Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, September 11, 2009

New OA collection of Poe papers

Harry Ransom Center, Harry Ransom Center Introduces Edgar Allan Poe Digital Collection, press release, September 4, 2009.

The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has introduced the Edgar Allan Poe digital collection, an archive of 4,000 images of more than 200 materials.

The collection includes materials ranging from Poe's correspondence and manuscripts to letters about Poe and his writings by Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephane Mallarme and Charles Baudelaire. ...

The digital collection ... includes images of all Poe manuscripts and letters at the Ransom Center with a selection of related archival materials, two books by Poe annotated by the author, sheet music based on his poems and portraits from the Center's collections. Poe's manuscripts and letters are linked to transcriptions on the Web site of the Poe Society of Baltimore. ...

Visitors will be able to view Poe's manuscripts of short stories such as "The Domain of Arnheim" and "The Spectacles" and poems such as "Annabel Lee" and part of "The Raven." Also featured are books belonging to Poe, including the author's annotated copies of "Eureka" and "Tales and Poems," showing how he added several sentences to the end of "The Gold Bug." ...

Rectors of 26 Ukrainian universities call for OA

Iryna Kuchma, Open access to research information included into the Olvia declaration of the Universities in Ukraine, eIFL, September 8, 2009.

26 rectors of Ukrainian universities endorsed the Olvia declaration of the Universities: Academic Freedom, University Autonomy, Science and Education for Sustainable Development at Olvia Forum 2009 (Livadia palace, Yalta, Crimea, Ukraine, June 12, 2009). Open access to research information is described in the Article 2.6:

Academic freedom includes open access to information (except reasonable exceptions specified by the law of Ukraine), including open access to research information through the development of open repositories and open access journals in the Universities, and ability to communicate freely with the peers in any part of the world.

Open access to information is a significant part of the research in today's globalised world, a key to further development of science, education and society, and Ukraine's integration into the global academic community.

From the Article 2.11 of the Action Plan on implementing the Olvia declaration of the Universities:

To practice open access to knowledge Universities and research organizations should:

  • develop institutional polices and strategies on open access (free and unrestricted access to full text peer reviewed research results), provide access to, search and usage of the above mentioned works by the faculty to every internet user to increase scientific, social and economic impact of the research;
  • launch and develop open institutional repositories and open access journals;
  • encourage open use of this information for research and education. ...


New OA resources on H1N1 flu

EBSCO Publishing, EBSCO Publishing Makes Evidence-Based Flu Resources Freely Available, press release, September 9, 2009.

Concerns about Pandemic H1N1 and the upcoming flu season have people on alert and the medical and nursing editors from EBSCO Publishing (EBSCO) are responding by making the latest evidence-based flu-related information available for free.

The site will provide evidence-based clinical information from DynaMed and Nursing Reference Center, EBSCO’s clinical and nursing point-of-care databases, along with patient education information in 17 languages from Patient Education Reference Center™. ...

In April, EBSCO Publishing was the first clinical information provider to make the clinical summaries on the Pandemic H1N1 virus available for free. ...

See also our past post on OA info on H1N1 from DynaMed.

New W3C guidelines on open gov. data

Daniel Bennett and Adam Harvey, Publishing Open Government Data, W3C working draft, September 8, 2009. W3C is the World Wide Web Consortium, the standards organization for the Web. Abstract:

Every day, governments and government agencies publish more data on the Internet. Sharing this data enables greater transparency; delivers more efficient public services; and encourages greater public and commercial use and re-use of government information. Some governments have even created catalogs or portals (such as to make it easy for the public to find and use this data.

Although the reasons may vary, the logistics and practicalities of opening government data are the same. To help governments open and share their data, the W3C eGov Interest Group has developed the following guidelines. These straightforward steps emphasize standards and methodologies to encourage publication of government data, allowing the public to use this data in new and innovative ways.

New tender for PEER project on economics of OA

The PEER (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research) Project has released its latest tender, on the economics of green OA. The PEER project is a massive collaboration of publishers, repositories and researchers to study experimentally the effects of self-archiving on publishing. The behavioral and usage research strands of the project already have begun.

