Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #78
October 2, 2004

Read this issue online

A busy month of action on the NIH open-access plan

A lot has happened with the NIH open-access plan since the last issue of the newsletter.  Here are the major developments in chronological order.  I comment on their significance afterwards.

(1) On September 3, the NIH released its own draft policy of the plan for a 60 day period of public comment.  (Until September 3, all we had was a July 14 directive from the House Appropriations Committee for the NIH to produce a plan.)

(2) Rep. Ernest Istook (R-OK) and Rep. Ralph Regula (R-OH) engaged in a "colloquy" about the House Appropriations Committee report language proposing the NIH open-access plan (Congressional Record, September 8, p. H6833).  

(3) On September 9, the House of Representatives adopted the NIH recommendation in the House appropriations report by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 388-13.  The recommendation then moved to the Senate.

(4) Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Chairman of the House Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee (the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NIH) decided not to include any language on the NIH plan in the Senate subcommittee report. 

(5) On September 17, the NIH plan was published in the Federal Register, for another 60 day period of public comment ending on November 16.  This is the same text published in the NIH Guide on September 3 for a 60 day public comment period ending on November 2.

(6) On September 24, the NIH announced that the comment periods from the two postings of its plan (September 3 in the NIH Guide and September 17 in the Federal Register) had been merged.  Now all comments are due on November 16, 2004 (60 days from the Federal Register publication).

(7) Supporters have continued to sign on.  Among the most notable are the American Association of Universities, the National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  Together with the open letter from 25 American Nobel laureates in science, the AAU and NAS endorsements solidify the support from the American research community.  The Alliance for Taxpayer Access embodies a large number of important endorsements in its rapidly growing membership list.  ATA members now include an impressive range of patient and disease advocacy organizations, universities, laboratories, and libraries.

The AAU endorsement of the NIH plan, September 27, 2004

The NAS endorsement, September 16, 2004

The Chamber of Commerce endorsement, September 9, 2004

Alliance for Taxpayer Access membership list

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine endorsed the key elements of the plan:  the open access and the six month embargo.  In fact, it went further and endorsed OA for "all research articles, not just those funded by the NIH".  NEJM qualified its support, however, by suggesting that the journals publishing these OA-archived articles should hold the copyrights.  It argued that journals need copyrights in order to block the redistribution of mangled copies of the text, for example, one-sided extracts showing the advantages of a new drug without its disadvantages.  (PS:  I'm confident that the NIH funding contract will not take this right away from authors.  Hence, it will be up to authors and journals whether authors will transfer this right to journals, just as it is today.)

Even Elsevier, which doesn't support the plan overall, gave it a kind of backhanded endorsement.  Bradie Metheny wrote in the September 8 issue of Washington Fax (accessible only to subscribers):  "John Regazzi, managing director of marketing development for Elsevier, the world's largest publisher of journals, said no one can argue against giving the public access to NIH information; it is in the public interest.  'But how you do it is the key,' he said.  '[The NIH proposal] is moving too fast,' Regazzi argued."  (PS:  I'd love to see other publishers start from the same premise that open access to this literature is in the public interest.  We could then focus the debate on whether it is or isn't outweighed by other considerations.  But on the whole other publishers are unwilling to make this obvious concession.)

Here are few new questions and answers about the current state of play.

* Why are there two or even three plans? 

The House Appropriations Committee language of July 14 makes some policy recommendations and directs the NIH to come up with its own plan by December 1 to implement them.  The NIH issued a draft of its plan on September 3, for a 60 day period of public comment ending on November 2.  The September 3 text was also published in the Federal Register on September 17, for another 60 public comment period ending on November 16.  The NIH has since merged the two comment periods, with a single deadline of November 16.  The new deadline will give the agency about two weeks after the comment period expires to digest the comments and finalize the plan language before the December 1 deadline.   For the purpose of anticipating what the final plan will or will not provide, consult the NIH's  text (the September 3 and September 17 versions are identical), and eventually consult the revised version of the text that emerges from the public comment period.

* What does it mean that the NIH issued its plan so quickly?

It's not so quick when you realize that it needs to collect and digest public comments before producing a final plan by December 1.  However, it was able to produce the draft plan to fit this timetable because it had already been thinking about the issues for a long time.  For example, it presented a report to Congress on OA issues in May 2004, and had already gathered a wide range of views in three stakeholder meetings in July and August.  The time had come to open the process to public comment.  The prompt release of the plan means that the NIH already supports open access based on its prior deliberations.  Congress is not compelling NIH to act against its better judgment.  Despite the prescriptive language in the House appropriations report, this is less a Congressional mandate than a convergence of views.

Access to Biomedical Research Information (the NIH report to Congress, May 2004)

* What are differences between the July House report and the September NIH plan?

(1) The September plan drops the provision in the July report requiring immediate OA if the NIH paid any part of the article's publication costs.  The new plan simply says that the OA edition will appear six months after publication "or sooner if the publisher agrees". 

Comment:  The public interest would be better served by immediate OA than a six month embargo, but I can accept the embargo as a political necessity to get the plan adopted.  The new change gives publishers even more than the original House version, guaranteeing that the embargo will never be shorter than six months without their consent.  If this concession does not reduce publisher opposition, then it was not worth making and should be revoked.

(2) The September plan gives new detail on exactly what grantees must deposit in PMC: "electronic copies of all final version manuscripts" accepted at peer-reviewed journals, when "final manuscript" is defined as "the author's version resulting after all modifications due to the peer review process."  But then the September plan adds a new provision: "If the publisher requests, the author's final version of the publication will be replaced in the PMC archive by the final publisher's copy with an appropriate link to the publisher's electronic database." 

Comment:  This is welcome detail.  Giving publishers the option to replace the unofficial author version with the official journal version is a very good idea.  Because they needn't exercise the option, publishers can't complain.  Because exercising it would improve the archived OA literature, it can only help.  In its endorsement of the plan, the National Academy of Sciences strongly urged publishers to take advantage of this option.

