Amazon Web Services grants for researchers

Amazon Web Services has launched AWS in Education, a set of programs including grants for free use of AWS for research purposes (such as providing OA to large datasets). (Thanks to Charles Bailey.)

See also our past posts on AWS:

More on the Author Addendum Kerfuffle (and Counterproductive Over-Reaching)

An update of Harvard computer scientist Michael Merzinich’s “The ACM Does NOT Support Open Access” (discussed here yesterday) reports that ACM has made it clear it is fully Green on OA self-archiving, but that discussions with Harvard are still underway for the extra re-use rights stipulated in the Author’s Addendum.

The nuances here are about the differences between “gratis” OA (free online access) and “libre” OA (free online access plus certain further re-use rights).

I will make no secret of what my own view on this is — and I’ve been at this for a very, very long time: Free online access (“gratis OA”) is all you need in order to make all the rest happen. The rest will come with the territory, eventually; but the territory must come first. Gratis OA can be and is being mandated by universities and funders (but so far there are only 77 mandates, out of a potential worldwide total of 10,000 or more).

Libre OA asks for more, and entails more complications. Hence it is both harder to agree on adopting a Libre OA mandate, and harder to get compliance (rather than opt-out). The right strategy is hence to stick to mandating Gratis OA for now. Gratis OA is urgent; addenda can wait. The “Green” journals that have already formally endorsed providing immediate Gratis OA (63%) are on the side of the angels. It is foolish and counterproductive to demonize them. If one wants to rant at journals, rant at the pale-green ones, that only endorse self-archiving unrefereed preprints, and that embargo Gratis OA to the refereed postprints (34%); or the gray journals, that don’t endorse any form of self-archiving at all (3%).

Libre OA will come, as surely as day follows night, once we have reached universal Green Gratis OA. To insist on over-reaching instead for Libre OA now (by insisting on Libre OA author addenda), instead of grasping the Green Gratis OA that is already within our reach (yet still not being grasped by 99.937% of the universities and funders on the planet) is just one of a long litany of gratuitous mistakes we keeping making over and over, needlessly delaying the optimal, inevitable, obvious and long overdue outcome, year upon year.

The “over-reaching” list is long, and includes the sublime and the ridiculous: Libre OA (re-publishing and re-use rights for refereed journal articles, when Green Gratis OA would already have them online free for any user webwide, 24/7), Gold OA publishing, central (rather than institutional) self-archiving, the publisher’s PDF (rather than just the author’s refereed, revised, accepted final draft), peer-review reform, publishing reform, copyright reform, freeing all “knowledge” (rather than just freeing all of refereed research first), solving “the” digital preservation problem, solving “the” online search problem, etc. etc.

Mark my words. We will no doubt continue this fruitless frenzy of over-reaching in all directions for some time to come (world hunger may be next on the OA agenda) instead of doing the immediately doable (which is the mandating of universal Green Gratis OA by all universities and all funders), but in the end it will become clear that in order to have all the good things worth having among the things that can be nontrivially linked to OA, all we ever had to do was those those simple 99,937 GG mandates (plus the distributed volley of keystrokes they entail).

Suggested Exercise:
Test What Already Comes with the Gratis Green OA Territory:

“Re-use rights for teaching” are as good example as any of how people are simply not thinking through what really comes with the territory with Gratis Green OA:

If you deposit your article, free for all, in Harvard’s Institutional Repository (IR), every teacher and every student webwide has 24/7 access to it — can link to it, read it on-screen, download it, print it off, data-crunch it.

The days of permissions and “course packs” (for refereed journal articles) would be over — completely over — if all universities and funders mandated that all their employees’ and fundees’ refereed journal articles (the authors’ final refereed drafts) were deposited in their IRs, thereby making them Gratis Green OA (the kind ACM endorses).

Now try that out as an intuition pump with some of the other things you thought you desperately needed the Author’s Addendum for, over and above GG OA…

There will be a few — a very few. But none of them will be remotely as important and urgent as Gratis Green OA itself. Yet here we are, holding up GG OA because we are holding for and haggling over needless Author’s Addenda instead of working to universalize vanilla GG OA.

And even the very few uses that don’t come immediately with the GG OA territory will follow soon after, once we have reached or neared universal GG OA.

First things first… Or, Let not the Best stand in the way of the (immeasurably) Better…


Now back to the soothing fulminations against ACM for not immediately conceding the re-use rights that the author-addendum mandates are needlessly insisting upon…

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

Release candidate of Open Database License v1.0 available for public comment

Open Database License (ODbL) v1.0 Release Candidate Available, Open Data Commons, April 29, 2009.  Excerpt:

The Open Database License (ODbL) v1.0 “Release Candidate” is now available [here].

