Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Jan Velterop at the UKSG meeting

Abstracts of the presentations from the 32nd UKSG Annual Conference and Exhibition (Torquay, March 30 - April 1, 2009) are now online. 

For example, see Jan Velterop, Beyond Open Access:

Abstract:   When Homo sapiens was still in the early stages of his evolutionary development, he hadn't yet figured out many other uses for water than to drink it. Water is one of the most abundant resources on earth, but if you're just using it to drink, you don't use much of its potential. When people invented rafts and boats a whole new world, literally, opened up to them. They all of a sudden didn't have to see expanses of water as impediments to getting to the other side, and once navigation was thus discovered, waterways and seas became the most important transportation routes upon which empires were built. There is something similar going on with the way we use information. Homo sapiens of today hasn't quite figured out what to do with the oceans of information available to him, other than 'by the drink' - by reading articles. There remains an enormous amount of "unknown knowns" if we do not find a way to do more with information than read articles and books, or consult databases. We have to develop ways of extracting knowledge out of large amounts of information. We have to invent the equivalents of rafts and boats to navigate information. And still read, but manageable amounts (after all, we still drink, too). Some people deplore the fact that more and more information becomes available. They even extend that to open access. If indeed the only thing one can imagine doing with it is read ('drink'), then solutions are being sought in selection, in limiting access, in having the choices made by others. But if one can imagine truly navigating the ever growing seas of information, the verb will not be to deplore the abundance, but instead, to explore it.

Also see the Charlie Rapple's blog notes on Jan's presentation, from the conference blog.

Data sharing in genomics

Jane Kaye and four co-authors, Data sharing in genomics — re-shaping scientific practice, Nature Reviews Genetics, May 2009.  (Thanks to Garrett Eastman.) 

Abstract:   Funding bodies have recently introduced a requirement that data sharing must be a consideration of all funding applications in genomics. As with all new developments this condition has had an impact on scientific practice, particularly in the area of publishing and in the conduct of research. We discuss the challenges that must be addressed if the full benefits of data sharing, as envisaged by funders, are to be realized.

Growing international consensus on OA to law

Enrico Francesconi and Ginevra Peruginelli, The Florentine Debate on Free Access to Law, VoxPopuLII, April 9, 2009.  (Thanks to Joe Hodnicki.)  A report on Law via the Internet: Free Access, Quality of Information, Effectiveness of Rights (Florence, October 30-31, 2008).  Excerpt:

...[T]he Conference mainly focused on digital legal information, analyzing it in the light of the idea of freedom of access to legal information, and discussing the technological progress that is shaping such access. Within this interaction of technological progress and law, free access to information is only the first step — but it is a fundamental one.

Increased use of digital information in the field of law has played an important role in developing methodologies for both data creation and access. Participants at the conference agreed that complete, reliable legal data is essential for access to law, and that free access to law is a fundamental right, enabling citizens to exercise their rights in a conscious and effective way. In this context, the use of new technologies becomes an essential tool of democracy for the citizens of an e-society.

The contributions of legal experts from all over the world reflected this crucial need for free access to law. Conference participants analysed both barriers to free access, and the techniques that might overcome those barriers. Session topics included:

In general, discussions at the conference covered four main points. The first is that official free access to law is not enough. Full free access requires a range of different providers and competitive republishing by third parties, which in turn requires an anti-monopoly policy on the part of the creator of legal information....

Second, countries must find a balance between the potential for commercial exploitation of information and the needs of the public. This is particularly relevant to open access to publicly funded research.

The third point concerns effective access to, and re-usability of, legal information. Effective access requires that most governments promote the use of technologies that improve access to law, abandoning past approaches such as technical restrictions on the reuse of legal information. It is important that governments not only allow, but also help others to reproduce and re-use their legal materials, continually removing any impediments to re-publication.

Finally, international cooperation is essential to providing free access to law. One week before the Florence event, the LII community participated in a meeting of experts organised by the Hague Conference on Private International Law’s Permanent Bureau;  a meeting entitled “Global Co-operation on the Provision of On-line Legal Information.” Among other things, participants discussed how free, on-line resources can contribute to resolving trans-border disputes. At this meeting, a general consensus was reached on the need for countries to preserve their legal materials in order to make them available....

From the technical point of view, the Conference underlined the paramount importance of adopting open standards. Improving the quality of access to legal information requires interoperability among legal information systems across national boundaries....

Recent developments on repository software

John Robertson, Repository software update, John’s JISCCETIS blog, April 17, 2009.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)  A review of recent news from Fedora, DuraSpace, DSpace, EPrints, and the new Microsoft tools.

More on green/gold priorities

Stevan Harnad, Harvard's Stuart Shieber on Open Access at CalTech and Berkeley, Open Access Archivangelism, April 17, 2009.  Excerpt:

Stuart Shieber, the tireless architect of the historic Harvard self-archiving mandate that may at last have tipped the scale for global Open Access, has been traveling to spread the message, to Caltech on March 26th and to Berkeley on March 30th.

Click here to see the video of his CalTech talk. It was very clear and articulate (and often funny, too!).

I would add one strategic suggestion on how to make the message and priorities crystal clear to the 10,000 minus 76 institutions and funders worldwide that have not yet mandated OA:

Mandate Green OA Self-Archiving First
Harvard FAS and 75 other universities/departments and funders have done (and only then consider funding gold OA publishing, if you wish)....

Mobile physics

arXiview is a new iPhone app from Dave Bacon, for searching and browsing arXiv.  From the website:

  • Browsing arXiv categories by date. Keep up to date not just on the latest days posting, but postings from the last week or any date you wish. The first iPhone arxiv browser to offer full date browsing.
  • Search the arXiv by author, title, full text, with and without restrictions to specific categories of the arXiv.
  • Save preprints to your iPhone for later, offline browsing. Organize your offline readings in self-named folders.
  • Email yourself or others preprint information for later reference.
  • Read PDFs in both landscape and portrait mode.
  • Arrange arXiv categories and subcategories in an order of your preference, for quick access.

Also see James Dacey's review in Physics World (thanks to Garrett Eastman):

Even its fiercest critics will struggle to argue that open-access publishing has not brought about a revolution in the way scientists engage with the latest research findings.

Driving the reformation in physics and maths is the arXiv preprint server, which was pioneered by Paul Ginsparg at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and is currently hosted by Cornell University.

Now the revolution continues apace as a new innovation will enable frontline physics to be winged straight into the palms of researchers....

It remains to be seen whether arXiview will be a bit hit amongst physicists but I can already picture a handful of the uber keen ones wowing their colleagues at conferences as they reel off the days latest findings....

Update (5/5/09). Also see Simeon Warner's post about two older, related apps: arXiv mobi and ArXivReader.

Friday, April 17, 2009

OA journals in paleontology

The Open Source Paleontologist has posted a list of OA journals in paleontology. Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week has also posted a related list of Open Access Bio and Paleo.

Comment. See also the search results in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Update. See also: What Are the Best Open Access Journals for Paleontologists?.

Update. See also: About the Ratings and Open Access Paleontology Rankings - Part II.

New OA journal of tolerance and intolerance

Apparent experiments with OA from major publishers

Jim Till, Are prominent publishers experimenting with OA?, Be openly accessible or be obscure, April 16, 2009.

... A viewing today of the 2009 Reviews archive of Nature Reviews Cancer revealed 4 articles, in the archive for April 2009, where the full text “is available free as a special feature to registered visitors“. ...

A viewing today of the Genetics collection of the New England Journal of Medicine revealed 6 Gratis OA articles, all published at on April 15, 2009. ...

A viewing today of the Site Map for Cell Press journals led me to the Archive section for the journal Cancer Cell. I then browsed the current issue (7 April 2009, Volume 15, Issue 4). One “Featured Article” was labeled “Free“. ...

However, when I checked access to the other 12 articles in this same issue, I was able to access the free full text of all of them. ...

