Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #149
September 2, 2010
by Peter Suber
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Discovery, rediscovery, and open access. Part 2.
In Part 1 of this essay (published in SOAN for August 2010) I sketched some ways in which the growth of OA modified William Garvey's 1979 observation that "in some disciplines, it is easier to repeat an experiment than it is to determine that the experiment has already been done."
Here I'd like to connect OA with three variations on Garvey's theme. Garvey focused on cases in which redoing past work is undesirable but easier than looking up the original results. The problem to solve or work around is a dysfunctional access system. Sometimes, however, we positively want to redo past work. The problem is that the original results are untested or unconfirmed, not inaccessible. Sometimes we redo past work inadvertently. The problem is our near-sighted review of past literature. Sometimes redoing past work and looking it up are both undesirable. The problem is that we've allowed knowledge to become taboo and replaced curiosity with a defensive preference for what we already believe. Anything is easier than looking up past work or redoing it. All literature reviews are near-sighted. The problem lies in us, our fears and complacency, or in our predecessors, who might have broken the access system, burned the books, or created a culture in which inquiry is stigmatized as disloyal and harmful to party, profits, or faith.
(1) In classic Garvey cases, redoing past work is a distant second-best to reading the original results. But when the original results have yet to be replicated, then reading them, without more, is a distant second-best to redoing the work itself. In Garvey cases, lack of access forces our hand and we redo experiments even if they have already been replicated and confirmed. In cases of untested results, lack of replication forces our hand and we redo experiments even if access to the original records is easy and open.
This Garvey variation is compatible with good access to past results. We'll want to replicate untested results even when we don't have good access to the original records. But good access doesn't make the need go away. It even facilitates the work, especially when (as Victoria Stodden and others argue) OA to texts is complemented by open data and open software, all under open licenses.
See the "oa.reproducibility" tag library for the OA Tracking Project.
In short, when we want to redo research, OA helps us do so. When we'd rather look up past research than redo it, OA helps us there too. OA doesn't remove or reduce the need to test untested results, but it does remove the need to work around a dysfunctional access system.
We generally talk about reproducibility only in the experimental sciences, where conclusions stand or fall on the ability of researchers elsewhere to repeat the same experiment and get the same results. But if we abstract a bit, we can see that scholars in the humanities find analogous value in revisiting older inquiries. They're not trying to reproduce them, or test their results empirically, but to reopen older --sometimes ancient-- questions, criticize or reinterpret previous answers, and continue the conversation. OA facilitates both the empirical and reflective sorts of repetition, just as it helps us avoid repetition when we simply want to read the original literature and move on.
(2) Another Garvey variation arises when researchers should read earlier results but fail to do so. They repeat past work, not to test it or to work around a broken access system, but because they think it hasn't already been done.
In 1964, John Martyn estimated that about 9% of UK research projects could have saved about 10% of their budgets if they had known about relevant prior work before starting their own. Making good use of a good access system could have saved the UK national research budget about 0.9% (10% of 9%) per year. Using 1964 figures for the total UK research budget (640 million pounds) and average UK researcher salary (8k pounds), Martyn estimated that making research accessible and actually accessing it would have saved the country enough money to hire 750 full-time researchers. Surely, he speculates, some of those researchers could have been put to work doing literature searches to prevent the costly and unwanted sorts of duplication.
See John Martyn, Unintentional Duplication of Research, New Scientist, February 6, 1964.
I haven't seen an update to Martyn's 1964 calculations. (If you have, I'd welcome a pointer.) In 2001, Isaac Ginsburg reprised the issue without redoing the math. While Martyn focused on cases when the failure to find relevant past work was due to carelessness, Ginsburg recognized at least two additional causes: a dogmatic belief that past work couldn't be relevant or accurate, and an honest miss because the older and newer research used different terminology.
See Isaac Ginsburg, The Disregard Syndrome: A Menace to Honest Science? The Scientist, December 10, 2001.
(Thanks to Eugene Garfield for bringing Martyn and Ginsburg's work to my attention.)
We can add one more possibility: the problem of inadvertent duplication, like the classic Garvey problem, can be caused by a broken access system.
Like Garvey's original observation, Martyn's calculation was made in the age of print and would have to modified for the age of the internet and OA. On the one hand, OA should reduce the number of projects that fail to discover relevant prior work in time to prevent inadvertent duplication. On the other hand, the total savings from enhanced access wouldn't have to be as large to pay for the literature searches needed to maximize those savings. How this nets out I leave as an exercise for the reader.
As in the previous variation, inadvertently repeating past work in the belief that it's new is compatible with good access to the literature. Good access should reduce inadvertent duplication but doesn't always do so. Accessible literature isn't always accessed literature (a problem that will reappear below). Hence, OA can only solve part of the Martyn-Ginsburg problem. If the problem continues in the age of OA, it will tend to highlight problems with researcher care, skill, or will.
In his 1974 essay on cargo cult science, Richard Feynman argued that even when researchers know about relevant prior work and want to replicate it, they often feel pressure to bypass replication in favor of new results, especially when they're using expensive equipment and need new results to keep the funds flowing.
See Richard Feynman, Cargo Cult Science, 1974.
Martyn argued in effect that negligence works as well as access barriers to trigger the Garvey problem. Feynman argued in effect that the reward system can deter replication even when researchers understand its value and want to realize it. For Martyn, neglect can trigger the undesirable sort of repetition, while for Feynman interest can trigger neglect of the desirable sort.
(3) Bear with me while I describe a third Garvey variation in which the barriers to looking up past work, and to redoing it, are more cultural than technical. It's an extension of the Martyn/Ginsburg variation in which researcher negligence becomes cultural neglect. It's an extension of the Feynman variation in which economic interests buttress the careless kind of neglect with a more calculating kind of neglect. The problems created by this third variation are always mitigated by OA, but sometimes aggravated by it, and (therefore) sometimes both. Since it hasn't yet materialized in its extreme form, let me cast myself as a crank in order to paint the picture.
In America, a large and influential subset of the population fights fiercely for the right to own guns. This is hard to explain to the rest of the world. Part of the explanation is that many Americans fear the day when citizens will have to fight for their freedoms against their own elected, oppressive government. I don't share that fear. But I do sometimes feel another fear which is equally hard to explain to the rest of the world. I fear that a wave of barbarism will overtake civilization. If the barbarians don't burn the recorded knowledge and reflection of centuries, they will at least neglect it and cause others to neglect it.
Preservation is only a small part of the solution, since preserving knowledge only saves it from loss, not from neglect. Education is a larger part of the solution but still only a small part, since we only have a 10-20 year window in which to try our miserable best to do what formal education can do. Even if formal education were magically effective, the rapid growth of research means that with every passing year the fraction we can fit into that 10-20 year window becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of the whole. We've long since passed the point when we could integrate the bulk of human knowledge, thought, and culture into an individual life. But integration is the only solution that is robust in the face of neglect. Insofar as we can integrate our cultural inheritance into our lives, we can make use of what is useful, benefit from what is beneficial, and avoid the need to rediscover what our predecessors had already discovered.
My fear applies to settled knowledge, however you conceive that, as well as to inquiries and debates that haven't yet settled into knowledge, and to clarity in framing our questions, hypotheses, methods, and arguments. All these achievements are hard-won, and were generally won against the indifference or hostility of huge numbers of people. The background indifference and hostility do not make knowledge, inquiry, and clarity intrinsically more valuable. But they should make us pause to appreciate the difficulty of recovering them if we allow them to slip from our grasp.
We don't have to highlight indifference and hostility, which are obstacles that vary from time to time and place to place. Instead we can simply note that knowledge advances through ingenious insights, lucky accident, trial and error, and painstaking observation. All of these are difficult or rare. Regardless of where we locate the obstacles, if knowledge is worth having, then it's worth keeping and keeping accessible. Betting that we could easily recover it would be like betting against entropy. The local exceptions to entropy are notable and thrilling, but they are still exceptions.
Last month Newsweek declared US education to be the 11th best in the world. That's not a proud result for the world's wealthiest nation but it's a respectable showing and even an improvement over some earlier surveys. Nevertheless, one month before Newsweek released its results, a Marist poll found that 26% of Americans didn't know that their country won its independence from Great Britain. One week after the Newsweek results, a Pew poll found that 18% of Americans believed that Barack Obama is Muslim.
Three months before the Newsweek results, the state of Texas approved a new history curriculum reducing the role of Thomas Jefferson and the doctrine of the separation of church and state, enlarging the role of Joseph McCarthy and Phyllis Schlafly, and renaming the slave trade the "Atlantic triangular trade".
Conservapedia, the self-described "Trustworthy Encyclopedia", is extending the fundamentalist war against Darwin to a war again Einstein. Conservapedia contributors object that the theory of relativity is "heavily promoted by liberals who like its encouragement of relativism" and have painstakingly collected 30 "counterexamples to relativity", including "the action-at-a-distance by Jesus, described in John 4:46-54."
Those are a few recent examples from one country, my country. I'm particularly distressed by what's happening in my country, but you probably have choice local examples no matter where you live. The problem isn't limited to failures of education, which lead to innocent ignorance by people who might prefer to know. It extends to failures of honesty, which lead to cynical deception and FUD by people who profit from the ignorance and uncertainty of others.
On the rise of deliberate disinformation and FUD, see Robert Proctor and Londa Schiebinger, Agnotology (Stanford University Press, 2008); Michael Specter, Denialism (Penguin, 2009); and Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, Merchants of Doubt (Bloomsbury, 2010).
When we can tell the difference between innocent ignorance and cynical misrepresentation, we needn't collapse the distinction. (I've often argued that the OA movement struggles against both.) But for my purposes here, they pull in the same direction. With effort we can reverse slippage in auto safety or water quality. But slippage in educating the next generation creates a downward spiral in which each new generation is less able and less effective than the last. (How much of your time and energy do you spend swimming against that downward spiral?)
I'm not saying that this fear motivates all OA advocates. In fact, I know it doesn't. I'm not even saying that it motivates me much. It comes and goes like a bad dream. It's one thread in a braided rope of motivations, alongside the desire to accelerate research, multiply the benefits of research, and facilitate the translation of research into new medicines, useful technologies, solved problems, informed decisions, and marvelous understandings.
The chief problem with the barbarism I sometimes fear is not the loss of peace, prosperity, or due process, serious as those are. It's the loss of knowledge and the sapping of serious research and inquiry. I fear that most of what we have learned over the past few millennia is at risk of neglect, if not outright denial, that over time it may become unintelligible or taboo, and that most of what is known and worth knowing will have to be rediscovered the hard way.
The job of rediscovery might go faster than it did the first time around if some folks had access to parts of the literature that hadn't been lost, were motivated to understand it, and were willing to stay up nights studying. Or the job might go more slowly if the culture supporting curiosity and knowledge against ignorance and superstition took even longer to get a foothold than it took the last time.
Imagine that the recorded knowledge of humanity hadn't been destroyed but only suppressed, forgotten, or stigmatized as obsolete, harmful, elitist, foreign, or contrary to faith. Imagine a New Dark Age lasting for centuries. Imagine the New Dark Age slowly coming to an end as people slowly changed their attitudes toward previously recorded knowledge and research. Imagine them gradually beginning to relearn it, teach it, put it to use. We can even imagine them trying to distinguish the parts that were still true, wise, useful, or promising from the parts that only seemed so to their past proponents, and reviving serious inquiry at the borders of what they were able to understand. We could call that a New Enlightenment.
Sometimes I hope that OA is preparing us for a kind of New Enlightenment. This is a hope, not a prediction. At least we can say that OA (plus mass digitization and search) is putting more new knowledge and more old knowledge within easy reach than we've ever had within easy reach. We're creating an opportunity to mine or assimilate huge veins of knowledge that we haven't previously mined or assimilated. Today we're waking up, fitfully, to this opportunity. I know what this is like, and work on it every day, but I can't help comparing it to something I don't know and can only imagine: waking up from a New Dark Age to face the challenge of excavating the long-buried libraries of our ancestors.
The opportunity is similar to what our predecessors faced in the early days of print: "A man born in 1453, the year of the fall of Constantinople, could look back from his fiftieth year on a lifetime in which about eight million books had been printed, more perhaps than all the scribes of Europe had produced since Constantine founded his city in A.D. 330." (Michael Clapham, "Printing," in Charles Singer et al., eds., A History of Technology, vol. 3, From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution, Oxford University Press, 1957. p. 37; quoted by Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge University Press, second edition, 2005, p. 15.)
Sometimes, however, I fear that sudden access to sudden immensity won't stimulate a New Enlightenment so much as a cultured helplessness in the face of an infinitely rising learning curve and intractable disagreement. This is a fear, not a prediction. But it isn't a groundless fear. On the contrary, it has at least four grounds. First is our inability to master the dizzyingly large and fast-growing literature on any given topic, a problem already serious in the age of print.
Second is our temptation to cherry-pick from the same immense and fast-growing literature to support our pet conclusions. To our credit, we still see this kind of cherry-picking as a form of rationalization. But we're starting to rationalize it. We tell ourselves that cherry-picking is more defensible the closer it gets to being unavoidable, and we suspect it's becoming unavoidable. Even if we know abstractly that it's a method of fortifying bias, we also know that it succeeds in fortifying bias. It may not support inquiry, but it supports sincere beliefs of all kinds, including the false kind. It's a temptation we're failing to resist. It fixes beliefs and polarize debates even today when we're still ready to acknowledge that we could in principle do better.
Third is our tendency to read only the sorts of people who think like us, from familiarity, vanity, or fear of uncertainty. See the large literature on this problem from Cass Sunstein's "Daily Me" in Republic.com (Princeton University Press, 2002) to Ethan Zuckerman's TED talk (July 2010).
The fourth is what I've called the Meno problem, after the Platonic dialog (Plato, Meno, 80.d) in which Meno asks Socrates why he should bother inquiring for truth at all. Meno reasons that either he already knows the truth or he wouldn't recognize it if stumbled across it. Socrates called this a trick argument, but he took it seriously and concluded that knowledge is closer to recollection than discovery. You don't have to find this plausible in every domain to see that it sheds light on why we feel so helpless when set adrift on a sea of conflicting claims and asked to figure out who's right. If we didn't bring clues to answers with us, then anything could be a clue to an answer. Perhaps we don't literally need to know the truth in order to recognize the truth, but we do need to agree on methods of evaluation before we can evaluate disagreements, at least if we want to do more than just create new disagreements.
(Here are few places where I've previously discussed the Meno problem.)
It's hard to quantify the zealous energy we are putting into digitizing print literature for easier and wider access. If you have an internet connection today, you have access to more full-text books and articles than the average academic library has on its shelves, and the disparity is growing fast. In obvious ways, this is the opposite of the world in Fahrenheit 451, in which the same zealous energy was put into book burning. Instead of small bands of decrepit elders huddling in the woods to preserve a dwindling handful of books, networked people by the billions have access to millions of books from their desktops, laptops, or palms.
But as Mark Twain said, the person who doesn't read has no advantage over the person who can't read. Unprecedented access can trigger unprecedented learning. Or it can trigger reactionary neglect. It can bring unprecedented learning to those inclined to learn and voluntary provincialism to those inclined to cocoon themselves from confusion or fear. It can even bring voluntary provincialism to courageous cosmopolitans who labor under a learned specialization, laser-like focus, and lack of free time.
As access increases, will we rediscover a lode of knowledge and wisdom previously overlooked? Or will we overlook a lode of knowledge and wisdom previously discovered? I don't know. But I worry about this more than I worry about black helicopters.
I worry not because the darkest outcome is the most likely. I worry because the most likely outcome, today, seems to be an extension of what we're experiencing today: the coexistence of a New Enlightenment and New Dark Age in some unpredictable and fluctuating proportion. If so, then tearing down access barriers to knowledge will not eliminate ideological disagreement or invincible ignorance. On the contrary, it could amplify the confusing profusion of knowledge claims and trigger the reflexive cling to comfortable certitudes.
Rapid progress on digitization, search, and OA reduces the Garvey problem and reduces the risk of the primary form of the New Dark Age problem: the problem of inaccessible knowledge. That's all to the good. But they leave us vulnerable to secondary forms of the New Dark Age problem: the problems of neglected or unaccessed knowledge, voluntary provincialism, self-righteous self-stultification, arguably unavoidable cherry-picking, and bottomless disagreement. That's a recurring bad dream. The best ground for hope is a recommendation that too often goes without saying. OA is necessary but not sufficient for an enlightening spread of already-discovered, already-recorded knowledge. What we must find elsewhere, to supplement mere access, is the commitment to care more for knowledge than tribal mythology or interest, and the commitment to pass on that commitment to subsequent generations.
I've admitted that I'm pessimistic enough to worry. But I'm optimistic enough to work for the partial solution we call OA. OA is a precondition of some enlightening futures and a potential catalyst of others. At worst, OA (plus mass digitization and search) is a contributing cause to some of the secondary versions of the New Dark Age problem. But on each of those dark scenarios, OA remains a mitigating factor and ground for hope. Access to abundance may frighten some people to retreat from the risks of inquiry to the safety of certitude, but access itself preserves the permanent possibility of reviving inquiry and climbing back out of any cognitive hole we might dig for ourselves. That's a reason to work for it.
That sort of optimism is already qualified. But I'll qualify it further. I still affirm the position I took in a blog post in May 2006:
http://www.earlham.edu/~peters/fos/2006/05/educating-non-scientific-public-about.htmlI'm not so optimistic as to think that simply making primary science easily available online will do much to foster scientific literacy and scientific knowledge among non-scientists, let alone convert creationists to evolutionists. Easy access completes the puzzle when there is antecedent interest and background, and we need help from teachers, journalists, and politicians to create that interest and background. For the same reason, however, I'm not so pessimistic as to think that OA will make no difference. There are two mistakes to avoid here. One is to think that OA has no role to play in helping non-scientists understand science. We can call this the Royal Society mistake, after the RS's recent report [May 2006]...on educating lay readers about science that doesn't even mention OA <http://goo.gl/vXLV>. The other mistake is to think that the overriding purpose of OA is to educate lay readers. No OA advocates believe this, but some publisher-opponents of OA either believe it or pretend to believe it in order set it up as a straw man and knock it down....To avoid both mistakes we have to accept that the problem and solution are both complicated. OA will play a role in public education about science --it's neither irrelevant nor sufficient-- and the size of that role is up to all of us.
I believe that curiosity and knowledge-seeking are fundamental and ineradicable. But the reminder does little to boost my optimism. The same evidence that makes me worry about a New Dark Age makes me worry that curiosity and knowledge-seeking are offset by equal and opposite forces. Suspicion of curiosity, aversion to knowledge-seeking, and the countervailing demands of interest, tribalism, and defensive dogmatism are at least as strong. When we're seeking knowledge, OA helps us in every way. But when we're indulging our countervailing interests, OA is either an annoying complexity or an aid to cherry-picking. OA is revolutionizing inquiry, but we can't expect it to change our fundamental motives for undertaking, resisting, or distorting inquiry.
(4) The Garvey problem and the New Dark Age problem are deeply connected, despite their differences. In both cases we find that the barriers to the rediscovery of recorded knowledge are higher than the barriers to fresh discovery. The barriers may arise from inadequate technology or cultural pathology. But either way, we find ourselves on the dark side of access barriers, either wanting or not wanting to tear them down.
Access barriers can be financial costs like prices, or psychic costs like the courage to seek out evidence and arguments that may contradict hallowed certitudes. Inquiry can be thwarted by our inability to gain access to relevant literature or by our inability to evaluate the literature after we do have access. When we're waking up to the opportunities of a vast new wilderness of knowledge and knowledge clams, we face the Meno problem in this form: sometimes we need a reliable guide in order to find a reliable guide.
Digitization, search, and OA are making steady progress toward banishing the classic Garvey problem. But they're not making the same steady progress toward postponing a New Dark Age. Our access system may be improving rapidly, but if a cultural whirlpool made serious research harder than submitting to our peers and elders, then this new dark Garvey variant would creep back like jungle over cropland.
(Note that right up to his death, Ray Bradbury insisted that the problem depicted in Fahrenheit 451 was not top-down censorship and book burning but bottom-up tribalism and loss of interest.)
One obvious lesson is not to let access become harder than fresh discovery. That's an argument for OA, even if OA is far from sufficient to spread knowledge to those who are more or less willfully neglecting it.
Another lesson, which I hope is equally obvious, is not to be content with setting the bar that low. Eliminating Garvey problems is the least, not the most, that we can ask from an effective access system. Looking up the results of a past inquiry can be unconscionably costly and still less costly than redoing the original inquiry. The OA movement is right to try to solve the Garvey problem and right to keep pushing to make access easier and easier.
But even making access as easy as contemporary technology allows sets the bar too low. Even when looking up what we don't know is essentially costless, we must create a culture in which we want to do so. Until then we won't have answered Mark Twain. If we don't actually look up or learn what we don't know and need to know, and don't actually incorporate it into our lives, then we're no better off than people thwarted by Garvey problems who can't look things up.
There are good reasons why the OA movement focuses narrowly on price and permission barriers, not more broadly on the insidious barriers of will. But the similarities are real and worth bringing out for examination. When we do bring them out, and hugely broaden the problem of access barriers, we see that OA is necessary and sufficient for solving the narrower problem and necessary but insufficient for solving the broader problem. That's as optimistic as I can get.
* Postscript. If it's elitist to prefer knowledge and research to ignorance, then I plead guilty to elitism. But it would be perverse to describe any position as elitist that wants to tear down access barriers and share knowledge and research with everyone. If you think that favoring knowledge over ignorance invites invidious or question-begging ways of drawing that distinction, I agree. I haven't forgotten that problem. I address it here in Part 2 in the form of the Meno problem. But I remind the reader of Part 2 that I also addressed it in Part 1 by framing the goal as access to "research" in the wider sense, not just "knowledge" in the narrower sense. ("We want access to all the data, evidence, [and] arguments...that help us decide what to call 'knowledge', not just to the results that we agree to call 'knowledge'. If access depended on the *outcome* of debate and inquiry, then access could not *contribute* to debate and inquiry. We don't have a good name for this category larger than knowledge, but here I'll just call it 'research'....") Hence, postmodern suspicion of "knowledge" does nothing to detoxify the prospect of a New Dark Age.
Last month in the Roundup section I wrote: "Bloomsbury Academic announced plans to publish an OA edition of the one-million page personal archive Winston Churchill."
It's not true that the edition will be OA. (Thanks to Sandy Thatcher for catching the error.) At least it won't all be OA. As Frances Pinter, the publisher of Bloomsbury Academic, explained to me, the reason is that "the company is financing the core digitization process." However, she added that "some parts will be open either initially or following publication as some innovative partnerships are to be developed to further the goal of reaching the widest possible audience."
Here's what happened, or what I noticed, since the last issue of the newsletter, emphasizing action and policy over scholarship and opinion. I put the most important items first, with double asterisks, and otherwise cluster them loosely by topic.
For a more comprehensive picture of recent OA developments, see (and help build) the project feed of the OA Tracking Project.
** Portugal's Instituto Politécnico de Bragança (IPB) adopted an OA mandate.
* Singapore Management University announced a new policy to make its theses and dissertations OA through PQDT (ProQuest's Dissertations and Theses database) Open.
* SPARC and Science Commons released released a white paper by Simon Frankel and Shannon Nestor, two lawyers at Covington and Burling, on How Faculty Authors Can Implement an Open Access Policy at Their Institutions. The paper focuses on avoiding legal pitfalls and uses the Harvard and MIT policies as a model.
* Participants at a November 2009 meeting at Yale Law School issued a set of recommendations for open data, open code, and OA texts, as part of a larger program to facilitate reproducible research in the field of computer science.
* At the IFLA General Assembly Meeting a draft resolution called on the organization to "take an explicit and clear stand on Open Access and develop a strategy for action." The draft is based on the recommendations from the IFLA Satellite Meeting on Open Access and the Changing Role of Libraries (Gothenburg, August 9, 2010).
* The Swedish Library Association is campaigning for a national OA policy for publicly-funded research.
* The Brazilian Project on Open Educational Resources called for OA to publicly-funded educational materials in Brazil.
* Matseliso Moshoeshoe-Chadzingwa called on African libraries to advocate OA to "researchers and political leaders", and to press the African Union to make OA part of its evaluation of national performance under the African Peer Review Mechanisms (APRM).
* CODATA launched a list of the open data policies of many organizations, especially those in the environmental sciences.
* Raquel Lavandera-Fernandez and Richardo Onís-Romero compared European OA policies in the field of medicine.
* The Alliance for Taxpayer Access released its summary of the hearing on OA for publicly-funded research held on July 29, 2010, by the Information Policy, Census and National Archives Subcommittee of the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform.
* The Association of Health Care Journalists released its August 22, 2010, letter to Congress in support of OA for publicly-funded research in the US.
* A new bill, the Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act (H.R. 6026), would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to establish a website to provide free public access to congressionally-mandated reports.
* Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) became the 11th co-sponsor of the House version of FRPAA (HR 5037).
* A bill before the Czech parliament would put bureaucratic hurdles in the way of anyone wanting to use open licenses.
* The Journal of Surgical Radiology is a new peer-reviewed, no-fee OA journal with a nominally priced print edition.
* Ecosphere is a new peer-reviewed journal published by the Ecological Society of America.
* The Journal of Pharmaceutical Education and Research is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from the Punjab College of Technology Education Institute of Pharmacy.
* Genome Integrity is a new peer-reviewed OA journal from BioMed Central.
* Speculations: Journal of Speculative Realism is a new peer-reviewed OA journal of post-continental philosophy.
* Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception is a forthcoming peer-reviewed OA journal.
* Trypillian Civilization Journal is a new peer-reviewed OA journal.
* Polar Research, the journal of The Norwegian Polar Institute, took a novel approach to the process of converting to OA. It called for OA publishers to submit tenders for converting the journal to OA and publishing it for 36 months, with an option to renew. Polar Research is currently published by Wiley-Blackwell.
* An anonymous blogger called on the American Economic Association convert its journals to OA rather than reduce its membership dues.
* The American Mathematical Society (AMS) digitized the backfiles of its journals and provided OA to them all, up to 2005. The work was funded by an anonymous donor.
* BMJ Open is a forthcoming fee-based peer-reviewed OA journal from the BMJ Group. The journal will require OA to raw data "wherever possible" and post referee comments alongside published papers.
* BMJ decided to shift business models and charge publication fees "but only when funders have pledged to pick up the bill." All BMJ research articles will be OA, regardless of the payment or non-payment of the fees, but BMJ will continue to charge subscriptions for its "editorials, education, comment, features, and news" and will not reduce its subscription prices in proportion to the revenue from the OA publication fees.
* Springer and four Norwegian universities (Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim and Tromsø) struck a deal under which subscriptions to Springer's hybrid OA journals allow faculty to pay no publication fees when publishing in same journals.
* The Helmholtz Association struck deals with SpringerOpen and BMC, agreeing to pay the publishing fees when Helmholtz authors publish in SpringerOpen or BMC OA (or hybrid OA) journals.
* The University of Florida Libraries bought a supporter membership in BioMed Central.
* Italy's Project NECOBELAC (Network of Collaboration Between Europe and Latin American-Caribbean Countries) now offers to pay the publication fees at fee-based OA journals on behalf of European and Latin American co-authors.
* Amsterdam University Press put together a consortium of nine institutions to support the costs of publishing the (OA) Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries.
* The Japanese High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) issued a statement in support of SCOAP3.
* Elsevier opened the content APIs for ScienceDirect, Scopus, and SciVerse Hub. "[E]ven nonsubscribers will be granted access to protected content if they are building applications for it...."
* In June the University of California libraries threatened to boycott journals from Nature Publishing Group if NPG didn't reduce its proposed 400% price increase for the UC site license. (See my lead article in the July SOAN.) In August the two organizations had a constructive meeting in which they agreed to continue talking to work out their differences.
+ Repositories and databases
* The Texas Tech University School of Law launched an institutional repository.
* OceanDocs is a new OA repository for marine science and oceanography, launched by the UN Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).
* The OpenAIRE project release version 1.0 of its Guidelines for participating European repositories. Some repositories will have to add functionality in order to participate in the project.
* The National libraries of South Korea, China and Japan launched the China-Japan-Korea Digital Library Initiative, which will make their digital holdings accessible to residents of the other countries, in their own languages. (I can't tell whether this content will be OA or just available within the three countries.)
* The US Civilian Research and Development Foundation launched a regional OA digital library for North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia). In 2006 the same foundation built a similar library for Iraq.
* ebrary provided OA to its collection of ebooks on cyberbullying.
* Korea's Inje University launched a three-year project to digitize genealogical records and create an OA Digital Genealogy Library.
* JISC's new RePosit Project "seeks to increase uptake of a web-based repository deposit tool embedded in a researcher-facing publications management system."
* EPrints announced plans to open an EPrints Bazaar, an "app-store that allows repository users to install new repository components with a single click in the repository user interface."
* UKPMC added a feature allow users to click through to see Web of Science citation data for any article on deposit in UKPMC.
* Texas A&M University Libraries launched a new method for harvesting electronic theses and dissertations for its IR, and used it to 2,300+ ETDs.
* RePEc upgraded its method of measuring usage statistics in order to rule out even more mischievous and misleading hits.
* RePEc added RSS feeds for new citations, articles, papers, series, and journals. It also created RePEcfb, a Facebook application allowing users to display their latest works. http://blog.repec.org/2010/08/30/a-few-new-features-on-repec-services/
* The Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI), launched in 2003 by public and private partners in the US, reported progress in identfying biological markers that slow the development of the disease, and attributed the new successes to the project policy to provide immediate all project data and prohibit patent applications on project discoveries.
* Neil Hall and colleagues provided OA to their draft genome sequence for wheat.
* A group of OA proteomics repositories formed the ProteomExchange to formalize their data sharing and create universal accession numbers for data items. The ProteomExchange also called for funders to mandate open data.
* ChemSpider now provides OA to Infotherm data, which was formerly free only to members of the Royal Society of Chemistry.
* ChemSpider introduced a method to search PubChem for data deposited by Nature Publishing Group and import them into ChemSpider with links back to the NPG articles where they originated.
* The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is converting its BioSense database to OA. BioSense is a "national surveillance program designed to provide sentinel monitoring for bioterrorism and epidemic outbreaks" and "near real-time coordination of health surveillance information between federal, state and local public health organizations...."
* The US National Library of Medicine added data on crude oil and dispersants to its OA Hazardous Substances Data Bank.
* The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to offer OA to more information on hazardous chemicals. The rules would also "prevent manufacturers from inappropriately hiding health and safety information as alleged trade secrets...."
* The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and climate.gov launched a "climate dashboard" to summarize open data on climate change for citizens and policy-makers.
* Josh Knauer was appointed to a subcommittee of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Knauer is a "pioneer of open data initiatives for non-profit and government clients" and in PCAST will lead "an initiative to deliver recommendations for standardizing how open data can be defined, collected and published by federal agencies...."
* The Public Library of Science and the Pacific Ocean Shelf Tracking (POST) Program launched an OA database of marine animal movements along the west coast of North America.
* The OA Arabidopsis Information Resource (TAIR) database, funded primarily by the NSF, announced a series of new co-funders, including the Gregor Mendel Institute at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and two private corporations, Dow AgroSciences and Syngenta Biotechnology Inc.
* WorldCat upgraded its Digital Collection Gateway to libraries, museums, and archives to contribute digital resources and metadata.
* The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) joined the Pool for Open Innovation against Neglected Tropical Diseases. It's the the first product development partnership (PDP) to contribute intellectual property to project.
* The Journal of Neuroscience announced a new policy to take effect in November: the journal "will no longer allow authors to include supplemental material when they submit new manuscripts and will no longer host supplemental material on its web site for those articles. When articles are published, authors will be allowed to include a footnote with a URL that points to supplemental material on a site they support and maintain, together with a brief description of what the supplemental material includes, but that supplemental material will not be reviewed or hosted by The Journal...."
+ Books and digitization
* The Internet Archive released the first component of its BookServer project: the Open Publishing Distribution System (OPDS) Catalog format, and open standard "to enable the discovery of digital content from any location, on any device, and for any application...."
* The Shuttleworth Foundation launched Yoza, a library of OA "m-novels" or cellphone stories users in Africa.
* Klaus Graf created a screencast on how users from outside the US can use a US proxy to read Google Books.
* Yale University Library joined HathiTrust.
* The Open Culture blog created a list of 150 OA textbooks.
* The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released its Principles to Guide Vendor/Publisher Relations in Large-Scale Digitization Projects. The principles call for "the broadest possible user access" to the results, minimal embargo periods, and no access fees or royalty demands for non-commercial use of public-domain content.
* IBM and the EU launched a joint digitization project, Improving Access to Text (IMPACT), offering "new tools and best practices to institutions across Europe that will enable them to efficiently and accurately...produce quality digital replicas of historically significant texts and make them widely available, editable and searchable online...."
* Michael Hart of Project Gutenberg plans to offer OA to one billion books: 10 million public-domain books translated into 100 languages each.
* Consumers International published an OA book on A2K: Access to Knowledge: A Guide for Everyone, edited by Frederick Noronha and Jeremy Malcolm.
* Charles W. Bailey Jr. released version 1 of his Open Access Journals Bibliography.
* Walt Crawford described his forthcoming book, " 'Open Access: What You Need to Know,' an ALA Editions Special Report that will appear in 2011...."
* Rice University announced that it will close its press this month. The press closed in 1996 and was revived in 2006 with a focus on OA and POD.
* The University of Scranton closed its press, due to "financial pressures and shifting priorities" at the university.
+ Studies and surveys
* SPARC released the latest research report by John Houghton and colleagues on the economic impact of OA policies. The new report focuses on the US and concludes that "over a transitional period of 30 years from implementation, the potential incremental benefits of the proposed FRPAA archiving mandate might be worth around 8 times the costs. Perhaps two-thirds of these benefits would accrue within the US, with the remainder spilling over to other countries. Hence, the US national benefits arising from the proposed FRPAA archiving mandate might be of the order of 5 times the costs...."
* Salvatore Mele released the first results of the SOAP [Study of Open Access Publishing] Project. 89% of the 40,000 surveyed researchers said that OA journals would be beneficial to their field. Half of the 14 "large" OA publishers used CC licenses, most of them (82%) using CC-BY licenses and the rest (18%) using CC-BY-NC; of the smaller OA publishers, only about one-fifth used CC licenses.
* The IFLA World Report 2010 shows that "the vast majority of library associations support Open Access....Support for Open Access by library associations is very high across all regions, with Europe and North America reporting no library association that did not support Open Access...."
* Yassine Gargouri and Stevan Harnad summarized their research showing that more OA articles are green than gold, even if we exclude from the green category articles that are both green and gold. The research is under review at a journal.
* Les Carr compared with Mendeley deposits in computer science with those at his own departmental repository at Southampton. Mendeley had more repository records but Southampton had more full-text articles.
* Les Carr found that of 53 faculty members at Cambridge with memberships at Mendeley, only two had deposited work in the Cambridge IR. "This is potentially great news: Mendeley's software has gained takeup from users who aren't repository users. They aren't preaching to the converted, they are getting new users to work in the open, to start to make the transition from the desktop to the Web. But the OA battle hasn't been won yet. Of those 53 [members],...only 9 have made any of their publications open access through the Mendeley service (a total of 40 PDFs)...."
* A new survey of Association of Research Libraries (ARL) member libraries showed that "over 75% of survey respondents reported that their institution either provides infrastructure or support services for e-science or is planning infrastructure for such activities...."
* The UK Council of Graduate Education (UKCGE) released the results of a survey of member institutions. "The 2010 survey has revealed that, contrary to expectations, the number of requests to restrict access to PhD theses has not increased significantly since the original survey in 2004....[A]t the same time, there was a markedly reduced tendency to impose the maximum allowable embargo period compared to the 2004 survey...." The report also recommends that "UK universities should consider viable alternatives to placing an embargo on the whole thesis document; an approach that conflicts with the ethos of free and open access to research."
* The Research Information Network released the second part of a (TA) study on how ejournals change scholarly behavior in the UK. Among the results: "[A]ccess to journals has improved dramatically....Passwords were the least of the researchers' concerns when it came to barriers to access. Most often, a lack of subscription was cited as the reason for access problems, ahead of having to pay for a download....."
* ALPSP released the results of its survey of the members of 35 UK learned societies. Most said they knew what OA was and supported the idea of OA journals. But "although 60% said that they read OA journals and 25% that they published in them, in both cases around one-third of the journals named were not OA." In addition "less than half knew what self-archiving was; 36% thought it was a good idea and 50% were unsure. Just under half said they used repositories of self-archived articles, but 13% of references were not in fact to self-archiving repositories. 29% said they self-archived their own articles, but 10% of references were not to publicly accessible sites of any kind."
* Rowena Cullen and Brenda Chawner reported the results of their survey of New Zealand librarians and faculty on their attitudes toward institutional repositories. "[L]ibrary managers...are positive about the value of their institutional repository, and the progress made towards recruiting content for it....[A]cademics have been slow to embrace the concept of institutional repositories, and show little interest in using repositories for increasing the accessibility of their own work, or to access the work of others. The number of deposits remains low...."
* Florence Bourgeois and colleagues reported that drug trials funded by industry "were less likely to be published within 2 years of study completion and were more likely to report positive outcomes than were trials funded by other sources...."
* Olaf Zawacki-Richter and colleagues found that OA and TA journals in the field of distance education were comparable in prestige. Articles in the OA journals were cited earlier and more often than articles in the TA journals.
* C.R. Macedo and colleagues found that 96% of the articles in two Brazilian OA journals of cardiology were methodologically sound.
* Cambridge Economic Policy Associates (CEPA) and Mark Ware Consulting will undertake a study of the "Dynamics of improving access to research papers" for the Research Information Network (RIN). The project will assess the costs, benefits, risks, and opportunities of making the transition to four different "end-points", among them green and gold OA. It will also create an alternative to the JISC/Houghton model for estimating the economic impact of OA policies.
* JISC's CTREP (Cambridge TETRA Repositories Enhancement Project) issued its final report. Among the project's purposes were to increase deposits to the targeted repositories, increase user satisfaction with the process, and record the lessons learned.
* SHERPA/RoMEO announced some forthcoming changes to its (open) API, and launched a survey on the new features users would like to see.
* A group of public-interest organizations launched a survey on the state of open data from the US federal, state, and local governments.
* The European Commission asked the Reflection Group (Comité des Sages) to recommend ways that Europe can "best...speed up the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material." The Comité des Sages in turn launched a public consultation the question. Comments are due by September 30.
+ Software and tools
* Creative Commons launched its Public Domain Mark for public comment (until August 18). The new tool allows users to tag items in the public domain and allows search engines to search for the tagged items. At the same time it launched voluntary guidelines which those hosting PD works may ask users to follow when using those works. CC welcomes public comments on the mark and guidelines until August 18.
* The US Department of Energy's Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) announced that it is working on a tool to search the audio part of video files for single words. If the user clicks on a match, the tool will jump the user to the point in the video where that word is being spoken.
* DuraSpace released Fedora Repository 3.4
* DuraSpace launched a Registered Service Provider Program "to establish partnerships with companies that provide support services to institutions using the DSpace and Fedora digital repository software...."
* The Public Knowledge Project released version 2.3.1 of the Open Harvesting System.
* Creative Commons released version 0.7.0 of its OpenOffice Plug-in.
* The Yolink browser plug-in search technology added support for CC licenses. The plug-in allows users to find online content and share it through a Google Doc with a CC license.
* Roderic Page used the Mendeley API to create an app to tell Mendeley users how often other Mendeley users are reading the articles cited in given article article.
* The UK government opened the source code for the CKAN Drupal module it built for data.gov.uk.
+ Awards and milestones
* In July, The Guardian named Mendeley the project "most likely to change the world for the better".
* The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) gave MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) its Science Prize for Online Resources in Education.
* Time Magazine named MIT OpenCourseWare one of the 50 best websites of 2010.
* David H. Carlson, dean of Library Affairs at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, was named the 2010 Illinois Academic Librarian of the Year. Carlson launched the Southern Illinois IR, served as a past chair of the SPARC Steering Committee, and is a long-time friend of OA.
* Christiane Stock's work on the OpenSIGLE Repository earned her a GreyNet 2010 Award for distinguished achievements in the field of grey literature.
* The Jorum Learning and Teaching competition named 10 finalists, which a public vote winnowed to six winners.
* BioMed Central launched a data sharing award for BMC authors. It will announce the winners in May 2011.
* In July RePEc passed some major milestones: 50 million file downloads, 25,000 registered authors, 12,500 listed book chapters, and 1,200 participating archives.
* The RePEc Author Service added its 25,000th author.
* The Bielefeld Academic Search Engine (BASE) now indexes more than 25 million records from more than 1,720 repositories worldwide. The index adds about 14,200 records every day.
* The Open Access Directory (OAD) passed the milestone of one million page views. (Robin Peek and I launched OAD in April 2008.)
* The University of California Libraries now have about 1,550,000 digitized books in the HathiTrust. About 250,000 of them in the public domain and OA.
* George Lundberg, Marty Tenenbaum, and Jeff Shrager created Cancer Commons. The project includes OA "living review articles" continually updated by the community and subject to postpublication review.
* Internet Archive, NASA, and Flickr launched NASA on The Commons, a collection of OA images hosted on Flickr. Users may add their own searchable tags and comments.
* Fotopedia and the UNESCO World Heritage Center launched Fotopedia Heritage, an iphone/ipad app of photographs of UNESCO's 890 world heritage sites. So far, more than 18,000 of the collection's 20,000 photos are CC-licensed.
* Harvard University launched the Harvard Library Lab. One of its founding principles is openness: "Projects should promote openness and should be sharable to the extent technically feasible....."
* CoLab, "a platform designed for open and massively collaborative science", launched at the Open Science Summit 2010.
* The US National Science Foundation announced a new funding program "to create a national resource of digital data documenting existing biological collections and to advance scientific knowledge by improving access to digitized information (including images) residing in vouchered scientific collections across the United States."
* The Open Knowledge Foundation launched a Cultural Heritage Working Group.
* The Boston museum, Historic New England, is using a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to digitize and provide OA to its 100 year old collection.
* OpenBuildings is a new OA and user-editable encyclopedia of world architecture and buildings.
* Knowledge Exchange funded the translation of the SERU (Shared Electronic Resource Understanding) statements into Dansh, Dutch, and English. A German translation soon follow.
* Peter Murray-Rust launched the Green Chain Reaction, a project to determine whether chemical reactions reported in the literature are getting greener. The project is asking publishers for permission to data-mine their journals.
* David Weinberger launched a project to provide OA to XML-based information extracted from course syllabi.
* Lambert Heller sketched a plan to update Wikipedia articles with lists of relevant OA literature. The plan mixes automation with crowd-sourced human judgments.
* Heather Piwowar created a Mendeley bibliography of articles on journal supplementary material.
* Mari Lyn Salvador, the new director of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at Berkeley, began implementing her vision that "the museum should become an open source...."
* Barbara Kirsop renewed her April call for OA stories for OA Week.
* Microsoft released its Security Development Lifecycle (SDL) documents under a CC-BY-NC-SA license, in order to make it as easy as possible for developers to know how to build secure applications for Windows.
* SlideShare moved to a fremium business model. The basic service remains OA free of charge.
* ProQuest no longer charges a fee for uploading theses and dissertations to its database, though it still charges a fee for those who want OA.
* Elsevier and the the Dutch Royal Tropical Sign Institute (KIT) will provide gratis OA to Scopus and ScienceDirect for 150 researchers working in developing countries.
* The US Department of Energy revealed that, "[b]ecause of cost considerations, even at DOE Headquarters, only 5% of the employees have access to [subscription] journals...."
Coming this month
* OA-related conferences in September 2010
* Other OA-related conferences
This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (ISSN 1546-7821), written by Peter Suber and published by SPARC. The views I express in this newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of SPARC or other sponsors.
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