Unbundling access and affordability?

Richard Poynder, Open Access: Who pays? How much?, Open and Shut? , November 26, 2009. Description:

Last month the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) launched a new guide called Who pays for Open Access? The guide, says SPARC, is intended to provide, “an overview of income models currently in use to support openaccess journals, including a description of each model along with examples of journals currently employing it.”

The guide is a useful and informative document penned by the well-regarded publishing consultant Raym Crow. On reading it, however, I found myself wondering whether it might not signal a change in SPARC’s mission, or at least its priorities — one of several issues I raised with SPARC Executive Director Heather Joseph.

While Joseph emphatically denies that the mission of SPARC has changed, she concedes that the guide could give the impression that it no longer expects Open Access (OA) to reduce the costs of scholarly publishing. Since SPARC was created to try and resolve the so-called serials crisis, this is perhaps unfortunate.

Joseph’s answers to my questions also left me wondering about the likely outcome of the transition to OA, and whether the OA movement is in danger of losing sight of the need not only to solve the access problem, but to also resolve the financial conundrum at the heart of the current crisis in scholarly communication: That is, how does one create a cost-effective system for disseminating research in a networked world. The promise of the OA movement was that it would lower the costs of scholarly communication. But will it?

New OA journals

OA journal announcements, launches, and conversions spotted in the past week or so:

Declaration on science and sharing

The University of Manchester, “Need not greed”, say Nobel Prize winners, press release, November 26, 2009.

Some of the world’s leading names in science and ethics – including two Nobel Prize winners – have challenged society to rethink attitudes to the commercialisation of scientific knowledge in a ‘Manifesto’ published today.

The renowned group of 50 signatories is led by moral philosopher Professor John Harris and Nobel Prize winning biologist Professor Sir John Sulston, both from the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation (iSEI) at The University of Manchester.

Nobel Laureate and Chair of the Brooks World Poverty Institute at The University of Manchester, Professor Joseph Stiglitz, is also among the signatories.

The ‘Manchester Manifesto’ calls for a reassessment of the current system of patents and intellectual property regulated by national and international laws.

According to Professors Harris and Sulston, the system is in desperate need of change because it excludes poorer people from access to essential medicines and expertise. …

Professor Harris, who is the Director of iSEI said: “The Manchester Manifesto is a first attempt to answer the question ‘Who Owns Science?’.

“And from our work, it is clear that the existing model, while serving some necessary purposes, also impedes achievement of core scientific goals.

“In many cases access to scientific knowledge and products has been cut off, stopping the benefits of science in its tracks.

“The system restricts the flow of information and it can hinder innovation through the costly and complicated nature of the system. …”

From the manifesto:

… There is a basic public interest in access to knowledge. …

Restrictions on access to information at any stage of the innovative process obstruct the flow of scientific information and thereby impede scientific progress. Such restrictions are also contrary to the needs of scientific inquiry and are inimical to openness and transparency. …

It is not only the intellectual property system that restricts participation in innovation; there is also all too often a lack of strategies to encourage openness of communication, participation in research, and sharing of information and products that result from science and innovation. …

Scientific information, freely and openly communicated, adds to the body of knowledge and understanding upon which the progress of humanity depends. Information must remain available to science and this depends on open communication and dissemination of information, including that used in innovation. …

It is clear that the dominant existing model of innovation, while serving some necessary purposes for the current operation of innovation, also impedes achievement of core scientific goals in a number of ways. In many cases it restricts access to scientific knowledge and products, thereby limiting the public benefits of science; it can restrict the flow of information, thereby inhibiting the progress of science; and it may hinder innovation through the costly and complicated nature of the system. Limited improvements may be achieved through modification of the current IP system, but consideration of alternative models is urgently required. …

See also our past post on the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation.

OA commitment at U. Guelph school

School of Environmental Sciences establishes open access policy, press release, November 26, 2009.

… Researchers in the [University of Guelph] School of Environmental Sciences commit to making the best possible effort to publish in venues providing unrestricted public access to their works. They will endeavour to secure the right to self-archive their published materials, and will deposit these works in the Atrium [IR].

The School of Environmental Sciences grants the University of Guelph Library the non-exclusive right to make their scholarly publications accessible through self-archiving in the Atrium institutional repository subject to copyright restrictions.

This policy applies to all appropriate scholarly and professional work produced as a member of the School of Environmental Sciences produced as of the date of the adoption of this policy. Retrospective deposit is encouraged. Co-authored works should be included with the permission of the other author(s). Examples of works include:

  • Scholarly and professional articles
  • Substantive presentations, including slides and text
  • Books/book chapters
  • Reports
  • Substantive pedagogical materials such as online tutorials

Works should be deposited in the Atrium as soon as is possible, recognizing that some publishers may impose an embargo period.

This policy is effective as of 11/05/2009 and will be assessed a year after implementation.

According to ROARMAP, this is the first non-library institutional or departmental OA commitment in Canada. (The libraries at Calgary and York have policies for their staff.)

La liberté libre…

« Dans tous les cas, il ne s?agira pas de gratuité, mais de libre accès. La nuance est d?importance, car la gratuité n?existe pas… »

Il y a non seulement deux voies vers la liberté d’accès — la voie dorée de l’édition ouverte et la voie verte de l’autoarchivage ouvert — mais il y a deux formes ou degrés de la liberté d’accès. (Leurs traductions — maladroites — seraient le libre accès « gratuit » [LAG] (“gratis open access”) et le libre accès « libre » [LAL] (“libre open access”).)

Le LAG est l’accès gratuit en ligne. Le LAL est le LAG plus certains droits de réutilisation, donc la « libération » d’un texte non seulement des barrières d’accès mais aussi des barrières de permission.

Mais la cible principale du mouvement pour le LA est la littérature lectorisée (contrôlée par les comités de lecture): les 2,5 millions d’articles publiés chaque année dans les 25,000 revues scientifiques qui se publient sur notre planète. Pour cette littérature-là, les auteurs/chercheurs ne souhaitent que ce que leurs textes soient accessibles gratuitement en ligne à tout utilisateur pour pouvoir les rechercher, télécharger, lire, imprimer, analyser, citer — bref, pour utiliser leurs contenus — mais pas pour réutiliser ou republier ou autrement tripoter avec leurs verbatims dans les sortes de « remixages » que souhaitent le mouvement pour les biens communs créatifs ( « creative commons » ) tels que dans le cas des dessins animés de Disney, remixés par les ados pour ensuite afficher sur youtube.

Donc vive la gratuité, le coeur du LA! Nous l’aurons dès que nos universités et nos subventionnaires de recherche adoptent des politiques obligatoires ( « mandats » ) tel qu’en font déja une centaine.

Reportons la recherche de la liberté « libre » au lendemain de l’arrivée éventuelle de la gratuité pour laquelle nous sommes déja si longtemps en attente…

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum