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     April 29, 2002

The Poincaré conjecture

The Poincaré conjecture is unusual in several respects.  First, it's on every shortlist of the most famous and difficult unsolved problems in mathematics.  Second, the Clay Mathematics Institute has offered a $1 million prize for a proof of the conjecture.  Third, a serious assault on the problem is now taking place in a free online preprint archive.

Martin Dunwoody, a mathematician at Southampton University, posted a tentative proof of the conjecture to the Southampton Pure Mathematics Group Preprint Archive.  Dunwoody has revised his text several times as readers found flaws in his proof and as he found solutions.  When I last visited, he was up to version 8, and wrestling with a difficulty pointed out by Warwick mathematician Colin Rourke.

Despite the setbacks and fixes, the evolving proof is generating excitement.  Arthur Jaffe, president of the Clay Institute, called Dunwoody's work "the first serious effort" on any of the institute's seven prize-winning problems.  Mathematician Ian Stewart calls Dunwoody's proof "the first good shot at this problem in years."

From an FOS point of view, this is an experiment in putting unfinished work on an open-access preprint server, updating the work in response to criticism, harnessing informal peer review to improve a result before submitting it to formal peer review, and letting the world watch every step free of charge.

If Dunwoody never quite fixes the leaks in his proof, he will still have proved the utility of free online preprint archives in gathering relevant expertise and focusing it on an important scientific problem.  If his proof succeeds, then it will count not only as the world's first proof of the Poincaré conjecture, but as an elegant new proof of the FOS Quality Theorem, which asserts that first-rate science and scholarship do not depend on the medium (print or electronic) or cost (priced or free) of the channel of distribution.

Martin Dunwoody, "A Proof of the Poincaré Conjecture?"

Southampton Pure Mathematics Group Preprint Archive

The Clay Mathematics Institute
(The CMI list of seven "Millennium Problems" was announced in 2000 as a deliberate echo of Hilbert's famous list of 23 in 1900.)

Background on the Poincaré conjecture

AP story on Dunwoody's proof



* I'm still investigating a handful of possible new hosts for the FOS Newsletter and discussion forum.  Please forgive any ads that Topica may insert into the newsletter before I finish picking a new host and making the move.



* BioMed Central offers to handle the infrastructure for editorial groups wanting to launch their own free online peer-reviewed journals in biomedicine.  Since November 2001, BMC has launched five new journals and has 29 in preparation.

New and forthcoming journals from BMC

Starting a new journal with BMC

* The Open Archives Initiative (OAI) and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative (DMCI) have announced an XML schema for unqualified Dublin Core metadata.  The new schema was developed to use with the OAI Protocol, and will facilitate the declaration of modular metadata components.

* Six more major regional library networks have signed up with ebrary to deliver its online content.  Ebrary allows users to read full-text books and articles for free, but charges to copy or print them.

Ebrary now offers the option of flat-fee pricing.  Students, faculty, and other library patrons at institutions paying an annual fee based on FTEs may copy and print as much they like with no further charges.
(Not yet on the ebrary site.)

Finally, ebrary has launched a page for individuals who don't have ebrary access through libraries.  This is the easiest path to free online reading of the ebrary collection of full-text books and articles.

* Free access to Computing Reviews ends on May 1.  Computing Reviews is to computer science roughly what Faculty of 1000 is to biology (FOSN for 12/19/01).

* Kluwer has put over 150 of its research monographs online in ebook format and plans to add more titles in the future.  Access to the ebooks is not free.

* The European Union Council of Ministers has adopted  European Copyright Directive (ECD), which has generated controversy since it was proposed five years ago.  Member states have until January 2003 to implement it in national legislation.  Limited national variation is allowed.  The ECD covers nearly every aspect of copyright law, and hence many topics not relevant to scholarship and libraries.  Among the provisions most relevant to FOS are reductions in readers' right to fair use and web authors' right to deep linking.

