Boing Boing 

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.

Read the rest

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)

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!)

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.

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!

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)."

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.

Malamud thought they would be in an even stronger position if they could demonstrate the value of the data Swartz extracted, so he began an intensive privacy audit. For most of October, Malamud worked around the clock searching for documents containing Social Security numbers and other sensitive information. Out of the 2.7 million documents Swartz downloaded—about 700GB of data in all—Malamud discovered about 1,600 with privacy issues. He then sent a report to court administrators disclosing the poorly redacted documents he had found and encouraging the courts to examine the rest of the documents in PACER to ferret out similar privacy problems.

The inside story of Aaron Swartz’s campaign to liberate court filings [Timothy B. Lee/Ars Technica]

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

Nicko from the Sunlight Foundation sez:

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. He made these remarks not only because it is fundamental to a democracy that the people know what their government is doing, but because his friend Aaron Swartz was improperly persecuted by the government for his efforts to ensure that all Americans can exercise this right.

As Steve explains, all federal court records are available online -- behind a paywall, on court-run PACER -- that unlawfully overcharges the public for access and subverts the reason and rationale for its existence. Court records should be free for the public to access. He is looking for Congress to act by considering this legislation, which provides for free and open access to court records. He is looking for bill sponsors, and asks that you call your elected representatives.

Steve gave this talk as part of a series of 3-minute lightning talks on transparency hosted on Capitol Hill on Monday by the Advisory Committee on Transparency, a project of the Sunlight Foundation that brings together organizations from across the political spectrum that believe in a more open government. If you like this video, please share it. Call your member of Congress. And visit openpacer.org.

Open Public Access to Court Records, For Aaron #FreePACER #OpenPacer (Thanks, Nicko!)

Time's running out for comments on UK Parliamentary consultation on open science publishing

David sez, "Last September, the UK parliament earmarked £10 Million pounds from the science budget to support open access scientific publishing. Earlier this week, the UK parliament announced that they are seeking feedback on this policy, including 'how the Government should address the concerns raised by the scientific and publishing communities about the policy'. The deadline is this weekend (Jan 18) so it seems important to get the word out. (Formatting specifications for comments)"

Lords science committee launch open access inquiry with evidence session with Dame Janet Finch

Canadians: write to Parliament about keeping generic pharma available to poor countries

Dave Ng writes, "Tomorrow, the Government of Canada will go through the second reading of Bill C-398. This is essentially important discussion over the fate of a law that would allow a measured approached for the production of life saving generic medicines within Canada. These generics are life saving in the sense that with this law in place, meds that are needed but currently far too costly in developing world economies (due to patent protection) can reach those who dignity, and frankly their lives, are at stake. I've written about this before, but have updated this piece to reflect the current policy situation. I strongly feel all Canadians should read about this Bill. My post starts:

Dear Canadians:

On Wednesday, a very important piece of policy will be discussed in parliament. It's called Bill C-398 and it deserves our attention. It seems that it has been challenging for some to see its merits, and so, I'd like to take moment to clarify what it's all about. It turns out that it's not just important -- the narrative is compelling as well: it has a rich history of political intrigue; it is a story where viruses factor in prominently; it has a plot that involves armies of angry grandmothers; and above it all, learning about Bill C-398 can literally save lives.

If you agree with the sentiment of the piece, he strongly urges you to sign this quick petition, which in turn is sent to the folks in Parliament who need to hear your voice.

A moment of your time: about Bill C-398 and how Canadians can contribute to global health (Thanks, Dave!)

Petition to "require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research."

Here's a worthy petition on the WhiteHouse.Gov site:

Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research.

The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.

Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.

Associate editor of Elsevier's Genomics resigns, vows to devote energies to open access

Winston Hide, is an associate professor of bioinformatics and computational biology at the Harvard School of Public Health. He was also -- until recently -- the associate editor of the prestigious (and expensive!) Elsevier journal Genomics. In a column in The Guardian, he explains why he resigned from Genomics: people are dying because scientists in poor companies can't afford proprietary journals. He will devote his efforts to open access alternatives to Genomics from now on.

My work on biomedical research in developing countries has shown me that lack of access to current publications has a severe impact.

The vast majority of biomedical scientists in Africa attempt to perform globally competitive research without up-to-date access to the wealth of biomedical literature taken for granted at western institutions. In Africa, your university may have subscriptions to only a handful of scientific journals.

In reality, the modus operandi is "please can you send me a pdf". Alternatively some researchers spend part of their research grant to buy a subscription to the journal they need.

The majority of the science in Elsevier's journals is conducted at public expense, or with a large public subsidy. The peer reviewing process is also undertaken by publicly subsidized scientists whom Elsevier does not pay. The institutions that these scientists work for have to pay very large amounts of money in order to receive the journals their work contributes to.

I can no longer work for a system that puts profit over access to research (via Copyfight)

Massive public domain catalog dump from Harvard

David Weinberger writes, "Harvard University has today put into the public domain (CC0) full bibliographic information about virtually all the 12M works in its 73 libraries. This is (I believe) the largest and most comprehensive such contribution. The metadata, in the standard MARC21 format, is available for bulk download from Harvard. The University also provided the data to the Digital Public Library of America’s prototype platform for programmatic access via an API. The aim is to make rich data about this cultural heritage openly available to the Web ecosystem so that developers can innovate, and so that other sites can draw upon it. This is part of Harvard’s new Open Metadata policy which is VERY COOL."

Harvard Library to faculty: we're going broke unless you go open access

Henry sez, "Harvard Library's Faculty Advisory Council is telling faculty that it's financially 'untenable' for the university to keep on paying extortionate access fees for academic journals. It's suggesting that faculty make their research publicly available, switch to publishing in open access journals and consider resigning from the boards of journals that don't allow open access."

Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.

The Library has never received anything close to full reimbursement for these expenditures from overhead collected by the University on grant and research funds.

The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable. Doing so would seriously erode collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised.

Faculty Advisory Council Memorandum on Journal Pricing (Thanks, Henry!)

(Image: HBS Library, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from wagnertc's photostream)

Absurd "academic publishing racket" is past its sell-by date

In the Observer, John Naughton unloads both barrels on the "academic publishing racket" in which giant multinational publishers get free, state-subsidized research to publish, use free, state-subsidized labor for peer-review, require assignments of the scholars' copyrights as a condition of publication, then charge astounding sums to the scientists and academics they are "serving" for the right to read the work they're all engaged in producing.

But it's not just the exorbitant subscriptions that stink; it's the intrinsic absurdity of what's involved in the academic publishing racket. Most publishers, after all, have at least to pay for the content they publish. But not Elsevier, Springer et al. Their content is provided free by researchers, most of whose salaries are paid by you and me.

The peer reviewing that ensures quality in these publications is likewise provided gratis by you and me, because the researchers who do it are paid from public money. (One estimate puts the value of UK unpaid peer reviewing at a staggering £165m.) And then the publishers not only assert copyright claims on the content they have acquired for nothing, but charge publicly funded universities monopoly prices to get access to it.

The most astonishing thing about this is not so much that it goes on, but that people have put up with it for so long. Talk to university librarians about extortionist journal subscriptions and mostly all you will get is a pained shrug. The librarians know it's a racket, but they feel powerless to act because if they refused to pay the monopoly rents then their academics – who, after all, are under the cosh of publish-or-perish mandates – would react furiously (and vituperatively).

Which is why the recent initiative by a Cambridge academic, Tim Gowers, is so interesting and important. Professor Gowers is a recipient of the Fields medal, which is the mathematics equivalent of a Nobel prize, so they don't come more eminent than him. In a memorable blogpost, Gowers announced that henceforth he would not be submitting articles to Elsevier's journals and that he would also be refusing to peer-review articles for them. His post struck a nerve, attracting thousands of readers and commenters and stimulating one of them to set up a campaigning website, The Cost of Knowledge, which enables academics to register their objections to Elsevier. To date, more than 9,000 have done so.

Here's an interesting wrinkle I've encountered in a few places. Many scholars sign work-made-for-hire deals with the universities that employ them. That means that the copyright for the work they produce on the job is vested with their employers -- the universities -- and not the scholars themselves. Yet these scholars routinely enter into publishing contracts with the big journals in which they assign the copyright -- which isn't theirs to bargain with -- to the journals. This means that in a large plurality of cases, the big journals are in violation of the universities' copyright. Technically, the universities could sue the journals for titanic fortunes. Thanks to the "strict liability" standard in copyright, the fact that the journals believed that they had secured the copyright from the correct party is not an effective defense, though technically the journals could try to recoup from the scholars, who by and large don't have a net worth approaching one percent of the liability the publishers face.

Of course, to pursue this line, you'd have to confront the fact that academics are sharecroppers to their employers, and that the works they've published, posted to their websites, licensed for anthologies, etc, aren't theirs, which would have a lot of fallout beyond mere academic publishing circles. But it's still provocative to consider the possibility that the journals (and their enormous, conlgomerated parent companies) might owe something like 40 years' worth of the entire planet's GDP to a bunch of cash-strapped universities.

Academic publishing doesn't add up

Provocative proposal to force scholarly publishers to respect open-access wishes of their unpaid contributors

On Freedom to Tinker, Andrew Appel has been expertly analyzing the copyright policies of several technical academic journals published by the likes of ACM and the IEEE. The scholars who contribute to these journals are calling for a change in their way of doing business, so that article authors get to retain their copyright. Appel lays out a compelling economic argument for scholars refusing to assign their copyrights to journals. In today's installment, Appel discusses a shift in ACM's publishing policy that ends the practice of authors modifying their contracts to reflect their preferences on terms of publishing; now ACM's office of Copyright and Permissions states that "ACM does not accept copyright Addenda that exceed the liberal rights retained by authors under ACM’s Copyright Policy and the exclusive grant of copyright to ACM as publisher."

Appel points out that in one area of academic publishing, conference proceedings, scholars hold the whip hand. That's because, once papers have been accepted for presentation at a conference, and the program fixed, the authors could collectively refuse to sign the default contract. This would require the publisher to either modify its policy to reflect the wishes of the (unpaid) contributors who make its conferences possible, or to scrap the entire bill and start over reviewing papers, with short time.

Suppose almost all the authors of the 40 accepted papers were to write the same modification into their copyright contract? The publisher could reject all those papers, but there’s a serious time constraint: the conference volume has to appear, and it has to appear NOW, with a short deadline. If the volume appears but missing three-fourths of its papers, then that conference is effectively dead, and may never recover in future years.

It’s not like a journal, where the publisher can just publish some other papers instead. The papers are accepted all at once by a program committee whose members are not employees of the publisher, who are not under a contractual obligation to the publisher, and who may sympathize more with the authors’ views about copyright than with the publisher’s. The publisher cannot simply substitute other papers.

This is a game of chicken that the publisher cannot win. If the authors feel strongly and get their gumption together, they will prevail. The best course for publishers is to avoid playing this game of chicken, by adjusting their copyright contracts to fit the progress of open-access policies in the 21st century. I believe that the good nonprofits (such as ACM and IEEE) are heading in this direction, and Usenix is already there.

Contract hacking and community organizing

Elsevier withdraws support from Research Works Act, bill collapses

Science publishing giant Elsevier has pulled its support from the Research Works Act, a bill that would have restricted the ability of scientists doing government-funded work to place their papers with open access journals. The action follows a scholarly and scientific boycott of Elsevier, and has led to the collapse of the bill.

I believed from the start that Elsevier would be vulnerable to a boycott threat. The Research Works Act was a desperate bid to eliminate competition arising from the scientists and scholars who supply Elsevier with an endless stream of free work that Elsevier then charges high fees to access, generally charging the institutions whose scientists produced the work to begin with. The question isn't whether Elsevier deserves to make money, or makes too much money: the question (for institutions, scholars and scientists) is whether paying Elsevier is the best way to do science and scholarship. Elsevier isn't a charity, and there's no reason to expect institutions to pay for its journals if they can get better science and scholarship for less through the open access movement.

The increasing trend to open access is fueled by this dynamic, and it's only going to get more pronounced as time goes by. Elsevier is vulnerable, and their overreaching legal proposal just accelerated the pace at which scholars and scientists turned to open access.

While we continue to oppose government mandates in this area, Elsevier is withdrawing support for the Research Work Act itself. We hope this will address some of the concerns expressed and help create a less heated and more productive climate for our ongoing discussions with research funders.

Cooperation and collaboration are critical because different kinds of journals in different fields have different economics and models. Inflexible mandates that do not take those differences into account and do not involve the publisher in decision making can undermine the peer-reviewed journals that serve an essential purpose in the research community. Therefore, while withdrawing support for the Research Works Act, we will continue to join with those many other nonprofit and commercial publishers and scholarly societies that oppose repeated efforts to extend mandates through legislation.

ELSEVIER WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FOR THE RESEARCH WORKS ACT (via /.)

Open medical knowledge saves lives: Oppose H.R. 3699

Here's a terrific article by Gilles Frydman at e-patients.net advocating for opposition to H.R. 3699, aka The Research Works Act (RWA). The bill before Congress would seriously impede "the ability of patients and caregivers, researchers, physicians and healthcare professionals to access and use critical health-related information in a timely manner." (@timoreilly via @epatientdave)

Congress wants to limit open access publishing for the US government's $28B/year subsidized research

A new bill in Congress, H.R. 3699 ("To ensure the continued publication and integrity of peer-reviewed research works by the private sector"), creates a regulation that make it hard-to-impossible to publish open access scholarly journals. These are journals that are paid for directly by researchers, who pay a fee that helps pay for peer review, and are then made available free of charge to all comers. They don't make a profit the way that the incumbent commercial journals do, but they have surpassed many of the old journals for quality and "impact factor" (how often articles are cited in other articles) and are used by scholars and institutions who believe them to be better for contemporary science and scholarship than the 18th-century model of the old commercial journals.

Rather than allowing an open marketplace to decide which model is best, Congress -- including Rep Darrell Issa, who has taken a strong stand for open networks in his opposition to SOPA -- is putting its thumb fist on the scales to support the incumbent closed journals.

All of this makes his support for a new bill, the Research Works Act, incomprehensible. That bill would prohibit all federal agencies from putting any privately published articles into an online database, even -- and this is the kicker -- those articles based on research funded by the public if they have received "any value-added contribution, including peer review or editing" from a private publisher. This is a direct attack on the National Institutes of Health's PubMed Central, the massive free online repository of articles resulting from research funded with NIH dollars. Similar bills have been introduced twice before, in 2008 and 2009, and have failed both times. (Letters from universities and libraries opposing the 2009 bill can be found here.)

Unsurprisingly, the bill is supported by the Association of American Publishers, a trade group that has long had issue with NIH's public-access policy, which requires authors who receive any NIH funding to contribute their work to PubMed Central within 12 months of publication. As Paul Courant, the University of Michigan Librarian wrote of the 2008 iteration of the bill, the AAP's claim that the "Government does not fund peer-reviewed journal articles -- publishers do" is simply "not true."

Why Is Open-Internet Champion Darrell Issa Supporting an Attack on Open Science?

Scholarly Societies: It's time to abandon the AAP over The Research Works Act

Royal Society opens archive, kills productivity

60,000 peer-reviewed papers, including the first peer-reviewed scientific research journal in the world, are now available free online. The Royal Society has opened its historical archives to the public. Among the cool stuff you'll find here: Issac Newton's first published research paper and Ben Franklin's write-up about that famous kite experiment. Good luck getting anything accomplished today. Or ever again.