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White House Plans Open Access For Research 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the nipping-climategate-part-two-in-the-bud dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Currently, the National Institutes of Health require that research funded by its grants be made available to the public online at no charge within 12 months of publication. Now the Office of Science and Technology Policy in the Executive Office of the President is launching a 'Public Access Policy Forum' to determine whether this policy should be extended to other science agencies and, if so, how it should be implemented. 'The NIH model has a variety of features that can be evaluated, and there are other ways to offer the public enhanced access to peer-reviewed scholarly publications,' OSTP says in the request for information. 'The best models may [be] influenced by agency mission, the culture and rate of scientific development of the discipline, funding to develop archival capabilities, and research funding mechanisms.' The OSTP will conduct an interactive, online discussion that will focus on three major questions: Should this policy be extended to other science agencies and, if so, how it should be implemented? In what format should the data be submitted in order to make it easy to search and retrieve information? What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance? 'It's very encouraging to see the Obama Administration focus on ensuring public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research [reg. required] as a key way to maximize our collective investment in science,' says Heather Joseph, executive director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition."
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White House Plans Open Access For Research

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  • by dikdik (1696426) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @09:22AM (#30413322)
    My opinion was always if the taxpayers pay for it, the taxpayers own it. Research, patents and discoveries and even software. At a minimum the government should be able to transfer licenses from one branch to another. If your research is that valuable, don't take federal money. A lot of universities are taking federal money for research and then selling those discoveries to companies that sell them back to the taxpayers. It's not always that clean but it just doesn't seem right. If you don't like the restrictions, don't sell to the government. I love the way so many institutions, lately including banks, are acting like they're doing us a favor taking federal money. And there's always someone who will yap about government wouldn't be able to get access the best software tools. I doubt that. I'm not talking about making anything the government buys open source, just that government can move software licenses around based on need.
    • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:12AM (#30413612) Homepage Journal

      My opinion was always if the taxpayers pay for it, the taxpayers own it. Research, patents and discoveries and even software.

      Why not the oil that's pumped out of public lands? Instead, we subsidize the exploration and pay through the nose for the gasoline.

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        Do you realize that gasoline prices in the US are among the lowest in the _world_ (except for countries with subsidized gasoline)?

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The oil companies spend a lot of money to find the oil on public lands, bid against each other to pay the government for the oil, then pay taxes commesurate with their profit. And the next time you're paying through the nose, look at that gas pump and see how much the governments are taking in taxes from your nose...or you can look up gas tax info on this computer thing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by glennpratt (1230636)

          A whopping $.50 a gallon, which more or less covers what we spend on roads.

          While the fuel tax may not work as cars advance, today it's a logical way to fund these projects, it's effectively a user fee.

    • Sometimes the simple view is the correct view. Why should private interests ever have exclusive use of research funded by the taxpayers?
      • If you don't like the restrictions, don't sell to the government.

      precisely so.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by kkwst2 (992504)

        But most of the time the simple view is exactly that...too simple...and unbelievably shortsighted. The fact is that the government is not paying for all the research. It's being subsidized by the institutions, oftentimes more than half of the expense of the research.

        I do NIH-funded research, and much of the funding comes from internal sources. If you, the taxpayer, give me $100,000 and I spend $100,000 of my own money and develop a new method or device, does that mean you own it? At most, in my mind I w

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Institutions are remunerated for their support. It's called "Indirect Costs" and Universities get a percentage of the grant. Universities compete for researchers and are *not* losing money on research. There may be an exception here or there with an influential researcher, but this is the exception rather than the rule. Your statement is wanton dissembling.
          • by kkwst2 (992504)

            Nice try, and excellent vocabulary, but no dissembling going on. Indirect costs are generally on the order of 25% and have nothing to do with my bottom line. They pay for infrastructure support, but have nothing to do with whether NIH funds cover my bills. I don't see any of it, hence why it is "indirect".

            I can make a lot more money for my institution doing clinical work than I can doing research. I mean a LOT more. And with significantly less effort. NIH pays salary support roughly fifty cents on the

        • So you get a $100,000 government loan on something too risky to get enough private funding and then want to pay it back X years later so you retain all rights?
          In other words, you want a risky zero interest loan for R & D for X years? The X being variable and the payback possibly never happening? Or additional money will be sunk in until something fruitful comes out of it.

