Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #122
June 2, 2008
by Peter Suber

Read this issue online


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Open access and the self-correction of knowledge

Here's an epistemological argument for OA.  It's not particularly new or novel.  In fact, I trace it back to some arguments by John Stuart Mill in 1859.  Nor is it very subtle or complicated.  But it's important in its own right and it's importantly different from the moral and pragmatic arguments for OA we see more often. 

The thesis in a nutshell is that OA facilitates the testing and validation of knowledge claims.  OA enhances the process by which science is self-correcting.  OA improves the reliability of inquiry.

Science is fallible, but clearly that's not what makes it special.  Science is special because it's self-correcting.  It isn't self-correcting because individual scientists acknowledge their mistakes, accept correction, and change their minds.  Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.  Science is self-correcting because scientists eventually correct the errors of other scientists, and find the evidence to persuade their colleagues to accept the correction, even if the new professional consensus takes more than a generation.  In fact, it's precisely because individuals find it difficult to correct themselves, or precisely because they benefit from the perspectives of others, that we should employ means of correction that harness public scrutiny and open access.

I draw on two propositions from John Stuart Mill.  It may seem odd that they don't come from his philosophy of science, but his short treatise on the freedom of expression, _On Liberty_ (1859).  Mill made a powerful argument that freedom of expression is essential to truth-seeking, and in elaborating it pointed out the essential role of opening discussion as widely as possible.  Here's how the two propositions look in their natural habitat:

Mill, _On Liberty_ (Hackett Pub. Co., 1978) at p. 19:

[T]he source of everything respectable in man either as an intellectual or as a moral being...[is] that his errors are corrigible.  He is capable of rectifying his mistakes by discussion and experience....The whole strength and value, then, of human judgment depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand.

Mill at p. 20:

The beliefs which we have most warrant for, have no safeguard to rest on, but a standing invitation to the whole world to prove them unfounded. If the challenge is not accepted, or is accepted and the attempt fails, we are far enough from certainty still; but we have done the best that the existing state of human reason admits of; we have neglected nothing that could give the truth a chance of reaching us: if the lists are kept open, we may hope that if there be a better truth, it will be found when the human mind is capable of receiving it; and in the meantime we may rely on having attained such approach to truth, as is possible in our own day. This is the amount of certainty attainable by a fallible being, and this the sole way of attaining it.

Here's a quick paraphrase:  To err is human, but we can always correct our errors.  We needn't distrust human judgment just because it errs.  But to trust human judgment, we must keep the means for correcting it "constantly at hand".  The most important means of correction is "a standing invitation to the whole world" to find defects in our theories.  The only kind of certainty possible for human judgment is to face and survive that kind of public scrutiny.

Let's look more closely at the process.

Mill argues at length that self-correction only works when people who think a theory is false or incomplete are allowed to say so.  If church, state, tenure committees, or department heads punish deviations from orthodoxy, they will silence many voices, including --for all we know-- the voices that could identify and correct its deficiencies.  In short, scientific self-correction depends on the freedom of expression and works best in a free society.

Mill at pp. 20-21:

To call any proposition certain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if permitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves, and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges without hearing the other side.

Of course scientific self-correction depends on the usual ingredients of good science:  observation, evidence, experiment, reasoning, and imagination.  What is usually overlooked, and what Mill is adding to the list, is that it also depends on institutions, like legislatures, courts, and universities, in a position to protect the freedom of expression. 

It's not enough to free up large numbers of people.  We also need to free up all kinds of people.  The reason is simply that there is such a thing as perspective, partiality, or prejudice.  In fact, these are among the usual suspects for causing errors in human judgment, including errors in science.  If the only people free to speak their minds are people like the author, or people with a shared belief in current orthodoxy, then we'd rarely hear from people in a position to recognize deficiencies in need of correction. 

In short, we must issue "a standing invitation to the whole world" to find fault with our knowledge claims.  This requires disseminating our claims as widely as possible.  We don't have to compel everyone to read our work and comment on it.  (It's an invitation, not an obligation.)  But we do have to make our claims available to everyone who might care to read and comment on them. 

