open access

Sign the U.S. Petition to Support Public Access to Publicly Funded Scientific Research

Timothy Vollmer, May 21st, 2012

This week, open access advocates in the United States and around the world are rallying around a petition that urges public access to publicly funded research. The petition is now live on Whitehouse.gov’s We the People platform:

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.

The Obama Administration has been interested in exploring policy options for ensuring that the public has access to publicly funded research, and recently received nearly 500 comments on its request for information on these issues. Creative Commons recently wrote to the White House asking that taxpayer funded research be made available online to the public immediately, free-of-cost, and ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY.

With grassroots petitions like this one, publisher boycotts, updates to funding policies (pdf), and investments in open access, it seems that the “academic spring” has arrived.

The petition can be supported by persons outside of the U.S. You can follow updates from the organizers — Access2Research — on their website, Twitter, and Facebook.

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World Bank stakes leadership position by announcing Open Access Policy and launching Open Knowledge Repository under Creative Commons

Diane Peters, April 10th, 2012

The World Bank has announced a new Open Access Policy! Effective July 1, 2012, the Open Access Policy requires that all research outputs and knowledge products published by the Bank be licensed Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY) as a default. Today, as the first phase of this policy is unfolded, the Bank launched a new Open Knowledge Repository with more than 2,000 books, articles, reports and research papers under CC BY. President of the World Bank Group, Robert B. Zoellick, said in the press release:

“Knowledge is power. Making our knowledge widely and readily available will empower others to come up with solutions to the world’s toughest problems. Our new Open Access policy is the natural evolution for a World Bank that is opening up more and more.”

CC BY is the most permissive Creative Commons license, allowing others to reuse, remix and redistribute works, even commercially, as long as attribution is given to the copyright holder. It is recommended for those seeking maximum dissemination and re-use of their materials while preserving copyright. We applaud the World Bank for its leadership and embracing this objective by incorporating CC as the framework for its Open Access Policy.

Lawrence Lessig, Board member and co-founder of Creative Commons, says,

“The World Bank is not only leading by embracing the principles of open access. But by making its works available under a CC BY license, it is encouraging the widest spread of the knowledge it is producing. This work is incredibly valuable in assuring access to knowledge universally, and not just at elite universities.”

The Open Access Policy reinforces scholarship norms. The terms require that publishing embargoes are respected and research is made available under CC BY. The Bank “expects the amount of time it takes for externally published Bank content to be included in its institutional repository to diminish over time” and that the working paper versions of journal articles will be made available under CC BY without any embargo period. Additionally, the CC BY policy only applies to works published by the Bank. Works published by third party publishers will be made available in the repository under CC BY-NC-ND, with the option of CC BY should the publisher choose.

All of this content will be aggregated via the Open Knowledge Repository, which has been built with an eye toward maximizing interoperability, discoverability, and reusability by complying with Dublin Core metadata standards and the Open Archives Initiatives protocol for metadata harvesting:

“The repository will be fully interoperable with other major international repositories such as RePEc (Research Papers in Economics), SSRN and Economists Online. This means that the World Bank publishes just once in its own Open Knowledge Repository while its research is also “harvested” and made openly available through many other searchable online repositories, increasing the number of people able to find World Bank content.”

Currently, the repository contains books and papers from 2009-2012 in various fields and from all around the world, including the World Development Report and two World Bank journals, the World Bank Economic Review (WBER) and the World Bank Research Observer (WBRO). The Bank will continue to add new and old content, including those works published prior to 2009, and beginning in 2012, the Bank will include links to research-related datasets.

To learn how this exciting new move builds on the Bank’s other open efforts, read the press release.

For more info on the Open Access Policy, read the policy. For more info on the Open Knowledge Repository, see the feature article and FAQ.

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Act now to support public access to federally funded research

Timothy Vollmer, February 14th, 2012

Last week the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA) was reintroduced with bipartisan support in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. According to SPARC, the bill would “require federal agencies to provide the public with online access to articles reporting on the results of the United States’ $60 billion in publicly funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.” If passed, the legislation would extend the current NIH Public Access Policy (with a shorter embargo) to other US government-funded research, including agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and others. FRPAA was first introduced in 2006.

Unlike the Research Works Act, FRPAA would ensure that the public has access to the important scientific and scholarly research that it pays for. Creative Commons recently wrote to the White House asking that taxpayer funded research be made available online to the public immediately, free-of-cost, and ideally under an open license that communicates broad downstream use rights, such as CC BY. While FRPAA–like the NIH Public Access Policy before it–does not require the application of open licenses to the scientific research outputs funded with federal tax dollars, it is a crucial step toward increasing public access to research.

SPARC has issued an action alert, and there are several specific actions you can take in support of FRPAA. On this 10th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, please voice your support that the public needs and deserves access to the research it paid for and upon which its education depends.

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Comments to the White House Inquiry on Public Access to Publicly Funded Research Publications, Data

Timothy Vollmer, January 13th, 2012

In November we wrote that the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) was soliciting comments on two related Requests for Information (RFI). One asked for feedback on how the federal government should manage public access to scholarly publications resulting from federal investments, and the other wanted input on public access to the digital data funded by federal tax dollars.

Creative Commons submitted a response to both RFIs. Below is a brief summary of the main points. Several other groups and individuals have submitted responses to OSTP, and all the comments will eventually be made available on the OSTP website.

Response to Publications RFI

  • The public funds tens of billions of dollars in research each year. The federal government can support scientific innovation, productivity, and economic efficiency of the taxpayer dollars they expend by instituting an open licensing policy.
  • Scholarly articles created as a result of federally funded research should be released under full open access. Full open access policies will provide to the public immediate, free-of-cost online availability to federally funded research without restriction except that attribution be given to the source.
  • The standard means for granting permission to the public aligned with full open access is through a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license.

Response to Data RFI

  • If the federal government wants to maximize the impact of digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research, it should provide explicit, easy-to-understand information about the rights available to the public.
  • The federal government should establish policies that insure the public has cost-free, unimpeded access to the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research. Access to this data should be made available as soon as possible, with due consideration to confidentiality and privacy issues, as well as the researchers’ need to receive credit and benefit from the work.
  • The federal government can grant these permissions to the public by supporting policies whereby 1) data is made available by dedicating it to the public domain or 2) data is made available through a liberal license where at most downstream data users must give credit to the source of the data. CC offers tools such as the CC0 waiver and CC BY license in support of these goals.
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Stop U.S. legislation that would block public access to publicly funded research

Timothy Vollmer, January 6th, 2012

In December 2011 the U.S. House of Representatives introduced The Research Works Act (H.R.3699), a bill that will ban public access to publicly funded research. SPARC says, “Essentially, the bill seeks to prohibit federal agencies from conditioning their grants to require that articles reporting on publicly funded research be made accessible to the public online.” The bill was introduced by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). The sponsorship by Issa is odd considering his strong support for OPEN Act, the tolerable alternative to the SOPA/PIPA legislation. The bill stands in stark contrast to OSTP’s recent request for ideas about how the U.S. government can support public access to federally funded research articles and digital data (note: you can still submit comments until January 12 to the OSTP call). One of the primary proponents of the The Research Works Act is The Association of American Publishers, who describe the bill in a press release:

The Research Works Act will prohibit federal agencies from unauthorized free public dissemination of journal articles that report on research which, to some degree, has been federally-funded but is produced and published by private sector publishers receiving no such funding. It would also prevent non-government authors from being required to agree to such free distribution of these works. Additionally, it would preempt federal agencies’ planned funding, development and back-office administration of their own electronic repositories for such works, which would duplicate existing copyright-protected systems and unfairly compete with established university, society and commercial publishers.

The legislation would be toxic for progressive initiatives such as the NIH’s Public Access Policy, which requires scientists to submit final peer-reviewed journal manuscripts that arise from NIH funds to the PubMed Central digital archive. PubMed Central provides free public access to research the public pays for. SPARC’s Alliance for Taxpayer Access website has outlined specific ways that supporters of public access can speak out against this proposed legislation. Especially helpful is contacting the Congressional offices listed below. Please voice your support for public access to publicly funded research.

Representative Issa
@DarrellIssa
http://issa.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=597&Itemid=73
Fax: (202) 225-3303

Representative Maloney
@RepMaloney
https://maloney.house.gov/contact-me/email-me (Using zip code 10128-3679)
Fax: (202) 225-4709

Members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee – especially if you’re a constituent.
http://1.usa.gov/zDqnne

Your representative – through the Alliance for Taxpayer Access Action Center: http://www.congressweb.com/cweb2/index.cfm/siteid/sparc

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Reminder: White House wants your input on Public Access to Data and Publications

Timothy Vollmer, November 30th, 2011

In the U.S., the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released two Requests for Information (RFI) soliciting public input on long term preservation of and public access to the results of federally funded research, including digital data and peer-reviewed scholarly publications. The deadline for responding to the RFIs is January 2, 2012.

Persons and parties interested in weighing in on the requests can find more information in the Federal Register announcements:

Our friends at SPARC offer some additional guidance, also listed below:

It is important that as many individuals and organizations as possible – at all levels – respond to these requests for information. For reference, the RFI specifically calls for comments from “non-Federal stakeholders, including the public, universities, nonprofit and for-profit publishers, libraries, federally funded and non-federally funded research scientists, and other organizations and institutions with a stake in long-term preservation and access to the results of federally funded research.” Both RFIs pose a series of questions, and respondents should answer those questions as specifically as possible. It should be emphasized that organizations beyond the U.S., with experience with open-access policies, are also invited to contribute.

The input provided through this RFI will inform the National Science and Technology Council’s Task Force on Public Access to Scholarly Publications, convened by OSTP. OSTP will issue a report to Congress describing: 1) Priorities for the development of agency policies for ensuring broad public access to the results of federally funded, unclassified research; 2) The status of agency policies for public access to publications resulting from federally funded research; and 3) Public input collected.

The main point to emphasize is that taxpayers are entitled to access the results of the research our tax dollars fund. Taxpayers should be allowed to immediately access and fully reuse the results of publicly funded research.

Again, the deadline for submissions is January 2, 2012. Submissions to the publications RFI should be sent via email to publicaccess [at] ostp [dot] gov. Submissions to the data RFI should be sent via email to digitaldata [at] ostp [dot] gov. Please note: OSTP will publicly post all submissions after the deadlines (along with names of submitters and their institutions) so please make sure not to include any confidential or proprietary information in your submission. Attachments may be included.

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Free and unrestricted Public Sector Information: Study finds benefits outweigh costs

Timothy Vollmer, November 28th, 2011

Governments around the world are increasingly relying on open licenses to release public sector information (PSI). A September 2011 report titled Costs and Benefits of Data Provision, prepared by John Houghton for the Australian National Data Service, examines the immediate and wider economic costs and benefits to making PSI available.

The key takeaway from the study: “the direct and measurable benefits of making PSI available free and unrestrictedly typically outweigh the costs. When one adds the longer-term benefits that we cannot fully measure, cannot even foresee, the case for open access appears to be strong.”

The report offers an interesting and instructive analysis about the overarching cost-saving potential of making PSI available online for free and under open licenses (we assume the figures to represent Australian dollars):

[W]e find that the net cost to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) of making publications and statistics freely available online and adopting Creative Commons licensing was likely to have been around $3.5 million per annum at 2005-06 prices and levels of activity, but the immediate cost savings for users were likely to have been around $5 million per annum. The wider impacts in terms of additional use and uses bring substantial additional returns, with our estimates suggesting overall costs associated with free online access to ABS publications and data online and unrestrictive standard licensing of around $4.6 million per annum and measurable annualised benefits of perhaps $25 million (i.e. more than five times the costs).

The Houghton study suggests that open licensing is a key component to reducing friction in the downstream use of PSI:

It is not simply about access prices, but also about the transaction costs involved. Standardised and unrestrictive licensing, such as Creative Commons, and data standards are crucial in enabling access that is truly open (i.e. free, immediate and unrestricted) … The efficient economic solution for the dissemination of PSI is likely to be free libre and free gratis (i.e. making it freely available online and using unrestrictive licensing such as Creative Commons).

In a separate internal document noted in the report, the Australian Bureau of Statistics described the impact of adopting CC licensing. It says that CC licensing “meets public expectations with regard to open government, facilitates data sharing (including across government), allows for more timely reuse of statistics, facilitates innovation, [and] makes sense to a growing percentage of people who recognise and understand CC licence symbols and conditions.”

The study urges us to try to understand and foster the unpredictable yet potentially powerful innovation that can be unleashed when PSI is made freely available online and released using unrestrictive licenses:

In the longer term, there may also be unforeseen uses and re-uses that simply cannot be accounted for, and again this may mean that the costs and benefits experienced in the early years of implementation tend to understate the longer-term advantages. Use and re-use can also have wider impacts, in terms of innovation and the development and introduction of new products, services and processes that, in turn, generate new economic economic activity, new business opportunities, better informed and potentially better government and business decisions.

The full report is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia License.

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Open Course Library Launches 1st 42 Courses

Cable Green, November 2nd, 2011

On Monday, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) released the first 42 of the state’s high-enrollment 81 Open Course Library courses. The remaining 39 courses will be finished by 2013. Funded by the Washington State Legislature and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Open Course Library joins the global open educational resources (OER) movement, and adheres to SBCTC’s open policy, which requires that all materials created through system grants be openly licensed for the public to freely use, adapt and distribute.

All courses are available under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 unported license (CC-BY).

The first 42 courses are available in multiple technical formats including:

Michael Kenyon’s students at Green River Community College used to pay nearly $200 for a new pre-calculus textbook. Now they pay only $20 for a book – or use it online for free. Kenyon’s pre-calculus textbook (CC BY SA) was written by community college faculty David Lippman and Melonie Rasmussen, who teach at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom. “We looked at a lot of textbooks,” Kenyon said. “There are some people who think this is the best book out there.”

“The courses were created with the needs of Washington’s college students in mind,” said Tom Caswell, SBCTC Open Education Policy Associate. “And with the idea we would share the courses with the world.”

Each course was developed and peer reviewed by a team of instructors, instructional designers and librarians. Use of the course materials is optional, but many faculty and departments are already moving to adopt them.

According to an informal study by the Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), the Open Course Library could save students as much as $41.6 million on textbooks annually if adopted at all of Washington’s community and technical colleges. The study also estimates that the 42 faculty course developers will save students $1.26 million by using the materials during the 2011-2012 school year, which alone exceeds the $1.18 million cost of creating the 42 courses. “These savings will not only help Washington’s students afford college, but clearly provide a tremendous return on the original investment,” said Nicole Allen, Textbook Advocate for the Student PIRGs.

Justin Hamilton, press secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, said the Washington state effort was groundbreaking for the nation. “Lowering college costs increases a student’s ability to take more courses, finish their degree on time, and enter the workforce prepared for success in a global economy. That’s not just good for them, it’s good for the country.”

“It really is the beginning of the end of closed, expensive, proprietary commercial textbooks that are completely disconnected from today’s reality,” said Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D-Seattle) of Washington State’s 36th District, a champion of the Open Course Library and OER. “This is a significant state investment in this era of massive budget cuts. We had little choice but to seize the opportunity of this crisis to challenge the status quo of the old-style cost models in both K-12 and higher education.”

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The CC community participates in Open Access Week 2011

Jane Park, October 24th, 2011


Open Access (storefront) by Gideon Burton / CC BY-SA

Open Access Week, now in its 5th year, is taking place this week, October 24-30. “Open Access to information—the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need—has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.” The fifth annual OA Week is kicking off with events around the world, and the CC community is joining. Below we highlight a few of these activities!

Open Access Week Perú

Both CC Perú and CC Chile will present at Open Access Week Perú. CC Chile’s Alberto Cerda will be one of the speakers opening the conference on October 25, with CC Perú’s Rafael A. Salazar Gamarra giving a talk on CC, open access and copyright on October 26. Open Access Week Perú is a series of activities that addresses different aspects and approaches to open access internationally and aims to highlight the various initiatives that promote free access to academic and scientific information in Perú and elsewhere. The full program is available at http://www.openaccessperu.org.

Open Access Seminar in Poland

On October 28, CC Poland’s Alek Tarkowski and Kamil Śliwowski will lead a seminar on open publishing models and the use of new media in scientific work. The seminar will take place at the Polish Culture Institute in the University of Warsaw. In addition, the Open Education Coalition in Poland is organizing several open access events throughout the country. For more information, see CC Poland’s blog post.

SHOW – Share Open Access Worldwide in Croatia

SHOW (Share/OpenAccess/Worldwide) will celebrate Open Access Week in Croatia. On October 26, CC Croatia’s Tomislav Medak will give a talk on CC licensing and Open Access at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences of the University of Rijeka. The idea is to raise awareness among Croatian students about the importance of the free flow of information and open access to research literature, which is not a familiar term in the region, by raising questions about what students are already well familiar with, i.e., intellectual property. The students will be introduced to Copyleft movement, Creative Commons licensing, Open Projects, Open Content movement, Open Access movement and the Right to Research Coalition; and they will be invited to join the debate about the prospects for a world of open values. The full program is available at http://www.intechweb.org/show.html.

Open Access Week online

CC staff are also promoting open access in various webinars and telecasts, including the New Directions in Scholarly Communication Online Seminar, the Right to Research Coalition’s webcast on Open Access and the Impact of Open on Research, and a telephone seminar for the State Bar of California. Today, October 24, CC Senior Adviser John Wilbanks joins the New Directions in Scholarly Communication Online Seminar to discuss the changing landscape of scholarly communication and scientific publishing. On October 26, John will also discuss Open Access and how open has the power to transform research for the Right to Research Coalition. On October 27, Aurelia J. Schultz, CC Counsel and Africa Regional Coordinator, will give a presentation on CC licenses for the Intellectual Property section of the California State Bar, to inform lawyers about CC licenses and how they can help their clients use CC licenses or CC-licensed works.

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European Commission hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information

Diane Cabell, June 8th, 2011

Along with over 50 organizations, I attended a recent European Commission public hearing on access to and preservation of scientific information. Among those present were representatives from national and regional ministries, higher education institutions, libraries, data repositories, public and private funders, scientific societies, supranational research centres, journal publishers and advocacy groups. A majority of those at the hearing were strong proponents of open access (OA).

Because science and digital technology are evolving so rapidly, the hearing was held to collect information in order to re-assess the European Commission’s 2007 Communication on scientific information in the digital age: access, dissemination and preservation. European Commission communications are used to make policy, propose legislation, fund research, and raise awareness. European Commission communications also have a substantial impact on member state national activity.

Supporters of open access asked for continued European Commission financial and political support. The following specific observations and recommendations were made.

  • Open access accelerates the speed of science. Time is wasted in serial submissions as researchers first seek the prestigious journals. Publication is not simply a method for communication among peers; it also has practical impacts (social, economic, consumer) that should also be taken into consideration when evaluating impact. A shift is needed away from evaluation of research based at the journal level to one that is based at the article level which can include a wider and more sophisticated variety of post-publication impact metrics beyond mere citations in other journals.
  • The European Commission should encourage rewarding the release of data as well as of text articles. Support curation and preservation of data (in digital and non-digital forms such as images, artifacts, and tissues) as well as access. These fields require research themselves to produce globally useful, efficient, transparent and realistic data management plans with sound policy guidelines, longevity and consistent terminology.
  • Careful investigation and planning will be required in order to build a strong and useful information architecture for a global research system. The architecture could do many things (link related information such as data sets and software to text articles, collect usage metrics, integrate user-friendly attribution and citation tools, develop unique identifiers for both research output and individual researchers, and develop methods of expressing linked data, structuring metadata, and for publishing data schema and code books that allow machines to give context); however choices should be made based on thorough study.
  • Research and dissemination belong together as do access and re-use. The European Commission should recognize OA as a main strategy and support an open access ethic among researchers to encourage them to understand and value non-traditional assessment tools—as well as the value of sharing data—and to willingly contribute useful metrics to the open access publication. Dedicated funding and training should be provided for OA publication and compliance should be monitored.
  • Scientific publication needs its own rules because it is profoundly different from revenue-generating work. Scholarship exists only as it is shared and circulated and should be treated as “give-away literature.” Intellectual property rights and even tax laws also need to be harmonized to enable, rather than inhibit, data use and mining and copying for preservation. An author’s right to self-publish in his own institutional repository should be ensured; a fair-dealing exemption should be established for text and data mining—including format shifting for technical purposes—for research purposes; and permissions should be extended for use of orphan and out-of-print works. Contract law should not be allowed to override such protections.
  • Government agencies should publish their data management plans and budget for compulsory data preservation. Open formats should also be used in preservation to ensure consistency and compatibility. Clinical trial data should be publicly available to ensure integrity.
  • OA needs to be approached globally. The European Commission should set standards for harvesting, curating, trusted processing and presentation of results.

Speakers from the funding, publishing and research communities also urged the adoption of Creative Commons licenses because of their widespread use.

Some publishers expressed caution lest the strengths and values inherent in traditional publication be lost. One approach may not suit all disciplines. Slow science is good for some and enhances the longevity of articles. Careful review procedures produce works with the level of integrity and permanence that deserve high prestige. These include taking time and resources for refereed interaction, keeping review independent from research funding, removing barriers for unfunded/underfunded authors, and ensuring long-term preservation of authoritative copies. And, lastly, open access needs to be sustainable.

My personal observations:

The majority of the attendees were text publishers, so discussion around data was limited with even less said about tissue samples or patent concerns. There are many technical, legal and social hurdles ahead and serious questions about how to best use OA for certain research disciplines. This observer wonders whether the European Commission will be able to coordinate the development of data architectures, standards and guidelines in time to avoid a plethora of incompatible market-generated systems and, even if so, how the European efforts will be coordinated on a global basis.

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