Peter Suber reports how Openness advances

Peter Suber is one of my role models as one of the clearest and therefore most compelling advocate of Openness. He collects almost comprehensive information if what is happening and reports it in a compellingly simple clear manner. He is one of those people whose prose is a joy to read. Where others’ thinking is muddled (or deliberately obfuscated) he cuts it apart clinically and compellingly.

He is passionate about Openness, originally Open Access but now branching out to cover data, government, etc. where appropariate. That passion is always subjugated to fairness and accuracy. So as you read this, read between the lines to see how he really cares.

He’s written a review of 2010, (long but compelling) and there are countless examples of organizations and people bringing in Open ideas, requirements, practices, content, tools. The involvement of governments is particularly welcome. This is mainly an account of the positive, though he also notes neutral (e.g. hybrid OA is stagnant at best [PMR – I never liked it anyway]) and some retrograde practices or vacillation of some organizations.

Without a denominator (or the true-negatives) it’s difficult to give absolute numbers to the growth in OA. For example how many governments did nothing. How many Universities don’t care about Openness (at least enough to spend money). And IMO Universities are the primary problem in much of this – publishers have built a 10-billion dollar market on the apathy of vice-chancellors and it’s now going to be hard to pull it back.

And statistics in this area have to be taken very carefully. PeterS repeatedly says that 70% of OA journals make no author-side charges and I am sure that’s true. But it’s also true that 100% of Open Access chemistry journals (there are really only 3) make charges, and they are only ca 1% of the market. And the Green option is pragmatically of almost no relevance in chemistry – the major publisher forbids it. I don’t know about bioscience but my guess is that there are few peer-reviewed OA offerings outside PLoS and BMC and these are author/funder-pays journals. So the paradoz is due to the long tail, where it’s possible for a small journal to manage publication with marginal costs and a lot of dedication and I guess most of these are Arts and Humanities. So I’d rephrase this as:

70% of OA journals make no author-side fees and (I’m guessing) over 70% of Gold-OA articles have to be paid for by the authors.

Anyway to finish here are PeterS’s worst and best of 2010. If you take away nothing else, take Robert Heinlein’s quote. I hadn’t seen it before and it’s a critical guideline to the digital revolution and land-grab.

(10) Some highlights of the highlights

The worst of 2010:

10.  James Murdoch, heir to the Rupert Murdoch news empire.  For objecting to the British Library plan to provide OA to its archive of historical newspapers on the ground that it would be bad for business.

9.  English Heritage.  For claiming to own the copyright on Stonehenge and demanding a cut of the profits from image libraries selling photos of the monument.

8.  Todd Platts, Republican representative from Pennsylvania.  For the bill (HR 5704) he introduced in the US House of Representatives, in 2005 and again in 2010, giving faculty at the US military academies copyrights in their scholarly writings (“in order to submit such works for publication”), and requiring them to transfer those copyrights to publishers. 

7.  A copyright reform bill before the Czech parliament drafted by the Ministry of Culture and the national collecting societies without input from other stakeholders.  For giving effect to the author’s open license only after the author notifies the collecting societies, and for placing the burden of proof for that notification on authors.  For erecting new and needless bureaucratic hurdles in the way of anyone wanting to use open licenses.

6.  The Swiss National Library.  For using public funds to digitize public-domain books, and then selling the digital copies rather than making them OA. 

5.  “Misinformation and gatekeeper conservativism” in the field of communications (in the apt words of Bill Herman and the Ad Hoc Committee on Fair Use and Academic Freedom of the International Communication Association).  For leading a fifth of surveyed researchers in the field to abandon research in progress because of copyright problems, leading a third to avoid research topics raising copyright issues, and forcing others to seek permission before discussing or criticizing copyrighted works.

4.  The majority of OA journals that don’t use open licenses, such as the 81% of journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals that don’t use CC licenses.  For failing to realize one of their potential advantages over most collections of green OA.  For missing a golden opportunity to provide libre OA, make their articles more useful, and serve research and researchers. 

3.  The German Association of Higher Education (Deutscher Hochschulverband).  For demanding an “education- and science-friendly” copyright policy that would put copyright protection ahead of education and science, and rule out OA mandates.  For taking a public position without doing elementary research first.  (Like last year’s Heidelberg Appeal, the DHV confuses green OA mandates with gold OA mandates, and doesn’t realize that green OA policies are compatible with the freedom to submit work to the journals of one’s choice.)

2.  BP. For hiring scientists to research the gulf oil spill under a contract that prohibits them from “publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years….[that requires them] to withhold data even in the face of a court order if BP decides to fight such an order…[and that] stipulates that scientists will be paid only for research approved in writing by BP….”  For undermining both the integrity and the availability of research.

1.  The American Psychological Association.  For claiming in a Congressional hearing that requiring public access for publicly-funded research would violate President Obama’s December 2009 memo on government transparency –not the transparency part of the memo, but the exceptions for national security, privacy, and “other genuinely compelling interests”.  For asserting that there is a genuinely compelling interest in putting the financial interests of private-sector publishers ahead of the research interests of researchers, even at government agencies whose mission is to advance research and put the public interest first.

Robert Heinlein responded to the APA position more than 70 years ago (Life-Line, 1939):  “There has grown up in the minds of certain groups in this country the notion that because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with the duty of guaranteeing such profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is not supported by statute or common law. Neither individuals nor corporations have any right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back.”  

The best of 2010:

10.  Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda.  For her much-needed combination of insight and influence.  For her forceful and articulate public statements in support of OA and open data, from a position where she can affect policy and change minds. 

9.  The Obama White House.  For pushing executive departments and agencies to strengthen their data-sharing policies, and for collecting public comments on a plan to extend the NIH policy across the federal government.  True, it could have acted on that consultation in 2010, and didn’t.  (And true, it allowed the ACTA negotations to exclude the press and public-interest NGOs, while including corporate lobbyists.)  But in its OA consultation, it asked the right questions, collected a mountain of supportive comments, and positioned itself to set policy in 2011.

8.  BioTorrents, from Morgan Langille and Jonathan Eisen.  For a data-sharing platform optimized for openness and high volume.  For opening the door to open data in the age of big science. 

7.  The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC).  For its libre green OA mandate covering SBCTC-funded research at the 34 institutions in the consortium. 

6.  Seven libre green OA policies covering 38 institutions.  For seeing the value of libre OA beyond gratis OA.  For testing the waters to see where and how far libre green policies can succeed.  (Libre green OA policies are far less tested or widespread than gratis green or libre gold policies.)  For exerting leadership to help the idea spread.

5.  The Conference Board of Canada.  For turning around and doing the right thing.  In 2009, the CBC issued three reports with copyright recommendations cut and pasted from the International Intellectual Property Alliance, a US lobbying group.  When the charade was exposed, the CBC returned to the drawing board and in 2010 issued a report calling on Canada to support OA for publicly-funded research.  This was a beautiful double win, for autonomy over ventriloquism and the public interest over private interests. 

4.  The re-introduction of FRPAA in the 111th Congress, even though it died without a vote.   For surpassing its first introduction in 2006 by gathering more bipartisan co-sponsors and gaining entry to both chambers (the Senate in 2009 and the House in 2010).  For making headway in establishing the right principles and a practical policy that would have liberated more peer-reviewed research literature than any other policy proposal anywhere.   From my kudos last year:  “For earning bipartisan support in a degenerate age when nothing has bipartisan support.”

3.  The University of California.  For standing up to an unaffordable 400% price increase on its site license from the Nature Publishing Group.  For using its unrivaled bargaining power, especially against a publisher with its own unrivaled bargaining power.  For pushing back with an effect that smaller institutions simply could not hope to have.  (Today, however, the actual effect is still unknown.)  For acting decisively in the interests of research, researchers, and research institutions, and not leaving publishers
to be the only players in this game who act decisively in their own interests.  For inspiring other institutions to voice a common grievance to take concerted action.

2.  The EUR-OCEANS Consortium.  For adopting the largest consortial OA mandate ever (covering 29 organizations in 15 countries) and the first consortial OA mandate for organizations other than universities.  For a giant step that should inspire other giant steps.

1.  The 38 new funder OA mandates in 17 countries (Section 1) and –depending on how you count– the 72-105 green OA university mandates in 15 countries (Section 2).  For giving us a year in which we averaged more than three funder mandates and 6-9 university mandates every month.  For preserving and extending the momentum.  For bring us closer to the new normal in which research institutions routinely put the interests of knowledge-sharing ahead of the interests of knowledge-enclosure. 

For comparison, see my OA highlights:
–for 2009
–for 2008

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