Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #147
July 2, 2010
by Peter Suber

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California against Nature

When journal publishers raise subscription prices faster than inflation and faster than library budgets, for decades, what do they think will happen? 

(According to the ARL's well-known chart, average journal prices have risen about four times faster than inflation since the mid-1980's.  In June, Mark Bauerlein and four co-authors reported that "[f]rom 1978 to 2001, libraries at the University of California at Los Angeles...saw their subscription costs alone climb by 1,300 percent.")

Do publishers think that other institutions will start writing checks when libraries run out of money?  Do they just want to squeeze out all the profits they can before crunch time?  Do they see crunch time coming but hope to be among the survivors of the resulting shake-out?  Or do they really not see crunch time coming? 

When Richard Poynder asked me similar questions in 2007, I had to reply, "I really don't know.  It's possible that [publishers] are just delaying adaptation as long as possible.  But it's also possible that some really believe their longevity is assured by their past value."  I've also described the strategy as "accelerating into a brick wall". 

No matter how you characterize it, this was precisely the situation that the University of California librarians described --in a January 2004 letter to UC faculty-- as "incontrovertibly unsustainable".

In a new letter to faculty last month, the same institution said in effect that crunch time has arrived.

The drama is playing out between the University of California (UC) and the Nature Publishing Group (NPG).  There have been three primary documents to date:

Round 1 (June 4, 2010).  UC sent a letter to all its faculty saying that NPG was trying to raise the price of UC's site license by 400%, or more than $1 million.  UC had been cancelling other titles in order to cope with its painfully reduced budget.  Paying the NPG price increase would wipe out all the savings it had already realized.  If NPG did not relent, UC told its faculty that it would not renew any NPG titles next year.  It added that "more drastic actions may be necessary."  UC had already "begun to assemble a group of Faculty that will help lead a UC Systemwide boycott of NPG."  If NPG insisted on a price increase --apparently any price increase-- then UC would "strongly encourage" its faculty to stop submitting work to NPG journals, stop refereeing articles for NPG journals, stop advertising new UC positions in NPG journals, resign from NPG editorial and advisory boards, and "encourage sympathy actions" from colleagues outside UC.  The university calculated that over the past six years UC authors had published about 5,300 articles in NPG journals, including 638 in Nature itself, bringing the publisher "at least $19 million" in revenue during the same period.  While waiting to hear the final word from NPG, UC encouraged its faculty to comply with OA policies from funders like NIH, use UC's OA repository and publishing platform, consider submitting new work to OA journals, and retain copyrights when publishing in scholarly journals. 

The UC letter was signed by Laine Farley, Executive Director of the California Digital Library; Richard A. Schneider, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Chair of the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication; and Brian E. C. Schottlaender, University Librarian at UC San Diego and Convener of the University Librarians Council.

Round 2 (June 9, 2010).  In its reply, NPG expressed shock, criticized UC's calculations, and accused the university of misrepresenting NPG's price increase.  NPG asserted that UC had enjoyed a "very large, unsustainable discount for many years" and was being subsidized by other NPG subscribers around the world.  It claimed that UC enjoyed an 88% discount from list prices, and that NPG was merely trying to reduce the discount to 50%.  It claimed that its list-price increases have averaged 7% per year for the past four years and are currently capped at 7% per year.  It criticized the idea of a boycott "not least because it is detrimental to the advance of science" and insisted that "we will not be bullied into continuing [UC's] subsidy by our other customers."  NPG has "actively supported and encouraged" all of UC's OA recommendations (except submitting work to OA journals) since 2005.  Finally, it protested that UC was making confidential negotations public.

Round 3 (June 10, 2010).  In its reply to NPG's reply, UC pointed out it was talking about the price increase on its site license, not the increase on list prices.  UC dismissed the subsidy claim as "nonsensical", in part because list prices are "meaningless numbers" that "most institutions" never pay.  And if they did pay them, 7% annual increases would still be hyperinflationary and unsustainable.  UC also explained that it did not write an open letter for the public, but sent it to its faculty, whom it is obligated to keep informed about negotiations.  While NPG contends that the negotiations were open-ended and ongoing, UC recalls that NPG stood by its price and said it would not entertain counter-offers.  The "UC Libraries contemplate budget reductions of 20% or more over the next two years on top of reductions already taken in 2010" and welcomes "authentic discussions" with NPG about value and price.

The press and blogosphere have been buzzing with comments, but the parties themselves have been publicly silent since June 10.  Laine Farley, Executive Director of the California Digital Library, told me that UC and NPG are looking for a date to resume their discussions.
* One bit of background:  The University of California is one of the largest universities in the world.  It has 191,000+ students and 13,300+ faculty on 10 campuses.  Its libraries have more than 34 million volumes.

The size and stature of the UC libraries give them enormous bargaining power when negotiating with publishers.

At the same time, NPG's unparalleled prestige and impact give it enormous bargaining power when negotiating with universities.

* Another bit of background:  NPG has been more active than most conventional journal publishers in experimenting with OA.  I listed its many OA projects in a blog post in July 2007.  I don't have time to update the list, but NPG has added new OA experiments and projects regularly since then.  For example, in May 2010 it finished converting all its academic journals to hybrid OA.  In April 2010 it published an editorial supporting the NIH mandate and "its extension to other agencies" through FRPAA and/or an Obama executive order, with the proviso that the policies accommodate variable embargo periods.  "Publishers must be able to negotiate embargo intervals that will fulfil their obligation to allow greater public access but not jeopardize their businesses. And publishers, in turn, need to recognize that science's social contract is evolving towards greater openness."

Despite these OA initiatives, NPG has had a regressive self-archiving or "green" policy since January 2005 when it put a six month embargo on its permission for self-archiving.  It was one of the first publishers, and is still one of the only publishers, to put any kind of embargo on green OA.  Most journal publishers allow immediate or unembargoed green OA, including those who have voiced the fear that rising levels of green OA will trigger cancellations.  Moreover, if any publisher could weather the effects of immediate rather than delayed green OA, it's NPG.

Until last month, the Royal Society followed NPG in putting an embargo on its permission for OA archiving.  But in June it lifted its embargo.

* Just as NPG's prestige and prosperity position it to weather the effects of immediate green OA, they position it to survive any crunch-time shakeout.  I told Richard Poynder in 2007 (p. 68) that even in a hypothetical future world when OA was the default, "the most prestigious toll-access journals — journals like Nature — may be able to charge subscription fees forever, or for as long as they maintain the level of prestige they have today. They will still be must-haves in a university library, and they will be even easier for a university to afford once most other journals are open access."

Today I can add that if steadily shrinking budgets mean that libraries steadily shrink their conception of a "must-have" journal, Nature is better positioned than any journal in the world to remain in that protected set, even if the same cannot be said of all the journals in NPG's portfolio.

* Or that was the prognosis before the recent conflict with UC.  NPG could have survived painful library budget cuts longer than any other publisher.  It could have waited for other publisher price increases to break the camel's back, trigger a wave of cancellations, or inspire author/editor/referee boycotts.  But by precipitating this crisis with UC, it may be first on UC's cancellation list for next year and first for any institutions that follow UC's lead.  NPG may be throwing away a marketing advantage decades in the making.

* I have no opinion on Nature's claim that UC was benefiting from a deep discount.  But if it's true that UC has enjoyed a deeper discount than other universities, that's a sign that UC's bargaining power exceeds that of other universities, just as NPG's bargaining power exceeds that of other publishers.

Hence, we may be witnessing a face-off between the world's most powerful university and the world's most powerful publisher.  If that didn't raise the stakes enough, public statements on both sides now make it difficult to blink and back down.

If other schools have been subsidizing UC, then those other schools should be protesting today even more than UC is.  And as Kent Anderson pointed out, if NPG extracts more money from UC, then it should lower its prices to schools that have been subsidizing UC.

If other schools with less bargaining power have been subsidizing UC, then their prices are higher and their value per dollar is lower.  Worse, they will be unable to bargain their way out of their hole.  They will need to attach themselves to the momentum of a larger movement.  If NPG is right about UC's discount, then it should expect to find that many other institutions are willing to join a general boycott, if that is what this becomes.  Their budgets may not be quite as devastated as UC's (no states are as close to bankruptcy as California).  But the spark will fall on dry tinder. 

* There are two sorts of journal price increase.  One is based on increased costs.  It's hard for outside observers to tell when higher prices reflect higher costs, but we know that some price increases are of that kind.  The other sort is a price increase unrelated to costs that the publisher thinks the market will bear.  The publisher could be banking on the journal's prestige, the journal's mini-monopoly (no other journal publishes the same articles), or the perceived equity of catching up with similar journals or moving with the pack.  Again, outside observers can't easily tell what portion of a price increase might be due to this cause, but we can be sure that some parts of some price increases fit this description. 

Price increases of the second kind are obnoxious in a culture in which universities subsidize authors, editors, and referees for the benefit of publishers, and especially obnoxious after decades of hyperinflationary price increases.  There is no reason for universities to put up with price increases unrelated to costs, especially now that there is an alternative.  Indeed, at some point, slow-growing budgets and the fast-growing volume of research mean that universities can't even put up with price increases directly related to rising costs, or even with flat prices.

Publishers like to argue that all of their price increases reflect increased costs.  But they've done a very bad job at making the case.  It's hard to believe that their costs have been rising faster than inflation since the 1970's or 1980's.  (BTW, the same is true of university tuition increases.)  It's hard to believe that costs at the commercial giants, which enjoy greater economies of scale, have been going up faster than costs at small society publishers.  It's hard to believe that all price increases reflect increased costs when profit margins at the same commercial giants exceed 20% or 30%.  It's hard to believe that costs rise faster than inflation when authors give publishers their raw material free of charge, and when referees evaluate and help refine the raw material free of charge.  It's hard to believe that costs continue to rise faster than inflation after publishers shift to e-only publishing and drop their print editions. 

Insofar as publishers are testing to see what the market will bear, the burden is on universities to answer. 

I've often criticized universities for not acting decisively in their own interests, especially when publishers are aggressively acting in *their* own interests.  I've often criticized universities (and governments) for putting the interests of publishers ahead of their own interests. 

But I'm not saying that here.  Bravo to UC for acting decisively in its own interest.  Bravo for drawing the line.  Bravo for vowing to use its rare bargaining power to fight back.

* If publishers have been accelerating into a brick wall for decades, and libraries have been warning about the inevitable collision for decades, then why hasn't there been a collision before now?

There are two answers.  First, many collisions have already occurred, even if they came and went without the same media attention.  Universities have been canceling titles by the hundreds --and in the case of big-deal cancellations, by the thousands-- for years.  Even when collisions are incremental and cumulative rather than sudden and explosive, they have the same finality.  And they have the same catastrophic effect on access to the portion of new research that is metered out to paying customers. 

Second, when universities renewed more titles than they could realistically afford, it's not because found previously undiscovered or undisclosed pots of money.  It's because they made painful cuts in order to find the money.  Most of these cuts came from their book budgets, extending a serials crisis in the sciences to a monograph crisis in the humanities.  The long series of small collisions is a measure of the pain universities have endured to postpone a wider and larger one. 

At some point there really isn't any money left, or the money can only be found through cuts more painful than journal cancellations.  After several decades of hyperinflationary price increases, followed by a severe recession, continuing business as usual will bring a critical mass of universities to that critical point.  Publishers aren't just witnesses to this impending crunch.  Those that continue to charge hyperinflationary price increases are accelerating it.  Those that won't survive the resulting shake-out, even if their own prices had been moderate and affordable, will be co-victims with researchers and research institutions.

* In the same month that UC reached the end of its rope with NPG, the Virtual Library of Virginia reached the end of its rope with Wiley.  After an unsuccessful seven-month negotiation, Virginia decided to cancel its subscription to the Blackwell Synergy Journal Collection.

In the same month, the University of Prince Edward Island reached the end of its rope with ISI's Web of Science (WoS), canceled its WoS subscription and sent an open letter to faculty explaining why:

Late last year we received notification that our subscription price was going to increase by 120%. A number of factors went into the decision not to renew: [1] a challenging fiscal climate means that we are unlikely to see an increase to Library budgets; [2] any subscription increase in these challenging times is difficult, but an increase of 120% is simply not acceptable; [3] we would have been forced to sign a 3-year agreement, with additional increases in each of the 3 years; [4] a weaker Canadian dollar would have a significant impact on our subscription costs; [5] accommodating this level of increase lends credence to the vendors' business practices and we felt it important to make a statement against these practices....

