Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Video and slides of cyberinfrastructure presentation

The video and slides of Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet (New York, March 24, 2009) are now online. (Thanks to Adrian Ho.)

Milestone for OA from National Academies

More than 9,000 National Academies reports now available in open access, press release, April 10, 2009.

The National Academies today announced the completion of the first phase of a partnership with Google to digitize the library's collection of reports from 1863 to 1997, making them available – free, searchable, and in full text – through Google Book Search. The Academies plan to have their entire collection of nearly 11,000 reports digitized by 2011. ...

Prior to this project, the Academies digitized more than 4,000 books and made them available online through the National Academies Press; most of those can also be found in Google Book Search. However, researchers who needed to gain access to hard copies of older reports, part of a legacy collection in the library, could not always find what they wanted. Many of these reports exist as single copies, and the library feared potential damage or loss of this important collection. These older reports have been digitized and are now accessible through Google. In addition, the "digitizing of these materials will add another dimension to the preservation of our reports," said [the National Academies' George E. Brown Jr. Library manager of library and information services Victoria] Harriston. The Academies hope that wider availability of its reports will be of use to scientists in developing countries, who often rely on the Internet to gather information.

arXiv adds author pages, feeds, widgets

arXiv has added a new feature, Author Identifiers:

It is a long-term goal of arXiv to accurately identify and disambiguate all authors of all articles in arXiv. Such identification would provide accurate results for queries such as "show me all the other papers by the particular John Smith that wrote this paper", something that can be done only approximately with text-based searches. It would also permit construction of an author-article graph which is useful for relevance assessment and bibliometric analysis.

Since 2005 arXiv has used authority records that associate user accounts with articles authored by that user. These records support the endorsement system. The use of public author identifiers as a way to build services upon this data is new in 2009. Initially, users must opt-in to have a public author identifier and to expose the record of their articles on arXiv for use in other services. At some later date we hope to be able to improve our authority records to the point where we can create public author identifiers for all authors of arXiv articles without needing to enlist the help of each author to check their record before opting in.

The services we offer based on author identifiers are:

  • simple list of papers as an HTML page you can link to (e.g. [link])
  • an Atom feed of articles (e.g. [link])
  • a way to dynamically include the list of your publications in your own home page using the JavaScript myarticles widget
  • an arXiv Facebook application providing a convenient way to alert friends to your arXiv articles and to comment on articles within Facebook

It would also be beneficial to associate author records in arXiv with author records in other scholarly communication system, for example with the SPIRES database in high-energy physics. Association of author records across different systems would facilitate the creation of services and tools that operate over multiple repositories, or combine data from multiple sources. ...

The following enhancements and interoperability features are planned:

  • arXiv will permit authors to record other identifiers they have in other schemes and include these in the data feeds. This will allow agents and systems to link together the same author in different databases.
  • arXiv will support mechanisms for handling name changes, combination of accidentally created duplicates and separation of accidentally combined identifiers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Student argument for OA at Columbia

Gabe Schubiner, In Defense of Open Access, The Eye, April 9, 2009.

... As a major center of research, Columbia should be in the vanguard of this movement. Our library system has an annual budget of more than $20 million—one of the largest in the country—yet still struggles to maintain subscriptions to increasingly expensive periodicals. With the average price of periodicals up 200 percent in the past two decades, this “serials crisis” is threatening libraries across the world. ...

At this crucial point, Columbia must join other American universities and stand up for its academic interests by supporting open access. ...

At Columbia there have been a number of efforts to make University-affiliated research available to the general public. In acknowledgement of the changing publishing landscape, the University Senate released a statement in 2005 urging the University community to “advance new models for scholarly publishing that will promote open access, helping to reshape the marketplace in which scholarly ideas circulate... [while] remaining alert to efforts by publishers to impose barriers on access to the fruits of scholarly research.”

Since then, Columbia University Libraries has strived to draw attention to the advantages of open access. The Libraries’ Scholarly Communication Program has been hosting a lecture series titled “Research without Borders” about the influence of open-access policies on research, information science, and libraries, and has been working with on-campus journals to discuss publishing possibilities for student journals.

Kenny Crews, director of the Libraries’ Copyright Advisory Office, believes that the libraries have “a core mission of facilitating access to information. In that spirit, we need to foster the creation of easily accessible resources.”

One such resource is Columbia’s Academic Commons, a repository hosted by the Center for Digital Research and Scholarship. This repository could change the way Columbia’s scholars work, but Columbia’s lack of a comprehensive open-access policy means the commons must solicit submissions from individual faculty members, limiting its scope. Doctoral dissertations— which represent a substantial amount of research—are currently hosted through the ProQuest database, rendering a profusion of University-funded scholarship inaccessible to non-subscribers.

Rebecca Kennison, the director of CDRS, writes in an e-mail that Columbia could clarify its support for open-access publication by earmarking funds “explicitly to support publication, as some of our peer institutions have done.” Because open-access journals often require publication fees, University funding would help support researchers who want to publish open access. Under a model offered by Davidson, the University could provide grants “to support publishing costs for a given number of researchers per year.” A competitive grant program would add prestige to open-access publication, and affirm that the University values making its research available.

After the strong precedents set by Harvard and MIT, a serious commitment from Columbia would further the growth of open access. Indeed, if the trend in academic publication continues toward greater openness, institutions without such policies may be seen as antagonistic to the academic community. ...

More on the Oregon State mandate

Alicia Brown, 'Open Access' repository to house works of OSU faculty publishers, The Daily Barometer, April 9, 2009.

... [Oregon State University Gray Family Chair for Innovative Library Services Terry] Reese suggested at a faculty discussion that they take an active part in getting the rest of OSU's faculty to submit their work to the library repository.

Within a week of the initial discussion, Michael Boock, the head of Digital Access Services for the library, had written a proposal to be put before the entire library faculty. The policy, as was approved and agreed to by the faculty, mandates that OSU Libraries faculty contribute their "scholarly works" in the interest of aiding current and future research around the globe. ...

