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     February 6, 2002

Elsevier CEO on the Public Library of Science

In the February issue of _Information Today_, Dick Kaser interviews Elsevier CEO Derk Haank on his response to the Public Library of Science (PLoS).  Quoting Haank:  "Elsevier...[is] much closer to a PLoS initiative than anybody believes, because we are working toward the same end."

What Haank means is that Elsevier wants university researchers to have free online access to all the journals they need for their research.  What he doesn't mention is that he wants universities to continue to pay high prices for this access --a disagreement with PLoS at least as large as his agreement.

There are roughly two ways to provide researchers with free access to research literature.  On the prevailing commercial model, universities pay a lot of money for it, and institutions without a lot of money do without.  Researchers employed by paying universities needn't pay for access out of their own pockets and in that sense get it for free.  On the FOS model, universities or other institutions pay a small amount of money to disseminate articles published by their faculty, which are thereafter freely available to everyone.  The models differ on the size of subsidy, what it pays for (access or dissemination), and the scope of free access.   On the commercial model, access is only free for the buyer's lucky beneficiaries, such as employees, while on the FOS model it is free for everyone.  (For more on these two models, see FOSN for 1/1/02.)

Elsevier and the FOS movement (including PLoS) agree that users can have free access if someone buys it for them.  But they advocate these two very different models with very different consequences.  What divides them is not a mere bookkeeping distinction, and not a mere difference of means to the "same end".

Let's say that researchers have only a "narrow interest" in free access if they only care whether they have access without paying for it.  They don't care whether it requires a large subsidy from their employer, rather than a small one, and they don't care whether researchers without rich employers are left in the cold.  Haank assumes that researchers have only this narrow interest.

Perhaps Haank is thinking that the wider interest that supports FOS adds nothing to the narrow interest except political idealism.  But this would be a mistake.  It's true that FOS will have far-reaching political consequences, which include giving control of scholarship to scholars, de-enclosing a commons, and serving the under-served.  But it doesn't follow that researchers who care only about research, and not these consequences, have only the narrow interest that Haank attributes to them.  There are at least two very practical reasons for practical researchers to transcend the narrow interest in free access.  The first is to see one's institution save money in its library budget that it could then spend on other pressing needs, including other research needs met by libraries.  The second is that research advances more quickly and surely if more people are able to participate.  If the lesson of open source software is that "given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow" (Eric Raymond), then the analogous lesson of FOS is that "given enough researchers in the loop, all research errors are shallow".

There are several other interesting points to observe about Haank's position, beyond the way he overstates his agreement with PLoS.

The first is simply the extent to which Haank does agree with PLoS.  He admits that scholarly publishers have made a mistake to accept high subscription prices at the expense of low circulation.  He admits that "the end-user gets poor service" and understands that this leads many to support FOS initiatives like PLoS.  He acknowledges that scholars want free access to all scholarly journals.  He acknowledges that moving journals online is part of the solution.  He wants free online access to journals for end-users to be subsidized.  This is all real, even if he doesn't acknowledge the very large differences that remain.

The second is the way Haank acknowledges that there is a "movement" to achieve free online access to scholarly journals, and the way he feels constrained to position himself as agreeing with this movement.  If his project of aggregating journals and charging universities for them is called X, then he could have said, "This movement is simply wrong.  We will do X despite its misguided arguments."  But instead he said, "This movement is right.  We will do X and achieve its goal by a different means."  The same X could have been plugged into a criticism of the FOS movement, but he felt obliged to spin it as agreement.

The third is an attitude toward FOS that belies his agreeable spin.  He argues that if publishers like Elsevier can put the research literature online and disseminate it with efficiency and neutrality, then "the need for these new initiatives will go away".  Despite his rhetoric of agreement, then, he doesn't understand the real motivation for preferring FOS, doesn't accept it, and would rather make this movement go away than serve it.

Dick Kaser, Ghost in a Bottle

Public Library of Science

* Postscript.  In the same issue of _Information Today_ with the Haank interview, Robin Peek writes on "The Future of the Public Library of Science".  Unfortunately this article is not part of the free online edition of the paper, and I'm still in rural Maine without access to a newsstand that carries _IT_.  I'll recommend it sight-unseen on the theory that it builds on the Kaser-Haank interview.

* PPS.  I slightly oversimplified the commercial funding model above when I said that institutions that cannot afford the price of access must do without.  There is a notable exception for institutions in developing countries.  A growing number of programs offers them free or discounted subscriptions to a growing number of journals.  On the one hand, publishers who adopt tiered pricing in order to spread access to those who cannot afford to pay full prices are truly spreading access and deserve thanks.  On the other hand, these publishers are cultivating new markets and the dollar value of their "donation" is close to zero, since their costs are already covered and we're talking about the marginal cost of letting more people view their online files.  Self-interest and generous inclinations can coexist in publishers just as they can in researchers.


Copyleft for science?

_NewScientist_ is intrigued by the success of open source software and the claims that similar licensing arrangements for scientific literature could enhance research.  To inform readers and test the hypothesis, it published an article by Graham Lawton in its February 2 issue on the general idea of "copyleft", an alternative to copyright conceived by Richard Stallman in the early 1980's.

"Copyleft" is a nickname for the GNU General Public License (GPL) that covers "free software" in Stallman's sense of the term (FOSN for 1/30/02).  Because Lawton's article is itself copylefted, "you can copy it, redistribute it, reprint it in whole or in part, and generally play around with it as long as you, too, release your version under a copyleft...."  I've posted a copy to the FOS discussion forum.

To stay on the safe side, _NewScientist_ has also copyrighted Lawton's article, but has waived many of the rights traditionally retained by copyright holders.

Because copylefted literature can be copied and distributed freely, copyleft is one way to license literature for FOS.  It's not the only way of course.  Traditional copyright is 100% compatible with FOS, if the copyright holder consents to permit free online access and copying.

My only criticism of Lawton's article is that he implies that copyleft is, or could be, beneficial for science, perhaps more beneficial than copyright, but he doesn't tell us why.  He spends more than three-fourths of the article on copyleft for software, music, and even law, leaving himself very little space to discuss copyleft for scientific literature.  When he finally gets to this topic, he focuses on Nupedia and Wikipedia (FOSN for 10/26/01), resources that most scientists would not recognize as serious.

If scientists were not only allowed to view, copy, and distribute articles without charge, but also allowed to modify them and distribute the modifications, would that benefit science?  It might, but I'm still looking for someone who is willing to be specific and detailed in telling us how.

NewScientist editorial explanation of the copyleft experiment
(Thanks to many readers who sent this in at once.)

Graham Lawton, The Great Giveaway (the copylefted article)

Copy of the Lawton article in the FOS discussion forum
(Ready for further discussion.)

Terms of the copyleft license used by _NewScientist_ (there are other variations)

GNU General Public License (GPL)

* Postscript.  I hope you can do better that Lawton.  What does copyleft have to offer scientists and scholars?  What benefits does it create for research that we can't have, or can't have as easily, without it?  If you have thoughts, please post them to our discussion forum.

FOS discussion forum
(Anyone may read; only subscribers may post; subscription is free.)

Here are some articles that might help the discussion more than Lawton's.

Jan Newmarch, "Lessons from Open Source:  Intellectual Property and Courseware"
(More about online teaching materials than research literature.)

Bryan Pfaffenberger, "Why Open Content Matters"
(Explicit that making derivative works out of texts is as important as making them out of source code.  But more specific for non-scholarly texts than scholarly ones.)

Michael Stutz, "Applying Copyleft to Non-Software Information"
(More specific on the "how to" than the benefits.)



* The Journal of Health and Population in Developing Countries has transformed itself from a print journal to an online-only journal.  The main reason for the change is to save money on printing and mailing.  The change saves so much money that the new version of the journal will also be free of charge.  The back issues will also be free online starting March 15.  (PS:  This is a perfect case study in how a journal can enlarge its audience and save money at the same time.)
(Thanks to Catherine Fisher.)

* Paleographers and manuscript researchers are having trouble illustrating their books and articles because they can't afford to pay libraries for the reproduction rights to the images they need.  In response to the problem, the Comité International de Paléographie Latine has called on libraries to charge those with a scholarly or non-profit purpose no fees beyond the costs of reproduction.
(Thanks to Klaus Graf.)

For related issues, see Klaus Graf's links on the case of Bridgeman v. Corel (holding that photographs of public domain paintings and manuscripts are themselves in the public domain)
(In German.)

* BioMed Central has signed up its first institutional member (McMaster University) and revealed some data on BMC usage.
(Thanks to Serials eNews.)

* The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DMCI) has formed its first board of trustees.

* The National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) has issued an "internet content advisory" warning authors and publishers posting content to the web to consider "the unintended audience" of terrorists.  The NIPC gives a seven-point checklist to help determine whether information might be too risky to disseminate.  To its credit, item #7 on the list is that "[m]any archival sites exist on the Internet, and...information removed from an official site might nevertheless remain publicly available elsewhere" (see FOSN for 10/26/01, 12/5/01).
(Thanks to C-FIT.)


New on the net

* The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has published an online report recommending principles for building digital collections.  Some of the principles call for digital collections to be interoperable and their components to be persistent (as technologies change), modular, and reusable.
(Thanks to Shelflife.)

* Denise Troll Covey's survey of 24 digital libraries for DLF is now online.  The report focuses on how to measure the usage and usability of digital libraries, and gives a good deal of methodological attention to the advantages and disadvantages of the ways in which libraries currently assess themselves.

* OSSNLibraries (Open Source Software for Libraries) is now online with a prototype portal.  Users can download code from the site and will soon be able to participate in discussions.  The site designers welcome your comments about it.  The idea for a portal devoted to open source software for libraries arose at an October 2001 DLF meeting.  OSSNLibraries is the first in what might become a series of DLF "technology watch" sites on topics of interest to digital libraries.

Report of the DLF meeting where the idea of the OSSNLibraries Portal arose

* The University of California at San Francisco put its enormous (20+ million documents) "Legacy Tobacco Documents Library" online free of charge.  They will be maintained by the UCSF Library and Center for Knowledge Management.  All the documents are from tobacco industry files and until recently were unavailable to the general public.  Together they constitute the world's largest digital archive maintained by a library.  The American Legacy Foundation is funding the free online access to the documents and a research center to study them.

American Legacy Foundation press release
(Thanks to DigLib.)

Legacy Tobacco Documents Library

* The text-e online seminar has moved on to a new text, "Reading Without Writing" by Dan Sperber.  This will be the subject of discussion until February 14.

* The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has put up a web page of links to documents on the effect of anti-terrorism legislation on libraries.

The most recent document in the collection is a fascinating table showing the laws on the search and seizure of electronic information BEFORE and AFTER.
(Thanks to Politech.)

* Adam Chandler has put online his notes from January 18 session of the the ALA Midwinter 2002 meeting devoted to licensing electronic resources.
(Thanks to ERIL.)

* Here are two new, free, online, peer-reviewed journals.

Neurographics, from the American Society of Neuroradiology.

Trickster, "An Online Journal of Trickster Research".


Share your thoughts

* The Open eBook Forum hopes you'll take its online ebook features survey.  It will accept responses until February 8.

* The European Union would like your comments on a draft document, "eEurope 2002:  Creating an EU Framework for the Exploitation of Public Sector Information".  Comments will be posted to the web site unless authors request confidentiality, and will be welcome until February 21.
(Thanks to QuickLinks.)


In other publications

* Thomas Krichel and Simeon Warner have put a preprint online at Krichel's web site arguing that the best path to FOS will use the Open Archives Initiative and the Academic Metadata Format (AMF).  The argument is based on their experience with RePEc (Krichel) and arXiv (Warner).  They have some worries.  One is a "catch 22" in which authors won't have incentives to submit their work to FOS sources until large-scale change has made FOS sources the preferred sources.  Another is a "vacuum cleaner scenario" that creates two tiers of online literature, one with sophisticated quality control and indexing, and one without, the former priced and the latter free.  One factor in the solution to both problems is the rise of disciplinary OAI archives (like arXiv and RePEc) to supplement institutional archives.  Another is the use impact review to supplement peer review, and the use of AMF to support richer kinds of online indexing agnd organization.  Another is for digital librarians to help data contributors as much as they help data users.

* In the February 1 _Chronicle of Higher Education_, Alex Kellogg reports that the internet revolution has triggered less online plagiarism at the university level than many people have feared.  By contrast, High school students plagiarize, and believe it to be justified, more often than university students.  Commentatoars disagree on whether the difference is due to youth or to greater immersion in internet culture.

In a related story, the February issue of _MultiMedia Schools_, contains a story by Margaret Lincoln describing how Lakeview High School helped its teachers understand the problem of online plagiarism, its extent, student attitudes toward it, techniques for detecting and verifying it, and ways to educate students to the issues and prevent the problem.

* In the February issue of _Searcher_, Laura Gordon-Murnane reviews several digital tools for the dissemination and retrieval of U.S. government digital information --GPO Access, PubMed, PubScience, DOE Information Bridge, FirstGov, Google's UncleSam, FedForms, and American FactFinder.

* In a January 29 op-ed piece at _News.com_, Rick Boucher argues that fair-use rights are "the foundation of the receipt and use of information by the American people" and "under attack" by Congress and the content industry.  The DMCA, for example, has "quite clearly tilted the balance in the Copyright Act toward complete protection and away from information availability".  The consequences for the freedom of scholars like Edward Felten to publish their research are among the "most serious".  "The very vibrancy of our democracy is dependent upon the information availability and use facilitated by the fair-use doctrine."  Boucher is the most active member of Congress (D-VA) fighting to restore balance to U.S. copyright law.

* In a January 20 story in the Champaign, Illinois, _News Gazette_, Greg Kline interviews librarians at the University of Illinois who are angry and frustrated by federal government orders to destroy CDs of information in the UI federal depository
(Thanks to C-FIT.)

* In the January issue of _Information Today_, Barbara Quint reports on BioMed Central's adoption of per-article processing fees.  For those new to the model, she gives a detailed summary of how it works, including fee waivers, institutional memberships, and the timing and independence of payments and peer review.

* In the December-January issue of _SPARC e-News_, Krzysztof Apt brings us up to date on the _Theory and Practice of Logic Programming_ (TPLP).  This is the journal that declared independence from Elsevier in 1999 and relaunched with Cambridge University Press where it could benefit from a lower subscription price and wider audience (see FOSN for 5/11/01).  In the past year, its story has received some good publicity and inspired similar declarations of independence at other journals.

My list of journal declarations of independence

* In a recent article to _TrendSiters_, Sam Vaknin asks whether free online content stimulates, or undercuts, sales of print editions of the same content.  He identifies nine variables that affect when it does one and when it does the other.

* Philippe Aigrain has a preprint online in which he asks, in effect:  What if we defined intellectual property rights positively (rights of access and use) rather than negatively (rights to block copying)?  The right to block copying has exceptions, such as fair use, but the exceptions are cast as secondary to what is primary.  What if free access and use were primary, and the exceptions were secondary?  In addition to arguing for the positive approach, and delineating its premises and consequences, he looks at the practical question of how to get there from here.  The most important first step is not a legislative change, but "a critical mass of exchanges that follow by choice the positive rights approach".  The paper is forthcoming in Michael Century (ed.), _Code_, MIT Press, 2002.
(Thanks to Red Rock Eater.)


Following up

* More on the Elcomsoft/Sklyarov case.  The EFF and other civil liberties groups have filed amicus briefs asking the federal court to find portions of DMCA unconstitutional.



In the last issue, I overstated the difference between the open source licenses and the GPL or free software license (aka "copyleft", see above).  I said that the open source licenses permit code to be incorporated into commercial products and the GPL does not.  I should have said that the GPL discourages but does not prohibit commercial use.  It discourages commercial use by requiring the seller to make the source code available without charge, which has the effect of limiting the price or the profit on any commercial program.  I thank the several readers who wrote to set me straight.  (All their comments are online in our discussion forum.)



If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.

* International Conference on Bioinformatics 2002:  North-South Network
Bangkok, February 6-8

* E-volving Information futures
Melbourne, February 6-8

* Kongress für digitale Inhalte
Wiesbaden, February 7-8

* Book Tech 2002
New York, February 11-13

* "Will Free Expression Survive the Digital Media Revolution?"  (A public panel discussion by EFF attorneys.)
Berkeley, February 12

* Society for Scholarly Publishing, Top Management Roundtable.  Successful Publishing in the Global Environment.
Washington, D.C., February 13-14

* ICSTI Seminar on Digital Preservation of the Record of Science
Paris, February 14-15

* Conference on Intelligent Text Processing and Computational Linguistics
Mexico City, February 17-23

* Wissensmanagement im universitären Bereich
February 19-20

* Symposium on Foundations of Information and Knowledge Systems
Schloß Salzau, February 19-23

* Digital Libraries and Copyright
Lansing, Michigan, February 20

* Fifth International Publishers Association Copyright Conference
Accra, Ghana, February 20-22

* Integrating @ Internet Speed:  Strategies for the Content Community [conference on reference linking]
Philadelphia, February 24-27

* Getting your message across:  How learned societies and other organizations can influence public and government opinion
London, February 25

* Electronic Journals --Solutions in Sight?
London, February 25-26

* [Public lecture], Will Thomas and Ed Ayers, "The Next Generation of Digital Scholarship:  An Experiment in Form
Washington, D.C., February 27

* Meeting of the Digital Preservation Coalition
London, February 27

* A Symposium on the Research Value of Printed Materials in the Digital Age
College Park, Maryland, March 1

* International Spring School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for Science and Technology
Geneva, March 3-8

* Search Engine Strategies
Boston, March 4-5

* Redefining [Digital] Preservation (ARL and the University of Michigan)
Ann Arbor, Michigan, March 7-8

* Towards an Information Society for All
Berlin, March 8-9

* 17th ACM Symposium on Applied Computing.  Special tracks on Database and Digital Library Technologies; Electronic Books for Teaching and Learning; and Information Access and Retrieval
Madrid, March 10-14

* Digitization for Cultural Heritage Professionals:  An Intensive Program
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, March 10-15

* EUSDIC Spring Meeting.  E-Content:  Divide or Rule
Paris, March 11-12

* Knowledge Technologies Conference 2002
Seattle, March 11-13

* Computers in Libraries 2002
Washington D.C., March 13-15

* International Conference on the Statistical Analysis of Textual Data
St. Malo, March 13-15

* The Electronic Publishers Coalition (EPC) conference on ebooks and epublishing (obscurely titled, Electronically Published Internet Connection, or EPIC)
Seattle, March 14-16

* Digital Resources and International Information Exchange:  East-West
March 15 (Washington DC), 18 (Flushing NY), 20 (Stamford CT)

* Internet Librarian International 2002
London, March 18-20

* The New Information Order and the Future of the Archive
Edinburgh, March 20-23

* Institute of Mueum and Library Services.  Building Digital Communities
Baltimore, March 20-22

* Advanced Licensing Workshop
Dallas, March 20-22

* Electronic Publishing Strategy
London, March 22

* OCLC Institute. Steering by Standards.  (A series of satellite videoconferences.)
Cyberspace.  OAI, March 26.  OAIS, April 19.  Metadata standards in the future, May 29.

* WebSearch University
San Francisco, March 25-26; Stamford CT, April 30 - May 1; Washington DC, September 23-24; Chicago, Octeober 22-23; Dallas, November 19-20.

* European Colloquium on Information Retrieval Research
Glasgow, March 25-27

* e-Content:  Discovering and Delivering Value
Toronto, March 25-27

* New Developments in Digital Libraries
Ciudad Real, Spain, April 2-3

* The New Information Order and the Future of the Archive
Edinburgh, March 20-23

* Copyright Management in Higher Education:  Ownership, Access and Control
Adelphi, Maryland, April 4-5

* International Conference on Information Technology: Coding and Computing
Las Vegas, April 8-10

* NetLab and Friends:  10 Years of Digital Library Development
Lund, April 10-12

* E-Content 2002 (on ebooks)
London, April 11

* International Learned Journals Seminar:  We Can't Go On Like This:  The Future of Journals
London, April 12

* SIAM International Conference on Data Mining
Arlington, Virginia, April 11-13

* Creating access to information:  EBLIDA workshop on getting a better deal from your information licences
The Hague, April 12

* Licensing Electronic Resources to Libraries
Philadelphia, April 15

* United Kingdom Serials Group Annual Conference and Exhibition
University of Warwick, April 15- 17

* EDUCAUSE Networking 2002
Washington, D.C., April 17-18

* Museums and the Web 2002
Boston, April 17-20

* Information, Knowledges and Society: Challenges of A New Era
Havana, April 22-26

* The European Library:  The Gate to Europe's Knowledge:  Milestone Conference
Frankfurt am Main, April 29-30

The Free Online Scholarship Newsletter is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute.


This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).

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Peter Suber

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