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July 28, 2006

Provost's Open Letter Voices Strong Support for Federal Public Research Access Act (FRPAA)

Inside Higher Ed is reporting today that the provosts from 25 top universities -- including Linda Katehi, Provost & Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign -- is releasing a strongly worded letter in support of the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006 (FRPAA). In their letter they point out that:

"We believe that this legislation represents a watershed and provides an opportunity for the entire U.S. higher education and research community to draw upon their traditional partnerships and collaboratively realize the unquestionably good intentions of the Bill’s framers – broadening access to publicly funded research in order to accelerate the advancement of knowledge and maximize the related public good.
… The broad dissemination of the results of scholarly inquiry and discourse is essential for higher education to fulfill its long-standing commitment to the advancement and conveyance of knowledge. Indeed, it is mission critical.
…Collectively, our universities engage in billions of dollars of funded research. On average, approximately 50% of our research funding originates with the federal government. That public investment – estimated at over $55 billion for the research covered by FRPAA – is complemented by our own institutional investments in research units, laboratories, libraries, and the faculty and staff whose expertise permeates them. FRPAA has the potential to enable the maximum downstream use of those investments.
…Each month the evidence mounts that open access to research through digital distribution increases the use of that research and the visibility of its creators. Widespread public dissemination levels the economic playing field for researchers outside of well-funded universities and research centers and creates more opportunities for innovation.
…Open access can also match the missions of scholarly societies and publishers who review, edit, and distribute research to serve the advancement of knowledge. ... Open access to publications in no way negates the need for well-managed and effective peer review or the need for formal publishing.
…FRPAA is good for education and good for research. It is good for the American public, and it promotes broad, democratic access to knowledge. While it challenges the academy and scholarly publishers to think and act creatively, it need not threaten nor undermine a successful balance of our interests. If passed, we will work with researchers, publishers, and federal agencies to ensure its successful implementation. We endorse FRPAA’s aims and urge the academic community, individually and collectively, to voice support for its passage."

Access the full letter, here and the Inside Higher Ed piece, here.

Posted by Katie Newman at 10:28 AM

July 27, 2006

Nature's Debate on Peer Review and Test of Open Review

Nature, one of the most prestigious scientific journals, is currently holding an online debate on the merits of peer review.

From Nature...
"Peer review is commonly accepted as an essential part of scientific publication. But the ways peer review is put into practice vary across journals and disciplines. What is the best method of peer review? Is it truly a value-adding process? What are the ethical concerns? And how can new technology be used to improve traditional models?"

The Nature debate consists of 22 articles of analyses and perspectives from leading scientists, publishers and other stakeholders on such subjects as listed above. Readers are invited to comment on the various articles.

Additionally, for a period of three months, Nature is holding it's own "peer review trial".

Again, from Nature:
"The trial will not displace Nature's traditional confidential peer review process, but will complement it. From 5 June 2006, authors may opt to have their submitted manuscripts posted publicly for comment. Any scientist may then post comments, provided they identify themselves. Once the usual confidential peer review process is complete, the public 'open peer review' process will be closed. Editors will then read all comments on the manuscript and invite authors to respond. At the end of the process, as part of the trial, editors will assess the value of the public comments."

Take a look at some of the articles that have submitted to this "open peer review" process.

Posted by Katie Newman at 5:26 PM

July 25, 2006

Harris Poll: Public Supports Easy and Free Online Access to Federally Funded Research

The June 16th edition of Healthcare News, a publication of HarrisInteractive, reports that a Harris Poll conducted in mid-April found that large majorities of U.S. adults hold the opinions that:

More specifically,
Read the full report. Healthcare News: 6:6 (2006)

Posted by Katie Newman at 12:50 PM

July 24, 2006

Library Community Urges Hearings on FRAPPA

The Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries, the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), Association of College and Research Libraies (ACRL), American Library Association (ALA), the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), the Medical Library Association (MLA), the Special Libraries Association (SLA), and SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) recently sent a letter to Senator Collins, encouraging the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to hold hearings on the Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006.

