News for the University of Illinois Community

October 19, 2010

Former NIH Director Touts Benefits of Open Federal Science

Reposted from:

Former National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Harold Varmus touts the benefits of open science in a new video released for Open Access Week (Oct. 18-24, 2010).

In the video, Varmus calls open access, or free online access to scientific papers, an "incredibly important development in the history of science." Open access, he says, "has changed science in a very beneficial way, saved money, and increased the quality of what we do."

Varmus currently serves as director of the National Cancer Institute, an institute of the NIH. He served as NIH director under President Clinton and formerly served as co-chair of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. For his pioneering cancer research, Varmus received the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

As NIH director, Varmus laid the foundation for PubMed Central, a free repository of medical research hosted by NIH's National Library of Medicine. Today, NIH funds $31 billion in medical research. In 2007, Congress required that NIH-funded scientists post papers resulting from NIH funding on PubMed Central for free public access.

The Federal Research Public Access Act, now pending in the House and Senate, would expand that mandate to all federally-funded research. Introducing the bill in 2009 with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said, "Our legislation would give the American people greater access to the important scientific research they help fund, which will accelerate scientific discovery and innovation, while also making sure that funding is being spent appropriately to ensure taxpayers are receiving a return on their research investments."

(Gavin Baker 10/18/10)

Posted by Katie Newman at 1:59 PM

July 20, 2010

Public Access to Publicly Funded Research Bill Update

House committee to hold hearing on public access to publicly funded research
Support for public access expands in Congress

Washington, DC – The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census and National Archives announced it will hold a hearing on the issue of public access to federally funded research on Thursday, July 29. The hearing will provide an opportunity for the Committee to hear the perspectives of a broad range of stakeholders on the potential impact of opening up access to the results of the United States’ more than $60 billion annual investment in scientific research.

The Subcommittee’s interest stems from the growing number of visible expressions of interest in the issue of public access that have surfaced in recent months, in both the Legislative and Executive branches of government. Notably, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy earlier this year hosted a Public Access Policy Forum on mechanisms that would leverage federal investments in scientific research and increase access to information.

Additionally, H.R. 5037, the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which was introduced into the House on April 15 by Rep. Mike Doyle (R-PA) and is supported by a growing bi-partisan host of cosponsors, was referred to the Committee. The bill, and its identical Senate counterpart (introduced by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX)), proposes to require those eleven federal agencies with extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to implement policies that deliver timely, free, online public access to the published results of the research they fund.

According to the notice:

“The hearing will examine the state of public access to federally-funded research in science, technology, and medicine. The hearing will assess and delineate the complex issues surrounding public access policies. The hearing will afford an opportunity for representatives from the areas of publishing, science and research, education and patient care to provide perspective on challenges, potential impact and opportunities regarding increased access.”

This open, public hearing will be held Thursday, July 29, at 2:00 PM in Rayburn House Office Building, room 2154.

“We are pleased that the Committee is creating this opportunity to shine a light on the issue of public access and examine the opportunities and implications it presents in an open, public forum,” said Heather Joseph, spokesperson for the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and Executive Director of SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition). “This is an issue of deep importance to a wide range of stakeholders – from scientists to students, entrepreneurs to educators, publishers and the public. We welcome this chance for a diverse array of viewpoints on the issue to be heard.”

The growing interest in exploring effective public access policies in the U.S. reflects a larger worldwide trend. Around the globe, national and non-profit funding agencies are recognizing the opportunity to increase the return on their research grants by requiring that findings be made freely accessible on the Internet.

For more information about the issue of public access to publicly funded research, the Federal Research Public Access Act, and other public access policies, visit

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access (ATA) is a coalition of patient, academic, research, and publishing organizations that supports open public access to the results of federally funded research. The Alliance was formed in 2004 to urge that peer-reviewed articles stemming from taxpayer-funded research become fully accessible and available online at no extra cost to the American public. Details on the ATA may be found at

Jennifer McLennan
Director of Programs & Operations
(202) 296-2296 x121
Fax: (202) 872-0884

Posted by Katie Newman at 4:13 PM

April 7, 2010

Ithaka Faculty Survey, 2009

Food for Thought...

From Inside Higher Ed:
"Eroding Library Role?"

If libraries do not seriously rethink their role in the lives of researchers, they could come to be seen as resource purchasers more than as research collaborators, according to a report released today by the nonprofit group Ithaka S+R.

As scholars have grown better able to reach needed materials directly online, the library has been increasingly disintermediated from research processes, write the authors of the report, which is based on a national survey of professors administered last year.

The declining visibility and importance of traditional roles for the library and librarian may lead to the faculty primarily perceiving the library as a budget line, rather than an active intellectual partner, they later add.
Read on...

See also, from the Chronicle...

"Scholars Increasingly Embrace Some, but Not All, Digital Media"

The more things change, the more they remain the same­ at least when it comes to certain aspects of scholarly behavior, such as what modes of publication researchers prize most.

According to new survey findings, scholars in all disciplines are ever more comfortable using research materials online. In sharing and publishing their research, however, scholars remain most strongly influenced by their disciplines' old models of status, tenure, and promotion.

A report on the findings, "Faculty Survey 2009: Key Strategic Insights for Libraries, Publishers, and Societies" gives detailed responses from 3,025 scholars at institutions across the country. It focuses on three areas: how faculty members use and perceive their campus libraries; how they are handling the print-to-digital shift in scholarly work; and how much they have or have not changed their professional habits in an increasingly electronic environment. It was prepared for the Ithaka group, a nonprofit organization that promotes technology in higher education, by Roger C. Schonfeld, manager of research at Ithaka's strategy-and-research arm, and Ross Housewright, an analyst there. The new report is the latest installment that presents findings from a survey Ithaka has conducted every three years for the past decade.
Read on..

The full Ithaka report: "Faculty Survey 2009"

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:35 AM

February 1, 2010

Electronic Deposit of Dissertations and Theses a Success!

As many of you know, the U of Illinois Graduate College, in collaboration with IDEALS, offered optional Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) deposit to the entire campus for December graduation. IDEALS implemented a system called Vireo that was developed by the Texas Digital Library to manage this process.

This pilot was a enormous success - of the 262 total deposits, 223 were through the ETD system - 85%!

Students had three access options:
- 62% chose to make their dissertation or thesis openly available immediately;
- 22% chose to limit access to the University of Illinois for two years; and
- 16% chose to limit access completely for two years.

We're happy to announce that all electronic theses and dissertations deposited during this period are available now in IDEALS. All ETD's (except those under a patent hold) can be found in the Dissertations and Theses community within IDEALS:

Due to electronic deposit we have been able to make available the December deposits before the August and October deposits (which are all in paper) have even been processed!

Each dissertation or thesis is also mapped to a Department or College level collection. For example:

- Education -
- History -
- Animal Sciences -
- Civil and Environmental Engineering -

Our next steps are to work to get these into our Online Catalog, and to send the dissertations on to ProQuest Digital Dissertations.

Within the next month or so, we will also be releasing an update to IDEALS that will allow you to search by department or adviser (or other committee member).

Please let me know if you have any questions. Special thanks go to Tim Donohue, Bill Ingram, Nicholas Riley (our technical GA), Steve McCauley (the IDEALS GA), Merinda Hensley, and, of course, our colleagues at the Graduate College - Rebecca Bryant and Mark Zulauf - for making this a smooth and straightforward process.

Sarah L. Shreeves
IDEALS Coordinator
Scholarly Commons Coordinator
University Library
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Posted by Katie Newman at 11:56 AM

January 12, 2010

Call To Support Public Access to Federally Funded Research

 ACRL and ALA call for increased public access to federally funded research

Associations encourage members to do likewise by Jan. 21

 WASHINGTON, D.C.– The American Library Association (ALA) and the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) today submitted comments to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) supporting increased public access to research funded by federal science and technology agencies.

 The ALA and ACRL have long believed that ensuring public access to the fruits of federally funded research is a logical, feasible, and widely beneficial goal. They provided information and evidence as the Executive Branch considers expanding public access policies, like that implemented by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to other federal agencies. Specifically, the ALA and ACRL recommend: which agencies should be covered, that policies should be mandatory, that earlier access is better, version and format recommendations, how to keep implementation costs reasonable, and the importance of supporting emerging scholarly practice.

 While greater access to publicly funded research has long been a high priority issue for academic libraries, ACRL President Lori Goetsch, Dean of Libraries at Kansas State University, emphasized that now is the time for public and school librarians to tell their stories.

 “What would it mean for members of your community to have better access to scholarly, scientific, and technical articles – paid with their own tax dollars through grants from agencies like NASA or the EPA?” Goetsch said. “How would it help small business owners starting up green technology companies? How would it help enhance teaching and learning in high schools?”

 In the past, the ALA and ACRL have supported NIH Public Access Policy and endorsed “The Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009” (S. 1373) noting the latter, “reflects ALA policy regarding access to Federal government information by providing for the long-term preservation of, and no-fee public access to, government-sponsored, tax-payer funded published research findings.”

 The ALA and ACRL encourage all members to consider making comments, no later than January 21, 2010, to OSTP as individuals or libraries. Find more information on the OSTP Public Access Policy blog at and post comments there directly. Comments e-mailed to are also accepted, but may be posted to the blog by the moderator. General comments, addressing any part of the Request for Information, may be submitted. See the full notice Federal Register notice at for details.


 The American Library Association (ALA) is a nonprofit professional organization of more than 65,000 librarians, library trustees, and other friends of libraries dedicated to providing and improving library services and promoting the public interest in a free and open information society.

 ACRL is a division of the American Library Association (ALA), representing nearly 13,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals. ACRL is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to meet the unique needs of academic and research librarians. Its initiatives enable the higher education community to understand the role that academic libraries play in the teaching, learning and research environments.


J enni Terry, Press Officer, ALA Washington Office, (202) 628-8410,

Kara Malenfant, ACRL, (312)280-2510,

Posted by Katie Newman at 12:03 PM

November 10, 2009

Nobel Laureates Urge the U.S. Congress to Ensure Free Online Access to Federally Funded Research Results

Washington, DC ­

“For America to obtain an optimal return on our investment in science, publicly funded research must be shared as broadly as possible,” is the message that forty one Nobel Prize-winning scientists in medicine, physics, and chemistry gave to Congress in an open letter delivered yesterday. The letter marks the fourth time in five years that leading scientists have called on Congress to ensure free, timely access to the results of federally funded research ­ this time asking leaders to support the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2009 (S.1373).

The Nobel Prize-winners write:

"As the pursuit of science is increasingly conducted in a digital world, we need policies that ensure that the opportunities the Internet presents for new research tools and techniques to be employed can be fully exploited. The removal of access barriers and the enabling of expanded use of research findings has the potential to dramatically transform how we approach issues of vital importance to the public, such as biomedicine, climate change, and energy research. As scientists, and as taxpayers too, we support FRPAA and urge its passage."

The bi-partisan Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), introduced by Senators Lieberman (I-CT) and Cornyn (R-TX), would deliver online public access to the published results of research funded through eleven U.S. agencies and departments, requiring that peer-reviewed journal articles stemming from publicly funded research be made available in an online repository no later than six months after publication.

The Nobelists note that enabling access to this information would be an important contribution in fostering innovation and fueling positive economic and social returns:

"The open availability of federally funded research for broad public use in open online archives is a crucial building block in laying a strong national foundation to support accelerated discovery and innovation. It encourages broader participation in the scientific process by providing equitable access to high-quality research results to researchers at higher education institutions of all kinds ­ from research-intensive universities to community colleges alike. It can empower more members of the public to become engaged in citizen science efforts in areas that pique their imagination. It will equip entrepreneurs and small business owners with the very latest research developments, allowing them to more effectively compete in the development of new technologies and innovations. Open availability of this research will expand the worldwide visibility of the research conducted in the U.S. and increase the impact of our collective investment in research."

The full text of the letter [including the list of signatories] is online at http:/

The Federal Research Public Access Act would build upon the success of the first U.S. requirement for public access to publicly funded research, through the National Institutes of Health. It is widely supported by a broad set of stakeholders, including: scientists, higher education leaders, librarians, consumer and economic groups (including the Committee on Economic Development), technology companies (including,, Bloomberg, eBay, Google, Yahoo!, and state and local ISPs), publishers, patients and patient advocates, and major national and regional research organizations. For full details on support for the Act, visit

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access calls on organizations and individuals to write in support of the bill through the Web site at

For more information about the Federal Research Public Access Act, visit, [or read FRPAA online at Thomas:].


The Alliance for Taxpayer Access is a coalition of advocacy, academic, research, and publishing organizations that supports open public access to the results of federally funded research. The Alliance was formed in 2004 to urge that peer-reviewed articles stemming from taxpayer-funded research become fully accessible and available online at no extra cost to the American public. Details on the ATA may be found at

Jennifer McLennan
Director of Communications
(202) 296-2296 x121
Fax: (202) 872-0884

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:18 PM

October 22, 2009

Scholarly Communication and Open Access Week @ the University Library

The Library is pleased to offer a range of lectures and workshops on scholarly communication, open access, and copyright the week of October 26-30.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lecture: Who Owns Your Scholarship: Copyright, Publication Agreements, and Good Practice
Kenneth Crews
Director, Copyright Advisory Office
Columbia University

Please join the University Library and the Graduate College for the CAS MillerComm lecture by Kenneth Crews, Director of the Copyright Office of Columbia University, on "Who Owns Your Scholarship: Copyright, Publication Agreements, and Good Practice". Issues related to copyright span the range of activities at the university from the creation of new scholarly works to the use of others' works in the classroom and research. Copyright can be a baffling process today, and Professor Crews will help faculty and students better understand and manage their rights as authors while increasing the impact of their works by providing the greatest possible visibility and access.

Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 4:00pm
Alice Campbell Alumni Center
601 S. Lincoln Ave

Sponsored in conjunction with the College of Law, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Office of Technology Management, Office of the Vice President for Technology and Economic Development


Workshops on Copyright and Open Access Offered by the Library

All workshops will be held in Main Library, room 314.

Workshops are co-sponsored by the Graduate College and organized by the Library's Scholarly Communications Committee. Many thanks to Sarah Shreeves and Janice Pilch.


Workshop: Understanding Open Access
Are you wondering what the fuss is about open access? The movement for open access to publications - that is, publications that are freely and openly available to anyone to access - has been steadily gaining momentum. With the National Institute of Health's open access policy as well as those at Harvard and MIT, it is important to understand the different forms of open access that are available. Come to this workshop to learn about open access journals as well as self-archiving your work into a repository such as Illinois' IDEALS (

Mon, Oct 26, 4-5pm
Fri, Oct 30, 1-2pm


Workshop: Your Research Rights: Ownership Awareness to Maximize the Impact
You're going to be published - congratulations! Did you know that you own the copyright on your work until you transfer copyright to a publisher? Did you know you need to retain rights in order to include an article or reuse a chart in your dissertation or thesis or make your work openly available on the web? Come to this session and learn about what your rights as an author are and how to negotiate with publishers for the rights that you need to retain.

Tue, Oct 27, 9-10:30am
Wed, Oct 28, 3:30-5pm


Workshop: Practical Copyright: Considerations for Teaching and Research
You're writing a thesis or preparing to teach your course, but you have a lot of concerns about being ethical and abiding by copyright law. Come to this session and learn the basics of copyright law and some guidelines for how you can stay within the law using the four principles of Fair Use. Please remember that librarians cannot give you advice regarding copyright issues, but we can steer you in the right direction to find answers to your questions.

Tue, Oct 27, 2-3:30pm
Wed, Oct 28, 2-3:30pm


Posted by Katie Newman at 4:36 PM

October 8, 2009

What WAS the 1,000,000th Downloaded Item from IDEALS?

As announced the other day, the 1,000,000th idem had been downloaded from the University of Illinois digital archive, IDEALS.

For those of you wondering....

Download #999,999
"Milk and butter tests"
Downloaded from Bangkok, Thailand

Download #1,000,000
"Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books 41 (04) 1987"
Downloaded from Doha, Qatar

Download #1,000,001
"Fracture Behavior of Concrete Materials for Rigid Pavement Systems"
Downloaded from Herndon, Virginia, USA

Sarah L. Shreeves
Coordinator, IDEALS
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
217-244-3877 or 217-333-4648

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:34 AM

October 7, 2009

IDEALS Digital Repository Surpasses 1-millionth Download

7 October 2009

IDEALS Digital Repository Surpasses 1-millionth Download

Urbana, Illinois—The Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS), a digital repository for research and scholarship developed at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has surpassed its one-millionth download.

The service, offered through the University Library and Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services (CITES), is sponsored by the Office of the Provost at Illinois and was launched in 2006. The campus institutional repository includes articles, working papers, preprints, technical reports, conference papers and, data sets in various digital formats provided by University faculty, staff, and graduate students. Although central to the University of Illinois, anyone can access and benefit from IDEALS collections and services.

“Today, over 12,000 items have been uploaded into IDEALS,” said Sarah Shreeves, associate professor and IDEALS coordinator. “The success of this service has surpassed what anyone envisioned two and a half years ago, and we hope that others in the Illinois community will take advantage of its services.”

The mission of IDEALS is to preserve and provide persistent and reliable access to digital research and scholarship in order to give these works the greatest possible recognition and distribution. IDEALS endeavors to ensure that its materials appear in search engines such as Google, Google Scholar, and Bing and that the majority of the research is openly available for anyone to access. As a result of its efforts to disseminate research produced at the University of Illinois, IDEALS was recently ranked in the top 10 of institutional repositories worldwide.

“I am delighted with the exposure that IDEALS has provided us with. Whenever we place a thesis or a report, the downloads start and never stop. We get many comments back from readers and researchers who have seen our work only on IDEALS,” said Amr Elnashai, head, Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

IDEALS contains a wealth of diverse information, from a Mid-America Earthquake Center report on the Kashmir Earthquake of 2005 to the Ethnography of the University Initiative’s publications and presentations, including campus folklore and cultural perceptions.