If it is important to promotion and tenure of the researcher that an article be published somewhere specific, then there is the option to temporarily opt out of the program until copyright paperwork has been put in order. ...

The fact, however, that the library faculty agreed to the mandate rather than having the order "come from above," means that when librarians go to speak to other faculties they have some weight behind their words. According to [associate university librarian for collections and content management Faye] Chadwell, some librarians have heard that members of other faculties are curious about the mandate and that it "definitely just got people to thinking … and asking questions about what it means." ...

Notes on Indian OA events

Subbiah Arunachalam, Prof. Leslie Chan and Prof. John Willinsky on a mission to India, via SPARC-OAForum, April 8, 2009.
Prof. Leslie Chan and Prof. John Willinsky, whom the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore, had invited to visit India in March 2009, took part in two one-day conferences on scholarly communication, the first held at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi, on 24 March, and the second held at the National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore, on 26 March. ...

More on OA to law

Timothy B. Lee, The case against PACER: tearing down the courts' paywall, Ars Technica, April 8, 2009.
If you want to find out how the Obama administration is spending the stimulus money, you can go to for detailed spending data. Many executive branch agencies provide information about their activities via the government's portal. And the Library of Congress has the Thomas system, which gives the public free, searchable access to information about the activities of the legislative branch. But the judicial branch is a conspicuous laggard when it comes to making public documents available online. Theoretically, public access to federal court records is provided by a Web-based system called PACER. Unfortunately, PACER locks public documents behind a paywall, lacks a reasonable search engine, and has an interface that's inscrutable to non-lawyers. ...
See also our past posts on PACER.

Updates to Sparky Awards: local contests, People's Choice

Sparky Video Contest Goes Local, Adds People's Choice Award, press release, April 9, 2009.

The organizers of the popular Sparky Awards, which recognize the best new short videos on the value of information sharing, are calling on colleges and universities to organize their own campus video competitions in 2009 to get maximum benefit from the third-annual installment of the contest. ...

Last year Brigham Young University (BYU), Penn State University, and Dartmouth College were among the campuses that organized local Sparky contests. “The experience was remarkable,” said BYU librarian Randy Olsen. “Although our contest was open for less than a month, we received seven submissions prepared by 58 students. The night we screened the entries I invited the video producers to introduce their works. In every case the students spoke articulately, even passionately, about open access and it was obvious that they had become conversant with all of the issues we as librarians care so much about. By the end of the evening I felt that our investment in the awards – an iTouch and two fifty dollar checks – was money well spent.”

Entries in the international Sparky Awards competition must be received between April 9 and December 6, 2009. To be eligible, videos must be freely available on the Internet and available for use under a Creative Commons License.

In addition to the international Grand Prize and Runner-up winners selected by a distinguished jury, the organizers are adding a People’s Choice Award this year, which will give visitors to the Sparky Web site a chance to vote for their favorite entry in the international competition. People’s Choice voting will be open between December 8, 2009 and January 30, 2010, after all entries have been received.

The international award-winning videos will be announced in conjunction with the January 2010 American Library Association Midwinter Conference in Boston, where the winners will be screened. The national Grand Prize winner will receive a cash prize of $1,000 along with a Sparky Award statuette. The Runner Up and People’s Choice winners will each receive $500 plus a personalized award certificate. At the discretion of the judges, additional Special Merit Awards may be designated. ...

See also our past posts on the Sparky Awards.

JISC will respond to publisher criticism of Houghton report

JISC has noted the publisher pushback (1, 2) against John Houghton's January report on the economic impact of OA.  In a brief statement yesterday, JISC said it "will be responding to the points they raise in due course...[and] look[s] forward [to] discussing these complex issues with them over the coming weeks."

Institutional motives for raising or lowering access barriers

Kristin R. Eschenfelder, Controlling Access to and Use of Online Cultural Collections: A Survey of U.S. Archives, Libraries and Museums for IMLS DRAFT VERSION 4/7/2009, a preprint, self-archived April 9, 2009.

Abstract:   This report describes the results of an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) funded study to investigate the use of technological or policy tools to control patron access to or use of digital collections of cultural materials created by U.S. archives, libraries and museums. The technological and policy tools serve primarily to control copying or other reuses of digital materials. The study had the following goals: 1. Assess what technical and policy tools cultural institutions are employing to control access to and use of online digital collections. 2. Investigate motivations for controlling access to or use of collections (e.g., copyright, privacy, protecting traditional restrictions, income generation etc.). 3. Investigate discouragers to the implementation of access and use control systems (e.g., preference for open collections, lack of resources, institutional mission, etc.). 4. Gauge interest in implementing technical systems to control access to and use of collections. 5. Determine what types of assistance IMLS could provide. 6. Identify institutions with innovative controlled online collections for follow up case studies on policy, technical and managerial details.


  • This is the most nuanced study I've seen of institutional motives for adopting or rejecting access restrictions.  Instead of merely asking institutions whether or not they provided OA, Eschenfelder asked what reasons they might have for providing OA, and what reasons they might have for creating a non-OA "controlled online collection" (COC) instead.  These reasons can coexist.  A COC uses some access restrictions, even if they are not financial.  From table 40 at p. 56:  The leading reason why surveyed archives would not be inclined to create COCs was "Belief that open collections have greater impact".  The same was true for museums (table 48 at pp. 62-63).  For libraries (table 44 at p. 59) the leading reason was "Belief that open collections have greater access."  In all three cases, the case for OA was direct, resting on the advantages of OA, rather than indirect and resting on disadvantages of alternatives such as fear of legal complexity, fear of technological complexity, and fear of alienating users. 
  • BTW, among the leading reasons why archives would be inclined to create COCs (table 39 at p. 55) were "proper object description and repository identification", "avoid misuse/misrepresentation", and "avoid legal risk".  The same was true for museums (table 47 at p. 61).  Libraries (table 43 at p. 58) drop the first of these and add "donor or owner requirement".
  • Note from p. 24:  "the sample purposefully excluded certain types of organizations including those whose primary purpose was to provide open access to public records or government publications."
  • This study focuses on archives, libraries, and museums.  I'd like to see a similar study of publishers.

