Commons News

CC Talks With: The Right to Research Coalition’s Nick Shockey: Open Education and Policy

Timothy Vollmer, January 20th, 2011

Nick Shockey is the Director of the Right to Research Coalition (R2RC) and the Director of Student Advocacy at the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC).  The R2RC is an international alliance of 31 graduate and undergraduate student organizations, representing nearly 7 million students, that promotes an open scholarly publishing system based on the belief that no student should be denied access to the research they need for their education because their institution cannot afford the often high cost of scholarly journals. We spoke to Nick about similarities in the open access and open educational resources movements, the worldwide student movement in support of access to scholarly research, and the benefits of adopting Creative Commons tools for open access literature.

Nick Shockey
Nick Shockey by Right To Research Coalition / CC BY

“It all started in a hotel room in Paris,” explains Shockey, who while studying abroad at Oxford and on a brief trip to France happened to catch a CNN special about MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) program. Nick was immediately impressed by the idea of OCW, and upon his return to Trinity University campaigned to get his school to implement a similar program. For a number of reasons, OCW didn’t catch on at Trinity, but the experience Shockey gained in advocating for it provided him with two crucial pieces that led to his work at SPARC: a deep interest in opening up the tools of education, and an introduction to Diane Graves, Trinity’s University Librarian and then SPARC Steering Committee member. Shockey began advocating for open access to research at Trinity, and convinced the student government to pass a resolution supporting the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), as well as a later resolution endorsing the Student Statement on the Right to Research. The statement calls for students, researchers, universities, and research funders to make academic research openly available to all. These principles formed the foundation for what was to become the Right to Research Coalition.

Growth of R2RC

In the summer after Shockey moved to Washington D.C., he was able to add new signatories to the Student Statement on the Right to Research, including the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) and the National Graduate Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students. It soon became clear that a larger impact could be made by organizing as a coalition that actively advocated for and educated students about open access, and Nick joined SPARC full time to lead the Right to Research Coalition.

R2RC has grown to include 31 member organizations and now represents nearly 7 million students worldwide. “The incredible diversity of our membership speaks to how important access to research is to students,” says Shockey. R2RC’s members range in size from groups with less than a hundred students to organizations with more than a million. But Nick notes that all the member groups have two things in common: they believe students should have the benefit of the full scholarly record (not just the fraction they or their institution can afford), and they recognize that the Internet has made unfettered access possible by driving down the marginal cost to distribute knowledge virtually to zero.

Federal open access advocacy

SPARC and the Right to Research Coalition have been supportive of the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), a law which would require 11 U.S. government agencies with annual output research expenditures over $100 million to make manuscripts of journal articles stemming from research funded by that agency publicly available via the Internet. While FRPAA didn’t pass in 2010, Shockey’s very happy with the remarkable progress made, which culminated last year in the Congressional hearing on the issue of public access to federally funded research. Shockey, colleague Julia Mortyakova, and R2RC members have been advocating in support of FRPAA in various ways, such as letter-writing campaigns and in-person office visits. Shockey estimates his membership has reached out to well over two hundred Congressional offices.

Student support for OA around the world

Shockey describes that the current situation of limited access to academic research is a widespread problem that affects students all around the world. But, he explains that the real difference isn’t between the United States and the rest of the world, but between the developed and the developing world. “Paying $30 for access to one article is expensive even for many researchers in the U.S.,” says Nick, “but when you realize that $30 is an entire average month’s wage in Malawi, you can see the huge disparities in access faced by huge swaths of people around the world.”

At the end of last summer, R2RC began a concerted effort to expand their coalition to incorporate international student groups, and launched their Access Around the World blog series to feature stories and activities from students across the globe. In fall 2010, Shockey pitched the importance for student access to scholarly research to the European Medical Students’ Association’s General Assembly in Athens and the European Students’ Conference in Berlin. “The students understood the issue right away and have gotten involved immediately,” says Nick. The President of the European Medical Students’ Association has already made a presentation on Open Access and the R2RC at a major international medical conference, and just this month, the coalition welcomed the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), the world’s largest medical student organization, which operates in 97 countries around the world.

