Judge Dismisses Hathi Trust Law Suit

Earlier this month, a judge in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan threw out  a law suit brought against Hathi Trust, Indiana University, and four other R1 university libraries by the Authors Guild, Inc. and other author rights organizations and individuals. The lawsuit alleged that by digitizing millions of works that the universities owned–many of which are considered orphan works or are no longer under copyright–the rights of authors were violated.

The judge’s decision found that the digitization project falls squarely under the Fair Use provision of copyright law, and described the Hathi Trust project as an “invaluable contribution to the progress of science and cultivation of the arts” and a boon for the visually impaired and others who are considered print-disabled.

Read more about the ruling over at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

New Google Scholar Research Alert Functionality: “Scholar Updates”

Google Scholar recently released a new functionality to their service called Scholar Updates. It builds upon the existing research alerts offered by Google Scholar, which are similar in nature to those offered by ISI Web of Science and other academic databases.

Google Scholar alerts require manual set up, where a user defines a specific query relevant to their research interests using Boolean terms. While advanced users relish the flexibility of Google Scholar alerts, those who do not have the time or know-how to set up queries don’t find much value in the service.

Scholar Updates, on the other hand, has enhanced the existing alerts service by automating it for users who have a Google Scholar Citations profile. As evolutionary biologist, Jonathan Eisen, explains on his blog, Citations profiles are scraped by the Scholar Updates service in order to determine authors’ research interests and relevant keywords, based on their publication history. The service then returns relevant articles from the web  by “determin[ing] relevance using a statistical model that incorporates what [an author’s] work is about, the citation graph between articles, the fact that interests can change over time, and the authors [that a researcher] works with and cites” (Connor, 2012).

According to Eisen, Scholar Updates are surprisingly relevant to his interests. Other researchers are not so sure that the service is ready for prime time.

Have you started using Scholar Updates? What do you think of the service so far?

Open Access gains critical mass with two new petitions

Two recently launched petitions have called attention to important issues in scholarly publishing: cost and access.

The Cost of Knowledge petition, sparked by a frustrated mathematician’s blog post, was launched earlier this year to call attention to what researchers believe are unfair and opaque journal pricing practices, as well as support for American anti-Open Access (OA) legislation by the Dutch publisher, Elsevier. The petition, which now has nearly 12,000 signatories, allows supporters to indicate their discipline, institutional affiliation, and whether they plan to boycott Elsevier by refusing to publish in, referee for, or do editorial work for their journals.

While many laud the petition as an example of effective grassroots organizing that led Elsevier to withdraw support for the Research Works Act (a response much appreciated by librarians), critics of the boycott have pointed out that singling out Elsevier is unfair, given similar legislative support shown by other publishers. Some even go so far as to say that Elsevier’s “Big Deal” journal pricing practices are beneficial to libraries, small journals, and societies alike.

Riding the wave of awareness created by the Cost of Knowledge petition, a campaign called “#OAMonday” began on Twitter on May 21. #OAMonday (led by SPARC, Access2Research, and a variety of prominent figures in the OA movement) has drummed up an impressive amount of support in a short amount of time for a White House petition that asks President Obama to implement an access policy, similar to the Public Access Policy of the National Institutes of Health, for all federally funded research. (Pro-Open Access bills such as FRPAA have historically had a hard time making it through Congress; this petition seems to be a way around that. ) As of this posting, the petition is almost at the 22,000 mark.

Even if the petition does reach its goal by the June 19th deadline, it’s hard to say what the outcome will be. We already know that the Obama administration supports Open Access to federally funded research. The “We the People” petitions’ only promise is: “If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it’s sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response.”

Whatever the result, one thing is for sure: this is an exciting time to be a researcher, librarian, or advocate interested in Open Access.

Further reading

Arnold, DN & Cohn, H. (2012). Mathematicians take a stand. Arxiv.org. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1204.1351

Bambauer, D. (28 May 2012). Support Open Access to Government-Funded Science. Info/Law. Retrieved from http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/infolaw/2012/05/28/support-open-access-to-government-funded-science/

Jha, A. (9 April 2012). Academic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution. The Guardian. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/09/frustrated-blogpost-boycott-scientific-journals

(#17) Google Scholar Metrics: A New Resource for Authors (and Librarians?)

Google Scholar quietly launched a new service, Google Scholar Metrics, earlier this month. Google Scholar Metrics allows users to browse a ranked list of publications in a variety of disciplines, sorted according to their h-indices.

Google Scholar envisions that authors will use the service to “consider where to publish their latest article,” and also discover resources outside of their primary field of study. (As interdisciplinary research continues to grow, the latter functionality will likely become increasingly valuable.) Resources are also categorized by language, and journals may also be searched for using non-English terms (e.g. “salud”)—albeit on a limited basis.

Since the service launched, I’ve been thinking a lot about what Google Scholar Metrics can do for librarians. The first—and most obvious—possibility is that subject librarians can use it in a way similar to authors, in order to become familiar with new resources outside of their primary area of focus. They also might use it to supplement their calculation of the potential value of new journals (and not to mention that of traditional resources), before making purchasing decisions.

Collection development and scholarly communication librarians might be able to use the service to garner support for creating or increasing the budget for their institution’s Open Access publishing fund or institutional repository. Open Access journals, such as those in the PLoS* family, are relatively well-represented in this list. And as you can see in the below screencap (Top English Language Publications), OA repositories (red arrows) rank higher than some traditional heavyweights (blue arrows) such as the Lancet, Cell, and PNAS.

 Image: Screenshot of Google Scholar metrics

What uses do you envision for Google Scholar Metrics in the realm of libraries?

Further reading:

Google starts ranking journals,” Significance Magazine

The next revolution in Science: Open Access will open new ways to measure scientific output,” Open Knowledge Foundation – @ccess

* Full disclosure: I was formerly employed by PLoS and continue to be a staunch supporter of this wonderful non-profit.

(#14) Lessons from the SPARC OA 2012 meeting, Kansas City

Recently, John Wilbanks, Fellow of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and recent Vice President of Science at Creative Commons, gave a rousing keynote address at the start of the SPARC Open Access Meeting in Kansas City (March 11-13). He made several standout points that all institutional repository managers should consider:

“We are all Veruca Salt.” We all want it NOW.

We seem to believe that scientists’ professional lives are different from their personal lives. In the age of the Kindle, it is any wonder that some scientists are frustrated with the status quo of publishing and libraries, when they can’t effortlessly sync their research across storage solutions, virtual lab benches, repositories, and journal websites as easily as they can sync their e-reader?

Wilbanks drove home the point that we need to build smarter systems immediately that are a) interoperable and b) make researchers’ work as easy as pressing a “Sync” button.

 “Data publication is not the magic answer.”

What good is data that has no context? Or raw data that has context, for that matter? Wilbanks pointed out that publishing all data, without discretion or curation, does not provide a magic answer to the problems we already have with the pace of scientific discovery (and the roadblocks that closed access publishing are thought to contribute to). We need to consider very carefully the points at which we publish data, what we choose to publish, and who edits the data that we do publish.

This has an important lesson for librarians and institutional repository managers, many of whom are currently struggling with how to create a well-formed collection development plan for their data, and how to provide services that researchers need related to data.

What is “true” Open Access?

Wilbanks and many other Open Access advocates point to the so-called “Berlin” definition of Open Access as the “true OA” standard. It is his belief that for-profit publishers have “diluted” the meaning of Open Access by applying restrictive Creative Commons licenses to papers published in their journals. Any license other than CC-BY hinders innovation, according to Wilbanks, by requiring that researchers who wish to repurpose licensed articles, data, etc, gain approval before doing so.

Wilbanks was quick to admit that “restrictive” CC licensing is often done in order to protect the commercial interests of publishers. His solution for this problem is based upon the long tail of use that research sees in its lifecycle: there’s generally a lot of interest in the first few months, but that quickly drops off. What if the license changed, based on where that research was in its life cycle (see slides 86-88)? While this is still just an idea, it is an intriguing one.

The adoption of a lifecycle approach to Open Access licensing by mainstream publishers could have a profound effect on self-archiving at IRs. No longer would we have to consult SHERPA/RoMEO to find the OA policy for an obscure journal; we could ingest items upon publication and know that after 6 months (or 1 year, etc), that embargoed item could go live. Imagine the resources and employee hours saved!