Presentations from Italian OA conference

The presentations from Che cos'è l'Open Access? Un confronto tra ricercatori, bibliotecari e studenti (Venice, April 3, 2009) are now online (with English abstracts):

Thursday, April 09, 2009

New OA political science journal

Living Reviews in Democracy is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Center for Comparative and International Studies at ETH Zurich and the National Center of Competence in Research Democracy at the University of Zurich. See also this announcement.

DRM undermines access to knowledge

Denise Rosemary Nicholson, Digital Rights Management and Access to Information: a developing country’s perspective, Libres, March 2009. 

Abstract:   Digital rights management systems (DRMs) together with technological protection measures (TPMs) have become a controversial topic of discussion around copyrighted works, particularly since the controversial Sony BMG case. This paper addresses some of the concerns around TPM-enabled digital rights management systems as they apply to and impact on developing countries. It highlights issues such as digital censorship, international support for digital rights management and the current legislation in South Africa relating to digital rights management. It also discusses types of digital rights management systems and how they affect access to information and knowledge, as well as their impact on the public domain and privacy. The paper provides some recommendations and challenges to librarians and educators in South Africa and for librarians in other developing countries, on how to address digital rights management issues in relation to their obligations and mandates to provide users and learners with unrestricted access to information.

From the body of the paper:

...DRMs have the potential to render works inaccessible long after the copyright has expired. It is possible for DRMs to become obsolete and as a result, permanently lock up information which should be in the public domain. This has serious implications, particularly for legal deposit libraries and archives. DRMs also have the potential to lock-up public domain material, as well as indigenous knowledge, behind e-databases controlled by multinationals operating content industries in developing countries. They outlaw “reverse engineering” and inter-operability, which creates an impediment to the development of software industries, and open access projects, in developing countries....

To ensure better access to information, libraries should promote Open Access initiatives, for example, Electronic Theses and Dissertation (ETD) projects, institutional repositories, research archives and public domain portals, to free up information, particularly public-funded research, so as to avoid lock-up of information by DRMs....

Russia's three institutional OA mandates

Iryna Kuchma reports that there are three institutional OA mandates in Russia:

(1) The first, at the Central Economics and Mathematics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, is not new.  Its mandate was adopted in 2007

But the other two are new, at least for OAN:

(2) Vologda scientific-coordination center of the Central Economics and Mathematics Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences.  This center is a regional branch of the Institute above, but administratively independent.  It was not covered by the 2007 OA policy and saw the need to adopt its own.

(3) Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics, within the Russian Academy of Sciences.

All three institutions use Socionet as their institutional repository.  All three are affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences.

PS:  I don't yet have dates of adoption, English translations, or links to the texts.  But I hope to be able to post them soon.


Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Four more institutions sign the Berlin Declaration

Four important research institutions have signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge. (Thanks to Anja Lengenfelder.)

Comment.  The first and third already have OA mandates (blogged here and here).  I'm hoping we'll soon see mandates from the U of Patras and the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund.  The U of Patras seems to be a good bet; see our past posts on its OA activity.  And it's fairly rare for a funding agency to sign the Declaration without plans to adopt a local policy to carry it out.

Open data for public transparency

Ellen Miller, Top 10 Measurements for Transparency, The Sunlight Foundation Blog, April 5, 2009. What's #1?
1. Open data: The federal government should make all data searchable, findable and accessible. ...

Interview with Malamud on campaign for GPO

Techné Interviews Public Printer Candidate Carl Malamud, Techné, March 29, 2009. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)
... Long a proponent of open access to what he calls the “operating system” of the US government—the laws, codes and court cases that regulate our lives in society—Carl Malamud has spent more than a decade working to make government documentation freely available online through his organization He has recently turned his attention to the GPO and is “running” for the appointment of Public Printer, the head of the GPO and thus of the federal agency that produces a great deal of the same documentation he has previously fought for public access to. ...

2 Polish articles on OA

Marek Nahotko, Open Access – zagro?enia i szanse dla bibliotekarzy, Biuletyn EBIB, August/September 2008; self-archived April 8, 2009. English abstract:
This article presents an analysis of some OA models, as well as the risks that they entail and the chances they offer to librarians, as far as changes in the profession are concerned.
Marek Nahotko, Zalety i wady Open Access – mity i rzeczywisto??, Biuletyn EBIB, August/September 2008; self-archived April 8, 2009. English abstract:
The BioMed Central Web Pages present myths of Open Access. The author gives the translation of the myths as well as the reply from the authors of the Website. The author also comments on the nature and importance of the situation in Poland.

Notes on open PSI workshop

David Bollier, Unleashing Public Sector Information,, April 7, 2009.

Many public sector institutions are beginning to realize that they don’t really know how to make their information and cultural treasures available to the public online — but they should. Governments, schools, libraries, museums and cultural institutions face all sorts of barriers of technology, law and social habit. And there are few existing models to emulate. So what’s a conscientious public institution to do?

Some possible answers were explored recently at COMMUNIA [Accessing, Using, Reusing Public Sector Content and Data], a two-day workshop in London on March 26 and 27. ...

See also our past post on the conference.

NARA seeks comments on access to presidential records

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has released a call for comments on systems for preserving and providing access to presidential records. Comments are due by April 17, 2009 and can be submitted by email. (Thanks to District Dispatch.)
NARA seeks the comments and suggestions of interested organizations and individuals for cost effective ways of modifying the present system for archiving and providing public access to Presidential records. For example, ... digitizing entire collections, processing them electronically, and making them available via the Internet would eliminate the need for costly physical structures. Paper records and other media that need to retained could be stored in lower-cost caves for long-term preservation. ...

Update. See also this response from several library, history, and advocacy groups:

... Open access to presidential records in an issue that concerns a broad swath of the public ...

OA as transition to newer models of scholarship

Gideon Burton, Conventional Scholarship as "Legacy System" and Open Access as "Middleware", Academic Evolution, April 7, 2009.

... The restricted-knowledge model, inherited from print, affects not just the distribution of knowledge, but the nature and quality of its creation. Modern popular knowledge has been socialized through commenting and recommendation systems that academic knowledge has kept itself immune from behind its ivory curtain. And there is strong motivation for it to resist current communications. If academic publishing stays within its established genres and persists in the gateway model of peer review, it can continue to pretend to fixed and certain authority, as though knowledge is a commodity (as indeed, it is within the academic reward system). This is understandable given tradition, but it is inconsistent with the open and ongoing review of knowledge that is the new paradigm of communication and knowledge production. Ultimately, traditional academic publishing will prove to be inferior knowledge of diminishing significance (largely due to its own self silencing and its voluntary withdrawal from persistent social knowledge systems).

It is within this light that the Open Access movement should be considered, as well as the efforts to institutionalize OA through academic policies and online archives. Most of the Open Access movement is taking place in terms of accommodating Scholarship 1.0. Almost all the discussion regarding Open Access takes as a given the persistence of the traditional genres of academic knowledge (especially the journal article, but also the monograph, the dissertation, the thesis, etc.), and the persistence of the single-instance, gateway model of peer review. (It is still rare to hear OA advocates speak about born-digital scholarship, teaching media, or student-generated work--all of which should be captured and maintained in such repositories, as I've argued elsewhere).

I'm not saying that the current focus in Open Access on traditional scholarship is wrong; I'm simply observing that this is "middleware." The term "middleware" has been coined within technology to name the necessary bridge that often needs to be made between generations of software or hardware. Such technology is created to sustain the life of legacy systems. And that is very, very important. ...

Nevertheless, the digital world is the world we must plan for. Academic publishing is going to evolve. Already the case has been made that scholarship can consist of creating tools that advance the "cyberinfrastructure" -- such as creating a computer program or posting a complete data set properly formatted for reuse by future scholars. Journal articles are going to be versioned one day just as Wikipedia pages, collaboratively created and mediated with sound and image as never before. Tagging and linking will be as critical, as required to substantiate knowledge, as peer review and documentation conventions are now. ...

On open science vs. free software

Cameron Neylon, Open Data, Open Source, Open Process: Open Research, Science in the open, April 2, 2009. (Thanks to Glyn Moody.)

... It is easy to lose sight of the fact that for most researchers software is a means to an end. For the Open Researcher what is important is the ability to reproduce results, to criticize and to examine. Ideally this would include every step of the process, including the software. But for most issues you don’t need, or even want, to be replicating the work right down to the metal. You wouldn’t after all expect a researcher to be forced to run their software on an open source computer, with an open source chipset. You aren’t necessarily worried what operating system they are running. What you are worried about is whether it is possible read their data files and reproduce their analysis. ...

Open Data is crucial to Open Research. If we don’t have the data we have nothing to discuss. Open Process is crucial to Open Research. If we don’t understand how something has been produced, or we can’t reproduce it, then it is worthless. Open Source is not necessary, but, if it is done properly, it can come close to being sufficient to satisfy the other two requirements. However it can’t do that without Open Standards supporting it for documenting both file types and the software that uses them. ...

More on OA to geodata

Mike Jackson, et al., The Evolution of Geospatial Technology Calls for Changes in Geospatial Research, Education and Government Management, Directions Magazine, April 6, 2009.

... Academics and those who fund their research should be acutely interested in the proposition that geospatial data developed for scientific purposes can be, in a Web environment, a resource whose value increases with the number of researchers who use it. ... If researchers properly document, archive and publish their data and methodologies using available Web technologies, standards and best practices, many benefits accrue ...

Geospatial academics worldwide ought to note also the significance to the research community taken by the recently installed Obama administration in the US, which has resulted in the appointment as co-chairs of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Harold Varmus, co-founder of the Public Library of Science and former director of the US-NIH, and Eric Lander, a lead researcher in the Human Genome Project and founding director of the Broad Institute (a joint MIT and Harvard institute which addresses the effectiveness of "a new, collaborative model of science focused on transforming medicine)". Varmus is one of the most high-profile advocates of Open Access and the role of government in providing open access, and both the Human Genome Project and the Broad Institute are practitioners of open data. In this context, is it not then obvious and provocative to consider the potential importance to geospatial information science of recognizing the GEOSS (Global Earth Observation System of Systems), within the US federal government as well as the world scientific community, to be an initiative that is similar to and as important as the Human Genome project?

The authors support a movement toward Open Access in all the sciences that produce and use geospatial data. ...

Sequencing company releases OA data sets

Helicos BioSciences Releases Transcriptome Sequencing (RNA-Seq) Datasets on Open Access Web Site, press release, April 6, 2009.
Helicos BioSciences today announced the release of transcriptome sequencing (RNA-Seq) datasets on the HeliSphere Technology Center, the company's open access Web site for sharing Helicos datasets and bioinformatics software tools. ...
See also our past post on Helicos.

Report on the IR at U. Warwick

Robin Green, et al., Warwick Research Archive Project: Final Report, report to JISC, March 25, 2009. (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

WRAP’s aim was to capitalise on the learning from early adopter institutional repository projects and build a repository for the University of Warwick that would further develop understanding of how repositories can meet the needs of their stakeholders.

Key objectives were to implement a repository for preprints, postprints and theses with the EPrints Open Source software, using SWAP, the Scholarly Works Application Profile, and the EThOS EPrints OAI plugin; to explore the potential for interoperability of the repository with other campus systems; to develop an infrastructure to receive around 350 theses a year; to attract participation by a range of departments and researchers; and to achieve a corpus of over 1500 items by project end. ...