Access is crippled by cost; OA enables novel downstream benefits

The high cost to users to access academic journals and educational materials is a criticism shared by advocates of open access (OA) and open educational resources (OER). Scholarly journal prices have increased at 200% the level of inflation, similar to that of college textbook prices. Shockey believes that the that the greatest value of open access is to help knock down the prohibitive barriers that high prices pose to individual users. “A singe U.S. university we studied spent about $900,000 for only 96 journal subscriptions–and that was at a well-funded school,” says Shockey. “At less wealthy institutions, or those in the developing world, the price barriers often prove insurmountable. Students and researchers must make do with what their school can afford rather than what they need.”

Nick explains that through open access, the entire scholarly record could be available for anyone to read and build upon, leading to innumerable public benefits.  But he’s most excited by the uses of open access scholarship we can’t even think of at the moment. “Lawrence Lessig points out that the real ‘secret sauce’ of the Internet is that you don’t need anyone’s permission to innovate on it,” says Shockey, “and I believe open access will finally bring this ability to academic research.” Nick describes a world of open access in which researchers will not only be able to read any article, but also be permitted to perform semantic text mining to uncover trends no one person could discover and connect together. But for this promise to be fulfilled, he reinforces that researchers need access to the entire scholarly record, not just a selected subset, and the rights necessary to reuse these articles in new and interesting ways.

Open access and Creative Commons

Shockey explained that Creative Commons plays a crucial role within the OA movement by providing a standard suite of prepackaged open content licenses. “To make an obvious point,” he said, “very few researchers are also copyright lawyers, and the CC licenses make it simple for scholars and journals to make their articles openly available. CC also helps prevents a patchwork system where it’s unclear which uses are allowed and which are not.”  Nick notes that this sort of ambiguity can be very harmful–particularly to reuse of content, so it’s important that the open access community leverages CC to ensure access and communicate rights.

Shockey says that the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license has become the gold standard for open access journals. In general, scholars want recognition for their work, and the CC BY license ensures attribution to the author while allowing anyone to read, download, copy, print, distribute, and reuse their work without restriction. Shockey notes that several studies have shown a strong increase in article views and citations when an article is made openly available. “This makes intuitive sense,” Nick says. “If an article is available for more people to read and build upon, it’s unsurprising that it will also tend to be cited more often. Given the importance of citation counts in academic advancement, the citation increase can be an important benefit that flows from open licensing.”

OA support via the university

Open access (and increasingly, OER) initiatives at universities have been promoted in part through the university library. For example, at some schools librarians help educate faculty and students about the options available to them for scholarly publishing, including administering the Scholar’s Copyright Addendum. Shockey thinks that the library is a natural central organizing venue for OA and OER work, and meshes well with the library’s fundamental mission to provide their community with access to the educational resources they need.  Nick also noted that libraries are perfectly positioned to play an OA/OER organizing role because they are one of the only institutions that reaches every department and every member of the campus community. Shockey said that some libraries have already taken the lead by supporting initiatives such as the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity (COPE), which sets aside money to pay for the publication fees that some open access journals charge, in order to help transition to an open model.

OA and OER working together

Open access advocates argue that access to scholarly literature should not be limited to scientists and academics, but available to patients, parents, students at all levels, entrepreneurs, and others. Shockey believes that since the OA and OER movements are both working to enable free access to the tools of education, it’s important to explore the ways in which these movements can work together. Even though the R2RC is centered on open access, it’s begun to weave OER into its messaging alongside open data and open science. Nick thinks it’s important for R2RC members to see the larger network in which they work. “When we hit roadblocks in one area,” said Shockey, “there are often opportunities in others, and advancing one of these pieces (be it OA, OER, open data, open video, etc) opens the door for further progress in other areas. Furthermore, once you’ve convinced someone about one of these issues, be it a friend, colleague, or the U.S. Congress, it’s much easier to engage them on the others.”

