From the editor

Recently, I’ve been finding few news items that are not already available via the OA tracking project. For this reason, there will be no additional posts to this blog during the remainder of 2010. Instead, I will post to Twitter any news items that catch my eye. Such items will then be included among all of those found via a search of the real-time feed aggregator FriendFeed (FF) for the hashtag #openaccess. An advantage of FF is that it permits comments to be added by anyone who joins FriendFeed.

The Science 2.0 Group on FF includes people who are interested in Open Science.

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Selected OA news items noted during August 2010

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Political theater about public access to federally funded research

On July 29, 2010, the Information Policy, Census, and National Archives Subcommittee of the US House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing entitled: “Public Access to Federally-Funded Research”. The hearing was chaired by Subcommittee Chairman Representative William Lacy Clay (D-MO).

The Alliance for Taxpayer Access has posted a news item about the hearings, entitled: Summary: Hearing on Public Access to Federally Funded Research, dated August 12, 2010.  Excerpt from the last paragraph of this summary: “Next steps: Congress will be in recess until September 9, so any further action on this issue or related legislation will happen after that point.”

There was a webcast of the hearings (2 hr 14 min) and a video is available. Copies of the Opening Statement of Chairman Clay and of the Prepared Testimony of the ten panel members are available here.

Some information about the video (the total duration of the hearing was 2:14:00):

  • 3:10 End of Chairman’s Opening Statement.
  • 7:30 End of statement from Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).
  • 7:35 Introduction of Panel I.
  • 9:40 Beginning of reading of Prepared Testimony by each of three members of the first panel. Each member was given 5 minutes to present their testimony. (All had concerns about government-mandated public access to the outputs of federally funded research).
  • 26:10 End of Panel I presentations and beginning of first question period. Representatives Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), Judy Chu (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Chairman Clay asked questions.
  • 1:07:25 End of first panel.
  • 1:09:00 Introduction of Panel II.
  • 1:13:35 Beginning of reading of Prepared Testimony by each of six members of the second panel. (All were supporters of public access to the outputs of federally funded research).
  • 1:43:15 End of Panel II presentations and beginning of second question period. Chairman Clay was the only Representative still present, and he asked several questions.
  • 1:59:10 End of second panel.
  • 2:00:15 Introduction of Panel III.
  • 2:01:30 Beginning of reading of Prepared Testimony by the single member of the third panel, Dr. David Lipman (Director, NCBI, NLM, National Institutes of Health).
  • 2:05:50 End of Panel III presentation and beginning of third question period. Again, Chairman Clay was the only Representative still present, and he asked several questions.
  • 2:14:00 End of hearing.

Summaries of Twitter messages (tweets) about the webcast have been posted here and here. The emphasis is on the Panel II session.

Another commentary about the hearings is: House Holds Hearing on Status of Open Access, FASEB Washington Update, August 6, 2010. The emphasis is on the Panel I session.

Comments: How to review this video, as an example of political theater? First impression: it was based on three one-act plays. Each one was nicely staged. Second impression: the model for these plays was one of the “Judge So-and-So” programs that can be seen on television. In such programs, the judge listens while various people present their different versions of a dispute, and tries to decide who is being deceitful and who isn’t. Representative Clay played the role of “Judge Clay” very well. Most of the supporting cast were also excellent (although perhaps Representative Maloney spent more time in the spotlight than was really necessary). There were even some humorous moments.

What was the purpose of this particular example of political theater? It served well as a tutorial about the OA movement. However, Representative Clay was the only member of the House to benefit from the full tutorial. The other three Representatives were present and asked questions only during the first act. Then, they left.

Were these hearings simply a prelude to further legislative action or an executive pronouncement? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

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CoLab launched

CoLab was launched at Open Science Summit 2010. It’s: “Designed for open and massively collaborative science“. [FriendFeed entry].

Comments: The focus is on unresolved scientific issues that are identified by members. So far, two issues have been contributed: “Locally optimal scientific research environments“, contributed on July 29 by A Garrett Lisi, and “How do you build an effective social sharing site for scientists?“, contributed on July 30 by Cameron Neylon. Both have attracted multiple comments.

There have been many Twitter trackbacks about CoLab (76 as of August 6th).

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Selected OA news items noted during July 2010

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UCLA survey of knowledge about the NIH Public Access Policy

Measuring Capacity and Effectiveness of NIH Public Access Policy Programming as a Model for Open Access by Tania Bardyn and 4 co-authors, UCLA Louis M Darling Biomedical Library. Dated July 24, 2010 in the University of New Mexico DSpace repository.

Abstract: This file contains the presentation slides from Ms. Bardyn’s presentation at the Evidence Based Scholarly Communication Conference, March 11-12, 2010, in Albuquerque, NM. [PDF of 44 presentation slides].

This was a “Survey of Translational and Other Researchers’ Knowledge of the NIH Public Access Policy at UCLA“.

  • From Slides 3, 9 & 10: Translational researchers at UCLA (N=?) and attendees at 8 NIH Workshops (N=103) were surveyed. The survey took place between Nov. 30, 2009 and Dec. 15, 2009.
  • From Slide 13: 72.5% of responses (50/69) were from the David Geffen School of Medicine.
  • From Slides 15 & 17: Of 69 respondents, 51% did not attend an NIH Workshop at UCLA. And, 51% were Translational Researchers.
  • From Slide 16: 74% (51/69 respondents) answered “Yes” to the question: “Are you currently involved in any NIH funded research?
  • From Slide 26: 50% (32/64 respondents) did not know the stated intention of the NIH Public Access Policy.
  • From Slide 36: Of 65 respondents, 43% had successfully submitted an article to PubMed Central.
  • From Slide 37: Of 65 respondents, 95.4% answered “No” to the question; “Have you made any attempts to retain your copyrights when publishing in an academic journal?“.
  • From Slide 38: Knowledge Sharing: 89% (24 respondents) of NIH Workshop Attendees answered “Yes“; 49% (17 respondents) of Translational Researchers answered “Yes“.
  • From Slide 42: Quote from survey respondent at UCLA, December 2009 (about future training on the NIH Public Access Policy): “I think it is more efficient for the NIH website or other external website to provide such training. The issues are the same at all universities and it is not clear why each institution should provide this information. Since the NIH requires IDs on papers in biosketches and progress reports, that affects investigators competitiveness on grants which is much stronger motivation to comply with the policy than mandated training by UCLA which will force investigators to know the policy, but not necessarily comply with the policy.”
  • From Slide 43: 57% (37/65 respondents) answered “Yes” to the question: “Do you think you need further training on this issue?“.

Comments: The response rate was not high for this survey. Of 103 NIH Workshop Attendees, only 43% of 69 survey respondents were sure that they had attended a Workshop. So, the response rate from NIH Workshop attendees was 0.43×69/103=29%. It’s not stated how many Translational Researchers were surveyed, but it’s unlikely that the response rate for the Translational Researchers was higher than it was for the NIH Workshop Attendees.

Might the survey results be biased in a way that yielded an underestimate of knowledge about the NIH Public Access Policy by translational and other researchers at UCLA? This also seems unlikely.

A question that wasn’t answered in the slide presentation: were the 28 respondents who had successfully submitted an article to PubMed Central (see Slide 36/44) also the most knowledgeable about the NIH Public Access Policy? (If not, does it matter?).

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Finding influential OATP news items

The Open Access Tracking Project (OATP) provides a unique resource. It distributes information about recent news items of interest from the perspective of the Open Access movement. Participants in the OATP tag new developments using Connotea. The OATP links include project feeds that contain all (and only) the items that participants have tagged with One of the feeds is a Twitter feed, based on the version of the Connotea RSS feed showing the 50 most recent items.

Some influential news items are bookmarked in Connotea by more than one participant. One of the useful OATP mashups is a filtered version of the project feed, a “OATP 100 items no dups” feed of the 100 most recent news items, without duplicates.

Influential news items are also often found in multiple tweets, or have been retweeted, via Twitter. Another useful resource is Topsy, a “search engine powered by tweets“. Topsy provides way to assess the influence of news items that have been included in the OATP Twitter feed. One can simply use Topsy’s Advanced Search option to search within the Twitter user OATP. Such searches within the OATP Twitter feed can be restricted to the current day, or week, or month. The number of duplicate tweets (or retweets) about a news item can be used as a quantitative indicator of the influence of a particular news item. (It’s the URL of the news item that counts, not the exact text of the tweet). This indicator provides one kind of “article-level metric” (ALM) for that news item. (For an informative commentary about ALMs, see the OA article: Article-Level Metrics and the Evolution of Scientific Impact by Cameron Neylon and Shirley Wu, PLoS Biol 2009(Nov); 7(11): e1000242. [PubMed citation]).

An example of a very influential news item (well over 900 tweets, including the one from the OATP) during the week ending on July 24, 2010 was: BP buys up Gulf scientists for legal defense, roiling academic community | (See all of the Twitter trackbacks for this news item, via Topsy). The Connotea bookmark for this news item was tagged oa.industry,, oa.negative, by Peter Suber (Connotea user “petersuber“).


Efforts to keep up with recent news items involve three major aspects. Firstly, there must be ways for the news items to be discovered. Secondly, ways are needed to filter the discovered items so that those of particular interest to an individual user can be identified easily. Thirdly, the discovered items of interest must be accessible to the reader.

About discovery: The Open Access movement may be unique, from a scholarly perspective, in the extent to which credible items of interest are distributed across the entire Web. A wide variety of online sources provide relevant items. The participants in the OATP (especially, Peter Suber) have been extraordinarily diligent in their efforts to discover such items. Additional news items can be identified via these tags: #openaccess and #oa. There is much overlap between these latter results, because both of these hashtags are often used together. I’ve not yet found an easy way to assess the extent of overlap between news items identified by the #openaccess or #oa hashtags and those included in the OATP feeds. There’s a feed that combines the OATP results with those for #openaccess, but duplicates between the two have not been eliminated.

About filtering: The tags added to Connotea bookmarks can be used to filter news items obtained via the Connotea site. An example is provided by the results of a search for oa.canada. Unfortunately, the Connotea search engine tends to function slowly, especially when combinations of tags are sought.  Searches via Topsy are more convenient, but Topsy does not recognize “” or “oa.canada” as hashtags, in the absence of a “#” symbol. My own experience so far has been that, thanks to the OATP, there’s less of a discovery deficit when seeking OA-related news items, and more of a filtration challenge. What are the most efficient ways to find those news items of greatest personal interest? They may not always be items that have a noteworthy number of Twitter trackbacks.

About access: there’s an advantage to the fact that credible news items of interest to the OA movement are widely distributed across the entire Web. Unlike articles in traditional toll-access academic journals, OA-related news items tend (not a surprise) to be publicly accessible, usually via Gratis OA. Perhaps the OA movement is in the process of providing an initial test of the conjecture that we are in the early stages of a growing movement to abandon traditional academic publishing? Or, perhaps more realistically, in the early stages of a growing movement to supplement traditional academic publishing with a variety of other approaches, all based on free and open services?

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