Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #87
July 2, 2005
Read this issue online
The RCUK open-access policy now open for comment
On June 28, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) published its long-awaited open-access policy for public comment. The comment period ends on August 31, 2005.
RCUK page on the open access policy (collecting related links)
The RCUK Consultation, covering note
RCUK Position Statement on Access to Research Outputs
(PDF, 119 KB)
Summary of RCUK Position Statement on Access to Research Outputs
(PDF, 39 KB)
Consultation to date
RCUK press release, June 28, 2005
Comments on the draft policy should be sent to Dr. Astrid Wissenburg (before August 31, 2005)
Bottom line: The policy is superb. It has four primary strengths. First, it mandates OA and does not merely request it. Second, it applies to all publicly-funded research, not just biomedicine. Third, it gives authors some flexibility about the OA archive in which to deposit their work. Fourth, it offers to pay the fees at OA journals that charge fees. My concerns about the current draft are minor compared to its strengths, but I'll say more about them below.
As far as I know, the Research Councils are the first public funding agencies in any country to mandate OA to the results of agency-funded research. The first private funding agency to do so was the Wellcome Trust, also from the UK. By chance, the two policies will take effect on the same date, October 1, 2005. The two precedents together make the UK a leader in the worldwide campaign for open access.
In a posting yesterday to the AmSci OA Forum, Les Carr estimated that the Research Councils fund about half the peer-reviewed research in the UK. So in addition to improving upon the NIH policy, and offering a better precedent for other funding agencies worldwide, the RCUK policy will directly bring about OA to a very significant body of research.
Here are the key provisions of the draft policy. (I cite it by paragraph numbers in parentheses.)
* Grantees must deposit the results of their research in OA repositories. This is a requirement, not just a request, encouragement, or exhortation (#13).
* The requirement applies to all published journal articles and conference presentations resulting from RC funding (#14.b). It applies to all disciplines, including the social sciences and humanities (#1). However, there are some exceptions noted below.
* The policy applies to grants awarded from October 1, 2005, and beyond (#14.b). Recipients of earlier grants are encouraged but not required to follow the same policy (#14.e).
* The grantee may choose the repository in which to deposit the research. While the RCUK prefers institutional repositories to disciplinary repositories, both are eligible for this program (#14.c). All eligible repositories "should" be OAI compliant (#14.b).
* The policy does not require any institution to create an OA repository if it doesn't already have one (#14.d).
* Grantees should deposit their articles "at the earliest opportunity, wherever possible at or around the time of publication" (#14.b). The ultimate state of OA may be required, but the timing is merely recommended. The policy does not distinguish the time of deposit from the time of free online accessibility (as the NIH policy does, for example) and it provides no firm deadline for deposit or for access.
* The repositories must clearly label published articles as postprints and unpublished articles as preprints. They must also distinguish "between different preprint versions" (#20).
* Grantees who choose to publish in OA journals that charge author-side processing fees may pay the fees out of their grants "subject to cost-effectiveness being demonstrated" (#27). But the viability of this funding model is sufficiently uncertain that the RCUK was not persuaded to set up a special fund (as recommended by the Gibson committee) to pay these fees (#26).
Regrettably, the RCUK uses the term "author-pays" for journals that charge processing fees (##25, 26, 27, 28) even though it acknowledges (#25) that the term is misleading.
* There are two exceptions to the mandatory archiving policy. First, it is subject to "copyright and licensing arrangements" (#14.b). Second, it does "not apply to authors who do not have reasonable access either to an institutional or to a subject-based e-print repository" (#14.d). I'll treat the two exceptions separately, below.
Note the background principle that "[o]nly in exceptional circumstances should public funding of research not lead to publicly-available outputs" (#3.a).
* On the first exception (copyright and licensing arrangements, #14.b):
The policy refers readers who wonder about this clause to paragraphs 16 and 17. Paragraph 16 points out that "a large majority of publishers" allow postprint archiving. While true, this does not mean that the same publishers will not impose embargoes on articles deposited as a result of this policy. Even some green publishers are responding to the NIH policy with new embargoes, sometimes applying to all OA archiving and sometimes only to NIH archiving. Paragraph 17 questions the custom of automatic transfer of copyright from authors to journals. It points out that this is not the only way and not necessarily the best way to protect authors against plagiarism or to achieve the optimal "balance between the rights and responsibilities of authors, their employing institutions, funders and other stakeholders --including the general public-- particularly in a context where the Research Councils are funding research for the public good."
Neither #16 nor #17 dispels the vagueness of the phrase "in accordance with copyright and licensing arrangements" (#14.b). However, we have helpful clarification of the RCUK intent from Astrid Wissenburg, an historian on the Economic and Social Research Council (one of the eight Research Councils) and the interim head of a committee that formulated the RCUK policy. Aisha Labi quotes Wissenburg (and me) in the June 19 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education:
"If [RCUK grantees] have signed an agreement with a publisher that either restricts them completely or gives a time restriction -- for example, if the publisher says they are only allowed to deposit their work in six months -- then they can wait six months. So the phrase 'at the earliest opportunity' means when someone is legally allowed to do so. We're not overruling any agreement publishers have in place with authors." ...Ms. Wissenburg conceded that the RCUK exception -- allowing for delay because of copyright and licensing restrictions -- might create an incentive for publishers to begin imposing such restrictions on authors, as a way of dictating when their work could be placed in open-access repositories. "It will be interesting to see if they do," she said. "We'll be keeping an eye on that. I wouldn't be surprised if some publishers took that attitude and put in restrictions, but I think the majority will wait to see what the impact will be." ...Based on the NIH experience, Mr. Suber is certain of the outcome. "With the NIH policy, we've seen that publishers are requesting embargoes," he said. "They're saying, If you don't comply, we won't publish you. We'll see the same thing with the RCUK unless the language is tightened up before it's made final."
It's clear then that the RCUK is deliberately opening the door for publishers to demand embargoes on OA archiving. At the same time, the RCUK is promising to respect any embargoes that publishers choose to impose. Finally, the RCUK is predicting, or perhaps hoping, that most publishers will not impose embargoes unless their experience with unembargoed archiving forces them to do so. There are two problems here. First, the NIH experience suggests that the prediction or hope is groundless. If publishers are allowed to impose embargoes, most will do so. Second, the policy language could express the framers' intent more clearly and directly. For example, it could add the clear statement that publishers may impose embargoes of any length and it could subtract the unclear implication that this deference to publishers has something to do with copyright.
Here's how I put the point in a comment to Stephen Pincock for his story in the June 23 issue of The Scientist:
"Researchers sign funding contracts with the Research Councils long before they sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers. Funders have a right to dictate terms, such as mandated open access, precisely because they are upstream from publishers. If one condition of the funding contract is that the grantee will deposit the peer-reviewed version of any resulting publication in an open-access repository, then publishers have no right to intervene. That is, publishers have no valid objection based on copyright law or a licensing contract. However, publishers do have the right to refuse to publish any article for any reason, and they may well tell authors that publication depends on agreeing not to provide open access to any version for a certain period of time. But publishers have this power without any action or recognition from the RCUK. If the [Research Councils] are expressing their own willingness to accommodate this power of publishers, then they muddy the waters by referring to copyrights and licenses, which have nothing to do with this power. In short, if the clause is supposed to recognize the right of publishers to publish only what they wish, or only on their own terms, then it's superfluous --and harmful for opening other doors through vagueness."
* On the second exception (lack of a suitable repository, #14.d):
How big is this exception? The RCUK itself counted only 26 institutional repositories in the UK, as of January 2005 (#12). Tim Brody's Internet Archives Registry counts 55 today.
Brody's list also describes the archive type. Of the 55 in the UK, 34 are institutional or departmental, 8 are cross-institutional, 1 is for e-theses only, 2 are databases, 6 are e-journals, 4 are other. (Thanks to Stevan Harnad for these tallies.)
But there are 191 universities in the UK, leaving a majority of them without an OA repository.
It's much harder to tell how many faculty work in disciplines without disciplinary repositories, because there isn't yet a good directory of disciplinary repositories.
But it's clear that this exception is non-trivial. Many UK faculty do not have institutional repositories, many do not have disciplinary repositories, and (what matters) many do not have either. However, there are reasons to think that the number of UK faculty left in the cold will decrease with time.
One solution is for UK universities without repositories to ask the RCUK to help fund one. Currently the RCUK mandates deposit in OA repositories but not submission to OA journals. However, it is willing to pay for OA infrastructure on the journal side (through journal fees, #27) but not on the repository side. In fairness, it should be willing to support its mandate by paying at least some of the infrastructure costs for repositories. This compelling argument was first made by Michael Fraser the AmSci OA Forum.
Another solution is to ask JISC for repository funding. The RCUK itself points out that JISC is supporting institutional repositories (#11), although it also suggests that JISC funding will not suffice (#24). In fact, just two weeks ago JISC announced a £4m funding program for institutional repositories in the UK. There is some ground for hope in the fact that #24 has not been revised since a draft circulated in April. The JISC announcement two weeks ago may be a sign of new money or new willingness to meet the occasion.
Note that while the RCUK is very concerned about the long-term preservation of OA eprints (esp. ##29-31), the policy says that the host for preservation purposes needn't be the same as the host for OA purposes (#30). Hence, repositories need not take on responsibility of long-term preservation in order to be eligible for this program, which should make them much easier to fund.
Finally, a third solution lies in the "universal repository" that Brewster Kahle and I are setting up at the Internet Archive. This repository will accept deposits from any scholar in any discipline in any country. I'd like it to be open for business by October 1, 2005, but it's still too early to say whether this will be possible.
* The policy has two underlying rationales: "to maximise the impact of [the Research Councils'] investment in maintaining and improving the research base" and to "increas[e] the contribution it makes to the benefit of the UK's society and economy" (#3).
* The RCUK will review the policy before the end of 2008, especially the development of OA repositories and the requirement to deposit (#14.d). It will also review its decision to let authors choose the destination repository (#14.c).
* On several points the RCUK did not create policy but promised to start inquiries or discussions for future policy. For example, it will investigate the best ways to provide easy and rapid access to data (#8), but the current policy only applies to articles, not data, that arise from publicly-funded research (#8, #14.b). It will start discussions with managers of OA repositories to develop "a common and recognisable standard to ensure that the distinction between pre-prints and post-prints is clear to all users and also to maintain document integrity and authenticity" (#20). It will start discussions with the British Library, the Legal Deposit Libraries, and other stakeholders about the long-term preservation of the OA research literature (#31). It will start discussions with learned societies about "ways in which they can adapt to and exploit new models of publication" (#32).
Those are the main provisions. Here are two aspects of the background.
First, this policy is not from the eight Research Councils alone. It's a "joint position statement" formulated by the RCUK in "partnership" with other UK agencies "including the Funding Councils, the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), the new Research Libraries Network (RLN) and the British Library" and in "consultation" with unnamed others. It also acknowledges significant reliance on the July 2004 report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (#4).
