Monday, March 30, 2009

Springer Publishing House Up for Sale

The British newspaper, The Guardian, has posted news that Springer Science and Business Media, one of the world's largest publishers of scientific and technical literature, has been put up for sale by the owners, the private-equity companies of Candover and Cinven. Springer publishes 60 imprints worldwide.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Digital Books from U. of Michigan Press

Earlier this week Scott Jaschik reported in Inside Higher Education that the U. of Michigan Press will soon be publishing the majority of its scholarly books in digital rather than print format.

. . .Within two years, press officials expect well over 50 of the 60-plus monographs that the press publishes each year -- currently in book form -- to be released only in digital editions. Readers will still be able to use print-on-demand systems to produce versions that can be held in their hands, but the press will consider the digital monograph the norm. Many university presses are experimenting with digital publishing, but the Michigan announcement may be the most dramatic to date by a major university press. . . .

Michigan officials say that their move reflects a belief that it's time to stop trying to make the old economics of scholarly publishing work. "I have been increasingly convinced that the business model based on printed monograph was not merely failing but broken," said Phil Pochoda, director of the Michigan press. "Why try to fight your way through this? Why try to remain in territory you know is doomed? Scholarly presses will be primarily digital in a decade. Why not seize the opportunity to do it now?" . . . .

Because digital publishing is so much less expensive -- with savings both in printing and distribution -- the press expects to be able to publish more books, and to distribute them electronically to a much broader audience. Michigan officials said that they don't plan to cut the budget of the press -- but to devote resources to peer review and other costs of publishing that won't change with the new model. Significantly, they said, the press would no longer have to reject books deemed worthy from a scholarly perspective, but viewed as unable to sell. . . .

Teresa A. Sullivan, Michigan's provost, said she saw that shift in approach as particularly significant. "What we hope is that if a scholar has a wonderful but quirky idea, that book could still be published electronically by us if you don't have to worry about: Do you have to publish enough copies to break even?" Broadly, she said that she would like to move to the idea that a university press should be judged by its contribution to scholarship, not "profit or loss," which has become too central as the economics of print publishing have deteriorated. . . .

Complete article

Four Leading Academic Associations Call for Action

An article in the March/April 2009 issue of EDUCAUSE reports on a meeting held by four academic associations: the Association of Research Libraries, the Association of American Universities, the Coalition for Networked Information, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges. The goal of the meeting was "to identify actions that should be taken to expand the dissemination of the full range of products of the university community’s research and scholarship." The primary recommendation to emerge from the discussion was as follows:
Campuses should initiate discussions involving administration and faculty about modifying current practices and/or its intellectual property policies such that the university retains a set of rights sufficient to ensure that broad dissemination of the research and scholarly work produced by its faculty occurs.
Among the specific recommended strategies for universities were the promotion and enhancement of institutional repositories and support for faculty seeking open access clauses in their contracts with publishers.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How the Media Frames "Open Access"

How the Media Frames "Open Access", written by Philip M. Davis and published in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, was recommended reading at the ACRL Scholarly Communication Outreach workshop.

Some excerpts that capture the argument:

Given the importance of framing in how individuals make sense of the news, defining an issue is an instrument of power. It is not surprising that various interest groups can engage in a struggle to define a controversial issue. Nisbet and Huge (2007) write that “levels of attention to a problem are a function not of objective conditions alone, but are determined by a social contest to define the nature and importance of issues” (p. 196). Frames that emphasize conflict, morality, and uncertainty drive more public concern than frames that emphasize economics, policy, and other more routine issues.


While many of the editorials and letters employed more than one frame, the public accountability frame played a dominant role in the articles supporting open access. If research is supported by public monies, authors of these editorials and letters argue, there should be some form of accountability, which could be satisfied through public access to the research findings; hence, transparency is a logical precursor for public accountability. The public good frame refers to the benefit such free access to scientific research would confer on society, through advances in science and medicine leading to better medical care, cures for diseases, and economic growth. Essentially, the public-good frame argues that free access to the literature is a social welfare–maximizing strategy.

Arguments against open access were fewer and more complex in their construction. Most did not dismiss the basic argument for open access, but focused on criticizing the producer-pays model of publishing. The quality frame was invoked as a warning that the integrity of scientific research could be compromised by the producer-pays economic model. The sustainable business model frame argued that academic publishing requires financial stability, which cannot be achieved effectively through a producer-pays model. The barriers to participation frame described how a pay-to-publish model would establish new financial barriers for authors while it eliminates barriers to readers. This new financial barrier for authors would introduce bias in the literature by favoring those who can afford to publish their work. The government intrusion frame argued that the government should not dictate the terms and conditions of scientific publishing, but allow competition and the free market to regulate itself. Lastly, the unintended consequences theme described how changes to scientific publishing, through government mandates, would cause negative consequences to other groups who were not the target of the initial legislation. For example, the potential loss of journal profits to scientific societies would compromise their broader mission of public education.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Digital Humanities and Research Libraries

In a blog appearing in today's issue of The Chronicle Review, Stanley Katz, who directs the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School, offers his views on the growing importance of research libraries to digital humanities:
. . . what I want to stress today is my sense that the crucial change required to make the digital humanities revolution work for scholars is the continued transformation of the research library, which I believe is the best site for collaborative interaction between scholars, library technologists, and communicator-publishers. The challenge is to work together across formal barriers to achieve our common goals — once we articulate them.
Katz will continue to develop his ideas on the topic in subsequent blog entries. Anyone interested in following his contributions to the Chronicle's blog Brainstorm can do so via an RSS feed. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a page of links to its RSS feeds including Brainstorm.

Protect Our Access to Medical Research

In today’s Boston Globe 23 March, 2009) Richard J. Roberts, Nobel Laureate, has an editorial critical of a bill in Congress that, if passed, would remove the public’s free open access to NIH (i.e. taxpayer) funded medical research. (Thanks to Bill Donovan for passing on the editorial).

IF YOU THINK this is the era of e-government and transparency, it's time to think again. Hard as it is to imagine, there's a move afoot in Congress to take away the public's free online access to tax-funded medical research findings.

That would be bad for medical discovery, bad for patients looking for the latest research results, and another rip-off of the American taxpayer.

Today anyone who wants to investigate a medical topic or see the outcomes of the $30 billion annual taxpayer investment in the National Institutes of Health has simply to visit PubMed Central, the agency's popular online archive. It provides free access to the knowledge recorded in 80,000 journal articles published each year as a result of NIH grants, plus many other peer-reviewed, open-access research papers.

Under the current policy, which is similar to practices of other funders worldwide, researchers who accept NIH funds must deposit their resulting peer-reviewed scientific articles in the PubMed Central archive. There the articles are permanently preserved in digital form, made searchable, linked to related information, and offered free to all on the Web. It's a fair deal: Researchers get financial support for their work; taxpayers get a resource that will further advance science and address the
public's need to know.

But a group of well-heeled scientific journal publishers is trying to turn back the clock. They've backed legislation to rescind this widely hailed NIH policy. Elsevier, publisher of The Lancet, for example, is part of the Association of American Publishers, which has joined with the so-called DC Principles Coalition to ramrod the bill in Congress. . . .

Not all publishers support the bill, but those who do are among the richest and best connected on Capitol Hill. If the pending legislation passes, public access will take a back seat to publisher self-interest. Instead of the current free access to PubMed Central, NIH research will be shared only with the privileged - few journal subscribers or those who can afford to pay publishers up to $30 to read a single article. . . .

Just as big financial firms don't seem to understand that public obligations come with their government bailout funds, some publishers seem clueless about the public's right to public research. NIH and agencies throughout government owe it to taxpayers to share the findings of their research investments as widely as possible. . . .

Full article

Open Access at MIT

The following are extracts from MIT’s press release regarding its new Open Access policy:

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., March 20 - In a move aimed at broadening access to MIT's research and scholarship, faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have voted to make their scholarly articles available to the public for free and open access on the Web.

The new policy, which was approved unanimously at an MIT faculty meeting on Wednesday, March 18 and took immediate effect, emphasizes MIT's commitment to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. . . .

Under the new policy, faculty authors give MIT nonexclusive permission to disseminate their journal articles for open access through DSpace, an open-source software platform developed by the MIT Libraries and Hewlett Packard and launched in 2002. The policy gives MIT and its faculty the right to use and share the articles for any purpose other than to make a profit. Authors may opt out on a paper-by-paper basis.

MIT's policy is the first faculty-driven, university-wide initiative of its kind in the United States. While Harvard and Stanford universities have implemented open access mandates at some of their schools, MIT is the first to fully implement the policy university-wide as a result of a faculty vote. MIT's resolution is built on similar language adopted by the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences in 2008. . . .

In the current scholarly publishing system, individual authors are required to transfer all or most of their rights to the publisher. Typically publishers will strictly limit access to the work through licensing and charge increasingly high subscription rates back to universities to access the articles. University libraries have faced subscription rates rising at a rate far outpacing inflation. The MIT Libraries, for example, spend more than three times as much on journal subscriptions today than they did in 1986. . . .

A faculty committee will work with the MIT Libraries to oversee implementation and determine a workflow for adding articles to DSpace. Under the new open access model, potentially thousands of papers published by MIT faculty each year will be added to DSpace and made freely available on the web and accessible through search engines such as Google.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

MLA Style Updated

Although The Chicago Manual of Style Online is a standard online resource the release of MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers seventh edition attracted attention. Style: MLA: Updated. The Modern Language Association no longer recognizes print as the default medium and states that the seventh edition includes guidelines for “citing works published on the Web and new recommendations for citing several kinds of works, such as digital files and graphic narratives.” Undergraduates will welcome the accompanying Web site to the seventh edition. MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, Third Edition (2008) (O’Neill Stacks PN147 .G444 2008 ) is the standard guide for graduate students, scholars, and professional writers.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Brewster Kahle: The Internet's Librarian

The Economist recently (5 March, 2009) profiled Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive. Extracts:

For a man who has set himself a seemingly impossible mission, Brewster Kahle seems remarkably laid back. Relaxing in the black leather recliner that serves as his office chair, his stockinged feet wriggling with evident enthusiasm, the founder of the Internet Archive explains what has driven him for more than a decade. “We are trying to build Alexandria 2.0,” says Mr Kahle with a wide-eyed, boyish grin. Sure, and plenty of people are trying to abolish hunger, too. . . .

Having founded and sold technology companies to AOL and Amazon, he has now devoted himself to building a non-profit digital archive of free materials—books, films, concerts and so on—to rival the legendary Alexandrian library of antiquity. This has brought him into conflict with Google, the giant internet company which is pursuing a similar goal, but in a rather different (and more commercially oriented) way. . . .

[A]ll these things are steps towards Mr Kahle’s wider goal: to build the world’s largest digital library. He has recruited 135 libraries worldwide to, the aim of which is to create a catalogue of every book ever published, with links to its full text where available. To that end, the Internet Archive is also digitising books on a large scale on behalf of its library partners. It scans more than 1,000 books every day, for which the libraries pay about $30 each. (The digital copy can then be made available by both parties.) . . . .

Underlying Mr Kahle’s enthusiasm for openness is an implicit criticism of the much larger book-scanning project being undertaken by Google. Like Mr Kahle, Google’s founders have a lofty goal: “to organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Since much of the world’s information is in books, this means large-scale scanning. But whereas Mr Kahle has focused on old books that are no longer protected by copyright, and making the full text available, Google’s Book Search project has scanned some 7m more recent works, most of them still covered by copyright, and allows access only to small chunks. . . .

It may be that a lack of library funds, rather than Google, poses the biggest short-term threat to Mr Kahle’s dream. Google covers the cost of scanning libraries’ books. But to get into Mr Kahle’s archive, libraries must either do their own scanning or pay the archive to do it. And, like everyone else, libraries are feeling the financial squeeze at the moment.

But Mr Kahle is taking a very long-term view. Universal online access to all knowledge may not be “a goal that is going to be finished in our lifetime,” says Mr Kahle. “But if you pick a goal far enough out, people can align to it. I am not interested in building an empire. Our idea is to build the future.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Accessing Economic Research on Bangladesh

Marco Novarese, Quentin Wodon and Christian Zimmermann in an article in the Bangladeshi Daily Star discuss the great benefits of the web and, particularly, such important economic websites as RePEc in making freely accessible scholarly economic research. They stress that the benefits are especially manifest in developing nations like Bangladesh.


A quiet revolution has taken place regarding access to economic research, and this revolution is especially important for economists in developing countries such as Bangladesh. Ten years ago, it would have been difficult for a Bangladeshi researcher or policy makers to benefit from easy access to the recent economics literature relevant to his/her job, be it related to monetary policy or the fight against poverty.

Due in part to a rapid increase in the number of economics journals, most libraries could not afford to carry print versions of the many specialised journals that are needed to keep abreast of
development in one's field. Beyond journals, access to working papers is also important, and working paper series were even more difficult to access than journals.

Today, by contrast, thanks to the power of the web, amazing resources are now available for free through websites such as SSRN (Social Science Research Network at or RePEc (Research Papers in Economics, at RePEc is probably the website of choice for
economists with (as of the end of February 2009) 712,000 items of interest. This includes 282,000 working papers, 422,000 journal articles, 1,700 software components, and 5,000 book and chapter listings. Some 19,300 authors are listed on the website, with their detailed contact information and publication listings. The site also includes 11,100 institutional contact listings. . . .

The web is a revolutionary force for democracy and openness. With RePEc, this is certainly the case within the economics profession. The services that RePEc provides should be especially valuable in developing countries, where other means of access to the economics literature are limited. But for these benefits to be fully reaped in Bangladesh, it will be necessary for more
Bangladeshi researchers to register with RePEc, use the site's services to quickly learn about the new research being conducted in their fields, and make their own works better known.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A New Push to Unlock University-Based Research

An article in the Chronicle of Higher Education issue dated March 6, 2009 describes recent activity on campuses in support of open access, or “public access”, to research information. Entitled, A New Push to Unlock University-Based Research, it discusses the various approaches taking shape on academic campuses and the February 2009 “Call to Action” by the Association of American Universities, the Association of Research Libraries, the Coalition for Networked Information, and the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges (information posted on this blog Feb. 16, 2009). Universities, mindful of the needs served by traditional publishing, nevertheless, are increasingly open to permutations of public access (especially, when granted over time), and see a place for co-existence of traditional publishing alongside public access.
(Please note that after 5 days, access to the Chronicle article will be limited to subscribers.)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More on the Conyers Bill

Lawrence Lessig and Michael Eisen in a posting in The Huffington Post lambast what they term “the corrupt publishing industry bill”:

You may have heard of Big Oil, but have you heard of "Big Paper"? We know, it sounds absurd, but check this out.

Right now, there's a
proposal in Congress to forbid the government from requiring scientists who receive taxpayer funds for medical research to publish their findings openly on the Internet.

This ban on "open access publishing" (which is currently required) would result in a lot of government-funded research being published exclusively in for-profit journals -- inaccessible to the general public.

Why on earth would anyone propose this? A new
report by transparency group shows that sponsors of this bill -- led by Rep. John Conyers -- received twice as much money from the publishing industry as those on the relevant committee who are not sponsors.

This is exactly the kind of money-for-influence scheme that constantly happens behind our backs and erodes the public's trust in government.

Can you join us in fighting back? The first step is to join Change Congress's "donor strike" today -- pledging to fight the underlying cause of this corruption by not giving a penny more to politicians who don't support reforming our campaign finance system.
Click here to take action now.

When you sign, we'll email a phone number where you can call your members of Congress to ask them to oppose H.R. 801 -- the corrupt publishing industry bill. We'll also send John Conyers' number. . . .

For the complete posting click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

SPARC Open Access News -- March 2009 issue

The latest issue of Peter Suber's SPARC Open Access News has just appeared (March 2, 2009). A key topic covered in this issue is the reintroduction of the "Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” (now, H.R. 801), also known as the Conyers bill for its introduction by John Conyers (D-Michigan), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. This bill is recognized as an effort to repeal the NIH Public Access Policy requiring deposition of NIH-funded research articles in PubMedCentral.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good Intro & Overview of Open Access

There is such a vast amount of literature available on diverse aspects of Open Access and scholarly communication issues that someone new to these areas might understandably feel overwhelmed and not have a clear idea where to “dip in”. A particularly good website for such beginners, and indeed for others with a stronger background in these areas, is Walt Crawford’s website Open Access Resources. This is an excellent “annotated set of first-level pointers--resources that provide rich, varied sets of facts and commentary on their own and, in some cases, include pointers to other resources and source documents.”