challenges of Wikipedia.  Surpassing Wikipedia is a worthy goal, but it appears that BestThinking has a parochial understanding of "other open access websites". 
  • BestThinking may work well and I wish it luck.  Like Wikipedia itself, the most important fact about it is that users can make it excellent, and I don't want to throw a wrench into a positive feedback loop.  However, I'd rather see serious thinkers submit their work to peer-reviewed journals and deposit it in OA repositories.  If we want comment and ratings systems --on top of peer review, as part of peer review, or (for preprints) instead of peer review-- either to continue the inquiry or help us identify what deserves our time, then we should develop modular systems which integrate with existing OA repositories.  That would give users comment-enhanced access to the primary literature, and to the whole interoperable network of that literature.  It would also encourage repository deposits.

Journal value measured in price per use

Bill Hooker, Fooling around with numbers, part 3; or, why would anyone pay for these journals? Open Reading Frame, March 13, 2009.  See the original post for graphics I'm omitting here.  Excerpt:

Following on from part 2 [PS: excerpt blogged here], I thought I'd ask a couple more questions about price-per-use, based on the online usage stats in the UCOSC dataset....

In 2003, only 1001 online uses [of Elsevier's Nuclear Physics B] were reported to UC by the publisher, but the 2004 list price was $15,360. The companion journal Nuc Phys A is not much better, $10,121 for 1198 uses. Compare that with Nature, 286125 uses at just $1,280!

It gets worse, too, because I'm led to believe that anything that appears in a physics journal these days is available ahead of time from the arXiv....I did go through the latest [Nuc Phys B] table of contents (Vol 813 issue 3) on the Science Direct page, and was easily able to find every paper in the arXiv....which leads me to wonder why any library would buy Nuc Phys B (or Nuc Phys A, assuming it's also covered by the arXiv). Prices haven't improved in the intervening 5 years, either....

That got me wondering how the rest of the journals are distributed by price/use and publisher....

[N]ot only does NPG boast some of the lowest prices and highest use rates, they are the closest of all the publishers to pricing their wares according to (at least one measure of) likely utility....

Next, I broke the data out into intervals....The majority of the titles fall into the first few price/use intervals, say less than about $6/use. Since most pay-per-view article charges are between $25 and $40, I more-or-less arbitrarily picked $30/use as a cutoff and asked how many titles from each publisher fall above that cutoff, and what proportion of the total expenditure (viz, list price sum) does that represent? The inset shows that 161 titles, most of them from Kluwer and Springer (whose figures I combined because Springer bought most of Kluwer's titles sometime after 2003), account for about 5% of the total in list price terms. That was a bit more useful, so I expanded it to ask the same question for each interval....

What becomes apparent now, I think, is that the UC librarians are doing a good job! Only 6% of the total number of journals (5% of the total list price cost) fall into the "more than $30/use" category, of which it could reasonably be said that the library might as well drop the subscription and just cover the pay-per-view costs of their patrons. Only a further 15% or so work out to more than $6/use, and around 80% of the collection (figured as titles or cost) comes in under $6/use, with around 30% less than $1/use.

So, are these reasonable prices -- $1 per use, $6 per use? I'm not sure I can, but I'll try to say something about that question, using the UCOSC dataset, in Part 4.

Update (3/14/09).  Also see Heather Morrison's comment:

...Usage-based pricing is a harmful model for scholarly communication, a concept I have written about in-depth in this book chapter. One reason is that usage-based pricing inevitably discourages use. Usage-based pricing is a good model for dealing with scarce resources (e.g., per-page charges for photocopying), but a bad model for scholarship in electronic form (think tax on reading after the first copy, there is virtually no cost to further dissemination). Happily, since I wrote this book chapter in 2005, we have witnessed the Dramatic Growth of Open Access. This presents some interesting opportunities for libraries dealing with the current economic crisis. If you have resources where pricing is based on usage, why not promote open access resources? Perhaps this will decrease usage of the paid subscription, so that your library can move to a lower pricing tier the following year....

Bill Hooker also points out that there are a few journals at U Cal (e.g., some Elsevier journals), where the subscription cost is not that much different from what pay-per-use would cost. If methods like these were employed at U Cal, could the balance be tipped so that U Cal would clearly save money by switching to pay-per-use? Without open access, this would clearly be a harm to scholarly communication. However, with open access, this could be a catalyst to further change. If the monies saved were redirected to support for open access, this could further decrease the need to use expensive resources, resulting in further savings which can then be redirected to more open access support, creating a positive open access cycle, in counter to the negative cycle of the pricing crisis. The publisher could react by increasing their pay-per-use price. For U Cal, this could be a bit of a dilemma; but on the other hand, it would decrease the probability of success of the pay-per-use model, thus avoiding a harm to scholarship.

Update (3/17/09). Also see Part 4 of Bill Hooker's inquiry.

Update (3/19/09). ...And Part 5.

Gold OA support should follow green OA mandates

Stevan Harnad, Scaling to Global OA: Parallel Local Green/Gold Is OK, But Gold Alone First, No Way, Open Access Archivangelism, March 14, 2009.

Summary:  Trying to morph incoming institutional non-OA journal-fleet subscriptions into outgoing institutional Gold OA journal-fleet "memberships" is incoherent and cannot scale across journals and institutions; alongside an institutional Green OA mandate, however, it is innocuous: The Green mandates will ensure the real, scalable, unstoppable progress toward global OA. Without an institutional Green OA mandate, pursuing local Gold OA "memberships" is not only futile but a retardant on real progress toward global OA, creating instead an illusory local sense of progress that further distracts from and obscures what really needs to be done locally to generate global OA.

New Working Group on Open Data in Science

The Open Knowledge Foundation has launched a Working Group on Open Data in Science.  From yesterday's announcement:

In the first instance, the group will aim to:

  1. Act as a central point of reference and support for people who think they are interested in open data in science.
  2. Identify practices of early adopters, collecting data and developing guides.
  3. Act as a hub for the development of low cost, community driven projects around open data in science.

We are currently working on:

The Working Group has the following founding members:

If you’re interested in participating in the work of the open group, please get in touch on the main open-science mailing list!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Warning against OA from Cashmachine CEO

Laurie Taylor, Piercemuller in Parliament, Times Higher Education Supplement, March 12, 2009.  (Thanks to Colin Steele.)  From Taylor's humor column, The Poppletonian:

Publish and be Charged

Our university was honoured last week by a visit from Dave Bonanzer, the CEO of Cashmachine plc, one of the world's leading publishers of academic journals. Speaking to library staff, Mr Bonanzer praised the contribution made to scholarship by large-annual-increase-in-subscription-price journals.

"We must firmly resist", he told the seminar, "the dangerous moves being made towards open-access publishing by such institutions as Boston University. In difficult economic times, it is more important than ever that we preserve the tried-and-trusted process in which the Government funds research that, when completed, can only be assessed by unpaid peer reviewers and then published years later in private profit-making journals."

After taking questions, Mr Bonanzer was photographed alongside some of his more remunerative journals.

An OA mandate for the OSU library faculty

The library faculty at Oregon State University have adopted an OA mandate.  From today's announcement:

On March 6, library faculty adopted a policy that requires deposit of final published versions of scholarly works in the libraries’ institutional repository, ScholarsArchive@OSU. This is the first open access mandate adopted by a library faculty in the United States, according to Michael Boock, head of digital access services for OSU Libraries.

Since 2004, OSU Libraries has worked to collect the university’s scholarship in digital form to ensure greater accessibility and long-term preservation of the scholarship. ScholarsArchive@OSU, which recently ranked fourth among U.S. digital repositories, contains dissertations, theses, a wide variety of university technical reports, working papers and series and increasingly, published articles, papers and presentations. The current contributions come from across campus, and are contributed on a voluntary basis.

The new policy means that the 42 library faculty will automatically contribute all of their scholarship to the archive, which will not be the case for faculty in other departments, who can continue to contribute on a voluntary basis.

No later than the date of publication or distribution, library faculty members will deposit an electronic copy of the final published version of their works in an appropriate format (such as PDF) to ScholarsArchive@OSU. The policy applies to articles, conference papers and proceedings, substantial presentations and internal reports of interest to a broader audience that are authored or co-authored by library faculty members.

“As faculty members at Oregon’s land grant university the library faculty believes they have a responsibility to share their expertise and research with the public,” Boock said. “As librarians, they believe in the widest possible access to information and its long-term preservation. The policy they’ve adopted supports these goals.”

From the policy text:

...The policy will apply to all scholarly works authored or co-authored while a faculty member of the University Libraries, beginning with works created after March 2009....

When a publisher is involved who will not agree to the terms of this policy as stated in the Science Commons Access-Reuse Addendum, the University Librarian or the University Librarian’s designate will waive application of the policy upon written request from faculty. When a waiver is granted, faculty are encouraged to deposit whatever version of the article the publisher allows (e.g. pre or post-print)....

The Coordinator [who also grants waivers] may assist the author in getting terms from the publisher that are most agreeable to the author.

From the policy guidelines:

[The Library Faculty Association] recommends that authors select the Access/Reuse agreement type using the Science Commons Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine....

Comment.  Kudos to the OSU Library Faculty Association (LFA) for this strong policy.  I applaud the mandatory language, the dual deposit-release strategy (or what Stevan Harnad calls immediate deposit / optional access), and the clarity in making waivers apply only to OA rather than both OA and deposits.  I like the way the LFA will help faculty deposit their articles as well as obtain better terms from publishers.  You can classify this as a policy from faculty rather than administrators, and as a departmental rather than university-wide policy.  Now that the library faculty have taken the lead, I hope we'll see other departments and divisions of OSU, already operating under a policy to encourage self-archiving, strengthen their policy as well.

Update (3/14/09).  Also see Stevan Harnad's comment:

Librarians have been at the vanguard of the Open Access movement, often trying heroically, but in vain, to convince other faculty university-wide to deposit, as well as to convince the university to mandate deposit. Here is something they can do on their own, to provide an example and show the way: mandate deposit within their own department or faculty. (This is also an instance if Arthur's Sale's suggestion that "patchwork mandates" be adopted at the laboratory, department or faculty level, rather than waiting for university-wide mandates).

Update (3/16/09).  Also see the comments of Terry, who is apparently a faculty member at OSU:

I think that this is important on a number of levels.

  1. Symbolically, it’s important.  It’s very difficult for the library to go to faculty on campus and ask them to contribute content to the IR, when in fact, the Library faculty itself is not regularly submitting to the IR.  This changes that – and hopefully – will act as a catalysis for other departments on campus to follow the Library faculty’s lead.
  2. As tenured faculty, the research (both papers and presentations) our librarians generate represent an important contribution to the scholarly community. As researchers and scholars, preserving our content and making it freely accessible to future researchers is indeed one of our primary responsibilities as faculty.
  3. This was really a faculty initiated endeavor, that has a great back story, but I won’t include it here right now.  But suffice it to say, a good number of people at OSU deserve a lot of credit for making this happen, chief among those being Michael Boock and Janet Webster – who have worked tirelessly from the beginning to advertise, grow and advocate for the IR in the library.  And for the faculty as well, for stepping up and making this a reality. 
  4. Finally, it’s just one more example of that Beaver ingenuity and can do’edness.

Update (3/24/09). Andrew Albanese reports that the vote was unanimous.


Access to ACTA documents: a big No and a big Yes

Note this juxtaposition:

  1. On March 10, James Love at KEI learned the result of his January 31 FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request for access to the documents behind the notoriously secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations.  The answer is no.  Not only that, it's a no from from the Obama administration.  On his first full day in office, President Obama adopted a presumption in favor of disclosure for FOIA requests.  Not only that, the Obama administration --the Obama USPTO-- said that the ACTA documents are exempt under 5 USC 552.b.1, which holds that the FOIA does not apply to information which must be "kept secret in the interest of national defense or foreign policy".  It also cited the Clinton-era Executive Order 12958, which elaborates on the national security exception.  (ACTA is a treaty about copyrightCorporate lobbyists have access to the documents.)
  2. On March 11, the European parliament called for greater transparency and specifically demanded public access to the ACTA documents.  It didn't merely cite principles of open government, on which different people and parties might disagree.  It cited Article 255.1 of the EC Treaty, which provides that "Any citizen of the Union, and any natural or legal person residing or having its registered office in a Member State, shall have a right of access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents...."

For more on the US development:

For more on the European development:

Comment.  Secret lawmaking is repulsive.  The USPTO response to James Love's request is Bush league on FOIA requests and Bush league on secret lawmaking. 

Update (3/14/09).  Canada too supports transparency at ACTA and early release of its documents.  (Thanks to Michael Geist.)

