Open Access News

News from the open access movement

Friday, October 30, 2009

Open access roundup

New book on A2K

Hala Essalmawi, ed., The Access to Knowledge Movement: Opportunities, Challenges and the Road Ahead, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, November 2009. Contents:
  • Hala Essalmawi, Introduction
  • James Love, Demand, Take and Supply: The Ecology of Access
  • Barbara Stratton, A2K Quinquennium – Now we are five – The Library perspective
  • William New, Access To Influence In WIPO‘s Development Agenda
  • Manon Ress, Limitations and Exceptions for Reading Disabled Persons: A New Paradigm at the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights
  • Mohammed El Said, Access to Knowledge, Education, and Intellectual Property Protection in the Arab World – The Challenges of Development
  • Denise Rosemary Nicholson, Addressing Access To Knowledge Issues In Africa
  • Brian Fitzgerald, Anne Fitzgerald and Kylie Pappalardo, The A2K Movement in Australia (2006 – 2009)

Update (4/18/10). The book link above is dead. Here's a new and working link.

U.S. House Science committee considering OA -- in secret

The Association of American Universities yesterday posted a series of documents relating to a previously-unpublicized effort by the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology. From the proposal, Roundtable on Public Access to Federal Research and Data:

... The House Science and Technology Committee, which has oversight of the federal civilian R&D enterprise, has a strong interest in [the question of public access]. The Committee seeks to convene a Roundtable of the key stakeholders to explore and develop an appropriate consensus regarding access to and preservation of federally funded research information that addresses the needs of all interested parties.

The progress of science and technology is very dependent on:

  1. The wide dissemination of research results and data from which new science is born;
  2. A peer review system that ensures the quality and integrity of scientific research results and analyses; and
  3. Preservation and access to the archive of historic and current research results.

The federal government is an important funder of basic and applied research in the United States. As a result of this stewardship, the government should provide resources and establish policies where appropriate to facilitate access to scientific data and publications and preserve an accessible record to both entities. In doing so, the government must take into account the important role of the private sector in this enterprise. ...

To this end, a Roundtable forum is proposed to discuss these issues. ... Participants will be asked to contribute their expertise and proposed solutions on the respective role of the federal government, libraries, institutional repositories and the scholarly publishers on the topics of access and preservation of the results of federally funded research. ...

The total number of participants will be limited (to approximately 10) in order to facilitate the scheduling and productivity of the meetings. The initial roundtable meeting will be chaired by representatives of the House Science and Technology Committee with appropriate support and advice from staff in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Roundtable participants will be selected by the S&T Committee based on their interest and expertise on the issue. ...

To promote an open dialogue and exchange and to foster working toward a fair and balanced solution, participants will be at the table as knowledgeable individuals, but not as official representatives of their parent organizations. ... Participants will be asked to refrain from public disclosure of Roundtable deliberations until a consensus report has been completed. ...

The proposal is undated, but the status report states the roundtable was convened in "early summer 2009".

The AAU documents also include a list of participants and biographies of the roundtable members.

From the status report, dated October 29, 2009:

... In-person meetings and conference calls have taken place over the summer and early fall, with the goal of producing a consensus report containing views and recommendations before the end of the year. The Roundtable report will be submitted to the HSTC and OSTP and subsequently will be made widely available to all stakeholders as well as the broader public. Members of the Roundtable will be available for comment regarding the report after its public release. ...

Comment. Observers of American politics will know the central role of Congressional committees in policymaking. To date, two committees have given significant consideration to OA: the House Appropriations Committee, which passed the NIH mandate (and the earlier voluntary policy), and the House Judiciary Committee, whose chairman introduced the anti-public access Fair Copyright in Research Works Act and which held a hearing on the bill. (FRPAA was referred to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs, but that committee has not held a hearing on that bill in either its current or previous form. In addition, questions about OA have occasionally been asked of executive branch officials and nominees in their oversight committees.) Noticeably absent from that list, as I've previously noted, are committees with jurisdiction over science or education -- arguably the committees best suited to consider policies issues facing the research community and higher education. This effort changes that.

