open access

Open Access Button launches with new features

Timothy Vollmer, October 21st, 2014

oabutton
Open Access Button / CC BY 2.0

Today at an Open Access Week event in London, the Open Access Button was re-launched with new features “to help researchers, patients, students and the public get access to scientific and scholarly research.” The Open Access Button originally was created in response to researchers running into paywalls or other control mechanisms when they attempted to read and re-use scholarly journal articles.

The beta Open Access Button–released in November 2013–documented these stymied research efforts, tracking nearly 10,000 instances of denied access due to paywalls. The updated button is a browser plug-in that enables a person who conducts a similar search–but who is once again denied access–to explore other options in order to get access to the paper. It does this by conducting a search for a freely-available version of the research article on the web, for example a preprint or unformatted version of a finalized article manuscript. If this does not work the button provides the functionality to send an email to the author of the article to ask that a copy of the article be made available and shareable to others who need it. The button will do other things, too, such as creating a unique listing for each paper that is requested, so that authors can view demand for access to their works. Finally, the button aims to collect data and anecdotes arising from its use in order to feed advocacy and reform efforts related to the scholarly communications and publishing system.

The Open Access Button is an interesting tool because it both increases awareness of a problem within the academic publishing ecosystem and strives to deliver needed articles into the hands of the researchers to conduct their work. It is informational, empowering, and practical. Anyone can now install the Open Access Button. Congratulations to the terrific team on extending a creative and useful tool in support of open access to scholarly research.

Below is the video recording from the Open Access Button launch on 21 October. Keep an eye on the CC blog and Open Access Week website for more information about OA events this week.

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Ministries of ICT, Education, & UNESCO join to formally launch School of Open Africa

Jane Park, October 21st, 2014

As promised last week, here are the details around the formal launch event for School of Open Africa taking place in Nairobi tomorrow morning.

SOO AfricaV3
SOO logo here. Earth CC BY by Erin Standley, Noun Project.

Our Creative Commons and School of Open volunteers in Kenya, including CC Regional Coordinator Alex Gakuru, are hosting a formal launch event of School of Open Africa in celebration of the School of Open programs launched last month in Africa, and to announce new programs in higher education. The event will feature a panel discussion with senior government officials from the Kenyan Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Ministry of ICT along with Dr. Bitange Ndemo (University of Nairobi) and regional representatives from UNESCO and Google regarding the status of open education in Africa, School of Open’s contributions and future. Alex says,

“This event will help establish a conversation platform for policymakers around School of Open Africa, connecting and synchronising education and ICT policies with the innovative open education programs being led by Creative Commons volunteers in Africa. It will also connect current School of Open programs in primary and high school education to academia and NRENs1 — towards the realisation of the international aspiration for universal access to education.”

Additional attendees include professors from local universities and law schools; participants of the copyright law course, CopyrightX:Kenya, who will be awarded certificates of completion; our CC Kenya affiliates; and School Open Kenya leads.

CopyrightX Kenya
CopyrightX Kenya / CC Kenya / CC BY

In addition to the panel, SOO Kenya’s Simeon Oriko will present on School of Open Africa programs led to date, and Dr. Tonny Omwansa with C4DLab at the University of Nairobi will announce a new School of Open program to develop OER courses for higher education. This program will serve as a model for other universities across Africa to develop high quality open educational resources for use in higher education under CC BY. In celebration, CC t-shirts in Kiswahili will be distributed, “mwananchi mbunifu,” aka ‘creative commoner.’

soo africa launch shirts2

The event is hosted at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi and will last from 9am-1pm, followed by a celebratory lunch. The event and new OER program in higher education is made possible with technical support from UNESCO and generous financial support from the Hewlett Foundation.


About the School of Open

SOO-logo-100x100

The School of Open is a global community of volunteers that provides free education opportunities on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age and its benefit to creative endeavors, education, and research. Volunteers develop and run courses, workshops, and training programs on topics such as Creative Commons licenses, open educational resources, and sharing creative works. The School of Open is coordinated by Creative Commons and P2PU, a nonprofit that builds and supports learning communities on the web.

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Open Access Week 2014 is underway

Timothy Vollmer, October 20th, 2014

oaweeksmall

Today begins the 8th annual Open Access Week. Open Access Week is a week-long celebration and educational opportunity to discuss and promote the practice and policy of Open Access to scholarly literature–“the free, immediate, online availability of research articles, coupled with the rights to use these articles fully in the digital environment.” Open Access Week has become a huge international initiative, including dozens of in-person and virtual events, the launch of OA-related projects, and the development and publishing of materials and tools supporting education about the benefits, challenges, and opportunity for open access to scholarly research. This year’s Open Access Week theme is “Generation Open”:

The theme will highlight the importance of students and early career researchers as advocates for change in the short-term, through institutional and governmental policy, and as the future of the Academy upon whom the ultimate success of the Open Access movement depends. The theme will also explore how changes in scholarly publishing affect scholars and researchers at different stages of their careers.

