Open access in 2006
SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #105
January 2, 2007
by Peter Suber
* 2006 was the year of the OA mandate.  Before 2006 we had precisely one OA mandate from a private research funder (Wellcome Trust), one OA mandate from a public research funder (France's INRA or Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique), a couple of OA requests, exhortations, or non-mandates from public funders (US, Canada), and a good handful of proposed mandates for public funders (Australia, Canada, Finland, South Africa, UK, Ukraine, US, and the European Union).  But progress exploded in 2006.  Five of the eight Research Councils UK adopted clear OA mandates.  (One of the RCUK adopted an OA request and two are still deliberating.)  We also saw quasi or virtual mandates from Germany's DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), Austria's FWF (Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung), and two agencies in Australia, the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council.  China's Ministry of Science and Technology mandated OA to data.  In addition, we got OA requests and encouragements from the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Alliance, France's CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique) and Infremer (Institut français de recherche pour l'exploitation de la mer), Sweden's BIBSAM (the National Co-ordination and Development Program of the National Library of Sweden), and the US National Endowment for the Humanities.  We also got mandate proposals from Australia's Productivity Commission and RQF Advisory Group, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the European Union, not to mention the many proposals from conference statements and individual publications.  In the US Senate, John Cornyn introduced the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), which has grown steadily in public support and may come up for a vote in 2007.  In the US House of Representatives, an appropriations bill would have converted the NIH policy to a mandate, but it died without a vote as a side-effect of the delays in the appropriations process caused by the Democratic victory.  In a nice historical turn, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which initially shied away from mandates and became the first funding agency anywhere to pay publication fees at OA journals, announced that it was now considering an OA archiving mandate.  Finally, we saw a sharp rise in mandates and strong OA policies at universities (details in the next bullet).

The funder policies became so numerous in 2006 that SHERPA launched JULIET, a database to keep track of them, and BMC created an online table to compare them.  SPARC Europe posted a spreadsheet to compare the positions of the eight Research Councils UK.

In 2006, funding agency OA policies and proposals not only increased in number and improved in strength.  They also widened in scope.  Before 2006, the most important funder policies were in medicine, but in 2006 the major new policies and proposals apply to publicly-funded research across the board:  the RCUK as a group, the German DFG, the Austrian FWF, the Australian ARC, the US FRPAA, and the EC report recommendation.  Medical research was a natural place to start, given the large investment and urgent public need, but in 2006 governments began to acknowledge that the argument for OA to publicly-funded research has untapped generality.

The sharp rise in mandates had five causes.  (1) The taxpayer argument for open access to publicly-funded research is compelling and intuitive.  (2) Lots of seeds planted in 2004 and 2005 finally germinated in 2006.  Deliberations take time.  (3) The NIH documented the failure of its weak policy --a compliance rate of less than 4%--, prodding every funding agency studying its lessons to try something stronger.  (4) Empirical evidence from many sources, notably CERN and several studies by Arthur Sale, showed that mandates actually work and produce compliance rates approaching 100%.  (5) The Wellcome Trust and a handful of universities proved that successful mandates rely on expectations, education, assistance, and incentives, not coercion.

* 2006 was for universities roughly what 2005 was for funding agencies:  the year in which they awoke to their own interests in OA, in large numbers, and began taking steps to achieve it.  Eleven research institutions adopted OA mandates or strong OA policies in 2006:  Athabasca University, Bharathidasan University, Brunel University, Humboldt University Berlin, University of Lyon 2 - Lumiere, India's National Institute of Technology in Rourkela, University of Oslo, Potsdam University, Southampton University, Stockholm University, and the University of Tasmania.  That's more than twice as many as adopted similar policies in all previous years combined.

Beyond action, we saw a spread of what could be called precursors to action.  In the US, four waves of open letters from university provosts and presidents endorsed FRPAA.  SPARC consolidated the signatures and solicited new ones; the tally is now up to 131.  The Council of the Rectors of Portuguese Universities issued a statement endorsing OA.  The German Rectors' Conference built on its 2002 endorsement of OA.  The Finnish Council of University Rectors launched a set of initiatives to implement OA.  The European University Association set up an Open Access Working Group.  The Rectors' Conference of the Swiss Universities, the Council of the Swiss Scientific Academies, and individual rectors from universities in Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and Venezuela signed the Berlin Declaration. 

We must acknowledge that rectors, provosts, and presidents have been endorsing OA faster than they've been leading their own institutions to good OA policies.  But these endorsements show that understanding and commitment are spreading at the highest levels of university administration, a necessary condition to change and one long in coming.  These endorsements have another significance for OA.  Despite the headline actions of major funding agencies and governments, there was a lingering sense among some publishers and journalists, even in 2006, that OA was a fringe idea of anarchists or utopians that might go away if serious publishers raised their voices about it.  By adding their weight to the existing support for OA, rectors, provosts, and presidents are demonstrating that support for OA is based on deep-seated academic interests.  It's sad and complicated that major academic institutions have been slower to act than major funding agencies, but the academic institutions are waking up to their interests and making them clear. 

* Hybrid OA journals spread with explosive suddenness in 2006.  Publishers launching hybrid programs in 2006 include the American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, American Society of Plant Biologists, BMJ, Cambridge University Press, Elsevier, EMBO, the European Physical Journal(s), the Royal Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, Taylor & Francis, and Wiley.  (Blackwell and Oxford launched their programs in 2005, and Springer, the American Institute of Physics, and Company of Biologists launched theirs in 2004.)  To accommodate this new flood, the DOAJ started listing hybrid journals, though separately from the main collection. 

Some hybrid programs are good-faith, even optimistic experiments; some look grudging or cynical.  Some charge low fees and let participating authors retain copyright; some charge high fees and still demand the copyright.  Some provide OA to the full published edition, some only to an enfeebled truncation stripped of active links.  Some reduce subscription prices in proportion to author uptake; some use a frank "double charge" business model.  Some let authors deposit articles in repositories independent of the publisher; some allow free online access only from sites they control.  Some don't try to meddle with author funding contracts; some charge authors who want to comply with prior funding obligations.  Some continue to allow immediate self-archiving for non-participating authors; some impose embargoes or fees on self-archiving.  The positive spin on this wide range of policies is that publishers are fully exploring the hybrid journal space for variations that satisfy their constraints.  I do think that's good even if I also think some current models are cynical or useless.  To make the same point without the spin, some want to encourage author uptake and some don't seem to care as long as they have subscriptions. 

The rise of hybrid OA journals has not reduced publisher lobbying against national OA archiving policies, but it has reduced the hyperbolic rhetoric of public position statements, for example, on the corrupting influence of accepting author-side fees.

Oxford, more than other hybrid publishers, showed that the model is experimental by publishing its data (June and August) and tweaking its policies.  In September it revised its policy to permit CC licenses; in November it supported OAI harvesting and started depositing participating articles in PMC; in December it asked authors to disclose the source of funding used to pay the publication fee; and it has already decided to reduce the 2007 subscription prices for the three Oxford hybrid journals with the highest levels of author uptake.

* The rise of hybrid OA journals has given new life to an old, low-key, intramural quarrel in the OA movement:  whether OA archives and OA journals are complementary or competitive.  When authors want to provide OA to their own work, hybrid journals want to be there, taking a fee to let it happen.  Hence, hybrid journals tend to charge fees for immediate OA and impose embargoes on self-archivers who don't pay the fees.  (Among recent adoptors of the model, thanks to APS and Cambridge for resisting this trend.)  In this sense, the rise of hybrid gold is triggering a retreat from traditional green.  And vice versa, at least arguably, the growth of no-fee self-archiving prevents hybrid OA journals from offering OA to a larger body of literature.  Green and gold may be complementary on other fronts, but they do appear competitive on this one.  (I argued in SOAN for September 2006 that the problem disappears if hybrid journals continue to evolve toward full OA.)  Their rivalry would not matter very much if hybrids were generating higher levels of author uptake and delivering more OA.  But hybrid journals may carry the seeds of an unwelcome trend:  retreat on permission for green OA without compensating gains in gold OA.

