Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Public Access Mandate Made Law

A press release from the Alliance for Taxpayer Access


Washington, D.C. – December 26, 2007 – President Bush has signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2007 (H.R. 2764), which includes a provision directing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to provide the public with open online access to findings from its funded research. This is the first time the U.S. government has mandated public access to research funded by a major agency.

The provision directs the NIH to change its existing Public Access Policy, implemented as a voluntary measure in 2005, so that participation is required for agency-funded investigators. Researchers will now be required to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into the National Library of Medicine’s online archive, PubMed Central. Full texts of the articles will be publicly available and searchable online in PubMed Central no later than 12 months after publication in a journal.

"Facilitated access to new knowledge is key to the rapid advancement of science," said Harold Varmus, president of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Nobel Prize Winner. "The tremendous benefits of broad, unfettered access to information are already clear from the Human Genome Project, which has made its DNA sequences immediately and freely available to all via the Internet. Providing widespread access, even with a one-year delay, to the full text of research articles supported by funds from all institutes at the NIH will increase those benefits dramatically." . . . .

“Congress has just unlocked the taxpayers’ $29 billion investment in NIH,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, a founding member of the ATA). “This policy will directly improve the sharing of scientific findings, the pace of medical advances, and the rate of return on benefits to the taxpayer."

Full press release

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Show Me the Data" ISI's Impact Factors

Mike Rossner, Executive Director, The Rockefeller University Press, Heather Van Epps, Executive Editor, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, and Emma Hill, Executive Editor, The Journal of Cell Biology, wrote the editorial, “Show Me the Data,” in the latest issue (published online 17 December 2007) of The Journal of Cell Biology (Vol. 179, No. 6, 1091-1092). In it they contend that they cannot verify journal impact factors published by Thomson Scientific (formerly ISI). Considering the significance many faculty, academic departments and funding agencies assign to these impact factors in making tenure, promotion, funding and other decisions, the allegation is a very serious one.


The integrity of data, and transparency about their acquisition, are vital to science. The impact factor data that are gathered and sold by Thomson Scientific (formerly the Institute of Scientific Information, or ISI) have a strong influence on the scientific community, affecting decisions on where to publish, whom to promote or hire, the success of grant applications, and even salary bonuses . Yet, members of the community seem to have little understanding of how impact factors are determined, and, to our knowledge, no one has independently audited the underlying data to validate their reliability. . . .

When we examined the data in the Thomson Scientific database, two things quickly became evident: first, there were numerous incorrect article-type designations. Many articles that we consider "front matter" were included in the denominator. This was true for all the journals we examined. Second, the numbers did not add up. The total number of citations for each journal was substantially fewer than the number published on the Thomson Scientific, Journal Citation Reports (JCR) website (, subscription required). The difference in citation numbers was as high as 19% for a given journal, and the impact factor rankings of several journals were affected when the calculation was done using the purchased data (data not shown due to restrictions of the license agreement with Thomson Scientific). . . .

It became clear that Thomson Scientific could not or (for some as yet unexplained reason) would not sell us the data used to calculate their published impact factor. If an author is unable to produce original data to verify a figure in one of our papers, we revoke the acceptance of the paper. We hope this account will convince some scientists and funding organizations to revoke their acceptance of impact factors as an accurate representation of the quality—or impact—of a paper published in a given journal.

Just as scientists would not accept the findings in a scientific paper without seeing the primary data, so should they not rely on Thomson Scientific's impact factor, which is based on hidden data. As more publication and citation data become available to the public through services like PubMed, PubMed Central, and Google Scholar®, we hope that people will begin to develop their own metrics for assessing scientific quality rather than rely on an ill-defined and manifestly unscientific number.

Full editorial

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Promise of e-Research Across the Disciplines

At a conference titled 'World Wide Science: The Promise, Threats and Realities of e-Research', Oxford Professors Denis Noble (Emeritus Professor of Cardiovascular Physiology) and Martin Kemp (Professor of the History of Art) illustrated how e-research enables new forms of collaboration, visualization and data collection in the sciences and humanities, with examples from their work on heart modelling and Renaissance paintings. You can go to to stream or download the 64 minute presentation.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two major physics labs to pay author charges for their researchers

PhysMath Central, the BioMedCentral open access publisher for physics, mathematics and computer science, announced this week a new agreement with two major particle physics research organizations. CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) and DESY (the German Electron Synchrotron) will now provide central funding of author charges for their researchers publishing in the new PhysMath Central peer-reviewed journal, PMC Physics A. PMC Physics A, edited by Ken Peach of the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway, launched in October 2007. The December 13th press release describes this as an intermediate step towards the SCOAP3 model of publishing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

SCOAP3 Promotes a New Model for Open Access Journals

The field of High Energy Physics (HEP), already a leader in wide and open distribution and discussion of scholarly content through its use of the eprint server, is proposing a new model in open access publishing. SCOAP3, the Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics, is a consortium made up of High-Energy Physics funding agencies, High-Energy Physics laboratories, and leading national and international libraries and library consortia. This group has designed a system whereby the major stakes-holder institutions support the widespread and open availability of the major HEP journals. Here are the basics of the idea:

  • Funding bodies and libraries pay money to the Consortium. The Consortium, in turn, pays the scholarly publishers to provide peer review and publish high-quality content, to be made available to everyone. The publishers are provided with the revenue stream required for their efforts, and users, regardless of affiliation, are provided with the content they need. Authors are no longer required to pay as the prevailing open access model now requires.
  • SCOAP3 partners will finance their contributions by canceling journal subscriptions. Each partner will be expected to pay in accordance with its country’s share of HEP publishing.
  • The initial scope of the project involves just 5 core journals and one discipline-wide title:
    • Physical Review D
    • Journal of High Energy Physics
    • Physics Letters B
    • Nuclear Physics B
    • European Physical Journal C
    • Physical Review Letters
  • At this time, HEP funding agencies, laboratories and libraries are signing Expressions of Interest for the financial backing of the consortium. As this process gains momentum and long-term commitments, affected publishers will be asked to tender proposals and enter negotiations. Conversion of these titles is estimated at a cost of 10 Million Euros per year, considerably less than the collective payments made by libraries for access for their institutional users.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Ethics of Open Access to Biomedical Research

On 7 December, 2007 Stevan Harnad published the article “Ethics of open Access to biomedical research: Just a special case of ethics of open access to research” in Philosophy, Ethics, and Humanities in Medicine. His abstract (provisional):

The ethical case for Open Access (OA) (free online access) to research findings is especially salient when it is public health that is being compromised by needless access restrictions. But the ethical imperative for OA is far more general: It applies to all scientific and scholarly research findings published in peer-reviewed journals. And peer-to-peer access is far more important than direct public access. Most research is funded so as to be conducted and published, by researchers, in order to be taken up, used, and built upon in further research and applications, again by researchers (pure and applied, including practitioners), for the benefit of the public that funded it -- not in order to generate revenue for the peer-reviewed journal publishing industry (nor even because there is a burning public desire to read much of it). Hence OA needs to be mandated, by researchers' institutions and funders, for all research.

The complete article is available as a provisional PDF. The fully formatted PDF and HTML versions are in production.

Friday, December 7, 2007

First Fifty Volumes of Medieval Archaeology Freely Available Online

In celebration of the Society for Medieval Archaeology's 50th anniversary the first fifty volumes of Medieval Archaeology have been made available in digital form.
For more information click here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

ARL Report on Journals’ Transition from Print to Electronic Formats

The Association of Research Libraries (ARL) has published “The E-only Tipping Point for Journals: What’s Ahead in the Print-to-Electronic Transition Zone,” by Richard K. Johnson and Judy Luther. The report examines the issues associated with the migration from dual-format publishing toward electronic-only publication of journals.

Publishers and libraries today find themselves in an extended transition zone between print-only and e-only journals. Both parties are struggling with the demands of dual-format publishing as well as
the opportunity costs of keeping electronic journals operating within the bounds of the print publishing process, which are increasingly taxing the status quo for publishers, libraries, authors, and readers. There are suggestions that this transitional phase is especially challenging to small publishers of high-quality titles and places them at a disadvantage in relation to large, resource-rich publishers as they compete for subscribers, authors, and readers. The question of when dual-format journals will complete the transition to single-format (electronic) publishing is taking on increasing urgency.

The persistence of dual-format journals suggests that substantial obstacles need to be surmounted if the transformation to e-only publication is to be complete. This study seeks to create a better understanding of the dynamics of the transition process, both for librarians and for publishers. Neither publishers nor librarians independently control the process and the need to coordinate their activities greatly increases the complexity of the transition.

The report provides a synthetic analysis of librarian and publisher perspectives on the current state of format migration, considering the drivers toward electronic-only publishing and barriers that are slowing change. The authors provide an assessment of likely change in the near term and recommend strategic areas of focus for further work to enable change.

The work is based in large part on interviews conducted between June and August 2007 with two dozen academic librarians and journal publishers. Publishers and librarians were consulted equally in recognition that these changes pose significant issues of coordination. Interviews were conducted with collection officers and others at ARL member libraries and publishing staff of societies and university presses, publishing platform hosts, and publishing production consultants.

The report is available for free download from the ARL Web site at

Sunday, December 2, 2007

SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #116

The latest issue of Peter Suber's SPARC Open Access Newsletter is now online. Particularly interesting are Suber's ten predictions for 2008.