Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #101
September 2, 2006

Read this issue online

Nine questions for hybrid journal programs

In the last month alone, four publishers have launched hybrid OA journal programs.  That's serious momentum.  Almost as many publishers launched hybrid programs in the last month as in the previous year, and more launched in the previous year than in all earlier years combined. 

* Here are the four programs from August in the order in which they were announced:

BMJ Unlocked
--Announcement, August 3, 2006
--My blog comments
--BMJ Publishing Group (no web site yet for BMJ Unlocked)

Wiley's Funded Access
--Announcement August 8, 2006
--My blog comments
--John W. Wiley & Sons (no web site yet for Funded Access)

Cambridge University Press's Cambridge Open
--Announcement August 11, 2006
--My blog comments
--Early warning of CUP's intentions from May 2006
--Cambridge University Press (no web site yet for Cambridge Open)

The American Physical Society's Free To Read
--Announcement August 16, 2006
--My blog comments
--American Physical Society (no web site yet on Free To Read)

By a "hybrid journal" I mean one that publishes some free-access research articles and some toll-access research articles, when the decision between the two kinds of access is the author's rather than the editor's.  Authors who choose the free option must usually pay a fee (or find a sponsor to pay a fee) to cover the journal's expenses.  In return the publisher provides immediate free online access to the article at its own web site.  Authors who don't choose the free option don't pay a processing fee, although they might still pay page and color charges.  Nor do they get immediate free online access, although they might get delayed free online access if the journal provides free access to its sufficiently old back issues.

(I've made this definition a little thicker than necessary in order to avoid the term "open access".  Some publishers carefully and properly avoid the term "open access".  But now that I've been precise, I will sometimes, for convenience, refer to these as "hybrid OA journals" and to the new option as an "OA option".)

The momentum for hybrid journals is understandable.  The option is nearly risk-free for publishers.  If the uptake is low, they still have subscription revenue to pay the bills.  If the uptake is high and subscribers start to cancel, they have fee revenue to pay the bills.  If they promise to reduce their subscription price in proportion to author uptake (and some do), then fee revenue should pay the difference.  If they don't promise to reduce subscription prices (and some don't), then they have what a friend calls a "double charge" business model.  Hence, in one form or another, the model should spread fast and far. 

How good would that be for OA?  Before answering, consider:

* Nine key questions to ask about any hybrid journal program

(1) Does the journal let participating authors retain copyright? 

If not, then authors (or their sponsors) are only paying to remove price barriers, leaving permission barriers in place.  The journal is forcing users to put up with the delay and expense of seeking permission whenever they want to exceed fair use, for example, to quote long excerpts, to print full-text copies, to email copies to students or colleagues, or put copies on CDs for bandwidth-poor parts of the world, to migrate copies to new formats or media to keep the text readable, to archive copies for preservation, to deposit a copy in an OA repository independent of the publisher (more on this in Question 3 below), to include the work in a database or mashup, to copy the text for indexing, text-mining, or other kinds of processing, to make an audio recording of the text, or to translate it into another language.

None of the August Four lets authors retain copyright.  The same is true of most of the other publishers with hybrid programs.  The stand-out hybrid publisher is Springer, which originally (July 2004) asked authors to transfer copyright, but after Jan Velterop arrived as its Open Access Director (August 2005) changed its mind (October 2005) and let authors retain copyright.

(2) Does the journal use an OA-friendly license, like those from Creative Commons?  Does it let authors do so? 

If the journal removes important permission barriers or lets authors retain key rights, but doesn't formalize this permission in a human- and machine-readable license, then in effect it's hiding information about which uses are permitted and which are not, forcing users to choose between the delay of seeking permission and the risk of proceeding without it.  In this situation, conscientious users will either seek permission or err on the side of non-use --two kinds of harm that OA was designed to prevent.  When the publisher has already given permission but hasn't made the permission easy to discover, then the harm is caused by poor communication.

Again, none of the August Four uses an OA-friendly license and Springer is the stand-out from previously announced hybrid programs.  At the same time that Springer decided to let authors retain copyright, it adopted an equivalent of the Creative Commons Attribution-NoCommercial license.

(3) Does the journal automatically deposit participating articles in an OA repository independent of the publisher?  Does it allow the author to do so?

If not, then authors and readers have no guarantee that the article will remain available, and remain OA, in case the journal folds up, is bought out, or simply changes its access policy.  PLoS and BMC, for example, automatically deposit all their OA articles in PubMed Central.

There's another issue here beyond insurance against policy-change at the publisher.  The Wellcome Trust requires that articles resulting from Wellcome-funded research be OA through PubMed Central or UK PubMed Central.  OA through from the publisher's site or even an institutional repository is not good enough.  Unless hybrid publishers allow deposit in PMC or UKPMC, they are essentially excluding Wellcome-funded authors.

BMJ is the only one of the August Four that routinely deposits all participating articles in an independent OA repository --in this case, PubMed Central.  It does so immediately upon publication.  Wiley will deposit participating articles in a funder's repository when the funder requires it, but not otherwise.  Authors may not apparently deposit in other repositories even if they pay Wiley's fee.  APS lets authors post participating articles to a personal web site or deposit them in an institutional repository; but authors need ASP permission to deposit them anywhere else.  Cambridge is silent on the subject.

(4) Does the journal waive fees in cases of economic hardship? 

If not, the journal's OA option may lie beyond the reach of most authors --those without the means to pay on their own and those without a funder or employer to pay on their behalf.  This is not itself a barrier to publication, since hybrid journals will still publish in the conventional way for authors who don't choose the OA option.  But if it's not a barrier to publication, it's a barrier to the extra benefits of OA publication, at least as provided by that journal.  Moreover, more non-OA journals than OA journals charge author-side fees in the form of page and color charges (more under Question 8, below).  So even the conventional or non-OA publishing route at a given hybrid journal may erect barriers to indigent authors.

Fee waivers are very common at full OA journals and very rare at hybrid journals.  None of the August Four offers fee waivers and I don't know of any other hybrid program to do so either. 

(5) Does the journal promise to reduce the subscription price in proportion to author uptake? 

If not, then it's simply introducing a way to be paid twice for the same articles.  Neither authors nor subscribers should tolerate this; at least one of those parties is entitled to some relief.

Cambridge is the only one of the August Four to promise to reduce its subscription prices in proportion to author uptake.  Wiley and BMJ are silent on the question, which means they are not making the promise.  The APS position is more complicated.  APS will use fees to "augment [its] current subscription income" (the double-charge model), at least "at first".  If uptake is high and libraries cancel subscriptions, then it will use fees to "offset such losses".  If the fees generate revenue beyond the amount needed for such offsets, then APS will lower subscription prices but only for selected institutions. 

(6) If authors have a prior obligation to their funding agency to provide OA to their peer-reviewed manuscript, does the journal let them comply without choosing the new OA option and paying the associated fee?

If not, the journal is trying to interfere with a funder-grantee contract to which it is not a party.  Authors shouldn't have to pay their publisher in order to live up to a contract with their funder.  Publishers shouldn't ask them to do so; and if they do, neither authors nor funders should tolerate it.

APS, BMJ, and Cambridge are silent on this subject.  Wiley requires authors to pay if they want to comply with an OA mandate from their funder.  To twist the knife, Wiley says that it developed its hybrid program in order to "support" authors with obligations to funders.

There may be a loophole.  The Wiley policy seems to apply only to authors who want to deposit the published edition of their article.  But most funder policies only apply to the final version of the author's peer-reviewed manuscript, not to the published edition. Wiley doesn't say whether it would charge fees for authors who want to comply with funder mandates in that form.

(7) If the journal previously allowed author self-archiving without an embargo, does it still allow it for authors who do not choose the new OA option? 

If not, then the hybrid program constitutes a retreat on the OA archiving front even if it's an advance on the OA journal front.  Authors who would have chosen self-archiving must now choose between accepting an embargo and paying a fee for what used to be free.  If they want immediate OA, then the archiving option is closed and only the fee-based journal option remains.

When a green publisher introduces a hybrid journal program, it creates new pressures on itself to retreat from green by putting an embargo on self-archiving.  But authors should exert a countervailing pressure to prevent journals from retreating on green in order to advance toward gold.  Authors should be allowed to self-archive their peer-reviewed postprints without an embargo or fee, regardless of their choice on an optional new journal program.  Publishers with policies to the contrary are asserting control over an edition that has not undergone copy editing, final manuscript preparation or mark-up, and that is usually not subject to the copyright transfer agreement.

APS and Cambridge are the only two of the August Four to allow non-participating authors to self-archive their peer-reviewed postprints without an embargo or fee.  (Cambridge also allows self-archiving the published PDF but only after a 12 month embargo.)  BMJ lets non-participating authors deposit their articles anywhere they like, but only after a six-month embargo; this is a retreat from its previous green policy.

Wiley says nothing about how its hybrid program, which tightly restricts where OA copies can end up, affects its self-archiving policy.  It was green before it launched its hybrid program and we should assume it still is.

Also see Bill Hubbard's summary of the self-archiving policies of the major hybrid journal publishers.

(8) For participating authors, do the OA publication fees cover page and color charges or are the latter laid on top of the former?

If authors (or their sponsors) must pay both kinds of fee, this needn't be a reason to look elsewhere.  It's just a reason to keep their eyes open and understand the full price.

From one point of view, it's perfectly fair for a hybrid journal to charge authors both kinds of fee.  The journal is providing more than one service and there's nothing wrong with charging separate fees for separate services.  But from another point of view, it's a sleight of hand that could easily mislead authors.  The only purpose for OA publication fees is to cover the journal's costs of publication.  Journals that charge author-side processing fees and then add page and color fees on top are either charging twice for the same service or keeping their processing fees deceptively low.  

(This objection doesn't apply to journals that can keep their fees low because they have other sources of revenue, such as advertising or subsidies.  The reason is simply that they never charge the author more than the one low fee.)

BMJ, Cambridge, and Wiley are silent on this subject.  APS levies page and color charges on top of the OA processing fee.  However, even after paying all these fees, APS authors don't get OA to the published edition, but only to a version stripped of links to citing and cited articles.

(9) Is the fee high or low? 

There's no right answer to this question, but there are at least two criteria.  For publishers, the test is whether the fee is high enough to cover its costs.  For authors, the test is whether they can afford it, after taking into account any money they can raise for this purpose from their funder or employer.  Of course, a given fee may pass the first test and fail the second.

When publishers justify high fees by saying that they reflect their actual costs, we may believe them.  But that doesn't change the fact that other publishers seem to have lower costs and that the fees may still be too high for most authors to afford without a subsidy from a funder or employer.

That's just one reason for a note of caution:  we cannot conclude that a low level of author uptake indicates a low level of author interest in OA.

At Cambridge, the fee is a flat £1500/$2700.  The Wiley fee is a flat $3,000.  APS has a two-tier fee, $975 for articles in Physical Review A-E and $1300 for Letters in Physical Review Letters.  BMJ also has a two-tier fee for different BMJ journals, though the two fees are higher, £1,200/$2,220/€1,775 and £1,700/$3,145/€2,515.

Buyer beware:  if the fee is too high for you or your sponsor, you don't have to pay it.  You can submit to an OA or hybrid journal with a lower fee or you can submit to a conventional non-OA journal (one of the 70% that already consent to postprint archiving) and self-archive.  Most hybrid journals make it hard to elect a third option that might otherwise be attractive:  choose the non-OA path at the hybrid journal and self-archive.

* A few other issues

Those are the nine major questions.   But here's a minor tenth:

Did the publisher previously criticize the very idea of charging author-side fees for OA dissemination, arguing that it corrupted peer review?  (Elsevier and the Royal Society did.)  If so, how does the publisher escape its own criticism?  Has it issued a retraction?

It's one thing for a publisher new to this model to institute a good editorial firewall to prevent its editors from thinking about fee revenue when evaluating papers.  But it's another to stand by false and harmful criticism of other journals that had good firewalls all along. 

On the one hand, I want publishers who formerly opposed OA journals to change their minds and support them.  I want to praise that as progress, not criticize it as inconsistency.  But on the other, when a publisher tries to gain by condemning a good practice it has since adopted itself, then I want to point out the double standard.

Hybrid journals raise a host of other issues not covered by the questions above.  For example, APS applies its program retroactively, and will make any of its previous articles OA if someone, anyone, pays to ransom it.  Cambridge includes participating OA articles in the print editions of its journals.  APS is explicit that its hybrid program "represents a path by which APS could gradually transition to full Open Access."

* Is anyone buying?

Of all the hybrid publishers, Oxford has done the most to share data about author uptake.

Oxford's report after the first quarter of operation of Oxford Open, November 3, 2005
Oxford's June 2006 workshop on its data and the workshop report
Oxford's report after the first year of operation, August 30, 2006

Here's a key section from its report last week on one year of operation:

In the first year of launch, almost 400 papers have been published under the optional open access model across 36 of the 49 participating titles.  The majority of uptake of optional open access has, as predicted, been in the life sciences, with approximately 10% of authors selecting the open access option across 16 participating journals in this area, compared with approximately 5% in medicine and public health, and 3% in the humanities and social sciences. Three life sciences titles in the areas of molecular and computational biology have seen over 20% uptake. The highest of these was for Bioinformatics, which has published over 50 open access papers in 2006. 2007 online subscription prices have been adjusted for these journals to reflect this uptake.

Oxford had a better experience with Nucleic Acids Research, which converted to a hybrid journal in January 2004 after 32 years as a conventional subscription journal.  The revenue and author uptake were good enough to persuade Oxford to convert it to a full OA journal in January 2005.

Nucleic Acids Research (NAR)
NAR's August 2003 announcement of its January 2004 conversion to a hybrid journal
NAR's June 2004 announcement of its January 2005 conversion to a full OA journal

During its first year as a full OA journal, NAR's increased its already impressive prestige and impact.  From an Oxford press release, March 23, 2006:  "With three articles in the top 40 [of Thomson Scientific’s recently published Top 40 "Red-Hot Research Papers" for 2005], Nucleic Acids Research, (NAR) was ranked as the "hottest" single-discipline journal in the world and the fifth "hottest" journal overall."

Until we see similar data from other hybrid publishers we won't know how much new OA literature they're producing. 

* Strengths and weaknesses of the hybrid model

Hybrid journals are good for OA roughly in proportion to author uptake.  To that extent they enlarge the body of OA literature.  But the overall balance of costs and benefits depends on how a given program answers the nine questions.  If the author uptake is low, if the self-archiving policy has been saddled with a new embargo, and if authors must start paying their publishers for the right to comply with their own prior funding contracts, then the balance could easily tilt the other way and a hybrid program could do more harm than good.

One strength of a hybrid program is that it helps the publisher learn the economics of OA publishing, or at least the kind supported by author-side publication fees.  Journals can experiment to set the fee high enough to pay the bills and low enough to encourage author uptake, and they can do this without a wholesale conversion to OA.  They can try different variations on the theme to discover which ones best attract authors. 

Unfortunately, hybrid journals are regrettably limited on the last point.  Because they can always fall back on subscriptions, they don't need to make the OA option work.  As laboratories for the economics of OA publishing, they omit the strongest incentives to make the offer appealing to authors.  That's one reason why we see so few hybrid journals, as opposed to full OA journals, let authors retain copyright, use OA-friendly licenses, deposit articles in independent OA repositories, offer fee waivers, cooperate (rather than meddle) with funding contracts, permit self-archiving without embargo or fee, dispense with page and color charges beyond the OA publication fee, or do all they can to hold their fees down.

In SOAN for June 2006, I argued that the chief strength and the chief weakness of hybrid OA journals were the same:  because only some authors in a given issue will select the OA option, libraries cannot justify cancelling their subscriptions.  This is a strength for publishers because it protects them from risk and encourages them to try the experiment.  It's a weakness for libraries and universities because it postpones the day when they will save money from OA journals.

All OA initiatives help researchers, but some do and some don't help libraries.  Hybrid journals are a perfect example of the last type.  We have to remember that this is deliberate.  If these programs helped libraries save money by cancelling subscriptions, then publishers wouldn't be rushing to experiment.  To the extent that hybrid journal programs help OA, we can celebrate.  But we should remember that researchers are only one of the groups with a stake in the progress of OA.

Ironically, hybrid OA journal programs could overcome most of their defects if they did more to help libraries.  The best long-term source of funding for OA journals is the money now spent on subscriptions.  The more money freed up by cancellations, the more readily and reliably we can pay for the OA alternative.  If this money were available today, then journals could be full OA instead of hybrid OA.  They would charge no subscriptions, helping libraries as well as researchers and mooting the question whether they would reduce prices in proportion to author uptake.  They would feel no pressure to retreat from a green self-archiving policy, since they would have no financial interest in enforcing embargoes.  They would let authors retain copyright (as full OA journals typically do), since they would no longer have an interest in limiting copying and redistribution.  They would let authors deposit in independent OA repositories, with some (like PLoS and BMC) even making these deposits on their own.  They would not charge authors for the right to live up to a prior funding contract, since full OA journals couldn't threaten to shunt authors to the journal's non-OA track.  Every university-employed author would have a sponsor, freeing authors from worry about high fees and freeing publishers from worry about uncertain revenues.  And finally, if most authors had sponsors, then fewer would need fee waivers, making it easier for all journals to offer them, eliminating the barrier to entry for those not already covered by funders or employers.  

My hope, therefore, is that publishers will use the current hybrid models only as a stepping stone to full OA journals, not as a destination.

* Postscript.  Here are the major hybrid programs announced before the August Four (chronological order by launch).  I'm sorry to have to omit individual journals, for some were important in the evolution of the hybrid model.

Springer's Open Choice (launched July 2004)
--My SOAN article about it

Blackwell's Online Open (launched February 24, 2005)
--My SOAN article about it

Oxford University Press' Oxford Open (launched July 1, 2005)
--My SOAN article about it

Elsevier's Sponsored Article journals (launched May 24, 2006)
--My SOAN article about it

The Royal Society's EXiS Open Choice (launched June 21, 2006)
--My SOAN article about it


Political fortunes

Two developments in electoral politics will affect OA in the United States. 

The less important one is that Bob Ney (R-OH) dropped out of his re-election race because of a federal corruption investigation into his dealings with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ney has been the chief obstacle in the House of Representatives to OA for the non-partisan, deeply-researched, widely-praised, taxpayer-funded reports from the Congressional Research Service (called CRS Reports).  Members of Congress can ask the CRS --a branch of the Library of Congress-- to prepare reports on any subject at all, such as vote fraud, carbon dioxide emissions, or avian flu vaccines.  But thanks to Ney, the reports are only made available to the requesting members, not to the public.  Members may decide to disclose the reports if they wish but they need not do so.  (Many are made public in this way but not nearly all.)  Bob Ney's idea was that members of Congress should be able to contemplate legislation on a certain topic, request publicly-funded research on it, and then bury the research if it doesn't support their pet theory of the problem or solution.  Good riddance to Bob Ney.

The major development is that Ned Lamont defeated Joe Lieberman (D-CT) in Connecticut's primary election for the US Senate.  Lieberman sponsored the CURES Act and co-sponsored FRPAA, the two strongest OA bills ever introduced in Congress.  Lieberman has also been a long-time champion of open government and freedom of information.  His defeat means that he won't be the Democratic Party's nominee in November.  But at the moment he plans to run as an independent.

I say "at the moment" because his plans may change.  By running as an independent, it's possible that he'll be re-elected to the Senate, but it's more likely that he'll split the Democratic vote and give the seat to a Republican.  For that reason he's under intense pressure from many Democrats to drop out of the race.  It's too early to say what he'll do, too early to say that he won't be in the Senate after November 2006, and too early to say what the consequences will be for CURES, FRPAA, and OA generally if he is not.

For readers outside the US, I should add that Lieberman lost this election because of his support for George Bush and the war in Iraq, not because of his views on OA, which are barely known to most Connecticut voters.


Top stories from August 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 August:

     * Three institutions adopt OA mandates.
     * More provosts support FRPAA and OA.
     * BMC launches OA Central and Chemistry Central.
     * CERN plans to convert particle physics journals to OA.
     * Avian flu data will be OA.
     * The Google Library project make progress on two fronts.

Three institutions adopt OA mandates.

It's astonishing that we now live in an era when new OA mandates are announced every month.  In August there were three.

The biggest is from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), making NERC the fourth of the eight Research Councils to require its grantees to deposit the results of their research in an OA repository.  Grantees who don't have an OA repository at their institution may deposit their work in a new repository to be launched by NERC.  The mandate takes effect on October 1.

Stockholm University adopted the policy that faculty shall ("as far as possible") deposit copies of their peer-reviewed articles in the institution's OA repository.  It will also sign the Berlin Declaration. 

The University of Tasmania School of Computing adopted a policy mandating "that all refereed publications in conferences, journals and books, be deposited in the School/University repository."  The policy applies "without exception" to all faculty and students.

Stockholm and Tasmania are the seventh and eighth universities (or university departments) that mandate OA to their research output.  For the others, see ROARMAP.


More provosts support FRPAA and OA.

Last month I wrote about the open letter endorsing FRPAA signed by 25 university provosts.  This month the Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) organized a second letter for provosts of GWLA institutions, garnering 22 signatures.  SPARC has created a web site to collect all the provosts from both letters and any new ones willing to go public with their endorsement of FRPAA and OA.  Since the site went live, the SPARC list has elicited 13 new signatures, for a total of 60 --and counting.  If your president or provost hasn't signed one of the public letters supporting FRPAA, start a local campaign.

As I wrote last month, provost support for OA should lead to strong OA policies at many more universities. It should exert pressure on the Association of American Universities (AAU) to endorse OA or be left behind by its own members. (The AAU is a major voice in Washington on policies affecting research and education.) And of course it's decisive new support for FRPAA that is bound to be persuasive to members of Congress representing districts where these universities are located.

T. Scott Plutchak, Debating FRPAA, T. Scott, August 31, 2006.  The first public mention of the *anti-FRPAA* letter circulating for provost signatures.

On August 29, another provost signed; on August 30, three more signed; and on August 31, two more signed.

Less than a week after SPARC posted its list of provosts who had signed the first two letters, six more provosts publicly endorsed FRPAA and OA.

On August 22, SPARC issued a call to action for university presidents and provosts to endorse FRPAA by adding their names to a public statement.  At the same time, it created a web page listing presidents and provosts who have already endorsed FRPAA and plans to add to the list as more signatures come in.

Anon., Public Access Bill Gains Support of 48 Universities, Library Journal, August 14, 2006.

Susan R. Morrissey, Public-Access Support Grows, Chemical & Engineering News, August 8, 2006.

25 University Provosts support Senate bill on Open Access, BMC Update, August 8, 2006.

Stevan Harnad, Putting Provost Principles into Practice: II, Open Access Archivangelism, August 3, 2006.

Anon., More Universities Push for Passage of Open-Access Legislation in Senate, Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, August 3, 2006.

Nine major library associations issued a press release on August 3 commending the provosts who have supported FRPAA.  The press release is signed by the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), American Library Association (ALA), Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL), Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL), Association of Research Libraries (ARL), Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA), Medical Library Association (MLA), the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and the Special Libraries Association (SLA).

On August 3, he Greater Western Library Alliance (GWLA) publicly released its July 31 letter to Sen. John Cornyn in support of FRPAA. The letter is signed by 22 university provosts --above and beyond the 25 who signed the July 28 letter organized by the ATA.

Steve Hitchcock, Provosts and consumers support FRPAA, Eprints Insiders, August 2, 2006.


BMC launches OA Central and Chemistry Central

On August 4, BioMed Central's parent company, the Science Navigation Group, launched Chemistry Central, its first project beyond biomedicine.  At the same time it announced plans for PhysMath Central.  A new umbrella organization, Open Access Central, will coordinate the growing family of disciplinary projects. 

Open Access Central
--Announcement of its launch

Chemistry Central
--Announcement of its launch

This is a significant development. BMC is the world's largest OA publisher.  Open Access Central is generalizing the BMC concept and taking its experience to chemistry, physics, and mathematics, and perhaps more fields down the road. These three fields will benefit by having BMC siblings publishing in their midst, and Open Access Central will benefit from greater economies of scale, making its business more robust.

Note that PLoS has also moved beyond biomedicine with PLoS ONE (whose launch became official in August), a different way to generalize its experience. In both cases, researchers everywhere will benefit from the growing body of OA literature, the spread of experienced OA publishing to new fields, and the growing momentum for OA itself.

KnowledgeSpeak interviewed Matthew Cockerill, publisher of BioMed Central, August 23, 2006.

Claude Bradley, Chemistry Central and Fully Open Access, Drexel CoAS E-Learning, August 22, 2006.

Katharine Sanderson, Open access for chemistry, Chemistry World, August 22, 2006.  (My blog comments correct several misconceptions by the Director of Publishing at the Royal Society of Chemistry.)

Kim Thomas, BioMed Central opens access to Chemistry articles, Information World Review, August 22, 2006.

On a related note, Springer has announced that it will publish three chemistry journals of the American Oil Chemists' Society.  All three will take part in the Springer Open Choice program.


CERN plans to convert particle physics journals to OA.

CERN is putting together a coalition of funding agencies, laboratories, libraries, and scientists to convert willing journals in the field of particle physics to OA.  The plan is to raise the money to pay reasonable processing fees for every article in participating journals.  The journals could drop subscriptions, go full OA, and charge neither readers nor authors.  This is the first time that any organization has tried to convert all the TA journals in a field to OA. 

All or most of these articles would already be OA through arXiv.  CERN doesn't say why that isn't good enough, but I suspect there are three reasons:  (1) arXiv deals more with unrefereed preprints than with refereed postprints. For many researchers (like Grigory Perelman) that's enough. But most researchers acknowledge that access to the published edition, if it can be arranged, is even better. (2) Converting the journals to OA will bring much-needed budget relief to lab and university libraries, which will be part of the consortium CERN is putting together. (3) While physics journals have coexisted with arXiv for 15 years, freely admit that they haven't lost subscriptions to it, and even host mirrors of it, they may worry that it's only a matter of time before arXiv and OA archiving will eat into their subscriptions.

CERN puts its finger on the economic reality that makes the plan feasible: "[S]ponsoring all journals ready for OA at the time of the enquiry would require an annual budget of 5–6 Million €, significantly less than the present global expenditure for particle physics journal subscriptions." This is the primary reason to believe that the long-term sustainability of OA journals is not in doubt (even if the transition is bumpy): the actual costs of peer review and publication are lower than the prices we currently pay for access through subscriptions.

Journals understand this very well.  If they convert to OA under this plan, then for most of them revenue will drop even if the revenue that remains can still pay the bills. Why would they agree?  My guess:  they recognize that subscriptions are not sustainable in a world in which high-volume OA archiving is a fact of life and library budgets grow more slowly than published literature. The CERN plan offers survival and protection, which offset the greater revenue and greater risks of continuing as a subscription journal.

If CERN pulls this off, could the plan be duplicated in any other field? It may appear unlikely: CERN dominates particle physics in a way that no other institution dominates any field. Moreover, physicists and physics journals are unusually accustomed to OA through archiving. But remember that CERN plans to build a consortium of funding institutions, not to do it alone. And the rates of OA archiving are growing in other fields, especially as funders start to mandate it for the research they fund. It may work in particle physics and it may transfer to other fields.

This is June news, but I didn't catch it until August and it seems that nobody else did either.  It wasn't reported in the press until Jocelyn Kaiser wrote about it in Science yesterday, September 1.

Rüdiger Voss (ed.), Report of the Task Force on Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics, CERN, June 22, 2006.

Jocelyn Kaiser, Particle Physicists Want to Expand Open Access, Science Magazine, September 1, 2006.


Avian flu data will be OA.

Until August, things didn't look good for using OA to accelerate avian flu research.  Most national labs conducting avian flu research deposited their data in limited-access databases, deliberately erecting access barriers in order to prevent agricultural boycotts and help their researchers scoop researchers elsewhere.  There were scattered individual scientists depositing their data in OA repositories and scattered calls for other scientists to join them.  Serious change began in August.  First Indonesia announced that it would stop hoarding and start sharing its avian flu data with scientists worldwide.  Then Peter Bogner, Ilaria Capua, Nancy Cox, and David Lipman launched the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), a project to provide OA to avian flu data, and published an open letter in Nature calling on all flu scientists to participate in it.  GISAID is getting good press and seems to be making progress.  The latest development is a counter-intuitive but promising plan for developing countries to patent local flu strains, provide OA to their flu data without limit or favoritism, and use their patents to negotiate royalties or discounts on any medicines developed from them.

Anon., Avian Flu Early Detection System Creates Public View, NBII Access News, Summer 2006.

Helen Pearson, Plan to pool bird-flu data takes off, Nature, August 31, 2006.

Boosting access to disease data, Nature, August 31, 2006.  An unsigned editorial.

Declan Butler, More on flu data access scheme, Declan Butler's blog, August 30, 2006.

Anon., Agreement on Sharing Bird Flu Data, Iran Daily, August 28, 2006.

John Lauerman, Poor countries may patent bird virus strains, Deseret News, August 25, 2006.

Helen Pearson, Bird flu data liberated, Nature, August 24, 2006.

Stephanie Nebehay, Scientists propose sharing genetic data on bird flu, Scientific American, August 24, 2006.

Peter Bogner, Ilaria Capua, Nancy J. Cox, David J. Lipman and others, A global initiative on sharing avian flu data,  August 24, 2006.  A public letter calling on scientists worldwide to share avian flu data and participate in the GISAID initiative.
Also see the full list of signatories
and the press release accompanying the letter

On August 24 an international group of scientists launched the Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data (GISAID), a consortium to coordinate efforts to secure OA for avian flu data.

Helen Branswell, Release of Indonesian avian, human H5N1 viruses may offer insights on spread, CBC News, August 10, 2006.

Helen Branswell, With Indonesia's say so, WHO to share bird flu data with scientific community, CBC News, August 4, 2006.

MEDEX Assistance Corporation launched an OA database of avian flu data and information, August 4, 2006.

James Simpson, Indonesia opens access to bird flu data, Earth Times, August 4, 2006.

For background, see my short article in SOAN for April 2, 2006:  Scientists call for OA to avian flu data.


The Google Library project makes progress on two fronts.

There were two big stories for the Google Library project in August.  The first was that the University of California joined the program, letting Google scan books from its 100 libraries.  We don't know how many UC books Google might scan, but at 34 million volumes the UC collection is the largest academic library system in the world.  UC is the first Google partner to join the program since some publishers and author sued to stop it (UC says the program is lawful), the first partner that is already working with the Open Content Alliance (UC will continue to work with both), and the first to say that it may negotiate for a cut of Google's revenue.  The UC deal was criticized by some friends of OA, including Brewster Kahle at the OCA, who said, "Having a public institution decide to go with Google’s restrictions doesn't help the idea of libraries being open in the future."

Which leads to the second development:  Google has lifted the two most onerous restrictions on the public-domain books it has scanned. 
Users may now print and download them.  Google's Library project has lagged significantly behind the Open Content Alliance in barrier-free access to the resulting texts, but is now catching up.  Note that we're not only seeing competition to scan more books, but competition to remove access barriers to them.

What barriers remain?  Both OCA and Google restrict downloads to image files, even though they have digital text behind the scenes for searching.  (Project Gutenberg is still the best source for digitized public-domain books if you want the text in searchable, cut/pasteable form.)  Google asks that its copies be used for non-commercial purposes only.  And last I heard, Google is still blocking access, without pattern or explanation, to users in certain countries. 

For Google, a "full view" book is one whose full text is available for online reading.  Some of its "full view" books are not eligible for downloading (not clear why) and some eligible books don't yet have download links --but they should be coming.  You can limit searches to "full view" books but you can't yet limit searches to downloadable books.

John S. Wilkins, Google books - a boon to the historian of science, Evolving Thoughts, August 31, 2006.

Jeffrey Young, U. of Michigan Adds Books Digitized by Google to Online Catalog, but Limits Use of Some, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 31, 2006.

Anon., U. Michigan Library Adds Books Scanned by Google to Online Catalog, Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, August 31, 2006.

Anon., Release of Google Contract with UC Sparks Criticism, Library Journal, August 31, 2006.

Richard Crocker, What Does Google Want Us to Do With All These Free PDF eBooks? Planet PDF, August 31, 2006.  Good summary of the weaknesses in the Google editions of these books.

Scott Carlson, Failure to Launch For Google's Book-Scanning Service, Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, August 30, 2006.

Ben Vershbow, Google offers public domain downloads, if:book, August 30, 2006.

Google Book Search Offers Free Downloads of Public Domain Books.  Google's press release, August 30, 2006.
--Also see the post on the Google Book Search blog, August 30, 2006.

Danny Sullivan, Download Books For Free From Google Book Search, Search Engine Watch, August 30, 2006.

Karen Coyle, The Dotted Line, Coyle's InFormation, August 29, 2006.  A detailed analysis of the differences between Google's Michigan and California contracts.

Juan Carlos Perez, Google, UC disclose book-scan terms, ComputerWorld, August 29, 2006.

Anon., Google to allow free downloads of books, Associated Press, August 29, 2006.

Jeff Ubois, In Perpetuity: UC’s Agreement with Google, Television Archiving, August 25, 2006.

Scott Carlson, U. of California Will Provide Up to 3,000 Books a Day to Google for Scanning, Contract States, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 25, 2006.

Donna Bogatin, 'Google Library' to world: give us 'all books in all languages,' free of charge, Digital Micro-Markets, August 25, 2006.

Ben Vershbow, Showtiming our libraries, if:book, August 25, 2006.

Jeff Ubois, In Perpetuity: UC’s Agreement with Google, Television Archiving, August 25, 2006.

Steven Bell, Did you say 3,000 a day!  ACRLog, August 25, 2006. 

Deborah Kaplan, I should make a new user icon that says "Brewster Kahle is my hero", GnomicUtterance, August 25, 2006.

Ben Versbow, Librarians, hold Google accountable, if:book, August 24, 2006.

Richard Ekman, The Books Google Could Open, Washington Post, August 22, 2006.

Steve Bryant, Publishers Fight Back Against Google with New Book Search Service, eWeek, August 22, 2006.  On the launch of LibreDigital Warehouse.

Danny Valentine, UI Libraries working on digitizing, Daily Iowan, August 18, 2006.

Kevin J. Delaney, Google Sees Content Deals As Key to Long-Term Growth, Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2006.

Barbara Quint, Google Book Search Adds Big, Brave Partner: The University of California, Information Today Newsbreaks, August 14, 2006.

Jeff Ubois, Google “Showtimes” the UC Library System, Television Archiving, August 13, 2006.

Bob Thompson, Search Me? Washington Post, August 13, 2006.

Ben Vershbow, u.c. offers up stacks to google, if:book, August 10, 2006.

University of California Joins Google Books Library Project, American Library Association, August 10, 2006.

Barbara Fister, U of California Joins Google Library Project, ARCLog, August 9th, 2006.

Tom Peters, UC Libraries Join the Google Books Library Project, ALA Tech Source, August 9, 2006.

The Google press release on the partnership, August 9, 2006.

The University of California press release on the partnership, August 9, 2006.
Also see the UC's new web page on the project.

Anon., Google to scan millions of Cal books, Reuters, August 9, 2006.

Jeffrey Young, U. of California System's 100 Libraries Join Google's Controversial Book-Scanning Project, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 9, 2006.

Gary Price, Books from University of California Libraries Will Now Be Scanned by Google and Microsoft, ResourceShelf, August 9, 2006.

UC Libraries Join Google’s Book-Scanning Project, Associated Press, August 8, 2006.

Elinor Mills, Google and U.C. sign contract to digitize books, ZDNet, August 8, 2006.

Scott Carlson, U. of California Is in Talks to Join Google's Library-Scanning Project, Chronicle of Higher Education, August 3, 2006.

Larry Gordon, UC May Join Google's Library Project, Los Angeles Times, August 2, 2006.


Coming up later this month

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

* September 22, 2006.  One Web Day --the day that its planners hope will be for the web what Earth Day is for the Earth. 

* September 29, 2006.  Deadline for comments to JISC on Thomson Scientific's Web Citation Index.

* Some time in September, AGORA will launch Phase 2:  free online access for countries with a GNP between $1001 and $3000.

* Some time in the third trimester of 2006 (which started on September 1): the Journal of Nonlinear Mathematical Physics will move to Atlantis Press, a new OA publisher.  Currently it's published by Norbert Euler at the Department of Mathematics, Luleå University of Technology in Sweden.  The journal is OA now and will remain OA after the transition.

* Notable conferences this month

International Workshop on Semantic e-Science
Beijing, September 3, 2006

Bridging the North-South Divide in Scholarly Communication on Africa. Threats and Opportunities in the Digital era (OA is among the topics)
Leiden, September 6-8, 2006

The EThOS Project Seminar: The Creation of a Prototype, UK, eTheses, Online Service
London, September 11, 2006

Europe as an Open Book (10th European Conference of Medical and Health Libraries) (OA is among the topics)
Cluj, Romania, September 11-16, 2006

JSTOR and the Future of Online Information
London, September 12, 2006

Bringing Text Alive: The Future of Scholarship, Pedagogy, and Electronic Publication
Ann Arbor, September 14-17, 2006

Open Access: Making Scholarly Information Truly Free (a public lecture by Marsha Schnirring)
Los Angeles, September 16, 2006

UK E-Science All-Hands Meeting 2006
Nottingham, September 18-21, 2006

Towards the European Digital Library (10th European Conference on Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries)
Alicante, Spain, September 17-22, 2006
--1st European Workshop on the use of Digital Object Repository Systems in Digital Libraries (DORSDL) (in conjunction with the 10th ECRATDL)
--Creating a more full-featured institutional repository: Combining DSpace ETD-db, and DigiTool, a tutorial by Eric Lease Morgan; September 17, afternoon
--Digital Library Goes e-Science (DLSci06), a session on September 21

Wa(h)re Information (OA is among the topics)
Bregenz, September 19-23, 2006

A Standard XML Document Format: The case for the adoption of NLM DTD (sponsored by the ALPSP)
London, September 21, 2006

International Seminar on Open Access for Developing Countries
[Looking for a better URL]
Salvador, Bahia, Brazil, September 21-22, 2006

Workshop on Open Access
[looking for a better URL]
Poznan, September 21-22, 2006

Moving towards open access: A JISC conference for research funders, authors, publishers and librarians
Oxford, September 27-28, 2006

Open Education 2006: Community, Culture, and Content
Logan, Utah, September 27-29, 2006

Lokal - Global: Vernetzung wissenschaftlicher Infrastrukturen (sponsored by IuK)
Göttingen, September 28, 2006

* Other OA-related conferences



* I've added 14 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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