Why doesn’t Moore’s law apply to #scholpub?

Here’s a well-known graph:

I’ve taken it from Wikipedia where it is CC-BY [1] and hacked the captions out, Try to guess what it is before clicking this link.

Moore’s law is an observation that technology drives cost reduction in computing, information, etc. by about 0.5 every 18 months. Here’s an information-rich domain which reduces costs even faster. It’s a combination of:

  • People want it
  • The people doing it are innovators
  • They understand the dynamics of the C21
  • The basic information is Open.
  • There is a synergy between the people and organizations that provide the totality of the product
  • Government and industry work together for mutual benefit.

If you plot the cost of #scholpub it would be effectively level.

So why doesn’t Moore’s law apply to #scholpub?

Answer from conventional publishers: “our business is special. We add so much value year-on-year and so much volume the cost has to go up”.

Answer from PMR: Moore’s Law DOES apply. And the cost is now at a discontinuity. Say a factor of TEN. Yes, #scholpub does not costs thousands of dollars. It’s information. It’s cheap. A paper in Elsevier hybrid is the same price as a small car!

And the longer it goes on the greater the publisher-crash will be.


[1] (I can’t take a similar image from SpringerImages as that would violate copyright #springergate)

Who is the Steve Jobs of #scholarlypub? Whence comes the needed disruption?

There are many ways that commercial markets evolve – response to customers, new technology, new political systems, fiscal measures.

And individual entrepreneurs.

Like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, mark Zuckerman.

You all know who these are , don’t you?

Who is the Steve Jobs of scholarly publishing?

Ummm… “The CEO of Elsevier?”

Hardly. I bet that out of a thousand people in #scholpub no-one knows his name (except Elsevier staff). It would be hard to find a more amorphous person. He has only three mentions on Google – two Elsevier.com pages and one in Forbes (giving his salary, which is only slightly greater than the CEO of the ACS).

For me this sums up Elsevier’s business model. Corporate think, corporate style. I don’t think of people in Elsevier by their names, but their offices. The “Director of Universal Access” is not a person, it’s an office. (This is a very important lesson to learn – Amsterdam syndrome – NEVER think of individuals in Elsevier other than by their office. But that’s another post).

Jobs, Gates, etc. revolutionised industries. I am not saying they are good or bad – but they have been effective.

Who is the Steve Jobs of #scholpub? Have there ever been any?

Yes, two. [I am omitting PLoS, eLIFE as they ar not commercial]

The first was Robert Maxwell (Ján Ludvík Hyman Binyamin Hoch ). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Maxwell. Hated by many, including me. Ruthless, visionary, and less-dense-than-seawater.

Maxwell set up Pergamon Press in Oxford, UK. It was highly successful and changed the model of publishing from scholarly societies to mainstream. It created brands, attractive typesetting. I remember it as appealing. It created journals according to discipline need, not organization of societies.

And it had trendy names such as “Tetrahedron” for organic chemistry (carbon – often with a tetrahedral geometry).

But Maxwell’s practices stepped over the edge.

The DTI inquiry [into his business practices] reported: “We regret having to conclude that, notwithstanding Mr Maxwell’s acknowledged abilities and energy, he is not in our opinion a person who can be relied on to exercise proper stewardship of a publicly quoted company.”

And later he proved he could float.

Elsevier has bought the Maxwell journals and brands. Tetrahedron is still an averagely respected journal.

I never met Maxwell – though we corresponded through intermediaries – he wanted to build a commercial version of the Cambridge Crystallographic Data Base. (This is unrelated to me now being in Cambridge).

But I have met the next entrepreneur – Vitek Tracz. (http://poynder.blogspot.co.uk/2006/05/interview-with-vitek-tracz.html ) and I have respect, admiration for him. It’s not really fair to include him immediately after Maxwell, except that this is history, not sentiment.

Vitek was the person who showed that Open Access (APC, Gold) could be valuable and profitable. This was a major leap of faith in 2000 – why would authors pay (a lot) for publishing, when they could get it for free? But they did.

And without Vitek we would not have Gold OA. We might not have PLoS (PLoS was bitterly attacked by Nature as “unfair” because it was subsidized. But PLoS runs a profitable business and does not rely on subsidy now).

I regret that Vitek sold BiomedCentral to Springer. That’s sentimental of me. Vitek has every legal, moral and ethical right to sell his business. And, I understand, there are some clauses that protect BMC’s individuality. But Springer plans that it will never be more than 5-10% of the business and I find it difficult to see how the corporate values of a company that promotes possession of content 90% of the time (cf. SpringerImages, #springergate) can also accommodate Open ideas

But #scholpub is still in crisis. The Finch report showed in brilliant clarity how devoid of imagination the #scholpub community was. Trying to keep everyone happy including the publishers-who-must-not-be-upset and as a result planning for paralysis. Vague woolly good intentions, no recipe for transition.

So it’s even clearer that the industry must be disrupted. I use must not in its moral sense but simply as an imperative.

Disruption will happen.

Because even year of Finchlike inaction builds more tension into the system. More academics are becoming upset. More universities are running out of money. Students don’t like paying their tuition fees to digital landgrabbers. Funders are sick to the teeth of restrictive practices in publishers.

Some publishers charge THE PRICE OF A CAR for a hybrid scholarly article. This is barmy, and completely unacceptable.

Thefore something will break – catastrophically.

The nature of disruption and disruptive technology is that most people don’t see it coming. I see it coming, and I think I know from where.

In the next post I’ll tell you – I just didn’t want it to be in the same post as Maxwell. If you think you know please comment.

