Saturday, January 31, 2009

Calls for open access from Québec

Two recent calls for open access from Québec:

Jonathan Vianou, L'infrastructure technologique devra attendre, Le Devoir. (Merci a Olivier Charbonneau à In brief, this article comments on Harper's budget, strong on physical infrastructure but missing key elements: access to high-speed internet and open access to scientific and government information.

Stephane Couture. Pour l’accès libre à la connaissance scientifique. Alternatives.

Thanks to Gavin Baker on Open Access News.

This post is part of the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.

Who Knows Where the Next Great Idea will come from? Why open access to the world's collective knowledge is a great boon in tough times

These are indeed difficult times. Businesses built for the industrial age are failing; jobs and businesses are disappearing, tax revenue is down. What we need to do now is not to prop up the past, but rather to prepare for the future: the kinds of economics that will thrive in a greener and largely knowledge-based economy.

At a time like this, it is fortunate indeed that we already have open access to a considerable portion of the world's collective knowledge. We can readily share our scholarly knowledge with the developing world, at no cost. Many scholars in the developing world are freely sharing their knowledge through open access, and this is a very good thing, as the developing world has a bit of an advantage right now; they are used to having less money, and so have lots of ideas and incentive to develop the kinds of low-cost solutions that we in the developing world could use right about now. This topic is explored in more depth in my post Necessity is the Mother of Invention: Open Access, the Developing World, and the Cost-Effective Solution.

Through services like libraries, the Scientific Commons, Internet search engines, and the Directory of Open Access Journals, any bright person with no job but even as much as a modicum of curiosity can be learning, and many, I hear, are already doing so by returning to formal education. If even a small fraction of those in this situation focus on this learning, and a small fraction of this learning yields brilliant ideas for new ways of doing things, all it takes is a spark of an entrepreneurial spirit - and an open, neutral network - to get a start on the types of businesses that can sustain families and communities, or even thrive and grow into new economic engines.

Other thoughts to kickstart the new economy

In addition to an open internet, to kickstart this type of new business, it would be a good idea for governments examine how easy or difficult it is to start up a new business. While we all need protection from spam and fraud, it should be possible for an honest citizen to set up a new, simple web-based business to sell their own works or services and figure out how to pay their taxes, in just a few clicks. Maybe other countries have this figured out, but in Canada there are people with good ideas and business plans who are totally stymied but the apparently insoluble problem of how to start up a business and pay your taxes like a good citizen. Who knows, if this was made easy enough, I just might have IPJE Commercial (for t-shirt sales and stuff) up and running, already. Maybe I'd have enough sales to have to hire someone to help out.

Make microloans available. Sure, we'd all like to have big businesses employing lots of people in high-paying jobs, but let's not forget that may of these big businesses started out in someone's garage. And if all people want to do is to support or help support their families and communities, there is nothing wrong with that!

Support people who want to try out a micro-business idea. Look at this as a reasonable option for people on employment supports, especially in areas where there aren't a lot of immediate job prospects.

This post is a part of the Creative Globalization and Essential Efficiencies Series.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Wiley revenues increase 36% in 2008

From the Wiley Annual Report 2008 - To Our Shareholders:

Fiscal year 2008 was a transformative year, as reflected in Wiley’s record results. Revenue increased 36% over the previous year to $1.7 billion, up from $1 billion just two years ago.

According to the Wiley Vision, Wiley has achieved superior results and continues to grow by focusing on three overarching goals, the first of which is: Building long-term relationships with our customers.

This is good to hear! What library customers hard-hit by the financial crisis need right now is adjustment, such as lower subscription prices, as Norman Oder reports in Library Journal. With that kind of revenue, Wiley can certainly afford to help out!

An open net means open opportunity

Some economic speculation, from a poetic economist:

Now is the perfect time for an open internet, one that is characterized by net neutrality and ready access to a wealth of content that is freely shared. Why? An open internet means open opportunity, for the new types of businesses that will thrive in the coming economy, an economy that will be much more green and serve the needs of the emerging knowledge economy and society.

With broadband and an open internet, anyone whose job or business have been lost in the current economic crisis, with a bit of entrepreneurial spirit, has a ready means of starting up a new business with a potential global market. Some of these businesses will thrive, and create local jobs for those who are not so entrepreneurial by nature.

What do governments need to do to kickstart the new economy? Enact strong net neutrality legislation, so that the citizens and votes in your area have an equal opportunity to get started in a new business. Provide as much free content as possible; for example, make the information produced through government dollars available for free, so that everyone can explore the potential for new business ideas, or adding value and reselling the information.

Work to make sure that such new businesses can get the credit that they need. Governments and the financial industry should especially look to microloans, as there are likely very smart people who have suffered financial losses, but have great ideas to get new businesses started, with just a little help.

