Welcome to the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #80
December 2, 2004

Read this issue online

My review of open access developments in 2004 was bumped from this issue by the big stories from the US and UK.  I hope to run it in the next issue along with my predictions for 2005.


Congress approves the NIH plan

After months of campaigning, debating, strategizing, negotiating, lobbying, educating, and waiting, the big news has finally happened.  Congress approved the NIH plan.  In July, the House Appropriations Committee directed that the NIH develop an open-access plan, but in September the Senate declined to include similar language in its own appropriations bill.  The two appropriations bills had to be reconciled in a conference committee. 

On November 20 the conference committee approved the following language:
The conferees are aware of the draft NIH policy on increasing public access to NIH-funded research. Under this policy, NIH would request investigators to voluntarily submit electronically the final, peer reviewed author's copy of their scientific manuscripts; six months after the publisher's date of publication, NIH would make this copy publicly available through PubMed Central. The policy is intended to help ensure the permanent preservation of NIH-funded research and make it more readily accessible to scientists, physicians, and the public.  The conferees note the comment period for the draft policy ended November 16th; NIH is directed to give full and fair consideration to all comments before publishing its final policy. The conferees request NIH to provide the estimated costs of implementing this policy each year in its annual Justification of Estimates to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. In addition, the conferees direct NIH to continue to work with the publishers of scientific journals to maintain the integrity of the peer review system.

Note that the conference committee emphasized that the NIH would "request" grantees to deposit their work, and that grantee deposit would be "voluntary".  This is not the mandate originally sketched by the House Appropriations Committee.  On the other hand, the draft NIH plan promises to monitor deposits "as part of the annual grant progress review and close-out process", which raises the possibility that non-compliant grantees may lose future funding.  The conferees said nothing to discourage that kind of monitoring or that consequence of non-compliance.

The conferees instruct the NIH to "continue to work" with journal publishers.  But the only concern they mention is "to maintain the integrity of the peer review system".  They don't mention maintaining profits, surpluses, or the subscription model for paying the bills.  This is welcome precision.

Despite intense lobbying by publishers, the conferees did not oppose the plan, delay it, or modify it.  They did not even remain silent about it, which would have allowed the NIH to proceed without Congressional endorsement.  Instead, they positively approved the new policy.  It's a good sign that a Republican-controlled Congress approved the plan with bipartisan support, underlining the fact that open access is a bipartisan issue.  It's also a good sign that other federal funding agencies may be encouraged to consider similar policies.

Congress has spoken.  The President still has to sign the appropriations bill, but all omens suggest that he will.  Congress has put the language into an omnibus "must-sign" bill and has already eliminated the provisions most offensive to the administration.  (For complex procedural reasons, the bill may not go to the President for signature until the week of December 6.)

NIH will revise its draft plan in light of the comments it received during the period of public comment.  Because of the volume of comments --over 6,000-- the NIH will miss the original deadline, December 1, stipulated in the House bill.  It's hard to know what changes the NIH might introduce as a result of the public comments.  But after the new draft is final, the agency will start to implement the new policy.

The fact that the policy was approved may give immediate support and courage to other funding agencies, other stakeholders and policy-makers, and other governments.  However, don't expect immediate fruits from the new policy in the form of open-access research articles in PubMed Central.  First, the NIH must receive grant applications, evaluate them, and award grants.  Then the grantees must do the research.  Then they must write it up.  Then they must submit their manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals, and perhaps resubmit them until they are accepted somewhere and published.  We'll have to wait six months after that to see free online editions in PubMed Central.  The new infusion will start as a trickle, many months from now, but it will turn into a mighty tide.

This is the largest single step toward free online access in the history of the OA movement.  The NIH is the largest funder of medical research in the world, with a $28 billion budget for next year alone.  The new policy will apply to all future NIH-funded research published in journals.  The significance of this step is not that it's "mandated" open access from a public funding agency; it could have been, but both NIH and Congress want to deemphasize the "mandate".  It's simply the largest single initiative to provide free online access to peer-reviewed scientific research.  It's not only the largest to date, but because of the size of the NIH budget it's likely to be the largest ever.  It will affect an enormous body of literature directly, and many other funding agencies and disciplines indirectly. 

