Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #99
July 2, 2006
Read this issue online
Open access mandates coming to the RCUK
On June 28, the Research Councils UK (RCUK) issued its long-awaited open-access policy, one year to the day after it released a draft policy for public comment. The new policy is not as strong as the draft, but is nevertheless a very significant step forward that will mandate OA to a good portion of publicly-funded research in the UK.
The draft policy mandated OA for all RCUK-funded research, but the new policy lets each Research Council go its own way. There are already signs that they will diverge. Of the eight Research Councils, some will take a few months to finish their deliberations, one will take at least until 2008, one has chosen to request rather than require OA, and three have chosen to mandate OA.
The new policy reaffirms the four principles articulated in the 2005 draft, supporting open access, peer review, cost-effectiveness, and preservation. The OA principle holds that "Ideas and knowledge derived from publicly-funded research must be made available and accessible for public use, interrogation and scrutiny, as widely, rapidly and effectively as practicable."
Like the draft, the new policy focuses on OA archiving, not OA journals. It doesn't directly require OA archiving; instead, it requires it when the separate Research Councils require it --an unhelpful tautology. The separate Councils will decide whether to encourage or require deposit and what kind of repository to use for these deposits. The draft policy favored institutional repositories at the grantees' universities, but the new policy expresses no preference. The policy applies to conference presentations as well as journal articles, and covers the deposit of metadata as well as full-text. It doesn't exactly call for the dual deposit/release strategy, but it does ask for the deposit of metadata "[w]herever possible...at or around the time of publication" and, unfortunately, says nothing about the timing of the deposit or release of full-text. The length of the permissible delay or embargo will be decided separately by each of the Research Councils.
The policy does not tell authors where they should publish their work and is careful to preserve their freedom to publish where they like. It lets RCUK grantees use grant funds to pay article processing fees at OA journals that charge fees, but it doesn't direct grantees to submit their work to OA journals. Both halves of this rule are clear and welcome. Nevertheless, the Medical Research Council (MRC) is the only council so far explicitly willing to let grantees use grant funds for OA journal fees.
The RCUK will also launch a study of "the impact of author-pays publication and self-archiving on research publishing", starting later this year and ending in 2008. If necessary, it will revise its OA policy in light of the findings. (Yes, the RCUK still uses the misleading and harmful term "author-pays" --even when *it* is paying instead of authors.)
Finally, one vague provision of the new policy is bound to raise questions and anxieties. It says: "Full implementation of these requirements must be undertaken such that current copyright and licensing policies, for example embargo periods or provisions limiting the use of deposited content to non-commercial purposes, are respected by authors. The research councils' position is based on the assumption that publishers will maintain the spirit of their current policies." This is the vague new version of the vague old provision in the 2005 draft requiring OA "subject to copyright or licensing arrangements."
If this means that the new OA policy is subordinate to the licensing terms set by publishers, which might prohibit deposit in an OA archive or demand arbitrarily long embargoes, then it perversely negates everything else in the policy. But if it means that authors must obey public copyright law and private publishing contracts, then it's superfluous. If it means something else, then it desperately needs clarification. My guess is that it does defer to publishers but only as long as they "maintain the spirit of their current policies" --presumably by allowing OA deposits and keeping embargoes in the present range. If this is right, then how will the RCUK decide when publishers violate this spirit? How obstructive must publishers become before the RCUK puts the public interest ahead of their economic interests?
In any case, there seems to be a warning here for publishers. "We're letting you use your copyright and licensing policies to protect your revenues, even at the expense of early public access to publicly-funded research, but do not abuse this privilege or...." Like an old parchment with a burnt corner, the rest is missing.
I'd like to say that this doesn't matter but I think it does. Publishers have never promised to hold embargoes, licensing terms, and access policies at their current levels. They have said over and over again that they fear that the rise of OA archiving will mean a drop in subscriptions. If it turns out to be so, or if they simply impute continuing attrition to the new OA mandates, then they will want to lengthen existing embargoes and tighten their access policies. The current vague RCUK policy allows this to an indefinite degree. The RCUK needs to draw a clearer line in the sand or develop a more articulate policy about what to do when publishers start pushing across it. If it expects no push, then I think it is seriously mistaken.
* The Medical Research Council (MRC) and Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) are the early heroes in my book. They will both mandate OA to the research they fund, effective October 1, 2006. Both will require deposit "at the earliest opportunity", though the MRC adds "and certainly within six months". The MRC requires deposit in PubMed Central while the BBSRC requires deposit "in an appropriate e-print repository". Both apply their policies to agency employees as well as grantees.
* The Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) is the only other Research Council to adopt a mandate so far, but its mandate is significantly hedged and qualified. The ESRC's "funded researchers should deposit the outputs from any research in the ESRC awards and outputs repository, where this is permitted by publishers' licensing or copyright arrangements." There are two weaknesses here. First, "should" is softer than "must" (a point of significance for Germany's DFG). Second, the "where permitted" clause takes all the teeth out of the mandate. The ESRC is mandating OA with one hand but giving publishers the power to override the mandate with the other. While the overarching RCUK policy vaguely does the same thing, the ESRC policy clarifies it in the wrong direction.
* The Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC) has decided to "strongly encourage" rather than require OA to CCLRC-funded research. This is a disappointing decision, repeating the mistake of the NIH. The CCLRC will undoubtedly prove what the NIH has already proved, that mere encouragement, however strong, doesn't work. The NIH tried strong encouragement but could not get compliance even up to 4%.
* The Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will not even announce its policy until the completion of the RCUK's new study in 2008. This is also disappointing. Publishers have been demanding a study on the effects of high-volume OA archiving on journal subscriptions, but there's no reason for funders accede to these demands. We already know that 15 years of high-volume OA archiving in physics has not caused cancellations of physics journals. The Institute of Physics (IOP) and the American Physical Society (APS) have said so in public. The IOP and APS are so comfortable with OA archiving in their field that they both host mirrors of arXiv. Outside physics, there is no other field with high-volume OA archiving, so far, and consequently there's no empirical evidence to study. So either we use the evidence from physics, whose lessons are already known, or we *generate* evidence in other fields. But the only way to generate evidence in other fields is to increase the rate of OA archiving in those fields, something an OA mandate would do perfectly. To call for a study before the evidence exists, and as a precondition to generating the evidence, is a clear example of the political dodge of using study as a pretext for delay, and the EPSRC has bought into it. It's especially ironic that the EPSRC is the one Research Council to employ this delaying tactic when the well-known and utterly reassuring empirical evidence from physics lies in its own disciplinary domain.
* The RCUK is evidently letting the eight Research Councils go their own way because they cannot agree on a common policy. But do they disagree because they represent different disciplines? They say so, and argue that different agencies in different disciplines face different circumstances and need flexibility to respond to those differences. I support this theory, and have often written that disciplinary differences matter. But an OA mandate should apply across the disciplines, even if other policy details vary. A good model here is the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), introduced in Congress in May. FRPAA asks federal agencies to develop their own OA policies under certain guidelines laid down in the bill, and one of those guidelines is that they mandate OA to the research they fund. In most other respects, the agencies are free to go their own way. The naturalness of this solution makes me doubt that all the in-house disagreements at the RCUK are disciplinary.
* I have two disappointments. (1) I'm disappointed that the RCUK did not adopt a uniform policy to mandate OA and that some of the Research Councils will use their discretion to adopt weaker polices. The result waters down the strong policy of the 2005 draft and is not consistent with the principle to which the RCUK says it is still adhering, that "publicly-funded research must be made available and accessible for public use...." (2) I'm disappointed that the exception for publisher copyright and licensing policies is so vague, leaving everyone (publishers, researchers, and the RCUK) unsure what line publisher policies may not cross and how the RCUK will respond to publishers who go too far.
* But despite that, the good news here is very good. Before the new RCUK policy, there were OA mandates from private research funders (Wellcome Trust), near-mandates from public research funders (Germany), OA requests, exhortations, or non-mandates from public research funders (US, Finland), and proposed mandates for public research funders (Australia, Canada, South Africa, Ukraine, US, and the European Union). But the RCUK mandates will be the world's first OA mandates from public research funders. The BBSRC, ESRC, MRC are the first public funding agencies anywhere to take this important stance. This is a huge step forward.
Research Councils UK (RCUK) home page
RCUK page on its new OA policy
The 2005 draft policy (note that this is a new URL)
--Also see my article on it in SOAN for 7/2/05.