This updated version of the license incorporates a whole set of changes arising out of the earlier comments period and the main changes are summarized below.

As the naming suggests, we believe this text is now very close to a “production-ready” 1.0 license. To allow interested individuals and communities time to review the latest set of changes, as well as to provide an opportunity to catch any last minute “bugs”, there will be a 1 week comment period starting today and ending at midnight next Wednesday (6th May). Full details on how to comment can be found on the ODbL home page.

In preparation for the 1.0 release we have also prepared detailed instructions on how to apply the license which can also be found on the ODbL home page. Any feedback on these is also very welcome….

Summary of Changes

For the license, specific changes include:

  1. A variety of typos, grammar fixes and minor renaming
  2. Change “Publicly Convey” to “Use” as Trigger for SA
  3. Clarify “Publicly Convey”
  4. Change from “Data” to “Contents” for contents of DB.
  5. Introduction of proxy for specification of compatible licenses
  6. Clarification of what is required when making available of derivatives
  7. Reinstatement of terminated rights if breach ceases
  8. Move “How To Apply” section to website (not strictly part of license)

We have also prepared several new FAQs to address issues that were raised during the comment process…

PS:  Also see our post on the beta release of this license, in March 2009, and our other past posts on the Open Data Commons.

Launch of Sci-Mate

Christopher Dyer has launched a suite of tools called Sci-Mate (for Scientific Material Transfer Exchange) for sharing research information and physical specimens.  From today’s announcement:

Scientists should benefit when their knowledge is openly applied and developed by other members of the research and development industry. However, in practice researchers generally fail to realise these benefits, and so focus their efforts on publishing information in exclusive journals and patenting otherwise valuable technology. The Sci-Mate is an entirely new approach that uses Web 2.0 software to ensure that researchers benefit from the broader application and ongoing development of their ideas.

Because publication is so important to researchers, the Sci-Mate contains software that makes it relatively easy for scientists to collaboratively assemble high impact publications. Open access wiki software allows individual researchers to place highly specialised knowledge into a pre-existing context in such a way so as to increase the value of both their contribution and the value of the pre-existing information. With academics in mind, the “Wiki-Mate” records authorship, assigns copyright, defines licenses, manages editing, and includes custom software for an interactive peer-review process. This pre-publishing environment will be further streamlined to include one-click submission of peer-reviewed articles for open access or ‘traditional’ publication when an appropriate publishing partner/solution is identified….

A separate tool, based on similar principles, allows researchers to exchange any item of interest to researchers through software a bit like eBay (but without auctions and a necessary commercial focus)….This provides open access to many valuable research tools, such as antibodies, plasmids, hardware, assay services, etc, that would otherwise be ignored by other developers desperately seeking such solutions. Once listed on the site, the software then makes it very easy (compared to 1-to-1 emails) for owners to answer questions, evaluate requests and safely distribute material towards productive collaborations. To protect IP following exchange, the software provides extensive records, reports and data-flows to researchers, administrative staff and other controlling interests without any additional work for the researcher. This dramatically simplifies the distribution of even commercial items to other researchers, and technology transfer to industry. The same software can be used to list jobs, courses, grants, seminars, conferences and other matters of interest to the research community, which can be easily sorted and searched by interested users.

In addition to these major tools, co-operation is further facilitated by a discussion forum and networking tools, and space is provided for software developers to embed additional services of value to the research community.

The Sci-Mate is a community project that is intended to be owned, controlled and administrated by its members according to the social and democratic principles of Web 2.0.

Happy birthday, OAD

SPARC has released a birthday greeting to the Open Access Directory (OAD).  Excerpt:

As growing appreciation of Open Access to research drives demand for new resources – on what Open Access is and how it benefits faculty, students and researchers worldwide – the popular Open Access Directory (OAD) marks its first anniversary today. 

The Open Access Directory, hosted by Simmons College, is  a wiki where community contributors create and maintain simple, factual lists about Open Access to science and scholarship. Launched just one year ago, and operated entirely by an international corps of volunteers, the OAD quickly blossomed from six to 40 lists and has served more than 250,000 unique users.

Designed by Robin Peek (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Simmons College) and Peter Suber (Research Professor of Philosophy at Earlham College, Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School, and Senior Researcher at SPARC), the OAD has quickly become a “go-to” resource in the academic community. 

