Tag Archives: open access

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.

Open Access; more than just citation considerations

Article on SciDevNet called “Open Access: not just about citations“.  It follows discussion on some recently published studies: The Study of Open Access Publishing (SOAP) and a study by Philip Davis of Cornell University “Open access, readership, citations: a randomized controlled trial of scientific journal publishing“.

The discussions have surrounded the intepretation, by some, that the results of this research question the citation advantage offered by OA publishing.  This advantage is:

“generally perceived as a major benefit of OA publishing — the ‘OA citation advantage'”

The item talks about how whilst there has been widespread support for OA, there has not been not widespread practice of OA.   Money was cited as the first disincentive blocking OA uptake, followed by the preference for “established journals with high citation rates.”  This second argument goes back to the long running discussion on how institutes and/or individual scientists are evaluated.

We agree wholeheartedly with the SciDevNet article, when it goes on to discuss the full value of OA journals even if one puts aside the citation aspect for a moment:

“This lies not merely in how they benefit science specialists, but also in making scientific research widely available to those who can neither afford high subscription rates for specialist journals, nor get access to scientific libraries — but whose work or personal interest depend on having access to the global pool of scientific knowledge…

… And as Chan et al. point out [ref Chan article], standards for assessing journal quality and relevance are generally based on “Northern” values that often ignore development needs and marginalise local scholarship”

But what about downloads?  According to the Physics Today blog, “Open access boosts downloads but not citations“, downloads are boosted by OA. Stevan Harnard left a comment on both posts saying “the evidence of the open-access download advantage is growing” and linking to some research to illustrate.

FREE Access to The Journal of Technology Transfer until end of Nov 2010

Access is FREE online to the Journal of Technology Transfer until 30th November 2010.  Visit the following link for more details: http://www.springer.com/business+%26+management/journal/10961

According to the webiste:

The Journal of Technology Transfer, the Official Journal of the Technology Transfer Society, provides an international forum for the exchange of ideas that enhance and build an understanding of the practice of technology transfer. In particular, it emphasizes research on management practices and strategies for technology transfer.

I choose a couple of articles from the most recent listings that I thought might be of interest:

But hurry! The offer will end soon!!

(thanks to Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending me the link)

Data sharing in Alzheimer research

A NYTimes article last month (thanks for sending me the link Victoria) talked about a data sharing project on research into biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease progression.  “Rare Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s

The project committed to making all data and all findings public immediately – available online to anyone, anywhere.  The item said:

“No one would own the data. No one could submit patent applications, though private companies would ultimately profit from any drugs or imaging tests developed as a result of the effort.”

Some of the challenges this caused came from with the discomfort the scientists felt at working in this way.  Quoting Dr. John Q. Trojanowski, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of Pennsylvania the article said:

“It’s not science the way most of us have practiced it in our careers. But we all realized that we would never get biomarkers unless all of us parked our egos and intellectual-property noses outside the door and agreed that all of our data would be public immediately.”

For all the reasons we are already familiar with there was concern:

“At first, the collaboration struck many scientists as worrisome — they would be giving up ownership of data, and anyone could use it, publish papers, maybe even misinterpret it and publish information that was wrong… But Alzheimer’s researchers and drug companies realized they had little choice.”

I would be interested to know the process adapted to work through these understandable concerns.  The article hints that perhaps the community came to a point where they realized they had to bite the bullet in order to progress… sounds like a good motivator but there must be more to the story than that.  Additionally many of the comments that accompany this article struck me that we have a long way to go to understand ways to fit data sharing and open access into public research.  Simplistic calls for abolition of intellectual property miss the mark somewhat!

Open Rights Group Workshop; 24th July 2010

Saturday 24th July, (despite being my sixth wedding anniversary!), I attended a workshop on the current challenges of Copyright and Digital Rights. The workshop was organised by the Open Rights Group, a non-for-profit organisation which promotes and defends freedom of expression, privacy, innovation, consumers’ rights, and creativity on the net. You can read more about them here: http://www.openrightsgroup.org/about

The day was structured between a series of presentations and small group discussions. Topics of debate included the new English Digital Economy Act, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), and the movement of Open Access Data.

From the programme I believe that our readers will be mostly interested in Professor Boyle’s presentation on the shrinking of the public domain, and the discussion on open data and access to information led by the Open Knowledge Foundation Network (OKFN).  I think the discussion on ACTA could have been very interesting if more information and facts had been given – a lot of discussion was around the fact that the Act needs to be changed even though nobody is fully certain about its precise content which is still (more or less) secret!

Professor Boyle rightly argued that we currently live in a paradox: despite the fact that we generate more and more information and knowledge that enables us to be more creative and innovative, we are moving towards stricter controls to protect such information and knowledge.  Instead of letting it free, we are locking it away. Most jurisdictions have seen an ongoing stretch of the duration of copyright, from 28 years (renewable possibly for another 28 years’ period) to author’s life + 70 years, which seems to go against the original principle of promoting culture through innovation.

The decision of not dealing seriously and practically with the problem of “orphan works” is another symptom of this general over-protection of authors to the detriment of users. In this atmosphere of vagueness and uncertainty, Professor Boyle praised Creative Commons for providing a simple solution to the complexities of copyright, and urged for a real harmonisation of the exceptions, namely the situations which would not amount to breach of copyright (e.g. fair-use)

Professor Boyle gave a very similar presentation at UC Davies and which can seen on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OInGKMc1Wo

The Open Data discussion focused on the importance of keeping data freely and easily accessible and usable. Some reasons given included: such data is most of the time generated through public funding, that information which is already available in the first place cannot be locked away, and that the more openly and freely information circulates, the more additional information and knowledge is generated.

I felt that the session was quite good but that a lot of collateral issues ought to have discussed, or at least touched on if time was a constraint. For example, what happens if data has been generated using funding from the private sector as well? Is it really easy to distinguish it from confidential and/or sensitive data? Should a debate on releasing as opposed to sharing data also be tabled? What is the reality as to what data releasers want users to be able to do? (Copying in part? In full? Download and modify?).  Perhaps the OKFN does not have enough experience within the area of genetic material and access & benefit sharing, as there are a lot of concerns (possibly unfounded) like biopiracy which can be a real obstacles to the openness and sharing of data. I hope there will be other occasions in the future to address all these questions with the OKFN.

Many thanks to Joe (McNamee, Advisor to the European Digital Rights) who invited me to the event!

Post written by Francesca Re         Manning of CAS-IP

New CGIAR; new commitment to Open Access?

Now is the time to act!  Now is the time to get serious about Open Access!

That was the message from the 7th July 2010 Bioversity & CAS-IP organised workshop on Open Access.  A workspace was set up by ICT-KM as a store for all the presentations and documentation of the meeting.  Access is, of course, open. https://sites.google.com/a/cgxchange.org/bioversity-open-access-workshop/agenda

The timing is perfect.  If the new CGIAR can embrace Open Access as a policy we can start to get somewhere.  From discussions during the workshop I see OA in the CGIAR as essentially a two-pronged attack; from the top and from the bottom.  If the Consortium can set the stage to commit to OA from the top then we can rely on having:

1)     A mandate
2)     A reward structure in place (performance indicators)
3)     Resources for the infrastructure and maintenance

These are all required to go forward.  There are examples our there in the life sciences to draw lessons from.  Maria Garruccio at Bioversity talked about some of these examples during the meeting.

It is also our turn to get serious too; from the bottom up!  We need to keep addressing, and responding to the more nitty-gritty reasons why people are reluctant to share (see the Nature item referenced below), community by community if necessary.  A consistent effort is going to be required to steward the process and to continually build trust and value along the way.  It is not I believe, enough to just require OA if we are going to do open access well.  We will also need to keep addressing some of the specifics that hinder effective OA even if they are not immediately thought of in this context.  By this I am referring to issues such as:

–         privacy issues
–         handling of traditional knowledge (see TK guidelines)
–         PIC (prior informed consent)
–         attribution

And I am sure other units have their own lists of issues.  It might start slowly, but there is a real opportunity to create a new commons out there in the Ag field.  Let’s start moving!  Plans are already underway for a CG wide workshop on Open Access in November, to be hosted by ICRISAT. More info TBA.


More info:

–         Interesting article in Nature “When blogs make sense” about differing approaches to data sharing by two scientific communities. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v466/n7302/full/466008a.html

–         ICT-KM blog post about the meeting http://ictkm.cgiar.org/2010/07/13/open-access-workshop-in-bioversity-a-summary/

(Thanks to Victoria Henson-Apollonio for sending the Nature link)