Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #137
September 2, 2009
by Peter Suber
Read this issue online
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Abridgment as added value
Imagine that an open access (OA) journal could generate revenue by selling abridgments of its full-text OA articles. Imagine that the revenue even made it unnecessary to charge author-side publication fees. That would be a supremely elegant business model, if only it could be made to work.
BMJ has made it work for more than 10 years, and next year will take the idea even further.
All BMJ research articles are full-text OA in the digital edition of the journal. The print edition, which is toll access (TA), contains 3-5 page abridgments of each research article. BMJ calls this system ELPS (for "electronic long, paper short"). The OA edition of the journal charges no publication fees, and the full-text research articles have no word limit.
Nine months ago, BMJ introduced even shorter, one-page abridgments called picos, and published selected articles in the pico format rather than the longer 3-5 page format. The experiment has been so successful that BMJ announced last month that it will phase out ELPS and go all-pico. Starting in January 2010, all BMJ research articles will have pico abridgments in the TA print edition, and the full texts will still be no-fee OA in the digital edition.
When BMJ announced its new pico policy, it also released the results of its survey of BMJ authors. (All the surveyed authors were also BMJ and pico readers; 67.6% were frequent or very frequent readers.) It turns out that the 3-5 page ELPS abridgments were "the least read content" of the print edition of the journal. But 71.1% of the survey respondents said that pico summaries will be read more often than ELPS summaries. About two-thirds (65.9%) said that readers of pico summaries will want to read the full-text editions: 43.9% because picos whet their appetite for more and 17.3% because picos omit important information. Perhaps because picos are more inviting to readers, the surveyed authors found them more inviting to authors. 39.3% said that picos were better for authors than ELPS summaries, and only 13.3% said they were worse. 11.6% predicted that the shift from ELPS summaries to pico summaries would increase submissions, and only 7.5% predicted it would decrease them.
The survey gives BMJ good evidence that the shift will appeal to both authors and readers, which has to be good for the bottom line. But there's another economic benefit. The ELPS summaries were prepared by BMJ editors, at BMJ expense, and approved by authors. Pico summaries are written by authors using BMJ templates. Dr. Trish Groves, the Deputy Editor of BMJ who will run the pico program, told me that the transition should save the journal £50-100,000/year (about $82-164,000/year).
If readers really do prefer picos to ELPS summaries, that preference may show up in increased subscriptions and revenue, just as the author preference for picos may show up in increased submissions and selectivity. However, BMJ is careful not to predict a revenue bump, not to estimate one, and not to bank on one. But when I look at the survey data, I see the distinct possibility and I'd be surprised if BMJ didn't see it as well.
Groves told me that the primary goals of the pico program are "(1) to encourage print readers (mostly 'ordinary' UK practising doctors) to actually read, understand, and even use some BMJ research..., (2) to innovate: we wanted to develop summaries/abstracts that were more evidence based, more transparent (incl funding and competing interests) and more readable than standard structured abstracts, (3) to reduce delays between online and print publication of research (now that we're getting and accepting more high quality papers) by fitting more studies into each print issue (6 or 7 a wk instead of 3-5), (4) to cut some costs: the abridging for ELPS was done by the BMJ at our expense..., and (5) to give authors control over the abridging and save them from having to approve two long proofs (with ELPS even the abridged one is quite long)."
Picos will occupy about 8 of the 60 pages, or 13%, of each print issue of BMJ. The rest will be devoted --in Groves' words-- to "education, clinical reviews, analysis, news, other medical journalism, letters, and views and reviews."
That's the model. Here are a few thoughts.
* The BMJ survey results don't surprise me at all. I'd love to see structured one-page summaries of new articles in my field. I know I'd prefer one-page summaries to 3-5 page summaries. They'd better serve my need for a rapid overview of large swaths of literature. Whenever I wanted more than one page's worth, I could go to the OA full text.
* This model works better for some kinds of summaries than others. As BMJ found, pico-length summaries have more marketing power than shorter abstracts and longer ELPS summaries. The sweet spot will probably differ from field to field.
Moreover, if abridgments are done badly, they'll provide no added value at all, or the subtracted value will exceed the added value. BMJ has refined its pico template over the past nine months in order to keep quality high and editorial oversight low. But the optimal template or recipe will also probably differ from field to field.
* If a journal's summaries hit my sweet spot for length and quality, would I be willing to pay a reasonable price for them? Absolutely. In my own case, I can truthfully say that I've been looking for a good source of article summaries since I started grad school 34 years ago.
I'd find it even easier to pay for TA summaries if the full texts were OA. There are two reasons. First, I could move costlessly to the full text whenever a summary piqued my curiosity. I'd still want to read summaries when the full texts were unavailable to me, but I'd find it much harder to justify paying for them. Second, I'd know that my money was supporting OA. Other things being equal, I'd rather spend money in support of OA than, say, shareholder dividends, and I'd rather help a good cause and get something like picos for my money than just help a good cause.
* The term "added value" is often used in two ways: value above and beyond what we started with, and value worth paying for. We've all seen examples of the former that fall short of the latter (weak articles slightly improved by peer review), and examples of the latter that fall short of the former (strong articles not improved by peer review). Intelligent summaries or abridgments could be added value in both senses.
Boiling down a long article to a one-page summary could give us value we didn't have in the original. Authors know this if they've ever written an abstract and found that the exercise gave them new clarity about what they were saying. Intelligent abridgment could also give us value worth paying for. Readers know this if they've ever consulted an encyclopedia when they already had easy access to primary sources.
* I love the idea of selling access to abridgments or summaries in order support full-text OA, especially no-fee OA. I'd love to see the idea spread. But there are reasons why it may not spread very far very fast. At least two aspects of BMJ's situation, which boost its benefits from the model, are seldom found in other OA journals.
First, BMJ already has a print or TA edition and uses the revenue to support the OA edition. It only has to tweak the TA edition, not launch it from scratch.
Most OA journals don't have print or TA editions, and most that have tried both have not been able to sustain both. On the other side, however, the exceptions like BMJ are a fascinating and instructive bunch. One of the major exceptions is Medknow, the first for-profit OA publisher to show actual profits.
Second, BMJ already publishes summaries of its research articles and prepares them at its own expense. Even if picos won't increase circulation of the print edition at all, dropping ELPS summaries will save BMJ £50-100,000/year. By contrast, picos at most other OA journals would be a labor addition, not a labor subtraction. That doesn't foreclose the possibility that they could trigger a net financial gain, but it does reduce the odds.
* While few OA journals have TA editions, many TA journals have partial OA editions. Those TA journals might consider picos as part of a larger business model allowing them to provide OA to their full-text research articles. If a TA journal already carries a significant amount of content other than research articles (to quote Jones again, "education, clinical reviews, analysis, news, other...journalism, letters, and views and reviews"), then it might be able to justify a partial OA edition consisting of just its full-text research articles. This is even more likely if its own polling showed, like BMJ's, that the pico-fortified TA edition would be more appealing to readers and authors than the standard TA edition.
* OA journals without TA editions could consider partial TA editions. This wouldn't detract from OA if all their research articles were still full-text OA. These OA journals could launch small TA editions limited to picos, or larger TA editions of picos+ (e.g. picos plus "education, clinical reviews, analysis, news, other...journalism, letters, and views and reviews"). These TA editions would be less expensive, hence more viable, if they were digital TA rather than print TA.
TA picos don't have to generate much revenue or much additional revenue. They only have to generate enough extra to enable an OA journal to justify a print or TA edition for the first time. It might already be close and TA picos could put it over the top. The result could be a new revenue stream without new access barriers for the research articles.
* As far as I can see, the BMJ model would work just as well if its TA edition were digital and online, rather than print. BMJ is not currently planning to move the TA edition online, but that's an option it may consider in the future.
* Suppose that both the picos and the full-text research articles were OA. Clearly the summaries would attract more readers than the full-text articles. Articles invite readers working on the article's narrow topic, or on closely related or overlapping topics. But summaries invite readers scanning a whole field or subfield for new developments. Readers who have confirmed the relevance of a given article will always be fewer in number than those who are scanning to find relevant work or trying to decide an article's degree of relevance. Article readers have a particular interest while summary readers have a general interest. While we all have particular interests, more of us have a general interest than any *given* particular interest.
Bottom line: Summaries appeal to a much larger audience than full-text articles. The market is larger. The demand is greater. That's a fact worth knowing for any journal wishing to generate revenue by selling some content and providing OA to the rest.
* Picos don't merely appeal to a larger market than full-text articles. They better fit the economy of attention. When we need to read full-text articles, we need to find the time to do so, and we often fail. But whether we need to read full texts or merely skim, summaries are friendlier to our crowded, demanding lives.
We're ready to pay for services that save us time. From one point of view, this is the chief value of peer review itself. Picos don't do what peer review does (or vice versa), but both picos and peer review prove their worth by helping us save time, set priorities, husband our attention, and cope with information overload.
* No one should think that by selling access to summaries and providing OA to full texts, BMJ is saying, let alone proving, that summaries are "more valuable" than full texts. Both are valuable: full texts for depth, summaries for breadth. Summaries may appeal to a wider market, but only because more people scan for breadth than dig for depth in any particular spot. To advance research on any particular topic, summaries are inadequate and full texts are indispensable. If anything, full texts are more valuable for the later stages of research than summaries are for the earlier stages.
That's exactly why BMJ wants to make the full texts OA and subsidize them with revenue from another source. It's also what's wrong with the publishing lobby's suggestion that funding agencies should follow the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and provide OA only to summaries, rather than the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), and provide OA to peer-reviewed full-texts.
No doubt, selling access to abridgments and providing OA to full texts is an odd inversion. But it's only odd relative to what we're used to --treating the full-text article as the end of the value chain, and treating the summary as the free advertisement for the article. After we get our sea legs in the new model, there's nothing odd about selling content which is somewhat valuable to a large group and giving away content which is very valuable to a smaller group.
While BMJ is not proving that summaries are more valuable than full texts, it is proving that when they are done well, they sell. They sell because they appeal to authors and readers. That's the discovery I hope will sink in.
* Some people call the journal literature the "minutes" of science as if it were just a summary. But it's more than that. If the minutes of a meeting summarize a discussion, the journal literature is a large part of the discussion itself. Importantly, however, in an age of conferences, preprint servers, blogs, wikis, listservs, and email, it's not the whole discussion.
Wikipedia aspires to provide OA to a summary of knowledge, and doesn't even accept original research. But the larger OA movement wants OA to knowledge itself. Or at least it wants OA to the full-text articles and other primary sources where knowledge is taking shape: through proposal and report, confirmation and disconfirmation, challenge and response, and yes, even summary and review. It's a messy process which, in its totality, is neither consistent (as it works through the clash of conflicting hypotheses) nor stable (as it discards weak claims and considers new ones that appear stronger). The messiness and instability are properties of a discussion, not the minutes of a discussion. The journal literature isn't just a report on the process but a major channel of the process itself. And not incidentally, OA is valuable not just for making the process public but for facilitating the very workings of the process.
This is just to say that summaries will never play the role of full texts, and that we can appreciate the BMJ model without mistaking it for the subordination of full texts to summaries. Indeed, we can appreciate it precisely because it keeps its eye on the prize and provides OA to the full texts.
* BMJ isn't denying that if priced summaries are desirable to readers, then free summaries would be even more desirable to readers. In fact, readers may value OA summaries at least as much as publishers value TA summaries. If the pico model locked up all summaries or abridgments, that would be a high price to pay, even if it made full-text OA possible. But the pico model doesn't do that. BMJ still provides OA to the abstracts accompanying its full-text articles, and plans to continue.
* Like BMJ, RNA Biology also asks its authors to write summaries, though the RNAB summaries are posted to Wikipedia. RNAB doesn't have a print or TA edition and chooses to benefit readers by sharing the summaries openly. But by the same token, because it doesn't sell access to the summaries, it doesn't get the revenue from doing so either. Naturally I prefer the RNAB model to BMJ's, for journals which can manage without the extra revenue; but the BMJ model could save OA at journals which do need the extra revenue.
* In 2007, Emerald's TA journals in engineering asked authors to write summaries of their research articles, and rewarded those who did by making their full-text articles no-fee OA. This was not only one of the rare no-fee hybrid OA journal models; it was also one of the even rarer models to value author summaries as highly as some other journals value cash. (I can't tell whether Emerald is still using the model.)
* Would some pico variation work for monographs? Because monographs are longer than research articles, does it follow that the demand for monograph abridgments is higher than the demand for article abridgments? Or is the demand greater for article abridgments on the ground that most working researchers (in the sciences) consume many times more articles than monographs? Regardless of where the demand is greater, is there *enough* demand for monograph abridgments to enable a creative press to offer full-text OA for its monographs while selling summaries and POD editions of full texts?
What if a university press launched a few TA journals containing abridgments of its OA books? I say "a few" so that the abridgments could be clustered roughly by field. I wouldn't pay for a TA journal with book-abridgments in all fields, but I might pay for one with book-abridgments in my field, philosophy, or in the humanities generally.
What if a publisher of many journals in the same field --say, medicine-- made all the journals OA and published a TA journal of abridgments? The journal of abridgments might sell well, but it might not sell well enough to pay for the conversion of many separate TA journals. One advantage of the BMJ model is that one TA journal (print edition of BMJ) only pays for one OA journal (OA edition of BMJ).
* I'm not taking a position on whether summaries ought to be OA or TA. I'm saying that selling access to summaries in order to support full-text OA is elegant and promising, even if counter-intuitive, and should be considered in every niche where it might work. If intelligent summaries really benefit readers, authors, journals, and OA, even when the summaries are TA, then they are an experiment worth testing and replicating elsewhere.
BMJ pico FAQ
BMJ announcement that (starting in January 2010) all its research would appear in pico, August 2009
BMJ pico-summary of the user surveys about pico
--full results of survey of article authors
--full results of survey of pico authors
BMJ editorial introducing BMJ pico in December 2008
RNA Biology asks authors to write summaries of their articles for Wikipedia and conducts peer review on the summaries.
--My blog post on its Wikipedia summaries
Emerald's TA engineering journals formerly asked authors to write summaries of their research articles and rewarded those who did by making their full-text articles no-fee OA.
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.
** Canada's Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) adopted an OA mandate.
** The Copenhagen Business School adopted an OA mandate.
** In February, China's National Science Library (NSL) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) launched an OA repository and adopted an OA mandate. Annual evaluations for promotion and tenure of NSL members will be limited to the articles on deposit in the repository.
** Finland's University of Tampere adopted an OA policy, "requesting" faculty to deposit copies of their journal articles in the Tampere IR, starting January 1, 2011, and "encouraging" them to do so before that.
** Kansas State University launched an IR and adopted a green OA mandate for theses and dissertations.
** The University of Montreal Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Management adopted a policy requiring electronic submission of theses and dissertations and deposit in the OA Papyrus repository.
** Italy's university rectors (Conferenza dei Rettori delle Università Italiane, or CRUI) are developing national guidelines for providing OA to Italian ETDs through institutional repositories.
** The European Science Foundation (ESF) and the European Heads of Research Councils (EuroHORCs) plan to issue a joint policy mandating OA and prohibiting the transfer of copyright without retaining the right to authorize OA. See Action 9.2 of their recent roadmap.
* The First International Conference on African Digital Libraries and Archives, held in Addis Ababa, "identified, as a key priority area, the need to develop an integrated open access information platform for Africa." It called the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to lead the initiative.
* Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch science minister, called for an OA mandate for publicly-funded research in the Netherlands. The largest Dutch public funding agency (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, NWO) supported the call.
* Harvard's Berkman Center released a major report by Phil Malone evaluating the copyright licensing policies of several private foundations. The report covers open licenses and OA policies, and recommends that foundations "seriously consider" the use of open licenses (libre OA) for funded work.
* The European Commission launched a public consultation on the future of Europeana, orphan works, the public domain, and digitization. Among the questions (Questions 9 and 10) are whether to provide OA to publicly-funded digitization projects. Comments are due on November 15.
* Lars Fischer drafted a petition demanding OA to publicly-funded research in Germany. He welcomes comments on the draft before its public launch.
* The Canadian Federation of Social Sciences and Humanities released its priorities for copyright reform, including eliminating Crown copyright and improving access to orphan works.
* NetCoalition endorsed FRPAA. Its members include Amazon, Bloomberg, Google, and Yahoo.
* SPARC launched a Campus Open Access Policies project to provide concrete assistance to institutions considering OA policies. The project offers documentation based on the experience of other campuses and live human help from an advisory group with experience at other campuses. (Disclosure: I'm a member of the Advisory Group.)
* David Wiley's students at Brigham Young University wrote a report comparing 41 OA policies in the US, and recommending for an OA policy for BYU.
* A new memo from Peter Orszag, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, asks US federal agencies to "develop datasets to better document Federal science and technology investments and to make these data open to the public in accessible, useful formats."
* The U.S. Senate confirmed Francis Collins as the next Director of the National Institutes of Health. The position has been vacant since Elias Zerhouni stepped down in October 2008.
* The NIH upgraded the web site for its OA policy, and released a "Guide Notice" on when grantees should use the manuscript submission ID to demonstrate compliance (in the first three months after a paper is published), and when they should use the PMC ID (three or more months after publication).
* The Public Library of Science announced the launch of PLoS Currents: Influenza. To facilitate rapid communication of new results, its articles will be "vetted by expert moderators" but "not...subject to in-depth peer review" and may later be published in peer-reviewed journals. It's the first publication hosted on Google Knol Collection, a Knol upgrade with built-in facility to organize vetting or peer review. PLoS Currents also built on a new OA database from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) called Rapid Research Notes.
* The Journal of Library Innovation is a forthcoming OA journal published by the Western New York Library Resources Council.
* Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome is a new peer-reviewed OA journal sponsored by the Brazilian Diabetes Society and published by BioMed Central.
* Investigative Genetics is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from BioMed Central.
* Research Letters in Biochemistry is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from Hindawi.
* The International Journal of Collaborative Practices is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from the Houston Galveston Institute, Taos Institute, and the Psychology Department of Our Lady of the Lake University.
* The International Journal of Economics and Finance is a new peer-reviewed OA journal published by the Canadian Center of Science and Education.
* Mosaik Journal is a new peer-reviewed OA journal, in German, on spatiality in antiquity and the spatial turn in cultural studies.
* The International Journal of Nanomedicine is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from Dove Medical Press.
* Journal of Spatial Information Science is a new peer-reviewed OA journal.
* Revues.org accepted four new journals, presumably for OA, from among 70 applications: Amerik@; FACTS Report; Images re-vues; and Impressions d’Extrême-Orient.
* Revues.org approved four more journals: Atalaya, revue d'études médiévales romanes; Crime, Histoire & Sociétés; Genre, sexualité & société; and Genre & Histoire.
* SciELO South Africa, the OA platform based on SciELO Brazil, is up and running and starting to host OA journals.
* The Virtual Journals in Science and Technology series from the American Institute of Physics and American Physical Society now includes papers from two journals from the Institute of Physics. Some of the Virtual Journals' full-text papers are OA and some are not.
* Rejecta Mathematica is a new OA journal of articles rejected by peer-reviewed journals.
* The Australian National Data Service launched an OA newsletter.
* Hogrefe introduced a hybrid OA option ("OpenMind") for Psychologischen Rundschau.
* PLoS Computational Biology and PLoS ONE may soon ask authors whose articles depend on open-source software to submit the software when they submit their manuscripts for publication. The journals may host the software in a special repository.
* Science Magazine will work with the Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) to create apparently OA videos to accompany selected research articles.
* The Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) Journal now provides OA to 27 year's worth (1967-1994) of its backfile.
* The Revue d'assyriologie et d'archéologie orientale, founded in 1884 and now OA, released OA editions of its back issues from 2001-2007.
* Rechtsgeschichte, a TA journal of legal history from the Max Planck Society, now provides OA to the first five of its 15 annual volumes.
* BMJ announced plans for its TA print edition to publish one-page summaries of each of its full-text OA research articles. (More in the lead story above.)
* Wiley-Blackwell added a section to its page on OA, explaining its policies on OA archiving.
* Five more US universities signed SCOAP3 Expressions of Interest: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, SUNY Albany, SUNY Buffalo, the University of Michigan, and Utah State University.
* Six more US universities signed expressions of interest in SCOAP3: East Carolina University, Savannah River National Laboratory, the University of Iowa, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, the University of Mississippi, and Wake Forest University.
+ Repositories and databases
* New Zealand launched the Shared Research Repository Project. The project will create a consortial OA repository for NZ's Crown Research Institutes and several government departments.
* The National Library of Medicine launched Rapid Research Notes (RRN), an OA repository to facilitate rapid dissemination of new results.
* Cemagref Publications launched an IR for disseminating its OA publications.
* Ukraine's Yuriy Fedkovich Chernivtsi University launched an institutional repository.
* South Africa's North-West University launched Boloka, its institutional repository.
* The University of Southampton launched EdShare, an OA repository for teaching materials.
* A new project at the University of Reading will launch and populate an institutional repository.
* The Confederation of Open Access Repositories will launch at the DRIVER summit in October, during OA Week 2009.
* Seventeen institutions launched Digital Commons repositories in the first half of 2009.
* Several agencies in Thailand are launching OA repositories.
* Mumbai announced its State Central Library Digital Centre.
* The American Academy of Arts and Sciences launched an OA database of research on voting.
* The International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) launched the ICMI Digital Library.
* France's Office National de l’Eau et des Milieux Aquatiques launched Les documents techniques sur l’eau, an OA repository of research on water.
* Philip Gibbs launched viXra, an OA physics repository with no restrictions on what may be deposited. Gibbs and others believe that arXiv unfairly excludes some submitted papers.
* GreyNet papers are now openly available in the OpenSIGLE Repository.
* Wiki Acceso Abierto is a new community wiki, founded by Paola Bongiovani and Nancy Gómez, to gather and disseminate Spanish-language information about OA.
* The OA Encyclopedia of Life received $12.5 million in funding from the MacArthur Foundation and Sloan Foundation. It currently has pages on more than 150,000 species and by 2017 plans to have pages on each of the 1.8 million recorded species.
* An editorial in Scientific American called for OA to paleoanthropology data.
* Michael White released data on the rate of compliance with the Stirling University OA mandate.
* TGE ADONIS announced the first phase of its project to build infrastructure for OA to French data and documents in the humanities and social sciences.
* Two Tel Aviv University researchers determined how much of a person's DNA could be made public without allowing others to fabricate the person's DNA, thereby removing an obstacle to OA for DNA data.
* Stuart Lewis wrote a script to tweet open data on New Zealand tides.
* The Swedish government launched Opengov.se, a registry of open government data.
* In June, Open New Zealand launched Open Data Catalogue, a one-stop shop for New Zealand PSI.
* The Open Humanities Press (OHP) and the University of Michigan Library's Scholarly Publishing Office (SPO) announced five new OA book series: New Metaphysics (ed. Graham Harman and Bruno Latour), Critical Climate Change (ed. Tom Cohen and Claire Colebrook), Global Conversations (ed. Ngugi wa Thiong’o), Unidentified Theoretical Objects (ed. Wlad Godzich), and Liquid Books (ed. Clare Birchall and Gary Hall).
* The Internet Archive, Amazon, Microsoft, Yahoo joined with other major players to form the Open Book Alliance. The OBA opposes the Google book settlement in its present form.
* Twenty-one faculty from the U of California faculty sent an letter to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York objecting to the Google settlement, in part, on the ground that it "does not contemplate or make provision for open access choices that have in recent years become common among academic authorial communities...."
* Google announced that rightsholders of Google-scanned books may choose to authorize full-text downloads and CC licenses.
* Google began offering free downloads of over one million public-domain books in the open EPUB format, in addition to PDF.
* After four years of resistance, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France is talking to Google about supplementing BNF's smaller, publicly-funded digitization program.
* Sony released an ebook reader as friendly to OA books as it is to TA books.
* One million OA, Google-scanned, public-domain books are now available for the Sony ebook reader.
* In June, the Japanese Diet amended Japanese copyright law to allow the National Diet Library to digitize books without permission. At the same time it allocated ¥12.6 billion to digitize about 920,000 titles. Access to the digital editions, however, must still be negotiated with rightsholders.
* California approved 10 of the 16 OA textbooks submitted for use in California high schools.
* The Hewlett Foundation gave the Community College Collaborative for Open Educational Resources a $1.5 million grant to support its Community College Open Textbook Project.
* Toni Prug estimated that Douglas May had 26 times more readers of his OA book on government than he would have had from a conventional priced, printed edition.
* Barnes & Noble explained that it had to add DRM to its public-domain ebooks in order to protect their copyrights.
+ Studies and surveys
* The US Department of Energy (DOE) estimated that for $4 million it could digitize and provide OA to 50 years or $400 billion worth of publicly-funded DOE research, for a ROI of 10,000,000%.
* The PEER (Publishing and the Ecology of European Research) study assigned its behavioral research to the Department of Information Science and LISU at Loughborough University, and assigned its usage research to the CIBER group at University College London.
* ccLearn and Open.Michigan launched a survey on "the ways in which copyright law plays a role in, and perhaps acts as a barrier to, the practices of those who create or facilitate the production of Open Educational Resources (OER)."
* ARL released the results of a survey of 123 member libraries on "the role libraries...in supporting public access policies in their institutions."
* Donald Taylor, Kumiko Vezina, and Heather Morrison launched a new project to "survey Canadian academic libraries and university presses...to determine current levels of university support for journal hosting and support services in Canada in general, and open access journals in particular."
* The Research Information Network (RIN) and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) are devoting £15,000 to fund a series of case studies on the motivations and advantages of doing research "in an open manner".
* JISC put out a call for examples of repository documentation, such as policies and mandates, business cases, and advocacy materials. It will use them to create a Repositories InfoKit for repository managers.
* The JISC project on Developing repositories at Worcester (DRAW) issued its final report.
* In April, JISC released the final report of Deposit Plait, a project "to examine potential for easing the deposit of journal articles into institutional repositories by making use of any metadata embedded within the document properties of the document being deposited."
* The 2009 revision of the SHERPA Repository Staff and Skills Set document is now online.
* Jim Till reported the results of his census of four types of articles in PubMed Central, based on their levels of accessibility.
* Sami Kassab at Exane BNP Paribas reported that Elsevier cut prices for its nuclear physics journals by 20%, despite median price increases of 5% across its other titles. He interprets this as pressure from OA. Bernd-Christoph Kaemper added that submissions at Elsevier's high-energy physics journals have declined by 30% to 50% in the last 4 years.
* ResearchAndMarkets released the (TA) results of a survey of 90 libraries on their database licensing practices. Among other topics, the survey reports the percentage of libraries that "paid an article processing fee or received a rebate as compensation for open access".
+ Software and tools
* Scholas announced the beta edition of a new service allowing researchers to create a page for each of their publications, sometimes containing a full-text OA copy of the publication. Each Scholas page has a unique (and short) URL, supports comments, and links to the author's Scholars profile, which in turn supports an RSS feed of the author's new publications.
* Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy released RECAP, a Firefox plug-in enabling users who pay for public-domain PACER documents to deposit OA copies in the Internet Archive. After some signs of resistance, the Administrative Office of the US Courts acknowledged that RECAP was lawful.
* A petition to Improve PACER is now collecting signatures at Care2. Most of the signatory comments call for OA to PACER information. The petition aims for 1,000 signatures, and when I checked on September 2 it had 830.
* The University of Kassel officially launched its PUMA project (Akademisches Publikationsmanagement). PUMA enhances the incentive to deposit in an IR by ensuring that deposits automatically update author web pages and the institutional research reporting system.
* Scott Wilson released the first version of Ensemble, an aggregator for searching feeds of Open Education Resources.
* A new JISC project is developing a SWORD plugin for Moodle, to enable the direct deposit of Moodle teaching materials into an OA institutional repository.
* JISC released the Distributed Internet Archive Systems for Educational Repositories (DIASER).
* EduCommons 3.2.1-final is now available for downloading.
* Version 1.0.6 of MOAI Server is now available for downloading. MOAI harvests information from disparate sources and disseminates it through the OAI protocol.
* The National Archive Institute of Portugal released the source code for the Repositório de Objectos Digitais Autênticos (Repository of Authentic Digital Objects, RODA).
* The Open Knowledge Foundation released the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN) version 0.9.
* LSpace is a simpler version of DSpace, written in Visual Basic, to serve as an OA book repository for the Institute for Computer Studies and Technology at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran-Calamba.
* The JISC IncReASe project released an EPrints plug-in for importing metadata from arXiv, among other arXiv-related tools.
* The University of Leeds is testing a connection between the EPrints repository software and the Symplectic publishing software. The link will enable Symplectic users to deposit their work directly in an EPrints repository.
* The Royal Society of Chemistry relaunched ChemSpider at the ACS Fall meeting in August.
* The US National Archives launched a blog (NARAtions) on "the future of online public access" at the National Archives.
* WIPO launched a research project on tools for increasing access to the public domain.
+ Awards and milestones
* Gunther Eysenbach, founding editor and publisher of the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), won the first Public Knowledge Project Community Contribution Award for editors.
* At its July meeting, the ALA honored Christopher Hollister and Stewart Brower for launching and editing Communications in Information Literacy, "the first born-digital, open-access, peer-reviewed journal devoted entirely to information literacy."
* The winners of the 2009 Public Knowledge IP3 awards (for Intellectual Property, Information Policy, and Internet Protocol) are (1) Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies, University of Virginia, (2) Karen Jackson, Deputy Secretary of Technology, Commonwealth of Virginia, and (3) Sascha Meinrath, Director, Open Technology Initiative.
* DuraSpace launched an OA week contest for the best articles on OA repositories. It will accept submissions until September 28, 2009.
* Europeana now contains 4.6 million digitised books, maps, photographs, film clips and newspapers, more than doubling since its launch in November 2008. It aims to have 10 million items by 2010.
* The English Wikipedia added its 3 millionth article.
* Wikia has had record numbers of visitors two months in a row: 5.25 million in June and 6.5 million in July.
* The Text Archive at the Internet Archive has over 1.57 million OA books and adds about 1000 titles every day.
* In July RePEc passed the milestone of 400,000 online articles, 12,500 listed book chapters, and 5,000 subscribers to NEP-HIS (New Economics Papers in on Business, Economic and Financial History).
* The OA Digital Library of Slovenia now contains 10,000+ articles.
* In one semester (Spring 2009 to Fall 2009) the users of Flat World OA textbooks jumped from 1,000 students on 30 campuses to 40,000 students on 400+ campuses.
* The University of Connecticut Department of Economics reached the milestone of 400 OA working papers.
* The Sunlight Foundation's Apps for America contest, to create useful online mashups of OA government data, narrowed down its 47 entries to three finalists.
* The MERLOT Africa Network (MAN) called for nominations for its 2009 International Awards for Exemplary Open Education Resources (OER) Practices for Development.
* The early OA journal, Public-Access Computer Systems Review, was launched 20 years ago by Charles Bailey. It published its 42nd and last issue in 1998.
* Canada is conducting a public consultation on copyright reform, soliciting comments until September 13. Many of the comments call for an end to Crown copyright, protections for the public domain,
and/or support for OA.
* In December 2008, SURFdirect and Creative Commons Netherlands recommended the CC-BY license for education and research.
* New Zealand released an Open Access and Licensing Framework, which requires open licenses and libre OA for NZ's public sector information. Public comments are welcome until October 9, 2009.
* The Shuttleworth Foundation released its report on the South African Copyright Act. It recommends stronger forms of fair dealing and protections for the public domain, and highlights the provisions of existing law which support OA.
* The new Smithsonian Web and New Media Strategy outlined a plan for the Smithsonian Commons.
* Anne Wojcicki and Sergey Brin gave $500,000 to Creative Commons, for general support and the development of Science Commons.
* The Mellon Foundation awarded the Open Annotation Collaboration (OAC) a $362,000 grant.
* The Hewlett Foundation awarded the Wikimedia Foundation $500,000 grant.
* Users of the English-language Wikipedia voted to adopt a new way to control the edits to biographies of living persons. Instead of locking certain biographies to prevent vandalism, as it did in the past, Wikipedia will remove the locks and hold new edits in a special queue until they can be approved by long-time users.
* In the fall 2009, Wikipedia will incorporate WikiTrust as an option. WikiTrust will color-code Wikipedia text according to the reliability of its author and length of time the text has persisted on the page.
* Most of the WHO International Clinical Trial Registry Platform is now offered in the six UN languages: English, French, Spanish, Chinese, Russian and Arabic.
* On the Human is a new OA community, forum, and course from the US National Humanities Center.
* Amsterdam's Tropenmuseum donated 2100 pictures of the Maroon culture of Suriname to Wikimedia Commons.
* The US National Library of Medicine launched a new image platform for the OA database, Images from the History of Medicine.
* NASA and the Internet Archive announced that users may now download high-resolution NASA image files from the IA-hosted NASAimages.org.
* JISC announced plans for the Digital Images for Education initiative, to launch next July. Not all the images will be OA, but all will be "copyright-cleared for use in education so they can be reproduced in course packs, virtual learning environments, e-portfolios and other multimedia works" for at least 25 years.
* Open Plaques is an OA portal of historic and commemorative plaques across the UK.
* Microsoft Research launched Project Tuva, a series of OA videos on scientific concepts. The project supports transcripts, searching, links from user notes to specific parts of the videos. The videos require Microsoft's Silverlight.
* Ted Bergstrom, Paul Courant, and R. Preston McAfee launched the Big Deal Contract Project, to publish the Big Deal contracts between publishers and academic libraries. Because the contracts often contain confidentiality clauses, the project uses state open-record laws to force their disclosure.
* Brigham Young University launched an Access to Knowledge Initiative focusing on open education projects.
* Budget cuts ended Utah State University's OpenCourseWare program.
* Peer 2 Peer University officially launched and began accepting students for its first courses.
* I posted a request for feedback on the OA tracking project (OATP).
* I created a Twitter account for the OATP.
* EUMINAfab is offering researchers free access to its nanotech labs on the condition that the researchers publish the results of their research. It does not require that the research results be OA.
* The Clerk of the Queensland Parliament denied a request by Open Australia to create an OA edition of the Hansard record of parliamentary debates.
* The Associated Press is charging for a license to quote excerpts as short as five words, even for educational use, even if the words you want to quote are themselves quoted and do not belong to the AP.
Coming this month
Here are some important OA-related events coming up in September.
* September 1, 2009. The OA mandate takes effect at Coventry University's Department of Media and Communication.
* September 4, 2009. Deadline for authors and publishers who object to the Google settlement to opt out (extended from May 9).
* September 30, 2009. Funding for the UK Depot is due to expire.
* OA-related conferences in September 2009.
* Other OA-related conferences
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