Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Open Access News Substitute

There is a problem with FTP'ing to the Open Access News site. Peter Suber is temporarily posting to the SPARC Open Access Forum instead.

Here are the two most recent posts:

Here's another installment of the email version of Open Access News, since I still can't update the blog < >. Feel free to forward this widely, especially to people who might not know that OAN is temporarily frozen.

Items are roughly in the order in which I discovered them, with the most recent at the top the order in which they would have appeared on the blog.

Peter Suber

Permission to harvest data from online files

Peter Murray-Rust, Nature: How much content can our robots access? A Scientist and the Web, September 12, 2007. Excerpt:

In this blog (Copyrighted Data: replies [1], Wiley and eMolecules: unacceptable; an explanation would be welcome - [2]) , and elsewhere we have been discussing the “copyright” of factual information, or “data”. In [2] I ask a major publisher whether copyright applies to some or all of the factual scientific record they publish. So far I have had no reply. Here I ask another, Nature, who - at least through Timo Hannay - have been very helpful in discussing aspects of publication (most other publishers have been silent).
The issue arises in “supplemental data” or “supporting information” which is the factual record of the experiment - increasingly required as proof of correctness. Some major publishers (Royal Soc Chemistry, Int. Union of Crystallography, Nature) do not claim copyright over this; others such as American Chemical Society and Angewandte Chemie (Wiley) appear to do so, though I haven’t had a definitive public statement from either.
Our vision for the future is that a large part of published scientific data could be made directly machine-understandable, if the publishers collaborate in this....
So I am going to ask Nature what I can do and what I can’t. What my robots can do and what the can’t. If the answer is not “YES” to a question it is “NO” - there can be no “middle ground” for robots. If you don’t know then the answer is NO. If I have to ask for permission the answer is NO.

PMR elaborates in a follow-up post, showing the kinds of data and images he'd like to be able to harvest and re-use.

OA to 500 scientific memoirs

The US National Academy of Sciences is providing OA to 500 scientific memoirs representing 150 years of scientific history. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.) From yesterday's announcement:

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is making 150 years of American scientific history available by publishing its entire collection of Biographical Memoirs on the Internet. Biographical Memoirs are brief biographies of deceased NAS members written by those who knew them or their work.
Since 1877, NAS has published over 1,400 memoirs. Although the memoirs published since 1995 have been freely available on the Academy's Web site, over 900 memoirs were available previously only through archives and libraries. "This is a ‘historic’ event that will have substantial scholarly value and be of general interest to the public.
Among the additional 500 memoirs published online are those of famed naturalist Louis Agassiz; Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution; Thomas Edison; Alexander Graham Bell; noted anthropologist Margaret Mead; and psychologist and philosopher John Dewey. More memoirs will be published regularly until the entire collection is available online.

OA repositories in China

ShuYong Jiang, Open Mind, Open Access, a preprint, self-archived March 24, 2007. (Thanks to Law Librarian Blog.)

Abstract: Open access is a modern notion of resource sharing in the technology era. It began as a bold reaction of the academic community to the rapidly increased cost of scholarly publishing, and it is now an important concept in digitization and digital libraries. It has hanged the way in which scholarly information is disseminated. While the development of electronic resources and digitization in China in recent years provides rich opportunities for scholarly information exchange, open access both as a concept and as a practice, is yet to be accepted. Open access repositories are very limited in number. Open access as a concept was not on the agenda for digital resource development until 2005 and the first open access library and information repository by National Library of China was launched in July 2006. Prior to this, there were very few open access resources available. Most of them were experimental in nature and inoperable with mainstream Internet tools. Not only do these open access resources not carry the same academic value as other scholarly publications, but also they lack support from both information providers and consumers. By looking at the current status of open access resources in China, this paper will examine some of the primary open access resources in China, such as Qiji Wenku (“Miracle Library”). It will raise issues related to open access in China such as scholarly resource sharing; the cooperation among information providers, creators and consumers; the implication of online copyright in a digital environment; and, the promotion of the idea of resource and technology sharing in the global information transition.

