The Opens Roundup


Photo by Benimoto via Flickr CC BY

This is the first of a regular (weekly or bi-weekly) feature of this new blog called the The Opens Roundup. In it, we will highlight initiatives and announcements relating to any aspect of  the ‘opens’ that have happened in the preceding weeks. Occasionally, we’ll also offer previews of public events where PLOS people will be participating, including members of the Advocacy team, in the near future.

PLOS People at Upcoming Events:

And now for the latest Open Access Headlines and News Summaries:

This roundup has been running as an internal newsletter for PLOS staff since March last year and its remit will stay the same – to flag some of the recent events that are of potential interest to those working in open access and open science. We do not aspire to be comprehensive (for that you should subscribe to the Open Access Tracking Project run by TagTeam) or to be neutral – it will no doubt be heavily PLOS-centric – but we do aspire to make our opinions evidence-based. The roundup is structured to have ‘Policy Developments’ at the top and ‘In Other News Below’ with the main links running chronologically in each section. If you wish to send us ideas for links then email them to but please only include posts and links that are new. Please note that we may not be able to include them all. Welcome to the roundup.


Austria: FWF supports funds for OA books

Feb 07: The Austrian Funding Agency FWF has a progressive Open Access policy that requires their grantees to publish with a CC BY or CC BY NC licence. This is their latest guideline for books – applying the same criteria and announcing that authors can use funds from their grants to support the costs. Interestingly, the guidelines stipulate how books  ought to be peer-reviewed and how authors should choose  a publisher (pointing to the same criteria that OASPA uses for membership). In a related OA move, FWF has also announced a new pilot project with the Institute of Physics to provide funds to make articles in their subscription journals Open Access. And  the Institute of Science and Technology in Austria has also just signed the Berlin Declaration and launched its own Open Access Policy in line with FWF ( and the European Research council’s) recommendations.

Australia: UQ adopts open access policy for research

07 Feb: University of Queensland has announced an OA policy to ensure their articles are freely available as soon as possible but not later than 12 months after publication. They also encourage authors to retain copyright and to use a creative commons licence (though without specifying which). They state that their policy is based on the ARC Open Access Policy and the NHMRC Dissemination of Research Findings. It’s a start.

UK: Willetts calls for publisher offsetting to encourage open access

31 Jan: In an Open Letter to Dame Janet Finch about progress towards the Finch recommendations on Gold OA in the UK, David Willets (UK Minister for Universities and Science) calls on publishers to ensure that the transition ‘involves a “meaningful proportion of an institution’s total [article charges] with a publisher” being “offset against total subscription payments with that publisher” on a sliding scale up to a set limit.’ He also warns against bundling of articles and journals by publishers and urges scholarly societies to seek help to develop new business models. The Times Higher post (main link) provides a good summary. His letter also discusses OA developments in 2013, including the strong endorsement by the Netherlands (see below) and the need for international collaboration by funders and governments.

EU launches FOSTER Factsheet

28 Jan: FOSTER (Facilitate Open Science Training for European Research) is an EU funded project run by Eloy Rodrigues (University of Minho) that aims to provide educational resources to help researchers comply with the EU’s Horizon2020 guidelines on Open Access. They will be creating a portal to support the initiative and provide content that can be reused for the training program. They are actively calling for individuals and organisations to help supply content of even host a course about open access


Why open access should be a key issue for university leaders

18 Feb:  Nice article in the Guardian by Martin Hall (Chair of JISC and vice-chancellor of the University of Salford): “For the future of research, though, the need for openness is far more than a convenience. It arises because the volume and rate of production of online publications and digital data sets has now outgrown the limits of conventional research methods and is changing the ways in which new knowledge is created. Without openness across global digital networks, it is doubtful that large and complex problems in areas such as economics, climate change and health can be solved.”

World’s first scientific publisher launches new open access journal and so does AAAS

18th Feb:  Two of the most prestigious scholarly societies in the world – The American Association for the Advancement of Science (the publisher of Science magazine) and the Royal Society of London have each announced their intention to launch a new Open Access journal, called Scientific Advances and Open Science, respectively.

The AAAS announcement was also covered in Nature. In the Science article (main link), Jocelyn Kaiser notes that Science is now ‘joining the herd’ and that the intention is to capture the many presumably decent articles rejected by the existing stable of Science’s journals.  This has now been confirmed in a more recent editorial in Science by the Editor-in-Chief Marcia McNutt and by the CEO of AAAS Alan Leshner. Scientific Advances aims to be publishing a few thousand papers annually within a few years at a price somewhere between $1200 and $5000. This is a very welcome addition. As Heather Joseph (SPARC) and Peter Suber (Harvard) note, AAAS has been slow in joining the party, but their involvement signals another landmark in progress towards OA and a means to remove the access barriers from more research. However, both the price they will charge and the licence they will offer is still to be determined – so despite getting onto the bandwagon, it remains unclear how genuinely open they intend to be…

The Royals Society’s new journal – Open Science – will be launched later this year and is their second OA journal, the other being Open Biology.  Like Science Advances, Open Science will be interdisciplinary, accept papers rejected from their other journals and charge an APC in return for providing access.  But in what seems a more progressive move than Science, it seems likely their new journal will use a CC BY licence (though I haven’t seen this confirmed), given that Open Biology does as well . They also state they will not use subjective criteria to assess the papers but publish all sound science (so more like PLOS ONE) and will be advocating both open data and open peer review.  It sounds like a great initiative. The story was also covered by grrlscientist in the Guardian.

And there have also been three other very welcome recent announcements by Societies about switching their existing titles to OA or at least providing more OA options within them. Note this is very different to the more numerous launches of new OA journals by societies, either independently such as AAAS and the Royal Society  above or in partnership with commercial publishers such as the recent announcement by Wiley and the American Geophysical Union. Societies have been a lot more wary about converting their existing titles and potentially reducing existing revenue streams. First up on the 27th Jan was the Society for Solid-State And Electrochemical Science and Technology (ECS), closely followed by  the Paleontological Society  and then in February the American Anthropological Association announced the conversion of their Cultural Anthropology Journal. Lawrence Biemiller discusses in the Chronicle of Higher Ed how the AAA hope to use their journal to show that OA can provide a viable business model in the humanities while Mike Taylor looks at the pros and cons of the Paleo Soc’s foray into OA (i.e. CC BY-NC on offer as well as CC BY, the highish APC, and an embargo if green).

Elsevier’s new text mining initiative is a step sideways

15 Feb:  Egon Willighagen discusses Elsevier’s announcement that its content on their platform ScienceDirect is now available for text and datamining via a proprietary API. He discusses how it is potentially a positive step, in that it will enable their content to be mined, but also a huge missed opportunity because they have imposed a non-commercial restriction on the mining. Researchers are likely to have the least problems, he says, but the restriction will significantly hinder all the activities of small and medium enterprise businesses throughout Europe (exactly the sort of economic innovation that governments wanted to promote via their open access policies btw …).

In fact, it will also be a problem for researchers, not least because institutions will have to decide what is a commercial re-use when their researchers start mining. Peter Murray-Rust lays out the problems in a more detailed appraisal of Elsevier’s terms and conditions (Why researchers and libraries should think very carefully and then not sign (1), Can they force us to copyright data? (2) and The small print absolutely prevents responsible science). He also raises the issue of the role of legacy publishers more generally after Richard van Noorden posted a largely positive article about Elsevier’s announcement in Nature.  Peter concludes that “Nature has a vested interest in seeing this happen. For whatever reasons it supports the STM publishers in their intention to offer licences for content mining. Note that this is not the result of a negotiation – it is a unilateral move by the publishers.”

And as Ross Mounce also noted at the end of the Nature article “Our plan is just to wait for the copyright exemption to come into law in the United Kingdom so we can do our own content-mining our own way, on our own platform, with our own tools” … “Our project plans to mine Elsevier’s content, but we neither want nor need the restricted service they are announcing here.”

CC-BY dominates under the Creative Commons licensed journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ)

12 Feb: Christian Heise, who is doing a PhD on open science, has looked at the distribution of creative commons licences used by journals listed on the DOAJ. “The good news is that 3,772 of these Journals (almost 38 %) use a Creative Commons license. The bad news: th[at] most of the publications listed in the DOAJ are still not “Open”.” Only 20% use a CC BY licence (and 0.5% use a CC-BY-SA), with the remainder restricting either non-commercial reuse or any derivative re-use (NC and ND respectively). Rupert Gatti (founder of Open Book Publishers) poses a good question in the comments – if 62% aren’t using a CC licence, what are they using? Unfortunately the DOAJ doesn’t collect information on other licences. It would also be interesting to look at the number of articles that use CC BY. Because CC BY is used exclusively by many pure open access publishers and journals, the % of CC BY content among articles is likely to be much higher than that among journals.

Instructions from Mike Taylor: Stop what you’re doing and go read Cameron Neylon’s blog

09 Feb: On his personal blog, Science in the Open, Cameron highlights the absurdity of a new initiative by traditional publishers that has been endorsed by the UK Govt. As part of the FINCH negotiations around Open Access, several major publishers including Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, Taylor & Francis and Nature Publishing Group proposed to set up a scheme to let public libraries (the kind you walk into) host their content so that members of the public could access it for free. At the time, Mike Taylor and others pointed out the limitations of the proposal but last week ‘Access to Research’ was launched with a flurry by David Willetts at Lewisham public library (in London) ,  with additional cover at Times Higher and on the BBC. In a five minute recording, Willets acclaims the initiative as a really imaginative offering. So what is on offer? On their about page you find out that  1.5 million academic articles are available but not every article in every journal (no reason given). And if you look at the terms and conditions you can’t copy, distribute, forward or store any of the content.

With the use of a wet Saturday afternoon and some judicious text mining of the locations of the public libraries in the scheme, Cameron simultaneously provides a map of access (currently limited to not much more than Kent) and a demonstration of why such a scheme actually reflects a woeful lack of imagination.  “What I have done here is Text Mining. Something these publishers claim to support, but only under their conditions and licenses. Conditions that make it effectively impossible to do anything useful. However I’ve done this without permission, without registration, and without getting a specific license to do so. All of this would be impossible if this were research that I had accessed through the scheme or if I had agreed to the conditions that legacy publishers would like to lay down for us to carry out Content Mining.”  As Mike Taylor points out in the comments below Cameron’s post, the only legitimate way of saving any of the research in the scheme is to copy it out by hand.

For more reaction and a look at the PR tussle around the project there is  a storify by IOP publishing with tweets from Elsevier and Wiley promoting it and others taking a hard look at want is really on offer (see also the announcement from Elsevier below about their new text-mining initiative…). And of course, no-one has mentioned that the UK Govt is also in the process of closing down many walk-in libraries.

Should all correction notices be open access?

04 Feb: Retraction Watch is conducting a poll as to whether corrections to an article should be open access after blogger See Arr Oh hit the American Chemical Societies’ paywall when he tried to access one. Yup, $35 to access someone’s mistake. As they note, COPE recommends that all retraction notices be open access, but doesn’t have a stance on whether corrections should be. At time of writing 82.81% say yes. Take the poll…

EDP Sciences announces the launch of EDP Open

04 Feb: This is interesting because it also reflects a growing shift to OA by Society Publishers. EDP Sciences is located in Paris and London and is a subsidiary of several learned societies. It publishes more than 55 journals across the sciences in addition to magazines and conference proceedings. Some of their journals have converted to Open Access while others have hybrid options but they don’t have a coordinated OA service. EDP OPEN is a platform for all their Open Access articles regardless of journal and a means to enable their closed journals to convert to OA. As Jean-Marc Quilbé, President of EDP Sciences notes in the press release: “EDP Open provides access to more than 70,000 Open Access scientific articles from across all EDP Sciences’ journals and also hundreds of conference proceedings. EDP Open has also launched two new Gold Open Access journals.” It’s a great initiative but with one downside – the articles are published under a range of different licences. Not all are CC BY and the publisher retains copyright in some cases and in others articles are just free to read. This will be problematic for those wanting to reuse the content and confusing for those who are unsure what Open Access is – the site really needs the ‘HowOpenIsIt’ guide on their front page (or at least on their licence page).

Johnson & Johnson Will Share Clinical Trial Data

30 Jan: Another major victory for the ALLTrials campaign, this time discussed by Larry Husten on Forbes. See also the comment from Ben Goldacre at the end: “We are seeing the beginning of the end of a dark era in medicine. Several individual companies are breaking ranks, showing leadership, and doing what PhRMA said was impossible just a year ago.”

Masters in Publishing: An Interactive online discussion with Elizabeth Marincola

28 Jan: For those who missed it on the 23rd, Copyright Clearance Center and ALPSP recorded the online session of Elizabeth (PLOS CEO) in discussion with Crispin Taylor, Executive Director of the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Open Problems in Mathematics, a new open access journal

27 Jan: Post about a new mathematics journal with a twist: “It’s a very low-stakes journal, presumably because the editors want to encourage people to actually write things for it, and nothing published there should be new work, so it won’t be controversial. Thus, the barrier to entry is low: in order for a paper to be published, the only requirements are that submissions can be at most four pages long, and they must be “sponsored” by a mathematician who’s an expert in the field being discussed. For the sake of a definition, they’ve said a sponsor must be someone who’s had their work cited more than 100 times,”. One needs to remember that 4 pages can be long in Maths – even their PhD theses can surprisingly short.

Taylor & Francis extend green Open access zero embargo pilot scheme for Library & Information science authors until end 2014

24 Jan: In one of the first pieces of real evidence about the impact of embargoes by a commercial publisher, T&F (under the auspices of their Routeledge imprint) have decided to extend their two year pilot scheme to let authors deposit articles in repositories immediately. Why? Because it is good for business. The scheme only applies to authors of their Library & Information Science journal  but the results are exactly the opposite of the doom-laden predictions normally perpetuated about embargoes. In this case: “The implementation of the author rights pilot saw the number of respondents who would recommend Routledge as a publishing outlet increase by 34% while the average willingness to publish with Routledge on a scale of 1 to 10 increased from 6.6 to 8.3. ” Isn’t evidence refreshing.

And a new blog and video…

February 13: And not to forget we released a video on the Impact of Open Access from the Accelerating Science Awards Program in our first blog post on this blog!

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