New OA journal on aging from new OA publisher

Aging is a new peer-reviewed OA journal by Impact Journals. The inaugural issue was released in January 2009. (Thanks to Chris Patil.)

Articles are published under an unspecified "open-access license". There are no author-side fees for "high-impact" articles published as Priority Reports; author-side fees for "regular, high quality papers that are scientifically-sound and well technically performed" are not specified. Authors are also required to provide proactive access to certain data associated with their article:

Nucleic acid and protein sequences, macromolecular structures determined by X-ray crystallography (along with structure factors), and microarray data must be deposited in the appropriate public database and must be accessible without restriction from the date of publication. An entry name or accession number must be included as the last paragraph of the Experimental Procedures section in the final version of the manuscript.

The publisher's site mentions two other planned journals: Impact Biology and Impact Hundred ("like PLoS ONE"). All Impact journals will be OA.

OA in Tanzania

F.W. Dulle, Open Access Publishing: the emerging opportunity for wider dissemination of scholarly output, presented at PANTIL (Programme for Agricultural and Natural Resources Transformation for Improved Livelihoods) Annual Research Workshop, (Dodoma, Tanzania, October 6-9, 2008); self-archived March 11, 2009. Abstract:
The purpose of this paper is to create awareness on the part of researchers and the scholarly community at large regarding the new publishing opportunity for dissemination of their research findings. It highlight on limitations of the current business model of scholarly publishing in dissemination of scientific information as the main cause for the emergence of open access. The paper introduces open access: a means of free availability of scholarly content on the Internet, permitting any user to read, download, copy, distribute, print or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the Internet itself. Open access journals and self-arching as the two main approaches of open access publishing are highlighted. Compares adoption of open access between developed and developing countries. The paper further presents preliminary findings on the awareness, usage as well as researchers’ general perspectives about open access scholarly communication in Tanzanian public universities. The overall results of the study indicate that many researchers use open access to access scholarly content and generally support the new mode of scholarly communication.

CC0 launches

Diane Peters, Expanding the Public Domain: Part Zero, Creative Commons, March 11, 2009.

Creative Commons has spent a lot of time over the past year or so strategizing, and worrying, about the current state of the public domain and its future. ...

Our copyright licenses empower creators to manage their copyright on terms they choose. But what about creators who aren’t concerned about those protections, or who later want to waive those rights altogether? ... Additionally, new protections, like the creation of sui generis database rights in the EU, are layered atop traditional rights, making an already complex system of copyright all the more complicated. ...

Today at the O’Reilly Emerging Technology conference, our CEO Joi Ito will formally introduce the first of two tools designed to address these challenges. CC0 (read “CC Zero”) is a universal waiver that may be used by anyone wishing to permanently surrender the copyright and database rights they may have in a work, thereby placing it as nearly as possible into the public domain. CC0 is not a license, but a legal tool that improves on the “dedication” function of our existing, U.S.-centric public domain dedication and certification. ...

CC0 is an outgrowth of six years of experience with our existing public domain tool, the maturation of ccREL (our recommendations for machine-readable work information), and the requirements of educators and scientists for the public domain. Science Commons’ work on the Open Access Data Protocol, to ensure interoperability of data and databases in particular, informed our development of CC0. It should come as no surprise that several of CC0’s early adopters are leading some of the most important projects within the scientific community. ...

Funding permitting, we plan to roll out a beta public domain assertion tool this coming summer that will make it easy for people to tag and find content already in the public domain ...

See also our past posts on CC0.

Happy birthday, WWW

The difficulty of automated harvesting of publisher self-archiving policies

Preben Hansen, Gunnar Ericsson and Oscar Täckström, Steps towards automatic acquisition and recognition of IPR conditions for parallel publishing, Swedish Institute of Computer Science, March 6, 2009.  Excerpt:

Parallel publishing is a rather new term within the area of access to copyrighted content produced by researchers and is sometimes also called post-print and self-archiving....

We examined 31 different publishers...of different size and contents. The initial goal was to visit a publisher and download the copyright agreement for publishing a journal article.

The assumption was that this single document would contain all the conditions and that a tool then could be trained to extract those conditions. The point of departure was to use a set of publishers not yet registered by the Romeo/Sherpa database and not previously examined.

However, during the project, it was observed that not all the examined publishers had a copyright agreement (or similar) in an online and downloadable form. Furthermore, of those that had their copyright agreements available, it was also observed that not all publishers had IPR conditions for parallel publishing in their copyright agreement, and finally, some of the IPR conditions was found on other web pages such within sections for authors and author rights.

This situation made us to move into a modified direction in which we needed to make a more detailed examination of what actually was available and recognizable in order to be used for an automatic acquisition of IPR conditions....

Extracting IPR conditions only from copyright agreements proved to be a more complex task than expected, and the results does not satisfy the initial goals of the this part of the project....

Comment.  It's a pity we still haven't cracked this nut.  I argued in 2004 that:

[All stakeholders, including publishers, would benefit greatly] if journals would post their policy details to a central database, or post them on their own web sites with standardized terminology or tags.  Detail-harvesting, searching, and comparison could then be automated.  But for now [2004] this is too much to ask.  At least journals should put their policies on their own sites in their own words and keep them up to date.


Also see Erik Sandewall, Demonstrating the Use of Author-Deposit Restrictions in Publication-Related Software Systems, a technical report from the Analysis and Development of Electronic Publishing Technologies (ADEPT) project, from Sweden's Royal Institute of Technology and Linköping University, March 8, 2009. 

Abstract:   The present memo documents a system demonstration for the sponsoring agency, by first describing the goals of the project and its major design decisions, and then describing the demo setup. The project concerns the management of IPR information that determines whether, when and how a given research article can legally be posted on a public website, in particular in an institutional repository or archive. The challenge is to make this information available in structured form so that it can be applied and used in the automatic operations of, for example, an institutional repository, as well as in the autonomous operation of software agents for providing assistance to their users. The demo uses a configuration of agents representing the different interested parties in an article's lifecycle, and shows how the IPR information can be represented, made available, and put to effective use in such a network of software agents.

Also see Sandewell's Support for Managing IPR and Parallel Publishing in the MADMAN Research Author Support System, also from the ADEPT project, January 17, 2009.

Sharpening the old saw

Bill Hooker, On science and selfishness, Open Reading Frame, March 11, 2009.  The context is getting scientists to move from proprietary tools, like Microsoft Word, to open tools like Open Office.  But this excerpt is useful well beyond that context:

...In science, only one kind of productivity counts -- that is, keeps you in a job, brings in funding, wins your peers' respect -- and that's published papers. The resulting pressure makes whatever leads to published papers urgent and limits everything else to -- at best -- important; and urgent trumps important every time. Remember the old story about the guy struggling to cut down a tree with a blunt saw? To suggestions that his work would go faster if he sharpened the saw, he replies that he doesn't have time to sit around sharpening tools, he's got a tree to cut down!

I said above that scientists should move from closed to Open wherever possible because of long term advantages. I think that's true, but like the guy with the saw, scientists are caught up in short-term thinking. Put the case to most of them, and they'll agree about the advantages of Open over closed -- for instance, I've yet to meet anyone who disagreed on principle that Open Access could dramatically improve the efficiency of knowledge dissemination, that is, the efficiency of the entire scientific endeavour. I've also yet to meet more than a handful of people willing to commit to sending their own papers only to OA journals, or even to avoiding journals that won't let them self-archive! "I have a job to keep", they say, "I'm not going to sacrifice my livelihood to the greater good"; or "that's great, but first I need to get this grant funded"; or my personal favourite, "once I have tenure I'll start doing all that good stuff". (Sure you will. But I digress.) ...

When it comes to scientists, you don't just have to hand them a sharper saw, you have to force them to stop sawing long enough to change to the new tool. All they know is that the damn tree has to come down on time and they will be in terrible trouble (/fail to be recognized for their genius) if it doesn't.

Comment.  When I've said in the past that OA is moving slowly because researchers are preoccupied and overworked, this is 90% of what I meant.  Well-put.  The other 10%?  Researchers are proud to be preoccupied by their research, and skilled at shutting out what they believe to be irrelevant.  Their oblivion isn't always absent-mindedness.  It's often a cultivated aversion to distraction.  Acting on first impressions or hearsay, many of them classify OA with boring and irrelevant developments in the technology of publishing, or worse, the economics of publishing. 

Some are ignoring the sharper saw because they're too focused on something else to see what you're offering.  Others have already decided it's a ping-pong paddle.

Hybrid OA journal deposits OA papers in PMC

The hybrid OA Bulletin of the History of Medicine now deposits its OA papers in PubMed Central.  Within 24 hours they are mirrored UK PubMed Central.  (Thanks to the UKPMC Blog.)

Redrawing the line between open and closed datasets

Charles Auffray, Sharing knowledge: a new frontier for public-private partnerships in medicine, Genome Medicine, March 4, 2009.  An editorial.   

Abstract:   To help overcome the bottlenecks that limit the development of diagnostic and therapeutic products, academic and industrial researchers, patient organizations and charities, and regulatory and funding institutions should redefine the basis for sharing the knowledge collected in large-scale clinical and experimental studies.

Access to the full text requires free registration.  Excerpt:

[W]e should look again at how knowledge can be shared between all the stakeholders, redefining the frontier between what can be the subject matter of valuable intellectual property rights and what is the basic knowledge that should be made freely available to all.

This is not a new issue. It was hotly debated at the beginning of the Human Genome Project (HGP), and for its entire duration in relation to competition between the public and private sectors. I suggested early on that the nucleic acid sequences collected on a genome scale should be considered as elements of description insufficient to warrant property rights by themselves in the absence of a genuine invention and should thus be placed in the public domain . A similar attitude was taken by the participants of the HGP in 1996, as expressed in the 'Bermuda rules', with the result that the openly accessible reference human genome sequence is now the common basis for current research. These proposals contributed to the 'Universal declaration on the human genome and human rights' adopted by the United Nations and its Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1997-1998....

The recent advent and rapid development of new generations of very-high-throughput DNA sequencing methods makes it now possible to foresee that in the next few years the sequencing and assembly of thousands of human genomes (and transcriptomes) will be achievable at a cost of $1,000 each or less, which is a projected decrease of almost a million-fold in less than ten years....

Public electronic repositories for these large-scale datasets, together with standards and open access publications for their description, have been important developments in the past decade for ensuring that they become available for further studies. However, despite requirements by prominent journals and funding agencies for submission of primary data as a condition for publication and financial support, recent surveys indicate variable compliance with these rules in both academia and industry. There is clearly room for significant improvements in this area if researchers are to take the best advantage of the large datasets produced....

All stakeholders should work together to identify topics and areas in which joint actions would improve the situation significantly in the short term.

I would like to suggest that one such topic is the status and availability of large amounts of underexploited experimental and clinical data in public and private laboratories....

Call for proposals on open data

JISC has issued a call for proposals on a series of Rapid Innovation Grants.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

Proposals are sought under the following priority areas:

  • Mashups of open data
  • Aggregating tags and feeds
  • Semantic web/ linked data
  • Data search...

Proposals are due at noon on April 22, 2009.

Milestone for RePEc, with an aside on how it works

Christian Zimmerman, 1000 archives participating in RePEc, RePEc Blog, March 10, 2009.  Excerpt:

With last week’s additions, RePEc is now carrying bibliographic data from over 1000 archives.

This is a good opportunity to give a reminder how data actually makes it to RePEc. Indeed, there is no staff at RePEc that would be inputing data, this is all provided directly from the publishers. These, be it commercial publishers, Economics department, research centers or central banks, put files at a predetermined address on their web or ftp server, following the Guildford protocol. These files follow a set syntax codified by ReDIF (Research Documents Information Format). The RePEc services then gather this bibliographic data on a regular schedule (typically every night) and display it to the public.

Thus, if you are a publisher and want something listed on RePEc, follow our step-by-step instructions. If you are an author unhappy that some of your works are missing, encourage your publisher(s) to participate. Alternatively have your institutions participate with its working papers (most publishers allow pre-prints or post-prints to be posted) or load your works up at the Munich Personal RePEc Archive.

RePEc for readers and authors in Bangladesh

Marco Novarese, Quentin Wodon, and Christian Zimmermann, Accessing economic research on Bangladesh, The Daily Star (of Dhaka), March 9, 2009.  (Thanks to Brendan Rapple.)  Excerpt:

A quiet revolution has taken place regarding access to economic research, and this revolution is especially important for economists in developing countries such as Bangladesh. Ten years ago, it would have been difficult for a Bangladeshi researcher or policy makers to benefit from easy access to the recent economics literature relevant to his/her job, be it related to monetary policy or the fight against poverty.

Due in part to a rapid increase in the number of economics journals, most libraries could not afford to carry print versions of the many specialised journals that are needed to keep abreast of development in one's field....

Today, by contrast, thanks to the power of the web, amazing resources are now available for free through websites such as SSRN (Social Science Research Network) or RePEc (Research Papers in Economics). RePEc is probably the website of choice for economists with (as of the end of February 2009) 712,000 items of interest. This includes 282,000 working papers, 422,000 journal articles, 1,700 software components, and 5,000 book and chapter listings. Some 19,300 authors are listed on the website, with their detailed contact information and publication listings. The site also includes 11,100 institutional contact listings.

Typing "Bangladesh" in the RePEc website generates about 1,000 hits in terms of economics papers related to the country. More than half of those papers are less than five year old and many are working papers which can be downloaded right away....

While sites such as RePEc should be of special interest to economists in developing countries because of the possibility of accessing a huge database of economics papers for free, it turns out that to this day, participation from developing countries to the RePEc effort remains limited....

This means that the work of Bangladeshi researchers, which is substantial, is not well disseminated. This does not need to be. First, Bangladeshi institutions that have working paper series can register the series with RePEc. Second, even when researchers belong to institutions without well-established working paper series, it is easy for the researchers not only to register with RePEC but also to post their work on the site through yet another tool -- the Munich Personal RePEc Archive, or MPRA.  MPRA accepts submissions of working papers from anybody in the world....

Thursday, March 12, 2009

OA chiropractic

FCER’s DCConsult Web Site now open access, ChiroEco, March 12, 2009.  Excerpt:

After carefully listening and reviewing member comments, the Foundation for Chiropractic Education and Research has opened its popular new DCConsult Web site to all at no cost. The former subscription only site has been revamped, with a new emphasis on the needs of the practicing clinician....

For the past two years, it has been the goal of the FCER’s Board of Trustees to provide easy access for the profession to the literature, articles, links, educational products, and more. DCConsult is now the globally recognized repository of such information....

OA to financial data through kaChing API

kaChing is offering OA to an array of financial data through its new API.  From yesterday's press release:

kaChing, home to 1,500 investors who generated positive returns in 2008..., today introduced the web’s first comprehensive financial application programming interface (API). Furthering kaChing’s open source approach to investing, the API provides individual investors free and open computer access to previously unavailable or expensive investment insight and data....

Dan Carroll, founder of kaChing, who has earned over 35% in the down market, [said], “History has shown that innovation is unleashed every time developers are given access to data that was previously only accessible manually.”

Investment data now accessible via the API includes real-time stock prices, insight into how kaChing’s best performing managers invest, user contributed research, performance attribution analyses, users’ trading histories and portfolio analytics....

Xignite’s Splice mash-up platform vastly expands the breadth of applications that can be built via the kaChing API by offering access to more than 700 financial market variables....

“Wall Street, hedge fund managers and professional investors operate in a very closed, secretive world, encoding their investment strategies into automated computer trading algorithms as a science that is designed to optimize the value of a trade,” said Michael Kearns, Professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania, and a foremost expert on algorithmic trading and ‘financial engineering.’ “kaChing is a radically different open approach with a critical mass of people transparently sharing all their investment information and ideas and generating a new type of data source that’s never before been available. With the API, third parties can have access to this unique data source from which they can codify and test new investment ideas like a volunteer army introducing valuable tools for quantitative trading from which we can all benefit.”

Wilbanks presentation at ETech

John Wilbanks, Uncommon Knowledge and Open Innovation: Building a Science Commons, presented at ETech 2009 (San Jose, Calif., March 9-12, 2009).

... What we are doing here is reducing the time and cost at which the Kuhnian revolution cycles operate – dumb ideas get exposed faster, and good ideas get validated faster. This is about the only way to accelerate those revolutions that does not rely on magical thinking: if we can make the things we know more useful in the evaluation of hypotheses and models, we are simply increasing the mathematical odds of discovery. This is the transformational potential. ...

See also Robert Kaye's notes on the presentation.

See also our past posts on John Wilbanks and Science Commons.

OA under German and EU law

Marcus Hirschfelder, Open Access - Grundlagen, internationale Vorgaben, rechtliche Umsetzbarkeit, JurPC, March 12, 2009.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)  Read it in German or Google's English.

Whether certain OA strategies are compatible with existing law in Germany and the EU, and whether any amendments are needed to implement them.

Update (3/13/09).  There's an active discussion taking place in the comment section of Eric Steinhauer's post on Hirschfelder's article at Wissenschaftsurheberrecht.  Read it in German or Google's English.

Semantic markup tool for Microsoft Word uses Science Commons ontologies

Word Add-in For Ontology Recognition is a new, free/open source add-in for Microsoft Word 2007 to add semantic information as XML mark-up using ontologies and controlled vocabularies, and to integrate manuscript content with existing public data repositories. See the Microsoft press release or coverage at O'Reilly; from the latter:
... [John] Wilbanks says that Science Commons has been working for several years to build up a library of these scientific entities. "What Microsoft has done is to build plugins that work essentially the same way you'd use spell check, they can check for the words in their paper that have hyperlinks in our open knowledge base, and then mark them up." ...

New European party supports OA

The Newropeans are a new trans-European political party planning to run candidates for the European Parliament from all 27 member states in the June 2009 elections.  Its platform includes support for OA:

Newropeans want International intellectual property policies adopted through democratic processes and with public interest participation. We promote alternative forms of licensing for creative material (such as Creative Commons licenses), open access to scientific publications and research results....

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

OA collection of high-res photos

Large Photos of Famous Places and Landscapes Now Available Free Online, press release, March 3, 2009. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

No need to pay for a high resolution shot of the Eiffel Tower, Grand Canyon, Golden Gate Bridge or a lovely sunset. Shots of these and numerous other famous landmarks, cities and places from around the world are now available free at

More than 2,600 images sized 4MP or larger are available through The site’s developer and manager, Roy Tennant of Sonoma, Calif., said, “The photos are free to individuals for personal use, but if they are used on a web site a photo credit and a link to the web site are required.” Commercial interests are charged $50 a shot if an image is used to sell a product or to promote a business or organization.” ...

The photographs are the work of Roy Tennant, Carol Bean, David Chudnov, Mike Kramer, Daniel Kunkel and Elena Tennant. ...

New version of VITAL repository software

VTLS Announces the Release of VITAL 4.0, press release, March 10, 2009. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)
VTLS is proud to announce the release of VITAL 4.0. VITAL is VTLS' solution for today's digital and institutional repositories. Designed to provide all functions of a repository VITAL provides capabilities to ingest, create, maintain, validate, uniquely identify, secure, preserve and export the contents of institutional collections. ...
See also our past posts on VITAL: 1, 2, 3, 4.

OA journals around the world

Heather Morrison, Open Access Journals: Around the World, and Top OA Publishing Countries, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, March 10, 2009.

As of March 10, 2009, the journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals are published in 97 different countries!

The top 6 OA-journal-producing countries are:

  • U.S. - 858 journals
  • Brazil - 370 journals
  • United Kingdom - 326 journals
  • Spain - 233 journals
  • Germany - 152 journals
  • Canada - 113 journals ...

Draft of Open Database License for comment

Open Database License Draft Available for Comments, Open Data Commons, February 27, 2009.

After more than a year of drafting and consultation with interested communities, especially Open Street Map, the current (beta) draft of the Open Database License (ODbL) was released for public comments today. We’re delighted to have reached this stage and welcome comments and suggestions from interested parties.

Comments are due by 23:59 GMT on 20 March 2009, with an expected launch of the completed ODbL on 28 March 2009. There is also:

Comment. The ODbL is, as Rufus Pollock describes it, the "Attribution, Share-Alike" data license. Compare the ODC's Public Domain Dedication and Licence, its "no rights reserved" license.

See also our past posts on Open Data Commons.

Interview with Dean Giustini

Elizabeth Connor, Interview with Dean Giustini, Biomedical Branch Librarian at the University of British Columbia, Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries, January 2009. See also Giustini's self-archived version. Abstract:
This interview with Dean Giustini of the University of British Columbia (UBC) describes his interest in various topics including Web 2.0, Web 3.0, grey literature, open access, and teaching and learning.
... [I]n its current form, the Web has made it increasingly difficult to explain scholarly publishing to undergraduates. Web 2.0 is anarchic and revolutionary, which is both a strength and a weakness in terms of bibliographic control. In addition, the rise of open-access journals and the changing notion of what makes a "journal article" have made the Web landscape more complex and harder to explain. ...
See also our past posts on Giustini.

Profile of Brewster Kahle

The internet's librarian, The Economist, March 5, 2009.

For a man who has set himself a seemingly impossible mission, Brewster Kahle seems remarkably laid back. Relaxing in the black leather recliner that serves as his office chair, his stockinged feet wriggling with evident enthusiasm, the founder of the Internet Archive explains what has driven him for more than a decade. “We are trying to build Alexandria 2.0,” says Mr Kahle with a wide-eyed, boyish grin. ...

Mr Kahle is an unostentatious millionaire who does not “wear his money on clothes”, as one acquaintance graciously puts it. But behind his dishevelled demeanour is a skilled technologist, an ardent activist and a successful serial entrepreneur. Having founded and sold technology companies to AOL and Amazon, he has now devoted himself to building a non-profit digital archive of free materials—books, films, concerts and so on—to rival the legendary Alexandrian library of antiquity. ...

He founded the non-profit Internet Archive and, with a former colleague, co-founded a firm called Alexa that tracks and analyses the paths people follow as they move around the web, in order to direct people with similar interests to relevant information. Amazon bought Alexa for an estimated $250m in 1999. Mr Kahle continued to work on Alexa until 2002, but then dedicated himself fully to the Internet Archive.

The most famous part of the archive is the Wayback Machine (its name inspired by the WABAC machine in the 50-year-old television cartoon featuring Rocky and Bullwinkle). This online attic of digital memorabilia stores copies of internet sites so that people can see, for example, what looked like in January 1997. ...

In addition to this archive of web pages there is also an audio library with more than 300,000 MP3 files, a moving-images archive with more than 150,000 films and videos, and a live-music archive with recordings of more than 60,000 concerts. All the collections are available free to anyone with internet access, each gathering its own set of fans. ...

But all these things are steps towards Mr Kahle’s wider goal: to build the world’s largest digital library. He has recruited 135 libraries worldwide to, the aim of which is to create a catalogue of every book ever published, with links to its full text where available. To that end, the Internet Archive is also digitising books on a large scale on behalf of its library partners. It scans more than 1,000 books every day, for which the libraries pay about $30 each. (The digital copy can then be made available by both parties.) ...

Mr Kahle is taking a very long-term view. Universal online access to all knowledge may not be “a goal that is going to be finished in our lifetime,” says Mr Kahle. “But if you pick a goal far enough out, people can align to it. I am not interested in building an empire. Our idea is to build the future.”

See also our past posts on:

Podcast interview with OCLC VP

JISC, OCLC’s Vice President talks libraries, the future and learning, podcast (24:17), March 9, 2009.
... In this podcast interview OCLC’s Vice President Karen Calhoun talks to Robert Haymon-Collins, JISC’s Director of Communications and Marketing, to discuss what her organisation does in the field of providing digital content for learning and research, and how improved access to this well-catalogued knowledge can help improve the student experience – a key theme of this year's JISC conference. Calhoun also clarifies OCLC’s recent proposed policy changes concerning the use of OCLC records, an issue that has generated lively debate within the library and information communities both in the UK and further afield.
See also this announcement:

... Calhoun says: ‘Libraries have the opportunity now…to support new forms of scholarly information dissemination through the open access movement, through repositories, and in a number of ways but this means of course adopting technologies and approaches that require the interfaces between the scholarly community and libraries to be much tighter and more interactive.’

In tune with the findings of the recent JISC-commissioned report on Open Access publishing, Calhoun believes that a cultural shift is needed, away from finding research value merely in the creation and control of data. She says: ‘We need to transition to making the value come from the exchange and the linking of data.’ ...

Slowdown in STM market will encourage move to OA

Archan Venkatraman, STM growth takes hit, Information World Review, March 9, 2009.

The European scientific, technical and medical information market grew 4.5% in 2008, its weakest year-on-year figure since 2001, according to the latest IRN Research report. But the market remains upbeat, and focused on consolidation and flexibility to survive the downturn. ...

Robert Parker, managing director for publishing at Research Councils UK, was also optimistic about the sector. He said the large European STM players had enough reserves to see them through lean times.