Speaking of help, there is a lot that could be done to make it easier to get a business set up, and figure out how to pay taxes. Why not have a simple webform to let people get set up with a new business in just a few clicks, and an ombudsman to help anyone who cannot get a business started because the government doesn't understand how the taxes would work?

If the current economic crisis gives a great many people reason to try out a new business idea, this is a good thing. At the very least, it gives everyone hope and at least a possibility to move forward from a difficult financial position. It seems reasonable, though, to speculate that if a great many new businesses get started, while some will no doubt fail, others will sustain families and communities, and a few will emerge as economic drivers in the years to come.

Friday, January 23, 2009

National Film Board makes films free online

From the CBC, excerpt:

The National Film Board of Canada has launched a new project to allow Canadians to see its films through online streaming.

Oscar winners such as 1952's Neighbours, 1977's I'll Find a Way and 2004's Ryan are among the more than 700 films now available for screening online at

The online screening room was created as part of a $1.3-million project to digitize the NFB's collection of historic films.

"This is part of our ongoing response to the digital revolution," NFB chair Tom Perlmutter said in an online news conference on Wednesday.

The NFB, which restructured its film programs over the past 18 months to free up resources for the digital project, plans to put 10 new films a month online.

Classics such as Mon Oncle Antoine and Nobody Waved Goodbye are free for online screening, along with pioneering animation by Norman McLaren and animated films such as The Big Snit and The Cat Came Back.

Hat tip to Michael Geist

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Will Canada seize the lead in the open access movement in the history books - or cede to the U.S.?

Canada has many reasons to claim early leadership in the open access movement. After all, of the 16 people at the Budapest Open Access Initiative, widely regarded as the world's first major defining moment of the open access movement, no less than 3 were Canadian - Jean Claude Guédon, Leslie Chan, and Stevan Harnad, world leaders of the open access movement all. The Canadian Association of Research Libraries was an early leader in conceptualizing and implementing a country-wide institutional repository program. The free, open source software used by thousands of open access journals around the world, Open Journal Systems, was developed at the University of British Columbia by John Willinsky. The Canadian Library Association has a leading-edge Position Statement on Open Access for Canadian Libraries.

Of Canada's three major national academic research granting agencies, ALL at the very least strongly support open access. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) has a Policy on Access to Research Outputs, expecting researchers to deposit results no later than 6 months from publication. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) adopted open access in principle in 2004, and has an Aid to Open Access Journals program. The National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is expected to announce an open access policy this March.

Canada could easily become the first country in the world to implement strong open access policies for all federally funded research, and rightfully claim our place in history as the leader in an emerging area that will become an important part of the world's history. But now that Obama has been inaugurated, we'd better act fast - or cede our leadership in this area to the U.S.

This post is part of the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.

Michael Geist calls on Canadian government to implement open access policies

Michael Geist calls on the Canadian government to implement open access policies in a Tyee article, Fire up the Digital Jobs Machine


Research infrastructure. Canada has steadily increased funding for primary research at universities and colleges across the country, yet it continues to lag in implementing policies to ensure that all Canadians have access to results of that publicly-funded research. Other countries, including the United States and the European Union, have moved toward mandated "open access" policies that link access to research funded by taxpayers.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research established an open access policy last year, but billions of research dollars are still spent in Canada without any guarantees of public access. Flaherty should use the budget to confirm the government's commitment to public funding for health, science and social science research, but require Canada's research agencies to implement open access policies that offer better hope for a return on the sizable investment.

This post is part of the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

OpenDOAR exceeds 1,300!

The repositories movement continues to grow, as illustrated by the vetted OpenDOAR (Directory of Open Access Repositories) achieving the milestone of more than 1,300 listings.

This is an increase of 283 repositories in 2008 for OpenDOAR, or a 28% increase.

My apologies for missing the OpenDOAR number in the Dec. 31, 2008 Dramatic Growth of Open Access. I'll add an estimate of 1,300, but if someone has a more accurate number, please let me know.

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Scholarly Publishers recognize the usefulness of Institutional Repositories

The International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers (STM) has openly released a BRIEFING DOCUMENT (FOR PUBLISHING EXECUTIVES) ON INSTITUTIONAL REPOSITORIES AND MANDATED DEPOSIT POLICIES. Thanks to STM and Michael Mabe for making this report openly accessible.

While there are certainly details in this document that I would take issue with, first I would like to reflect on the significance of one of the key points of the document: STM is recognizing the usefulness of the institutional repository, for public access! Following is the first paragraph, with footnotes inserted in square brackets and italics.

Scholarly publishers recognize that Institutional Repositories (“IRs”)[Defined broadly as repositories set up and maintained by universities and research institutions to post, for public access, information and data about research projects coordinated by their faculty and employees, which sometimes include versions of scholarly papers] serve a number of useful purposes for universities and research institutions. If properly conceived and executed, they can help disseminate knowledge and promote institutions to funding agencies and recruits. IRs can usefully highlight and capture the research output of the institution, identify and post theses, dissertations, research data, historical images and illustrations from institutional archives, and serve as vehicles for electronic course-packs. [It should be noted that most publishers already authorize institutions, directly or through copyright clearance/rights organizations like the CCC or the CLA, to post online course-packs].

Comment: this strikes me as significant, for two reasons. First, STM is agreeing that institutional repositories for public access are useful for disseminating knowledge and other purposes important to universities. This is an important philosophical point and milestone for open access, similar to publisher acceptance of OA per se as a philosophical ideal. Second, STM has indicated a willingness to participate in open discussion by posting this document. Language later in the document does not clearly support the arguments of this first paragraph; this suggests either some confusion, or a lack of consensus. Agreeing to post this openly may be an indication of a willingness to discuss the issues in a more open manner, a discussion that would be most welcome.

The point about coursepacks illustrates the value of further discussion. The emphasis on coursepacks here seems out of place, an answer to a question that has not been asked. That is, the focus of the open access movement is not coursepacks at all; if an item is publicly accessible through an IR, there isn't really a need to have another copy in a coursepack; all that is needed is a URL on a reading list. When publishers make items available for coursepacks through copyright clearance centres, this is paid, toll access, and so this is not relevant to a discussion of items publicly accessible in IRs. Also, many publishers do NOT allow online course-packs, even for subscribing libraries.

It seems likely that the reason coursepacks are brought up is financial in nature. Here, once again, it seems to me that open access is being mixed up (conflated) with the online environment per se. That reading list link can just as easily be to an article in an online subscription journal, as to an open access version in a repository.

It is a healthy thing to be talking about the economics of scholarly publishing, of course, but why talk about these economics as a whole? STM members who wish to raise concerns about the economics of scholarly publishing, should be honest and bring up their own bottom line - some of the members of STM enjoy profit margins of 30% or more, for example. If the goal is to ensure the health of scholarly publishing into the future, at a time of fiscal restraint, should we not be talking about dropping print and its associated costs? I discuss these kinds of issues in my series, Essential Efficiencies.

As for more detailed comments, I agree with what Peter Suber and Stevan Harnad have already said on this topic, and highly recommend reading their comments.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Molecular Biology of the Cell, or, Why Open Access by Article Processing Fee Sometimes Just Makes Sense

Re-analysis of data from the American Society for Cell Biology, publishers of the subscription-based Molecular Biology of the Cell, in MBC and the Economics of Scientific Publishing, illustrates how sometimes an article processing fee approach to open access, combined with dropping the print edition to focus on online, can be just a very natural fit. Given the current economic situation, now might be the perfect time to make the switch.

Currently at Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBC):
  • article processing fees constitute 61% of the journal's revenue (colour charges 35%, page charges 26%).
  • print costs (printing, binding, paper, mailing) are 32% of expenses
In other words, if MBC were to drop the print edition, then article processing fees are already covering all but 7% of the costs. That is, 100% of costs - 32% print costs - 35% colour charges - 26% page charges = 7%. Assuming that the 5% cost for reprints and some of the 6% costs for "other" are print-related, such as tracking subscriptions or managing authentication, then it is quite possible that article processing fees are already covering the full costs of an online-only open access version of MBC.

MBC readers and authors currently do enjoy some of the benefits of freee access through participation in PubMedCentral after a brief 2-month delay. A full shift to OA would mean the full benefits of immediate OA, preferably libre OA with a suitable open license, such as Creative Commons - Attribution (plus, optionally Noncommercial and/or Sharealike).

There is another benefit that would address a concern expressed by authors in the MBC survey. That is, authors are concerned about the cost of page and colour charges. Because of the print version, it is very likely that authors sometimes forego including valuable material for economic reasons. In an online-only environment, adding more pages, colour figures - even audiovisuals and research datasets - does not add costs as it does in the print environment. If MBC were to drop the print edition and switch to OA / online-only, it could immediately begin to do more for authors and for readers.

According to the Association's data, only a small percentage of readers really prefer and read the print. For these few readers, there are now print on demand services. As of 2007, it was still perceived as important to publish in a journal produced in print. This may still be the case, however the impact of the current economic crisis may help to explain to members and authors why it is essential at the present time to move to new, more efficient business models. One of the concerns members had about dropping print was archiving; it might be timely to raise awareness among members of the role of PubMedCentral in which MBC participates, as an archive of the world's medical literature, carrying on the tradition of the U.S. National Library of Medicine in the online environment.

Thanks to Heather Joseph via Peter Suber on Open Access News for the link to the article and background information.

This post is part of the Essential Efficiencies and Transitioning to Open Access series.