Under this tender, up to €50,000 is available for the researchers chosen. The deadline for proposals is October 29, 2009. Research is expected to be completed by October 2010.

P.S. As a reminder, this and other calls for proposals are listed on the Open Access Directory. OAD is a wiki, so you can edit it to add any other relevant CFPs now or in the future, along with the many other topics OAD covers.

See also our past posts on the PEER project.

New OA journal of reviews of new books in literature

New Books on Literature 19 (NBOL-19) is a new OA journal of reviews of new scholarly books on 19th-century literature. The first issue was published September 1. The journal aims to publish reviews within 90 days of a new book's release. The reviews are commissioned from faculty and graduate students. The journal is funded by Dartmouth College's English Department and Humanities Division. (Thanks to Wired Campus.)

Criticism of OA publisher Bentham

Jeffrey Beall, Bentham Open, The Charleston Advisor, July 2009; self-archived September 10, 2009. A review of OA publisher Bentham Open. Excerpt:

... The site is supported by fees charged to the author upon publication of an article, and the fees are high. ... The Bentham Open site makes no mention of [fee waiver/reduction in cases of financial need], but in response to an e-mail inquiry, a representative stated that authors from developing countries are granted a discount of 30 to 50 percent off the publication fee charges. ...

The site states that, “All submitted articles undergo a fast but rigorous peer-review procedure, followed by prompt submission of an article for publication.” However, the journals contain articles that take unpopular views on topics and were likely unacceptable in mainstream journals. An example is the article entitled, “Cosmological Constraints on Unifying Dark Fluid Models” that appears in The Open Astronomy Journal. The article offers the dark fluid model as an alternative to the widely-accepted theories establishing dark matter and dark energy in cosmology ...

Because the dark fluid theory is not accepted by mainstream cosmologists, it is likely that if this article were submitted to any mainstream journal it would be rejected, and the author sought to publish it here because of the less-rigorous or façade-like peer-review process. Alternatively, the author submitted the article to Bentham Open because he knew that merely by paying the fee he could get his work published. ... In many cases, Bentham Open journals publish articles that no legitimate peer-review journal would accept, and unconventional and nonconformist ideas are being presented in some of them as legitimate science. ...

Another example comes from The Open Chemical Physics Journal. In the article “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,” the authors conclude that some of the dust found in the World Trade Center debris is unexploded bomb material. They lead the reader to conclude that planted explosives were the real source of the World Trade Center buildings’ collapse, and not the aircraft that struck them. This article has helped fuel 9/11 conspiracy theories. Thus, Bentham Open is a place for people to publish their theories, theses, and ideas that are out of the mainstream.

There is no journal impact factor data for these journals because the data takes three years to compile and all the journals Bentham Open offers are less than three years old. In response to an e-mail inquiry regarding rejection rates for Bentham Open journals, company representative Mehwish Akhter replied, “Rejection rate is different for different journals. Normally it’s 25–30%.”

The membership plan that Bentham Open Access offers is highly questionable, especially the individual membership. The cheapest individual membership is $1,600, and at this rate an author receives a 5 percent discount on author fees. For an article that costs $800 to publish, the discount is $40; to break even at that membership level, an author would need to publish 40 articles. Clearly, very little thought has been put into Bentham’s membership plan; it appears only to be a way to generate revenue for the company from the naive.

The Open Access model is a good one, for it makes research freely available to everyone. However, Bentham Open is exploiting the good will of those who established the Open Access model by twisting it and exploiting it for profit. Just because a journal is Open Access doesn’t make it legitimate or high quality. ...

Bentham Open’s emergence into scholarly publishing in 2007 has served mainly as a venue to publish research of questionable quality. The site has exploited the Open Access model for its own financial motives and flooded scholarly communication with a flurry of low quality and questionable research. By linking to sites such as Bentham Open, libraries are diluting scholarly research and making it more difficult for scholars to sort through the abundance of journal articles available. ...

N.B. This review was written before the Bentham fake article hoax from earlier this year.