          I'm just using your example and fairly phrasing it; I'm not saying government shouldn't ever give out risky zero interest loans or gr

    • by Toad-san (64810)

      FULLY agree. They don't like it, go get their grants elsewhere.

      "What are the best mechanisms to ensure compliance?"

      Hey, who runs the copyright office, eh? They don't comply, cancel their copyright. Bidda boom, bidda bing.

    • "My opinion was always if the taxpayers pay for it, the taxpayers own it. Research, patents and discoveries and even software. At a minimum the government should be able to transfer licenses from one branch to another. If your research is that valuable, don't take federal money. A lot of universities are taking federal money for research and then selling those discoveries to companies that sell them back to the taxpayers."

      All academic researchers are desperately scrambling for any kind of money to keep t
  • We're still screwed, if it takes no less than a president to enact something as commonsensical as this.
    Still, though, go for it big O!

  • Just mandate that all Federally funded research papers be submitted to Arxiv.org. In many fields (e.g., astrophysics), that happens routinely. In others (e.g., geophysics), it is rare. I see no harm arising in the fields where this is routine, and making it universal would mean that the entire scientific world would gain access to all of our scientific research.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by thegreatemu (1457577)

      Yes, but the arxiv is filled with all sorts of gibberish submissions as well. It is a wonderful and very useful repository, but just assuring that a paper is placed there doesn't mean that those wanting to access those papers will be able to dig through the mess to find it.

      • by mbone (558574)

        Yes, but the arxiv is filled with all sorts of gibberish submissions as well.

        So ? Cosmology, for example, is an arxiv.org field, and it attracts all sorts of strange people with poorly thought out ideas, some of which even make it into refereed journals, much less arxiv.org. Doesn't seem to hurt the field much.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As a astronomy and CS student I can see the differences.

      Astronomy: everything is openly available & searchable in absabs or arxiv
      CS: 3-5 important journals, you have to be in a paying university to get access.
      Actually, when I do CS literature research, I skip papers I can't get easily access to.

      I wish it was as natural for CS papers to be available openly, as it is for physics. I think it is way worse in biology/chemistry/medicine.

  • by StupendousMan (69768) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @09:42AM (#30413446) Homepage

    Here's the way things work right now in my field, astrophysics: a scientist has an idea. He writes a grant proposal to the NSF and receives money. He uses the money to (hire a grad student, travel to telescope, build an instrument, etc.). He writes a paper on the results. In order to have the paper published in one of the big journals -- which is necessary to gain credit for tenure, promotion, reputation among peers -- he PAYS THE JOURNAL ~$110 PER PAGE. The journal makes the information available only to subscribers, who pay around $50-$100 for individuals or $1500-$3000 for institutions.

    If you don't publish in the big peer-reviewed journals, you don't get recognition.

    So, suppose that the government changes things: now the journals must make government-funded research available to the public without charge. The journals will lose money from their subscriber base; after all, who would bother to pay for the articles when they are free? Where do the journals make up the money? My guess: they increase the page charges. Now it might cost $200 or $250 per page to publish an article in a journal. Whence comes that extra money? From the government grant.

    Result: the scientific papers are now available freely to the public, but scientists must ask for more money from the NSF in order to pay the higher page charges.

    • by Znork (31774)

      but scientists must ask for more money from the NSF in order to pay the higher page charges.

      That theory only holds for as long as scientific reputation in a field is something you buy. It's entirely up to the scientists in the field to cite, credit or ignore the pay-for/for-pay journals.

      Of course, when reputation in a field is built upon what paper you pay to publish your research rather than the quality of the research itself that says a bit about the field...

      But the argument indicates that perhaps one sho

    • Some doubts... (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      While I have no doubt that the first part of the statement will come true, with regards to journals trying to ramp up publishing costs, I have doubts that the scientific community will bear that much more extortion. As it stands, we're practically at the breaking point, where scientists would almost rather not publish than do so, but have no other choice as you have stated, their livelihoods depend on it. As it stands, you already have to pay, give up an irrevocable copyright license... you just about have
      • Ahh, the "government as charitable organization angle." It's clever, really. Tugs at the heartstrings.