The plan did not need Congressional approval, but received it.  The effort to secure it created an important new coalition for open access among researchers, universities, libraries, and patient advocacy organizations.  This new coalition was both the cause and the effect of rising public recognition that there is an important public interest in sharing the knowledge produced by taxpayer-funded research.

The final version of the House Appropriations Bill, HR 4818

Conference report to accompany HR 4818, Joint Explanatory Statement
(See pp. 104-105 for the conference committee language on the NIH plan.)

* Postscript.  The press has been *very* slow to pick up on this big story.  Newspapers that covered the long and sometimes sharp debate between proponents and opponents have not yet announced the result, let alone commented on its significance.  Is it possible that breakthrough success is boring and only bickering is newsworthy?

For the news coverage of the plan from November, see the section on major news stories, below.


The UK government responds to the Gibson committee report

In July, the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, chaired by Ian Gibson, issued the report on its extensive investigation into STM publishing and open access.  The report's two major recommendations were that every research institution in the UK should have an OA institutional repository, and that all UK recipients of publicly-funded research grants should deposit the results of their work in their institutional repository.  The committee did not recommend the adoption of OA journals, but it did find them sufficiently promising to recommend further experimentation and a government fund to pay their processing fees.  There were 82 recommendations in all.  The report was not a legislative proposal, but the government was obliged to respond. 

The response came down on November 8.  The short way to describe it is that the government rejected every recommendation that required practical action or funding even if it approved some of the report's goals "in principle".  The overall response was written by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) but released in a package with five responses from other agencies, some of which were considerably friendlier to OA than the DTI.

While the government replied in some form to each of the 82 committee recommendations, you can get the flavor from these excerpts:
The Government is not aware of any evidence of a significant problem in meeting the public's needs in respect of access to journals through public libraries....The Government recognises the potential benefits of institutional repositories and sees them as a significant development worthy of encouragement. But it believes that each Institution has to make its own decision about institutional repositories depending on individual circumstances....Institutional and thematic repositories can play a significant role in the dissemination of research outputs. However the Government has no present intention to mandate Research Council funded researchers to deposit a copy of their published material in institutional repositories.

The MPs who wrote the original report issued an angry reply to the DTI document, charging that the DTI disregarded expert advice, pressured government agencies to modify their views, and ignored the committee's arguments for its primary recommendations.
Whilst it is frustrating that the Government should ignore evidence of a problem that has been collected and reported by a Select Committee, it is worrying that it should ignore such evidence when it is compiled by the Joint Information Systems Committee, a body that is Government-funded and well placed to make an assessment of the issue. We suspect that JISC's view and advice have been disregarded in the Government Response because it conflicts with interests held elsewhere in Government, particularly at DTI....It is clear to us that, in the Government Response, DTI has sought to neutralise some of views put forward by the Joint Information Systems Committee and other organisations and departments....Even when taken on its own, the Government Response is clearly unsatisfactory. It fails to reply to the substance of some arguments and appears to misinterpret others.  From the outset, the Government argues against the wholesale adoption of the author-pays publishing model as if this is what the Committee had recommended. This is not a recommendation that the Committee made....We recommend that the Government reconsider its position on this important issue in the light of the other responses to our Report published here.

Committee chairman Ian Gibson used even stronger language in a press release:
DTI is apparently more interested in kowtowing to the powerful publishing lobby than it is in looking after the best interests of British science. This isn't evidence-based policy, it's policy-based evidence.  The DTI are clearly wearing the Government's trousers on this issue and that's wrong. Not only has it ignored the advice of the body appointed to advise on this issue, it has actually tried to stop them giving us this advice directly, just because they support the Committee's conclusions rather than the DTI view.

For the record, JISC issued its own press on the same day that the government response and the committee reply became public.  In the release, JISC reaffirmed its commitment to open access.

Most journalists reporting on the government response followed the government in giving much more emphasis and attention to OA journals than to OA repositories.  We cannot blame them for putting their own focus on the government's focus.  But with depressing frequency, journalists who set the stage for the government response by describing the original report got it wrong in the same way that the government got it wrong.  It's hard to explain or excuse this kind of mistake, since the journalists had the benefit of the press release from the MPs who wrote the original report, pointing out the mismatch between the government response and the committee's original recommendations.

There is a setback for OA here, but it has been misrepresented by the press.  The government clearly rejected the argument for OA journals.  Of course, it rejected the argument without the recommended experimentation and to that extent it prejudged the issue or took the word of the publishing industry.  But since this was a minor recommendation in the overall report, this is only a minor setback.  The true setback is that the primary recommendation for OA archiving was dismissed without any serious effort to respond to the committee's evidence and arguments.

The government response does not stop or or even impede the present and future OA initiatives from JISC, SHERPA, and other government agencies.  Moreover, the government response made clear that the Research Councils, which award research grants, may consider putting an OA condition on those grants.  The Research Councils are currently considering exactly that possibility. 

"Scientific Publications:  Free for All?"  The report from the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee (July 20, 2004)

"Scientific Publications:  Free for All?:  The Government Response" (dated November 1, released November 8, 2004)
This lengthy document (71 pp. in the PDF ed.) contains the reply from the Science and Technology Committee to the government response, followed in Appendix 1 by the government response itself and, in Appendix 2, by five separate responses to the report from other government agencies:  the Office of Fair Trading (OFT); the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) and the Consortium of University Research Libraries (CURL); the Securing a Hybrid Environment for Research Preservation and Access project (SHERPA); the Research Councils UK (RCUK); and the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC).

Committee reply to the government response

Committee press release condemning the government response, November 8, 2004

JISC press release reaffirming its commitment to open access, November 8, 2004

My summary of the original report from SOAN for 8/02/04

Fred Friend's critique of the UK government response, reproduced on Tom Roper's blog, November 11, 2004.

Stevan Harnad's critique of the UK government response, posted to the AmSci OA Forum, November 8, 2004.

* Postscript.  Both the UK and US governments considered proposals for the OA archiving of taxpayer-funded research.  Why were the outcomes so different, at least so far?

(1) National licenses in the UK spread journal access more uniformly through the country.  Even though the absolute level of access is insufficient, there is less inequality of access and there may be less institutional interest in finding alternatives to the current subscription system.

(2) In the US, the NIH awards research grants and sets policy about how or under what terms to award research grants.  In the UK these functions are separate.  Hence it's easier for the NIH to follow the natural interests of research funders in OA.  Insofar as the UK Research Councils have been given an opening to adopt a similar policy, we can be optimistic that they will do so.

(3) The major publishers of subscription-based journals are headquartered in the UK (Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Blackwell, and if you count Candover/Cinven, then also Springer and Kluwer) and have more lobbying clout there than in the US.  It's not clear how far this clout would have gone if everyone had appreciated the distinction between OA archiving and OA journals.

* PPS.  You've probably noticed that proposals for OA archiving tend to be misunderstood as proposals for OA journals, at least by opponents of OA journals.  Why?  Is it that busy people are careless readers?  Is it a case of assimilating the less familiar to the more familiar at a time when journals are at the heart of scientific communication?  ("There is nothing else, right?")  Is it a rapid and unexamined inference?  ("OA archiving must kill journals, right?")  Is it a case of mistaking consequences for stakes (like ducking when a gun is fired in the other direction)?  The DTI might have misread the report from any of these causes.  But it's also possible that the DTI was misled by the intensity of publisher lobbying.  Because publishers focused on OA journals, the DTI may have thought that OA journals were the primary issue raised by the report.

In any case, Lord David Sainsbury, the UK Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, Department of Trade and Industry, is still missing the point.  In a November 10 letter to the Financial Times, Sainsbury responded to criticism of the DTI response.  But in his response he continued to focus on the merits of OA journals and disregard the recommendation for OA archiving.  Similarly, in a December 1 interview in The Guardian, Sainsbury elaborated his views on OA journals and did not discuss OA archiving or respond to the charge that he had neglected it in his earlier responses to the committee report.

Lord David Sainsbury, Open access is not only science publishing model, Financial Times, November 10, 2004 (access limited to subscribers).

Donald MacLeod, Warning over 'cost' of free science publishing, The Guardian, December 1, 2004.

On November 30, Sainsbury and the DTI released a position paper on the EU funding of science.  It includes this sentence:  "We are also making a clear case for EU funding to cover the full economic costs of research - the costs of facilities and salaries - rather than just fund the scientists themselves."  But the paper does not argue that funders should treat the cost of OA dissemination as part of the cost of research, even though it is a small fraction of the cost of research and would greatly amplify the usefulness of the underlying research.

The UK position paper and related documents

DTI press release about the position paper, November 30, 2004

Three news stories about the position paper

For news coverage of the government response to the committee report, see the section on major news stories, below.


Major open-access developments in November 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 November:
* Debate over the NIH plan ends, Congress approves.
* The UK government responds to the Gibson committee report.
* Many national OA initiatives launch in November.
* The Wellcome Trust plans to mandate OA to all Wellcome-funded research.
* Kaufman and Wills release preliminary results from their study of OA journals.
* Google launches the beta edition of Google Scholar.

* Debate over the NIH plan ends, Congress approves.

Here are some comments on the NIH plan, submitted to the NIH and released to the public during November.

Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) (favorable)

Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) (critical of the APS comment, below)

American Library Association (ALA) (favorable)

American Psychology Association (APA) (critical)

American Physiological Society (APS) (critical)

Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) (favorable)

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) (favorable)

Elsevier (critical)

The Endocrine Society (critical)

International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers (STM) (critical)

Michael Keller, Stanford University Librarian and the Publisher of HighWire Press and Stanford University Press (generally critical)

Public Knowledge (favorable) (Disclosure:  I wrote the comment)

Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) (favorable)

Judith Wilkerson, Head of Serials Services at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (favorable)

The web site for the DC Principles for Free Access to Science has collected comments on the NIH plan from signatory organizations, most of them critical. Today the page links to 29 comments.

Here are some news stories and other developments on the NIH plan during November.

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access issued a press release thanking Congress and the NIH for approving the NIH public access plan, November 29, 2004.

Shirley Haley, Omnibus conferees support NIH public access publishing plan; NIH asking for time, Washington Fax, November 29, 2004.

NBC Nightly News finally ran its story on the NIH plan on November 28.  The good news is that you can view the clip over the net, at least for a while. The bad news is that NBC has done all it can to discourage deep linking. So bear with me: First go to the MSNBC front page. Then look down the left column for News Video and click to open its sub-menu. Click on News Video Front Page. Scan the bottom half of the page for the clip on the Fleecing of America. Click to play. (Don't be surprised if the clip is no longer available.)

Meredith Wadman, NIH head stands firm over plans for open access, Nature, November 25, 2004.

Jocelyn Kaiser, NIH Flooded with comments on public access proposal, Science Magazine, November 28, 2004.

The NIH released its own summaries of two of the stakeholder meetings that preceded the September 3 release of its draft plan. One is the August 30 meeting with "scientific community representatives" and the other is the August 31 meeting with "public interest community representatives".

Two letters to the editor on the NIH plan, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 26, 2004.  The letters are from Jennifer McCabe and Peter Suber.

Klaus Marre, Publishers wary of NIH plan, The Hill, November 17, 2004.

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access issued a press release about a meeting between Elias Zerhouni of the NIH, Mark Kamlet, Provost of Carnegie Mellon University, and Rick Johnson, Director of SPARC.

The NIH has posted a set of PPT slides, NIH Public Access Proposed Policy.

The November 10 Wall Street Journal published three letters to the editor about open access.  All three are in response to Charles Wysocki's 10/28 article, Publishers Oppose Plan for Free Access to Scientific Research.  The letters are from Norman Anderson, Jan Velterop, and Paul Kincade.

Alliance for Taxpayer Access held a press briefing on the NIH plan, November 11, 2004.

Lou Pray, The NIH open-access proposal, LANL Research Library Newsletter, November 2004.

Priceless Information, Los Angeles Times, November 6, 2004.  An unsigned editorial endorsing the NIH plan.

Emily Lehr Wallace, Open Access: Open Debate? GeoTimes, November 2004.

* The UK government responds to the Gibson committee report.

Donald MacLeod, Warning over 'cost' of free science publishing, The Guardian, December 1, 2004.

Malcolm Morgan, Agenda - Relief for academic firms, Media Week, November 16, 2004.

Richard Poynder, U.K. Government Rejects Call to Support Open Access, Information Today, November 15, 2004.

In the November issue of its newsletter (pp. 6-8), the European Association for Health Information and Libraries (EAHIL) published its response to the July report on open access from UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.

Lynn Eaton, MP criticises government response on open access publishing, BMJ, November 13, 2004.

Bobby Pickering, Open access publishing on the decline? Information World Review, November 11, 2004.

Daniel Clery, Mixed Week for Open Access in the U.K., Science Magazine, November 12, 2004.

UK government rejects public access publishing proposal as US considers the issue, Research Research, November 11, 2004.

Ben Winkley, UK Govt "Unconvinced" On Open Access To Science Research, Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2004.

David Sainsbury, Open access is not only science publishing model, Financial Times, November 10, 2004.  A letter to the editor in response to FT's editorial of November 9 criticizing the UK government response to the OA report. Sainsbury is the UK Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, Department of Trade and Industry, and helped compose the UK government response.

Randy Reichardt, UK Gov't Passes on Opportunity To Support Open Access, STLQ, November 9, 2004.

On November 9, the Financial Times published an unsigned editorial on open access, criticizing the UK government response.

Daniel Engber, British Government Refuses to Support Open-Access Approach to Scientific Publishing, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 10, 2004

JISC Reaffirms Commitment to Open Access Publishing, November 8, 2004.

UK government accused of 'kowtowing' to industry in scientific publications debate, CORDIS News, November 9, 2004.

Stephen Pincock, UK setback for open access, The Scientist, November 9, 2004.

Richard Wray, Confused decision on science publishing, The Guardian, November 9, 2004.

Shaoni Bhattacharya, UK government 'obstructing' open-access publishing, NewScientist, November 8, 2004.

Saeed Shah, Anger as ministers block science publishing shake-up, The Independent, November 8, 2004.

Richard Wray, Government 'obstructs science access', The Guardian, November 8, 2004.

* Many national OA initiatives launch in November.

The Dutch SURF Foundation signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.

The Australian government launched the Australian Partnership for Sustainable Repositories.

Creative Commons launched its French edition on November 19.  CC now offers localized licenses in 10 countries.

The Indian MEDLARS Centre in New Delhi announced the upcoming launch of IndMED, an open-access, OAI-compliant repository for biomedical research. The MEDLARS Centre and the new repository are funded by the government of India.

The University of Namibia has launched an open-access, OAI-compliant institutional repository. 

The Österreichischen Rektorenkonferenz (Austrian Conference of Rectors) signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.

The rectors of 32 Italian universities signed the Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge.

The same Italian university rectors and other delegates to a recent conference (Messina, November 4-5, 2004) released the Messina Declaration on Open Access, in Italian and English.

BioMed Central announced institutional memberships for all research institutions in Denmark. 

On October 28, participants at the Russian National Library conference, Information as Public Domain: Access Through Libraries (St. Petersburg, October 27-29, 2994), issued the St. Petersburg Declaration.

JISC and SURF signed a major agreement on November 19, promising to work together on "knowledge networks and the further development of joint innovation programmes". 

Not a national OA initiative, but close to the opposite:  Canada is about to adopt copyright reforms that would (among other things) add an access fee to open-access content.  Here are two news stories about it:

Jack Kapica, Ottawa's copyright plans wrongheaded, experts say, Globe and Mail, November 11, 2004. 

Michael Geist, Copyright Reform is Not a Spectator Sport, Canadian Association of University Teachers Bulletin, November 2004.

* The Wellcome Trust plans to mandate OA to all Wellcome-funded research.

The Wellcome Trust announced talks with the U.S. National Library of Medicine to launch the "European PubMed Central".  At the same time, it announced that it would mandate OA archiving for journal articles based on Wellcome-funded research.  Like the NIH plan, the OA editions would be released within six months of their publication in journals.

The Wellcome Trust was a leader, with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, in its willingness to pay the processing fees charged by OA journals.  Now it is a leader in mandating OA to the results of the research it funds.  This is the policy original proposed by the House of Representatives for the NIH and then watered down.  This is the policy proposed by the Gibson committee for all taxpayer-funded research in the UK but rejected by the government.  As far as I know it is a policy not yet adopted by any other major funding agency, public or private. 

Wellcome Trust

Wellcome Trust press release on its plans (undated but c. November 4, 2004)

Wellcome Trust letter to all UK university vice-chancellors, November 1, 2004

Wellcome Trust FAQ on its commitment to OA

Jim Giles, Trust gives warm welcome to open access, Nature, November 11, 2004.

* Kaufman and Wills release preliminary results from their study of OA journals.

At the ALPSP-SSP meeting on open access in Washington D.C. on November 8, Cara Kaufman presented preliminary results from the study she is conducting with Alma Wills on the business side of OA journals.  Shortly afterwards, ALPSP posted the preliminary results to its web site.  The Kaufman-Wills study is the most extensive to date on the business models of OA journals and how they are working out in practice.

Quoting from the ALPSP page on the study:  'The objective of the study is to determine the impact of open access on scholarly journals' financial and non-financial factors. In the first stage of the study, the researchers have surveyed two populations: [1] Full Open Access Journals. Journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. All 1,151 journals with deliverable email addresses received a questionnaire (some 200 journals in the Directory did not have deliverable email addresses). [2] Delayed Open Access Journals. Journals hosted by HighWire Press and participating in the 'DC Principles'. 184 journals received a questionnaire. The survey consisted of 33 closed-ended and 5 open-ended questions and addressed the following major categories: [1] Demographic: Including type of publisher, location of publishing offices, subject area, type of content published; [2] Financial: Including revenue models, sources of financial support, percentage of total each revenue type represents, revenue trends and expectations, current surplus or deficit; [3] Non-financial: Including print format, copyediting policy, number of internal/external peer reviews, services offered to Authors, copyright and permissions policies, pre/post-publishing rights of authors.'

(PS:  Cara Kaufman is my sister. I have to say this as a disclaimer. But I hope that my own clear preference for OA does not affect Cara's well-earned reputation for neutrality. I don't have a finger in this study. She and Alma Wills have done a superb job collecting data. Digesting the data will take more time, but the preliminary findings are already fascinating and useful. Don't take my word for it; that's the point of the disclaimer. Trust ALPSP, AAAS, and Highwire to hire a top-notch team and examine its work for yourselves.)

The Kaufman-Wills Group

Variations on Open Access: a study of the financial and non-financial effects of alternative business models for scholarly journals, posted November 11.

Also see the Kaufman-Wills PPT slides of the same title, containing the only details so far released to the public.

* Google launches the beta edition of Google Scholar.

This is an important development. It will make OA literature even more visible and retrievable than it already is. It will give authors and publishers new incentives to make their work OA. It will help readers find what they need. Because it indexes work that is not online, even non-OA publishers will have an incentive to participate, making Google Scholar (GS) more and more comprehensive and useful over time.

When you run a search, GS labels each hit by the number of citations it has from other works in the GS index.  It also lets you click through to a new page showing just those citing works.  As the index improves, the citation counts will improve, giving users the first free and useful real-time picture of citation impact. 

GS does not provide OA to literature that wasn't already OA, but it does increase the visibility and retrievability of OA literature.  It's analogous to moving an already-OA article into an OAI-compliant repository:  it suddenly becomes more visible, both to human searchers and to software tools that mediate research.  For more on the view that OA is closer to the minimum than the maximum, and that even OA literature benefits from tools like GS, see these reflections from June.

On the other side, we needn't worry that GS will threaten or displace OAI metadata harvesting.  The two are compatible and complementary.  We can use both and should.

Some librarians and scholars like to complain that students use Google rather than more valuable tools for which the library has paid dearly.  It's true that students prefer convenience to adequacy, and part of their education must be to learn that many sources are currently more adequate than free online sources.  But if the goal of traditional librarians is to steer students toward more adequate sources, the goal of OA proponents (including many librarians) is to make the convenient sources more adequate.  Google Scholar is a giant step in that direction. 

GA still has notable inadequacies (see the literature cited below).  But it's still a giant step forward and it's still in beta.  It's wonderful to think of enhancements that could be built on this base.  It's wonderful to think about how competition from Yahoo, Microsoft, Elsevier, Amazon, open-source OAI tools, and other players will benefit users and provide increasingly powerful tools for the free full-text searching of the scholarly literature.  It's wonderful to think about how spectacular new "visibility tools" that work best for OA literature will themselves become a major reason for authors and publishers to make their content OA.

If your GS search pulls up a non-OA article for which your library has already purchased a license, then you'll have university-paid or pre-paid (not "free") access in the library.  But GS will not know about your library subscription and will offer you only a free online citation and abstract or pay-per-view access to full-text.  In less than a week after the GS launch, however, clever librarians were already writing code or proposing GS tweaks to bridge the gap between the GS hit list and the licensed resources in a user's library.  Art Rhyno wrote a user-modifiable bookmarklet that prepends a library's reverse proxy address to the links on the GS hit list.  Peter Binkley wrote a Firefox extension that adds OpenURL links to the GS hit list.  Paul Pival showed how GS could build in this technology and store the user's proxy information in preference cookies.

Art Rhyno's solution

Peter Binkley's solution

Paul Pival's solution

Finally, a public request to authors and publishers:

(1) Please take steps to make sure that your literature (OA and non-OA) is indexed in GS.  Getting Google to index your work costs you nothing but a little time, is non-exclusive, and can only help your visibility and impact.  Authors and publishers can arrange for indexing by contacting GS at <scholar-publisher@google.com>.  Authors:  it looks like GS will index journals and repositories before it indexes personal web sites.  Publishers:  GS will index non-OA content only if you provide OA at least to abstracts.

(2) If you have online articles (OA or non-OA) in GS, and if you have access to the traffic logs of the servers hosting them, then please check to see what happened to the volume of visitors and downloads since the articles became visible in GS.  If you have anything interesting to report, please post the results to SOAF or send me an email.  I'll assume that I can make your message public unless you tell me otherwise. 

Google Scholar

Google Scholar FAQ

Google's presss release on the launch, November 18, 2004

The launch received wide coverage in the press.  Here's a selection of the stories most relevant to research and OA.

Gary Price, Google Scholar Documentation and Large PDF Files, SearchEngineWatch, December 1, 2004.

Leigh Dodds blogged an account of how Google Scholar worked with Ingenta to index its content.

Mark Chillingworth, Google unveils beta Scholar, Information World Review, November 29, 2004.

Anon., Google Scholar Offers Access to Scholarly Publications Metadata, and Librarians Take Note, Library Journal, November 29, 2004.

Jay Bhatt, Commentary on Google Scholar, ELDNET-L, November 25, 2004.

Daniel Terdiman, A Tool for Scholars Who Like to Dig Deep, New York Times, November 25, 2004.

Catherine Brahic, Google launches free search engine for academic texts, SciDev.Net, November 24, 2004.

Anon., Web cheats get online for Google Scholar, Freelance UK, November 24, 2004.

Greenhouse Associates, Google Now Targets Premium Content, Greenhouse Associates, November 2004.

Doug Payne, Google Scholar Welcomed, The Scientist, November 23, 2004.

Javier Hernandez, Google Offers Journal Searches, Harvard Crimson, November 23, 2004.

T.J. Sondermann, On Google Scholar.  A new blog devoted to GS.

Barbara Quint, Google Scholar Focuses on Research-Quality Content, Information Today, November 22, 2004.

Richard Wray, Google puts new slant on scholarship, The Guardian, November 22, 2004.

BioMed Central press release on Google Scholar, November 19, 2004

Jeffrey Young, Google Unveils a Search Engine Focused on Scholarly Materials, Chronicle of Higher Education, November 19, 2004.

Laura Rohde, New Google Scholar search service aimed at academics, The Industry Standard, November 18, 2004.

Janice McCallum, Google Scholar: Prepping for Open Access? Shore Communications Commentary, November 18, 2004.

Outsell, A Quick Take on Google’s New Google Scholar, November 18, 2004.

Danny Sullivan, Google Scholar Offers Access To Academic Information, Search Engine Watch, November 18, 2004.

Shirl Kennedy and Gary Price, Big News: "Google Scholar" is Born, ResourceShelf, November 18, 2004.


Coming up later this month

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

* The NIH will issue the final version of its public access plan and start to implement it.  The original deadline from the House Appropriations Committee was December 1.  But the deadline was not repeated in the final version of the appropriations bill approved by the House-Senate conference.  Moreover, the NIH has made clear that the volume of public comments it received on the draft plan will take more time to digest. 

* Notable conferences this month

Open Access: Implications and Cost Models (sponsored by the SLA)
December 1, 2004

Fine-Line Publishing: Creating the Finest Publications Using the Thinnest Resources (sponsored by SNAP)
Chicago, December 2, 2004

Electronic Communication of Licence Terms and Rights Information (sponsored by Book Industry Communication, The Publishers Association, and NISO)
London, December 2, 2004

Scholarly Communication: Evolution or Revolution? (sponsored by ACRL/NY)
New York, December 3, 2004

Open Access Scholarly Communication Workshop
Kiev, December 3-5, 2004
(This conference may be postponed; stay tuned.)

Automated Journal Editorial and Production Workflow: management and processes
London, December 6, 2004

Cologne Summit on Open Access Publishing
Cologne, December 7-8, 2004

Conference on Developing Digital Institutional Repositories: Experiences and Challenges (sponsored by California Institute of Technology Libraries and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Library)
Hong Kong, December 9-10, 2004

Digital Library: International Collaboration and Cross-Fertilization (7th International Conference of Asian Digital Libraries)
Shanghai, December 13-17, 2004

* Other OA-related conferences



* I've added 15 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.

* The Open Access News blog is read by users from around the world.  To see where in the world those readers are located, and roughly how many are in which parts of the world, see the small map at the bottom of the blog sidebar or the large copy here,

* The Open Access News blog occasionally seems to suffer a format meltdown.  At least once a day recently, Blogger is so busy serving its many users that upload times slow to a crawl.  Uploads that should take 15 seconds can take up to 15 minutes.  If you visit the page in the middle of an upload, you'll see the half-formed page.  If you try again in a minute, you'll get the full page and the proof that I didn't turn the template design over to a monkey.  Let's hope that Google (which owns Blogger) will be able to buy Blogger a little more server capacity.


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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