Reaction to the Finch report

Today the long-awaited and heavily leaked Finch report on Open Access came out. It’s 92+ pages (http://www.researchinfonet.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Finch-Group-report-executive-summary-FINAL-VERSION.pdf ) Cameron Neylon has read it so I’ll take his analysis rather than depressing myself by reading it in full. http://cameronneylon.net/blog/first-thoughts-on-the-finch-report-good-steps-but-missed-opportunities/

It’s been reported in the Guardian by Alok Jha (http://m.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jun/19/openaccess-academic-publishing-finch-report?cat=science&type=article ) and this seems balanced (unlike the Daily Mail).

So here are my simple takes:

  • Everyone (yes everyone – government, publishers, politicians) think Open Access is a GOOD THING
  • Moving to Open access will cost money
  • The UK publishing industry is so important we mustn’t do anything to harm it.


  • Finch isn’t going to tell us how anything will happen, just that something should.

No – that’s not true. She’s thought of the #scholarlypoor. People outside academia, who pay for the research (taxes, charities) but can’t read it:

walk-in access to the majority of journals to be provided in public libraries across the UK should be pursued with vigour, along with an effective publicity and marketing campaign; ”


So that’s all right (assuming your local one hasn’t been closed down). And no doubt we can pay the publishers to run it for us.


Cameron describes the report as “good steps but missed opportunities”. I would replace this with “good intentions and missed opportunities”.



Finch Report, a Trojan Horse, Serves Publishing Industry Interests Instead of UK Research Interests

1. The Finch Report is a successful case of lobbying by publishers to protect the interests of publishing at the expense of the interests of research and the public that funds research.

2. The Finch Report proposes doing precisely what the US Research Works Act (RWA) — since discredited and withdrawn — failed to do: to push “Green” OA self-archiving (by authors, and Green OA self-archiving mandates by authors’ funders and institutions) off the UK policy agenda as inadequate and ineffective and, to boot, likely to destroy both publishing and peer review — and to replace them instead with a vague, slow evolution toward “Gold” OA publishing, at the publishers’ pace and price.

3. The result would be very little OA, very slowly, and at a high Gold OA price (an extra 50-60 million pounds per year), taken out of already scarce UK research funds, instead of the rapid and cost-free OA growth vouchsafed by Green OA mandates from funders and universities.

4. Both the resulting loss in UK’s Green OA mandate momentum and the expenditure of further funds to pay pre-emptively for Gold OA would be a major historic (and economic) set-back for the UK, which has until now been the worldwide leader in OA. The UK would, if the Finch Report were heeded, be left behind by the EU (which has mandated Green OA for all research it funds) and the US (which has a Bill in Congress to do the same — the same Bill that the recently withdrawn RWA Bill tried to counter).

5. The UK already has 40% Green OA — twice as much as the rest of the world. Rather than heeding the Finch Report, which has so obviously fallen victim to the publishing lobby, the UK should shore up and extend its cost-free Green OA funder and institutional mandates to make them more effective and mutually reinforcing, so that UK Green OA can grow quickly to 100%.

6. Publishers will adapt. In the internet era, the research publishing tail should not be permitted to wag the research dog, at the expense of the access, usage, applications, impact and progress of the research in which the UK tax-payer has invested so heavily, in increasingly hard economic times. The benefits — to research, researchers, their institutions, the vast R&D industry, and the tax-paying public — of cost-free Green Open Access to publicly funded research vastly outweigh the (natural) pressure to adapt to the internet era that mandated Green OA will exert on the publishing industry.

Stevan Harnad
EnablingOpenScholarship (EOS)

Does Open Access cause Cancer or cure it?

If you come from the UK you may guess where this is heading. The Daily Mail.

The Daily mail is a popular newspaper which is renowned among scientists for reporting one day that X causes cancer and the next day that X prevents it. See http://thedailymailoncologicalontologyproject.wordpress.com/ . It is towards the conservative end of the spectrum. For “Yes Prime/Minister” fans, “The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country;” (Jim Hacker).

But the Daily Mail has today commented on the Janet Finch report on Open Access (hat-tip Jens Thomas). The headline screams:

Open access’ move puts thousands of UK jobs at risk

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/news/article-2160753/Open-access-puts-UK-jobs-risk.html#ixzz1y9LRuiTA

But the first paragraph actually reports:

Up to £1billion of income and thousands of jobs could be placed at risk as a result of a move by Downing Street to allow Google and other digital search engines ‘open access’ to the nation’s best academic and scientific research.

A report commissioned by 10 Downing Street sociologist Dame Janet Finch will say that open access to public-funded research ‘offers significant social and economic benefits’.

The study, due for release today, is part of a drive initiated by former Downing Street adviser Steve Hilton aimed at turning Britain into a digital hub attracting investment from internet behemoths such as Google.

So it’s both good and bad. The DM is true to its style.

But lower:

But UK businesses fear that the proposals will destroy Britain’s highly-regarded academic publishing industry that modifies raw research, publishes it in the form of academic magazines, journals and books and exports it to the rest of the world.

One leading publishing group said the move to provide all of Britain’s academic output online for nothing could destroy a £1billion industry that employs 10,000 people here and in its overseas operations.

Ah! The publishing industry modifies raw research! This could either be that the DM hasn’t much idea what publishers do, or that they have confused “modify” with “moderate” or anything.

In reality academic publishers and researchers fear that scientific and other academic studies, paid for by the taxpayer, will be made freely available to researchers in China and elsewhere in the Far East.

Under the current system of academic journals the raw data is closely scrutinised before publication and highly sensitive material – such as research conducted on behalf of the UK’s leading pharmaceutical companies – is carefully protected from intellectual piracy.

Ah! I didn’t realise that. Publishers are there to stop the Chinese stealing our pharmaceutical secrets.

Publishers are concerned that if an open access policy is adopted then some of the biggest scientific companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, might move research work from British labs to those overseas where it will able to protect itself from open access.

