Welcome to the Free Online Scholarship (FOS) NewsletterApril 8, 2002
Thoughts on first and second-order scholarly judgments
What do search engines, web filters, current awareness services, and peer review have in common? They all help us churn haystacks and find needles, or process noise and find signals. They help us navigate the wilderness of information. Pick your metaphor, or try this non-metaphorical way to look at it.
Let's say that first-order scientific or scholarly judgments are judgments about what is true or probably true in astrophysics, organic chemistry, French history, epistemology, or any other field of academic research. First-order judgments are what scientists and scholars primarily produce in their roles as scientists and scholars. Let's say that second-order judgments are judgments about which first-order judgments you ought to read.
Search engines, web filters, current awareness services, and peer review give us second-order judgments. They are just a few of the many sources of second-order judgments, alongside card catalogues, book catalogues, tables of contents, spam filters, and informal networks of pointers and recommendations by trusted friends and authorities. Of course there are important differences among discovery, retrieval, evaluation, recommendation, and blocking. But there are also important similarities, namely, their second-order parasitism on first-order judgments and their ability to assist or distort research.
Second-order judgments are not necessary for researchers who personally know all those likely to make contributions worth reading, or for disciplines in which literature is sparse or disagreements are shallow. But as the universe of first-order judgments relevant to our research interests becomes unmanageably large, and as the disagreements within this universe increase in number and depth, then we need help avoiding the intellectual provincialism and risk of error that arise from reading only what it is ready to hand. We need the assistance of second-order judgments. (One recipe for crank literature is devotion without this assistance.) This isn't assistance in formulating our own first-order judgments or even in assessing those of others, but in making intelligent decisions about how to allocate the finite resource of our time and attention. As time passes and science grows, the need for second-order judgments will only increase.
There are two reasons to celebrate. The first is that the need for second-order judgments is a sign of the flourishing of the sciences and scholarship producing first-order judgments. Information overload and the need to manage it may be obstacles and irritants, but they are clearly side-effects of success. Moreover, most of us only want remedies so that we can efficiently find relevant literature, learn from our peers and predecessors, do better research, and in the end worsen the problem for our successors.
The second reason to celebrate is that free online scholarship is free online data for increasingly sophisticated software that generates second-order judgments. In the age of print, second-order judgments had to be produced by trained human scholars. When scholarly literature is digital but priced, then only its owners can experiment with software to help us find what is relevant, what is worthy, and what is new. Some of these owners have the means and will to code tools of this kind, and some are creative. But when scholarly literature is digital and unpriced, and even networked so that it can appear on every desktop that wants it, then the fetters on innovation will fall away and the pace of development will accelerate.
I'm tempted to put it this way. Computers have triggered more than one revolution in scholarly literature, apart from their assistance with first-order judgments. The first revolution was simply to digitize text, which permitted flexible writing and free copying. The second revolution was to network the digitized articles, which spread them to all connected users. At first these networked articles were all free, but as the technology evolved to block access to non-paying customers, more and more of the new literature came online only behind passwords where most readers could not reach it. The third revolution will be the return to free online access as the default for scientific and scholarly research articles. This will increase the accessibility of every article, helping readers, and increase the audience and impact for every article, helping authors. This is the FOS revolution and we're still fighting for it. But it will not be the end of the line. The fourth revolution will be to write increasingly sophisticated software that takes FOS as data and returns increasingly intelligent and customizable second-order judgments about what is relevant, what is worthy, and what is new. Making online scholarship free of charge makes it universally accessibly to connected human researchers, a major plateau in the progress of the sciences. But making it free and online also makes it universally accessible to software and programmers, which has the potential to create an even higher plateau further out.
Today there are several incentives for publishers to make scholarly literature freely available online: to respond to competitive pressure from other free journals, to increase their citation rate and impact factor by reaching a larger audience, to sell auxiliary services, to accede to demands by scholars, and to assist in the dissemination of knowledge. One incentive that is weak today and will become stronger over time is to provide scholarly content to the far-flung, distributed swarm of services processing FOS and turning it into second-order judgments on which scholars rely to learn what is relevant, what is worthy, and what is new.
If the flourishing of first-order science produces information overload, and if information overload increases the difficulty of discrimination, then tools to discriminate according to my own standards will be among the most essential tools in my research toolkit. As the scholarly use of these tools becomes routine, then literature will only be visible if it is made visible by these tools. Free and online won't be enough, just as ready-to-hand isn't enough if my desk is so littered with photocopies that I can't find what I want. If the best tools or the free tools take FOS as data, then publishers will have to produce FOS in order to make their articles visible. It follows that one strategy to accelerate FOS is to write good second-order judgment software that takes FOS as data.
Commercial publishers will still produce second-order software in-house and apply it to their priced content. Insofar as their tools are good, users will have an incentive to pay for them. This not a problem for FOS. First, it is compatible with the growing number and quality of free tools taking free literature as data. Second, many publishers will choose to give away their first-order literature and sell their second-order tools and services, which is entirely compatible with FOS. Third, users and research benefit when second-order tools proliferate and compete.
The beauty of second-order tools using first-order scholarship as data is that there can never be too many of them. If proliferating first-order judgments creates information overload, then proliferating second-order judgments creates competition, and this competition will be beneficial for users and self-limiting. Second-order judgments are valuable even when they conflict, because different users have different needs, interests, projects, standards, and approaches. You should have a choice among services competing to help you decide what deserves your time and attention. Of those services that know what you want, some will be faster, cheaper, or friendlier in providing it. Of those that are fast, cheap, and friendly, some will know better what you want. If putting priced paper literature online free of charge accelerates research, then a robust market of sophisticated, competing second-order tools will accelerate it again.
Part of academic freedom is to have a free market in first-order judgments. By this I only mean that scientists and scholars need the freedom to take a stand on what is true or probably true in their field, and be immune from every kind of retaliation, except disagreement and criticism, for doing so. (I know that I've returned to metaphor by calling this a free market.) As first-order science continues to flourish, and as information overload worsens, an essential part of academic life, as vital as academic freedom, will be a free market of second-order judgments. Yes, there will be neo-Nazi filters on historical literature and fundamentalist filters on biological literature, but these will merely be electronic reflections of methodological and ideological divisions that today show up in different journals or different conferences. Yes, second-order judgments will evaluate other second-order judgments. (For more on this, see FOSN for 11/16/01.) But without the discriminating power of second-order tools, we will be at the mercy of information overload. And without the choice of different discriminating standards, first-order academic freedom will be ineffectual.
* Postscript. One of the sillier objections to FOS is that it will increase information overload. Either this objection is an inept way of saying that FOS will dispense with peer review (which is untrue) or a prediction that making peer-reviewed literature free and online will increase its quantity (which may be true but unobjectionable). The standard response is to point out that the growth of peer-reviewed literature is a sign of progress, even if it creates information overload. While that's true, it may not address the part of the objection that bemoans the information overload it predicts and might otherwise value. A better response is to point out that FOS will inspire the development of second-order tools that take FOS as data. These tools are not only a remedy to information overload. They are the only remedy that doesn't require reducing the output of science and scholarship.
* The Open Directory Project (ODP) has added several categories on FOS initiatives. The ODP is the largest human-edited directory on the web, maintained by an army of volunteer editors (FOSN for 5/25/01, 7/10/01). The new FOS categories are edited by Dario Taraborelli, unless noted otherwise below, whose link annotations are based on descriptions from my Guide to the FOS Movement.
Open Access Resources
Free Access Scientific Archives (in need of an editor)
Free Access Scientific Journals
Free Access Theory
Open Access Organizations
Free Online Literature (in need of an editor)
* The Canadian e-Content Awards for 2002 were announced on April 1. Most of the awards are not FOS-related. An exception is the award for the Best Education Product, which went to Cold North Wind, an archive publisher.
For example, Cold North Wind technology lies behind the huge newspaper archive, America's Chronicles (FOSN for 7/10/01, 9/14/01).
* On April 1, ebrary launched a month-long trial of ebrarian, its new research service for libraries. After the trial period, the service will be available from 6,000 public libraries in the U.S. Ebrary provides free online access to full-text books and articles for reading, but charges for printing or copying. The new service makes ebrary's holdings available in libraries, integrates them with the library's existing holdings to eliminate parallel searches of separate databases, and provides various navigation, searching, and customization tools.
