Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) Newsletter
     September 6, 2001

Since mid-May I've followed the rule of thumb not to publish issues more often than once a week.  So I apologize that this issue arrives only six days after the last one.  The reason is that tomorrow I'll be busy with other obligations and the day after that Topica will be down for maintenance.  Besides, I already have an issue's worth ready to go.  Unless there's an unusual surge of FOS news in the coming days, I'll give us both a break next week.


What happened?

The Public Library of Science deadline (September 1) is now behind us.  What is the consequence of 26,000+ scientists worldwide pledging not to cooperate as authors, editors, or referees with journals that do not make their contents freely accessible online within six months of print publication?  If you've seen news stories, send me the URLs.  If you've seen news firsthand, send me an account.

Public Library of Science


BioMed Central's method of FOS

BioMed Central (BMC) has a business model that combines revenue for the publisher with free online access for readers.  It deserves wider examination and discussion, and perhaps imitation.  To learn more about it, I've conducted an informal email interview over the past two weeks with Jan Velterop, BMC's publisher.

BMC publishes 18 biology journals and 41 medical journals, and plans to publish others in the future.  All of these are peer-reviewed, and all of them provide free online access to their research articles.  Readers need not even register.  Hence, the content is not hidden behind passwords and can be crawled by major search engines.

BMC also hosts what it calls "affiliated journals".  These make their research articles freely accessible, but charge for reviews, commentaries, and other content going beyond research itself.

How does BMC pay its costs so that readers don't have to?  One source of revenue is the non-research literature in its affiliated journals.  Another source is advertising.  In the future BMC may offer alert services and peer recommendations.  If it does, then it will charge for them.

However, the most interesting and controversial source of revenue will be author fees.  Jan defended the idea in a June 13 opinion piece published at his site (and described in the July 3 FOSN).  But BMC has not yet adopted the policy, and will not do so until 2002 at the earliest.  The idea is to charge authors about $500 per article.  Jan estimates that this will cover the full cost of electronic publication (peer review, mark-up, hosting, and preservation).  He also estimates that it is roughly one-tenth the cost of print publication, at least in the STM fields.  The fee would be waived for authors from developing countries and in some other circumstances.

I have some thoughts about author fees and welcome yours; see the next item, below.  Meantime, we must admit that making literature freely available to users is not free for publishers, and that author fees can generate the revenue needed to bear these costs.  Moreover, BMC will set the fee at the actual cost (taking into account the cost of waivers) so that it is not more burdensome than it has to be.  Finally, at least in the case of BMC, the fees will be levied in fields where most research is funded and authors might be able to pay the fee with soft money.

Even if you hold your applause for author fees, BMC is doing a lot right.  It is committed to free online access for all the research articles in all its journals.  It always leaves copyright in the hands of the author.  It has solved the long-term preservation problem as well as print publications have, by archiving actual print-outs once a year.  Moreover, it doesn't confine its online content to its own site or its own database.  It shares them with related, public sites like PubMed Central.  By going beyond free online access to participation in common disciplinary archives, it meets even the lesser-known conditions of the Public Library of Science initiative.

Finally, BMC is interested in taking this model beyond biology and medicine to other fields.  If other publishers do so as well, BMC will welcome them as supporters of a new and better publishing paradigm, not as competitors.

BioMed Central

Jan Velterop's original case for author fees (June 13, 2001)


What do you think of author fees?

I'll be frank:  I have mixed feelings about author fees.  On the one hand, author fees give readers free online access to the literature and they give journals the revenue they need to make it happen.  On the other hand, many authors won't be able to afford them.  While I admit that journals providing free online access need some revenue, it remains the case (1) that journals needn't get their revenue from authors and (2) that we can achieve free online scholarship without getting it from journals.  Let me elaborate these two points.

First, journals needn't get their revenue from authors.  The costs of online journals could be borne by universities, learned societies, foundations, governments, or endowments.  In my own scale of values, we should rely on reader payments last, author payments second to last, and advertising third to last.  When readers have to pay, then readership is limited to those who can afford to pay.  This hinders both research and education.  When authors have to pay, then publication is limited to those who can afford to pay.  This also hinders both research and education.  When advertisers have to pay, then either objectivity or the appearance of objectivity is compromised.  Even if advertising does not distort editorial policy, readers shouldn't have to wonder about whether it does.  That leaves universities, learned societies, foundations, governments, endowments, and creative new ideas for generating revenue.  Let's try these diligently before we conclude that they cannot work and that we must retreat to advertisers or authors.

On the other hand, I acknowledge that we're not very close to institutionalizing the practice of supporting electronic publication through fees or contributions by  universities, learned societies, foundations, governments, or endowments.  For example, universities give disk space on their servers freely to faculty, but they are not as free with funds for copy editors or peer review facilitators.  Most foundations will not even consider giving a grant to build an endowment for an electronic journal or other scholarly resource.  Are author fees acceptable as an interim solution while we work on making them unnecessary?  If they make literature free for readers, are they at least better than systems that charge readers?

In the natural sciences more than the social sciences or humanities, research is funded, and it's very reasonable to ask funding agencies to subsidize publication.  But how soon can we make it commonplace for foundations to provide for publication costs when making research grants?  (How soon can we make it commonplace to require free online publication as a condition of research grants?)  Even if the model doesn't transfer well to other fields, it might be made workable in the most funded disciplines or for the funded research within any discipline.

Second, we can have free online scholarship without getting it from online journals.  The best way to do so is through what Stevan Harnad calls self-archiving.  It works like this.  Authors put unrefereed preprints online in institutional archives.  Then they submit their articles to refereed journals.  If the articles are accepted, and if the publisher allows, then authors put the refereed postprints in the same institutional archives.  If a publisher does not consent to this, then the author puts the "corrigenda" (the differences between the final version and the preprint version) in the archive.  Harnad and others have written free software for creating interoperable archives for just this purpose.  Institutions can host these archives at no cost to them beyond the disk space they occupy.

Having said that, I'd like to see self-archiving practiced alongside a thriving system of free online journals.  If this is to happen, then we still need a way to subsidize the costs of the online journals.  What do you think about author fees as a solution to this problem?  Please share your thoughts on our discussion forum.

BioMed Central debate on author fees

FOS discussion forum
(Anyone may read; only subscribers may post; subscription is free.)


Phase one of PERI is complete

The Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI) is a systematic effort to improve scientific research and communication in the developing world.  It is planned in four phases.  Phase One will provide free or affordable online access to 500+ scientific journals for universities and non-commercial research centers in six sub-Saharan nations.  In the case of some journals, digital access is provided offline through CDs.  PERI announced on September 4 that Phase One is now complete.

Future phases will extend the free online scholarship program to the rest of Africa and beyond to Asia and Central America.  It will also strengthen African journals, African publishers, African research, and provide training in the use of the internet for communication and electronic publication.

PERI is sponsored by the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP).  The free or discounted distribution of journals in Phase One is supported by the companies or learned societies that publish them.

First phase of PERI complete (press release)

Journals and publishers participating in PERI Phase One

Programme for the Enhancement of Research Information (PERI)

International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)

Blackwell Publishing press release
(Apparently, this is not yet on the Blackwell web site.  Thanks to Catherine Fisher for forwarding me a copy, which I've forwarded to the FOS discussion forum.)

* Postscript.  The program most similar to PERI's Phase One is Electronic Information for Libraries Direct (eIFL Direct) from George Soros' Open Society Institute (OSI).  In the case of eIFL, journal subscriptions were purchased by OSI and donated to the recipient institutions.  I have not been able to find out  whether INASP purchased the journal subscriptions in PERI's Phase One, whether INASP coordinated a large number of discounts and gifts, or some combination of these.  If anyone can shed light on this, please let me know or post a note to our discussion forum.



New England Journal of Medicine controversy

The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) gives full-text online access to paying subscribers.  Until now, an institutional subscription bought online access for two usernames.  NEJM probably intended for these to represent two actual human beings, but for some time it has tolerated the sharing of usernames within institutions.  Toleration ends on October 1.  On that date, an institutional subscription will buy online access for five individual computers (five specified IP addresses).  NEJM will no longer offer institution-wide site licenses.  If a university wants access from six machines, it will have to buy two subscriptions.  If it wants access from 600 machines, it will have to buy 120 subscriptions.  If a university generates dynamic IP addresses for its work stations, then those work stations will be ineligible for access.  The username and password system allowed access from any machine, on or off campus; but on October 1 NEJM will also stop supporting proxy servers, excluding off-campus users even when they are bona fide institutional employees.  Finally, to add service cuts to price hikes, NEJM will also stop supporting wildcard searches.

Researchers and librarians are angry.  Listen in on their protests and strategies.  Is NEJM too important a subscription for a library to drop?  Is NEJM so important that it can survive competition from journals with much more generous access policies?

Discussion threads in LibLicense on the new NEJM policy

Protest from the Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences

To search NEJM, minus PDF articles and recent issues, without subscribing
(This service from Ovid is not free.)

NEJM home page

* Postscript.  NEJM's publishing director, Kent Anderson, welcomes comments on the new policy.  Send them to him at NEJM, 10 Shattuck Street, Boston, MA, 02115-6094, USA, or by email at <kanderson @ nejm.org>.


New on the web

* The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) has launched ISIHighlyCited.com.  The site uses ISI data to identify the most cited individuals, departments, and laboratories in a given discipline, according to 1981-1999 data.  Currently it covers only chemistry, engineering, neuroscience, and physics, but it plans to expand to other fields.  Users may browse by discipline, individual, institution, or nation.  Researchers identified by the database as "most cited" comprise less than 0.5% of all publishing researchers.

* In a related move, the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) has launched Science Spotlight, a service identifying the most cited and most requested articles in the chemistry literature.

* NELINET has put online summaries of all the presentations at the IFLA Preconference on Library Consortia held in Boston on August 16-17.  For most of the presentations, NELINET has links to full-text, and hopes to add such links for the other presentations in the coming weeks.

* In March, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) launched a student essay contest on intellectual property.  A counter-organization (WIPOUT) expects that the WIPO essays will avoid criticism in the hopes of winning.  So in response, WIPOUT has launched a counter-essay contest, soliciting essays more critical of the current state of intellectual property law --for example, how current copyright law prevents teachers from assigning the most relevant materials, or how it prevents researchers from putting their own published works on the web.  Essays can be submitted until March 15, 2002.

* Ever since Adobe instigated the arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov and then dropped its complaint against him, speculation has swirled about Adobe's motives and thinking.  In response Adobe has posted a Sklyarov FAQ at its web site.  Two surprises for those who have relied on the media:  (1) Adobe supports the prosecution of ElcomSoft (Sklyarov's employer), as opposed to Sklyarov, and (2) Adobe does not think Sklyarov was arrested for a scholarly presentation of a protection-breaking algorithm, but for holding the copyright on protection-breaking software released to the public.

* The International eBook Award Foundation has announced the finalists for the 2001 awards.  Several of the finalists for non-fiction are scholarly books, for example, David McCullough's biography of John Adams (from Simon & Schuster).  The ebook winners, as well as an award for the best ebook technology, will be announced in Frankfurt on October 10.


Share your thoughts

* The InterPARES Project (International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems) would like your comments on a series of draft documents produced by its task forces on authenticity, appraisal, and preservation.  Comments will be welcomed until September 26.

* The INSPIRAL Project (INveStigating Portals for Information Resources And Learning) is looking for people who have taken online courses to participate in two forums to help identify ways to integrate virtual learning environments with digital library services.  It will pay a small stipend to induce participants to attend.


In other publications

* In an opinion in the September 6 _Nature_, the editors argue that we must adopt common metadata standards in order to realize the full promise of electronic publication.  Once we have a common standard, metadata should be coded in XML directly in scientific papers.  The editors like the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) metadata standard, in part because it is a lowest common denominator and in part because it is already becoming widely adopted.  But they argue that some kinds of content will require richer metadata vocabularies.  Finally, the editors argue that full-text indexing is more urgent than free online access, although they seem to endorse free access when other priorities have been met.

* In the September 3 issue of _First Monday_, Robin Henshaw explores the FOS implications of the trend toward paid placement in the major search engines.  If readers and free online articles depend on the major search engines to find one another, then paid placement is a harmful trend.  (PS:  The good news is that we needn't depend on the major search engines.)

* Also in the September _First Monday_, Ramzi Nasser and Kamal Abouchedid describe the financial and technical problems facing scholarly journals in Arab countries.  Beyond these, they identify what they call an epistemological problem:  distrust or suspicion of electronic publication, which could solve the problems facing print journals.  (PS:  Isn't this problem much wider than the Arab world?)

* In the same issue of _First Monday_, Brendan Scott argues that recent revisions of copyright law favoring publishers do very little to prevent infringement.  In fact, they tend to aggravate consumer cynicism, which could increase infringement.  Scott suggests that publishers trade in their rhetoric of rights for a rhetoric of responsibility, which could encourage greater reader respect and compliance.

* In the September 1 _Charlotte Observer_ Jessica Flathmann tells of a new South Carolina state law requiring public libraries to put porn filters on its web-connected computers.  But unlike similar laws across the U.S., the South Carolina law also requires that 10% of a library's computers (or at least one computer, whichever is greater) offer *unfiltered* access to the internet.  As a result, libraries across the state began *removing* filters from some of their computers. [Insert punchline here.]

* On September 1, the Pew Research Center released its report on the internet and education in America.  Among its findings:  71% of American teenagers aged 12-17 used the internet as the major source for a recent school project.  18% know someone who has used the internet to cheat on a paper or test.

* In the August 31 _Salon_, Damien Cave goes further into the controversy surrounding the U.S. Copyright Office's study of the DMCA (see FOSN, August 31).  Cave quotes Eben Moglen, lawyer for the Free Software Foundation:  the report is "a smack in the face to all the professional librarians' associations in the United States which, as the report avoids directly saying, uniformly backed the positions that the [Copyright Office] is rejecting."  Quoting Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:  "Instead of taking a stand to protect the historic copyright balance crafted by Congress and the courts, the Copyright Office has firmly planted its head in the sand."

* In the August 29 _ZDNet News_ Paul Festa describes a movement among world governments not only to favor open source software, but to legislate this preference for government agencies and government-owned companies.  Microsoft is trying to squash the movement.

* The August 28 _New York Times_ carries a story on the 10th anniversary of arXiv.  It recaps the origin and history of arXiv, which recently moved, with its founder Paul Ginsparg, from the Los Alamos National Laboratory to Cornell University.
(Thanks to Paul Ginsparg for bringing this to my attention.)

* In an August report from ARL Monthly, Clifford Lynch describes the metadata harvesting protocol (MHP) of the Open Archives Initiative (OAI).  Lynch describes why the MHP is of general application and need not apply only to archives of scholarly or freely accessible content.  He also explains why the MHP departs from the Z39.50 protocol and why, despite this departure, the two protocols can be made compatible.  Finally, Lynch speculates on some novel and interesting applications of MHP and enumerates some of the issues to resolve in the future evolution of MHP.


Catching up (old news I should have discovered sooner)

* Free is best, but affordable is second-best.  If you represent a library and want to get the best terms in your licensing agreements with journals, databases, and other sources of digital information, then download the license-drafting software from LibLicense.  It will write an agreement to fit your needs, based on the evolving consensus of the many subscribers to the LibLicense mailing list.  Version 2.0 appeared in July.  The software is free.

* In August 2000 the California Digital Library formed a task force to make recommendations on how academic libraries should acquire and lend ebooks. The task force issued its report on March 15, 2001.

The full report of the task force

Background on the task force, its charge, and its data

Lucia Snowhill's summary of the report in D-Lib Magazine


Following up

* In our August 16 issue we reported on Cal State University's contract with netLibrary, giving it permission to lend netLibrary ebooks to more than one patron at a time.  Our source was an August 14 story in the _Chronicle of Higher Education_.  Now Cal State U has published an open letter correcting some inaccuracies in the _Chronicle_ story.  If the letter is designed to assuage concerns that Cal State is getting benefits unavailable to other libraries, then the letter could clarify more than it does.  On the one hand, it acknowledges that Cal State was part of a Multiple Access Pilot Project.  On the other, it insists that "at no time, were there any elements of this project that fell outside of the contractual relationships netLibrary has in place with its publishers or library customers."



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

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

* Experimental OAI Based Digital Library Systems
Darmstadt, September 8

* Preserving Online Content for Future Generations
Darmstadt, September 8

* International Autumn School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for Physics, Astronomy and Mathematics
Geneva, September 9-14

* Digital Libraries:  Advanced Methods and Technologies, Digital Collections
Petrozavodsk, September 11-13

* The Fundamentals of Digital Projects (Illinois Digitization Workshop)
Urbana, Illinois, September 20

* Intellectual Property and Multimedia in the Digital Age:  Copyright Town Meeting
New York, September 24; Cincinnati, October 27; Eugene, Oregon, November 19

* Digital Resources for Research in the Humanities
Sydney, September 26-28

* EBLIDA Workshop on the Acquisition and Usage of Electronic Resources
The Hague, September 28

* Summer School on the Digital Library 2001:  Electronic Publishing
Florence, October 7-12

* IT in the Transformation of the Library
Milwaukee, October 11-14

* International Conference on Dublin Core and Metadata Applications 2001
Tokyo, October 22-26

* Information in a Networked World:  Harnessing the Flow
Washington D.C., November 2-8

* Electronic Book 2001:  Authors, Applications, and Accessibility
Washington D.C., November 5-7


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

Please feel free to forward this newsletter to interested colleagues.  If you are reading a forwarded copy of this issue, you may subscribe yourself by signing up at the FOS home page or the FOS Newsletter page.

FOS home page, general information, subscriptions, editorial position, feedback form

FOS Newsletter, subscriptions, back issues

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Guide to the FOS Movement

Peter Suber

Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber

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