18 OA journals from the ABA

John Reidelbach, American Bar Association Online Journals, Criss Library Focus on Online, September 12, 2007. Excerpt:

Who would have thought that the ABA would have any online journals freely available? Well, not me that's for sure. I have completed my review of 44 ABA journals in the American Bar Association Online Journals database in Serials Solutions and found that 18 of those journals allowed open access. These freely accessible journals seem to be primarily what I would consider newsletter types of publications, but hey, I don't turn down anything that gives our users free access. [PS: Omitting the list of 18.]

Time to contact the Senate

An alert from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access:

As the Senate considers Appropriations measures for the 2008 fiscal year this fall, please take a moment to remind your Senators of your strong support for public access to publicly funded research and ­ specifically ­ ensuring the success of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy by making deposit mandatory for researchers.
Earlier this summer, the House of Representatives passed legislation with language that directs the NIH to make this change. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a similar measure. Now, as the Appropriations process moves forward, it is critically important that our Senators are reminded of the breadth and depth of support for enhanced public access to the results of NIH-funded research. Please take a moment to weigh in with your Senator now.

Contact information for your Senator is included below. Please fax a letter with your support no later than Friday, September 28, 2007.
Feel free to draw upon the following talking points:
* American taxpayers are entitled to open access on the Internet to the peer-reviewed scientific articles on research funded by the U.S. government. Widespread access to the information contained in these articles is an essential, inseparable component of our nation's investment in science.
* The Fiscal Year 2008 Labor/HHS Appropriations Bill reported out of committee contains language directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to change its Public Access Policy so that it requires NIH-funded researchers to deposit copies of agency-funded research articles into the National Library of Medicine's online archive.
* Over the more than two years since its implementation, the NIH's current voluntary policy has failed to achieve any of the agency's stated goals, attaining a deposit rate of less than 5% by individual researchers. A mandate is required to ensure deposit in NIH's online archive of articles describing findings of all research funded by the agency.
* We urge the Senate to support the inclusion of language put forth in the Labor/HHS Appropriations bill directing the NIH to implement a mandatory policy and ensuring free, timely access to all research articles stemming from NIH-funded research ­ without change ­ in any appropriate vehicle.
(We'll be making additional resources for patient advocates ­ including the recording of our August 30 Web cast and specific talking points ­ available shortly as well. Watch the ATA Web site or email me directly for updates.)
Again, please take a moment to express your support for public access to research to your Senator as soon as possible and no later than September 28. As always, we'd appreciate it if you'd let us know of what action you're able to take, or send a copy your letter to the ATA through (202) 872-0884 (fax). Thank you!


* Publisher associations are lobbying hard against this bill. For example, the AAP/PSP launched PRISM, the behemoth Copyright Alliance weighed in, and Elsevier hired another lobbying firm. It's critical that we show the Senate our support for a stronger OA policy at the NIH. If you're a US citizen, please contact your Senators and spread the word to others who could do so.
* I've omitted the list of Senators with their fax numbers, but it's in the ATA message if you need it. For other kinds of contact info for your Senators (DC office, DC phone, local offices, local phones, email), use CongressMerge. Remember to act before September 28!

Peter Suber
Senior Researcher, SPARC
Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge
Research Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College
Author, SPARC Open Access Newsletter
Author, Open Access News blog

OA math, not meth
Martin Smith is the coordinator of a Canadian methadone treatment community called Camp One. Its motto is Math Not Meth. He wrote to me recently to explain that

Camp One is successful because Open Access is successful. We are the largest consumer on the arXiv server, averaging 250 downloads a week.

Here's a little more background from the Math Not Meth blog:

MATH Not METH is based on a premise developed in 1994 to break a cycle of Heroin addiction within an institutional setting. The premise was a simple one – If you can divert the attention of an addict away from the ‘Game of Getting’ and focused on the ‘Game of Knowledge’ the Pleasure associated with the ‘Score’ followed by the inevitable disappointment in the High, is replaced by the quest for Knowledge.

And a little more from one of Smith's emails:

Camp One started in 2003 to answer the need for a sanctuary for people who had made it back from the abyss that is Chrystal Meth addiction. It is a 196 Room Float Camp at the Moya Bay Bulkhead at Hesguait on Nootka Sound near Gold River British Columbia. The facility is fully integrated with a 960 processor Xserve core and 256 PowerBook workstations. There is a resident Mathematica 6 Program as well as Open implementations of several other of the major programs available for grid infrastructures. We also have a 32 Tbyte Raid array which has a growing library of Open Software and educational resources which are growing exponentially as people discover the benefit of Learning for the Joy of it, rather than a means to an end.

Finally, some detail from a recent Smith comment on another blog:

Allow me to share what the profound power of Open Access can achieve –
‘When ‘Dave’ first asked me for help...he had a $250.00/Day Meth habit. I introduced him to the Zome tool and hooked him up to my network. In time he became interested in High Energy Physics and devoured everything available from the folks at SLAC, Fermilab, and CERN. He the discovered arXiv and more recently Eprintweb at Cornell and read every dispatch, sometimes sent running to our data miner to find out more on topics he could not grasp.
‘He discovered he could Email the authors of the reports and started asking questions about things he could not understand. A sort of Adhoc support group formed around the questions he asked because he had asked questions they had not thought of. This relationship as grown to the point that ‘Dave’ has been invited to the first firing of the LHC next Spring at CERN. All this from a young man who I was told by the local Judicial authorities was a dead loss.’

Open Access has a thus affected the people I have contact with and as I have said in a few other venues, anyone who opposes it, can either Lead, Follow or Get out of the way, for change, it comes.

Comment. This is a remarkable story. I'm used to hearing about unexpected benefits of OA, but this one tops my list. Bravo to Martin Smith and all the good people at Camp One.

Siva Vaidhyanathan on Google's book-scanning program
First Monday is distributing a podcast of Siva Vaidhyanathan's 2007 Ted Samore Lecture at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, The Googlization of Everything: Digitization and the Future of Books. It's also distributing a podcast and transcript of an interview with him and a preview edition of his article from next month's issue of First Monday, The State of Copyright Activism. (Thanks to Brock Read.)

From the interview:

.So one of my big fears is that if Google either settles out of court and decided not to digitize all these copyrighted works in such an aggressive fashion, or loses in court, then every other player is going to be coward away from doing this. In other words, it’s going to be that much harder to convince libraries that they should be doing it. It’s going to be that much harder to convince the other open access advocates, like Brewster Kahle, to push forward and digitize copyrighted material.
The fact is this is a massive privatization of a public good. It is a massive privatization of years of collection development, years of choice and investment by the public and by librarians in these collections. And Google is getting all of this stuff essentially for free without any sort of quality control built into the system.

And so what I would like to see? I would like to see all the major public universities, public research universities, in the country gather together and raise the money or persuade Congress to deliver the money to do this sort of thing because it’s in the public interest, not because it’s in Google’s interest. If it really is this important we should be able to mount a public campaign, a set of arguments and convince the people with the purse strings that this should be done right.

Elsevier hires another US lobbying firm
Reed Elsevier Hires Lobbyist, Associated Press, September 10, 2007. Excerpt:

The U.S. unit of Reed Elsevier Group PLC, the Anglo-Dutch publishing and information company, hired Barbour Griffith & Rogers LLC to lobby the federal government, according to a disclosure form.
The firm will provide advice on policy issues important to the publishing industry, according to the form posted online Friday by the Senate's public records office.

Comment. Elsevier's budget for lobbying Congress increased 610% from 1998 to 2006, and this is another escalation. The apparent cause is the bill now before Congress to strengthen the NIH policy from a request to a requirement.

Identifying OA works for link resolvers
The British Columbia Electronic Library Network (BC ELN) has launched an Open Access Collections Group. (Thanks to Heather Morrison.) From today's announcement:

BC ELN and SFU Library invite all CUFTS libraries to participate in an Open Access Collections Group. The purpose of this group is to collaborate on the development and maintenance of open access title lists for CUFTS (for link resolving through GODOT, and inclusion in A to Z journal lists for CJDB users). Lists created to date include the SFU-developed Open Access Journals and Free Government Serials, and the BC ELN-inspired Open Access Magazines.
For more information, please see the draft Terms of Reference, available for download [here].

