Monday, March 31, 2008

Dramatic Growth of Open Access March 31, 2008 Edition

Open Access continues to show dramatic growth, by any measure!

In this quarter alone:

Scientific Commons added 1.3 million items, and more than a quarter of a million authors!
OpenDOAR added more than 100 new repositories, and now boasts over 1,100 listings!

The most remarkable story of the quarter, though, is an apparent acceleration of growth of open access publishing, as measured by the number of titles in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). There was a net growth of 271 titles in DOAJ in the first quarter of 2008, an average of just under 3 titles per day, up considerably from last year's average of 1.4 titles per day.

The emergence of new open access publisher Bentham Open was definitely a factor in this acceleration; however, even if all 43 Bentham titles presently in DOAJ are eliminated, there is still a net increase of 228 titles this quarter, or an average of 2.5 titles per day, close to double the growth rate of 2007.

At this rate, about the end of the next quarter, OA publishing will reach another milestone: 15% of scholarly peer-reviewed journals will be fully open access (conservative, based on estimate of 20-25,000 peer-reviewed journals in the world).

In the next quarter, the numbers to watch will be PubMedCentral, with the NIH policy requiring, rather than requesting, open access to NIH-funded research as of April 7, 2008. To prepare for the fun, I've collected a few baseline numbers; 13% of cancer literature in PubMed, for example, links to free fulltext; 7% of cancer literature is free immediately on publication! There are 410 journals voluntarily participating in PubMedCentral; 321, or 78%, are available in PubMed immediately on publication.

For full data, see the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Open Data Edition

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series

For those seriously interested in keeping track of the numbers,
Chris Keene has created a site to track the growth of UK repository records (thanks to Peter Suber on Open Access News).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Over 400 Journals Participating in PubMedCentral March 20, 2008

As of March 30, 2008 there are:

410 journals participating in PubMedCentral (PMC)

Of these:

321 or 78% are available in PMC immediately on publication, i.e. no delay in access. A few (7) of these journals release non-research material only after a delay period.

399, or 97% are available in PMC 12 months or less after publication. This makes close to 400 journals that NIH-funded researchers can confidently publish in, knowing that compliance with the NIH public access policy is a no-brainer!

The list of 399 titles and full data can be found here.

This post is part of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access Series.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cancer Literature: 13% Free

In order to track the growth of open access to the medical literature, thanks to the new NIH policy requiring, rather than requesting, public access to the results of NIH funded literature, within 12 months of publication, which takes effect next month, here are some baseline data for March 29, 2008.

13% of the literature in PubMed on cancer links to Free Fulltext.
By publication date range:
7% - within last 30 days
10% - within the last year
17% - within the last two years
21% - within the last 10 years

Data on other topics indicates a range of percentages of literature that is Free Fulltext. Of the topics selected, the highest percentage was for genetics, with 30% Free Fulltext, and the lowest was dentistry, with 4% fulltext. Most topics appear to be close to the 13% range.

For full, downloadable and reusable data, see PubMed Central cancer.

Watch for updates in future posts of the Dramatic Growth of Open Access series.

Net Neutrality in Canada

It seems that Canada is beginning to speak up on Net Neutrality! Many thanks to Michael Geist for these blogposts and links:

Mounting Calls for Net Neutrality Action. The National Union of Public and General Employees and the Council of Canadians speak up for Net Neutrality. CBC is covering the issue.

Angus on Net Neutrality. NDP MP Charlie Angus calls on Industry Ministry Jim Prentis to get serious about Net Neutrality.

Globe on Rogers' Fee Changes. The Globe and Mail covers a recent blogpost by Michael on Rogers' Fee changes, and covers net neutrality.

Good News, thanks to our Net Neutrality-savvy friends south of the border!!
Comcast and BitTorrent struck a deal today that may lead to the U.S.'s largest cable provider treating content equally. Kudos to Comcast, BitTorrent, and the US Regulator FCC.

The Bell Wake-Up Call The revelation that Bell has quietly revamped its network to allow for throttling at the residential and wholesale level.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Canadian URGENT ACTION ALERT: Demand net neutrality now

From the civic access discussion list

ACTION ALERT: Demand net neutrality now

As recently reported by various news outlets, Bell Canada plans to have its ‘third-party ISP traffic shaping’ policy implemented across its entire network by April 7. This policy is more accurately referred to as ‘throttling’, or the practice of shaping Internet traffic by selectively limiting bandwidth.

According to a press release issued by the Campaign for Democratic Media today, without government intervention to prevent this practice, "Internet users will have much less choice in online media, will be restrained in their ability to freely communicate and could end up with a largely prescribed menu of ‘choices,’ many of which will only be available from these very same ISPs."

The Council of Canadians is a founding member of the Campaign for Democratic Media and supports the network’s call for enforceable legislation on net neutrality – a principle that requires Internet service providers not to discriminate by speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.

To learn more, see:
- The Campaign for Democratic Media,
- An insightful blog entry by Michael Geist on the matter,
- ‘Bell Sympatico Throttles Internet Access’ video,

You are encouraged to send the following sample letter to Industry Minister Jim Prentice demanding legislation on net neutrality that would prevent big service providers from restricting our ability to communicate and access information freely on the Internet.

Industry Minister Jim Prentice (MP, Calgary Centre-North)
Ministry telephone: 613-995-9001
Ministry fax: 613-992-0302
Constituency office telephone: 403-216-7777
Constituency office fax: 403-230-4368
E-mail: or

Minister Prentice,

I am deeply concerned about Bell Canada’s recent announcement that it will make its practice of throttling official starting April 7.

Canada does not have strict enforceable net neutrality legislation and so there is very little structure in place to prevent the big ISPs from discriminating by speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.

I am outraged that Canada does not have a policy to protect my ability to communicate and access information freely on the Internet and urge you to take action on this matter immediately.


Meera Karunananthan, Media officer, Council of Canadians

March 27, 2008

Canada must adopt legislation to stop Bell Canada from shortchanging the public, says coalition

The Campaign for Democratic Media! is outraged at Bell Canada’s recent announcement that it will begin throttling Internet service providers (ISPs) starting April 7 – a policy uncovered and made official after Canadian ISPs realized they were being shortchanged by the telecommunications giant which had begun selectively limiting the ISPs’ bandwidth.

“The problem is that Canada does not have strict legislation to prevent big ISPs from turning the Internet into a network resembling a tolled highway with a slow lane and a fast lane,” says Steve Anderson, coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. “This means Internet users will have much less choice in online media, will be restrained in their ability to freely communicate and could end up with a largely prescribed menu of ‘choices,’ many of which will only be available from these very same ISPs.”

The organization, a coalition of civil society organizations, academics and grassroots media activists, is calling for the federal government to adopt enforceable net neutrality legislation that would require Internet service providers not to discriminate, including speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.

“Net neutrality protects our ability to direct our own online activities,” says Anderson. “With net neutrality in place, a network's job is to move data in a non-discriminatory manner, based on what people want.”
About us: The Campaign for Democratic Media! (CDM) is a network of civil society organizations, academics and grassroots media activists from across the country who are interested in helping to create the conditions for diverse, accountable and quality Canadian media.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Save money: shelter the homeless

A new study says providing shelter for the homeless with severe addictions and mental illness throughout British Columbia could save taxpayers millions of dollars. Hat tip to Jeff Davis on texts for nothing.

York University Library - another Canadian leader in the open access movement

York University Library is obviously yet another example of Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement.

A link to YUL Ejournal publishing support is prominently posted on the library's Services page for faculty. There is a whole page just on publishing using Open Journal Systems!.

YorkSpace is only one of York's 3 repositories, according to Leila Fernandez and Marcia Salmon, who also report that Canada is 4th among countries in societies publishing open access journals, in their presentation on Open Access Publishing.

Andrea Kosavic and Sharon Wong's Empowering Authors, a presentation for a Scholarly Communications Retreat at York, is well worth a look for some interesting approaches to explaining the key area of author rights to faculty.

Kudos to Cynthia Archer, York's University Librarian and one of the founders of the open access journal Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, for a great role model!

York University Library is a member of another Canadian leading organization in open access, the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL)

Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences: official Harvard citation

Here is the link to the official announcement from the Harvard University Gazette, Feb. 13, 2008:

Robert Mitchell. FAS Communications. Harvard to collect, disseminate scholarly articles for faculty: Legislation designed to allow greater worldwide access.

The legislation: the [Harvard] Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) voted Tuesday (Feb. 12) to give the University a worldwide license to make each faculty member’s scholarly articles available and to exercise the copyright in the articles, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit.

The legislation was proposed by Stuart M. Shieber, a Professor at FAS.

For more background and links, see Peter Suber's article in the March 2008 SPARC Open Access Newsletter.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Editorial Peer Review: Largely Untested, Effects Uncertain

Much of the discussion on open access in recent years has focused on a key role for peer review. It is assumed that peer review is essential for ensuring quality in published research. But is there any evidence to support this view? Apparently not. A systematic review of research on peer review published in the highly regarded Journal of the American Medical Association concluded:

Editorial peer review, although widely used, is largely untested and its effects are uncertain.


Effects of Editorial Peer Review: A Systematic Review. Tom Jefferson, MD; Philip Alderson, MBChB; Elizabeth Wager, MA; Frank Davidoff, MD
JAMA. 2002;287:2784-2786.

Recently cited in: Publishing in Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine Volume 87(3), March 2008, pp 215-220. Frontera, Walter R. MD, PhD; Grimby, Gunnar MD, PhD; Basford, Jeffrey MD, PhD; Muller, Dave BEd, PhD; Ring, Haim MD

Also of interest - Frontera et al. Conclude with this thought under a section called The Future:

The possibility for open access will increase, and this may require new ideas about the funding of the journals. A redistribution of money from subscription fees to page charges paid by universities and other institutions may be necessary.

Neuroopthalmology research: for human health - or publisher profit?

Dear Erin McMullan of Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (a division of Wolters Kluwers),

This open letter is in response to your article Open Access Mandate Threatens Dissemination of Scientific Information, published in the March 2008 issue of the Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology, in which you say:

Government interference on the premise that legislating open access is beneficial to the advancement of scholarly research and, by extension, the public good, is
misguided in the opinion of many. The Partnership for Research Integrity in Science and Medicine, ‘The Prism Coalition’ ( was formed to educate policy makers and the public about risks of government intervention in scholarly publishing

A quick glance at the list of articles in the Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology and a moment's thought should be all that anyone would need to see why every piece of research published in this journal should be fully open access. The goal of this research is not profit in a publisher's pocket; it is the protection and/or restoration of human eyesight and related health matters. How could it possibly make sense to restrict this to the 1,000 paid subscribers listed in Ulrich's? Share this information with everyone, so that the doctor in a rural area or developing country has the same access to this knowledge as the researcher at the large university.

If anyone reading this needs access to opthalmology research, please note that there are 10 fully open access, peer-reviewed journals in this field listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals. There are also hundreds of traditional journals that actively and voluntarily cooperate with PubMedCentral to make their journals openly accessible as soon as feasible. A blog on open access resources in opthalmology was published last year by Sara Kuhn, a student in my open access class.

As you may be aware, no publisher has openly supported PRISM, while many have openly distanced themselves from this failed anti-OA coalition attempt.

If LW&W is going to fight open access, then please fight in the open. List your name on the PRISM website, so that everyone knows who is behind this. Post this article as open access, so that everyone can read it, not just those who can afford to subscribe to the Journal of Neuro-Opthamology at $685 US per year (institutional subscription), or $386 US per individual.

You talk about how Readers want high-quality articles selected by trusted editors and subjected to vigorous peer review. Then, you go on to present serious errors of fact in your article.

For example, you say: There there is an inherent violation of copyright
in mandating the deposit of the publisher’s copyrighted articles in an online government site for worldwide distribution
(with reference to the NIH Public Access mandate). The NIH Public Access mandate does not apply to publishers, it applies to grant recipients, the researchers. There are many publishers, including both fully open access publishers and traditional publishers not unlike LW&W, whose policies are quite compatible with the NIH mandate. If LW&W does not wish to publish publicly funded research, it is under no obligation to do so. From a business point of view, this may not be a wise decision; indeed, a publisher taking such a stance may be said to be Aiming for Obscurity.

If the Editorial Board finds this policy of LW&W to be unacceptable, there are many options. The free, open source Open Journal Systems is one such option, making it easy for an Editorial Board to quickly set up a new open access journal. Members might wish to contact their local university library to find out whether free hosting services for open access publishing is available, for example.

Kudos to Gale Oren, Mower & Youngkin for much more balanced articles on open access in the same issue of the Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology.

cc: Editorial Board, Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology and the North American Neuro-Opthalmology Society.

Thanks to Peter Suber on Open Access News.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

European University Association Moves to OA (citation)

Looking for a great citation on the recent unanimous adoption by the European University Association of a report calling for the development of institutional repositories and open access mandates throughout European universities?

Here is one, thanks to Bernard Rentier, the blogging University Rector of Liège.

Rentier, Bernard, Recteur, Université de Liège. L’EUA se lance dans l’OA. Pour une université ouverte et interactive.

A. Recommendations for University Leadership

The basic approach… should be the creation of an institutional
repository. These repositories should be established and managed
according to current best practices (following recommendations
and guidelines from DRIVER and similar projects) complying with the
OAI-PMH protocol and allowing inter-operability and future networking
for wider usage….

University institutional policies should require that their
researchers deposit (self-archive) their scientific publications
in their institutional repository upon acceptance for publication.
Permissible embargoes should apply only to the date of open access
provision and not the date of deposit. Such policies would be in
compliance with evolving policies of research funding agencies at
the national and European level such as the ERC.

B. Recommendations for National Rectors’ Conferences

All National Rectors’ Conferences should work with national research
funding agencies and governments in their countries to implement
the requirement for self-archiving of research publications
in institutional repositories and other appropriate open access
repositories according to best practice models of the ERC and existing
national research funding agencies operating open access mandates…

C. Recommendations for the European University Association

EUA should continue to contribute actively to the policy dialogue on
Open Access at the European level with a view to a self-archiving
mandate for all research results arising from EU research
programme/project funding, hence in support of and building upon
the ERC position and other international initiatives such as that
of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Thanks to Peter Suber's on Open Access News.

An opportunity for Canadian leadership in the open access movement

From the blog of Canadian open access champion Michael Geist:

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, chaired by Conservative MP James Rajotte, has announced plans to conduct hearings on science and technology policy this spring. The hearings represent an exceptionally important opportunity to advance issues such as open access, crown copyright, access to public data, and the need for greater flexibility in intellectual property rules. In fact, the Committee has specifically requested short briefing papers on issues such as federal funded research, intellectual property, and science advice to the government. The deadline for submitting papers is April 18, 2008.

Here is the direct link to the News Release.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Open Access class May - June 2008

This Spring I will be teaching the 1-credit Open Access class at UBC's School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, on Saturday May 31st and Saturday June 7th. Topic areas include an overview of open access, OA policy, OA publishing, and OA archiving.

Guest speakers are:

Brian Owen, winner of the 2007 CARL Award for Distinguished Service to Research Librarianship and Associate University Librarian, Systems & Processing, Simon Fraser University Library, home of Public Knowledge Project (PKP) development.

Hilde Colenbrander, Digital Repository Coordinator, University of British Columbia Library, and member of the Canadian Library Association's Open Access Task Force. The UBC cIRcle repository is currently in pilot phase; official launch is anticipated spring 2008.

A link to the 2008 class blog, when available, will be posted on the 2007 Open Access Class Blog.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Open Access: Roles for the Aggregators

There are important roles for vendors of aggregated databases, such as EBSCO and ProQuest, in transitioning to open access, and in a fully open access environment.

One role is increasing access to the journal's contents through indexing.

Another, related role is supporting the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). EBSCO is listed on the DOAJ's Sponsors page; CSA ProQuest and Swets are DOAJ members.

Another role for aggregators is to contribute to the economics of open access publishing; if a journal is open access, there is no reason why it cannot also be included in an aggregated database, for a reasonable fee to help support the journal.

This is a win-win-win situation. For the aggregator, this is added content at extremely reasonable fees; for the publisher, economic support and additional impact; for the library subscribers, more content accessible through one familiar, well-developed tool with lots of support such as online help guides and training.

Kevin Haggerty from the Canadian Journal of Sociology recently mentioned that EBSCO is continuing to provide support for the journal after its transition to open access, including continuing to provide electronic access to back issues, and economic support for including current content. Kudos to EBSCO for a sensible move here!

According to the EBSCO website, EBSCOhost databases are the most-used, premium online information resources for tens of thousands of institutions worldwide, representing millions of end-users.

If EBSCO were to contribute one dollar for every institutional subscriber to an open access journal for including contents in an EBSCO database, this would mean at least $10,000 in revenue for the journal.

If a journal were to sign non-exclusive contracts with two aggregators at this rate, this would mean at least $20,000 in revenue annually for the journal.

These amounts are meant to be merely suggestive. For a small, highly specialized journal that currently has very limited circulation, these figures may be high; for a larger journal with a high circulation, higher figures may be in order.

Another way to look at the figures: a fee of $10 per institutional subscriber to go to the open access journal, would mean an annual revenue stream of a minimum of $100,000 per journal, assuming the low end of EBSCO's institutional subscriber base.

Librarians - could libraries live with an average per-journal cost of $10 per year?

Regardless of the specific amount, non-exclusive participation in an aggregated database, along with open access, might be worth considering for the open access journal. This win-win-win partnership could do a lot to ensure a smooth economic transition to open access.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Taking the plunge: from print to online open access

This article by Kevin D. Haggerty of the open access Canadian Journal of Sociology will answer questions that many publishers are asking; questions like how to go about moving from print to online, and whether or how to move to open access.

There were several reasons for considering a move to open access, but the most convincing one was access. In Haggerty's words, the knock-down appeal of this change [to open access] has always been that it would give works published in the journal a wider global audience and greater impact.

How has the switch to open access gone so far?

The profile of the move was further enhanced when the Canadian academic magazine University Affairs ran a prominent article on the changes to the journal.

Having taken the plunge I waited to see how my colleagues would react. Thankfully (and somewhat surprisingly) I have yet to receive a single missive from anyone who objected but have had a host of messages supporting the change

[on continuing support from aggregators]
they seem interested in keeping the reconfigured journal in their stable of journals and might be willing to compensate us (a bit) to do so
[comment: there are potentially important roles for aggregators in the transition to open access, a subject for a future post]

[on one of the key secrets of the success of the Canadian Journal of Sociology]
I have not been so much a beneficiary of good luck, but have capitalized on the type of infrastructure, priorities and culture that should characterize a prominent research university - at the University of Alberta. Everyone I have encountered recognizes the contribution made by quality journals, and the centrality of editors in ensuring their success. Moreover, they are attuned to the prestige value that can come from having such journals housed at your institution. Wherever reasonably possible, my university has provided the types of support (financial, institutional, moral) required to run a journal.

This support from the University of Alberta includes considerable support from the University Library, and from librarians Pam Ryan and Denise Koufogiannakis, my friends and former classmates.

Haggerty, K.D. (2008). "Taking the plunge: open access at the Canadian Journal of Sociology" Information Research, 13(1) paper 338. [Available at]

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access series and the Canadian Leadership in the Open Access Movement series.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Traditional Journal Publishers Support Author Rights!

A recent statement by the traditional publishing groups STM/PSP/ALPSP indicates that this group sees considerable support for Authors Rights as the industry standard.

From the Statement:

Standard journal agreements typically allow authors:

* To use their published paper in their own teaching and generally within their institution for educational purposes
* To send copies to their research colleagues
* To re-use portions of their paper in further works or book chapters, and
* To post some version of the paper on a pre-print server, their Institutional Repository or a personal web site (though sometimes not for the weekly news-oriented science or medical magazines, for public health and similar reasons)

It is also noteworthy that the language refers to grants of copyright or publishing agreements, an accurate reflection of this moment in the transition to open access, when many, but not all, publishers have moved to a "license to publish" and away from the older and unnecessary copyright transfer agreement.

