An ARG to celebrate open access week, courtesy of the University of Toronto library


Bobby Glushko writes, "Something's going on at the University of Toronto's Robarts Library. A concerned group of citizens is investigating a conspiracy hiding facts about the mysterious and controversial past of this masterpiece of brutalist architecture. At the same time a noble, if shadowy, society is working to keep its secrets hidden." Read the rest

When scientists hoard data, no one can tell what works

Peer review and replication are critical to the scientific method, but in medical trials, a combination of pharma company intransigence and scientists' fear of being pilloried for human error means that the raw data that we base life-or-death decisions upon is routinely withheld, meaning that the errors lurk undetected in the data for years -- and sometimes forever. Read the rest

It's pretty darned easy to pull off a nutritional "science" hoax

John Bohannon teamed up with a German documentary crew to undertake a crappy junk-science study on the effects of bitter chocolate on weight loss, and managed to push their hoax to major media outlets all over the world -- here's how. Read the rest

I Think You'll Find It's a Bit More Complicated Than That

Over the past decade, pharma-fighting Dr Ben Goldacre has written more than 500,000 words of fearlessly combative science journalism.

Nature makes all its papers free to view

The premiere science publisher will make shareable "read-only" links to its all papers stretching back to 1869, using technology from a startup that its parent company, Macmillan, has invested in. Read the rest

Gates Foundation mandates open access for all the research it funds

Effective January 17, all research funded in whole or in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation must be published in journals that are immediately free-to-access, under a Creative Commons Attribution-only license. Read the rest

Petition to Indian gov't for open publication of standards

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "Namaste! Public.Resource.Org respectfully submitted a Petition to the Honorable Ministry of the Government India charged with oversight over the Bureau of Indian Standards. In addition to hardcopy, we have placed the petition on our site and on the Internet Archive."

The purpose of the petition is to ask that all Indian Standards, government documents of great import and value, be freely made available so that the youth may be educated, the professions may be practiced, and the public safety protected. This is in reference to the almost 19,000 Indian Standards that Public Resource has posted on our site.

We are very pleased that the petition includes signed affidavits from many prominent figures, including Sushant Sinha (who developed as a gift to his country the beautiful Indian Kanoon legal search service), Swaraj Paul Barooah (who is an eminent legal expert and runs the Spicy IP blog). They are joined by eminent engineers, as well as Sri Sam Pitroda (former India Chief Technology Officer and Cabinet Minister) and Dr. Vinton G. Cerf (an Internet engineer).

Code Swaraj! We are hopeful the Hon'ble Ministry will consider our points.

Petition to the Honorable Ministry

(Thanks, Carl) Read the rest

Academic publisher tried to stop publication of paper on price-gouging in academic publishing

The editorial board of the journal Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation has threatened to resign because the academic journal's corporate owners, Taylor and Francis, have ordered them not to publish a paper critical of the academic publishing industry. The paper, Publisher, be damned! from price gouging to the open road, was written by academics from the University of Leicester's School of Management. Read the rest

Tell the IRS that mountains of DVDs are a stupid way to distribute public records

Rogue archivist Carl Malamud sez, "I just finished ripping 30 DVDs from the IRS. This is the monthly feed of nonprofit tax returns. I now have 7,442,564 of these returns spinning on the net. I've had it. This year, the IRS upped the cost of this feed to $2910. I've already spent $16,137 on this brain dead format. For 2 years, I've been writing to the IRS to suggest better ways. Dropbox anybody? An FTP server?" Read the rest

Tim Wu on the Aaron Swartz documentary

In the New Yorker, Tim Wu reviews The Internet's Own Boy, a documentary about the life and death of Aaron Swartz. Wu, the scholar and lawyer who coined the term "Net Neutrality," does a good job of framing Aaron's life in the context of his activism. The film has just premiered to good reviews at Sundance. Read the rest

Elsevier censors self-publication by papers' co-authors

Joly writes, "Sauropod specialist Mike Taylor notes growing concern among scientists about the heavy-handed takedown practices of academic publishing company Elsevier, including serving DMCA notices on contributing authors who also self-publish their papers. (Thanks, Joly!) Read the rest

NASA publishes first Curiosity research papers behind a paywall; Michael Eisen sets them free

Want to read the first research published from NASA's Mars Curiosity expedition? That'll be $20, per paper, for a one-day pass. Or, at least, that's how much it would cost you to read those reports through Science, the journal that published them. Last Thursday, Michael Eisen, a biologist who founded the open-access journal Public Library of Science, put up a blog post in which he released free pdfs for all five of NASA's Curiosity papers. Meanwhile, Mother Jones has a profile on Eisen, which goes more in-depth into his campaign to make taxpayer-funded research more easily available to the taxpayers, themselves. Read the rest

First 100 pages of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files

After a long wrangle, and no thanks to MIT, the Secret Service has begun to honor the court order that requires it to release Aaron Swartz's files. The first 100 pages -- albeit heavily redacted -- were just released. Kevin Poulsen, the Wired reporter who filed the Freedom of Information Act request that liberated the files, has posted some preliminary analysis of them. The Feds were particularly interested in the "Guerilla Open Access Manifesto," a document Aaron helped to write in 2008. The manifesto -- and subsequent statements by Aaron -- make the case that access to scientific and scholarly knowledge is a human right. The full Aaron Swartz files run 14,500 pages, according to the Secret Service's own estimate.

I was interested to note that much of the analysis of Swartz's materials was undertaken by SAIC, the mystery-shrouded, massive private military/government contractor that is often described as the largest privately held company in the world.

Update: Jake Appelbaum corrects me: "I've been reading what is released of one of the files for Aaron. I think that SAIC in these documents means 'Special Agent In Charge' and isn't actually the motherfuckers at SAIC. Reading this report makes my fucking blood boil, (b)(6), (b)(7)(c)" Read the rest

Editorial board of Journal of Library Administration resigns en masse in honor of Aaron Swartz

The entire editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration resigned en masse. Board member Chris Bourg wrote publicly about the decision, and an open letter elaborates on it, stating that their difference of opinion with publisher Taylor & Francis Group about open access, galvanized by Aaron Swartz's suicide, moved them to quit.

“The Board believes that the licensing terms in the Taylor & Francis author agreement are too restrictive and out-of-step with the expectations of authors in the LIS community.”

“A large and growing number of current and potential authors to JLA have pushed back on the licensing terms included in the Taylor & Francis author agreement. Several authors have refused to publish with the journal under the current licensing terms.”

“Authors find the author agreement unclear and too restrictive and have repeatedly requested some form of Creative Commons license in its place.”

“After much discussion, the only alternative presented by Taylor & Francis tied a less restrictive license to a $2995 per article fee to be paid by the author. As you know, this is not a viable licensing option for authors from the LIS community who are generally not conducting research under large grants.”

Pretty amazing that Taylor & Francis thought that they could convince authors -- who weren't paid in the first place -- to cough up $3000 for the right to use their own work in other contexts. Talk about being out of step with business realities of publishing! Read the rest

White House promises open access to all federally funded research

Jim Dezazzo sez, John Holdren, Obama's science advisor, issued a directive on Friday to all research funding agencies to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publically available free of charge within 12 months of publication. It also requires that scientists receiving taxpayer dollars to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data. This is huge! By my rough calculation, that means that approximately 20 US agencies will now make the science they fund available to the public. This is all in response to a We The People petition I signed over the summer (along with 65k other people)." Read the rest

PACER capers: the sordid story of America's for-pay lawbooks

Timothy B Lee has a gripping and thorough account of the work to tear down the PACER paywall, which requires that Americans pay $0.10 per page to access court files, which are necessary to understanding and interpreting the law. Aaron Swartz was investigated by the FBI for his part in extracting millions of these public domain documents from behind their paywall and making them public, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. The whole story includes some pretty shocking truth about the privacy trainwreck within PACER, which has not fulfilled its duty to redact personal information from public files; and PACER's illegal profit-making rate-hikes that go far beyond recouping the cost of running the service.

Swartz started his downloading in early September. On September 29, court administrators noticed the Sacramento library racked up a $1.5 million bill. The feds shut down the library's account.

"Apparently PACER access at the main library I was crawling from has been shut down, presumably because of the crawl," Swartz told Schultze and Malamud in an e-mail that day.

The courts issued a vague statement about suspending the program "pending an evaluation." A few weeks later, a court official revealed law enforcement had been called to investigate the suspected security breach. Malamud told us that after Swartz fessed up, Malamud grilled him to understand whether any laws had been broken. Malamud believes the fact that neither PACER nor the library had terms of service prohibiting offsite downloading made it likely Swartz's actions were within the law.

Read the rest

Why can't Americans look up their own case-law for free?

Here's a recent talk given by Princeton's Steve Schultze where he argued for the right of all Americans to access federal court records online at no charge.

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