OPLIN 4Cast #210: Open access news

stoplightFor our last posting of 2010—and following on the heels of last week’s posting about content farms—we’re going to take a look at a variety of recent news items related to open access to high-quality information. We’re using a loose definition of “open access”; the tighter definition of Open Access (“OA”) typically refers to scholarly research articles and includes not just no-cost access but specific licensing arrangements. Some academic publishers are moving towards support for OA scholarly journal articles, and two of the news items below deal with that business trend. The other two news items are about other types of content to which access might typically be restricted now, but which may someday be freely available on the Internet.

  • The economic case for open access in academic publishing (Ars Technica/Adam Stevenson)  “Publishers [of academic journals] receive 68 to 75 percent of their revenue from academic library subscriptions. Corporate subscriptions account for 15 to 17 percent of revenue. This revenue goes largely to the first copy costs, and these costs are the same for both traditional and open access content. Thus, the revenue stream is critical for hard copy, online only, and open access content. Any system that eliminates the need for subscriptions, like open access, would therefore force academic publishers to completely change their business models.”
  • Demand growing for open access science texts and tools (Ars Technica/John Timmer)  “Why are traditional publishers, some of which have had ambiguous views of open access publishing, suddenly rolling out free services? Some of it is obvious self-interest. By making their content easier to find and adding value to the experience of reading it, these services can increase the demand for the publishers’ primary product: subscription journals. The services also act as a lure to get people browsing the publishers’ sites in the first place.”
  • Berkman Center announces Digital Public Library planning initiative (Berkman [Harvard] press release)  “Planning activities will be guided by a Steering Committee of library and foundation leaders, which promises to announce a full slate of activities in early 2011. The Committee plans to bring together representatives from the educational community, public and research libraries, cultural organizations, state and local government, publishers, authors, and private industry in a series of meetings and workshops to examine strategies for improving public access to comprehensive online resources.”
  • Accessibility & Open Access (ALA Office of Government Relations Issue Brief, Dec. 2010 [pdf])  “The Federal Research Public Access Act [FRPAA] of 2009 (S. 1373) was introduced in June 2009, with the House version introduced in April 2010. According to both bills’ language (as they mirror each other), their purpose is, ‘To provide for Federal agencies to develop public access policies relating to research conducted by employees of that agency or from funds administered by that agency.’ […] Undoubtedly, such an archive would allow librarians the ability to better assist library patrons with their information and research needs as well as allow direct access by the public.”

Timely fact:
On Monday, the National Archives released the prototype of a new Online Public Access search interface for accessing millions of digitized government records.

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