He added: “The emerging methods of information output and sharing, such as open access and social networking, will also have an impact on the role of leading players as they will increasingly embrace these new models to maintain their market share.” ...

Report on IRs in Spain

Remedios Melero, at al., Situación de los repositorios institucionales en España: informe 2009, report, March 2009. (Thanks to Carolina De Volder.) The first in a proposed series of reports on IRs in Spain.

Will OA progress lead to Pyrrhic victory?

Richard Poynder, Open Access: Whom would you back?  Open and Shut? March 10, 2009.  This is a long article making a sustained argument.  I can't excerpt enough of it to show the full argument without trespassing too far on Richard's good will.  So I'll start with a short excerpt setting the stage and then in my comments quote individual sentences to which I'd like to respond.  Excerpt:

...[A]s the OA movement has developed an interesting question has arisen: should Green and Gold OA be viewed as concurrent or consecutive activities?

This is not an issue of intellectual curiosity alone: it has important strategic implications for the OA movement. It requires, for instance, that the movement decides whether to treat Green and Gold OA as complementary or competitive activities; and if they are competitive, then where the OA movement should focus its main efforts.

Speaking to me in 2007,...Peter Suber took a characteristic "big tent" approach: The two forms of OA, he said are complementary, and should be developed in tandem.

In this way, Suber believes, the OA movement will maximise its chances of success, and achieve OA more quickly. As he put it, "OA archiving and OA journals are complementary and need to proceed simultaneously, much as an organism develops its nervous system and digestive system simultaneously and cannot do one first and the other second."

By contrast, OA advocate and self-styled archivangelist Stevan Harnad views the two roads as competitive. Moreover, he says, Green OA must prevail before the movement puts any significant effort into Gold OA.

This is important, he argues, not only because Green OA can be achieved much more quickly and easily than Gold OA, but because it will force publishers to downsize, and so squeeze unnecessary costs out of the current system of scholarly communication....


  • "[I]t seems that Gold OA could marginalise, and eventually overtake, Green OA."  I didn't see the argument for this conclusion.  Richard gives us a wealth of detail on the rise of gold OA, but I didn't see him tie it back to this thesis and show that those developments are setbacks for green OA. 
  • "Hybrid OA was set to become...a tool that would enable publishers to infiltrate the movement, and appropriate Gold OA. And today it looks as though it could defang the OA movement at large."  I saw no evidence for this statement either.  Again, Richard documents the spread of hybrid OA.  But I didn't see him argue that hybrid OA was harming green OA or non-hybrid gold OA. 
  • "[W]hile most subscription publishers had by now agreed to sanction author self-archiving (for political reasons alone), they invariably insisted on an embargo period, from six to twelve months, sometimes longer."  I believe this is untrue.  Publishers who insist on an embargo for green OA are still a small minority of publishers who allow green OA.  We shouldn't confuse publisher permission policies, which generally do not use embargoes, with funder OA policies, which generally do use embargoes. 
  • Richard identifies two stages in the "publishers' strategy to ambush the OA movement".  Note that he's talking about OA publishers here (full or hybrid OA), not TA publishers.  Stage one is the advent of institutional memberships.  Stage two is the sort of deal Springer struck with the Max Planck Society and the U of California to build publication fees for affiliated authors into the cost of subscriptions.  Richard shows that some membership fees have been high enough that some institutions dropped them, though of course other institutions retained theirs.  He also shows that the Max Planck model (actually, first used by Springer with a Dutch library consortium and the U of Goettingen) allows Springer to continue charging for subscriptions.  But both strategies have their advantages, for OA and not just for Springer --primarily in paying for gold OA without making authors pay out of pocket.  These advantages may coexist with disadvantages, but I didn't see an argument that they net out as an "ambush [of] the OA movement". 
  • Richard seems to assume that Max Planck is paying significantly more for subscriptions, now that author-side publication fees are built in, than it paid before.  But I don't know whether that's true and would like to see some evidence, either from Max Planck or from the other institutions where Springer has struck a similar deal (Universiteitsbibliotheken en de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, U of Goettingen, or U of California).  I'm not criticizing Richard for omitting this evidence.  It may be unavailable.  But if the new model covers reader-side and author-side access at the same time, and does so without a significant increase, then it might be closer to a bargain than an ambush.
  • "The upshot is that publishers now appear to be well positioned to migrate to an OA environment, without any significant impact on their profits, and without having demonstrated that their prices are justified."  It's one thing to worry about whether gold OA prices are justified.  But it's another to worry that gold OA publishers might be making profits.  The goal of the OA movement --to me-- is to provide OA to a larger and larger body of research literature, not to put publishers out of business.  (As I put it in my OA overview, "The consequences may or may not overlap --this is contingent-- but the purposes do not overlap.")  We should worry about excessive prices for gold OA, but we should also worry about the inverse problem of insufficient revenues.  Part of the solution is to show that gold OA can be profitable --which has now been done by Hindawi, Medknow, the Optical Society of America, BMC, and PLoS ONE.  We will never develop gold OA across all disciplines and countries without harnessing self-interest. 
  • While we explore the many gold OA business models, and look for ways to make the revenues high enough to cover expenses without excluding authors, it's critical to remember one thing.  Green OA doesn't face these problems, can be achieved faster and at lower cost than gold OA, and is not undermined by the progress of gold OA.
  • Richard seems to agree on the urgency, speed, and efficiency of green OA, but he seems not to agree that it's under no threat from gold OA.  Indeed, like Stevan Harnad, Richard may think the virtues of green OA make it unnecessary to pursue gold OA at all, or unnecessary to pursue gold OA until green is further along.  But that's where we diverge.  We should pursue both at once, and I still haven't seen a good reason not to.  For a short version of the argument, see Richard's interview with me from 2007:

    [p. 51] PS:...I do know, from talking to policy-makers, that OA journals do help the case for OA archiving. Everyone wants to be reassured that OA peer-review providers exist before they put toll-access peer-review providers at risk....Green is not sufficient. It hasn't caused journal cancellations in physics but it might cause journal cancellations in other fields, eventually, as OA archiving rates approach 100%. If so, then we'll need OA peer-review providers to replace the TA peer-review providers overthrown by OA archiving. By the way, Stevan acknowledges this too, and it's perfectly consistent for him to do so.

    [p. 50] RP: As we also discussed, Harnad's argument is that we need to prioritise self-archiving because it is a much quicker way of achieving open access. Is he right?

    PS: He's right that it's quicker, and that's a good reason to pursue it. But it doesn't stand alone, and that's a good reason not to pursue it alone.

  • Richard points out that institutional memberships shield researchers from the costs of publishing, just as subscriptions do, and in that sense do not change the situation in which "the scholarly journal market...[has] little or no mechanism for restraining prices."  I agree with the first half but not the second.  As more OA journals charge publication fees or institutional memberships, there's a good reason to think that competition will keep prices within bounds.  I say this even though I know that we've never seen serious price competition among subscription journals.  Subscription journals don't compete on price because they don't compete for readers.  They don't compete for readers because they are not fungible.  This is a fact about all journals, not just TA journals.  Because different journals publish different papers, you must gain access to the ones you need even if they are expensive and even if there are free or affordable journals in the same field.  But journals in the same field do compete for authors, even if they don't compete for readers.  Again, this is a fact about all journals, not just TA journals.  When OA journals charge publication fees or institutional memberships, the prices function as barriers to authors, not to readers.  As soon as we shift costs from the reader side to the author side, then, we create market pressure to keep them low enough to attract rather than deter authors.  This may look like a technical detail.  But I think it goes to the heart of Richard's argument.  If he's right that the transition from TA journals to OA journals will not reduce prices, then he's right that it could eventually exclude authors and be a Pyrrhic victory.   But precisely because high prices in an OA world would exclude authors, and not merely readers, there is a natural, market-based check on excessive prices.  BTW, I'm not saying that these market forces will keep prices within reach of all authors (as opposed to a sufficient set of authors), or that they are already at work; we may need to see many more OA journals in the same fields before price competition emerges. 
  • It's relevant to point out here that most OA journals charge no publication fees or institutional memberships at all.  I've argued that even fee-based gold OA is not the threat that Richard seems to think.  But even if I'm entirely wrong about that:  fee-based gold OA is a minority of gold OA, and no-fee gold OA doesn't pose any of the threats that Richard describes.
  • "This suggests that it may be time to push for a more radical revolution than currently envisaged by OA advocates; one focused more broadly than the issue of access alone. Perhaps it is time to re-engineer the entire scholarly communication process? If peer review has become a hostage to fortune, for instance, is it not time to try and wrest the task of managing it back from publishers?"  Two quick responses:  (1) Peer review is only a hostage to fortune at very expensive journals.  Hence, it matters whether OA journals will compete on price in their effort to compete for authors, and it's relevant that most OA journals charge no publication fees.  (2) Many OA advocates, for example, Stevan Harnad and myself, envision and even recommend the decoupling of peer review from distribution.  Research literature would still be peer-reviewed, but not by "publishers" so much as editorial boards which may be entirely unaffiliated with publishers.  Distribution could take place through any of several OA channels, including institutional repositories.  Some OA advocates recommend this decoupling independently of their interest in OA; some recommend it as a condition of further OA progress; and some merely predict it as an effect of further OA progress.  It is emerging, perhaps slowly, as a natural consequence of the internet; the rapid drop in the cost of online distribution means that editorial boards can perform their essential function without working with publishers.  We can accelerate this decoupling at any time.  But in the meantime, it's important to keep our eyes on the prize:  OA itself.  Many OA advocates are deeply concerned to reform scholarly communication in ways that go far beyond the removal of access barriers.  But there are reasons to make these efforts secondary rather than primary, or parallel rather than unified:  to avoid giving the impression that OA depends on peer-review reform, to assemble a coalition of stakeholders who agree on the need for OA even if they disagree on other reforms, and simply to accelerate progress --because nearly all of the most exciting reforms depend on OA itself.
  • One general point in conclusion:  I never saw the need to distance the access problem from the affordability problem.  It's true that they are separate problems in the sense that we could solve the access problem without solving the affordability problem (e.g. with expensive OA journals).  That is the prospect which alarms Richard.  But the urgency of solving the affordability problem has given the OA movement some of its most stalwart allies and most enduring incentives.  If Richard is saying that we should address both problems at once, I fully agree, though we may differ in some of our reasons.  We should address both at once in part to avoid the Pyrrhic victory Richard describes, in part to recruit and retain indispensable allies, and above all to apply a very elegant solution (complementary green and gold OA) to a very serious problem.

Update (3/12/09).  Also see the comments of Ivy Anderson, including her insider details on the deal between Springer and the U of California.

Update (3/17/09). Also see the comments of Steven Hall, a publishing consultant formerly with Blackwell, ProQuest, and Chadwyck-Healey.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Congress makes NIH policy permanent (but for Conyers bill)

Andrew Albanese, In 2009 Appropriations Bill, NIH Public Access Mandate Would Become Permanent, Library Journal, March 10, 2009.  Excerpt:

When it comes to legislation, a word or phrase can make a big difference. However, one word ("thereafter") tucked into current federal appropriations bill, now before the Senate after passing the House in late February, would make the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) public access policy, enacted last year, permanent. The Senate is expected to pass the bill as early as today.

In the section funding the NIH, section 217, pertaining to public access, reads:
“The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require in the current fiscal year and thereafter [emphasis added] that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.”

If passed intact, the language would solidify a major victory for open access advocates. The battle over public access, however, will likely not be over. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has re-introduced HR 801, the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act —a bill that would undo the NIH policy— and forbid all future policies like that policy.


  • Albanese wrote about the Senate action in the future tense.  But the NY Times just reported that the Senate has since voted and approved the bill.  President Obama has said he will sign it tomorrow.  If we disregard present and future iterations of the Conyers bill, then the President's signature will make the NIH policy permanent.  Yes, this is big.
  • But we can't overlook the Conyers bill.  As I read it, the Conyers bill could still repeal the NIH policy and block similar policies at other federal agencies.  Hence, vigilance and opposition are still imperative.  The real gain from today's vote is that if we can defeat the Conyers bill, the NIH policy won't need renewal next year or any other year.
  • I should add that even without today's vote, the NIH might have been able to continue its policy on its own authority, without a directive from Congress.  If so, it has an ace to keep up its administrative sleeve.  But the Congressional directive is still very good news.

Update (3/11/09). Obama did sign the bill. It's law.

Update (3/11/09). Also see Gavin Baker's comments.

Update (3/12/09).  Also see the press release from the ATA:

President Obama yesterday signed into law the 2009 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which includes a provision making the National Institutes’ of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy permanent....