(3) The September plan gives new detail on what kind of NIH funding triggers the OA plan. The plan applies to NIH "grantees and supported Principal Investigators" and covers "all research grants, cooperative agreements, contracts, as well as National Research Service Award (NRSA) fellowships." The OA policy will apply to all articles whose underlying research "was supported in whole or in part by NIH funding." 

Comment:  This is welcome detail.  The House report fudged the "all or part" question, and the NIH has clarified it in the right decision.

(4) The September plan drops the condition in the July report that the policy will only apply to articles accepted by a "scientific journal listed in the NLM's PubMed directory".  

Comment:  This is two-sided.  On the one hand, it closes a worrisome loophole.  Now the plan will cover NIH-funded research published in any peer-reviewed journal, not just the portion published in certain journals.  On the other hand, it opens the door to criticism that the quality of PMC will be diluted by poor publications.  Since this criticism is easily answered, NIH made the right call.  How do we answer this criticism?  All articles covered by this plan will be based on research proposals that made it through the tough NIH vetting process prior to funding; taxpayers should have open access to all articles based on NIH-funded research anyway, regardless of their quality; and even the inclusion of occasional weak articles in PMC does nothing to detract from the strong ones. 

(5) The House report language wanted the NIH to develop a policy "requiring" deposit in PMC, but the NIH plan will merely "request" that grantees deposit their articles in PMC. 

Comment:  It's not clear whether this word-change is significant.  For example, two members of the House committee that wrote the requirement-language said in public, for the record, on the House floor, that the NIH draft is "consistent" with their own language.  (See the Istook-Regula colloquy, below.)  If they intended a hard and fast requirement and saw the NIH propose an optional request, then they wouldn't have given this endorsement.   Moreover, the NIH will enforce its "request", which gives it at least some of the flavor of a requirement.  The NIH will monitor grantee compliance and use non-compliance as a factor when deciding whether to award subsequent or follow-up funds.  Since serious researchers don't expect to do just one fundable project, they won't risk future funding by disregarding the NIH OA condition (even if they oppose OA, which is unlikely).  For the same reason, publishers who encourage authors to disregard the OA policy, on the ground that it is a mere request, would be harming those authors by exposing them to NIH sanctions.

For both reasons --legislative intent and operation in practice-- it seems that there's no bright line between requests and requirements here.  If that's true, then the softening of the language may just be diplomatic cordiality.  However, if the softening of the language is significant, and compliance is more optional than the sanction makes it appear, then it's a major concession to publishers and a major departure from the public interest in open access.  If further developments make clear that this is the proper way to interpret the language, then publishers should drop their opposition.  If they don't, then the concession was not worth making and should be revoked.

I once drafted a model OA policy for funding agencies that included a requirement (or what I called a requirement), not just a request.  My chosen enforcement mechanism was to have non-compliant grantees repay their grants.  To this day, the only criticism I've received on the policy was directed to the enforcement mechanism.  Several scientists pointed out that denying subsequent funds would suffice.  If so, then the NIH's enforcement mechanism will also suffice, regardless whether we use request or requirement language.

Model open-access policy for foundation research grants

(6) Finally, while the July report contained some background principles and goals of the House Appropriations Committee, the September plan articulates some goals and intentions of the NIH. I count at least these eight: (a) the goal to improve the health of Americans; (b) the goal "to share and support public access to the results and accomplishments of the activities that [the NIH] funds"; (c) the goal to improve access to scientific information for "other scientists, health care providers, students, teachers, and the many millions of Americans searching the web to obtain credible health-related information"; (d) the intention to "balance this need with the ability of journals and publishers to preserve their critical role in the peer review, editing and scientific quality control process"; (d) the intention to monitor the "economic and business implications" of the plan in order to avoid "compromising the quality of the information being provided"; (f) the intention to "maintain a dialogue with publishers, investigators, and representatives from scientific associations and the public to ensure the success of this initiative"; (g) the intention to monitor compliance with the new policy and to use compliance as one factor in evaluating subsequent applications for NIH funds; and (h) the intention to "consider options to ensure that grantees' budgets are not unduly affected by this policy", for example, by journals that impose "unreasonable or disproportionate charges" on grantees.

* What was the "colloquy" on the floor of the House (September 8) and what does it mean?

A colloquy is a scripted dialogue for entering additional language into the Congressional Record.  It provides legislative history on a bill without amending the bill.  The colloquy on September 8 was between Representatives Ernest Istook (R-OK) and Ralph Regula (R-OH), who are both members of the House subcommittee that originally proposed the NIH open-access plan.  Here's roughly what their dialogue added to the legislative history:  concern about rising journal prices; concern about diminishing public access to federally funded research; support for the principle of free online access to publicly-funded research; support for Elias Zerhouni in seeking comments from three stakeholder meetings; support for the NIH's speed in preparing and releasing its September 3 draft plan; and confirmation that the NIH's September 3 draft is consistent with the language in the House appropriations report.  All of this is for the good.

Text of the Istook-Regula colloquy on the House appropriations report, September 8, 2004

* What does it mean that Sen. Arlen Specter has decided not to include a version of the House NIH recommendation in the Senate appropriations bill?

The bad news is that no Senate version of the House language will be adopted.  The good news is that no Senate version will be amended or defeated.  (Sen. Specter is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, the subcommittee determining the budget appropriation for the NIH.)

The fate of the House language will be worked out in a conference committee.  This is what happens whenever the House and Senate appropriations bills differ.  Because the Senate action, or non-action, is compatible with any resolution in the conference committee, and because Sen. Specter knows this perfectly well, we should infer nothing about his support or opposition to the House plan from this decision.  He's keeping his options open and shifting the resolution of the question from a larger chamber to a smaller one.

This step does not help supporters more than opponents or vice versa.  If the Senate had included the House language and voted it up, that would have been best for us and worst for our opponents, since it would have settled the question in our favor and removed it from the conference committee.  But if the Senate had included the language and then watered it down with amendments, or defeated it, that would have been worst for us and best for our opponents.   Both outcomes are now closed, for both sides. 

The members of the conference committee are yet to be named.  But at this stage the Senators most worth reaching with your views are Specter (R-PA), Harkin (D-IA), Stevens (R-AK), Byrd (D-WV), Frist (R-TN), and Daschle (D-SD).  If you have a relationship with any of these Senators or their offices, or if you reside in one of their states, then your phone call, fax, or email would be a big help.

