Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Call for withdrawal of labour from publishers in favour of the US Research Works Act

Gary Hall posts a call for withdrawal of labor from publishers in favour of the US Research Works Act, which would make it impossible for the U.S. government to require public access to the published results of research that it funds:

Among the publishers of critical and cultural theory on this list are:

Sage (who publish numerous journals in the area including Theory, Culture and Society and New
Media and Society)

Palgrave Macmillan (publisher of Feminist Review

Stanford University Press

Fordham University Press

Harvard University Press

NYU Press

Cambridge University Press

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Early draft of my thesis

An early draft of my dissertation, Freedom for Scholarship in the Internet Age, has been posted here: http://pages.cmns.sfu.ca/heather-morrison/open-thesis-draft-introduction-march-2011/

Friday, January 20, 2012

Nature Publishing Group - supports scholarship, not Research Works Act, SOPA or PIPA!

Awesome news from Nature Publishing Group - NPG does not support the anti-open access Research Works Act, SOPA or PIPA.

Among the traditional scholarly publishers, NPG has been an early leader in supporting open access - and standing up for scholarship against the inappropriate tactics of anti-open-access lobbyists.  In 2007, it was Jim Giles' article in Nature that exposed the hiring of PR pitbull Eric Dezenhall and his bizarre strategies such as linking open access with government censorship, and NPG was among the first to disavow support for the ludicrous, quickly doomed PRISM anti-OA coalition attempt.

NPG has also been an early leader in supporting NPG authors' desires for open access, such as actively encouraging author self-archiving and being among the first to begin to compete in the open access environment. Following is a list of links to previous posts about NPG on The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics. Kudos and thanks to NPG for being a stellar example of how a long-time traditional publisher can approach the process of transitioning to open access.

Opposition to open access continues, while anti-OA coalition attempt implodes

We all owe a debt of thanks to Nature and Jim Giles (and to those who leaked the documents) for releasing the story on the American Association of Publishers' hiring of PR pitbull Eric Dezenhall, who recommended bizarre strategies such as linking open access with government censorship and junk science, strategies which have been reflected in OA opposition efforts, including PRISM. The latest on this can be found on Open Access News.

Nature Publishing Group and Scientific Reports: getting serious about OA competition

Kudos: Nature self-archiving on behalf of authors

NEJM and Nature evolving toward open access

Thanks to NPG's Grace Baynes for the links to NPG statements on the Research Works Act, SOPA, and PIPA.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Monday, January 16, 2012

Elsevier: thy name is hypocrisy

The Elsevier Foundation just announced on the Liblicense list $650,000 in grants. Generous? Hang on a second - at the same time that the Elsevier Foundation is assessing medical library needs for an Eritrean future, helping Kenyan libraries serve health workers, and translating knowledge into practice for Uganda's rural health clinics, Elsevier is doing its utmost to take down PubMedCentral, which would be a tremendous loss of medical research information in the U.S. and everywhere else.

I must admit it is nice to see a little bit of graft money going to deserving folks in the developing world, and not all of it going to the likes of U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, but graft is graft, and Elsevier, thy name is hypocrisy.

When interpreting the enormous profits of STM publishers like Elsevier, it is important to take into account that the 36% profit margin comes AFTER graft pay-out, not before. This may help to explain how we can transition the whole of scholarly communication to a fully open access system - and save LOTS of money, too. Less than half of what we pay now, and up to 90% savings with a scholar-led system like most of the journals using Open Journal Systems.

A fully open access scholarly publishing system means that all of the Elsevier beneficiaries - and billions of others - will have access to all of the world's knowledge - and the opportunity to contribute, too. Let's not settle for a few crumbs, when all of us, everywhere, can have the whole pie, as is obviously doable when one copy of a scholarly work posted on the web is available to everyone, everywhere with an internet connection.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Illustrations of the global reach of the open access movement

These two charts illustrate the global reach of the open access movement. The first chart illustrates the regional breakdown of the 7,385 journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. Please see below for citation information. The second chart below is from OpenDOAR, illustrating the regional breakdown of open access repositories. Note that the percentages are roughly in the same ballpark for Europe (highest percentage, 40% range) and North America (second highest percentage, 20% range), while South America ranks third for open access journals and Asia for open access repositories. As further research, it might be interesting to compare these percentages with GDP or number of researchers. With a superficial glance, it looks to me like everyone around the world is contributing roughly their fair share of open access.