The NIH policy was previously implemented with a provision that was subject to annual renewal. Since the implementation of the revised policy the percentage of eligible manuscripts deposited into PMC has increased significantly, with over 3,000 new manuscripts being deposited each month. The PubMed Central database is a part of a valuable set of public database resources at the NIH, which are accessed by more than 2 million users each day.

The new provision reads in full:

The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require in the current fiscal year and thereafter that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

..."Public access to publicly funded research contributes directly to the mission of higher education,” said David Shulenburger, Vice President for Academic Affairs at NASULGC (the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges). “Improved access will enable universities to maximize their own investment in research, and widen the potential for discovery as the results are more readily available for others to build upon.”

Heather Joseph, spokesperson for the Alliance for Taxpayer Access noted, “Thanks to the work of a wide coalition of patients, libraries, researchers, publishers, students, and taxpayers, the results of NIH-funded research can be accessed – and used - in ways never before possible. The successful implementation of this policy will unlock the potential of this research to benefit the public as a whole.”


New network on research, education, and business

A new knowledge network devoted to the changing role of information in scholarly research, higher education and business practice, announcement posted to SPARC-OAForum, March 7, 2009.

Knowledge & Library Services at Harvard Business School and the Library at Copenhagen Business School are launching an international network of professionals interested in understanding the changing role of information (both tacit and explicit)– its creation, management, dissemination and use– in scholarly research, higher education and business practice. The primary goal of the network is to identify and discuss important emerging trends in a forum composed of subject matter experts from a variety of disciplines.

The network is called the “Global Knowledge Exchange Network” (GKEN). Its members will select areas of interest and form groups to address them. As a start, we have proposed four areas: Scholarly Communications and Open Access, Research Metrics, Cyberinfrastructure and Information Behavior. Each group is expected to identify developing trends within its subject, discuss them among its members, write trend briefings and, finally, predict the likelihood of the trends using prediction markets. Given the interaction, we expect that each member will gain and create significant new knowledge.

If you are interested in participating, please email Gosia Stergios ...

Toward standards for article usage statistics

PIRUS — Publisher and Institutional Repository Usage Statistics: Final Report, report, January 2009. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.) From the executive summary:
The aim of PIRUS (Publisher and Institutional Repository Usage Statistics) was to develop COUNTER-compliant standards and usage reports at the individual article level that can be implemented by any entity (publisher, aggregator, repository, etc.,) that hosts online journal articles and will enable the usage of research outputs to be recorded, reported and consolidated at a global level in a standard way. ...
See also our past post on PIRUS or our past posts on COUNTER (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9).

Briefing paper on Science Commons

The JISC-funded Digital Curation Centre released on March 3 an overview of Science Commons as part of its Legal Watch Papers series. Papers in the series are OA. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

See also our past post on the Legal Watch paper on Creative Commons licensing.

Expanding access to OA content in developing countries

Liz Allen, Expanding the outreach of PLoS content in the developing world, Public Library of Science, March 6, 2009.

... We brainstormed the possibility of setting up quick to download mirror sites in various locations ...

PLoS has been working with AED-SATELLIFE for a several years, providing them with content that they disseminate to health care workers using largely non web based techniques such as PDA’s, email chat forums and newsletters. Nearly 100,000 individuals in 120 countries share knowledge and build healthier communities thanks to their work. They have been using the freely accessible online research and magazine articles from PLoS Medicine in their e-newsletter called HealthNet News available to those who live in developing countries only.

Now, we've decided to work more closely together and bring another of our journals, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases into the mix. In addition, we're going to be giving advance notice of upcoming articles to them so that they can pick the most appropriate content to share in their forums, both an overview of the article in plain English and a link to the full text of the whole article (available at no charge thanks to Open Access). We’re promoting the new arrangements in their forums and hope that the additional content that we provide will stimulate debate and improve health care outcomes on the ground. ...

Charlotte Webber, BioMed Central undertakes large fundraising drive for Computer Aid in 2009, BioMed Central Blog, February 24, 2009.

As part of our ongoing commitment to promoting open access in the developing world, BioMed Central has teamed up with Computer Aid International to support research in Africa. We have chosen to support Kenyatta University in Nairobi to help local scientists conduct vital research directly relevant to local problems in one of the poorest parts of Africa. Many of the university’s academics have been published in open access journals, including those from BioMed Central.

In common with most African universities, however, Kenyatta cannot afford new computers – meaning that academics cannot get the access time that they need for researching and preparing papers. We’re partnering with Computer Aid International, who provide affordable professionally refurbished PCs to the developing world, to resolve this problem.

We aim to raise £10,760 in order to provide a container of 225 PCs to the university – enough to give all research departments their own dedicated suite of computers and guarantee that the university’s 720 research staff all get the IT access that they need. ...

You can make a contribution to this project today - in return for your support we promise to let you know how your money is spent and update you on progress of the project. ...

Campaign for OA to UK tax-funded research

Free Our Books (or Free Our Books and Research Papers) is a new campaign for OA to taxpayer-funded research in the UK, to be launched at the Internet For Activists conference (London, March 14, 2009). (Thanks to infinite thØught.)

... We, the citizens, through the state, pay for the production of academic books and research papers twice, first through salaries and research grants, and second through the purchase of books and journal subscriptions. This is how the the most fundamental principles of academia, to study and to share its findings, are obstructed, and its operation is made far more expensive and cumbersome. Good news is that this has been partially recognised and Research Councils UK (RCUK) has pushed hard (2005) in the direction of both mandatory self archiving (2006) of all research outputs and open access in general.

When it comes to books, the argument, however, isn't as simple and as straight forwad as in the case of Guardian's campaign Free Our Data - whose name we're reusing. Nor has it been problematised widely, like it has been in the case of journals and RCUK recommendations. Significant contribution of editors, subeditors, proofreaders and other working on texts being produced (wages) and personal gain of authors of best selling works (share of sales) complicates the issue. In short, open access and self-archiving of publicly funded books, whose importance for social sciences and humanities is enormous (unlike in physics and maths) is yet to be widely discussed and there aren't immidiately obvious solutions visible. That is, unless we treat books, as we think we should, as just another form of research output - both when funded directly by one of RCUK councils, or by the individual universities. ...

The direct goal of the campaign is to have electronic copies of all the majority publicly funded research, including all books and journal papers, available to citizens free of charge online. ...

Mandatory self-archiving at the time of publishing is one way to achieve this. ...

Physics and maths research communities have made huge steps in this direction ( in regard to journal publishing, which is their most important publishing form ...

We have a unique historic chance of reversing the trend of privatization of publicly funded knowledge production. Our strongest arguments are public funds behind our work and our departments and collective work within them. ...

In UK, we can use the experiences of Free Our Data campaign. Most importantly, we need to get our institutions to commit to a self-archiving policy. On the Europeran level, we should sign the EC petition [supporting a policy] which mandates open access self-archiving ...

OA and the business of academic publishing

Glenn S. McGuigan and Robert D. Russell, The Business of Academic Publishing: A Strategic Analysis of the Academic Journal Publishing Industry and its Impact on the Future of Scholarly Publishing, Electronic Journal of Academic and Special Librarianship, Winter 2008. (Thanks to Michael Nielsen.) Abstract:
Academic libraries cannot pay the regularly escalating subscription prices for scholarly journals. These libraries face a crisis that has continued for many years revealing a commercial system that supports a business model that has become unsustainable. This paper examines the “serials crisis,” as it has come to be known, and the economics of the academic journal publishing industry. By identifying trends within the industry, an analysis of the industry is undertaken using elements of the five forces framework developed by Michael Porter. Prescriptions are offered concerning what can be done and what should be done to address this problem.
From the body:

... A more radical initiative for the academic libraries would be to strongly support the open access (OA) movement for disseminating scholarly works via the internet. ...

The expansion of online OA publishing for academic journals could have enormous long term consequences for the academic publishing industry. Just as the emergence of WIKIs [sic] and blogs greatly expanded opportunities for social and political commentary, the production and distribution of scientific knowledge could be greatly enhanced by the emergence of online OA journals. Not only would publication of scholarly articles be facilitated, but opportunities for serving on editorial boards would also be greatly expanded. The broader opportunities for publishing and editorial review offered by OA journals could contribute to the end of the Babylonian priesthoods that characterize the editorial review boards of too many of the most prestigious academic journals and lead to a flowering of innovation and knowledge creation among academic researchers.

The expansion OA publishing would have the advantage of facilitating the emergence of smaller, more specialized academic journals. As has been discussed, these journals are often squeezed out of library budgets by the burgeoning costs of the larger journals published by for-profit firms. OA publishing offers a low cost alternative for producing specialized journals as well as providing easy access to potential readers anywhere in the world.

The proliferation of online OA journals in combination with aggressive consortia licensing would significantly alter the current business model of academic journal publishing. The creation of OA electronic journals is a form of entry into the academic publishing industry. By multiplying the number of journals available not under the control of for-profit publishers, OA publishing would increase competition within the industry as well as increase the bargaining power of academic libraries and faculty authors. As the use of e-journals becomes more accepted, traditional publishers would most likely be forced to change their role. Rather than acting as oligopolists that profit by controlling access to a small number of prestigious journals, they may be forced to act as agents of the libraries, negotiating with journal providers and packaging e-journals as requested by the libraries. The publishers would retain a degree of bargaining power based on their control of the larger, more prestigious journals. Their power, however, would be lessened by the unbundling of the electronic and bound journals as well as the increased opportunity of faculty to publish in alternative electronic journals.

In order for the new business model to work, four conditions must be present: (1) academic libraries must be prepared to make the leap to primarily online sources for much of their current serials collection; (2) faculty must accept the new online journals as valid sources for new knowledge as well as credible outlets for their own scholarly work; (3) the new electronic journals must implement a credible review process and form high quality editorial review boards, and; (4) colleges and universities must accept the new electronic journals as valid in their promotion and tenure process. Although the technology exists to make online OA journals a reality, the cultural changes in the value system of the professoriate and academic administrators required to change the business model of academic publishing may prove to be a difficult challenge. ...

E-print depositing behavior in physics and astronomy

Hamid R. Jamali and David Nicholas, E-print depositing behavior of physicists and astronomers: An intradisciplinary study, Journal of Academic Librarianship, forthcoming. Only this abstract is free online, at least so far:
This article investigates the e-print depositing behavior of physicists and astronomers. Fifty-six PhD students and staff at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University College London were interviewed. A survey was also carried out (47.1% response rate). The study investigates the relation between variables such as research area, type of research (theoretical, experimental and so on), and the amount of reading on the patterns of e-print depositing. The findings showed that clear intradisciplinary differences exist among different subfields of physics and astronomy.
Update. See also the OA self-archived version.

Impact factors and journal prices: no apparent correlation

Bill Hooker has used Elsevier data to show that there is "no apparent correlation between IF [impact factor] and price."  Excerpt:

...Interesting, no? If the primary measure of a journal's value is its impact -- pretty layouts and a good Employment section and so on being presumably secondary -- and if the Impact Factor is a measure of impact, and if publishers are making a good faith effort to offer value for money -- then why is there no apparent relationship between IF and journal prices? After all, publishers tout the Impact Factors of their offerings whenever they're asked to justify their prices or the latest round of increases in same.

There's even some evidence from the same dataset that Impact Factors do influence journal pricing, at least in a "we can charge more if we have one" kinda way. Comparing the prices of journals with or without IFs indicates that, within this Elsevier/Life Sciences set, journals with IFs are higher priced and less variable in price....

Comment.  Also see White and Creaser 2007, which showed little correlation between price and impact factor.  Bergstrom and Bergstrom 2004 showed that journal prices are either unrelated to citation impact or inversely related to it:

[L]ibraries typically must pay 4 to 6 times as much per page for journals owned by commercial publishers as for journals owned by non-profit societies. These differences in price do not reflect differences in the quality of the journals [as measured by citations]. In fact the commercial journals are on average less cited than the non-profits and the average cost per citation of commercial journals ranges from 5 to 15 times as high as that of their non-profit counterparts.

Update (3/10/09).  Also see Part 2 of Bill's investigation.  Excerpt:

Following on from this post, and in the spirit of eating my own dogfood, herewith the first part of my analysis of the U Cali OSC dataset.

The dataset includes some 3137 titles with accompanying information about publisher, list price, ISI impact factor, UC online uses and average annual price increase; these measures are defined here. The spreadsheet and powerpoint files I used to make the figures below are available here: spreadsheet, ppt.

As a first pass, I've simply made pairwise comparisons between impact factor, price and online use. There's no apparent correlation between impact factor and price, for either the full set or a subset defined by IF and price cutoffs designed to remove "extremes"....