See also our past posts on Bentham.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Funding for Latin American repository network

María José López Pourailly, Project for Scientific Documentation Repositories in Latin America is about to begin, DeCLARA Bulletin (pp. 25-26), March 2009. (Thanks to Carolina De Volder.)

Under the title “[Formation] of a Federated Network of Institutional Repositories of Scientific Documentation in Latin America”, the project presented on 10 October 2008 by CLARA to the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) line of Public Regional Assets (PRA) was notified on 9 January as shortlisted, and today is about to begin.

... [T]he objective of the project presented by CLARA is the following: “The Public Regional Asset will consist of a federated network of institutional repositories of scientific publications with the aim of storing, sharing and giving visibility to their scientific production, thus supporting the region’s scientific and technologic development under an agreement framework related to interoperability and information management. Such initiative will offer public access, thus contributing to the recording and dissemination of scientific knowledge, regarding knowledge as a public asset which represents a crucial element for the scientific and technologic development of each country and of the region as a whole”.

The countries that presented the proposal are Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico ... It is necessary to point out that Ecuador actively participated throughout the proposal’s development, and it is expected that it will soon be incorporated as a beneficiary country, as will be the case of all the countries in the region in the future.

With a funding of U$ 600,000 and an execution timescale of two years, according to Rocío Cos, Project Manager at CLARA, “the project aims to provide a greater visibility to the research conducted in each country, to the researchers and institutions, as well as to make possible the sharing and exchanging of the knowledge that is generated”. ...

P.S. CLARA (Cooperación Latino Americana de Redes Avanzadas, Latin-American Cooperation of Advanced Networks) is a 17-country partnership of "telecommunications advanced networks for research, innovation and education."

Access to health research as a human right

Access to Health Information Under International Human Rights Law, draft white paper by the Institute for Information Law and Policy, Justice Action Center, and Healthcare Information for All by 2015, September 2009. See also this announcement by HIFA2015. Summary:

The Institute for Information Law and Policy and the Justice Action Center at New York Law School (NYLS) are collaborating with Healthcare Information for All by 2015 (HIFA2015), a project administered by the Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based non-profit organisation, to explore the use of a human rights model to approach the problem of access to health information. In the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009, NYLS students surveyed international legal authority in order to evaluate the status of health information under human rights law and prepared the following briefing paper. The purpose of this briefing paper is to discuss whether and, if so, to what extent states are obligated under international treaty law to provide health education and ensure that healthcare providers (both lay and professional) have access to health information.

The paper concludes that health information (as defined below) is an essential component of many identified and established human rights. Health information plays an important role in securing the rights to health and education, the rights of women and children, and the right to exchange and impart information. These rights are protected under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and other international and regional human rights treaties. States party to these treaties must provide health information and guarantee access to such information in order to achieve compliance with these enumerated rights. Health information fosters meaningful social and political participation and ensures that individuals achieve and enjoy the rights afforded to them by international human rights law.

The right to health information carries with it specific state obligations. States must not only refrain from actions that would interfere with access to health information, but also affirmatively take steps to provide individuals with health information. States must ensure that heath information is accessible and available to the most vulnerable segments of society and on a non-discriminatory basis. The right to health also requires states to affirmatively provide health information both to individuals and to medical professionals. States are also obligated to provide women with accurate information so as to ensure that children and adolescents have appropriate care. They are obligated to ensure that health workers receive adequate training and adequate access to relevant and medically accurate health information and to regulate interference by third parties.

From the report:

... In order to provide individuals with access to an informed healthcare provider, the state must ensure that providers are easily able to gain access to original medical research as well as appropriate health reference and learning materials that are derived from health research.

Access to medical research increases the likelihood of providing reliable medical treatment. One of the most significant barriers to such access is cost. Healthcare providers in poor and rural areas often lack the resources necessary to pay for access to medical research. ...

Most attention, including the open access movement, has focused on access to original research articles, but original research articles are of limited value to health professionals. ... For many health workers, health reference and learning materials that provide reliable, good-quality information about the prevention and treatment of injury and disease encountered in daily practice is much more valuable than access to original research. ...

See also our past post on the project or all past posts on HIFA2015.