CFHSS launches a series of OA books
Yesterday the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences (CFHSS) launched a new project, Books in Open Access. (Thanks to Jean-Claude Gu├ędon.) From the site:

The scholarship of academics working with the Federation is designed to add to the body of humanity's knowledge and enrich the social, cultural and intellectual life of Canada and the world. Since 1941, the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) has helped scholars disseminate their research by supporting the publication of nearly 5,000 scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences.
The advent of new communications technology now allows scholars to share their research on a greater scale than ever before imagined. Placing scholarly books online in open access format makes their treasures available to millions of people, allowing users to read entire works online and conduct searches within them. The ASPP seeks to play its own part in this increasingly-important dissemination movement, with a particular view to bringing back into the light the many rich and valuable works it has supported in the past that are now difficult to find.
Since 1989, the ASPP has awarded four annual Scholarly Book Prizes to the finest books it supports each year. We now feature four of our past Scholarly Book Prize winners here in open access format. We hope these will be just the first in a long line of ASPP-supported books to appear in open access through the Federation's site. Click here to see and read these titles-and keep your eyes open for more to come in the near future!

More dissents from PRISM
Jennifer Howard, University-Press Leader Quit Publishers' Panel Over Anti-Open-Access Campaign, Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, September 11, 2007. Excerpt:

At least one top university-press director spoke out against the Partnership for Research Integrity in Science & Medicine, or Prism, a controversial new anti-open-access campaign sponsored by the Association of American Publishers, before it went public.
In an e-mail message, James D. Jordan, president and director of Columbia University Press, told The Chronicle today that he had tendered his resignation from the Executive Council of the AAP's Professional and Scholarly Publishing division on August 28, five days after Prism was announced. A task force of the Executive Council put the campaign together.
"I resigned from the Executive Council because I did not feel that serving at this time was the best use of my time or Columbia resources," Mr. Jordan wrote, "and because I had vocally opposed the launch of the Prism Web site and did not subscribe to arguments supporting it and opposing the NIH's public-access proposals."

Mr. Jordan said that his press remained "a member of PSP and the AAP, as both associations serve important educational missions for the scholarly-publishing community even though we do not always agree with every majority view of such a diverse community."
Another university-press leader, Stephen Bourne, chief executive officer of Cambridge University Press, has also made clear his displeasure about Prism. In an e-mail message to The Chronicle, he wrote that Cambridge "has in no way been involved in, or consulted on, the Prism initiative." He added that "Prism's message is oversimplistic and ill-judged, with the unwelcome consequence of creating tension between the publishing community and the proponents of open access."

DBpedia upgrade
DBpedia 2.0, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, September 10, 2007. Excerpt:

DBpedia recently released the new version of their dataset. The project aims to extract structured information from Wikipedia so that this can be queried like a database. On their blog they say:

The renewed DBpedia dataset describes 1,950,000 “things”, including at least 80,000 persons, 70,000 places, 35,000 music albums, 12,000 films. It contains 657,000 links to images, 1,600,000 links to relevant external web pages and 440,000 external links into other RDF datasets. Altogether, the DBpedia dataset now consists of around 103 million RDF triples.

As well as improving the quality of the data, the new release includes coordinates for geographical locations and a new classificatory schema based on Wordnet synonym sets. It is also extensively linked with many other open datasets, including: “Geonames, Musicbrainz, WordNet, World Factbook, EuroStat, Book Mashup, DBLP Bibliography and Project Gutenberg datasets”.
This is probably one of the largest open data projects currently out there - and it looks like they have done an excellent job at integrating structured data from Wikipedia with data from other sources. (For more on this see the W3C SWEO Linking Open Data project - which exists precisely in order to link more or less open datasets together.)

Comment. DBpedia harvests from Wikipedia because Wikipedia is large and free. But something similar could be done with unfree databases. The trick (apart from access) is to extract uncopyrightable facts and paraphrased assertions, not copyrighted expressions. Wikipedia may be the inexpensive way to prove the concept, but the concept is of much wider application. See some examples of DBpedia fact and assertion harvesting, and let your imagination run free.

A teaching moment on campuses
Marc Meola, Use PRISM To Start A Dialogue On Open Access, ACRLog, September 10, 2007. Excerpt:

PRISM, an anti-open access group of the Association of American Publishers, has launched a nasty PR campaign that attempts to demonize open access publishing by using simple slogans to equate open access with lack of peer review, government censorship, and theft of intellectual property. (I know, it’s funny, but they are actually saying this stuff. Good thing librarians know how to evaluate information, right?)

As noted in the SPARC letter to members,

the launch of this initiative provides a timely opportunity for engaging faculty members, researchers, students and administrators in dialogue on important issues in scholarly communications.

Most encouragingly, the Association of Research Libraries has produced an excellent issue brief with talking points that effectively counter the PRISM propaganda. ARL points out: On peer review-

The peer review system, based almost completely on the voluntary free labor of the research community, is independent of a particular mode of publishing or business model.

[I]f you need more ammo or a broader overview of the issue, Open Access and the Progress of Science is a well-written argument for open access to science literature in general and proposes the simple solution that scientists just deposit their papers in repositories as soon as they are peer reviewed.

Peter Suber, of course, is always a good source for debunking anti-open access arguments. One of the anti-open access claims is that open access will result in journal cancellations by libraries and collapse of the whole scholarly publishing system....Suber points out, however, that open access in physics has not led to journal cancellations by libraries.
The question for librarians, higher ed administrators and scholars then, is why hasn’t open access in physics led to journal cancellations? Do we really want to set up two systems, an open access repository system while maintaining the old system with publisher embargoes so that libraries will have to maintain subscriptions? Do we really want to “partner” with the kind of companies that have launched such a deceptive and distorted PR campaign?

US plan to digitize more archived documents for OA
The US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is soliciting public comments on its draft Plan for Digitizing Archival Materials for Public Access, 2007-2016. (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

If you have comments, send them by November 9, 2007, to

Library group supports new OA policy at CIHR
The British Columbia Library Association (BCLA) has sent a letter of congratulations to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) on the new CIHR OA policy. (Thanks to Heather Morrison.) Excerpt:

This is an enlightened policy. As you yourself note in the press release, results of this policy will accelerate the understanding of human health and disease, and leverage the Canadian health research dollar.
The Open Access to Research Outputs policy means expanded access to health research across the country, and around the globe. Physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals outside the major centres will have access to this literature, increasing their ability to provide evidence-based care. Smaller colleges will be better equipped to train new nurses.
This policy will, in many respects, be seen as a model for other funding agencies.
BCLA and its members look forward to ongoing developments as the policy is implemented. Libraries and librarians throughout British Columbia will be working with researchers and readers to raise awareness of this wonderful initiative.

Evaluating OA law projects in Africa
Ivan Mokanov, Are LIIs making lawyers more competent?, September 10, 2007. Excerpt:

The question is now being asked in Western Africa. The International Development Research Center of Canada (IDRC) has engaged in an assessment of the outcome of free access to law initiatives in four African countries – Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal and Togo.
The evaluation will be focused more specifically on the impact of free circulation of legal information on the competence of lawyers.
In all those countries, where access to legal information is limited, if any, the local Bar Associations supported by the IDRC are involved in free access to law projects. In two of the countries, free access to law websites are already up and running (JuriBurkina and JuriNiger).
IDRC hopes to deliver an indicator-based framework that will assist Law Societies and other stakeholders involved in the free access to law movement worldwide in measuring the outcome of their efforts.

OA in the Earth sciences
Andrea Bollini and Andrea Marchitelli, Communicating Earth: open access in Earth sciences, a slide presentation at Geoitalia 2007 - W05: I luoghi e i modi dell'informazione sulle scienze della terra: dalla biblioteca al web (Rimini, September 11, 2007). In Italian but with this English-language abstract:

Earth sciences are among the most data-intensive sciences, with a remarkable cooperative work at international level. Data collecting and experiments are often expensive and last long years. So, logistics and system costs are very high. A main reason for publishing data and results is to maximize access and enable potential reuse in many more contexts than with traditional communication means. Fast availability of data and results is a must that cannot attend the traditional publishers’ timeline. Open access is the simplest choice to facilitate fast access to and reuse of scholarly communication and data about Earth sciences: publications and related primary data have to be freely accessible in the broadest and fastest way. A system of OAI-PMH-compliant data and service providers is the most effective way to improve the dissemination and impact of research. CILEA (a non-profit consortium of Italian universities) supports Open Access and is among the first signatories of the Berlin Declaration. Since 2003 CILEA operates the AePIC service, providing innovative solutions for electronic publishing and digital libraries at very competitive costs and timetable, employing open-source and OAI-PMH-compliant software. In the field of Earth sciences, CILEA-AePIC holds a significant role. It provides technical support and hosting to Earth prints, the open archive created and maintained by Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV) with the collaboration of Programma Nazionale Ricerche in Antartide. Earth-prints started in the last quarter of 2004 and grows rapidly and steadily. The goal of this repository is to collect, capture, disseminate and preserve the results of research in the fields of Atmosphere, Cryosphere, Hydrosphere and Solid Earth. In the last months CILEA-AePIC is working on the new archive of National Research Council - Research area of Potenza, called ArchEnviMat, that will allow scientists from Potenza Research Area to post and disseminate on-line, at no cost, their scientific work in electronic format.

Timo Hannay on PRISM and some of the debate about it
Timo Hannay, PRISM: Publishers' and Researchers' Intensifying Sense of Mistrust, Nascent (a Nature blog), September 10, 2007. Excerpt:

For anyone who's interested here is Nature Publishing Group's (NPG's) take on PRISM: Although Nature America is a member of the AAP, we are not involved in PRISM and we have not been consulted about it. NPG has supported self-archiving in various ways (from submitting manuscripts to PubMed Central on behalf of our authors to establishing Nature Precedings), and our policies are already compliant with the proposed NIH mandate.
Those are facts. What follows is just my personal opinion.
PRISM has understandably provoked a great deal of anger among those scientists who care about how the fruits of research are communicated. (In this sense, PRISM has achieved the exact opposite of dog-whistle politics: the only people to sit up and take notice have been those who were outraged by it. Nice work, guys.) My main emotion, however, is closer to bewilderment. Do PRISM's proponents (whoever they are) really think that their approach will do anyone, including themselves, any good? It's tempting to suggest that they are out of touch (e.g., with the ways in which technology is changing science and scientific communication), but it's equally possible that I'm out of touch (e.g., with Beltway politics), so I guess all I can conclude is that they inhabit a different universe to the one I'm in.
The things that I find most ill advised about PRISM are the needless belligerence of the message, the crude them-and-us stance, and the distortion of complex issues into unrecognisable caricatures. I wouldn't mind so much if the issues themselves were inconsequential, but they're not. Questions about how scientific communication should be funded, and what roles government should or should not play, are central to scientific progress.
It therefore troubled me that the initial counterattacks on PRISM were themselves often lacking in nuance and discrimination. Given the high emotion generated, this was understandable, but that's not the same as saying it was correct or helpful. The most general error has been to lump all publishers together in declaring them "evil", "afraid", "money-grabbing", and so on. True, PRISM seems to have come out of the AAP, which is a publishing industry body, but right from the beginning (when I also didn't have a clue what was going on) it was fairly clear to anyone who cared to make the distinction that PRISM was not the same as the AAP.
In reinventing scientific communication for the 21st Century we face genuinely difficult challenges. Many of us, in our own different ways, are trying to find solutions. PRISM certainly doesn't help, but nor do some of the more indiscriminate responses. The best antidote to its crude belligerence is not more of the same, but an open, fair and grown-up debate. These issues are too important to be addressed in any other way.

Peter Suber
Senior Researcher, SPARC
Open Access Project Director, Public Knowledge
Research Professor of Philosophy, Earlham College
Author, SPARC Open Access Newsletter
Author, Open Access News blog

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