One other thing that stands out is the cluster of Elsevier journals in the high-price, low-impact quadrant, and the Nature groupsmaller cluster of NPG's highest IF titles at the opposite extreme....

Next I asked whether there was any clearer connection between price and online uses aggregated over all UC campuses....[Answer:] Again, not so much....

Finally (for the moment) I played the Everest ("because it's there") card and plotted use against impact factor....The relationship here is still weak, but noticeably stronger than for the other two comparisons -- particularly once we eliminate the Nature outlier....

Document summarizing software harnessing Wikipedia

Krishnan Ramanathan and three co-authors, Document summarization using Wikipedia, a technical report from HP Labs, February 21, 2009.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Abstract:   Although most of the developing world is likely to first access the Internet through mobile phones, mobile devices are constrained by screen space, bandwidth and limited attention span. Single document summarization techniques have the potential to simplify information consumption on mobile phones by presenting only the most relevant information contained in the document. In this paper we present a language independent single-document summarization method. We map document sentences to semantic concepts in Wikipedia and select sentences for the summary based on the frequency of the mapped-to concepts. Our evaluation on English documents using the ROUGE package indicates our summarization method is competitive with the state of the art in single document summarization.

Comment.  I've written a few times about document summarizing software, and how useful it will be when there is more OA literature to sic it on.  But this is the first time I've seen any sign that the software could actually use OA literature to guide and improve the summaries, the way statistical machine translation software uses OA literature to guide and improve translations.  Neat. 

There's a nice positive feedback loop here:  The more OA literature we have, the better this software will work, and the better it works, the more it supports what I call the software strategy for OA by creating new incentives to make even more work OA.

Nearly 24,000 "free e-journals" listed at Nottingham Trent U

The e-journal database at Nottingham Trent University lists 23,971 "free e-journals".  (Thanks to J.W. Fletcher.)


  • That's more than six times the number (3,914) listed today in the DOAJ.  But the DOAJ is limited to peer-reviewed journals, and it seems unlikely that the Nottingham-Trent list shares that limitation.  It's also five times the number (4,793) listed today in Open J-Gate, and and Open J-Gate includes more than 2,100 non-peer-reviewed journals.  The Nottingham-Trent collection is even larger than EZB, which today lists 21,101 free e-journals and is not limited to peer-reviewed journals.  If anyone can shed light on the criteria defining the Nottingham-Trent list, please drop me a line or post a note to SOAF.
  • If you look closely at the Nottingham-Trent list and wonder what SFX is, the MIT Libraries have some good background.

Publishers push back against Houghton report

Peter Williams, Publishers denounce JISC open access report, Information World Review, March 9, 2009.  Excerpt:

Professor John Houghton of Victoria University in Melbourne and Professor Charles Oppenheim of Loughborough University led the research.

Three models were examined: subscription or toll access (reader charges and use restrictions), OA publishing (where publication is author-funded), and OA self-archiving (where academic authors post their work in free online repositories).

The study estimated that core scholarly publishing in total cost the UK higher education sector just under £5bn in 2007, and that the three models could save the sector hundreds of millions of pounds.

Houghton said greater accessibility to research could result in £172m worth of benefits a year to UK plc from government and higher education sector research alone.

In a joint statement, publishing associations PA, ALPSP and STM said: “OA publishing in all its variants is the subject of a series of experiments already running with our membership. Claims that if adopted universally an exclusively OA business model would generate large savings in the system costs for scholarly communication in the UK in our view remain unproven.”

JISC said it wanted to stimulate debate and would meet publishers shortly.

PS:  Also see my post on the Houghton report, which includes longer excerpts from its findings.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Another society opposes the NIH policy without consulting its members

Thomas Walker, an entomologist at the U of Florida, discovered that his (unnamed) professional society took a position against the NIH policy without consulting the members.  In a recent letter it asked members to sign a petition in support of DC Principles Coalition, an organization which lobbies against the NIH policy and in favor of the Conyers bill.

Walker would like to know whether other societies taking similar steps.

PS:  I've often seen society publishers take a public stance against the NIH policy or FRPAA without apparently consulting their members.  See examples from 2006, 2007, 2008. Also see our past posts on Walker.

Keeping the Google fair-use question alive

Kate M. Manuel, The Google Library Project: Is Digitization for Purposes of Online Indexing Fair Use Under Copyright Law?  A CRS Report from the Congressional Research Service, February 5, 2009.  From the summary:

The Google Book Search Library Project, announced in December 2004, raised important questions about infringing reproduction and fair use under copyright law. Google planned to digitize, index, and display “snippets” of print books in the collections of five major libraries without the permission of the books’ copyright holders, if any. Authors and publishers owning copyrights to these books sued Google in September and October 2005, seeking to enjoin and recover damages for Google’s alleged infringement of their exclusive rights to reproduce and publicly display their works. Google and proponents of its Library Project disputed these allegations. They essentially contended that Google’s proposed uses were not infringing because Google allowed rights holders to “opt out” of having their books digitized or indexed. They also argued that, even if Google’s proposed uses were infringing, they constituted fair uses under copyright law. The arguments of the parties and their supporters highlighted several questions of first impression. First, does an entity conducting an unauthorized digitization and indexing project avoid committing copyright infringement by offering rights holders the opportunity to “opt out,” or request removal or exclusion of their content? Is requiring rights holders to take steps to stop allegedly infringing digitization and indexing like requiring rights holders to use meta-tags to keep search engines from indexing online content? Or do rights holders employ sufficient measures to keep their books from being digitized and indexed online by publishing in print? Second, can unauthorized digitization, indexing, and display of “snippets” of print works constitute a fair use? Assuming unauthorized indexing and display of “snippets” are fair uses, can digitization claim to be a fair use on the grounds that apparently prima facie infringing activities that facilitate legitimate uses are fair uses?

On October 28, 2008, Google, authors, and publishers announced a proposed settlement, which, if approved by the court, could leave these and related questions unanswered. However, although a court granted preliminary approval to the settlement on November 17, 2008, final approval is still pending. Until final approval is granted, any rights holder belonging to the proposed settlement class—which includes “all persons having copyright interests in books” in the United States— could object to the agreement. The court could also reject the agreement as unfair, unreasonable, or inadequate. Moreover, even assuming final court approval, future cases may raise similar questions about infringing reproduction and fair use.

PS:  I haven't had time to read the whole report, but it appears that Manuel summarizes the issues raised by the question, and some criteria from the Copyright Act and case law, without offering an opinion.

OA "in question" for NRC Research Press journals

Andre Vellino, Open Access for Canadian Scientific Publishing at Risk, Ethical Dilemmas, March 7, 2009.  Excerpt:

One consequence of the privatization of the NRC Research Press and its separation from CISTI (Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information) is the risk that Canada’s largest academic science publisher will no longer be able to sustain its Open Access publishing policy.  Currently, the home page of the NRC Research Press informs us that:

NRC Research Press journals are compliant with open access policies of top international granting bodies, including the US National Institutes of Health, the Wellcome Trust, the UK Medical Research Council, the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale in France, and others. The Press allows authors extensive rights to archive pre-prints and post-prints of their manuscripts (6 months after publication). According to the SHERPA project on open access, NRC Research Press is a “green” publisher, offering authors the highest level of archiving rights.

However, the message that the Director General of CISTI has sent out to stakeholders [February 26, 2009] states:

Free electronic access to Research press journals for Canadians is in question due to the projected loss of DSP support.

“DSP” refers to the Government of Canada’s Depository Services Program whose mission is

to ensure that Canadians have ready and equal access to federal government information.

So while it is likely that a privatized Research Press will aim to stay as “Open” as possible, it may no longer be able to afford “free access” to Canadians for the content it publishes....

PS:  NRC Research Press publishes 17 journals.  Also see our past posts on the press.

Update (3/17/09).  Tracey Lauriault at has some new details:

...CISTI has just suffered very serious budget cuts - 70% cut - that affects scientific innovation, access to scientific data, the dissemination of Canadian Science and open access publishing.

The Government of Canada and the National Research Council of Canada have decided that the journals and services of NRC Research Press will be transferred to the private sector.

Privatization? In a sense they are a victim of their own success.  The NRC frames it as follows in a letter to their clients (e.g. Depository Service Program):

this transformation is not the development of a “new business” but the movement of a successful program into a new legal and business environment. It is our belief that this new environment will afford us more flexibility to manage our publishing activities.

More flexibility to reduce services to Canadians more like it since the Depository Services Program (DSP) and the delivery of online access to journals to Canadians cannot be funded by an entity outside of the Federal government, and it is expected that the termination date to journals delivered in this way will be sometime in 2010....

Update (4/7/09). Also see Norman Oder's article in Library Journal.

Case study in OA literature helping to resolve a public controversy

In his February 15 column, George Will asserted the widely-circulating claim that climate scientists in the 1970s were predicting global cooling.  Climate scientists quickly jumped in to correct him and the blogosphere lit up with the debate.  Many of their corrections cited a peer-reviewed article definitively demolishing Will's canard:  Thomas Peterson et al., The Myth of the 1970s Global Cooling Scientific Consensus, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, September 2008. 

The controversy caused the Peterson paper to rise to number 1 on the American Meteorological Society list of most downloaded papers.  (Thanks to Dan Collins.) 

For a neutral review of Will's claims about climate change, see Carl Zimmer's columns in Discover Magazine for February 27 and February 28.

Comment.  I like this story.  A peer-reviewed OA article helped correct a widely-read error.  If the definitive treatment of the issue had been TA, fewer people would have been aware of it.  Citations and even links would have been less helpful in spreading the word.  Climate change skeptics could more easily have stood their ground and pushed FUD.  But because the definitive treatment was OA, journalists and bloggers could write about the story, consult the primary literature, and point interested readers to the same source.  Non-specialists, and non-professionals without university access to TA literature, could see for themselves what the specialists were saying, without having to trust a journalist or blogger to interpret it for them.  I'm sure the Peterson article didn't settle the controversy in the sense of converting all the doubters, especially the doubters unwilling to look at the evidence.  But it injected evidence into a public controversy which owed its origin in part to the lack of evidence, and it showed which position had the evidence on its side.

New OA journal of neuroscience

ASN NEURO is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by Portland Press and the American Society of Neurochemistry. The article-processing charge is $960, with discounts for institutional members. Articles are published under the Creative Commons BY-NC license.

Open data to American religion surveys

Barry A. Kosmin of Trinity College is getting good press for the scope and findings of his comprehensive new American Religious Identification Survey 2008

However, I'd like to give him some good press, or at least two cheers, for providing OA to the data from his earlier surveys in 2001 and 1990.  I'd add the third cheer but I can't find OA data for the newest survey.

CARL and SPARC encourage Canadian authors to self-archive

CARL-SPARC toolkit encourages authors to maximize research through digital repositories, a press release from CARL and SPARC.  Excerpt:

“Research is more valuable when it’s shared,” according to a new educational initiative launched in partnership by the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) and SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition). Called, “Greater Reach for Your Research,” the campaign encourages Canadian authors to use their campus digital repository to increase the use and impact of their research outputs.

Digital repositories are online archives maintained by universities, colleges, funding agencies, and other institutions to collect, preserve, and provide unrestricted online access to all types of institutional research outputs—including published articles and research data—and are key components of the emerging digital research infrastructure. Greater Reach for Your Research emphasizes the practical benefits of repositories—such as more exposure for researchers’ articles, universal access to research literature, and long-term preservation. Citation research has shown that articles posted to a digital repository are cited more frequently than articles appearing only in journals.

The Greater Reach for Your Research initiative features an eye-catching new brochure and matching web portal, a slidecast on the importance of retaining copyright, the SPARC Canadian Author Addendum and updated brochure, and other resources—including a video interview with Ernie Ingles, Vice Provost and Chief Librarian at University of Alberta....

Faculty associations and repository advocates are invited to print or order copies of the brochure and access the suite of resources available through the CARL and SPARC Web sites.

A U.S. version of the Greater Reach For Your Research brochure will be released in 2009.

For more information, visit [the CARL page on the Greater Reach project] or [the SPARC page on it].

Another critique of Conyers' response

Gavin Baker, On jurisdiction; or, letting copyright trump science, A Journal of Insignificant Inquiry, March 8, 2009.

... I do have some sympathy for [Rep. John] Conyers’ process concerns. I have minor misgivings about the process in which the NIH policy was written into law, via the appropriations process. By my count, neither open access generally nor the NIH policy specifically were the subject of a hearing before the policy was signed into law. I think that’s unfortunate; public access is a significant public policy issue and it should have had a public hearing. That’s not to say there was no public discussion in Congress: it was raised at least as far back as 2005, in the Senate confirmation hearings for Health and Human Services nominee Michael Levitt, and again in 2006 at a House Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. But the NIH has now had a public hearing, courtesy of last year’s incarnation of Conyers’ own bill. Even if we would have preferred a hearing ex ante, you can’t change the past.