Comment: Which of the examples listed above will be Gratis OA on an ongoing basis? I’ll plan to check the links included in this post at later dates, to try to obtain an answer to this question.

Comment. I seem to be able to access the free full text to the complete backfile of Cancer Cell, as well as the current issue.

Repository-development wiki

One outcome of last month's International Repositories Workshop (Amsterdam, March 16-17, 2009) is the International Repositories Infrastructure wiki.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)  From the front page:

...The current crop of action plans are around four areas.

  • Citation services - that is, making citation data more easily available from OA papers
  • 'Repository handshake' - that is, ways for repositories to ease the deposit process in various scenarios
  • Interoperable identification infrastructure - that is, can named entities be unambiguously identified on the web?
  • International Repositories Organisation - how can repositories and their teams work better together. Note that this action plan is being taken forward by a group being coordinated by the DRIVER project....

Drafts of the four plans were briefly considered by a group of infrastructure funders on 17th March 2009, who expressed general support for all of them, and varying degrees of interest in funding work under each of them.  Some are already funding relevant work, which needs to be coordinated internationally.  That's one purpose of this wiki.

Briefing materials

Alma Swan has produced and is maintaining a set of briefing materials that support this work by documenting current work under a range of headings relevant to the action plans.  If you have any updates on any of these, please either email Alma so that she can update the map versions to match.

Update (4/21/09). Also see Alma Swan's announcement:

An ongoing project has been looking at the global repositories infrastructure with the aim of determining where work needs to be done to ‘fill in the gaps’ and produce a truly interoperable system of repositories for research outputs. With respect to those outputs, we have focused for the time being on journal articles but are mindful of the other types of research output and hope that these will be encompassed at a later date.

An international workshop was held in Amsterdam last month, attended by a hundred or so repository experts who spent two days in discussion in small groups to develop draft action plans around four themes. These four themes had been identified as areas of high priority during online discussions in this community of experts over several months prior to the workshop....

To add comments [to the wiki] you will need to request access, which you can do by clicking on the link in the top right corner of the front page. 

Video of Stuart Shieber at Caltech

Stuart M. Shieber, The Harvard Initiatives for Open Access to the Scholarly Literature, presentation at California Institute of Technology, March 26, 2009; video (Microsoft Silverlight format), 90 minutes. See also notes by Lindsay Cleary.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comparing OA and OER

Nicole Harris, Where is the I in Open Content?, JISC Access Management Team, April 14, 2009.

Compares OA and OER on six axes: author identifiers, standards, preservation, added value, platform, and business model.

On license choices

Bill Hooker, What's wrong with copyleft?, Open Reading Frame, April 15, 2009.
... Although copyleft and [noncommercial] clauses achieve their own immediate goals, widespread license incompatibility means that they often (perhaps usually) defeat part of the larger purpose of Open licensing. The use case where this is most prominent is remix, since reuse and redistribution of individual copylefted or NC-licensed works or their derivatives is usually just a matter of retaining the original license. But multiple works can only be recombined into new works if their respective licenses are compatible -- otherwise, there's no licensing option for the remix that doesn't violate the licensing terms of at least one of the ingredients. Not only that, but if any of the works in the mix carries a copyleft license, that license takes over the entire remix and everything downstream of it, thus propagating the incompatibility problem. ...

Digital library of biochemistry and pharmacy

The Biblioteca Digital de Bioquímica y Farmacia is a new project from 10 university faculties in Argentina. The project will be advised by Bienes Comunes.

DC Public Library joins Flickr Commons

The District of Columbia Public Library has joined Flickr Commons. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

See also our past posts on Flickr Commons.

The open access tracking project (OATP)

I've started to tag new OA developments at Connotea.  Over time I'd like to recruit others to do the same.  If we work together, we'll notice many more new developments than any individual or smaller group could notice on its own.  Everything we notice could be OA through a group feed.  I call it the open access tracking project (OATP).  Consider this the launch of the project beta.

The project feed is available in three forms:

The feed already exists.  In fact, you can see the 10 most recent feed items in the sidebar of this blog --and soon, I hope, in many other blogs.

More important, the feed is already more comprehensive than Open Access News.  I know that it's more comprehensive because Gavin and I tag everything we blog.  We also tag a good number of things we don't blog. 

You can participate as a reader, a tagger, or both, starting immediately.  To participate as a reader, just follow or subscribe to some version of the project feed. 

To participate as a tagger, you'll need to create a Connotea account, if you don't already have one.  I recommending putting the "Add to Connotea" bookmarklet on your browser.  When you see a new OA development, tag it with  If you have time, write a brief description in the "description" box of the tagging dialog. 

My rule of rule of thumb here at OAN is to limit new posts to developments from the past six months or so.  I'm using the tag with the same understanding of what counts as new.

Long-term, the tracking project will go beyond an alert system for new developments to a classification system for older developments.  For example, you could mark an article about the NIH policy with oa.article, oa.nih, oa.mandate, oa.medicine, oa.legislation, and oa.usa.  You could tag items by field (oa.anthropology), country (oa.brazil), language (oa.chinese), date (oa.2009, oa.apr.2009), and genre (oa.article, oa.comment, oa.dissertation, oa.presentation).  If an item is not new, then just remember not to use the tag.

At this stage in the project, I don't want to propose a systematic set of subtopic tags (an ontology for OA) or a procedure for developing one.  The project has no official tags except, and is open to any subtopic tags you care to create.  For example, all my examples are in English, but there's no reason why subtopic tags couldn't be other languages as well.  However, for several reasons, it would help if the subtopic tags followed a common format (oa.something).

The Connotea guide includes instructions on how to build an RSS feed for multiple users and tags --for example, for all items tagged by you OR me, or all items tagged AND oa.german.

I'll have more to say about the project in the May issue of SOAN.  In the meantime here are a few quick notes:

  • Connotea feeds only deliver the 10 most recently tagged items, and the project is already tagging more than 10 items per day.  Hence, use a feed reader which refreshes several times a day and stores past items until you've read or deleted them.  Bloglines stores the most recent 200 items, and Google Reader appears to store all past items until you're ready to delete them.  There may be many other readers with this feature as well; I just haven't had time to check.  Note that for now the email feed is stuck with the 10 item limitation.
  • If two or more users tag the same item with the same tag (like, then the item will appear in the feed two or more times.  This doesn't prevent the feed from becoming comprehensive, but it makes an already-large feed larger than necessary.  I welcome suggestions and work-arounds, including other tagging services that don't create this problem.
  • If you're also a blogger, here's what I recommend.  Tag the OA-related items you blog (with Connotea project tags, not just your local blog tags).  That will alert project readers to the item even if they don't read your blog.  If your blog post is an original contribution, or adds a comment to an article or development elsewhere, then tag your blog post as well.  That will alert project readers to your blog and post.
  • Connotea users already use at least four different tags for OA-related sites:  open access, open_access, open-access, and openaccess.  The variant forms make it hard for users to find all the relevant feeds; they also prevent any single feed from taking full advantage of the collective tagging effort.  More to the point for this project, they are not limited to new developments and are often used to tag older developments.  Fortunately, OATP is fully compatible with existing tags.  I'm not asking anyone to stop using existing tags, but merely to start using for developments that are new within the last six months.
  • If you can't wait for the May SOAN for the code to display the project feed on your blog or other web site, just drop me a line.
  • If you're uncertain about any of this, don't feel any pressure to jump in.  I'd be happy for the project to start slow and small, so that we can debug it before it gets too large.  After my SOAN article comes out in May, I'll open a discussion forum for those who really want to dive in.

In my review of OA in 2008, I foreshadowed two crowdsourcing projects.  One was moving my timeline of the OA movement to the OAD wiki.  This is the other one.

Update (4/17/09).  I'm happy to report that I was wrong that Connotea RSS feeds are limited to the 10 most recent items.  Ten is the default, but it's easy to build feeds which contain the most recent 25, 50, 100, or even 1000 items.  For the same reason, I was wrong that the email feeds are limited to 10 items.  If you build an email feed from a longer RSS feed, then the email feed is longer as well.  But you don't have to build any of these feeds yourself.  I've posted a new array of feed links to the OAD page on the tracking project.