Although content submission levels are very good technical delays when implementing SWAP with EPrints, combined with the time and effort required to create high quality metadata, have significantly impacted on record creation and ability to meet the initial volume target. However, as the project closes WRAP has achieved many of its aims and objectives, including its primary purpose of providing a repository service that is embedded within the institution. In particular, WRAP has implemented the SWAP metadata schema with EPrints software, obtained an institutional mandate for submission of e-theses, developed procedures for populating the repository, integrated WRAP with the campus search engine, and created a mechanism for transfer of content to and from the Expertise/My Profile system. ...

Bourne recognized for OA advocacy

Kevin Davies, The Bourne Commendation: Open Access Evangelist Wins 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award, Bio-IT World, April 6, 2009.

Australian open-access evangelist Philip Bourne, a prolific computational biologist at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), has beaten out stiff competition to win the 2009 Benjamin Franklin Award.

The annual award, presented by the Bioinformatics Organization, is given to a scientist who epitomizes the open-source values espoused by the legendary inventor and statesman. Bourne will be presented with his award by Jeff Bizzaro, president of, at the 2009 Bio-IT World Conference & Expo in Boston on Tuesday, April 28. ...

Bourne was nominated for his numerous and varied contributions to both open access in bioinformatics and computational biology as well as his innovations with the Protein Data Bank (PDB). A past president of the International Society for Computational Biology (ISCB), Bourne is the founding editor-in-chief of PLoS Computational Biology, one of the open-access journals launched by the Public Library of Science. In just four years, the journal has become the highest impact factor journal in the niche of mathematical and computational biology. Bourne is also a co-founder (with PLoS) of the website, which allows scientists across many disciplines to upload videos, lectures, presentations and posters. ...

Bourne joins a distinguished group of honorees dating back to 2002. The other five finalists this year were: Warren DeLano (DeLano Scientific), developer of the PyMol molecular viewer application; evolutionary geneticist Jonathan Eisen (UC Davis); Don Gilbert (Indiana University), software/database developer; Heng Li (Welcome Trust Sanger Institute), chief developer of the Maq short-read aligner; and Steven Salzberg (University of Maryland), developer of tools such as MUMmer. ...

See also our past posts on Bourne and the Benjamin Franklin Award.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

U.S. court decision rules enclosure of public domain unconstitutional

Ben Sheffner, District Court: restoration of copyright in public domain foreign works violates First Amendment, Copyrights & Campaigns, April 3, 2009.

This is major: a Federal District Court in Colorado has held unconstitutional a portion of the Copyright Act, holding that 17 U.S.C. §104A, which restored copyright in certain foreign works that had previously fallen into the public domain, cannot survive First Amendment scrutiny. The government defended the statute by arguing that such restoration was required by Article 18 of the Berne Convention, the international copyright treaty that the US joined in 1988, but the court in Golan v. Holder today held that the First Amendment trumps such treaty obligations, and that the statute impermissibly interferes with the free speech rights of the plaintiffs, "artisans and businesses that rely upon works in the public domain for their trade." ...

See also coverage and commentary by Groklaw, Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford Center for Internet and Society, and Techdirt.

Update. See also coverage and commentary by Kevin Smith and Ars Technica.

Open textbook supporter headed to Obama's Dept. of Education

Nanette Asimov, Obama taps South Bay community college chief, San Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 2009. (Thanks to Open Education News.)

President Obama has nominated Martha Kanter, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District in Santa Clara County, as undersecretary of education.

If confirmed, Kanter would oversee the nation's postsecondary education policy, as well as federal student aid, adult education and vocational education. ...

She would also like to see colleges share noncopyrighted books and course materials on the Internet, similar to the "community college open textbook project" signed into California law last September. ...


Cal State moves toward joining SCOAP3

Marisa Ramirez, CSU Endorsement of SCOAP3 Initiative, Crossing the Chasm, April 6, 2009.
On Friday, the [California State University] Council of Library Directors (COLD), based on recommendation of the Electronic Access to Information Resources (EAR) Committee, voiced support toward submitting an Expression of Interest to join the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics (SCOAP3). The CSU Expression of Interest includes a monetary pledge of funds toward [high-energy physics] journals. ...

Evolving toward zero-embargo funder OA mandates

Xavier Bosch, A reflection on open-access, citation counts, and the future of scientific publishing, Archivum Immunologiae et Therapiae Experimentalis, March 31, 2009.  Accessible only to subscribers, at least at least so far.  There is no abstract.  Excerpt:

...The new U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandatory policy might be transitional. Open access to articles between six (in the case of Wellcome Trust funded research) and twelve (NIH) months after publication is, in theory, completely useless, at least in some fields in which science advances incredibly rapidly. In practice, no scientist will wish to wait so long to read an article that may help advance his or her research. These policies may thus be regarded as too bland and aimed mainly at satisfying publishers. If the philosophy of open access is immediate access, why wait six or twelve months? If the overall model eventually proves successful, the natural evolution of these mandatory policies should be towards simultaneous free availability of original research in both the journal and the public repository. This natural evolution should also include the authors’ keeping the copyright and being able to reuse their work as many times as they wish....

On support for author-side fees in economics

Thomas David Scheiding, Explaining the inability of economists to practice what they preach: the funding of the American Economic Review with author charges, Journal of Economic Methodology, March 2009. See also this OA preprint. Abstract:
The reader subscription pricing mechanism is the dominant method by which the publication of scholarly journals in economics is funded. This occurs despite the fact that the use of an author charge pricing mechanism, when used in conjunction with a reader charge pricing mechanism, is described in the neoclassical economics literature as a more efficient method for financing journals. The division between the actual financing of economics journals and the theoretical understanding of how journals should be financed highlights deficiencies within the neoclassical economists' understanding of the financing of scholarly journals. In this paper I discuss this divergence in theory and practice in how economists finance their scholarly communication process and the brief attempt by some neoclassical economists to bridge this divide.