But here’s the problem with Conyers’ claim: open access is not copyright policy. At least, the NIH Public Access Policy is not copyright policy: it doesn’t amend copyright one whit, and even specifies explicitly that the law be implemented “in a manner consistent with copyright law”.

Since the NIH policy is a matter of the disposition of federal money, it’s appropriate for the Appropriations Committee to make policy in this area. It’s also a matter of science and education (and, in the case of the NIH, health): it’d be appropriate to hear from committees in those areas, too. If Conyers wants to ensure the issue is seen by committees with “relevant jurisdictional expertise”, he ought to ask those committees to hold hearings.

Instead, Conyers sees it as a copyright issue, because some publishers rely on a certain method of acquiring and managing copyright for their business model. In other words: according to Rep. Conyers, tangential copyright concerns should come before the efficient and equitable spending of taxpayer dollars, and before health, science, and education!

That’s a crazy approach to public policy. It’s a shame, it’s misguided, and Congress should reject it.

Lessig's response to Rep. Conyers

Lawrence Lessig, A Reply to Congressman Conyers, Lessig, March 9, 2009.  Excerpt:

Mr. Conyers says I "cross the line." He says I label his motivations for introducing this bill as "corrupt," that I accuse him of "shilling," and that I "dismiss" his bill as nothing more than a "money for influence scheme." ...He insists..."that there is far more to the 'open access' story than [my] muckracking tale lets on." (Mike Eisen and my original posts are here and here. My blog post is here.)

First, as to substance: As others have shown without doubt, there is absolutely no "more to the 'open access' story" than my and Mike Eisen's criticism let on. (See the rebuttals especially here and here.) This bill is nothing more than a "publishers' protection act." It is an awful step backwards for science -- as 33 Nobel Prize winners, the current and former head of the NIH, the American Library Association, and the Alliance for Taxpayer Access have all said. And Mr. Conyers knows this. Practically the identical bill was introduced in the last Congress. Mr. Conyers' committee held hearings on that bill. The "open access" community rallied to demonstrate that this publishers' bill was bad for science. Even some of the cosponsors of the bill admitted the bill was flawed. Yet after that full and fair hearing on this flawed bill, like Jason in Friday the 13th, the bill returned -- unchanged, as if nothing in the hundreds of reasons for why this bill was flawed mattered to the sponsors.

Second, as to "corruption": ...The word "corrupt" described a system, not a Member. Conyers is not "corrupt." Neither are his motivations. He is instead an extraordinary representative, a hero to many of us, the last member of the Judiciary Committee to vote to impeach Nixon still sitting on that committee, and a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He is an extraordinarily good soul, like the vast majority who choose to serve in government today.

But these good souls work in a corrupted system. For of course I believe that Congress is defined by a "money for influence scheme" -- as do thousands of others who have joined Change Congress's "donor strike," pledging not to give a penny more to candidates who don't support fundamentally reforming our corrupt campaign-finance system. (Join here.) ...

Mr. Conyers[:] You have it within your power to remove any doubt about the reasons you have for sponsoring the legislation you sponsor: Stop accepting contributions from the interests your committee regulates. This was the principle of at least some committee chairmen in the past. It is practically unheard of today. But you could set an important example for others, and for America, about how an uncorrupted system of government might work. And you could do so without any risk to your own position -- because the product of your forty years of extraordinary work for the citizens of Michigan means that they'll return you to office whether or not you spend one dime on a reelection. Indeed, if you did this, I'd promise to come to Michigan and hand out leaflets for your campaign.

Until you do this, Mr. Conyers, don't lecture me about "crossing a line." For I intend to cross this line as often as I can....

UKPMC launches a blog

UK PubMed Central launched a blog on March 2.  Already it's posted several developments which I haven't seen elsewhere:

I've added the UKPMC blog to my daily crawl.

Obama appointment update

Notes on openness workshop

Jeremy Donald, Openness: Fostering Sharing, Collaboration, and Open Access to Knowledge and Resources - Notes, EDUCAUSE Connect, March 6, 2009. Notes on a session at the EDUCAUSE Southwest Regional Conference (San Antonio, February 24-26, 2009).

OA to backfiles of Chilean law journal

The backfiles of the Revista de Derecho, Universidad de Concepción, to 1933, went OA in June 2008. Free registration is required. (Thanks to Iurisprudentia.)

OA to backfiles of Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The backfiles of the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, to 1958, are now OA.

Virginia releases open "flexbook" on physics

Virginia Releases Physics Flexbook for Public Review, press release, February 27, 2009.

Secretary of Technology Aneesh Chopra and Secretary of Education Tom Morris today announced the release of a beta (preliminary) version of 21st Century Physics FlexBook: A Compilation of Contemporary and Emerging Technologies. This early release version of the physics FlexBook is a piece of the quality assurance process and will give the public approximately two weeks to provide feedback on the content and website in advance of the official release in mid–March.

The Virginia Physics FlexBook project is a collaborative effort of the Secretaries of Education and Technology and the Department of Education that seeks to investigate the use of open education resources to elevate the quality of information available for high school physics instruction across the Commonwealth. The FlexBook is a compilation of supplemental materials relating to 21st century physics in an open–content format that can be used to strengthen existing physics content. The Commonwealth is partnering with CK–12 on this initiative as they are the creators of the FlexBook concept and have provided the free, open–content technology platform for the publication. The FlexBook — defined simply as an adaptive, web–based set of instructional materials, is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike (CC–BY–SA) and thus can be used as is, used in part, or enhanced by teachers based on their curriculum and classroom needs. ...

The Virginia Physics FlexBook, written and compiled over the past several months, was authored by thirteen volunteer members of Virginia's K–12 physics teacher community as well as industry and university faculty from Virginia and surrounding states. In order to ensure the quality of the content, each chapter has already received three reviews: a technical review by College of William and Mary physics professor, David Armstrong, a peer review by other authors, and student reviews by high school and college–age students. The fourth and final review begins today with this release seeking public feedback. ...

See also coverage at:

See also our past post on the flexbook.

More on enforcing the Wellcome policy

Peter Murray-Rust, Wellcome gets tough on Open Access depositions, A Scientist and the Web , March 7, 2009.

... I was delighted to get an internal email to all staff making it clear that it was mandatory for Wellcome grantees to publish their papers as Open Access. Here’s excerpts from the mail: [Note: omitting excerpts.] ...

See also our past post on the Wellcome compliance audit.

New no-fee OA journal of Indian traditional medicine

The International Journal for Ayurveda Research is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Indian Department of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy and Medknow. There are no author-side charges. Re-use with attribution is permitted for non-commercial purposes.

U. Salamanca's IR launches

GREDOS (Gestión del REpositorio DOcumental de la Universidad de Salamanca) is the new IR at the University of Salamanca. The IR is divided into four sections:

  • Digital library: Historical documents and documents digitized at USAL
  • Scientific repository: Research conducted or published at USAL
  • Teaching repository: Educational resources produced at USAL
  • Institutional archive: Administrative and institutional documents of USAL

The repository launched with more than 125,000 documents. GREDOS is licensed under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license.

See also coverage (in Spanish) from Europa Press or Salamanca 24 Horas.

See also our past posts on USAL:

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Mendeley finds funding

Mendeley has announced plans to become interoperable with CiteULike (February 16) and $2 million in venture capital (February 25).  From the second announcement:

Mendeley, makers of a desktop and web application designed to make it easier for academics to manage and discover relevant research papers on any topic, has raised $2 million in early-stage funding from some high-profile investors, including Stefan Glänzer, early seed investor in and former Chairman of

The connection with the popular social music network doesn’t stop there, since the company is pushing to become the “ for research”, which means the startup essentially aims to enable academics to manage and sharing their research paper inventory and at the same time discover like-minded people and papers thanks to a recommendation and matching algorithm....

The desktop app is actually quite nice: after installation, you can import PDF files using the tool’s “Automatic Medata Extraction” or import your existing library from EndNote XML, BibTeX or RIS files. Mendeley also features a Word Plugin which lets you insert citations and create formatted bibliographies in documents using Microsoft Word 2003/2007. Academics can also upload their own research papers and syncing files and information with the web-based version with just one click of the mouse. Mendeley also boasts features that let members connect with their peers online, and - taking a page from Facebook - the tool also features a newsfeed that displays newly shared or uploaded documents etc.

Mendeley claims to have “scrobbled” data on almost 3 million research papers in just two months, so it’s likely to become one hell of a resource if growth continues and enough academics take notice.

Here's more on the OA connection from Mendeley Founder and Director, Victor Henning, quoted with his permission:

We're encouraging people to self-archive their papers on their Mendeley Web profiles, and we'll begin with making our Mendeley database public soon (of course we'll respect the publisher's copyrights and only enable full-text downloads for self-archived documents at first). We're also planning to harvest and mirror existing OA databases and combine them with the documents captured and tracked by our system. The goal is to become the largest publicly accessible research database a few years down the road with as many documents as possible being OA.

This may sound overambitious, but consider the background of our investors, co-founders and board members: They created the largest openly accessible & ontological database of music with, built the largest free voice-over-IP network with Skype, and helped populate iTunes and YouTube with content.

PS:  Also see our past posts on Mendeley.

OA digital archive assists in Cologne catastrophe

Acting quickly, Germany's Prometheus image archive launched a special OA collection, Das digitale Historische Archiv Köln, to host and protect digital copies of documents from the Köln (Cologne) city archives, which collapsed on March 3.  The new archive is calling for help in collecting documents on the history of Cologne.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

OA repository for Olympics parallel event

The Creative Campus Initiative is a project by several UK universities to organize activities for the Cultural Olympiad, inspired by the London 2012 Olympics. The proposal includes the "creation of a lasting and open-access repository of new digital content and evaluation and audience reception research associated with the Cultural Olympiad".

On the future of data repositories

Stuart Weibel, Are Data Repositories the New Institutional Repositories?, Weibel Lines, March 3, 2009. Comments on the future of data repositories and data curation, including the NSF DataNet solicitation.

Presentations from scholarly communications conference

The presentations from The Changing Landscape of Scholarly Communication in the Digital Age (College Station, Texas, February 11-13, 2009) are now online. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

See also our past posts on the conference (1, 2, 3).

Recommendations for open knowledge in southern Africa

Opening Access to Knowledge in Southern African Universities is a new report published by the Southern African Regional Universities Association. From the executive summary:

... This framework and study, entitled Opening Access to Knowledge in Southern African Universities, aims to identify key constraints to access to knowledge in universities in the [Southern African Development Community] region. ...

Eight universities in seven countries were selected to participate in the qualitative study. A major constraint to accessing research undertaken in the region is the lack of awareness of what has been produced. Research produced in the region tends to be poorly organised, not indexed and not made available electronically. The predominance of unpublished research and scientific output, often dismissively referred to as ‘grey literature’ does not lend itself to electronic discovery processes and, as a consequence, is not accessible. Respondents indicated that the behaviour of researchers, who do not share their research output, contributes to this state of affairs. The lack of capacity to make research available online further exacerbates the situation. The publishing criteria used to determine promotion and reward further serve to steer the publishing patterns of researchers into disseminating research results in international accredited journals which are often not available to universities in the region. ...

A significant proportion of respondents are aware of open access approaches to disseminating knowledge. All the [Deputy Vice-Chancellors] for research and librarians interviewed are aware of open access, indicating that there is an increasing awareness of open access at the institutional level. Eighty percent of researchers and more than half the Deans interviewed are aware of open access. However, respondents from university presses were less familiar with this emerging trend. The majority of interviewees were in support of open access, of which a large proportion (77 percent) indicated that they explicitly support the introduction of open access.

Notwithstanding the support for the introduction of open access to promote access to knowledge, respondents did raise a number of concerns pertaining to the quality of open access material that is not peer-reviewed; copyright, plagiarism and recognition for research output. ... Given all these constraints it was difficult for some academics to conceive of how open access would be operationalised in their respective university environments.

Experiments with open access are already underway in [southern African] universities ... These initiatives face considerable challenges to successful introduction into the mainstream of university life and practice and provide interesting pointers to the issues that need to be addressed for the successful implementation of open access projects and an open knowledge paradigm. A favourable university policy environment, as well as effectively funded institutional and technical capacity, is needed in order to promote sustainable implementation of initiatives to enhance scholarly publishing and dissemination in the region.