* The WIPOUT essay contest on the harms and excesses of modern intellectual property law has announced its 11 winners.  The essay contest was launched to showcase critical examinations of IP law that the official WIPO essay contest would surely have buried, e.g. on teachers who can't photocopy what they need for their students or scholars who can't post their own essays to their own web sites (see FOSN for 9/6/01, 1/30/02).

Full-texts of the winning essays

Background on the contest, including full-texts of the other submissions

WIPOUT announced its winners on April 26, the day that WIPO celebrates as World Intellectual Property Day.  According the WIPO, the day is "an opportunity to highlight the significance of creativity and innovation in people's daily lives and in the betterment of society."

* Michael Williams has found a theme for his Alabama Congressional campaign:  support NASA and space exploration through a tax on space-related books, information, and knickknacks.  The tax would cover not only sci-fi novels, comics, toys, puzzles, and games, but also serious works of space science.
(Thanks to Freedom News.)


New on the net

* The University of Glasgow has created a web site, "Create Change:  Challenging the Crisis in Scholarly Communication".  It contains an institutional eprints archive, a description of the serials crisis, alternatives to commercial publication, advice to individual academics, an FAQ, and a discussion forum.

Glasgow's Create Change pages

Glasgow's eprints service

* The University of Nottingham has also launched an eprints archive.  In addition to the university's research papers, the site contains information and advice for faculty on eprints, copyright, and open access.

For an account of Nottingham's experience setting up this archive, see this article by Stephen Pinfield, Mike Gardner, and John MacColl from the March/April _Ariadne_ (FOSN for 4/15/02).

==> Does your university have an eprints archive for the research output of its faculty?  Eprint archives use free software, are easy to set up, greatly amplify the readership and impact of every participating author, and directly help readers around the world.

* A very good discussion is taking place in a thread of Ann Okerson's LibLicense list on the true costs of publishing electronic journals.

* OAIster has put online a short summary of the results of its user survey.  OAIster digs content out of the deep internet and makes it OAI-compliant and searchable (FOSN 3/4/02).  Highlight:  online journals were both the most-sought online resource and the least-found.

* Flipper is a new search engine of the deep internet.  The deep internet consists of databases not crawled by traditional search engines.  By most estimates, it's more than 500 times larger than the surface internet, and most online academic content resides there.

Press release on the launch of Flipper

* The abstracts of the papers given at the United Kingdom Serials Group conference (Warwick, April 15-17) are now online.  Many are FOS-related.  The UKSG announced its 2002 International Research Awards at the conference, but I haven't yet been able to find an online list of the winners.

* The papers from the "Museums and the Web 2002" conference (Boston, April 17-20) are now online.  So are the winners of the "Best of the Web" awards, the year's best museum web sites in seven categories.

Papers from the conference

Best of the web awards

* The presentations from the EUSIDIC conference (Paris, March 11-12) are now online.
(Thanks to El.pub Weekly.)

* _Technological Innovation and Intellectual Property Newsletter_ is a new, free online periodical.  The inaugural issue is now online.
(Thanks to Red Rock Eater.)

* The New Library of Alexandria is both an atoms and bits library.  Both versions will attempt to live up to its ancient namesake's reputation for comprehensiveness.  The physical library will hold eight million books, and the online library will host 10 billion web pages, starting with content donated by the Brewster Kahle's Internet Archive.  Both opened last week.  The opening ceremony was to have been as extravagant as the library's ambitions, but it was toned down to accord with the heightened conditions of war in the Middle East.

Mark Anderson's news story for _Wired News_

Paul Schemm's news story, especially on the digital library, for the _Cairo Times_

Bibliotheca Alexandrina

* Sam Williams has given the world free online access to his new book, _Free as in Freedom:  Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software_.  Because Williams distributes the book under the GNU Free Documentation License, readers may not only read it without charge, they may modify it.  Starting in June, Williams will host an evolving, second edition of the book.  The first edition is published by O'Reilly & Associates.