Citation & permissions

The OpenDOAR chart is a January 11, 2012 snapshot of this live updated chart, copied here for comparison purposes with the verbal permission of Peter Millington from a couple of years ago. Please cite OpenDOAR and see the OpenDOAR site / project for permissions. The DOAJ chart was developed from the DOAJ country statistics. As of January 10, 2012 (my time / note OpenDOAR is in a different time zone), DOAJ lists 117 countries. The chart and comments are my own, developed for my thesis. Please cite: Morrison, Heather (2012). Freedom for scholarship in the internet age. PhD Thesis (in progress). Retrieved from: http://pages.cmns.sfu.ca/heather-morrison/

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

Saturday, January 07, 2012

The enormous profits of STM scholarly publishers

The following paragraph is a synopsis of recent STM scholarly publisher profits - and increasing profits. This is part of my open thesis - please cite as: Morrison, Heather (2011). Chapter two: scholarly communication in crisis. Freedom for scholarship in the internet age. PhD Dissertation (in progress). http://pages.cmns.sfu.ca/heather-morrison/chapter-two-scholarly-communication-in-crisis/

All are in the for-profit sector, and the profits are enormous. As reported in the Economist (2011): “ Elsevier, the biggest publisher of journals with almost 2,000 titles, cruised through the recession. Last year it made £724m ($1.1 billion) on revenues of £2 billion—an operating-profit margin of 36%”. Springer’s Science + Business Media (2010) reported a return on sales (operating profit) of 33.9% or € 294 million on revenue of € 866 million, an increase of 4% over the profit of the previous year. In the first quarter of 2012, John Wiley & Sons (2011) reported profit of $106 million for their scientific, medical, technical and scholarly division on revenue of $253 million, a profit rate of 42%. This represents an increase in the profit rate of 13% over the previous year. The operating profit rate for the academic division of Informa.plc (2011, p. 4) for the first half of 2011 was 32.4%, or £47 million on revenue of £145 million, an increase of 3.3% over the profit of the previous year. 

Update January 19, 2012 - Simba Information reports 3.4% growth for STM in  2011 http://www.simbainformation.com/about/release.asp?id=2503

The knowledge commons: free resources & speaking notes for Tragedy of the Market - from Crisis to Commons

Free resources & speaking notes

For: Tragedy of the Market – from Crisis to Commons
Jan. 6 – 8, 2012
Unceded Coastal Salish Territory
Simon Fraser University Harbour Centre / Bonsor Community Centre Burnaby

Free resources


Directory of Open Access Journals
Over 7,000 fully open access, peer-reviewed scholarly journals

Open Access Archives

Bielefeld Academic Search Engine
Metasearch through over 30 million items from 2,000 contributors


Free indexing services, U.S. National Institutes of Health, links to millions of full free-text documents

Medline Plus
Consumer health information

arXiv (physics)  http://arxiv.org/
Research Papers in Economics (RePEC) http://repec.org/
E-LIS (library and information studies) http://eprints.rclis.org/

Open Education

Open Educational Resources Commons

Local resources

Public Knowledge Project
Free open source journal / conference publishing software

Ha-shilth-sa newsletter

BC Grasslands Magazine

University of British Columbia cIRcle

Simon Fraser University SUMMIT

U Vicspace

Post-colonial text

West Beyond the West (BC historical resources)
Speaking notes 

Tragedy of the Market: from Crisis to Commons
The Knowledge Commons: Heather Morrison

What is the knowledge commons, what do I study?

            My area of study is the knowledge commons. What I mean by the knowledge commons is basically the vision that all of the collective knowledge of humankind will one day be freely available to everyone, everywhere, through the internet. My specialty is open access to scholarly communication, the works of researchers who work in universities. I acknowledge that much, if not most, of the world’s knowledge was not created by people who work at universities. This is just what I study. First I will give a very brief overview of the history of enclosure in scholarly communication. Then, I have good news to share about the dramatic growth of open access, and the free scholarly resources already available. Links to the resources I talk about can be found from my blog, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics.

A brief history of scholarship in recent decades
            From the 1600s to the middle of the last century, almost all scholarly journals were published by scholarly societies. Beginning in the 1950’s and continuing to the present day, there has been a strong trend for scholarly publishing to be taken over by for-profit companies. The commercial sector has gone through mergers and acquisitions so that now close to half of the world’s scholarly journals are owned by just four companies.

Prices have risen so that university libraries and scholars can no longer afford to buy the knowledge they need, even at the world’s largest and wealthiest universities. This is particularly true in the areas that are seen as creating profits for our society, that is, science, technology and medicine or STM. The costs of STM journals have become so expensive that libraries have had to cut back on almost all other spending, so that there is almost no funding anymore for scholarly books, or humanities or social sciences journals.