Note the similarities to the UC rationale, including the triple-digit price increase, the recession, and the importance of speaking out against the business practices that harm research. 

It's tempting to distinguish two phases of the serials pricing crisis.  In the Early Crisis, universities resented hyperinflationary price increases and spoke out against them, but generally made painful cuts elsewhere to meet them.  In the Late Crisis, universities lost their ability to cut further and spoke out against harmful and unsustainable business models, not just harmful and unsustainable price increases.  UC is not the first sign of the Late Crisis, but it's size and clout make it one of the most influential.

* In the first half of 2009, six major library organizations and research institutions published position papers on the recession, urging publishers to freeze or cut prices.  Some of the statements went further and urged the research community and policy-makers to move forward with OA.  See the statements from the International Coalition of Library Consortia (January 2009), the Association for Research LIbraries (February 2009), Research Information Network (March 2009), NorthEast Research Libraries (April 2009), the University of California Libraries (May 2009), and the Medical Library Association and the Association of Academic Health Science Libraries (May 2009).

But the crisis didn't end when the recession appeared to bottom out.  In December 2009, David Nicholas and Ian Rowlands released the results of their survey of UK libraries on the economic downturn. 

37.4% of institutions expect to cut spending on information resources over the next two years, 28.3% expect to cut staffing budgets and 18.1% their spending on services and infrastructure. These figures are based on absolute figures and do not account for cost inflation: publisher costs, labour costs or general inflation. We are therefore talking about some fairly deep and painful cuts, not just a continuation of the attritional gains in library efficiency that have been driven for years by below inflation budget rises. Our survey suggests that academic libraries will be the hardest hit by these budgetary pressures, with 34.3% of them expecting to receive a smaller budget in two years’ time than they do currently. For a small minority, 6.9%, the pain will be very severe, since their budgets will be more than 10% smaller than they are this year.

In March 2010, the Research Information Network updated its 2009 report with a new one.  Its two top conclusions: 

[1] Library budgets have risen over the past ten years – although not as much as overall university income and expenditure [or as much as journal prices]....Librarians from across the higher education (HE) sector now expect budget cuts over the next three years....[2] The scale of the cuts means that libraries must rethink the kinds and levels of service they provide in support of their universities’ missions....[L]ibrarians are having to think more strategically about...the costs and sustainability of current levels of journal provision.

Just last month, the International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) updated its January 2009 Statement on the Global Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Consortial Licenses.  Among the additions to the June 2010 version:

ICOLC did not overestimate the severity of cuts to library and library consortia funding levels in its original Statement.  Furthermore, we believe the worst may still be before us....All parts of the world are facing negative economic repercussions....The need for pricing restraint and options remains paramount....We call upon the full range of suppliers to show price restraint in 2010-2011 to enable customers to sustain as many information resource licenses as possible.

For more on the imminent crunch, see Richard Poynder's June interview with Claudio Aspesi, a financial analyst who has written two equity research reports on Elsevier.  Quoting Aspesi:

If...the outcome of the budget constraints on academic libraries is a few years of slow or no revenue growth, the publishers will have, at the very least, to take costs out aggressively.  If budget constraints lead to massive cancellations...and the offer to sign new contracts at 20/30% lower spending, the publishers will be under severe strain to adapt.  As long as management seems to believe (at least judging from their public statements) that the probability of flat revenues for many years to come is virtually zero, one has to worry about whether there is a Plan B, who is in charge of it and what type of events would trigger it.

Also in June, the Medical Library Association's Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications started compiling a list of journal publishers who are freezing their subscription prices "in recognition of continued economic constraints".  It's calling for public help in compiling the list. 

The Royal Society, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Edinburgh University Press have already made the new list. 

The MLA tracked price freezes last year too.  But NPG didn't make the list. 

Also in June, two blogging scholars --Martin Weller and Michael Rees-- revived the idea of performing peer review only for OA journals, or refusing to donate labor to publishers who erect access barriers to research.  This is a a step beyond the boycott plans sketched in the UC letter, which would only apply to NPG journals.  Using data from a 2008 Research Information Network report, Weller and Rees estimate that scholars donate about £1.9 billion/year ($2.8 billion/year) in free labor as journal referees. 

This is some of the context in which NPG asked UC for a price increase somewhere between 7% (at best) and 400% (at worst). 

* At the end of her June 8 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Jennifer Howard quoted Keith Yamamoto, Executive Vice Dean of the School of Medicine at UC - San Francisco:  "Although researchers still have 'a very strong tie to traditional journals' like Nature, [Yamamoto] said, scientific publishing has evolved in the seven years since the Elsevier boycott. 'In many ways it doesn't matter where the work's published, because scientists will be able to find it....'"

Yamamoto's remark triggered nearly as much commentary as the threatened boycott itself.  Of course his claim about findability is true.  Or it's true for OA articles.  But just as clearly, it sidesteps a critical point.  Researchers aspire to publish in Nature not because it makes their work more findable than work published in lower-ranked journals or deposited in OA repositories.  They want Nature's imprimatur.  They want the kudos that flow from a Nature publication, which will boost the influence of their work and advance their careers.  Few scholars realize that green OA allows them to have Nature's prestige and OA's enlarged audience and impact at the same time, and few scholars realize that submitting their best work to OA journals will help excellent OA journals earn prestige in proportion to their quality.

Findability is no longer a critical issue, except for print-only journals or repositories carelessly configured to deter search engine crawlers.  The latest studies show that finding or discovering relevant new work is now much easier than accessing or retrieving it.

Online sources are not differentiated by findability so much as by accessibility and brand.  Nature is counting on the power of brand, and UC's struggle against NPG's bargaining position will also be a struggle against many of its own faculty.  But if universities find that faculty kneel to the power of brand, they have only themselves to blame.  As I argued in 2007,

[I]t would help if universities would recognize their complicity in the problem they are trying to solve.  By rewarding faculty who win a journal's imprimatur, mindful of the journal's prestige but heedless of its access policies, universities shift bargaining power from authors to publishers of high-prestige journals.  They give publishers less incentive to modify their standard contracts and authors greater incentive to sign whatever publishers put in front of them.

On the other side, however, as Jennifer Howard also noted in her Chronicle article, Yamamoto "said he's confident that there will be broad support for a boycott among the faculty if the Nature Group doesn't negotiate, even if it means some hardships for individual researchers."  This doesn't have to be whistling in the dark.  Faculty groups have said themselves that they are willing to bear the hardships, both as authors (no longer publishing in certain journals) and as readers (no longer having prepaid access to certain journals).  Here are a few statements from UC's own campuses.

On the hardships for authors, see the October 2003 Academic Senate resolution drafted by the the Committee on the Library at UC Santa Cruz:

[T]he UCSC Academic Senate resolves to call upon its tenured members to give serious and careful consideration to cutting their ties with Elsevier: no longer submitting papers to Elsevier journals, refusing to referee the submissions of others, and relinquishing editorial posts. The Senate also calls upon its Committee on Academic Personnel to recognize that some faculty may choose not to submit papers to Elsevier journals even when those journals are highly ranked. Faculty choosing to follow the advice of this resolution should not be penalized.

Also see the similar statement (November 2003) from the UC San Francisco Academic Senate

On the hardships for readers, see the March 2005 Scholarly Publishing Statement of Principles by UC Berkeley Faculty Senate:

Libraries around the world are beginning to take a hard line when negotiating contracts with publishers and societies that put profits above scholarly communication. The faculty and administration of the University of California, Berkeley will support the Library's efforts to curtail unsustainable pricing structures even if this sometimes means losing access to titles.

For similar statements by non-UC faculty, see my old list (no longer maintained).

We're finally witnessing a strong test of the value of brand.  Is brand so valuable that a university at the end of its rope will accept one more hyperinflationary price increase, after decades of cumulative hyperinflationary price increases?  Despite the tightness of budgets, we can imagine that the power of brand will win again.  After all, that's what has happened for the past 20-30 years.  But conversely, despite the power of brand, we can imagine that tight budgets and a back-to-the-wall determination to dismantle access barriers to research will determine the outcome.  After all, that's what it means to be at the end of one's rope. 

Whatever the outcome in this case, universities looking for a long-term solution to this problem should stop elevating brand and disregarding access in the incentives they create through their promotion and tenure committees.  Excellence should be their top concern, and they will usually say that it is.  But in their search for excellent candidates who have done excellent research or written excellent articles, they should stop taking shortcuts by using brand or simplistic metrics as substitutes for the hard work of assessing quality.

Universities should follow the advice from UC Santa Cruz quoted above.  If they want to dismantle access barriers for research, or reclaim scholarly communication for the benefit of researchers and research institutions, then they can't have their promotion and tenure committees penalize scholars who join the cause. 

* Finally, universities should adopt effective green OA policies. 

UC started developing a green OA mandate in December 2005 and still hasn't finished.  The Assembly of the Academic Senate voted (unanimously) in May 2006 to launch the process, and started circulating a draft policy in January 2007.

In June 2008 the stalled policy was reinvigorated by the unanimous vote for an OA mandate by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences four months earlier.

But in April 2009 we learned that "[a]fter going through eight draft forms, the policy was abandoned due to academic senate concerns." 

Unfortunately, that's where the UC policy still stands today. 

However, in its original letter to faculty, the UC urged faculty to take four "positive actions" to "help break the monopoly that commercial and for-profit entities like NPG hold over the work that we create":

[1] Complying with open access policies from Federal funding agencies such as the NIH...; [2] Utilizing eScholarship, an open access repository service from CDL...; [3] Considering other high-quality research publishing outlets, including open access journals such as those published by PLoS and others; [and 4] Insisting on language in publication agreements that allows UC authors to retain their copyright....

I second all these suggestions and would like to strengthen #2.  Faculty can use an OA repository as readers or authors or both.  They should start using it as authors.  They should deposit their new work in the repository, if they are not already doing so.  Most publishers --including NPG-- already allow it.  For publishers not already allowing it, recommendation #4 solves the permission problem. 

UC may not have a system-wide OA policy, but UC faculty don't have to wait for one.  If they're energized to join a boycott, they should be energized to make their own work OA through the UC repository or through OA journals.  Boycotting NPG won't necessarily make any new work OA.   But if faculty make their new work OA through repositories or journals (green or gold OA), that will directly advance OA and move us toward the long-term removal of access barriers to research.  Moreover, we can realize these benefits for all our publications, not just the small subset that we would have published in NPG journals. 

If the desire to act is more than sporadic, and starts to gel into system-wide consensus, UC faculty should pick up the stalled OA policy talks and run to the finish line.

* In addition to the four steps UC recommended to faculty, it took two additional steps of its own in June.  It became an institutional supporting member of arXiv and bought an Institutional Membership in Oxford's (OA) Nucleic Acids Research.  The steps are not large, but they show UC's willingness to spend money to support an OA alternative, even while it draws the line at further price increases from NPG.

* It's too early to predict the outcome of the UC-NPG conflict.  But I can say that the outcome I most fear is also one of the most likely:  UC and NPG will reach a compromise and neither side will be allowed to reveal what it is.  We won't know whether UC accepted one more painful, unsustainable price increase (even if smaller than the one NPG first demanded) or whether UC forced NPG to offer more affordable, sustainable terms (even if no other university will receive the same terms). 

If that's what happens, I hope we'll soon be able to read the details at the Big Deal Contract Project, launched last summer by Ted Bergstrom, Paul Courant, and R. Preston McAfee.  The project uses open records laws to force the disclosure of university-publisher contracts.  The method doesn't work everywhere, but it works especially well for public universities like UC.

The world is watching.

* Here are some news stories and blog comments on the UC-NPG conflict.

Lulu Liu, UC fumes at publisher over $1 million in extra fees, Fresno Bee, June 27, 2010.

Stevan Harnad, Setting the record straight in the UC/NPG pricing kerfuffle, Open Access Archivangelism, June 17, 2010.

Barbara Fister, Boycotting (Human) Nature, Library Journal, June 17, 2010.

Derek Lowe, California vs. Nature, Corante, June 15, 2010.

Dorothea Salo, "It's quiet —too quiet;" with a digression into online social media, The Book of Trogol, June 15, 2010.

Kent Anderson, The Latest “Library as Purchaser” Crisis: Are We Fighting the Wrong Battle? Scholarly Kitchen, June 14, 2010.

Alie Bidwell, UC Librarians Urge Professors To Boycott Publishing Company, Daily Californian, June 14, 2010.

Kent Smith, The Worm at the Core (and several mixed metaphors), Scholarly Communication @ Duke, June 14, 2010.

Bernd-Christoph Kaemper, UC v. NPG, LibLicense, June 14, 2010.

Jonathan Eisen, Scooped in a good way by my own brother re Nature-UC dispute, The Tree of Life, June 11, 2010.

John Mark Ockerbloom, Journal liberation: A primer, Everybody's Libraries, June 11, 2010.

Paul Jump, Librarians at the gate over licensing rate, Times Higher Education Supplement, June 11, 2010.

Steve Lawson, Communicating to faculty about Nature Publishing Group, See Also, June 11, 2010.

Maura Smale, Big News in Scholarly Publishing, From the Library of Maura, June 11, 2010.

Nature boycott threat, eCancer MedicalScience, June 11, 2010.

Eric Hellman, How Electronic Resources Really Get Priced, go to hellman, June 11, 2010.

Matt Wedel, University of California vs. Nature, Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week, June 11, 2010.

Cynthia Lee, UC libraries, faculty protest planned price hike by Nature publisher, UCLA Today, June 10, 2010.

Dorothea Salo, Gauntlet volleying, The Book of Trogol, June 10, 2010.

Michael Hoffman, Of course you realize this means war!  Metafilter, June 10, 2010.

John Timmer, California libraries gearing up for fight against Nature (Updated), Ars Technica, June 10, 2010.

Megan Scudellari, Support for UC-Nature ban, June 10, 2010.

Michael Eisen, The Nature kerfuffle: Boycott the business model, not the price, The Berkeley Blog, June 10, 2010.

Norman Oder, UC Libraries, Nature Publishing Group in Heated Dispute Over Pricing; Boycott Possible, Library Journal, June 10, 2010.

Klaus Graf, Wissenschaftsverlage verdienen prächtig an kostenlosen Wissenschaftlerbeiträgen, Archivalia, June 10, 2010.

Jason Jackson Baird, OA Tracking Project, Connotea, Nature Publishing Group, Threatened UC Boycott, Jason Jackson Baird, June 9, 2010.

Jennifer Howard, Nature Publishing Group Defends Its Price Increase for U. of California, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 9, 2010.

Anon, U. of California System Threatens Boycott Over Journal Prices, Inside Higher Ed, June 9, 2010.

Dorothea Salo, Musings on worms turning, The Book of Trogol, June 9, 2010.

Jocelyn Kaiser, University of California Considers Boycott Against Nature Journals, Science, June 9, 2010.

Alan Cann, How could they get it so wrong? Science of the Invisible, June 9, 2010.

Anon., What Goes Around Comes Around: University of California Threatens System-Wide Boycott of Nature Publishing Group, Depth First, June 9, 2010.

Janet Stemwedel, Shrinking budgets + skyrocketing subscription fees = UC boycott of NPG, Adventures in Ethics and Science, June 9, 2010.

Jim Till, UC versus NPG: First Round, Be openly accessible or be obscure, June 9, 2010.

Bjorn Brembs, Let's Join UC And Boycott Publishers Who Profit From Public Research And Public Funds, Bjorn Brembs Blog, June 9, 2010.

Bethany Nowviskie, fight club soap, Nowviskie.org, June 9, 2010.

Eberhard R. Hilf, Universität von Californien gegen 400 Prozent Preissteigerung von Nature, Zugang zum Wissen Journal, June 9, 2010.

Dorothea Salo, California throws the gauntlet in NPG's face, The Book of Trogol, June 8, 2010.

Christina Pikas, Holy Cow – University of California system may boycott all Nature Publishing Group Journals, Christina's LIS Rant, June 8, 2010.

Jennifer Howard, U. of California Tries Just Saying No to Rising Journal Costs, Chronicle of Higher Education, June 8, 2010.
(Also see the long comment section.)

* To track future articles on this controversy, follow the "oa.boycott" feed at the OA Tracking Project.



Here's what happened, or what I noticed, since the last issue of the newsletter, emphasizing action and policy over scholarship and opinion.  I put the most important items first, with double asterisks, and otherwise cluster them loosely by topic.

For a more comprehensive picture of recent OA developments, see (and help build) the project feed of the OA Tracking Project.

Just as I've stopped tracking new developments in open education and open government information in Roundup, I'm tapering off in my tracking of new impact factors for OA journals.  I used to summarize the summaries as they came out.  Now I'll just link to them.  I may soon disregard them altogether.  But they *are* OA developments and one purpose of Roundup is to gather the new developments together. 

In July 2009, PLoS made the wise decision "to stop promoting journal impact factors on our sites altogether. It's time to move on, and focus efforts on more sophisticated, flexible and meaningful measures."  PLoS withdrew from a game in which its own scores were rising fast.

Just last month, the LibLicense discussion list decided to stop posting publisher press releases announcing impact factors.

For the reasons why I'm sympathetic, see my rant against impact factors in Section 8 of this article from 2008.


+ Policies

* Sweden's Royal Library (Kungliga biblioteket or KB) adopted an OA policy.  The policy supports green and gold OA, and promises to provide OA to the digitized reproductions of public-domain works.  Excerpt in Google's English:  "When KB's employees in their employment are published in scientific magazines and journals, they claim the right to make their articles freely available on the Internet through the Library's Web site within six months. The publications that KB issue should normally be made freely available on the internet without delay. KB uses the Creative Commons licenses to make the conditions for the use of KB-publications in all cases where applicable...."

* Sweden's Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (Riksbank Tercentenary Foundation) adopted an OA mandate requiring grantees to provide green or gold OA to their grant-funded work. If they choose gold OA through a fee-based OA journal, the foundation will pay the fees up to 30,000 SEK per project. Also see the June 1 announcement <http://goo.gl/Sxbk>.

* Denmark's Open Access Committee recommends that all Danish universities adopt OA mandates, and that all Danish academic publishers "prepare suggestions as to how Danish periodicals and Danish monographs can be converted to Open Access...."

* The University of Freiburg adopted a resolution calling for OA to publicly-funded research and encouraging Freiburg faculty to retain the rights needed make their own work OA. 

* Fay Bound Alberti recommended OA for all publicly-funded research in the UK.

* Michael Geist called (again) for a green OA mandate for publicly-funded Canadian research.  

* Heather Morrison publicly released her submission to Canada's Digital Economy Consultation, callling for a green OA mandate.   It's co-signed by 18 others.  (Disclosure:  I'm one of the non-Canadian signatories.)

* The Alliance for Taxpayer Access called on US citizens to contact the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to urge it to hold an open hearing on FRPAA.  

* President Obama nominated Subra Suresh, dean of the MIT School of Engineering, to be the new director of the National Science Foundation.  PS:  Hal Abelson, a Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at MIT, told me that Suresh was a "a strong supporter" of MIT's green OA mandate.

* The European Network for Copyright in Support of Education and Science (ENCES) officially launched last week in Berlin.  ENCES is devoted to OA-friendly copyright reforms in Europe. 

* The International Coalition of Library Consortia (ICOLC) re-issued and updated its Statement on the Global Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Consortial Licenses (originally issued in January 2009).

+ Journals

* The University of California libraries told UC faculty that the Nature Publishing Group wanted to raise the price of its site license by 400% next year.  If NPG doesn't relent, UC plans to cancel its NPG titles and organize an author/editor/referee boycott of NPG.  (More detail in the lead story above.)

* The University of Prince Edward Island canceled its subscription to ISI's Web of Science and sent an open letter to faculty explaining why.  (More detail in the lead story above.) 

* Springer launched SpringerOpen, a new series of OA journals under CC licenses.  Among other features, SpringerOpen will use SWORD to deposit articles automatically in participating institutional repositories and BMC memberships will be extended to cover the new journals.  (For those wondering whether the 2008 Springer acquisition of BMC would make Springer more like BMC or BMC more like Springer, this is evidence for the former.)

* The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) announced plans to support a series of OA humanities journals, some born OA and some converting from TA.  It will reveal more details this summer.  

* The Journal of Journal Performance Studies is a new peer-reviewed OA journal.  It is accompanied by an online radio station which provides audio recitation of journal articles (apparently even TA articles from other journals), and a Firefox extension which "overlays bibliometric data, graphs of journal ownership, and journal cost onto publisher websites."

* Aria:  Studies in Art History is a new, peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Institute of Art History at Hungary's Eötvös Lóránd University of Sciences.

* Strenæ is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Association Française de Recherches sur les Livres et Objets Culturels de l’Enfance (French Association for Research on Cultural Objects and Books for Children).

* Opuscula is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the University of Saskatchewan's Classical, Medieval and Renaissance Studies program.

* The Journal of Chain-computerisation is a new peer-reviewed OA journal jointly sponsored by the Utrecht Publishing & Archiving Services (Igitur) and the Utrecht Department of Information and Computing Sciences.

* Evidence for Genomic Applications is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Genomic Applications in Practice and Prevention Network (GAPPNet).  EGA uses Google Knol as its publishing platform.

* Anthropology Reviews: Dissent and Cultural Politics is a forthcoming peer-reviewed OA journal from the Regent's College Institute of Contemporary European Studies.

* The Italian Journal of Library and Information Science (JLIS.it) is a new peer-reviewed OA journal.

* International Journal of Societal Spirituality is a forthcoming peer-reviewed OA journal. IJSS is now calling for paper for its inaugural issue.

* Kant Studies Online is a forthcoming peer-reviewed OA journal that will publish its first articles in January 2011.

* The Journal of Economic Perspectives, published by the American Economic Association, converted to OA. New issues are OA, and back issues to 1999 are OA. The first volume, from 1998, is still accessible only to members of the AEA.

* Drugs in R&D converted to OA.  The journal is published by Adis, an imprint of Wolters Kluwer Pharma Solutions.

* Evolution: Education and Outreach converted to delayed OA, with a one-year moving wall.  EEO was originally OA but had temporarily adopted certain price barriers.

* Karger Publishers launched a hybrid OA option ("Author's Choice") using CC-BY-NC licenses.

* BMC Research Notes launched a new topical series on HIV/AIDS.

* BioMed Central launched two new OA gateways in Endocrinology and Gastroenterology. 

* Zookeys, the OA journal of taxonomy, adopted semantic mark-up and XML in order to facilitate deposit in PubMed Central and the distribution of new results about certain species to databases or services devoted to those species.

* The African Journal Archive is a new OA portal of African research and cultural heritage.  Funded by the Carnegie Corporation and managed by Sabinet, AJA is in the process of digitizing the full backfiles of more than 200 African journals in all fields. 

* The Jewish National and University Library, the University of Haifa library, and JSTOR are digitizing the backfiles of 60 Hebrew-language scholarly journals, using a mix of public and private funds.  When the project is finished, users will apparently have OA to the results, at least to the more than 3-5 years old, but institutions will have to pay annual fees.

* The University of California libraries became an institutional supporting member of arXiv, and bought an Institutional Membership in Oxford's Nucleic Acids Research.

* MIT launched the MIT Open Access Article Publication Subvention Fund (OAAPSF) to pay publication fees at fee-based OA journals.  MIT is one of the founding members of the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity (COPE).

* Springer and the International Union of Crystallography joined the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association.

* Springer will reduce the 2011 prices of some of its hybrid OA journals to reflect the 2009 rate of author uptake of the OA option.  The announcement does not say which journals will have their prices adjusted, by how much, or according to what algorithm.

* Author uptake of Oxford's hybrid OA option fell from 6.7% in 2008 to 5.9% in 2009.  If we only count hybrid OA journals more than one year old, then the rate only fell from 6.8% to 6.7%.  In the first version of its announcement, Oxford left the false impression author interest in OA per se was declining.  After widespread criticism, it clarified its press release.

* The Medical Library Association's Ad Hoc Committee for Advocating Scholarly Communications started compiling a list of journal publishers who are freezing their 2011 prices at 2010 "in recognition of continued economic constraints".  It made a similar list last year and is calling for public help in compiling the new one. 

* BioMed Central released information on the new impact factors of is journals.

* MolBio summarized the new impact factors of the PLoS journals.  

* The leading LIS journal in Germany, Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie (ZfBB), published 24 articles in 2008.  Klaus Graf found that two years later, only one article is free online and it's not the version of record and not libre OA.

+ Repositories and databases

* Ireland launched RIAN, a national portal to the country's network of OA repositories.  "RIAN" is the Irish word for "path". 

* The UK's Anglia Ruskin University launched an institutional repository.

* The Smithsonian Institution launched the Smithsonian Commons Prototype repository.

* The Royal Society lifted its embargo on OA archiving.

* The Welsh Repository Network posted a list of suggestions or best practices, gleaned from a recent colloquium, for responding to faculty objections or misunderstandings about OA archiving.

* Mendeley is recruiting University Advisors to educate and recruit users on their campuses.

+ Data

* The Open Data Commons released the ODC Attribution (ODC-BY) license.  The new license is like CC-BY but adapted for databases.  

* The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is providing OA information on 22 bird species "at risk from the BP oil spill".

* The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) launched a website of OA, near-real-time information on the response to the Deepwater Horizon BP oil spill.  The site gathers data from all US federal agencies working on the disaster.

* The InterAcademy Council is evaluating the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) at the request of the UN, and called for public comments on the IPCC's processes and procedures.   Nick Barnes of Clear Climate Code submitted a comment with 55 signatures calling for libre OA to all IPCC data.  (Disclosure:  I was one of the signatories.) 

* After looking around the web, Peter Murray-Rust concluded no one is yet providing open data on the infrared spectra of greenhouse gases. 

* The European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy unanimously approved a proposal to open up "all satellite data, except security sensitive data...."

* NASA triggered controversy by delaying the release of some new data collected by the Kepler spacecraft in order to give the Kepler astronomers more time to study the data on their own.

* Library Thing launched OverCat, an OA index of bibliographic data second in size only to WorldCat.  OverCat data was collected from over 700 sources.

* The Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule Aachen (RWTH Aachen University) opened up its bibliographic data, using CC0 to assign them to the public domain.

* JISC announced a new project to open up metadata from UK universities, libraries, archives, and museums.

* Google and the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) opened up 10 terabytes of US patent and trademark data, including "all granted patents and trademarks, and published applications."  They will eventually open up file histories and other related data as well.

* Japan's RIKEN research institute launched the International Rational Genome-Design Contest (GenoCon).  Unlike MIT's similar contest, which requires OA, GenoCon "will normally [make results] public, but participating companies will have the option to keep sequences secret if they are negotiating joint patent or licensing agreements...."  RIKEN's Tetsuro Toyoda described the model as "open-optimization research".

* The 1000 Genomes Project completed three pilot projects and deposited all the resulting data in OA databases.  The project is building up to an OA database containing the genomes "2,500 people from 27 populations around the world...."

* The Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) launched an OA database of CT scans and clinical data donated by patients.  The idea is to "accelerate research for lung cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and drug development...."

* GnuBio has developed an inexpensive gene sequencing machine, but will require users to make their results OA within a certain time after the sequencing is completed. 

* DataMarket is a new portal of open data on public and private sector organizations.  It started with Icelandic organizations but is scaling up to cover organizations worldwide. 

* The US Food and Drug Administration will launch an OA database of product recalls.

* The Panton Principles for Open Data in Science were translated into Russian.

* A group of grad students in Vancouver launched a project to use open mapping data and the Bing API to create an online driving game. 

* GameSpy Technology released GameSpy Open "to empower all games to become more social through open data access".  

* A new survey shows that UK businesses applaud new open data initiatives for government data, but are reluctant to follow suit even when they recognize that sharing their own data "could bring commercial benefits".

+ Books

* Leonard S. Polonsky gave multi-million dollar gifts to Oxford and Cambridge Universities to fund the OA-digitization of books and manuscripts from their libraries.

* Cambridge University Press and Bookshare are converting selected books and journals into formats accessible to the blind that will be gratis OA for students in the US.

* The North Carolina libraries added 500 downloadable, OA audio books to its collection, bring its total to 1,300.  

* The Austrian National Library and Google will digitize about 400,000 public-domain books from the 16th-19th centuries.  The resulting texts will be OA through Europeana.  

* The US Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education gave the University of Illinois a $150,000 grant to create an OA textbook (topic TBA), and gave the Florida Distance Learning Consortium a $300,000 grant to study the barriers to the adoption of OA textbooks.

* The Internet Archive and Amazon worked out a way for users to send public-domain titles from the Open Library to a Kindle.  The service is free but transmission fees may apply.

* The Internet Archive launched a service allowing users who subscribe to Overdrive.com's Digital Library Reserve to "borrow" ebooks from the Open Library.  The books are not limited to those in the public domain, and automatically expire after two weeks.

* The Athenian Agora Excavations Project is enhancing its publications with links to project databases and making the enhanced versions OA through the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.

* Charles Bailey released Version 78 of his Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography.

* The Swiss National Library is digitizing public-domain books from its library but not making them OA or even putting them online.  It is selling the texts on CDs or PDFs at prices starting at 15 francs.

+ Studies and surveys

* Bo-Christer Björk and colleagues found that about one in every five research articles published in 2008 is free online in some version somewhere.  The OA rate was highest in the Earth sciences and lowest in chemistry.  In medicine, biochemistry, and chemistry, gold OA was more common than green OA, with the reverse in every other field. 

* A survey by Heather Morrison and others showed "that any model for OA transition would received some level of support from a majority of [Canadian] libraries...."

* David Lipman reported that in 2009, 98% of the articles on deposit in PubMed Central were accessed at least once, and 69% were accessed at least 10 times.

+ Software and tools

* ChemSpider launched ChemSpider Mobile.

* Tom Brow launched a PLoS Reader for the iPad.  

* Drugs.com launched an edition of its OA database for mobile devices.

* DuraSpace announced the release of DSpace 1.6.2. 

* The Public Knowledge Project released a comprehensive, new OA user guide for Open Journal Systems. 

* The BibApp development team released BibApp version 1.0.  Among other things, BibApp will discover new publications eligible for deposit in an institutional repository and deposit them directly into the repository. 

* Google now allows users to upload image-scans of documents into Google Docs, where Google will OCR them and make them into searchable texts exportable to other applications.

* Tulane University Law School  launched the Durationator, a tool to ascertain the copyright status of any work under any country's laws. 

* The US Department of Energy released a widget to enhance access to the research, feeds, and alerts in its Science Accelerator.

* Jorum released a unified search engine for searching JorumOpen and JorumUK at the same time.

* The OA WorldWideScience now supports machine translation into nine languages. 

* The Open Knowledge Foundation launched a version of CKAN for open data in Italy.

* The UK Repositories Support Project launched a blog.

* The Free Science Flying Circus is a new group blog about OA.

+ Awards and milestones

* SPARC honored the authors of the Panton Principles for Open Data in Science --Peter Murray-Rust, Cameron Neylon, Rufus Pollock, and John Wilbanks-- as the latest SPARC Innovators. 

* The Dutch Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS) awarded Kees Mandemakers the DANS data prize 2020 for his OA database, Historical Sample of the Netherlands (Historische Steekproef Nederland).

* ChemSpider won the 2010 Innovative Software Award from France's Groupement français de l'industrie de l'information (GFII).

* BioMed Central announced the winners of its 4th Annual Research Awards:  Kenta Asahina for the best OA article in biology (in a BMC journal), Godfrey Woelk for the best OA article in medicine, Georgios Labiris for the best case report, Heiti Paves for the best biology image, and the Leiden University Medical Center for the best animation.  Yoosook Lee won the open data award and Kuan-Teh Jeang won editor of the year.  The OA Institutions of the year were Harvard University, the University of Zurich, and the Chinese Academy of Science.

* Raquel Lavandera Fernández and Ricardo Onís Romero won the best poster award at EAHIL 2010 (Lisbon, June 14-18, 2010) for "Institutional Biomedical Repositories in Europe" <http://goo.gl/dEGr>.

* Europeana now hosts more than 9 million items.  Among the items added in June are some writings by and about Charles Darwin and portraits of two early explorers of Greenland.

* In May, RePEc grew by 12 archives and passed the milestones of 1,000,000 book abstract views, 550,000 listed articles, 400,000 book chapter downloads, 250,000 articles with abstracts, 24,000 registered authors, and 12,000 online chapters.

* The Social Science Research Network now has 290,000 documents on deposit from 138,000 authors, up from 53,000 documents and 22,000 authors last year.  In its 15+ years of life, it has logged 37.4+ million downloads.

* Heather Morrison posted the latest quarterly installment of her series on the Dramatic Growth of Open Access.  Among the details:  In the past quarter, the DOAJ added more than three new titles per day, compared to two per day in 2009. 

+ Other

* Martin Weller calculated that researchers donate £210 million/year in time devoted to performing peer review.  (He later updated this to £1.9 billion/year to reflect the results of a 2008 report by the Research Information Network.)  He concluded that in exchange for this donated labor, researchers should demand OA.  Consequently he pledged to perform peer review only for OA journals.

* Michael Rees is one who endorsed Weller's conclusion (above) and pledged to follow suit.

* Flickr users can now make their photos available to Getty Images, but only if they are willing to replace CC licenses with all-rights-reserved licenses.

* The British Museum began assisting about 40 volunteer Wikipedians to help capture "the museum’s expertise and notable artifacts...."

* The US government turned the Iraqi Virtual Science Library, which it created four years ago, over to the Iraqi government.

* Pfizer joined the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) in generating "high quality research reagents, free from restriction on use...."

* The US National Archives launched the National Archives Labs, which will create prototype projects and collect feedback as "the first step towards opening up [its] records further...."

* The Carnegie Corporation and Library of Congress finished the first stage of a project to allow "cultural institutions in sub-Saharan Africa and the countries of the former Soviet Union" to join the OA World Digital Library (WDL).

* Julian Hoffmann is a German Pirate Party candidate running for the Landtag or State Parliament from Paderborn, on a platform that includes OA for publicly-funded research.

* Europeana is providing OA to nearly 900 digitized Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts from the collections of three European kings.

* The University of Bergen's Wittgenstein Archives released 5,000 OA pages of Wittgenstein's digitized writings available for open access on the website Wittgenstein Source.

* The US National Library of Medicine digitized and provided OA to 828 letters to and from physicians in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia between 1786 and 1907. 

* Dartmouth College received a $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to digitize and provide OA to the works of Samson Occom, an 18th century intellectual leader of the Mohegan Indians.

* Yale University received a $250,000 grant from the National Endowment to digitize and provide OA to historical documents relating to the Native American peoples of Connecticut.

* Alberto Cerda and colleagues applied for CC funding to create a web site to help Latin American OA journals (starting with those published in Chile and Colombia) comply with local legal regulations and OA best practices.

* Phillip Jeffrey applied for CC funding to give a presentation at SXSW Interactive on a new peer-reviewed OA journal.

* Charles Batambuze applied for CC funding to kickstart CC-licensed OA book publishing in Uganda.

* The Open Access Directory (OAD) launched a new list on unanimous faculty votes for institutional OA policies. The wiki-based list accompanies my article on unanimous faculty votes in the June 2010 issue of SOAN.

* Patricia Clausnitzer translated the Budapest Open Access Initiative FAQ into Belorusian.

* A US federal circuit court ruled that retroactively putting public-domain works under copyright does not violate the US constitution.


Coming this month

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

* July 1, 2010.  The OA journal fund at the University of Florida becomes operational

* July 9, 2010.  Deadline for submitting comments on Canada's Digital Economy Consultation, which contains a recommendation for OA to publicly-funded research.

* OA-related conferences in July 2010

* Other OA-related conferences


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

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Peter Suber

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