Category Archives: the “opens”

High profile push for Open Access: George Monbiot – The Lairds of Learning

“Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist…” – harsh words from George Monboit (a writer for the Guardian).  Good to see such a high-profile piece pushing Open Access.  Of course as we know the devil is in the detail – but this article got people talking about this increasingly important subject!

See original item with full references: George Monbiot – The Lairds of Learning or as it appeared in the Guardian last year : Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist.

(Emphasis added) “Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the Western world?…  my vote goes not to the banks, the oil companies or the health insurers, but – wait for it – to academic publishers… Of all corporate scams, the racket they run is most urgently in need of referral to the competition authorities.”

“..the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.”

His suggestions about how to improve access?

“In the short term, governments should refer the academic publishers to their competition watchdogs, and insist that all papers arising from publicly funded research are placed in a free public database. In the longer term, they should work with researchers to cut out the middleman altogether, creating – along the lines proposed by Björn Brembs of Berlin’s Freie Universität – a single global archive of academic literature and data. Peer-review would be overseen by an independent body. It could be funded by the library budgets which are currently being diverted into the hands of privateers.”

See original item: George Monbiot – The Lairds of Learning or as it appeared in the Guardian: Academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist.  Thanks to those at the CGIAR who Yammered this item and got it traveling further!

Info and presentations from Open Access Africa 2011

Last month BioMed Central ran an event to coincide with Open Access Week.  In true open access style they have now made all the presentations available:

“Open Access Africa 2011, hosted by BioMed Central in conjunction with Computer Aid International, was held at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, Ghana, during Open Access Week 2011. The conference brought together representatives from Google, British Medical Journal (BMJ), Department for International Development (DFID), Pan African Medical Journal and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) to discuss open access publishing in an African context. All conference presentations and images are now available from our website.”

I was looking at the presentation from Helena Asamoah-Hassan, University Librarian, KNUST in Ghana entitled: “Case studies of open access initiatives for access to information in developing countries” in which she wrote of major benefits/obstacles:

Major Benefits: – Unrestricted access to knowledge, – Speed and reduced cost of distribution,  – Access to grey literatures from developing world, – Expanded opportunity to publishMajor Obstacles: -Poor State of ICT – limited computer literacy; high cost of internet access limiting access ; – low bandwidth, –  Copyright issues (authors sign away their rights and so cannot self archive their own papers) and – Misconception of Open Access resulting from lack of awareness.”

These points are certainly are worth remembering!  For me the issue is both an IP one, and a communications one – i.e. raising awareness where required and providing tailored solutions to access.    In her presentation Helena Asamoah-Hassan provides many examples of African initiatives already underway, and her suggestions to improve the OA situation.

It’s going to be a long, hard, and continuous process but there are many laudable projects moving in the right direction, as the presentations from the Open Access Africa event show!

Other related posts:
Offline OA: “OA’ (OA Prime): bringing OA resources to low connectivity areas”  a solution (hopefully a stop-gap) for low connectivity.  And “Open Access; more than just citation considerations” which talks about access, readership, download and citation of OA.

Addressing legal barriers in sharing of research data

The following is a press release of interest from “Knowledge Exchange” – “a co-operative effort that supports the use and development of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) infrastructure for higher education and research.”

PRESS RELEASE. 4 October 2011.  “Addressing legal barriers in sharing of research data

It is difficult for researchers and those supporting them to understand how open access to research data can be legally obtained and re-used. This is due to the fact that European and national laws vary and researchers work across national boundaries. A possible approach to providing clarity would be that researchers assign a licence to their data. This practice could be incorporated in a code of conduct for researchers.

This is one of the recommendations from the report ‘The legal status of research data in the Knowledge Exchange partner countries’ which was commissioned by Knowledge Exchange (KE) and written by the Centre for Intellectual Property Law (CIER). The aim of the report was to provide clarity by analysing the intellectual property regimes in the four KE countries and European database law. Moreover, the report provides three recommendations to achieve better access: making contractual arrangements with authors, harmonisation of European copyright law and setting up of policies on commercial interests.

Licence for re-use to be included in code of conduct

On 9 September the findings of the report were discussed in Brussels with national legal experts and representatives from the European Commission. In the discussion a waiver or licence for researchers was considered to be most likely to be adopted. This could also be incorporated in a code of conduct for researchers. The discussion revealed that joint publicly and privately funded research poses a complex challenge as this requires balancing the interests of public funding and those of private companies. Harmonisation of copyright law was considered a very complex matter and not feasible in the short term.

The full report and the four national reports are available at:

A report on the seminar is available at:

Do-it-yourself civilisation kit; all open source

Great TED talk from Marcin Jakubowski about his Open Source Ecology project.  It’s just 4 minutes and well worth watching.

In the blog post “Open Source Ecology: Global Village Construction Set” the Climate Crocks blog said (of Jakubowski):

“In the course of solving his own dilemma as a startup sustainable grower with limited resources, he realized that his problems were the same as those faced by subsistence growers across the planet.  There was no bottom rung for getting a foothold in a modern society without huge economic resources. So of course, he decided to build just that.

Enter, the Global Village Construction Set & Open Source Ecology, transcending artificial scarcity with a do-it-yourself civilization kit – the fifty most important machines that it takes for modern life to exist.”

(Thanks to Peter Bloch for sending me the link)

OA’ (OA Prime): bringing OA resources to low connectivity areas

“Horses for courses” was my take-home message after reading this month’s newsletter from Peter Suber.  It certainly pays to allow room for pragmatism.  SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #157

“Imagine a body of literature that is OA in every respect except that it’s offline.  It’s still digital, free of charge, and allows unrestricted use, but it’s on a thumb drive rather than a network.  If you had that thumb drive in your pocket or plugged into your machine, you’d have free *offline* access rather than free *online* access to that literature.  If OA literature must be online, then this isn’t OA.  But it’s interesting enough to name and discuss in its own right.  Let’s call it OA Prime (OA’).”

Suber then goes on to list x10 advantages and disadvantages of offline OA.  One that I wanted to highlight here is:

“You won’t always have stable or adequate connectivity.  You may be in an undeveloped region of the world or an underdeveloped region of the developed world.  Offline access can be your deliverance. 

Since 2000, WiderNet and the eGranary Digital Library have been delivering OA’ on CDs and other physical media to bandwidth-poor parts of the world where OA itself would be impractical or useless. …

eGranary is far from obsolete or out of business.  It recently delivered 2 TB of OA’ literature and software to institutions in Zambia, and installed an OA’ library in Liberia running on a 12 volt battery.”

Very interesting initiative from Iowa University! 

The eGranary Digital Library – also known as “The Internet in a Box” – provides millions of digital educational resources to institutions lacking adequate Internet access. Through a process of garnering permissions, copying Web sites, and delivering them to intranet Web servers INSIDE our partner institutions in developing countries and other places aroung the globe, we deliver millions of multimedia documents that can be instantly accessed by patrons over their local area networks at no cost.

To read the whole newsletter visit: SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #157

Publishers’ initiative on open access

Peter Suber highlighted this meeting in his newsletter (SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #155).   It’s the “PA-ALPSP Journal Publishers’ Forum: Open access: the next ten years“, taking place in London on the 31st of March.

The forum website says:

“Open access is here to stay, and has the support of our key partners.  Funders see it as the way to maximise access and impact for the research they fund, policy makers are under pressure to make it happen.  Publishers know it is much more complicated and threatening to make it work than is apparent to the advocates and the fund holders.  But we would benefit from having a compelling, coherent and above all positive story to tell about the role we can play in achieving these objectives.

So what can the industry do to respond more pro-actively and positively to open access, while keeping an open mind on individual business models?  We want to be seen as partners in the process of science, in the discovery, dissemination, show-casing and stewardship of the outputs of science.  Can we learn not just to live with open access, but to love it as well?  Has the time come to turn the threat into an opportunity?”

Referring to this meeting, Peter Suber said:

“OA is much easier with publisher cooperation than without it.  There’s already a good deal of cooperation…But there’s still too much lobbying against green OA policies, too much misrepresentation of OA, and too little acknowledgement that OA is better than TA for research and researchers, and … that institutions mission-bound to advance research (universities, libraries, societies, funders, and governments) have mission-related reasons to foster or require it. “

That’s worth repeating, too little acknowledgement that institutions mission-bound to advance research, have mission-related reasons to foster or require it.

Access to the forum isn’t open however, it’s for publishers only!  I hope there will be some write-ups where we can read about the ideas presented.

Is Open Source “bad”?…. NO!

Spotted another take on the Plumpy’Nut case this week.  Readers of this blog will know we have been following this news closely over the past year. (See our posts here).  The post on AfroIP was entitled, “The Sticky Situation Surrounding Plumpy’Nut.”  The writer, Isaac Rutenberg, (Patent Agent at Bozicevic, Field & Francis LLP in San Francisco) observed:

 “The problem is that intellectual property and the implications of certain acts are often not fully understood by scientists and especially by the general public.”

Oh yes, and the need to raise awareness in general about IP issues is something we know is important.  And it’s not always easy.  A compelling 2 minute elevator pitch on IP in Ag4Dev can be challenging…  That’s why when I spot an analogy that resonates with me I take note!  And in the article about Plumpy’nut, the writer made a useful connection between Open Source, and keeping outputs available. 

“Contrary to popular belief, open source software is protected by copyright. The copyright owners (e.g., the software authors) have simply said that they are willing to grant an open license to anyone who would like to use the software, subject to some conditions. One important condition is that any advances made on the software must also become open source, so the software continues to improve but always remains freely available for use. If there was no copyright protection of the original open source software code, the open source system would not work.”

Thanks Isaac Rutenberg, well put!  It’s one of the best known examples of protection not meaning unavailable.  Of course it is not without its problems, Open Source can be very complicated when it comes to derivative works.  Nonetheless it’s a useful example — there are no silver bullets!

Creative Commons Resources

This popped up on my RSS feed today.  It’s a slideshow from Esther Wojcicki, Creative Commons, Vice Chair.  The presentation is entitled “How to Spread Your Ideas Globally Using Creative Commons Licences“.  Anyone can view the presentation, you can also download it by logging into

Whilst I was posting this I thought it might be useful to add another couple of resources on this topic.  The Creative Commons site has some great explanatory videos.   See the video below entitled “A Shared Culture“.  The presenters said that CC was about “..the right to exercise your copyright in more ways, more simply…”

The video below is about Science Commons called “Science Commons“.  In the video the presenter describes scientists as “the ultimate remixers” and they talk about wishing to make “…the web work for science the way it does for culture…”

Thanks for sharing CC!

For more details visit or

Open Access Africa event in Kenya

This week BioMed Central are hosting an event called “Open Access Africa” in Nairobi.  From their website:

Aim of conference

Open access to the results of scientific and medical research has potential to play an important role in international development, and this conference will discuss the benefits of open access publishing in an African context, from the perspective of both readers seeking access to information, and researchers seeking to globally communicate the results of their work.

The conference will bring together researchers, librarians, university administrators and funders to discuss the issues surrounding access to scientific and medical research, and the role that open access journals can play.”

I will be following the event on Twitter to see if anything interesting is posted.

Open Innovation; how should we deal with the IP?

Last week we blogged an item about an innovation competition:  “Innovation prizes can lead to paradigm shifts.” Competitions and other forms of open innovation are fast becoming the way business is done.  I started looking into this and found this blog post with some background materials “Resources for learning about open innovation” – this led me to listen to a very informative talk on TED given by Charles Leadbeater where he:

“…weaves a tight argument that innovation isn’t just for professionals anymore.  Passionate amateurs, using new tools, are creating products and paradigms that companies can’t”

He discusses how private sector researchers are embracing the notion of open innovation and building it into their business model.  Leadbeater argues that those who don’t adopt open innovation will not be able to remain competitive.  He talks about turning:

“..users into producers, consumers into designers”

This has real application!  A continuous and open two-way process between researcher and user.  However, it certainly needs some thinking about in terms of dealing with IP.  Back to the X-Prize competition and last week’s blog post.  Their website Terms & Conditions page indicates that:

“Assignment and Ownership of Submissions
By Posting a Submission, you thereby irrevocably assign, transfer, deliver and otherwise convey to X PRIZE all rights, titles and interests therein and X PRIZE accepts the foregoing assignment. Therefore, X PRIZE may, in its sole discretion and without penalty, use, copy, reproduce, prepare derivative works based upon, distribute, perform and display such information in whole or in part, in any form, media or technology known or hereafter developed as long as such use is consistent with our Privacy Policy.”

Assignment of rights!?  For all submissions!?  I found this just skim reading the fine print.  With an initiative of this kind I would have expected some words of assurance that my ideas would be safe — instead of which I read on the Privacy Policy pages, (emphasis is my own):

2.2 How We Use This Information

Pursuant to the Terms of Use, you have expressly assigned all rights in and to Submissions (as defined in the Terms of Use) to X PRIZE. X PRIZE and/or its subsidiaries may, in their sole discretion, use information submitted at the time of registration or any Submissions for marketing, promotional and any other commercial purposes and may share such information or Submissions with our promotional partners in accordance with the Terms of Use.

I have no doubt this topic will only continue to grow in importance as online collaboration and sharing becomes the norm.  I will have a look to see if I can find any information about how the likes of Syngenta or Proctor & Gamble deal with these delicate issues.  If anyone has any information on this please get in touch and let us know!