The NIH OA mandate after one year

Meredith Wadman, Open-access policy flourishes at NIH, Nature, April 7, 2009.  Excerpt:

One year on, advocates of free public access to scientific literature are calling a law that requires researchers at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to make their manuscripts publicly available at the PubMed Central repository a success. At the same time, the measure continues to be challenged by a senior congressman and some publishers.

Since the legal requirement that NIH-funded researchers make their manuscripts publicly available after acceptance for journal publication came into effect last April, the number of articles being approved by their authors for processing by the repository has more than tripled. In March 2009, 6,425 such original articles were approved by their authors for processing; a year earlier, the number was 1,852 (see graph)....Author compliance "has been dramatically altered" by converting an "anaemic" voluntary policy into law, says former NIH director Harold Varmus, now president of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York and a keen supporter of open-access initiatives.

But the policy still has opponents. "This so-called 'open access' policy was not subject to open hearings, open debate or open amendment in Congress," John Conyers (Democrat, Michigan), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote on The Huffington Post website last month (he declined to be interviewed for this article). In February, Conyers re-introduced a bill from the last congressional session that would amend US copyright law to forbid the NIH making funding conditional on manuscripts being publicly accessible. However, congressional observers say that the bill has little chance of going anywhere this year.

Open-access policies have caught on around the world in recent years. Britain's Wellcome Trust, the Italian National Institute of Health (ISS), the European Research Council and many others have implemented similar mandates, including all seven UK research councils. Disease groups such as the high-profile US foundation Autism Speaks have done the same, as have the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University.

The reason that the policy has succeeded at the NIH "is that there has been cooperation — whether they wanted to [comply] or not — by grantees, by extramural staff, by the universities and by publishers", says David Lipman, director of the NIH's National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland. He believes that the new requirement is at least partly responsible for the increased use of PubMed Central; there were approximately 550,000 articles downloaded from the site in March 2008, and 680,000 last month....

However, opposition to the law persists among some publishers. "What is being done by this policy is imposing a specific model of publication that we think the government has no business imposing," says Allan Adler, legal counsel for the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in Washington DC. (Nature is a member of the AAP but cooperates with and supports the NIH on open access.)

Because of the delay of up to a year on NIH uploads to PubMed Central, it is difficult at this stage to gauge the impact of the policies on societies and other publishers that rely heavily on subscriptions for revenue....

Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), an advocacy group in Washington DC with an open-access agenda, says that the consortium's members are reporting large-scale cuts in journal subscriptions. "But they are across disciplines, completely due to the economic meltdown and not the NIH policy," she adds.

But Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society in Bethesda, says that "in an environment where access is readily available whether after 12 months or 6 months or immediately, the subscription model starts wobbling". Frank predicts that, as subscription revenues tank, publishers will be forced to levy stiff fees on authors for publishing....

One year anniversary of NIH policy

The NIH Public Access Policy entered implementation on April 7, 2008 -- one year ago today.

For a brief retrospective, see: Gavin Baker, NIH Open Access Policy Turns 1 Year Old, Science Progress, April 7, 2009.

Harvard's letter opposing the Conyers bill

Harvard University has released the March 2 letter it sent to its Congressional delegation, in support of the NIH policy and opposing the Conyers bill.  In its entirety:

We write to express our support for the widest possible access by the public and government to research results that have been government-funded. Broadening access to government-funded research is in the best interest of the government, the researchers, and the general public. At Harvard, we have ourselves recently undertaken a range of activities to provide free and unfettered access to the scholarly research results of our faculty and students and to the unique collections in our library as part of our mission to disseminate knowledge for the benefit of the public, and continue to work toward openness in our activities.

Recently, Representative Conyers introduced H.R. 801, the "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act". This legislation would limit access by the public to research that they have funded through government grants. It would overturn the NIH public access policy that guarantees access to NIH-funded research through PubMed Central, and would disallow extension of this policy to other government agencies.

The NIH public access policy has meant that all Americans have access to the important biomedical research results that they have funded through NIH grants. Some 3,000 articles in the life sciences are added to this invaluable public resource each month because of the NIH policy, and one million visitors a month use the site to take advantage of these research papers. The policy respects copyright law and the valuable work of scholarly publishers.

We strongly urge that you oppose H.R. 801. Rather than overturning the NIH policy that Congress mandated in 2007, Congress should broaden the mandate to other agencies, by passing the Federal Research Public Access Act first introduced in 2006. Doing so would increase transparency of government and of the research that it funds, and provide the widest availability of research results to the citizens who funded it.

The letter is signed by Steven E. Hyman, Provost; Robert Darnton, Director of the Harvard University Library; and Stuart M. Shieber, Faculty Director of the Office for Scholarly Communication.

More evidence that OA editions help sell TA editions

For more than five years, the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute has issued all its publications in dual OA/TA versions.  Now it reports that the OA editions have increased the sales of the TA editions.  (Thanks to Charles Ellwood Jones.)  Excerpt:

Publication of research is a central tenet of the mission of the Oriental Institute. Of equal importance is the widespread accessibility of the Institute's publications to scholars and interested individuals throughout the world. Towards that end, on October 27, 2004, the Oriental Institute established the Electronic Publications Initiative (EPI), by which all publications of the Oriental Institute are simultaneously published both in print and electronically on the Internet, electronic distribution is complimentary, and older titles are to be scanned and distributed on the Internet as funding and time permit....

The response to the EPI has been overwhelming, with positive comments received from all over the world. Complimentary Web distribution ensures that publications of the Oriental Institute are made available to everyone with access to the Internet–especially in countries where the Institute carries out research. Statistics on downloads of electronic files and sales of printed books are tracked, and sales of the printed volumes have not decreased! Indeed, after the complimentary distribution of twenty-one titles in 2008 that had for many years only been available in print, sales of these titles increased by 7% compared with the previous two years.

At the time of this writing, 147 Adobe Portable Document Format (pdf) files, each containing an entire book from cover to cover, are being distributed on the Internet, plus hundreds more Annual Report and News & Notes articles, the Research Archives Catalog, as well as Institute project reports, and articles by faculty and staff–with much more to come....