Senator Specter first disclosed his decision on September 3, in an interview with Rick Weiss of the Washington Post.

The AAAS is the only stakeholder group I've seen to make a public comment on Specter's decision.  The association supports the Senate omission of the language but also supports the NIH procedure of gathering public opinion on its draft policy.  One reason may be that the omitted House language would have required immediate OA in some circumstances and the draft NIH policy would not.  (PS:  Other publishers should see that the NIH text is much more favorable to them than the original House language and work for its support.)
(Scroll down about half way.)

Senate Appropriations Committee

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the NIH)

* What does it mean that the NIH draft appeared on the "NIH Guide" page, and not originally in the Federal Register?

The NIH plan is a proposed revision of in-house agency guidelines for awarding research grants.  The NIH already has the authority to revise its own guidelines.  It doesn't need new statutes or regulations to give it this authority.  (The fact that the plan eventually appeared in the Federal Register as well doesn't change this fact.)

Hence, if Congress does not act, then the NIH could act on its own.  However, the NIH benefits from Congressional support, and Congressional opposition would certainly cause it to rethink its draft policy.

The NIH Guide web page

* What will the NIH plan cost?

Critics of the NIH plan have projected absurdly high estimates of the plan's costs and then protested that the high costs would unduly diminish the NIH funds available for research grants.  NIH officials repeatedly knocked down these high estimates in public meetings but in late September their estimates finally appeared in print.

Quoting Janet Coleman in the Washington Fax for September 27, 2004 (online access limited to subscribers):  "Preliminary estimates of the cost of offering all NIH-funded research studies on the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central digital library are around $2.5 million and not the $100 million some critics have suggested, NLM Director Donald Lindberg, MD, said. NLM National Center for Biotechnology Information Director David Lipman 'worked up a budget of actual estimated costs...multiplied by everything under the sun and came up with $2.5 million,' Lindberg told the NLM Board of Regents Sept. 21."

This puts the annual cost of the OA archiving at about 0.008 % of the NIH's annual budget.

* What are the current priorities for what supporters should do to help the cause?

Above all, send comments to the NIH about its draft policy during the 60 day public comment period.  Comments will be accepted until November 16, 2004, and may be submitted by email or web form.  Get your friends and colleagues to submit comments.  Get your departments and institutions to submit comments.

Submit comments by email

Submit comments by web form

If you belong to a U.S.-based organization (university, department, laboratory, library, journal, publisher, patient or disease advocacy organization, etc.) then persuade your group to join the Alliance for Taxpayer Access.  It costs nothing to join and gives the ATA clout when making the case for open access to taxpayer-funded research. 

If you are an individual, see the ATA recommendations for individual actions that could help the cause.  Among the most effective options are sending a letter, fax, or email to your Senators expressing support for the NIH plan.

Comments and letters from U.S. citizens and U.S.-based organizations will carry more weight with the NIH and the U.S. Senate than comments from others, but the process is not limited to Americans.

* For other questions and answers on the NIH plan, see my FAQ, which I've enlarged several times during the past month.

The NIH now has its own page on the evolving OA plan.

For news stories on the NIH plan since the last issue of the newsletter, see the section on major stories, below.


A glimpse of our history

Here are some excerpts from a 1974 _Science_ article and two subsequent letters to the editor.  I'll keep my own voice out until the end.  Thanks to Christopher Kelty, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Rice University and co-founder of the open-access Connexions project, for unearthing these pieces and bringing them to my attention.

* John Walsh, "Journals:  Photocopying Is Not the Only Problem," _Science_, March 29, 1974, pp. 1274-1275, 1277.
[...] Attention has been focused on the photocopying issue by a suit brought by the Baltimore publisher of scientific and medical journals, Williams & Wilkins, charging the National Library of Medicine and the library of the National Institutes of Health with copyright infringement via photocopying.  The most recent round of court action favored the defendants, permitting them to continue photocopying. [...]

Reduced to its essentials, the dispute over photocopying casts scientific publishers and research libraries as the major antagonists.  The libraries want the right to continue to provide a single photocopy for a reader who requests it.  The limit on material is generally accepted to be a single article from a journal.  The publishers argue that the mass, mail-order photocopying by major research libraries deprives the journals of the revenue necessary to cover editorial and printing costs and, in the case of commercial publishers, return on investment.  They contend that if things go on this way there will be no journals to copy. [...]

Libraries, for their part, are experiencing severe strains on their general budgets from inflation and are beginning to rebel at soaring journal costs.  Some libraries have cut purchases of scientific books and monographs in order to keep up periodical purchases.  Others have conducted "use surveys" on technical periodicals and dropped the subscriptions on the least used.  Even larger and more affluent research libraries --mostly university and large metropolitan libraries-- are finding ways to share the burden imposed by increasing costs and greater numbers of scientific journals (one thing this means is a bigger photocopying network). [...]

[O]bservers say that a growing trend among both commercial and nonprofit publishers is toward obtaining an increasing portion of income from subscription rates levied on libraries.

Alarm over these trends in journal publishing are expressed fairly freely by librarians and some academics.  A recent public example was provided by a letter signed by 11 university chemists from six countries (the problem is international) published in the 10 December 1973 _Chemical and Engineering News_....Particular criticism was aimed at commercial publishers who were accused of taking advantage of the fact that libraries are a "captive audience" by setting high subscription prices on new journals.  [...]

In view of the importance of journals to the scientific enterprise, it is surprising that the cost crisis affecting journals and libraries has not prompted more efforts at corrective action.  The photocopying issue has claimed primary attention but other journal problems are enforcing the need for new answers to the old questions of who pays and how much.

