Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #96
April 2, 2006

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Germany's DFG adopts an open access policy

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) has adopted an OA policy instructing grantees to provide OA to DFG-funded research.  Here's the gist of it from the English version of the announcement:

The DFG expects the research results funded by it to be published and to be made available, where possible, digitally and on the internet via open access. To achieve this, the contributions involved should either be deposited in discipline-specific or institutional electronic archives (repositories) following conventional publication, or should be published in a recognised peer-reviewed open access journal.  When entering into publishing contracts scientists participating in DFG-funded projects should, as far as possible, permanently reserve a non-exclusive right of exploitation for electronic publication of their research results for the purpose of open access. Here, discipline-specific delay periods of generally 6-12 months can be agreed upon, before which publication of previously published research results in discipline-specific or institutional electronic archives may be prohibited.  Please ensure that a note indicating support of the project by the DFG is included in the publication.

Later this month the DFG will issue updated author guidelines that reflect the new policy.

The DFG is the largest research funder in Germany.  While it's independent, like the RCUK in England, it disburses public funds.  Hence, a DFG policy is a national policy, making Germany the second country after US the to adopt a policy encouraging or mandating OA to publicly-funded research.  The UK has an OA mandate in draft form, and the Ukraine has an OA mandate in a bill before Parliament, but neither has yet been adopted.  (If I'm overlooking any, I hope readers will let me know.)

Is the DFG making a request, like the NIH, or imposing a requirement, like the Wellcome Trust?  Neither, really.  It says that authors *should* provide OA to their work (the German verb is sollen, not mussen), which is stronger than a request and weaker than a requirement.  When I asked Johannes Fournier, a program officer at the DFG, whether this characterization seemed right to him, he agreed.  It remains to be seen whether this middle ground will be as effective as the Wellcome's mandate, as ineffective as the NIH's request, or something in between.

I asked Fournier why the DFG didn't go with a straight mandate (using the verb mussen).  Here's how he replied.

You need to realize that the DFG is self-governed by academics and scientists. Consequently, decisions like the one on the open access policy are not made by the DFG's head-office as the administration but by the researchers themselves. Researchers don't like to be forced to do something and they certainly won't force themselves. Germany's basic constitutional law has an article on the so-called freedom of research. It is felt that the decision to publish wherever one wants is an essential part of that freedom of research that should not be restricted at all. An even more important reason for not requiring open access lies in the fact that it can be very difficult for young researchers to publish in highly reputed open access journals (especially in the humanities and in the social sciences there aren't so many of them) and that it could be difficult for them to retain their copyrights in order to self-archive (N.B.: Again, especially in the humanities and in the social sciences, we have to deal with many smaller publishing houses in Germany whose self-archiving policies are not yet included in the SHERPA/ROMEO database; however the DFG just funded a project that will work on assessing those policies in order to contribute to the database). Thus if the DFG made open access mandatory, young researchers could be forced to e.g. publish their best works in journals of lesser reputation which of course would be obstructive for their careers. This is not at all in the interest of the DFG.

We agree that the freedom of authors to publish wherever they like (and can be accepted) is critical.  But there are at least two ways to craft a mandate that is compatible with author freedom.  Here they are, briefly, in the hope that they can fine-tune conversations within DFG and at other funding agencies.

(1) The Wellcome Trust has a clear and strong mandate which, admittedly, appears at first to limit author freedom.  If Wellcome grantees want to publish in a journal whose copyright terms or access policies are inconsistent with the Wellcome OA mandate, then the grantee-authors may try to negotiate, for example, proposing a Wellcome-written amendment to the copyright transfer agreement.  If the journal doesn't accept these terms, then Wellcome tells its grantees to "reconsider where to publish".  While this could in principle limit author freedom, in practice publishers have been eager to work with Wellcome to avoid conflicts of just this kind.  The reality is that no journal wants to exclude Wellcome-funded authors, just as no journal wants to exclude NIH-funded authors.  As a result, Wellcome can take this strong stand, publishers adapt to it, and authors may comply with both their funder's mandate and their publisher's (revised) access policies.  As more funding agencies take a similar stance, the probability will only increase that publishers will adapt rather than force authors to make a painful choice.

Details on the Wellcome Trust OA policy

(2) A very different way to enforce an OA mandate without limiting author freedom is to distinguish deposit in a repository from OA release or dissemination.  If the funding agency separates these two and only mandates deposit, say, at the time the article is accepted for publication, then it might choose not to mandate OA release at all (and merely request or encourage it) or it might mandate OA release only at a later time (after a delay worked out with the copyright holder).  Publishers have no reason to object to deposits that are not OA and therefore should not make life difficult for authors trying to comply with funders who mandate them.  During the time that the article is on deposit but not yet OA, the repository can release the metadata for harvesting, searching, and discoverability, but hold the full text until the embargo has elapsed.  This elegant solution, proposed by Stevan Harnad, deserves a test. 

I hope the DFG policy as it's now written generates a good compliance.  We need more models of funder policies that work.  But if the DFG's "sollen"-path doesn't generate a good rate of compliance, then I hope it will consider one of these two "mussen"-paths.

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG)

DFG's Open Access Guidelines (in English), January 30, 2006
Same, in German

The DFG's position on OA, in German only

News and comment on the DFG policy have been remarkably scanty.  Apart from my own blog posting of the news, I can only find Stevan Harnad's blog posting:

Stevan Harnad, Optimizing Open Access Guidelines of Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Open Access Archivangelism, March 12, 2006.

Also see Hendrik Bunke, Open Access allerorten, hbxt.org, February 21, 2006.  Pointing out a few recent OA developments in Germany, including the OA bildungsforschung.org and a DINI Certificate for Bremen's E-LIS server.  He doesn't mention the DFG policy, probably because of the lag time between writing and publication.

* Postscript.  Here are two other recent moves toward national OA policies. 

On March 3, Italy's Istituto Superiore di Sanità (National Institute of Health) signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Acces to Knowledge.  Because the ISS is a public agency, this signature could be a sign that it will look for ways to assure OA for publicly-funded medical research.

Back on January 31, Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CSIS) also signed the Berlin Declaration, raising the same possibility.

How soon might Italy and Spain convert these OA commitments into national policy?  In the Ukraine, it took 10 months after a Ukrainian conference called for OA to publicly-funded research for a corresponding bill to appear in the Ukrainian parliament (February 2005 - December 2005).  But don't stop the clock yet; the bill has not yet been adopted.  The DFG took 39 months after signing the Berlin Declaration to announce that it had adopted an OA policy (October 2003 to January 2006).  Institutional change does not take place in internet time!


Top stories from March 2006

This is a selection of open-access developments since the last issue of the newsletter, taken from the Open Access News blog, which I write with other contributors and update daily.  I give both the item URL and blog posting URL so that you can read the original story as well as what I or another blog contributor had to say about it.  For other developments, the blog archive is browseable and searchable.

Here are the top stories from March:

     * Scientists call for OA to avian flu data.
     * Momentum builds for OA to geodata in the UK and EU.
     * Universities launch OA presses.
     * University of Minho uses financial incentives to implement its OA mandate.
     * The ALPSP finds that journal prices are far more threatening than OA archiving.

* Scientists call for OA to avian flu data.

A highly pathogenic flu virus, H5N1, is already killing birds and humans worldwide.  So far, humans are only catching the virus from birds. However, if a mutation allows it to spread from human to human, then it could cause a worldwide human pandemic.  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that an avian flu pandemic would kill between 2 million and 7.4 million people.  David Nabarro, head of the UN effort to contain avian flu, estimates that it would kill between 5 and 150 million people.  Because the mutation could occur at any spot on Earth, data from every avian flu lab is essential to the global effort to monitor and combat the danger.  But funding agencies (including the NIH and CDC in the US) do not require OA to the flu data they fund.  Many flu scientists hoard their data until they publish.  Many countries suppress avian flu data in order to prevent agricultural boycotts, and many others are complicit in data hoarding because they'd like to see their own scientists scoop foreign scientists. 

Most flu researchers deposit their data in a closed (non-OA) database run by WHO, which limits access to researchers in just 15 labs around the world.  If the data were OA, it would be available to all who could use it or build on it for sequencing the virus genome, monitoring mutations, tracking outbreaks, and developing vaccines.  WHO would like to share the data more widely, but protectionist countries threaten to stop depositing their data if WHO took that step, limiting the circulation of data even further than today.  It says its hands are tied since it doesn't own the data and needs the permission of the data producers in order to share it. 

The first leak in the dam came when Italian flu researcher Ilaria Capua refused to deposit her flu data in the WHO database.  Instead, she put it in GenBank, the OA database from NIH, and called on other flu researchers to do the same.  Her call has been picked up by Steven Salzburg of the US, Bernt Klingeborn of Sweden, and a small number of journalists and bloggers.  Nature published an editorial joining the call for OA to flu data.  The story is remarkably under-reported.

Thanks to open data sharing, the genome of the SARS virus was sequenced in about one week, in contrast to the AIDS virus, whose sequencing took about three years.  (To be fair, one variable in the mix is that sequencing technology had improved greatly by the time the SARS virus came along.)

Needless access barriers to flu research, much of it publicly funded, cause needless delays and needless deaths.  There's no doubt that OA can help accelerate research.  If accelerating research can avert or mitigate a pandemic, then the stakes for OA data have never been higher.  Conversely, the high stakes of avian flu starkly show the urgency of OA.  This is a clear case of the general rule:  The more knowledge matters, the more OA to that knowledge matters.

It may be that WHO would like to increase sharing but finds that its hands are tied by IP law and professional secrecy.  But if so, WHO should be louder and clearer in its protest that IP rules and data hoarding are putting millions of lives in jeopardy.  Meantime, scientists should join Capua, Salzburg, and Klingeborn in making their data OA and calling on colleagues to do the same.

Declan Butler, New Google Earth maps of avian flu spread, March 24, 2006.  An OA map, updated in real time, based on OA data.

Andrew J. Hawkins, Amidst a Flu Pandemic, Cooperation Will Be Key, Experts Say, Research Policy Alert, March 24, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).

Dreams of flu data, Nature, March 16, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers). An unsigned editorial.

Glyn Moody, Will Data Hoarding Cost 150 Million Lives? Open..., March 14, 2006.

Paul Revere, Teaching old dogs new tricks, Effect Measure, March 13, 2006.

DemFromCT, H5N1: Liberate The Sequences! Free The Researchers!  The Daily Kos, March 13, 2006.

Helen Branswell, Labs shouldn't hoard flu data: Researcher, Toronto Star, March 12, 2006.

In a March 10 press release, Recombinomics, Inc., a for-profit company working (inter alia) on H4N1, supported the call for OA to flu data collected by WHO.

Flu Wiki.  Not just a source of OA data, but a discussion forum willing to name the names of data hoarders.

* Momentum builds for OA to geodata in the UK and EU.

On March 9, the Guardian newspaper in England launched a campaign for OA to publicly-funded geodata in the UK.  Called Free Our Data, the campaign is the brainchild of Charles Arthur and Michael Cross, two Guardian journalists.  Since the March 9 article, Arthur and Cross set up a campaign web site, launched a blog, wrote a second Guardian article on the topic, and persuaded Tim Berners-Lee to add his voice to the call.  The Guardian campaign complements the Public Geodata campaign for OA to publicly-funded geodata throughout the EU.  Unlike the US, the UK and EU generally do not provide OA to publicly-funded geodata.  In the UK, the government agency collecting most of the data, the Ordnance Survey, is obliged by law to generate revenue to cover its costs.  So part of the strategy behind Free Our Data is to show that OA to geodata would bring more revenue to the treasury, say, through taxes on mapping startups, than charging access fees.  Join the conversation and help them win this important breakthrough.

Philip Small, Public Access to Data, Transect Points, March 27, 2006.

Rufus Pollock, Public Geospatial Data and the OSGeo Foundation, March 20, 2006.

Mark Chillingworth, Guardian newspaper campaigns to free public sector information, Information World Review, March 17, 2006.

Scott Smith, The Emerging Free Geodata Movement, Smartspa, March 17, 2006.

Glyn Moody, The Dream of Open Data, Open..., March 9, 2006.

Charles Arthur and Michael Cross, What price information? The Guardian, March 16, 2006.  A sequel to their article on March 9; see below.

Public GeoData Open Letter to the EU Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, March 15, 2006.

Charles Arthur and Michael Cross, Give us back our crown jewels, The Guardian, March 9, 2006.  The article launching the Free Our Data project.
Four days later Arthur and Cross launched the Free Our Data web site...
and Free Our Data blog.

Geospatial research groups from around the world have launched the Open Source Geospatial Foundation (OSGEO).

* Universities launch OA presses.

The University of Tennessee and Georgetown University launched OA imprints last month, in both cases using their libraries as critical partners.

Newfound Press is the new digital imprint from the University of Tennessee University Libraries. All its publications will be OA.

It will publish OA journals as well as OA books and OA multimedia scholarship. It will consider work in any discipline.  It only asks for non-exclusive rights from authors and offers CC licenses as an option. It will scan work not born digital, add tags, list new titles with the DOAJ, the university online catalog, and WorldCat.  It works in partnership with the University of Tennessee institutional repository.

Also see Scott Teague, New press to publish digital media, Daily Beacon Online, March 8, 2006.

The Georgetown University Press (GUP) entered a partnership with Digital Georgetown, "the digital hub for Georgetown University's scholarship and research initiatives." Together they will produce OA publications from GUP's print back catalog and maybe even from new material.

Also see GU Press Goes Digital, Blue and Gray, March 20, 2006.

This is a trend that other universities should notice and join.  It helps OA (growing the volume of OA literature), it helps authors and readers (improving their impact and access respectively), it helps the university (raising its visibility), and it adds an arm to the university press that can widen distribution and lower costs at the same time.

* University of Minho uses financial incentives to implement its OA mandate.

Currently, five universities or departments worldwide mandate OA to their research output. All have good compliance records, but none achieves compliance by cracking the whip. They use a wide range of kinder and gentler methods, among which the financial incentives at Minho are unique. What I like about them is that they are directed to departments and research centers, not individual faculty.  Because they're indirect, they create incentives for departments to create their own faculty-level incentives or to facilitate deposits through education and assistance.

Eloy Rodrigues, Minho's OA mandate, post to SOAF, 3/1/06

University of Minho

Minho's institutional repository

Stevan Harnad's SOAF post about it, March 2, 2006.

George Porter's SOAF post about it, March 2, 2006.

* The ALPSP finds that journal prices are far more threatening than OA archiving.

The ALPSP published a report on factors considered by librarians in deciding whether to cancel journals.  The three factors were faculty demand, usage, and price.  Availability through OA archives or non-OA aggregators were tied for fourth place "but some way behind" the first three.   Bottom line:  journals have much more to fear from their own price increases than from OA archiving.

Mark Ware, ALPSP survey of librarians on factors in journal cancellation, ALPSP, March 30, 2006.  A 64 pp. report on the effect of OA archiving on library decisions to cancel journal subscriptions. The report (in print and PDF) costs £45/$80/€100 for ALPSP members and £90/$160/€200 for non-members.

The ALPSP's free summary of the report.

Eugene Russo, Open Access Not Yet a Major Cause of Journal Subscription Cancellations - Library Survey, March 30, 2006 (accessible only to subscribers).


Coming up later this month

Here are some important OA-related events coming up in April.

* April 3, 2006.  Paul Ginsparg will officially receive the CNI/ARL/Educaus Paul Evan Peters Award for 2006.

* April 5, 2006.  The Université du Québec à Montréal will officially sign the Berlin Declaration at 11:30 am, becoming the first North American university to do so. At the same time, it will relaunch its institutional repository.

* April 7, 2006.  Deadline for comments on whether JISC should use its funds to help _Internet Archaeology_ convert to OA.

* April 10, 2006.  The NIH's Public Access Working Group (PAWG) will hold its first meeting since it recommended strengthening the NIH policy (11/15/05) and since the NLM Board of Regents endorsed its recommendation and offered (2/8/06) to work with PAWG on "transition planning" to a "mandatory policy".

* April 18, 2006.  JISC deadline for bids to study the adequacy of EThOS for long-term OA to UK doctoral theses.

* April 24-25, 2006.  SPARC Europe will announce 2006 winner of Award for Outstanding Achievements in Scholarly Communications, to be presented at the Third Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication, to be held at Lund, Sweden 24 - 25 April 2006.

* Sometime in April 2006.  Germany's  Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation, DFG) will issue "revised usage guidelines" for its OA policy.

* Notable conferences this month

Academic Publishing in Europe (APE 2006) (OA is among the topics)
Berlin, April 4-5, 2006

Duquesne University Open Access Symposium
Pittsburgh, April 5, 2006

E-Publishing in the Humanities and Social Sciences (sponsored by the British Academy)
London, April 6, 2006

E-Publishing in the Humanities and Social Sciences (sponsored by the British Academy)
London, April 7, 2006

Repositories and RAE Submission: an Information and Discussion Meeting (sponsored by the JISC IRRA project)
London, April 7, 2006

Enabling Open Access to Scientific Data and Information within the Modern Knowledge Economy; the Case for a Scientific Commons
Dublin, April 12, 2006

Communication scientifique et valorisation de la recherche à l'heure d'Internet
Toulouse, April 13, 2006

Augmenting interoperability across scholarly repositories (sponsored by Microsoft, the Mellon Foundation, CNI, DLF, and JISC)
New York, April 20-21, 2006

DSpace User Group Meeting
Bergen, April 20-21, 2006

Sharing a Vision: The Power of Collaboration (OA is among the topics)
Burnaby, April 20-22, 2006

Forschung und Lehre im Informationszeitalter – zwischen Zugangsfreiheit und Privatisierungsanreiz (OA is among the topics)
Köln, April 21, 2006

1st European Conference on Scientific Publishing in Biomedicine and Medicine (OA is among the topics)
Lund, April 21-22, 2006

Scientific information. Old practices vs. new projects: self archiving and open access journals (sponsored by HUMANE, Heads of University Management and Administration in Europe)
Copenhagen, April 21-22, 2006

Conference on Access to Knowledge (sponsored by the Yale Information Society Project) (OA is among the topics)
New Haven, April 21-23, 2006.

Beyond Declarations - The Changing Landscape of Scholarly Communication: Third Nordic Conference on Scholarly Communication
Lund, April 24-25, 2006

Open Access and Creating a Knowledge Society
Monomotapa, Zimbabwe, April 24-26, 2006

Critical issues for the preservation of datasets
Uppsala, April 26-27, 2006

ALPSP/PA/STM Journal Publishers' Forum: Publishing foes, Public woes. What are journal publishers for? (I'm guessing OA is among the topics)
London, April 27, 2006

Scholarly perspectives on the impact and future trends of publishing in an electronic environment (sponsored by Drexel University) (OA is among the topics)
Philadelphia, April 28, 2006

The Commons Conference: An Academic-Community Event on Privatization and the Public Domain
Victoria, British Columbia, April 28-30, 2006

* Other OA-related conferences



* I've added 27 new conferences to my conference page since the last issue.  In the next few days I'll delete the second asterisk marking them and the new entries will blend into the rest of the collection.


This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (ISSN 1546-7821), written by Peter Suber and published by SPARC.  The views I express in this newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of SPARC.

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