This is not open access publishing, but still very good news. It is especially good to hear that posting to a pre-print server is considered standard, as this gets the research results out in the open even before publication, never mind after a delay of up to 12 months!

Thanks to STM/PSP/ALPSP for releasing this statement. For more details, links to the statement, and comments, please see Peter Suber's post on Open Access News.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

American Society of Civil Engineers and Open Access


This post explores the publishing policies of the American Society of Civil Engineers as one example of a society publisher that is obviously making some progress in the transition to open access. A strong feature of ASCE is clear information for Authors, including permission to post the author's open postprint within 90 days after publication. Weaknesses include the 90-day embargo and the requirement for authors to transfer copyright. Like many societies, ASCE has reasonable subscription fees; for example, Cold Regions Engineering is less than 10% of the average subscription price for an engineering journal. This suggests that ASCE, like many society publishers, would likely be very competitive in an open access environment.


The American Society of Civil Engineers has a webpage called Authors Services which links to another page on Posting Papers to the Internet.

Authors are permitted to post their own copy of their own works (not the publisher's PDF) on the open internet 90 days after publication in an ASCE journal, as long as they point to the official ASCE version.

This is a good model for providing clear information to authors. No embargo on self-archiving would be preferable, but 90 days is better than some.

ASCE requires authors to transfer copyright to ASCE. Many publishers are now moving to a License to Publish, and no longer requiring copyright transfer. ASCE could easily make publishing in their journals more attractive to authors with this small change.

Like many societies, ASCE's subscription prices are reasonable; for example, the online-only version of the quarterly Cold Regions Engineering is a modest $198 US per year (institutional price), or less than 10% of the average price of an engineering journal ($2,071 US per year as reported by Lee C. Van Orsdel & Kathleen Born in Library Journal's 2007 Periodical Price Survey.

This low price strongly suggests that ASCE, again like many society publishers, would prove to be very competitive in an open access environment. For example, with an article processing fee approach, ASCE is in a great position to offer high-quality publishing at a fraction of the price that other (mostly commercial) publishers would be likely to charge.

Another option worth investigating: institutional memberships to allow OA publishing. Libraries could pay for the publishing of their faculty, either in full or on a membership basis so that their faculty could publish at a reduced rate.

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hindawi Article Processing Charges: Range, Median / Mode, Average

Hindawi Article Processing Charges as of March 2, 2008

Hindawi publishes 102 open access journals. Hindawi is a for-profit (and profitable) publisher.

Range: Free (3 journals) to $1,000 Euros

Median and Mode are the same: 400 Euros = $608 US or $600 Cdn

Average: 476 Euros = $724 US or $718 Cdn

Hindawi Article Processing Charges

Calculations by Heather Morrison

Less than 10% of Open Access journals in psychology charge a publication fee

A Directory of Open Access Journals DOAJ For Authors Search reveals that, in the field of psychology, less than 10% of open access journals charge a publication fee.

Here is the data, effective March 2, 2008:

DOAJ For Authors search: Psychology - All (March 2, 2008)
103 journals total
84 Open Access (82%)
19 Hybrid (18%)
73 No Publication Fee 71% (all of these are open access)
27 Publication Fee 26% (19 are Hybrid, 8 are open access)
8 of the 84 journals in this category (under 10%) charge a publication fee

According to Ulrich's, there are 832 active, refereed, academic / scholarly journals with a subject of Psychology.

84 fully open access journals listed in DOAJ means that the fully OA component of psychology publishing is 10%.

Please note that due to the Dramatic Growth of Open Access, figures for open access are likely to change (grow). If you are reading this post even a few weeks after March 2, 2008, please check the most current numbers in DOAJ.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Access Gap in British Columbia


This post illustrates the gap in access when we rely on subscriptions, a gap that is huge even in a have province like British Columbia, in a wealthy country like Canada. A researcher who does not see the costs of the subscriptions, may never see the gap. A student, while at a research university, has ready access to tens of thousands of scholarly journals, backed up by a document delivery department that can fill any remaining gaps. A student who graduates and moves to a smaller town or rural area will still have better access than many of the people in the world, thanks to BC's excellent public library system; however, this is still less than 5% of what the alumnus had access to as a student. A small public library cannot begin to dream of providing an equivalent service to the university, with much fewer staff and a much greater gap to fill.


For a student or faculty member at a research university, the huge gap in access to subscription-based information that exists even in a have province like BC, in a wealthy country like Canada, may not be apparent. After all, a researcher at a top-notch research university like the University of British Columbia has immediate, direct access to over 56,000 journals, and never sees the cost. If an item is not in the collection, no problem - there is a world-class document delivery service available, at no cost to the researcher.

Students enjoy this level of access at no cost, too - until they graduate. This is when we see the access gap.

Consider the alumnus who settles in a small town or rural area. There, they may have access to an above-average selection of subscription journals through their local public library, thanks to a government and population in BC that understands the importance of public libraries, and supports them. This alumnus may have access to over 2,600 full-text peer-reviewed journals, in the EBSCO packages Academic Search Elite and Business Source Premiere.

The local public library will have interlibrary loan service; however, with limited staffing looking after everything from storytime for preschoolers to special services for teens, adults, seniors, and more, not to mention buying books and running the library, the public library cannot begin to think about providing the same level of service as a university document delivery service, with a much smaller gap to fill.

Public library access to scholarly journals in BC is a very good thing - but it is still less than 5% of what the alumnus had ready access to when in school. Subscriptions to academic journals cost hundreds to thousands of dollars, and pay-per-view is about $25 per item, and up.

The research university likely is able to provide walk-in access to most of the scholarly literature. For the alumnus far from the large metropolitan centre, though, this means travel costs and a significant time factor.

Most alumni probably just don't try to keep up with the scholarly literature. This would be a good topic for a research study.

This is really unfortunate, not just for the alumnus, but for all of us. Some of these grads are professionals - doctors and other health care professionals, teachers, engineers, lawyers, librarians. The more these people can access the research literature, the better for all of us. Some of these grads are no doubt entrepreneurs, looking for business solutions that are environmentally friendly. Why not share the latest research with these folks and increase their chances to succeed?

This is BC, of course. In other, less-wealthy areas of the world, the gap is much larger.

Fortunately for everyone on the wrong side of the access gap, there are a great many open access resources already, and the numbers are growing dramatically. There are more than 3,200 fully open access, peer-reviewed journals listed in DOAJ, and the number of titles in the last couple of months has been increasing at a rate of more than 4 new titles per calendar day. Scientific Commons provides access to close to 18 million items.

Scholars, please join the open access movement and share the results of your work with your neighbours - the people in BC and Canada who pay the taxes that fund much of your research and support the university you work for, and our global neighbours everywhere. Some of them are your alumni. Someday, when you retire, they will be you.

High Energy Physics Goes Open Access

The SCOAP3 Consortium aims to shift the entire field of High Energy Physics to open access publishing, by re-directing subscription funds. So far, over half the necessary commitments have been received, and SCOAP3 is growing fast!

Thanks to Peter Brantley for blogging some notes on the February 29 meeting on the SCOAP3 Consortium at Berkeley.

SCOAP3 builds on the tradition of sharing of preprints that is part of the culture of high energy physics research, first through paper, then through the arXiv server. In HEP, journals are needed for officialdom; but arXiv is what researchers read.

While SCOAP3 is a global consortium requiring everyone to commit to succeed, it is actually much simpler than other existing HEP collaborations, according to CERN's Salvatore Mele. For example, the LCH Atlas Detector serves involves 40 funding agencies and over 1,000 contracts!

SCOAP3 is a great model for a stable, planned transition of an entire field to OA publishing. If your institution is involved in High Energy Physics research - please sign on!

This post is part of the Transitioning to Open Access Series.

Thanks to Peter Suber on Open Access News.