Update (4/18/09).  As I mentioned, Connotea feeds include duplicates ("If two or more users tag the same item with the same tag, like, then the item will appear in the feed two or more times").  But like any other RSS feeds, they are beautifully susceptible to mashups.  You can use Yahoo Pipes to create a new feed which filters out the duplicates (thanks to Hilary Spencer).  Here's an RSS feed, for example, which starts with Connotea feed of the most recent 100 items and then removes any duplicates.  It defines "duplicate" items as those with the same URL, regardless of how they are titled or described.  And here's an email feed built from the filtered RSS feed.


Notes from repository Webinar

Notes on an OA seminar

Reflections Upon: Open Access in a Closed Institution, OER@UCT, April 3, 2009. (Thanks to Eve Gray.)

Yesterday we attended a seminar organized by the Centre for Educational Technology titled "Open Access in a Closed Institution". The presenter Hussein Suleman is a senior lecturer with the department of Computer Science here at [University of Cape Town] and is an ambassador and expert on the open access movement. ...

Here at UCT the idea of an open access repository for research has been under discussion for some time. Certainly our research output is scattered throughout the internet and in journals around the world, but can we account for it and provide details about it? Can we tell how many times those articles have been cited, or read? An open access digital archive could answer some of these questions.

Hussein has developed the UCT CS Research Document Archive for the Department of Computer Science here at UCT simply because he could not wait any longer for a university wide initiative to happen. They now archive their publications and are able to provide details of how and when articles were accessed. The Law Faculty has also felt the need for a digital archive for their own research and have launched UCT Lawspace which also powers dSpace. So it is clear that a unified system would be of great benefit if not only for these two faculties. ...

Tips for authors to improve their RePEc ranking

Christian Zimmermann, Tips for authors to improve their RePEc ranking, The RePEc Blog, April 16, 2009.
By far the most popular topic on this blog is material about rankings. People love to know who the best are and how they fare. This post is about optimizing one’s ranking within RePEc, and doing so in a way that does not trigger our safeguards against cheating. It turns out all the following points are points we actually want to encourage anyway so as to improve the quality of the data collected in RePEc. ...

Stats on Spanish university's IR after one year

e-spacioUNED, the IR at Spain's Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia, is one year old. It has more than 19,000 OA deposits which have received more than 1 million downloads.

Open data to unmask deliberate distortion

Carol Gorman reflects on the problem of drug industry marketeers ghostwriting one-sided articles for peer-reviewed journals.  How can we prevent and detect the distortions?  After mentioning several other steps, she concludes:

...A final step toward eliminating hidden biases and restoring trust in medical literature is full disclosure of industry support and open access to clinical study data.

PS:  In short, open data is not just to accelerate research and facilitate replication.

OA to the backfiles of four German journals

The Deutsche Morgenlaendische Gesellschaft (German Oriental Society) has digitized its journal backfiles for OA.  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Three of its four journals are no longer published, and ran from 1886-1938, 1922-1936, and 1922-1935.  But the oldest was launched in 1847 and is still going strong.  The digitization project was funded by the DFG.

Another misleading study of the costs of OA journals

Uwe Jochum, Was "Open Access" kostet:  Ein Beispiel aus den Geisteswissenschaften, TextKritik, March 22, 2009. 

PS:  Thanks to Klaus Graf for noticing, and for pointing out, that Jochum assumes that all OA journals charge publication fees, when of course most do not.

Presentations from Spanish OA conference

The presentations from I Jornadas Interuniversitarias de la Comunidad Valenciana sobre Acceso Abierto al Conocimiento (Valencia, March 24, 2009) are now online. (Thanks to Jordi Adell.)

Presentations from French ETDs conference

The presentations from Les thèses électroniques: réglementation, gestion, diffusion (Nancy, March 26, 2009) are now online. (Thanks to Fabrizio Tinti.)

Colorado libraries catalog HathiTrust books

Tens of Thousands of Open Access Digitized Books Now Available Through the Prospector Catalog, press release, April 10, 2009.

Library users in Colorado and Wyoming now have access to tens of thousands of additional open-access digitized books and serials through the Prospector Library Catalog. The digitized items originate from the University of Michigan, a partner in the Google Books digitization project and a member of a consortium of libraries called Hathi Trust. Last year the University of Michigan made available bibliographic records for many of the out-of-copyright titles that Google digitized from its collections. The University then made available online files for each of the digitized works.

The bibliographic records were acquired and enhanced by librarians at the Auraria Library in Denver. After the records were loaded into Skyline, the Auraria Library online catalog, they were uploaded to Prospector, the union catalog of the Colorado Alliance of Research Libraries. Now library patrons from across Colorado have access to the online books via the Prospector catalog. Except for the University of Michigan where the books originated, the Auraria Library was the first library in the nation to make these books available to its users.

There are over 105,000 digitized books and serials freely available in this initial phase of the project. ...

Increasingly, these online books and serials will be accessible through library online catalogs like Prospector. This in turn means that more information once available only by visiting a library will be easily accessible to all Coloradoans through the Internet. Through this and other similar projects, Colorado libraries will take advantage of book digitization and will continue to offer more and more materials to library users across the state.

See also our past posts on HathiTrust.

SSRN opens new cognitive science section

Mark Turner, Announcing New Cognitive Science Network, Social Science Research Network, April 14, 2009.

We are pleased to announce the creation of the Cognitive Science Network (CSN). It will provide a worldwide, online community for research in all areas of cognitive science, following the model of other subject matter networks within SSRN.

We expect CSN to become a comprehensive online resource for research in cognitive science, providing scholars with access to current work in their field and facilitating research and scholarship. ...

BASE jumping

The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) has added several significant improvements.  For example, it now displays the OA repositories it harvests by continent and country.  Each country on the map of Europe, for example, shows the number of that country's repositories in the BASE index.  Click on a number and jump to a page showing statistics on the country, including the number of documents on deposit in its repositories, a list of those documents, and flexible ways to search and sort through them.  The list of documents is in XML for others to use, re-use, and mashup as they like.  (Thanks to Dirk Pieper.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Self-archiving at Carnegie Mellon

Denise Troll Covey, Self-Archiving Journal Articles: A Case Study of Faculty Practice and Missed Opportunity, Portal, April 2009.  (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

Abstract:   Carnegie Mellon faculty Web pages and publisher policies were examined to understand self-archiving practice. The breadth of adoption and depth of commitment are not directly correlated within the disciplines. Determining when self-archiving has become a habit is difficult. The opportunity to self-archive far exceeds the practice, and much of what is self-archived is not aligned with publisher policy. Policy appears to influence neither the decision to self-archive nor the article version that is self-archived. Because of the potential legal ramifications, faculty must be convinced that copyright law and publisher policy are important and persuaded to act on that conviction.

PS:   The published edition is not OA, but a preprint from July 2008 is OA.  From the preprint:

Self-archiving activity in the university is much more popular and widespread than expected. At least 42% of the faculty has self-archived one or more publications and the practice has penetrated all colleges and all but the History and Music departments. A surprising 40% of the content cited on faculty web pages is available open access, including half of the conference papers and over half of the technical reports. However, the distribution of self-archiving activity within the university is not as expected. We expected more activity in the College of Engineering and Mellon College of Science and much less activity in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Though more faculty have self-archived journal articles than any other publication type, many faculty have self-archived other types of publications in sufficient number to warrant attention. Studies of self-archiving practice that focus strictly on journal articles provide an incomplete picture of the phenomenon.  Journal-based studies not only introduce a sampling bias into the research, but also a publication-type bias likely driven by traditional reward systems. Reward systems are slowly changing. In the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon, for example, peer-reviewed conference publications now carry the weight of journal publications in the review process for promotion and tenure....