* In 2006, OA archiving progressed on nearly every front.  We saw significant growth in the number of repositories, the number of articles on deposit, the number of repository directories, the number and strength of policies to fill repositories, and in the number of articles on the best practices for filling them.  In 2006 we saw the official launch of the Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR, from the Universities of Lund and Nottingham), ScientificCommons (from the University of St. Gallen), and (from Horizon's Unlimited); Tim Brody's Institutional Archives Registry changed its name to the Registry of Open Access Archives (ROAR).  These four directories and OAIster (launched in 2002), are the most systematic and comprehensive even if they differ somewhat in their selection policies.  On December 31, 2006, OAIster listed 726 OA, OAI-compliant repositories worldwide; ROAR listed 792; OpenDOAR listed 833; ScientificCommons listed 840, and listed 1,146.  Last year at the same time, OAIster listed 578 (I don't have data for the other four), showing a 25% increase in the repository tally in one year.  An ARL study released in August showed that 43% member institutions already had institutional repositories and 35% more were planning to have one by 2007.  Last year OAIster listed a total of 6,255,599 records from the repositories it covered, and this year it listed 9,931,910, a 59% increase. 

In 2006, the Institute of Physics launched, its long-awaited mirror and enhancement of arXiv, showing (again) that journal publishers in physics think it more advantageous to support OA archiving than to resist it.  (The American Physical Society launched its arXiv mirror in 1999.)  A consortium of international research institutions launched DRIVER (Digital Repository Infrastructure Vision for European Research), which will build a large-scale OA infrastructure across Europe laid on top of the network of OA repositories.  Germany's DFG launched its Informationsplattform Open Access, and the German Parliament considered a bill that would permit author self-archiving of journal articles six months after publication regardless of the terms in a copyright transfer agreement the author might have signed.  The newly updated UK Model NESLi2 Licence for Journals included a provision allowing open-access archiving.   Chemists Without Borders encouraged OA archiving, as did the American Philological Association, the Archaeological Institute of America, American Council of Learned Societies, the Rio Declaration, the Declaration of Mexico, and the Rihadh Declaration.  The Bangalore Commitment, a model OA policy for developing countries, recommended mandating OA for all publicly-funded research.

EPrints and DSpace now support "email buttons" to let readers request email copies of articles on deposit in a repository but not yet OA.  This simple software feature supports a wise and practical refinement of earlier OA mandate policies:  its lets funders and universities mandate immediate deposit and permit delayed or even optional OA, a combination that reduces the resistance of publishers, the hurdles to adoption, and the harm of embargoes. (Stevan Harnad deserves credit for conceiving the feature and leading the argument that funders should refine their mandate policies to match it.)

* Commercial companies like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Elsevier, and Thomson stepped up their efforts to index the network of OA repositories.  This positive trend simultaneously increases the visibility of OA literature and the number of for-profit businesses that depend on its growth.  You'll note that some of these companies are journal publishers and some are not.  It's good for OA, and good all around, that for-profit companies have an interest in populating the OA repositories they index.  But for the journal publishers, this interest may eventually conflict with their interest in protecting subscriptions, or at least many have speculated out loud about this potential conflict.  So far their solution is to work hard to protect their journal revenue, to work much less hard to populate OA repositories, and to work hard against government mandates that would rapidly populate OA repositories.  But fast-changing circumstances prevent these conflicting interests from reaching equilibrium.  It's smart diversification for publishers to gain on the indexing side what they might lose on the subscription side.  It's so smart that we might see other publishers move in the same direction.  Any company with active operations on both sides of the issue could easily increase its support for OA archiving, for example, if evidence beyond physics shows that OA archiving doesn't threaten subscriptions or if governments and universities adopt OA mandates anyway.

I don't know whether publishers with indexing operations are simply seizing multiple revenue opportunities or consciously diversifying as a hedge against possible subscription losses.  But either way, we're inching toward the day when revenue from journal subscriptions will be less than revenue from tools and services to enhance the value of full-text, peer-reviewed, OA literature.  Some commercial companies are already positioning themselves to prosper from the transition.

* OA journals matched the progress of OA repositories.  Last year in late December, the DOAJ listed 1,988 peer-reviewed open-access journals and this year it listed 2,510, an increase of 26% over the previous year.  (Thanks to Heather Morrison for the baseline datum.)  Hindawi's OA journal collection more than doubled, growing from 12 to 25.   PLoS and BMC added titles, raised their fees, and moved beyond biomedicine:  PLoS through the multi-disciplinary PLoS ONE and BMC through sibling spin-offs Chemistry Central and PhysMath Central.  We saw another wave of toll-access (TA) journals convert to OA, and another wave of new, small OA-dedicated publisher start-ups and OA branches at established university presses. Open J-Gate and LivRe joined the DOAJ, Genamics Journal Seek, and the Jan Szczepanski list as major directories of OA journals.

PLoS ONE became the most prominent of many attempts to combine OA with other ways of taking advantage of the interactive internet for scholarly communication, combining prospective and retroactive review, combining closed and open review, disregarding disciplinary boundaries and volume limitations, and supporting user annotations, personalization, and ratings.  It likes the terms Web 2.0 and Open Access 2.0 for what it's doing, but Journal 2.0 may be a more precise way to describe its attempt to go beyond the port of a peer-reviewed print journal to the online medium.

New attention focused on no-fee OA journals, the still little-known majority.  As in past years, most new OA journals were no-fee journals.  I wrote two lead essays for SOAN on no-fee journals (in June and November) on how they upset conventional wisdom about OA journals and deserve further exploration.  The DOAJ added a useful new filter to its search engine, letting users look only at the no-fee journals or the fee-based journals.  The American Society of Plant Biology even created what amounts to a no-fee model for hybrid journals (the OA option is free of charge for society members).

Both the Hindawi and Medknow OA journal collections became profitable, an industry first.  All the Hindawi OA journals use author-side fees and none of the Medknow journals do so.  Together, therefore, they elegantly answered doubts about the business models for fee-based and no-fee OA journals. 

* In 2006 we saw the first systematic attempt to redirect funds from toll-access (TA) journal subscriptions to OA journal publication fees.  I'm referring to CERN's project to convert all the journals in particle physics from TA to OA, with the full cooperation of affected research institutions, libraries, and publishers.  The project is remarkable for its ambition, for its success in persuading stakeholders to come on board, but also for its finding, endorsed by publishers, that the OA system will cost less than the TA system without any diminution of quality.  For journals, as opposed to repositories (as I said last month in my predictions for 2007), this is the endgame.  It's important that this transition is happening first in particle physics, the scientific field with the longest history of OA archiving, the highest level of OA archiving, and the best record of coexistence or even symbiosis between OA archives and TA journals.  This suggests that publishers are joining the CERN plan voluntarily, not under duress from painfully high levels of OA archiving that has forced them to adapt.  It's too early to say whether the "peaceful revolution" under way in particle physics will work in other fields.  But it's certainly possible.  The question is not whether other fields have their own CERNs (they don't), but whether they can build the kind of coalition that CERN has built. 

* Publisher consolidation continued in 2006.  This is no surprise and merely continues a two-decade trend toward mergers and acquisitions in academic publishing.  But it did continue.  Wiley bought Blackwell.  Cambridge Information Group bought ProQuest Information and Learning (the bulk of ProQuest).  Elsevier bought Syngress.  Informa's Academic and Scientific Division (Taylor & Francis) bought Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.  Springer (and behind it, Cinven and Candover) tried to buy Informa, so far unsuccessfully.

This consolidation increased the size of the giants, and will probably lead to price increases for their journals, but it didn't prevent the launch of many small new publishers.  Among the OA-dedicated start-ups in 2006 were Atlantis Press, E-Journals of Meteorology, Free Press, Freeload Press, Friday Project, Informing Science Institute, MediaCommons, Open Humanities Press, Paradise Publishers, Pretext, Scholars Without Borders, and Scientific Journals International.  And that doesn't even count the new OA branches at university presses (see the section on OA books, below).

* 2006 was another big year for OA to data.  China's Ministry of Science and Technology mandated OA to about 80% of the data generated by publicly-funded research.  The Canadian Institutes of Health Research wrote a draft OA policy that would not only mandate OA to research articles but also some of the data files resulting from CIHR-funded research.  The Gates Foundation required data sharing for its HIV/AIDS research.  The Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data was one of several initiatives to encourage OA to avian flu data, breaking the previous, widespread national practices of hoarding it to head off agricultural boycotts or help local scientists scoop foreigners.  The US National Science Foundation's Cyberinfrastructure Vision For 21st Century Discovery endorsed open access to data.  The Governing Board of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility adopted a Recommendation On Open Access To Biodiversity Data, reaffirming and extending its OA statement from last year.  The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity endorsed OA for biodiversity data.  The NIH's OA data repository for biochemistry, PubChem, prevailed against the attempt by the American Chemical Society to defund it or scale it back, and began attracting content from commercial players like Thomson Scientific.  The ALPSP and STM, which resist the growth of OA archiving, called for OA to raw data, especially data underlying published journal articles.  The Guardian launched the Free Our Data campaign and pressed the UK government to provide OA to publicly-funded data, especially geospatial data.  The UK Office of Fair Trading estimated that lack of OA to public data costs the country £500 million/year.  The Public Geo Data launched an online petition calling for OA to EU-collected geospatial data.  The Commission to the European Parliament published recommended OA to publicly-funded EU geodata.  The European Parliament reached a compromise on the INSPIRE Directive (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe), providing OA to some and providing other data on a cost-recovery basis.  The Universal Protein Resource became the first database to use a Creative Commons license to encourage re-use, and Science Commons wrote an FAQ on using CC licenses for databases.  The SPARC discussion list on Open Data, moderated by Peter Murray-Rust, though launched in late 2005, came to life in 2006.  At least two powerful tools, FortiusOne and Swivel, launched to host and analyze OA data. 

