In this weeks episode we are dealing with the topic of ‘open access’ in scientific publishing. While this might sound like a pretty dry theme, it actually gets right to the heart of one of the biggest issues of our time, the sharing of information in an increasingly digitalised world.
As previous students at the University of Manchester, Tia and I have had the opportunity to widely access science literature. A large research institution like Manchester pays tens of thousands of pounds every year in subscription fees so the staff and students need not worry about access to academic information. However once you step outside of this bubble you quickly realize that this was a privileged position, with the majority of journal articles hidden behind pay-walls. This is an issue not only for members of the public, but also many smaller institutions or colleges that simply cannot afford these subscription charges. This…
The Electronic Publishing Trust (EPT) award for individual effort in support of open access to scholarly publications in the developing and emerging countries for 2013 has been bagged jointly by Madhan Muthu, Manager, Library and Information Services International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru, Hyderabad, India and Rosemary Otando, Systems Librarian, EIFL Country and Open Access Coordinator at the University of Nairobi Library, Kenya.
Hearty congratulations to the winners!
Madhan has been an active OA advocate and practitioner for more than a decade now. He has been instrumental in setting up number of OA repositories in the country. The most popular one being Eprints@CMFRI of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) an establishment under Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR).
Madhan was also instrumental in initiating India’s first open access mandate at the National Institute of Technology Rourkela (NITR), in 2006. The OA policy at the NITR has ensured that every scholarly publication from the institute will be part of the NITR repository.
His advocacy for OA mandate has had an influence on OA mandates of other institutions in the country. For example, he has played a significant role in convincing the Directorate of Knowledge Management in Agriculture (DKMA) of the ICAR to adopt OA mandate.
Madhan has also played a very significant role in the OA mandate initiation at the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future.
Madhan’s efforts in setting up number of institutional repositories in various research organizations in the country will, to some extent, facilitate better visibility to research done in those organizations. His efforts will also serve as a catalyst for other institutes and organizations to facilitate OA to their scholarly literature.
He richly deserves being the joint winner of this year’s EPT award and I wish him many more laurels coming his way.
In 2013, Dr. John Holdren, the director of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), issued a science policy memorandum requiring free public access to the published journal articles of scientific and medical researchers in the United States who received funding from agencies that receive over $1M from taxpaying citizens. His mandate was written in response to an online petition on the “We the People” website called “Require free access over the Internet to scientific journal articles arising from taxpayer-funded research.” The petition, which was created on 13 May 2012, pledged:
We believe in the power of the Internet to foster innovation, research, and education. Requiring the published results of taxpayer-funded research to be posted on the Internet in human and machine readable form would provide access to patients and caregivers, students and their teachers, researchers, entrepreneurs, and other taxpayers who paid for the research. Expanding access would speed the research process and increase the return on our investment in scientific research. The highly successful Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health proves that this can be done without disrupting the research process, and we urge President Obama to act now to implement open access policies for all federal agencies that fund scientific research.
John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. Image credit: Wikipedia.
In the official response, Holdren stated, “Americans should have easy access to the results of research they help support.” Specifically it directed “federal agencies…with more than $100 million in research and development expenditures to develop plans to make the results of federally-funded research publicly available free of charge within 12 months after original publication.” In particular, “the memorandum requires that agencies start to address the need to improve upon the management and sharing of scientific data produced with federal funding.”
Part of the problem with sharing articles and sharing data, that has been prominently featured in the scientific, medical, and mathematics literature suggests that there are serious problems underlying the research itself wherein even supplementary, selective data sets sometimes are insufficient to back the claims presented in published papers. The process of peer review is a time-honored tradition, but as science becomes more data-driven and reliant upon “big data” the necessary evidence for the acceptance of papers is not availabile, forcing reviewers to rely on their professional judgment rather than evidence. In point of fact, “90 percent of all the data in the world has been generated over the last 2 years.”
One popular saying is that it is important to “trust but verify” when it comes to science and medical research, and no one would agree more than a statistician that statistical results can be manipulated to argue the data supports a particular viewpoint or conclusion. What seems to happen in a majority of cases is that scientists make honest mistakes in drawing conclusions, based either on actual error conducting experiments or in greater than acceptable margin for errors when analyzing their results. The mandate, which covered making articles available to the public freely as well as some of the supporting data sets, did not go far enough in addressing the problem of reproducibility in science and medical fields. At a subsequent open hall public meeting, “Public Access to Federally-Supported Research and Development Data and Publications” hosted on 16-17 May 2013 in Washington DC by of the National Academies’ to discuss the changes in the mandate, two librarians, Michah Altman, Director of Research and Head Scientist for the Program on Information Science at MIT Libraries, and R. Michael Tanner, of the Association of Research Libraries, took particular note of the omission of one form of critical supporting documentation, laboratory notebooks. The 22 February 2013 memorandum itself stated, ”For purposes of this memorandum, data is defined, consistent with OMB circular A-110, as the digital recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings including data sets used to support scholarly publications, but does not include laboratory notebooks, preliminary analyses, drafts of scientific papers, plans for future research, peer review reports, communications with colleagues, or physical objects, such as laboratory specimens” (emphasis is mine).
I mentioned in a previous blog post how an article inThe Economist “pointed out serious flaws in today’s non-reproducible science journal articles and the role that virtual laboratory notebooks could play in monitoring experimental studies”:
Some government funding agencies, including America’s National Institutes of Health, which dish out $30 billion on research each year, are working out how best to encourage replication … Ideally, research protocols should be registered in advance and monitored in virtual notebooks … A rule of thumb among biotechnology venture-capitalists is that half of published research cannot be replicated. Even that may be optimistic. Last year researchers at one biotech firm, Amgen, found they could reproduce just six of 53 “landmark” studies in cancer research. Earlier, a group at Bayer, a drug company, managed to repeat just a quarter of 67 similarly important papers. A leading computer scientist frets that three-quarters of papers in his subfield are bunk. In 2000-10 roughly 80,000 patients took part in clinical trials based on research that was later retracted because of mistakes or improprieties.
Similar articles discussing false, misleading, or simply non-reproducible claims, have appeared over time in some of the most prestigious scientific journals, including Nature and Science, as well as the Annals of Applied Statistics. These studies point out how, with an estimated spending of $1.5 trillion (in USD) spent globally on research and development is one with serious financial impacts. There have been numerous reports of retractions, indeed “the number of retractions due to error has grown over five-fold since 1990.” It is understood that articles published in these journals come from all over the world, so it is not just a U.S. problem but also a worldwide one. So too is the ability to claim intellectual property rights over new processes and products through the process of patenting, not limited to U. S. companies, but companies from all over the world wishing to enter the U. S. marketplace by filing a U. S. patent online with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
One major problem that results when journal article are published and patents are reviewed is that the laboratory notebooks are rarely consulted. It is usually only in cases where a litigant challenges a patent that laboratory notebooks have historically held sway. However the fact that the companies have held the notebooks in their possession, rather than the USPTO, might introduce the possibility for tampering with the evidence should notebooks be required during litigation. It seems to me a much better idea that a neutral third party, the USPTO, would hold a digital copy of these notebooks in case the need would arise to consult them. Of course there is a need to protect the intellectual property rights of patent holders for the duration of the patent. Nevertheless, should the product or process come under official scrutiny, they should be available for consultation. Similarly, because they were produced by taxes of the American people, these notebooks (with a few exceptions wherein material should be restricted) should, after the life of the patent (usually 17 to 20 years), become open and freely accessible to all as part of the public domain and be sustained as part of a scientific and medical heritage preservation effort.
Of course, not all laboratory notebooks are part of research where a provisional patent or regular patent would be filed. Other specialized data repositories exist, and perhaps these will be expanded to encompass notebooks as well. But it is my belief that a centralized national depository like the USPTO is a good start to remedying the problem of reproducibility when it comes to discoveries that will impact the public’s health, the national (and perhaps international) economies dependent upon innovations in science, medicine, and technology, as well as the investments of shareholders in these companies.
With this in mind, I open up commentary, and invite readers to sign this online petition:
“Mandate Open Access to Digital Copies of Lab Notebooks Created Through Publicly Funded Research Leading to a US Patent.” Access to notebooks improves the processes of patenting, inventing and preserving U.S. scientific and medical history. In 2013, OSTP mandated open access for federally funded research articles and data, but excluded notebooks. This petition requests expansion of the mandate. When federally funded research results in a (provisional) patent application, a digital copy of searchable, full-text notebooks should be required. Why? Without notebooks, recent studies were unable to reproduce journal findings, resulting in serious economic and; health implications for products and processes. Notebooks are evidence in patent litigation, so funding USPTO storage prevents fraud. After the life of the patent, notebooks should become public domain with an exclusion allowing transfer of classified materials to NARA. To sign the petition, visit http://wh.gov/l5gv0 before 16 February 2014. (Enter a Zip Code, if appropriate).
UNESCO has launched its Open Access Repository (OAR) making more than 300 on-line books, reports, and articles freely available. The OAR will operate under a new open licensing system developed by the Creative Commons organization specifically for intergovernmental agencies.
“The new licensing tool, developed with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the UN family, makes a wealth of knowledge available to people all over the world; knowledge that can be used and reused,” said Ian Denison, Chief of UNESCO’s Publishing and Branding Section.
The launch follows UNESCO’s decision in April to become the first United Nations agency to adopt an Open Access policy for its publications. The Organization is thus making its digital publications available without cost to millions of people around the world. This change should lead to a significant increase in the circulation of UNESCO’s publications and help raise public awareness of the Organization and its work.
Currently, the Repository contains works in some 12 languages, including major UNESCO reports and key research publications. As well as the 300 Open Access publications, UNESCO will provide on-line availability to hundreds of other important reports and titles. Covering a wide range of topics from all regions of the world, this knowledge can now be shared by the general public, professionals, researchers, students and policy-makers. All new publications will be freely available under an open license.
By championing Open Access for its publications, UNESCO reinforces a fundamental goal of an Intergovernmental Organization – to ensure that all the knowledge it creates is made available to the widest possible audience. From now onwards, each new publication produced by the Organization will be released with one of the intergovernmental Creative Commons licenses and be integrated into the Repository.
UNESCO will continue to enrich its database with selected past publications and all new works.
Overall, the conference worked on the theme of Discovery, Impact and Innovation and aimed to provide an opportunity to reflect on the progress of Open Access and to consider the strategic advantages these developments bring to the research sector more generally. A broad spectrum of policy and research management issues were covered including advocacy, open innovation and alternative metrics.
There was a huge amount covered in the two days, and as always the opportunity to meet colleagues face to face after in some cases years of online collaboration was a highlight. The conference was filmed and the video recordings are linked on this page from presentations from Day One and Day Two below. The full program can be downloaded here
There are some great tweets coming out of the Berlin Open Access Conference (hashtag #berlin11) this morning. But like always, there are a few people on Twitter and elsewhere who just don’t seem to get why we need complete and unrestricted open access to the scientific literature. I won’t go into detail about all these reasons here. I would just like to address one argument I hear a lot and why it’s wrong. It goes something like this:
The people who really need access to research are scientists, not the general public. Most scientists have access through their institutions. So, there’s really no need for increased access. Scientific articles aren’t hidden.
Putting aside for a moment how little you must think of the general public if you don’t realize they deserve access to research they paid for with their tax dollars, is it really true that all scientists have access?…
The Journal of Applied Horticulture (JAH) an official publication of the Society for the Advancement of Horticulture based at Lucknow in India had made open some of its articles in Open Access on its website.
The JAH had started its publication in 1999 and is making available some of the articles in Open Access from 2000 onwards. This move is a welcome sign in the Open Access movement in the India’s National Agricultural Research System (NARS). We can hope to see lot happening in the area of Open Access in NARS. The credit for this happening should go to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) which recently had adopted a most progressive Open Access policy.
Dr CLL Gowda inaugurating the Open Access Booth. Photo: PS Rao, ICRISAT
Committed to promoting Open Access – encouraging and educating academic and research community about its potential – ICRISAT organized an Open Access Week observance on 24 October attended by more than 50 participants ranging from scientists and managers to officers, scholars, interns and partners. The event was part of the global Open Access Week celebration on 21-27 October.
“Being part of the research community, we need to encourage Open Access in order to break past barriers of information exchange.
This will help us gain access to the huge repository of knowledge and research information that can enhance our capacity to do better research in the future,” said Dr CLL Gowda, Deputy Director General for Research, at the inauguration of the event and the Open Access Booth.
On the occasion, Dr Venkadesan, Director, Learning Resource Centre, Indian School of Business delivered a lecture on “The state of Open Access: A report,” emphasizing that the movement can be successful only if the research community is educated about it and the various types of access routes.
Giving his take on “Open Access initiatives in India with special reference to agriculture,” Dr Veeranjaneyulu, Librarian, Acharya NG Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), made a presentation on the Indian perspective of open access, citing the various initiatives by the National Agricultural Research Systems.
The event was organized by the Knowledge Sharing and Innovation (KSI) Team and coordinated by Mr Chukka Srinivasarao, Senior Manager, Data Management and Mr Siva Shankar, Library Officer.
This article focuses on the trends in publication, authorship pattern, availability, and accessibility of articles during 2008–2010 from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), a constituent of the National Agricultural Research System in India. The data reveal that during the period of study, researchers from IARI produced 1,833 publications, most of which were jointly authored, and that the most preferred journal for publication by researchers is the Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, which is now an Open Access journal. While publications from IARI are available to subscribers of the Consortium…