Archive for December, 2006

Tags as indicators of growing awareness about OA?

One way to disseminate information about OA is via “social bookmarking”. As described by Ben Lund, Tagging and Bookmarking In Institutional Repositories, Nascent, March 13, 2006, “Social bookmarking is the process of saving your bookmarks (or links, or favourites, whichever term you prefer) on a website and making them available for others to see“. [See also: More on tagging eprints in OA repositories, posted by Peter Suber on March 14, 2006, and Social Bookmarking Tools (II): A Case Study – Connotea, Ben Lund, Tony Hammond, Martin Flack and Timo Hannay, D-Lib Magazine 2005(April); 11(4)].

As noted in the article by Lund, Hammond, Flack and Hannay, one can obtain data about the number of bookmarks in Connotea matching the tag “open access” by visiting
When I did this today (December 31, 2006), a total of 842 entries were tagged “open access”. Of these, I counted 738 that were posted in 2006, and 104 in 2005 (beginning on March 2, 2005).

Ben Lund also points out that is perhaps the best known social bookmarking service. “Connotea is a similar service that is tailored specifically for use by scientists and other academics“. A search of for bookmarks tagged “open_access” yielded a total of 1830 bookmarks. Topping the list was the Directory of open access journals, saved by 1781 people. Next was Peter Suber’s Open Access News, saved by 225 people. (Third on the list was another address for the DOAJ,

Technorati permits searches for tagged blog posts. A search for “open access” in tags yielded 1,857 blog posts in all languages. Of these, 1,280 were posts in English.

CiteULike can be searched for recent papers tagged “open_access“. Of 20 papers classified in this way, 16 were posted in 2006, 3 in 2005 and 1 in 2004.

Perhaps such data may provide useful indicators of growing awareness about OA?

Added January 8, 2007:

Of course, social bookmarking itself increased markedly during the past two years. Preliminary evidence that the 7-fold increase (from 104 in 2005 to 738 in 2006) in the use of the “open access” tag in Connotea wasn’t simply a result of the increased popularity of social bookmarking has been published as a short “obervation” in Philica. See: Till, J. Tags Indicate That Open Access Is Flourishing. PHILICA.COM Observation number 34.

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Authors: The “slumbering behemoth”

I read, with considerable interest, Peter Suber’s Predictions for 2007 in the SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #104 (December 2, 2006).

One of his predictions was: “More publishers will adopt the hybrid OA model for more journals” … “The question in 2007 will not be whether the hybrid model will spread among publishers (it will) but whether it will appeal to authors” … “The big question for publishers is whether they want author uptake badly enough to make it attractive”.

(Please note that I’ve omitted from this excerpt Peter’s summary of several features of an attractive hybrid model, such as keeping fees low and permitting self-archiving without embargo or fee).

Another of Peter’s predictions is that spontaneous author education about OA will continue to grow. A relevant excerpt: “OA literature is the best advertisement for OA and we’re starting to see a critical mass of it exert its effect. It doesn’t take academic readers of OA articles very long to figure out that this is what they want for themselves as authors. Since the volume of OA literature is growing in every field, it’s easy to predict that this kind of spontaneous author education will also continue to grow. We’ve only started to see what this kind of viral self-advertising can do to spread the word about OA and create a tipping point”.

Both predictions involve “appeal to authors”. Authors continue to be, in the well-chosen words of Dorothea Salo, the “slumbering behemoth”. See, for example, these excerpts from her blog entry, “How are we doing?” (Caveat Lector, 12 May 2006): “We have the (largely US- and Europe-based) for-profit publishers, who hate and fear open access to the point of telling flat-out lies about it. We have librarians and a few visionary researchers, who want it desperately. And we have the slumbering behemoth, the vast quantity of researchers who don’t understand the system and don’t care, but will do what they are told and act in what they perceive to be their self-interest”. …“But the slumbering behemoth slumbers on, letting us change its sleeping-space behind the scenes. The publishers daren’t disturb it—for example, by aggressively hunting down e-reserves programs or institutional repositories – for fear that it will turn on them when it wakes. Sure, the behemoth isn’t using its current power (and it has quite a lot, in the form of unremunerated labor) to force change, nor is it actively changing. It won’t use its power to resist change, either, and I do think that may just be good enough, the way the world is moving”.

Another, more recent, excerpt is from “The behemoth stirs” (Caveat Lector, 28 July 2006): “I have referred to university faculty and academic administrators, none too kindly, as the slumbering behemoth as regards the march of open access”. … “The behemoth is starting to yawn, stretch, and bestir itself”. She then goes on to mention the support of a large number of academic leaders in the USA for FRPAA (Federal Research Public Access Act of 2006, S. 2695). As of November 27, 2006, this number had reached 131, according to a SPARC Advocacy webpage about FRPAA.

One reason why the behemoth is starting to bestir itself here in Canada is the Draft policy on Access to CIHR-funded Research Outputs of the Canadian Institutes of Health (CIHR). A public consultation about this draft policy ended on November 24, 2006, and the responses are currently being analyzed. The results of this analysis, when they become available, should provide some initial clues about ways in which the behemoth is beginning to react to the kind of prodding that’s outlined in CIHR’s draft policy. Stay tuned.


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Distributive justice and open access

Some of the more powerful ethics-based justifications for open access continue to be ones based on the concept of “distributive justice”. These justifications can also be regarded as ones based on concepts of “fairness”, or “equitable-access”. An eloquent example of a justification of this kind was provided by Jean-Claude Guédon, in a presentation to the May 2001 meeting of The Association of Research Libraries, entitled: “In Oldenburg’s Long Shadow: Librarians, Research Scientists, Publishers, and the Control of Scientific Publishing“, He wrote:

Librarians can (and ought to) help create a navigable, worldwide ocean of knowledge, open to all; and, like Odysseus, they will know how to help negotiate the tricky ebbs and eddies, the vortices and the undertows of chaotic knowledge flows that necessarily accompany the development of a distributed intelligence civilization – a civilization open to all that are good enough (excellence), and not only to those who can afford it (elites).

There’s a good concise summary of ethics-oriented liberal theories of justice in a wiki-based commentary on Chapter 9, “Justice and Development“, of Yochai Benkler’s influential book, “The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom“. The works of John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Ronald Dworkin and Bruce Ackerman are noted.

Justifications based on concepts of distributive justice are especially relevant in relation to access to health-related information. An example has been provided by an article entitled “Equitable access to scientific and technical information for health“, in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2003(Oct); 81(10), by Hooman Momen (Editor, Bulletin of the WHO). This article is accessible via the website of the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO).

An excerpt:

Health is perhaps the area of most intense demand for greater access to scientific and technical information, partly because failure to obtain it can be literally fatal.

Thus, the “global health” justification for open access is based on the “distributive justice” justification. An eloquent summary, by Barbara Kirsop, of the “global health” justification for open access is included in a message that she sent to the American Scientist Open Access Forum on 2 January 2004, on the subject “Re: Free Access vs. Open Access“.


Scientists (and patients with malaria) in the developing world need the information now, asap, in any format that can best be provided, don’t wait til everything is perfect, just do it. And science in the developed world equally needs the highly relevant research from the developing regions now – though it mostly doesn’t recognise this knowledge gap.

Leslie Chan and Sely Costa pointed out, also in 2004, that opportunities for knowledge workers in developing countries to have access to scholarly and scientific publications is important “particularly in areas of medicine, agricultural and environmental sciences“. See: “Participation in the global knowledge commons: challenges and opportunities for research dissemination in developing countries“,

Charles W. Bailey, Jr. maintains a bibliography of “Open Access Arrangements for Developing Countries“.

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