Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #67
November 2, 2003

Read this issue online

October was one of the richest months for open access in memory.  We saw the first PLoS journal, the Berlin Declaration on open access, an open-access journal series from the University of California, a $12 million grant from the Australian government to a handful of open-access repository projects, news from the ambitious journal scanning project from PubMed Central, an agreement between Oxford University Press and Oxford University filling the institutional archive with the OUP articles by OU authors, an OA-friendly statement from ALPSP, an OA-friendly communiqué from UNESCO, Amazon's free search service for full-text books, the AGORA Project, the Ptolemy Project, a call for a worldwide boycott of Cell Price journals to protest their high prices, signs of the spread of the boycott to all Elsevier journals, a ruling from the U.S. Treasury Department that U.S. trade embargoes limit what scholarly journal editors can do, the approval by a House subcommittee of the database bill, and an intriguing Elsevier stock warning from BNP Paribas and Citigroup Smith Barney based on the promise of open access publishing. 

In a slower news month, I could easily lead the issue with any of these developments.  News density like this makes me wonder whether we're looking at coincidental clustering or significant convergence.  Is this a glitch or a tipping point?  Either way, it's a good sign (for everyone but me) when there's too much open-access news for one person to cover fully.


The launch of _PLoS Biology_

PLoS launched its first journal on October 13.  Here are some of the reasons why this is a very important development:

* It isn't just the launch of a new OA journal.  It's the launch of a new OA publisher.

* The PLoS journals are high end.  PLoS had the wonderful but expensive idea to accompany every research article with a lay summary by an experienced science writer.  It uses copy editors, even glossy paper in the print edition.  If it can pay its bills and still give away the product, then journals that offer nothing but the essentials should certainly be able to do so.

* PLoS has succeeded in attracting eminent editors and outstanding submissions.  _PLoS Biology_ is already a prestigious journal with a reputation for excellence.  It has demonstrated that with planning open-access journals (like other new journals) can break the vicious circle of prestige and incentives --that they need prestige to attract good papers and need good papers to acquire prestige.  This is vital to the extent that journals must offer scientists the incentive of prestige, not just the incentives of open access (larger audience and greater impact).

* The launch has brought more attention to open-access publishing than any single development to date.  It greatly accelerates the viral spreading of the meme.  The launch has this effect partly because PLoS has put some money into marketing, and partly because it's running an exciting experiment while the world watches.  I've argued before that our greatest obstacle is misunderstanding; if true, then this launch is an education offensive against it. 

While the press paid close attention to this launch, a surprising number of journalists misunderstood what they were reporting and ended up spreading misinformation.  The most common misconception I saw in the press was the assertion, or innuendo, that _PLoS Biology_ is not peer-reviewed.  This is simply false, of course, and it's not excused by any ambiguous public statements by the PLoS staff or web site.  It's based on the ignorant assumption that open access itself is all about bypassing peer review or taking shortcuts with peer-review in order to save time and money.  Readers can do a huge service to open access by combatting this pernicious misunderstanding wherever it arises.

A second common misconception in the news coverage is that _PLoS Biology_ is the world's first open-access journal, and that the business model for open-access journals is completely new and untested.

A third is that the $1500 processing fee PLoS charges for accepted articles excludes authors who cannot afford to pay it.  Remarkably few news stories mentioned the fact that PLoS will waive the fee in cases of economic hardship.  (See my objection-reply article below.)

Finally, one editorial baldly stated that "Open access makes present copyright laws unenforceable."  Somewhere an editor needs to reboot.

The PLoS news is unequivocally good.  However, it brings to light new evidence that open access is hard for newcomers to understand, or that certain preconceptions about it prevent even smart people reading clear explanations from grasping the basics.  We can hope that these misunderstandings are already tapering off, as open access becomes more widespread and familiar, and that the PLoS launch itself is a potent part of the remedy.


_PLoS Biology_

PubMed Central version of the first issue

Why PLoS Became a Publisher, a message from the founders:  Pat Brown, Mike Eisen, and Harold Varmus

We're Open, a message from the editors:  Philip Bernstein , Barbara Cohen , Catriona MacCallum , Hemai Parthasarathy , Mark Patterson , Vivian Siegel

* In the Open Access News blog, I tracked a lot of the news coverage of the launch.  I'd list the major stories here, but they are so numerous that they would swamp this section of the newsletter.  So I've moved them to a kind of appendix --the last section below.


Berlin declaration

The long-awaited Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities was released on October 22 by the Max-Planck Society, European Cultural Heritage Online (ECHO), and the participants in the conference on Open Access to the Data and Results of the Sciences and Humanities (Berlin, October 20-22, 2003). The signatories include all the major scientific and scholarly societies in France and Germany, and other important research institutions in Norway, Italy, and Hungary. 

The Internet has fundamentally changed the practical and economic realities of distributing scientific knowledge and cultural heritage. For the first time ever, the Internet now offers the chance to constitute a global and interactive representation of human knowledge, including cultural heritage and the guarantee of worldwide access....Our mission of disseminating knowledge is only half complete if the information is not made widely and readily available to society. New possibilities of knowledge dissemination not only through the classical form but also and increasingly through the open access paradigm via the Internet have to be supported.

Signatories pledge (1) to encourage those they employ and those they fund to publish their work in some open-access form, (2) to encourage cultural heritage institutions to provide open access to their contents, (3) to develop ways to evaluate and assure the quality of open-access journals, (4) to advocate that promotion and tenure committees recognize the value of open-access publications, and (5) to support an open access infrastructure through software development, metadata creation, and content dissemination.

The Berlin statement draws its inspiration from the Budapest Open Access Initiative and bases its definition of "open access" on the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing.

Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities

List of signatories

Max Planck Society press release

Ned Stafford, "Open Access Europe", _The Scientist_, October 22, 2003.

Quirin Schiermeier, "Open Access Wins German Support", _Nature_, October 23, 2003.

Anon., "European research institutes pledge support for 'open access' to scientific knowledge", _Cordis News_, October 23, 2003.

As a follow-up to the Berlin Declaration, the Freien Universität Berlin launched the Berlin Ad hoc Symposium, a network of open-access proponents working to implement open access in Germany, in both the natural sciences and humanities

* Postscript.  The importance of the Berlin Declaration, in a nutshell, is that it reflects a national commitment to open access by Germany and France.  It's a strange coincidence that on the very same day, the government of Australia awarded a $12 million grant to strengthen and enlarge Australia's research infrastructure, primarily through open-access repositories. 

If we put the German, French, and Australian news together, especially with past news about the Canadian Research Strategy, Dutch DARE project, the Digital Library of India, and the UK purchase of BMC memberships for all its universities, then we must conclude that it's time for the United States to join the visionary nations in a national commitment to open access.


Objection-reply:  Do journal processing fees exclude the poor?

Many authors cannot afford to pay the processing fees charged by open-access journals.  This is an increasingly common objection to open-access journals.  If conventional journals raise a price barrier excluding readers, then (goes the objection) open-access journals raise a price barrier excluding authors.  The most recent and prominent version of the objection is by John Ewing in the October 9 issue of _Nature_.  "Each publication model --subscription-based or author-supported-- has trade-offs, but they are not symmetric trade-offs. When a scientist doesn't have a subscription, he or she can nonetheless get information about the article....When a scientist doesn't have the funds to publish an article, the article does not appear....That’s more than an inconvenience."

Here's my reply to this objection in seven layers.

(1) PLoS, BMC, and other open-access journal publishers waive their processing fees in cases of economic hardship.  This is the single most important reply to the objection.  All the others below show different ways in which authors can find the funds to pay the fees or get around the need to pay any fees at all.  But bottom line, if they need to pay a fee and can't, then the open-access publishers will waive it.

But is this like the promise of some universities to give financial aid up to a student's level of need?  We all know universities that make this promise, but we also know that their definition of need doesn't always match a student's.  It's possible that the same will happen with OA journals, and that some authors who can't find funds won't qualify for waivers either.  It's possible.  But this is an empirical question.  Right now we have explicit waiver policies from the OA publishers.  Let's monitor the scene and see how well the publishers live up to them.

PLoS waiver policy
(Scroll down to "What if I can't afford the publication charges?")

also this
(Scroll down to "Fee waivers")

BMC waiver policy

(2) BMC offers institutional memberships, which are roughly equivalent to prepaid processing fees at a discounted price.  I don't know yet whether PLoS plans to follow suit.  Many institutions have bought BMC memberships so that their researchers and employees will not have to pay separate fees.  JISC has bought them for every university in the UK.

See the impressive list of institutions that have bought BMC memberships

More on the JISC purchase of BMC memberships for 180 universities in the UK

(3) Many foundations that fund research are willing to pay these fees for their grant recipients. They consider the cost of open-access dissemination to be part of the cost of research.  These foundations include the largest private funders of medical research in the United States (Howard Hughes Medical Institute) and the UK (Wellcome Trust), and, as revealed by October's Berlin Declaration, the major science funders in France and Germany as well.

BioMed Central maintains a list of foundations willing to include these fees in their research grants

At least one foundation provided grants specifically to cover these processing fees, regardless of how the original research was funded.  See this 2002 grant program from the Open Society Institute.
(This program has expired, but it was an excellent idea that filled an important niche.  Other foundations should consider offering grant programs specifically to cover OA journal processing fees.)

(4) While some of these solutions will not work in disciplines that are not as well-funded as medicine (in Ewing's field of mathematics, for example, or mine, philosophy), that is no objection to using these solutions in the fields where they do work.  The success of this business model in biomedicine is progress for biomedicine, and does not imply that the same model will be adopted without modification in (say) mathematics or philosophy.

(5) Many open-access journals, especially in the less well-funded fields, charge no processing fees at all.  For example, in my field there is _Philosopher's Imprint_, and in Ewing's field there is _Documenta Mathematica_.

Philosopher's Imprint

Documenta Mathematica

How does Documenta Mathematica pay its bills?  See Ulf Rehmann's article in this month's HEPLW for the answer.

This month the University of California launched an entire series of open-access journals that charge no fees.  The business model is to make each journal in the series a peer-review overlay on an institutional repository, a model that journals can adopt in every discipline and every region.

(6) When foundations do not pay these fees, universities can.  Ewing argues that many universities cannot afford to do so, which is certainly true today.  But he should also note that, if open access spreads, then every university will realize large savings from the cancellation, conversion, or demise of expensive subscription-based journals. The natural use for this savings is to support the less expensive and more beneficial open-access model of archiving and publication that made it possible.

The true cost of reviewing, preparing, and disseminating an open-access article is much lower than the amount currently spent by libraries and subscribers to access a conventionally published article.  That means that the money already spent on subscription-based journals is enough to support the superior alternative with a healthy savings left over.  It's true that this savings depends on a general shift toward open access, which hasn't occurred yet.  We're clearly in the transition period now, and still face hurdles.  But the other side of the coin is that a general shift toward open access will free up all the funds we'll need for journal processing fees, and therefore that this objection should not derail anyone's commitment to bringing about that shift. 

Note that this reply to the objection does not presuppose that this savings is the only source for journal processing fees.  For example, see  replies ##1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 above.  Hence, it's not true that the business model of open-access journals is only viable in the hypothetical future in which open access is the dominant model and triggers huge savings for libraries.

(7) Finally, there are other ways to bring about open access to research articles that do not depend on open-access journals, fee waivers, research grants, affluent employers, or windfall savings in the library budget.  The most important is eprint archiving, which authors can do on their own, and ought to do, right now.  Eprint archiving lets authors submit their work to any journal, open access or not, and still provide open access to the preprint and usually to the postprint as well.

John Ewing, "'Open access' will not be open to everyone", _Nature_, October 9, 2003.
(Accessible only to subscribers)

A shorter version of my reply will appear as a letter in an upcoming issue of _Nature_.


BNP Paribas concludes that open access threatens Elsevier

On October 13, the same day as the _PLoS Biology_ launch, the financial analysts at BNP Paribas issued a warning on Elsevier stock based on the threat from open-access competition. 

A common perception in OA circles was that the Paribas warning was simply a reaction to the PLoS launch.  If true, it would be very premature and overstated.

But at the same time that Paribas released its stock warning to the public, it released to its clients a 194 page analysis of the STM journal industry by Sami Kassab, thoroughly substantiating its stock warning and drawing the further conclusion that the commercial journal industry is not as sustainable as its open-access competition.  It is an extensive and detailed study, and probably the first by a financial analyst to take open access seriously.  If it disagrees with the other studies that are bullish on Elsevier, the reason seems to be that the others were superficial in their investigation of the open-access movement and the interests and motivations of the stakeholders.

In short:  it's not at all true that Paribas knew nothing more than the PLoS launch.  The timing of its warning was coincidental --and unfortunate, if it leads observers to dismiss the warning as thinly justified.

I can't link to the Paribas report because it isn't online, and I can't post it to the discussion forum because it is under copyright.  But here are some brief excerpts.

Professional publishers entered a fundamental transformation in the late 1990s, triggered by the advent of web-based technology. We argue that internet-driven competitive pressure in certain segments poses a major challenge to the business models of established players. We draw particular attention to the STM segment, as this is where we believe the impact could be the most disruptive, with valuations at risk from a potential broader shift to an article-fee based model for academic journals.


Under open-access, we believe the cost of publishing STM articles could be lowered for universities and research institutions. This belief is based on the critical assumption that submission costs per article would be less than the subscription revenues per article implied by the current model. Crucially, 'open-access' broadens the reader base of scientific authors and therefore increases their visibility as well as the likelihood of them being cited....[T]he impact factor (the quality yardstick) of the first open-access journals is growing (e.g. Optic Express launched in 1998 ranks eighth out of 60, Breast Cancer Research third).


We believe there is a 50% risk of a change in the model ten years from now.  We see commercial publishers retaining their market share but with less pricing power.


Open-access could prove a more cost-effective scientific communication system for universities and research institutions.  We estimate that the global scientific research community could save more than 40% in costs by switching entirely to an open-access model.  We have reached this figure by comparing current annual spending on scientific journals at Cornell, Yale, and Princeton universities with estimated spending under open-access.  Assuming current published article numbers of 3,900, 3,600 and 2,500 respectively, we estimate the corresponding cost savings at 20%, 35% and 40%.

Following the sharp increase in STM journal prices in recent years, the subscription-based model limits access to scientific information. Only the cash-rich libraries can afford to carry truly comprehensive serial collections.  By giving libraries free access to scientific content, open-access comes closer to the nature of scientific output as a public product.

Open-access increases the chances of authors having their work read and cited by expanding the potential reader base, and in this sense can support and promote the authors. Open-access has the potential to improve communication among scientists, as well as among the research community and the general public (among consumer groups, lawyers and individuals).

Accordingly, open-access initiatives are now supported by research institutions and funding agencies worldwide.


To secure a wide base of authors, peer-reviewed open-access journals must prove that they can offer similar or better visibility than their subscription-driven counterparts. In particular, they will need to generate identical or higher impact factors.  We consider this to be more a question of time than a structural issue...


In our view, the transition to open-access is unlikely to be linear, but will probably resemble a 'tipping-point' scenario with open-access journals gaining momentum progressively prior to a major and more rapid change.


Under open-access authors retain the copyrights, thereby breaking the publishers' monopoly. For any given level of quality, it seems likely that pricing would become a key decision factor. The result would be competition for manuscripts ­-quite the opposite of the current model where manuscripts compete for space in journals.  Pricing power could move to the author.  In other words, open-access may increase market competition for content as publishers will have to work harder to attract authors' manuscripts and generate revenues.  In our opinion, authors would be likely to consider three key factors in their decision to publish: the speed of publication, the quality of the journal and the upfront charge.


[W]e believe a valuation of Reed Elsevier should reflect this long-term potential challenge.  Assuming a 50% probability of a shift to open access in ten years, we value the Science and Medical division at £5.4bn (34% of our estimated enterprise value for the group), compared to £6.7bn (42%) under an unchanged subscription-fee model.


A look at the correlation between impact factors and pricing for a sample of Reed Elsevier's STM journals shows a correlation coefficient of only 0.1, confirming the premise above. The absence of any correlation suggests that higher impact factors do not necessarily warrant higher prices.

The public Elsevier stock warning
("BNP Paribas expresses its concern regarding the company's current subscription based access, as compared to the newer and more successful article-fee based open access system.")

BNP Paribas

* Postscript.  As I go to press, Citigroup Smith Barney came to the same conclusion as BNP Paribas, and lowered its estimated price target for Elsevier stock.  According to Richard Wray in _The Guardian_ for November 1, this caused at least a short-term tumble in the Elsevier stock price.  "The shares were the biggest losers in the FTSE 100 index, down 16.5p to 458p as Citigroup Smith Barney warned of the impact of open access and sliced its price target for Reed to 500p from 580p."

