Stand up for an OA mandate at your university

John Willinsky, How To Institute an Open Access Policy? Stand Up,, September 28, 2008.  Excerpt:

On June 10th, my colleagues in the Stanford University School of Education listened patiently as I stood before them explaining how the Harvard Law School had passed an “open access” motion which was going to lead to free online access to all of the scholarly articles that they published. We were on a faculty retreat, at a hotel by the ocean near Monterey, California, with the waves rolling in not far from where we were sitting. An opening had appeared in the program, and I jumped in, asking for the time to explain what such a policy could mean for the work of a school or department….

[The faculty] wondered about the copyright. I explained how the term “nonexclusive” was key….The author as the original copyright holder grants a non-exclusive right to post this particular copy prior to transferring the remaining rights to the publisher.

They wondered, as well, why in the world publishers would accept this. And I explained that the publishers already had, at least in principle. The majority of publishers grant authors, in exchange for the author turning over copyright to their work, the right to post their work in just such an archive, sometimes some months after publication….

We talked briefly about what this access might mean for who reads law school scholarship and all the more so, in the case of an education school, which…saw itself having a responsibility for the professionalism of teachers and for addressing public interests in education.

However, before we had been at it for half-an-hour, people were saying let’s just do it. Let’s pass an open access motion for the School of Education, and let’s do it right here and right now. I was taken aback by the ease with which this idea garnered nods and shrugs of assent.

Before the hour was up, we had passed an open access motion that committed the School to sharing what it knew or at least what it had discovered and submitted for publication….

The times may be a changing. It had been very hard, only a few years ago, to get researchers to look up from their work long enough to explain access issues. Putting an article in a journal, as they saw it, made things public enough. No more. No longer. Greater openness, greater accessibility of knowledge has become part of culture. Now is the time to make it standard practice and a common policy within universities.

To help other departments, schools and faculties take this step of making open access a policy, I put together a webpage on the Open Access Policy….

Take advantage of the times, my fellow scholars and researchers. It could prove dead easy for you, too, to stand up and reposition your institution within this larger world of public knowledge.

PS:  For background, also see our past blog posts on the Stanford OA mandate, and the recent post about it by Bret Waters, a member of the Advisory Council for the Stanford School of Education. 

Consumer access to clinical drug trial data

Shari Roan, Did the study work? Consumers can find out, Los Angeles Times, September 26, 2008.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)  Excerpt:

Many of the most promising new medical treatments are just beyond the grasp of consumers simply because they don’t know about them. But that’s about to change. Beginning tomorrow, the nation’s database for clinical trials,, will begin adding the results of trials of drugs, medical devices and biologic products (such as vaccines) conducted in the United States. was launched in 2000 to provide people with easy access to information about clinical trials. But until now, consumers who went to the website could find only details about the trial’s launch, such as the study’s design and who is eligible to enroll. Under the new rule, researchers sponsoring the trial must go back and post their results (except for very early-stage experiments, which are called Phase 1 trials) online within one year of the study’s conclusion or within 30 days of approval of a product by the Food and Drug Administration. The database will carry results of trials that were underway as of Sept. 27, 2007. However, researchers of previously completed trials have been encouraged to post their results, too.

The rule is a result of a law passed last year to demand more transparency in clinical trials. Consumer health advocates hope the requirement will make it harder for study sponsors to hide unexpected or harmful reactions to drugs or devices….


  • ClinicalTrials.COM is new, but ClinicalTrials.GOV is not.  When Roan said that the .com version was launched in 2000, she must have meant the .gov version.  Despite the plan to launch the .com version on September 27, it’s still not open.
  • For more background on the new federal law requiring OA for clinical drug trial data, see our past posts on the FDA Amendments Act (FDAAA).

Update (9/29/08).  Also see this September 26 announcement from the NLM, which describes an expansion of but doesn’t mention  The expansion will provide OA to results, or trial data themselves, not just to information about the trials.

Are Elsevier prices going down yet?

According to correspondence from an Elsevier correspondent to Rosie Redfield, Elsevier is charging authors a rather substantial amount ($3,000 per article), because they do not plan to charge subscribers for author-sponsored content.


Has any librarian heard the other side – subscription fees going down because of author-sponsored content?

Authors: if you’re going to pay for open access, make sure you are getting open access! There is a lot more to OA than just free access from one website. Here is the definition of OA, from the Budapest Open Access Initiative:

By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

“Hassles” from Elsevier on sponsored OA

Rosie Redfield has posted (1, 2, 3) about her experiences providing OA to her article accepted for publication in an Elsevier journal.

  • First she notes that Elsevier’s publication agreement requires her to hand over her copyright to the journal, permitting her to self-archive the final manuscript but not the journal-quality PDF.
  • Then she notes that for $3,000, her article can be available OA from the journal’s Web site, but this still requires a transfer of copyright and does not permit the use of Creative Commons licenses.
  • Finally, she shares her correspondence with an Elsevier customer service representative, going back and forth on how she can pay the $3,000 fee, since her funding agency (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) doesn’t have a specific agreement with Elsevier on paying hybrid OA fees.

Updates to Open Shakespeare

Jonathan Gray, What can you do with Open Shakespeare?, Open Knowledge Foundation Weblog, September 26, 2008.

We’ve recently updated Open Shakespeare. The project was started a while back as an open knowledge ‘exemplar project’ – i.e. as a simple ‘hello world’ type open knowledge package (for more on this see the FAQ).

It aims to:

  1. Provide the complete works of Shakespeare, along with textual apparatus (introduction, notes) and tools (concordance, search etc) all in an open form.
  2. Deliver this material as a knowledge package that allows for easy deployment, redistribution and reuse.

Recent changes include:

Blog notes on OA in chemistry

Jan Kuras, Chemistry Central host OA session at EuCheMS Congress, Chemistry Central Blog, September 26, 2008.

Chemistry Central hosted an engaging open session – An Introduction to Open Access Publishing in Chemistry – at the recent EuCheMS Chemistry Congress in Torino, Italy [(September 16-20, 2008)].

Jan Kuras, Associate Publisher at Chemistry Central, provided an overview of the strategy and business model of OA publishing and positioned it within the publishing landscape, highlighting the beneficiaries throughout the research community.

Dr Livia Simon Sarkadi, from the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, then examined the benefits (as well as some disadvantages) of OA publishing to the chemistry community and shared some initiatives that could be implemented to progress OA in chemistry. These included: soliciting articles from leading chemists in areas of high topicality to raise the profile of an OA journal; engaging with young chemists for whom OA publications will be part of their careers; and seeking support for OA publishing from national societies and divisions. …