This is an inelastic market. That means that it does not bounce with the conditions of the market. If a university’s researchers are doing research in STM, the universities have to buy the journals. In 2010, Elsevier, the largest of the scholarly publishers, made over $1 billion dollar in profits alone. This was 36% of their total revenues. This is normal for the large commercial scholarly publishers. 2010 was a time when many of the people who do the work – the writing and peer review - at no cost to these commercial publishers, were losing their jobs, taking unpaid furlough or otherwise trying to manage on less than full-time salaries.

The fundamental problem is enclosure of knowledge for the profits of the few. As Drahos & Braithwaite pointed out in their book, Information feudalism: who owns the knowledge economy?, traditionally, knowledge was seen as the classic public good, with two characteristics. Knowledge is nonrivalrous in nature – if I know something and you do too, this does not take away from my knowledge. Knowledge was also traditionally seen as non-excludable; there used to be no way to enclose knowledge, to stop people from knowing things. Now, with the latest in information technology and digital rights management, knowledge can be enclosed. As Drahos & Braithwaite point out, enclosable knowledge can be seen as the perfect commodity, precisely because it is nonrivalrous in nature. You can sell the same thing over and over, whether it’s an old Disney movie or a scholarly article, and you still have the item after the sale, to keep on selling over and over again.

Open access to scholarly knowledge

One of the remedies to enclosure of knowledge is open access. Open access, as defined by open access guru Peter Suber, is literature that is digital, online, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. There are two ways to make a work open access. One is by publishing open access in the first place. This is sometimes called the gold route to open access. The other way is to take a work published in the traditional way and put it in an archive for open access. This is sometimes called the green route to open access.

Dramatic growth of open access

The growth of open access in the last decade has been truly remarkable. There are now more than 7 thousand fully open access, scholarly peer reviewed journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals, or DOAJ, and DOAJ is growing by about 4 titles every day. DOAJ is a vetted list. Librarians at Lund University in Sweden look at every title submitted for the list to make sure they are fully open access, which means that they are free from the moment of publication, as well as whether the journal practices peer review or an equivalent form of academic quality control.

When you add in all of the journals that make their back issues freely available and the journals that are not peer-reviewed, the total is over 30,000 free journals, as tracked by the Electronic Journals Library. The Electronic Journals Library is a list collectively created by a consortium of libraries based in Europe.

Here in B.C. we have a smaller list of free journals which we call the CUFTS Free! Open Access Collections, with just over 12,000 titles, created by local librarians. There is an A to Z list and the titles can also be found through the OutLook database, which is available through your local university, college, or public library.

There are millions of items available through open access archives. The world’s largest open access archive is PubMedCentral, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health with branches in Canada and the U.K. The long-term goal is PubMedCentral International, with the world’s medical literature available in every country and every country contributing their knowledge to all. If you search through PubMed, the N.I.H.’s free indexing service to the medical literature, you will find that by two years after publication, about 20% of the world’s medical literature is now freely available. Many journals actively contribute their whole journals to PubMedCentral, and this is a growing tendency.

Another very large archive is arXiv, the physics archive. In high energy physics, by the time an article is published, most of the physics community interested in the topic have already read it, because the physicists put their working papers into arXiv even before they submit them for publication. arXiv was started by one physicist, Paul Ginsparg. For years, arXiv has been supported by Cornell University Library, and now arXiv is moving towards sustainable funding by having all of the libraries at universities that have very active physics programs contribute. They are not yet at 100%, but they do have more than 130 libraries contributing so far, and they are well on their way.

Research Papers in Economics or RePEC is a scattered archive managed by a global collaboration of volunteers in this area. E-LIS, the open archive for library and information studies, is similar in this respect. The server and a little bit of staff time are contributed by the CILEA library consortium in Italy. A team of over 60 volunteers from 6 contents gathers the documents and looks after the quality of metadata.

Historical resources are being digitized and put online. Here in BC, we have something called the West Beyond the West portal. Through this portal, you can search for digitized newspapers and photographs.  The Internet Archive, in cooperation with the Open Content Alliance, has been digitizing public domain books for year. There are now over 3 million texts freely available. The Internet Archive also features movies and audio, some old and some that are being contributed today by contemporary creators. The Europeana project aims to digitize and make available all of Europe’s cultural heritage.

Open education is taking off. MIT was a leader in this area, making all of their courses freely available. Recently, MIT announced an initiative called MITx, which provides a means for people to take the MIT courses online on their own, and then go to MIT for exams and to obtain a credential – not quite the same as an MIT degree, but much better than not being able to afford an education.