In part, the letter says:
"S. 2695 would promote widespread, affordable, and effective dissemination of scientific and scholarly research results.
...Federally funded research is a public resource collected at public expense. Importantly, increased access to this research accelerates the pace of discovery and innovation and fosters economic growth. It is critical that this new research be readily available to physicians, researchers, and members of the public, including those who are unaffiliated with or working in locations remote from libraries that subscribe to in increasingly expensive journals and databases developed from federally funded research.
... Posting of manuscripts stemming from agency grants or contracts falls squarely within an agency's rights and does not impinge upon the author’s copyright. Nevertheless, some publishers have challenged the right of federal agencies to implement public access policies, which may discourage or inhibit agency initiatives. This legislation will not take funding away from research to any material extent.
...The NIH, for example, estimates that the cost of its public access program would be $3.5 million if 100% of the 65,000 eligible manuscripts were deposited annually. That is a tiny fraction (about 0.01%) of the agency's $28 billion budget. It is also a small fraction of the $30 million per year the agency spends on page charges and other subsidies to subscription-based journals. The reality is that sharing of research results is part of the research process."

Posted by Katie Newman at 12:15 PM

July 20, 2006

Google Scholar Trademark Suit Over

ACS, which was founded in 1876 and claims to be the world's largest scientific society, sued Google in 2004. The suit claimed that the free "Google Scholar" journal-search service unfairly competes with ACS' "SciFinder Scholar," which appears to be more comprehensive but charges a fee.

"SciFinder Scholar is well-known and long has been well-received throughout the academic community, and we must protect our name and the good will the tool has already achieved," an ACS representative said at the time.

But the case was quietly settled out of court in Washington, D.C., earlier this month, with Google and ACS submitting a joint two-page document that says each side will pay its own attorney fees.

cnet 7/19/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 10:59 AM

Technology Rewrites the Book

From today's New York Times comes an interesting look at the emerging print-on-demand book business:

The print-on-demand business is gradually moving toward the center of the marketplace. What began as a way for publishers to reduce their inventory and stop wasting paper is becoming a tool for anyone who needs a bound document. Short-run presses can turn out books economically in small quantities or singly, and new software simplifies the process of designing a book.

As the technology becomes simpler, the market is expanding beyond the earliest adopters, the aspiring authors. The first companies like AuthorHouse, Xlibris, iUniverse and others pushed themselves as new models of publishing, with an eye on shaking up the dusty book business. They aimed at authors looking for someone to edit a manuscript, lay out the book and bring it to market.

The newer ventures also produce bound books, but they do not offer the same hand-holding or the same drive for the best-seller list. Blurb’s product will appeal to people searching for a publisher, but its business is aimed at anyone who needs a professional-looking book, from architects with plans to present to clients, to travelers looking to immortalize a trip.

More at New York Times 7/20/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 10:54 AM

Computer Publisher Provides All Books Free

Anyone who visits In Pictures' website at can download any and all of its 22 different books for free, in Adobe PDF format. In the month since the site was launched, more than 20,000 people have visited it to download free books.

"We could have spent a hundred thousand dollars on advertising that most people would ignore," said In Pictures creator Chris Charuhas. "But instead we decided to give away a hundred thousand dollars worth of books. When people try them, they like them, then they spread the word." 7/20/06

More at

Posted by P. Kaufman at 10:37 AM

July 18, 2006

BioMed Central Membership Cancelled at UIUC

Recently the University of Illinois Library chose not to continue its membership in BioMed Central (BMC) This decision was made in consultation with the then-Acting Provost and the Vice-Chancellor for Research. The discussion with the campus administration was precipitated when BMC changed its membership plan. Formerly, there was one type of membership: member institutions paid a modest fee and in return, authors were given free publishing rights in BMC journals. Waiving of the article processing charge is no longer a benefit of the standard 'supporter’ membership.

The discussion with the Provost and Vice-Chancellor revolved around the following questions:

What would we get were we to continue our membership in BMC?

Some faculty have erroneously concluded that a Library membership in BMC would grant them cost-free publishing rights in BMC journals. Although this used to be the case, the new Supporting Membership model does not provide this feature.