        Let me ask you though: If you're not willing to be charitable with your own money, what gives you the right to simply vote to be charitable with someone else's? People vote with their dollars as much as their signatures. Moreso, when you think about it, as your dollars give you a personal stake in the game. "charity government" is little more than a naked admission that many people care about the poor,

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Or... everyone realises that perhaps journals are not the best way of gaining recognition in the field? We've had the internet for a while now, I'd hope we can think up a better way of peer-reviewing and distributing scientific findings than paper publication.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by toppavak (943659)
      Wow, it really sounds like your community should just revolt and publish exclusively in PLoS. If enough high-profile researchers can be convinced of the value of it, there won't be a stigma regarding recognition. The problem is convincing them of the value in switching.
    • by onionman (975962) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:29AM (#30413750)

      As a professor myself, I hope that the unintended consequence will be that we move away from the restrictive, expensive, academic journal publishers like Elsevier and toward an open model of academic publication where your recognition and peer review come from broad, open, dissemination.

      I, for one, would like to see a peer review system where articles are posted on-line and evaluations (i.e. referee reports) are also posted in an open, strongly authenticated, way. I don't know about you, but one thing that really annoys me is to receive a referee report on a paper where it is obvious that the referee hasn't even read past the introduction. I believe that forcing the evaluations to be open, and strongly-authenticated (so that everyone knows exactly who is writing it) would improve the quality and credibility of research.

      I suspect that some people would claim that if referee reports aren't anonymous, then they won't be honest. But, a referee report should not be about opinions, it should be a straight forward analysis of the results reported in the paper. If it's really science, then it should be completely objective, thus opinion and personality should have nothing to do with it. Hence, there should be no need for anonymity. When I grade my students' papers, it certainly isn't anonymous, but it doesn't need to be because I am giving them objective feedback (e.g. "this is wrong because you said cos(x+h) = cos(x) + cos(h) which is not true.").

      Using an open system would allow articles to receive recognition and ranking based upon the open discussion of their merits. Individuals doing the ranking could also receive recognition for the quality of their work, which is important because it can sometimes take weeks of work to thoroughly understand a new result. That work should receive more acknowledgment in the academic system than it currently does. (I suspect it's the current lack of acknowledgment for refereeing which makes many people into lazy referees. After all, why bother putting much effort into that referee report when it won't count toward promotion. You are better off spending that time writing your own papers.)

      Finally, using an open system gives the public greater credibility in the system. When people want to know why paper A is considered correct and paper B isn't, the analysis and discussion will be available, too.

      • by jmerlin (1010641) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:43AM (#30413862)
        You'd need to implement something like that in a hierarchical manner, not unlike slashdot. The number of submissions would dramatically increase due to its free nature while the quality would surely decline, and nobody wants to sit there and read a large percentage of questionable work to determine if it's valid and if so if the results are correct. New submissions could be subject to quick reviews for validity testing (with moderation of course, people who troll by negatively reviewing and voting down new papers without actually reading them or considering their results, or for any bias should be barred from such reviews), and once a paper has been verified it can move on to a stage where people who don't want to sift through garbage to find the gold can really scrutinize them and see if they stand up.

        Why not make such a website? :)
        • by onionman (975962)

          You'd need to implement something like that in a hierarchical manner, not unlike slashdot. The number of submissions would dramatically increase due to its free nature while the quality would surely decline, and nobody wants to sit there and read a large percentage of questionable work to determine if it's valid and if so if the results are correct. New submissions could be subject to quick reviews for validity testing (with moderation of course, people who troll by negatively reviewing and voting down new papers without actually reading them or considering their results, or for any bias should be barred from such reviews), and once a paper has been verified it can move on to a stage where people who don't want to sift through garbage to find the gold can really scrutinize them and see if they stand up.

          Why not make such a website? :)

          Yes, the description you're providing is very similar to what I have in mind. I would love to create such a website, but it will have to wait until after I have tenure... and I'll need some sizable grants to get it up and running to begin with. I wonder if NSF would fund the development of such a system:-)

      • I mostly agree with an open review system, but there are a few issues. Reviews probably need to remain anonymous in some fields to prevent the scientific equivalent of "log rolling" : providing good review to people who gave you favourable reviews. Some fields are small enough that the pool of available reviewers is tiny.

        I am very much in favor of making government funded scientific research available to the public but again there are a few problems: In many fields your career depends on publishing papers.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by linhares (1241614)

        But, a referee report should not be about opinions, it should be a straight forward analysis of the results reported in the paper. If it's really science, then it should be completely objective, thus opinion and personality should have nothing to do with it. Hence, there should be no need for anonymity. When I grade my students' papers, it certainly isn't anonymous, but it doesn't need to be because I am giving them objective feedback (e.g. "this is wrong because you said cos(x+h) = cos(x) + cos(h) which is not true.").

        Your idea is interesting, but I guess opinion matters more than you think it does. I recently recommended rejection or major revision on a paper about "Economic forecasting". I think the math was all fine and dandy. In your view, I should have recommended publication. But I simply could not stand the way terms like prediction or forecasting were used. I asked the author to use terms like "data extrapolation". If economic prediction were possible, why publish? The function of economic forecasting is t

        • by onionman (975962)

          I mostly agree with an open review system, but there are a few issues. Reviews probably need to remain anonymous in some fields to prevent the scientific equivalent of "log rolling" : providing good review to people who gave you favourable reviews. Some fields are small enough that the pool of available reviewers is tiny.

          My point is, something could be totally right inside the little confines of a model, while the premises of the model become a matter of opinion and philosophy. So I don't see how you can actually separate the two; what's opinion and what's objective, so cleanly like that.

          Yes, these are certainly valid objections. Perhaps the review system needs multiple mechanisms for assessing articles.

          An open refereeing system could establish correctness (or, in less rigorous disciplines, could judge how likely it is that the presented data and arguments support conclusions). This part would not impart value judgments (such as how significant the results are).

          A "significance" mechanism for determining the value of a work could begin with a slashdot/digg style rating scheme that raises w

          • by Znork (31774)

            The trouble with most moderation systems is that they tend to be based on the fundamentally flawed idea of objective values on subjective criteria. Correctness is one thing, but one persons significant might not be another persons significant. As fields grow and diverge you'll end up with significance for the divergent branches being subjective and depending on which branch you are pursuing. Eventually you end up with either too much significant material, too heavy culling, patchwork meta-fixes or being for

    • by mbone (558574)

      How is this different from now ? At least in the areas of astrophysics I am interested in, pretty much everything gets put into Arxiv.org.

    • by esme (17526)

      I think the thing you are not considering is that we are currently paying both ways: researchers pay page fees to publish, and their institutions pay subscription fees so the researchers, grad students, etc. can access the journals. Both of these payments come mainly from the same place: research grants from major government science agencies. The researchers get grants and include publishing costs. The researchers' institution taxes the grants ("overhead fees") which generally gets distributed to the lib

    • The current system of journals is antiquated. It's buggywhippery. The editors and referees for journal papers are not paid. The authors are not paid, But the subscription prices are stratospheric.

      This leads to two possible conclusions. Conclusion 1: Someone is making a great heap of money at taxpayer expense. The taxpayer funds the research, then pays page charges to journals to publish it, and then has to pay gobs of money to gain access to it. Conclusion 2: The system of diffusing information via

    • by celle (906675)

      "If you don't publish in the big peer-reviewed journals, you don't get recognition."

      If everything is open, since when would you not get recognition? The reality is you would get more recognition if everything is released immediately since there would be more peer review from a larger community than just only the journal reviewers. Increasing innovation by getting the information out the the public as quickly as possible. You'll be better known and move up, if promotion is all you care about. Peer-reviewed j

    • You know what? Frankly... FUCK recognition!
      If you do it for the recognition, you’re no real scientist anyway, but a needy loser who tries to suck up on those who dominate him.
      Better poor and unknown, than a recognition whore.
      Here’s a nice quote that makes it clear what I don’t want to be and don’t are:

      Jake Green: “There is something about yourself that you don’t know. Something that you will deny even exists, until it’s too late to do anything about it. It’s the only reason you get up in the morning. The only reason you suffer the shitty job, the blood, the sweat and the tears. This is because you want people to know how good, attractive, generous, funny, wild and clever you really are. Fear or revere me, but please, think I’m special. We share an addiction. We’re approval junkies. We’re all in it for the slap on the back and the gold watch. The hip-hip-hoo-fuckin’ rah. Look at the clever boy with the badge, polishing his trophy. Shine on you crazy diamond, because we’re just monkeys wrapped in suits, begging for the approval of others.”
      — Revolver (2005, Guy Richie)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    ...what arguments Springer-Verlag, Elzevier and the like will find to fight this. Since in my (humble, but competent) opinion there can be no honest reason to oppose this, they will need to be very creative. And yes, as a scientific researcher, I have very often been hampered in my search for references by the unjustifiable monopoly held by those vultures, and the hefty subscription prices that go with it. Heck, they even made me transfer the copyrights on my own publications to them. I may not even cite my

  • If so, I'm not holding out much hope...

  • An, excellent proposal, long overdue, and the whines of Academics, Librarians and Learned Journal publishers, which will all be anti must be stoutly resisted, and can easily be solved by the Presidential Task Force.

    This will be kind to trees, Library Space, shelving and reading and good for students, adademics and the general public.

    Peer Review must ensure that Data and Methods are published or Publically available, which would stop repeats of Climategate in their tracks.

    Employed, tenured Full Professors in
  • Peer Reviewed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tomhath (637240) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:26AM (#30413724)

    'It's very encouraging to see the Obama Administration focus on ensuring public access to the results of taxpayer-funded research [reg. required] as a key way to maximize our collective investment in science,' says Heather Joseph

    Ms. Joseph should thank the Bush administration for starting the ball rolling by opening up the NIH. Going forward, as long as the government applies the same peer review and quality standards to publishing the results that reputable journals do, the policy makes sense. But what happens if the researcher's peers don't like the quality of the work? Today it's quietly buried, will the government still publish it but with some kind of a caveat/stigma?

  • by internic (453511) on Saturday December 12, 2009 @10:29AM (#30413760)

    It's my understanding that people in congress have considered before the question of expanding open access requirements to other disciplines. Obviously publishers will oppose such a move because it cuts into their bottom line. How far it eats into the bottom line depends on the reasons people subscribe and just how the opening of access works: You can make new papers closed and older papers open, or you can do the reverse. Additionally, you can make papers totally open or you can institute some half-way measure, like something similar to Google Books or Amazon book previews, which are designed with the aim that you can read the content but not easily save a copy of it.

    In Physics, the APS (the professional organization for physicists) publishes the Physical Review journals, which are some of the most influential in the field besides Nature and Science. Apparently the APS relies on subscription fees from the journals in part to subsidize many of their other (worthwhile) activities, e.g. scientific conferences. As a result, it's my understanding that they opposed open access requirements (though they might have been willing to accept them in some form). This is especially interesting because the Physical Review journals have relatively friendly policies that allow one to post a pre-print to the ArXiv [arxiv.org] (which physicists generally do) and host a copy of the paper on your own website, so most of the papers they publish (at least more recently) are already available for free one way or another.

    I generally have a very favorable opinion of the APS, but I would very much like to see more openness in scientific journals, at the least for taxpayer funded research. If this means that the APS will have to raise dues and conference fees to more accurately reflect the cost of their activities, I think that's something we'll just have to accept.

  • ...if the government decides to create a new, open journal will be developing a 'prestige factor' for it. If it isn't impressive to publish in it, the best works simply won't be published there.

    Since there's little chance of this potential journal assailing Nature or Science, we may end up with free average quality papers and expensive (to both publish and consume) high-impact ones. That is, unless there's a scientific culture change, and academia starts to value open-access and transparency. Maybe if a

  • Data too! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Some provision should also be made for making data available as well. For controversial and issues of practical importance, the benefit is obvious. There could also be unexpected benefits for esoteric subjects. The experiment I worked on for my physics dissertation cost around $10^7, and the data is sitting on shelves at three universities, if it hasn't been chucked yet. Admittedly, in my case the only people who would concievably care are the hundred or so people in the subfield, and they probably care

  • Two related items I've written on this:

    "An Open Letter to All Grantmakers and Donors On Copyright And Patent Policy In a Post-Scarcity Society "
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/open-letter-to-grantmakers-and-donors-on-copyright-policy.html [pdfernhout.net]

    "On Funding Digital Public Works "
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/on-funding-digital-public-works.html [pdfernhout.net]

    The executive summary from the first (the second is a longer version of the first):
    """
    Foundations, other grantmaking agencies handling public tax-exempt dollars, and charitable donors

  • http://tech-net.sba.gov/tech-net/public/dsp_search.cfm [sba.gov] is the search engine. The Small Business Administration doesn't make SBIR or STTR awards, but Congress has charged the SBA with tracking them. Every year, all agencies that awarded SBIR or STTR awards in the previous Federal Fiscal Year are required to report those awards to the SBA, by March I think. The TECH-Net search engine allows you to capture search results in mail merge format for import into spreadsheets, for example. You can drill down to awar
  • I suggest they use the PDF format for interchange so that redactions can be worked around!

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