Resources available

That’s the big picture. Some of the local resources available include the open access archives at UBC, called cIRcle, where UBC students and researchers are beginning to share their work; at SFU, there is a similar service called SUMMIT, and at U Vic, it’s UVicspace.

There are many open access journals produced locally, such as the Journal of Post-Colonial Texts founded by Dr. Ranjini Mendes of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. 

There are journals and magazines produced locally by people who may or may not be university-trained scholars that are shared openly by people who are seeking the truth, and these are very important to the knowledge commons. One example is the Ha-shilth-Sa newsletter developed by the Nuu-chalth-nuth tribal council, and the BC Grasslands Magazine, produced by a group dedicated to conservation of grasslands. 
The struggle continues – the challenges of success

Although there is much good news to share, I would not want to underestimate the challenges that lie before us. Scholars are still in a system that drives them to publish in journals owned by for-profit companies to obtain job security and advance in their careers. As I mentioned earlier, the profits of these companies have not diminished at all, and in some cases are still increasing. The very success of the open access movement to date is creating challenges, from my perspective. We are now seeing some of the commercial publishers shift from fighting open access to beginning to compete for what they must see as an open access marketplace. This may liberate more knowledge, but it is troubling to see companies competing for open access when at the same time they are still lobbying for laws that would further enclose knowledge. For example, Nature Publishing Group has a number of open access initiatives, while its parent company, Macmillan, is lobbying for the Stop Online Piracy Act in the U.S.

We are also beginning to see the entrance of new scholarly publishers. Some of these new entrants are, or have the capacity to become, producers of high quality scholarly publishing. However, there are also what appears to be scam artists taking advantage of scholars who want to make their work open access. Jeffrey Beall has started a list of Predatory Open Access Publishers to raise awareness about these practices.

On the other hand, scholarly publishing in spite of the high profits remains largely a gift economy. Scholars continue to give away their journal articles and their peer reviewing services for free. Scholarly societies are still involved in publishing close to half of the world’s scholarly journals, and could thrive into the future with a little bit of support. The Public Knowledge Project, initiated by John Willinsky at UBC with the lead development work now happening at SFU Library, is one source of such support, developing the free, open source Open Journal Systems used by more than 10,000 journals around the world, most of which are scholar-led, free or open access journals.

In spite of the current challenges, overall I think that open access to scholarly knowledge has much to offer the commons as a whole, for two reasons. First, there are the scholarly resources that are now available. Second, there is the success of the movement on a global scale; hopefully there are lessons learned from this that will be of benefit to building the commons in other areas of life. 
Thank you for listening!

Drahos, P., & Braithwaite, J. (2002). Information feudalism: Who owns the knowledge
 economy?. London: Earthscan.
Economist (2011). Of goats and headaches: One of the best media businesses is also one
of the most resented. Retrieved September 25, 2011 from http://www.economist.com/node/18744177/ (Elsevier profits)
Morrison, H. Retracting recommendation of Nature’s Scientific Reports. The Imaginary
Journal of Poetic Economics. Retrieved Jan. 4, 2011 from http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.com/2012/01/retracting-recommendation-of-natures.html
(explains Nature – Macmillan and Stop Online Piracy Act, with links)

Heather Morrison, M.L.I.S., Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
hgmorris at sfu dot ca

Creative Commons License
Knowledge Commons by Heather Morrison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada License.
Based on a work at poeticeconomics.blogspot.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.com/2011/12/education-is-public-good-not-commercial.html.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Public access to research reports not peer-reviewed research: two major flaws in the argument

Updated January 6 - now four major flaws

David Wojick at the Scholarly Kitchen argues for public access to research reports, not peer-reviewed articles. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with open access policy, note that this comes in the context of the recent revelation that the American Association of Publishers is lauding the Research Works Act which would forbid any U.S. federal funding agency from requiring public access to the results of research that it funds. For a synopsis of what is wrong with the bill and actions to fight it, see the Alliance for Taxpayer Access site. 

Four major flaws with the public access to research reports, not peer-reviewed articles argument

The world does not consist only of scholars / researchers and some great unwashed "public"

Public access expands access to everyone, everywhere. For example, with medical research, public access means access for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals, as well as social workers, teachers at all levels, journalists, entrepreneurs and other businesspeople, as well as volunteers and community-based researchers. A large percentage of "the public" in modern society has some level of post-secondary education. And there are many people without much formal education who have found reasons to teach themselves. If there is a problem people are trying to solve, or people are looking for new business ideas, they may well be motivated to learn enough to understand the scholarly literature. For more on this, see this article Andrew Waller & I wrote on this in the Letter of the LAA: http://eprints.rclis.org/handle/10760/6842#.TwfmcyNLDNI

Intellectual freedom

Setting aside the question of whether the public can easily read the scholarly literature, a more essential matter is the fact that it is the individual's right to choose. If a patient wants consumer literature, they can go to their public library. If they want to read the actual research articles, this is their right.

