OA Button

Two students and a volunteer team of programmers and designers recently unveiled the Open Access Button. The OA Button is a browser-based tool that allows people to report when they’ve run into a paywall while trying to access material online. The OA Button is very easy to use. You simply add it to your browser and then click on it when you hit a paywall. You answer a few questions about the item you were trying to access and your information is added to a map showing paywall problems around the world. The tool will then try to help you find your article using Google Scholar. The OA Button is a great visual representation of the access problem many of us have been talking about for over a decade.

Article in The Guardian about the OA Button: http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/nov/18/open-access-button-push

OA Button: http://www.openaccessbutton.org 


Open access monographs

The momentum towards open access journal articles picked up substantially this year. Even though we’re still a long way from the ideal world we wish we had, where all academic scholarship can be freely read and used by anyone, anywhere, at least we are well on the way. More and more, I hear people say out loud, “It’s inevitable.”

But books are a much harder case. The cost to go from “here’s my manuscript” to the satisfying thump of the hardback on the table is a lot more than the $1000 – $3000 for an OA article. There are not a lot of people demonstrating the myriad ways to fund those costs.

But, it is happening, in many places across our country. Publishers are publishing open access monographs. I recently consulted with two faculty members at UT whose book, several years in the making now, will come out open access. They are art historians. Solid humanities. Open access. I just read an article about Wellcome Trust and Palgrave Macmillan publishing a book on the history of a disease open access. History.

It’s possible.

Yesterday I listened to the panel of lawyers who attended the appellate hearing in the Georgia State e-reserves case discuss how the oral arguments went. Everyone is careful not to say that they think things will go one way or the other, but it is certainly clear that all were considering the prospect of losing on appeal. Open access may be the silver lining to that possible outcome. If publishers were to get what they say they want in that case — to limit course readings fair use to their 1978 Classroom Guidelines — it would encourage many who might doubt its viability today, to give open access monograph publishing a lot more thought tomorrow. We have it within our own hands to steward our scholarship in a more rational way. We might start by questioning whether our servants have become our masters, and then take back from them the responsibility for sharing what we do with the world. We create it. We pay for its distribution one way or the other. Why not up front, so our authors can have the wider audiences their scholarship deserves and that open access can give them?

OER bill introduced

A bill was introduced into the U.S. Senate that would create a competitive grant program to create open educational textbooks – meaning textbooks that are freely available online. The bill, called the Affordable College Textbook Act, was introduced by Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Al Franken (D-MN).

Senate bill 1704: A bill to expand the use of open textbooks in order to achieve savings for students: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s1704

New preprint repository: bioRxiv

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has launched a preprint repository for the biological sciences called bioRxiv. bioRxiv is a place for scientists to deposit their unpublished manuscripts. This is similar to the preprint repository, arXiv, which has been in existence since 1991 and serves mainly researchers in physics, mathematics, and computer science.

About bioRxiv: http://biorxiv.org/about-biorxiv
Submission guidelines: http://biorxiv.org/submit-a-manuscript

Digital Public Library of America

DPLA logoThe Chronicle featured a post about the DPLA Tuesday morning, so I thought I’d go over and check it out. DPLA, the Digital Public Library of America, has as its goal to aggregate the records of mostly open content from libraries, archives and museums all around the country. So, for example, let’s say UT has a map collection online — in theory, our collection could be included among the resources that one can access through the DPLA portal. In addition, there is an API open to developers who want to use the metadata behind the digital resources to create interesting ways to get at what’s there. And finally, DPLA is clearly advocating on behalf of libraries, archives and museums, emphasizing the importance of the role we play in preserving works, creating metadata that describe them, and providing access to the great store of cultural materials that are in our public domain.

So, I did a bit of looking around, looked up some things on Zen, Texas history, and polar bears, and I compared the results I got with those I got from doing the same searches on the global Internet.

Wow. It’s like two completely different worlds. DPLA is ultra-refined searching, narrowed down to what’s mostly, but not entirely, public domain, and digital, whose records have been contributed to the DPLA by a partner library, museum or archive. Sort of like Creative Commons searches, when I want to find only those materials I can reuse, but much narrower. Because there is so much content out there that is not available through DPLA, I sure do appreciate the steps current-day creators take to tag their works with the privileges they freely share with the public. Otherwise, we wait decades (let’s say it’s roughly 100 years now) to be able to say, “I can actually use this wonderful work that you posted online as I wish!” Becoming public domain takes a long, long, long, long time in this country.

And I appreciate all that metadata that libraries and archives and museums have been steadily adding to the records for the works in their collections, the metadata that allows us to let machines do the job of sorting through things for us, and finding just what we’re interested in.