Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RWA Pronounced Dead

The Chronicle of Higher Education pronounced the Research Works Act dead.

In a lightening fast turnaround, the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Rep Darrell Issa issued a statement:
"As the costs of publishing continue to be driven down by new technology, we will continue to see a growth in open-access publishers. This new and innovative model appears to be the wave of the future," the Issa-Maloney statement said. "The American people deserve to have access to research for which they have paid. This conversation needs to continue, and we have come to the conclusion that the Research Works Act has exhausted the useful role it can play in the debate."

The related boycott of Elsevier (discussed in earlier posts) may have been instrumental:
Boycott organizers and access advocates celebrated Monday's news. "I see this as a victory won by popular awareness and support," Mr. Neylon said in an e-mail.

Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, said the boycott had helped spur Elsevier's turnabout. "You don't get almost 8,000 scientists saying 'We think this is a lousy idea' so vocally without taking that seriously," she said.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Elsevier's Letter to the Mathematics Community

Elsevier announced in a press release today that it is cutting back on the cost of its mathematics journals. Clearly the on-going boycott of Elsevier is having an effect! [Thanks to Kit Baum (Economics) for forwarding this press release]

Press Release Extracts:
. . . . Mathematics journals published by Elsevier tend to be larger than those of other publishers. On a price-per-article, or price-per-page level, our prices are typically, but not always, lower than those of other mathematics publishers.

Our target is for all of our core mathematics titles to be priced at or below US$11 per article (equivalent to 50-60 cents per normal typeset page) by next year, placing us below most University presses, some societies and other commercial competitors. Where journals are more expensive than this, we will lower our prices, as we already have in recent years for journals such as the Journal of Algebra and Topology and its Applications, among others.

We realize that this is just part of the concerns about pricing –and we will seek to address concerns about the nature and composition of the large discounted agreements, through which most Universities now access journals – but addressing the base line pricing is a necessary first step. . . .

Elsevier Withdraws Support for the Research Works Act

In today's press release Elsevier announced that it is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act. [It should be pointed out that Elsevier is a Green publisher (according to SHERPA-RoMEO's rubrics). That is, Elsevier permits authors to deposit their pre-prints (i.e. pre-refereeing) as well as their post-prints (i.e. final draft post-refereeing). However, authors may not deposit the publisher's version/PDF.]

Press Release Extracts:
. . . .While we continue to oppose government mandates in this area, Elsevier is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act itself. We hope this will address some of the concerns expressed and help create a less heated and more productive climate for our ongoing discussions with research funders. . . . .

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Journal of eScience Librarianship: A New, OA, Peer-Reviewed Journal

BC Library colleagues Wanda Anderson, Margaret Cohen, Sarah Hogan, Enid Karr, Barbara Mento, and Sally Wyman, and two recent library interns Rebecca Holzman and Myrna E. Morales have published "Science Librarian Internship as a Way to Get Started in EScience" in the new open access, peer-reviewed journal, The Journal of eScience Librarianship. The goal of this journal is to advance the theory and practice of librarianship with a special focus on services related to data-driven research in the physical, biological, and medical sciences.

"Values and Scholarship" by 11 Research University Provosts

The provosts of 11 major research universities issue a letter in which they strongly support open access to research and criticize the recently introduced legislation The Research Works Act. The letter is published in Inside Higher Education:

We are the provosts of 11 large research universities that engage in over $5.6 billion of funded research each year. That research is directed at serving the public good through medical advances, improved defense systems, enhanced agricultural and industrial productivity, technological innovation, and reasoned social policy. In the aggregate, the outcomes of this research fuel America’s global leadership, improve the quality of life in our communities, and enrich the educational experience of our students.

While the collective portfolio of federally funded research undertaken by our universities incontrovertibly strengthens our country, the research process itself is strengthened by an academic culture that encourages the free and open exchange of ideas among scholars. Scholarship finds meaning through — and is continuously improved by — open sharing, critical assessment of peers, and incorporation into subsequent work. . . .

Because of our profound belief in the significance of the work being carried out by our nation’s research universities, we are deeply committed to upholding and reinforcing long-cherished academic values of open communication, transparency, and collaboration. Through our university policies, the investments we make in infrastructure and outreach, and the partnerships we form — partnerships with each other, government agencies, corporate enterprises, and civic entities — our universities grow stronger by sharing knowledge. . . .

Because of our strong belief in open sharing of information, we were disturbed to see that recently introduced legislation (The Research Works Act, H.R. 3699) called for a rollback of the progress being made toward opening communication channels for sharing publicly funded research findings with the American people. Were this bill to pass, it would reverse a 2008 administrative mandate by the National Institutes of Health that grantees deposit the results of their funded research in a publicly accessible archive, and prohibit other agencies from issuing similar mandates going forward. We believe that this legislation would significantly undermine access to the new ideas that result from government-funded research, access that we encourage to the public at-large, to a worldwide network of leading scholars, and to future generations of scholars who are today’s undergraduate and graduate students. In our view, ratification of the proposed legislation would represent a step backward in the ongoing enlightenment of society through research and education. . . .

In addition to our concern about the impact external entities have in shaping the research and communication agenda of our universities, we are cognizant that senior campus administrators and faculty leaders could be working more effectively to ensure that their own campus policies are aligned with professed campus norms. Some examples of how we might do more to influence campus behaviors include:

* Encouraging faculty members to retain enough rights in their published intellectual property that they can share it with colleagues and students, deposit it in open access repositories, and repurpose it for future research.
* Ensuring that promotion and tenure review are flexible enough to recognize and reward new modes of communicating research outcomes.
* Ensuring that our own university presses and scholarly societies are creating models of scholarly publishing that unequivocally serve the research and educational goals of our universities, and/or the social goals of our communities.
* Encouraging libraries and faculty to work together to assess the value of purchased or licensed content, and the appropriate terms governing its use. . . .
The complete letter is available here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Peter Suber Interviewed by Springer

Peter Suber was interviewed by Springer as part of its Author Zone series. Among other topics, Suber discusses some of the benefits for authors when publishing open access; the obstacles funding bodies face; his views on where open access will be in five years time; his disagreement with Springer over its inimical attitude to immediate open access.

Full interview.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

FRPAA 2012 Introduced

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (D-PA) today introduced bipartisan legislation that directs federal agencies to encourage open public access to federally funded scientific research.

“Americans have the right to see the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars,” Congressman Doyle said in introducing the Federal Research Public Access Act. “Yet such research too often gets locked away behind a pay-wall, forcing those who want to learn from it to pay expensive subscription fees for access.”

“The Federal Research Public Access Act will encourage broader collaboration among scholars in the scientific community by permitting widespread dissemination of research findings. Promoting greater collaboration will inevitably lead to more innovative research outcomes and more effective solutions in the fields of biomedicine, energy, education, and health care.”

The Federal Research Public Access Act would require federal agencies with an extramural research budget of $100 million or more to make federally-funded research available for free online access by the general public, no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Scholars Boycott Elsevier

Back in January, Fields medalist and mathematician at the University of Cambridge Timothy Gowers made public his longstanding boycott of the Elsevier publishing company.
After outlining the objectionable practices of Elsevier, Gowers stated:
So I am not only going to refuse to have anything to do with Elsevier journals from now on, but I am saying so publicly. I am by no means the first person to do this, but the more of us there are, the more socially acceptable it becomes, and that is my main reason for writing this post.

It occurs to me that it might help if there were a website somewhere, where mathematicians who have decided not to contribute in any way to Elsevier journals could sign their names electronically.

Within days the site was up and now has approximately 3000 scholars' signatures.

A few days ago, Michael Eisen published an analysis of the phenomenon:
Having spent a decade fighting the scientific publishing establishment, the last few weeks have been kind of fun. Elsevier, the Dutch publishing conglomerate that has long served as the poster child for all that is wrong with the industry, has come under withering criticism for pushing legislation that would prevent the US government from making the results of taxpayer funded research available to the public.

Scores of scientists (myself included) have slammed the hypocrisy of the bill. Prominent publishers, fearing a backlash against Elsevier’s overreach, have come out in favor of government public access policies.Even the editors of The Lancet, one of Elsevier’s prized possessions, called the bill a “damaging threat to science“.

But amidst all this richly deserved opprobrium, we must not forget that Elsevier are in a position to behave so poorly because we let them. Publishers control the paywalls that restrict access to the scientific literature. But individual researchers control the fate of their own papers. And the only reason a paywall ever stands between anyone and a paper they want to read is because its authors chose to put it there.
He points out a critical difference between the OA environment today and what existed when previous efforts were launched, and issues a call to action:
Thus, people joining in the new boycott have no excuses not to follow through. There are plenty of viable OA options and it is simply unacceptable for any scientist who decries Elsevier’s actions and believes that the subscription based model is no longer serving science to send a single additional paper to journals that do not provide full OA to every paper they publish. So, come on people! If we do this now, paywalls will crumble, and we all be better off. So, come on! Let’s do it!