Check the feed at openaccessweek.org for hundreds of posts about the variety of activities hosted this week, and share what you’re doing on Twitter using the hashtag #OAWeek2014. There’s already many interesting things happening, with more to come this week! Follow the CC blog, Twitter, and Facebook for more.

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California enacts law to increase public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, October 1st, 2014

On Monday California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 609–the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. The law requires that research articles created with funds from the California Department of Public Health be made publicly available in an online repository no later than 12 months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal. AB 609 is described as the first state-level law requiring free access to publicly funded research. It is similar to the federal National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy. The bill has been making its way through the California legislature since being introduced by Assemblyman Brian Nestande in February 2013. Nestande’s office announced the passage yesterday.

The law applies to grantees who receive research funds from the Department of Public Health, and those grantees are responsible for ensuring that any publishing or copyright agreements concerning manuscripts submitted to journals fully comply with AB 609. For an article accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the grantee must ensure that an electronic version of the peer-reviewed manuscript is available to the department and on an appropriate publicly accessible database approved by the department within 12 months of publication in the journal.

Congratulations to California, the leadership of Assemblyman Nestande, and the coalition of open access supporters who worked hard to make this law a reality.

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Why are we prosecuting students for sharing knowledge?

Timothy Vollmer, September 18th, 2014

In July the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote about the predicament that Colombian student Diego Gomez found himself in after he shared a research article online. Gomez is a graduate student in conservation and wildlife management at a small university. He has generally poor access to many of the resources and databases that would help him conduct his research. Paltry access to useful materials combined with a natural culture of sharing amongst researchers prompted Gomez shared a paper on Scribd so that he and others could access it for their work. The practice of learning and sharing under less-than-ideal circumstances could land Diego in prison.

The EFF reports that upon learning of this unauthorized sharing, the author of the research article filed criminal complaint against Gomez. The charges lodged against Diego could put him in prison for 4-8 years. The trial has started, and the court will need to take into account several factors: including whether there was any malicious intent to the action, and whether there was any actual harm against the economic rights of the author.

Today EFF, Creative Commons, Right to Research Coalition, and Open Access Button are launching a campaign to help raise awareness about Diego’s situation, to promote a reasonable handling of his and similar cases, and to support open access policies and practices. We hope you’ll sign on.


Let’s stand together to promote Open Access worldwide.

Help Diego Gomez and join academics and users in fighting outdated laws and practices that keep valuable research locked up for no good reason.

Diego Gomez, a Colombian graduate student, currently faces up to eight years in prison for doing something thousands of researchers do every day: posting research results online for those who would not otherwise have a way to access them.

If open access were the default for scholarly communication, cases like Diego’s would become obsolete.

Academic research would be free to access and available under an open license that would legally enable the kind of sharing that is so crucial for enabling scientific progress.

When research is shared freely and openly, we all benefit. Sign the petition to express your support for Open Access as the default for scientific and scholarly publishing, so researchers like Diego don’t risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need.

Sign-on statement:
Scientific and scholarly progress relies upon the exchange of ideas and research. We all benefit when research is shared widely, freely, and openly. I support an Open Access system for academic publishing that makes research free for anyone to read and re-use; one that is inclusive of all and doesn’t force researchers like Diego Gomez to risk severe penalties for helping colleagues access the research they need.

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Dozens of organizations tell STM publishers: No new licenses

Timothy Vollmer, August 7th, 2014

The keys to an elegant set of open licenses are simplicity and interoperability. CC licenses are widely recognized as the standard in the open access publishing community, but a major trade association recently published a new set of licenses and is urging its members to adopt it. We believe that the new licenses could introduce unnecessary complexity and friction, ultimately hurting the open access community far more than they’d help.

Today, Creative Commons and 57 organizations from around the world released a joint letter asking the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers to withdraw its model “open access” licenses. The association ostensibly created the licenses to promote the sharing of research in the scientific, technical, and medical communities. But these licenses are confusing, redundant, and incompatible with open access content published under other public licenses. Instead of developing another set of licenses, the signatories urge the STM Association to recommend to its authors existing solutions that will truly promote STM’s stated mission to “ensure that the benefits of scholarly research are reliably and broadly available.” From the letter:

We share a positive vision of enabling the flow of knowledge for the good of all. A vision that encompasses a world in which downstream communicators and curators can use research content in new ways, including creating translations, visualizations, and adaptations for diverse audiences. There is much work to do but the Creative Commons licenses already provide legal tools that are easy to understand, fit for the digital age, machine readable and consistently applied across content platforms.

So, what’s really wrong with the STM licenses? First, and most fundamentally, it is difficult to determine what each license and supplementary license is intended to do and how STM expects them each to be used. The Twelve Points to Make Open Access Licensing Work document attempts to explain its goals, but it is not at all clear how the various legal tools work to meet those objectives.

Second, none of the STM licenses comply with the Open Definition, as they all restrict commercial uses and derivatives to a significant extent. And they ignore the long-running benchmark for Open Access publishing: CC BY. CC BY is used by a majority of Open Access publishers, and is recommended as the optimal license for the publication, distribution, and reuse of scholarly work by the Budapest Open Access Initiative.

Third, the license terms and conditions introduce confusion and uncertainty into the world of open access publishing, a community in which the terminology and concepts utilized in CC’s standardized licenses are fairly well accepted and understood.

Fourth, the STM licenses claim to grant permission to do many things that re-users do not need permission to do, such as describing or linking to the licensed work. In addition, it’s questionable for STM to assume that text and data mining can be regulated by their licenses. Under the Creative Commons 4.0 licenses, a licensor grants the public permission to exercise rights under copyright, neighboring rights, and similar rights closely related to copyright (such as sui generis database rights). And the CC license only applies when at least one of these rights held by the licensor applies to the use made by the licensee. This is important because in some countries, text and data mining are activities covered by an exception or limitation to copyright (such as fair use in the United States), so no permission is needed. Most recently the United Kingdom enacted legislation specifically excepting noncommercial text and data mining from the reach of copyright.

Finally, STM’s “supplementary” licenses, which are intended for use with existing licenses, would only work with CC’s most restrictive license, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (BY-NC-ND). Even then they would have very limited legal effect, since much of what they claim to cover is already permitted by all CC licenses. As a practical matter, these license terms are likely to be very confusing to re-users when used in conjunction with a CC license.

The Creative Commons licenses are the demonstrated global standard for open access publishing. They’re used reliably by open access publishers around the world for sharing hundreds of thousands of research articles. Scholarly publishing presents a massive potential to increase our understanding of science. And creativity always builds on the past, whether it be a musician incorporating samples into a new composition or a cancer researcher re-using data from past experiments in their current work.

But to fully realize innovations in science, technology, and medicine, we need clear, universal legal terms so that a researcher can incorporate information from a variety of sources easily and effectively. The research community can enable these flows of information and promote discoveries by sharing writings, data, and analyses in the public commons. We’ve already built the legal tools to support content sharing. Let’s use them and not reinvent the wheel.

Questions should be directed to press@creativecommons.org.

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FIRST Act moving ahead in US Congress

Timothy Vollmer, May 21st, 2014

Update: The amendment to Section 303 was adopted.

Can it be salvaged to promote public access to federally funded research?

In March we wrote about the introduction of the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST Act). The aim of the FIRST Act is to promote the dissemination of publicly funded scientific research. But the contentious Section 303 of the bill rolls back some of the most common policies governing existing research investments.

If passed in its current state, the FIRST Act would extend embargoes to federally funded research articles to up to three years after initial publication. This means that commercial publishers would be able to control access to publicly funded research during this time, and the public would not have free public access to this research. Even the longstanding NIH Public Access Policy tolerates embargoes no longer than 12 months. We’ve said before that the public should be granted immediate access to the content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. Immediate access is the ideal method to optimize the scientific and commercial utility of the information contained in the articles.

The FIRST Act would allow grantees to fulfill access requirements by providing a link to a publisher’s site instead of requiring deposit in a federally-approved repository. Currently NIH research grantees must deposit in the PubMed Central repository. The reliance on publishers to make (and keep) the research available jeopardizes the long-term access and preservation of publicly-funded research in the absence of a requirement that those links be permanently preserved.

The FIRST Act would permit affected agencies to spend up to 18 additional months to develop plans to comply with the conditions of the law, thus further delaying the plans that are already being organized by federal agencies under the White House Public Access Directive and Omnibus Appropriations Act.

The bill was previously was discussed in the subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. The passage of the FIRST Act with the Section 303 language as-is would harm existing as well as proposed public access policies in the United States. Today during the full committee markup of the bill Representatives James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) will introduce an amendment that would improve Section 303.

The Sensenbrenner/Lofgren amendment would change the embargo to 12 months, with the possibility that under certain circumstances the embargo could be extended for an additional 6 months. The amendment still does not require that federally-funded research articles be deposited in an approved repository. But it would shorten the length of time agencies get to develop and implement their public access plans. Affected agencies would need to develop a public access plan and report to Congress within 90 days. And the plans would need to be implemented within a year. One interesting piece of the amended Section 303 is that after an initial three-month planning period, the agencies would be required to submit an analysis on whether covered works should be made available under an open license.

Such report shall include an examination of whether covered works should include a royalty-free copyright license that is available to the public and that permits the reuse of those research papers, on the condition that attribution is given to the author or authors of the research and any others designated by the copyright owner.

There’s still time for you to call members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and tell them to support the Sensenbrenner/Lofgren Section 303 amendment. The amendment is a step in the right direction to truly supporting public access to publicly funded research in the United States.

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Proposed U.S. law would weaken and postpone public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, March 12th, 2014

This week the U.S. House Representatives introduced H.R. 4186, the Frontiers in Innovation, Research, Science and Technology Act of 2014 (FIRST Act). The stated goal of the proposed law — “to provide for investment in innovation through scientific research and development, [and] to improve the competitiveness of the United States — is worthy and well received. But part of the bill (Section 303) is detrimental to both existing and proposed public access policies in the United States.

According to SPARC:

Section 303 of the bill would undercut the ability of federal agencies to effectively implement the widely supported White House Directive on Public Access to the Results of Federally Funded Research and undermine the successful public access program pioneered by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – recently expanded through the FY14 Omnibus Appropriations Act to include the Departments Labor, Education and Health and Human Services. Adoption of Section 303 would be a step backward from existing federal policy in the directive, and put the U.S. at a severe disadvantage among our global competitors.

The White House Directive, NIH Public Access Policy, Omnibus Appropriations Act, and the proposed Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) all contain similar provisions to ensure public access to publicly funded research after a relatively short embargo (6-12 months). These policies make sure that articles created and published as a result of federal funding are deposited in a repository for access and preservation purposes. In addition, the policies provide for a reasonable process and timeline for agencies to development a plan to comply with the public access requirements.

The FIRST Act would conflict with each of these practices. Instead, if enacted it would permit agencies that must comply with the law to:

  • Extend embargoes to federally funded research articles to up to 3 years after initial publication, thus drastically increasing the time before the public has free public access to this research. We’ve said before that the public should be granted immediate access to the content of peer-reviewed scholarly publications resulting from federally funded research. Immediate access is the ideal method to optimize the scientific and commercial utility of the information contained in the articles.
  • Fulfill access requirements by providing a link to a publisher’s site. However, this jeopardizes long-term access and preservation of publicly-funded research in the absence of a requirement that those links be permanently preserved. A better outcome would be to ensure that a copy is deposited in a federally-controlled repository.
  • Spend up to 18 additional months to develop plans to comply with the conditions of the law, thus further delaying the plans that are already being organized by federal agencies under the White House Directive and Omnibus Appropriations Act.

This bill is scheduled to be marked up in the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology tomorrow, March 13.

But there are better alternatives, both in existing policy (e.g. White House Directive), and in potential legislation (e.g. FASTR). Here’s what you can do right now:

  • Send a letter to members of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee opposing Section 303 of the FIRST Act.
  • Use the SPARC action center to customize and send letters directly to your legislators. Tweet your opposition to Section 303 of the FIRST Act, or post about the bill on Facebook.
  • Write a letter to the editor or an op-ed for your local or campus newspaper. You can write directly to them or by using the SPARC legislative action center.
  • Share this post with your colleagues, labs, friends and family.
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Precocious One Year Old Turning Academic Publishing On Its Head

Puneet Kishor, February 12th, 2014

 

“If we can set a goal to sequence the Human Genome for $99, then why shouldn’t we demand the same goal for the publication of research?”

 

PeerJ logo started with that bold challenge. Now, the scrappy startup that dared has done it. One year old today, PeerJ, the peer-reviewed journal, has seen startling growth having published 232 articles under CC-BY 3.0 last year. By the way, per Scimago that number is more than what 90% of any other journal publishes in a year. Then in April 2013 PeerJ started publishing PeerJ PrePrints, the non-peer-reviewed preprint server with 186 PrePrints in 2013, all under CC BY 3.0.

Now PeerJ has more than 800 Academic Editors, from a wide variety of countries and institutions. There are also five Nobel Prize winners on the PeerJ Board. PeerJ receives submissions from all over the world, and covers all of the biological, health, medical sciences. As of the time of this post’s publication, the top subject areas for PeerJ submissions were

Subject Articles
Ecology 106
Bioinformatics 69
Evolutionary Studies 66
Zoology 54
Computational Biology 49
Microbiology 48
Psychiatry and Psychology 47
Marine Biology 45
Biodiversity 45
Biochemistry 45

Not everything has been easy. Starting an entire publishing company from scratch has been a learning experience for the entire team. From no brand recognition, no history, no infrastructure etc. to having successfully established themselves in all the places that a publishing company should be in: archiving solutions; DOI issuing services; indexing services; membership of professional bodies; ISSN registrations etc. PeerJ has done very well. Last year PeerJ won the ALPSP Award for Publishing Innovation.

PeerJ’s vision/mission are deceptively simple:

  • Keep Innovating
  • Remember Whom We Serve
  • Pass on the Savings
Interpretive drawing of DNHM D2945 Hongshanornis longicresta

PeerJ decision-making process is fast, very fast. Authors get their first decision back in a median of 24 days. Being small, and non-traditional means they can take risks. They have built interesting functionality and models such as optional open peer review; Their business model is based on individuals purchasing low cost lifetime publication plans, and that has resulted in a lot of their functionality being very individual-centric.

Compared to traditional publishers, PeerJ is a very tech-focused company. They built all the technology themselves, quite unusual in the academic publishing world, which normally uses third parties for their peer-review software and publication platforms. By doing it themselves they have much more control over their destiny, cost, and can build functionality which suits their unique needs. The high percentage of authors describing their experience with PeerJ as their best publishing experience is arguably a direct result of this. Much of PeerJ’s software is open source, and their techie roots are evident in their engagement with the community via events such as Hack4ac, a hackday to specifically celebrate, ahem, CC BY!

Peter Binfield, Co-Founder, says:

We firmly believe that Open Access publishing is the future of the academic journal publishing system. With the current trends we see in the marketplace (including governmental legislation; institutional mandates; the rapid growth of the major OA publishers; and the increasing education and desire from authors) we believe that Open Access content will easily make up >50% of newly published content in the next 4 or 5 years.

 
Once all academic content is OA and under an appropriate re-use license we believe that significant new opportunities will emerge for people to use this content; to build on it for new discoveries and products; and to accelerate the scientific discovery process.

Binfield continues:

We regard the CC-BY license as the gold standard for OA Publications. Some other publishers provide authors with “NC” options, or try to write their own OA licenses, but we have a firm belief in the CC BY flavor. If there are many different OA licenses in play then it becomes increasingly difficult for users to determine what rights they have for any given piece of work, and so it is cleaner and simpler if everyone agrees on a single (preferably liberal) license. We were pleased to see the license updated to 4.0 and were quick to adopt it.

In Jan 2014, PeerJ moved to CC BY 4.0 for all articles newly submitted from that point onwards (prior articles remain under CC BY 3.0 of course). Today, on PeerJ’s first birthday, we at CC send PeerJ our best wishes, and look forward to ever more courageous, even outrageous innovations from this precocious one year old.

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Help bridge our open communities: Open Coalition Project Coordinator Job

Jane Park, January 22nd, 2014


Construction of the Story Bridge, Brisbane, 1939 / State Library Queensland / No known copyright restrictions

Last November, a bunch of us from Wikimedia, Mozilla, P2PU, OKFN, Creative Commons, School of Open, and other communities got together for a session at Mozfest called “Collaborations across the Open Space.” That session not only laid the groundwork for better communication among open organizations, but also resulted in the momentum to draft a job description for a project coordinator who will “support the development of a stronger network of organizations working in the areas of open knowledge and open access.”

The part-time position is being funded by Wikimedia UK with the hope that another organization will pick up it up after the initial 6 month term. The full description is at https://wikimedia.org.uk/wiki/Open_Coalition_Project_Co-ordinator – but here are the highlights of what we envision the person to be doing:

  • Have a thorough understanding of issues relating to open knowledge, open access, open source, and open content licences
  • Lead on the development of a small event for organisations working in this space, including Wikimedia UK, Open Knowledge Foundation, Creative Commons, Mozilla, Open Rights Group, and OpenStreetMap, among others
  • Act as a conduit for organisations acting in the open space, facilitating discussion and collaboration
  • Lead on the creation of a website and booklet explaining what it means to be an open organisation, what the “open sector” is and the benefits it brings
  • Build a relationship of trust with the group and the wider open community
  • Develop and deliver sessions about the open coalition at Wikimania in London, August 2014

The position is based in London, but will be working with open community members from around the world. Have a look at the position and also at the notes from the original Mozfest session for reference.

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