Shockey is optimistic with regard to the future of the student open access movement, but stresses the need to move ahead with the clear vision that advancements in education, science, and scholarship require access to raw research materials. “We must always remember what it is we’re fighting for,” said Shockey, “academic research is the raw material upon which not only education but also scientific and scholarly advancement depend. When we allow these crucial resources to be locked away, it hinders the entire mission of the Academy – student learning suffers, scholarly research is impeded, and scientific discoveries are slowed.” Nick says that widespread open access promises to benefit science and scholarship in radical ways that are almost unimaginable today. “Open access will improve how we teach, learn, and solve problems in ways that are impossible within a closed system.”

While there are many ways to get involved with the Open Access movement, Shockey stressed that the most important was simply to learn about this issue of access to research and start conversations with friends, colleagues, mentors, and students to raise awareness.  The R2RC website has an individual version of their Student Statement on the Right to Research open for anyone to sign, as well as a host of other education and advocacy resources for those interested in Open Access.

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An Island: CC-Licensed Film, Public-Private Screenings Announced

Cameron Parkins, January 12th, 2011

Music and film lovers take note – An Island, a beautiful new film by Vincent Moon featuring Danish band Efterklang, is very quickly nearing public release. A new teaser for the film was released today along with an announcement describing the “Private-Public Screenings” of the film:

Efterklang and Vincent Moon welcome all our listeners and followers to host their own screenings of An Island.

We call these screenings Private-Public Screenings and the rules are very simple.

  • The screenings need to have free entrance
  • The screenings need to be public.
  • The screenings need to have a minimum capacity of 5 people
  • The screenings need to be verified by Efterklang & Vincent Moon and only screenings that are featured on www.anisland.cc are official Private-Public Screenings

Moon and Efterkland hope to create “a free and inspiring distribution method for [the] film” – as such, An Island is CC BY-NC-SA licensed (like all of Moon’s current work), allowing the free sharing and reuse of the film for non-commercial purposes.

More info on hosting your own screening is available here.

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ePSIplatform Blog Series on Creative Commons and Public Sector Information

Diane Peters, January 11th, 2011

The following is cross-posted from the blog of the European Public Sector Information Platform (ePSIplatform). ePSIplatform is a comprehensive  portal showcasing research and projects working to stimulate and promote public sector information (PSI) re-use and open data initiatives in Europe. Creative Commons is pleased to contribute a series of blog posts discussing the role of CC tools for use in public sector information.

Creative Commons’ (CC) suite of licenses and public domain tools have set a global standard for legally facilitating maximum re-use of information, where re-use (access, collaboration, dissemination, follow-on innovations, business and community ecosystems, etc.) of information is desired — as has particularly been the case with public sector information (PSI).

This ought to be of little surprise, as open licensing is completely aligned with the interests of governments in encouraging re-use of PSI, as expressed in EU Directive 2003/98/EC and similarly around the world. More broadly, there is great interest in open licenses for publicly funded information, including various kinds of cultural, educational, and research information. Across these broad categories stakeholders have realized again and again that if rights statements are confusing or not present, re-use of information will be suboptimal. Implementing CC is the solution.

In this short blog series, we will not describe the basics of the CC license suite and public domain tools, nor their burgeoning adoption by governments throughout Europe and around the world–follow the links for a review.

Instead, for the expert ePSIplatform readership (many thanks to ePSIplatform for the opportunity) we will highlight some useful “things you may not know” and point out some “things you might think you know, but are incorrect” about legal and technical aspects of CC tools — ones particularly pertinent to PSI adoption that have surfaced repeatedly in discussions CC and institutions in our global affiliate network have had with governments and publicly funded institutions, including in the course of providing implementation assistance for governments seeking to share. Following are some of the things we’ll discuss briefly in upcoming posts:

While all CC licenses require attribution, it is built in a sophisticated and flexible manner: non-endorsement, right to request removal of attribution, attribution to a publisher or funder, appropriate to medium, attribution links, and technical support for making attribution easier and more useful.

How the CC0 public domain dedication works robustly across jurisdictions, including its minimal license fallback that effectively works like our attribution-only license, and how the same technology that makes attribution under our licenses easier and more useful also makes non-legally-mandated citation of public domain materials also easier and more useful.

Jurisdiction and CC licenses: how that works legally (all CC tools are designed to apply worldwide). Also the leadership role of CC affiliate network jurisdiction projects in PSI.

How CC0 and CC licenses are being used for data (both are used extensively for PSI); also how they treat sui generis rights (separately, CC will be issuing an in-depth contemporary statement on this topic in the near future), what this means for PSI, and related improvements we’re exploring for an eventual version 4.0 of the CC license suite.

We are also developing a topic report on PSI and CC tools, to be published at the conclusion of this series. The report will include references to much of the excellent material published on PSI and CC over the last several years.

Feel free to leave a comment on this post if you have burning questions about the items above, or requests for other points to be covered in this series or the topic report. As always, if you have questions about CC licenses and public domain tools, we hope you’ll come to the source for the official story.

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CC Website Changes

John Wilbanks, January 7th, 2011

If you watch our website carefully, you’ll notice a few changes today. Some of those changes are small, and some are fairly significant, and we’ll be making more changes later in 2011.

We’re making these changes because we’ve received feedback — from our community of users, friends, supporters, and more — that the current set of web properties we have here at Creative Commons isn’t working as well as it could. Our websites have always emphasized using Creative Commons tools, or finding Creative Commons-licensed works. But we haven’t always made it easy to understand exactly how we are making possible the full potential of the internet via open licensing.

Today’s changes mark the first step towards fixing that problem.

The first change you’ll notice is that we’re putting learning about CC into a featured spot on the home page, right next to where you can choose a license for your works.

Another change is that we are making it easy to see that we work across culture, education, and science, instead of putting those as links in a sidebar or even onto different domains, as we have done in the past with education and science. On each of those pages, we put in a “carousel” of users and implementations that draw on our growing repository of CC case studies. All of our work is global across all three domains, so we’ve also updated and prominently feature our international affiliates network page.

Regarding science, we’re redirecting the old Science Commons front page to http://creativecommons.org/science. This is part of our comprehensive integration of science into the core of Creative Commons — on a par with culture and education. We’re still figuring out exactly how to migrate all of the content inside the sciencecommons.org domain, so for now we’re leaving that content up and linking to it from the new page.

We made it easier to find and learn about the licenses themselves, and we made our vision and mission explicit on the About Creative Commons page.

Last, we put a “fat footer” into place at the bottom, so that visitors and experienced CC users could rapidly access key parts of the site without having to dig around and click around in a site map.

This is just the beginning of the process. We’re working on a much more complete site redesign as part of our strategic plan for 2011, but we wanted to get these fixes implemented immediately. For those of you following CC’s progress over the long term, note that our previous significant website refresh came nearly two years ago. We will be tracking the impact of the changes through our website analytics, and we welcome feedback on how you use the site, what you’d like to see, and how you think we can make our website more effective throughout the course of the year.

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CC REL by Example

Nathan Yergler, January 7th, 2011

The following is cross-posted from the CC Labs blog. Creative Commons technical team blogs at CC Labs about metadata, emerging standards, demos, prototypes, and Creative Commons’ technical infrastructure.

You may have noticed that the copy-and-paste HTML you get from the CC license chooser includes some strange attributes you’re probably not familiar with. That is RDFa metadata, and it allows for the CC license deeds, search engines, Open Attribute, and other tools to discover metadata about your work and generate attribution HTML. Many platforms have implemented CC REL metadata in their CC license marks, such as Connexions and Flickr, and it’s our recommended way to mark works with a CC license.

In an effort to make CC license metadata (or CC REL metadata) much easier to implement, we’ve created CC REL by Example. It includes many example HTML pages, as well as explanations and links to more information.

We’re hoping this guide will serve as a useful set of examples for developers and publishers who want to publish metadata for CC licensed works. Even if you just use CC licenses for your own content, now is a great time to take a first step into structured data and include information about how you’d like to be attributed.

You can find the source to the guide in git. Feedback and suggestions can be sent to webmaster@creativecommons.org.

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Nature Publishing Group Announces New Open Access Journal and Support for CC!

Lisa Green, January 6th, 2011

Nature Publishing Group has long been a leader in scientific and medical publishing. The company’s flagship publication, Nature, has been publishing across a broad range of scientific disciplines since 1869 and is the world’s most cited interdisciplinary journal. In the past several years, Timo Hannay as head of web publishing and Annette Thomas as CEO of MacMillian (NPG’s parent company) successfully brought NPG into the digital age with a wide variety of new scientific journals and projects that leverage the power of the Internet.

As part of this program, NPG has made very clear its support of open access publishing. Last month, the company announced that an additional 15 of its journals now offer open access options. And this week, the company announced a brand new online open access journal called Scientific Reports. With this launch, a full 80% of NPG academic and society journals and 50% of all journals the company publishes offer open access options to authors.

Another way in which NPG shows its support of open systems is by supporting the work we do at Creative Commons – both philosophically and financially. We find ourselves on the same side of the table as NPG during many discussions on how to increase openness and innovation in scientific communication and digital access. Key members of NPG have repeatedly expressed their deep appreciation for the fact that CC licenses are the foundation on which the Open Access movement rests. In a recent meeting between CC and NPG, Jason Wilde, Publishing Director of NPG, told us that they would like to show that appreciation in a concrete manner – a donation to Creative Commons for every each publication in Scientific Reports. We are thrilled to have this financial support that will help us continue to provide the legal and technical infrastructure of open systems.

Nature Publishing Group is a visionary group of people with a clear view into the potential of the digital era to enhance scientific communication. They believe in open access and, as the world’s premiere publishing group, they have the authority to lead the rest of the world towards increased OA. We are excited about the launch of Scientific Reports and the way in which it strengthens the long-standing bond between our two organizations.

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CC kicks off its 9th year with incoming CEO Cathy Casserly and a successful year-end campaign

Jane Park, January 6th, 2011

http://creativecommons.net/donate?utm_campaign=newsletter_1101&utm_medium=blog&utm_source=newsletter

Stay up to date with CC news by subscribing to our weblog and following us on Twitter.

A warm thank you to all of our supporters! Our 2010 campaign raised $522,151.25 from 1,139 individual supporters and 22 companies. A huge thanks to our Board of Directors and all of our corporate sponsors, including 3taps, Tucows, Digital Garage, Ebay, Microsoft, LuLu, wikiHow, Hindawi, Squidoo, The Miraverse, and Aramex. More campaign numbers will be available soon on our blog.

Creative Commons enters 2011 with renewed energy, thanks to the holiday season and a new incoming CEO! As many of you know, we welcomed Cathy Casserly as incoming CEO of Creative Commons. As the Senior Partner at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and former Director of OER at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Cathy brings with her extensive experience with foundations and open educational resources (OER). But Cathy has also been involved with CC from the beginning. Lawrence Lessig writes,

Cathy Casserly
Cathy Casserly by Joi Ito / CC BY

One of the most important moments in the history of Creative Commons happened on the day the Supreme Court upheld (incorrectly, in my view, but let’s leave that alone) the Copyright Term Extension Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft. After reading the decision, I had my head in my hands, buried in sadness, when my assistant reminded me that I had a 10am meeting with two people from the Hewlett Foundation. This was exactly one month after we had launched Creative Commons.

Cathy and Mike had heard about the Supreme Court’s decision. They recognized I wouldn’t be in much of a mood to chat. So they launched right into the reason for the meeting: The Hewlett Foundation had decided to help launch Creative Commons with a grant of $1 million dollars.

I won’t say that after I heard that news, I forgot about the Supreme Court. But from that moment on, it was much more important to me to prove Hewlett’s faith right than to worry about what the Supreme Court had gotten wrong. And I was especially keen to get to know these two people who understood our mission long before most had even recognized the problem that CC was meant to solve.

We welcome Cathy and thank Joi for his fruitful two years as CEO. We are equally excited that Joi will remain Chair of the CC Board, and look to both Cathy’s and Joi’s strong leadership to move CC forward in 2011.

In other news:

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Thank You!

Melissa Reeder, January 3rd, 2011

Thanks to all our supporters who helped us raise over $500,000 for our annual fundraising campaign! Stay tuned for a precise total and analysis — we’re still counting mailed checks! If you didn’t get a chance to donate to the 2010 campaign, start 2011 off right by showing the world how much you appreciate CC.

Because of our supporters, we will be able to continue developing the necessary tools to support and facilitate participatory culture and innovation around the world. 2011 is going to be a big year for CC – stay in touch and keep sharing!

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$48,000 left to go – help us reach our goal!

Melissa Reeder, December 31st, 2010

Help us ring in the new year by making sure we reach our $550,000 fundraising goal by midnight tonight. If you love CC then show us you care by donating today!

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Letter from CC Superhero Josh Sommer of the Chordoma Foundation

Allison Domicone, December 22nd, 2010

Josh Sommer

Josh Sommer

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“I’m in a race; a race to outrun a rare and deadly form of bone cancer called chordoma, with an average survival of 7 years. To find a cure, there is a lot that needs to happen sequentially, so to win the race, I need science to move quickly. Fortunately, uncanny new technologies in genomics, computing, synthetic biology, etc. have put cures for virtually any disease within the realm of possibility. Unfortunately, the way we practice science is not designed to move on the timescale of an individual’s disease.

Despite all of the technological advances that have been made in recent years, it still takes on average 1-3 years for results to be transmitted from one lab to the next; it still takes months or years for materials and data to be transferred between institutions; and untold masses of observations and creations never get shared at all. It’s no wonder, then, why it takes decades for discoveries to be translated into new treatments, and why the hurdles are often just too large to overcome for small-market diseases like chordoma.

For anyone affected, or whose loved one is affected, by a life threatening disease, this is simply intolerable. Think about it: in the very recent past, humankind has developed the tools and know-how to cure disease, yet we are stifled from maximizing the potential benefit of these new tools by social and legal systems that evolved in a bygone era. This has to change.

But let’s be realistic. Despite the fact that our scientific enterprise is not optimized for speed, it does have many virtues. And traditions such as academic tenure, peer review, intellectual property, and shareholder return are not going away any time soon – nor should they, necessarily. If we can sequence a genome in the course of a week, surely we can find sensible solutions to enable the data to be shared.

Creative Commons is leading the charge to find these solutions. By helping researchers make data open and available, by streamlining the material transfer process, and by uncovering and integrating data from various stakeholders, Creative Commons is grease to the wheels of science. It is a source of hope to me in the race to outrun my disease. It is a means to maximize our collective investment in research. That’s why I support Creative Commons, and why if there’s a disease you’d like to see cured, I urge you to give whole-heartedly to Creative Commons as well.”


Josh Sommer is the executive director of the Chordoma Foundation, which he co-founded with his mother, Dr. Simone Sommer, after he was diagnosed with a clival chordoma in 2006. He believes that patients should play an active role in bringing about treatments for their own conditions, and that patients represent a largely untapped source of funding, energy, and know-how in the treatment development process. Follow Josh on Twitter.

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