“I appreciate that my thesis is archived in a stable location for reliable long-term access. The document is now freely available to anyone in the world, yet I retain the copyright,” said David P. Hruska, an Illinois graduate. “Furthermore, my thesis is now displayed in search results returned by Google Scholar, improving the dissemination of my research.

"This depository has been exceptionally helpful in preserving in an easily-accessed archive, the extensive field data sets I accumulated over a 25-year period," said Lowell Getz, professor emeritus, Ecology, Ethology, and Evolution (now Animal Biology) at the University of Illinois. "There are no other such data sets and most likely never will be again."

For more information about, or to access, the IDEALS digital repository, visit

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library holds over eleven million volumes, more than 90,000 serial titles, and more than nine million manuscripts, maps, slides, audio tapes, microforms, videotapes, laser discs, and other non-print material. The University Library is ranked highly nationally and globally, and its collections and services are used heavily by students, faculty, and scholars. More than one million items are circulated annually, and many more are used on site and virtually from anywhere in the world. For more information, please visit

Heather Murphy
Assistant Director of Advancement for Publications and Public Affairs
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library
435 Main Library, MC-522
1408 West Gregory Drive
Urbana, IL 61801
Phone: 217-333-3758
Fax: 217-244-7201

"Uncover and Discover"

Posted by Katie Newman at 11:33 AM

September 17, 2009

Five Major American Universities Commit to Support OA Journals

From Open Access News...

A Compact for Open-Access Publication, press release, September 14, 2009.

Five of the nation's premier institutions of higher learning—Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technoology, and the University of California, Berkeley—today announced their joint commitment to a compact for open-access publication. ...

Since open-access journals do not charge subscription or other access fees, they must cover their operating expenses through other sources, including subventions, in-kind support, or, in a sizable minority of cases, processing fees paid by or on behalf of authors for submission to or publication in the journal. While academic research institutions support traditional journals by paying their subscription fees, no analogous means of support has existed to underwrite the growing roster of fee-based open-access journals.

Stuart Shieber, Harvard's James O. Welch, Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science and Director of the University's Office for Scholarly Communication, is the author of the five-member compact. According to Shieber, "Universities and funding agencies ought to provide equitable support for open-access publishing by subsidizing the processing fees that faculty incur when contributing to open-access publications. Right now, these fees are relatively rare. But if the research community supports open-access publishing and it gains in importance as we believe that it will, those fees could aggregate substantially over time. The Compact ensures that support is available to eliminate these processing fees as a disincentive to open-access publishing."

The Compact supports equity of the business models by committing each university to the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication fees for open-access journal articles written by its faculty for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.

Additional universities are encouraged to visit the compact web site and sign on. ...

,,, the Compact's FAQ establishes a loophole for grant-funded research: "a compact institution may reasonably expect that ... the funding agency should be responsible for payment of the publication charge, and the article would not be eligible for underwriting by the institution whether or not the funding agency actually covers the particular charge."

Addendum: At the time this compact was signed, only Berkeley already had established an OA fund. But subsequently both Cornell and Harvard have also established OA funds to support the OA publishing of their faculty (follow links for additional information). It is expected that MIT and Dartmouth will announce OA funds eventually, too.

Currently the U of Illinois is a supporting member of BioMed Central, so our members get a discount on the publication fees when they publish in BMC journals. And we have a membership in Oxford's Nucleic Acids Research, which also provides our authors with a discount when publishing in NAR. If you have comments on whether the U of Illinois should join the Compact and set up an OA fund, please contact Paula Kaufman, the University Librarian.

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:42 AM

June 26, 2009

Federal Research Public Access Act, 2009

Yesterday, Senators Lieberman (I-CT) and Cornyn (R-TX) (re-)introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act (S.1373), a bill that would ensure free, timely, online access to the published results of research funded by eleven U.S. federal agencies. S.1373 would require those agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from such funding no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The bill gives individual agencies flexibility in choosing the location of the digital repository to house this content, as long as the repositories meet conditions for interoperability and public accessibility, and have provisions for long-term archiving.

The bill specifically covers unclassified research funded by agencies including:
Department of Agriculture
Department of Commerce
Department of Defense
Department of Education
Department of Energy
Department of Health and Human Services
Department of Homeland Security
Department of Transportation
Environmental Protection Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
National Science Foundation

S. 1373 reflects the growing trend among funding agencies and college and university campuses to leverage their investment in the conduct of research by maximizing the dissemination of results. It follows the successful path forged by the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as by private funders like the Wellcome Trust, and universities such as Harvard and MIT.

The Library has requested that our Washington government relations liaison contact our representatives in support of this bill.

If you would like to voice your opinion on this bill to our representatives, an easy way to do so has been provided at the Alliance for Taxpayer Access website:
You may use one of their pre-written forms, or compose your own.

Detailed information about the Federal Research Public Access Act is available at

Or read the text of the bill, online.

This memo was clipped from a longer message received from:

Heather Joseph
Spokesperson for the Alliance for Taxpayer Access and Executive Director of SPARC
Telephone: (202) 296-2296
Email: heather [at] arl [dot] org

Posted by Katie Newman at 12:26 PM

March 23, 2009

Farewell to the Printed Monograph

From Inside Higher Ed (3/23/09):

"The University of Michigan Press is announcing today that it will shift its scholarly publishing from being primarily a traditional print operation to one that is primarily digital.

Within two years, press officials expect well over 50 of the 60-plus monographs that the press publishes each year -- currently in book form -- to be released only in digital editions. Readers will still be able to use print-on-demand systems to produce versions that can be held in their hands, but the press will consider the digital monograph the norm. Many university presses are experimenting with digital publishing, but the Michigan announcement may be the most dramatic to date by a major university press.

The shift by Michigan comes at a time that university presses are struggling. With libraries' budgets constrained, many presses have for years been struggling to sell significant numbers of monographs -- which many junior professors need to publish to earn tenure -- and those difficulties have only been exacerbated by the economic downturn. The University of Missouri Press and the State University of New York Press both have announced layoffs in recent months, while Utah State University Press is facing the possibility of a complete elimination of university support.

Michigan officials say that their move reflects a belief that it's time to stop trying to make the old economics of scholarly publishing work. ...

While Pochoda [director of the Michigan press] acknowledged that Michigan risks offending a few authors and readers not ready for the switch, he said there is a huge upside to making the move now.

Because digital publishing is so much less expensive -- with savings both in printing and distribution -- the press expects to be able to publish more books, and to distribute them electronically to a much broader audience. Michigan officials said that they don't plan to cut the budget of the press -- but to devote resources to peer review and other costs of publishing that won't change with the new model. Significantly, they said, the press would no longer have to reject books deemed worthy from a scholarly perspective, but viewed as unable to sell.

"We will certainly be able to publish books that would not have survived economic tests," said Pochoda. "And we'll be able to give all of our books much broader distribution." ...

Teresa A. Sullivan, Michigan's provost, ... said she would like to move to the idea that a university press should be judged by its contribution to scholarship, not "profit or loss," which has become too central as the economics of print publishing have deteriorated. ...

In terms of pricing, Sullivan said that Michigan planned to develop site licenses so that libraries could gain access to all of the press's books over the course of a year for a flat rate. While details aren't firm, the idea is to be "so reasonable that maybe every public library could acquire it.""

... read the rest of the Inside Higher Ed article for e-book experiments at other university presses.

ps... More: The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that the U of Michigan Press will become a unit of the University Library. Read more (U of Illinois access link).

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:15 AM

March 11, 2009

Modern Language Association Style Guide Has Big Changes

This news item in /Inside Higher Education/ would be of interest to many --

The /MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers/ (Modern Language Association) has been updated. A couple of the changes show the sea-change scholarship is undergoing:

* "no longer recognizes print as the default medium, and suggests
that the medium of publication should be included in each works
cited entry "
* "the MLA has ceased to recommend inclusion of URLs in citing
Web-based works "

In addition, much of the Handbook is now only available online, and thus only available to individuals who have paid for a copy of the Handbook:

The latest edition of the standard style guide for language and literary study is thinner than the last (and considerably less shiny) – thinner because it is the first to be complemented by a Web component. The password-protected Web site includes the full (and searchable) text of the handbook, plus 200 online-only examples, and a series of 30-plus-step narratives taking undergraduates through the process of writing a paper, complete with model papers available in PDF form and professors' sample comments.

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:22 PM

February 12, 2009

NIH Public Access Mandate in Jeopardy!

An email from ARL (Association of Research Libraries) concerning a recently submitted bill, supported by some of our largest publishers, that would reverse the NIH Public Access mandate, and also make it impossible for other government agencies to start similar programs.

The basis theses of the NIH mandate is that research publications that were supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health -- we have many researchers on this campus who are so supported -- must be made freely available to all within year of publication. The thought is that the citizens paid for the research so they should have access to it!

The publishers are saying that this infringes on their copyrights, but the mandate requires the authors to make available THEIR version of their work; that is, the version before they hand over copyrights to the publishers (which we're encouraging them NOT to do, but that's another story!)