ALA calls FRPAA "key issue"

Lynne Bradley, Key library issues coming soon in Congress, District Dispatch, September 8, 2009. Bradley is the director of the American Library Association's Office of Government Relations.

This week, both the Senate and House of Representatives returned from recess to a full agenda. ... [T]his fall will see several key library issues on the Congressional agenda. As we look at the ALA legislative priorities, library advocates will need to be prepared to take action on the following issues:

  • Support for the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009 – Open access to federal funded research reports is a key element of access to government information and transparency in government; ...

Brief: Google Book Settlement incompatible with open licenses

Software Freedom Law Center, SFLC files objection to Google Book settlement on behalf of clients, press release, September 8, 2009.

Today SFLC filed a letter with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York objecting to the Google Book Search Copyright Class Action Settlement. In the letter, filed on behalf of the [Free Software Foundation] and author Karl Fogel, SFLC asks the court to consider the impact of the settlement upon members of the class who have distributed their works under Free licenses. ...

[T]his letter highlights how the proposed settlement does not contemplate works distributed under the GNU Free Documentation License (the FDL) or the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 license (the CC-BY-SA). If the Settlement is approved, Google will be authorized to continue to digitize, sell and partially display books without complying with the "copyleft" and "share alike" license terms which are which are essential to the freedom granted by these licenses.

The letter urges the Court to reject the proposed settlement until these and other objections are addressed, including that terms are incorporated to protect the authors of freely licensed works and a framework is provided for the Book Rights Registry that respects the choice of authors to share their works. ...

See also FSF's press release (but their server isn't loading for me at the moment).

Google Books vs. open libraries

Brewster Kahle, Time Well Spent in our Digital Evolution, Open Content Alliance, September 3, 2009.

... I would like to emphasize what is the most important issue [of the Google Book Search Settlement] to me: I believe the proposed Settlement will have a chilling effect on building free and open digital libraries. Should the Settlement be approved, Google Book Search becomes a commercial digital library without serious competition. There is certainly a place in the world for its digital library, but, to me, there’s an even greater place in the world for free and open digital libraries that are numerous, de-centralized, distributed and, most importantly, continuous with the values of our public library system.

This Settlement will not help to create such a system. It nurtures and deepens a licensing culture that is harmful to the library system ...

One of the positive outcomes of the past nine or so months is that awareness has been raised, coalitions have been formed, fervent discussion has occurred, and much ink has been spilled on the very knotty problems around the digital stewardship of our cultural heritage. Given all that I’ve seen and heard in the past year, I am now vastly more hopeful that we all might come together to work toward a truly open library system for the digital age. ...

Google has helped us all by showing how achievable and inexpensive mass digitization is. Maybe somewhat in reaction to Google, hundreds of libraries are digitizing in ways consistent with the tradition of libraries. I am optimistic that we will prevail in building free and open digital libraries.

Echoes of the serials crisis in Google Books

IFLA discusses the proposed Google Book Settlement, Google Books Settlement, September 8, 2009.

The proposed Google Book Settlement was on the agenda at the 2009 International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) Conference that took place in Milan late last month. Various speakers contributed to a well-attended panel discussion called “The Google Book Settlement: Love it or leave it.” ...

Speaking specifically about the institutional subscription, [Columbia University Librarian Jim] Neal said that libraries cannot afford a repeat of how electronic journals are priced and marketed to universities. ...

New open project in dinosaur research

The Open Dinosaur Project is a new project to collect open data en route to an OA publication. From the introduction:

... This blog is part of a wider project, in which we hope — with your help — to make some science. We want to put together a paper on the multiple independent transitions from bipedality to quadrupedality in ornithischians, and we want to involve everyone who’s interested in helping out. We’ll get to the details later, but the basic idea is to amass a huge database of measurements of the limb bones of ornithischian dinosaurs, to which we can apply various statistical techniques. ...

... A huge, virtually untapped resource of skeletal measurements resides in the published scientific literature. In order to put these measurements to good use, it is necessary to place the data into a form that can be analyzed mathematically. Essentially, we aim to construct a giant spreadsheet with as many measurements for ornithischian dinosaur limb bones as possible. ...

