Books /John Liu / CC BY
A report issued by the United States Government Accountability Office on June 6th confirms a trend of the educational publishing industry: textbook costs to students at higher education institutions are rising 6% per year on average, and have risen 82% over the last decade. The study, ordered by Congress, looks at the efforts of publishers and colleges to increase the availability of textbook price information and “unbundled” buying options as required under provisions in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA). The GAO also interviewed faculty regarding benefits of this transparency and offering of new options for students purchasing course materials.
What they found
Findings of the study indicated that faculty are more aware of textbook affordability issues than they used to be, though they see the appropriateness of materials as the most important factor when it comes to choosing resources to use in a course. HEOA requires publishers to include information about textbook prices when marketing to faculty, including wholesale prices and copyright dates of previous versions. While the report finds that publishers have passively made this information available through their websites and other materials, the GAO did not investigate whether publishers are actively providing the information to faculty as required by law. Making this information not only available, but highly visible, is the best way to support and equip faculty to consider textbook costs and potentially explore more affordable and flexible textbook options.
The study also finds that textbook price transparency helped students save money, particularly because of the information colleges and universities posted in course catalogs. Of the 150 institutions the GAO reviewed, 81 percent provided textbook information online during the months leading up to the fall 2012 semester. This allowed students the opportunity to consider the costs associated with each course and the time to seek cost-cutting alternatives like used books and renting. But even with this relief, textbook prices continue to reach into the $200-and-more range for high-enrollment courses. The end goal of the HEOA price transparency provisions is to pressure publishers into lowering their prices for good.
What this means
As Nicole Allen, Affordable Textbooks Advocate for the Student Public Interest Research Groups (Student PIRGs) explained, “Overall, the report shows that the HEOA requirements have helped students and professors become more aware of textbook costs, and this awareness builds market pressure that will eventually lead to fairer prices and more affordable alternatives. Although right now publishers stubbornly continue driving prices skyward, they can only ignore the call for affordability for so long.”
The report mentions other textbook affordability efforts that colleges and universities explored alongside providing textbook price information. About two-thirds of the schools that the GAO interviewed offered an institutional rental program, and many offered price information for alternate formats, such as e-textbooks. For example, the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges’ Open Course Library, which offers Open Educational Resources (OER) and other low cost materials for the system’s 81 largest courses, has saved students $5.5 million to date — about three times as much as the program cost. As the shift of resources towards efforts that provide more options to students and faculty is seen across the US and in other areas around the world, we anticipate more participation in communities around OER. Which is a great thing.
Next steps towards affordable textbooks
The HEOA requirements for textbook price transparency were a good first step, but there’s more work to do to solve rising textbook costs and lack of flexibility in choosing learning materials for courses. OER, like those created, revised, and shared in the Open Course Library have the potential to significantly offset these costs while at the same time providing more options for faculty and students to customize textbooks and other courseware to their needs. CC believes that OER is the next step in providing affordable, flexible, and truly open educational opportunities for students and faculty, allowing global citizens to better choose their own learning pathways.
opensourceway / CC BY-SA
A joint statement issued by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on June 7th affirms the potential for OER as a solution: “As the GAO report suggests, transparency alone isn’t enough. Students need more access to high-quality, affordable options that challenge the current price structure set by a handful of publishers. Open Educational Resources, which include high-quality open textbooks that are free for faculty to adopt and students to use, offer a promising step forward. With many recent technology advancements it will be important for Congress to continue to learn more about the textbook sector to ensure that there are accountability mechanisms in place to protect students and taxpayers.”6 Comments »
CC is excited to announce the launch of our Affiliate Project Grants. These project grants will be used to support and expand the work of CC’s Global community of volunteers.
The goal of the grant program, which is enabled by sponsorship from Google, is to increase the capacity of CC Affiliates and community members working towards our mission, by providing support for local events and projects. Projects that might be covered by the grants include everything from OER workshops to film and music festivals to publications to research – anything, in fact, you can imagine that expands knowledge and adoption of open policies and practices around the world.
Proposals submitted by CC affiliates and community members will be selected to receive up to $20,000 USD towards their project(s). We are hoping to distribute these globally, with at least one project in each of the major geographical regions, and to cover projects small (eg writing and printing factsheets) and large (eg running a region wide series of workshops).
The application deadline is July 8. You can find out more about how to apply, eligibility, timeline, example projects, and the selection process here. Only those working with CC’s local community teams are eligible to apply – so if you have a good idea, find out how to contact your local CC team here.
We are looking forward to reviewing all the exciting project ideas that come from our affiliate community!1 Comment »
Last week the Association of American Universities (AAU), Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) released a draft plan on how they’d support public access to federally funded research aligned with the February 22 White House public access directive. The SHared Access Research Ecosystem, or SHARE, is a plan that would draw upon existing university infrastructure in order to ensure public access to publicly funded research. SHARE works through a federated system of university repositories. Participating universities would adopt a common set of metadata fields for publicly funded research articles. The metadata will communicate specific information so the article may be easily discovered through common search engines. Minimum metadata will include author name, title, journal, abstract, and award number. The university-focused SHARE plan was announced in the same week as CHORUS, an effort championed by a coalition of commercial publishers.
In order to promote broad access and reuse of publicly funded research outputs, the SHARE proposal says that federal agencies need to be granted permissions that enable them to make the deposit system work. Therefore, universities and principal investigators need to retain sufficient rights to in turn grant those permissions (access, reuse, archiving) to the federal agencies. From the plan:
Copyright licenses to allow public access uses of publications resulting from federal awards need to be awarded on a non-exclusive basis to the funding agency responsible for deposit in order for that system of public deposit to work [...] Federal funding agencies need to receive sufficient copyright licenses to peer-reviewed scholarly publications (either final accepted manuscripts or preferably final published articles) resulting from their grants to enable them to carry out their roles in the national public access scheme. Such licenses would enable the placement of peer-reviewed content in publicly accessible repositories capable of preservation, discovery, sharing, and machine-based services such as text mining, once an embargo has expired.
The need for universities and researchers to maintain rights to make their research available under open licenses is aligned with the recommendations that Creative Commons made to the federal government in our testimony during the public hearings at the National Academies. In our comments, we urged agencies to allow authors to deposit articles immediately in a repository under a worldwide, royalty-free copyright license that allows the research to be used for any purpose as long as attribution is given to the authors. By making it possible for authors to make their research articles available immediately as open access, federal agencies will be clarifying reuse rights so the downstream users know the legal rights and responsibilities in using that research. This would include important reuse permissions noted in the SHARE proposal.
We also suggested that federal agencies require that authors deposit their manuscripts into a public repository immediately upon publication in a peer reviewed journal. This is also in line with the SHARE plan. If an embargo is present, the SHARE repository will link to the commercial publisher’s website. And once the embargo period expires, the repository would be able to “flip on” access to the article which would then made available under the open license.
The SHARE proposal also notes, “licensing arrangements should ensure that no single entity or group secures exclusive rights to publications resulting from federally funded research.” It is important that universities and scholarly authors properly manage copyrights from the get-go in order to make sure that the final manuscript is made publicly available under the requirements set out by the White House public access directive. This important consideration has been widely discussed at the federal level when the NIH Public Access Policy went into effect. In addition, universities have passed open access policies that reserve the legal rights to archive research conducted by their faculty. And author-level copyright tools have proved to be useful for faculty to preserve some rights to the articles to which they submit to commercial publishers.Comments Off
Ryan / CC BY-SA
Lumen Learning, a company founded to help institutions adopt open educational resources (OER) more effectively, just launched its first set of course frameworks for educators to use as-is or to adapt to their own needs. The six course frameworks cover general education topics spanning English composition, reading, writing, algebra, and college success, and are openly licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY).
The course frameworks were developed by the Lumen Learning team in concert with faculty members at nine institutions who worked to align the content with defined learning objectives and quality standards. By providing openly licensed course frameworks developed and vetted by experts, Lumen Learning hopes to make it easier for educators and institutions to use OER. From the press release,
“Our ultimate goal is to provide sustainable open textbook alternatives for an entire general education curriculum and even entire OER-based degree programs,” said Kim Thanos, CEO and co-founder of Lumen Learning. “We are thrilled with the interest and momentum we are seeing around OER today. It is definitely a rising tide, benefitting students, instructors and institutions alike.”