Read on for more information as well as a recommendation that we contact our congressmen about this proposed legislation.

Katie Newman
U of Illinois Biotechnology Librarian

From: Jennifer McLennan
Subject: [SPARC-ADVOCACY] CALL TO ACTION: Ask your Representative to oppose the H.R. 801 ­ The Fair Copyright in Research Works Act

Last week, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Rep. John Conyers, D-MI) re-introduced a bill that would reverse the NIH Public Access Policy and make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place. The legislation is H.R. 801: the “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act” (

All supporters of public access – researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others – are asked to please contact your Representative no later than February 28, 2009 to express your support for public access to taxpayer-funded research and ask that he or she oppose H.R.801. Draft letter text is included below. As always, it’s important to let us know what action you’re able to take, via

H.R. 801 is designed to amend current copyright law and create a new category of copyrighted works (Section 201, Title 17). In effect, it would:

1. Prohibit all U.S. federal agencies from conditioning funding agreements to require that works resulting from federal support be made publicly available if those works are either: a) funded in part by sources other than a U.S. agency, or b) the result of "meaningful added value" to the work from an entity that is not party to the agreement.

2. Prohibit U.S. agencies from obtaining a license to publicly distribute, perform, or display such work by, for example, placing it on the Internet.

3. Stifle access to a broad range of federally funded works, overturning the crucially important NIH Public Access Policy and preventing other agencies from implementing similar policies.

4. Because it is so broadly framed, the proposed bill would require an overhaul of the well-established procurement rules in effect for all federal agencies, and could disrupt day-to-day procurement practices across the federal government.

5. Repeal the longstanding "federal purpose" doctrine, under which all federal agencies that fund the creation of a copyrighted work reserve the "royalty-free, nonexclusive right to reproduce, publish, or otherwise use the work" for any federal purpose. This will severely limit the ability of U.S. federal agencies to use works that they have funded to support and fulfill agency missions and to communicate with and educate the public.

Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information through the PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.

All supporters of public access -- researchers, libraries, campus administrators, patient advocates, publishers, and others -- are asked to contact their Representatives to let them know you support public access to federally funded research and oppose H.R. 801. Again, the proposed legislation would effectively reverse the NIH Public Access Policy, as well as make it impossible for other federal agencies to put similar policies into place.

Thank you for your support and continued persistence in supporting this policy. You know the difference constituent voices can make on Capitol Hill.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Heather or myself anytime.

All best,


Jennifer McLennan
Director of Communications
(The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition)
(202) 296-2296 ext 121

Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.


Draft letter text:

Dear Representative;

On behalf of [your organization], I strongly urge you to oppose H.R. 801, “the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” introduced to the House Judiciary Committee on February 3, 2009. This bill would amend the U.S. Copyright Code, prohibiting federal agencies from requiring as a condition of funding agreements public access to the products of the research they fund. This will significantly inhibit our ability to advance scientific discovery and to stimulate innovation in all scientific disciplines.

Most critically, H.R. 801 would reverse the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy, prohibit American taxpayers from accessing the results of the crucial biomedical research funded by their taxpayer dollars, and stifle critical advancements in life-saving research and scientific discovery.

Because of the NIH Public Access Policy, millions of Americans now have access to vital health care information from the NIH’s PubMed Central database. Under the current policy, nearly 3,000 new biomedical manuscripts are deposited for public accessibility each month. H.R.801 would prohibit the deposit of these manuscripts, seriously impeding the ability of researchers, physicians, health care professionals, and families to access and use this critical health-related information in a timely manner.

H.R. 801 affects not only the results of biomedical research produced by the NIH, but also scientific research coming from all other federal agencies. Access to critical information on energy, the environment, climate change, and hundreds of other areas that directly impact the lives and well being of the public would be unfairly limited by this proposed legislation.

[Why you support taxpayer access and the NIH policy].

The NIH and other agencies must be allowed to ensure timely, public access to the results of research funded with taxpayer dollars. Please oppose H.R.801.



Posted by Katie Newman at 1:09 PM

February 5, 2009

Bill Against NIH Open-Access Policy Back in House

A news item in GenomeWeb Daily News is reporting that

A bill aimed at limiting the open-access publishing policy adopted by the National Institutes of Health has been re-introduced in the US House of Representatives by Rep. John Conyers (D – Mich.), after the same legislation expired at the end of the 110th Congress.

The law would effectively overturn the policy NIH put into effect last year mandating that all NIH-funded investigators must submit electronic versions of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts to PubMed Central within a year after they are officially published.

Read the rest of the article...

See also Peter Suber's early comments about this development...

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:48 PM

December 18, 2008

Journal to Require Wikipedia Articles, Too!

Nature's NEWS section has an article today, "Publish in Wikipedia or perish: Journal to require authors to post in the free online encyclopaedia", that reports that the journal RNA Biology will require authors who submit work to a new section of the journal, to be launched later this week that describes families of RNA molecules, to also create a Wikipedia entry summarizing the research.

From the piece:

The first paper scheduled is "A Survey of Nematode SmY RNAs"1; its corresponding Wikipedia summary can be found here.

The goal is to encourage more scientists who work on RNA to get involved in creating and updating public data on RNA families, while being rewarded by the traditional method of a citable publication, says Sean Eddy, a computational biologist at the Janelia Farm Research Campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Ashburn, Virginia, and a co-author of the nematode article.

... The RNA wiki is a subset of a broader project, the WikiProject Molecular and Cellular Biology, which has marshalled hundreds of scientists to improve the content of biology articles in Wikipedia. It, in turn, is collaborating with the Novartis Research Foundation on GeneWiki, an effort to create Wikipedia articles describing every human gene. Beyond Wikipedia itself, scientists are also increasingly using wiki technology to get scientists to help curate other biological databases (see Nature 455, 22–25; 2008).

It should be noted that RNA Biology is a subscription-based journal. Access to articles in the journal are made freely available to all after a one year embargo. The University of Illinois does not yet have a subscription to this journal.

Posted by Katie Newman at 11:37 AM

December 3, 2008

HighWire Press: Over 2 Million Subscription-free Articles

Recently HighWire Press announced that they had reached the milestone of 5 million articles from scholarly societies and academic presses. Over two million of these are freely accessible to all.

Societies that contract with HighWire Press to provide online access to their journals are free to specify the terms of access to their journals, including the embargo period for their journals. An increasing number of societies, recognizing the scholarly mission of their society, have chosen to -- at their own expense -- have their complete back files digitized and made freely accessible. Often these free articles are available not only through the HighWire Press site, but are also being deposited into PubMed Central.

The HighWire Press home page provides the current statisitics for the number of articles and the number of openly-accessible articles -- as of this moment, 5,008,753 full text articles from over 140 scholarly publishers; 2,013,535 articles are freely accessible by all.

HighWire Press maintains a page where the embargo period for their journals is listed -- There are nearly 50 journals that are completely free. Of the over 1100 journals served through HighWire, it appears that at least 255 have some free access to their back files content. The embargo period for those that offer free back file access to their journals is usually 12 months, but can be as short as 2 months or as long as 5 years.

Posted by Katie Newman at 9:31 AM

October 28, 2008

Google Reaches Agreement with Book Publishers

Today Google announced that it has filed a settlement agreement with the publishers and authors groups who were suing it for providing access to the full text of books via the Google Books Project. See the article at

From the press release:

The agreement promises to benefit readers and researchers, and enhance the ability of authors and publishers to distribute their content in digital form, by significantly expanding online access to works through Google Book Search, an ambitious effort to make millions of books searchable via the Web. The agreement acknowledges the rights and interests of copyright owners, provides an efficient means for them to control how their intellectual property is accessed online and enables them to receive compensation for online access to their works.

If approved by the court, the agreement would provide:

* More Access to Out-of-Print Books – Generating greater exposure for millions of in-copyright works, including hard-to-find out-of-print books, by enabling readers in the U.S. to search these works and preview them online;
* Additional Ways to Purchase Copyrighted Books – Building off publishers’ and authors’ current efforts and further expanding the electronic market for copyrighted books in the U.S., by offering users the ability to purchase online access to many in-copyright books;
* Institutional Subscriptions to Millions of Books Online – Offering a means for U.S. colleges, universities and other organizations to obtain subscriptions for online access to collections from some of the world’s most renowned libraries;
* Free Access From U.S. Libraries – Providing free, full-text, online viewing of millions of out-of-print books at designated computers in U.S. public and university libraries; and
* Compensation to Authors and Publishers and Control Over Access to Their Works – Distributing payments earned from online access provided by Google and, prospectively, from similar programs that may be established by other providers, through a newly created independent, not-for-profit Book Rights Registry that will also locate rightsholders, collect and maintain accurate rightsholder information, and provide a way for rightsholders to request inclusion in or exclusion from the project.

Under the agreement, Google will make payments totaling $125 million. The money will be used to establish the Book Rights Registry, to resolve existing claims by authors and publishers and to cover legal fees....

Holders worldwide of U.S. copyrights can register their works with the Book Rights Registry and receive compensation from institutional subscriptions, book sales, ad revenues and other possible revenue models, as well as a cash payment if their works have already been digitized.