New on the net
* The University of California has launched the eScholarship Repository, an OAI-compliant archive for preprints and working papers for all faculty in the UC system, starting with faculty in the humanities and social sciences. The repository is part of the eScholarship program from the California Digital Library, using tools developed by the Berkeley Electronic Press.
Press release on the launch
eScholarship Repository(Thanks to Roy Tennant.)
* The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has also launched an OAI-compliant institutional archive. While the UI archive is limited to cultural heritage collections, it contains records donated by 26 institutions. In addition to launching the archive, UI has developed open-source tools for building OAI-complaint archives and harvesting their metadata, and makes them available for downloading from its site. UI has the support and assistance of the University of Michigan Digital Library Extension Service and funding from the Mellon Foundation.
UIUC Cultural Heritage Repository
UIUC archive software
* SPARC has enlarged and annotated its valuable online guide to software for managing journals, archives, and conferences.
* The Electronic Books On-Screen Interface (EBONI) project has finished writing its guidelines for electronic textbooks. The guidelines are based on usability tests conducted on students and faculty in the UK.
* The Forum on Information Standards in Heritage (FISH) has re-launched its web site at a new URL. FISH develops standards for the interoperability of online cultural heritage collections in the UK and Ireland.
* Dorothy Bryant is tired of seeing politically heterodox fellow authors attacked by critics with irrational fury and silenced by their own publishers. She's seen it often in history and she's seeing it again since September 11. She's also tired of trying to market her book on the subject, which has frightened commercial publishers as much as loyal opposition to the government's war on terrorism. So she's putting her book online free of charge, one chapter at a time, through Pat Holt's online newsletter, Holt Uncensored.
M. J. Rose's column on Bryant's book
Bryant's book (so far, the Introduction and Chapter 1)
Share your thoughts
* The Times Higher Education Supplement and the Journal of Improbable Research are trying to identify the least-read academic journal. Submit your nomination, along with "pithy, persuasive evidence" and a URL to <marca [at] chem2.harvard.edu>.(Scroll down to third story.)
In other publications
* In a preprint dated April 5, Kurt Maly and four co-authors propose making the NCSTRL (Networked Computer Science Technical Reference Library) OAI-compliant. NCSTRL was the major source of free online papers in computer science from 1994 until 2001, when its operation was suspended. The plan to move it to OAI would not only revive it, but make it more useful to researchers.
* On April 2, SPARC put online its manual for non-profit electronic publishing, _Gaining Independence_. The manual focuses on the economics and business plans of online scholarly journals, the aspect of scholarly publishing least familiar to most scholars and the one most critical to the success of FOS journals. It is based on SPARC's extensive experience supporting the publication of free and affordable scientific journals.
* In the April 2 issue of _IEEE Spectrum_, Robert Carlson introduces the phrase "open-source biology" to cover the combination of free online articles in biology and way they open the "source code" of DNA to inspection and manipulation by other scientists. Open source biology enlarges the number of minds participating in the "understanding, troubleshooting, and, ultimately, designing" of DNA, much as opening the source code of software enlarges the number of minds debugging and revising it. As with software, these "changes in the labor structure" will lead to "blossoming of biological technology". In his musings on how open-source biology will change the world, he predicts that it will be "adopted quickly in less developed economies to bypass the first world's investment in industrial infrastructure".(This version of Carlson's essay is a reprint of his 2001 Silver Award essay from the Economist/Shell essay competition on what the world will be like 2050.)
* In the April 2 _O'Reilly Network_, Richard Koman interviews Lawrence Lessig on the future of the public domain. The conversation ranges over the Eldred case, the CBDTPA, the Creative Commons, the open source movement, the Felten and DeCSS cases, and the response to his book, _The Future of Ideas_.(Thanks to the Scholarly Electronic Publishing Weblog.)
* In the April 2 _Daily Herald_, Sarah Long profiles _First Monday_, one of the first peer-reviewed journals to study the internet and still one of the few that regularly covers FOS issues.(Thanks to Gary Price's VASND.)
