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     July 10, 2001

Free online medical journals for the third world

Six major publishers are giving third-world universities and laboratories free access to over 1,000 electronic medical journals.  The gift was coordinated by the World Health Organzation, which said that "it is perhaps the biggest step ever taken towards reducing the health information gap between rich and poor countries."

The participating publishers are Blackwell, Elsevier, Harcourt General, Springer-Verlag, Wiley & Sons, and Wolters Kluwer.

The program is the latest phase of the larger UN effort, Health InterNetwork, which makes all kinds of electronic information, from journals to software, freely available to underdeveloped countries.  The UN is working with private sector partners including WebMD Foundation and the Gates Foundation, though these organizations are not paying the publishers to provide access.  The UN is also working with the George Soros' Open Society Institute, whose eIFL Direct program has been providing free online journal access to Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin American since 1999.

This is an elegant win-win situation.  The publishers are giving away access to electronic journals they already publish.  This costs them nothing.  They gain readers in regions where they have few paying subscribers, and they do enormous good.  Makers of AIDS drugs are obviously much more constrained in giving away their product.

It would be churlish to wonder why the publishers didn't do this long ago and on their own initiative.  But one may wonder whether publishers will see similar win-win logic in granting free access to other populations without the means to buy subscriptions, such as teachers, students, and libraries.

David Brown, Free Access to Medical Journals To Be Given to Poor Countries
From _The Washington Post_

United Nations, Health InterNetwork

WebMD Foundation (doesn't yet mention this program)

Gates Foundation (doesn't yet mention this program)

Open Society Institute (doesn't yet mention this program)

eIFL Direct
From the Open Society Institute and EBSCO

* Postscript.  In several stages this summer and fall, eIFL Direct will announce the extension of its program beyond humanities and social science journals to natural science and technology journals.  For the dates and cities of the several launch events, see this schedule.


If you build it, and give it away for free, they will come

One unexpected benefit of putting scholarship online free of charge is that experimental web services can write applications for it to test their software, show off their cool features, and make themselves instantly useful.  For a couple of years, the huge, free Open Directory Project (ODP) was the primary beneficiary of this kind of adoption.  It seems that just about every experimental portal and search engine has used ODP data, at least in a demo, to show the world what it could do.

Now there is some evidence that PubMed is receiving this kind of mutually beneficial attention.

Antarcti.ca is a search engine that provides a graphical map of pages in its index.  Each colored region corresponds to a category of information and the size of each region is proportional to the number of pages in that category.  When you run a search, hits are mapped as dots on this landscape of categories.  Click on the dots to retrieve pages from the categories of interest.

Compare Stuff is a search engine that lets you compare any two things on any given parameter.  For example, enter search terms for two things to be compared (e.g. Reagan and Kennedy) and a term for the parameter of comparison (e.g. leadership).  If you like, add an extra term you'd like to see in all files consulted (e.g. president).  This will narrow the search to the most relevant pages.  Click GO, and Compare Stuff will run two general internet searches, looking first for files containing the terms "reagan, president, leadership" and then for those with "kennedy, president, leadership".  Then it will tally the hits from each search and create a bar chart comparing the percentage of "reagan+president" sites also containing "leadership" with the equivalent percentage for Kennedy sites.  The comparison is obviously crude, since a president's leadership qualities are not directly evidenced by the number of web sites asserting them.  But it's an interesting first whack at an answer, especially for questions on which frequency of mention is more probative, for example, which restaurant or movie to try next, which party has the confidence of investors or environmentalists, or which procedure has carries more unwelcome side-effects.

Compare Stuff and Antarcti.ca both launched as straight search engines and then created PubMed versions to show what they can do within a specialized domain.  Give them a try to see for yourself.

Antarcti.ca PubMed

Antarcti.ca straight

Compare Stuff PubMed

Compare Stuff straight

PubMed Central home page

Open Directory Project


Awards for electronic scholarly journals

The Charlesworth Group has been giving an award for excellent design and content in electronic scholarly journals since 1996.  Starting this year, the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) will co-sponsor the award and add five new awards to the original one.  There are now ALPSP/Charlesworth awards for learned journals, for house journals, for publishing innovation, for non-profit publishing, for publisher-library relations, and for service to ALPSP.

==> The deadline for nominations is July 31. <==

Self-nominations will be accepted.  Application/nomination forms are on the ALPSP web site below.  Winners will be announced at the ALPSP annual dinner in London on September 12.

Charlesworth award (for past winners)

ALPSP/Charlesworth award (for the 2001 awards)

* Postscript.  The only other award I know of for excellence in electronic scholarly journals is given by the International Consortium for the Advancement of Academic Publication (ICAAP).  Unlike the ALPSP award, the ICAAP award is limited to free journals.  ICAAP does not provide for public nominations, but I am one of the nominators and judges for this award and would be happy to hear your ideas.  The next ICAAP award will probably be given in December.

ICAAP award


New collections for historians

* The American Chronicles project is digitizing the full text of 20,000 American newspapers dating back to the 17th century.  The resulting searchable archive will carry historians well past the days of reading unsearchable text on microfilm or disintegrating paper.  Access will not be free, but the site does not give prices.  The archive plans to launch in September.

American Chronicles

* The University of Michigan, Oxford University, and ProQuest (a.k.a. Bell and Howell) are digitizing 25,000 early English texts.  The texts will be rekeyed (not scanned) under the supervision of Oxford's Bodleian Library.  Once digitized, the texts will not be available free of charge.  Indeed, for the first five years they will not be available at all outside the institutions which contributed funds to the project.  The first 1,000 texts should be ready by the end of the year.

Early English Books Online

Goldie Blumenstyk, A Project Seeks to Digitize Thousands of Early English Texts
From _The Chronicle of Higher Education_


New on the web

* Charles W. Bailey, Jr., has added a weblog to his Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography.  The weblog promises to be an important source of timely news for this field.

Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog

* The European Union has launched EUR-Lex, a portal for EU law.  Available in 11 languages, it offers all the primary documents in full-text, most of them free of charge.


* Cite-base can now search the LANL electronic preprint (e-print) archive and rank the results by the number of times a paper is cited --the scientific version of the Google popularity ranking algorithm.

Cite-base search

LANL e-print archive

* The July 3 issue of _Learned Publishing_ has appeared, but I haven't had time to look it over.  I'll mention some of the individual articles in an upcoming issue.



* In the June 1 issue, I summarized some of the law on linking and how it might affect FOS.  Here are some additional resources.

Stefan Bechtold, The Link Controversy Page

Ivan Hoffman, Linking and Crawling Issues

* In the May 25 issue I reported on Peekabooty, an encrypted P2P file-sharing program to bypass web censorship in politically oppressive countries.  The makers were to have released the program last week, but decided to sit on it a while longer.  The current version does not sufficiently protect the identity of users from state security probes.

James Middleton, Peekabooty goes into hiding


In other publications

* In the July 3 _Washington Post_, Ariana Eunjung Cha has an eye-opening report on the reluctance of publishers to sell e-books to libraries.  Publishers fear that library patrons will make illegal copies of borrowed e-books.  As a result, some publishers have simply stopped selling e-books to libraries, and others have made their e-texts expire after a certain date.  Quoting Stanford librarian Michael Keller, "Ironically, what the digitization of books has meant so far is reduced access to information."

* At the same time, the July 7 _Milwaukee Journal Sentinal_ describes the importance of e-books and e-journals to small libraries which are not otherwise suited for wide or deep research.

* In the July issue of _First Monday_ Joyce Latham assesses the ability of public libraries to retain ideological neutrality after the Children's Internet Protection Act.

* Also in the July issue of _First Monday_ Nuala Bennett and Beth Sandore describe the community-building experience of a digitization project for a group of Illinois museums, libraries, and elementary schools.



Thoughts on the Hague Convention

In the last issue I wrote about the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments, which would require signatory countries to enforce one another's legal judgments.  While this would allow one country's copyright judgments to be enforced world-wide, it would give the same reach to censorship judgments.  This is an issue on which commerce and liberty conflict, and unfortunately the treaty is being negotiated by delegates who do not acknowledge the conflict and who seem to care much more about commerce than liberty.

Case One:   A Chinese-American in New York writes a scholarly article documenting repression in China.  China sues for subversion in a Chinese court, wins, and gets the U.S. to enforce the judgment.  Case Two:  A Chinese student in Beijing sells a pirated copy of Microsoft Office.  Microsoft sues for copyright infringement in an American court, wins, and gets China to enforce the judgment.  Today, neither scenario could occur.  Under the Hague Convention, both could occur, and the convention delegates are giving clear signals that they will tolerate the first in order to get the second.