Gosh – if I were still working for GSK then I might lose my job because of Open Access.

But OA will surely cause cancer.

Oh, and it’s also good for you as part of a healthy diet.






Cancer Medicine Publishes its first Early View Articles

Cancer MedicineCancer Medicine opened for submissions in January 2011. We have received high quality submissions in all oncologic specialities and now have a number of articles live on Wiley Online Library. Read all our open access articles here! Cancer Medicine is an open access, fully peer reviewed online journal providing rapid publication of cutting-edge research from global biomedical researchers across the cancer sciences.

We hope that next time you are preparing a manuscript you will consider submitting it to the journal. Among the first papers available online are:

purple_lock_open  Exposure to welding fumes increases lung cancer risk among light smokers but not among heavy smokers: evidence from two case–control studies in Montreal by Eric Vallières, Javier Pintos, Jérôme Lavoué, Marie-Élise Parent, Bernard Rachet and Jack Siemiatycki 
Abstract: Welding is one of the most ubiquitous of industrial activities, and consequently, welding fumes is one of the most common industrial exposures throughout the world. This paper contributes to the evidence that exposure to welding fumes may increase the risk of lung, most evidently among non-smokers and mild smokers. This holds true for the two major classes of welding, arc welding, and gas welding.

purple_lock_open Interleukin-1? mediates metalloproteinase-dependent renal cell carcinoma tumor cell invasion through the activation of CCAAT enhancer binding protein ? by Brenda L. Petrella and Matthew P. Vincenti
Abstract: Inflammation is a poor prognostic indicator for renal cell carcinoma (RCC), and metastatic RCC remains a major medical concern, as it is refractory to standard therapies. We hypothesized that inflammatory cytokines in the tumor microenvironment directly affect RCC tumor cells to progress to a metastatic phenotype. We report that IL-1? stimulated RCC tumor cell invasion in a mechanism that required the activation of the CCAAT Enhancer Binding Protein-? (CEBP?) transcription factor and the subsequent induction of Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs).

If you would like to know when new articles and issues appear online then sign up for e-toc alerts here>

#springergate: My “academic mess of pottage” – what I got for my birth/copyright; and some questions for Springer to answer

Those of us brought up in the Abrahamic tradition know the story of “the mess of pottage” – the phrase the King James bible uses for the transfer of birthright from Esau to Jacob. If you don’t know the story , it’s beautifully described in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mess_of_pottage ). Here’s the introduction and a figure:

A mess of pottage is something of little value carelessly exchanged for something of great value, alluding to Esau‘s sale of his birthright for a meal of lentil stew (“pottage“) in Genesis 25:29–34. The phrase connotes shortsightedness and misplaced priorities, the exchange of something immediately attractive for something more distant and perhaps less tangible but in the last analysis infinitely more valuable.


I’ll get to the point in a minute, but first an adventure in Springer Images. And later some Questions for Springer.

Reader: How do I know I have the right to post that figure?

PMR: Because it’s in Wikipedia.

Reader: What!!! Wikipedia isn’t peer-reviewed and it’s free so it can’t be authoritative.

PMR: The peer-review on the rights of any artefact in Wikipedia is scrupulously peer-reviewed.

Reader: Even better than the peer-review of rights in Springer Images?

PMR: I only know about WP – SI doesn’t say anything about how it reviews rights. You will have to form an opinion.

Reader: *I* can’t help with that. Can you?

PMR: OK let’s try. Here’s an image: http://www.springerimages.com/Images/Chemistry/1-10.1007_s00894-005-0278-1-3 .

“This image is copyrighted by Springer-Verlag.

The image is being made available for non-commercial purposes for subscribers to SpringerImages. For more information on what you are allowed to do with this image, please see our copyright policy. ”

Reader: But you can’t copyright a chemical formula?

PMR: Yes you can. Springer have done so and they have told us how carefully they are tackling rights on SI.

Reader: Who is the author?

PMR: Doesn’t say.

Reader: But don’t you have to acknowledge the author?

PMR. It seems not, if you are Springer.

Reader. So the author gives up their moral rights to Springer.

PMR. Looks like it.

Reader: Is it from a journal?

PMR. Doesn’t say where it comes from.

Reader. Isn’t part of academic practice to acknowledge and credir authors?

PMR: Not in Springer Images.

Reader. I wonder if the author knows about this. I bet S/he wouldn’t be happy!

SHAZAM! Abracadabra! The author appears… It’s


Reader. That’s your creation?

PMR. Yes

Reader. And you handed it over to Springer so they could claim it as their own, take your name and sell it. How much do they sell it for?

PMR. It would cost *me* 60 USD to use it for teaching.

Reader. Even though you created it?

PMR. Yes. It’s not mine any more, it’s Springer’s.

Reader. So every time you put up a picture of methyl-benzoquinone you are violating copyright?

PMR. If it’s that picture. I might escape if I redrew it.

Reader. That’s a lot of work.

PMR: Cheaper than 60 USD.

Reader: WHY did you hand over all this to Springer? You’ve sold your copyright for a mess of pottage.

PMR. I didn’t realise what I was doing.

Reader. You didn’t read the fine print?

PMR. No. I trusted that this was a reasonable transaction. I thought I was just giving Springer the right to publish exclusively, not own all my scientific images.

Reader. You should know better. When was this?

PMR. 7 years ago.

In Title: A global resource for computational chemistry; Author:Murray-Rust, Peter; Publication: Journal of Molecular Modeling; Publisher: Springer Date: Nov 22, 2005 Copyright © 2005, Springer-Verlag (https://s100.copyright.com/AppDispatchServlet?publisherName=Springer&imprint=Springer-Verlag&publication=1610-2940&title=A%20global%20resource%20for%20computational%20chemistry&publicationDate=2005-11-22&author=Murray-Rust,%20Peter&contentID=1-10.1007_s00894-005-0278-1-3&volumeNum=11&issueNum=6&openAccess=false&orderBeanReset=true&orderSource=SpringerImages )

Reader: Were there other authors?

PMR: Yes, But Springer doesn’t thinks they need to be listed.

Reader: So what did you get?

PMR: I (and my authors, one of whom insisted we should use this journal as he was on the editorial board) got a free publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

Reader: So I can read it?

PMR: No. Free-to-publish. I’ll search on the web:


A global resource for computational chemistry

by: Peter Murray-Rust, Henry Rzepa, James Stewart, and Yong Zhang

In: Journal of Molecular Modeling, Vol. 11, Nr. 6Springer Berlin / Heidelberg (2005) , p. 532-541.

Reader: Why don’t you show the Springer Site?

PMR: Because when I put in the title and authors it doesn’t come up in Google.

Reader. So Springer aren’t really marketing it, are they?

PMR: It’s 7 years old. Why should they? The libraries will still subscribe every year.

Reader: Because it’s a valuable journal. What’s the impact factor?

PMR: 1.871. The third decimal point seems to matter.

Reader. Is that high?

PMR. Not particularly. Won’t get me promotion. But I simply wanted to publish my work so others can read it.

Reader: Can they?

PMR: If they are in a rich university which subscribes. YOU will have to go to http://www.springerlink.com/content/p72515376u538203/ and pay 35 Euros. For one day.

Reader: What’s that in dollars?

PMR: Haven’t listened to the news today. If the Greeks vote conservative probably about 50 USD.

Reader: You’ve had 5 Citations! In 7 years.

PMR: Google says 10.

Reader: How can Springer and Google differ by a factor of TWO?

PMR: Citations aren’t a scientific measure – they are a matter of political negotiation by publishers.

Reader: So you have given away all your work for an impact factor of 1.871 and 7.5 citations.

PMR: You are forgetting the peer-review.

Reader: Is Springer’s OK?

PMR. In this case yes (I may even have been on the editorial board then – I have since resigned in protest against mislabelling).

Reader: Better than PLoS? Or other Open Access journals.

PMR: NO. No better, no worse. Peer-reviewers attempt to give good value whoever they are reviewing for. Except some of us won’t do it at all for Toll-Access.

Reader. OK. Let’s look at the copyright transfer agreement. YOU obviously didn’t!

PMR. Actually I suspect I never signed anything at all. I think Henry Rzepa may have sent the paper off. I don’t remember.

Reader. Can othe authors sign over YOUR copyright?

PMR. Not in most jurisdictions. But Springer seems to claim it anyway.

Reader. I’ve found: http://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CFMQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.springer.com%2F%3FSGWID%3D3-102-45-69724-0&ei=nOfeT9WTMszu8QPO25WgCw&usg=AFQjCNGHyqV6tb6hj2KcXP3YQ9hSwZHBwQ&sig2=Y_nYeNqFHmCTIkmWz2ocMA Is that the form?

PMR: I’ve got a file called 57434_CTS Format_T1.pdf It starts:

The copyright to this article is transferred to Springer (respective to

owner if other than Springer and for U.S. government employees: to

the extent transferable) effective if and when the article is accepted for

publication. The author warrants that his/her contribution is original

and that he/she has full power to make this grant. The author signs for

and accepts responsibility for releasing this material on behalf of any

and all co-authors. The copyright transfer covers the exclusive right

and license to reproduce, publish, distribute and archive the article in

all forms and media of expression now known or developed in the

future, including reprints, translations, photographic reproductions,

microform, electronic form (offline, online) or any other reproductions

of similar nature.

Reader: It talks about “the article”. It doesn’t talk about extracting the images, copyrighting all of these, stamping them “Springer Images” and reselling them to everyone including the author.

PMR: No, it doesn’t

Reader: But does it give Springer the right?

PMR: I am Not A Lawyer. Springer pays lawyers. So Springer can probably win a case in court. I can’t afford to find out.

Reader. But’s that’s not fair!!

PMR: Fair?? This is business. Springer are our “partners” so we have to accept everything they say and do.

Reader: You didn’t get much for your mess of pottage, did you?

PMR: No.


  1. Does the copyright transfer form in 2005 give the right for Springer to extract, stamp as SpringerImages, recopyright, and resell images? If so please reproduce it and make the case.
  2. Does Springer assert copyright over chemical formulae extracted from articles. If so what is the legal justification for this?
  3. Does Springer have the right to remove provenance from, and ignore authiorship in Springer Images?
  4. Does Springer assert copyright over individual tables of factual data? Under what legal jurisdiction?

I have posted these questions to Matt Cockerill in BiomedCentral as I know and respect Matt and he has been answering questions on behalf of Springer generally.

ADDENDUM: In this copyright form (copyrightIncs.pdf) for “Lecture Notes in Computer Science”:


We find:

Author warrants that he/she has power to grant the rights in accordance with Clause “Rights Granted”, that he/she

has not assigned such rights to third parties, that the Contribution has not heretofore been published in whole or

in part, contains no libelous statements and does not infringe on any copyright, trademark, patent, statutory rights

or proprietary rights of others, including rights obtained through licenses; and that Author will indemnify Springer

against any cost, expenses or damages for which Springer may become liable as a result of any breach of this


Again IANAL but my simple translation is:

“If a third party sues Springer for copyright infringement, then THE AUTHOR will have to pay damages.” I’m not even sure that’s legal in the UK.








Happy Father’s Day from PLoS ONE! An interview with Alex and Steven Theg

Here at PLoS ONE we are proud to have a father-son team on staff. Alex Theg (AT) is a Publications Assistant for PLoS ONE, and his father, Dr. Steven Theg (ST), is a PLoS ONE Academic Editor. We asked Alex and his dad a few questions about what it’s like to work together.

Steve and Alex at PLoS in San Francisco (6/3/2012).

Steve and Alex at PLoS in San Francisco (6/3/2012).

What does your dad do?

AT: “My dad is a member of the epartment of Plant Biology at UC Davis.  He is the PI of a research lab that studies protein assembly and import into chloroplasts.  I know that like many others, he spends a fair amount of time procuring funding, working with grad students and post docs, and reviewing papers.  He teaches biochemistry, memorizes all his students’ names, and sometimes wonders why they wear pajamas to his class.  I think he also does paperwork.  Outside of work, he plays basketball at unreasonable hours in the morning and is a bass guitar dynamo.”

What does Alex do?

ST: “Before he told me much about it, I thought Alex served as the interface between authors and a few academic editors, picking out the right ones to handle papers, making sure things went through in a timely manner.  Since talking to with him I realize there is a lot more to it, matching a long list of topics with areas of expertise in a large database holding information for thousands of academic editors.  It’s a much more complicated process than I had thought.

“I had a fun moment a few months back when I received an email from Alex that was sent out to all the academic editors regarding a clarification of policy that we all needed to be aware of.  On the one hand, it was an email from Alex, which is personal.  On the other, it was a thoroughly professional note, clearly written, and reminded me of the correspondence I’ve received over the years from other editorial assistants at other journals.  I knew some of the things that Alex is good at—running, saxophone—but apparently not all of them.  It was interesting to see this side of him, and to have him in both my personal and professional life.”

Does the Theg family have a history of working together?

AT: “Yes, of course. My two brothers play trumpet, I play saxophone, and my dad plays the bass, so we’ve been playing music together for as long as I can remember. My science fair projects were done with some minimal technical assistance from my scientist father (maybe a bit more).  Suffice to say they were amazingly elegant for a 4th grader. My dad and I once made a model airplane (he does not remember this).”

Have you learned more about your dad’s professional life by working with him at PLoS ONE?

AT: “Yes, but it’s been on a more general level.  Working at PLoS has given me a better understanding of what a researching scientist does on a day-to-day basis.  It’s also meant that my dad and I have more conversations about what we’re doing at our jobs each week.”

Have you gleaned any special insights about PLoS ONE from working with Alex that you would want to share with other Academic Editors?

ST: “I hadn’t realized how big an operation PLoS is, and how many papers it publishes every month.  I have visited the San Francisco office a few times, which I wouldn’t have done if Alex wasn’t working there, and found it to be a very pleasant environment.  I like having an image of the workspace, and I would recommend to the other academic editors that they visit the office if they get a chance.”

What attracted you to serve on the PLoS ONE Editorial Board? Why do you support open access?

ST: “The fact that the PLoS journals are open access was attractive because I like the idea of disseminating research information as widely as possible.  I have over the years received requests to send my papers to persons who didn’t have subscriptions to the journals in which they were published, and it made me realize that I was in a privileged position compared to many other interesting and capable scientists.  I like being part of an organization that removes this impediment to their work.

“It’s an honor, of course, to be asked to join the editorial board of a journal, so when I was asked to join at PLoS ONE, I was inclined to do so.  It was funny that in the same week that I was contacted by PLoS ONE Alex told me he was going to be interviewed for his current position.  A few people have wondered aloud to me whether I got Alex the job (as if I had any influence), or whether he got me the spot on the editorial board (more likely, they think).  But in fact they were unrelated though simultaneous, a nice coincidence.”

What this the best thing about being part of PLoS ONE?

AT: “I certainly enjoy working at an organization that is disruptive to the status quo and moves it towards greater equality and fairness in publishing.  I can point to what PLoS does in the world, and it makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile on a day-to-day basis.  It’s great to be part of something that shows up regularly in the news:  I like to see the updates about legislation and debate surrounding publishing models, and it’s fun to stumble upon PLoS ONE articles while I’m reading news.”

ST: “Let’s say the best things, plural.  I like having some influence in making sure worthy papers are published, although I have yet to disagree with reviews of papers I have been responsible for at PLoS ONE.  Also, PLoS ONE is a well-known journal, and my colleagues react favorably when they learn I’m on the board, often with the accompanying jokes about my papers getting published more easily.  But the thing that impresses people the most is that Alex works there as a publications assistant.  Everybody knows lots of editorial board members at various journals, but I’m the only one whose son works on the inside at a major journal.  My most respected colleagues say to me, ‘Your son has a real job?  Wish mine did.  And at PLoS ONE, no less?  Wow.’

“Plus I really like the mug.”


Webcast Reminder: 2012 OA Week Kick Off Webinar Tuesday June 19!

SPARC (the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) announces this year’s theme is “Set the Default to Open Access” for Open Access Week (October 22 – 28, 2010). Our first online event to launch this year’s events will be a webcast with three speakers who will showcase the state of open access in each of their countries.

Please join us Tuesday June 19th at 10am Eastern US Time! RSVP at http://sparc.arl.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=108. (Please use this helpful converter to make sure you log in at the right time: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/converter.html).

We’ll have a brief introduction to Open Access Week and then hear from three amazing speakers.

Our speakers are:

1. Dr Reggie Raju, Director of IT Services & Communication, US Library & Information Service Stellenbosch University, South Africa 

2. Heather Joseph, Executive Director of SPARC in the United States 

3. Iryna Kuchma, is program manager at EIFL Open Access in Ukraine

We will take questions through the online portal.

To accommodate interest in every time zone, this 1-hour event will be recorded and available on our website shortly afterwards.

With 1432 participants in 92 countries, the 2011 Open Access Week (OAW) participation grew leaps and bounds from the previous year. We are excited that so many positive developments are happening across the globe. Let us know what you are planning for this year’s events. Become a member, create a group, and start planning. Make sure to say you are participating in this year’s events. And please ask questions and let us know if there are resources that we can provide to help you create a more well rounded OA Week event!

France’s Héloise Directory of Publisher Policies on Author Open Access Self-Archiving

Thierry Chanier’s posting on the Global Open Access List (GOAL) is very right to express his concern about publisher control over Héloise, the French counterpart of the SHERPA/Romeo directory of publisher policies on author Open Access (OA) self-archiving.

The fundamental function of such an OA policy directory is to inform authors about whether or not a journal to which they are contemplating submitting a paper has given its green light to make their peer-reviewed final draft OA immediately upon deposit — or, if not, the length of the journal’s embargo on making the deposit OA.

Some supplemental information may be useful too (e.g., publisher OA policy on the unrefereed preprint or the publisher’s PDF, locus of deposit — institutional or institution-external — and further re-use rights).

But the primary purpose of such a directory is to inform authors on whether and when they have a given journal’s green light to make a peer-reviewed deposit OA. This is what needs to be foregrounded and made crystal clear.

Héloise instead seems to be a portal for publishers to dictate practice to authors on a variety of matters. This is likely to confuse rather than clarify matters for authors on the one paramount question on which they need a clear, straightforward answer.

It is fine for publishers to provide the requisite parametric information for Heloise (the directory is, after all, meant to inform authors about publisher OA policy), but very far from fine for Heloise to be placed at publishers’ disposal to formulate or dictate practice to authors.

Thierry is quite right to ask that Heloise be put under the control of a committee composed exclusively of researchers and academics. Publishers can provide the data, as they do for SHERPA/Romeo, and then Heloise can present the data according to the parameters needed by authors who want to know whether and when they have the journal’s green light to make what OA, where.

The current Héloise site makes a travesty out of the meaning of a green tick! (It can mean an embargo of 5 years!)

I suggest that the coding be a green tick only for those publishers or journals that give their green light to immediate OA. (A pale green tick could, optionally, indicate that the publisher or journal gives its green light to immediate OA for unrefereed preprints.) If there is an embargo, its length can be stated (with a red X).

If there are conditions on locus of deposit, these could be stated (institutional or non-institutional). And if there are re-use rights over and above free online access, those too can be stated.

Any further publisher recommendations should be consigned to an appendix or as links to the publisher’s website.

The research community can never remind itself too often what it repeatedly seems to forget: Peer-reviewed journal publishing is a service industry. It is performing a service to the research community (for which it is paid, abundantly, via subscriptions). Research is not funded by the public, nor conducted and published by researchers as a service to the publishing industry.

Researchers give their papers to publishers for free, and peer-reviewers (also researchers) give their refereeing services to publishers for free, in exchange for maximal access to their work. OA provides maximal access. If publishers are trying to put constraints on authors providing OA, this should be made crystal clear in Heloise, so the authors can then make informed choices.

Stevan Harnad

Ecology and Evolution – Issue 2.6 Now Live!

Ecology and Evolution issue 2 6Issue 2.6 of Ecology and Evolution is now live! The cover features an image from the paper by Rollins and colleagues. This, and another top article are highlighted below:

purple_lock_open The role of the Ord Arid Intrusion in the historical and contemporary genetic division of long-tailed finch subspecies in northern Australia
by Lee Ann Rollins, Nina Svedin, Sarah R. Pryke and Simon C. Griffith
Abstract: Evidence from many taxa distributed across northern Australia indicates that the Ord Arid Intrusion has acted as an agent of vicariance. It has been suggested that subspecies of the long-tailed finch (Poephila acuticauda) arose as a result of this historical biogeographic barrier. Using mitochondrial sequence data and samples taken across the range of this species, we test this hypothesis. Further, changes to climate since the last glacial maximum have resulted in a reconnection of habitat on either side of this historical biogeographic barrier. We also estimate levels of contemporary gene flow within this species complex using microsatellite data to determine if genetic mixing between subspecies has occurred following secondary contact.

purple_lock_open Within and between population variation in plant traits predicts ecosystem functions associated with a dominant plant species
by Lauren C. Breza, Lara Souza, Nathan J. Sanders and Aimée T. Classen
Abstract: Our work is the first to measure intra-specific variation in performance traits and physiological traits within an ecologically relevant plant species elucidating potential implications towards ecosystem-level carbon dynamics in both northern and southern geographic ranges. We also link intra-specific variation in performance traits to better explain ecosystem-level carbon dynamics.

Enjoy these and the other articles in this issue. To find out when other issues publish sign up for e-toc alerts!
1. Visit the Ecology and Evolution homepage.
2. Click on Get new content alerts
3. Register or Log in: when prompted, log in to your Wiley Online Library account. If you need to create an account, register for free!

Announcing the Human Microbiome Project Collection

For the first time, a consortium of researchers has mapped the full community of microbes that inhabit various parts of the healthy human body. Many of these findings will be published today in a new PLoS collection. The PLoS Human Microbiome Project Collection consists of articles from the project’s consortium members, who generate, leverage, and explore microbiome analytical techniques. The articles have been culled from PLoS ONE, PLoS Genetics, and PLoS Computational Biology with more being added to the collection as they are published.

The manuscripts within the collection provide a comprehensive baseline of the microbial diversity at 18 different human body sites. This baseline includes reference genomes of thousands of host-associated microbial isolates, 3.5 terabases of metagenomic sequences, assemblies, and metabolic reconstructions, and a catalogue of over 5 million microbial genes.