Comment.  This is especially persuasive because it's based on five years of experience.  The only longer body of experience I know belongs to the National Academies Press, which has published all its monographs in dual OA/TA editions for more than 15 years (since March 1994).  It too reports that the OA editions boost the net sales of the TA editions; see Mike Jensen's reports from 2001, 2005, and 2007.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Cyberinfrastructure for the humanities

Working Together or Apart: Promoting the Next Generation of Digital Scholarship, report of a workshop by the Council on Library and Information Resources and the National Endowment for the Humanities, March 2009. (Thanks to Fabrizio Tinti.) Some of the articles touch on OA.

LOC to provide more content via Web 2.0 services

Library of Congress Makes More Assets and Information Available Through New-Media Initiatives, press release, March 25, 2009. (Thanks to Fabrizio Tinti.)

The Library of Congress will begin sharing content from its vast video and audio collections on the YouTube and Apple iTunes web services as part of a continuing initiative to make its incomparable treasures more widely accessible to a broad audience. The new Library of Congress channels on each of the popular services will launch within the next few weeks.

New channels on the video and podcasting services will be devoted to Library content ...

The General Services Administration today also announced agreements with Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo and that will allow other federal agencies to participate in new media while meeting legal requirements and the unique needs of government. GSA plans to negotiate agreements with other providers, and the Library will explore these new media services when they are appropriate to its mission and as resources permit. ...

Update. Here's the LOC's YouTube channel. See also this LOC blog post:

... We are starting with more than 70 videos ...

But this is just the beginning. We have made a conscious decision that we’re not just going to upload a bunch of videos and then walk away. As with our popular Flickr pilot project, we intend to keep uploading additional content. We’re modifying some of our work-flows in modest ways to make our content more useful and delivered across platforms with built-in audiences of millions.

Not so incidentally, all of the videos we post on YouTube will also be available at (and many, many more, of course) on American Memory, many of which are newly digitized in much higher resolution ...

March update from RePEc

Christian Zimmermann, RePEc in March 2009, The RePEc Blog, April 5, 2009.

The big news this month is that RePEc has reached 1000 participating archives. This was achieved with an almost record crop in new archives, 16: Center for Industrial Studies Milano, INESC Porto, El Trimestre Económico, Netherlands Competition Authority, Asia-Pacific Policy Center, Villanova University, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Economic Publishing House, Romanian-American University, Lille Graduate School of Management, Yildiz Technical University, GWS Institute of Economic Structures Research, Bogazici University, Agricultural University of Athens, Kyushu Sangyo University, Portuguese Journal of Management Studies. In addition, over 2500 working paper series are now listed.

A new ranking has been published, one for young economists. And in terms of traffic, March was as busy as ever with 846,487 file downloads and 3,202,521 abstract views. ...

Critiquing open education

Sean R. Eddy, Open Revolution, PLoS Biology, March 24, 2009.

... The essays collected in Opening Up Education, edited by Toru Iiyoshi and M.S. Vijay Kumar, describe ways in which individuals and institutions intend to exploit digital communications technology, develop innovative and freely redistributable educational methods and resources, and improve education at all levels throughout the world.

But what does “open education” really mean? What is “closed” about education? Should education be free as in no cost, or is there something about education that needs to be freed as in freedom? This sort of ground is already well-trampled by debates about two better-known “open” predecessors, open-source software and open-access publication, and it is instructive to make the comparison. ...

See also comments by David Crotty.

Increasing the utilization of scholarly resources

Alison B. Sailer, Faculty receive scholarships for different fields of study, The Etownian, April 2, 2009.

... Although electronic scholarly communication devices such as JSTOR and EBSCO are virtually free for scholars to use in many developing countries, scholars may not actually be taking advantage of this. Some reasons could include lack of training or lack of “domestic digital infrastructure.”

“If we want to realize the full promise and potential of technology, not only must electronically delivered research be accessible, but it also must be useful,” [Thomas] Scheiding said.

“In this [forthcoming] paper, we combine current usage statistics for electronic scholarly communication initiatives with a description of actual scholarly communication practices to partially explain why scholars in one developing country, Mongolia, fail to use the initiatives they have access to.” ...

More on digital enclosure

George Scialabba, What's mine should be yours, Boston Globe, March 22, 2009.

... In the last several decades, Congress has drastically extended the term and broadened the scope of both patents and copyrights, on the premise that only monopoly control of the product will motivate companies to invest the large sums required for research and development. So computer programs, gene sequences, chemical compounds, melodies, and databases, or even tiny parts of all these things, are increasingly no longer available to other artists, scientists, and programmers without payment of a stiff licensing fee. ...

A cadre of public-spirited law professors has formulated a powerful critique of this "second enclosure movement," a critique that has achieved considerable resonance among musicians, programmers, scientists, and other intellectual workers. The Ralph Nader of this movement is Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig. Another leading light is Duke professor James Boyle, whose new book, The Public Domain, is a superb introduction to the subject.

Underlying all property law is the question: How is wealth created? Obviously, every innovation has an individual component and a social component: inspiration plus tradition. Every original creation, Boyle observes, is "built from the resources of the public domain - language, culture, genre, scientific community, or what have you." Artists and inventors must eat, so they must have enough control over their creations to reap some financial reward. But unlimited control could make their work unavailable to future artists and inventors, diminishing everyone's welfare. ...

What to do? Along with Lessig and others, Boyle has pioneered the Creative Commons license. This new form of copyright allows the author of a work to reserve fewer rights than usual - or none at all - over its subsequent use but keeps others from taking it out of the public domain, or "commons." Though it was incorporated only seven years ago, tens of millions of books, articles, songs, photos, videos, and software upgrades now bear a Creative Commons license. The story of Creative Commons, Wikipedia, open-source software, the Human Genome Project, and other heartening developments is told in journalist David Bollier's Viral Spiral, a lively history of the "public knowledge" movement. ...

5 journals moving to

Five more journals have been accepted for inclusion in Like all titles, the journals will be OA or delayed OA. At least some of the titles appear not to have been OA previously.
  • Les Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l’Ouest
  • Revue archéologique de l’Ouest
  • RIPES. Revue internationale de pédagogie de l’enseignement supérieur
  • Tr@jectoires. Travaux des jeunes chercheurs du CIERA
  • Transtext(e)s - Transcultures

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Free hosting for open data

Talis Connected Commons is a new service from Talis to provide free hosting for data sets tagged with the Open Data Commons Public Domain Dedication and License or Creative Commons CC0. See also the March 28 announcement. (Thanks to Panlibus and the Open Knowledge Foundation.)

Update. See also this comment by Kaitlin Thaney:

... I further bore into the details regarding hosting public domain data, inquiring whether or not data naturally in the public domain and not marked by CC0 or the PDDL would be allowed in the system. Talis’ Leigh Dodds, after a few email exchanges, expressed their desire to have the data clearly marked via CC0 or PDDL, but assured me that data already in the commons — for example, the human genome — would not be excluded. ...

Opening UK local government data

Michael Cross, E-government survey urges councils to free data, The Guardian, March 26, 2009.

Local councils have been told to open up their vast resources of data about the environments in which we live, work and play. The latest annual survey of local e-government includes a plea to authorities "to get a permissive copyright policy on your website, publish your data in a way that computers can read easily, don't charge for your data and respond positively to people who ask you for basic data sets".

The message, in the Better Connected survey of local government websites, is a welcome reminder of councils' pivotal place in the three-year campaign to Free Our Data. ...

Neither the Office of Public Sector Information nor the Cabinet Office, which for the past year has promoted free data as part of its "Power of Information" agenda, can order councils to set their data free. The message relies more on peer pressure - it will be read by the council managers who would be responsible for making technical changes to set data free. ...

Attribution, identity, and open science

Cameron Neylon, Oh, you’re that “Cameron Neylon”: Why effective identity management is critical to the development of open research, presentation at Eduserv Symposium 2009 (London, May 21, 2009). Abstract:
There is a growing community developing around the need make the outputs of research available more efficiently and more effectively. This ranges from efforts to improve the quality of data presentation in published peer reviewed papers through to efforts where the full record of research is made available online, as it is recorded. A major fear as more material goes online in different forms is that people will not receive credit for their contribution. The recognition of researcher’s contribution has always focussed on easily measurable quantities. As the diversity of measurable contributions increases there is a growing need to aggregate the contributions of a specific researcher together in a reliable and authoritative way. The key to changing researcher behaviour lies in creating a reward structure that acknowledges their contribution and allows them to effectively cited. Effective mechanisms for uniquely identifying researchers are therefore at the heart of constructing reward systems that support an approach to research that fully exploits the communication technologies available to us today.

An OA tool for astrophysics data

O.V. Verkhodanov, The CATS Service: An Astrophysical Research Tool, Data Science Journal, 2009. Abstract:
We describe the current status of CATS (astrophysical CATalogs Support system), a publicly accessible tool maintained at Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SAO RAS) allowing one to search hundreds of catalogs of astronomical objects discovered all along the electromagnetic spectrum. Our emphasis is mainly on catalogs of radio continuum sources observed from 10 MHz to 245 GHz, and secondly on catalogs of objects such as radio and active stars, X-ray binaries, planetary nebulae, HII regions, supernova remnants, pulsars, nearby and radio galaxies, AGN and quasars. CATS also includes the catalogs from the largest extragalactic surveys with non-radio waves. In 2008 CATS comprised a total of about 109 records from over 400 catalogs in the radio, IR, optical and X-ray windows, including most source catalogs deriving from observations with the Russian radio telescope RATAN-600. CATS offers several search tools through different ways of access, e.g. via Web-interface and e-mail. Since its creation in 1997 CATS has managed about 105requests. Currently CATS is used by external users about 1500 times per day and since its opening to the public in 1997 has received about 4000 requests for its selection and matching tasks.

CISTI's efforts to open data

Mary Zborowski, CISTI'S Activities in Support of Scientific Data Management in Canada 2008-2010, Data Science Journal, 2009. Abstract:
In the Canadian research environment, it is difficult for researchers to effectively discover, access, and use data sets, except for those that are the most well known. Several recent reports have discussed the issues around "lost" data sets: those which are intended to be shared but cannot be identified and utilized effectively because of insufficient associated metadata. Both problems are approaching critical levels in Canada and internationally, a situation that is unacceptable because these data sets are often generated as a result of public funding. Solutions may involve providing support and training for researchers on how they can best collect and manage their data sets or developing gateways to scientific data sets. NRC-CISTI is the largest comprehensive source of scientific, technical, and medical information in North America, with a mandate to serve as Canada's national science library. Through its publishing arm, NRC Research Press, it is also Canada's foremost scientific publisher. NRC-CISTI is an organization with demonstrated expertise in metadata management, which, until recently, focused primarily on library and publishing contexts. However in November 2007, it formally committed to expand its agenda to address the management of scientific research data and the related critical needs of the research community. This paper presents NRC-CISTI's activities in this area. NRC-CISTI has begun by hosting forums in which the critical players (including the granting agencies) mapped out targets and approaches. It has strengthened its own internal expertise regarding metadata and management of scientific data sets. Finally, NRC-CISTI is developing a gateway Web site which will provide access to Canadian scientific data sets and related metadata, tools, educational resources, and other informative and collaborative tools urgently needed by Canadian and international researchers. NRC-CISTI is the sponsoring body for the Canadian National Committee for CODATA and is committed to promoting and supporting CNC/CODATA's initiatives.
See also our past posts on CISTI.

Milestone for E-LIS

E-LIS, the OA repository for library and information science, recently passed 9,000 documents. (Thanks to Andrew Waller.)