The report proposes a new framework that is based on open knowledge approaches to knowledge production, publishing and dissemination in response to the identified constraints and challenges to a productive academic research and publishing sector. The adoption of a proposed Vision for Open Knowledge in Southern African Universities and the establishment of a research publishing and dissemination platform are an integral part of such a framework.

From the proposed vision statement:

... We will:

  • Create and share knowledge and establish the expertise of our universities through open knowledge practices and the work of institutional champions;
  • Create Southern African scholarly communities working for open education, open access and open research, and making unused and under used knowledge resources available through open access channels;
  • Support the establishment and growth of international peer reviewed, open journals based in Southern Africa;
  • Support the establishment of systems for peer review of open educational resources;
  • Incentivise pioneers and early adopters of open knowledge practices in education, research and community engagement, and reward others who adopt such approaches;
  • Establish scholarly communications as strategic functions of universities bringing together teaching, research and community engagement;
  • Begin building the institutional systems and processes which will underpin open knowledge, including examining the promotion and reward mechanisms for open knowledge practices, including publishing research in and establishing and editing peer reviewed open journals;
  • Establish systems for self reporting by academics of their use of open knowledge;
  • Establish systems that enable universities to recognise and record all scholarly communications;
  • Establish systems which enable scholars and universities to track the developmental and human impact of scholarly communications. ...
On the proposed research publishing and dissemination platform:

Five change activators are proposed. Operating together these activators can have the effect of generating highly effective access to knowledge for academics, researchers, students, practitioners and the broader community for ideas. They can also have the effect over time of contributing to an increasing rate of scholarly publication across the majority of universities in the region. ...

  • Create a number of new open access peer reviewed journals to enhance the visibility of Southern African research ...
  • Scholarly publishing advisory services ...
  • Online journal management systems ...
  • Institutional Repositories and active databases ...
  • Index of Southern African publications ...
From the foreword by SARUA CEO Piyushi Kotecha:

... Whilst SARUA agrees with the challenges that the report highlights, and is committed to supporting the vision of open access to knowledge that is outlined in the report, the recommendations in the report will be subject to an accompanying consultative leadership process amongst its members that will hopefully charter a detailed and practical course of action for the Association.

SARUA also hopes that this study will stimulate not only debate and new ideas, but also practical action among all stakeholders in both the policy realm and in the higher education research environment. ...

Maloney becomes fifth co-sponsor of Conyers bill

On March 5, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) became the fifth co-sponsor of the Conyers bill, and the first to add her name since the bill was re-introduced on February 3.  She's also the first co-sponsor from outside the House Judiciary Committee

It's very important that NY researchers and institutions contact her (by web form, phone or fax) to express support for the NIH policy and opposition to any bill which would repeal it --whether it's the Conyers bill (HR 801) or equivalent language tucked into a different bill. 

As usual, you will be more persuasive if you can explain why the NIH policy matters to you, your work, or your organization.  Be specific and be personal.  Speak for yourself, but if you can, get your institution to send a letter as well.  Save your message; you may need to adapt and reuse it later.  And please spread the word to your NY colleagues.

More from the SPARC Digital Repositories meeting

Allyson Mower and Lisa Chaufty, Do something no one has imagined: The 2008 SPARC Digital Repositories meeting, College & Research Libraries News, March 2009.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.)  Excerpt:

John Wilbanks (director of Science Commons) opened the SPARC Digital Repositories meeting [Baltimore, November 17-18, 2008] with a message that greatly resonated with those attending: do something no has imagined, and don’t wait. Indeed, many of the 330 repository managers, librarians, publishers, vendors, and technology specialists from around the world who convened in Baltimore to share success stories and failures regarding digital repositories, have already done so and plan to continue the trajectory.

According to Heather Joseph (executive director of SPARC), digital repositories have “moved out of infancy into a long and healthy life cycle,” and the many panelists and speakers at the conference demonstrated this. The two main themes of the conference were that data needs to be inter-operable, connected, and shared; and that the success of repositories is connected to the services they can provide to faculty.

The initial panel focused on new horizons, but first provided a review of the current position of repositories. Norbert Lossau (director of Goettingen State and University Library) summarized that while many repositories exist (the count has now grown to approximately 1,200), the deposits to them remain low. Sayeed Choudhury (associate dean for library digital programs, Johns Hopkins University) indicated that despite this, institutional repositories (one kind of digital repository) act as a beginning and not an end to the process of ensuring open access to scholarly digital content. Shawn Martin (scholarly communication librarian at University of Pennsylvania) and Jennifer Campbell-Meier (doctoral student, University of Hawaii) continued by noting that changing the mission statement of an institutional repository to come more in line with content creators and their needs can, perhaps, lead to higher deposit levels. For many faculty members, according to Martin, the issue of open access is not as important as raising their profile in the online environment....

David Prosser (director of SPARC Europe) asserted that the open access policy argument has been won by the open access movement through the impetus of initiatives like the European Union’s (EU) Lisbon Agenda, which strives to make the EU the “most competitive and dynamic knowledge-driven economy by 2010.” Prosser expects that we are fast approaching a time when “it will be unusual for any leading institution or funder not to have an [open access] mandate.” ...

Catherine Mitchell (director, eScholarship Publishing Group, California Digital Library) suggested provocatively that conversations about “the repository” in and of itself should stop and be reframed to focus on publishing services. She argued that institutional repositories stand as by-products of services rendered rather than ends in themselves.

An example of operating a repository on a small, liberal arts college campus came from Macalester College. Janet Sietmann (manager, DigitalCommons Project) and Teresa Fishel (library director) showcased the student research and publications available in their institutional repository. Both advised against “death by planning,” urging strongly that all library staff should promote the repository, and suggested starting with a specific project that meets the needs of a specific audience....

David Shulenberger (vice president for academic affairs, National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges)...relayed a short synopsis of the history of publication and distribution and focused on “the gift” of scholarly knowledge. The role of digital repositories, in his view, is to assure that intellectual products paid for by donors and benefactors remain available for the public. Further, institutional repositories should showcase to citizens the research and scholarship happening on academic campuses and thereby enhances the value of the university in the eyes of the public.

Shulenberger offered seven steps for library and information professionals to consider: have an institutional repository; work with administrators to build understanding; initiate discussions about intellectual property policies; support efforts to spread public access policies, like the one put forward by the National Institutes of Health; educate campus units to support the best interests of their members; work with departments to produce deposit habits; and brand your institutional repository products as university material....

Mike Eisen's response to Rep. Conyers

Michael Eisen, John Conyers Tries [and Fails] to Explain His Position, It is NOT Junk, March 7, 2009.  Excerpt:

Lawrence Lessig and I have been writing about the link between publisher contributions to members of the House Judiciary committee and their support for H.R. 801 - a bill that would end the newly implemented NIH public access policy that makes all works published as part of NIH funded research freely available to the public online. On Friday, House Judiciary chairman John Conyers (D-MI) - lead sponsor of the bill - responded in a letter on Huffington Post.

The first several paragraphs of Conyers’  letter contain an outline of his record as a progressive politician.  Representative Conyers is a smart man who has worked hard defending the public’s interest on a large number of issues. But no record, no matter how distinguished, can provide an excuse for introducing an atrocious piece of legislation that sacrifices the public interest to those of a select group of publishing companies who just happen - coincidentally I’m sure - to contribute to Representative Conyers and the other backers of the bill....

Although he says at several times he is trying to get to the bottom of a complex issue, he ignored evidence presented to his committee during hearings last year and has shown no interest in learning about how scientific publishing actually works.

Conyers offers two main justifications for his support of H.R. 801. First, seems incensed that the bill mandating the policy originated in the Appropriations Committee and not his Judiciary Committee. Judiciary was the appropriate venue, he argues, because the bill alters copyright. As I will show below, this is incorrect. Second, Conyers trots out the publishers’ favorite trope that the NIH policy will bankrupt publishers and thereby destroy science. Since this is the more substantive claim, I will deal with it first....

The notion that the NIH policy will lead to massive subscription cancelations is not supported by empirical data or by publisher actions.

The NIH policy require that works be available within 12 months of publication - not immediately. This delay of free public access was put in place precisely because it would allow publishers to recoup their investment in publishing by charging for access to the freshest material. Science moves far too fast for active researchers to afford a year’s delay before reading papers in their field. Thus universities and other research institutions have to maintain subscriptions to a wide range of journals. Many journals, realizing that their revenue comes primarily from new material, already make their contents freely available online after a year or less. And these journals have not reported a wave of canceled subscriptions - or any appreciable loss of revenue.

Indeed, most publishers have no problem with the NIH policy....Many even help their authors by sending copies of their articles directly to the NLM.  It is a small minority of narrow-minded and venal publishers who want this policy reversed.

Second, publishers do not pay for peer review. Peer review is carried out by members of the research community, who receive no remuneration for this important contribution to the scientific process and the integrity of the scientific literature. Indeed, since the salaries of most American scientists are paid directly or indirectly by the US government, the peer review process can be viewed as a massive Federal subsidy to publishers. That some publishers - who not only get their most important source of skilled labor paid for by taxpayers but are also publishing research that is the product of tens of billions of annual taxpayer dollars - are unwilling to provide the taxpayers with a copy of the papers they paid to produce and review is unconscionable.

And while Representative Conyers’ publishing friends may have convinced him that there are severe unintended consequences that will arise from the NIH public access policy, the scientific community - who has been debating this issue for over a decade - strongly disagrees....

Now, let’s return to the issues of process and copyright, which seem to so infuriate Conyers....As someone who has been involved with this issue and has closely followed the development of the NIH public access policy, I can say that Conyers’ history of this policy is grossly inaccurate. The NIH policy was developed over the course of several years, during which time there was extensive back and forth between Congress and the NIH as they worked to craft a policy that would ensure public access to taxpayer-funded research.

I am no expert of Congressional protocol, but it seems perfectly sensible to me that the Appropriations Committee, whose job it is to make sure that taxpayers’ money is spent wisely and efficiently, would be the relevant committee for setting the terms under which scientists could receive federal dollars. Once developed, the policy was opened up to public comment. Everyone in the scientific research and publishing communities knew about the policy long before it was implemented, and then NIH Director Elias Zerhouni met with all stakeholders to make sure their views and issues were considered. This is hardly a bill snuck in by special interests and rammed through in the middle night with no public comment, as Conyers would have us believe.

Conyers’ argument that the bill should have gone to his Judiciary committee rests on the dubious notion that NIH policy modifies copyright. But the policy in question does not alter copyright in any way....This is [merely] a modification of the contract made between grantees and the NIH every time a new grant is awarded....

Throughout his response Conyers repeatedly cites the need to discuss the complex issues around scientific publishing....Unfortunately, Representative Conyers actions do not reflect his words. This bill was introduced in the last Congress. The Judiciary Committee then held hearings on the bill, in which even the publishers’ own witnesses pointed out flaws in its logic and approach. In particular, a previous Registrar of Copyrights, clearly sympathetic to the publishers’ cause, acknowledged that the NIH Policy was in perfect accord with US copyright law and practice. If Conyers were so interested in dealing with a complex issue in a fair and reasonable way, why then did he completely ignore the results of this hearing and reintroduce the exact same bill - one that clearly reflects the opinions of only one side in this debate? ...

PS: Mike also has an abridged or concise version of this response at the Huffington Post. Also see my own response to Conyers.

Another intro to OA

Cian O’Donnell, The Price of Knowledge, EUSci, January 2009.  Scroll to p. 12.  (Thanks to Neuronism.)  An introduction to OA.

...Academics themselves can also do a lot to promote open access. The obvious first step is to simply publish new research in open access journals, or in journals that offer a paid open access choice. This can be to the author’s benefit, as studies have suggested that freely available articles may have a higher impact than closed ones...

Another straightforward option is to publicly archive all published work. Apart from a few restrictions, this is completely allowed by a surprising number of journals - including Science and Nature - and actually mandated by many funding bodies. The SHERPA organisation maintains an excellent website, which details individual publisher and funding body open access policies.

Many academics simply archive their work on personal websites, but other options exist. Some disciplines already have popular public archives, such as the physics repository, Most papers in this field are posted on ‘the archive’ well before being accepted in a journal, with no apparent detriment to the publishers. Many academic institutions also maintain their own archiving facilities. Here at the University of Edinburgh, staff and students can archive their own work in the Edinburgh Research Archive. The technophobic can also get library staff to deposit work on their behalf....

[A] small, but growing, fraction of scholarly work is now freely available to anyone with a connection to the web. In the age of Wikipedia we have no shortage of instantly accessible information but, sadly, facts and figures are not always backed by expert opinion. The open access movement aims to remedy this by making scholarly knowledge available and accessible - to all who wish to find it.