Archive for January, 2007

The Future of Science is Open

Bill Hooker has posted a series of three very interesting articles, on: I) Open Access; II) Open Science; and, III) An Open Science World. Here, I’ll pay particular attention to the first article of the series, on Open Access, and especially to the list of benefits of Open Access. I’ve included some selected excerpts from the text, just to highlight some of the points that are made.

I) The Future of Science is Open, Part 1: Open Access. 3 Quarks Daily, Bill Hooker, 30 Oct. 2006.

Benefits of Open Access:

1. Maximal research efficiency. Excerpt: “The usual version of Linus’ Law says that given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow — meaning that with enough people co-operating on a development process, nearly every problem will be rapidly discovered and solved. The same is clearly true of complex research problems. and OA provides a powerful framework for co-operation.”

2. Maximal return on public investment. Excerpt: “Why should taxpayers pay twice, once to support the research and then again when the scientists they are funding need access to the literature? More importantly, open access to a body of knowledge makes that knowledge more available and useful to researchers, physicians, manufacturers, inventors and others who make of it the various socially desirable outcomes, such as advances in health care, that government funding of research is intended to produce.”

3. Advantages for authors. Excerpt: “There is a large and steadily growing body of evidence showing that OA measurably increases citation indices (that is, the number of times other papers refer to a given article).”

4. Advantages for publishers. Excerpt: “the benefits that accrue to authors of OA works also work to the advantage of publishers: more widely read, used and cited articles translates to more submissions and a wider audience for advertising, paid editorials and other value-add schemes.”

5. Advantages for administrators. Excerpt: “Open access, by removing the subscription barriers that splinter the research literature into inaccessible proprietary islands, raises the possibility of vast improvements in our ability to measure and manage scientific productivity.”

6. Scalability. Excerpt: “For end users to keep pace with the explosive growth of available information, the cost of access has to be kept down to the cost of getting online.”

II) The Future of Science is Open, Part 2: Open Science. 3 Quarks Daily, Bill Hooker, 27 Nov. 2006.

For what I am calling Open Science to work, there are (I think) at least two further requirements: open standards, and open licensing.”

III) The Future of Science is Open, Part 3: An Open Science World. 3 Quarks Daily, Bill Hooker, 22 Jan. 2007.

Here I want to move from ideas to applications, and take a look at what kinds of Open Science are already happening and where such efforts might lead. Open Science is very much in its infancy at the moment; we don’t know precisely what its maturity will look like, but we have good reason to think we’ll like it.”

I urge anyone who is interested in Open Access and Open Science to read each of these articles.

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EURAB report

On January 10, 2007, the European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) issued a press release, EURAB proposes making open access obligatory for FP7 research, about an EURAB report (EURAB 06.049, December 2006).

The report’s recommendations are available via: http://www.sflorg.com/comm_center/?p=362

The first sections of the recommendations:

The European Research Advisory Board (EURAB) has recommended that the European Commission should promote open access publication policies for all their publicly funded research. EURAB was invited by the Commission to examine the issue of scientific publication with particular reference to policy recommendations regarding open access for Framework Program 7 (FP7). It has recommended that ‘a clear policy at European level is required which sets out a number of key high level principles. The Commission can play a role in three respects: as a funding body, as a policy body, as a supporting body”.

As a funding body:
1. The publication policy should not compromise the freedom of scientists to publish wherever they feel is most appropriate.
2. The effect of the policy should be to increase the visibility of and improve access to the research funded by the Commission.
3. The policy should be based on recognized best practice,
4. EURAB recommends that the Commission should consider mandating all researchers funded under FP7 to lodge their publications resulting from EC-funded research in an open access repository as soon as possible after publication, to be made openly accessible within 6 months at the latest.
a. The repository may be a local institutional and/or a subject repository. b. Authors should deposit post-prints (or publisher’s version if permitted) plus metadata of articles accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals and international conference proceedings.
c. Deposit should be made upon acceptance by the journal / conference. Repositories should release the metadata immediately, with access restrictions to full text article to be applied as required. Open access should be made available as soon as practicable after the author-requested embargo, or six months, whichever comes first.
d. Suitable repositories should make provision for long-term preservation of, and free public access to, published research findings.
5. Given the complexity of the issues involved, the Commission should consider implementation of this policy on a phased basis, starting with research funded by the European Research Council
.”

The final report (14 pages) is available in PDF format.

An excerpt from page 10 of the report:

It is vital that any policy is clear and unambiguous and therefore it is much more straightforward for it to apply to research irrespective of whether it is wholly or only partially funded by FP7”.

The biggest impediment to uptake by researchers of OA is lack of awareness of what is involved in open access deposit: what, where and when to deposit.” … “Finally, the policy must not force scientists to publish in one journal rather than another. Thus not only should it be feasible for scientists to comply with the policy from an administrative point of view, it should also be feasible in the sense that it is consistent with the existing policies of all the major publishers.”

Peter Suber has commented on the press release and the report. See: EURAB recommends an EU-wide OA mandate:

Peter’s first two comments:

1. This is excellent news for many reasons. First, the policy would apply across Europe, not just within a single country or institution. Second, it encourages member states to adopt their own OA policies to buttress this EU-wide policy. Third, EURAB is an independent agency created by the EU to make recommendations on research-policy questions of exactly this kind. This report should carry weight.

2. Fourth, the policy it recommends is superb. It’s a mandate, not mere encouragement. It gives authors a choice of repositories for deposit. It caps the permissible embargo at six months. It recommends deposit of the published version, if possible, and the final version of the peer-reviewed manuscript otherwise. It uses what I call the dual deposit/release strategy or what Stevan Harnad calls the immediate deposit / optional access strategy (except that here, flipping the switch on the deposited article from closed to open is delayed but mandatory, not optional). There’s no hint of compromise based on misunderstandings about copyright

My own opinion is that this report does outline an exemplary policy framework. I think that the only missing aspect is the lack of a recommendation about how best to foster compliance with a mandate-oriented policy of this kind. In this regard, the Australian approach should be noted. See my comment about the Australian approach.

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Patchwork Mandates

Arthur Sale has published an interesting article, entitled The Patchwork Mandate, in D-Lib Magazine 2007(Jan/Feb); 13(1/2).

The article is about a strategy for achieving an institutional OA mandate in the long term, in a situation where the senior executives of the institution are unwilling or unable to establish a top-down mandate. It’s based on evidence that simple bottom-up strategies, with a focus on the voluntary persuasion of individuals, are “known not to work beyond a pitiful participation level“. Instead, the focus is on getting mandates one by one in individual units within the institution (such as individual departments in a university).

The published article was preceded by a preprint, self-archived on November 11, 2006. In a blog news item “Mandating OA department by department“, Peter Suber commented: “In the full paper, Arthur not only gives reasons to try it out, but practical implementation advice. I recommend the strategy and can add two reasons to think that it will work: Faculty are more amenable to persuasion from other faculty than from administrators or librarians, and examples are more persuasive than arguments. The best way to make the case for a strong OA archiving policy is the natural, viral appeal of a successful example“.

Michael Carroll also posted a comment, dated November 20, 2006, in Carrollogos. An excerpt: “He [Sale] is right for the broader reason that open access advocates have to be incrementalists. Open access has occurred thus far and will continue to grow through the combination of top-down and bottom-up strategies that have been working thus far“.

Funding agencies that support a range of disciplines might also be well-advised to pursue a “Patchwork Policy”, so that differences across diverse research communities can be taken into account.

An example has been provided by the Research Councils UK (RCUK), which published an update of its position statement on access to research outputs on 28 June 2006. Excerpts: “The paper reaffirms the Research Councils’ commitment to the guiding principles that publicly funded research must be made available and accessible for public examination as rapidly as practical; published research outputs should be effectively peer-reviewed; this must be a cost effective use of public funds; and outputs must be preserved and remain accessible for future generations“. “In recognition of the diverse research communities served by each Research Council individual Councils will publish guidelines for their communities on access to research outputs in each field. This will ensure that each discipline is best able to respond in ways aligned to their needs“.

As of the beginning of 2007, five of the eight Research Councils of the RCUK have adopted mandates. They are: 1) The Medical Research Council (MRC); 2) The Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC); 3) The Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC); 4) The Natural Environment Research Council (NERC); and, 5) The Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council (PPARC).

A prediction: “Patchwork Mandates” will become increasingly popular.

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