In addition, the involvement of the Executive Office of Science and Technology Policy is the first significant public engagement of the Obama White House with OA. (The Bush White House expressed mild concern about the NIH mandate, but ultimately signed a bill containing the measure.)

Accordingly, this process has the opportunity to shape discourse about public access in a major way. Unfortunately, since it's secret, we don't have much to go on until the recommendations are released and the participants' vow of silence is lifted.

At first glance, the proposal itself is fairly even-handed. The biggest criticism I can level so far is that, while presuming increased access to be beneficial, it fails to ask the crucial question of what exactly are the benefits of access and the costs of lack of access. Nevertheless, the proposal counters two claims sometimes heard from (or implied by) opponents of OA: that greater access is not necessary (e.g. that benefits from OA would be negligible) and that government has no proper role in access and preservation.

There's also the question of focus. This roundtable was tasked with considering access and preservation to publications and data from federally-funded research, rather than a narrower focus only on peer-reviewed article manuscripts. While other types of documents should be considered, that shouldn't distract from a swift recommendation for a FRPAA-style mandate.

In tagging the documents for the OATP, Peter remarks, "Is the membership list balanced? Read it and decide for yourselves." Of course, the theory behind this arrangement is that members will check their agendas at the door and work together as unbiased experts, so "balance" wouldn't matter. We'll only learn later (if ever) if practice followed theory in this case.

Update. Post title revised to more accurately reflect the essence of the matter.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

Open access roundup

Recruiting volunteers for the Open University Campaign

Kevin Donovan, Call for Participation: Join the Open University Campaign!, Students for Free Culture, October 27, 2009.

As many of you know, following the Free Culture 2008 Conference, Students for Free Culture began the Open University Campaign – an initiative to increase collaboration, sharing, and openness at the level of higher education. ...

A primary method through which this will be accomplished is through “report card” style profiles of leading institution of higher learning, similar to College Sustainability Report Cards. Students for Free Culture has already begun this work by defining principles of measurement, researching available resources, and developing surveys to be distributed to universities.

Mirroring the Wheeler Declaration, the Open University Report Cards, as currently envisioned, will evaluate schools on five topics:

  1. Open Access: Are faculty required to make their scholarship open access? Is the university press publish open access materials? ...

Establishing credible criteria under which schools will be assessed will be essential to creating a respected resource. For example, Which schools’ open access policies are currently lacking important criteria? ... The volunteers currently involved with the project are working through these questions on the wiki page, and we encourage you to join the conversation.

In order to make this a successful endeavor, Students for Free Culture needs your involvement!

  • Are you a student who can research official university open access policies? ...
  • Are you statistically-inclined and can handle data on universities?
  • Are you a web developer who could create a public website for the Open University Report Cards?
  • Are you a graphic designer who could create posters to raise awareness on campuses?

The Open University Campaign recognizes that scholastic advancement occurs most readily in an environment of sharing, openness and collaboration. By providing a cross-index of leading universities, the project will add important comparative measurements to encourage increased academic openness. Our hope is that these resources will provide a platform from which openness activists can endeavor to improve the scholastic environment.

See also our past posts on the Wheeler Declaration.

Guide to copyright and digitization

Cornell University Library Publishes New Digitization Manual, press release, October 29, 2009.

How can cultural heritage institutions legally use the Internet to improve public access to the rich collections they hold?

Copyright and Cultural Institutions: Guidelines for Digitization for U.S. Libraries, Archives, and Museums, a new book by published today by Cornell University Library, can help professionals at these institutions answer that question.

Based on a well-received Australian manual written by Emily Hudson and Andrew T. Kenyon of the University of Melbourne, the book has been developed by Cornell University Library’s senior policy advisor Peter B. Hirtle, along with Hudson and Kenyon, to conform to American law and practice.