Book front page

Full-text of the first edition of the book

Site of the future, evolving edition of the book


Share your thoughts

* In FOSN for 4/15/02 I reported that NISO is developing a standard for exchanging serials subscription information.  To gather data for its deliberations, NISO and DLF are conducting a survey of libraries.  (Surveys of other stakeholders will be launched soon.)  NISO and DLF will accept responses until May 30.

* JISC is conducting a survey evaluating its Legal Information Service.  It welcomes responses until May 10.

* The EU's CORDIS (Community Research and Development Information Service) has created an online survey for its users.  CORDIS provides free online access to EU-funded research.

* ManagingInformation is conducting a poll on whether the forthcoming changes in UK copyright law favor publishers, libraries, or strike a fair balance between them.
(The poll on this page will change soon.  When I checked the results as of this morning, 45% claimed publisher bias, 25% claimed library bias, and 29% thought there was a fair balance.)

* Phyllis Sweeney is conducting a survey on the use of online resources for teaching rather than research.

* The 2002 ALPSP Awards for learned and professional publishing will be given in September.  Nominations and applications are due by May 31.

* The National Science Foundation has been investigating the cyber-infrastructure that will best support science.  It has completed some draft recommendations for which it now seeks public comment.  It would like comments by May 1, so that it can complete the final version of the report by early June.

* The Council of Europe (COE) has drafted a Declaration on Freedom of Communication on the Internet.  It welcomes public comments until May 1.  Send comments to <media [at] coe.int>.
(Thanks to Internet Law News.)

The COE has also drafted questions about freedom of expression on the internet to be debated at a May 14 hearing.
(Thanks to Politech.)


In other publications

* The May/June issue of _CLIR Issues_ is now online.  It contains the following FOS-related articles.

Daniel Greenstein and Leigh Watson Healy, "National Survey Documents [by the DLF] Effects of Internet Use on Libraries"

"Mellon Foundation to Support Scholarly Communication Institute"
(Excerpts from the press release.)

Anon., "The Digital Library:  A Biography"
(Preview of a forthcoming study from DLF and CLIR.)

Abby Smith, "The Cost of Providing Access"
("Access" here means long-term access to digital content.  Smith argues that long-term access and preservation costs are core business expenses of libraries, analogous to insurance.)

* In the April 26 _BayArea.com_, Tim Rutten reports that the University of California Press will stop publishing books in philosophy, architecture, archaeology, political science, or geography.  The implication for FOS is simply that university presses are becoming more like commercial publishers.  Quoting Robert Alter, professor of Hebrew and comparative literature:  "[T]he mandate of university presses has been gravely undermined over the past few years.  The idea originally was that bringing out serious works that were a contribution to scholarship, but not viable for a commercial publisher, was the university press's obligation to the world of knowledge."  The University of California provides only 7% of the press' budget and otherwise requires it to pay its own way through sales.
(Thanks to CentralBooking.)

* On April 24 the ALPSP published a report on authors' and readers' views of electronic research publication.  The web site contains a summary of the findings (HTML) and the key statistics (PPT), but the full report is only available in print ($100 for the first copy, $50 each for additional copies).  The report is based on a survey of 14,000 academics from all disciplines and many countries, with a 9% response rate.  From the online summary:  "[M]ost want electronic journals to be free in the future....It is salutary to discover how little they value the various additional features which publishers add to electronic journals, with the notable exception of citation linking...."  The print edition contains not only the data and its analysis, but the verbatim comments of the respondents to several open-ended questions.

* In the April 24 _Chronicle of Higher Education_, Ron Southwick reports that the Defense Department is considering criminal penalties for researchers who publish pentagon-funded basic research without first obtaining pentagon permission, even when the research is not classified.  Currently, researchers are free to publish unclassified basic research at conferences and in journals.  The pentagon spends $1.38 billion every year on basic research, and is the major U.S. funder in many academic fields including computer science, mathematics, engineering, biology, and oceanography.
(Access only for paying subscribers.)

* In the April 23 _Voice of America News_, Stephanie Mann describes the dilemma faced by Chinese leaders who are discovering that free use of internet grows both the economy and the dissemination of political dissent.

* In the April 18 issue of _Online Journalism Review_, Leslie Gornstein writes about the wireless, paperless, pay-per-view future of digital content.  Part of the story covers the work of ContentGuard, which is developing a DRM-flavored XML for Xerox and Microsoft (FOSN for 8/7/01).  Gornstein asks ContentGuard CEO Michael Miron whether DRM will deny consumers their fair-use rights.  "Miron says [that] assuring such rights is too much of a burden for his software team, arguing that every country has different intellectual property laws."  (PS:  Now you know.)
(Thanks to Red Rock Eater.)

* Thomas Walker has put online the powerpoint version of the paper he delivered at the April 12 ALPSP conference in London.  His paper describes the experience of the Florida Entomological Society in giving free online access to its journal papers.  From 1994-2000 it charged authors nothing for this service, and since 2001 has charged a fee paid by authors or their sponsors.  The fees have not deterred submissions; on the contrary, they are at record levels.  Moreover, the fees not only offset the costs of providing online access, but made print subscription prices unnecessary as well.

* In her April column for _American Libraries_, Karen Schneider describes Fiat Lux, a forthcoming directory of quality online information in every field, to be built by a non-profit cooperative.  The directory will not only be free, it will be in the public domain.  It will not only be well-organized, it will be organized by librarians.  It will be "Yahoo with values and a brain".

* In his April column for _American Libraries_, Walt Crawford gives reasons to moderate enthusiasm for "MyLibrary" customization features in digital libraries.  If you're reading this, you're probably a power user who would set up a MyLibrary account at your institution's digital library and make good use of it.  But libraries offering the option report adoption rates below 10%.  Libraries that aim service enhancements at customizers will miss the remaining 90%.  Even adopters face the dilemma of setting their recommendation and awareness parameters properly.  If set narrowly, to suit their research projects, they risk solipsism (compare Cass Sunstein's _Republic.com_, Princeton, 2001); if set broadly, to keep them generally informed, they fail to tame information overload.

* In the latest (undated) issue of the _Online Information Review_, Miriam Farber examines how vendors of online information have conceived their "end user", and how these conceptions have changed since the 1970s when the online information industry was born.  Only an abstract is free online.

* Maureen Spencer and two co-authors have posted to the web the results of their study on the use of online rather than paper sources of English judicial opinions.  Legal researchers find online sources extremely useful even when courts will not accept the citation of online sources in official documents.  Today English lawyers use online sources much more extensively than English law students, perhaps because access to them is so expensive.  Law students need training with online sources to be prepared for legal practice in the age of the internet and to discriminate the more reliable sources from the less reliable.  Finally, "cost is a significant deterrent" to the wider use of online court reporters.  (PS:  The U.S. was in a similar position a few years ago.  But the federal government and all the states have created free online access to recent statutes and judicial opinions, even if they can't use the enhanced, copyrighted versions of the major legal publishers.  The frontier now consists of older laws, smaller jurisdictions like towns and counties, and lesser legal sources like pleadings and briefs.)


Following up

To see past coverage of these stories in FOSN, use the search engine at the FOSN archive.

* More on the CBDTPA

Jack Valenti has put online his testimony before the House Appropriations Committee.  (PS:  No surprises here:  Because our business model is in danger, everyone must suffer to save us.)
(Thanks to Politech.)

For a libertarian commentary on the issues, see the recent piece by Wayne Crews, the Director of Technology Policy Studies for the Cato Institute.  "Politicians have no legitimate authority to outlaw the development of entire categories of computing technology.  More is at stake than simply a matter of a one-size-fits-all government standard having no place in computer programming, or the need to avoid 'premature' regulation:  Legislators have no business telling us what kinds of machines and software we can invent for personal use--period."

Declan McCullagh reports that the Bush administration does not support the CBDTPA.  (PS:  The CBDTPA is a Democrat bill leading Democrats away from their natural constituents.  Republicans are prudently taking advantage of the opportunity to steal some Democrat voters.  On the other side, Republican opposition to the CBDTPA will lead Republicans away from their natural constituents, so we can't expect this opposition to be firm or final.  Moreover, even the present Republican opposition is blinkered.  Bush's Undersecretary of Commerce criticized the CBDTPA in a recent speech on the ground that the DMCA makes it unnecessary.  The DMCA should suffice, he argued, because it "carefully balances the interests of all stakeholders".)
(Thanks to Politech.)

* More on the Eldred case

A Kuro5hin member ("jolly st nick") has put online a remarkable 1841 speech by Thomas Macaulay opposing copyright extension.  Macaulay argues that it will "inflict grievous injury on the public, without conferring any compensating advantage" on authors.  Copyright is a temporary monopoly for authors, and monopolies tend to "to make articles scarce, to make them dear, and to make them bad."  Moreover, "the evil effects of the monopoly are proportioned to the length of its duration."  Definitely worth reading.
(Thanks to C-FIT.)

* More on the CIPA case

Jared Kendall writes against filtering in _The Advocate_, especially when politicians are imposing it.  "The world is a blend of that which we like and find comfortable, and that which makes us cringe.  Eliminate the squirmy parts, and what you are left with isn't the world.  It's a reflection of yourself, your strengths, and your weaknesses.  A filtered world is not true.  Librarians, it seems, have more interest in truth than politicians."
(Thanks to LIS News.)

* More on the USA PATRIOT Act

A senator, a representative, and several civil liberties groups issued a statement last week denouncing the counter-terrorism legislation as an "unwise and unnecessary" limitation on free-speech rights.  The group believes the PATRIOT Act pursues a legitimate end through means "that fundamentally threaten democracy".  (PS:  When statutes limit rights granted by the First Amendment, the statutes are unconstitutional.  When will a federal court have the courage to live up to its oath?)

* More on the Authors Guild v. Amazon

Award-winning sci-fi author Cory Doctorow has published an open letter supporting Amazon's practice of making used books as easy to buy as new books.  "[T]he Amazon used-books service does not push the bounds of established copyright law or practice *at all*.  The right of a consumer to resell the property s/he's lawfully acquired (called the Doctrine of First Sale) is the reason that we are able to have used bookstores at all....Indeed, one of the most revolting characteristics of many e-book technologies is that they abridge this right...."
(Thanks to LibraryPlanet.)

* More on the Bush denial of the digital divide

Norris Dickard for the Benton Foundation assembles the evidence that a digital divide exists in the U.S. and will widen as a result of the Bush administration decision to withdraw funds devoted to bridging it.
(Thanks to Current Cites.)

* More on the Bush executive order blocking access to former presidential papers

House Republicans are planning to submit a bill that would overturn the order and put all presidential papers into the public domain 12 years after a president leaves office.
(Thanks to Red Rock Eater.)

* More on the demise of the International eBook Award Foundation

Soon after the The International eBook Award Foundation (IeBAF) announced its own demise because Microsoft had withdrawn funding, Microsoft launched the International eBook Association (IeBA).


Catching up (old news I should have discovered earlier)

* The Knowledge Conservancy is a non-profit corporation whose mission is to acquire copyrights to cultural, historical, and scientific works (by donation from their owners or by purchase with donated funds), and to make these works available online free of charge and assure their long-term preservation.  It seeks donated content, donated funds, and members.

* The Digital Library of the Commons is an OAI-compliant archive of papers on the economics of "common pool resources".  (PS:  While FOS repositories are often called an "intellectual commons", this site uses the term "commons" to refer more narrowly to rivalrous resources for which one person's use subtracts from another's.  FOS is nonrivalrous --not because it is free, but because it is digital.)



* In my last issue (and in several issues before that) I said that the National Academy Press provides free online access to "all" its books.  David Goodman writes that NAP makes an exception for its Joseph Henry Press titles, "which are a
little more popular and suitable for sale by conventional bookstores.  Most of these are not online."  Thanks, David.



If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.  (Conferences marked by two asterisks are new since the last issue.)

* The European Library:  The Gate to Europe's Knowledge:  Milestone Conference
Frankfurt am Main, April 29-30

* WebSearch University
Stamford CT, April 30 - May 1; Washington DC, September 23-24; Chicago, Octeober 22-23; Dallas, November 19-20.

* Council of Science Editors Annual Meeting
San Diego, May 4-7

* Pacific-Asia Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining
Taipei, May 6-8

* DLM-Forum 2002.  Access and Preservation of Electronic Information.  Best Practices and Solutions.
Barcelona, May 7-8

* NISO/DLF Workshop on Standards for Electronic Resource Management
Chicago, May 10

* ContentWorld 2002 [mostly for commercial content]
San Jose, California, May 13-16

** Open Archives Forum Workshop
Pisa, May 13-14

* Copyright for Beginners [among librarians and information professionals]
London, May 15

** A Day in the Life of an [Electronic] Journal Publisher
Chichester, May 16

** Shaping the Network Society:  Patterns for Participation, Action and Change
Seattle, May 16-19

* National Conference for Digital Government Research
Los Angeles, May 19-22

* Libraries in the Digital Age 2002
Dubrovnik, May 21-26

** Taking the Plunge:  Moving from Print to Electronic Journals
London, May 22

* CAiSE '02.  Advanced Information Systems Engineering
Toronto, May 27-31

* Workshop on Personalization Techniques in Electronic Publishing on the Web:  Trends and Perspectives
Malaga, Spain, May 28

* Society for Scholarly Publishing (AAP)
Boston, May 29-31

* Fair Use Seminar
Portland, Oregon, May 30

* Off the Wall and Online:  Providing Web Access to Cultural Collections
Lexington, Massachusetts, May 30-31

* Multimedia Content and Tools:  Towards Information and Knowledge Systems
London, May 30-31

* Advancing Knowledge:  Expanding Horizons for Information Science
Toronto, May 30 - June 1

* Electronic Theses and Dissertations 2002
Provo, Utah, May 30 - June 1

** International Association of Technological University Libraries Annual Conference:  Partnerships, Consortia, and 21st Century Library Science
Kansas City, June 2-6

** Digital Behavior:  European Forum on Digital Content Creation, Management, and Distribution
Cologne, June 4-8

** DELOS Workshop on Evaluation of Digital Libraries:  Testbeds, Measurements, and Metrics
Budapest, June 6-7

** Social Implicatoins of Information and Communication Technology
Raleigh, North Carolina, June 6-8

** Electronic Resources and the Social Role of Libraries in the Future
Sudak, Ukraine, June 8-16

** First International Semantic Web Conference
Sardinia, June 9-12

** Frontiers of Ownership in the Digital Economy:  Information Patents, Database Protection and the Politics of Knowledge
Paris, June 10-11

** IASSIST 2002:  Accelerating Access, Collaboration, and Dissemination
June 10-15

** The Commons in an Age of Globalisation.  Ninth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, June 17-21

** Informing Science and IT Education
Cork, June 19-21

** 8th International Conference of European University Information Systems
Porto, June 19-22

** Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers:  Exploiting the Online Environment for Maximum Advantage
Birmingham, June 20-21

** Transforming Serials:  The Revolution Continues
Williamsburg, Virginia, June 20-23

** Choices and Strategies for Preservation of the Collective Memory
Bolzano, Italy, June 25-29

** CIG Seminar:  REVEALed:  The Truth Behind the National Database of Resources in Accessible Formats
London, June 26

** 4th International JISC/CNI Conference
Edinburgh, June 26-27

** Digitisation Summer School for Cultural Heritage Professionals
Glasgow, June 30 - July 5


The Free Online Scholarship Newsletter is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute.


This is the Free Online Scholarship Newsletter (ISSN 1535-7848).

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