* Curtis G. Benjamin, "Support for Williams & Wilkins," _Science_, June 28, 1974, pp. 1330-1331.  [A letter to the editor]
[Benjamin names some society publishers offering financial support to the plaintiffs in the Williams & Wilkins lawsuit.]  This evidence of professional society concern exposes an odd conflict of interest that needs to be pondered thoughtfully by all scientists.  While many individual scientists, along with many librarians and other information specialists, are pushing hard for exempted privileges of photocopying for scientific and educational uses, the officers of their professional organizations (and especially their publications officers) are drawing back from the sure prospect of resulting losses of subscription and advertising income to their already straitened journals.  And, strangely enough, many members of the societies that are supporting the Williams & Wilkins appeal are also supporting the National Education Assocation's Ad Hoc Committee of Educational Organizations and Institutions on Copyright Law Revision, a group that has made the loudest and most persistent demands for the broad special exemptions.

Scientists should not confuse the rhetoric of "free flow of information" with the economics of "flow of free information."  There is no such thing as free information; somebody has to pay the cost of any system for the organization and dissemination of science information.  The privilege of "free" photocopying simply is not compatible with the economics of book and journal publishing.  Why then, do so many scientists seem to think they can have their cake and eat it too?

* Ralph D. Tanz, "Copyright Laws," _Science_, August 30, 1974, p. 735.  [A letter to the editor]
Curtis G. Benjamin's letter (28 June, p. 1331) in support of Williams & Wilkins' Supreme Court suit against the U.S. government for copyright infringement omits some of the problems on the other side of the fence.  Just as publishing companies are faced with the financial squeeze attendant to inflation, so too are academic institutions.  While costs have risen, departmental budgets have fallen further and further behind, and now new demands are placed on us to pay for the dissemination of information to our students.  Publishers seem to be saying that if we are unable to pay, then our students have no right to receive information we deem necessary.

But let us examine this a little further.  Funds that made our research possible did not come from the publishers.  Nor did the publishers assist us in writing the manuscripts.  Indeed, they charge us for reprints, presumably make a profit selling their journals, and do not reimburse the authors for their efforts.  Thus, the author does the fund raising, the thinking, the laboratory work, and the writing, and then the publishers claim ownership, apparently because it may make money for them.  And to top it off, they now want us to pay for the privilege of using the articles we have published to teach our own students. 

I agree that the copyright laws should be revised, vesting ownership of an article either in the name(s) of the author(s) or the scientific society responsible for publication --but certainly not the publisher.

* A few comments

I'm reproducing these fragments primarily to note their uncanny similarities to the OA debates 30 years later.

One of my first thoughts was that 1974 wasn't *that* long ago, so of course there would be similarities.  (I was a grad student in 1974, for example, so it's roughly within the period of my own scholarly career.)  But let it sink in.  In 1974 there was no World Wide Web.  In 1974, there wasn't even a BITNET, JANET, or USENET.  If you date the internet to the adoption of TCP/IP, then there wasn't even an Internet.  There was no PubMed or PubMed Central.  Journal prices had only recently begun to rise faster than inflation.  Photocopying machines were not just a disruptive technology; they were the cutting-edge technology for copying and sharing information.

Williams & Wilkins v. The United States was decided against the publisher-plaintiffs in the U.S. Court of Claims in 1973.  Immediately after their defeat, the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court, which upheld the lower court ruling in 1975.

The decision in the Court of Claims, 487 F.2d 1345 (1973)

The decision in the Supreme Court, 420 U.S. 376, 95 S.Ct. 1344 (1975)

Williams & Wilkins is still an important precedent in U.S. copyright law.  However, soon after the Supreme Court upheld the decision in favor of scientific photocopying, Congress enacted sweeping revisions of U.S. copyright law, lengthening copyright terms, abolishing the need to register or renew copyrights, and taking other steps that continue to hobble education and research.

The Copyright Act of 1976

Although the debate from 1974 eerily recapitulates some of the debates still raging today, there is at least one important dissimilarity to point out.  The contemporary debate is *not* about the boundaries of "fair use".  Open-access advocates do not argue that providing OA to copyrighted works is already permitted by fair use; on the contrary, they argue that OA to copyrighted works requires the copyright-holder's consent. 


A haiku introduction to open access

Once I started writing haiku about open access, I couldn't stop.  Here's a mercifully small sampling.  Believe me, the ones I've omitted are even more atrocious than the ones I've included.

If you publish it,
and readers can't afford it,
does it make a sound?

They don't pay authors,
editors or referees.
Then they want the rights.

Unlike musicians,
scholars consent to OA
without losing dough.

OA articles
are not without cost
but are without price.

Share perfect copies
with a worldwide audience.
Marginal cost, zip.

I love print, paper.
But I love searching, linking,
using, sharing more.

Libraries are caught:
High prices, tight licences,
profs who demand more.

OA archiving
takes a couple of minutes.
So what's the problem?

Authors determine
where to submit their papers,
whether to archive.

OA and TA
can coexist --til authors
decide otherwise.

Sure, change copyright
and peer review.  But OA
doesn't have to wait.

Yes, launch new journals.
But OA through archiving
doesn't have to wait.

Don't say "author pays"
when funders will pay the fee
or journals waive it.

P&T panels
harm science if they demand
the same-old, same-old. 

The current system
evolved over centuries.
So did dinosaurs.


Major open-access developments in September 2004

This is a selection of open-access developments since the last issue of the newsletter, taken from the Open Access News blog, which I write with other contributors and update daily.  I give both the item URL and blog posting URL so that you can read the original story as well as what I or another blog contributor had to say about it.  For other developments, the blog archive is browseable and searchable.

Here are the major stories from September

* The NIH OA plan sees new developments, wide news coverage.
* Two major decisions call for OA to data.
* WIPO asked to consider two OA-friendly proposals.
* Governments spend on OA infrastructure.
* The Nature Publishing Group experiments with many kinds of wider access.

 * The NIH OA plan sees new developments, wide news coverage.

For detail and analysis of recent developments on the NIH OA plan, see the lead story above.  Here are some articles and news stories from the past month.

Janet Coleman, Open access would cost NIH roughly $2.5 million, agency's Lipman estimates, Washington Fax, September 27, 2004.

Anon., A new alliance to support open access, Access, September 2004.

AAAS, Update on Open/Public Access, September 14, 2004.  A PPT slide show focusing on the position of the AAAS and _Science_.

Mark Hermodson, The Open Access Debate, Protein Science, 13, 10 (2004) pp. 2569-2570.

Jan Velterop, publisher and director of BioMed Central, wrote an open letter (September 23, 2004) to Elias Zerhouni in support of the NIH open-access plan.

Jeffrey M. Drazen and Gregory D. Curfman, Public Access to Biomedical Research, New England Journal of Medicine, September 23, 2004.  An editorial.

Anon., Publishing for Nothing, Science for Free, DCLnews, September 21, 2004.

Peter Suber, Public should have free access to research it funds, Tallahassee Democrat, September 21, 2004.  An op-ed for the Knight Ridder Tribune papers.  It also appeared in Jewish World Review on September 23.

Rudy Baum, Socialized Science, Chemical & Engineering News, September 20, 2004.

Also see the STLQ thread on Baum's editorial, Is Open Access Socialized Science?

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access issued a press release (September 17, 2004) praising the National Academy of Sciences for its endorsement of the NIH open-access plan.

Anon., NIH floats open-access plan amidst objections, Research Research, September 13, 2004.

Susan Morrissey, NIH Unveils Draft Open-Access Plan, Chemical and Engineering News, September 13, 2004.

Barbara Quint, NIH Requires Open Access for Its Funded Medical Research, Information Today, September 13, 2004.

Bob Roehr, NIH moves towards open access, BMJ, September 11, 2004.

Jocelyn Kaiser, NIH Proposes 6-Month Public Access to Papers, Science, September 10, 2004.

Taxpayers deserve to see for free medical research backed by federal dollars, an unsigned editorial in the September 10 Fort-Wayne News Sentinel supporting the NIH plan.

Free up medical research, an unsigned editorial in the September 9 Orlando Sentinel supporting the NIH plan.

Experiments in publishing, Nature 431, 111, September 9, 2004.

Bradie Metheny, NIH open access publishing policy receives initial good marks from most stakeholders, Washington Fax, September 8, 2004.

Geoff Brumfiel, Biomedical agency floats open-access plan, News@Nature, September 8, 2004.

Paula Park, NIH unveils open access draft, The Scientist, September 8, 2004.

Martin Frank, Executive Director of the American Physiological Society, released the September 8 letter he wrote to Senators Arlen Specter and Tom Harkin, opposing the NIH OA plan.

Jocelyn Kaiser, NIH Proposes Public Access to Papers, Science Magazine, September 7, 2004

Susan Morrisey, NIH Unveils Draft Plan, Chemical & Engineering News, September 7, 2004.

Anon., NIH schlägt Open Access Modell vor, Intern.de, September 7, 2004.

Mary Mosquera, NIH plans public access to research results, Government Computer News, September 7, 2004.

Dee Ann Divis, NIH proposes free research access, United Press International, September 6, 2004.

Julianne Basinger, NIH Invites Comment on Proposal Requiring Free Online Access to Research It Supports, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 7, 2004.

Ranty Islam, Das Geschäft mit dem Wissen, Die Welt, September 6, 2004.

Rick Weiss, NIH Proposes Free Access For Public to Research Data, Washington Post, September 6, 2004.

Susan Morrissey, NIH Weights Open Access, Chemical and Engineering News, September 6, 2004.

Vivian Siegel released her August 5 letter to Elias Zerhouni in support of the NIH open-access plan.   Siegel wrote on behalf of the Public Library of Science.

Andy Gass, Open Access As Public Policy, Public Library of Science, released September 3 in advance of publication September 21 in the October issue of PLoS Biology.

Nobel Winners, Library Groups Voice Support for Open Access at NIH, Library Journal, September 7, 2004.

Danielle Belopotosky, Online federal library on health research sparks outcry, GovExec.com, September 3, 2004.

Enhanced Public Access to NIH Research Information, NIH, September 3, 2004. 

Jocelyn Kaiser, Zerhouni Plans a Nudge Toward Open Access, Science, September 3, 2004.

Ushma Savla and John Hawley, Want the world to know? Publish here, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 114 (2004) p. 602.

Nobelpreisträger fordern freien Zugang zu Forschungsergebnissen, Spiegel, September 1, 2004.

Four library associations --the ARL, ALA, AALL, and SLA-- released their August 31 letter to Elias Zerhouni in support of the NIH open-access plan.

Anon., House Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill Includes "Open Access" Language, FASEB News, August 2004 (scroll to p. 4).

* Two major decisions call for OA to data.

Each of these decisions would deserve attention in its own right.  By occurring in the same month, they show momentum for the idea of OA to data --more momentum, it seems, than for the similar but different idea of OA to research literature based on those data. 

(1) On September 8, 2004, The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) issued a public statement calling for an open-access registry and database of drug trial data.  The statement also announced that ICMJE member journals would not publish research articles based on unregistered drug trials.  Among the participating journals are the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, and the New England Journal of Medicine.

The statement was published in all the ICMJE member journals.  Here for example are the published versions from the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, and ICMJE itself.

Drug trial data are different from peer-reviewed research articles.  The overriding need for sharing drug trial data is to correct an imbalance, so that negative results are as readily available as positive results.  However, this could be done in toll-access database.  The fact that the journal editors are demanding that the database be open-access means that removing access barriers is as important to them as correcting an imbalance.  Why?  The ICMJE editors don't explain.  But the reason seems to be the same one that has driven the OA movement all these years:  OA serves the public interest by accelerating research and all the benefits that depend on research advances. 

Moreover, to secure these benefits, the ICMJE editors did essentially the same thing that the NIH is proposing to do:  they put an OA condition on their participation.  The ICMJE editors are saying that if scientists want ICMJE journals to publish their articles on drug trial data, then the underlying drug trials must provide OA to their data.  The NIH is saying that if scientists want an NIH research grant, then they must provide OA to any resulting articles through deposit in PMC.  These similarities sharpen the unspoken background question.  Why don't the ICMJE journals themselves do more to permit or require OA to research articles, including their own articles?  (As an Elsevier journal, The Lancet permits its authors to deposit published articles in OA repositories.) 

Here are some news stories on the editors' public statement.

Drummond Rennie, Trial Registration:  A Great Idea Switches From Ignored to Irresistible, JAMA, September 15, 2004.

Laurie Barclay, Call for Mandatory Clinical Trial Registration, Open Access to Results, Medscape, September 14, 2004.

Q&A Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen [editor-in-chief of NEJM] on drug trial results, Boston Globe, September 12, 2004

Alicia Ault, House berates FDA, drug makers; US Congressional subcommittee holds hearing on clinical trial disclosure rules, The Scientist, September 10, 2004.

Medical journals to tight up rules and regulations, Pravda, September 10, 2004

Clinical drug trials 'distorted', BBC News, September 9, 2004

Philip Cohen, Medical journals to require clinical trial registration, New Scientist, September 9, 2004.

Andre Picard, Medical journals get tough on drug companies, Globe and Mail, September 9, 2004.

Daniel Engber, Top Medical Journals Make Disclosure of Clinical-Trial Results a Condition of Publication, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 9, 2004.

Maggie Fox, Show us All Your Data, Medical Journals Demand, Reuters, September 8, 2004.

Laura Gilcrest, New bill targets drug data disclosure, CBS MarketWatch, September 8, 2004.

Amanda Gardner, Medical Journals Tighten Rules on Clinical Trials, Health Central, September 8, 2004.

Here are some recent articles and news stories on the general topic of OA to drug trial data, but *not* focusing on the ICMJE statement.

Cheryll Barron, Big Pharma snared by net, The Guardian, September 26, 2004.

Jennifer Couzin, Legislators Propose a Registry to Track Clinical Trials From Start to Finish, Science, September 17, 2004.

Merrill Goozner, Registering Clinical Trials Doesn't Go Far Enough, GoozNews, September 12, 2004.

Toshi A Furukawa, All clinical trials must be reported in detail and made publicly available, BMJ, September 11, 2004.  A letter to the editor.

Editorial: Full disclosure on drug research, Toronto Star, September 10, 2004.

Jennifer Couzin, Momentum Builds for Clinical Trial Registration, ScienceNOW, September 10, 2004.

Anon., Change for Clinical Trials on the way, Ivanhoe's Medical Breakthroughs, September 10, 2004.

NIH Proposes Making Clinical Trial Data Free to Public, Medical News Today, September 7, 2004.

John George, Glaxo begins Web data system, Philadelphia Business Journal, September 2, 2004.

(2) A panel of the National Research Council has concluded that the benefits of open access to genome data on pathogens outweigh the risk of misuse by terrorists.

One way to frame the question is whether open access is always more useful than toll access, or whether it's only more useful for innocuous information that can't be put to harmful uses.  The question is important because human cleverness can put just about any information to destructive uses, and human viciousness all too often tries to do so.  For the NRC panel, the question was focused on genomic data on pathogens.  After a thorough examination, the panel concluded that the benefits of OA outweigh the risks even when the risks are starkly acknowledged. 

It would be a mistake to assume that this decision minimized the real risks.  Instead, it's a thorough and informed appreciation of both the risks and the benefits, and therefore one of the strongest statements of the benefits of OA to date.

Here are some articles and news stories on the panel's report.

Emily Singer, Scientists stumped by dual push for open access, secrecy, News@Nature, September 28, 2004.

Keep genome data freely accessible, The Lancet, September 25, 2004. An unsigned editorial endorsing the panel's conclusions.

David Malakoff, Report Upholds Public Access to Genetic Codes, Science Magazine, September 17, 2004.

R. Pielke, Jr., Public Access to Genome Data and the NAS as Policy Advocate, Prometheus: Health, September 12, 2004.

U.S. State Department, U.S. Report Supports Unrestricted Access to Pathogen Genomes, September 10, 2004.

Kate Ruder, Information on Pathogens Should Flow Freely, Report Says, Genome News Network, September 10, 2004.

Eugene Russo, NRC wants genome data unfetteredNothing to be gained from restricting access to bioterror agent genomes, says report, The Scientist, September 10, 2004.

Study:  Germ data should be shared, Associated Press, September 10, 2004.

Maggie Fox, Hiding Genome Data Won't Protect Us, Experts Say, Reuters, Sept. 9. 2004.

U.S. Urged to Keep Gene Data on Pathogens Open, HealthDay, September 9, 2004.

Randolph Schmid, Panel urges sharing of data on germs, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 9, 2004.

* WIPO asked to consider two OA-friendly proposals.

At its current session (September 27 - October 5, 2004), WIPO will take up two proposals that could greatly improve the flow of information.  It may deliberate on them before I mail this issue; but if so, I probably won't have time to digest the developments until later.

(1) Proposal by Argentina and Brazil for the Establishment of a Development Agenda for WIPO
Quoting from p. 3: 
While access to information and knowledge sharing are regarded as essential elements in fostering innovation and creativity in the information economy, adding new layers of intellectual property protection to the digital environment would obstruct the free flow of information and scuttle efforts to set up new arrangements for promoting innovation and creativity, through initiatives such as the ‘Creative Commons’. The ongoing controversy surrounding the use of technological protection measures in the digital environment is also of great concern.

The provisions of any treaties in this field must be balanced and clearly take on board the interests of consumers and the public at large. It is important to safeguard the exceptions and limitations existing in the domestic laws of Member States. In order to tap into the development potential offered by the digital environment, it is important to bear in mind the relevance of open access models for the promotion of innovation and creativity. In this regard, WIPO should consider undertaking activities with a view to exploring the promise held by open collaborative projects to develop public goods, as exemplified by the Human Genome Project and Open Source Software.

(2) Geneva Declaration on the Future of the World Intellectual Property Organization (debated at athe WIPO meeting on September 30)
Humanity faces a global crisis in the governance of knowledge, technology and culture. The crisis is manifest in many ways....Morally repugnant inequality of access to education, knowledge and technology undermines development and social cohesion; Anticompetitive practices in the knowledge economy impose enormous costs on consumers and retard innovation; Private interests misappropriate social and public goods, and lock up the public domain.  At the same time, there are astoundingly promising innovations in information, medical and other essential technologies, as well as in social movements and business models.  We are witnessing highly successful campaigns for access to drugs for AIDS, scientific journals, genomic information and other databases, and hundreds of innovative collaborative efforts to create public goods, including the Internet, the World Wide Web...the Creative Commons, GNU Linux and other free and open software....As an intergovernmental organization, however, WIPO embraced a culture of creating and expanding monopoly privileges, often without regard to consequences. The continuous expansion of these privileges and their enforcement mechanisms has led to grave social and economic costs, and has hampered and threatened other important systems of creativity and innovation....The mantras that "more [copyright protection] is better" or "that less is never good" are disingenuous and dangerous -- and have greatly compromised the standing of WIPO, especially among experts in intellectual property policy. WIPO must change....There must be a moratorium on new treaties and harmonization of standards that expand and strengthen monopolies and further restrict access to knowledge....

To sign the Geneva Declaration, send an email to geneva_declaration@cptech.org.

List of existing signatures on the Geneva Declaration

Four major U.S. library associations, the AALL, ALA, ARL, and SLA --all friends of open access--  released an open letter endordsing the Geneva Declaration on September 17, 2004.

For more information on the two WIPO proposals, see the Consumer Project on Technology web page on WIPO

...and the CPTech page on the Geneva Declaration

...and the agenda for the WIPO General Assembly, 31st Session, September 27 - October 5, 2004

Here are a few articles and news stories on the proposals.

Anon., Call to 'unblinker' WIPO, P2P.net, September 30, 2004.

Anon., Activists challenge UN intellectual property pact, Stuff.co.nz, September 20, 2004.

Frances Williams, Development needs 'override intellectual property protection', Financial Times, September 30, 2004.

Anon., UN to Relax Protection for Intellectual Property to Help Developing Countries, Associated Press, September 29, 2004.

The IFLA position on the Geneva Declaration on the Future of WIPO, September 29, 2004

James Boyle, A Manifesto On Wipo And The Future Of Intellectual Property, Duke Law & Technology Review, September 8, 2004.

* Governments spend on OA infrastructure.

Several developments in September suggest that governments are willing to spend public funds on OA infrastructure.  The NIH OA plan belongs in this category, but here are some others.  This is a remarkably long list when you consider that it's limited to initiatives announced in the past month.

The Australian federal government is funding a major upgrade and expansion of the Australian Digital Theses Program.

The UK government, through JISC, will fund infrastructure for OA to UK theses and dissertations, and is now soliciting proposals for the job.

The UK government, also through JISC, agreed to renew the BioMed Central institutional memberships that it first bought for all UK universities in July 2003.

The publicly-funded BBC continued to take steps toward providing an open access to its broadcasting archive.

The Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access.

Martin Feijen and Annemiek van der Kuil published a helpful overview of Holland's DARE project.

Germany's largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, signed the Berlin Declaration and launched the Digital Peer Publishing Initiative (DIPP).  The DIPP will host eight OA journals and develop open-source software and open-access licenses for online scholarly publishing.

The Max Planck Gesellschaft and Fachinformationszentrum Karlsruhe, with more than six million Euros of German government funding, will develop eSciDoc, an open-source internet platform for open-access scientific communication, publication, and collaboration.

Also see Bobby Pickering, German Government funds OA initiative, Information World Review, October 1, 2004.

China has authorized the locally-hosted broadband connection to provide Chinese access to Highwire journals.

China has also invested an undisclosed amount in some of nation's scientific journals in an effort to improve their stature and reach.  This does not seem to include OA, though it could and should.

Taiwan's Academica Sinica helped launch a Taiwanese version Creative Commons, making Taiwan the 23rd country with a national version of CC.

The Canadian version of Creative Commons launched on September 30.

One of the U.S. Federal Reserve banks supports two open-access archives of national economic data.

The U.S. Office of Scientific and Technical Information now hosts an OA database of government contracts.

The U.S. National Library of Medicine launched the NLM Catalog, a new searchable OA database of bibliographic data.

The U.S. Interagency Committee on Government Information is still collecting public comments on its plan to provide federated searching of OA government information distributed among the many databases maintained by the agencies and offices of the federal government.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office now provides open access to most new patent applications.

The U.S. ERIC resumed acquiring new OA content after its recent reorganization and on October 1 provided OA to 107,000 full-text non-journal documents that were previously TA only.

The European Commission inquiry into STM publishing and OA continues to move along.

Here's a switch:  a private OA infrastructure initiative to benefit governments.  DigitalGlobe, which sells satellite imagery and geospatial information, gives some away to state and local governments in the U.S.

Two developments on the down side:  copyright problems will block free online access to the publicly-funded British Library Archive and copyright reforms may harm research and education in Canada.

Here are a few *calls* for government spending on OA.  Perhaps I can shortly report that the governments are heeding the calls.

At the ESOF 2004 conference, Khotso Mokhele from South Africa called on the EU to invest in scientific infrastructure in developing countries.  From the audience, an unnamed CORDIS official explained that 32 million Euros of the FP6 budget were earmarked for developing countries, of which only 17 million have so far been spent.  The official continued:  "We have recognised that infrastructure is the main issue in those countries and we will address this issue in FP7."  Institutional repositories are very inexpensive and very effective and would take only a small portion of the remaining 17 million.

Here's more on how CORDIS is spending its research infrastructure funds.

In a September 23 article, D. Balasubramanian supported the OA work of Subbiah Arunachalam and called on the Indian government to adopt a plan, similar to the NIH OA plan, or the recommendations of the UK report, to mandate OA to government-funded research.

Also see K. Satyanarayana's similar call on the Indian government published about a month earlier.

Michael Geist called on the Canadian government to adopt a policy similar to the NIH plan in the U.S.

OpenTheGovernment issued a well-documented report on needless government secrecy in the U.S. and called for more OA to government information.

Finally, as long as I'm covering OA infrastructure investments in September, let me add these *privately funded* initiatives.

BioMed Central launched its Institutional Repository service, which will install, populate, and maintain OA repositories (using DSpace) for institutions that wish to outsource these jobs.

Harvard and MIT released version 1.0 of the Virtual Data Center, an open-source system for data archiving.  VDC has long been available in beta.

NYU and partner institutions will develop the Archivists' Toolkit, an open-source, OAI-compliant program for physical and digital archives.  The project has funding from the Mellon Foundation.

Cornell University will soon release DPubS, an open-source system for electronic scholarly publication.

The Max Planck Gesellschaft and Fachinformationszentrum Karlsruhe are teaming up to develop eSciDoc, an open-source internet platform for open-access scientific communication, publication, and collaboration.  It has both public and private funding.

The Open Society Institute released the third edition of Raym Crow's Guide to Institutional Repository Software, which now covers nine open-source systems for creating open-access, OAI-compliant repositories.

* The Nature Publishing Group experiments with many kinds of wider access.

Watch the Nature Publishing Group (NPG).  It is vigorously exploring several different ways to widen access.  Here are those that broke into the news in the past month alone.

The NPG and the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) are launching an open-access journal, Molecular Systems Biology (no web site yet).  First issue should appear this month (October 2004).

NPG has launched news@nature, a science news service with free online content.  There is also a priced, premium edition.

Nature Insight is offering six months of free online access to a collection of articles on RNA interference, subsidized by Merck & Co. and Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

Nature Reviews is offering six months of free online access to a collection of articles on proteomics, subsidized by Sigma-Aldrich.

Nature Reviews Drug Discovery and Nature Reviews Genetics are offering two months of free online access to a collection of articles on pharmacogenetics. 

NPG launched _Nature Methods_ October 1.  It's not OA, but NPG is offering free subscriptions to "qualifying researchers" --without explaining who qualifies.

"Experiments in publishing", a Nature editorial on open access (accessible only to subscribers). 


Coming up later this month

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

* October 1, 2004.  Quoting the ERIC web site:  "Effective October 1, more than 107,000 full-text non-journal documents (issued 1993-2004), previously available through fee-based services only, will be available [at ERIC] for free."

* October 11, 2004.  The Royal Society of Edinburgh meets to finalize, sign, and most likely release the Scottish Declaration of Open Access.

* October 19, 2004.  The Public LIbrary of Science will launch its second open-access journal, _PLoS Medicine_.

* Sometime this month.  The UK government should issue its response to the open-access recommendations made by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in its July 20 report.

* Notable conferences this month --an unusually large number for one month

Access to health information in developing countries: the role of information and communication technology
London, September 30 - October 1, 2004

Symposium on Open Access and Digital Preservation
Atlanta, October 2, 2004

Access to health information: The role of systematic reviews. Cochrane Colloquium
Ottawa, October 2-6, 2004

Strategic online publishers workshop (sponsored by INASP)
Nairobi, October 3-6, 2004

STM Publishing - at the Crossroads? Challenges and Responses (open access is among the topics)
Frankfurt, October 4-5, 2004

Institutional Repositories: Is There Anything Left to Say? (a public lecture at OCLC by Paul Conway)
Dublin, Ohio, October 7, 2004

10 Years of Connectivity: Libraries, the World Wide Web, and the Next Decade (sponsored by LITA/ALA)
St. Louis, October 7-10, 2004

Building the Digital Library: The Role of Digital Libraries
Brisbane, October 8, 2004

Internet Librarian International 2004: Access, Architecture & Action: Strategies for the New Digital World; includes a session, Open Access Forum for Internet Librarians (Session B104), on Monday, October 11, 15:00 - 17:00.
London, October 10-12, 2004

Future Trends in Science Editing and Publishing: Bringing Science to Society (Twelfth International Conference of Science Editors)
Merida, Mexico, October 10-14, 2004

Meeting to sign and launch the Scottish Declaration of Open Access (not the official meeting title) (by invitation only)
Edinburgh, October 11, 2004

Access 2004, Beyond Buzzwords; includes the preconference, Institutional Repositories: The Future is Now! on October 13, 9am to 5pm
Halifax, October 13-16, 2004

Symposium on Open Access to Knowledge and Scholarly Communication
Zurich, October 15, 2004

E-Research and Supporting Cyberinfrastructure: A Forum to Consider the Implications for Research Libraries and Research Institutions (sponsored by ARL and CNI)
Washington, D.C., October 15, 2004

Digital Preservation in Institutional Repositories (sponsored by the Digital Preservation Coalition)
London, October 19, 2004

Social Science Data Archives: creating, depositing and using data
Plymouth, October 22, 2004

Are Chemical Journals Too Expensive and Inaccessible? (sponsored by the Chemical Sciences Roundtable)
Washington, D.C., October 25-26, 2004

* Other OA-related conferences



* I've added 16 new conferences to the conference page since the last issue.  In the next few days I'll delete the second asterisk marking them and the new entries will blend into the rest of the collection.

* Atomz.com tells me that, starting on September 30, it will insert ads on the return pages for the search engine that I use for my blog and newsletter.  I've run searches since then and don't see the ads, but I expect they'll show up soon.  The ads will be pure text and based on the user's search string.  This is a decision by Atomz and beyond my control unless I drop Atomz or decide to pay for its premium service.   At least for the time being, I plan to continue with the free service. 

* Bloglet is down again.  Bloglet is the service that provides email delivery of blog postings from Open Access News (OAN) and other blogs.  OAN itself is working fine.

If you count on Bloglet for email delivery of OAN postings, then my advice may seem harsh.  Please stop counting on it.  Bloglet is very unreliable and beyond my control.  It's often down without explanation.  When it's up, it often sends out corrupted emails that garble the text.  When it's working as advertised, it still deletes the titles, bylines, and direct links to individual blog postings.

I strongly recommend that you either read OAN on the web or read its RSS feed through a news aggregator.  Meantime I'll continue to look for a reliable blog-to-email service and welcome your suggestions.

Open Access News, on the web

If you're tempted to read the blog's RSS feed, see next.

* I've changed the URL for the blog's RSS feed.  At the same time I've added an Atom feed.  In both cases, it was to take advantage of new syndication technologies.  If you subscribed to the old RSS feed, it's time to upgrade.  My apologies for the inconvenience.

New Atom feed for Open Access News

New RSS feed for Open Access News


This is the SPARC Open Access Newsletter (ISSN 1546-7821), written by Peter Suber and published by SPARC.  The views I express in this newsletter are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of SPARC.

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