Requiring more writing of researchers

Part of this argument involves more writing time for these research reports on the part of researchers. This is interesting - now scholarly publishers are now satisfied with authors giving them their work, but rather they wish to assign extra work to the researchers. If scholarly societies are advancing this argument, I would assume that they have not checked in with their members on this, as members will often be the ones required to do the extra work. Similarly, at university presses - since when does a university press have a right to assign duties to faculty? And as for commercial publishers - wow, they would have a lot of nerve to ask this!

If the services of scholarly journals publishers are not all that important, why not do away with them altogether?

The scholarly publishers who are floating this idea really ought to give this a bit more thought. If it is just fine to provide the public with results of research in a form that is not peer-reviewed, why not everyone else? That is to say, if peer review is not that important, according to the people who coordinate peer review for a living - then perhaps we can do without? That would save an awful lot of money. The Houghton studies in the U.K. found that the most cost savings with a transition to open access would come with a transformative system building peer review on top of articles in repositories and doing away with journals altogether. Costs reported are (the subscription model is with green open access):
  • £230 million to publish using the subscription model,
  • £150 million to publish under the open access model and
  • £110 million to publish with the self-archiving with peer review services plus some £20 million in operating costs if using the different models.
In other words, a peer review overlay system built on repositories would cost less than half the costs of the current subscriptions model. And this system does include peer review! So if the peer review that scholarly journal publishers isn't important enough to be required as part of an open access policy, then perhaps the best approach is to scrap - not the policy, but the journal system altogether. This would give significant economic relief to universities around the world struggling with the current difficult economic climate.

This post is public domain for open access advocacy purposes.

Open Government Consultation - my response

Here is my response to Canada's Open Government Consultation. Please note that responses are due by January 16, 2011!

Open Government Consultation – Response from Independent Scholar

First, congratulations and kudos to the Government of Canada for actively participating in the Open Government movement, and for providing this opportunity for citizens to be involved in this consultation. I speak as an independent scholar and librarian.

Open data

The keys to making open data as useful as it could be are to use open and interoperable formats and best practices for licensing. Because both are evolving, my suggestion is to just get the data up there and available with the best format and license for now, realizing that worldwide standards are likely to change over the next few years.

Opendata.bc provides a widely recognized good model for licensing of open data http://www.opendatabc.ca/

The European Commission’s Open Data Strategy is one that I recommend consulting:

My interests cover the range of scholarly knowledge; any and all of the open data sets mentioned would be most helpful.

In addition, I would strongly suggest that datasets resulting from research funded by Canada’s federal funding agencies be required to be made openly available as soon as possible after collection, with appropriate privacy safeguards in the case of research involving human subjects.

Open Information

It is timely for the government to expand the agenda-setting Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Policy on Access to Research Outputs to all federal research funding agencies. Research funded by the Canadian taxpayer should be freely available to all. The optimum mandate would require deposit of the author’s final peer-reviewed research scholarly articles into an open access archive at a university (and/or PubMedCentral Canada), immediately on acceptance for publication. In the short term, an embargo date of up to 6 months might be set to allow scholarly publishers time to adjust to the growing environment of open access in scholarly communication.

As a librarian, I know that reports commissioned by the Government of Canada and information submitted to Parliament by departments and agencies often contain essential research or other information (that’s why these reports get funded in the first place), that are useful far beyond the original reason for commissioning the reports. To get full value from these reports, these reports should retained, archived, and made accessible. Ideally, today, this means putting the reports online for open access. Librarians are uniquely skilled in collecting such reports, preservation, and making the works accessible online, by providing expert metadata, and assistance to researchers. I urge the federal government to encourage and help its libraries to transition to a role of providers of information online. 

Open Dialogue

In 2010, I actively participated in the consultation on Canada’s Digital Economy Strategy, and commented at the time that this is an enlightened approach.

For someone like me, it is reasonably easy to find out about and participate in these sorts of consultations. However, I am a scholar whose work is closely related to the internet and public policy; I am often on the web and on the alert for messages about such consultations, and have a strong background for participation. I am not sure that all of this is true for most people in Canada, or would even be true for me at a different stage in life.  What I see as needed is active outreach. People need to understand the issues before they can provide fully informed opinions. Web-based consultations need to provide a means for people without ready access to the internet at home to participate. Public libraries can play an important role in this arena. We need to keep in mind that not every community is connected to the internet; other means are needed to engage these citizens.