Significant differences in self-archiving activity, not only across but within departments, suggest that disciplinary differences alone do not account for faculty behavior....

Reminiscent of the 80-20 rule, prolific self-archiving by a small number of faculty accounts for a large percentage of the self-archived work. Specifically, 8% of the faculty who self-archive have self-archived two-thirds of the material available open access from faculty web pages. If we assume that faculty who have self-archived more than 30 publications are habitual selfarchivers, then most Carnegie Mellon faculty who self-archive their work have not yet developed the habit. Self-archiving does appear to be a broadly accepted cultural practice not only in the School of Computer Science, but also in Psychology, Philosophy and perhaps Statistics....

Comparative data across institutions are helpful in developing strategic and tactical plans because faculty are influenced by what their peers are doing and what their peers value....

Lack of consistent faculty attention to copyright issues related to self-archiving is an area of concern, as is the ephemeral nature of personal web pages. Moving Carnegie Mellon faculty from their ad hoc approach to self-archiving via personal web pages to depositing their work in our new institutional repository will be a slow transition. We respect disciplinary differences in whether and how faculty share their work and in the degree to which the rising cost of journal subscriptions impacts readership. Our goals are to help faculty understand the issues so that they can make informed choices and, if the choice is to self-archive, to provide tools and support that will help them better showcase, disseminate and preserve their work.

BMC announces OA research award winners

Charlotte Webber, Open access research celebrated at BioMed Central's Research Awards ceremony, BioMed Central Blog, April 15, 2009.

The winners of >BioMed Central’s 3rd Annual Research Awards were announced at an awards ceremony at London’s Barbican Centre last week. ...

The Awards celebrate the best medical and biological research published in any of BioMed Central's open access journals in the last year. ...

More on the Durham Statement on OA to law

J. Paul Lomio, Law Journals and Open Access: A Call to Action, Speaking of Computers, April 13, 2009.

In November, I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the so-called Gang of 10 law library directors (directors from some of the nation's top law schools) held at Duke Law School in Durham, North Carolina. One of the activities of this meeting was the drafting and signing of the "Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship," which calls for all law schools to stop publishing their law journals in print format and to rely instead upon electronic publication, coupled with a commitment to keep the electronic versions available in stable, open, digital formats. ...

It was especially fitting that this inspirational document was drafted and signed by us while at Duke. Duke is a leader in the open online repository movement, with the Duke Law Faculty Scholarship Repository created in 2005, and all Duke law journals made accessible online since 1997. ...

The chief architect of the Durham Statement was John Palfrey, the new library director at Harvard Law School, who is also a leader and visionary in the open access movement. In May 2008, the Harvard Law School faculty unanimously voted to make each faculty member's scholarly articles available online for free. ...

See also our past post on the Durham Statement.

An IR for U. Cape Town

Welcome to the World of OER!, OER@UCT, April 1, 2009. (Thanks to Eve Gray.)

The University of Cape Town has embarked on the journey of creating and nurturing a new culture of openness. ...

In the next few months we will be documenting our progress as we attempt to build a repository of UCT open resources. We are trying to encourage faculty and students to contribute to our repository buy adopting Creative Commons licences which enables content to be easily shared. ...

Milestone for digitization at U. Illinois

Paul Wood, UI's effort to digitize books surpasses 15,000 volumes, The News-Gazette, April 13, 2009.

... "The [University of Illinois] has been digitizing books for 10 years, but only in the last three years have we done it on a really large scale," said Betsy Kruger, the librarian who heads the UI's digitizing work.

The UI effort is up to 15,000 volumes now.

To get some idea of what's at Illinois Harvest, the UI collection, and its collaboration with the nationwide Open Content Alliance, there are 686 books on Lincoln and the Civil War. ...

In the last four weeks, the collection has increased by 205 online volumes. That effort will ramp up in the near future when money from a Google grant to pay human scanners comes through, Kruger said. ...

New OA journal on ICT in Indonesia

Internetworking Indonesia Journal is a new OA journal published by the editors in Bahasa Indonesia or English. The inaugural issue is now available.

Wikipedia re-licensing vote now open

The Wikimedia Foundation is now conducting a vote of users on whether to re-license its content under the CC BY-SA license. Voting is open to logged-in users with at least 25 prior edits on a Wikimedia project.

See also comments by Creative Commons and Lawrence Lessig.

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

On access and the impact of research

danah boyd, Remarks from Panel on 'Scientometric Analysis of the CHI Proceedings' at CHI 2009, presented at CHI 2009 (Boston, April 7, 2009).

... [W]e're at a cross-roads, both with regard to this field [human-computer interaction] and with regard to academia and "impact." We are living in a technologically-mediated society where information is flowing in radically new ways, where specific journals or conferences may not necessarily be the best venue to reach the relevant audience. While it's easy to argue that publishing at the top journal or conference is the best way to keep an academic job, can we honestly say that publishing in these venues is the best way to have impact? Especially when these articles are locked down and made hard to access? ...

I am proud of the work that I have published in academic journals and conferences, but that is only a fraction of my output and, arguably, the least impactful of it all. I have been blogging since 1997. I write essays online and in mainstream venues. I speak regularly in front of broad audiences. I make available the cribs of my talks. I share all of my academic work and have stopped publishing in venues where I can't make my articles available online. I embrace new forms of social media as a tool for getting my research out there. These are just a few of the ways in which I try to get my work out there. ...

Harvard negotiates OA agreement with APS

Harvard and American Physical Society Reach Accord on Journal Publications, press release, April 9, 2009.

The Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and the American Physical Society (APS) announced jointly today that they have entered into an agreement to facilitate faculty compliance with the University’s open access policies when Harvard faculty members publish in the APS journals, comprising Physical Review, Physical Review Letters, and Reviews of Modern Physics. As a result of the new agreement, APS recognizes Harvard's open access license and will not require copyright agreement addenda or waivers, in exchange for Harvard's clarification of its intended use of the license. In general terms, in exercising its license under the open access policies, Harvard will not use a facsimile of the published version without permission of the publisher, will not charge for the display or distribution of those articles, and will provide an online link to the publisher's definitive version of the articles where possible. ...

The main beneficiaries of the Harvard-APS agreement will be physics faculty members, who are no longer obliged to acquire waivers of Harvard’s prior license. In addition, other institutions and their authors may find the agreement to be a useful model in their interactions with APS and other scholarly publishers.

According to Professor Bertrand I. Halperin, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy in the Harvard Physics Department and Chair of the 2008 Publications Oversight Committee of the American Physical Society, “Harvard’s open access legislation was always consistent in spirit with the aims of the APS publication policies, but there were differences in detail that would have required faculty members to request a waiver for every article published in an APS journal. ...”

Seeking "free, fair use of orphaned works" from the Google settlement

A2K and orphaned work: the rise of the Open Access Trust Inc, Open Education News, April 14, 2009.  Excerpt:

On April, 13 a group of professors lead by Charles Nesson, Lewis Hyde and Harry Lewis requested a pre-motion conference to Judge Denny Chin seeking to file a motion to intervene in the case Authors Guild v. Google.

These scholars represent the community of  readers, scholars, and teachers who use orphaned works.  Orphaned works are works under  copyright, but with a copyright holder who has died, cannot be found, or otherwise has  abandoned his work.  In the status quo, users like us and commercial users like Google can and  do use orphaned works, although we do so against a backdrop of potential legal liability should  the owner of an orphaned work later emerge.

The petitioners affirm that:

“...The Authors and Publishers, with Google’s consent, purport to represent a class of copyright holders that includes the owners of orphaned works, even though neither the Authors nor the Publishers are such owners.  Having turned the Authors and Publishers into legal representatives of the owners of orphaned works, Google will buy from these representatives a global license.

The proposed settlement will make Google the only company in the world with a license to use orphaned works.  No other company will be able to buy a similar license because, outside the context of the proposed class-action settlement in this case, there is no one from whom to buy such a license....The settling parties plot a cartel in orphaned works.