The development of new digital technologies has led to fundamental changes in the ways that cultural institutions fulfill their public missions of access, preservation, research, and education. Many institutions are developing publicly accessible Web sites that allow users to visit online exhibitions, search collection databases, access images of collection items, and in some cases create their own digital content. Digitization, however, also raises the possibility of copyright infringement. It is imperative that staff in libraries, archives, and museums understand fundamental copyright principles and how institutional procedures can be affected by the law.

Copyright and Cultural Institutions was written to assist understanding and compliance with copyright law. It addresses the basics of copyright law and the exclusive rights of the copyright owner, the major exemptions used by cultural heritage institutions, and stresses the importance of “risk assessment” when conducting any digitization project. Case studies on digitizing oral histories and student work are also included. ...

As an experiment in open-access publishing, the Library has made the work available in two formats. Print copies of the work are available from CreateSpace, an Amazon subsidiary. In addition, the entire text is available as a free download through eCommons, Cornell University’s institutional repository, and from, which already distributes the Australian guidelines. ...

New report on undisclosed clinical trial data

Nancy Watzman, How Congress and Special Interests Kept Clinical Trial Data Secret, Sunlight Foundation, October 28, 2009.

Meet Bray Patrick-Lake, a 39-year-old mother of two and director of a Colorado nonprofit serving the homeless. In 2008, she volunteered for a clinical trial, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, testing a medical device designed to close a hole in her heart, in hope of putting an end to the migraine headaches that were ruining her life. Three months later, she found out over the Internet that St. Jude Medical Inc., the manufacturer of the device, had terminated the study. (Read all the details here.) ...

Now Patrick-Lake can’t find out the results of that clinical trial. That’s because pharmaceutical and medical device industry lobbyists—including those representing St. Jude Medical, Inc. and its trade association, AdvaMed—convinced Congress in 2007 to insert a last-minute provision in the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act that allows medical device manufacturers to withhold data disclosure to a public government database,, when their products fail to make it to the market. ...

For the lobbyists and members of Congress, it was business as usual in Washington. The lobbyists got a few phrases changed in a lengthy bill—phrases that would have required public access to results of clinical trials that did not lead to an approved medical device or drug. ... For Patrick-Lake, Washington’s standard operating procedures have left her—and the public—in the dark about the device in her heart.

What is true for Patrick-Lake is true for the thousands of people who volunteer for studies of drugs or medical devices every year that companies for one reason or another do not bring to market. What industry claims is proprietary information could be useful to doctors and patients as they decide what sort of treatment is best for any number of conditions. As Steven Nissen, chairman of the cardiology department at the Cleveland Clinic, says, “If you expose human beings to an experimental treatment, the public has a fundamental right to see the results of those experiments.” ...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A tale of two medical students

Sunil Bhopal and Rossetta Cole, Access to information for medical students - Sierra Leone, Healthcare Information For All by 2015, October 28, 2009.

We are two medical students from the UK (Sunil Bhopal, University of Leeds) and Sierra Leone (Rossetta Cole, College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences, Freetown). We are trained in a similar manner, first in lectures and other formal teaching arrangements in a university, and then by spending more and more time in hospitals until we emerge finally as junior doctors ready to tackle the next hurdle. We met when I (Sunil) spent a month on medical elective in Freetown.

The starkest difference in our education has been in access to information. While in Leeds I (Sunil) have access to thousands of books through the university library, hundreds of journals in print and online and am a mere (university funded) bus ride away from a copyright library containing everything ever printed in the UK, in Freetown I (Rossetta) have had to make do with 20 year old donated textbooks, no paper journals, and access to HINARI online journals once (through a local internet cafe) over the 6 year course.

The issue of accessing information is a particular problem in Sierra Leone where there is no bookshop selling new books, and no medical text book importer. ...

Open access roundup

OA Week commentary and outreach, part 1

A taste of comments and activities from Open Access Week: P.S. The crush of OA Week overwhelmed my usual triage processes, so I'm still digging out. Thanks for your patience.

OA Week announcements, part 4

Follow-ups and additional news announced for Open Access Week:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A national strategy on author funds?

Nicholas Joint, The “author pays” model of open access and UK-wide information strategy, Library Review, 2009. Only an abstract is OA, at least so far.

... [I]n March 2009 [Universities UK/Research Information Network] published guidance to research institutions, with recommendations on how to manage publishers’ open access fees at the local level. It was suggested (for example) that the process be managed by a pro or deputy vice chancellor, and that central budgets be established to which researchers could apply for funds to meet the costs of publication fees.

And since then, the JISC has circulated another survey which explores the possibility of taking this vision of arrangements for author pays open access one step further, with the JISC itself taking a national management role (One question asked: “If JISC Collections were to create a centrally administered open access publication fee service for UK Higher Education Institutions, would this be of benefit to your institution and what might be the potential advantages/problems?”). ...

[I]t is not at all clear that the economics of ‘author pays’ open access are well enough understood to guarantee that the original aim of open access will be achieved by a large scale move towards a national APOA system in the UK. ...

This does not mean that an attempt by a national coordinating body such as the UK’s JISC or UUK/RIN or any other group to push APOA arrangements forward as a matter of UK information strategy is a bad thing. ...

[S]uch a development should not be misinterpreted as a definitive seal of approval for a proven open access model. Rather, a nationally coordinated move towards putting APOA on a proper footing would be a bold experiment, which, like all experiments, is capable of success or failure. ...

[T]he final suggestion to be drawn from this discussion concerns the future of repository-based open access in the United Kingdom. Open access materials in UK repositories are in an under-developed and uncoordinated state, resembling the less than ideal situation in which APOA arrangements currently languish. If a nationally coordinated push to create a coherent APOA system is worth considering, would it not also be worth considering what a similar, enhanced, UK-wide programme for the development of repository-based open access materials would look like? ...

See also our past post on the UUK/RIN report.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Update on HathiTrust

Barbara Quint, HathiTrust Launching Full-Text Library of Books, Information Today, October 22, 2009.

... By mid-November, the HathiTrust Digital Library will have a full-featured, full-text search service for 4.3-5 million items. The searches will retrieve bibliographic citations and page references, including those for in-copyright books. Content will extend beyond the digitized copies of books returned to early library partners by Google. HathiTrust is pushing to acquire other digitized special collections from its members, as well as making arrangements for opening access to university press books. ...

According to John Wilkin, associate university librarian at the University of Michigan and executive director of the HathiTrust, "The partnership is still expanding. We're on the verge of announcing maybe three new partners. ..."

The new launch will open indexing to nearly 1.5 billion pages from well more than 4.3 million volumes with full-text searching by keyword or phrase. ...

You can download the full text of public domain works from HathiTrust, but only page by page. That's what Google sent back to its library partners. If you want to download a whole book in one fell swoop, it's back to Google Book Search. ... Future full-text searching options will include faceted browsing, advanced search, "more like this" options, and tools for computational analysis. ...

One library's strategy to support the NIH policy implementation

Nancy F. Stimson, National Institutes of Health public access policy assistance: one library's approach, Journal of the Medical Library Association, October 2009.

... The [University of California, San Diego] Biomedical Library initially became involved with the [National Institutes of Health] public access policy in February 2008, months before it became mandatory, when a faculty member asked for a demonstration on how to submit manuscripts to the NIH Manuscript Submission (NIHMS) System. Subsequently, the library began offering classes about the compliance process at various locations on campus. These classes covered step-by-step procedures on how to determine if a publisher allows the author to comply with the policy, advice about reviewing and modifying copyright transfer agreements, and instructions on locating and citing the PMCID number. ... [A] “train the trainer” approach was used to inform librarians from other campus libraries that serve NIH-funded researchers ...

The library established a website to summarize the policy and the University of California implementation of it. The website includes links to the NIH policy website, the UCSD Office of Contracts and Grants Administration (OCGA) policy page, resources that help researchers determine which journals allow them to comply with the policy (e.g., SHERPA/RoMEO, the wiki about publisher policies on NIH-funded authors from Simmons University [sic], etc.), and other relevant resources—all on one page. ...

Health sciences libraries have long been proponents of open access. For instance, [the Medical Library Association] and [the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries] wrote a joint statement for President Barack Obama's transition team about the importance of supporting the NIH public access policy. If libraries are going to “talk the talk,” it seems right that they should “walk the walk” and assist their clientele in dealing with this important and prominent biomedical open access initiative. ...

[T]he value gained by providing instruction on how to comply with the policy is proving to be long lasting, especially from the standpoint of public relations and good will. ...

U. Virginia to vote on OA mandate next month

Katherine Raichlen, Requiring the right rights, Cavalier Daily, October 26, 2009.

... [T]he University [of Virginia] Faculty Senate is considering a resolution that would require all faculty members to retain the rights to enter their academic articles into a publicly accessible University repository. The proposed policy — which will be voted on at the Senate’s Nov. 20 meeting — brings with it larger debates and concerns about open access and preservation issues. ...

The resolution applies only to scholarly articles and does not extend to books or works of art, [education professor Brian Pusser] said.

The proposed policy also includes a waiver process, which allows faculty to opt out if they cannot complete an addendum with the publisher, Pusser said. ...

Members of the task force are currently gathering information from faculty about the resolution, conducting dialogues with faculty and making presentations to various departments and schools around Grounds, Pusser said. ...

[Faculty Senate Chair Ann] Hamric said faculty members also may find out about the policy through the Faculty Senate Web site, which has posts of the resolution, a section of frequently asked questions and a letter from Madelyn Wessel, University associate general counsel and Senate Task Force member. ...

Some faculty members, however, have raised questions about the Senate’s copyright resolution because of the waiver process and whether the policy will create obstacles for faculty, Pusser said. ...

English Prof. David Vander Meulen, editor of the journal Studies in Bibliography, supports the resolution’s aims of “[disseminating] scholarship more widely, and [giving] authors greater rights to their own writing,” but he believes that “the current proposal ignores some key components in scholarly publishing,” according to an e-mail.

The exorbitant subscription fees for scientific, medical and technological journals were an important impetus for the proposal, Vander Meulen said, but different circumstances apply to other disciplines. ...

“If the University of Virginia fails to do this, it’s going to be a huge embarrassment to our faculty,” [media studies professor Siva Vaidhyanathan] said. “Faculties at every major research university in the country are considering this and almost all of them are going to pass it, and Harvard and MIT have led the way. We would be holding ourselves out as champions of the 18th century, if we hold back from this.” ...

Hamric ... was unwilling to speculate about the outcome of the vote, though she said she hopes the resolution passes.

“A number of our colleagues have given a great deal of time to understanding this issue,” she said, “and those are the people that are the most convinced that we need to do this and I take that seriously.” ...

See also our past posts on the proposed policy at UVa (1, 2).


Study of unauthorized article-sharing

Ken Masters, Opening the non-open access medical journals: Internet-based sharing of journal articles on a medical web site, The Internet Journal of Medical Informatics, 2009. Abstract:

Introduction: Open access (AO) [sic] journals are freely available, but non-open access (NOA) journals are available only through payment. Similar to the music industry, one might expect a sharing of NOA articles on the Internet. This paper investigates a site facilitating such sharing amongst medical professionals.

Method: A six-month snap-shot (25 May to 24 November 2008) of activities on the site.

Results: Total articles requested: 6,587; total found: 5,464 (82.9%). Mean number of views of each article: 4.47. Total estimated saving (or loss): $1.4M for the year of 2008. Nature articles were the most highly requested, followed by Science, and other major medical journals.

Discussion and Conclusions: This method of accessing data is highly effective, but issues are raised. Ethical issues and financial implications are the most important. NOA journal publishers should recognise the problem, research its size and implications, but the discussions must occur in the open access area.

Update. Also see coverage by TechDirt and Ars Technica.

OA Week announcements, part 3

Catching up on news announced as part of Open Access Week: