Saturday, November 21, 2009

Swedish Research Council requires Open Access

The Swedish Research Council decided some weeks ago that research supported by a grant from their agency has to be made publicly available within 6 months. From the press release:
"To obtain a research grant, the Swedish Research Council now requires researchers to publish their material so as to make it available to all. The public and other researchers should have free access to all material financed by public means.

The thought behind so-called Open Access is that everyone should have free and unrestricted access to scientifically assessed articles. The Research Council has now determined that researchers granted funds by the Authority should publish their scientifically assessed texts in journals and from conferences in this manner.... Researchers will have to guarantee that publications are available according to Open Access within a maximum period of six months."

This requirement is even stronger than that of the US National Institute of Health (NIH), which demands the public has access to the published results of NIH funded research no later than 12 months after publication.

Seems like the Open Access movement has a reason to celebrate :-)


  1. Ah, that's interesting news.

    BTW, I am not sure if you have seen it, here in Germany there is currently an online petition to the Bundestag going on, which is asking for a similar legislation. The petition was launched by a science blogger and journalist, Lars Fischer - there is an interview with him in English at "OPEN AND SHUT?".

    Cheers, Stefan

  2. This seems to require no more than that projects must put in a line item in their budgets for paying for open access. It puts only the smallest of impositions on publishers, that they must provide a prepaid Open Access option if they wish Swedish Research Council funded researchers to submit articles to them. It seems as if all major journals are now including this option, so it's not clear that it changes anything except to add $1000 to every project's budget. For the time being, at least, universities will still have to keep up journal subscriptions.

    If Swedish Research Council required Open Access is paid for by advertisement -- a header page on every downloaded PDF with targeted advertising for, say, drug X, laser pointer Y, or digital camera Z -- is that OK?

    The "who pays?" question has always concerned me. It's not clear how the business model for journals will evolve. Of course that's true for every internet content provider, except that advertisement seems to have become the universal panacea.

    If there is a principle that government funded research should be available to all, why is that principle not to be applied to patents? The press release explicitly excludes books and book chapters from "The public and other researchers should have free access to all material financed by public means". They had better exclude patents in any legislation, although it looks as if this is and will remain only a directive. In any case, the idea that there is a "principle" seems tendentious.

    What about information that has not in the past been published? Raw data could easily be very useful, allowing different statistical analysis, say, than that undertaken by the original researchers. Presumably there will be fine print, at least to safeguard clinical confidentiality, but will it include raw data of Physics experiments? Do researchers on government funded projects have no individual intellectual property rights?

    Apologies if all these issues are all well discussed in the Open Access community, and the fine print already covers all of them adequately.

  3. A publisher's offered value in a publication is peer review, inventory, timeliness. Only peer review survives arXiv. What product price and exclusivity does peer review justify?

    Paper editions are expensive, ended by electronic storage and access. A Wincrap Word dot file or Latex template renders anybody a full quality publisher.

    The physical empire of publication can wholly live in the Cloud. That leaves an office staff sitting in cubicles to handle data flow and accounting. Additional revenue is then advertising-based, as stated. A scientific publishers' business plan must be revised or it will be left behind.

    Microcrap makes its billions as a monopoly, by shilling overpriced second-rate software. 80% of Asian software is pirated. A right mouse click in Linux has more power than 36 cm^2 of Wincrap icons. Linux and now Chrome show where Microcrap is headed - into the crapper - even without Mac boutique incursions.

    How is Physical Review any more robust?

  4. Private property and capitalism still outperforms communism and FreeSW model, despite of what various fanatists are saying ((1, 2, 3). But basic research has nothing very much to do with private model: until its payed from public donations, public grants or taxes - its results should be openly accesible, too.

  5. Hi Bee,

    You do not want a limit to finite imagination do you?

    What about the second task, achieving cultural change? As any revolutionary can attest, that is a tall order. Let me describe two strategies that have been successful in the past, and that offer a template for future success. The first is a top-down strategy that has been successfully used by the open-access (OA) movement. The goal of the OA movement is to make scientific research freely available online to everyone in the world. It is an inspiring goal, and the OA movement has achieved some amazing successes. Perhaps most notably, in April 2008 the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) mandated that every paper written with the support of their grants must eventually be made open access. The NIH is the world’s largest grant agency; this decision is the scientific equivalent of successfully storming the Bastille. See: Doing science in the open


    Sponsoring Consortium for Open Access Publishing in Particle Physics(SCOAP3)

    The Open Access (OA) tenets of granting unrestricted access to the results of publicly-funded research are in contrast with current models of scientific publishing, where access is restricted to journal customers. At the same time, subscription costs increase and add considerable strain on libraries, forced to cancel an increasing number of journals subscriptions. This situation is particularly acute in fields like High-Energy Physics (HEP), where pre-prints describing scientific results are timely available online. There is a growing concern within the academic community that the future of high-quality journals, and the peer-review system they administer, is at risk.

    Without "the pool to draw from," how is it good scientists are to work on a multilateral economic relation to expanding the parameters given in science, to produced new things?


  6. Hi Plato,

    The primary problem with open access is not only found in the maintenance of the peer review system yet also in its publishing, distribution and maintainance. It appears that the SCOAP 3 model addresses many of the central issues. None the less as we know nothing comes for free and as suc h even if the cost be only a nominal one I would like to see those it benefits contribute something more directly to the cost. I think the most clear cut way to do this is to have a levy placed on all service providers which is proportionate to gross revenues in relation to their number of subscribers.

    I realize there are many who will say that since they never have read or ever intend to read an academic paper why should they pay for access to them. My answer of course is that knowledge benefits everyone, not just those who create, assemble, organize, maintain and assimilate it and thus like anything that is deemed as being important public infrastructure all should contribute to its cost and maintenance. This window into the ivory tower stands to serve all of mankind and thus all mankind should pay for it. Also resultantly you might find in the end not only will access become more open, yet more may choose to avail themselves directly of its benefit; not because it is free, yet rather when understood that it isn’t, will be realized for its value.



  7. And how this affects you Bee? I mean this practice poses obstacles to your work?

  8. No. I think it doesn't affect high energy physics generally, since pretty much all articles are publicly available on the arXiv anyhow. It is more of relevance for fields where open access is still uncommon or the available journals are scarcely used.

  9. Should have added, I presently have no SRC grants anyway.

  10. Low Math, Meekly Interacting12:13 PM, November 22, 2009

    In the bio (at least the non-biophysics) field, relatively little is available for free, though the miniscule percentage changes the more recent the paper.

    As for journal-sponsored peer review, it's barely a worthwhile filter, as far as I can discern. I spend a fair percentage of my work time trying to replicate and build upon more basic research from academia. I'll be as straightforward as I can be: If much of what's out there isn't deliberately falsified, it's been massaged and pumped-up so torturously as to be effectively no different. So private interests (which I work for) do nothing but game the system, apparently, and public interests flood the system with dreck in their quest for a lengthy CV (and hence, tenure, of course).

    You know the story: Since nobody in biomedical research publishes negative data anymore, in small-scale research settings, p values are effectively meaningless. Since no one has the resources to do it the right way every time, the only alternative is the wrong way: Publish anyway, and don't worry if someone else can replicate your findings. Chances are extremely good they won't, but given that experimental conditions are so messy and complex, its virtually impossible to detect all but the most blatant attempts at falsification. And anyway, falsification isn't even necessary to generate this enormous body of misleading, statistically vacuous data. All one needs is to do the minimum and slap a p value < 0.05 on it. It's society's problem to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    It's very distressing. In the mind of the public, anything I generate is a priori discredited since no one believes industry research anymore. Perhaps rightly, I'm not sure. But I know now from a decade of experience that if the public is confident in the academy below the level of a Phase II clinical trial, that trust is misplaced. Not necessarily through anything nefarious (though that can't be ruled out in all cases), just simple publish-or-perish survivalism coupled with a need for rigor that is too expensive to attain.

    I suppose we still need "the literature". You have to start somewhere. But I assume precisely zero anymore, simply because I've seen too many very promising things vanish into thin air with no consequences. It does seem rather a joke to pay for the privilege of attaining peer review, though. I see virtually no evidence meeting this standard assures much of anything. We may as well have something like the arXiv and let everyone decide on their own. For all practical purposes, that's what's happening anyhow, just with lots of fees gumming up the works.

  11. Peer review is useful for identifying potential problems and mistakes in a paper, but that work is done for free by reviewers ... the journal basically provides the admin and typesetting services, and editorial control. They also provide printing, distribution and reprint services.

    But distribution is now easier online than on paper, and the last time I considered buying a paper reprint, the journal were going to charge me GBP25 for about fourteen photocopied pages. That's not good value for a glorified photocopying service, considering that none of the money's going back to the originators of the work.

    The journals don't provide a micropayment service because they don't pay for the material, and authors are increasingly expected to "pre-typeset" their work themselves. So journals are now basically a matter of editorial work, product branding and administering workflow as a research paper goes theough the system.

    The peer-review admin work can largely be automated – in an age where people are fighting to produce themost popular social media software and 99p iPod apps, it shouldn't be too difficult to persuade someone to write a virtual journal engine – assuming that it hasn't already been done.

    All that remains is product branding, a reputation, enough backing to reassure contributors that a journal isn't going to disappear after five years, and an an editor (and some backup personnel) prepared to set the thing up and run it.

    But world-class university research departments already have all that themselves. They have the brand name, the contacts, and the expertise, and they're probably already paying the academics who'd be peer-reviewing similar work for commercial journals.

    So the natural way that the system would work would seem to be if the universities owned most of the journals, made them freely available online, and maybe uploaded volumes or periodic "best of" digests and compilations to Lightning Source so that people could buy nice printed copies via amazon if they so wished, without the journal having to bother with conventional publishing admin and warehousing.

    The editor could be paid by the university, and if the journal was good, it'd reflect well on the university and help them get further funding and donations and the smartest students. So it'd be worth the money. You can imagine ten years from now, one of the most important factors for a student deciding which university to go to might be what their in-house journal is like.

  12. Low Math, Meekly Interacting8:55 PM, November 22, 2009

    Well, in principle peer review provides robust QC, but in practice, having only three or so reviewers view any given paper appears to be quite contentious, subjective, error-prone, even perilous if a particular reviewer decides to sit on your manuscript while his or her post-doc hustles their competing work out the door.

    So why not just put it out there for the world to see? Desktop publishing software is so good, as you say, and so easy now, there's really no need to pay for someone else to do it. Hell, we already paid hundreds of dollars a license for the software to begin with, and put countless hours into learning how to use it so we could submit a reasonable facsimile for consideration. As it is many articles now reference downloadable data and methods supplements that allow authors to break free of draconian length and space restrictions, and actually expound in a useful way on their experimental conditions (if they choose). They sit on my hard drive right next to the "real" paper, in the same folder with the high-res figures I download from the web version of the article, so I don't have to look at postage stamps any more. Why not just have the authors put it all out there in one big document they way they want? The way that would make sense?

    As for editing, I figure if something is horribly written, I'm free to stop reading it. That puts a measure of selective pressure on the author to improve his or her writing skills.

    In this day and age, I just don't see what advantage conventional publication offers except the ability for authors to build up a high cumulative impact factor as a means for prospective employers to grade them. This just makes the current peer review system (with all its flaws, inefficiencies, and needless expenses) self-perpetuating, doesn't it?

    I'm sure the arXiv has its imperfections, but it's not like the "the literature" is doing any better, as far as I can tell.

  13. Peter Morgan wrote:

    "What about information that has not in the past been published?"

    Regarding paid journal subscriptions etc, I don't subscribe to any of them. is great however not all papers make it there. In case some of you aren't aware there's where anyone can submit a paper, this is Open Access. As for crackpot papers read their why page.