* 2006 saw continued progress toward OA and near-OA books.  The Google Library Project turned two years old, and still has lawsuits pending against it from some author and publisher groups.  Last year I predicted that it would have trouble recruiting new members until the lawsuits were resolved, but it proved me wrong, recruiting the University of California (the first to work with both Google and the OCA), Complutense University of Madrid (the first outside the English-speaking world), the University of Wisconsin, and the University of Virginia.  Moreover, it lifted its restrictions on printing and downloading the public-domain books it scans.  The Open Content Alliance (OCA) also recruited new members:  the Boston Library Consortium, Indiana University, University of Alberta, University of Georgia, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  As of December 2006, the Internet Archive was hosting more than 100,000 OA books, most digitized by the OCA.  It also received a $1 million grant from the Sloan Foundation to support its digitization projects for the OCA.  Microsoft continued its OCA-connected book scanning and launched its own Live Book Search to complement its Live Academic Search (another 2006 launch).  The American Council of Learned Societies recommended that university presses join the OCA.  A handful of university presses launched new OA branches or imprints:  the University of Tennessee, Georgetown University, Rice University, and the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies.  OA textbook providers multiplied and OA textbook adoptions began spreading.  The European Library made progress, both in scanning books and in consolidating its operations and laying the foundation for the next five years of digitization.

Late in the year Google began offering to digitize journal backfiles for OA.  The terms are not as attractive its book-scanning programs (the journals don't get copies of the digital files, for example), but it's free of charge for the journals, non-exclusive, and needn't include recent issues that the journal doesn't want to include.  It could rapidly bring about OA to the bulk of the corpus of journal literature that isn't already OA.  Google is entering new territory and so far its journal-scanning initiative has no counterpart at the OCA, The European Library, Project Gutenberg, or related book projects. 

The media continued to depict the major book-scanning projects as rivals, as if the marketplace jockeying of Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft were more important than access to the literature.  But users benefit whether the projects are complementary or competitive.  Very wealthy companies are racing to make more literature more usefully available to more people.  It may be understandable that Google wants to be the only company to index the files it scans.  But if so, it's remarkable that OCA seeks no similar advantage.  Competition may keep the projects from coordinating to reduce redundant book-scans.  But for now, even redundant scans work in our favor, limiting corporate lock-in and creating competition to make the overlapping editions more accessible and useful for readers.

* Experiments combining OA with new forms of peer review were not new in 2006 but burst into scholarly consciousness almost as if they were new.  The main cause was a series of well-publicized initiatives, from the open-review experiment at Nature to, Biowizard, Philica, and PLoS ONE.  It got help from the US Patent Office's venture into open patent review and Grigory (Grisha) Perelman's decision to disseminate his award-winning work on arXiv and dispense with publication in a peer-reviewed journal.  Whenever I covered these stories in my blog or newsletter, I was afraid to give the impression that OA intrinsically favored one kind of peer review or that we had to wait for consensus on the best method of review before proceeding to implement OA.  This misunderstanding did occur in 2006, as in the past, but much less often than another that I didn't expect.  A surprising number of journalists, even science journalists, mistook open review for non-review.  This is a fallacy even for those who think open review is a step backwards.  It reminds me of the early days of the OA movement, when journalists and publishers couldn't hear a description of OA, no matter how clear and detailed, without leaping to the conclusion that the idea was to bypass peer review and violate copyright.  The fallacious leap should decline over time, as open review becomes more familiar and debate turns to specific differences between open and conventional review and even different flavors of open review.  But for now we're still stuck in the period when even small suggestions for reform trigger defensive panic.

* Before 2006 there were only two author addenda to help authors retain the rights they need to authorize OA:  one from SPARC and one from the Boston Library Consortium.  But in 2006 we got five new ones:  from MIT, Science Commons, the University of North Carolina, OhioLink, and a JISC-SURF partnership.  Actually, we got seven new ones since Science Commons produced three forms for three different occasions.  Make that eight if you count Bill Hooker's draft author addendum for data files.  Several trends are visible here.  A growing number of scholars and institutions see harm in the custom of signing over copyrights to publishers who use them to limit access to research performed, written, and funded by others.  A growing number recognize that individual authors lack the time, knowledge, and bargaining power to engage in individual negotiations with publishers.  A growing number want to give publishers fewer rights and shift from exclusive to non-exclusive rights.  Author addenda may be unnecessary at the 70% of surveyed journals that already permit postprint archiving.  But they are necessary for the ungreen 30% and may be necessary even for the green 70% as a hedge against later changes to the access policy, even retroactive changes.  They may also be necessary for greenish journals that aren't green enough, for example, because they prohibit deposit in certain repositories, impose embargoes on self-archiving, or limit re-use rights.  We'll soon see efforts to harmonize the different forms, simplify the choices, and get more publishers to accept them. 

No universities yet require their faculty to use one of the addenda, but several are thinking about it.  They see their own interests in OA and want to lend their weight to faculty requests for better terms.  While they're deliberating, it would help if universities would recognize their complicity in the problem they are trying to solve.  By rewarding faculty who win a journal's imprimatur, mindful of the journal's prestige but heedless of its access policies, universities shift bargaining power from authors to publishers of high-prestige journals.  They give publishers less incentive to modify their standard contracts and authors greater incentive to sign whatever publishers put in front of them.

* 2006 widened and deepened the empirical study of the economic impact of OA on national economies.  In March, SPARC Europe and the Open Society Institute launched a major research project called Economic and Social Impacts of Open Access (EASI-OA).  In July, John Houghton and Peter Sheehan published a detailed study of the impact that OA policies would have on the OECD countries, estimating the dollar amounts by which OA would increase the return on investment in research.  In September, Houghton, Sheehan, and Colin Steele did a follow-up study focused on Australia, commissioned by the Australian government, which seems to have been a major factor in the two recent OA mandates from Australian government agencies (the ARC and the NHMRC).  The EASI-OA project is large, complicated, and only just beginning, but we'll soon be able to show policy-makers, in many countries and in compelling detail, just how much OA would increase the return on investment in research.

* In 2005 we saw the rise of wiki mutants that tried to reduce spam, vandalism, and error by controlling who could contribute.  The trend continued in 2006 with three large encyclopedias trying to capture the openness of Wikipedia while adding attribution and serious kinds of peer review.  In February, Eugene Izhikevich launched Scholarpedia.  In October, Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia) launched Citizendium.  While Digital Universe launched in 2005, it launched its Encyclopedia of Earth, the first major component of its Earth Portal, in September 2006.  These projects are shooting for the best of both worlds, openness to contributions (harnessing collective intelligence and power to scale enormously) and effective quality control --or, since Wikipedia's own form of quality control is surprisingly effective, *more* effective quality control.  One thing I like about them is that they don't highlight the fact that they are OA.  They take it for granted in order to highlight new features that depend on OA. 

Wikis are useful and will be around for a long time.  But a better sign of our future --seen in wikis but also in projects like MediaCommons, networked books, and PLoS ONE-- is this kind of quiet presupposition of OA, this retreat into the background so that other, newer, cooler or more experimental features can move to the foreground.  These projects point toward a future when OA will be the default and creative energy will focus on how to build on the OA foundation to take full advantage of the networked environment for advancing the purposes of research.

* The slowest progress toward OA has been in the humanities, but in 2006 we saw significant acceleration.  The US National Endowment for the Humanities adopted a policy to favor applications that promise OA for their results.  The long-awaited report from the American Council of Learned Societies not only recommended OA for the humanities, but recommended OA mandates by funders and supportive actions by universities.  The EU funded the Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities (DARIAH).  The OA Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy took large strides toward building its endowment.  MediaCommons began to self-assemble as a cooperative OA book press for the humanities.  The Karman Center for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Bern committed itself to OA for all its future projects.  The Task Force on Electronic Publication for the American Philological Association and Archaeological Institute of America recommended that American classicists self-archive and may later recommend that American classics journals convert to OA.  Eight classicists issued an open letter to colleagues calling for more OA in the field.  Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council reaffirmed its support for OA, though it still stops short of a mandate.  JISC and two of the UK Research Councils --the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)-- are extending the UK's e-Science program to the arts and humanities.  The AHRC is covered by the general RCUK commitment to OA but is still deciding on the exact form of its own policy.  The British Academy wrote a report showing how UK copyright law hindered scholarship in the humanities and social sciences.  The Modern Language Association recommended tenure reforms to encourage digital publication and departmental rewards for it.  And there was wider recognition, approaching a consensus, that the journal pricing crisis in the sciences is a major cause of the monograph crisis in the humanities --and that OA will help both.

*  In 2006, for the first time, I discovered more useful new peer-reviewed literature by searching blogs than by searching journal tables of contents or general indices.  Bloggers are very good at finding new articles, often because they are the authors or colleagues of the author.  And unlike other discoverers of new articles, bloggers tend to share what they've found.  There are more bloggers than ever before, including more academic bloggers than ever before.  Bloggers are early birds because they're willing to cover preprints and conference presentations.  But they can even scoop journals in announcing published articles because so many journals take inexplicably long to publicize their own work.  (Have you noticed that many journals publish a new issue on Day 0, update the online table of contents on Day 2, and send out the email or RSS alert on Day 4?)  Blogs are better connected to one another and to search engines than journals or even repositories.  And for most people, running a couple of blog searches is much easier than running a dozen vertical searches at separate sites.  For all these reasons blogs are becoming the Vehicle of First Exposure for a growing body of new research --if not the net's very first notice of a new article, then its first widely noticed notice. 

Jimmy Wales made news last month by announcing Wikiasari, a search engine that will harness human energy and judgment to create a more effective discovery system than (say) Google.  I have some questions about how far Wikiasari can scale and even how firm is the implied contrast between human judgment and algorithms.  But at least I'd point out that the blogosphere is a rapidly-evolving discovery system that already fits the general description, and that every day it enlarges its scope, increases its audience, and improves its utility and ease of use.

* There are roughly three phases for a movement like ours.  First, it's known only to a small group of activists and opponents.  Second, familiarity explodes and lots of newcomers start to think and talk about it, not necessarily with good understanding.  Third, pretty much all the stakeholders know about it even if they don't understand it or haven't made up their minds about it.  In my estimation, we entered Phase Two in early 2004 and we started entering Phase Three in 2006.  Phase Three is by no means the finish line; the open source movement has been in Phase Three for many years and is still widely misunderstood and slow to make critical gains.  And we're not yet fully in Phase Three.  I suspect that nearly all journals and journal publishers have heard of OA, and that the percentage is about as high among funders of research.  There are people knowledgeable about OA in almost every university and academic library in the world.  But familiarity among professional researchers is still woefully low and good understanding is even further behind. 

* In 2006 the big questions were small:  whether funding agencies and universities should require or merely encourage OA; whether high-volume OA archiving will undermine journal subscriptions outside physics (granting that it hasn't done so in physics); whether a six month embargo is too long or too short for an OA mandate.  If these questions look big, compare them to the bigger questions we were debating just a few years ago:  whether the purpose of OA is to bypass peer review; whether OA intrinsically violates copyright; whether OA naively presupposes that publishing is costless.  The move from big questions to small ones is a sign of a paradigm acceptance.  It's like the move from debating the existence of a scientific constant to debating its third decimal place.  (That may be what it's like, but we're probably closer to the first decimal place than the third.)  The disagreements may be sharp, and the stakes high, but they are foreground disagreements that presuppose background agreements or accommodations.  Of course there are still critics who don't acknowledge any significant agreements and want to undo any existing accommodations.  But they are fewer in number and we've made the kind of progress that lets us focus, if we choose, on the work of building OA infrastructure and adopting OA policies, the new issues they raise, and finer levels of implementation detail, rather than return to a dispute over first principles.

* Postscript.  While the year is still vivid in your memory, take a look at my timeline.  Let me know if I've omitted anything significant from the section on 2006.

I published my predictions for 2007 in last month's issue.


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