Archive for June, 2007

Is HINARI a Step Backwards?

The June 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine includes a letter entitled Biomedical Journals and Global Poverty: Is HINARI a Step Backwards?, by Javier Villafuerte-Gálvez, Walter H. Curioso, Oscar Gayoso, PLoS Med 2007(Jun); 4(6): e220.


In April 2007, we conducted a review of the first 150 science journals available through HINARI with the highest impact factors on the Science Citation Index [3]. We excluded open-access journals and journals that make online access free to low-income countries (e.g., The New England Journal of Medicine, British Medical Journal Publishing Group). We could not access any of the top five journals from major publishers such as Nature and Elsevier-Science Direct. In other words, from the Nature Publishing Group we had no access to Nature Reviews Cancer, Nature Reviews Immunology, Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Nature, or Nature Medicine, and from Elsevier ScienceDirect we had no access to Cell, Cancer Cell, Current Opinion in Cell Biology, Immunity, or Molecular Cell. In addition, we could not access any of the first-level journals from Blackwell, Oxford Press University, Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, or Wiley and Sons. In 2003, all these journals were available.

In conclusion, students and researchers in developing countries such as Peru, working at the frontlines of global health problems, need to access more biomedical journals in order to practice evidence-based health care and conduct high-quality research. The recent loss of access to many key biomedical journals in Peru could be a step backwards. We hope the situation described in this letter might help lend support to the proposal of Godlee et al., who suggested that the World Health Organization and its partners should take the lead in establishing an international collaborative group along the lines of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to achieve the goal of “Universal access to essential health-care information by 2015” or “Health information for all” [4].


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How to select an Author Addendum?

Many non-OA publishers still require authors to transfer copyright upon acceptance of an article for publication. Some permit authors to retain the right to self-archive their articles in an OA repository (Green OA), and some do not. A way of dealing with those publishers who don’t currently have policies that permit Green OA is to add an Author Addendum to the publisher’s existing publication agreement.

I’m one of those non-experts on copyright who has been wary about adding an addendum to publication agreements. Why? Mainly, because it’s unfamiliar territory. There’s probably legal quicksand there somewhere, and I won’t realize it’s there until I’ve fallen into it. In particular, which addendum to select? And, where to obtain credible advice?

Many sources of advice are available. For example, Heather Morrison, in a message sent on Feb. 21, 2007 to the AmSci OA Forum, recommended an Author’s Agreement [PDF] that’s available via the College & Research Libraries News section of the website of the American Library Association. Heather likes this model “because of the support for authors’ rights, but also because of the clarity and brevity“. The first two (of three) paragraphs of the agreement:

1. In consideration of the Publisher’s agreement to publish the Work, Author hereby grants and assigns to Publisher the right to print, publish, reproduce, or distribute the Work throughout the world in all means of expression by any method now known or hereafter developed, including electronic format, and to market or sell the Work or any part of it as it sees fit. Author further grants Publisher the right to use Author’s name in association with the Work in published form and in advertising and promotional materials. Copyright of the Work remains in Author’s name.

2. Author agrees not to publish the Work in print form prior to publication of the Work by the Publisher. [ALA requests that should you publish the Work elsewhere, you cite the publication in ALA’s Publication, by author, title, and publisher, through a tagline, author bibliography, or similar means.]

Thus, the author retains copyright, but only agrees not to publish the work in print form prior to publication by the publisher. All other rights are retained by the author (so, Green OA is permitted).

Next, I followed up on an item posted in Peter Suber’s OA News blog on April 12, 2007: OA law program spreads to Canada. This item led me to an item, Open Access Law Canada, posted in Michael Geist’s blog on April 11, 2007. This item, in turn, led me to a webpage for the The University of Ottawa Law and Technology Journal (UOLTJ). The Copyright section provides access to the UOLTJ Publication agreement and copyright licence [PDF]. Section 1.2 of this legal-language document is interesting:

1.2. In addition to the nonexclusive rights granted above, the UOLTJ shall have the exclusive right to publish the Article in the UOLTJ, in print or electronic form, for a period beginning when this Agreement is executed and ending twelve (12) months after publication of the Article in the UOLTJ. During this period of exclusivity, the UOLTJ expressly consents herein that the author may publish the Article on the author’s own website or the SSRN or similar scholarly forum that publishes working draft versions of academic papers, providing that the author indicates, on or in association with the first page of the article, that the article is scheduled for publication, or has been published, in the UOLTJ. The Author agrees not to publish the Article, or any substantially similar article, in any other location until the expiry of the exclusivity period.

Not only does this agreement permit Green OA, but, after a year, all rights are retained by the author.

A Google HTML version of the licence is also available.

Access to the PDF version of this same licence is also available via the Licences page of Open Access Law Canada. This program is part of the Science Commons Scholar’s Copyright Project, which provides access to Creative Commons Licenses and to the very interesting Science Commons Scholar’s Copyright Addendum Engine. An excerpt from the latter webpage:

Using a simple Web form, authors choose the rights they want to retain and enter basic information like the name of the publisher and the title of the article. The Addendum Engine then generates a completed PDF copy of a one-page standard addendum allowing them to retain rights over the work that would otherwise be wholly forfeited.

“Immediate Access”, “Delayed Access” (6-month embargo), “Access-Reuse” and “MIT Amendment” options are available. The latter is an addendum specifically intended for use by MIT authors. An excerpt:

b. Once the Article has been published by Publisher, the Author shall also have all the non-exclusive rights necessary to make, or to authorize others to make, the final published version of the Article available in digital form over the Internet, including but not limited to a website under the control of the Author or the Author’s employer or through any digital repository, such as MIT’s DSpace or the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central database.

Green OA in various kinds of repositories is permitted. With minor modifications, the MIT Amendment could easily be adapted for use by authors based at other institutions.

The SPARC Author Addendum [PDF] is an example of the Access-Reuse Addendum option (see above, the Addendum Engine) approach to Green OA.

Institutions other than MIT have adopted amendments. An example is provided by the University of Michigan Author’s Addendum, [PDF]. Excerpts from the addendum:

3. Repositories. The Author shall retain the right to deposit the published version of the Article in an open-access digital repository maintained by the Author’s employing institution, such as University of Michigan’s “Deep Blue”, by an academic consortium to which the employing institution belongs, such as the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), by a non-profit scholarly society, and/or by a governmental funding agency. At the Publisher’s written request, open access to the Article may be delayed for a period not to exceed 12 months from the date of publication.

4. Personal Website. The Author shall retain the right to post the published version of the Article on the Author’s personal website.

Various routes to Green OA are identified and permitted.

For another recent example, see: FAQ on Minnesota’s author addendum, posted by Peter Suber to OA News on June 19, 2007. A CIC Author Addendum [PDF] was adopted on May 3, 2007 by the University of Minnesota. It’s a delayed access addendum. The relevant excerpt:

2. After a period of six(6) months from the date of publication of the article, the Author shall also have all the non-exclusive rights necessary to make, or to authorize others to make, the final published version of the Article available in digital form over the Internet, including but not limited to a website under the control of the Author or the Author’s employer or through digital repositories including, but not limited to, those maintained by CIC institutions, scholarly societies or funding agencies.

So, Green OA (to the final published version) in various types of repositories is permitted, after a 6-month embargo. Perhaps non-OA publishers may be much more willing to accept an addendum that permits Green OA in such a wide variety of repositories if there’s a 6-month embargo?

What about an example of a licence that’s based on the perspective of a journal publisher? Learned Publishing is the journal of the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP), published in collaboration with the Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP). The ALPSP Licence to Publish [PDF] allows authors to retain copyright. An excerpt:

Copyright remains yours, and we will acknowledge this in the copyright line which appears on your article. However, you authorise us to act on your behalf to defend your copyright if anyone should infringe it, and to retain half of any damages awarded, after deducting our costs. You also retain the right to use your own article as follows (provided you acknowledge the published original in standard bibliographic citation form), as long as you do not sell it in ways which would conflict directly with our commercial business interests. You are free to use your article for the internal educational or other purposes of your own institution or company; you may mount the pre -publication version (after peer review, but not the published article/PDF) on your own or your institution’s website and post it to free public servers of preprints and/or articles in your subject area; or you may use it, in whole or in part, as the basis for your own further publications or spoken presentations.

This licence permits Green OA to the final pre-publication version (after peer review), with no embargo.

The examples described above provide a range of options. Similarly, if one browses the Green publishers segment of the SHERPA/RoMEO database, it quickly becomes apparent how much policies related to Green OA vary among different publishers. However, the main relevant variables are also highlighted. They include: a) where the publication may be self-archived (e.g. personal website, subject-based or institutional repositories); b) which version may be self-archived (e.g. pre-refereeing preprint, author’s own version of final article, publisher’s version/PDF); c) duration of any post-publication embargo (e.g. none, 6 months, 12 months); d) whether authors may retain copyright (and transfer to the publisher only specified aspects of a bundle of rights, for a specified period). The number of possible permutations and combinations of these variables is quite large.

The question remains: how to select an appropriate Author Addendum? Obviously, it must be one that both the journal publisher and the author(s) will accept. Negotiation with the publisher is required. Negotiations are probably pointless unless authors are willing to change publishers if the negotiations are unsuccessful. I know of no source of information about which particular non-OA publishers have a track record of refusing to accept an Author Addendum (such as, for example, the MIT Amendment).

Is it likely that negotiations among publishers, individual authors, institutions and funding agencies, will soon lead to convergence, so that the number of options is minimized? Perhaps not soon. Publishers of journals that currently enjoy high impact factors, and also have low acceptance rates, are likely to resist any changes as vigorously as is possible without losing credibility. Publishers that are actively attempting to increase the impact factors of their journals, and also the number of submissions, may be more willing to propose or accept changes. Evolution seems inevitable, but it may be slow.

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Stem cell research

Cell Press has launched a new journal, Cell Stem Cell. It’s the official affiliated journal of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR). To introduce the journal, access to all the content is currently free.

I didn’t see any information about when free access to all content will end. At the Information for Authors page, it’s stated that:

Cell Stem Cell content is freely available online 12 months after publication.

On this same page, under Authors’ Rights, it’s stated that:

As an author, you (or your employer or institution) may do the following:

* post a revised personal version of the final text (including illustrations and tables) of the article (to reflect changes made in the peer review and editing process) on your personal or your institutional website or server, with a link (through the relevant DOI) to the article as published, provided that such postings are not for commercial purposes …

There’s no mention of an embargo on such Green OA (provided that an “institutional website or server” is used). In contrast, to obtain Green OA via PubMed Central (PMC), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) has made an agreement with Cell Press to pay a fee. See: HHMI and Elsevier Announce Public Access Agreement (March 8, 2007), and, Paying a fee for Green OA.

In the inaugural issue, Cell Stem Cell 2007(June); 1(1), there’s a “Featured Article” that, like the rest of this issue, is currently freely accessible. It’s a remarkable article, Directly Reprogrammed Fibroblasts Show Global Epigenetic Remodeling and Widespread Tissue Contribution, by Nimet Maherali and 11 co-authors, including Rudolf Jaenisch. This article is one of three mentioned in Simple switch turns cells embryonic by David Cyranoski, Nature 2007(7 Jun); 447(7145): 618-9 (the other two articles were published in Nature). Excerpts from David Cyranoski’s article:

Technique removes need for eggs or embryos.

Research reported this week by three different groups shows that normal skin cells can be reprogrammed to an embryonic state in mice1, 2, 3. The race is now on to apply the surprisingly straightforward procedure to human cells.

Last year, Yamanaka introduced a system that uses mouse fibroblasts, a common cell type that can easily be harvested from skin, instead of eggs4. Four genes, which code for four specific proteins known as transcription factors, are transferred into the cells using retroviruses. The proteins trigger the expression of other genes that lead the cells to become pluripotent, meaning that they could potentially become any of the body’s cells. Yamanaka calls them induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells). “It’s easy. There’s no trick, no magic,” says Yamanaka.

Reference 4 is to the article published last year by Takahashi K. & Yamanaka S, Cell 2006(25 Aug); 126, 663-76. It’s also currently freely accessible, via: Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Mouse Embryonic and Adult Fibroblast Cultures by Defined Factors.

This particular advance in research on stem cells has attracted a good deal of attention. See, for example: Art Caplan on MSNBC: Does Stem Cell Advance Provide an Ethical Out? An excerpt:

The big science news of the day — and maybe the year — is that researchers have, in mice, managed to transform skin cells into what seem to look and act like pluripotent stem cells. (There’s coverage everywhere, including: NYT, WP and Nature.) This development opens the possibility that maybe we can bypass many of the ethical questions that have surrounded research into human embryonic stem cells.

While this is exciting news, there’s one phrase we shouldn’t overlook: in mice. …

So, the inaugural issue of Cell Stem Cell has contributed (see above) to this exciting news.

Meanwhile, another journal for the publication of research on stem cells has recently been announced. (See: New journal from Elsevier, First Author, June 5, 2007). The new journal is Stem Cell Research, which will be launched in August, 2007. The Journal authors’ home section of the website provides access to an Author’s Rights section, which includes an item, What rights do I retain as an author? This, in turn, leads to an item: Can I post my article on the Internet? The answer:

You can post your version of your journal article on your personal web page or the web site of your institution, provided that you include a link to the journal’s home page or the article’s DOI and include a complete citation for the article. This means that you can update your version (e.g. the Word or Tex form) to reflect changes made during the peer review and editing process.

Again, Green OA on personal or institutional web page or web site is permitted.

Why have both Elsevier and Cell Press (the Elsevier premium imprint for life science research) both launched journals that may compete with each other for high-quality articles about research on stem cells? Probably, because it’s a hot field at present, and can be expected to become even hotter.

The implications for OA? One is that Green OA is feasible for both Elsevier and Cell Press journals. Another is that, at present, no Gold (fee-based) or Platinum (no-fee) OA journal has a primary focus on research on stem cells.

However, another aspect of research on stem cells that’s currently quite hot is studies on cancer stem cells. Maybe there’s still an opportunity to establish a Gold or Platinum OA journal that has a focus on cancer stem cells?

Some references about cancer stem cells:

Stem Cells That Kill, by Alice Park,, Apr. 17, 2006.

Researching stem cells, CBC News Online, May 3, 2006.

Colon cancer stem cells identified, by Jeffrey M. Perkel, The Scientist, November 20, 2006.

Canadian researchers ‘create’ leukemia stem cell, watch disease unfold, CBC News, April 27, 2007.

Governor Schwarzenegger Highlights California-Canada Partnership on Life-saving Stem Cell Research, Press Release, May 30, 2007.

John Dick (scientist), credited with first identifying cancer stem cells in certain types of human leukemia.

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