Some of the studies also look at the relationships between the microbiome and the host, and how these interactions relate to health. They describe how specific microbial communities differ in relation to a number of specific conditions: the gut microbiome and  Crohn’s disease; ulcerative colitis and esophageal adenocarcinoma; the skin microbiome and psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis and immunodeficiency; and urogenital microbiome and reproductive and sexual history and circumcision and a number of childhood disorders, including pediatric abdominal pain and intestinal inflammation, and neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis.

Accompanying this collection are two articles published in the journal Nature by the Human Microbiome Project Consortium. The results of these two papers provide the foundation for the research published in the Human Microbiome Project Collection.

To read more about this collection, please visit:

PLoS Collections: The Human Microbiome Project Collection (2012) www.ploscollections.org/hmp

Welcome to Open Access Week 2012!

Set the Default to OPEN ACCESS

Open Access Week, a global event now entering its sixth year, is an opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.

“Open Access” to information – the free, immediate, online access to the results of scholarly research, and the right to use and re-use those results as you need – has the power to transform the way research and scientific inquiry are conducted. It has direct and widespread implications for academia, medicine, science, industry, and for society as a whole.

Open Access (OA) has the potential to maximize research investments, increase the exposure and use of published research, facilitate the ability to conduct research across available literature, and enhance the overall advancement of scholarship. Research funding agencies, academic institutions, researchers and scientists, teachers, students, and members of the general public are supporting a move towards Open Access in increasing numbers every year. Open Access Week is a key opportunity for all members of the community to take action to keep this momentum moving forward.

Get involved. Participating in Open Access Week can be as simple or involved as you like. It can also be a chance to let your imagination have full rein and come up with something more ambitious, wacky, fun.

OA Week is an invaluable chance to connect the global momentum toward open sharing with the advancement of policy changes on the local level. Universities, colleges, research institutes, funding agencies, libraries, and think tanks have used Open Access Week as a platform to host faculty votes on campus openaccess policies, to issue reports on the societal and economic benefits of Open Access, to commit new funds in support of openaccess publication, and more.

Learn more about what you can do.

Ready for action?

FIRST, sign up at http://www.openaccessweek.org for access to all the support and resources you need, and to connect with the worldwide OA Week community.

For examples of how others are advancing Open Access and taking action during The Week, click here if you’re a: RESEARCH FUNDER | RESEARCHER/FACULTY MEMBER | ADMINISTRATOR | PUBLISHER | STUDENT | LIBRARIAN

OPEN ACCESS WEEK 2010 is being developed with the advice of an international panel of advisers.

Romanian translation.

#springergate: Springer replies and I comment

Just over a week ago I came across http://springerimages.com and stated publicly that some of my material had been recopyrighted by Springer and my legal and moral rights had been violated. Discussions ensued on this blog and on https://plus.google.com/101714021929763578604/posts/5d9Q5BJgzL7 (Springer’s GooglePlus). The discussion was heated in places. I used the word “theft” which I have retracted; Springer have referred to me in denigrating terms (“Mr Peter Murray-Rust, A Blogger”) which they have not further commented on. Yesterday an account appeared in Wikipedia’s Signpost http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Wikipedia_Signpost/2012-06-11/Special_report which is probably a reasonably complete and balanced account of the affair up to now (Wikipedia authors had their moral and legal rights infringed by Springer Images).

Yesterday Springer put out a statement http://www.springer.com/about+springer/media/pressreleases?SGWID=0-11002-6-1380826-0 and this post is a formal reply and summary of part of my position. I shall try to deal only with facts. Since the metadata on Springer Images is very limited I amy make errors and assumptions which are incorrect and I will correct them if so.

First Springer images. I will deal only with facts and legalities, not the moral and ethical aspects of the site and its business model which I shall hope to address later when facts are established. The metadata is very brief (http://www.springerimages.com/about.aspx ) and does not give details of where the images come from. My current belief is that almost all comes from content submitted by authors to Springer-owned journals and that all this content is , be default, in scope for inclusion in Springer Images. Over 90% appears to be published in closed access journals where authors transfer their copyright to Springer. The transfer probably allows Springer legally to re-use these images on SpringerImages in the way that is done. I shall comment on the ethics and morality in a separate post.

My interpretation of SpringerImages is that the public face is a catalog. To view most of the content a subscription is required (595 USD/year). Metadata and content are often not shown in the catalogue. It is unclear what the rights (if any) of a subscriber are as I have not paid the 600 USD. The re-use is given as “non-commercial” but it is unclear if there is an explicit licence. In many items the actual content is not given (even with a thumbnail – this is particularly true of tables).

Over 90% of the site is non-free and individuals have to pay approximately 63 USD for the re-use of a single image even if they are the author (I will show this later). Many authors have had their moral rights removed from the catalogue. I will illustrate this is a later post.

Biomed Central. When I discovered the site all of my BMC content had been rebadged as BMC’s copyright and my author’s moral rights (the right to be known as the author of the work) had been removed. An inappropriate licence (“non-commercial”, unspecified) had been used. BMC (but not SpringerImages) have apologized to me and the attribution and rights are now acceptable on the sample I have inspected. (BMC asked me to check that all my content on SpringerImages was acceptably labelled – I declined as that is their job, not mine).

Other rights holders (Wikipedia, other publishers, other rights holders). Much content had been systematically mislabelled (Wikipedia estimate over a thousand items and my own investigations suggest many thousand more for other rights holders). Since I do not know how SpringerImages assign metadata I cannot comment precisely, but it appears to have been done by automatic software which has made mistakes. Whatever the ethics of using software, the fact is that rights have been and continue to be violated.

Comments on Springer’s statement. I reproduce this in full and interleave comments:

Springer responds to issues around Springer Images

We would like to thank the research community for drawing our attention to several defects in our Springer Images product. Although we try our very best to deliver high-quality products and services that benefit the scientific community, sometimes we make mistakes, and we would like to apologize for those we have made in this case.


Thank you for this apology.


On 5 June 2012, we announced that we would be correcting the mistakes as quickly as possible, and we are now able to inform you that we have made a number of corrections to the product, but we must also admit that not all of them are solved yet.

This we agree on.

Our dedicated team will continue to work as fast as it can to eliminate the remaining glitches.

What we have done so far:

The new release of Springer Images went live last night at around 1800 hrs CET, and we are pleased to say that we have made the following changes which apply to all open access images BioMed Central and Springer Open (based on DOI):

• We have removed all copyright lines that contain the words BioMed Central and not the word licensee.

• We have replaced the copyright policy paragraph near the bottom of the image details page with “This image is published with open access under the Creative Commons Attribution license.”

• We have removed the line “If you would like to obtain permissions for the re-use or re-print of this image, please click here”. (NOTE, we have removed this line from *all* open access images (regardless of DOI).


This appears to correct the BMC-related problem and so SpringerImages are not, by default, violating the rights of BMC authors.


In addition, we have manually stopped display of *all* images with MediaWiki or Wikipedia in the caption. These images will not be displayed again until we can reliably differentiate among those that have non-commercial restrictions.


I note this. It is impossible to say how complete this is.


What we still must do:

We must still continue to closely monitor copyrightable adaptations of open access images, including those that build on previous work.


The words “continue to closely monitor” suggest that there has been a high-quality approach to metadata and rights. Since this process is not public I cannot assess this. None the less until I pointed it out over 1000 violations had occurred.


In these cases, it may often be unclear whether a figure is genuinely adapted, or simply reprinted.


This is a major, and well-known problem with metadata and rights. The SpringerImages pages give no indication that it had been addressed in a high-quality manner.


We will also be reaching out to Creative Commons and Wikipedia to investigate whether working together might help us to find the best approach to these challenges.


I do not see that it is the responsibility of Creative Commons and Wikipedia to give voluntary assistance to a commercial company whose business is re-selling IPR.


We will need to quickly address the fact that now several open access images do not list any copyright at all. This is a stopgap measure and our team is working on correcting it.


This is another major problem and if tackled responsibly takes a great deal of effort.


We will also continue to listen to our authors, researchers and the wider scientific community not only to ensure that our high quality products remain so, but also to correct any bugs that they may have. Should you wish to point out any further technical/copyright difficulties with Springer Images, please contact springerimages@springer.com.

We would like to stress that the (non-exclusive) inclusion of open access images in Springer Images is an example of the greater visibility and reuse possibilities that open access enables, and we would like to explicitly state that our intention is to ensure that all open access images in Springer Images are searchable and freely available in full, with no subscription required to access them.

Again, we would like to apologize to the authors whose images were affected as well as to the scientific community for the problems with this product. Furthermore, we would like to thank those of you that provided us with constructive criticism which has allowed us to correct the major issues quickly.


I do not know whether I am included in this list


Wim van der Stelt

Executive Vice President

Corporate Strategy

Springer Science+Business Media


I give Wim van der Stelt his full title here. We have corresponded before so he knows very well who I am. I would ask him, publicly, to confirm that “Dr Peter Murray-Rust, University of Cambridge” is the appropriate means of address. We may differ in many things but we can at least be courteous.


MicrobiologyOpen publishes its Second Issue

MicrobiologyOpenIssue 1.2 of MicrobiologyOpen is now live. Highlighted below are two papers which have been selected by our Editor-in-Chief, Pierre Cornelis:

purple_lock_open   Expression of a small (p)ppGpp synthetase, YwaC, in the (p)ppGpp0 mutant of Bacillus subtilis triggers YvyD-dependent dimerization of ribosome by Kazumi Tagami, Hideaki Nanamiya, Yuka Kazo, Marie Maehashi, Shota Suzuki, Eri Namba, Masahiro Hoshiya, Ryo Hanai, Yuzuru Tozawa, Takuya Morimoto, Naotake Ogasawara, Yasushi Kageyama, Katsutoshi Ara, Katsuya Ozaki, Masaki Yoshida, Haruko Kuroiwa, Tsuneyoshi Kuroiwa, Yoshiaki Ohashi and Fujio Kawamura
Summary: Dimerization of 70S ribosome was induced by the expression of ywaC gene in the delta-relA, delta-yjbM and delta-ywaC triple mutant of Bacillus subtilis.

purple_lock_open   Human mitochondrial ferritin improves respiratory function in yeast mutants deficient in iron–sulfur cluster biogenesis, but is not a functional homologue of yeast frataxin  by Robert Sutak, Alexandra Seguin, Ricardo Garcia-Serres, Jean-Louis Oddou, Andrew Dancis, Jan Tachezy, Jean-Marc Latour, Jean-Michel Camadro and Emmanuel Lesuisse
Abstract: Expression of human mitochondrial ferritin in frataxin-deficient yeast cells (yfh1) improved the respiratory function of the cells. But this effect was also observed in another mutant impaired in iron-sulfur cluster assembly (ggc1). Expression of human mitochondrial ferritin in yeast FeS mutants generated a small pool of high spin ferrous iron in the mitochondria, resulting in an improvement of heme synthesis in these mutants.

 Enjoy these and the other articles in this issue. To find out when other issues publish sign up for e-toc alerts!
1. Visit the MicrobiologyOpen homepage.
2. Click on Get new content alerts
3. Register or Log in: when prompted, log in to your Wiley Online Library account. If you need to create an account, register for free