The scenarios are realistic in the sense that the U.S. and China are both members of the drafting conference.  They are also realistic in the sense that China just sentenced one writer, Liu Weifang, to three years in prison for writing an online article critical of the Chinese Communist Party, and just conducted a secret trial of another, Huang Qi, for putting information about the Tiananmen Square massacre on his web site.
http://www.nando.net/technology/story/28874p-501592c.html (Liu Weifang story)
http://www.japantoday.com/e/?content=news&cat=7&id=37941 (Huang Qi story)

I can't get this out of my head.  So without the excuse of breaking news directly on the Hague Convention, here are some further thoughts.

Hegel said that history is the story of freedom.  The history of the internet to date bears him out.  One of the major threads in the history of internet has been the changing relationship between the most free nations and the least free.  The internet allows users to engage in unregulated and sometimes encrypted and anonymous acts of information sharing, conversation, cooperation, and collaboration.  Citizens of the most free countries can do this most freely, but even citizens of the least free countries can do it better with the internet than without.  Where the internet has reached, it has been liberating.  The problem with the draft Hague Convention in a nutshell is that it not only halts these liberating tendencies but reverses them.  Under the Hague Convention, the least free nations could halt the influx of unwelcome content and could export their censorship and oppression to the most free nations.

All that China, Iran, Libya, or Afganistan need to stop unwelcome content, and export censorship, is the authority to bring effective legal action against authors and publishers in other countries.  This is exactly what the Hague Convention gives them.

Until now the internet raised the standard of freedom around the world, requiring the least free nations to cope with uncensored expression crossing their borders and occasionally arising from within its borders.  The Hague Convention will lower the standard of freedom around the world, requiring the most free nations to cope with despotic legal judgments crossing their borders and a treaty obligation to give them effect.  Until now, the least free nations were on the defensive; after the convention, the most free nations will be on the defensive.

What's worse, the obligation to enforce freedom-curtailing legal verdicts will be self-imposed.  Citizens in the most free nations will not only have to fight back against their new legal liabilities to foreign governments, but against their own governments who think that world-wide enforcement of censorship and intimidation is a price worth paying for world-wide enforcement of copyrights.

The internet crosses national borders, but then so did print publications.  Once a nation accepts telephone service, however, it is easier for it to keep proscribed print publications from crossing its borders than it is to exclude internet content.  That's why the internet has been liberating.  But that's also why we cannot return to the days of merely national jurisdiction over freedom of speech.  Something has to give:  either the protections for free speech in the most free nations or the censorship rules in the least free nations.  Multiculturalists can ask which group deserves to prevail.  But scholars who require academic freedom require the freedom of the internet.

Of all the supposed threats to the internet --viruses, denial of service attacks, the rise of advertising, the fall of advertising, skittish venture capital, Microsoft's monopoly, government eavesdropping, commercial eavesdropping-- the Hague Convention the most ominous.  Yet it is barely being discussed.

I'm repeating the links on the Hague Convention from the last issue so you don't have to look them up.  Use them to spread the word.  I particularly recommend the CPT page.

Lisa Bowman, Global treaty--threat to the Net?
From _ZD Net News_

Boris Grondahl, Your Court Or Mine?
From _The Industry Standard_

CPT page on the Hague Convention (many links to documents and critics)
From the Consumer Project on Technology (CPT)

Members of the U.S. delegation to the Hague Convention
From CPT

Hague Convention home page (not up to date)

* And here are a couple of new links.

Letter from Fred Weingarten and Miriam M. Nisbet of the American Library Assocation, to Jeffrey Kovar, head of the US delegation to the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments

Trans Atlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), Resolution on the proposed Hague Convention on Jurisdiction and Foreign Judgments

James Love, Hague Diplomatic Conference Ends, Badly For Now

Richard Stallman, Harm from the Hague

Tom Vogt, Harassment from the Hague




If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.

* First DELOS International Summer School on Digital Library Technologies
Pisa, July 9-13

* Developing an agenda for institutional e-print archives
London, July 11

* First DELOS International Summer School on Digital Library Technologies
Pisa, July 9-13

* Biological Research with Information Extraction & Open-Access Publications
Copenhagen, July 26

* International Summer School on the Digital Library
Tilburg, Holland, August 5-10

* The International Cultural Heritage Informatics Meeting http://www.archimuse.com/ichim2001/index.html
Milan, September 3-7

* 5th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 4-9

* DELOS Workshop on Interoperability in Digital Libraries
Darmstadt, September 8-9

* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library Systems
Darmstadt, September 8


This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).

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Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber

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