The ongoing RCUK-RIN-DTI study, Analysis of data on scholarly journals publishing
The RCUK workshop, Learned Societies and Access to Research Outputs, June 29, 2006
* Here are the eight Research Councils, their home pages, and the pages where you can follow their evolving OA policies.
Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
Council for the Central Laboratory of the Research Councils (CCLRC)
Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC)
Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Medical Research Council (MRC)
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council (PPARC)
* Here's some news and comment on the new policy.
Leader, In praise of ... open access, The Guardian, July 1, 2006.
Stevan Harnad, Fixing the few flaws in the RCUK self-archiving mandates by pinning down WHEN and WHERE to deposit, Open Access Archivangelism, June 30, 2006.
Richard Smith, Give it to me straight, doc, The Guardian, June 30, 2006.
BioMed Central issued a press release supporting the new RCUK policy, June 29, 2006.
Anon., Creative destruction in the library, The Economist, June 29, 2006.
Richard Wray, Boost for free internet access to public funded research, The Guardian, June 29, 2006.
Rod, Research Councils UK: Open Access Position Announcement, Informaticopia, June 28, 2006.
Anon., RCUK revised position statement on access to research outputs, Publishing Developments, June 28, 2006.
Heather Morrison, Research Councils U.K. Open Access Position Announcement, OA Librarian, June 28, 2006.
Anon., British Group Retreats From Requiring Open Access to Research, Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, June 28, 2006.
Stevan Harnad, World OA Policy Sweepstakes: UK Retakes Commanding Lead, Open Access Archivangelism, June 28, 2006.
JISC issued a press release in support of the new RCUK OA policy, June 28, 2006.
Stephen Pincock, UK research to be open access, TheScientist, June 28, 2006.
David Prosser's spreadsheet of the eight separate policies (as of June 28, 2006)
* Postscript. The day after the RCUK announced its new policy, SHERPA announced the launch of JULIET, a database of the OA policies adopted by various funding agencies. On the launch day, it covered the eight Research Councils of the UK, the Wellcome Trust, and the NIH, and over time it will cover more.
Open access mandate coming to the NIH
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest non-military research funder in the world, is one step closer to an OA mandate. In the Appropriations Bill for fiscal 2007, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee directs the NIH to adopt an OA mandate, strengthening its current policy which only requests and encourages OA. The bill was adopted by the committee and sent to the full House on June 15, 2006.
The next step is for the full House to vote on the bill and then for the Senate to vote on its own appropriations bill. If the House and Senate bills differ, then the differences will be resolved by a conference committee --which everyone hopes will take place before the new fiscal year begins on October 1. The language of the House bill won't be online until the full House votes. I'll keep you posted.
While the House bill calls for an OA mandate, it does not ask the NIH to shorten the embargo from the 12 months now allowed. Friends of OA are still working to cap the embargo at six months, in both the House and the Senate, but this will be harder than converting the request to a requirement. Publishers have signalled their willingness to live with a mandate if the embargo is not shortened, and NIH Director Zerhouni has done the same. But even if we can't change the embargo, we move forward on one front rather than two, and we move backwards on none. And the mandate itself will give an extraordinary boost to the worldwide collection of peer-reviewed OA literature. Currently, only 3.8% of NIH grantees comply with the OA request. After a mandate, this should rise to nearly 100% --"nearly" because every machine has its friction. That's the difference between 2,470 articles/year and 65,000 articles/year.
The long embargo would be easier to live with if the NIH adopted a dual deposit/release policy, requiring deposit of full-text and metadata immediately upon publication, requiring immediate OA for the metadata, and postponing OA for the full-text until the end of the embargo period. The House bill does not stipulate this two-step procedure --deposit at one time, release at another--, but neither does it rule it out. When the NIH eventually implements a mandate, this method will benefit the agency and researchers without harming publishers.
The House bill is the culmination of a long effort the strengthen the NIH policy, starting even before the policy took effect on May 2, 2005. The first fruit of the effort became public on November 15, 2005, when the agency's own Public Access Working Group recommended that the request for public access be strengthened to a requirement and that the permissible delay be shortened from 12 months to six. On February 8, 2006, the NLM Board of Regents endorsed the November 2005 recommendations of the Public Access Working Group. And of course both the CURES Act (introduced December 7, 2005) and the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA, introduced May 2, 2006) mandate OA to a wide range of federal agencies, including the NIH. But the House action in June is the most critical to date. The recommendations from the Working Group and Board of Regents were merely advisory. CURES and FRPAA are still pending. The language in the new House bill, if adopted by the House and Senate, would be binding.
Of course it would have been better for the NIH policy to be strong and effective from the start, and we should never forget that Congress asked for a mandate in its July 2004 appropriations bill. The 14 months under the policy so far have given us OA to 3,000 research articles that we wouldn't have had without a policy. However, we'd have OA to *26 times* as many articles if the policy had been a mandate from the start.
In the spirit of learning from experience and remaining constructive, let's use the slow start at the NIH to educate funding agencies around the world that requests and exhortations don't work. At the same time, let's use the fast and effective start of the Wellcome Trust's OA policy to spread the word that mandates do work. Recent actions by England's CCLRC and France's CNRS show that these lessons still need to be learned (more on the CCLRC and CNRS elsewhere in this issue).
Most funding agencies already get the logic of OA: if research is worth funding, then it's worth sharing with everyone who can make use of it. Now it's time to get the logic of implementing OA: if OA is worth setting as a goal, then it's worth mandating so that we actually reach the goal.
Gene Russo, Congress pushes plan to make papers free, Nature, June 22, 2006.
Aliya Sternstein, House appropriation mandates NIH public access policy, Federal Computer Week, June 19, 2006.
Anne Walters, House Committee Would Require Open Access to NIH-Backed Research, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 19, 2006.
Jocelyn Kaiser, NIH gets off to a slow start, Science Magazine, June 16, 2006.
Anon., House Appropriations Committee to Require OA for NIH Funded Research, Kairosnews, June 16, 2006.
The Alliance for Taxpayer Access issued a press release supporting the House action on June 15, 2006.
As long as I'm writing about Congress, here are a few other items.
* There was a lot of news and comment on FRPAA in June (see the top stories below) but no new Congressional action. The bill is still under consideration by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, chaired by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME).
* In June we learned about Senator John McCain's efforts to ensure the open dissemination of scientific results by government scientists. McCain wants to protect the freedom of government-employed scientists to report the results of their research without interference from political appointees with a contrary religious or political agenda. McCain asked the National Science Board (NSB) to study the problem and it found (from its May 2006 letter to McCain) "no consistent Federal policy regarding the dissemination of research results by Federal employees." As a result, McCain added an amendment to the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 (S.2802) calling on the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy to "develop and issue an overarching set of principles...[to] encourage the open exchange of data and results of research by Federal agency scientists...." While the bill doesn't specifically call for OA, the ultimate remedy could include OA. For example, FRPAA would make an excellent foundation for a "consistent Federal policy regarding the dissemination of research results by Federal employees." More details in my blog for June 6, 2006.
Andrew Revkin, New York Times, June 8, 2006.
Ted Agre, Panel faults U.S. science policy, The Scientist, June 6, 2006.
The NSB letter to Sen. McCain (May 10, 2006).
McCain's amendment to the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act of 2006 (S 2802).
* Finally, I can't resist giving some extra publicity to an excellent idea by John Udell. Mandating OA to publicly-funded research is necessary and good, but it won't touch the large body of privately-funded research. How can we nudge that closer to OA? Udell proposes tax breaks for private companies that provide OA to their research. He doesn't give examples, but imagine this policy applied to drug companies, oil companies, mining and materials companies, and computer and tech companies. Even with tax breaks, some would see greater profit in cloaking their research than in sharing it. But some would open it up, and every little bit helps. The dip in government revenue would almost certainly be offset by the social and economic benefits of accelerated research and development, including new tax revenue.
Open access to electronic theses and dissertations (ETDs)
I finished my dissertation in 1977, before the web, before the internet, and even before personal computers. I typed it on an Olivetti typewriter and, when my committee accepted it, I paid the department secretary a dollar a page to retype it according to the formatting specs of the university. I was honored when the university made a copy on acid-free paper, bound it in boards, and put it on the open stacks in the main library. It even had a card in the card catalog. I was also honored when I discovered a week later that someone had stolen the copy from the library.
