Sunday, July 31, 2005

Mediation as an intellectual freedom issue

One of the arguments used against open access is the idea that people are not able to read and understand the research literature, but that rather they need mediation, for example consumer health literature. While creating and sharing information that translates the complexities of research literature into material that is easier to understand is absolutely laudable, taking away the right of the individual to make their own choice is censorship. This is a very basic intellectual freedom issue - it is the right of the individual to decide what they want to read. This applies just as much to the level of reading material, as it does to the topic.

Following is a message I posted to liblicense, which appeared on July 31. For the full discussion, see liblicense-l "Health Information Needs". Better yet - if you believe in intellectual freedom - join in, and help out!

To further support Kent Mulliner's point that mediation of health information should not be required:

The idea that the public needs mediation is not new. This idea, rather, was one of the obstacles to be overcome in order for literacy for the general population to be considered as a possibility. There was a time, in the history of even the most free of nations today, when the written word was considered fit only for the clergy, who would interpet for the masses. Even in much, more more recent times, there have been those who have adhered to just such a view. Witness, for example, the impact of the Taliban on the education of women in Afghanistan.

When people were illiterate, mediation was indeed necessary for the masses. Most people had no access to the literature, or to education; their only access to information was through mediation. As we have seen, once information and education become accessible, the vast majority are able to read.

As research literature becomes more accessible, the number of people who are able to make use of it will increase. Not that everyone will want to read at a research level, of course - it's just that, as Kent says, it is their right to do so, if they so choose. For that matter, open access will mean access to the educational system,, which could make it possible to advance the average scientific and information literacy skills of the population as a whole.

To me, this is a very fundamental intellectual freedom issue. Intellectual freedom means that the individual chooses for themselves what they will read. This includes not only topics, but reading level as well.

This is not to say that mediation cannot sometimes be helpful, and desired. At a recent conference in B.C., one of the librarians at Vancouver Public Library talked about their new role as "information counsellors". I can easily see a librarian taking on this role in the area of health information. It's not hard to imagine explaining to a person with an illness (or a family member) what their options are: consumer health, ranging from the simplest of brochures with the absolute
basics to more in-depth consumer health info, all the way to exploring the research literature. People should feel completely comfortable with whatever decision they make about the material they read: this is where the counselling aspect comes in.


Heather Morrison

Chemistry and Open Access

My writings on open access and chemistry encompass four themes, so far. Here are links to my main writings on the topic, by theme.

Chemistry and the Public Interest
Open Access: Transformative Change. An Open Letter to the President and Members of the American Chemical Society

Chemistry, OA, and the economics of publishing

Imaginary Journal of High End Chemistry (this is more about publishing than about chemistry)

Chemistry, Open Access, and the Corporate Sector

Funding ideas for open access chemistry

Two very simple and obvious efficiencies - decreasing the salaries of a very few top executives at the American Chemical Society - to merely much higher than average levels - and focusing on publishing, rather than lobbying, could release funding for about 15 - 40 average sized journals (with the total number depending on efficiency).

Another tip for the ACS: sell the bars and real estate, put the money into an endowment fund for open access. (Thanks to Richard Poynder for pointing out the Information World article). Other interesting discussion about the business practices of the American Chemical Society can be found in the SPARC Open Access Forum / Open Access News, June 2005.

Chemistry as a discipline and OA

In a nutshell, different disciplines are at various stages of implementing open access. Among the hard sciences, physicists were self-archiving since the early '90's; some areas of physics, such as high-energy physics, have a 100% self-archiving rate. The rate for chemists is - er - rather closer to 0%, than 100%. Never mind, though, if the chemists are behind on the green route to OA. There is still plenty of room for leadership on the gold road!

Chemistry, Alchemy, and the Gold Road

Note: The Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry, an open access, pure gold chemistry journal, was launched August 28, 2005. Thanks to SPARC Open Access Forum / BioMedCentral,

Chemists Without Borders?

Note: there is a real Chemists Without Borders group, at

OA and the discplinary differential

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

Imaginary Journal of High-End Chemistry

The Imaginary Journal of High-End Chemistry is an ad hoc thought experiment, designed to answer the question, what is the ballpark cost of producing an electronic-only, stricly open access journal article, in the priciest high-end STM market? The Imaginary Journal is a response to a challenge from academic publisher Lisa Diettrich of Academic Medicine for us poetic visionary OA types to address "the nitty gritty of how we pay for it all". As it happens, if there is anything this particular OA advocate enjoys more than poetic visioning, it is economic modelling. The Imaginary Journal begins to explore a few other poetic economic concepts, such as Work Less, and creative globalization for the good of all, themes which I hope to delve into in more depth in The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics.

Issues of Imaginary Journal can be found on the SPARC Open Access Forum Archive (search for Imaginary Journal). Here are links to each issue:

Introductory Issue:

Oct 2004: 2

Oct 2004: 3

Oct 2004: 4

Nov 2004: 1

Interlude Issue (Dec 2004)

Many thanks to those who participated in this collaborative experiment, including leaders in the publishing industry (both on and off list - liblicense-l as well as the SPARC Open Access Forum), and chemists.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

OA & Collaborative Research & Writing

There is more - a great deal more - to open access than the most obvious benefit, a tremendous increase in accessibility and impact.

One of the new potentials unleashed by OA is new means for collaboratively working on research and writing. A couple of recent postings from Peter Suber's Open Access News illustrate some of this potential:

Arti K. Rai, Open and Collaborative Research: A New Model for Biomedicine., a preprint forthcoming in Robert Hahn (ed.), Intellectual Property Rights inFrontier Industries: Software and Biotech, AEI-Brookings Press.(thanks to David Bollier)

Copyright, A new OA journal edited by Lawrence Lessig and Michael Geist, among others, is intended to be both a traditional, peer-reviewed journal and a novel, collaborative approach to journal creation. Scholarly communications and open access are among the topics to be covered -perhaps a publishing opportunity for readers of this list?

In my opinion, this more formal approach to collaboration is a natural outgrowth of the greatly enhanced opportunities for informal collaboration made possible by the electronic medium and the world wide web. Scholars have always communicated informally as well as formally - by talking at metings, conferences, etc. - it's just that e-mail, listservs, blogs, wikis, etc., have expanded the potential for this kind of cooperation.

Could this be a more major change in scholarly communications than either the shift from print to electronic, or from closed to open access?


Heather G. Morrison

Originally posted to the SPARC Open Access Forum, SCHOLCOMM, and ERIL-L, July 30, 2005.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

About The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

Update October 7, 2012 (why blog comments are not encouraged)

The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics began as a place to gather some of my writings, both formal and informal, on the topic of open access, at the request of friends.

The main focus of this blog is open access, and scholarly communications in general. The concept of poetic economics, however, can be applied to any field of endeavour. This idea is to think of economics as a means to strive for the best we can achieve on this earth; to begin with poetic vision, and use our knowledge of how things work as a poet uses words, to create beauty and meaning.

As of 2004 when this blog started, most of my writings on this subject were originally listserv postings. Only some of these writings have been gathered. More can be found in the  listserv discussions, on the SPARC Open Access Forum, SCHOLCOMM, ERIL-L, Liblicense-L, the American Scientist Open Access Forum and its successor GOAL.  What I have liked about the lists is the interactivity, the opportunity to discuss and debate, particularly with those who do not necessarily share my views.

As of 2012, I find that I participate much less in listserv discussions, and am not convinced of the usefulness of discussions via blog commenting. For this reason, while commenting on IJPE is sometimes turned on, I do not encourage it.


Heather Morrison

Sunday, July 17, 2005

In Lieu of Flowers: An Open Letter to the American Association of Cancer Research

Dear Margaret Foti, CEO, American Association of Cancer Research,

In Lieu of Flowers: An Open Letter to the American Association of Cancer Research

According to the SPARC Open Access News of July 13, AACR is one of a group that has signed a letter on July 7 to Senator Arlen Specter, expressing "significant concerns about the National Institutes of Health duplicating private sector on-line publishing".

The banner at the top of your website this morning does not say: defending the interests of the private sector in the publishing industry.

What your banner says is quite different. It is "Saving Lives Through Research".

This is a noble reason for the existence of your association. My request is that AACR review its mission, and reconsider its position on the NIH Public Access Policy. I cannot see how such a review could possibly come to any other conclusion than that your mission compels you to fully support and participate in Public Access.

Change is difficult for anyone, and I have no doubt that the small changes needed for Public Access will be a little bit uncomfortable for your association. I urge you, however, to consider how many families, not only in the U.S. but throughout the world - have asked for donations to cancer research in lieu of flowers. How many have wanted to set aside their own comforts in bereavement to speed the research, so that others would be spared the agony that they and their loved ones went through. When so many are seeing the need to speed the research and placing it above their own comfort, surely your association can, too.

Surely you realize that the best way to "accelerate the dissemination of new research findings" - to borrow a phrase from your mission statement - is for cancer researchers to share their findings as openly as possible, as soon as possible. The ideal is to post the findings openly on the web, just as soon as the quality control process (peer review) is complete - generally before publication. Imposing any delay, or any restrictions on dissemination, is contrary to your mission statement.

Your mission also says that you will "advance the understanding of cancer etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment throughout the world." Outside the wealthy nations, there are many universities with no journal subscriptions at all; and, many places where lack of funds to purchase resources is a deterring factor to education, period. Participating in the NIH Public Access program clearly advances your mission. Lack of access is a factor in the U.S. too, of course; not all states are equally wealthy, and not all can afford all the journals for their university libraries.

Please share this message with your Board, and your members. If your basic mission has changed from saving lives to private sector profits, your mission statement needs updating. If your mission continues to be to accelerate cancer research, then you need to reverse your stance on the NIH's Public Access Policy, from opposition to enthusiastic support and participation.

To facilitate dissemination and encourage other associations to consider their missions when thinking about open access, this is an open letter, copied to the SPARC Open Access Forum.

I congratulate the U.S. National Institute of Health and the U.S. Senate for their support for Public Access. This is one policy area where many, myself included, see the United States as providing an example of visionary leadership, which other nations would be well advised to follow.

best wishes,

Heather G. Morrison

cc: Senator Arlen Specter, SPARC Open Access Forum

Mission and Purposes
The mission of the Association is to prevent and cure cancer through research, education, and communication. The purposes are to foster research in cancer and related biomedical science; accelerate the dissemination of new research findings among scientists and others dedicated to the conquest of cancer; promote science education and training; and advance the understanding of cancer etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment throughout the world.
from: American Association of Cancer Research website, July 17, 2005

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, US

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Tip for publishers: author's final copy

There are two reasons why it is in the publishers' best interests to provide the author with a final, peer-reviewed, proof-read copy for the institutional repository (which need not be the final pdf). First and most important, this will ensure that readers are not confused and potentially misled by different versions - the formatting might be different, but the content will be just as authoritative.

Secondly, this makes it possible for publishers to include a link to the journal in the authors' final copy, which, I would suggest, is in the publishers' best interest. Authors will be pointing people to their institutional repository and/or other open access copies, simply because this is more convenient.

For example, if I want to point people to all my recent works, I can do so with one link to the SFU Institutional Repository, at:

This is much more convenient for the author than assembling a list of links to a variety of publisher and conference websites. It's no wonder that the authors who publish the most are the first to move to self-archiving, as Dr. Swan's recent research has uncovered.

If a publisher were to provide me with a final proof-read copy, complete with bibliographic citation information and a link to the journal, that would be very convenient for me, and I would be very much inclined to submit this version to the IR.


Heather G. Morrison

They hang the man and flog the woman
That steal the goose from off the common.
But let the greater villain loose
That steals the common from the goose.
-Folk poem, circa 1764
from: David Bollier. Reclaiming the American Commons.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

Originally posted to the SPARC Open Access Forum, July 12, 2005.

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Resources & Tips For publishers

Announcing the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association

Competing in an open access environment: will the smalls have the advantage?. The relatively low costs per quality, particularly of the small, not-for-profit society publisher, suggest that such publishers could have the advantage in an open access environment.

Springer to acquired BioMedCentral. One of the really big STM publishers acquires a major open access publisher, as a smart business move.

Open Access Service Charges: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences. This journal charges according to the work required; authors can save money by submitting in the optimal format (Latex), and by following the technical specifications for either Latex or Word.

The Society for Reproduction and Fertility has developed a Free Access policy which is noteworthy for publishers considering a transition to open access. Highlights include re-use rights on payment of the Free Access fee, and an embargo of only 6 months for authors making use of the free self-archiving option.

Innovations at OA Publishers: Institutional Memberships, PLoS, and Hindawi

Copyright remains yours - Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers, 2000.
The copyright statement from the ALPSP, part of their Learned Publishing License to Publish, could stand as a role model for publishers today (2008). This statement clarifies authors' rights to reuse their own work, including posting on public servers such as institutional and disciplinary repositories, and clarifies the publisher's right to defend the intellectual property rights of authors.

Kudos to Oxford: Transitioning to Open Access. Oxford continues to lead the way for traditional publishers to transition to open access, providing discounts to authors of subscribing institutions, a new consortial author discount program, and fee adjustments reflecting open access charges revenue for the third year in a row.

Kudos: Nature Self-Archiving on Behalf of Authors

Nature Publishing Group has announced that they will archive for open access (with a 6-month embargo) on behalf of authors, to institutional or disciplinary repositories.

Publisher Best Practices for Self-Archiving Authors

Tip for publishers: author's final copy

Last updated August 5, 2005

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.

Creative Globalization

Blogposts with links on interesting projects, and Heather's own writings, relating to Creative Globalization:


OA and Global Science

Access to Knowledge (A2K) / WIPO Development Agenda
Internationally, the most creative globalization initiative I'm aware of is the Access to Knowledge (A2K) Treaty. The goal of A2K is "access to knowledge for all people".

In 2004, Brazil and Argentina led an initiative to move the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in the direction of a development agenda. The WIPO development agenda is supported by many countries and organizations. To find out what is going on, and how to support A2K as the world prepares for the fall 2005 WIPO General Assembly, go to the Access to Knowledge web page.

The Association of Research Libraries has posted Library Related Principles for the International Development Agenda of the World Intellectual Property Organization, a statement which has been endorsed by many library associations.

Thanks to Peter Suber's Open Access News for ongoing updates on the WIPO Development Agenda and A2K.

The African Commons Encyclopedia is a wiki-based "living conceptual map of the people, projects and processes that contribute to the development of shared, networked knowledge across the African continent." Thanks to Peter Suber's Open Access News, Sept. 1, 2005.

International cooperation & digital libraries
Sridhar, V., interview with David S. Magier. We need libraries more than ever Frontline, Volume 22 - Issue 17, Aug 13 - 26, 2005.
Excerpt: "The digital medium, particularly the Internet, offers new possibilities for scholars and library professionals. But this hinges crucially on international cooperation in preserving, conserving and organising library collections so that they can be shared by users globally. The Centre for South Asian Libraries (CSAL) is an example of such a collaborative venture. Unlike the colonial model, which resulted in collections being carted away from India, it works on the principle that by using digital technologies, material can be accessed by Western scholars without having to appropriate them physically. Sharing is thus a key word in this model.". Thanks to Peter Suber's Open Access News , Monday, August 15, 2005.

Transforming eScience to Inclusive Science: Open Access is the Key
Keynote by Subbiah Arunachalam, Creating the Information Commons for e-Science: Toward Institutional Policies and Guidelines for Action, Paris, Sept. 2005.

Global Scan on Open (Collaborative) Content Projects
Thanks to Peter Suber's Open Access News, Friday, Sept. 9, 2005.

Last updated October 15, 2006

This post reflects my personal opinion only and does not represent the opinions or policy of the BC Electronic Library Network or the Simon Fraser University Library.