The Directory’s “signature” lists include:

“The Open Access Directory has become a central and relied-upon resource that is also a gathering place for everyone looking to learn more about the benefits of Open Access,” said Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC. “In planning last year’s Open Access Day, it became clear that OA champions in every corner of the world have valuable tools, key advancements, and breaking news to share. The OAD is the place they can meet and share these resources.  Congratulations to the editors of the Open Access Directory on their first birthday!”

The Open Access Directory will serve as a central component in the program for the upcoming Open Access Week (October 19 to 23, 2009), which will feature educational resources that local hosts can use to customize events to suit local audiences and time zones. Two sample program tracks, highlighting “Author’s rights and author addenda – For researchers,” and “Institutional Advantages from Open Access – For administrators,” have been released for participants to use to design or inspire their plans for the week.

Sample tracks point first to OASIS (the Open Access Scholarly Information Sourcebook), which delivers resources for multiple constituencies and awareness levels. Both OAD and OASIS resources are community-driven tools that invite registered users to expand and refine available content….

Four presentations on OA in Canada

Heather Morrison, Donald Taylor, Andrew Waller, and Devon Greyson, Open Access in Canada – Overview and Update, four slide presentation at the BC Library Conference 2009 (Burnaby, April 16-18, 2009).  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Abstract:   An overview of open access around the world, and in Canada in particular. There are more than 100 fully open access, peer reviewed journals published in Canada, and more than 2 have been added to DOAJ each month so far in 2009. Presents examples of the journals. Research funding agency open access policies are discussed, and university perspectives on OA. Early announcement of a new OA policy by and for University of Calgary library faculty is featured. The unique perspective of the health sector on OA is discussed.

Eliminating quality bias in explaining the OA impact advantage

Yassine Gargouri and Stevan Harnad are measuring how OA mandates affect the OA citation advantage.  They’ve posted two docs with preliminary versions of their findings (1, 2).  Here’s Stevan’s summary, by email:

  1. Green OA self-archiving is at about 15% unmandated by 2006 (with not much sign of spontaneous annual growth)
  2. Green OA self-archiving is at about 60% if mandated (by 2006)
  3. OA adds an independent positive increment to citation frequency, over and above other positive correlates of citation frequency such as article age, journal impact factor, number of co-authors, number of references, field, article length, country, institution
  4. The OA citation advantage is equal for mandated OA and for unmandated OA (hence the citation increase is not an artifact of self-selection for self-archiving the better articles, as some have tried to argue)
  5. The OA citation advantage is greater for the articles in higher-impact journals (hence the "better" articles benefit more from OA).


  • Yassine and Stevan are writing up their study for publication; this is just a preview. 
  • See especially point #4.  While all past studies have shown that OA articles are cited more often than non-OA articles, some have suggested that the effect is due to a tendency of authors to make their best work OA.  The current study has found beautiful leverage on that question:  OA mandates erase the effect of author self-selection.  If all articles from a certain funder or university must be deposited in an OA repository, then the resulting works will not show the effect of author self-selection.  Therefore any remaining citation advantage cannot be attributed to a quality bias in the sample, and is much more likely the result of OA itself.
  • On point #5, see Jonathan Wren’s study in BMJ for April 12, 2005, and my editorial commenting on it.

Four more Indian journals convert to OA

India’s National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) has converted four more of its 17 journals to OA and plans to convert the rest this summer.  Details from Subbiah Arunachalam:

NISCAIR…the publishing arm of India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), publishes17 journals (one of them in Hindi) and two abstracting journals….On 14 October 2008, two of them were made open access: Indian Journal of Chemistry Section A, and Indian Journal of Biochemistry and Biophysics.

Now four more have become open access:

  • Indian Journal of Chemistry B
  • Indian Journal of Radio and Space Physics
  • Journal of Scientific and Industrial Research
  • Indian Journal of Pure & Applied Physics

This information is not yet recorded by DOAJ.

By end of July 2009, the editors tell me, all the remaining journals will become open access.

We should thank Prof. Samir K Brahmachari, Director General of CSIR, for sending out a note to directors of all CSIR laboratories on 6 February 2009 requesting them to se up institutional repositories in each laboratory and to make all CSIR journals open access [PS: blogged here]. We must also thank Dr Gangan Prathap, the new Director of NISCAIR, for the speedy implementation of OA at NISCAIR.

Competition for fee funding

Philip Davis, Paying for Open Access Publication Charges, Scholarly Kitchen, April 30, 2009.  Excerpt:

…The [RIN report on Paying for open access publication charges] first covers why central funds are necessary for funding publication fees [at fee-based OA journals]….

[B]ut the devil is always in the details, and I was particularly interested to see how the report would approach governance of these central pots of publication money, among them:

  1. Who gets to make the funding decisions?
  2. How does one determine financial support when articles include authors from other institutions?
  3. How does one establish priority for funding competing requests if funds become limited? And most importantly,
  4. How does one deal with appeals when funding requests are denied?

The report provides no answers to these questions except that each institution needs to address them.  Questions #1 and #2 are the easiest of the bunch.  Beware of #3 and #4.

The function of publication is not merely to disseminate research results — publication also serves as a way to evaluate faculty for promotion and tenure.  Those who deny a publication fund request must understand the implications of their decision on the career path of the authors.  The time during which a new faculty member must establish a track record in the literature is terrifyingly short.  A denied publication can impact the tenure decision of a junior faculty member.  Even the delay incurred over an appeal should not be taken lightly.

Unfortunately, I have read no open access publication policy that addresses these important issues:

[M]any library administrators are pushing for these author funds, and in many cases, the monies are simply being skimmed off existing library collection funds or were provided as a one-time gift from a Vice Chancellor before the economy took a nosedive.   As the RIN report states on page 23, there is clearly not enough money to support both author-pays and subscription-pays models.

If use of these author funds takes off, prepare for some road rage.

Comment.  Davis is right that universities launching these funds should be designing procedures to deal with appeals and conflicts.  If the demand on the funds is low today, it may grow steadily over time, just as the number of funds continues to grow.  He has raised these issues before (1, 2), and I responded to an earlier version this way:

I concede that these scenarios are ugly, but I still want universities to join foundations in their willingness to pay author-side fees, and to start thinking about allocation procedures that faculty will accept as fair….

[Note that] to the extent that no-fee OA journals spread, universities will not have to pay author-side fees or adjudicate disputes between rival professors applying for limited funds….

The problems may be tractable:  after all, libraries currently pay more (much more) for journals in some disciplines than others without triggering campus wars.  Or they might be as difficult and ugly as [Davis] predicted….

The ACM and Harvard authors

Harvard computer scientist Michael Mitzenmacher reports that the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) does not accept Harvard’s author addendum and asks Harvard authors to seek a waiver from the school’s OA mandate.  In a clarification sent to Mizenmacher’s colleague, Salil Vadhan, the ACM explained that it does allow OA archiving in the Harvard repository but does not allow all the reuse rights required by the Harvard addendum.  The ACM and Harvard’s Office of Scholarly Communication are discussing the matter.  See Mitzenmacher’s post, The ACM Does NOT Support Open Access, My Biased Coin, April 29, 2009.

Stevan Harnad underscores the ACM clarification:  that the ACM journals are green and allow author-initiated preprint and postprint archiving.  See his post, APA Kerfuffle Redux: No, ACM is NOT Anti-OA, Open Access Archivangelism, April 30, 2009.

Comment.  I suspect that many publishers are like the ACM, either in permitting gratis but not libre OA archiving, or in permitting only a more limited form of libre archiving than Harvard would like.  Hence, the result of the Harvard-ACM discussions should have wider application.

Update (5/1/09).  See the second installment of Stevan Harnad’s comments.  Excerpt:

The nuances here are about the differences between "gratis" OA (free online access) and "libre" OA (free online access plus certain further re-use rights).

I will make no secret of what my own view on this is — and I’ve been at this for a very, very long time: Free online access ("gratis OA") is all you need in order to make all the rest happen….

Libre OA asks for more, and entails more complications. Hence it is both harder to agree on adopting a Libre OA mandate, and harder to get compliance (rather than opt-out). The right strategy is hence to stick to mandating Gratis OA for now. Gratis OA is urgent; addenda can wait….

APA Kerfuffle Redux: No, ACM is NOT Anti-OA

SUMMARY: The suggestion that the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) does not support Open Access (OA) is incorrect (as was a similar suggestion about the American Psychological Association (APA) a year ago). The ACM is fully Green on both preprint and postprint self-archiving: it already formally endorses immediate, unembargoed deposit in the author’s Institutional Repository (IR). What the ACM does not support is the blanket adoption of the author’s addendum, which asks for more than this.
    The author’s addendum is welcome when there is agreement to adopt it; but it is not necessary in order to provide OA when the journal is already Green on OA (as 63% of journals already are). All ACM authors can already make their articles OA without it. The institutions that mandate Green OA self-archiving via the author’s addendum should optimize their mandates so that their authors can comply with them by depositing in their IR even without also having to adopt the author’s addendum when publishing in fully Green journals, rather than leaving authors with no option but to opt out of depositing altogether in such cases, if the journal does not agree to adopt the author’s addendum. (Harvard has already modified its mandate so as to require deposit even when the author opts out of adopting the author’s addendum.)

