I intend to submit the following Freedom Of Information request to the 26 leading UK universities ("Russell Group"). The excellent http://whatdotheyknow.com makes this very easy as it gives the addresses and actually sends the request. The Universities have to answer within 20 working days (most manage it in 19.9 days so don't hold your breath).
I ask whether any University has any policy on supporting researchers to carry out content-mining (Text and data Mining, TDM). Most universities seem to accede to any conditions laid down by publishers. This is strengthened by the total lack of any reaction to Elsevier's recent "click through" licence. It's easy to get the impression that universities don't care. Maybe this request will show they have been secretly fighting for us - who knows?
I'd be very grateful for comments ASAP. I will try to summarise answers and would certainly appreciate help here.
========================= Dear University ====================
Background and terminology:
This request relates to content mining (aka Text And Data Mining (TDM), or data analytics) of scholarly articles provided by publishers under a subscription model. Mining is the use of machines (software) to systematically traverse(crawl, spider) subscribed content, index it and extract parts of the content, especially facts. This process (abstracting) has been carried out by scholars ("researchers") for many decades without controversy; what is new is the use of machines to add speed and quality.
Most subscribers (universties, libraries) sign contracts provided by the publishers. Many of these contain clauses specifically restricting or forbidding mining ("restrictive contracts"). Recently the UK government (through the Intellectual Property Office and professor Hargreaves) recommended reform of Copyright to allow mining; a statutory instrument is expected in 2014-04. Many subscription publishers (e.g. Elsevier) have challenged this (e.g. in Licences 4 Europe discussions) and intend to offer bespoke licences to individual researchers ("click-through licences").
In many universties contracts are negotiated by the University Library ("library") who agree the terms and conditions (T&C) of the contract. At the request of the publishers some or all of the contract is kept secret.
Oversight of library activities in universities usually involves "library committee" with a significant number of academics or other non-library members.
Questions (please give documentary evidence such as library committee minutes or correspondence with publishers):
* How many subscription publishers have requested the university to sign a restrictive contract (if over 20 write "> 20")?
* When was the first year that the University signed such a contract?
* How often has the university challenged a restrictive contract?
* How many challenges have resulted in removal of ALL restrictions on mining?
* Has the university ever raised restrictions on mining with a library committee or other committee?
* How many researchers have approached the university to request mining? How many were rejected?
* How often has the university negotiated with a publisher for a specific research project? Has the publisher imposed any conditions on the type or extent of the research? Has the publisher imposed conditions on how the research can be published?
* How often has an researcher carried out mining and caused an unfavourable response from a publisher (such as removal of service or a legal letter)?
* How often has the university advised a researcher that they should desist from mining? Have any researchers been disciplined for mining or had subscription access removed?
* Does the university have a policy on researchers signing "click through licences"?
* Does the university have a policy for facilitating researchers to carry out mining after the UK statutory instrument is confirmed?
* Does the university intend to refuse to sign restrictive contracts after the statutory instrument comes into force?
Your immediate comments will be very valuable asa I shall start sending these out very soon.