Open Access Passes in the Senate

I’ve become a little cynical about politics of late, but the recent Senate vote for an appropriations bill that includes mandatory deposit of publications resulting from NIH-funded research has cheered me up.

As I mentioned earlier, Senator James Inhofe (who famously called global warming a “hoax” and is currently celebrating the failure of the Dream Act) tried to derail it with a couple of amendments, but in the end he withdrew them and the bill passed by a whopping 75 – 19 margin. This doesn’t mean it’s veto-proof; as Peter Suber has pointed out, the House vote was less decisive and the two bills need to be reconciled – and Inhofe hasn’t given up yet. Still, it’s a positive step forward. We could have a law by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Charles Bailey did some sleuthing and uncovered the fact that Inhofe has been getting some nice support from Reed Elsevier, which in 2006 spent over $3 million on lobbying. Salon picked up the story. (Hat tip to Scott Walter!)

HRN Joins SSRN

First – if you support the NIH plan to make tax-funded research publicly available, take a minute to call your senators. Right now. There are some amendments to be voted on today that could gut the NIH proposal. Tell them to vote no on Senator James Inhofe’s amendments #3416 and #3417 to the 2008 Labor-HHS-Education bill.

Okay – are you done? Good.

Now, here’s some other news about access to research. The Chronicle reports that humanists will have a place to share their work in progress just as scholars in the social sciences have done for over ten years. This site for sharing documents is something between informal blogging and formal publication – more like a conference presentation without the hotel bill or airfare to pay for. The social sciences have had such an Internet forum since the SSRN was founded in 1994. There, some 131,000 papers have had over 4 million downloads in the past year. These are clustered into “networks” – rather like conferences – where people working in related areas can share their work. If you look toward the bottom of the page, classics, US and British literature, and philosophy have new networks. It looks as if these will be spun off into a new HRN – Humanities Research Network.

I’m not that familiar with how SSRN works and would be interested in hearing from anyone who has an insider’s view. All I know is that I’ve downloaded a lot of good articles from there, so I’m happy to see it expand into new fields.

It’s Easier to Preach Than Practice

Reading Current Cites this morning I had to laugh (in a rueful way). It includes a summary of the now well-known survey done by the University of California’s Office of Scholarly Communication that found faculty may be on board when it comes to accessing information but their behavior doesn’t match. They don’t want to be forced to engage in open access practices and rarely bother to do it voluntarily. Oh, for shame!

The next item, from the Journal of Academic Librarianship sounded interesting – about linking practice and research in academic libraries. The DOI took me here.

Nice to have such a handy shopping cart, but if we’re expecting other faculty to take action, why won’t we do it ourselves? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run into this. Even Elsevier allows authors to post preprint versions of articles on the Web (albeit with some weird and inconvenient rules). We know the stakes. Why do so few librarians bother to put our words into action?

Maybe because it’s work? Maybe because nobody says you have to? Maybe because we’re hypocrites?

Anthropological Association Selects Closed

The NY Times may have grasped the new economics of open publishing, but the American Anthropological Association has recently announced a new partnership with Wiley-Blackwell to distribute the Association’s 23 journals, newsletters, and research portal AnthroSource.

Peter Suber has predicted that the open news trend will not spill over into scholarly journal publishing, arguing that scholarly journals cannot raise as much money from advertising even though they have lower costs. Suber also notes, however, that user expectations for free online access and heightened impact may eventually have an indirect effect on scholarly journals.

The AAA has acted in accord with their vested interests, but not necessarily in the interests of their profession or the general public. A comment on the Chronicle notes:

Let’s be clear about what is going on here: the AAA is using a private publisher to extract income from universities through their libraries. The bad news though is that university libraries will not be able to afford these increases. In the end fewer subscriptions will be sold and fewer people will have access to this scholarship. If the AAA really cared about scholarship in anthropology they would be pursuing an open access strategy.