Final Comments: Open Government Strategy

Are there approaches used by other governments that you believe the Government of Canada could / should model?

Yes! The United States has provided the whole world with an outstanding example in the freely available PubMed index and PubMedCentral fulltext archive. PubMed is the world’s premiere medical index; as recently as the 1990’s, I worked at a library at a small university college in Canada that could not afford to purchase access to what was then called Medline. Today, this index is freely available, around the world, to anyone with an Internet connection. Thanks to the policies of medical research funding agencies (including the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Wellcome Trust, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, among many others), requiring public access to the results of research that they fund, 20% of the world’s medical literature is now freely available within two years of publication. This expanded access makes an enormous difference in finding solutions to medical problems. I am proud that Canada is one of the first countries to participate in the envisioned PubMedCentral international, through PMC-Canada.

As mentioned above, I recommend looking at:

Also, the City of Vancouver’s Open Data initiative:

Again, thanks for the opportunity to participate.

Heather Morrison
Vancouver, BC
Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

Privacy note: the above links are to publicly available sites.

This is a response to the Canadian government’s Open Government Consultation http://open.gc.ca/index-eng.asp

January 6, 2012

Have many not-for-profit scholarly publishers joined the private sector? If so, has anyone checked their tax status lately?

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) Applaud the “Research Works Act,” Bipartisan Legislation To End  Government Mandates on Private-Sector Scholarly Publishing - details here: http://publishers.org/press/56/

This is an awful bill, which would prevent the U.S. government from requiring public access to research funded by the U.S. public. For details and action steps, see the Alliance for Taxpayer Access site

Among the members of the AAP are many traditional not-for-profit publishers, such as scholarly societies and university presses. If they are now claiming, through AAP, to be private-sector publishers, does this mean their not-for-profit status has changed? If so, has anyone checked their tax status lately?

Yet another reason for such publishers to denounce the AAP's stand and distance themselves from AAP until such time as AAP  stops supporting this move against the public interest.

 This post is public domain to open access advocates.

Cengage Learning VERSUS the free web and public access to research funded by the public

Dear Cengage: consider this a wake-up call. Your library customers care very much about access to information and freedom of information. Please retract your support of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) as soon as possible, and denounce the actions of your membership association, the Association of American Publishers, in supporting the Research Works Act which, if passed, would be a significant blow to dissemination of research funded by the public in the public interest.

Dear Cengage customers: note that Cengage's major competitors are not on the list of SOPA supporters or members of the Association of American Publishers. Please consider adding support for fair and balanced copyright law to your list of required criteria for acquisitions.  

Cengage Learning (also known as Gale) is among the supporters of the Stop Online Piracy Act, arguably the worst thing ever to happen to the internet, as explained by gizmodo

Cengage Learning is also one of the members of the Association of American Publishers which lauds the Research Works Act, which would forbid the U.S. government to require public access to the results of research that it funds. If passed, this bill would be a huge blow to the public interest. For details and action, see the Alliance for Taxpayer Access site

Cengage Learning is a major supplier of information to libraries. The information resources actually produced by Cengage are works for hire, such as the Dictionary of Literary Biography, which are not at all affected by funding agencies public access requirements. Cengage does absolutely none of the actual work involved in coordinating peer review and copyediting of scholarly works.

Unlike commercial scholarly publishers, Cengage works in the area of aggregation, and has major competitors. I am not seeing the names of Cengage competitors on the list of SOPA supporters or AAP members.

Comments from Cengage Learning are most welcome, and will be published here if received. Please send via e-mail to hgmorris at sfu dot ca

Dear Judy Garber, President, American Association of Cancer Research, and Frank McCormick, President-Elect

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

This is a call for the American Association of Cancer Research to remember your purpose: helping the millions of people around the world who suffer and die from cancer, and the doctors and researchers who dedicate their lives to helping them. Please denounce the Research Works Act, which would greatly limit dissemination of literature on cancer, and the Association of American Publishers for supporting this.  

The Association of American Publishers, an association of which AACR is a member, has just lauded the Research Works Act http://www.publishers.org/press/56/

The Research Works Act would harm the basic mission of AACR to "prevent and cure cancer", by preventing policies requiring free dissemination of publicly funded works. I call on AACR to publicly denounce this action on the part of AAP and suspend its membership until such time as AAP reverses its position. If this action is not taken, AACR's basic mission is no longer "prevent and cure cancer through research, education, communication and collaboration", but rather  "publishing profits above all else". 

