Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) NewsletterDecember 12, 2001
More on government self-censorship
* The U.S. government watchdog group, OMB Watch, has started an annotated list of scientific and other information deleted from government web sites since September 11.
If you're keeping track, the OMB Watch list now joins these two similar lists already in progress:
EFF list (see FOSN for 10/26/01)
NCAC list (see FOSN for 11/9/01)
* Most articles I've seen on this subject focus on the conflict between keeping citizens informed and keeping terrorists uninformed. In this December 8 story for the Fort Worth _Star-Telegram_, Jennifer Radcliffe focuses on the worries and resistance of librarians.
* Postscript. While the government is deleting bona fide but high-risk scientific information from its web sites, it has also taken the trouble to translate and put online extensive portions of the Al Qaeda Training Manual.
Recent news on egovernment
I won't always cover developments in egovernment, but there has recently been a spate of interesting news. Like scholarly articles, government information is produced for the public good rather than profit. Hence, many of the same arguments for free online access that apply to scholarly articles apply to it as well. In addition, when government services are available online, access by citizens improves even if digital infrastructure is unevenly distributed, and the interactive net offers revolutionary possibilities for democratic participation in government.
* Ministers and State Secretaries representing 28 countries issued a statement on November 30 that egovernment should be a higher priority.
* Also on November 30 the European Union launched a series of egovernment awards for all levels of government.
* Also on November 30 the Gartner Group released a study showing that staff shortages threatened egovernment initiatives in the U.S.
* On November 15 the Center for Digital Government awarded Honolulu the distinction of having the best egovernment of any large city in the U.S. Plano, Texas, won for medium-sized cities, and Roanoke, Virginia, won in the small city category.
* IT managers for local governments in Britain report that 28% of British government functions are now online. Tony Blair has vowed to put all government functions online by 2005, and the report says the government is on track to achieve this goal.
* The Joint Center on eGovernance has been launched by the National Academy of Public Administration and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The new center will encourage governments to make more of their information and services available online.
* The Congress Online Project from George Washington University released a report on November 1 concluding that the web sites of members of Congress do not contain enough information, including such basics as the member's email address and voting record.
* In late October, the Office of Mangement and Budget funded 22 initiatives in U.S. egovernment.
* In late October the European Commission adopted rules to minimize the barriers to the full access and use of public sector information produced throughout Europe.
As part of its deliberations, the European Commission produced this Green Paper on Public Sector Information In the Information Society.Appendix 3 summarizes the situation in the U.S.
* The papers from the European Commission conference in Brussels on egovernment (November 29-30) are now online.
* Postscript. Thanks to Richard Swetenham's QuickLinks, from which I learned about most of the stories above.
* The Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress) has just launched four new online journals in macroeconomics. They are free for the time being but will soon carry price tags. Bepress promises that the prices will be "at least 33% below the disciplinary average" for economics.
* XML Publication has launched its namesake suite of tools for translating standard desktop file formats into HTML. I don't know how good it is, but Microsoft and Corel can definitely use the competition. XML Publication is open source and distributed under the GNU Public License.
* Genias Benelux has released the Genias Virtual Media Publisher (G-VMP), based on XML and other open standards. This looks like another program for the growing list of programs to automate the operations, and hence lower the operating costs, of ejournals. I assume it's expensive, however, since the price is impossible to discover from the web site.
* The LANL Research Library has released version 2.0 of FlashPoint, a cross-archive search engine specifically designed for MathSciNet, SciSearch, BIOSIS, and the DOE Energy database.
* Lexis-Nexis has greatly enlarged Scholastic Universe and reduced the price. Scholastic Universe is its database of law and news aimed at secondary schools.
* Ovid will offer full-text access to 700 Kluwer journals early in 2002. The access is not free.
* ebrary now offers scientific, medical, and business ebooks from Wiley and Greenwood, and the Penguin Classics Library. ebrary ebooks are free to read and search online, but not free to print.
* A House subcommittee is holding two days of hearings on whether to modify the DMCA in light of the August report on the statute prepared by the Copyright Office. In its report, the Copyright Office supported virtually none of the objections to the DMCA raised by scholars and librarians (see FOSN for 8/31/01). The new hearings could be an occasion to rethink the wisdom of dismissing these objections and leaving the DMCA intact, but the witness list suggests that the subcommittee is more interested in hearing from the IP lobby than advocates for readers, consumers, and libraries.
Brian Krebs and Robert MacMillan, House Subcommittee Revisits Online Copyrights
DMCA Report by the U.S. Copyright Office
* The copyright treaty sponsored by the UN and WIPO was drafted five years ago, but is in the news this week because Gabon's ratification gave it the 30 ratifications it needs to become law. The U.S. has already ratified the treaty, but the 15 members of the European Union have not. (Their ratification must be "all or nothing" which has prolonged their deliberations.) The new treaty requires signatory nations to adopt domestic legislation implementing the treating, including an equivalent of the DMCA anti-circumvention clause. The treaty will take effect for signatories on March 6, 2002.
Alexander Higgins, Web Copyright Treaty Set for March
Brian Krebs, Global E-Copyrights Treaty to Take Effect in March 2002
WIPO press release on the occasion of the 30th ratification
New on the net
* The LibLicense discussion list has created a web page of initiatives that provide free or affordable peer-reviewed online journals to developing nations.
* On December 11, Google launched the first complete archive of usenet newsgroups. For scholars who used usenet newsgroups for professional dialog and communal reference help (before spammers and blowhards ruined them), this a major FOS initiative. It is to usenet roughly what the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine is to the web. The archive is integrated into Google's existing structure of usenet groups, not a separate database. No previous collection of usenet groups has offered the complete backlist back to 1981, the year usenet was created. To piece the whole backlist together, Google had to arrange to use (buy?) portions of the archive held by many individuals.
* The Electronic Resource Preservation and Access NETwork (ERPANET) has launched. ERPANET is a major new initiative in long-term preservation of digital content. It's a collaborative project by four universities in Scotland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Italy, and funded by the European Commission. In addition to preserving cultural heritage and scientific content, it will offer a large database of best practices on digital preservation itself.
* Chris Sherman and Gary Price are two indefatigable net scholars. Chris writes about search engines and Gary about libraries; I regularly read Chris' newsletter and Gary's blog and often glean FOS news items from them. Now they've collaborated to produce a directory to the invisible web, to follow up their recent book on the same subject. Online databases that produce dynamic web pages on demand are "invisible" because they can't be crawled by standard search engines. However, many have their own search engines and don't require passwords or registration. A lot of academic content exists on the invisible web, and most of the sites covered in this directory are free. Check it out.
* The IMLS has put online the proceedings of a February conference on libraries and museums in the digital world. The IMLS site includes the agenda, resource list, and post-conference report. The conference papers without these associated documents were previously published online in the April issue of _FirstMonday_.
* The powerpoint presentations from the October Dublin Core and Metadata conference in Tokyo are now online.
* Until scholars hold the copyright to their scholarship, national copyright rules can limit its accessibility and utility. You need to know the rules to work effectively to change them or simply to skate on the edge. For either purpose, the new WIPO Guide to Intellectual Property Worldwide will be useful. Look up a country and find up to date citations to relevant domestic law and treaties (but not excerpts of the laws themselves) and addresses and phone number of relevant organizations.
* Abamedia is digitizing and putting online a huge archive of Russian films and photographs. More than 100 Russian government workers are painstakingly writing searchable text to associate with each film and photo. Already 25,000 films are searchable in Russian, 5,000 in English. Abamedia earlier put online the Russian State Archive of Scientific and Technical Documents. Both archives are free for non-commercial purposes.
* TheScientificWorld has added methodsBASE to complement sciBASE. This gives users online access to methods and protocols to complement existing access to full-text articles. methodBASE is made by BIOSIS. Searches and access to citations and abstracts at TheScientificWorld are free, but access to full-text is not.
* TheScientificWorld has also launched worldMEET, a free online database of scientific conferences. You can search the collection by keyword or create a personalized subset with all the conferences from selected scientific fields. worldMEET will also put conference proceedings online at no cost.
* The Libraries of the University of Nevada at Reno have put online an annotated list of tools and resources for editing and publishing online journals, including some organizations and initiatives that support them.
Share your thoughts
* The Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DMCI) has released a newly revised recommendation for the RDF/XML expression of the Dublin Core. It will welcome public comment until January 7.Qualified DC, http://dublincore.org/documents/2001/11/30/dcq-rdf-xml/
* JISC has put online a draft plan for an Information Environment (IE) that would provide "secure and convenient access to a comprehensive collection of scholarly and educational material". More specifically, the IE would enable links between online information and learning resources, enable downloading and use of online content without violating intellectual property rights, and open up access to restricted resources. JISC invites comments on the plan, which should be sent to <information.environment [at] kcl.ac.uk>.
* The LANL Research Library is running a December-long trial of Columbia Earthscape, a priced portal on the environmental aspects of earth science. If you'd like to participate in the test and share your feedback, contact the library.
* The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is looking for creative slogans to help the general public understand the problems with the DMCA. If you come up with a good one, email it to EFF at <slogan [at] eff.org>. Winners get EFF T-shirts.
In other publications
* Harvard University and Inera Inc. have put online their joint report on ejournal archiving. The report investigates the question whether a common DTD (Document Type Definition) for scholarly journals could be developed into which different publishers and archives could translate their SGML files. The investigators studied DTD's used by many major publishers of electronic scholarly journals.
* In the latest issue of the _International Journal on Digital Libraries_, Simon Buckingham Shum and two co-authors review ScholOnto, an ontology-based digital library server for research documents and dialog about them. Only the abstract of this article is free online.
* In the December issue of _First Monday_, Christopher Kelty looks closely at the analogy between free software and free science (FOS) and the sense in which "reputation" can replace money and ground a gift economy in the two domains. He concludes that the informal rules that govern the gift economy in science are complex and subtle, and that citations cannot do everything in the economy of science that money does in the economy of goods and services.
* Also in the December _First Monday_, Philip Mirowski looks at specific ways in which changing copyright law and the commercialization of science together endanger scientific research, publication, and even debate.
* In the November-December 2001 _Educause Review_, James Hilton debunks some common copyright myths. In the end he argues that what is most distinctive about the present age is not information processing but "viewing information as property" and that this tendency "threatens scholars' ability to conduct research and teach".
* In the November _High Energy Physics Libraries Webzine_, Arturo Montejo RŠez and David Dallman summarize their work at CERN in using classification software to automate the process of attributing keywords to physics articles.
* In a fall 2001 article for the _National Coalition Against Censorship_, the Free Expression Policy Project has summarized every study and test of internet filters that it could find --and it found over 70 of them.
* In the latest issue of _Interlending & Document Supply Journal_, Janet Brennan Croft describes what counts as a model license for interlibrary loan and document delivery from electronic sources, discusses several examples, and shows their advantages for both libraries and vendors.
* In the latest issue of the _IBM Systems Journal_, R. Mack and two co-authors describe how knowledge management software can produce "knowledge portals" for the "emerging digital workplace".
* In the same issue of _IBM Systems Journal_, T. Nasukawa and T. Nagano describe how software for text analysis can be made useful for knowledge mining.
* In the October issue of the _Bulletin of the Medical Library Association_, Frances Chen and two co-authors study how online access affects the print subscription prices to medical journals. Their data show that percentage price increases were lowest for journals with no online access and for journals in aggregates. Free online access to accompany paid print subscriptions was formerly a popular model but has largely been abandoned. The price variation among journals with similar online access rules suggests that journals are still trying to figure out how much online access really costs and how much the market will bear.
* In an October speech to the Colorado Library Association, Robert Martin argued that librarians make a mistake to describe libraries as in "the information business". That invites comparisons to the internet, which libraries will lose, if not in reality then at least in popular imagination. He calls on libraries to recall their functions in communities, for hosting local events, for economic development, for enjoyment, and above all for education.
* Outsell, Inc. has recently released one report of interest to FOSN readers and started work on another. The first is a study of the market for scientific, technical, and medical information (released November 19), and the second will document the information needs and usage patterns of university students and faculty. The second report was commissioned by the Digital Library Federation (DLF) with funds from the Mellon Foundation. The first report is neither free nor online. Let's hope the DLF has the right to make the second one more accessible.
* More news coverage of the DMCA defendants:
The decision against Edward Felten decision (FOSN for 12/5/01).
The decision against 2600 Magazine (FOSN for 12/5/01).
The decision in favor of Andrew Bunner (FOSN for 12/5/01).
On the cluster of these recent decisions
* The French groups that originally wanted Yahoo to stop auctioning Nazi artifacts, at least on web pages visible in France, have appealed the U.S. decision against them to a higher U.S. court. The appeal will be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. For the FOS implications of this lawsuit, see FOSN for 11/16/01.
* In the last issue I reported that JournalSeek and LinkOpenly will merge into a new service called LinkFinderPlus, a library-based (as opposed to publisher-based) reference linking system. A reader wrote in concerned that LinkFinderPlus is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Elsevier. Is this worrisome? Quoting Eric Heller, President of Openly Informatics: "We've licensed JournalSeek and Link.Openly to Endeavor for their LinkFinderPlus product; they've also been licensed to 2 other library automation companies. We hope that having this data widely available to libraries will make it easier for them to include free journals in their library-supported information environments." Hellman plans to add information on ejournals to the JournalSeek web site.
* GovNet is a proposed alternative to the public internet for sensitive government information (see FOSN for 10/12/01). In October the General Services Administration (GSA) called for comments and bids on the idea. When the comment period ended in late November, the GSA had received 167 responses from businesses willing to build parts of the network. The GSA will evaluate the responses and report to the White House in February.
* AOL Time Warner is closing iPublish (see FOSN for 5/7/01). iPublish was partly an ordinary ebook division of a print publisher and partly an attempt to harness an interactive web site to ferret out the good books that conventional publishers were rejecting.
* In FOSN for 7/24/01 I reported on the case of a Mexican banker suing Mexican and U.S. journalists in a U.S. court for defamation. The journalists had identified him as a drug lord and his suit seemed to be yet another attempt at cross-border censorship. On December 10, the Supreme Court of New York threw the banker's suit out of court, ruling that online journalists in the U.S. have the same First Amendment rights as print journalists. This means that defamation plaintiffs who are public figures must prove actual malice, not mere falsehood. This cuts journalists the necessary slack to write their stories without fear of lawsuits. (PS: I cover this story because if journalists can be silenced or intimidated by lawsuits, so can scholars.)
Catching up (old news I should have discovered earlier)
* In February, Europe's Information Society Technologies Programme (IST) funded a 30 month project to build The European Library (TEL), an interoperable network of 10 digital libraries located around the continent.
* Thoemmes Press is publishing a free online Encyclopedia of the History of Ideas. It adds new entries in real time as they are written.(Free registration required.)
* MENALIB is a free online library of resources for Middle East and Islamic Studies. It contains digital contents, which may be browsed or searched, and citations to paper sources.
* Knovel is an online full-text archive of over 250 handbooks and databases in engineering and science. It's not free but offers a one month free trial.
* The Scottish Research Information System is a free online directory of academic and industrial research groups, projects, and funding sources in Scotland.
If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.
* The Electronic Library: Strategic, Policy and Management IssuesLoughborough, December 9-14
* 4th International Conference of Asian Digital LibrariesBangalore, December 10-12
* Academic Institutions Transforming Scholarly Communications (SPARC/ARL Forum at the ALA Midwinter Meeting)New Orleans, January 18-23
* High Quality Information For Everyone And What It CostsBielefeld, February 5-7
* Book Tech 2002New York, February 11-13
* Electronic Journals --Solutions in Sight?London, February 25-26
* International Spring School on the Digital Library and E-publishing for Science and TechnologyGeneva, March 3-8
* Database and Digital Library Technologies (part of the 17th ACM Symposium on Applied Computing)Madrid, March 10-14
* Computers in Libraries 2002Washington D.C., March 13-15
* The Electronic Publishers Coalition (EPC) conference on ebooks and epublishing (obscurely titled, Electronically Published Internet Connection, or EPIC)Seattle, March 14-16
* Internet Librarian International 2002London, March 18-20
* The New Information Order and the Future of the ArchiveEdinburgh, March 20-23
The Free Online Scholarship Newsletter is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute.
This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).
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Copyright (c) 2001, Peter Suber