We seek intervention to defend our interest in orphaned works — to defend the public domain’s claim to free, fair use.  The purpose of copyright is to promote authorship and learning. Copyright does this by giving authors exclusive rights for limited times so that authors can profit from their writing by selling licenses to others.  This mechanism breaks down in the case of orphaned works because, with respect to these works, there is no one from whom to buy a license.  The public can buy no license; the author can reap no reward.  Because exclusive rights in orphaned works do not serve the ultimate purpose of copyright, the public domain has a claim to free, fair use of orphaned works.

We have the right to intervene to present the public domain’s claim to free, fair use of orphaned works.  None of the present parties will present our claim....”

The state of OA, and journal prices, in 2009

Lee C. Van Orsdel & Kathleen Born, Reality Bites: Periodicals Price Survey 2009, Library Journal, April 15, 2009.  Excerpt:

...Even if the recession is less severe than feared, experts say not to expect relief before 2012. In journals parlance, that’s three renewal cycles from now—more than enough to stress publishers without deep reserves. For an industry that is already in the throes of reinventing itself, this recession will hit hard.

Despite stronger than expected 2009 renewals, the outlook for FY10 is so bleak that libraries and consortia have already begun invoking financial hardship clauses and asking to renegotiate licenses for bundled content midterm. In an unprecedented move, the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) issued a statement to publishers in January warning that double-digit budget cuts over the next few years are expected and calling for creative strategies from publishers who want to keep their business. The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) followed with its own statement in February, underscoring the need for publishers to take this crisis seriously.

Making open access mandatory

Some see in the financial debacle an opportunity to promote more open systems of scholarly exchange, and open access (OA) initiatives are clearly gathering momentum. Last year’s unanimous OA mandate from Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences was quickly emulated by faculties from Harvard’s Law School and from Stanford’s School of Education. New mandates are under development at over a dozen U.S. colleges and universities. The mandate at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) went into effect in April 2008. Early numbers indicate strong compliance and high usage....The National Science Foundation (NSF) is considering a similar mandate. Lest one think the struggle is over, the publisher lobby is back in force, supporting legislation designed to overturn the NIH mandate and stop other agencies from following suit.

Nevertheless, publishers as a whole do seem to be making an effort to accommodate rising demand for OA-friendly practices, as evidenced in a report from the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (Scholarly Publishing Practice, Third Survey 2008). Some are moving aggressively toward OA business models, but most are taking smaller steps—liberalizing copyright transfer agreements or facilitating manuscript deposit into designated digital archives, for example. Thirty percent now offer authors an OA option, up from 9% three years ago, with author fees typically running between $1000 and $3000 per article....On a less hopeful note, as the number of repositories and the practice of self-archiving have grown, large publishers have begun to restrict authors’ rights to post final manuscripts on the web; more require embargoes if they allow it at all....

The largest commercial and society publishers are probably not at risk in this economic shakedown, but 54% of the publishers in ALPSP’s survey produce five or fewer journals, and many of them will be in danger if cancellations escalate. Add to the endangered list those publishers whose journals price in foreign currencies and can inflate exorbitantly as a result, and we could be looking at a significant number of business failures worldwide. ARL invites worried publishers to consult with member libraries about new publishing models that might keep them afloat....

The ARL and ICOLC statements represent the views of their members, but they address concerns shared by virtually all libraries. The ball is now in the publishers’ courts....

A recent “Survey of Academic & Research Library Journal Purchasing Practices” (Primary Research Group, 2008) captured the practices and attitudes of a sample of international librarians on the eve of the financial downturn. Over the last three years, academic libraries in the sample canceled an average of 177 journal titles each....Regarding journal pricing, ACS, Elsevier, and Nature drew the most ire, with more customers dissatisfied than satisfied....

The state of openness

As economic times get harder, the rationale for open access becomes clearer. A major research study on the Economic Implications of Alternative Scholarly Publishing Models by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), released in January, estimates that British universities would save around £80 million a year by shifting to an OA publishing system....

Society publishers from all disciplines are surprisingly positive in their attitudes toward OA and see its potential for increasing membership, according to a survey conducted by SAGE (“Meeting the Challenges: Societies and Scholarly Communication,” Nov. 2008). Coupled with the good expectations, however, are concerns about how to convert to OA business models. Help may be forthcoming from the new Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, which debuted in October 2008. Founding members include BioMed Central (now Springer), SAGE, Hindawi, and the Public Library of Science (PLoS). Its purpose is to develop tools and standards, as well as business models, that support OA publishing....

The SCOAP3 project is approaching the 50% mark in commitments from libraries worldwide that support changing the publishing model in high-energy physics from toll access to open access. Under it, libraries will pay subscription fees into a common pool from which publishers of physics journals will be paid. The journals will be free to all readers upon publication. While most European libraries have signed on, some American libraries are afraid that the plan won’t achieve either cost savings or sustainability. Proponents believe the project, to be launched in 2009, offers an innovative model for funding journals in this discipline....

Publishers’ best hope of overturning the NIH mandate probably lies with a piece of legislation misnamed the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act, or the Conyers Bill....Publishers are lobbying hard for passage, waving the usual flags—copyright violation, the end of peer-review and responsible science, potential economic losses in the publisher sector of the economy, etc. Countering those claims, 47 copyright experts went on record last September asserting there is no copyright violation associated with the NIH mandate, and 33 Nobel scientists wrote Congress saying that publishers were wrong to support the bill.

It is hard to believe that these publishers will be successful at sinking the mandate. At this writing, over 500 journals have signed on with the NIH to deliver the published version of NIH-funded articles to PubMed Central on behalf of their authors. Springer has actually decided to deliver the entire content of Genomic Medicine to PubMed Central, including articles with no connection to NIH funding. The mandate’s success, in fact, may have influenced an advisory board of the NSF in December to recommend mandatory open access for all data, publications, and software coming out of the NSF.

With key open access visionaries like Harold Varmus advising President Obama on science and technology, it’s also hard to imagine that this bill could be signed into law if passed. In the meantime, experts expect the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) to be reintroduced this year. FRPAA would expand the NIH mandate to most federal agencies that distribute significant research grants....

In recent years, price increases for journals have averaged 7–9%. Despite pleas for pricing mercies, we don’t have any information at this point that suggests those averages won’t hold for 2010....


  • This is a superb review of the state of OA, not to mention the state of TA.  At the end of the article, Van Orsdel and Born present seven tables of data on journal prices and price increases in different fields, different countries, and different years. 
  • Also see our past posts on the Van Orsdel and Born price surveys for 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003.

Draft report from the PEER project

The PEER project (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research) has released its Draft report on the provision of usage data and manuscript procedures for publishers and repository managers, March 31, 2009. 

From today's announcement:

PEER is a pioneering collaboration between publishers, repositories and the research community, which aims to investigate the effects of the large-scale deposit (so called Green Open Access) on user access, author visibility, journal viability and the broader European research environment. The project will run until 2011, during which time over 50,000 European stage-2 (accepted) manuscripts from up to 300 journals will become available for archiving.

This draft report on the provision of usage data and manuscript deposit procedures for publishers and repository managers sets out to establish a workflow for depositing stage-2 outputs in and harvesting logfiles from designated repositories to facilitate the research required for PEER.

To ensure that sufficient content is made available as a research sample to validate the research process, participating publishers have agreed to collectively deposit 50% of the outputs on behalf of the authors. For the other 50%, publishers will invite the authors to self- archive their current manuscripts, and any previous manuscripts from participating journals. In addition to workflow, the report identifies the preferred file formats for full text and metadata to be deposited by participating publishers as well as the preferred and mandatory metadata elements.

Issues of relevance to repositories are also addressed, including the proposal to unify the ingestion services either based on format used or protocols such as OAI-PMH or SWORD, as well as procedures for the provision of usage data.

An updated version of this draft report will be made available by PEER later this year.