* In the April 1 issue of _LLRX_, Steven Cohen offers tips on using the Internet Archive for legal research. It contains superseded rulings dropped from other legal databases, and back issues of some journals recently hidden behind passwords for paying customers.(Thanks to LIS News.)
* In the April issue of _Online_, Greg Notess reviews the Wayback Machine. In addition to praising it, he notes its omissions and long-term financial insecurity.
* In the April issue of _Searcher_, Jill Grogg reviews the technical and organizational obstacles to reference linking (linking citations to sources in scholarly publications). This is the best overview of the complexity of the problem and the constraints on the solution that I've seen.
* In the April issue of _Information Today_, Barbara Quint reports that database vendors are increasingly dishonest about Tasini-inspired deletions of content (see FOSN for 1/23/02). She offers suggestions to help publishers improve both their reputations and the reliability of their collections, and names names about which publishers are doing what.
* In the April 1 issue of _First Monday_, Robin Van Koert tests the theory that the influence of the internet makes it more difficult for anti-democratic governments to control the flow of information and finds that it is false.
* In the April 1 _News.com_, Andy Carvin of the Benton Foundation answers the Bush Commerce Department and conservative pundits who claim that the digital divide has disappeared. The problem is not just that they are wrong on the facts, it's that pretending the digital divide has disappeared is a recipe for its perpetuation.
* An April appendix to the _GPO Access Training Manual_ explains the sense in which the government offers free online access to STAT-USA/Internet, a government archive of business, economic, and trade information. When Congress created the archive in 1994, it required that it pay for itself. But an intervening agreement with the Department of Commerce provides free access for patrons of any federal depository library.(Thanks to Gary Price's VASND.)
* In the March/April issue of _The Technology Source_, Steven Gilbert interviews Phillip Long, the senior strategist behind MIT's Open Knowledge Initiative and Open Courseware Initiative.
* In the latest (undated) issue of _Library Hi Tech_, Michael Seadle reviews the moral rights tradition, as an alternative to ordinary copyright protection, in the networked world. Only an abstract of his article is free online.
* A recent but undated story in _Wired_ reports on a bet between legendary editor, Jason Epstein, and legendary net founding father, Vint Cerf. Epstein bets that by 2010, more than 50% of books sold worldwide will be printed on demand at the point of sale. Cerf bets that by that time, more than 50% will be read off electronic devices. They're betting $1,000, to be given to designated charities.
* The March 27 issue of _Business Week_ contains an interview with Tim Berners-Lee talking about his original vision for the web and his new vision for the Semantic Web.(Thanks to LIS News.)
* The February/March _SPARC E-News_ contains an endorsement of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. "SPARC and SPARC Europe participated in the creation of BOAI and signed the Initiative because access to knowledge is the central purpose of scholarly communication. A system built on open access offers the prospect of being less expensive to operate and of better serving scholars, the scholarly process, and society. Given these fundamentals, experiments with open access will inevitably lead us toward enduring solutions...BOAI builds on the work of societies, university presses, and others who have demonstrated the possibility and sustainability of affordable access models. SPARC continues to support their activities enthusiastically."
* Also in the February/March _SPARC E-News_, Susan Gibbons describes steps the University of Rochester is studying in order to make the knowledge disseminated by the university approach the knowledge it cultivates in its classrooms and laboratories. The UR Libraries task force will consider moving to electronic theses and dissertations, adopting institutional self-archiving, launching new ejournals, running the new digital libraries on open source software, making them all OAI-compliant, and integrating current awareness and reference linking from the start.
* Also in the February/March _SPARC E-News_, Patrizia Cotoneschi describes the Firenze University Press (FUP), an experimental electronic scholarly publishing pilot program now in its second year at the University of Florence. FUP creates free online access to the research papers of Florence faculty while protecting their copyrights and assuring long-term preservation of the texts. Of the 30 peer-reviewed paper journals published by the university when the program began, two were converted to open-access journals in the first year, and two more have been converted in the second year. All FUP publications are described with Dublin Core metadata.
* _Digital Document Quarterly_ is a new online publication. The first number is devoted to digital preservation.
* In the March issues of _Serials_, Mark Jordan and Dave Kisly present the results of their survey on how librarians handle electronic serials. I ran their request for survey participants in FOSN for 8/16/01. Unfortunately the results are only available to paying subscribers.
* _Salon_ has reprinted an August 2000 cartoon by Ruben Bolling that captures publishers' paranoia about libraries and free online access. Bolling was probably thinking of Napster, but it applies to all dissemination methods threatened by the DMCA.(Thanks to LIS News.)
To see past coverage of these stories in FOSN, use the search engine at the FOSN archive.
* More on the CBDTPA
Patrick Thibodeau has interviewed some knowledgeable people with pungent views, most of them strongly opposed to the bill.
The Association for Computing Machinery has published an open letter opposing the CBDTPA. "[T]he CBDTPA will threaten the ability of individuals to engage in critical research, interfere in the otherwise legal exchange of ideas and information fundamental to innovation, seriously restrict the quality of computing education, and undoubtedly threaten national security." The letter also contains a helpful list of important, non-infringing types of copying that CBDTPA would block. Finally, the main problem: "Entertainment is only one, relatively minor use (compared to all uses) of networks and computing technology. Legislating constraints on technology to aid any minority interest has the potential to cause widespread and severe damage to society at large."(Thanks to Red Rock Eater.)
The Digital Media Association, which has the same business interests as Disney, has come out against the CBDTPA. It calls the bill "deeply misguided". Some of DiMA's reasons are pro-consumer (the bill would diminish fair-use rights) and some make Disney look moderate (the bill would require DRM software to be open source).(Thanks to Content World.)
Rani Chohan is one of the first to focus on how the CBDTPA would affect libraries and research. Quoting Siva Vaidhyanathan, librarian at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and author of _Copyrights and Copywrongs_: "It would fundamentally change the way libraries use electronic databases and CD-ROMs. You could no longer have widespread access to materials." Instead of single computers connected to every database licensed by the library, libraries would have to buy separate terminals tethered to separate databases. "You would have to start paying libraries for access because they would not be able to afford it on their own."
An anonymous article on _LinuxAndMain_ argues that the CBDTPA requires security technology patented by Microsoft last December. This would deserve a raised eyebrow, but the author only shows that Microsoft's technology is of the eligible sort, not that it is the only eligible case of the kind.(Thanks to C-FIT.)
CNET's _News.com_ has interviewed Jack Valenti. Some highlights. (1) Valenti believes that the movie industry "can be terrorized" by broadband users. (2) He believes the tech industry is "much more responsive" to the content industry now than earlier in the process. As the two industries "begin to think more intensively about these issues, we're all coming to the same conclusion at the same time." (3) He believes the CBDTPA will not violate users' rights. "What rights are we talking about? I'm not trying to be glib."
* More on the CIPA trial
Coverage of the trial, which ended Thursday. The three federal judges are now deliberating, and should issue their verdict in May.
In the April 3 _Oregonian_, Jeffrey Kosseff interviews CIPA opponent and co-plaintiff, Ginnie Cooper. Although the internet has significantly changed the job description for librarians, Cooper argues that the basic principle of bringing patrons together with the information they seek has not changed.(Thanks to Gary Price's VASND.)
* More on the Elcomsoft/Sklyarov case
Elcomsoft moved to dismiss the case, in part because a U.S. court has no jurisdiction over the internet. The judge (predictably) denied the motion and asserted that enough of Elcomsoft's conduct occurred in the U.S. for the court to have jurisdiction. A second motion to dismiss the case based on the First Amendment has been taken under advisement.
* More on the Google/Scientology case
Danny Sullivan's take for _Search Engine Watch_.
Ben Tudor tells the story for _Vnunet_.
* More on the effects of the USA PATRIOT Act
The PATRIOT Act gives the FBI the right to seize the records of bookstores and libraries in order to see who is reading what. But did you also know that it prohibits booksellers and librarians from disclosing the seizures to "any other person" including the individuals whose records were seized and the press? Nat Hentoff calls this provision "the most far-reaching gag order in First Amendment history".(Thanks to LIS News.)
A panel of liberals and conservatives unanimously condemned the USA PATRIOT Act at a recent forum hosted by the Federal Bar Association in Atlanta.
* More on coding DNA sequences as copyrighted music
Henry Fountain explains how and why for the _New York Times_.
Catching up (old news I should have discovered earlier)
* SearcheBooks.com is a search engine specializing in free online full-text books.(Thanks to LII Week.)
* FreeBooknotes.com is a free online archive of book summaries (like Cliff's Notes) for students too lazy to read whole books. Apparently there are many book summary sites on the web. FreeBooknotes links to summaries on all the other sites, organized by book. This is not free online "scholarship", but teachers should know that their students might be using these summaries. The site is supported by advertising so thick and distracting that sober visitors might click "Back" before sampling the content.(Thanks to LII Week.)
If you plan to attend one of the following conferences, please share your observations with us through our discussion forum.
* What Scholars Need to Know to Publish Today: Digital Writing and Access for ReadersAlbany, New York, April 8
* International Conference on Information Technology: Coding and ComputingLas Vegas, April 8-10
* E-Content 2002. Dreams and Realities. [On eBooks]London, April 10-11
* NetLab and Friends: 10 Years of Digital Library DevelopmentLund, April 10-12
* Censorship and Free Access to Information in Libraries and on the InternetCopenhagen, April 11
* International Learned Journals Seminar: We Can't Go On Like This: The Future of JournalsLondon, April 12
* SIAM International Conference on Data MiningArlington, Virginia, April 11-13
* Creating access to information: EBLIDA workshop on getting a better deal from your information licencesThe Hague, April 12
* Copyright in the Private Sector: An Engine of Free Expression or a Tool of Private Censorship?New York, April 15
* Licensing Electronic Resources to LibrariesPhiladelphia, April 15
* Coalition for Networked Information (CNI) Task Force MeetingWashington, D.C., April 15-16
* United Kingdom Serials Group Annual Conference and ExhibitionUniversity of Warwick, April 15- 17
* Conference on Computers, Freedom, and PrivacySan Francisco, April 16-19
* EDUCAUSE Networking 2002Washington, D.C., April 17-18
* Museums and the Web 2002Boston, April 17-20
* Legal Guidelines for Use of Intellectual Property in Higher EducationOneonta, NY, April 19
* OCLC Institute. Steering by Standards. (A series of satellite videoconferences.)OAIS, April 19. Metadata standards in the future, May 29.
* Information, Knowledges and Society: Challenges of A New EraHavana, April 22-26
* Current Awareness Services on the NetToronto, April 22 - June 3
* DAI Institute on The State of Digital Preservation: An International PerspectiveWashington, D.C., April 24-25
* CLIR Sponsors' Symposium: New Challenges, New Solutions: Libraries for the FutureWashington, D.C., April 26
* The European Library: The Gate to Europe's Knowledge: Milestone ConferenceFrankfurt am Main, April 29-30
* WebSearch UniversityStamford CT, April 30 - May 1; Washington DC, September 23-24; Chicago, Octeober 22-23; Dallas, November 19-20.
* Council of Science Editors Annual MeetingSan Diego, May 4-7
* Pacific-Asia Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data MiningTaipei, May 6-8
* DLM-Forum 2002. Access and Preservation of Electronic Information. Best Practices and Solutions.Barcelona, May 7-8
* ContentWorld 2002 [mostly for commercial content]San Jose, California, May 13-16
* National Conference for Digital Government ResearchLos Angeles, May 19-22
* Libraries in the Digital Age 2002Dubrovnik, May 21-26
* CAiSE '02. Advanced Information Systems EngineeringToronto, May 27-31
* Workshop on Personalization Techniques in Electronic Publishing on the Web: Trends and PerspectivesMalaga, Spain, May 28
* Society for Scholarly Publishing (AAP)Boston, May 29-31
* Off and Wall and Online: Providing Web Access to Cultural CollectionsLexington, Massachusetts, May 30-31
* Advancing Knowledge: Expanding Horizons for Information ScienceToronto, May 30 - June 1
* Electronic Theses and Dissertations 2002Provo, Utah, May 30 - June 1
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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Copyright (c) 2002, Peter Suber