    Cheers, Paul.

  14. Hi Low Math,

    You're neglecting the selective function journals play. You can see it in other areas that once information is easily available the relevant question is no longer how to get it, but how to filter it. There are other ways than journals (=editors, peer review) to do that, but they have for all I can see even more disadvantages. One filter for example that seems to become more and more common is recommendations by friends, rspt by bloggers/people you're following on Twitter/Facebook etc. That has the effect of introducing a very strong social bias. "Retweeting" and the typical echo-blogposts that one finds very frequently only amplify this problem.

    It is somewhat of a mystery to me why most people complain about journals endlessly but never consider the kind of bias that is introduced in science through social networking. On the most basic level the problem is that people who are considered interesting and know many people get more interesting and get to be known by even more people. It's a typical rich-get-richer scenario. I often have the impression that there is some romantic idea floating around that social networking is "democratic" (I've heard that many times but not sure what it's supposed to mean), bottom-up, and thus GOOD as opposed to journals=evil. This seems to make people entirely blind to the problem that crowds are not necessarily wise but can cause their own problems. Best,


  15. Low Math, Meekly Interacting12:42 PM, November 23, 2009

    Hi, Bee,

    Well, if social networking just makes selection bias worse (and it's there with the current system, and this I know for a fact), then obviously I must reevaluate my position. I've little experience with a preprint archive paradigm to compare to, so I readily admit I could be wrong. Some in the physics community seem to think that the arXiv is enough, and reportedly don't pay the publishers much mind at all. I hadn't considered the notion that interest might be overly influenced by popularity.

    But it's easy to get cynical about the current publication system. Some labs just seem to be too good at getting papers into high-impact journals to take it seriously after a while, and it's not like every field doesn't have its rock stars that everyone in that specialty fixates on. Also, one works in a particular niche long enough, and after a while everyone knows everyone. You can almost guess from writing style alone who reviewed a paper, it gets so incestuous. The guy you ate dinner with at the conference last month might be put in the position of rejecting your paper next month, because he and your PI are in rarified company in terms of expertise. I'm not saying there's zero QC, just that it leaves a lot to be desired, and the expense is pretty shocking when you consider what it is you're really getting from it. Which is not as much as advertise, IMO.

    But if there's no better solution, then maybe the money is still worth it. Hard to say.

  16. Hi Phil,

    Sorry I have been preoccupied.

    Free for all: Dream Come True

    They are specific areas to which research is specific and thoughts leading in these general areas, are to serve for "advancing knowledge from a zero position assumed where your knowledge leaves off" again, is to be determined by "accumulation of research material" in those specific areas.

    Without this knowledge, advancement, you will have been retarded to advancement, or held, in status quo.

    How it is worked out "is specific too," the areas Bee posted on Blog postings are different in the assumption of SCOAP3. I would have to go back and check the financial arrangement.

    Bee's point about of course are inclusive, but I would say to this that what efforts are put out there for the public under magazine subscription forums to sign on, are to alleviate looking for and to attain current research info. Plus, draws in subscribers.

    Can exemplify the willingnesses of Prof and up and comings, to forward humaneness level of understanding, which are quite honourable positions with which to help the advancement of the public interest. Raises the bar.

    This advancement is necessary and all efforts to come to "an agreement" is the willingnesses to provide for the opportunity for new discoveries in the future. You need that resourcefulness from which to draw.

    The singularity in this case is not "point specific( has never in my case been that way)" but provides for and unleashes vast potentials:) Once you open that door, the flood begins and society does not look the same anymore with many sociological changes to follow.


  17. Great move by Swedish Research Council, I hope many more institutions will follow this path.

    I'm all for open access to science, especially if it's funded by public money.

  18. Good post! I read I am a college sophomore with a dual major in Physics and Mathematics @ University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Open concept increases greater access to archival documents. By the way, i came across these excellent physics flash cards. Its also a great initiative by the FunnelBrain team. Amazing!!!


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