BMC offers another type of BMC 'membership' called 'PrePay Membership', which gives individual authors free publishing rights. Under this model, the University would pre-pay the article processing charges upfront, based on the number of successful submissions it expects its authors to make. The more the institution pre-pays, the lower the APC that is charged against the pre-paid account. Under this plan, the individual researcher would pay nothing; the University would pick up the APC bill ahead of time. So, for example, if the University estimates that there might be 30 submissions to BMC from UIUC, it would pre-pay around $30,000 to BMC. We do not feel this is a sustainable model, and are not considering becoming a 'prepay member' of BMC. To learn more about the types of BMC memberships, see:

There are a handful of other BMC-published journals for which we don't hold subscriptions -- the research articles in most of these are open access, but the reviews and commentaries are not. See this page for a list of the titles that UIUC has access to from BMC:

In 2004 Nature held a forum on the issue of Open Access. Don King and Carol Tenopir analyzed the pros and cons of the open access system as well as its long-term sustainability. See:

Ultimately, if we are to have 'open access', someone has to pay. This is just the opening salvo of a conversation that will surely span many months, and occur in many venues. We welcome hearing your comments on this issue.

A final word...
If you are interested in making your research more accessbile -- more widely read and cited -- consider putting a copy of it in the UIUC scholarly respository, IDEALS. Or, if appropriate, put it in the NIH respository, PubMed Central or some other subject-based resource. Over 90% of the "traditional" publishers will allow you to do this, so go ahead and publish where you like, but later consider putting the final version of the articles in one of these publically accessible repositories. If you do this, the whole world will be able to read and profit from your research!

Posted by Katie Newman at 3:42 PM

July 14, 2006

Rice University Press Reborn Digital

After lying dormant for ten years, Rice University Press has relaunched, reconstituting itself as a fully digital operation centered around Connexions, an open-access repository of learning modules, course guides and authoring tools. connexions.jpg Connexions was started at Rice in 1999 by Richard Baraniuk, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, and has since grown into one of the leading sources of open educational content — also an early mover into the Creative Commons movement, building flexible licensing into its publishing platform and allowing teachers and students to produce derivative materials and customized textbooks from the array of resources available on the site.

The new ingredient in this mix is a print-on-demand option through a company called QOOP. Students can order paper or hard-bound copies of learning modules for a fraction of the cost of commercial textbooks, even used ones. There are also some inexpensive download options. Web access, however, is free to all. Moreover, Connexions authors can update and amend their modules at all times. The project is billed as "open source" but individual authorship is still the main paradigm. The print-on-demand and for-pay download schemes may even generate small royalties for some authors.

if:book 7/13/06

Posted by P. Kaufman at 4:03 PM

July 13, 2006

P.S., I Want All The Rights

The debate over whether research results should be freely accessible has always been fraught. Having given a lot of ground, journal publishers are determined to hang on to one last bastion: their rights to the published version of scientific articles. Now librarians and open-access advocates have set their sights on that final prize — by encouraging researchers to demand the right to distribute the published versions freely and immediately.

Funding agencies are increasingly adopting policies to make the results of the research they fund free for all. Both the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Britain's Wellcome Trust, for example, encourage this practice. They ask that the version of a manuscript accepted for publication be put in an open-access library such as PubMed Central within 6–12 months of it coming out. The Wellcome Trust's policy will become compulsory on 1 October, and legislation that would make the NIH policy mandatory is pending in the US Congress.

Ann Wolpert, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has launched an initiative that she says will clearly assign rights to the author in a way that would satisfy funders. Wolpert has drawn up a document that researchers can add on to the rights agreement the publisher gives them to sign. Similar agreements have been drafted by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition and the MIT-affiliated Science Commons.

Read more at:
Nature (Published Online 7/12/06)

Posted by P. Kaufman at 7:18 AM

July 6, 2006

Factors Affecting Science Communication: a survey of scientists and engineers

The Royal Society (through the Science in Society programme), Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust funded a study to examine the factors affecting science communication by scientists. This report will provide evidence to support the development of strategies to encourage scientists and engineers to communicate with stakeholders including the public, policy makers and media. By communication, they mean putting the results of research out to the public in a means that is accessible to to the layman.

The aim of the study was to provide evidence for funding organisations, universities and other research institutions on which they can base a workable system to reward scientists for their efforts to become involved with public engagement activities.

According to the scientists surveyed for the report the pressure to publish research, attract funding to their departments and build careers on 'hard research' means public engagement work, such as debates, dialogues or exhibitions, media appearances or outreach activities with schools, is not a priority. The need to spend more time on research was the top reason, cited by 64 per cent of respondents, stopping scientists getting more engaged with science communication work.

To read the report, go to:
To read a summary of the findings, go to:

Posted by Katie Newman at 4:34 PM