You can browse the CC BY-licensed course frameworks at http://www.lumenlearning.com/courses. Lumen Learning will also offer additional course frameworks in business management, psychology, chemistry, biology, and geography in the coming months.2 Comments »
About 400 map makers, coders, cartographers, designers, business services providers and data mungers of chiefly spatial persuasion gathered in San Francisco to “talk OpenStreetMap, learn from each other, and move the project forward.” These conference attendees are a tip of an iceberg composed of 1.1 million registered users who have collectively gathered 3.2 billion GPS points around the world since OpenStreetMap was launched in 2004 as a free, editable map of the whole world. Unlike proprietary datasets, OpenStreetMap allows free access to the full map dataset. About 28 GB of data representing the entire planet can be downloaded in full, but also is available in immediately-useful forms like maps and commercial services. OpenStreetMap is open data licensed under the Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL) with the cartography in its tiles and its documentation licensed under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
The program ranged from building and nurturing OSM communities, to technical wizardry, to improving infrastructure. Martijn van Exel provided an insight into the OSM community in the United States (see table below). Big countries and large areas pose challenges already in the queue to be tackled.
|land area||3.7 million sq miles|
|casual (< 100 edits)||71.0%|
|active (>100 edits, active in last 3M)||6.8%|
|power (>1000 edits, active in last 3M, active for >1Y||2.6%|
|total edits, all time||723,000,000|
|edits by top 10 mappers (incl bots and import accounts)||69.8%|
|edits by power mappers (excl most bots and import accounts)||57.3%|
Scientific authoring workflow is a beast. You keep notes on paper (hopefully, a notebook, and not just loose pages), in word-processing documents unhelpfully named “notes” followed by “notes1,” “notes2″ or worse, “notes_old,” “notes_old1.” You manage your bibliography on your desktop or on the web, you have a directory folder full of images, charts, photos and other media, and you collaborate with your co-authors by emailing attachments back and forth.
Sooner or later you start doubting your sanity but you soldier on. Finally you publish your paper, heave a sigh of relief, and move on, thereby ensuring your data can’t be reused and your work can’t be reproduced easily.
Several coders, designers, scientists, and publishers met at PLOS to brainstorm toward a better, more modern way. The Markdown for Science workshop was organized by Martin Fenner and Stian Håklev and supported by a 1K Challenge Grant from FORCE11.
Photos by Puneet Kishor, CC0 PD Dedication
While a lot of good ideas were generated, we have a long way to go. Keep an eye on this project, and better yet, pitch in with your ideas and code. Together we can tame this beast.Comments Off
On Saturday, April 27, the Creative Commons Board of Directors met at the Safra Center at Harvard. We discussed the accomplishments of the past 12 months, both in the organization and in the broader open movement, and the new opportunities on the horizon, including creating an Advisory Council to complement the Board itself.
The State of CC: 2012-13 in review
CC CEO Cathy Casserly gave an upbeat review of CC’s past 12 months. Some key takeaways:
- CC’s international network of affiliates and champions continues to grow and strengthen. Affiliates and other volunteers organized over 30 celebrations around the world for Creative Commons’ tenth anniversary as well as events, salons, and conferences year-round. Regional CC networks are becoming more energized, with regional gatherings taking place around the globe.
- Creative Commons continues to serve as a voice for open. Through new initiatives like the School of Open and the Open Policy Network, CC is helping to teach everyone from world governments to individuals about the value of open licensing.
- The open education movement is stronger than it’s ever been. In the past year, the governments of British Columbia, South Africa, the United States, and California have made major investments in OER (open educational resources). UNESCO member states unanimously approved a resolution calling for the development of quality OER.
Opportunities and Challenges Ahead: The next 12 months
The discussion then turned to the next 12 months at Creative Commons.
CC’s expanded global team will create new opportunities for collaboration and development in the CC Affiliate Network. Cathy outlined a plan to engage with the CC Affiliate Network in developing instructional resources for license users, and announced a new grant that will provide critical support for affiliate collaborations.
CC General Counsel Diane Peters led a discussion about the forthcoming version 4.0 of the license suite, explaining how the new licenses will address several important issues in interoperability and internationalization.
CC Director of Product Strategy Dan Mills laid out his plan to develop a new set of products that will make it easier for users to mark and attribute CC-licensed content, while letting licensors interact with people who reuse their works. Glenn Brown and Lawrence Lessig agreed to serve as advisors to the project development pipeline.
New Directions for CC’s Board
Finally, we discussed the future of CC’s Board of Directors. As the program areas in which CC works have grown and shifted, the demands on the Board have changed too. We agreed on a plan to establish an Advisory Council that would advise and critique the overall CC strategy, complementing and expanding the Board. We will conduct a search for new Board and Advisory Council nominees with key expertise and skill sets. Part of the search process will include an upcoming open call for nominations for our Board of Directors and for our new-to-be-formed, Advisory Council. We hope you’ll actively put forward candidates.
This was my second in-person Creative Commons Board meeting, and it reaffirmed my pride in being chair for an organization that is shaping the future. I speak for everyone on the Board when I see we’re excited about the changes and challenges to come in the next few years.Comments Off
Gwen Franck / Gwen Franck / All Rights Reserved
Creative Commons has volunteer teams in over 70 countries, including 35 in Europe, all of whom work to support and promote the adoption of CC in their local jurisdictions and advise CC’s work globally. The role of the Regional Coordinators is to support and foster these communities in their regions. We’ve had a Regional Coordinator in Europe for a few years, but this will be the first time we have two for the region, significantly increasing their capacity.
John is not new to the CC community, and in fact has been a leader in Europe for many years as the Legal Lead of CC Germany. Based in Berlin, he is also a Partner of iRights.Law, an IP and media law firm, and is a well known writer and speaker on open issues as part of iRights.Lab.
Gwen is newer to Creative Commons, but is still known to our community through her work with the OpenAIRE project, providing access to research across Europe. She has also worked on Open Access Belgium and TEDxGhent. Her background is in community management, international relations and research.
Jonas Oberg / Mathias Klang / CC BY ND
With this announcement, I also bid a sad farewell to Jonas Oberg, who has been our European Regional Coordinator for almost two years now. Jonas has done a great job of supporting our European community, organizing multiple regional meetings, working with individual teams and taking a lead in everything from grant applications to collaborative activities. We are extremely grateful for Jonas’ time with us, and very glad that he will continue to be part of our broader community in his new Shuttleworth Fellowship looking at automated attribution for open objects.
Join me in farewelling Jonas, and welcoming John and Gwen to their new roles.Comments Off
Creative Commons has grown tremendously since we started. As we approached the milestone of our 10th birthday, and with a new CEO on board, we began an intensive review of our progress and priorities. Sometimes you need to use big milestones to stop and see where you are, and occasionally you find that decisions made to meet immediate demands don’t always hold up against long-term ambitions. The world is changing pretty quickly, and to remain effective, CC needs to do more than just keep up.
During our review, we spent a lot of time asking questions and listening to our Affiliate Network members around the world. We hired some consultants to help run a process and to talk to people outside of the organization about how they viewed the role of Creative Commons. As navel-gazing goes, we gave it a solid effort. We also realized how important it is to declare our mission, vision, and priorities for action. The resulting publication, The Future of Creative Commons (2.7 MB PDF), lays out priorities for each area in which we work. These overall priorities are already guiding staff in how they use their time and set targets for each program area. They also give us a good base to measure how well we are doing.
As a companion piece, we offer this annual report, Dispatches from the Commons. In it, we call out some of the big accomplishments of the past year and highlight organizations and people who are doing powerful and innovative things with our licenses.
The whole process of evaluating our place in the world and projecting our ambitions for the future repeatedly reminded us of how much we rely on supporters, allies, and friends. Creative Commons is a small staff connected to the whole world through our affiliates and a global community of open advocates, volunteers and creators. Only together are we Creative Commons. You are a powerful engine for change that seems to run on an endless supply of renewable energy!
We hope that this strategy document and annual report help you understand where CC is headed and where you can play a role. Thanks for your sharing. Thanks for your support. Thanks for coming along on this amazing ride.10 Comments »
After passing through the Assembly Appropriations Committee last week (with bipartisan support), California’s Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act (AB 609) will now reach the Assembly floor for a vote this week. If the proposed bill passes the Assembly, it will move to the California State Senate.
To recap, AB 609 would require that the final peer-reviewed manuscript of research funded through California tax dollars be made publicly available within 12 months of publication. If passed, AB 609 would be the first state-level bill requiring free public access to publicly funded research.
The Association of American Publishes attempted to scuttle the bill by sending a letter filled with inaccurate, misleading information. However, public access advocates made their voices heard to appropriations committee members, again correcting the FUD spread by entrenched publishing interests.
If you’re a California resident, you can contact your Assembly member now to ask that they support AB 609.Comments Off