“In a decision that will expand the power of courts to make government agencies post information online, the Ninth Circuit this week reversed the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the removal of animal welfare compliance data from a U.S. Department of Agriculture website.
“The decision from the Ninth Circuit is a major victory for public advocates using the Freedom of Information Act,” said Christopher Berry, senior staff attorney for plaintiff Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).
ALDF and three other groups sued the USDA in 2017 after it abruptly pulled animal welfare compliance data offline, a move the plaintiffs say frustrates their missions to fight animal cruelty and monitor government enforcement.
U.S. District Judge William Orrick III dismissed the suit in August 2017, finding courts lack power to force government agencies to make documents available to the public at large, as opposed to individual requesters, under the Freedom of Information Act.
A three-judge Ninth Circuit panel overruled Orrick’s decision Thursday, finding the law authorizes courts to make agencies stop holding back records which they have a duty to make available in “virtual reading rooms” online….”
“The Trump administration’s hostility towards climate science is not new. Interior climate staffer Joel Clement’s reassignment and the blocking of intelligence aide Rod Schoonover’s climate testimony, which forced both federal employees to resign in protest, are just two of the innumerable examples. These attempts to suppress climate science can manifest themselves in many ways. It starts with burying important climate reports and becomes something more insidious like stopping climate scientists from doing their jobs. In February 2019, I lost my job because I was a climate scientist in a climate-denying administration. And yet my story is no longer unique.
This is why on 22 July I filed a whistleblower complaint against the Trump administration. But this is not the only part to my story; I will also speak to Congress on 25 July about my treatment and the need for stronger scientific integrity protections….
It was while I was on leave that I received an email from another climate scientist at the NPS who warned me that the senior leadership was ordering changes to my report without my knowledge. They had scrubbed of any mention of the human causes of the climate crisis. This was not normal editorial adjustment. This was climate science denial….
The NPS [National Parks Service] continued to retaliate against me. I was forced to accept pay cuts and demotions while I continued to lead several other projects. By February of this year, the NPS declined to renew my funding, despite common knowledge that my branch at the time had ample surplus funding….”
“As any movement grows and flourishes, decisions made will turn out to have unforeseen consequences. Achieving the goals of the movement requires critical reflection and occasional changes in policy and procedure.The purpose of this post is to point out that the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) appears to be inadvertently acting as a handmaiden to at least one despotic government, facilitating dissemination of works subject to censorship and rejecting open access journals that would be suitable venues for critics of the despotic government. There is no blame and no immediately obvious remedy, but solving a problem begins with acknowledging that a problem exists and inviting discussion of how to avoid and solve the problem. OA friends, please consider this such an invitation….”
“Today, the Wikimedia Foundation welcomes the news that our case brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to lift the block of Wikipedia in Turkey has been communicated to the Turkish Government and given priority status by the court, just two months after the case was filed with the court. Priority status is granted rarely and reserved for the most important, serious, and urgent cases before the court and signals the critical impact our case could have in curbing government censorship online.
Two years ago, the Turkish government blocked Wikipedia. We believe free access to knowledge and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights, and by blocking Wikipedia, the Turkish government violated these rights for everyone living in the country. After extensive discussions with the Turkish government and challenging the block in Turkish courts, we were left with no choice but to bring our petition to the ECHR, an international court which hears cases of human rights violations within the Council of Europe….”
“The White House tried to stop a State Department senior intelligence analyst from discussing climate science in congressional testimony this week, internal emails and documents show.
The State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research declined to make changes to the proposed testimony and the analyst, Rod Schoonover, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University, was ultimately allowed to speak before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Wednesday.
But in a highly unusual move, the White House refused to approve Dr. Schoonover’s written testimony for entry into the permanent Congressional Record. The reasoning, according to a June 4 email seen by The New York Times, was that the science did not match the Trump administration’s views….”
“At the Wikimedia Foundation, we believe that free access to knowledge and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights. We believe that when people have good information, they can make better decisions. Free access to information creates economic opportunity and empowers people to build sustainable livelihoods. Knowledge makes our societies more informed, more connected, and more equitable.
Over the past two years, we have seen governments censor Wikipedia, including in Turkey and most recently in China, denying these rights to millions of people around the world.
Today, we proceed to the European Court of Human Rights, an international court which hears cases of human rights violations within the Council of Europe, to ask the Court to lift the more than two-year block of Wikipedia in Turkey. We are taking this action as part of our continued commitment to knowledge and freedom of expression as fundamental rights for every person….”
“Dislike of gold open access is also partly responsible for researchers’ opposition to Plan S. Lynn Kamerlin, professor of structural biology atUppsala University, is one of the instigators of the open letter against it. While she pledges strong support for open access, she is happy with the current rate of progress and sees the recent “explosion” in the use of preprint servers as illustrative of the range of routes towards it. She fears that the details of Plan S’ “embargo requirements and repository technical requirements…are so draconian that paid-for gold becomes the easiest way to fulfil them”. This will convert the “nudges” towards gold in existing funder mandates (which she supports) into a “shove”, which will be “a disaster for the research community” because it will disadvantage those unable to pay article processing charges and “seriously jeopardise the much more rigorous quality control standards provided by high-quality society journals compared to the high-volume for-profit business model, which has an inbuilt conflict of interest”.
Nor is Kamerlin alone in expressing a concern that the allegedly lower standards of peer review practised by fully open access journals have compromised quality. But, for Suber, debating quality rather misses the point. “Yes, there is some low-quality open access work, but there’s also low-quality subscription journal work, and people who step back [to see the bigger picture] always acknowledge that,” he says. “Quality and access are completely independent of each other. Open access isn’t a kind of peer review, it’s a kind of dissemination.”
However, he agrees with Kamerlin that the “green” form of open access, whereby academics post work that is in subscription journals on their institutional repositories or elsewhere…is another good option….”
“Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has condemned the Chinese government’s censorship of academic journals that the British publishing house Taylor & Francis provides to Chinese libraries.
Taylor & Francis, whose publications include the Asian Studies Review, confirmed on 20 December 2018 that its Chinese importer, a government offshoot, decided in September 2018 to block 83 of the 1,466 academic journals to which Taylor & Francis provides access in China….
The German publishing house Springer Nature, which owns the science magazines Nature and Scientific American, as well as the Journal of Chinese Political Science and the publishing house Palgrave Macmillan, confirmed in November 2017 that the Chinese authorities had forced it to block online access to around one per cent of its articles within China.
Three months before that, the Cambridge University Press (CUP), another respected academic publishing house, reported that, at the Chinese authorities’ request, it was blocking access within China to 300 articles in the online archives of its China Quarterly journal. In response to the ensuing outcry, the CUP restored access….”
“A British academic publisher has dropped more than 80 journals from its offerings in China at the government’s request, including the Asian Studies Review which had content deemed “inappropriate” by authorities….”
“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has put political appointee Daniel Jorjani in charge of overseeing all public information requests sent to the agency. Jorjani once told Interior colleagues that their job is ultimately to protect Zinke from ethics probes and bad press….
And in a March 2017 email to colleagues, Jorjani boasted that he had “successfully protected” Interior presidential appointments facing investigations and that their main responsibility was to do the same for Zinke….
Meg Townsend, the Center for Biological Diversity’s open government attorney, accused Zinke of “politicizing” the FOIA process.
“With a Koch crony in charge of records requests, the department will work in darkness,” she said in a statement. “Public records that might shame Zinke or big polluters will be covered up, and our public lands and wildlife will suffer.” …”
“The proposed document purge includes records about endangered species, oil and gas leases, timber sales, dams and land purchases….
The National Archives has said that getting rid of records is standard and has been going on for decades. The schedule’s language gives broad authority to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to destroy records documenting government efforts to protect endangered species and public lands.
Abstract: The term “ag-gag” refers to state laws that intentionally limit public access to information about agricultural production practices, particularly livestock production. Originally created in the 1990s, these laws have recently experienced a resurgence in state legislatures. We discuss the recent history of ag-gag laws in the United States and question whether such ag-gag laws create a “chilling effect” on reporting and investigation of occupational health, community health, and food safety concerns related to industrial food animal production. We conclude with a discussion of the role of environmental and occupational health professionals to encourage critical evaluation of how ag-gag laws might influence the health, safety, and interests of day-to-day agricultural laborers and the public living proximal to industrial food animal production.
Abstract: In light of the challenge and promise currently facing scholarly publishing’s move to digital models of greater openness, this paper offers a point of historical reflection on an earlier era of concern over sustainable access to learned works. It reports on a period of great turmoil in publishing that ran from the end of British book licensing in 1695, which unleashed a great wave of print piracy and sedition, to the legal remedy afforded by the Statute of Anne 1710, which introduced what we now think of as modern copyright law. The paper begins with John Locke’s lobbying of Parliament to end the effrontery of press censorship and monopoly maintained by the three-decade old Licensing Act of 1662. The scholar-friendly legal reforms of this act that Locke proposed in the 1690s were not taken up by Parliament when it allowed the act to expire in 1695. However, six years after Locke’s death in 1704, his and others’ proposed reforms were to find a place in the Statute of Anne 1710. This legislation was the first to vest authors with an exclusive, limited-term right to print copies of their work, while also protecting the access rights of scholars and the public to these and other works. I argue that the history of the statute reveals how the age of copyright began with striking a fine legislative balance between the interests of learning and those of commercial publishing, while also offering further insight into Locke’s influential work on property rights and limits. My hope is that this portrayal of Locke’s relatively effective political intervention as scholar-activist and public defender of learning in relation to the subsequent Statute of Anne might inspire and lend weight to the academic community’s current grappling with the growing commercial dominance of scholarly publishing.