In the old days, this would require a lot of time in the library stacks. Some aspects of the project may still require this. But, a number of scientific papers are now freely available to the general public! So, anyone with an internet connection can help out. ...

Just locate the necessary scientific papers, and start entering data into our spreadsheet. If you have access to real specimens, you may enter these data. ...

From the FAQ:

... [Y]ou may [use the data for your own research] – although we ask that you hold off on publication of any results until we have had a chance to complete the initial publication of our own study. ...

We plan on submitting the paper to the on-line, open access journal PLoS ONE. ... In the event of rejection, we will look for another open access journal. At any rate, we will do our best to make sure that the resulting paper is open access. ...

Access for small businesses: a mixed bag

Publishing Research Consortium, UK small businesses’ access to academic and professional information is good – but could be better, press release, September 4, 2009.

Staff in high-tech small businesses (small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs) in the UK - with 250 employees or fewer - place a high value on, and make considerable use of, research articles and other academic and professional information. Their access to such information is good, and improving, although it could be even better, according to a new study from the Publishing Research Consortium.

The main findings for small businesses, from a broader survey of over 1000 completed responses covering several other sectors, were as follows:

  • Across the board, 28% of respondents in small businesses said that their journal access was ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, 56% that it varied, and 17% that it was ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
  • However, of those who considered information to be an important success factor for their organisation, 71% found access to research articles ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’, while 29% felt it was ‘fairly difficult’ or ‘very difficult’. ...
  • Despite this, more than half had experienced some recent difficulty in obtaining one or more articles, representing 10-20% of articles read annually.
  • Although they use a wide range of access channels, they find current pay-per-view (PPV) arrangements costly and difficult, and ‘walk-in’ access at a local university inconvenient.

What can publishers do to improve access for these users? A number of suggestions are made:

  • Pay-per-view access could be made simpler, with more appropriate payment mechanisms for companies rather than individuals, and – above all – cheaper.
  • Licences for Higher Education Institutions could be extended to provide online, rather than just walk-in, access (with appropriate safeguards) for local businesses.
  • A comprehensive, centrally administered national licence could be negotiated. ...
See also:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

An anecdote of access deferred

Richard Smith, A crime against knowledge, BMJ Group Blogs, September 7, 2009.

... [Today] I was speaking to some friends at a medical school in India. I’ve been railing for a decade against the crime of scientific publishers making money from restricting access to scientific research funded with public money, but I felt it inside me as a result of this call.

The medical school has problems getting access to research published in journals. ...

They had heard that if you could supply a secure IP address you could get access to journals through the British Library. I said that I thought that unlikely but would find out from the library. I rang them, and a knowledgeable and helpful woman explained things to me.

It isn’t possible to get access to all journals online through the British Library, but the library does have a document delivery service. It can deliver almost any article within a few days - for a charge. These articles can be emailed either to a secure IP address or to any email address if encrypted. The charge is £9 plus VAT plus the copyright charge of the publisher, “and,” she said apologetically, “that might be quite high, up to £20 for the big commercial publishers.” The copyright fee can, however, be waived if the institution is something like a medical school.

This seemed promising, although galling, to me, but the twist I felt deeply was that the fee would not be waived for even medical schools if the article was going to be emailed. It could then only be posted or faxed, and faxing is more expensive. This twist of the publishers seemed to me particularly cruel.

That kick made me decide to redouble my commitment to making sure that all research is available open access. ...

The irony of increased access with DRM

The Stallman Paradox, GNU Telephony, September 4, 2009.

Until society can resolve what I will call for the first time the “Stallman Paradox”, where learning and access enabling technologies, such as for example digital books, conversely disables the freedom to read and hence more than negates the actual benefits of said access, the rush to embrace all digital libraries and textbooks is a rush to a new dark ages.

... DRM disabling solutions mean that the right to read and share and learn together is immeasurably harmed. This is perhaps best exemplified in [Richard] Stallman’s essay on the “Right to Read”, and hence, along with a question of basic freedom of access to knowledge and basic human rights, why I propose this problem be called the “Stallman Paradox”. ...