In addition, I sent a copy to University Microfilms International (UMI), which produced priced paper or microfilm copies on-demand. (UMI is now owned by ProQuest.) As far as I know it's still accessible for a price from UMI. I have no idea whether anyone has ever ordered a copy, let alone how many.
Unlike some other Ph.D.s (the majority? the minority?) I never mined my dissertation for publications. I was too eager to get on to other projects to publish it as a book or turn any of its chapters into articles. So it's only accessible today from UMI, on UMI's terms. If I had the text in digital form, I'd certainly want to make it OA through a suitable repository, but I honestly couldn't tell you whether that would violate the agreement I signed with UMI back in 1977. I'd have to research that question, and I don't expect that the research would be easy. But I don't have a digital copy of the text and am not likely to make one any time soon.
* The quality of dissertations
I know firsthand that dissertation literature is valuable, and not only because my mother and I think I wrote a good one. I wrote on a fairly obscure topic for which there wasn't much existing literature --a fairly common phenomenon, given the assignment. But I found a handful of dissertations on neighboring topics in the UMI catalog and one was better than every book I found on the same subject. Unfortunately, I had to buy these dissertations in order to read them. I had to buy them even to look at them closely enough to evaluate their relevance.
Dissertations are longer than journal articles and cover their topics more comprehensively. They are more responsive to past literature than journal articles and are usually researched, refined, and revised over a longer period of time. And they're not yet salami-sliced into meaningless or trivial snippets. Indeed, they're a prime brand of the salami itself.
Dissertations are more like preprints than postprints in the sense that they're not formally peer-reviewed. But they undergo a kind of review that's at least as rigorous. If you've ever refereed a journal article, you know that the job can be done in an afternoon, and often is. Moreover, your name is rarely associated with the published (or rejected) work, and rarely known to the authors or readers. This frees referees to criticize powerful authors of flawed articles --but it also frees referees to trash powerless authors of brilliant articles. It frees referees from accountability. By contrast, your dissertation was vetted by your faculty committee for months or even years. You know who they are, and so will most readers of the final product. They feel that their own reputations are on the line, almost as much as yours is. That's why they willingly devote time and care to reviewing a dissertation and why they rigorously, almost jealously, enforce a high standard. When they certify that you have satisfied the university's requirements for originality, contribution to knowledge, and mastery of the relevant literature, their judgment is at least as well-considered, authoritative, and useful as a thumbs up from a journal referee.
Instead of devaluing dissertations because they are not formally peer-reviewed, we should see a beautiful win-win situation here. They undergo a review that is sufficiently rigorous to make them good, or to make them worth disseminating and using. But at the same time, their review is sufficiently unconventional (or sufficiently unlike journal review) to carry no publisher's investment and therefore no publisher's resistance to OA.
* The invisibility of dissertations
Dissertations are not just good, they're largely invisible. Libraries rarely hold dissertations not written by their own students. Dissertations are not well indexed. They're available for purchase, but difficult to evaluate before purchasing. Moreover, many details from dissertations never make it into journal articles, and many dissertation topics are too narrow to justify book publication.
In short, dissertations are high in quality and low in accessibility, In fact, I'd say they constitute the most invisible form of useful literature and the most useful form of invisible literature. Because of their high quality, the access problem is *worth solving*.
You know what I'm building up to, but let me get there step by step.
* Three degrees of difficulty in achieving open access
Because OA to copyrighted literature requires the copyright-holder's consent, we can rank different bodies of literature according to the ease or difficulty of obtaining that consent. The low-hanging fruit --in the words of the BOAI-- is the literature that "scholars give to the world without expectation of payment". Let's say that Phase One of the OA movement is to provide OA to this kind of royalty-free literature. Because its authors don't expect to be paid, and write for impact rather than money, they can consent to OA without losing revenue. That makes it much easier for scholars to consent to OA than musicians or movie-makers.
Phase Two is to provide OA to royalty-producing literature like books. This is harder because the copyright holder must be persuaded that OA will either increase sales or bring benefits that outweigh the loss of sales. If you've been following the book-digitizing wars, you know that some authors are persuaded and some are not.
Phase Three is to reform copyright law in order to reduce permission barriers. It would help to shorten term of copyright, extend the first-sale doctrine to digital content, restore fair-use rights, nullify clickwrap licenses as contracts of adhesion, and safeguard the public domain from further prospective or retroactive enclosure. But because these steps require legislation, and are opposed by well-funded industries, they are the most difficult of all. Fortunately, they're merely desirable and not necessary for OA. We can get all we need from Phases One and Two. For cutting-edge research published in journals, we can get all we need from Phase One.
First point: Dissertations are Phase One literature, just like journal articles. Graduate students are not paid for their dissertations and can consent to OA without losing revenue. Their consent is even easier to obtain than the consent of faculty members, since dissertations are already subject to the terms and conditions of the university.
If there's a difference, it's that authors of journal articles know they'll never be paid for those texts, but some grad students plan to turn their dissertations into books that generate (or could generate) revenue. I'll return to this possibility. But note that it's the future book that's Phase Two; the dissertation is still Phase One.
* Mandating OA for ETDs
I've read about 30 university web pages on ETD policies. What's remarkable is the way they list the benefits of OA (wider visibility and greater impact) among the benefits of ETDs as if OA were a natural consequence of creating the work in digital form.
In principle, universities could require electronic submission of the dissertation without requiring deposit in the institutional repository. They could also require deposit in the repository without requiring OA. But in practice, most universities don't draw these distinctions. Most universities that encourage or require electronic submission also encourage or require OA. What's remarkable is that for theses and dissertations, OA is not the hard step. The hard step is encouraging or requiring electronic submission.
For dissertations that are born digital and submitted in digital form, OA is pretty much the default. I needn't tell you that this is not at all the case with journal literature.
There are two lessons to draw from this. First, anything that fosters ETDs (as opposed to paper TDs) fosters OA to ETDs. Second, the call for OA to ETDs is not new. It's been part of the ETD movement since the beginning. If there's anything new here, it's that I'm arguing for an OA mandate, not just for OA.
Notable, explicit calls for OA to ETDs have already been made by Edward Fox and Gail McMillan (1997), Edinburgh's Theses Alive project (2004), JISC's Electronic Thesis project (2005), Richard Jones and Theo Andrew (2005), and Arthur Sale (2006). UNESCO's ETD project called for "equal access" to ETDs in 1999, but this is just another way of calling for OA, since priced access cannot be equal access. The international Digital Access to Research Theses (DART) project is committed to OA for ETDs but is just starting up its advocacy efforts.
* Nine reasons to mandate OA for ETDs
(1) Nowadays most theses and dissertations are born digital. They're already ETDs even if the university only wants to deal with printouts.
(2) ETDs are Phase One, royalty-free works of research literature. Their authors lose no revenue by consenting to OA.
(3) ETDs are not formally published. Hence there are no publishers in the picture to resist or oppose OA. There are no publisher fears of lost revenue to answer. There are no publisher permissions to seek. There are no publisher negotiations to delay or deter OA archiving.
(4) Mandates work and exhortations don't. This is the universal lesson from OA mandates to date, whether at funding agencies or universities.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) has encouraged but not required OA to NIH-funded research since May 2005. It hoped that the increased flexibility would increase participation, but it had the opposite effect. In February 2006, the NIH reported to Congress that the compliance rate by its grantees was only 3.8%. The low rate led the agency's own Public Access Working Group to recommend a mandate (November 2005). The Board of Regents of the National Library of Medicine reaffirmed the call for a mandate in February 2006. And last month, the House Appropriations Committee instructed the NIH to adopt a mandate. (See my story on this above.)
By contrast, the Wellcome Trust has mandated OA to Wellcome-funded research since October 2005 and has enjoyed a nearly 100% compliance rate.
Australia registers all accepted dissertations, giving it a good sense of the denominator, or the number of dissertations eligible for OA. The OA repositories themselves give a good sense of the numerator, or the number that are actually OA at a given time. In April 2006, Arthur Sale summarized the results of different university policies on OA for ETDs: "[V]oluntary ETD deposition results in repositories collecting less than 12% of the available theses, whereas mandatory policies are well accepted and cause deposit rates to rise towards 100%."
(5) OA solves the invisibility problem for ETDs. Without OA, there is almost no access, visibility, or indexing for dissertations. They are hard to retrieve even if discovered, and they are hard to discover. When they are OA, ETDs are not only searchable by cross-archive search tools that index the ETD repositories, they are also indexed (in growing numbers but jerky stages) by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Scirus already indexes the ETDs held by the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD).
By making ETDs visible, OA helps the readers who wouldn't otherwise have ready access. But it also helps the ETD authors, boosting their visibility and impact just as it does for the authors of journal articles. I don't believe that anyone has studied the OA citation advantage for ETDs, but for journal articles it ranges from 50% to 250% and it's likely to be comparable (not necessarily identical) for ETDs.
(6) Universities are in a good position to mandate OA. They can make it a simple condition of submission and acceptance.
In fact, if universities mandate OA for ETDs, their compliance rates should be higher, and grumbling lower, than mandating OA for faculty research articles. Graduate students are not as anarchical as faculty, or at least not tenured; graduate students won't be subject to countervailing pressures from publishers, at least not as often; and graduate students more likely to see the benefits of OA and the obviousness of taking advantage of the internet to disseminate research.
Universities that don't have institutional repositories can still mandate OA. The best way is to launch their own IR. But they could use a consortial or regional ETD repository, or they could have their students submit ETDs directly to NDLTD, which functions as a universal or fall-back OA repository for universities without their own. They could use the universal repository I'm setting up with the Internet Archive (delayed but still coming). Or they could use ProQuest's UMI, which will offer OA to ETDs when the authors or institutions request OA.
(7) Mandating OA for ETDs will educate the next generation of scholars about OA, when they don't already know about it. Young scholars are already more familiar with OA than older ones, at least in the sciences. But even knowledgeable young scholars may not have much experience providing OA to their own work, let alone support and reinforcement from an important research institution. An OA mandate will teach new scholars how easy it is, how beneficial it is, and how routine and expected it ought to be. It will teach them that OA is not incendiary and countercultural, but mainstream and simply useful. It will help create lifelong habits of self-archiving.
The greatest obstacle to routine self-archiving is unfamiliarity with the process, including groundless fears of the time it takes. Familiarity removes this obstacle.
(8) An OA mandate will elicit better work.
All teachers know that students work harder and do better work when they know they are writing for a real audience --large or small-- beyond the teacher. The effect is amplified if they are writing for the public. Some teachers try to harness this power by telling students to write as if their work were to appear on the front page of the New York Times. Some arrange to give students a real audience beyond the teacher. In a law course in which I conducted moot court, the quality of student preparation and argument improved dramatically after I started videotaping them. I didn't even have to put the videos online; I just put them on reserve in the library for the rest of the semester.
OA gives authors a real audience beyond the dissertation committee and real incentives to do original, impressive work.
I wrote my dissertation on Kierkegaard's dissertation. The members of my committee were strong on Kierkegaard in general, but comparatively weak on his dissertation. There were many spots in my dissertation where I could have bluffed if wanted to. But even when grad students think it's safe and easy to fool their committee, it's risky and difficult to fool the world.
(9) Finally, an OA mandate shows that the university takes the dissertation seriously.
The university asks for a new and significant work of scholarship and most students deliver one. But because the university doesn't disseminate the dissertation publicly, it sends a subtle signal that it doesn't take it seriously as a work of scholarship. Of course the dissertation committee takes it very seriously as a work of scholarship, but the university itself doesn't do what it normally does when its scholars produce new and important work: it doesn't apply its publish-or-perish policy. This policy not only proclaims that research good enough for internal recognition is good enough for external distribution. It also proclaims the stronger converse that only research good enough for external distribution is good enough for internal recognition.
Universities have the same interests in promulgating excellent research by grad students as they have in promulgating excellent research by faculty, the same reasons for taking pride in it, and the same reasons for applying a publish-or-perish policy or public dissemination mandate. It wants the world to know about the quality of the work done there and it wants other researchers to benefit from it. By adopting a serious public dissemination mandate for faculty and not for doctoral students, universities invite students to draw the cynical inference that the dissertation is not so much real scholarship as a hoop to jump through, a final piece of disposable "student work", an admission ticket to the profession, or a rite of passage.
Of course the dissertation is *also* an admission ticket and a rite of passage. Writing a dissertation is a lot like entering the wilderness alone, fasting to delirium, killing a wild animal, and then returning to civilization where one is welcomed as an adult. But universities should do more to send the signal that it's an admission ticket and rite of passage *because* it's a significant work of scholarship, not the other way around.
Students may regard the dissertation as fodder for some truly significant, adult scholarship they might publish in the future. But if so, the incentive to make it significant, adult, and public comes from a future employer, not from the institution that assigned, supervised, and approved the research.
Without an OA mandate, the university is saying that it doesn't care whether the dissertation is publicly disseminated. But if the dissertation is really a new and significant work of scholarship, then the university should care.
The message should be: If we approve a dissertation, then we think it's good. If we think it's good, then we want others to be able to find it, use it, and build on it.
Note that this message is about the purpose of universities and the value of scholarship, not about coercion. The school doesn't have to say "we're requiring OA for your sake" or even "we're requiring OA for our sake". It's saying, "We'll do all we can to help you do good work, and then we'll do all we can to make your good work available to others." It's about the mission of a research university.
* Mandates, coercion, and consent
Our experience in advocating and implementing OA comes largely from the world of faculty, not the world of grad students. In the world of faculty, the best rationale for an OA mandate is to get the attention of authors. Authors control the rate of OA growth, but they're not paying attention to OA. We can't appeal to them as a bloc because they don't act as a bloc. It's not hard to persuade them, or even excite them, once we catch their attention, but it's very hard to catch their attention because they are so anarchical, overworked, and preoccupied. So we have to work through the institutions that have the greatest influence on authors.
These arguments apply even more easily to grad students than to faculty: the benefits are just as valuable and the barriers much lower.
One objection is that a mandate paternalistically coerces students for their own good. If true, this would be a serious problem for me, though perhaps not for everyone who defends mandates. I cannot support paternalism over competent adults, and I certainly put graduate students in that category. Fortunately, the paternalism objection misses the target and is easily answered. (The answer also applies to faculty mandates but here I'll elaborate it only for grad students.)
First, I only support mandates that are conditions on voluntary contracts. They might be funding contracts: if you take our money, you'll have to provide OA to your research; if this bothers you, then don't take our money. They might be employment contracts: if you work here, you'll have to provide OA to your research; if this bothers you, then don't work here. An OA mandate for ETDs would belong to the same family. If you attend this university, you'll have to provide OA to your dissertation; if this bothers you, then don't attend this university. Students who see this as a threat will go somewhere else; students who see it a promise are getting the idea.
Second, I only support mandates with reasonable exceptions. Grad students who have good reasons to be exempt from the mandate should be exempted, not coerced. (More on the exceptions themselves in the next section.)
Third, an OA mandate for ETDs advances the university's interest, not just the student's. The student interest is greater visibility and impact. The university interest is that an OA mandate will elicit better work, better show students that the university is taking the dissertation seriously as scholarship, better fulfill the university mission to share the knowledge it produces, and better assist researchers elsewhere who could benefit from this knowledge.
In short, the paternalism objection doesn't apply because the kind of OA mandate I'm talking about is fundamentally consensual, not coercive, and aims at benefits far beyond the student-authors themselves.
An OA mandate for ETDs is no more problematic than other academic requirements and considerably more mission-critical. Today universities seem more interested in mission-trivial details like the margins and font sizes of a dissertation than in its availability to others who could use it, apply it, or build on it.
Arthur Sale argues that the OA mandate should apply to all dissertations submitted as of a certain date rather than all dissertations by students who enroll as of a certain date. The two methods differ because students finish their dissertations at different rates. The first method jumps instantly to 100% compliance while the second phases in compliance over a few years. If the primary goal is rapid growth in the body of OA ETDs, then Sale is right to recommend the first method. The drawback of course is that it would change the rules for students who are already enrolled. Hence, if it's important to preserve a consent or contract basis for the OA mandate, then it's better to use the second method, announce the new policy to all new applicants, and apply it only to those who choose to enroll. On the other hand, the possibility of exemptions (see next section) may introduce a sufficient consent element to let us take Sale's recommendation as well.
* Snags and solutions
(1) Some students fear that providing OA for their ETD will disqualify it for future publication. In the world of journals, the policy to disqualify works that have already circulated as preprints is called the Ingelfinger rule. I haven't heard a special name for the analogous rule applied to ETDs but for convenience I'll use the same name here. Some students fear the Ingelfinger rule. Some fear it even though for decades most universities have submitted dissertations to UMI, which distributed copies on demand by xerography or microfilm to paying customers, a process that certainly counts as "publication" for journals that still follow the Ingelfinger rule.
The fear is justified in a small number of cases and unjustified in most. But we shouldn't harm the students whose fears are justified or simply override the fears of the rest. The solution is straightforward. Universities should require students of approved dissertations to deposit the full-text and metadata in the institution's OA repository. This should take place immediately upon final approval (say, within a couple of days or a week). The university should require immediate OA to the metadata. For the text of the dissertation, immediate OA isn't necessary, although it should be the default. Students may apply to the relevant dean for permission to delay OA to the text. They can seek a delay for the whole dissertation, when they plan to publish it as a book, or for specific chapters, if they only plan to publish journal articles. Deans should approve delays only for the affected chapters and require immediate OA for the rest of the dissertation. Deans should only approve temporary delays and make them as brief as possible. During the period of the delay, deans may temporarily block access to outside users, but they should not block access to everyone. For example, access should still be open to the student, the dissertation committee, the administration, and perhaps all authenticated users affiliated with the university.
The OA metadata helps the dissertation become known to others working in the field and could even help the author gather citations, impact, and reputation while submitting chapters to journals. More critically, most Ingelfinger fears are groundless. In 2001, Gail McMillan reviewed the literature and concluded that "if one looks at the results of the Dalton and Seaman surveys in combination with Virginia Tech's surveys of graduate student alumni, the ready availability of ETDs on the Internet does not deter the vast majority of publishers from publishing articles derived from graduate research already available on the Internet."
(2) Some students make patentable discoveries during their doctoral research and want time to apply for a patent.
We don't have to force students to disclose their research before they've had a chance to patent it. We can use the same solution that we used for students who fear the Ingelfinger rule. The only difference may be the length of the approved delay.
(3) Some sections of the dissertation may be under copyright by others.
In one kind of case, students quote extensively from a copyrighted work, or reproduce a copyrighted illustration, and don't have permission to redistribute it. In another kind of case, a student has already published a chapter as a journal article, has transferred copyright to the journal, and doesn't have the journal's permission to redistribute it.
Here we can use the solution to the Ingelfinger problem with a few tweaks. Some OA delays may have to be permanent rather than temporary --i.e. for the life of the copyright rather than for some fairly short period like six months. Universities could require students to seek permission to reproduce the copyrighted material rather than to give up without trying. They could also require students who publish articles before finishing their dissertations either to retain key rights or to give up hope of using the articles in their dissertations. Students who would like to use the articles in their dissertations should retain the right of OA archiving. Students who try and fail to retain these rights could be required to delay journal publication until after their dissertation is approved. This would not be as onerous as it may look. Students could publish and get the rights they need either by publishing in an OA journal (gold journal) or in a non-OA journal that permitted postprint archiving (green journal), and about 70% of subscription journals already fall into the latter category. Or, with the dean's permission, students could include published articles in the version of their text used for internal review and approval, but replace the articles with citations and links in the version used for distribution and storage.
(4) Finally, a snag of a different kind. The largest obstacle to mandatory electronic submission and OA for ETDs seems to be faculty opposition. When universities give students the option to submit their dissertation electronically, well-meaning faculty advisors often caution students against it. They are thinking of the Ingelfinger rule and preservation. They want to protect their student's shot at future dissertation-based publications and they want to be sure the student's dissertation is well-preserved.
The best solution here is education for the faculty advisors. They need to know that their own Ingelfinger fears are usually groundless. They need to know that whatever anecdotal evidence they may have is negated by Gail McMillan's systematic survey evidence. (I quoted her above: "...the ready availability of ETDs on the Internet does not deter the vast majority of publishers from publishing articles derived from graduate research already available on the Internet.")
The preservation objection is equally groundless. Paper dissertations are not like published books that exist in hundreds or thousands of copies (benefiting from the LOCKSS principle). They're usually unique and therefore vulnerable --like mine, which was stolen from the Northwestern University library. Universities could lock them up in special collections, but this is exactly the wrong model of stewardship, as if preservation and access were incompatible when the purpose of preservation is precisely to increase, facilitate, and perpetuate access. Moreover, OA to the ETD is perfectly compatible with the existence of paper copies in the university library and elsewhere and perfectly compatible with microfilm copies at UMI.
Beyond education, the university can use its policies to counteract this bad advice. First, the availability of temporary exemptions should fully answer the Ingelfinger fear. And if necessary, universities could require both electronic and paper submission in order to satisfy everyone that dissertations will be no more vulnerable in the digital future than in the paper past.
BTW, it's because faculty advisors show themselves so backward on these issues that I recommend that exemptions from the OA requirement be sought from a dean rather than from the dissertation committee.
* Advocacy and tactics
There are three critical groups who are thinking about, or ought to be thinking about, OA for ETDs: (1) those already working for the spread of ETDs, (2) those already working for OA, even if primarily for journal literature, and (3) the university administrators, faculty, and grad students that both the first two groups are addressing. The first two groups should talk to each other more often in order to talk more effectively to the third group. It can only help us make progress toward our related goals.
We can share ideas, arguments, and strategies that work. We can share allies, such as the names of OA-friendly faculty, librarians, and administrators in given institutions. We can share successes in two senses: we can share news but we can also count on infectious victories. Any university that mandates OA for ETDs is that much closer to mandating OA for journal postprints and vice versa.
We can also work together on specific goals that would help both groups. For example, most of the high-end packages of OA archiving software have special plug-ins for ETDs. They don't need the plug-ins in order to accept ETDs for deposit, which they do right out of the box, but in order to help faculty supervisors read and comment on drafts, much like peer-review management systems for journals. For example, DSpace has the TAPIR plug-in; Fedora has VALET; Bepress has a tracking and submission system; and Eprints has some built-in review features. These tools only work on electronic texts and they only work on digital repositories. Insofar as they are useful, they could help persuade universities to require electronic submission (if they don't already do so) and help persuade them to launch an institutional repository (if they don't already have one). We get the same dual benefit if the review software is separate from the institutional repository, not a plug-in, provided it can easily or automatically deposit the approved dissertation in the university repository at the end of the process.
Another example is the merging of ETD and eprint repositories. Arthur Sale has argued for this and pointed out several benefits. The university needn't run two installations of the archiving software, train two staffs (or one staff on two systems), or run twice the number of archival back-ups. It will save money. With a merged repository, there's no danger that the ETD repository will become the poor cousin to the eprint repository, or vice versa, skimping on features or technical support. It will improve performance. A merged repository will have more content than either one alone and therefore will attract more users, traffic, links, citations, indexing robots, and impact. It will deliver greater benefits.
When we talk to grad students, we can educate them about OA ETDs and OA eprints at the same time. The deposit process and benefits are just about the same, and the students will want to enhance the visibility and impact of both kinds of work. When we talk to university administrators, we can make the case for OA ETDs and OA eprints at the same time. The two kinds of research output use a common institutional infrastructure and serve common institutional interests in amplifying the visibility and impact of the institution's research. I'd like to see grad students and administrators consult, discover their common interests, and then announce that they've agreed to mandate OA for ETDs because it will serve both groups, the institution as a whole, and researchers around the world.
* Here are a few very recent developments
JISC's funding for the UK EThOS Project (Electronic Theses Online Service) expired last month. But in March, JISC solicited proposals for a study of "the acceptability of the EThOS model for a sustainable, national service to ensure long term open access to electronic PhD theses."
DART-Europe (Digital Access to Research Theses) is an emerging ETD portal for Europe. According to Paul Ayris, one of its purposes is "vigorously to advocate Open Access to e-theses."
Virginia Kuhn wrote a multimedia doctoral dissertation for the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee containing many short video clips. She believed she was entitled to include the clips by fair use and refused to seek permission. "If you ask for permission, you're screwed because you imply that you legally need it." The university found it harder to make up its mind, at first tentatively approving her dissertation without the permissions, then putting a hold on her degree, and then finally approving it again (late March 2006). Apparently it hasn't yet decided whether it can make the dissertation OA through the UW repository. UMI has refused to accept it.
Oleg Evnin put a Creative Commons license on his new (May 2006) Caltech PhD dissertation, On quantum interacting embedded geometrical objects of various dimensions. What's new here is the CC license. Caltech requires all doctoral dissertations to be submitted in electronic form, and encourages OA to them through the Caltech ETD repository, but says nothing about using CC licenses for those that are OA. That was Evnin's good idea.
Douglas Rushkoff is wondering whether he should try to write an "open source dissertation" for his PhD at the University of Utrecht.
A headline in The Onion reads: Heroic Computer Dies To Save World From Master's Thesis (May 17, 2006). From the article: "A courageous young notebook computer committed a fatal, self-inflicted execution error late Sunday night, selflessly giving its own life so that professors, academic advisors, classmates, and even future generations of college students would never have to read Jill Samoskevich's 227-page master's thesis, sources close to the Brandeis University English graduate student reported Monday...."This fearless little machine saved me from unspoken hours of exasperated head-scratching and eyestrain..." said professor John Rebson, who had already read through three drafts of Samoskevich's sprawling, 38,000-word dissertation, titled A Hermeneutical Exploration Of Onomatopoeia In The Works Of William Carlos Williams As It May Or May Not Relate To Post-Agrarian Appalachia. "It was an incredible act of bravery. This laptop sacrificed itself in order to put an end to Jill's senseless rambling."...[Fellow student Mark Weiss said,] "I'll never forget that brave computer's last words: 'You will lose any unsaved information in all applications. Press any key to continue.'"
* Bibliography. Apart from the web pages of university ETD programs and ETD repositories, here are the sources I found most useful.
Paul Ayris, Chris Pressler, and Austin McLean, The DART-Europe Project: Towards Developing a European Theses Portal, presented at the 2005 ETD meeting, Sydney, Australia, September 28, 2005.
Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Electronic Theses and Dissertations: A Bibliography, DigitalKoans, July 8, 2005.
Charles W. Bailey, Jr., ETD Policies and Procedures at ARL Institutions, DigitalKoans, July 21, 2005.
Tim Brody, Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).
Also see the page of ETD repositories (listing 70 as of June 25, 2006).
Edward A. Fox and Gail McMillan, Request for Widespread Access to ETDs, October 1997.
Edward Fox, It is easy for universities to support free culture with digital libraries: The NDLTD Example, presented at the MetaScholar Initiative (Emory University), May 5, 2005. Only the abstract is free online.
Richard Jones and Theo Andrew, Open access, open source and e-theses: the development of the Edinburgh Research Archive, Program: electronic library & information systems, 39, 3, March 2005, pp. 198-212.
Joan K. Lippincott, Institutional Strategies and Policies for Electronic Theses and Dissertations, Educause Center for Applied Research Bulletin, June 20, 2006. This came out after my June 8 talk in Quebec, but I wish it had come out earlier.
Gail McMillan, Do ETDs Deter Publishers? Does Web availability count as prior publication? A report on the 4th International Conference on Electronic Theses and Dissertations (Caltech, 2001), College and Research Libraries News, v. 62, no. 6 (June 2001).
Arthur Sale, The impact of mandatory policies on ETD acquisition, D-Lib Magazine, April 2006.
Arthur Sale, Unifying ETD with open access repositories, in Tony Carneglutti (ed.), Proceedings 8th International Electronic Theses and Dissertations Symposium, Sydney, Australia, 2005.
Nancy H. Seamans, Electronic theses and dissertations as prior publications: what the editors say, Library Hi Tech, March 2003.
Brian Surratt, ETD release/access policies in ARL Libraries: a preliminary study, presented at the 2005 ETD conference in Sydney, Australia, September 30, 2005.
--Data for this article
* I want to thank Richard Fyffe, Arthur Sale, Brian Surratt, Scott Walter, and above all, Sharon Reeves, for answering my many questions about ETDs over the past many months.
This article is based on my keynote address, "Open Access for ETDs," at the 9th International Symposium on Electronic Theses and Dissertations (Quebec City, June 7-10, 2006). My slides will be online at the site soon.
With one exception, everything from my slide presentation and talk is present and more fully developed here. The exception is that I had two slides in the talk listing universities with different policies on electronic submission and OA for ETDs. To see which universities have which policies, see the slides.
Top stories from June 2006
This is my selection of the most important OA developments since the last issue of the newsletter, not counting any developments covered in the lead essays above. When items have two URLs, the first is usually for the item itself and the second for my blog posting about it on Open Access News. For other developments that didn't make the cut, see Open Access news, which I update daily, and which has a browseable and searchable archive.
Here are the top stories from June --another big news month in which I couldn't pick just five.
* The Royal Society adopts the hybrid OA model for all its journals.
* PLoS previews PLoS ONE and raises its fees.
* Oxford shares the results of its OA experiments.
* AAA members protest the association's decision to oppose FRPAA.
* Research institutions implement OA policies.
* Science Commons launches Scholar's Copyright.
* FRPAA inspires more news and comment.
The Royal Society adopts the hybrid model for all its journals.
The Royal Society has adopted hybrid journal policy, called EXiS Open Choice, for all seven of its journals. RS authors now have a choice: if they pay an upfront fee, their article will be free online from birth; otherwise it will be free online only 12 months after publication. The RS will not (or not yet) let Open Choice authors retain copyright or waive the fee in cases of economic hardship. Nor will it reduce its subscription fees in proportion to author uptake or deposit copies of Open Choice articles in OA repositories to guarantee their long-term OA availability. However Ian Russell, the RS Head of Publishing, has said that it would consider modifying these points as time goes on.
The RS will charge £300 ($553, €439) per A4 page. For papers 5.5 pages or longer, the RS fee will be the highest in the industry, exceeding the $3,000 per-article fee charged by Springer and Elsevier. RS authors will still have to pay color charges on top of the publication fee. The RS says its high fee is an accurate reflection of its costs, and I have no reason to doubt it. But if true, then either all other OA and hybrid journal publishers have lower costs or all the others are charging fees below their costs. Moreover, even if a very high fee is needed to cover a publisher's costs, it may be too high by another criterion --by deterring author submissions. Just as at Springer and Elsevier, we cannot conclude that a low level of author uptake at the RS indicates a low level of author interest in OA.
Like Elsevier, which has offered hybrid journals since May, the RS has lobbied hard against public OA initiatives and harshly criticized journals that accepted author-side fees. Like Elsevier, it will have to stop arguing that accepting these fees corrupts peer review. Also like Elsevier, the RS is a green publisher that permits postprint archiving and hasn't said yet how its Open Choice policy will interact with its self-archiving policy. If authors decline the new option (say, because they don't have a sponsor to pay the fee), will they still be allowed to self-archive their postprints without fee or delay? Or will the RS retreat on its green policy instead?
Hybrid journals are welcome because they increase the amount of OA literature, though perhaps by only a small amount. They help publishers learn some of the economics of OA publishing, but only with weak incentives to make it work, since they always have subscriptions to fall back on in case author uptake is low. Finally, as I've noted before, the chief strength and the chief weakness of hybrid OA journals are the same: because only some authors in a given issue will select the OA option, libraries cannot justify cancelling their subscriptions. This postpones the day that libraries and universities will save money from OA journals, but for the same reason it reduces the risk for publishers and encourages them to try the experiment. Because a hybrid policy is risk-free for publishers, we should expect to see it spread. But if it leads green publishers to retreat from green (by putting embargoes or prices on the permission to self-archive), then it will do more harm than good.
John Timmer, The state of public access publishing, Ars Technica, June 26, 2006.
Stevan Harnad, Testing the Royal Society's Assumptions about Open Access, Open Access Archivangelism, June 25, 2006.
Ian Russell, EXiS Open Choice, SPARC Open Access Forum, June 24, 2006. A clarification of several points about the new policy. Russell is the Head of Publishing at the Royal Society and, not incidentally, the next CEO of the ALPSP.
Katharine Sanderson, Open access, take it or leave it, Chemistry World (from the Royal Society of Chemistry), June 23, 2006.
Kim Thomas, Royal Society charges £300 per page for open access, Information World Review, June 23, 2006.
CuriousCat, Britain’s Royal Society Experiments with Open Access, Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog, June 23, 2006.
Peter Suber, OA journal processing fees by the page, Open Access News, June 22, 2006. When I wrote that the Royal Society was the first publisher I knew to charge a per-page processing fee rather than a per-article fee, readers sent in a couple more.