The significance of this is not that Elsevier is taking a hit.  Open access can succeed alongside priced journals, can be part of a for-profit business model, as with BMC, and in the right circumstances could even be practiced by Elsevier.  The significance is that two major financial firms have looked at the business model for OA journals and concluded that it is viable. More, they concluded that it is likely to exert serious competitive pressure on commercial publishers.  The most common objection from skeptics who acknowledge the benefits of open access is that the business model for OA journals (as opposed to OA archives) is untested.  Some go further and say that OA advocates don't understand the economics of publishing and are naive about the costs.  It's significant, then, when the OA advocates --who already include a number of publishers-- are joined by professional financial analysts.  Paribas and Citigroup both conclude that the OA journal model is sustainable.  Paribas concludes that it's more sustainable than the pricing model currently used by nearly all commercially published journals.  No one should be surprised that this news would dent investor confidence.  But its true importance is that it validates open-access, not that it hurts any toll-access publisher.  To make progress, we don't need to see Elsevier stumble.  To make progress, we only need to answer the skeptics and overcome the inertia within the academy and accelerate the transition to open access for all peer-reviewed research articles.


Two open-access initiatives for developing countries

October saw two initiatives to provide open access to scientific literature in developing countries.  Unfortunately both were overshadowed by the news from PLoS, Berlin, Australia, and elsewhere.

* The AGORA Project

AGORA (Access to Global Online Research in Agriculture) was launched on October 14.  It offers tiered pricing to over 400 scientific journals specializing in food, nutrition, agriculture, biology, and environmental science.  In nations where the per capita GNP is less than US $1000, access to the journals is free.  In the next tier, access is priced but discounted below retail.  The most affluent countries continue to pay retail.

The publishers participating in AGORA are Blackwell, CABI, Elsevier, Kluwer Academic, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Nature Publishing Group, Oxford University Press, Springer Verlag, and John Wiley.

AGORA is supported by its institutional partners:  the Cornell University Mann Library, the UK Department for International Development, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the Rockefeller Foundation, the US Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization, and the Yale University Library.


Journals participating in the AGORA

AGORA press release

Non-profit institutions in eligible countries can gain access by registering with the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization.

* The Ptolemy project

The Ptolemy project isn't new this month, but an important article about it by its founders was published this month in _BMJ_.

Ptolemy was conceived by University of Toronto surgeon Massey Beveridge.  It's ingeniously simple.  Instead of giving ejournal access to schools and research institutions, Ptolemy gives it to 100 practicing physicians --in this case, all from East Africa.  To make it possible, the University of Toronto appointed the physicians "research affiliates" in its Office of International Surgery, and set up proxy servers in Toronto to accommodate them.  The university licensing agreements with journals already grant access to research affiliates.  Immediately, the deal gave the African doctors full access to all the electronic holdings of the University of Toronto Library, the largest in Canada and third largest in North America.  The holdings include the full texts of 20,000 licensed journals, hundreds of medical textbooks, and many open-access resources.

To participate in the project, physicians have to practice in a country ranked below 65th on the UN Human Development Index, have reliable internet access, consent to anonymous monitoring of their use of online university resources, and follow the same rules about copyright that apply to other Toronto library patrons.

The beauty of it is how easily it scales.  Beveridge told the BBC:  "The cost of having a few hundred affiliates in Africa is negligible for the university library.  Any other university could do the same thing."

Ptolemy Project

Massey Beveridge, Andrew Howard, Kirsteen Burton, Warren Holder, "The Ptolemy project: a scalable model for delivering health information in Africa", _BMJ_, October 4, 2003.
(All the co-authors are from the University of Toronto.)

"Net Lifeline for African Doctors", _BBC News_, October 22, 2003

UN Human Development Index
(participating physicians must work in countries ranked below 65th)

* Postscript.  If the gist of the Ptolemy project is for a licensee to include unexpected outsiders inside its license, with the licensor's knowledge and consent, then here's another recent example.  The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) paid for a subscription to _Graphics Communications World_ for its own employees.  But the journal agreed to allow GPO to nominate two schools to be included in the GPO subscription at no extra charge.  GPO nominated the Rochester Institute of Technology and California Polytechnic State University, which now receive the journal at no charge.

* PPS.  For other projects to bring free or affordable journal access to developing countries, see Ann Okerson's annotated list.


Should trade embargoes apply to scholarship?

The US-based Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has 350,000 members worldwide, including 2,000 members in Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and the Sudan.  Because the US has a trade embargo against these nations, the IEEE has felt obliged to deny these members all the goods and services prohibited by US trade laws.  This has meant blocking these members from reading the IEEE online journals and barring editors of IEEE journals from editing their papers.  As the IEEE reads US trade law, it could accept papers from these members but could not edit them, since editing was a "service" that falls under the trade embargo.  Six other international scientific and engineering societies contacted by the _Chronicle of Higher Education_ did not read the law the same way, and edited accepted papers by any author.

Last December the IEEE asked the US Treasury Department to clarify the law on this point, and the clarification came down on on October 1.  The IEEE was right: American journals can accept articles by Iranians but cannot edit them.  The reason is that editing adds value to the article and that brings it within the scope of trade a embargo.  (Never mind that publishing adds value to the unpublished manuscript.)  American journals that want to edit articles by citizens of embargoed nations may apply to the government for a license.

Of course peer review and copy editing improve articles.  The question is whether these kinds of improvements ought to be covered, hence barred, by a trade embargo.  In the IEEE case, the edited articles would be published in an American journal, published by an American professional society.  The author would not be paid --not because the author is from an embargoed country, but because scholarly journals don't pay authors royalties.  No additional money would flow to the embargoed country on account of the editorial improvements.  Moreover, if the purpose of the embargo is to exert pressure on the embargoed country to change its national policies, one can question whether impeding the progress of science for everyone, as opposed to special impediments that only affect the embargoed country, is an ethical or even an effective strategy.  It's true that the impediment to the progress of science is a small one.  But would we pollute the air, even a little bit, in order to pressure Iran to change some national policy?

I don't criticize the IEEE for obeying the law.  I condemn the law.  Moreover, I wouldn't criticize any publisher who disregarded the embargo, edited worthy submissions from anyone, waited for a cease and desist letter from the government, and then challenged it in court. 

Finally, I'm appalled that a scholarly journal would have to apply to the government for a license to edit articles submitted by citizens of certain countries.  But this is exactly what the US Treasury Department now requires.  I know we're still near the top of the slippery slope, not at the bottom.  But I don't want to take any further steps toward government-licensed science, nationality-based qualifications for scientific publication, or the application of trade law to the sharing --and enhancing-- of scientific knowledge.

Lila Guterman, "U.S. Policy Restricts Scientific Publishing by Researchers in Countries Under Trade Embargo", _Chronicle of Higher Education_, October 2, 2003.
http://chronicle.com/prm/daily/2003/10/2003100201n.htm  (accessible only to subscribers)

Lila Guterman, "Embargo Imbroglio", _Chronicle of Higher Education_, October 17, 2003.
http://chronicle.com/free/v50/i08/08a01701.htm  (open access)

On October 15, the _Chronicle_ hosted an online colloquy on the controversy.  A transcript is now online.

I obtained a copy of the Treasury Department letter to the IEEE and posted it to our discussion forum.


Coming up later this month

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

* Remember the July 7 public letter asking WIPO to host a meeting on open-source software, open-access research literature, and other "open and collaborative projects to create public goods"?  After WIPO Assistant Director General Francis Gurry accepted the invitation on July 10, Microsoft and the US Patent and Trademark Office went to work to reverse his decision.  The meeting is now in limbo.  But on November 3, representatives of the group that originally asked for the meeting will give a 2-3 hour briefing to WIPO delegates on their idea.  (Disclosure:  I'm part of this group, but I won't be one of those briefing the delegates in Geneva.)  I hope to have more details after the 3rd.

Background on the meeting and the attempts by Microsoft and the US Patent and Trademark Office to derail it

* In a few weeks, the SHERPA Project will take over the job of maintaining the table of publisher self-archiving policies from Project RoMEO.

The SHERPA Project

The RoMEO Project

The table of publisher copyright and self-archiving policies

* Notable conferences in November

Seminar on Open Online Access to Research (sponsored by the Norwegian Council for Higher Education)
Oslo, November 11-12, 2003

Global Access to UK Research: Removing the barriers
London, November 20, 2003

* Other OA-related conferences


Best of the blog:  new developments

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. 

* The University of California eScholarship Repository launched a series of open-access, peer-reviewed "repository journals" (sometimes called "overlay journals"). 

Policies governing the new series

Series FAQ

San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science
(first journal in the series to launch)

University of California eScholarship Repository

* The  Database and Collections of Information Misappropriations Act (H.R. 2361) was officially introduced in the House on October 9.

It was approved by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property on October 16.

Andrea Foster, "Colleges' Database Dilemma", _Chronicle of Higher Education_, October 17, 2003.

Andrea Foster, "Database-Protection Measure Clears House Panel", _Chronicle of Higher Education_, October 17, 2003.

Grant Gross, "Subcommittee approves database protection bill", _InfoWorld_, October 16, 2003.

George H. Pike, "Database Protection Legislation Introduced in Congress", _Information Today_, October 20, 2003.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos, "Critics Fear Database Bill Will Hinder Research", _FoxNews_, October 9, 2003.

At the LibLicense list, a good discussion thread has begun on what the  database bill does and does not restrict.

Other news coverage

Text of the approved bill
(The final colon is part of the URL.)

See the ALA page on the bill.

* A biologist and dean at the University of California at San Francisco, Peter Walter and Keith Yamamoto, called for a worldwide boycott of the journals published by Elsevier's Cell Press on the ground that they are exorbitantly priced.  The boycott asks scholars not to submit papers, referee papers, or serve on the editorial boards.

Call for boycott by Peter Walter and Keith Yamamoto

Response from Lynne Herndon, President and CEO of Cell Press

Andrea Foster, "Scientists at U. of California at San Francisco Push for Boycott Against 6 Biology Journals", _Chronicle of Higher Education_, October 21, 2003.

Alison McCook, "Researchers Boycott Cell Press", _The Scientist_, October 23, 2003.

Keay Davidson, "Bay Area leads revolt against scientific journals", _San Francisco Chronicle, October 27, 2003.

Jan Velterop, publisher of BioMed Central, issued a statement on the boycott.

At its meeting on Friday, October 24, Academic Senate of the University of California at Santa Cruz considered a Resolution on [Cutting] Ties with Elsevier Journals.

* On October 23, Amazon launched its powerful new service, Search Inside the Book.

Amazon press release

Amazon, How It Works

Amazon's Search Inside the Book FAQ

Jim Milliot, "Publishers Grudgingly Cooperate With Amazon Database Effort", _Publishers Weekly_, September 15, 2003.  A pre-launch look at publisher reservations about the project.

Gary Wolf, "The Great Library of Amazonia", _Wired Magazine_, December 2003.

David Kirkpatrick, "Amazon Worries Authors", _New York Times_, October 27, 2003.

Henry Jenkins, "Amazon's Latest --The Digital Bookshelf", _MIT Technology Review_, October 25, 2003.

Steven Johnson, "The Best Search Idea Since Google:  How Amazon can make money from books you already own", _Slate_, October 24, 2003.

Shortly after the Amazon launch, it became known that Google was also talking to publishers about offering free full-text searching of books without free full-text reading.  (This news seems to have originated with publishers, not with Google.)

* On October 22, the Australian government gave a network of institutions $12 million to improve Australia's research infrastructure.  At least three of the four funded projects will significantly accelerate the implementation of open access in Australia.

Also see the government press release

* India's Documentation Research and Training Centre has launched an OAI-compliant institutional repository.

* A new open-access journal, _The Calicut Medical Journal_, was launched by the Calicut Medical College Alumni Association in India.

* The _Online Journal of Health and Allied Sciences_ will archive all its issues in CogPrints.

And so will the _Calicut Medical Journal_.

* Over 300 scientists from 53 countries are creating an open-access Census of Marine Life.

* The Open Archives Forum created an online tutorial for those new to the OAI protocol for metadata harvesting.

* On October 27, ALPSP released a public statement supporting the goal of open access and experimentation on efficient and effective means. 

* On October 23, the Digital Promise Project submitted its report to Congress and three Senators agreed to sponsor legislation to implement its recommendations.  The report calls for generating a $20 billion trust fund from the auction of radio spectrum, and using the interest to pay for new projects in digital research and education, apparently including open-access projects.

* The Gesellschaft für Schwerionenforschung [Society for Heavy Ion Research] is developing an open-access institutional repository, the GSI Document Retrieval (DoRe) system.

* The University of Munich has launched an open-access institutional repository, and Volker Schallehn has written an article about its genesis and implementation.

* Francis Muguet, chair of the Scientific Information Working Group for the World Summit on the Information Society, wrote a frank, firsthand account of the fight for open access at PrepCom3 (Geneva, September 15-26), explaining why open access is less prominently mentioned in the final documents than it was in earlier drafts.  (Clue:  it has more to do with bureaucracy than with opposition.)

* A good discussion thread started on the Humanist discussion group on open-access initiatives in the humanities.

* A good discussion thread started on the ERIL-L list on the advantages and disadvantages of electronic journals compared to print journals.

* England's National Health Service (NHS) has launched the open-access NHS Trusts Clinical Trials Register.

* On October 14, UNESCO issued a communiqué, Towards Knowledge Societies, that ranked "universal access to information and knowledge" on a par with "freedom of expression" as a priority for the world community. 

* Next January, Pakistan will launch a national digital library on CD's.

* The Pentagon restored open access hundreds of documents that it had taken offline after September 11.

* Project Gutenberg published its 10,000th open-access book.

* A federal district court dismissed Daniel Bernstein's suit seeking a judicial declaration that he had a First Amendment right to post encryption software to the internet without risking prosecution for "exporting munitions".  The result is that Bernstein may post the software, but the law on what is lawful to post has not been clarified, and other researchers in Bernstein's position may be chilled in their exercise of First Amendment rights.  Bernstein is a professor of mathematics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and filed his lawsuit in 1995.

* The Grainger Engineering Library at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign launched a new OAI Registry.

* Brewster Kahle petitioned the U.S. Copyright Office for an exemption to the DMCA so that he may lawfully make copies of old software in order to preserve them in his Internet Archive.

* Alexa and the Internet Archive are offering the Alexa crawl of the Archive's 10 billion web pages by subscription or on disk, just in case you've written software that can datamine 60 terabytes of data.  The same crawl is free online in the Wayback Machine.

* RLG launched its massive RedLightGreen project, a free online XML union catalog merging the records of 160 libraries from 300+ countries in 370+ languages.

* Michael Copps, one of the two Democrat members of the FCC, warned that FCC polices endanger the openness of the net.

* British Pathe launched an archive of still photos extracted from 20th century films.  Low-res copies are free for non-commercial purposes.  High-res copies are priced.

* The Connexions Project produces open-access content for online education and facilitates its collaborative development.

* A discussion thread on high journal prices and open access in the field of philosophy arose on several philosophy blogs.

* Peter Agre, co-winner of this year's Nobel Prize for chemistry said that he "may use some of his prize money to help defend academic freedoms against restrictions imposed on scientists as part of the U.S. war on terrorism" (quoting Reuters).

* On October 10, the Open Archives Initiative released the beta edition of the OAI Static Repository Specification.

* The IEEE launched a new journal on digital libraries, the _TCDL Bulletin_ or the IEEE _Technical Committee on Digital Libraries Bulletin_.  The journal seems to be open access.

* The National Library of Malaysia launched the International Islamic Digital Library this week at the summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

* SunnComm marketed a copy protection scheme for CDs that could be defeated by holding down the shift key.  When a Princeton student discovered the flaw and published it online, SunnComm threatened him with prosecution for the "possible felony" of violating the DMCA and distributing a circumvention device.  SunnComm backed down the next day in the face of a worldwide wave of ridicule.

* A German court ruled that deep linking to news stories inside a newspaper does not violate the newspaper's copyright.

* JISC put its draft strategy online for public comment.  It includes several policy objectives friendly to open access.

* To mark its 10th anniversary, Demos has created an open access archive of its publications, and now claims the title "first 'open access' think tank". 

* On October 3, NFAIS released its Guiding Principles to Reference Linking.

* On October 2 Oxford University Press announced  that it will provide open access to articles published in OUP journals, written by Oxford University authors, and stored in the Oxford institutional repository.

* Two of the ALPSP Awards for 2003 went to open-access innovators.  The award for Publishing Innovation went to _The AfCS - Nature Signaling Gateway_, the open-access experiment from _Nature_.  The award for Service to Not-for-Profit Publishing went to HighWire Press.

* On September 26, the UK launched an open-access Central Government Web Archive.

* PubMed Central is scanning and providing free online access to the back issues of 21 biomedical journals. 

I followed up this news with a query to PMC and posted the correspondence to our discussion forum.


Best of the blog:  new bibliography

A selection of articles on open access published since the last issue of the newsletter, taken from the Open Access News blog. 

* Theo Andrew, "Trends in Self-Posting of Research Material Online by Academic Staff", _Ariadne_, October 2003.

* Anon., "Q&A with Greg Petsko", _Current Biology_, October 14, 2003.  A wide-ranging interview with this important biologist, touching on his work for the open-access movement.

* Charles W. Bailey, Jr., Scholarly Electronic Publishing Bibliography, Version 51

* Walt Crawford, "Scholarly Article Access", _Cites & Insights_, November, 2003.

* Raym Crow, "A Guide to Institutional Repository Software", Open Society Institute, October 17, 2003.

* Electronic Frontier Foundation, "Unintended Consequences: Five Years under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act", an October 2003 update to this important report.  Among other abuses, it documents continuing DMCA interference with scientific inquiry.

* Alastair Dryburgh, "Alternative futures for academic and professional publishing", _Learned Publishing_, October, 2003.

* Monica Duke, "Delivering OAI Records as RSS: An IMesh Toolkit module for facilitating resource sharing", _Ariadne_, October 2003.

* John Ewing, "'Open access' will not be open to everyone", _Nature_, October 9, 2003.  An objection to open-access journals.  I wrote a response for the blog and sent a longer version to _Nature_.  Also see the objection-reply article above.

* E. Francesconi and G. Peruginelli, "Access to Italian Legal Literature:  Integration between Structured Repositories and Web Documents", a presentation at the 2003 Dublin Core Conference.  On the experience of designing and implementing an OAI-compliant archive of Italian legal literature.

* Elizabeth Gadd, Charles Oppenheim, and Steve Probets, RoMEO studies 4: an analysis of journal publishers' copyright agreements", _Learned Publishing_, October, 2003.

* Klaus Graf,  "Wissenschaftliches E-Publizieren mit 'Open Access'- Initiativen und Widerstände", _Zeitenblicke_, October 2003.

* Chris Gulker, "Opportunities for Open Source Software in the Publishing Industry", _NewsForge_, October 10, 2003.

* Axel Halle, "Wissenschaftliche Publikationskultur und Hochschulverlage", _Zeitschrift für Bibliothekswesen und Bibliographie_, 2003 (accessible only to subscribers).

Also see the (free online) English abstract.

* Geneva Henry, "On-line Publishing in the 21st Century", _D-Lib Magazine_, October 2003.

* John Hoey, "BMJ.com: toll-free no more", an editorial in _CMAJ_ [Canadian Medical Association Journal], September 30, 2003.

* John Houghton, Colin Steele, and Margaret Henty, "Changing Research Practices in the Digital Information and Communication Environment", Department of Education, Science and Training, Commonwealth of Australia, August 2003.

* Kurt Kleiner, "Freedom Fighter", _NewScientist_, November 1, 2003.  An interview with Harold Varmus.

* Aaron Krowne, "Building a Digital Library the Commons-based Peer Production Way", _D-Lib Magazine_

* Jill Lambert, "Developments in electronic publishing in the biomedical sciences", _Program: electronic library & information systems_, 37, 1 (2003) pp. 6-15.

* Lawrence Lessig, "The BBC's lessons for America", _Financial Times_, September 8, 2003.  On the open-access BBC archive and the uncertain plans for the WIPO meeting on open source and open access.

* Michelle Manafy, "This Fedora’s Big Enough for Any DAM Project", _EContent_, October 14, 2003.  A profile of FEDORA (Flexible Extensible Digital Object and Repository Architecture), the open-source repository software from the University of Virginia and Cornell.

* Corynne McSherry, "Who Owns Academic Work?" in Mario Biagioli and Peter Galison (eds.), _Scientific Authorship: Credit and Intellectual Property in Science_, Routledge, 2002.

* Angela Misslbeck, "Der Sesam öffnet sich", _Die Tageszeitung_, October 24, 2003.  An introduction to the idea of open-access, peer-reviewed journals, using Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung and PLoS Biology as examples.

* David C. Montgomery, "Marketing Science, Marketing Ourselves", _Academe_, September/October 2003.

* William Nixon, "DAEDALUS: Initial experiences with EPrints and DSpace at the University of Glasgow", _Ariadne_, October 2003.

* Richard Poynder, "Change is Very Exciting", _Information Today_, September 2003.  An interview with Blackwell President Bob Campbell, touching on open access among other topics.

* David Prosser, "Open Access in the U.K.: A Progress Report", _SPARC E-News_, August-September, 2003.

* P.V Ramachandran, "Online, open access journals: the only hope for the future", _Calicut Medical Journal_, October 2003 (the inaugural issue).

* Ulf von Rauchhaupt, "Keine Maut für den Geist", _Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung_, October 19, 2003.  (On PLoS, Wellcome Trust, and open access to cultural heritage collections.)

* Ulf Rehmann, "Documenta Mathematica: A Community-Driven Scientific Journal", _High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine_, October 2003. Some history and business details about a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of mathematics that charges no processing fees.

* Meredith Salisbury, "Killing the Copyright", _GenomeWeb News_, October 22, 2003.  On the Sabo bill.

* Hussein Suleman and four co-authors, "Building digital libraries from simple building blocks", _Online Information Review_, 27, 5 (2003).  On OAI interoperability.

* Greg Tananbaum, "Of wolves and and boys: the scholarly communication crisis", _Learned Publishing_, October, 2003.

* Roy Tennant, "Open-Access Journals", _Library Journal_, October 15, 2003.

* Mark Uehling, "Digging Into Digital Quarries", _Bio-IT World_, October 10, 2003.  (Making the point that text mining will work best with free online texts.)

* Chris Ulbrich, "Music Label Cashes in by Sharing", _Wired News_, October 8, 2003.  On "open music". 

* Harold Varmus and five co-authors (including Elias Zerhouni), "Grand Challenges in Global Health", _Science_, Vol. 302, No. 5644 (October 17, 2003).  Notable in part for the fact that _Science_ is providing open access to the article.

* John Walker, "The Digital Imprimatur", September 13, 2003.

* The transcript of the _Chronicle of HIgher Education_ colloquy on Cathy Davidson's article on the scholarly publication crisis in the humanities is now online.

* The proceedings of the Symposium on the Role of Scientific and Technical Data and Information in the Public Domain (Washington, D.C., September 5-6, 2002) have now been published as a book from the National Academies Press.

Conference site

Book site
(NAP offers open access to the full-text in addition to a priced, printed edition.)

Compare the enlightened way that this conference published its proceedings with the benighted way that the next conference below published its proceedings.

* The proceedings from the conference, Open Access to Scientific and Technical Information: State of the Art and Future Trends (Paris, January 23-24, 2003) have been published in a special double-issue of _Information Services and Use_ (Vol. 23, Nos. 2-3, 2003).

However, the journal does not offer open access to the articles.  I hope that the presenters will post their presentations to their archives or web sites.  In the meantime interested readers can view the open-access video streams of the presentations at the conference site.

* Many of the presentations from the conference, La biblioteca digital y la nueva comunicación científica (Barcelona, October 8-10, 2003) are now online.

* The presentations from the conference, Scholarly Tribes and Tribulations: How Tradition and Technology Are Driving Disciplinary Change (Washington, October 17) are now online.

* The teaching materials (PDF and PPT files) from the D-Lib Competence Center's course, Open Access to Digital Libraries (offered in February and May of 2003), are now online.

* The 2003 Annual Meeting of the American Council of Learned Societies (Philadelphia, May 9-10, 2003) had one public session, "Crises and Opportunities: the Futures of Scholarly Publishing".  The presentations from that session are now online.

* The presentations on The Scholar's Portal given at a session of the IFLA General Conference (Berlin, August 1-9, 2003) are now online.

* _Open Access Now_ published issues on October 6 and October 20.



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

* The newsletter has an ISSN again, 1546-7821.  I had to apply for a new ISSN when I changed the name from "Free Online Scholarship Newsletter" to "SPARC Open Access Newsletter.  The old ISSN was 1535-7848.

* On my page of OA lists, I now keep track of important OA lists maintained by others.  I welcome suggestions.

* On October 12, I changed the look of the Open Access News blog.  Last month I solicited design ideas from readers, but only received one --and I didn't like it.  I trusted my own judgment and plowed ahead.

* Every mirror of the Open Access News blog was broken at least once during the past month.  I had two methods for displaying accented characters in the blog, but each produced invalid XML for at least one validator, thereby breaking the RSS feed at at least one site.  But I've now found a method that seems to work for all XML validators.  I thank Matt Cockerill of BMC for the solution.

RSS feed for the Open Access News blog

Numeric codes for accented characters
(The solution is to use these rather than alphabetic codes or pasted characters.)

* I finally translated all back issues of the newsletter into HTML and launched my own archive.  I've wanted to do this for two years.  Now I have control over the texts (so that I can correct occasional typos), over the look (which I've kept very close to the original, simple email), and over the long-term fate of these back issues.  I've added some internal anchors for cross-referencing, and now issues that cite one another also link to one another.

But I'm excited by two changes above all.  First, the texts are now out from the deep internet, in the sunshine, and crawlable by standard search engines.  They showed up in the Google index 10 days after I put them online.  Second, you can now run integrated searches over blog content and newsletter content.  The same search engine covers my conference page, my timeline, my guide, and my other writings on open access.  You can find the search box on the blog sidebar, the blog "about" page, the newsletter home page, and the newsletter archive page.

Newsletter archive


Appendix: News coverage of the _PLoS Biology_ launch

Here are the major stories, pre- and post-launch, in roughly chronological order.

David Adam in _The Guardian_, October 6.

Five letters to the editor in response to Adams' story above, all supporting open access.

Declan Butler in _Nature_, October 9.

Joint press release by eight library and public interest organizations, October 9.

Helen Pearson in _Nature_, October 10.

Robert Walgate in _The Scientist_, October 10.

Marydee Ojala in _EContent Magazine_, October 10.

Pat Schroeder in an AAP press release, October 10.

Fred Locklear in _Ars Technica_, October 12.

Maggie Fox in Reuters, October 12.

Unsigned editorial in _The Guardian_, October 13.

Slashdot thread, started October 13.

Rian Stockbower in _Ars Technica Newsdesk_, October 13.

Mike Eisen on NPR's Marketplace show, October 14.

Karl-Erik Tallmo in his _Health & Science_ blog, October 14.

Unsigned editorial in _USA Today_, October 14.

Philipp Grätzel von Grätz in _Telepolis_, October 14 (in German).

Alorie Gilbert in _News.com_, October 14.

Paul Elias for the Associated Press, October 16.

Harold Varmus on NPR's Science Friday show, October 17.

Laura Lynch in _Creative Commons_, October 17.

Vitek Tracz, Chairman of BioMed Central, in a press release, circa October 20

Unsigned note in _Mercury News_, October 21.

Jamie Talan in _Newsday_, October 21.

An unsigned note in _Online Publishing News_ October 22.

David Malakoff in _Science Magazine_, October 24.

An unsigned editorial in _The Manila Times_, October 25.

Keay Davidson in the _San Francisco Chronicle_, October 27.

Julie Yen in _The Stanford Daily_, October 29.


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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Peter Suber

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