Archive for January, 2008

A new journal for Internet Research Ethics

The International Journal of Internet Research Ethics (IJIRE) is a “peer-reviewed online journal, dedicated specifically to cross-disciplinary, cross-cultural research on Internet Research Ethics“. The first issue of the IJIRE appeared in January, 2008. No subscription is required. PDF versions of articles can be downloaded. The IJIRE is published at the Center for Information Policy Research, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

The final article [PDF, 226 KB] in the first issue, by Erin Hvizdak, is entitled: Creating a Web of Attribution in the Feminist Blogosphere, International Journal of Internet Research Ethics 2008(Jan); 1(1): 115-133. The article includes comments about current copyright law, and presents data about the use of Creative Commons licenses by bloggers.

An excerpt from page 2/20 of the PDF:

Current copyright law in the United States embraces the idea that a single, autonomous author, free from influence or help by others, creates each potentially copyright-protected work. This concept emanates from the “heroic self-presentation of Romantic poets” (Woodmansee & Jaszi, 1994, p. 3) that developed some 200 years ago.

An excerpt from page 4/20:

But, as described, existing copyright law privileges and protects works that emanate from the single, autonomous individual, extending no thought, acknowledgement, or protection to the feminist notion of collaborative, relational ordialogic cultural production.

An excerpt from page 6/20:

The weblog is a collaborative form of media that emphasizes dialogue and deconstructs the dualisms and binaries present in copyright law through prevalent sharing, quoting, and linking of information.

An excerpt from page 10/20:

Creative Commons licenses were present in 22 out of 55 blogs total (10 of the women’s blogs and 12 of the feminists’ blogs), or 40% of the time, demonstrating that women and feminists use Creative Commons on a far more regular basis than the general web population.

For a commentary on this article, see: [feminism and copyright] posted on January 22, 2008 by Jess (Jess Laccetti). Excerpt:

In this month’s issue (I believe it is also the first ever issue) of the International Journal of Internet Research Ethics there is a fascinating article by Erin Hvizdak. Her “Creating a Web of Attribution in the Feminist Blogosphere” takes a feminist look at issues of copyright.

What’s Internet research ethics? There’s an item about it in Wikipedia. There, Internet research ethics is currently defined as involving “the research ethics of Internet research, with an emphasis on scientific research carried out via the Internet“. The IJIRE has a focus on “the ethical obligations of researchers conducting research online“. I’ve argued, in some online notes, that this kind of focus can be termed “micro-level Internet research ethics”, where the emphasis is on knowledge growth (or, knowledge generation) via research conducted online.

If it’s accepted that the creation of new knowledge needs to be
complemented by effective approaches to knowledge transfer and exchange, (that is the dissemination of new and existing knowledge), then a “macro-level Internet research ethics”, with an emphasis on ethical issues relevant to the online dissemination of research outputs, also merits consideration.

From this perspective, “macro-level” ethical issues include ones that are used to justify the OA movement, such as justifications based on the concept of distributive justice.

Erin Hvizdak’s article, with its focus on copyright and on blogs, could be regarded as contribution to “macro-level Internet research ethics”. There’s also a focus on a particular conceptual framework, one that’s often referred to as an ethics of care. As is pointed out in the Wikipedia entry for Internet research ethics, this is only one of a number of conceptual frameworks that can be used to examine ethical issues.

Finally, it’s noteworthy that, although the article by Erin Hvizdak contains information about the use of Creative Commons licenses, such a license wasn’t used for this article.

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A couple of bumps on the road to OA?

I agree with the view expressed by Ben Brumfield (Grand Text Auto, December 21, 2007):

I suspect that the OA debate will be resolved neither by authors nor by readers. The scientific publishing panelists at SXSWi this year agreed that the fight was between funders and journals.

I’d only add one minor revision, that the fight is between funders and publishers of journals.

It should be noted that funders are accepting some compromises in their approaches to this struggle.

The recent open access mandate for the NIH in the USA has involved an important compromise: it will permit a 12-month embargo on open access. See: An open access mandate for the NIH, Peter Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #117, January 2, 2008. The wording of the mandate:

The Director of the National Institutes of Health shall require that all investigators funded by the NIH submit or have submitted for them to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central an electronic version of their final, peer-reviewed manuscripts upon acceptance for publication to be made publicly available no later than 12 months after the official date of publication: Provided, That the NIH shall implement the public access policy in a manner consistent with copyright law.

Heather Joseph of The Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) has commented on this compromise, in Q&A with SPARC’s Heather Joseph, Joseph: NIH policy “an Enormous Step Forward”, Library Journal Academic Newswire, January 8, 2008. The question and the comment:

On another hand, some open access advocates say that the yearlong embargo is too long and could essentially set a de facto embargo period for publishers. How do you respond to those arguments?

I completely understand the concerns of those who think a year is too long an embargo period, but from a pragmatic standpoint, this was a necessary compromise. This policy represents a sea change in the parameters of the scholarly communications marketplace. We’ve gone, in one fell swoop, from information being locked up behind perpetual, exclusive distribution licenses to an embargo period limited to no longer than one year. That’s an enormous step forward. Also, the policy allows the researcher to determine the embargo period. It is not a static 12-month requirement. This puts more power in the research community’s hands to determine what they feel is best in terms of timing.

Individual researchers are not required to wait for a year. And, the embargo period could be shortened in later versions of the policy.

Peter Suber has posted this and other excerpts from the interview in: Heather Joseph on the OA mandate at the NIH, Open Access News, January 8, 2008. He has also commented on the mandate for NIH in: An open access mandate for the NIH. An excerpt, about the compromise:

The policy does permit a 12 month embargo, which I think is too long. But here’s what I said about that in August:

I wish the bill had shortened the embargo. Any embargo is a compromise with the public interest, and longer embargoes are more harmful in medicine than in other fields. But I’d much rather have a mandate than a shortened embargo, if we had to choose. The reason is simply that a short embargo without a mandate isn’t really short, since there would be no enforceable deadline for ending the embargo and providing OA. Moreover, we don’t have to choose. Shortening the embargo can be our next goal….The bill is…a significant, unmistakable gain on the most important front –the mandate– and [since the current embargo is 12 months] it’s not a loss or retreat on any front….

Note his comment that: “I’d much rather have a mandate than a shortened embargo, if we had to choose“.

An agency that has a Policy on Access to Research Outputs that involves a shorter embargo (6 months) is the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Excerpts from the section about Peer-reviewed Journal Publications:

Grant recipients are now required to make every effort to ensure that their peer-reviewed publications are freely accessible through the Publisher’s website (Option #1) or an online repository as soon as possible and in any event within six months of publication (Option #2).

Under the second option, grant recipients must archive the final peer-reviewed full-text manuscripts immediately upon publication in a digital archive, such as PubMed Central or the grantees institutional repository. Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies. …

A major compromise is involved in the words: “where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies“.

In: OA mandate at the CIHR, (Open Access News, September 4, 2007), Peter Suber has commented:

This is a major policy with a major loophole: “Publications must be freely accessible within six months of publication, where allowable and in accordance with publisher policies.” The exception swallows the rule. Any publisher who doesn’t want OA within six months, or ever, can easily block it, and CIHR invites them to do so. But for that, the policy would be exemplary: the mandatory terms, the reasonably short embargo, the equal standing of central and distributed repositories, the willingness to pay publishing fees at fee-based OA journals, the OA data policy, and the implicit sanction for non-compliance.

The Wellcome Trust and several of the Research Councils UK have found an elegant way to close the loophole the CIHR that left open: they require OA archiving on a certain timetable, as a condition of funding, and take advantage of the fact that researchers sign funding contracts before they sign copyright transfer agreements with publishers. In short, they require grantees to live up to their funding contracts and, therefore, to transfer copyright on their funded work, if at all, only subject to the terms of the prior funding contract. If a publisher is unwilling to let the author comply with the funding contract, the author must look for another publisher. I do hope the CIHR will move in this direction at its next policy review, and close or at least shrink the gigantic loophole in the present policy.

Of course, my own view is that both a closure of the loophole in the CIHR mandate (by requiring immediate deposition of the final peer-reviewed manuscript in a suitable repository, with OA within 6 months, as a condition of funding), and a shortened embargo (a maximum of 6 months) are preferable. From this perspective, the 6-month embargo (rather than requiring OA immediately upon publication) is the only compromise being accepted.

Why accept this particular compromise? Briefly, for two main reasons: 1) Researchers should, as much as possible, be able to choose whatever journal they prefer. Acceptance of a 6-month embargo provides more options (although some major journals that require at least a 12-month embargo, or don’t permit archiving at all, would still be excluded); 2) “Green” OA (with a 6-month embargo) is likely to continue to be less costly to the researcher (and thus, to the funder) than “Gold” OA, via a journal that charges an article processing fee in return for providing immediate open access, either to the particular article, or to the entire contents of the journal. Of course, only some OA journals charge article processing fees, but they include a number of the better-known ones.

A final comment: The mandate for NIH has not yet been implemented. Nor has the CIHR policy, although it will apply to all grants awarded after January 1, 2008. The ways in which these policies are implemented seem likely to be crucially important. Stay tuned.

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