Stevan Harnad, Royal Society Offers Open Choice: Giving With One Hand, Taking Back With the Other, Open Access Archivangelism, June 22, 2006.
Stephen Pincock, Royal Society tries open access, TheScientist, June 22, 2006.
Cory Doctorow, Royal Society to try open access science publishing, Boing Boing, June 21, 2006.
EXiS Open Choice – Author FAQs
Royal Society launches trial of new 'open access' journal service, a press release from the Royal Society, June 21, 2006.
Jon Boone, Royal Society tests new system of free access to papers, Financial Times, June 20, 2006.
PLoS previews PLoS ONE and raises its fees.
There were two big PLoS stories in June: a preview of PLoS ONE and an announcement of the company's first-ever fee increase.
PLoS ONE is a new kind of PLoS journal offering multidisciplinary scope, rapid turn-around, powerful personalization and discussion tools, and a new kind of peer review (or new for PLoS). Review will take place in two stages, one closed, internal, and prospective, and one open, external, and retroactive. The internal review will focus on whether the research is sound science and not ask how interesting or significant it may be. The latter questions will be hashed out in the subsequent open review. The journal will accept work in nearly any scientific discipline, actively disregarding the boundaries that define the scopes of other journals and working to promote synergies and connections across those boundaries. It should launch later this year.
Starting yesterday (July 1), the article processing fees at PLoS Biology, PLoS Medicine, and PLoS Clinical Trials will be $2500, and those at PLoS Computational Biology, PLoS Genetics, and PLoS Pathogens will be $2000. This price hike, and a Declan Butler article on PLoS' tax return, has led to a lot of hyperventilating about whether the PLoS business model is sustainable. But there's more gloating and wishful thinking in most of the criticism than even-handed analysis. Even rival publishers point out that it takes about seven years for new journals to break even and PLoS is only three. In the wake of the debate about PLoS' finances, Hindawi revealed that its OA journals (all based on author-side fees) are already profitable, which should help dampen hasty generalizations and refocus the conversation. The big difference between PLoS and publishers like Springer, Elsevier, and the Royal Society, who charge the $3,000 and up to publish an OA article --apart from the fact that the PLoS fees are lower--, is that PLoS still waives its fees in cases of economic hardship, no questions asked. That should answer concerns about deterring author submissions. Moreover, PLoS still lets authors retain copyright, provides professionally written synopses for each research article, deposits copies of every article in PubMed Central as an OA enhancement and back-up, doesn't lay color charges on top of its fees, and has some of the highest impact factors in the business.
Here's some news and comment on PLoS ONE:
Lila Guterman, Online Journal Will Have Low Rejection Rate, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 23, 2006.
Richard Poynder, Open Access: Stage Two, Open and Shut, June 15, 2006. An interview with Chris Surridge, who moved from Nature to take the job of managing editor at PLoS ONE.
The PLoS press release on PLoS ONE, June 7, 2006.
The PLoS blog to accompany PLoS ONE.
The PLoS ONE home page.
Here's some news and comment on the new article processing fees.
Balaji Ravichandran, Head of Public Library of Science defends financial security of publishing group, BMJ, July 1, 2006.
Richard Charkin, the CEO of Macmillan (parent company of Nature) blogged a note about Declan Butler's Nature article on PLoS' finances, June 28, 2006.
Andre Brown, Economics of Open Access Publishing, BioCurious, June 28, 2006.
T. Scott Plutchak, Funding Open Access, T. Scott, June 27, 2006.
Mike Collins, PLoS, Losing Money, Hikes Author Fees, Cork University Press blog, June 26, 2006.
Anon., OA Business Model a Challenge for Public Library of Science, Library Journal, June 23, 2006.
Nick Anthis, A Natural Conflict of Interest as Nature Criticizes PLoS, The Scientific Activist, June 22, 2006.
Mark Patterson, What’s the story morning glory? PLoS blog, June 22, 2006. Patterson is the Director of Publishing at PLoS.
Peter Suber, Which author-side fees are high? Open Access News, June 21, 2006.
Stevan Harnad, Open Access First; Then, if/When Necessary: Open Access Publication, Open Access Archivangelism, June 21, 2006.
Declan Butler, Open-access journal hits rocky times, Nature, June 20, 2006.
--Also see the comments on this story at the Nature News blog by Paul Peters, Martin Kulldorff, Jonathan Eisen, Detlef Weigel, Philip E. Bourne, Stephen Ellner, Musa Mayer, Stephen M. Borostyan, Pedro Beltrao, Heather Morrison, Stevan Harnad, Jan Velterop, and Michael Hopkin.
--Also see the comments at Declan Butler's blog by Stevan Harnad and Jan Velterop.
David Secko, Author fee spikes at PLoS, TheScientist, June 19, 2006.
PLoS' announcement of the fee increase, June 1, 2006.
Oxford shares the results of its OA experiments.
Oxford University Press is running three kinds of OA journal experiments: (1) one OA journal supported by author-side fees, Nucleic Acids Research, (2) two OA journals supported by institutional subsidies, the Journal of Experimental Botany and Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and (3) 49 hybrid OA journals in the Oxford Open program. On June 5 it sponsored a meeting in which the results of these experiments were announced and analyzed. Beyond these, OUP also permits embargoed self-archiving.
Some highlights: At NAR, income per article was declining before the OA experiment and continued to decline afterwards. However, after a year of OA, the income per article was still $3,600, considerably higher than the author-side publication fees ($950 - $1900). (I haven't seen a comparison of income per article to costs per article.) Usage climbed by 143%, not even counting the usage of copies on deposit in PubMed Central. About 8% of authors were given fee waivers because of economic hardship, a figure expected to rise next year. A large majority of surveyed authors were satisfied or very satisfied with their NAR experience (74%); only 8% were unsatisfied or very unsatisfied. Only 2% paid the fee out of pocket, most getting the money from a research grant, department funds, or other institutional funds. The average rate of author uptake at the Oxford Open journals was 7.1%, but considerably higher in the life sciences (11.3%) and lower in medicine (4.8%) and the social sciences and humanities (2.2%).
Kudos to OUP for its OA experiments and for openly sharing its results. The more publishers who do the same, the more we will learn about this large, still uncharted space of many models and many niches.
Rebeca Cliffe, OUP: Assessing Open Access, EPS Insights, June 22, 2006.
Assessing the Impact of Open Access: Preliminary Findings from Oxford Journals, the full report on the Oxford OA results, June 2006.
Oxford Journals share evidence-based open access results with the
community, OUP's press release, June 13, 2006.
Oxford Open Access Workshop (London, June 5, 2006).
--Also see the presentations from the workshop.
AAA members protest the association's decision to oppose FRPAA.
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) signed the May 23 letter from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) opposing FRPAA, the bill now before Congress that would mandate open access to the bulk of federally-funded research. At the same time the AAA posted a note on its web site explaining that "its underlying concern is the potential impact the proposed legislation may have on the AnthroSource business model and revenue generation." AnthroSource is the AAA portal for its 15 journals. When AAA members found out what their organization had done, they began blogging their protests. Here are some examples, alphabetically by blogger:
Afarensis, American Anthropological Association: An Example of Hypocrisy in Action
E. Gabriella Coleman, The AAA does not support open access
Alex Golub, The American Anthropological Association’s lobbying against open acess is so, so misguided
Kambiz Kamrani, The American Anthropological Association's ignorant opposition of Open Access
Eric Kansa, More on the FRPAA
Eric Kansa, Ouch! The AAA and the FRPAA
Bryan McKay, Will AnthroSource go open source?
The AAA didn't consult its members before publicly committing the organization to oppose FRPAA. In fact the AAA leadership didn't even consult its own steering committee. Here's how Alex Golub described the situation on his blog, Savage Minds (link above): "The sad --indeed, pathetic-- thing about this decision is that I am actually *on* the AnthroSource Steering Committee and didn't hear anything about this decision. On another occasion --when I am allowed to speak more publicly about the internal workings of the AAA-- I'll discus what I think is wrong with *how* this decision was made."
I don't know a single learned society publicly opposed to FRPAA that consulted its members before taking its public position. (I'd be glad to be corrected.) This supports the theory that society leaders are putting their interests in publication revenue ahead of their interests in advancing research.
If you belong to a scholarly society, check to see whether it has signed the AAP's public letter (44 societies) or the DC Principles Coalition public letter (36 societies) opposing FRPAA. If so, let your society know internally and online that it is not speaking for its members and that it's putting its publishing interests ahead of its research interests. At the same time, send copies of your message to Senators Cornyn, Lieberman, and Collins, the recipients of the letters from the publishers. (Cornyn and Lieberman introduced FRPAA in the Senate, and Collins chairs the committee considering it.) Organize other members of your society to deliver the same message --to the society itself, to the Senators, and publicly online-- and to elect leader who will speak for interests of researchers.
AAP public letter opposing FRPAA
DC Principles Coalition public letter opposing FRPAA
Finding contact info for your Congressional delegation
American Anthropological Association (AAA)
The AAP letter opposing FRPAA signed by the AAA
The AAA explanation for its decision
Research institutions implement OA policies.
The University of Zurich is preparing to launch its OA repository this fall, as the first step toward implementing its OA mandate. See Villö Huszai, Die Universitäten öffnen sich dem Internet, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, June 9, 2006.
The University of Liege will soon launch an OA repository for the scientific publications of its faculty and the doctoral theses of its graduate students. Read the announcement (June 3, 2006) from the "OA rector" Bernard Rentier in French or read Google's English. So far there's no word on what policy Liege might use to fill the repository, but it helps that the rector is publicly committed to OA.
On June 21, Arnold Migus, Director General of France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), sent a letter to the CNRS unit heads asking them to invite their researchers to deposit their research articles in HAL, the OA repository sponsored by five major French research organizations. http://ccsd.cnrs.fr/IMG/pdf/DGauxDU_060621.pdf
Stevan Harnad has posted an English synopsis of the CNRS letter.
--Also see Stevan's comments, urging CNRS to adopt a mandate instead of a mere recommendation.
Science Commons launches Scholar's Copyright.
On June 6, Science Commons launched a major new project called Scholar's Copyright. It consists of three short amendments or Author Addenda that researchers may attach to their copyright transfer agreements with publishers. The addenda let authors retain the rights they need for OA. Like Creative Commons licenses, each of these will come in lawyer-readable, layperson-readable, and machine-readable forms. So far, only the lawyer-readable forms are available.
One of the three addenda lets authors self-archive the published version immediately upon publication. Another lets authors do the same but with a CC license. The third lets authors self-archive the final version of their manuscript immediately upon publication and then self-archive the published version six months later. The web site has a good background essay explaining why we need author addenda, why we need three, and how these three differ from previous author addenda from SPARC and MIT.
In related news, the ALPSP and STM issued a joint statement on the MIT author addendum, June 27, 2006. While critical of the MIT addendum in its present form, the publishers suggest a meeting to work out the differences. (The publishers object to immediate OA archiving of any version of an article, which means they will have the same beef with the Science Commons addenda.)
FRPAA inspires more news and comment.
FRPAA fortunes didn't rise or fall in June. It's still under consideration by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs, chaired by Susan Collins of Maine. But Senator Collins has been receiving a lot of mail on the bill.
One of the most interesting letters was from Springer (not yet online), arguing the that the six month embargo permitted by FRPAA is too short to satisfy publishers and too long to satisfy researchers. In its place, Springer proposes a policy that would require full-text OA immediately upon publication, a clear insistence that publishing in peer-reviewed journals is an inseparable part of research, and a new provision making article processing fees available to researchers as a special overhead on their publicly-funded research grants. Instead of splitting the difference between researchers and publishers, as the six month embargo does, it gives each what it wants most: immediate OA for researchers and money for publishers. It also proposes that the new policy might be phased in after a short grace period to give publishers time to modify their business models. Note that Springer was the only large publisher not to sign the AAP's sophistical letter to Sen. Collins in May.
Anon., Proposed Law Puts Scholarly Societies in Curious Spot, Greenhouse Associates, June 2006.
The ALPSP released its June 26 letter to Sen. Susan Collins, opposing FRPAA.
Stevan Harnad, FRPAA and paying publishers to self-archive, Open Access Archivangelism, June 15, 2006. On the Springer proposal for FRPAA.
OpenTheGovernment has created an action alert in support of FRPAA. If you're a US citizen, fill in your name and address, revise the text if you like, click, and your Senators will get the message.
Scott Jaschik, In Whose Interest? Inside Higher Ed, June 15, 2006.
Alexander Scheeline, a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, has released his June 7 letter to Senator Susan Collins in support of FRPAA.
The American Anthropological Association (AAA) signed the AAP's May 23 letter to Sen. Susan Collins opposing the FRPAA. AAA members are protesting its decision; see my story above.
Stevan Harnad, How to Counter All Opposition to the FRPAA Self-Archiving Mandate, Open Access Archivangelism, June 11, 2006.
Stevan Harnad, Critique of American Association of Publishers' Critique of FRPAA Self-Archiving Mandate, Open Access Archivangelism, June 10, 2006.
Mark Chillingworth, AAP science publishers club to fight US Fed Research Act, Information World Review, June 8, 2006.
Alexander Scheeline, a professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois, wrote a letter to Senator Susan Collins in support of FRPAA (June 7, 2006). He got the idea from the ACS, which urged its members to write to Sen. Collins in opposition to the bill.
The DC Principles Coalition released its June 7 letter to to Senators Cornyn and Lieberman, opposing FRPAA.
Rudy Baum, Take A Stand, Chemical & Engineering News, June 5, 2006.
--Baum called the NIH policy socialist and in this editorial became the first to call FRPAA socialist as well. FRPAA was introduced by John Cornyn of Texas, whom Project Vote Smart has given a score of 81% on conservative issues and 0% on liberal issues.
Gavin Baker, Research will suffer if UF cuts journals, Alligator Online (student paper at the U of Florida), June 6, 2006.
--Shortly after Baker's letter was published, the Student Senate at the University of Florida adopted a Resolution in Support of the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006.
Ray English and Peter Suber, Public access to federally funded research: The Cornyn-Lieberman and CURES bills, College & Research Libraries News, June 2006.
Some bloggers misunderstood FRPAA, thinking that it wouldn't just give the public access to publicly-funded research, but would also give the public a veto over which projects get funded.
Coming up later this month
Here are some important OA-related events coming up in July.
* July 20, 2006. The Wellcome Trust is expected to announce the contractor who will manage the UK PMC.
* Notable conferences this month
Science, Intellectual Property and Openness (OA is among the topics)
Lancaster (UK), July 4, 2006
e-Resources in Higher and Further Education : changes, challenges and choices (OA is among the topics)
Manchester, July 5, 2006
Standards for the Electronic Expression of Licensing Terms
London, July 5, 2006
Envisioning future challenges in networked information (JISC/CNI annual meeting) (institutional repositories are among the topics)
York, July 6-7, 2006
Science and Technology Infrastructure in Algeria: Tools of Improvements: Publication, Collaboration and Research (sponsored by IBScientific) (OA is among the topics)
London, July 8, 2006
Towards a Cyberinfrastructure for the Study of Science (a public lecture by Katy Borner)
Oxford, July 10, 2006
Creating Commons: The Tasks Ahead in Unlocking IP (OA is among the topics)
Sydney, July 10-11, 2006
ARL/ACRL Institute on Scholarly Communication (OA is among the topics)
Los Angeles, July 12-14, 2006
Euroscience Open Forum 2006
Munich, July 15-19, 2006
--Open Access - threat or blessing? A session on July 16, 18:30, in the Solaris room of the Deutschen Museum.
Is Open Access the Future for Scientific Publishing? (sponsored by the UK House of Commons Parliamentary and Scientific Committee) (by invitation only)
London, July 17, 2006
Free our data: should public sector information be available for all at the cost of reproduction?
London, July 17, 2006
Eprints training course
Southampton, July 17-18, 2006
EThOS Workshop (sponsored by the JISC/CURL Electronic Theses Online Service project)
Glasgow, July 20, 2006
Metadata Enhancement and OAI Workshop
Atlanta, July 24-25, 2006
CESSE 2006 (sponsored by the Council of Engineering & Scientific Societies) (OA is among the topics)
Salt Lake City, July 25-28, 2006
* Other OA-related conferences
* I've added 16 new conferences to my conference page since the last issue. In the next few days I'll delete the second asterisk marking them and the new entries will blend into the rest of the collection.
This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (ISSN 1546-7821), written by Peter Suber and published by SPARC. The views I express in this newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of SPARC.
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