What the Research Works Act would do would be to force the U.S. government to take down PubMedCentral and the N.I.H. Public Access Policy which has been so effective in making more than 20% of the world's medical literature freely available. This would be a huge loss in access to information for researchers, doctors and patients, and is in direct contradiction to the mission of AACR, as stated on the AACR website

The misson of AACR on your website this morning does not say: defending the interests of the private sector in the publishing industry, but rather the following. The portions of your mission directly contradicted by support for the Research Works Act are bolded. 
The mission of the AACR is to prevent and cure cancer through research, education, communication, and collaboration. Through its programs and services, the AACR fosters research in cancer and related biomedical science; accelerates the dissemination of new research findings among scientists and others dedicated to the conquest of cancer; promotes science education and training; and advances the understanding of cancer etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment throughout the world.
Judy Garber, as a Professor of Medicine at Harvard, please note that this action of the part of AACR is in direct contradiction to recent support by Harvard University for open access to scholarly information. Frank McCormick, remember that the University of California, like many universities around the world, is facing financial difficulties - this action could result in loss of access for the researchers, practitioners, and patients your comprehensive care centre is meant to serve.

Following is a repeat of a portion of my original "in lieu of flowers" message, sent in July of 2005 and posted to The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics. I have never received a response to this open letter. Since 2005, the growth of fully open access publishing has been absolutely phenomenal.  Both not-for-profit and commercial publishers are earning healthy surpluses or profits from fully open access publishing. There is nothing at all stopping AACR from adopting an open access approach that would sustain AACR publishing without damaging the basic mission of preventing and curing cancer.

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. [2012 note: since the time of this writing, my own country, Canada, has begun participating in PubMedCentral international, and we are contributing our own research to PMC through PMC-Canada].

Disclosure: my personal interests in this matter are that of an advocate for open access to scholarly communications, and (like the majority of humans on this planet), a member of a family and network of friends who have directly experienced the devastation of cancer.

best wishes,

Heather Morrison, MLIS
Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

Open access advocates please consider this letter as public domain to you -  attribution optional.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Why bother with all the work? Wouldn't a gimme money law be more to the point?

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) is trying to convince U.S. Congress that the whole point of federal research funding is so that they can make a profit from selling the written results in the form of journal articles.

Another way of expressing this is, if the U.S. National Institutes of Health funds a study aiming to cure cancer, the point is not so much curing the cancer, as making sure that AAP members' pockets are filled. It's not even about profit per se, as this bill would diminish the likelihood of medical services providers making money from providing services that actually help people to combat cancer.

I believe in honest, open, and transparent government. In a democracy, that means all of us - democracy is government by the people, for the people. So I call on AAP to be honest and ask that the bill be retitled, from "Research Works Act" to a "Gimme Money Act, Association of American Publishers". It is quite possible that we all could save money by just plain buying them off. Sure, it might cost a lot - but at least they wouldn't be able to stop progress by locking up the results of research funded by the public.

The Association of American Publishers Applaud “Research Works Act,” Bipartisan Legislation To End Government Mandates on Private-Sector Scholarly Publishing

Any posts I write on this topic are completely free for re-use with or without attribution by colleagues working for open access to scholarly research.

Publishers Applaud “Research Works Act,” Bipartisan Legislation To End Government Mandates on Private-Sector Scholarly Publishing

The Association of American Publishers Applaud “Research Works Act,” Bipartisan Legislation To End Government Mandates on Private-Sector Scholarly Publishing

Question: will the U.S. public launch a few massive class action suits against publishers for shutting down access to information that can help patients and doctors, develop green energy and new business innovation?

Monday, January 02, 2012

Elsevier wants to shut down the free web. Scholars and librarians - time to shut down Elsevier instead?

Elsevier is one of the companies on gizmodo's list of companies supporting the Stop Online Piracy Act, arguably the worst proposal to date for the internet, allowing a company to shut down whole services based on a single claim of infringement.

Until Elsevier publicly disavows support for SOPA, I recommend that all authors stop contributing to SOPA, and that librarians rank all Elsevier products highly on their cancellation lists. Perhaps university academic freedom committees should direct libraries to cancel all purchases and subscriptions from publishers supporting this move which would in effect be censorship and hence completely inconsistent with academic freedom?

For more on the academic wing of the efforts to STOP SOPA Supporters, see this post.

Following is my letter to the Elsevier contact helpfully provided by gizmodo. Librarians and scholars - please get in touch with the Elsevier rep of your choice. 

dear T. Reller of Elsevier,

The Stop Online Piracy Act is arguably the worst possible proposal for the internet. SOPA is inconsistent with academic freedom. Any company that supports SOPA does not deserve the support of the academic community. Please stop supporting SOPA. I strongly recommend public disavowal of support. Until Elsevier takes this action, I recommend that authors, editors, and reviewers stop contributing to Elsevier, and that librarians rank Elsevier highly on their cancellation lists.

cordially yours,

Heather Morrison
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics
with link to this post

Added Jan. 2 - see also BoingBoing 

Update January 2: have the SOPA supporters even thought this through? Wouldn't this mean that the Elsevier presence in the U.S. could be stopped on the basis of one claim of copyright infringement on the Elsevier website? 

UPDATE! Retracting Retraction recommendation of Nature's Scientific Reports

Update January 20, 2012. I am delighted to report that Nature Publishing Group has clarified that they do not support SOPA, PIPA, or the anti-OA lobbying effort called the Research Works Act.

This post is retained for historical purposes.

Recently I pointed to Nature Publishing Group's Scientific Reports as a good example for Creative Commons licensing. Today, I found out that Macmillan, owner of NPG, is actively supporting the U.S. based Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), arguably the worst thing ever proposed for the Internet, as reported by the U.S. Congress via gizmodo

My recommendation of NPG as a good model for CC licensing is hereby retracted. No company involved in lobbying for greater copyright restrictions can be considered a good model. My current recommendation is for authors to stop publishing with NPG, and librarians please rank NPG and other Macmillan products on your cancellation lists, until such time as Macmillan publicly disavows support for SOPA.

Consumer action against SOPA is critical - librarians and scholars, note the publishers involved and TELL THEM TO STOP SUPPORTING SOPA!

Update - contact information for the Nature Publishing Group Executive Committee can be found here

Protect the internet against censorship! Stop the Stop Online Piracy act - some tips for all of us

Consumer action urgently required to help stop the Stop Online Piracy Act - arguably the worst thing every proposed for the internet. Librarians and scholars take note: there are publishers on the list of SOPA supporters helpfully provided by the U.S. Congress through gizmodo. These include Elsevier, Macmillan (owner of Nature Publishing Group, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Educational, Pearson Educational, and Wolters Kluwers Health, to name a few. So far consumer action has helped to convince godaddy, sony and nintendo to drop out of the list of SOPA supporters!  Gizmodo has helpfully provided contact information for all SOPA supporters.  While political advocacy may be best left to U.S. citizens, all of us can participate in consumer advocacy!

Excerpt from Ars Technica
Imagine a world in which any intellectual property holder can, without ever appearing before a judge or setting foot in a courtroom, shut down any website's online advertising programs and block access to credit card payments. The credit card processors and the advertising networks would be required to take quick action against the named website; only the filing of a "counter notification" by the website could get service restored.
Update January 2: have the SOPA supporters even thought this through? Wouldn't this mean that the Elsevier presence in the U.S. could be stopped on the basis of one claim of copyright infringement on the Elsevier website? 

Copyright remains yours? better read the fine print

This statement about author copyright from the IOS Press Author Copyright Agreement page is an excellent example of why scholarly authors should beware the phrase "copyright remains yours", and read the fine print. What IOS Press is saying is that copyright remains yours, but you may not give your work away. To post your own work in an open access archive, you must pay! Otherwise, others must pay for your work. Educational use at your own institution is okay, but any other educational institution must pay IOS Press - and notice that they are not telling the author how much they are charging. For some examples of just how much this practice costs educational institutions, please see my recent posts open access to save costs for teaching and learning and selling out feminism: 100 copies for $3,607. I highly recommend avoiding publishers with such policies. Scholars, let us not give such publishers our work as authors, reviewers, or editors. 

Excerpt from the IOS Press Author Copyright agreement:

Copyright remains yours, and we will acknowledge this in the copyright line that appears on your article. You also retain the right to use your own article (provided you acknowledge the published original in standard bibliographic citation form) in the following ways, as long as you do not sell it in ways that would conflict directly with our efforts to disseminate it.
  1. You are free to use the manuscript version of your article for internal, educational or other purposes of your own institution or company;
  2. You may use the article, in whole or in part, as the basis for your own further publications or spoken presentations;
  3. For a fee of €100, you will have the right to mount the final version of your article as published by IOS Press on your own, your institution’s, company’s or funding agency’s website. You can order this right together with the final published version of your article with the form sent to the corresponding author along with the proofs of your paper.