From the body of the report:

...[T]he report reflects a team-based approach to the investigation that is appropriate to the PEER project, which brings together for the first time, disparate interest groups from the publisher, library and repository and the research communities. While in effect, a number of technical issues that were raised for discussion remain unresolved, these were noted for monitoring and further consideration in the final report, D.2.2. Good co-operation was thus established during this process that will facilitate the ongoing interaction between publishes and repositories in the course of the project.

It should be noted that the task did not require consultation with the research community, acting in PEER as representatives of the authors. The dependency of this work package on the envisaged research processes was also noted. Interaction with research tenders was not possible at the time of writing, and as a result, the author deposit workflow remains conjectural....

While this report sets out technical issues of data transfer between publishers and repositories and between authors and repositories, it is not limited in scope to technical issues, but also reflects every best effort towards the overall success of the project, and an exercise in building good will between PEER stakeholder communities....

Comment.  As far as I can tell, this draft doesn't give us a glimpse of the project conclusions on the main question:  the effect of high-volume OA archiving on TA journal subscriptions.  If I missed it, I hope someone will let me know.  Also see our past posts on the PEER project.

API to World Bank data

OA and other innovations in electronic publishing

K.H. Ng, Exploring new frontiers of electronic publishing in biomedical science, Singapore Medical Journal, March 2009. 

Abstract:   Publishing is a hallmark of good scientific research. The aim of publishing is to disseminate new research knowledge and findings as widely as possible in a timely and efficient manner. Scientific publishing has evolved over the years with the advent of new technologies and demands. This paper presents a brief discussion on the evolution and status of electronic publishing. The Open Access Initiative was created with the aim of overcoming various limitations faced by traditional publishing access models. Innovations have opened up possibilities for electronic publishing to increase the accessibility, visibility, interactivity and usability of research. A glimpse of the future publishing landscape has revealed that scientific communication and research will not remain the same. The internet and advances in information technology will have an impact on the research landscape, scholarly publishing, research policy and funding, dissemination of knowledge, and the progress of science as a whole.

Toward consensus on open proteomics data

Henry Rodriguez and 27 co-authors, Recommendations from the 2008 International Summit on Proteomics Data Release and Sharing Policy - A Summit Report, Journal of Proteome Research, April 3, 2009.  Accessible only to subscribers, at least so far

Abstract:   Policies supporting the rapid and open sharing of genomic data have directly fueled the accelerated pace of discovery in large-scale genomics research. The proteomics community is starting to implement analogous policies and infrastructure for making large-scale proteomics data widely available on a pre-competitive basis. On August 14, 2008, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) convened the “International Summit on Proteomics Data Release and Sharing Policy” in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to identify and address potential roadblocks to rapid and open access to data. The six principles agreed upon by key stakeholders at the summit addressed issues surrounding 1) timing, 2) comprehensiveness, 3) format, 4) deposition to repositories, 5) quality metrics, and 6) responsibility for proteomics data release. This summit report explores various approaches to develop a framework of data release and sharing principles that will most effectively fulfill the needs of the funding agencies and the research community.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Is the economy helping OA legal resources gain on the TA resources?

Joe Hodnicki, Should LexisNexis and Thomson West Be Worried About the Economy's Turbulence? Law Librarian Blog, April 13, 2009. 

...An LLB poll conducted in September of last year found that the vast majority of law librarians neither use nor provide training in the use of some free services, namely PreCYdent, PLoL and/or AltLaw. The results, of course, may have more to say about the perceived quality of these services and the low-cost plans offered by LexisNexis and Westlaw to law schools. But the ABA Journal's summary of the 2008 Legal Technology Survey Report did report that the number of lawyers performing free online legal research has overtaken the number using fee-based services for the first time. (89% used free online legal research while 87% used fee-based research services) and that trend may increase because of the economics on online legal research.

LLB's recent informal poll on the financial situation law libraries are finding themselves in because of the dismal state of the US economy found that the brunt of budget cuts will be library collections. 82% of the respondents who are facing or expecting to face budget reductions reported that library collections will be "hardest hit" area of library operations. One assumes, rightly I believe, that print materials are more likely to face the axe than online resources but certainly in some libraries expensive online resources will not be exempt from cancellations, cutbacks in negotiated plans, or shifts to low cost or free online legal services as a matter of institutional research policy. See, e.g., Large Law Firm Sets New Online Research Policy: Use Loislaw First.

Faced with substantial budget cuts to library collections and legal research policy changes, we think it timely to ask if law librarians are seeing a shift to free and low cost legal research services at the expense of Lexis and Westlaw use. So will the current economic situation be "good" for free and low cost online legal research services -- do you see or expect to see patrons use them more frequently than in the past? And if so, will it be temporary or permanent once the economy improves -- should LexisNexis and Westlaw be worried? ...

Thanks in advance for taking a moment to participate in our poll....

PS:  Also see our post on Hodnicki's September 2008 poll.  Visit his new post to take his new poll on free and low cost online legal research services.

Advocating OA policies for Russian universities

V. M. Moskovkin, Institutional policies for open access to the results of scientific research, Scientific and Technical Information Processing, February 5, 2009.  (Thanks to Glen Newton.)  Accessible only to subscribers, at least so far.

Abstract:   This paper describes the principles of all the known institutional policies for open access (OA) to the results of scientific research for research organizations, publishing companies, and funding agencies, in addition to which we suggest developing OA policies for libraries. The paper proposes a structural-logical scheme for an institutional OA policy system. We recommend invigorating the work of Post-Soviet organizations for their integration into the international OA movement at seven levels: global-ideological, regional (transnational)-ideological, national-ideological, national-political, institutional-political, national-technological, and institutional-technological.

This article was originally published in Russian in Nauchno-Technicheskaya Informatsiya, Seriya 1, 2008, No. 12, pp. 7–11.

Leslie Chan making the case for OA

Leslie Chan, Open Access: Promises and Challenges of Scholarship in the Digital Age, Academic Matters, April 14, 2009.  Excerpt:

...Have you wondered why some of your publications did not show up in [Google's] search results?

Have you ever tried to access one of your own journal articles online, only to be asked to pay $30 (USD) by the publisher? 

Why are the articles by some of your colleagues freely available online in full text even though they were also originally published in commercial journals? Is this permissible?  ...

Why is your institution’s library paying millions of dollars each year for journal subscriptions and yet you are still unable to access some of the journals you need for your research? 

Why do we give away our work and contribute free labour to refereeing for journals that put restrictions and price barriers on access? 

Should copyright laws designed to protect the entertainment industry govern the way researchers share and exchange ideas and how they make use of their work for teaching? 

Do you know what an institutional repository is and whether your university has one? 

What could universities do to give the public a better understanding of their mission? 

Should funding agencies require that publications resulting from their support be made publicly available? 

If we were to reinvent the scholarly communication system, would we still have restricted access? 

The common link between these seemingly disparate questions is Open Access (OA), or the free online access to scholarly publications, particularly those that are the result of public funding....

The common misapprehension that engaging in either the Green or Gold Road is detrimental to one’s career will linger unless there are clear signals from administrations that Open Access is to be celebrated, not shunned. Debates about the merits and means of archiving Open Access have already made an impact on how publishers behave, and while scholars and librarians initially drove Open Access from the bottom up, recent funding policies on research access have begun to provide a framework from the top. But university administrations represent the key bridge between policy from the top and initiatives from the bottom. The current policy vacuum in the middle is the primary cause of continued uncertainty and inaction on the part of faculty members....

Open Access is about more than just the future of journals or books, but the future of scholarly communication....

Heather Joseph on the Conyers bill

Heather Joseph, Fair to whom? New House bill challenges public access, College & Research Libraries News, April 2009.  Excerpt:

In February, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) reintroduced a proposed piece of legislation, H.R. 801, innocuously titled “The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act.” At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss this bill as just another of the myriad copyright and intellectual property-related proposals that are routinely made in Congress, without much punch. However, it’s important for the library community to take a very close look at this particular bill.

H.R. 801 actually packs quite a potential wallop and has widespread implications. It is designed to amend current U.S. copyright law, and carves out a subclass of copyrighted works—specifically, those works that are the result of taxpayer funding—and makes it illegal for the government to require that these works be made freely available to taxpayers as a condition of the federal support researchers receive....

The U.S. government funds research with the expectation that resulting ideas and discoveries will advance science, stimulate the economy, and improve the lives and welfare of members of the public....

A wide range of stakeholder groups—from libraries, universities, and colleges to patient advocates, Nobel Laureates and students—have embraced the NIH policy....

Yet, H.R. 801 would reverse the only U.S. policy currently in place to ensure public access to publicly funded research, and make it impossible for other agencies to enact similar policies. It is supported largely by the publishing lobby, who argue that such a law is needed to protect the value publishers bring to the final articles, specifically during the peer review process. Publishers charge that the NIH policy unfairly “expropriates” the results of this value-added service from them.

However, the publishing lobby’s argument ignores a crucial fact—that the peer review process is a voluntary, unpaid process conducted by researchers, not by publishers. H.R. 801 mistakenly over-values the contribution made by publishers, while ignoring that of researchers, authors, peer-reviewers and taxpayers, all of whom contribute to the process of scholarly publishing without direct remuneration....

If H.R. 801 were to pass, damage would be done not only to the public’s ability to freely access the results of research that their tax dollars helped to fund, but also to our shared interpretation of copyright policy and the peer review process. The results would be detrimental to the libraries, to researchers, to the academy, and to the public as a whole, leaving one to wonder, “The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act: fair to whom?”

Monday, April 13, 2009

More on Scitable

Dennis Carter, Site gives students free science articles, eCampus News, April 10, 2009.

... Scitable, a site introduced by the well-respected Nature Publishing Group, has more than 200 articles that concentrate mostly on genetics. The submissions are crafted in a way that is applicable to college students, not just scientists and academicians.

Scitable's January launch came as elite universities across the United States are embracing open-access formats--making research articles available for free online. This marks an abrupt departure from the traditional model of printing research articles in academic journals, which can cost campuses as much as $20,000 annually, open-access experts say. As university budgets stagnate, journal subscriptions are proving unaffordable for even the richest American campuses.

Clare O'Connor, an associate professor in Boston College's Biology Department, said Scitable articles could be an asset for professors looking to supplement their courses with material that doesn't come with the skyrocketing costs of textbooks. ...

[Nature Education senior vice president and publishing director Vikram] Savkar said Scitable will expand in the coming year to include material from the life sciences--including cell biology and molecular biology--and will include advertising so the site can become "self sustainable."

For now, O'Connor said, Scitable articles could serve as a supplement for professors looking to include resources that aren't available in textbooks. But if universities and academic journals continue to make material available for free online, O'Connor said, college courses could be run without traditional textbooks.

"I think it's conceivable that someone might be able to run a course on Scitable alone someday," she said.

See also our past post on Scitable.

What does data re-use look like?

Craig Bellamy, Institutional repositories and data re-use for the humanities,, April 8, 2009.

... Some of the most interesting academic questions for humanists is how do you incorporate data produced in the context of another research project in your own research? What new insights arise, what new problems arise, and how does this data impact upon the underlying evidence layers of your research? ...

Interview with a PLoS ONE editor

Bora Zivkovic, Academic Editor Interview - Adam Ratner, everyONE, April 6, 2009.

Adam Ratner, MD is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Microbiology at Columbia University. He is one of the first people to join the Editorial Board at PLoS ONE and is now our Section Editor for Infectious Diseases. We talked over Skype about medicine, Open Access, PLoS and the world of scientific publishing. ...

BZ: What was it that attracted you to PLoS ONE in the first place?

AR: I liked the idea of Open Access from the very beginning, especially when PLoS started its first journals - Biology and Medicine. When PLoS put out the call for manuscripts for its new journal - PLoS Pathogens - I persuaded my collaborators that we should support this journal and send our papers there. Actually, our paper, The Role of Innate Immune Responses in the Outcome of Interspecies Competition for Colonization of Mucosal Surfaces, was the very first article published in PLoS Pathogens - number 001.

The following year, when PLoS announced the founding of PLoS ONE, I was intrigued. ...

BZ: How does the peer-review process on PLoS ONE work? What is the standard of peer-review on PLoS ONE?

AR: In some ways, the review system in PLoS ONE is very similar to other journals in the areas of infectious diseases or microbiology, yet in other ways it is very different. The process is identical to other journals in that manuscripts are sent out to reviewers who do their job seriously and apply the same scientific standards to the work. On the other hand, it makes a huge difference that no manuscript is rejected early because “it is not of interest to us” - there are none of those limitations.

Thus, the reviewing process is rigorous - reviewers are evaluating if the work is hypothesis driven, is the work of high quality, and are conclusions supported by the data, but not trying to meet any subjective criteria. ...

BZ: What would you say is the ‘best’ paper you have handled and why?

AR: It is hard to choose, but I would like to point out a series of papers about tuberculosis in The Gambia. A group there is looking at sensitivity and specificity of TB tests on the ground, in a place where tuberculosis is highly prevalent. Look at, for instance, Surprisingly High Specificity of the PPD Skin Test for M. tuberculosis Infection from Recent Exposure in The Gambia and Using ELISPOT to Expose False Positive Skin Test Conversion in Tuberculosis Contacts. Those are important studies in themselves, but they also showcase the importance of Open Access in the developing world - both medical personnel and researchers there need access to the literature on the diseases that are prevalent in those parts of the world. ...

BZ: And finally, what would you say is the thing about Open Access that most excites you?

AR: There is a social justice aspect to Open Access that I find particularly compelling. Especially, as we just mentioned, in the international sphere: making sure that all the existing medical knowledge is available to physicians everywhere on the planet. ...

NEH grant for digization, OA to manuscripts

Andrew Albanese, Penn Lands NEH Grant To Digitize Medieval, Renaissance Manuscripts, Library Journal, April 9, 2009.

Thanks to a two-year $292,958 grant, the University of Pennsylvania Libraries will digitize approximately 800 European manuscripts—in all some 320,000 pages—from the eleventh through the sixteenth centuries, and make then available to the public, free of charge, on the web.

The grant, from the Division of Preservation and Access of the National Endowment for the Humanities, will provide for images and bibliographic information to be supplied to the Digital Scriptorium, an image database of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts that unites scattered resources from institutions worldwide, and offer in an international tool for teaching and scholarly research. ...

See also our past post on the Digital Scriptorium.

Open science in action: an anecdote

Ivan Baxter, Open science helps reviewers!, Ionomics Blog, April 3, 2009.

We just got the reviews back from PLoS Genetics for our esb1 paper. There were many constructive suggestions and helpful suggestions, which is what we have come to expect from PLoS Genetics (and why we submit many of our manuscripts there).

One of the reviewers actually came to Piims and retrieved some of the data that went into the paper to make the point that we should comment on the Mg effect of the mutation. Specifically, the reviewer pointed out that the mutation doesn't affect Mg, even though it affects Ca. They even included a figure of the data! ...

Just another reason to put all your data out there. We thank the reviewer for the helpful suggestions. ...

See also comments by Richard Gayle:

... Because the data are open, the reviewer could go into the database and determine for themselves what the effect really was. They were so intrigued that they actually created a graph to send to the authors.

I think this is the first time I have actually read of a reviewer providing data to the authors from the author’s own dataset!

OA collection of books about Aceh, Indonesia

Aceh Books is a recently-launched site from the Dutch Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies. (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

On this website you will find a list of over 600 titles of books about Aceh. These books are now digitally available.

The devastating tsunami that struck Aceh on 26 December 2004 caused thousands of victims but also destroyed important libraries in Banda Aceh. The Royal Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) in Leiden initiated a project that aimed to digitize a major part of the literature on Aceh that is kept in the KITLV Library. The Dutch Ministry of Education agreed to finance this project and the Royal Library of the Netherlands in The Hague supervised the digitization process.

At present 656 files are available in digital form in pdf format via this website. More titles are to follow in the course of 2009.

The titles listed here are books about Aceh in a variety of languages such as Indonesian, Acehnese, English, Dutch, as well as other European languages. These books are published with Indonesian as well as European publishing houses. The books date from the 17th century till the present time.

OA repository of Greek cultural history

Pandektis is a new OA repository of digitized primary sources from Greek cultural history.  (Thanks to  See the April 1 press release in Greek or Google's English.

Comment.  The digital works in this repository are libre OA, but not because they are in the public domain.  On the contrary, Greece is claiming copyright in these works, while granting broad re-use rights.  For example, see the copyright statement attached to the collection of Ancient Greek and Latin inscriptions from Upper Macedonia, Aegean Thrace and Achaia:

As for all monuments of cultural heritage, permission from the Greek Ministry of Culture is required for the reproduction of photographs of the inscriptions. The scientific data of the collection is the product of research work undertaken by researchers and collaborators of the Institute, therefore copyright for all data in the collection belongs to the Institute for Greek and Roman Antiquity of the National Hellenic Research Foundation. These data may be used freely, provided that there is explicit reference to their provenance.

In most other countries, the inscriptions would be in the public domain (because of their age) and so would digital photographs of the inscriptions (because of their lack of originality).  But a country could expand its copyright law to cover antiquities and unoriginal reproductions.  Does anyone know whether Greece has done so?  Egypt considered doing so in 2007.  (Did Egypt go through with it?)

Update (4/18/09). Also see Eric Kansa's discussion of the copyright antiquity problem from last November. (Thanks to Chuck Jones.)

Database of nuclear docs goes OA

Nuclear Knowledge at the Click of a Button, IAEA, April 8, 2009.

The [International Atomic Energy Agency] is making its International Nuclear Information System (INIS) available for free to Internet users around the world. INIS is the world’s leading database on the peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology.

Following a pilot test project, free, open and unrestricted access to the INIS Online Database is now available from the INIS homepage to all internet users worldwide. No registration is required. ...

The INIS online database contains over 3 million bibliographic records and almost 200, 000 full text (ADD) documents classified as nonconventional literature, consisting of reports and other non copyrighted information.

Established in 1970, INIS processes most of the world’s scientific and technical literature on a wide range of subjects from nuclear engineering, safeguards and non-proliferation to applications in agriculture and health.

More journals added to RACO

The backfiles of several journals were added to Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO), the OA collection of Catalan journals, in March 2009. The additions bring RACO's totals to 232 journals and 48 participating publishers. (Thanks to Judit Bellostes.)

See also our past post on RACO.

A Canadian perspective on the MIT OA mandate

MIT Faculty to Make Articles Freely Available to Public, CAUT Bulletin, April 2009.  Excerpt:

...The MIT initiative “is a very exciting development,” said Heather Morrison, an adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s school of library, archival and information studies and chair of the Canadian Open Access Working Group. “It represents faculty taking control of their work and ensuring their research is read and used by as wide an audience as possible.” ...

Morrison says while [the subscription] model is highly profitable for publishers, it conflicts with core academic values, including the commitment to the widest possible dissemination of knowledge.

“The high cost of journal subscriptions has meant that libraries have had to cut back on the number of subscriptions and limit purchases elsewhere in their collections,” said Morrison. “In response, librarians and faculty began to explore other means of scholarly publishing.” ...

“Public tolerance for the traditional private sector model of publishing is waning,” she said. “The Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Institutes of Health in the U.S. and all the granting agencies in the UK are declaring top-down open access mandates. MIT’s policy is the first faculty-driven, university-wide initiative of its kind in the U.S. By seizing the initiative MIT faculty are making their own rules about the dissemination of their work, not having them imposed.”

The policy also means articles by MIT faculty are likely to have a higher citation factor than the works of faculty at other institutions that are locked down by private publishers.

For academic staff in Canada the decision by MIT faculty serves as a possible model for disseminating their own work. It will also have a positive economic impact. When a professor or librarian provides a student a direct link to an MIT article, the need for a course pack or photocopying fee disappears, reducing educational costs.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Two interviews on OA

Thomas Anz has conducted two interviews on OA for the April issue of Literaturkritik:  one with Gerhard Lauer, who criticized the anti-OA Heidelberg Appeal, and one with Albrecht Götz von Olenhusen, who signed it.  Read the interviews in German or Google's English (1, 2).  (Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

Also see our past posts on the Heidelberg Appeal.

Philosophy repository funded by JISC

JISC has funded PhilPapers, the disciplinary repository and index for philosophy.  Details in the April 6 press release:

We are delighted to announce that the PhilPapers project has been awarded a grant of £200,000 by the Joint Information Systems Committee in the UK. The grant will be administered by the Institute of Philosophy at the University of London, where [co-founder] David Bourget will be based for the next three years. Together with support from the Institute of Philosophy and the ANU Centre for Consciousness, this grant will serve to fast-track the development of ambitious new features, and will support our efforts to spread the technology which underpins PhilPapers....

A new feature that we have just put online is a batch import system for bibliographies. If you have a bibliography in Endnote, BibTeX, plain text, or another format, you can now add its entries to PhilPapers. For category-specific bibliographies, you can specify a PhilPapers category to which entries should be added....

We would also like to draw your attention to a convenient PhilPapers search plugin for Firefox, developed by Christopher Richards of the University of Houston. Check it out!

PS:  Also see our past posts on PhilPapers.

The case, and place, for OA textbooks

Gary W. Matkin, Open Learning: What Do Open Textbooks Tell Us About the Revolution in Education?  Center for Studies in Higher Education, March 2009.  (Thanks to the OKAPI Spotlight.)

Abstract:   This paper provides a summary and assessment of the current development of open textbooks and describes a possible direction for future development and funded support of open textbook projects. This paper provides answers to the following questions: Why do we need open textbooks? What are open textbooks (in their various forms)? How are open textbooks developed and distributed? And finally, when will open textbooks be produced? As these questions are addressed, other dimensions relevant to the Open Education Resource (OER) movement are also revealed and discussed.

More evidence that downloads predict citations

Andrew B. Watson, Comparing citations and downloads for individual articles, Journal of Vision, April 3, 2009.  Editorial.  Excerpt:

...The number of citations by other articles is at present the gold standard for evaluation of the impact of an individual scientific article. Online journals offer another measure of impact: the number of unique downloads of an article (by unique downloads we mean the first download of the PDF of an article by a particular individual). Since May 2007, Journal of Vision has published download counts for each individual article. So far as we know, we are the only scientific journal providing these numbers. In the most recent accounting in July, 2008, the top five articles were each downloaded between 1,993 and 3,478 times. While we cannot equate download of an article with actually reading it, these are nonetheless remarkable numbers. The reader may wonder how total downloads of an article compare with the more traditional measures of citation count. Elsewhere I and others have discussed the differences between, and advantages and disadvantages, of download and citation counts (Watson, 2007) (Brody, Harnad, & Carr, 2006; “Deciphering citation statistics,” 2008; Perneger, 2004). In this note, I discuss the degree of correlation between these two measures....


  1. Overall correlation between total downloads and total citations of Journal of Vision articles is 0.74.

  2. Citations and downloads increase with article age in a characteristic way, but relative to downloads, citations are delayed by about 2 years and reduced by a factor of about 45.

  3. For papers published in a single year, the correlation is as high as 0.8, and usually above 0.6.

  4. The correlation between age-normalized statistics of DemandFactor (downloads/year) and CiteFactor (citations/year) is about 0.62.

  5. Download statistics provide a useful indicator, two years in advance, of eventual citations. Downloads are also a useful measure in their own right of the interest and significance of individual articles.

PS:  Also see the journal's press release and our past posts on this correlation (1, 2).

Update (4/13/09). Also see Bill Hooker's comments.