4th Report: Open Access – the View from the Academy

The fourth RCS report in now available online. See the Reports link above or view from the CRC website.

This report describes the attitudes of academics and research support staff towards Open Access, including what may dissuade them from adopting it and what might persuade them of its value. It looks at the following questions:
• What do researchers and support staff think about Open Access?
• Is there an alternative they might prefer?
• How might future OA advocacy be addressed?

A two-page discussion paper of this report will be available soon (within the week).

Yale plans opens access to millions of images

"Turn your Copper into Silver now before your Eyes"

"Turn your Copper into Silver now before your Eyes"

In an exciting addition to open collections in the humanities, Yale has opened access to over 250,000 images from its collection and plans of opening millions more.

From the release:

“The goal of the new policy is to make high quality digital images of Yale’s vast cultural heritage collections in the public domain openly and freely available.”

“Scholars, artists and other individuals around the world will enjoy free access to online images of millions of objects housed in Yale’s museums, archives, and libraries thanks to a new “Open Access” policy that the University announced today. Yale is the first Ivy League university to make its collections accessible in this fashion, and already more than 250,000 images are available through a newly developed collective catalog.”

This seems to be based on access to digital representations of work  that are already in the public domain, rather than automatic open access to newly created materials from Yale, but given the subject matter, this is still an enormous amount of material.

This is a significant move because of the sheer scale of Yale’s collections and the comprehensive nature of the policy. This clearly positions the institution in a position which sees open access as the natural approach to its collections, rather than seeing open access as applying to specific collections which are somehow different.

Having said this, looking through the service, the re-use rights for material are not actually specified beyond being “open access”, and:

“The ability to publish images directly from our online catalogues without charge will encourage the increased use of our collections for scholarship, a benefit to which we look forward with the greatest excitement.”

. . . so I trust I am permitted to use the picture from the collection as the header to this post: it illustrates an eighteenth century London street cry:  “Turn your Copper into Silver now before your Eyes” . . .

Bill

I can see your repository from up here . . .

Satellite Image

The UK is chairing the International Charter on Space and Major Disasters for six months, with responsibility for strategy and policy. The Charter coordinates the use of  satellite images that can be used during natural emergencies and the UK’s chairmanship has just made an interesting contribution to the wider open agenda. From the Press Release:

“The UK has gained agreement on providing universal access to satellite images during natural emergencies, at its first meeting after taking over as Chair of the International Charter: Space and Major Disasters. This will enable any country to draw upon the data provided by the Charter, an agreement that coordinates space agencies worldwide in gathering vital satellite images of disaster-stricken regions – providing them to civil protection authorities to inform their response efforts and save lives.”

This is a good example of the way that the open agenda is spreading across public access to different data sources. It is easy to get the impression from some critics in the publishing industry that open access to research outputs and research data is a movement which is simply upsetting to, and restricted to, academic publishing. As academics and external observers know, it is far broader than this. Academic research communication systems have to react to this broader movement, as much as see it as an internal development.

Having said all that, the image accompanying this posting had to be from the Flickr collection of  NASA Goddard, not Spacegovuk’s photostream on Flickr, where all of the images are copyright and all rights reserved! :-)

Bill

Royal Society to investigate open science

Open Science has been on my mind recently – so when I heard it mentioned on the radio as I was waking up this morning, at first I thought I might be dreaming! But no – it was indeed Prof Geoffrey Boulton talking about a working group set up by the Royal Society to look at “Science as a Public Enterprise”, which he’ll be chairing.

Prof Boulton said that scientists must find new ways of engaging with people and making science more open – so scientists’ data should be quickly and easily available both to other scientists and in the public domain. This is good news for those of us interested in opening access to the results of research. The Royal Society is here putting its weight behind “a presumption in favour of data sharing” .  Will this help change the hearts and minds of scientists who up to now have been sceptical about the open agenda?

The working group is calling for evidence from scientists, government bodies, business and industry and the general public. It will be interesting to see its recommendations.

The RCS is working with consultant Sarah Currier on our own study of open science and citizen science and we too should like to hear the views of anyone interested in this development in scientific communication.

Briefing Papers Online

We have recently released 4 briefing papers about Open Access that are now available on our website and also here on our blog.

The briefing papers cover the following topics:

  • Open Access: In Support of Research
  • Open Access: Beyond the Numbers
  • Open Access: Embedding Repositories
  • “Gold” Open Access Publishing

If you are interested in receiving paper copies please do contact me.

EPSRC support for Open Data

EPSRC has implemented a policy framework from 1st May that directly speaks to the development of Open Data systems. The announcement highlights two principles:

” . . . firstly, that publicly funded research data should generally be made as widely and freely available as possible in a timely and responsible manner; and, secondly, that the research process should not be damaged by the inappropriate release of such data.”

There are seven key principles in all, which includes a phrase relating to impact:

“Sharing research data is an important contributor to the impact of publicly funded research . . . “

Organisations have as much a part to play as the individual researcher. The EPSRC expects that:

“Research organisations will ensure that appropriately structured metadata describing the research data they hold is published (normally within 12 months of the data being generated) and made freely accessible on the internet; in each case the metadata must be sufficient to allow others to understand what research data exists, why, when and how it was generated, and how to access it. . .  “

Other expectations address an organisation’s responsibilities for digital curation, security and resourcing.

This goes to support the development of the more general Open Scholarship agenda and is another reminder that Open Access is about far more than a digital free-to-use library of off-prints.  Will the other research councils follow suit?

Bill

Mendeley in WIRED

There is an interesting article on the innovative and rapidly growing Mendeley system in the latest (June 2011) issue of WIRED, which gives some background to the hopes and vision of the senior Mendeley team.

Principle investor Stefan Glaenzer: “We are aiming to make Mendeley the biggest knowledge database on the planet [. . . ] In 19 months we have collected over 67 million articles. It took Thomson Reuters 49 years to come up with 40 million.”

Victor Henning, cofounder and CEO, is noted as explaining that the productivity/collaborative component of Mendeley will be monetised, the unique data aggregation will be monetised, Mendeley will be turned into a content distribution platform and targeted advertising will be introduced for Mendeley’s users.

They seem to have established the user base to support this: a claimed 800,000 users uploading seven million research articles (presumably full-text in comparison with the quoted 67 million articles, presumably of bibliographic details).

What is less clear is what monetization routes may be built, or indeed recognised, for the producers and copyright holders of the content which to be distributed, or whether the service itself is repayment enough for the value-added exploitation. Previously, academic authors, and by extension their employing institutions and the funders of their research, have been content to allow commercial exploitation of research articles by publishers. This realisation has helped to bolster arguments for open access, so will future commercial exploitation systems find it as easy to be accepted?

One of the key issues of course, is that traditional publishers have sought to exclusively exploit the material – the basis of subscription-model journals – while Mendeley and others are only using what has been given to them on a freely-reusable basis. This means that they are free to re-use it as they will, make money or not – and if anyone else comes up with a compelling service, then they can get hold of the information too and good luck to them.

Interestingly, as we know from the traditional model, once research dissemination habits have been formed, they tend to become embedded and resistant to change. In this situation, the first to establish a widely used and valued system built on top of freely reusable articles might establish a firm position. Might this happen with Mendeley? Could it be that Mendeley has been in the right place at the right time – as well as giving a service that academics truly value – to become a future dominant underpinning service for research dissemination and re-use?

Bill

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