Libraries at the Universities of California, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Stanford have provided input into the settlement and expect to participate in the project, including by making their collections available. Along with a number of other U.S. libraries that currently work with Google, their significant efforts to preserve, maintain and provide access to books have played a critical role in achieving this agreement and, through their anticipated participation, they are furthering such efforts while making books even more accessible to students, researchers and readers in the U.S. It is expected that additional libraries in the U.S. will participate in this project in the future.

Note: As a member of the CIC, the University of Illinois is in line to have over 1 million of it's books digitized by Google, and added to Google Books. Read more about this local endeavor.

Posted by Katie Newman at 9:51 AM

October 17, 2008

Short Videos in Support of Open Access

As part of the October 14th Open Access Day, several videos were produced in which folks from various walks of life describe what having free, open access to research journal articles has meant to them. Several of the clips refer to "PLoS" journals. PLoS refers to the Public Library of Science; PLoS publishes several freely available, quality journals in the areas of biology, medicine, genetics, pathogens, and other subjects. PLoS was a sponsor of Open Access Day.

You can view all the videos back to back, or view them one at a time:

Posted by Katie Newman at 2:22 PM

October 12, 2008

Open Access Day at Illinois

Interested in Open Access?

October 14, 6:00 - 7:15 PM, Grainger Commons (Grainger Engineering Library)

Join the University Library, SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition), the Public Library of Science (PLoS),and Students for Free Culture for the first international Open Access Day. Learn more about Open Access, including recent mandates and emerging policies, within the international higher education community and the general public! Hear from researchers, students, librarians, and others on the impact of Open Access. Read more at:

Posted by Sarah Shreeves at 11:08 PM

September 26, 2008

Financial Crisis Impacts the Book Biz

We shouldn't be surprised that the current financial crisis is impacting the publishing and bookselling sectors. Today's Publisher's Lunch reports on Borders and Reed likely are indicative of problems faced by others.

Borders has been under financial pressure for some time now. According to Publisher's Lunch, The Wall Street Journal reports that the next phase of its loan arrangements with Pershing Square Capital Management starts on October 1. If Borders has not negotiated a deal to sell the company by that date, which seems increasingly unlikely given the state of our financial system, then Pershing Square acquires warrants to purchase another 8% of the company. At the moment, those warrants aren't worth exercising, since they're priced at $7 a share, a level Borders' stock hasn't seen since the company disclosed its liquidity pressures earlier this year. The report also estimates that Pershing Square already owns more than 35% of Borders, making it the company's largest shareholder.

The markets may also impact Reed, which had hoped to sell the Reed Business Information group of magazines. Gruner + Jahr, which had evaluated a bid for the group, announced that they will not make an offer.

It's likely that we'll see more bargain sales in the future along with a slowdown in what might have been the normal pace of sales of units by companies in stronger financial situations.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 11:45 AM

September 18, 2008

News in High-Energy Physics publishing

As announced in in the SCOAP3 newsletter [9/18/08]:

Just before the successful circulation of the first beams in the LHC accelerator at CERN, seminal articles describing the construction of the LHC and its detectors were published Open Access in the Journal of Instrumentation. This is in line with the commitment of HEP scientists to Open Access.

Elsevier has meanwhile announced that it will join Springer and SISSA/IOP in publishing Open Access without any author fees the first articles describing the physics results of the LHC.

Comments on these stories can be found in Symmetry. Publishing in HEP and Open Access are among the subjects of Richard Poynder's interviews of Rolf-Dieter Heuer in Computer Weekly and Annette Holtkamp in Open and Shut.

For more info, please visit:

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:25 PM

July 8, 2008

Nature Publishing Group to archive on behalf of authors

Nature Publishing Group (NPG) announced today that they will be offering a free service to archive published articles into PubMed Central and UK PubMed Central on behalf of authors. The press release is available here:

Peter Suber at Open Access News also mentions that NPG is interested in working with institutional repositories (such as IDEALS) as well. This could be a very important development for institutions who are interested in providing wide access to their research and scholarship.

Posted by Sarah Shreeves at 2:43 PM

Incorrect Citations

I've always been interested in the phenomenon of papers where the authors have cited papers that they haven't read -- and often cite them incorrectly: either the citation itself is wrong or they're misrepresenting the information / conclusions in the paper cited.

I often strongly suggested to grad students who are preparing their dissertations that they be SURE to look at EVERY paper they cite in their disseration / articles! I had thought, with the advent of reference management systems such as EndNote and RefWorks that the phenomenon of bad citations would decline.... apparently not.

Apparently this problem is still around.
As summarized in the July 8 Inside Higher Ed:
Cite Check

and as reported in Interfaces:
Vol. 38, No. 2, March-April 2008, pp. 125-139
The Ombudsman: Verification of Citations: Fawlty Towers of Knowledge?
Malcolm Wright, J. Scott Armstrong

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:52 AM

June 27, 2008

Georgia State: Downloading Texts is Fair Use

Many of us have been following the lawsuit three publishers have brought against Georgia State University for copyright infringement with great interest. In its response to the suit, Georgia State has now asserted that its online distribution of course material is permitted under copyright law's fair-use exemption. In papers filed earlier this week, the university admitted that it was offering the material online to students through electronic reserves in the library, the Blackboard/WebCT Vista course-management system, department Web pages, and other Web sites. But, it says the practice is allowed under the fair-use doctrine of the Copyright Act.

There is no clear interpretation of "Fair Use" relating to the amount of material that can be used for such activities as scholarship, teaching, reporting, and review.

In addition to advancing its fair-use argument, the university also says it is protected from federal lawsuits by sovereign immunity protections guaranteed by the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The outcome of this lawsuit will impact the ways in which colleges and universities distribute course materials and provide access to digital materials.

Read more in today's Chronicle of Higher Education.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:50 AM

June 24, 2008

U of Illinois Signs Intent to Participate in SCOAP3

From SCOAP3 News (23/06/2008):

Five more U.S. partners have joined SCOAP3: three laboratories, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, SLAC, the Thomas Jefferson Laboratory, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory - University of California, Berkeley and two universities, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Northwestern University.

SCOAP3 now counts 29 institutions in the U.S., which have pledged to redirect their current subscriptions to High-Energy Physics journals to the initiative. More U.S. partners are expected to join in the near future. SCOAP3 is also supported by partners from 15 European countries, Australia and one international organisation. In total, SCOAP3 has received pledges for about 4 million euros, over 6 million dollars, corresponding to 40% of its budget envelope.

Note: SCOAP3 = Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics

Posted by Katie Newman at 12:06 PM

University Presses Start to Sell Via Kindle

From Inside Higher Ed (June 24, 2008):

The Subprime Solution: How Today’s Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do About It is a promising new title from Princeton University Press. ...

The Princeton press is planning something new for the release: Two weeks before print publication the book will be available as a Kindle e-book. Kindle is’s portable reader that allows for downloading of complete books. Launched in November, ... Kindle has been hailed as potentially opening up a new kind of reading experience. ... Kindle’s Amazon backing has given it a market that is attractive to many publishers — including university presses.

By the beginning of the fall, Princeton plans to have several hundred books available for sale through Kindle. Yale University Press and Oxford University Press already have a similar presence there. The University of California Press recently had about 40 of its volumes placed on Kindle and is ramping up.

... The experimentation with Kindle comes at a time that many experts are urging university presses to try new business models.

Readers would save some on Kindle books, but at least now modestly, and only after recouping the costs of the reader (currently at $359). The Kindle version of an Oxford book called Punishment and Democracy: Three Strikes and You’re Out in California sells for $21.96, compared to $24.40 for the paperback through Amazon. The latter also takes two to four weeks to ship and requires shipping fees. A Yale book, Churchill’s Promised Land: Zionism and Statecraft, is available for $25.20 via Kindle and $28 plus shipping in hardcover.

Read the full article.
Learn more about Kindle.

Posted by Katie Newman at 11:56 AM

May 8, 2008

Harvard Law School Mandates Open Access

The Harvard Law School joined its Faculty of Arts & Sciences in mandating open access for all its peer-reviewed publications. As reported here earlier, the Faculty of Arts & Sciences unanimously mandated open access in February of this year.

Read the full announcement.

From the announcement:

The Harvard Law School faculty produces some of the most exciting, groundbreaking scholarship in the world," said Dean Elena Kagan '86. "Our decision to embrace 'open access' means that people everywhere can benefit from the ideas generated here at the Law School....
Under the new policy, HLS will make articles authored by faculty members available in an online repository, whose contents would be searchable and available to other services such as Google Scholar. Authors can also legally distribute the articles on their own websites, and educators here and elsewhere can freely provide the articles to students, so long as the materials are not used for profit. ...

Posted by Katie Newman at 1:34 PM

May 7, 2008

New Open-Access Humanities Press Makes Its Debut

Jennifer Howard, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, is reporting today that a new venture with prominent academic backers wants to help humanists put their work online.

Open Humanities Press, will open it's doors on Monday (May 12) with the publication of seven peer-reviewed journals, which have established track records as open access titles.:
Cosmos and History (2005-)
Culture Machine (1999-)
Fibreculture (2003-)
Film-Philosophy (1997-)
International Journal of Žižek Studies (2007-)
Parrhesia (2006-)
Vectors (2005-)

From the OHP website: "Open Humanities Press journals are fully peer reviewed, scholarly publications that have been chosen by OHP's editorial advisory board for their outstanding contribution to contemporary theory. OHP's journals are independent, published under open access licenses and free of charge to readers and authors alike."

Each journal will retain editorial independence. The press will "provide editorial and technical-development services, using the Open Journal Systems software created by the Public Knowledge Project, and it will help with distribution and promotion". Aside from the editorial boards of the various journals, the Open Humanities Press has, according to the Chronicle, put together a

star-studded lineup of literary critics and theorists as its editorial advisory board. The panel includes Alan Badiou, professor of philosophy emeritus at France's École Normale Supérieure; Jonathan Culler, professor of English and comparative literature at Cornell University; Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, professor in the humanities at Columbia University; and J. Hillis Miller, professor of English at the University of California at Irvine. Another member is Stephen Greenblatt, professor of the humanities at Harvard University. In 2002, as president of the Modern Language Association, Mr. Greenblatt issued a rallying cry to humanists about the crisis in traditional scholarly publishing.

How is this being paid for? And what is are it's long-term goals? From the Chronicle article:

To begin with, the press will have no operating budget and no formal staff. Internet hosting is being provided gratis by ibiblio, a sort of Internet library—or "conservancy," as they call it—based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The founders will draw on their professional networks, and those of the journals, to get things done in the near term.

Those involved with Open Humanities Press hope to expand beyond critical theory, perhaps even beyond journals and into open-access monographs, once the enterprise has a reputation for what Mr. Ottina called "rigorous academic quality."

"Ultimately," he said, "the goal is to get as much academic content into an open-access distribution model as possible."

Posted by Katie Newman at 5:30 PM

May 6, 2008

Rockefeller Press to License Works from Authors

In an editorial entitled "You wrote it, you own it", Emma Hill and Mike Rossner (Executive Editor of The Journal of Cell Biology and Executive Director of The Rockefeller University Press, respectively) announced in the Journal of Cell Biology, April 30, 2008 that the Rockefeller University Press, rather than requiring that authors assign their their copyrights to the Press, they would henceforth just grant the Press an exclusive license for 6 months. The authors who publish in the three Press journals, The Journal of Cell Biology, The Journal of Experimental Medicine, or The Journal of General Physiology will henceforth be allowed to keep their copyrights.

Excerpts of the editorial:

This permits authors to reuse their own work in any way, as long as they attribute it to the original publication. Third parties may use our published materials under a Creative Commons license, six months after publication...

In 1787, the Copyright Clause of the United States Constitution gave the United States Congress the power "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." For more than two centuries, however, authors of scientific papers have been giving up that right. ... On the positive side, the publisher defended against improper use of the authors' work; on the negative side, restrictions were placed on authors (and third parties) that limited the reuse of the published work.

In a further step to enhance the utility of scientific content, we have now decided to return copyright to our authors. In return, however, we require authors to make their work available for reuse by the public. Instead of relinquishing copyright, our authors will now provide us with a license to publish their work. This license, however, places no restrictions on how authors can reuse their own work; we only require them to attribute the work to its original publication. Six months after publication, third parties (that is, anyone who is not an author) can use the material we publish under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License (

The Creative Commons License will apply retroactively to all work published by The Rockefeller University Press before November 1, 2007... Authors who previously assigned their copyright to the Press are now granted the right to use their own work in any way they like, as long as they acknowledge the original publication.

We are pleased to finally comply with the original spirit of copyright in our continuing effort to promote public access to the published biomedical literature.

Full text of our new copyright policy is available here:

Posted by Katie Newman at 12:40 PM

April 8, 2008

University of Illinois is Now a Member of BioMed Central

The University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana is now a Supporting Member of the open access publisher, BioMed Central.

What this means is that when you submit a journal article for publication in one of nearly 200 BMC titles, you will receive a 15% discount off the article processing charge!

Here's a list of the BMC titles:
This discount also applies to articles submitted to Chemistry Central and to PhysMath Central

Here's a list of the article processing charges for the various BMC journals (before discount):
For most of the journals, the fee is $1690, but may be as high as $2685 or as low as $500. A few are even free.

Many of the BMC journals have already earned quite respectable Impact Factors. See:
e.g., Genome Biology (7.17); BMC Bioinformatics (3.62); BMC Biology (4.43); BMC Evolutionary Biology (4.46)

Why should you consider publishing in a BMC journal?
First of all, know that all research submitted will receive rigorous and rapid peer review. If the article is accepted:

Papers published by our colleagues:
The University of Illinois' "homepage" lists papers that were published in BMC jouranls by U of I authors in the last year -- at this point 30 research articles, software, protocols, etc:
For your interest, here's the U of I-Chicago's home page:

Submitting a paper:

If you are on campus within our recognized IP range when submitting a manuscript you will be identified as belonging to a member institution and automatically granted a 15% discount on article processing charges If you are at home or at an external terminal when submitting your paper, you can still claim this discount by stating that you are a affiliated with the U of I. Papers may be submitted either via a journal home page or via

Posted by Katie Newman at 4:03 PM

March 31, 2008

Cancer Literature Through PubMed: Currently 13% is free

Writing in her blog, The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, Heather Morrison has reported an analysis of the % of free cancer literature that's available thorugh PubMed. I'm sure she'll be tracking the availablity of this literature over time, considering the NIH Public Access mandate that is set to go into force in just a week -- April 7th. What she's finding at this point in time is that most of the cancer literature is NOT freely accessible.

Cancer: 13% of the literature in PubMed on cancer links to Free Fulltext.

By publication date range:
7% - within last 30 days
10% - within the last year
17% - within the last two years
21% - within the last 10 years

Data on other topics indicates a range of percentages of literature that is Free Fulltext. Of the topics selected, the highest percentage was for genetics, with 30% Free Fulltext, and the lowest was dentistry, with 4% fulltext. Most topics appear to be close to the 13% range.

Please refer to the blog entry for a link to the data, which Heather has made freely available via Google's Spreadsheets.

Posted by Katie Newman at 1:40 PM

Orphan Works Legislation: Another Try?

From Georgia Harper at @ollecteana

Congress reportedly will try to pass orphan works legislation again this session, introducing a bill as early as this week. After its March 13 hearing, at which 6 interested parties presented testimony (including the Register of Copyrights, Marybeth Peters, and representatives of the 2006 bill's most vehement opponents, free-lance photographers), the stage appears set for another try.

Georgia voices doubts about the value of the legislation to non-profits, but time will tell if the legislation is passed. Stay tuned for the next act.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 10:17 AM

March 7, 2008

Access Barriers to Information are Bad for Capitalism

From that bastion of capitalism, the Wall Street journal comes this pronouncement...

... barriers to the spread of information are bad for capitalism. The dissemination of knowledge is almost as crucial as the production of it for the creation of wealth, and knowledge (like people) can't reproduce in isolation...In fact, open access might help to moderate some of the worst forms of academic hokum, if only by holding them up to the light of day -- and perhaps by making taxpayers, parents and college donors more careful about where they send their money ...

Keeping knowledge bottled up is also bad for the world's poor; indeed, opening up the research produced on America's campuses via the Internet is probably among the most cost-effective ways of helping underdeveloped countries rise from poverty ...

The context for these quotes was an article, Information Liberation, in the March 7, 2008 issue of the Wall Street Journal. (Currently available for all to read.)

The focus of the article is on the problems that the current barriers to research findings cause to the citizenry. The blame is placed on the rising serials costs. However, it is noted that there are signs that the barriers to access are falling with the advent of open access mandates. The recent NIH mandate is applauded

Congress has mandated that by April 7 papers arising from NIH-sponsored research -- roughly 80,000 of them a year -- be made freely available in the federal PubMed database, which can be read by anyone with an Internet connection. Alas, the new NIH policy will allow a 12-month lag between publication and posting on PubMed.

As is the recent mandate by the Harvard Arts & Sciences faculty

hose members voted to publish on the Internet for all to see -- gratis. These professors will give Harvard world-wide nonexclusive license to their work, and the university will exercise it by posting their papers. The journals won't have much choice if they want the work of Harvard professors. The faculty members will still publish in expensive journals, but the move to put the same materials on the Internet is a stake poised at the heart of a vampire that has been sucking dollars out of academic institutions for years through the ever-sharper bite of subscription prices.

Posted by Katie Newman at 4:21 PM

February 13, 2008

Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences Adopts New Open Access Requirement

Yesterday Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences unanimously approved a motion that would allow Harvard to place the final peer-reviewed version of all journal articles into an open access repository (an institutional repository similar to UIUC's IDEALS -

This kind of requirement is becoming more common in Europe and at a few institutions in the UK and Australia, but this is close to the first - if not the first - such requirement in the United States. Alongside the new NIH requirement for deposit into PubMed Central, this may indicate the beginnings of a real sea change.

The full text of the Harvard motion is below:

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In keeping with that commitment, the Faculty adopts the following policy: Each Faculty member grants to the President and Fellows of Harvard College permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles. In legal terms, the permission granted by each Faculty member is a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. The Dean or the Dean's designate will waive application of the policy for a particular article upon written request by a Faculty member explaining the need.
To assist the University in distributing the articles, each Faculty member will provide an electronic copy of the final version of the article at no charge to the appropriate representative of the Provost's Office in an appropriate format (such as PDF) specified by the Provost's Office. The Provost's Office may make the article available to the public in an open-access repository.
The Office of the Dean will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty from time to time. The policy will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty.

See also the Chronicle of Higher Education's entry
and Peter Suber's comments.

Posted by Sarah Shreeves at 10:12 AM

January 22, 2008

Peer Review and Blog Comments Go Head-to-Head

An unusual experiment to compare traditional peer review with anonymous blog comments begins today, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. Noah Wardrip-Fruin, assistant professor of communication at UCSD, working with the Institute for the Future of the Book's CommentPress (and with the agreement of his publisher, MIT Press), will post sections of his book (Expressive Processing: Digital Fictions, Computer Games, and Software Studies) on Grand Theft Auto, making it available to readers to add critiques in the margins. MIT Press also will use its traditional peer review process, allowing for a side-by-side comparison of traditional and new review techniques. Professor Wardrip-Fruin expects to receive many more helpful comments through the blog than through the traditional peer review approach. Although the blog comments may be helpful, it's unlikely that they will replace the traditional peer review process -- at least not quite yet.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 9:37 AM

January 18, 2008

More on the NIH Mandate from the journal, Science

The January 18th Science adds or clarifies several points about the recent NIH mandate (see previous posting), including:

Not surprisingly, publishers will be (and have been) monitoring what their authors put in PubMed Central:

...some publishers say they will need to police the site for articles mistakenly posted, such as those not yet released from the journal's embargo or those published before 2005. Martin Frank, executive director of the American Physiological Society, says APS asked NIH to remove 78 papers last year, and he expects "hundreds" of similar errors when the mandatory policy kicks in. Lipman acknowledges that NIH had to remove some papers. But complying with copyright, he says, is not NIH's responsibility; it's "between the author and the publisher."

For a growing list of other funder-mandates, take a look at ROARMAP (Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies).

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:08 AM

January 16, 2008

Open Access Mandate from the European Research Council

The European Research Council (ERC), a relatively new granting agency with deep pockets, has released its Guidelines for Open Access:

The ERC requires that all peer-reviewed publications from ERC-funded research projects be deposited on publication into an appropriate research repository where available, such as PubMed Central, ArXiv or an institutional repository, and subsequently made Open Access within 6 months of publication.

This news is especially exciting as the ERC will shortly be announcing (PDF) it's first round of grant recipients, some 300 up-and-coming scientists from 21 countries and 170 institutions. Together they will share around 6 billion Euros over the next six years. Grant sizes will be for up to 2 million Euros per 5 year period.

The ERC joins a growing list of granting agencies that are requiring that publications resulting from their funds be made openly accessible within 6-12 months of publication.

Posted by Katie Newman at 5:43 PM

NIH Reveals Details of the Open Access Mandate

As previously reported, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has been directed by new legislation to mandate that all peer-reviewed journal articles published as a result of NIH grant funds be made freely available through PubMed Central, the digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature.

The NIH has now filled in many implementation details concerning the mandate and they may be found on the NIH Public Access site, FAQ, and Guide Notice for Public Access.

Details that will be of interest to the University of Illinois community:

The policy applies to all peer-reviewed articles that are accepted for publication on or after April 7, 2008.

From the FAQ:
“Authors should work with the publisher before any rights are transferred to ensure that all conditions of the NIH Public Access Policy can be met. Authors should avoid signing any agreements with publishers that do not allow the author to comply with the NIH Public Access Policy.”

A publisher’s compliance with the NIH policy can be checked by reviewing the SHERPA site. For example, from Sherpa one learns that both Nature and Science allow authors to comply with the NIH mandate, subject to restrictions, with just a 6 month embargo. In neither publication can the author archive the publisher's PDF (though it should be referenced); rather the author's final peer-reviewed version should be posted to PubMed Central. (The most convenient time to do this would be at the same that you send in the final version to the publisher.)

In our experience, authors are having some success with modifying the copyright transfer agreements when they strike through the objectionable portions of copyright transfer forms and write in the rights that they wish to maintain. The new NIH policy does not change the author’s copyrights’ status. The author can still “assign [copyrights] to journals, subject to the limited right that must be retained…to post the works in accordance with the Policy” in PubMed Central.

The NIH suggests some possible language that can be used to modify a publisher’s agreement: "Journal acknowledges that Author retains the right to provide a copy of the final manuscript to the NIH upon acceptance for Journal publication, for public archiving in PubMed Central as soon as possible but no later than 12 months after publication by Journal.”

Additionally, the University of Illinois provides authors with a copyright amendment form to publisher agreements that is supported by the provosts of the CIC, and was developed to support authors who wanted to retain some rights over the works that they produce. The amendment language, if accepted by the publisher, would allow authors to comply with the NIH mandate. Download the CIC amendment. To use the addendum, authors need only to fill in the form and staple it to the publisher's agreement form that they return to publishers prior to the publication of their article.

NIH will reimburse for publication costs, including author fees. (Some journals charge article processing fees for articles that will be made openly available. NIH’s policy is to cover such costs.)

Posting is required even if you publish in an open access journal, or if the article is freely accessible on the publisher’s website.

"Beginning May 25, 2008, anyone submitting an application, proposal or progress report to the NIH must include the PMC or the NIH Manuscript Submission reference number when citing applicable articles that arise from their NIH-funded research. This policy includes applications submitted to the NIH for the May 25, 2008 due date and subsequent due dates."

Be sure to read the NIH Public Access site, FAQ, and Guide Notice for Public Access.

Send questions concerning the mandate or other aspects of the NIH Public Access Policy to:
Office of Extramural Research
National Institutes of Health
1 Center Drive, Room 144
Bethesda, MD 20892-0152

For local assistance, please contact Katie Newman, University of Illinois Library Scholarly Communication Officer. or 217-265-5386

With thanks to the MIT Libraries for some of the organization of this message.

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:54 PM

January 15, 2008

University Presses Band Together to Produce More Books

From Research Information (1/7/2008)....

Top university presses announce a collaboration to find a way to reduce costs of scholarly publishing and to allow for more books to be released. Set up as a joint operation for copy-editing, design, layout and typesetting for the work in American literatures, the collaboration will be funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The five university presses involved are: the NYU Press, Rutgers University Press, Fordham University Press, Temple University Press and the University of Virginia Press.

The NYU will manage a $1.37 million grant to be spread out over five years. The grant includes royalties for authors and marketing funds. It is expected that Mellon will follow this grant with several others promoting collaboration, in sectors such as Slavic studies, ethnomusicology and East Asian studies.

The new system is likely to generate adequate savings to allow each of the presses to increase output by five books a year.

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed (12/28/2007)

Posted by Katie Newman at 12:06 PM

January 2, 2008

America's Most Literate Cities

The annual rankings of the "most literate cities" have been released by Central Connecticut State University, accounting for per capita booksellers; educational attainment; internet resources; library resources; newspaper circulation; and periodical publications. The study ranks only the 69 largest U.S. cities (population 250,000 or more)

And the winners are:

1 Minneapolis, MN
2 Seattle, WA
3 St. Paul, MN
4 Denver, CO
5 Washington, DC
6 St. Louis, MO
7 San Francisco, CA
8 Atlanta, GA
9 Pittsburgh, PA
10 Boston, MA

Posted by P. Kaufman at 10:49 AM

December 27, 2007

Public Access Mandate Now Law

Yesterday, President Bush signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (H.R. 2764), which includes a provision directing the National Institutes of Health to provide the public with open online access to findings from its funded research. This is the first time the U.S. government has mandated public access to research funded by a major agency.

Readers may recall that the NIH's existing public access policy was implemented as a voluntary measure in 2005. With the enactment of this new law, researchers will be required to deposit electronic copies of their peer-reviewed manuscripts into PubMed Central, the National Library of Medicine's online repository, no later than 12 months after publication in a journal.

Many leading scientists, patient advocates, librarians, and others had lobbied for years to make research funded by tax dollars accessible to the public. This new mandate now will provide unfettered access to scientific findings for everyone seeking them.

The text of the law reads:

SEC. 218. The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication, to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:15 AM

December 5, 2007

U of Pittsburgh Press Makes It's Older Books Openly Accessible

Press Release from U. Pittsburg...
(with thanks to Peter Suber's Open Access News)

Pitt’s Libraries and University Press Collaborate on Open Access to Press Titles, a press release from the University of Pittsburgh, November 29, 2007. Excerpt:

The University of Pittsburgh’s University Library System (ULS) and University Press have formed a partnership to provide digital editions of press titles as part of the library system’s D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program. Thirty-nine books from the Pitt Latin American Series published by the University of Pittsburgh Press are now available online, freely accessible to scholars and students worldwide. Ultimately, most of the Press’ titles older than 2 years will be provided through this open access platform.

For the past decade, the University Library System has been building digital collections on the Web under its D-Scribe Digital Publishing Program....

More titles will be added to the University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Editions each month until most of the current scholarly books published by the Press are available both in print and as digital editions....

The University of Pittsburgh Press Digital Editions may be viewed at
and and through direct links from the Press website,

Posted by Katie Newman at 5:27 PM

November 30, 2007

Million Book Project Reaches 1.5 Million Book Mark

From the Carnegie Mellon newsletter...

Online "Universal Library" Gives Readers Access to 1.5 Million Books: International Project Makes Complete Texts Available Through Single Web Portal

PITTSBURGH: The Million Book Project, an international venture led by Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, Zhejiang University in China, the Indian Institute of Science in India and the Library at Alexandria in Egypt, has completed the digitization of more than 1.5 million books, which are now available online. For the first time since the project was initiated in 2002, all of the books ... are available through a single Web portal of the Universal Library (, said Gloriana St. Clair, Carnegie Mellon's dean of libraries.

"Anyone who can get on the Internet now has access to a collection of books the size of a large university library," said Raj Reddy, professor of computer science and robotics at Carnegie Mellon. "This project brings us closer to the ideal of the Universal Library: making all published works available to anyone, anytime, in any language. The economic barriers to the distribution of knowledge are falling," said Reddy, who has spearheaded the Million Book Project.

Though Google, Microsoft and the Internet Archive all have launched major book digitization projects, the Million Book Project represents the world's largest, university-based digital library of freely accessible books. At least half of its books are out of copyright, or were digitized with the permission of the copyright holders, so the complete texts are or eventually will be available free.

The collection includes a large number of rare and orphan books. More than 20 languages are represented among the 1.5 million books, a little more than 1 percent of all of the world's books.

Many of the books, particularly those in Chinese and English, have been digitized - their text converted by optical character recognition methods into computer readable text. That allows these books to be searched and, eventually, reformatted for access by PDAs and other devices. ..
Though the long-term goal of the Universal Library is to make books, artwork and other published works available online for free, about half of the current collection remains under copyright. Until the permission of the copyright holders can be documented, or copyright laws are amended, only 10 percent or less of those books can be accessed at no cost.

The project has surpassed one million books, but the participants are looking to expand to all countries and eventually every language...

For a full list of partners in the Million Book Project, see the "people" menu at

Read the full news release...
Access the Universal Library...

(With thanks to Karen Wei for informing us of this news)

Posted by Katie Newman at 9:48 AM

November 19, 2007

Americans Are Reading Less

The National Endowment for the Arts today released an interesting and disturbing report of American reading today. Gathering and collating available data, it reports that the data are simple, consistent, and alarming. Although there has been measurable progress in recent years in reading ability at the elementary school level, all progress seems to stop as children enter their teens. There is a general decline in reading among teenagers and adults and both reading ability and the habit of regular reading have greatly declined among college graduates.

The report reaches three conclusions:
* Americans are spending less time reading.
* Reading comprehension skills are eroding
* These declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications.

These conclusions are, as the report notes, "unsettling." Clearly, more research is needed to explore factors that might contribute to this trend and to weigh the relative effectiveness and costs and benefits of programs to foster lifelong reading and skills development.

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:13 AM

November 15, 2007

Scholarly Societies with Open Access Journals

Scholars are often concerned that if their society journal becomes "open access", subscription revenues to their society will dry up. Many learned societies are very interested in offering their articles to the widest possible audience, which OA offers, but are concerned about the sustainability of business models that provide for open access.

Caroline Sutton and Peter Suber have recently begun a two-phase project to look at OA publication initiatives from learned societies.

The goal of phase one is to make a comprehensive list of scholarly societies worldwide that support gold OA for their own journals - this is often referred to as the author-pays model. In the preliminary spreadsheet, they've divided the journals into those that are fully open access (currently 478 journals) and those that follow a hybrid model (72 journals) where some of the articles are open and others are not.

Among the information that is being gathered:
Journal title
Scholarly Society name
Geographic location
Field (STM, HUM, ARTS, SS, Multi)
Print edition
Submission fee
Publication / Page charge
ISI Impact Factor
Where indexed
Date OA starts

Once they have secured funding, the authors plan to probe the societies to "learn details about their turn to OA, their business models, and the financial and academic consequences of their OA policies."

Read more about the project:

Access the most recent spreadsheet:

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:39 AM

November 13, 2007

Update: Library-led Educational Initiatives in Scholarly Communication

Last week we noted that excerpts from the ARL-sponsored SPEC Kit report #299, "Scholarly Communication Educational Initiatives" had been posted to the University of Illinois research archive, IDEALS.

The entire report has now been made freely available on the ARL (Association of Research Libraries) web site! The ARL really wants this report widely disseminated, so are making the entire report freely available. Find it at:

The difference between the full report and what I was able to post is that I only posted the part of the report that I wrote together with my co-authors, Deb Blecic (UIC) and Kim Armstrong (formerly UIS, now CIC). That is, I posted the Executive Summary, the Survey Instrument and Results, and Selected Articles and Web Resources). In addition to these, the full report includes more than 100 pages of representative documents submitted by the seventy or so ARL member libraries that participated in the survey -- documents such as examples of Committee Charges/Proposals for Scholarly Communication (SC) initiatives; SC position descriptions; SC web sites; Copyright web sites; SC blogs; Newsletters; and, Presentation descriptions, handouts, and slides.

The record for the excerpt of the report in IDEALS will shortly be amended to include a reference to the openly accessible full text version of the document at the ARL web.

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:03 AM

November 5, 2007

Library-led Educational Initiatives in Scholarly Communication

Scholarly Communication Education Initiatives, SPEC Kit 299, was recently published by the Association of Research Libraries. Authored by Katie Newman, Deborah Blecic, and Kim Armstrong, this report surveyed the ARL libraries concerning their activities in getting the word out to their students and researchers about their scholarly communication options. What worked? What didn't? What's the best way to reach the researchers?

Since the author-agreement for the report allowed the authors to deposit the report in an institutional repository, the following portions of the report are available at the University of Illinois repository, IDEALS at the durable URL,

The openly accessible portion of the report does not include the Representative Documents that were submitted by the respondents (106 pgs) which included proposals for education initiatives, scholarly communication and copyright Web pages, job descriptions, and education materials.

To purchase this report or for a list of other SPEC Kits, see:

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:20 PM

October 30, 2007

The State of the University Press

This entry is a little behind in noting this article, but, apropos of the Ithaka Report, there is an interesting piece on the state of the university press from the September 14th Inside Higher Education: Ronald Reagan vs. the University Press by James F. Reische, a former senior executive editor at the University of Michigan Press. Especially interesting is the conversation among readers in the comments at the end of the article. Well worth reading.

Posted by Sarah Shreeves at 9:29 AM

October 29, 2007

Science Has a Serious Marketing Problem

The Scientist (Vol 21, Issue 10) ran an interesting article, "The Future of Public Engagement" about the need for scientists to "frame" their research for public consumption. They should not just "dumb down" their science, so "the public" can understand it. Rather

...scientists must learn to focus on presenting, or "framing," their messages in ways that connect with diverse audiences. This means remaining true to the underlying science, but drawing on research to tailor messages in ways that make them personally relevant and meaningful to different publics. For example, when scientists are speaking to a group of people who think about the world primarily in economic terms, they should emphasize the economic relevance of science - such as, in the case of embryonic stem cell research, pointing out that expanded government funding would make the United States, or a particular state, more economically competitive.

How framing works..

Frames simplify complex issues by lending greater importance to certain considerations and arguments over others. In the process, framing helps communicate why an issue might be a problem, who or what might be responsible, and what should be done. A typology of frames specific to science-related issues summarizes a common set of frames specific to science.

The article gives examples from research in successes in communicating stem cell research, plant biotechnology, and nanotechnology.

Some scientists already frame their communications. Consider, for example, E.O. Wilson's Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth. In his book, by recasting environmental stewardship as not only a scientific matter, but also one of personal and moral duty, Wilson has generated discussion among a religious audience that might not otherwise pay attention to popular science books.

Perhaps because I just read a similar idea in Alan Alda's book "Things I Overheard While Listening to Myself", this Scientist article resonated for me. In his book, Alda suggests that, along with all the science classes students take, perhaps they should also be taking communication classes!

We can't leave the popularization of science just to the science news writers. Their articles certainly help. But citizens need to hear about research from the scientists themselves. Last night I watched a wonderful program on Nature about colony collapse in honeybees, "Silence of the Bees". Two of our scientists from the U of I entomology department, May Berenbaum and Gene Robinson (together with other scientists) spoke eloquently of the catastrophe that will occur if honeybees continue to decline. One couldn't help but be drawn into the story and into the CSI-like research effort that's going on to solve this problem.

Posted by Katie Newman at 2:29 PM