Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Open Access Week is just around the corner

International Open Access Week (October 19-23, 2009) is almost upon us -- here's a sampling of some activities worldwide:

See also our past posts on OA Week.

OA mandate at a US national lab

The US National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has adopted an OA mandate.  From today's announcement:

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has passed an Open Access policy that requires that all peer-reviewed research published by its scientists and staff in scientific journals be made publicly available online through its institutional repository. The new policy has been put in place by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the governing body that manages NCAR. A national lab, NCAR is sponsored by the National Science Foundation. It has conducted research into the atmospheric sciences since 1960.

UCAR last month formalized the new policy and is developing an institutional repository known as OpenSky, which will include all published studies by NCAR and UCAR researchers in scientific journals. The repository will be free and available to the public, but access to the works it contains will depend upon the policies of their publishers. In support of copyright law and the health of the publishers that support NCAR and UCAR science, all publishing agreements will be honored. OpenSky will be managed by the NCAR Library and is expected to go live in 2010.

"This updated policy will support broader access to the cutting-edge research conducted at NCAR, covering climate, weather, air quality, and other areas vital to society and the environment," says Mary Marlino, the Director of the NCAR Library. "It is especially timely because it comes at a critical time for atmospheric science research. I can think of no better way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of NCAR than to formalize our longstanding commitment to open science, open access, and open data." Marlino adds, "The policy that we have developed respects the policies that publishers self-set, and it is our intention to continue to honor publisher policy, while at the same time, to monitor developments in this fast evolving arena."

UCAR is a nonprofit corporation formed in 1959 by research institutions with doctoral programs in the atmospheric and related sciences. UCAR was formed to enhance the computing and observational capabilities of the universities and to focus on scientific problems that are beyond the scale of a single university. NCAR supports the UCAR mission by providing the university science and teaching community with the tools, facilities, and support required to perform innovative research....


Update (10/19/09).  The NCAR policy is now online.


Friday, October 16, 2009

Open access roundup

Data, openness, and the future of science

Tony Hey, Stewart Tansley, and Kristin Tolle, eds., The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, published by Microsoft Research, October 16, 2009. See especially the section "Scholarly Communication": Also see this interview with Hey.

More on the Polymath project: collaborative open mathematics

Timothy Gowers and Michael Nielsen, Massively collaborative mathematics, Nature, October 14, 2009.

On 27 January 2009, one of us — Gowers — used his blog to announce an unusual experiment. The Polymath Project had a conventional scientific goal: to attack an unsolved problem in mathematics. But it also had the more ambitious goal of doing mathematical research in a new way. Inspired by open-source enterprises such as Linux and Wikipedia, it used blogs and a wiki to mediate a fully open collaboration. Anyone in the world could follow along and, if they wished, make a contribution. The blogs and wiki functioned as a collective short-term working memory, a conversational commons for the rapid-fire exchange and improvement of ideas.

The collaboration achieved far more than Gowers expected, and showcases what we think will be a powerful force in scientific discovery — the collaboration of many minds through the Internet. ...

Over the next 37 days, 27 people contributed approximately 800 substantive comments, containing 170,000 words. ...

Progress came far faster than anyone expected. On 10 March, Gowers announced that he was confident that the Polymath participants had found an elementary proof of the special case of [the density Hales–Jewett theorem, the problem studied], but also that, very surprisingly (in the light of experience with similar problems), the argument could be straightforwardly generalized to prove the full theorem. A paper describing this proof is being written up, along with a second paper describing related results. ...

The working record of the Polymath Project is a remarkable resource for students of mathematics and for historians and philosophers of science. For the first time one can see on full display a complete account of how a serious mathematical result was discovered. ...

The process raises questions about authorship: it is difficult to set a hard-and-fast bar for authorship without causing contention or discouraging participation. ... As a provisional solution, the project is signing papers with a group pseudonym, 'DHJ Polymath', and a link to the full working record. One advantage of Polymath-style collaborations is that because all contributions are out in the open, it is transparent what any given person contributed. ...

The project also raises questions about preservation. The main working record of the Polymath Project is spread across two blogs and a wiki, leaving it vulnerable should any of those sites disappear. In 2007, the US Library of Congress implemented a programme to preserve blogs by people in the legal profession; a similar but broader programme is needed to preserve research blogs and wikis. ...

Similar open-source techniques could be applied in fields such as theoretical physics and computer science, where the raw materials are informational and can be freely shared online. The application of open-source techniques to experimental work is more constrained, because control of experimental equipment is often difficult to share. But open sharing of experimental data does at least allow open data analysis. The widespread adoption of such open-source techniques will require significant cultural changes in science, as well as the development of new online tools. We believe that this will lead to the widespread use of mass collaboration in many fields of science, and that mass collaboration will extend the limits of human problem-solving ability.

See also our past post on the Polymath project.

OA a topic at ARL meeting

Jennifer Howard, Open Access to Research Is Inevitable, Libraries Are Told, The Wired Campus, October 15, 2009.

Public access to research is "inevitable," but it will be a slog to get to it. That was the takeaway message of a panel on the role libraries can play in supporting current and future public-access moves. The panel was part of the program at the membership meeting of the Association of Research Libraries, held [in Washington, D.C.] yesterday and today.

"I now believe that having public access to most scholarly communications is inevitable," said David Shulenburger, vice president for academic affairs at the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. "Faculty are coming to understand, finally, that this has to happen if they're going to have the most scholarly opportunities to get things done."

Still, many scholars need the hard sell from colleagues and librarians about the benefits of open access. Lorraine J. Haricombe, dean of the University of Kansas Libraries, described the "foot soldiering" and outreach that had to be done before Kansas's faculty passed an open-access resolution earlier this year. It required some "very, very challenging conversations" with scholars worried about peer review and copyright issues, Ms. Haricombe said.

Bernard Schutz, director of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, in Potsdam, Germany, stressed how far the United States lags behind Europe and other parts of the world on the open-access frontier. Of the 266 signers of the Berlin Declaration, a 2003 statement endorsing open-access principles, only six are based in the United States, he said. ...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

More on Nature's new hybrid journal

Nature Publishing Group, Nature Communications now accepting submissions, press release, October 13, 2009.

Nature Communications invites submissions of original research papers in all areas of the natural sciences. This multidisciplinary, online-only journal from Nature Publishing Group (NPG) will publish its first articles in April 2010. The journal website is now live ...

All papers will be peer-reviewed to the standards associated with a Nature title, but papers published in Nature Communications are unlikely to have the scientific reach and public interest associated with papers in Nature and the Nature research journals. ...

If a paper was previously reviewed at another Nature journal, authors can opt to automatically transfer the manuscript and its associated referees' reports to Nature Communications for consideration.

Nature Communications authors can opt to make their published Article open access, through payment of an article processing charge (APC) of GBP 3,035/USD 5,000/ EURO 3,570/ YEN 637,350. Peer reviewers will be blind to the author's choice, which is not confirmed until acceptance. ...

Open-access Articles will be published under non-commercial Creative Commons licenses. ... Nature Communications will offer NPG's Manuscript Deposition Service.

Nature Communications will publish a proportion of content as open access and therefore operates a unique business model within the Nature family of journals. ... Institutional subscription prices will be set based on the number of Articles published under the open access option. Pricing and full details, including licensed pay-per-view and APC membership options, will be announced in 2010. ...

See also our past posts on Nature Communications.

Major growth of student support for OA

SPARC, Student coalition for Open Access solidifies, now represents over 5 million students internationally, press release, October 15, 2009.

The student Right to Research Coalition, a group of national, international, and local student associations that advocate for governments, universities, and researchers to adopt Open Access practices, has now grown to include some of the most prominent student organizations from the United States and across the world. The recent addition of 8 new organizations brings the number of students represented by the coalition to over 5 million, demonstrating the broad, passionate support Open Access enjoys from the student community.

Additions to the coalition since its launch this summer include: the United States Student Association (USSA), the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS), the National Graduate Council of the Canadian Federation of Students, the International Association of Political Science Students, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Graduate Student Council, the University of Minnesota Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Graduate Student Association, and the Student Government Association of St. Olaf College.

“Our core mission is to protect and enhance students’ access to education,” said Angela Peoples, USSA’s Legislative Director, noting her organization’s motivation for joining the coalition. “We believe Open Access plays a crucial role in ensuring that all students have access to the academic research on which their education depends.”

The United States Student Association, the largest American student organization, is already taking steps to tap its vast network of student activists for this important cause. Likewise, the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students, the premier American graduate student advocacy organization, has made Open Access a top legislative priority and recently lobbied over two-dozen Congressional offices in support of the Federal Research Public Access Act. ...

Also see NAGPS' resources on FRPAA:

See also our past posts on the Right to Research campaign.

Disclosure: I have been a paid consultant on the Right to Research campaign.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

GPO's failed digitization project: what happened

In August 2008, the U.S. Government Printing Office issued a request for proposals to digitize its legacy collection of 2.2 million documents, back to founding of the country. Last week, GPO announced it would not award a contract, explaining only that it couldn't make an award "in the allocated timeframe".

There was at least one bid for the contract. The Internet Archive filed a proposal, partnering with the Law Library Microform Consortium and the University of Florida Libraries. The proposal seems to meet the major requirements of the RFP: most importantly, that the digitization would occur at no cost to the government. In addition to providing free digital copies of the files to GPO, the Internet Archive also proposed to host them OA online.

According to Gary Somerset, GPO spokesperson, GPO did make a recommendation for an award, though he didn't say which bid was recommended. (I don't know if there were other bids besides the Internet Archive's.) Here's the catch -- quoting from Somerset via email:

... GPO does not have the statutory authority for this project and would need the approval of [the Joint Committee on Printing, GPO's Congressional oversight committee] to proceed. GPO briefed committee staff and they indicated they were likely to recommend approval for a project of defined scope in order to test the project's process, identify costs, evaluate protections for [personally identifiable information], and monitor progress. Before GPO could submit a formal request to the committee for approval, the bid acceptance period expired before an award could be made. The Public Printer [director of the GPO] requested an extension of the offer but the offerer declined to provide it. Since then, GPO has received expressions of interest in this project from different parties and is in the process of evaluating its next steps.

The response I received from Judith Russell, dean of libraries at UF (and former Superintendent of Documents at GPO) suggests the bid under consideration was the Internet Archive's:

I do not know if GPO had other proposals under active consideration, but the proposal in which I participated was extended multiple times at the request of GPO, with the final extension expiring on September 30, 2009. Internet Archive and LLMC declined to extend beyond that date.

Also of note: a May 4, 2009 letter from the American Library Association and the Association of Research Libraries to the Joint Committee on Printing, asking the committee to "quickly approve this GPO request so that these valuable resources can be made accessible to the public".

I'll post more information when I have it. If you know something, please let me know. (You may request to remain anonymous if you wish.)

Open access roundup

Survey on financing books in the humanities and social sciences

OAPEN survey ‘Funding of Monographs in the HSS’, OAPEN Newsletter, October 2009.

OAPEN [Open Access Publishing in European Networks] is currently conducting a survey about the ‘Funding of Monographs in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS)’.

The survey invites authors/editors, funders and publishers to estimate how books are currently funded and how this might be complemented by funding opportunities for Open Access publishing of books. We welcome you to take part in the survey or to send it on to others who might be interested. The outcomes of the survey will support OAPEN in the development and implementation of an Open Access publication model for peer reviewed academic books in HSS.

The survey is based on the observation that publishing of monographs (including anthologies) in HSS often relies on additional funding on the part of authors/editors as costs can not solely be met by revenues of sales. So far funding institutions have mainly supported the print production and based their funding models on the traditional book market. The combination of a free (open access) electronic version (access, searchability, quick citability etc.) with a convenient pay print version offers new opportunities in visibility and dissemination.

On transparency in research funding

Cameron Neylon, Open Research: The personal, the social, and the political, Science in the open, October 10, 2009.
... More open research will be more effective, more efficient, and provide better value for the taxpayer’s money. But more importantly I believe it is the only credible way to negotiate a new concensus [sic] on the public funding of research. We need an honest conversation with government and the wider community about why research is valuable, what the outcomes are, and how the contribute to our society. We can’t do that if the majority cannot even see those outcomes. ...

NIH funding OA database on viruses

University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, NIH funds new virus database at UT Southwestern, press release, October 13, 2009.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $15.7 million contract to UT Southwestern Medical Center and Northrop Grumman Corp. to develop an open-access national online database and analysis resource center that will help scientists study and combat viruses such as those that cause hepatitis, encephalitis, smallpox, acute respiratory distress and dengue fever, as well as newly emerging pathogenic viruses. ...

Previous work at UT Southwestern headed by Dr. Richard Scheuermann, professor of pathology, clinical sciences and in the Cancer Immunobiology Center, led to the development of an open-access database sponsored by the NIH for influenza, including the pandemic H1N1 virus, commonly referred to as swine flu. ...

The database supported by the new contract will be developed using the influenza model at UT Southwestern. The new Virus Pathogen Database and Analysis Resource (ViPR) will enable researchers to develop an online bioinformatics center that will contain data and analysis tools for a wide range of viral pathogens. The viruses that will be part of the database include Herpesviridae, the causative agents of herpes and chicken pox; the Flaviviridae family, which includes the hepatitis C and West Nile viruses; and Poxviridae, which causes smallpox.

“The ViPR resource will support gene sequence data, information about the immune response to viral infection, and information about the protein structure of viruses,” said Dr. Scheuermann, principal investigator on the local portion of the new contract. “This database will bring all that information together in one place.” ...

The ViPR database is scheduled to be available in December at ...

English NIHR joins BMC

BioMed Central, National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funds Supporter Membership of BioMed Central, press release, October 12, 2009.

The [National Institute for Health Research] has a mission to support outstanding health research and to enhance access to the results of that research. The NIHR has agreed a membership arrangement with BioMed Central to support publication of research articles in the publisher’s open access journals.

Under the terms of the NIHR's Supporter Membership arrangement, all NHS researchers supported by the NIHR and its partners will benefit from a 15% discount on publication fees when publishing in any of BioMed Central’s 200 peer-reviewed open access journals. Researchers are expected to acknowledge NIHR support. ...

With support through the NIHR, researchers already publish hundreds of open access articles each year in BioMed Central’s journals ...

A list of open access articles by NIHR-funded researchers recently published in BioMed Central journals can be found on the institution’s BioMed Central Member Page:.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Harvard to digitize Chinese rare book collection

Harvard, National Library of China Embark on Digitization Project, Harvard College Library News, October 9, 2009.

One of the most extensive collections of rare Chinese books outside of China will be digitized and made freely available to scholars worldwide as part of a six-year cooperative project between Harvard College Library (HCL) and the National Library of China (NLC). ...

Among the largest cooperative projects of its kind ever undertaken between China and US libraries, the project will digitize Harvard-Yenching Library’s entire 51,500-volume Chinese rare book collection. One of the libraries which make up the Harvard College Library system, Harvard-Yenching is the largest university library for East Asian research in the Western world. When completed, the project will have a transformative affect on scholarship involving rare Chinese texts, Harvard-Yenching Librarian James Cheng predicted.

“Scholars come from all over the world to use our rare book collection because many of these titles are not available anywhere else,” he said. “I think this project will be a huge contribution to scholarship by making these materials available to a much broader audience. We need to change the mindset that rare materials must be kept behind closed doors. A library is not a museum. We need to begin making these materials available to scholars, and the best way to do that is through digitization.”

Following the completion of a project to catalog the Harvard-Yenching collection in 2003, the rare materials became discoverable through the Harvard’s online library catalog, leading to a nearly ten-fold increase in their use by scholars and researchers. ...

Digitizing the collection allows the library to reduce the physical contact with the original books while actually increasing scholar’s access to the material, allowing dozens of users to access the digitized versions online at the same time. If the collection were somehow lost, damaged, or destroyed, scholarship using the digital versions could still continue, Cheng said. Researchers who need to work with the originals will still have the option of working with them at Harvard.

The six-year project will be done in two three-year phases. The first phase, beginning in January 2010, will digitize books from the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties, which date from about 960 AD to 1644. The second phase, starting in January 2013, will digitize books from the Qing Dynasty, which date from 1644 until 1795. The collection includes materials which cover an extensive range of subjects, including history, philosophy, drama, belles letters and classics. ...

Michigan UP books to go OA

University of Michigan, New digital access options for U-M Press titles, press release, October 8, 2009.

The University of Michigan Press is joining with HathiTrust Digital Library to open electronic content for free online access. U-M Press plans to have 1,000 or more titles available for full viewing by the end of this year. ...

HathiTrust links to the U-M Press site allow for fast online purchasing. ...

U-M Press has had a "Look Inside" feature on its own book Web pages for several years. ...

[The "Look Inside" tool] currently contains thousands of table-of-contents and sample chapter views, with more than 100 complete titles available for full viewing and hundreds more complete titles planned for full view by the end of 2009. ...

There are currently about 350 OA titles in the press' HathiTrust collection. At present, only some titles have a link to buy a print copy, but all titles have a link to find a copy in a library. Some titles bear a "Digitized by Google" watermark.

OA attitudes among Cuban health researchers

Nancy Sánchez-Tarragó and J. Carlos Fernández-Molina, The open access movement and Cuban health research work: an author survey, Health Information & Libraries Journal, October 11, 2009. Only this abstract is OA, at least so far:

Objective: To assess the level of knowledge about and the attitudes of the Cuban health researchers towards the open access movement.

Methods: A descriptive, cross-sectional study was conducted from March to June 2007 through a printed questionnaire administered to a group of Cuban researchers from several national health institutes, who were selected by means of a stratified random sampling (160 researchers from 11 institutions). Summary statistics and bivariate correlations were obtained using the spss statistical program, version 10.0 for Windows.

Results: The best known initiatives for researchers were those related to biomedical sciences, i.e. PubMed Central, HINARI and BioMed Central. The rate of publication in open access journals and deposit in open access repositories was low. Most of researchers (85%) agree to upload a copy of their papers onto an open access repository if their institution requests so.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate a need for the promotion of the beneficial aspects of the open access movement, as well as training and encouragement for researchers so that they can take full advantage of the potential of this movement.

See also our past post on the authors' previous study.

OA books in humanities and social sciences: what users want

User needs study on Open Access Book, OAPEN Newsletter, October 2009.

As part of the OAPEN [Open Access Publishing in European Networks] project Prof.dr. Paul Rutten and Drs. Janneke Adema (Leiden University, The Netherlands) have carried out a study on user needs in relation to open access book publishing within the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS).

The study will be made available through OAPEN’s website by the end of October. Below are some of the main findings of the report. ...

  • Print remains important in HSS although a trend has been established to more digital consumption (more screen reading and E-Book use), more informal online communication (blogs and wiki’s) and a small rise of scholarly writing specifically adapted to the digital environment. It is felt print and E-Books will coexist and will be used side-by-side for the time being.
  • Accessibility and dissemination of scholarly content are key. It is felt Open Access promotes both and does not necessarily harm the quality of publications. Accessibility also opens research up further, enabling content enhancement and connections (links) between publications. A good and easy way to use search function remains indispensable.
  • In the online environment filter and selection mechanisms such as peer review remain of the utmost importance to establish quality, as are (publishers) brands and (scholarly) reputations. It is felt Open Access monographs should pay extra attention to quality control to ensure their legitimacy.
  • Experiments with new forms of collaboration and new (Open Access) business models in book publishing are necessary. The research shows users are still skeptical about the sustainability of these kinds of models but feel experiments are essential to save the monograph from the traditional (print) publishing model that is no longer sustainable.

The research is based on a state of the art literature study, round table discussions, one-on-one interviews across Europe, and an online survey.

New STM report on the publishing market

International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers, Growth for STM publishers in 2008, press release, October 13, 2009.

The International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) has published, ‘The STM Report: An overview of scientific and scholarly journal publishing’, a follow-up to the 2006 report, ‘Scientific publishing in transition: an overview of current developments’.

Funded by STM, and prepared by Mark Ware Consulting and STM, ‘The STM Report’ collects the available evidence, and provides a comprehensive picture of the trends and currents in scholarly communication. It shows that scholarly communications are undergoing profound changes driven by technology and economic factors, while authors’ core motivations to publish remain stable. ...

Continued growth in output, particularly from China and East Asia, will put further pressure on the system, especially when combined with funders’ desire for greater return on research investments and the pressures on researchers to accelerate the research cycle. ...

The ‘STM Report’ also shows that the debate over business models and access to information paradoxically occurs at a time when access to literature has never been wider nor cost per download lower. Within this maturing debate, there remains an increased interest on an evidence-based approach to these various business models. ...

Comment. It's only paradoxical if one ignores the context. The debates about access are provoked by new technologies (the opening lines of the Budapest Open Access Initiative make that clear). Independent of the debate, publishers have adopted some of those technologies in ways that improve access. Publishers have also responded to the debate, in part, by improving access. Those actions, in turn, prompt further debate. For instance, the existence of HINARI doesn't merely silence debate about access to health research in developing countries; it also prompts the question, "Is HINARI enough?"

See also our past post on the earlier report.

Economics Nobel goes to commons research

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced yesterday that the 2009 Nobel Prize in economics to Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E. Williamson. Ostrom was recognized "for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons". Ostrom's research has touched on many types of commons, knowledge among them. See, e.g.:

See also our past posts on Ostrom.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I'm out today for the Columbus Day federal holiday. See you tomorrow!