Second, while the key recommendations of the RCUK were made last summer by the House of Commons, those recommendations were rejected by the government in November. The RCUK has been able to propose the same measures now, and will be able to implement them in October, because the Research Councils are independent of the government. (Technically, the Research Councils are "Non-Departmental Public Bodies" outside government, accountable to Parliament, using taxpayer money allocated by the Department of Trade and Industry and channeled through the Office of Science and Technology. In practice, they are more independent than government agencies but probably less independent than the architects of their status intended.) For the same reason, their degree of independence makes them less vulnerable to publisher lobbying than the government, a significant matter when most of the commercial publishers who oppose the policy are incorporated in the UK. Note that the RCUK plans "to liase closely with Government, which is defining its own policy" (#4).
Scientific Publications: Free for All? Report of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (July 20, 2004)
Government response, rejecting the House committee recommendations (November 8, 2004)
A March 2005 recommendation from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee to give the RCUK more independence was rejected by the government last month.
All friends of OA, especially those from the UK, should send comments to Astrid Wissenburg (firstname.lastname@example.org) before August 31.
* My own comment will focus on the two exceptions to the OA archiving requirement.
(1) This key sentence needs revision: "Deposit should take place at the earliest opportunity, wherever possible at or around the time of publication, in accordance with copyright and licensing arrangements" (#14.b). The combination of flexible timing and vague exceptions for copyright will invite publishers to impose embargoes. Dr. Wissenburg's comments to the Chronicle of Higher Education confirm that this loophole is open. The experience of the NIH is that when this loophole is open, most publishers will take advantage of it, even publishers that already permit postprint archiving without embargoes. However, most authors can bypass NIH-specific embargoes by self-archiving outside NIH in their institutional or disciplinary repositories. By contrast, RCUK-specific embargoes will apply to the only institutional or disciplinary repositories where authors have deposit rights and leave them without archiving alternatives. Hence, it's even more important to close this loophole in the RCUK policy than in the NIH policy (though I'd like to see it closed in both).
The RCUK is trying to reduce embargoes with an exhortation. But this will only work if publishers heed the exhortation. If they don't, the only way to reduce embargoes is with a firm deadline on deposit and access. The only problem with a deadline --say, 6 months-- is that it creates a permissible embargo length up to the deadline. The NIH tried both paths at once, exhorting grantees to deposit their work "as soon as possible" after publication but within 12 months. Most publishers with public responses are imposing 12 month embargoes.
In my comment, I'll urge the RCUK to consider the track record of publishers in responding to the NIH policy, as documented in SOAN.
(Also see the update to this story in the current issue, below.)
Then I'll urge it to mandate OA archiving immediately upon publication. Of course publishers will object that this will harm them. The RCUK should be prepared with these replies. (a) The mandate will only apply to the author's peer-reviewed manuscript, not the published edition. (b) Most journals publish more than just RC-funded research and more than just research articles. (c) Immediate OA has not harmed subscription-based journals in physics. (d) The author and the funder both have an interest in the maximum impact of their research with the minimum delay. (e) Journals that start to lose subscribers can always convert to full or hybrid OA. If they really think the cause of their subscriber attrition is the large number of RC-funded authors, then they can charge fees on accepted papers to cover their costs and collect fees from every one of those RC-funded authors. (f) The RCUK policy is based on four fundamental principles. Here's how it elaborates on the second principle: "Historically, subscription-based academic journals (priced or electronic) have provided [peer review]. But there is not reason in principle why other publishing models cannot accommodate similar mechanisms" (#3.b).
(2) Currently the policy does not apply to grantees who have no "reasonable access either to an institutional or to a subject-based e-print repository" (#14.d). This leaves too many UK faculty outside the scope of the policy. The RCUK could solve this problem by hosting its own central repository. But a better solution, more compatible with the policy's commitment to distributed, interoperable repositories, is for the Research Councils to respond to university requests to fund new repositories. The investments would not be large. The software is open-source. The maintenance of an institutional repository for OA purposes is much less expensive than maintenance for preservation purposes, and the RCUK has already agreed that these functions may be provided separately (#30).
If you don't agree with me that the RCUK should close these loopholes or at least make them smaller, then send a comment supporting the policy as it stands. All supportive comments will help the RCUK resist pressure from publishers to water it down. If the policy is adopted as it stands, it will still be a breakthrough worth celebrating.
* Here's some of the early coverage of the RCUK policy.
The ALPSP issued a response to the policy. The document is dated Apil 19, 2005, but the ALPSP home page dates it June 30, 2005.
Anon., British group takes step beyond NIH open access, Research Research, June 30, 2005.
Aisha Labi, British Research Group Calls for More-Liberal Open-Access Policy Than NIH Supports, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 29, 2005.
Donald MacLeod, Research councils back free online access, The Guardian, June 29, 2005.
Richard Wray, Funding aid for open access, The Guardian, June 29, 2005.
* Postscript. The meeting that drafted the Bethesda Statement on Open Access two years ago was convened by funding agencies: the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Wellcome Trust. At the time, no funding agencies anywhere mandated OA to the research they funded even though there was consensus around the room that they wanted it and even needed it. The most commonly heard caution was, "Let's use the carrot, not the stick." Hence the primary recommendation was to pay processing fees at OA journals, not to mandate OA archiving. Then last year the US House of Representatives asked the NIH to "require" OA to the results of NIH-funded research. At the same time, the UK House of Commons Committee on Science and Technology (the Gibson committee) recommended mandated OA across the board. These recommendations broke the ice even though the NIH eventually weakened the requirement to a request and the UK government rejected the Gibson committee recommendations. Now the RCUK is reviving the Gibson committee recommendations and mandating OA across the board. It has taken two years and three large steps to get here. If funding agencies did not take this step earlier (inter alia) because it was unprecedented or unheard of, then finally that hurdle is behind us. Funding agencies are now more free to be more effective. In pursuing their mission to fund research in the public interest, they may now decide that if a research project is useful enough to fund, then it's useful enough to share.
Update on publisher policies on NIH-funded authors
In the June issue, I laid out the policies of 14 publishers on what their NIH-funded authors may and may not do to comply with the NIH public-access policy.
Here I want to update one policy, clarify another, and add two new ones.
* Last month I said that the four journals of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) required a six-month embargo on public access for any of their articles deposited in PubMed Central as part of the NIH public-access policy. I was right at the time I did my research but wrong at the time I mailed the issue. A week before I went to press, the ADA changed its policy in order to permit its NIH-funded authors to choose immediate public access. Thanks to ADA Publisher Peter Banks for the correction. I congratulated the ADA on two mailing lists and in my blog for its change of policy and I'm glad to repeat my congratulations here. The ADA is now the only publisher of non-OA journals that has announced a policy allowing its NIH-funded authors to request immediate public access through PMC. I hope other publishers will follow its lead.
American Diabetes Association (ADA)
ADA correction of my account of its policy
* Last month I said that the three journals of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) require a 12 month embargo on public access through PMC. ASPET journals have a background policy of putting all their contents free online after 12 months.
This was true as far as it went but it omitted a relevant part of the policy. When an ASPET journal accepts a paper, it provides free online access to the version approved by peer review (but not yet copy edited). It does so immediately upon acceptance and leaves that version free online even after the copy-edited version is published. The copy-edited version is made free online 12 months after publication. This policy applies to all ASPET authors, not just those with NIH funding. I thank Richard Dodenhoff, ASPET Journals Director, for the correction.
But, you might ask (as I did), why does ASPET impose a 12 month embargo on the copies deposited in PMC when ASPET provides free online access to the same versions at its own web site immediately upon acceptance?
Richard had two answers to this question. First, the PMC embargo will steer traffic for at least 12 months to the ASPET web site, which will help ASPET attract online advertising. Second, ASPET believes that citations to the PMC copies of its articles will not count toward the impact factors of ASPET journals.
I talked to officials at PubMed Central about both ASPET concerns. (1) On traffic: PMC shares its usage data with journals that maintain full runs in PMC, just as Highwire Press does for example. It does not yet share usage data with journals that have only miscellaneous articles in PMC as a result of the NIH public-access policy, but it will consider doing so. (2) On citations: Every article deposited in PMC as part of the public-access policy will prominently display a full citation that includes the name of the publishing journal. Authors who cite the article in standard ways should therefore build the journal's impact factor.
Then I talked to Marie McVeigh at Thomson Scientific about the citation concern. She was clear that if PMC displays a correct and complete citation to the published version in a conspicuous place on each copy that it hosts, then it's doing all that it can do to encourage proper citation. Moreover, proper citations, even if they use the PMC URL, will help build the journal's impact factor. In fact, if someone cites a paper in PMC as "Smith's peer-reviewed manuscript eventually published as ... [full citation]", then it would still count toward the journal's impact factor.
American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)
The access policy for the three ASPET journals
* The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) puts a 12 month embargo on public access through PMC and does not allow authors to deposit the copy-edited version of the article. Moreover, authors must append a disclaimer explaining that the text has not been copy-edited and may "differ in important ways" from the published version. When the ASPB announced its NIH policy, it also announced an upcoming fee-based author-choice OA experiment at its journals. Once the OA experiment is under way, authors who pay the processing fee for OA may authorize immediate public access through PMC.
* The Journal of Neuroscience, published by the Society for Neuroscience, puts a 12 month embargo on public access through PMC and does not allow authors to deposit the copy-edited version of the article. Moreover, the PMC copy must link to the published version and include the following disclaimer: "This article is an un-copyedited author manuscript that has been accepted for publication in The Journal of Neuroscience, copyright 200_ Society for Neuroscience. The Society for Neuroscience disclaims any responsibility or liability for errors or omissions in this version of the manuscript or any version derived from it by NIH or other parties."
For my comments on how publisher embargoes prove that the NIH policy is not meeting its goals, and how embargoes will fuel efforts in Congress and the NIH to strengthen the policy, see my article from last month.
Visibility beyond open access
Open access makes literature easier to retrieve for researchers who know it exists and easier to discover for researchers who don't know it exists. For the second purpose, it's not enough to remove price barriers and permission barriers. We have to make the literature visible to scholars and their research tools. Clearly OA by itself will give any literature a huge boost in visibility. But while OA literature is much more visible than printed or priced literature, OA by itself is closer to the minimum than the maximum of what we should expect in the digital age.
Generally speaking, there are two ways to improve visibility: bring more eyeballs to the literature at a certain site, and copy the literature or at least links to the literature to sites where there are already more eyeballs. The two methods are not separable: successful methods for attracting eyeballs will also attract literature and links, and successful methods for collecting literature and links will also collect eyeballs.