Harvard’s Michael Mitzenmacher suggests — though somewhat cautiously, acknowledging that there might be some misinformation involved — that “The ACM Does NOT Support Open Access.”

This is reminiscent of a similar case last July, in which it was the APA (American Psychological Association) that was being raked over the coals as being anti-OA (for trying to charge a $2500 deposit fee for making a direct central deposit in PubMed Central in compliance with NIH’s Green OA self-archiving mandate). The APA later backed off the fee, but even before that I had to point out that the APA was already on the side of the angels insofar as OA was concerned, because it was completely Green on immediate, unembargoed OA self-archiving of both the preprint and the postprint — but only in the author’s Institutional Repository (IR). Since this already makes the IR deposit OA, I suggested that it was NIH that ought to optimize its mandate by allowing authors to fulfill it through direct deposit in their own IR, instead of insisting on direct central deposit in PubMed Central; the metadata of the IR deposit can then be automatically exported to PubMed Central via the SWORD protocol. (NIH is now considering adopting this option.)

By exactly the same token, it is completely incorrect to say that the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) does not support Open Access. Just like the APA, the ACM is completely Green on both preprint and postprint self-archiving. That means it too endorses immediate, unembargoed deposit in the author’s institutional repository. What the ACM does not support is the author’s addendum, which asks for more than this.

Current standard ACM copyright agreement:

    Rights Retained by Authors and Original Copyright Holders Under the ACM copyright transfer agreement, the original copyright holder retains… the right to post author-prepared versions of the work covered by ACM copyright in a personal collection on their own Home Page and on a publicly accessible server of their employer, and in a repository legally mandated by the agency funding the research on which the Work is based. Such posting is limited to noncommercial access and personal use by others…

Author’s Addendum:

    Author?s Retention of Rights. Notwithstanding any terms in the Publication Agreement to the contrary, AUTHOR and PUBLISHER agree that in addition to any rights under copyright retained by Author in the Publication Agreement, Author retains: (i) the rights to reproduce, to distribute, to publicly perform, and to publicly display the Article in any medium for noncommercial purposes; (ii) the right to prepare derivative works from the Article; and (iii) the right to authorize others to make any non-commercial use of the Article so long as Author receives credit as author and the journal in which the Article has been published is cited as the source of first publication of the Article.

Now the author’s addendum is a fine, indeed desirable thing, when there is agreement to adopt it; but it is not necessary in order to provide OA — and particularly not when the journal is already Green on OA (as 63% of journals already are). So since the ACM journals are all already completely Green, there is no need for the author’s addendum. ACM authors can already make all of their ACM articles OA without it. As in the case of NIH, the institutions that mandate Green OA via the author’s addendum should optimize their mandates so that their authors can fulfill their mandates by depositing in their IR even without the author’s addendum in the case of articles published in journals that are already Green on immediate OA self-archiving (as ACM journals are), rather than leaving authors with no option but to opt out of depositing altogether under those conditions. (Harvard has already modified its mandate so as to require deposit even when the author opts out of adopting the author’s addendum.)

ACM’s current President, Wendy Hall, is not only the one who adopted the world’s first Green OA Mandate (when she was Head of the School of Electronics and Computer Science of the University of Southampton), but she was also instrumental in the adoption of the European Research Council’s Green OA mandate, and other Green OA mandates as well. If she is to be written to — as Michael Mitzenmacher suggests — it should be to thank her for her enormous contributions to OA, rather than to complain that ACM has not yet agreed to the author’s addendum.

In Defense of the American Psychological Association’s Green OA Policy (July 2008)
The OA Deposit-Fee Kerfuffle: APA’s Not Responsible; NIH Is. PART I.
The OA Deposit-Fee Kerfuffle: APA’s Not Responsible; NIH Is. PART II.

Upgrade Harvard’s Opt-Out Copyright Retention Mandate: Add a No-Opt-Out Deposit Clause (Feb 2008)

NIH Open to Closer Collaboration With Institutional Repositories (Feb 2009)

Harvard Mandate Adds ID/OA, Hurray! (Mar 2009)

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum