petermr's blog

A Scientist and the Web

 

ACSGate: what the Twitterati think of American Chemical Society’s Spider Trap

April 4th, 2014

I don’t normally scrape Twitter, but there’s been a lot of useful comment on the ACS spider trap. The consensus (among the people I follow) is that it’s

  • irresponsible,
  • inappropriate
  • seriously obsolete

Here’s two authorities you can trust:

@crossRefNews. CrossRef is the central gateway for most DOI resolution and they are a solid part of scholarly publishing:

  • @rmounce DOI is registered trademark of International DOI Foundation, using “doi” in this way clearly wrong. #ACSgate
  •  @rmounce We assume it’s a prank–Prefix is Wiley, landing page is Informa. Message re ACS. Suffix is odd–999999? #ACSgate
  • @rmounce Pubs sometimes put DOI strings in proprietary urls. A true DOI link goes through the DOI resolver dx.doi.org. #ACSgate
  • @rmounce Rarely, sketchy pubs publish strings they call DOIs but are not deposited with any registration agency. #thatsnotcool #ACSgate.
  • @rmounce But not legitimate publishers like Wiley, ACS, and Informa #ACSgate

And Cameron Neylon – a highly respected scientist working with PLoS

So the consensus is that no responsible publisher would do this sort of thing. Perhaps it got in without ACS knowing? Was it a hack? or malware in a service they used? I’m waiting for ACS’s answer.

I’ll note that none of this happens with full Gold #openaccess. PLoS has no need to stop people reading articles. J. Machine Learning Research wants everyone in the world to read articles.

Paywalls and the associated technical and legal security are a massive cost imposed by the closed access model.  If we spend 10 Billion USD on closed access per year, and if only 2-3% is paywall and legal technology, then that’s already hundreds of millions of University subscriptions.

Libraries, are you happy that your subscriptions are being used to support this? I’ll ask this question at Leicester today.

American Chemical Society Spider Trap: My latest thoughts 2014-04-03:14:44 UTC

April 3rd, 2014

It appears that the Spider trap (whatever it is) has affected many people. I have no full understanding of what has happened but here is my best analysis:

  • People have really been affected (it’s not just a rumour). They have received a message – it’s not clear where from.
  • The ACS is aware of the problem and has posted to this blog:

Thank you for alerting us to the finding shared by your reader. We are exploring and are committed to providing text and data mining solutions for readers of our open access content. In the meantime, for those who have unfortunately clicked on the link referenced and received the spider message, please email support@services.acs.orgwith your institution name and we will work to reinstate access at your institution as quickly as possible.
Darla Henderson, Ph.D.
Asst. Director, Open Access Programs
American Chemical Society

Thank you Darla. I would recommend those affected to contact Darla.

It is still unclear where the problem came from. The URL is not unique to ACS – By searching Google I have found it in in 3 other publishers – Blackwell, Informa and Copeia. The DOI prefix seems to be Wiley, but CrossRef has said it’s not a valid DOI. Anyone finding a similar link should report it rather than following it.

I have personal evidence that the ACS shuts down whole universities instantly if it thinks somebody is doing something wrong. I have made it clear to them that this is not acceptable practice – it’s brutal and unselective. I do not know whether they still practice it, but my suspicion is that they do and that something triggered the ACS servers to shut down subscribers.

It is not clear whether the link was created by the ACS publication system (I hope not) or was malware introduced into the HTML. This would not be easy as it is on the publishers’ sites and could suggest they had been hacked.

It is clearly unsatisfactory and I posted that it had to be mended right away. Ross Mounce (whom I work with and will fully support in his action) wished to explore further and he asked whether others had this problem. I haven’t talked to him, but my guess is that he didn’t expect the ACS system to react so catastrophically to whatever is the problem.

Some people have blamed Ross. IMO this is unfair – it is the ACS system which is at fault. Many commenters have expressed the view that this is an archaic and unacceptable way of running a website.

Until I have more information I can’t judge…

 

Wellcome Trust and Michelle Brook say thank you to all who are helping hack the WT APC data and highlight major issues

April 3rd, 2014

A mail from Michelle on the OKFN open-access list:

Hey all,

The Wellcome Trust has just said thank you to the community for the work we’ve been doing on the author processing charge dataset they released: https://twitter.com/wellcometrust/status/451659293801340928:  where WT said:

                            @ernestopriego @MLBrook Thank you for all your hard work looking through the data. We’re so grateful for the work the community has done.

comments:

Back to Michelle:
That’s so awesome!
The work we’ve done led to an incredible statement from the Wellcome Trust late last week, that you should certainly read if you’ve not seen it yet (found here). It includes some awesome quotes, such as:

[WT] “We expect every publisher who levies an open access fee to provide a first class service to our researchers and their institutions.”

[WT] “The bigger issue concerns the high cost of hybrid open access publishing, which we have found to be nearly twice that of born-digital fully open access journals. We need to find ways of balancing this by working with others to encourage the development of a transparent, competitive and reasonably priced APC market.”

While debates may rage about whether journal led or repository led open access is the best way forwards, I think we can all agree that high APCs charged for papers published in hybrid journals (meaning these journals are also supported by library subscriptions) is not what we really want to see.

They couldn’t have made this statement without the effort of many people on this list – so many thanks to all of you who spent time working on it. I actually had a couple of nightmares about the spreadsheet… which probably says something about me. I’ve written a quick post thanking people  publicly, because the effort we’ve all put in is certainly worth recognising :-)

(Let me know if I’ve missed your name off, as there were many people editing the document anonymously – I’ve already had one case flagged to me – so please don’t feel bad about reminding me).
Work is still on going with the dataset… but I still can’t believe how much we’ve done in such a short time! And still amazed that we’ve enabled the Wellcome Trust to make the statement they did…
Michelle
And my own views.
In the wake of BOAI , The Wellcome Trust has been one of the top three leaders in true Open Access (the others are BMC and PLoS). I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mark Walport who has driven this fearlessly, for the benefit of humanity. The apostolic succession has included Robert Terry and Robert Kiley- here’s a diagram from RT in 2006 which I found highly useful:
wt
The WT has been unwavering in the following:
  • publication is a critical part of scientific research.
  • publication costs money and funders (and universities) should be prepared to pay reasonable costs
  • publication is more than just digital paper

and it has launched and supported EuropePMC, which I am proud to be on.

The WT APC data is much more than a list of charges.

It’s part of the bibliographic map of science.

Now we need the rest – so other funders please follow.

 

 

ACSGate: The American Chemical Society spider trap; reactions and warning

April 3rd, 2014

DO NOT FOLLOW ANY LINKS IN THIS POST – THEY ARE HIGHLY DANGEROUS

AustralianMuseum_spider_specimen_02

The Sydney Funnel-Web spider (Thx: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Atrax_robustus) is among the deadliest in the world. The American Chemical Society’s Spider trap is also deadly. It can cause whole universities to be cut off within milliseconds . Here I’m trying to get information and informed reaction.

The problem comes from following this link:

<a href="/doi/pdf/10.1046/9999-9999.99999">...</a>

If you prepend “http://pubs.acs.org” to it (as a browser would do) you get the deadly link. I will not print it here in case someone clicks it.

DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FOLLOW IT. IT WILL CUT OFF YOUR UNIVERSITY

I don’t know what it does. I can’t find out without shutting down the university’s access to ACS.

But it’s not just ACS – it’s other publishers. A quick search finds

href="http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/9999-9999.99999"

which suggests that Blackwell do it as well.

The ACS example suggests that it relies on a base URL (note the leading slash). I have no idea what Blackwell does when it’s triggered. I don’t know whether this is different for each publisher or whether there is a central publisher independent spider trapper. Maybe

10.1046/9999-9999.99999

is just a lorem ipsum which spider-trapping publishers use.

NOTE THAT YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE RUNNING A SPIDER TO TRIGGER THIS. A SINGLE HUMAN CLICK (LIKE A SINGLE BITE FROM ATRAX) CAN KILL.

Reactions on Twitter:

  • CameronNeylon @CameronNeylon [PLoS] do other publishers do this? Seems both crude and dangerous? // it’s not a registered DOI with crossref but it is misleading to use that url structure
  • Sue Cook @Suelibrarian ACS access rapidly dropping as random people click on that link :) phew I wasn’t on work network.
  • Ross Mounce @rmounce But seriously, academics trust DOI’s. This is an abuse of trust by ACS, in my opinion

I’ll note that the affected were nt trying to download the whole of ACS and sell it , but were indulging in natural and acceptable curiosity.

Questions:

  • Does anyone know how this works?
  • Which publishers implement it? I’ve got ACS, Blackwell, Informa Healthcare (T+F),
  • Is there a better way of doing it?
  • How many institutions have been unnecessarily screwed up by publisher controls. (Note that my own experience was not a spider trap but simply (humanly) reading too many papers too rapidly – publications are not meant to be read rapidly, are they?)

PLoS manage to publish without spider traps – maybe they can tell ACS what modern publishing should be.

 

UPDATE – see comment (Tom Demeranville:

Well, in the olden days when servers were slower and bandwidth thinner a random crawl by a search engine could bring your service to it’s knees. The spider would visit every page, then every link on that page indexing as it went. This would result in an inadvertent denial of service attack.

The old way of stopping this was to put invisible links on a few pages. People wouldn’t see them, but the spiders would. The spider would visit the link and BAM, you block the spiders IP address. I imagine it’s still fairly common, but the reasons are different. It’s to stop scraping rather than indexing.

Is there a better way of doing it?
It works because many publishers are so technologically backwards they still use IP authentication to manage access to their resources. The better way would be to use proper authentication – federated or otherwise. SAML, OpenID and OAuth have been around for years. Most Eurozone universities have an academic SAML federation and manage access using that but the publishers are reluctant to make the full switch because it relies on the subscriber changing the way they work as well as the publisher.

 

My talk on #openaccess at University of Leicester 2014-04-04:1300 UTC

April 3rd, 2014

I’m talking tomorrow at the University of Leicester in the heart of England. Leicester is where Richard III was recently dug up in car park. But more importantly it’s an excellent University and I have worked with the Biomedical groups in the past. It’s where DNA fingerprinting was discovered by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alec_Jeffreys.

Here’s our session http://www2.le.ac.uk/library/about/news/open-access-forum:

The international Open Access movement has been embraced by UK government and funding councils (including new HEFCE requirements) for both publications and now the data behind them. Come and meet some OA enthusiasts from within the University and influential expert visitors and find out how Open Access might benefit you personally. OA is a great way of increasing the visibility of your research which can lead to new collaborations and impacts.

You’ll be able to follow remotely and also tweet – if you have a good question, tweet it.

I don’t know what I shall talk about.

What? PMR doesn’t prepare his talks?

I don’t even know how much I shall talk and how much the others there will talk about. I’ve got things at the top of my mind and so have they. If there is a small group (say less than 20) I like to rearrange the seats into a circle. But if it’s a tiered theatre then it becomes more of a lecture or Q and A.

I do prepare my talks. I have slides, blogposts, code, repositories. And I will flip between them as needed. I give demos. Most demos work; some don’t. I’m happy now with eduroam – the academic network – so I don’t have to go through tedious registration. (One US university – Penn State – made us install keyboard logging software to track everything we did).

I’ve asked whether this can be recorded- and it will be!. When sessions aren’t based on linear slides (which I don’t normally like) then it’s useful to know what I and others said and be able to present it to others.

Michelle Brook won’t be physically there but we’re hoping to get a Skype connection so she can talk us through some of the WellcomeTrust APC data. (below).

It’s always tremendous to have a hashtag, and also to storify it. I’ll tweet it when we know.

So.. What’s at the top of my mind?

  • What is Open? Open is a state of mind, not a process. Is Open Access Open? Why are we spending billions of dollars on Open Access – the answer is not trivial.
  • The Wellcome Trust APC data set . This is massively important. WT and Michelle and community have made something wonderful. It’s something that libraries should start broadening asap. It could be the start of Open Bibliography – the “map of scholarship”. Probably the main focus
  • The Hargreaves review of copyright. Again massively important. Every library in UK should be actively preparing to take action NOW. And do not sign any agreements with any publisher till you understand this.
  • Aaron Swarz. Are you fighting for what he believed in?
  • Content Mining and The hidden wealth in University repositories. I’m hoping to have time to show machines That was my initial title for this session, but events have overtaken us.
  • The rise of the anti-publisher. Elsevier and NPG have recently made it clear they are gearing up to restrict access to knowledge. The ACS cuts off whole Universities. Many publishers market CC-NC-ND as “what authors want”.  Publishers – with their restrictions and “Universal Access” are now between Bradbury’s firemen and Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. Where do Universities and Libraries stand? Are they working for the readers of the world or – implicitly – for publishers?
  • The Future of Science reference is not in libraries or publishers but in the new generation of Wikipedia – where I’m speaking, Mozilla – and hopefully – our own Content Mine.  Now is the time to jump on the bus or you will miss the Digital Century.

And what’s at the top of yours? I’m guessing…

  • How are we going to force our authors to make their publications Open Access so we can put them in the next REF?

No. It should be:

  • What is the role of the University Library in the Digital Century?

Let’s go back to Ranganathan….

Who?

I hope you are kidding. Every librarian should recite the laws till they know them by heart:

  1. Books are for use.
  2. Every reader his [or her] book.
  3. Every book its reader.
  4. Save the time of the reader.
  5. The library is a growing organism.

For “Book” read “Knowledge”. In the digital read-write age we should add some more:

  • save the time of the author
  • the whole world are authors and readers

However with the rise of the AntiPublisher we have new laws. Four years ago I wrote  Nahtanagran’s laws of modern library science:

  1. Books are for selling.
  2. Every purchaser his [or her] books.
  3. Every book its purchasers.
  4. Make money for the seller.
  5. The seller is a growing organism.

Has it got better in the last four years?

  • No. It’s got worse.

Is Open Access as currently envisaged going to make it better or worse? Think before you answer. And we’ll discuss tomorrow.

 

 

 

ACSGate: Pandora opens the American Chemical Society’s box and her University gets cut off

April 2nd, 2014

 

Pandora is a researcher (won’t say where, won’t say when). I don’t know her field – she may be a scientist or a librarian. She has been scanning the spreadsheet of the Open Access publications paid for by Wellcome Trust. It’s got 2200 papers that Wellcome has paid 3 million GBP for. For the sole reason to make them available to everyone in the world.
 She found a paper in the journal Biochemistry (that’s an American Chemical Society publication) and looked at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bi300674e . She got that OK – looked to see if they could get the PDF - http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/bi300674e - yes that worked OK. 
 
What else can we download? After all this is Open Access, isn’t it? And Wellcome have paid 666 GBP for this “hybrid” version (i.e. they get subscription income as well. So we aren’t going to break any laws…
 
The text contains various other links and our researcher follows some of them. Remember she’s a scientist and scientists are curious. It’s their job. She finds:
<span id="hide"><a href="/doi/pdf/10.1046/9999-9999.99999">
<!-- Spider trap link --></a></span>
Since it's a bioscience paper she assumes it's about spiders and how to trap them. 

She clicks it. Pandora opens the box...
Wham! 
acs

The whole university got cut off immediately from the whole of ACS publications. "Thank you", ACS

The ACS is stopping people spidering their site. EVEN FOR OPEN ACCESS. It wasn't a biological spider. 
It was a web trap based on the assumption that readers are, in some way, basically evil..
Now *I* have seen this message before. About 7 years ago one of my graduate students 
was browsing 20 publications from ACS to create a vocabulary. 
Suddenly we were cut off with this awful message. Dead. The whole of Cambridge University. I felt really awful.

I had committed a crime.
And we hadn't done anything wrong. Nor has my correspondent.
If you create Open Access publications you expect - even hope - that people will dig into them. 
So, ACS, remove your spider traps.  We really are in Orwellian territory where the 
point of Publishers is to stop people reading science.

I think we are close to the tipping point where publishers have no 
value except to their shareholders and a sick, broken, vision of what academia is about.

UPDATE:
See comment from Ross Mounce:

The society (closed access) journal ‘Copeia’ also has these spider trap links in it’s HTML, e.g. on this contents page:http://www.asihcopeiaonline.org/toc/cope/2013/4


you can find

<span id="hide"><a href="/doi/pdf/10.1046/9999-9999.99999">
<!-- Spider trap link --></a></span>

 

 I may have accidentally cut-off access for all at the Natural History Museum, London 
once when I innocently tried this link, out of curiosity. 
Why do publishers ‘booby-trap’ their websites? Don’t they know us researchers are an 
inquisitive bunch? I’d be very interested to read a PDF that has a 9999-9999.9999 
DOI string if only to see what it contained – they can’t rationally justify 
cutting-off access to everyone, just because ONE person clicked an interesting link?
PMR: Note - it's the SAME link as the ACS uses. So I surmise that both society's outsource their web pages to some third-party 
hackshop. Maybe 10.1046 is a universal anti-publisher. 

PMR: It's incredibly irresponsible to leave spider traps in HTML. It's a human reaction to explore. 

Lib Dem MEP thinks Net Neutrality will be safe in Europe

April 2nd, 2014

This is an example of web democracy in action. I mailed my MEPs yesterday about Net Neutrality and here’s a detailed useful reply. It’s clear my representatives understand my concerns. This is what an Open Neutral Web allows.

Dear Mr Murray-Rust,

Thank you for emailing Andrew regarding the legislative proposal on the Telecoms Single Market and its net neutrality provisions in particular.

It is important to stress that the new legislative proposal covers a wide range of issues. It seeks to abolish roaming charges and improve rights for both users and service providers, as well as strengthening net neutrality in order to achieve a truly open internet for all.

Andrew has been in close contact with his colleagues Fiona Hall MEP and Jens Rohde MEP, who is leading on this issue for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), the political group that Lib Dem MEPs belong to in the European Parliament.  Mr. Rohde is aware of concerns about a two-tiered internet and discriminatory agreements between access providers and content providers. Mr Rohde and Andrew are strong supporters of an open internet and are determined to make sure this openness is maintained.

Andrew also met recently with a net neutrality campaigner and tech professional in Cambridge to discuss some of the subtler aspects of the package and agrees with their view that the draft report to the ITRE committee must be strengthened.

Work is ongoing on a number of points but it is already clear that the final text will include a robust definition of net neutrality and will have strong language on disallowing any blocking or throttling by internet services providers, as well as ruling out any discrimination against online content or applications. The Parliament’s text will also stipulate that “specialised services” can only be provided when there is network capacity to do so and when such services are not to the detriment of general internet access. These safeguards are essential to ensure an open internet across Europe.

The ALDE group has been working on compromise amendments to strengthen these passages in the legislation and these efforts will continue into the final plenary session in Strasbourg later this year.

For your information you may wish to consult the following links:

The procedure file: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/popups/ficheprocedure.do?lang=en&reference=2013/0309(COD)

The main criticisms: http://www.edri.org/files/11092013-FAQ-NN-regulation.pdf

A response from the Commission: http://ecspokesryan.tumblr.com/post/61028697639/edris-faqs-on-net-neutrality-a-rebuttal

I should emphasise that we are not taking all of the Commission’s points at face value but investigating and challenging them. When the Commission has got it wrong in the past, which is not unprecedented – particularly with regard to legislation that pertains to the internet – the Liberal group has not hesitated to vote to reject the report in its entirety. For example, we saw to it that the ACTA package was junked.

In conclusion, Andrew will be strongly supporting the principles of an open internet and net neutrality and will seek to ensure that specific amendments to the final report are passed that achieve these aims.

Thank you again for contacting Andrew about this matter. I hope this reply is of some help.

Yours sincerely,

Kilian Bourke
Caseworker to
Andrew Duff
Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England

Our planet is dying and publisher Copyright greed is helping to kill it. Why aren’t you Angry?

April 2nd, 2014

We are all aware (or we should be) of the dire effects of human-made climate change.

Two days ago the IPCC issued the starkest warning yet.

Climate change is not going to happen.

CLIMATE CHANGE HAS HAPPENED AND IS CONTINUING.

James Lovelock , Nobel Laureate for gas chromatography, and known for the Gaia metaphor told the world that humans will have to live in mega-city hives.

So how do we find out about this in a responsible way?

We read the IPCC report.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. In the same year, the UN General Assembly endorsed the action by WMO and UNEP in jointly establishing the IPCC.

and tell others about it?

NO. You can’t tell others about it without the permission of IPCC. (The restrictions are at best CC-NC-ND).

Unless otherwise stated, the information available on this website, including text, logos, graphics, maps, images, audio clips or electronic downloads is the property of the IPCC and is protected by intellectual and industrial property laws.

You may freely download and copy the material contained on this website for your personal, non-commercial use, without any right to resell or redistribute it or to compile or create derivative works there from, subject to more specific restrictions that may apply to specific materials.

Reproduction of limited number of figures or short excerpts of IPCC material is authorized free of charge and without formal written permission provided that the original source is properly acknowledged, with mention of the complete name of the report, the publisher and the numbering of the page(s) or the figure(s). Permission can only be granted to use the material exactly as it is in the report. Please be aware that figures cannot be altered in any way, including the full legend. For media use it is sufficient to cite the source while using the original graphic or figure. In line with established Internet usage, any external website may provide a hyperlink to the IPCC website or to any of its pages without requesting permission.

For any other use, permission is required. To obtain permission, please address your request to the Secretary of the IPCC in a signed letter with all relevant details using official letterhead and fax it to: +41 22 730 8025.

THE PLANET IS DYING. And we have to write (with pen and ink) on official letterhead (this rules out most of the citizens on the planet) to try to stop it. This is Laputa in the Digital Century.

It gets worse. There are thousands of references in the report. Many are in scholarly articles that are behind paywalls. 40 USD for one read for one day. It would probably cost the average citizen (citizens are the people that will die) 50, 000 USD to read all the referenced papers.

I wrote about this six months ago:

http://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2013/10/02/our-planets-climate-is-broken-but-copyright-stops-us-reading-about-it-unless-you-have-50000-usd/

I came up with suggestion then – that any citizen could help with. Almost complete silence. I’m going to try again. And again.

I have said this before:

CLOSED ACCESS MEANS PEOPLE DIE.

And now we can see that they are actually dying.

Inaction is nearly as dangerous as publisher greed.

 

 

	 

I wrote to my MEPs to preserve Net Neutrality; You can too, it’s easy

April 1st, 2014

Net Neutrality is a battle we must win or face Digital darkness for decades or ever. Europe votes this week – YOU must tell your MEPs to vote. Here’s what I wrote using writetothem.org. It took me 10 minutes. (I didn’t have to look up the names of the MEPs or type them in – the site does all of that)

Dear Andrew Duff, David Campbell Bannerman, Geoffrey Van Orden, Vicky Ford, Richard Howitt, Stuart Agnew and Robert Sturdy,

Dear MEPs,
I’m writing to ask you to vote for “Net Neutrality” in the forthcoming Commission’s Telecoms Package proposal. I am a member of OpenForum Europe – a body who for many years has campaigned for clarity and Openness in IT issues in Europe. Recently we wrote to you with our arguments (copied on my blog).

https://blogs.ch.cam.ac.uk/pmr/2014/03/31/write-to-your-meps-to-vote-to-safeguard-open-internet-in-europe/

I am an academic, and proud to be in Cambridge and the Eastern region which is one of the top innovation areas of the world. A free and open internet allows UK ideas and people to thrive. It was Tim Berners-Lee who created the idea of the World Wide Web on which so much has happened. It creates new businesses, new ideas, new science, challenges orthodoxy and even lets me write to you!

From our letter:

Brazil is successfully pushing its own ‘net neutrality’ law through the legislative process and it is a question of time when other countries will follow.

“The moment you let neutrality go, you lose the web as it is. You lose something essential – the fact that any innovator can dream up an idea and set up a website at some place and let it just take off from word of mouth”, said Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web.

Please take the time and interest to consider what is at stake. There is still a possibility to correct this shortcoming and introduce a text that truly safeguards the net neutrality in the EU.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Murray-Rust

Now go lout and do it. Tomorrow is too late.

Scholarly Soup Kitchen welcomes new HEFCE OpenAccess repository and Hargreaves Copyright Reforms

April 1st, 2014

I’m thrilled by the following news which appeared early today. For those who don’t know the publishing industry well The Scholarly Soup Kitchen is seen as one of the key commenters on all things scholarly and is widely read for its perspective on innovation and independence from conventional power blocks.  Its CEO Ant Kenderson  commented on the recent HEFCE proposals for Open Access repositories

Yesterday the UK’s HEFCE made a tremendous stride forward when it mandated that all evaluation of its academics should take place through Open Access papers in a repository. At SSK we have consistently argued that all publication should be open and available to the whole world.  We feel that the vast fees demanded by so-called “Glamour mags” are outrageous and we should strive for zero-cost of access. The main point of the new repository is to promote the outcome of UK scholarship to the whole world for free – we hope that other countries follow suit. arXiv can publish for as little as 7 USD, and HEFCE is following suit.

We have a few minor quibbles. HEFCE still allows infinitely long embargoes and we are working with them to remove this clause. No modern publisher likes embargoes as it means people can’t read papers, and that’s the whole point of publishing, isn’t it. Also HEFCE seems to allow authors to ignore the mandate. Effectively they say “if you want to publish in journal X and it doesn’t allow for deposition in the repo then find a more suitable journal. But if you can’t find one, don’t worry we shan’t enforce the mandate”. That’s wrong and we at SSK believe that all authors should be forcibly persuaded to comply.

The other exciting news of the week is that the UK will reform copyright by 2014-06-01.   This will allow text and data mining without permission, format shifting and much more. We at SSK have always felt that copyright stifles innovation and so we welcome Hargreaves. We’re sad that it doesn’t go far enough and we at SSK have always pressed for the removal of the “non-commercial” clause. We support “the right to read is the right to mine” and want it to become universal. We’re working to persuade publishers to change their ideas and welcome open content mining.

We are delighted by the lifting of copyright on parody. Everyone should have the right to poke fun at pompous or out of date people and institutions. Parody, like Swift or Orwell, can change our values and liberate basic human values. Swift parodied the publishing industry which, in his time, did not publish but left all the work to others and simply added a “factor d’impact”  designed by Queen Anne. Orwell lambasted the Departments of Openness and Truth which all major publishers  implemented and whose role was to create barrier for readers (“murs de payment”) ,  and browbeat authors and reviewers into slavery for the industry.

Thank goodness those days are gone.

The full text of  Kenderson’s post can be read here.