While the two methods are inseparable, they are asymmetric. User eyeballs can only point in one direction at a time, while literature and links can be copied to any number of sites where there might be eyeballs. Or at least the literature can be copied if the copyright holder has decided to permit copying. Two lessons follow: first, even if you try the hard work of shifting eyeballs, don't fail to try the easier work of putting copies of your work or links to your work where people might see them. Second, don't lock up your work with publishers whose copyright policies prohibit the kind of copying that increases visibility. For example, avoid the 20% of non-OA journals that do not permit postprint archiving. Publishing in their journals will give you a certain level of exposure, but you want the vastly greater level of exposure that comes from having at least one copy that is OA. If certain popular search engines already attract user eyeballs, you want those engines to index an OA version of your work, not just a pay-per-view version. You want to facilitate retrieval and reading, not just discovery.
Here are some ways to make your OA literature even more visible than it already is.
* Deposit a copy of your work in an OA, OAI-compliant repository. An article on your personal web site can be fully OA, but an OAI repository will make it visible to a large and growing number of academically focused, cross-archive search engines.
If Google and other mainstream search engines index the OA articles on personal web sites, isn't that enough? That's the wrong question. Yes, Google indexing will greatly boost visibility. But it's better to be indexed by both the generalists and the specialists than by either breed alone. See "The case for OAI in the age of Google" from SOAN for 5/3/04.
For the same reason, if your work is already on deposit in an OAI-compliant repository, make sure the repository facilitates crawling by Google and other mainstream search engines. Here are some tips to facilitate search-engine crawling to pass on to your repository maintainer.
Just last month, Google launched SiteMaps to help webmasters make sure that Google --and other search engines-- can find and crawl their content. OA repositories and journals should definitely try this.
* If your repository is in the deep web, and you can't move it to the surface web, then deposit a copy of your work in another repository on the surface web. More search engines index surface-web material than deep-web material, which is why the deep web is sometimes called the "invisible web".
* Every enhancement to search-engine relevancy algorithms, and every increment in user sophistication, makes your work more visible. As long as some relevancy algorithms are better than others, then every consideration nudging users toward the better search engines will make your work more visible. Since you gain from technical advances in the algorithms and from the education of users, you should support both. If a search engine is tops in some respects today, it may not be tops in other respects today or in the same respects tomorrow. Don't encourage your users to settle for just one research tool, no matter how good it is right now.
To see this point from the other side, run a search on Schmoogle, a Google variant that returns hits in random order. If your work is indexed in Google, then Schmoogle will find it. But will it be visible to users who search for it? (To show users the effect, Schmoogle labels its hits with the rank they would have had in Google.)
* If the journal publishing your work offers free current awareness alerts by email or RSS, then your work will be more visible. If search engines indexing your work let users store searches and sign up for periodic alerts for matching new content, then your work will be more visible.
* If you publish your work in an OA journal, then it's already visible to users who look in the places where OA work can be found. But if your OA journal is also distributed in a priced aggregation, then without losing the first audience you'll gain the audience of researchers who look first or look only in that aggregation. Among the priced aggregations that include some OA journals are EBSCO A to Z, SwetsWise Online Content, and WilsonWeb.
The real advantage here may be small, to judge by librarian complaints that researchers tend to try Google before trying the expensive databases licensed by the library. And it may be shrinking, as the growing body of OA content justifies users in looking first in the most convenient places. But the advantage is still real, and authors of articles in OA journals should not complain, or suspect anything sinister, when those OA journals are picked up by priced aggregators.
* Similarly, if your work is indexed in the OA-oriented tools, like search engines, then you lose nothing and gain new visibility if it's also indexed in the more traditional abstracting and indexing services for your field. This can come for free (to you, the author) if you publish in certain journals --which needn't be TA. For example, _PLoS Biology_ is indexed by Cambridge Abstracts, EBSCO, Index Medicus, all of the ISI indexes (BIOSIS, Current Contents, Science Citation Index, and Web of Science), Lexis-Nexis, and Swets. But if you do publish in a TA journal, you can supplement the conventional indexing with OA indexing by depositing a copy of your postprint in an OA repository.
* If your OA work is indexed by search engines that generally focus on priced content, then your work will be more visible --e.g. to researchers who look first or look only in such search engines. For example, just last month Elsevier's Scirus started a program to index OA repositories. (Google and Yahoo also index these repositories but they don't --yet-- have Scirus' coverage of priced content.)
Note to authors who have not yet deposited their work in an OA repository: Google, Yahoo, and Elsevier are *competing* to offer superior indexing of OA repositories. Don't you want to be part of that?
Although it's not within my topic here, the reverse is true as well. The visibility of priced content will increase when it's indexed alongside free content --e.g. for researchers focusing on free resources. Google Scholar will do this, and so will Yahoo's new Search Subscriptions as soon as it's integrated into Yahoo's general search engine.
The point is not merely that free content helps priced content or that priced content helps free content. Any collection will attract more eyeballs as it grows in size or usefulness. Adding high-quality free content will help, just as adding high-quality priced content will help. We can quibble about which helps more, but it doesn't really matter. The providers of both kinds have an interest in combining their gravitational attraction.
* As search and analysis tools depend more and more on intelligent XML tagging, such as semantic web tagging, then either add these tags to OA editions of your work or choose publishers that will do so. The boost in discoverability and usefulness is potentially huge. The price is a slight increase in the difficulty of manuscript preparation. (BTW, the tagging can be retroactive if you don't have the time to do it prior to release.) You may not want to do this yourself, but neither do you want the non-OA providers to be the only ones doing it.