That's OA in a nutshell, or OA from the perspective of authors and publishers.  We can see the same point from the perspective of readers.  Before we can identify the weaknesses in a theory, or hope to correct them, we must know what the theory says.  Before we can decide whether an alleged error is an actual error, or whether a proposed correction is justified, we must know what the proponents and opponents of the theory have to say about it.  Hence, another condition of scientific self-correction is access to the literature and discussion, the flip side of the worldwide invitation to scrutinize.  Authors must provide access, and readers must have access.  For the purposes of scientific progress, a society in which access to research is limited, because it's written in Latin, because authors are secretive, or because access requires travel or wealth, is like a society in which freedom of expression is limited.  In both cases, we shrink the set of people who are in a position to notice and correct the deficiencies of a deficient theory.  We add friction to the process of scientific self-correction.

Mark Twain said that the person who doesn't read has no advantage over the person who can't read.  Similarly, at least for the purpose of scientific self-correction, scientists who are free to speak their minds but lack access to the literature have no advantage over scientists who lack the freedom to speak their minds.

Yes, this is the many-eyeballs theory, as it looked in the mid-19th century.  Opening new theories to many eyeballs for scrutiny, especially when those eyeballs belong to people who are free to speak their minds, releases a torrent of many voices from many perspectives.  The resulting disagreements make life difficult, and the standing invitation to the whole world makes it even more difficult.  But working through those difficulties, or evaluating the evidence and arguments that can be brought to bear against a new claim, are exactly what scientists must do to inch asymptotically toward certainty.  To short-circuit this process in the name of convenience is to compromise the possibility of correction.

Mill at pp. 19-20:

[T]the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind....The steady habit of correcting and completing his own opinion by collating it with those of others, so far from causing doubt and hesitation in carrying it into practice, is the only stable foundation for a just reliance on it: for, being cognizant of all that can, at least obviously, be said against him, and having taken up his position against all gainsayers knowing that he has sought for objections and difficulties, instead of avoiding them, and has shut out no light which can be thrown upon the subject from any quarter —he has a right to think his judgment better than that of any person, or any multitude, who have not gone through a similar process.

Mill at p. 36:

So essential is this discipline to...real understanding..., that if opponents of [an idea] do not exist, it is indispensable to imagine them and supply them with the strongest arguments which the most skilful devil's advocate can conjure up.

Scientific self-correction depends on public scrutiny for two different purposes:  first for noticing any errors in a theory and then for correcting them.  OA advances both purposes, by exposing the theory to more readers, just as political liberty advances both purposes, by freeing readers to register their dissent and argue for other points of view.  But the two steps don't always occur together.  When a theory is false or incomplete, we make progress by noticing its weaknesses, even if we don't immediately know how to correct them.  We make progress on both fronts by enlisting as much help as we possibly can.

We may discover new ideas in private and shape them into plausible hypotheses in private.  But we validate knowledge claims in public.  By embracing the method of public scrutiny, we aim for the kind of certainty that can answer criticism, not the kind of private certitude that excludes it.  But once we acknowledge that the process is intrinsically public, and designed to move beyond the private feeling of confidence to the public examination of evidence, we must protect the process that makes it work.  We may have to accept access restrictions, when we can't remove them ourselves, but we shouldn't forget the principle and believe that the process works as well with access restrictions as it would without.  In a similar way, patriots may put their country ahead of individuals, on the ground that the whole is greater than the parts, but shouldn't forget the principle and put their country ahead of the world. 

Mill at p. 17:

All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.....[W]hile every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility....

Maximizing access to our ideas, and inviting the whole world to scrutinize them, is one precaution against our fallibility which we can keep constantly at hand with very little effort.  Print works better than letters to friends and colleagues; online access to paying customers, at least when many pay, can work better than print; OA works best of all. 

The method of public scrutiny doesn't produce mathematical certainty in empirical sciences where the most we can expect is a high degree of confirmation.  On the contrary, it introduces a very different standard:  not proof, but longevity in a free society.  The longer a theory survives the open challenge to expose its flaws, when everyone who cares has access to the literature and the freedom to speak their minds, the lower the odds that the theory has flaws to expose.

If a scientific result gains credibility the longer it lasts in a free society without falsification, then it gains an even greater measure of credibility the longer it lasts in free society *with OA* and without falsification.  You might say that surviving _n_ years with OA is equivalent to surviving _mn_ years without OA, when _m_ is a coefficient representing the friction in a non-OA system, or the inefficiency and delay caused by the lack of OA.  Just don't start looking for _m_ as if it were a constant of nature.  Toll access varies widely in its extent, from work to work, place to place, and time to time, making _m_ another variable, not a constant. 

For scientific self-correction, OA is lubricant, not a precondition.  Science made extraordinary progress during the age of print, when OA was physically and economically impossible.  Indeed, much of the scientific progress in the 16th and 17th centuries was due to the spread of print itself and the wider access it allowed for new results.  Widening access further through OA harnesses the same process for the same purpose.  Limits on access (like limits on liberty) are not deal-breakers, just friction in the system.  But we owe it to ourselves and our planet to take the friction out of the system as far as we can.

* Postscript

Here are a few minor points I'd include in footnotes, if I had footnotes.

In my opening paragraph I distinguished moral, pragmatic, and epistemological arguments for OA.  But clearly they overlap.  In particular, pragmatic arguments (for example, that OA accelerates research) are components of moral arguments (accelerating research is good).  Likewise, the epistemological argument I just sketched (OA facilitates scientific self-correction) can easily become a component of a moral argument (facilitating self-correction is good).  So I'm less interested in drawing sharp lines to separate the types from one another than in pointing out that there *are* epistemological arguments for OA.  OA can affect knowledge itself, or the process by which knowledge claims become knowledge.

Here are some examples of what I mean by moral arguments:  OA frees authors and readers from needless access barriers; it returns the control of scholarship to scholars; by increasing the author's impact, it advances the author's purpose in writing journal articles for impact rather than money; it counteracts the deliberate creation of artificial scarcity; it counteracts the deliberate and accidental maldistribution of knowledge; it de-encloses a commons; it serves the under-served; and for the special subset of publicly-funded research, it is part of fundamental fairness to taxpayers.

Here are some examples of what I mean by pragmatic arguments:  OA accelerates research and increases the productivity of researchers; it makes research more useful and increases the research funder's return on investment; it helps authors find readers and readers find authors; it reaches a wider audience at lower cost than toll-access forms of distribution; it saves money at both the author and reader sides of the distribution process; it widens dialogue, builds community, and supports cooperation; it enhances preservation by freeing downstream users to make copies and migrate content to new media and formats; and it makes research literature and data available for crunching by new generations of sophisticated software (indexing, mining, summarizing, translating, linking, recommending, alerting, mash-ups, and other forms of processing).

The Millian argument for OA is not the "wisdom of crowds", at least not in the way in which this term was used and made popular by James Surowiecki.  It's not about averaging or taking the vector of many disparate judgments.  In an important way, it's the contrary.  It's not about synthesizing plural judgments, but eliciting plural judgments without attempting to synthesize them.  The precious correction we need is at least as likely to be found in an eccentric loner or statistical outlier than in a popular proposal or artificial synthesis. 

All correctness, confirmation, and certainty under this theory coexist with the fallibility of human judgment and the possibility of challenge from unexpected directions.  We needn't say that perfect certainty and objectivity are attainable, or that we've attained them; and if we did, our claim would be subject to criticism and correction like any other human judgment. 

I didn't try to give an exhaustive account of the conditions that make scientific self-correction possible, and wouldn't trust myself to do so.  I only wanted to go far enough to show the role of OA.  If I were to extend the analysis to other conditions, I'd start with peer review and the kind of empirical content that underlies what Karl Popper called falsifiability.

Finally, by chance, there was a beautiful illustration of the Millian thesis in the news during May.  Jeffrey Young reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education that journal editors are noticing an "alarming" level of image-tampering in submitted articles.  But journals needn't depend on the small number of in-house experts to detect the tampering.  Quoting Young:

One new check on science images, though, is the blogosphere. As more papers are published in open-access journals, an informal group of watchdogs has emerged online.

"There's a lot of folks who in their idle moments just take a good look at some figures randomly," says John E. Dahlberg, director of the division of investigative oversight at the Office of Research Integrity [at the US Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the NIH]. "We get allegations almost weekly involving people picking up problems with figures in grant applications or papers."

Such online watchdogs were among those who first identified problems with images and other data in a cloning paper published in Science by Woo Suk Hwang, a South Korean researcher. The research was eventually found to be fraudulent, and the journal retracted the paper....




Here's what happened, or what I noticed, since the last issue of the newsletter, emphasizing action and policy over scholarship and opinion.  I put the most important items first, with double asterisks, and otherwise cluster them loosely by topic.  Most of the time I link to blog posts at Open Access News (where I am now assisted by Gavin Baker), not to the sources themselves, because I only want to use one link per item and the blog posts usually bring many relevant links together.

** Harvard Law School joined the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences in adopting an OA mandate.  Just as in the FAS, the Law School mandate was adopted by a unanimous vote of the faculty.

** The Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) released a draft OA mandate based on the exemplary IRCSET OA policy adopted two weeks earlier (and covered in last month's SOAN round-up).  Public comments on the draft are due on June 19.

** The Irish Universities Association officially launched the IREL-Open project, which will build an IR at every Irish university and develop a federated harvesting and discovery service based on the repositories.

** The Canadian Library Association approved a Position Statement on Open Access for Canadian Libraries.  It not only calls for a mandate OA for publicly-funded research, but regards embargo periods as a temporary compromise, justified only to help publishers adapt during a transition period.

* Participants at an April OA conference in Zaria, Nigeria, wrote a Communiqué recommending government support for OA journals and OA repositories.

* The Nigerian University Library (NULIB) consortium called on Nigerian scholars to self-archive.

* An English translation of the January 2007 Ukrainian OA mandate was deposited in ROARMAP.  The mandate has been approved by the Ukrainian Parliament but not yet implemented.

* Australian Senator Kate Lundy renewed her call for OA to publicly-funded research.

* The incipient Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association (OASPA) released a draft of its bylaws.

* An editorial in a pro-IP magazine endorsed the European University Association's OA recommendations, which included a call for mandating OA to publicly-funded research.

* The University of Oregon Faculty Senate adopted a resolution encouraging faculty to use an author addendum.

* An editorial in the Oberlin Review called on Oberlin to adopt an OA mandate.

* The newest Draft Strategic Plan from UNESCO's Information for All Programme includes (unspecific) language supporting OA. 

* The NIH concluded its third round of public comments on its public access policy.  The submitted comments are now online and the NIH will issue a report on them in September.

* The NIH updated the FAQ on its OA policy.

* In order to support good policies and actions, JISC undertook to show decision-makers how repositories and preservation "address problems that they are already worried about".

* Sabinet launched the beta version of its Open Access Journal Collection.  The launch edition hosts 44 OA journals and 6,000+ OA full-text articles.

* The Open Humanities Press launched with a portfolio of seven peer-reviewed OA journals.

* Cases Journal is a peer-reviewed OA journal for medical case reports published by BioMed Central.  Richard Smith is the editor.

* The Journal of Hematology & Oncology is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from BioMed Central.

* BMC Medical Physics is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from BMC.

* PMC Biophysics is a new peer-reviewed OA journal of biophysics, published by PhysMath Central.

* Behemoth is a new, peer-reviewed OA journal of civilization from Leipzig University.

* The International Journal of Zoology is a new peer-reviewed, OA journal from Hindawi.

* Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery is a new OA journal, offered as a section of the Medscape Journal of Medicine.

* UroToday International Journal is a new peer-reviewed OA journal.

* Global Health Action is a new peer-reviewed OA journal affiliated with the Centre for Global Health Research at Sweden's Umeå University and published by Co-Action.

* The Journal of Emergencies Trauma and Shock is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by Medknow and the INDO-US Academic Council for Emergency and Trauma.

* The Journal of e-Media Studies is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by Dartmouth College Library.

* The International Journal of Health Research is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from Poracom Academic Publishers.

* The Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research is a new, peer-reviewed OA journal from BioMed Central and the Regina Elena National Cancer Institute (of Italy).

* The International Journal of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork: Research, Education, & Practice is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from the Massage Therapy Foundation.

* The Journal of Humanoids is a new peer-reviewed OA journal of humanoid robotics published by I-Tech.

* Inflexions: A Journal for Research-Creation is a new peer-reviewed OA journal sponsored by the Sense Lab.

* S (the "journal of the Jan van Eyck Circle for Lacanian Ideology Critique") is a new peer-reviewed OA journal sponsored by the Jan van Eyck Academy.

* Spaces for Difference is a new peer-reviewed OA journal on race, racism, gender, sexuality, and social activism published by the U of California as part of the eScholarship Repository Journal series.

* Stream:  Culture/Politics/Technology is a new peer-reviewed OA journal of communication published by the Communication Graduate Student Caucus at Simon Fraser University.

* Harvard's OA Journal of Legal Analysis is now accepting submissions.

* ScieCom Info revived with a new focus on the Nordic and Baltic countries.  The first issue in its new incarnation was a special issue on OA in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and the Baltic countries.

* Economic Analysis and Policy converted to OA after 38 years of publication.  EAP is published by the Economic Society of Australia.

* The Journal of Cytology converted to OA after 25 years of publication.

* Symmeikta, published since 1966, converted to OA and changed its name to Byzantina Symmeikta.

* Aerosol Science and Technology (a TA journal) announced its OA backfile, funded by Taylor & Francis and created by the Caltech libraries.

* Gramophone Magazine converted its 85 year backfile to OA.

* The Indian Journal of Ophthalmology provided OA to its 55 year backfile.

* The Company of Biologists is providing OA to the full backfile (1953-1986) of the Journal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology.  In 1986, the journal became Development, which COB continues to publish.

* College & Research Libraries (C&RL) began offering free online access to its accepted articles during the period after peer review and before publication.

* Scholars Without Borders created a list of peer-reviewed Open Access Journals published in India and the subcontinent.

* Revenue from its hybrid OA journals allowed the American Physiological Society to limit its subscription price increases for 2008 to 2.5%, half of last year's price increase.  The APS did not reveal the rate of author uptake for its OA option.

* The DOAJ added 33 journals to the directory during May.

* Six Australian universities joined the CERN SCOAP3 project:  Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Western Australia, New South Wales and the Australian National University.

* Heather Morrison reported that more than 40 journals began adding their articles to PubMed Central in March and April.

* CERN, DESY, Fermilab and SLAC are building INSPIRE, a common retrieval platform for research in high-energy physics.   The goal is not to replace arXiv, SPIRES, CDS, or JACoW, but to provide a common interface for them.

* Science Commons and partners announced Health Commons, an ambitious ecosystem of OA literature and data, the semantic web, intelligent licensing, specimen-sharing services, and economies of scale, all in the service of developing cures.  The other partners are CollabRx, CommerceNet, and the Public Library of Science.

* KnewCo launched WikiProteins, an application of WikiProfessional combining OA, community annotation, semantic processing, and text-mining.

* The National Science Digital Library launched Classic Articles in Context, a project providing OA to landmark papers and supporting materials through a wiki plug-in to a Fedora repository.

* Wales' University of Glamorgan launched an institutional repository.

* The University of Limerick launched an institutional repository.

* The Dublin Institute of Technology launched its IR, Arrow@DIT.

* India's Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc) launched the IMSc Eprint Archive.

* Mexico's Nuevo Leon Autonomous University is planning to launch an IR.

* Medecins Sans Frontieres launched an OA repository.

* Pherobase is a new OA database of insect semiochemicals.

* Collaborative Drug Discovery (CDD) and Asinex have released an OA edition of the Asinex drug compound libraries through the CDD online drug discovery database.

* The Logic Group Preprint Series and Artificial Intelligence Preprint Series found a new home at Igitur, the institutional repository at the University of Utrecht.

* GreyNet is making its conference proceedings OA through the OpenSIGLE (Open System for Information on Grey Literature in Europe) repository.

* Scientists Without Borders launched an OA database to "coordinate science-based activities that improve quality of life in the developing world."

* Infochimps.org is an OA database for hosting and integrating OA databases.

* The folks at EPrints revamped ROARMAP, the database of funder and university OA mandates.  The front page now has a very useful tally of the worldwide OA mandates in six categories.

* The National Cancer Institute announced plans to use Tranche to disseminate proteomic data from its Mouse Proteomic Technologies Initiative.  Tranche is an open source, P2P file-sharing tool for scientific data, and one of the first projects anywhere to adopt the Science Commons Protocol for Implementing Open Access Data.

* ChemSpider announced its adoption of CC licenses, and then, within a week, announced that it would "likely" use homegrown licensing statements instead. Between the two announcements many leaders of the open data movement held an online discussion comparing open licenses with the public domain for data.

* PubChem released the beta of its PUG SOAP (Power User Gateway Simple Object Access Protocol).

* The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) started providing OA to Landsat images from 1972 to the present.

* The University of Georgia launched the OA Civil Rights Digital Library.

* The US National Archives announced plans for an OA collection of the Founding Fathers' Papers.

* Columbia University contributed the papers of John Jay to the Digital Library Federation's Aquifer.

* The University of Hull's Gold Dust Project began collecting RSS feeds from institutional repositories.

* RePEc published a list of third-party services using the open data provided by RePEc.

* The Repositories Support Project released 23 new repository case studies.

* JISC unveiled its version control recommendations for articles on deposit in OA repositories.

* The Open Access Directory opened six new lists for community editing and enlargement:  Research questions; Research in progress; Free and open-source journal management software; Free and open-source repository software; Acronyms; Blogs about OA; OA by the numbers; Guides for OA journal publishers; Disciplinary repositories; and an OA speakers bureau.

* Microsoft pulled the plug on Academic Search, Book Search, and its book-scanning program.  It will fulfill existing contracts (e.g. with the British Library), give digital copies of scanned books to their publishers, donate its book-scanning equipment to its partners, and remove usage restrictions the public-domain books it has already scanned.

* The venerable French encyclopedia, Larousse, will publish a free online edition, open to vetted user contributions.

* The Open University of Israel started publishing OA textbooks.

* The Venezuelan Ministry of Culture is subsidizing OA books from the Ayacucho Library, a Venezuelan publisher.

* Munich's Ludwig-Maximilans University and the University of Cologne are digitizing the Hebraica Collection of the Munich State Library, which includes 2,700 manuscripts from 1501 to 1933.

* Google Books and WorldCat agreed to link their records to one another.

* Action to Cure Kidney Cancer and the Polio Survivors Association joined the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.

* The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.

* Otago Polytechnic became the first educational institution in Australasia to sign The Cape Town Open Education Declaration.

* The University of Michigan launched a project to create OERs for health professionals.

* Stanford University will provide OA to the papers of Stephen Jay Gould, and add cross-links to his sources.

* SURF released a new guide for scholars:  How to use copyright wisely within scholarly communication.

* The Research Information Network released a major report on the costs and funding of scholarly communication in the UK.

* The University of California Berkeley's Center for Studies in Higher Education released a new report on faculty views on the future of scholarly communication.

* An Elsevier report showed that increased access, in this case through HINARI, also increased the research output of developing countries.

* The OAK Law Project released a major report on Australian author attitudes toward OA.

* Rightscom and the European Commission launched a research project on the Economic and Social Impact of the Public Domain.

* The Association of Research Libraries updated its Brown-Bag Discussion Guide Series on Issues in Scholarly Communication, adding new guides on Author Rights and New Model Publications.

* Charles Bailey released version 2 of his Electronic Theses and Dissertations Bibliography.

* Charles Bailey and Adrian Ho updated the links on their Open Access Webliography.

* QUT ePrints, the institutional repository at Queensland U of Technology passed the milestone of 10,000 items on deposit.

* The institutional repository of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) passed the milestone of 10,000 deposits.

* RePEc passed another series of milestones: 30,000,000 cumulated downloads, 10,000,000 article downloads, 700,000 monthly downloads, 475,000 online items, 175,000 paper abstracts, and more.

* Canada's National Topographic Data Base converted to OA on April 1, 2007, and during the next year its downloads increased 54-fold over the year before.

* Les Carr reported that monthly deposits in UK institutional repositories doubled in the last 18 months.

* Two OA activists won Berkman Awards "for their outstanding contributions to the Internet’s impact on society over the past decade":  Richard Baraniuk (of Connexions) and Carl Malamud (of Public.Resource.Org).

* Open Access News turned six.

* Justia and Public.Resource.org told the state of Oregon that they did not recognize its claimed copyright on the Oregon statutes and did not intend to comply with it.

* Oregon proposed a public license which Carl Malamud (for Public.Resource.org) and Justia declared was incompatible with the public domain.  Malamud and Justia vowed to distribute an OA edition of the statutes by June 2, with or without Oregon's consent.

* The State of Oregon scheduled a hearing for June 19, 2008 to consider its policy of claiming copyright in its statutes.

* Carl Malamud and Public.Resource.org launched a new project to liberate PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) documents.

* Sean Kass, a third year Harvard law student, has released a 14 minute video, Open Access to Scholarly Publications.  The video is a project in the course, The Web Difference, taught by John Palfrey and David Weinberger.

* PubChemSR is a new search engine customized for PubChem.

* NextBio is a new, free search engine for research in the life sciences.

* A consortium of German universities and libraries received funding from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) to code version 4 of OPUS, the open-source repository software.

* The Public Knowledge Project released version 2.1 of Open Conference Systems.

* Siyavula is a large, new open education project in the planning stage by the South African government.

* OpenTuition launched a new site offering free online study guides for accountancy.

* The Utah Board of Education approved a new charter school to be called the Open High School of Utah.  All teaching will be online, and the curriculum will rely exclusively on OERs.

* Britain will provide temporary OA to its UFO files.  After a month of OA, the files will convert to TA.

* Harvard's Berkman Center launched its OA Publius Project, a series of essays on the evolving norms for governing the internet.

* Stuart Shieber, architect of the OA mandate at Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was named to head Harvard's new Office of Scholarly Communication which will help to implement the new mandate.

* Harvard's Office of Scholarly Communication is looking for a program manager to help implement the university's two OA mandates.

* Paul Ginsparg was named a Science Fellow for 2008-2009 at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.  He'll investigate "how researchers’ interactions change as a result of ever-growing open access" and "create tools and resources for researchers to communicate more efficiently with one another."

* Ten months before the massive May 12 earthquake in China's Sichuan Province, which has already killed 69,000+ (18,600+ are still missing) and left 4,800,000+ homeless, two scientists published a prediction of the quake with what National Geographic called eerie precision.  However, National Geographic notes that "there is little reason to believe Chinese officials were aware of the July 2007 study", and co-author Michael Ellis of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis noted that the "information was effectively locked in an academic journal."


Coming this month

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

* June 19, 2008.  Deadline for public comments on the draft OA mandate from Science Foundation Ireland.

* Notable conferences this month

Education and Media
Salzburg, June 2-3, 2008

Spreading the Light: 11th International Symposium on Electronic Theses and Dissertations. ETD 2008.
Aberdeen, June 4-7, 2008

Digital Repositories: Interoperability Using Grid Technologies
Barcelona, June 5, 2008.

Open Content - Open Access
Stuttgart, June 9, 2008

eSciDoc Days 2008
Berlin, June 9-10, 2008

Joint Conference on Digital Libraries 2008
Pittsburgh, June 16-20, 2008

Göttingen, June 18, 2008

Repositories Support Project Summer School 2008
The Wirral, Cheshire, June 18-20, 2008

OpeniWorld: Europe 2008: Federating Resources Through Open Interoperability: A Symposium and Workshop
Lyon, June 24-27, 2008

Building an Australasian Commons
Brisbane, June 24, 2008

Open Scholarship: Authority, Community and Sustainability in the Age of Web 2.0. 12th International Conference on Electronic Publishing. OA is among the topics.
Toronto, June 25-27, 2008

SPARC-ACRL Forum on the Harvard open access policy
Anaheim, June 28-29, 2008

COMMUNIA conference on Public Domain in the Digital Age
Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, June 30 - July 1, 2008

* Other OA-related conferences



* When I maintained a list of upcoming conferences, I would note here how many conferences I'd added since the last issue.  But in late April I moved my conference list to the Open Access Directory (OAD), a wiki, and invited the entire OA community to take part in maintaining it.

There are three consequences.  First, I'll no longer note how many conferences have been added to the list since the last issue.  Second, for information about past and future conferences, please consult the OAD version of the list, not my old one.  And most importantly, please help maintain the OAD version by adding relevant new events yourself.  The wiki-based list will only be as comprehensive and up to date as we make it. 

To reduce spam, OAD requires users to register before they may edit, but registration is free and easy.

My old conference page, still online but no longer updated

The OAD Events page, open to the public for editing and enlargement
* In the May issue of SOAN, I published a list of research questions in need of researchers.

Three days later, I deposited the list in OAD for community editing, as I said I would.  I'm happy to report that the OAD version is now substantially larger and better, thanks to user contributions.  Like other OAD lists, it will remain online and open for user contributions indefinitely.


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 or other sponsors.

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Peter Suber

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