Richard Poynder is an independent journalist and blogger specialising in information technology,
scholarly communication, professional
online database services,
intellectual property. Richard takes a particular in interest in the
Open Access movement, whose development he has been following for more than a decade. More information is available here.
New Interview Series: The State of Open Access
Recent Articles and Interviews
Interview with Steve Pettifer, computer scientist and developer of Utopia Documents
(Open & Shut?, Monday, June 2, 2014)
Utopia Documents is a novel tool for interacting with the scientific literature. Developed in 2009, it is a free PDF reader that can connect the static content of scientific articles to the dynamic world of online content.
This week Utopia will be released as an open source project. It will also become the platform for a new crowdsourcing tool called Lazarus. With Lazarus, it is hoped to recover large swathes of the legacy data currently imprisoned in the charts, tables, diagrams and free-text of life science papers published in PDF files. This information will then be made available as an open access database.
The developer of Utopia is computer scientist Steve Pettifer, currently based at the University of Manchester. In a recent email conversation Pettifer explained to me the background to Utopia, and what he hopes to achieve with Lazarus. Read more »
Working for a phase transition to an open commons-based knowledge society: Interview with Michel Bauwens
(Open & Shut?, Tuesday, May 27, 2014)
Today a summit starts in Quito, Ecuador that will discuss ways in which the country can transform itself into an open commons-based knowledge society. The team that put together the proposals is led by Michel Bauwens from the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives. What is the background to this plan, and how likely is it that it will bear fruit? With the hope of finding out I spoke recently to Bauwens.
One interesting phenomenon to emerge from the Internet has been the growth of free and open movements, including free and open source software, open politics, open government, open data, citizen journalism, creative commons, open science, open educational resources (OER), open access etc.
While these movements often set themselves fairly limited objectives (e.g. “freeing the refereed literature”) some network theorists maintain that the larger phenomenon they represent has the potential not just to replace traditional closed and proprietary practices with more open and transparent approaches, and not just to subordinate narrow commercial interests to the greater needs of communities and larger society but, since the network enables ordinary citizens to collaborate together on large meaningful projects in a distributed way (and absent traditional hierarchical organisations), it could have a significant impact on the way in which societies and economies organise themselves. Read more »
Interview with Kathleen Shearer, Executive Director of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories
(Open & Shut?, Sunday, May 4, 2014)
In October 1999 a group of people met in New Mexico to discuss ways in which the growing number of “eprint archives” could co-operate.
Dubbed the Santa Fe Convention, the meeting was a response to a new trend: researchers had begun to create subject-based electronic archives so that they could share their research papers with one another over the Internet. Early examples were arXiv, CogPrints and RePEc.
The thinking behind the meeting was that if these distributed archives were made interoperable they would not only be more useful to the communities that created them, but they could “contribute to the creation of a more effective scholarly communication mechanism.” Read more »
Interview with Jean-Gabriel Bankier, President & CEO of bepress
(Open & Shut?, Saturday, April 5, 2014)
Founded in 1999 by three Berkeley professors, bepress (formerly Berkeley Electronic Press) spent the first decade of its existence building up a portfolio of peer-reviewed journals — much like any scholarly publisher. In 2011, however, it took what might seem like a surprising decision: it decided to sell all its journals to De Gruyter and reinvent itself as a technology company.
Instead of publishing journals, bepress is now focussed on developing and licensing the publishing technology it created for its earlier publishing activities, and its flagship product is a cloud-based institutional repository/publishing platform called Digital Commons.
Digital Commons is currently licensed to more than 320 academic institutions, who use the software to publish over 700 journals, 94% of which are open access. This publishing activity is invariably managed by the institution’s library, and often includes the publishing of books, conference proceedings, data sets, audio-visual collections, and other digital content types too. Read more »
Guest Post: Charles Oppenheim on who owns the rights to scholarly articles
(Open & Shut?, Tuesday, February 4, 2014)
The recent decision by Elsevier to start sending take down notices to sites like Academia.edu, and to individual universities, demanding that they remove self-archived papers from their web sites has sparked a debate about the copyright status of different versions of a scholarly paper.
Last week, the Scholarly Communications Officer at Duke University in the US, Kevin Smith, published a blog post challenging a widely held assumption amongst OA advocates that when scholars transfer copyright in their papers they transfer only the final version of the article. This is not true, Smith argued.
As he put it:
Each version is a revision of the original, and the copyright is the same for all these derivatives. When copyright is transferred to a publisher, the rights in the entire set of versions, as derivatives of one another, are included in the transfer. Authors are not allowed to use their post-prints because the rights in that version are not covered in the transfer; they are allowed to use post-prints only because the right to do so, in specified situations, is licensed back to them as part of the publication agreement. Read more »
Let's be open about Open Access
(Open & Shut?, Monday, October 21, 2013)
To what extent should we expect publishers who profess a commitment to Open Access (OA) to be open in other ways too? This is a question often raised in discussions about OA. Some, for instance, argue (e.g. here and here) that OA ought to go hand-in-hand with open peer review (particularly in light of the recent “sting” of OA journals by Science). Others have argued that OA publishers have a duty to be more open in the management of their business. And it has been suggested that OA publishers should be more transparent about their finances. But what about when publishers make use of social media like blogs? How transparent should they be about who is behind the site, and what their objective is? This thought occurred to me recently when I was trying to find out who runs the Open Science blog.
Like companies everywhere, scholarly publishers have in recent years taken an increasing interest in the social web. Most, if not all, now have their own Twitter accounts, some have Google+ accounts, and most now run their own blogs (see for instance those run by PLOS, BioMed Central, Wiley and Elsevier).
In doing so, they invariably view the new platforms as useful new marketing tools for promoting their products and services — or in some cases as a space where their authors can promote their own books or journals (see, for instance, the blog run by Springer). Given these objectives, it is apparent to anyone reading or subscribing to these blogs exactly who runs them, what their purpose is, and the nature of the relationship they are asking readers to enter into with the site. If nothing else, the URL will invariably flag ownership. Read more »
Open Access in Serbia: Interview with Biljana Kosanović
(Open & Shut?, Thursday, September 19, 2013)
Biljana Kosanović is Head of the Department of Scientific Information at the National Library of Serbia in Belgrade. Recently I spoke to Kosanović about the research environment in Serbia, about access to international journals, about local Serbian journals, about initiatives like doiSerbia, and about Open Access. It turns out that the situation is not quite how I had envisaged it.
Those who advocate for Open Access (OA) argue that in the age of the Internet the traditional subscription-based journal system used to publish scholarly papers is outdated, and so places an unnecessary barrier between researchers and published research.
Why? Because in order to have their work published, researchers freely give their papers to publishers, who then package them into journals and put those journals behind a subscription paywall so that they can recoup their costs, and make a profit. Many, however, believe that journal subscriptions are unreasonably high. Moreover, argue OA advocates, while this paywall may have been inevitable in a print world, in an online environment it is not, and simply creates a needless accessibility problem. Read more »
UK House of Commons Select Committee publishes report criticising RCUK's Open Access Policy
(Open & Shut?, Tuesday, September 10, 2013)
The House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee has today published a critical report on the Open Access (OA) policy introduced on April 1st by Research Councils UK (RCUK).
While it welcomes the Government’s desire to achieve full OA, the Committee is critical of the way it is going about it, and critical of the way in which the Finch Report (which was commissioned by the Government) looked at the evidence and arrived at its conclusions — conclusions on which the RCUK policy is based.
Above all, the BIS Committee is highly critical of the Government’s and RCUK’s preference for Gold OA, and their failure to give due regard to the “vital role” that Green OA and repositories can play in moving the UK towards full OA. Read more »