* If libraries catalog the records of OA journals, then all the contents of those journals will be more visible --e.g. to researchers who look first in the library catalog.
The DOAJ offers metadata on OA journals free for downloading.
For tips on how to use these records in library catalogs, see Joan Conger's summary of a 2003 discussion thread on the ERIL list.
* If your OA work is also available in formats for hand-helds and PDAs, then it will be more visible --e.g. to users who cannot run searches from their desk or lap. Because many practicing physicians fall into this category, the NIH offers PubMed for Handhelds and PubMed on Tap.
* If the articles citing your work use reference linking (making references into live links), then your work will be more visible. Here's a sign that we are acclimating ourselves to the internet age: linking is no longer a convenience we celebrate but a necessity we presuppose. We no longer cheer its presence but curse its absence.
Reference linking is sometimes thought of as a luxury that many OA journals cannot afford to offer. But in July 2003 Alf Eaton wrote a Perl script to do the job on the downloadable corpus of OA articles from BioMed Central. His script can be adapted to any XML file or database that uses PubMed ID numbers and he's willing to share it with any publishers who'd like to use it. I really don't know whether there's a better or cheaper tool today, but for two years this option has been essentially free.
* If you publish your work in a TA journal and deposit a copy of the postprint in an OA repository, then make sure that readers of the OA postprint can tell that it has been peer-reviewed. Label it with a citation showing the journal in which it was published. Even if readers have no trouble finding your work, in most fields they are more likely to click through to full-text if they know it has survived peer review at a reputable journal. The citation does not remove an access barrier but adds an access invitation.
* If you are the copyright holder for your work and consent to waive some of your rights in order to unshackle your users, then make your consent human-readable and machine-readable. You can make it human-readable through a statement in the file. You can make it machine-readable through a Creative Commons license or metadata in a standardized rights language.
For example, Creative Commons and Yahoo both offer search engines that let users limit searches to CC-licensed content.
* If you're an expert on a certain topic, then make sure that Wikipedia includes the fruits of your expertise. (If you didn't know, anyone is free to edit Wikipedia articles and that includes you.) You may not have a high opinion of Wikipedia, but there are two reasons not to let that stop you. First, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If experts add or enhance articles to reflect their expertise, then Wikipedia will deserve respect to that extent. Second, Wikipedia is an increasingly common first stop, and probably last stop, for non-academic users looking for information. If you want to be visible to non-academic users, then it's an eyeball destination that you can easily join. (BTW, the consensus view among academics accustomed to peer review seems to be that Wikipedia is better than it has any right to be. Don't give up your standards, but don't judge this resource from mere presumptions without firsthand knowledge.)
* Every step toward bridging the digital divide will make your work more visible to those who previously lacked infrastructure. These initiatives are not limited to providing connectivity. For example, the NIH is funding a program to make its OA genomics resources more accessible to "minority-served institutions" (MSI's) than they already are.
* Every step toward making the online files of your OA work handicap-accessible will make your work more "visible" or more available to everyone who may wish to read your work.
* Every step toward making your OA work available in more than one language will make it more visible to readers who don't read your language.
* Every step to dismantle filtering and censorship regimes will make your work more visible to researchers whose only online access is through a school, ISP, or government determined to limit what they can see.
Top stories from June 2005
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 June:* JISC and Key Perspectives release a major new study of self-archiving.
* Science Commons launches the OA Law Program.
* More universities and library organizations adopt OA resolutions.
* OA journals improve their impact factors.
* House committee refuses ACS request to defund PubChem.
* JISC and Key Perspectives release a major new study of self-archiving.
Alma Swan and Sheridan Brown, Open access self-archiving: An author study, Key Perspectives, May 2005. Another major (97 pp.) study from the scholars of scholarly communication at Key Perspectives. The six page Introduction is an excellent stand-alone primer on self-archiving and its benefits, answering the most common questions and objections.
From the executive summary: 'Almost half (49%) of the respondent population have self-archived at least one article during the last three years in at least one of the three possible ways — by placing a copy of an article in an institutional (or departmental) repository, in a subject-based repository, or on a personal or institutional website....[T]he main growth in self-archiving activity over the last year has been in these latter two more structured, systematic methods for providing open access. Use of institutional repositories for this purpose has doubled and usage has increased by almost 60% for subject-based repositories. Postprints (peer-reviewed articles) are deposited more frequently than preprints (articles prior to peer review) except in the longstanding self-archiving communities of physics and computer science....Self-archiving activity is greatest amongst the most prolific authors....
'There is still a substantial proportion of authors unaware of the possibility of providing open access to their work by self-archiving. Of the authors who have not yet self-archived any articles, 71% remain unaware of the option. With 49% of the author population having self-archived in some way, this means that 36% of the total author population (71% of the remaining 51%), has not yet been appraised of this way of providing open access....The findings here show that 20% of authors found some degree of difficulty with the first act of depositing an article in a repository, but that this dropped to 9% for subsequent depositions....Only 10% of authors currently know of the SHERPA/RoMEO list of publisher permissions policies with respect to self-archiving, where clear guidance as to what a publisher permits is provided....Almost all (98%) of authors use some form of bibliographic service to locate articles of interest in closed archives such as publisher websites, but only a much smaller proportion of people (up to 30%) are yet using the specialised OAI search engines to navigate the open access repositories. Nevertheless, at the time of this survey, 72% of authors were using Google to search the web for scholarly articles....The vast majority of authors (81%) would willingly comply with a mandate from their employer or research funder to deposit copies of their articles in an institutional or subject-based repository. A further 13% would comply reluctantly; 5% would not comply with such a mandate.'
From the Introduction: 'In a separate exercise to this present study, we asked the American Physical Society (APS) and the Institute of Physics Publishing Ltd (IOPP) what their experiences have been over the 14 years that arXiv has been in existence. We asked how many subscriptions have been lost as a result of arXiv. Both societies said they could not identify any losses of subscriptions for this reason....Moreover, both societies say that they do not view arXiv as a threat to their business (rather the opposite, in fact) and this is underlined by the fact that the APS helped establish an arXiv mirror site at the Brookhaven National Laboratory hardly the action of a society with its back to the wall because of that repository.'
Alma Swan, Open access self-archiving: An introduction. The study is dated May 27, 2005, but was not released until the second week of June.
(The version above supersedes the version with the subtitle, "An author study".)
David Nicholas and Ian Rowlands, Open Access Publishing: The Evidence from the Authors, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, May 2005.
New international study demonstrates worldwide readiness for Open Access mandate, a press release from the University of Southampton, June 23, 2005.
The Southampton press release was also published by CORDIS.
* Science Commons launches the OA Law Program.
On June 8, Science Commons launched the Open Access Law Program, led by Dan Hunter of the Wharton School and Mike Carroll of the Villanova Law School and the Creative Commons.
The program includes OA Law Journal Principles
...a list of journals complying with the principles
...an OA Author Pledge
...a list of authors taking the pledge
...and an OA Model Publishing Agreement
The program is well-designed and badly needed. When it launched, I said in OAN that every discipline should have a similar initiative. Now I can announce that Science Commons plans to provide just that. The overall project will be called Science Commons - Open Access Scholarship Project. The separate projects will be called the Open Access Philosophy Program, Open Access Mathematics Program, and so on across the disciplines. The discipline-specific projects will be uniquely able to respond to discipline-specific opportunities and obstacles to OA. If you're interested in participating in the Science Commons OA program for your field, contact Dan Hunter, <email@example.com>.
Lawrence Lessig, Open Access Law: Launched, June 8, 2005.
Science Commons press release, June 6, 2005.
Duke University Law School issued a press release (June 22, 2005) to publicize its admirable OA initiatives, including the fact that its seven law journals were prominently featured in the OA Law Program.
* More universities and library organizations adopt OA resolutions.
A raft of new resolutions endorsing OA were adopted or publicized in June.
Participants in a JISC Colloquium issued a Statement on Scholarly Communication and Publishing, June 24, 2005.
Canadian Library Association, June 17, 2005.
Canadian Association of College and University Libraries, June 16, 2005.
Canadian Civil Society Communique, June 15, 2005.
Association of Swedish Higher Education (Sveriges universitets- och högskoleförbund, SUHF), June 14, 2005.
The Russell Group of 19 UK research universities, June 2005.
Oregon State University, June 9, 2005.
University of Bielefeld, June 6, 2005.
For some news coverage of the Bielefeld resolution, see:
Oliver Obst's story in med information, Number 3/4, June 16,
...and Richard Sietmann's story in Heise Online, June 8
University of California at Santa Cruz, May 20, 2005.
While not exactly a resolution, in June the IFLA published a February statement endorsing OA in preparation for the upcoming WSIS in Tunis.
University of Wisconsin at Madison, March 7, 2005.
For excerpts from most of these resolutions, and my list of previous resolutions, see
* OA journals improve their impact factors.
Open Access journals get impressive impact factors, a press release from BioMed Central, June 23, 2005. Five BMC titles ranked in the top five journals of their specialty.
PLoS Biology got its first impact factor: a stunning 13.9, the highest in the category of general biology.
* House committee refuses ACS request to defund PubChem.
When June began, the American Chemical Society (ACS) was lobbying Congress hard to reduce the funding and the scope of the NIH's database, PubChem. The ACS argued that open-access PubChem unfairly competes with its own high-priced Chemical Abstracts Service. When June ended, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee refused the ACS request to defund or cut back PubChem. It merely urged PubChem to work with ACS "to avoid unnecessary duplication". Here's its full statement on PubChem (House Report 109-143, June 16, 2005):PubChem- The Committee understands that the stated mission of the PubChem database, which is part of the NIH Roadmap Initiative, is to create a new and comprehensive database of chemical structures and their biological activities, and will house both compound information from the scientific literature as well as screening and probe data from the new NIH molecular libraries screening center network. The Committee is concerned that NIH is replicating scientific information services that already exist in the private sector. In order to properly focus PubChem, the Committee urges NIH to work with private sector providers to avoid unnecessary duplication and competition with private sector chemical databases.
By the way, the same report includes good language on the NIH's public-access policy. Congress is concerned that the policy may not meet its objectives as long as public access to NIH-funded research is voluntary. Here's an excerpt:Public access- The Committee is pleased that NIH is moving forward to implement its public access policy and is hopeful that the policy will be a first step toward providing free and timely access to the published results of all NIH-funded biomedical research. The Committee endorses NIH's expressed goals for the policy, namely...to provide enhanced public access to NIH research results. The Committee is concerned, however, that the final policy may not achieve these goals. For this reason, the Committee directs the Office of the Director to submit to the Committee by March 1, 2006 a comprehensive report on the progress achieved during the first eight months following the implementation of the new policy. Specifically, the Committee requests that the report provide: 1) the total number of applicable peer-reviewed articles deposited in PubMed Central since the May 2, 2005 implementation date; 2) the embargo period requested by the author for each deposited work; and 3) NIH's best estimate of the total number of applicable peer-reviewed articles available for deposit during this time frame, together with an explanation of the mechanisms relied upon to determine this estimate. Additionally, the Committee is concerned that grant recipients may not fully understand the NIH policy and the steps required to post an article in PubMed Central. The Committee, therefore, directs NIH to develop an aggressive education and outreach initiative aimed at informing grant recipients about the policy in an effort to maximize full and prompt participation.
The House appropriations report now goes to the Senate where it may be adopted or modified.
American Chemical Society
Chemical Abstracts Service (from ACS)
PubChem (from NIH)
A Slashdot thread on PubChem launched on June 20, 2005.
Susan Morrissey, House May Ask NIH To Limit PubChem, Chemical & Engineering News, June 20, 2005.
Bobby Pickering, US Congress fails to back ACS, Information World Review, June 16, 2005.
On June 16, the NIH announced $88.9 million in grants to nine institutions over three years to establish a collaborative research network that will use high-tech screening methods to identify small molecules that can be used as research tools. Data from the projects will be deposited in PubChem.
Two of the PubChem-feeding NIH grants were in the news:
--The Universityy of Pittsburgh School of Medicine
--The Scripps Research Institute
Eric Wills, American Chemical Society Lobbies Against a Free NIH Database That It Sees as a Competitor, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 16, 2005.
Bobby Pickering, US Congress fails to back ACS, Information World Review, June 16, 2005.
Eric Wills, American Chemical Society Lobbies Against a Free NIH Database That It Sees as a Competitor, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 16, 2005.
Stephanie Wright, Dueling Databases, TechnoBiblio, June 13, 2005.
Aliya Sternstein, Publishers make appeal to lawmakers in NIH dispute, Federal Computer Week, June 13, 2005.
David Kestenbaum, Chemical Society: NIH Database Hurts Business, National Public Radio, June 12, 2005. The audio of a broadcast news story.
Jocelyn Kaiser, House Approves 0.5% Raise for NIH, Science Magazine, June 10, 2005.
See Emma Marris, Chemistry society goes head to head with NIH in fight over public database, Nature, June 9, 2005. "Many chemists might not know it, but the organization that represents them in the United States is fighting to limit their free access to chemical information. The American Chemical Society says that a new publicly funded database of molecules threatens its own fee-based Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS), and it is lobbying politicians to restrict the free version. But it is having trouble convincing members that this is in their interests...."
For some of the background on this PubChem-friendly Nature story, recall that on May 31, the Nature Publishing Group launched a new journal, Nature Chemical Biology (NCB). NCB is not OA, but it will feed PubChem and the launch announcement drew attention to that as a virtue.
The Association of Academic and Health Science Libraries has publicly released its June 7 letter in support of PubChem.
The University of California Academic Council wrote an open letter to the ACS critical of its position on PubChem, June 7, 2005.
Also see the UC Academic Council's letter Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH), making the same case, June 7, 2005.
John Wilbanks, PubChem, Science Commons blog, June 6, 2005.
Two letters to the editor of Chemical & Engineering News (an ACS journal), c. June 6, 2005.
Miriam Drake, A Cauldron Bubbles: PubChem and the American Chemical Society, Information Today, June 6, 2005.
Richard Poynder, No Stranger to Controversy, Open and Shut, June 3, 2005.
Coming up later this month
Here are some important OA-related events coming up in July.
* July 1, 2005. Rick Johnson's resignation at SPARC takes effect. Heather Joseph starts as his successor.
* July 1, 2005, drug trials that start enrolling patients on this date will fall under the ICMJE policy; for trials that began enrolling patients earlier, the ICMJE policy requires registration in an OA registry by Sept 13, 2005
* July 4, 2005, deliverables due for JISC-funded studies of business models for learned societies to convert to OA; Mary Waltham won the JISC contract to write this report
* July 6, 2005, NIH will start to accept "third party submissions" to PMC under the public-access policy --for example, journal deposits on behalf of authors.
* July 11, 2005, is Fair Use day.
* July 25. PLoS launches PLoS Genetics. However, some "sneak preview articles" are already online.
* Notable conferences this month
Third Conference on the Foundations of Information Science (OA is among the topics)
Paris, July 4-7, 2005
DSpace Federation, 2d User Group Meeting
Cambridge, England, July 6-8, 2005
Arts and Science in the Information Society (OA is among the topics)
Paris, July 7-10, 2005
Workshop in electronic scholarship (apparently focusing on digitization)
Charlottesville, Virginia, July 18-22, 2005
E-journals, Are We There Yet? Drawing a road map to collection, usage and integration (OA is among the topics)
Houston, July 22, 2005
* Other OA-related conferences
* I've added 16 new conferences to the 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.
* Blogger lost track of Open Access News on the morning of June 24. The blog had simply been deleted from my Blogger account, a mystery that Blogger still cannot explain. It was finally restored on July 1. I thank the Blogger engineers for the fix, Sebastien Paquet for helpful intervention, Charles Bailey for copying my email postings to his blog, DigitalKoans, and many OAN readers for suggesting other ways to reach my readers while the blog was down.
During the downtime, I sent "blog substitute" emails to the SPARC Open Access Forum and the BOAI Forum. You needn't troll the forums now, however, to catch up on last week's OA news. I've copied the major items back to the blog. But I mention this because I'll use the same method in case I have similar blog troubles in the future.
Open Access News
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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