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February 28, 2009

Whitehouse blog shows signs of life

The Friday post at Whitehouse.gov is a little livelier — a little more voice, a little more air. Heck, it’s even got a broken link! (The link to the Energy-Housing partnership is a bridge to nowhere.) The post points to an OMB post that I thought was terrific, explaining and defending the reduction in charitable deductions for the 5% wealthiest Americans. It features a photo of Gaza (promoting State’s question of the week) that isn’t all about happy Israelis and holding hands with happy Gazans. (THat’s why we have Photoshop, people.) And the post points to the ever-lively TSA blog, one of the voicier government blogs around.

The next step I’d take if President Obama made me Blog Czar — I keep writing to him and asking! — is having the people who actually write the blog sign their posts. Baby steps, but that’s how you learn to walk. Next, no press releases! Then, invite in a sequence of non-WH bloggers to blog for a week at a time. Eventually, carefully open up the comments. Then start a flame war with, say, the Belgians, and we will have arrived.

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When search and replace goes wrong

ExpertWitness.com lists experts willing to testify in court for you, for a pretty penny. It’s got over 1,000 categories, including experts in gates, loading docks, and well logging. Click on a category and you go to a page that begins with an explanation. For example, here’s the explanation for the category “exercise equipment”:

Exercise equipment is any object used in exercise. This can include balls, treadmills, weights, bicycles, track shoes, jungle gyms, or protective equipment such as a back brace. An exercise machine is any machine used in exercise. These range from simple spring-like devices to computerized electromechanical rides to recirculating-stream swimming pools

Pretty straightforward. But the rather self-referential category of “Expert Referrals” seems to have snarled the system:

Find referrals Expert Referrals experts and consultants for referrals Expert Referrals litigation support. Available to be referrals Expert Referrals expert witnesses and provide referrals Expert Referrals forensic consulting in referrals Expert Referrals litigation, in addition prepare referrals Expert Referrals expert witness reports for use in deposition and/or in-court trial testimony.

A global search-and-replace or mailmerge on boilerplate gone wrong? (Try replacing “referrals Expert Referrals” with, say, “exercise equipment.”)

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February 27, 2009

The Internet: The Glitter Version

I love this ridiculous thread so much.

And I love it all the more because it could be used equally effectively as evidence against the Internet or for it. [via BoingBoing]

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MIT Museum crowd-sources exhibition

MIT will be 150 years old in two years. So, the MIT Museum (where you can see Judith Donath’s arresting and provocative info-overwhelm installation, which opened last night) is asking the public to nominate objects to put on display. The nominations themselves will remain online forever after as a very different sort of permanent display.

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Beware the Military-Halitosis Complex

Cold war, the cult of expertise, the broadcast metaphor, scientism, chaste kissing…why this one’s got it all!

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February 26, 2009

[berkman] Peter Suber on the future of open access

Peter Suber, Research Prof. of Philosophy at Earlham College, a visiting fellow at Yale Law’s Information Society Project, and blogger of open access news, is giving a full-house lecture at Harvard, sponsored by the Berkman Center. [Note: I’m live blogging, making mistakes, leaving things out, paraphrasing ineptly, etc. POSTED WITHOUT PROOFING or even with a basic re-reading. Speed over accuracy. Welcome to the Web :(]

Peter says he’s going to assume that we know what open access is, etc. But he does want to define Green Open Access (= open access through a repository) and Gold OA (= OA through a journal). There’s also Gratis OA (free of charge but may be licensing restrictions) and Libre OA (free of charge and free of licensing restrictions).

Peter says he doesn’t know the future of OA. He likes Alan Kaye’s comment that the future is easier to make than predict. He’s going to talk about 12 cross-over points in OA, in rough order of when they might occur:

1. For-pay journals allow green OA. About 63% of these journals already do this.

2. OA books:: When there are more gratis OA books online than in the average university library. We crossed this a couple of years ago. “The permission problem is harder than digitization.” The next cross over point here is getting more libre OA books online, which we are quite a distance from.

3. Funder policies: “When most publicly-funded research is subject to OA mandates.” This seems to be spreading, Peter says. Today, 32 public funders and more than 3 private funders have OA mandates.


4. Green OA deposits: “When most new peer-reviewed manuscripts are self-archived when accepted for publication.” In particle physics, this happens routinely. If 20% of researchers publish 80% of the articles, we could reach cross-over fairly quickly in some fields.

5. Author understanding: “When most publishing researchers have an accurate understanding of OA.” This is happening, but notvery quickly.

6. University repositories: “When most universities have institutional repositories,” individually or as part of a consortium. This is happening slowly. In the absence of a universal repository, every university ought to have one. Universities will get to this point more slowly than funders because they move more slowly than funders. And we ought to ask why. Aren’t universities interests in line with OA?

Libre gold OA: “When most OA journals are libre OA.” Most OA journals are still merely gratis, but curb copying to drive traffic to their site. This crossover could happen overnight if the journals understood the issues. They’d lose a little traffic, but nothing else. There are grounds for optimism: Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association is an assoc of OA journal publishers and it requires libre gold OA. The SPARC Europe program sets standards for what a good OA journal is, and it recommends CreativeCommons attribution licenses. These two orgs are helpful because there’s no topdown org defining OA, so we rely on bottom up orgs like these two to set the standards.

8. Journal backfiles: “When most TA journals have OA backfiles.” This is expensive to do. Google will do it, but Google’s terms are difficult: They don’t give the journal a copy of the digital files. (Libraries do get copies of the files of the books they let Google scan.) The OCA focuses on public domain literature. “Once digitized, the benefits of increased visibility and citations should outweigh the trickle of revenue.” Journals make most of their money from new issues, so having greater presence should help. In physics, almost 100% of articles are available OA but the publishers can’t see any dip in subscriptions.

9. Author addenda: “When most new research is covered by author addenda” (i.e., additions that grant OA permission, tacked onto standard publisher-author contracts). Now there are few adopters. It’d be good to standardize these. The cross over will come when universities or funders require it. If enough journals allow green OA, that’d make addenda unnecessary.

10. University policies: “When most university research is subject to university-level OA mandates.” Today, 27 universities and 4 depts have these mandates. It’d help to have the largest/most productive universities move on this first.

11. OA journals: “When most peer-reviewed journals are OA.” “I don’t expect this for a long time.” Now 15% are OA. Progress is slow, but there is progress. High prestige journals are likely to hold out for a long time.

Libre green OA: “When most green OA is libre OA.” Today, only a small fraction is libre OA because most OA repositories depend on permission from publishers. UKPMC Funders Group demands green libre. We will reach the cross-over “when it’s safe.” Harvard has taken the lead on this, Peter says, and it will spread as another large university takes this step, then another one … “It becomes self-fulfilling leadership.”

Q: Are we stuck with the Sonny Bono copyright extension act?
A: Yes. All copyright reform in the past few decades have been in the wrong direction. And it’s very hard to roll back copyright terms. The only silver lining is that when we have a consenting partner, we can bypass copyright via contract. The problem is that they’re not the default.

Q: Under libre OA, how are our scholarly attributions protected?
A: It’s a range. One end is public domain, which does not preserve attribution. But all the CreativeCommons licenses preserve attribution. Most scholars don’t want public domain; they want CC-attribution.”Creative Commons attribution license provides everything a scholar could want.”

Q: [me] Conyers!
A: The Conyers bill would tell agencies not to require OA for works they fund. [I’ve put this badly.] The OA advocates are fighting it, but the agencies affected are not yet. I think Conyers is serious about it. I think he introduced it early because we don’t have a Sect’y of Health and Human Services or of NIH. Conyers may be fighting a turf battle. [Paraphrasing!] “He’s motivated primarily to protect the jurisdiction of his committee.” Peter thinks it won’t pass, but it might be introduced into another bill. “We’d like to spread the NIH policy to the rest of the government.”

Q: Is the economic downturn accelerating the adoption of OA?
A: The NIH just got $10B in the stimulus, which means there will be more and more OA articles. NSF also, but not as much because NSF requires OA for reports generated by those they fund [may not have gotten this right]. But, Peter thinks the downturn strengthens the case for OA. Libraries are going to be canceling subscriptions. And the Stimulus’ emphasis on green research will be more valuable if it’s OA. Open access to research amplifies its value.

Q: [jpalfrey] You’ve noticed there’s no OSF equivalent for OA. But I’d argue that the people in this room — librarians — are your OA OSF. What do you say to these librarians to advance our common cause?
A: Librarians are among the most important allies in the OA movement. But put all the allies together and you still don’t have OSF. Libraries should be sending letters against the Conyers bill. When you negotiate subscriptions you should negotiate the right to pur articles from your authors into an OA repository. Libraries are the only buyers of peer-reviewed journals. When you’re the only buyer, you can dictate your terms, subject to anti-trust. Obama says that we have the right to demand transformation from the banks we’re saving. Librarians can do the same thing for journals. Journals are not serving all of our interests and are acting against other interests. Use your bargaining power. Get the right of self-archive, and, when the time is right, get the right of libre self-archive. Network with one another when you launch repositories. And, btw, every school with an enlightened OA policy had librarians in the head of the charge.

Q: Can you give an example of an archive that works?
A: Universities that have mandatory language still have to supplement the language with incentives and education. As you go from unmandated to mandated, it goes from 15% toward 100%. (15% is the average for voluntary, spontaneous archives.) It works best in the Dutch universities that let the “cream” of the article rise to the top. Every week they feature good work in public. This gets academics to archive their work without a mandate.

Q: Might universities work with publishers collaboratively to create new business models?
A: Publishers differ in their attitudes toward OA. Some are experimenting in good faith. Some, in bad faith. Some who do OA are actively lobbying for the Conyers bill. Librarians understand the scholarly landscape better than publishers and could educate publishers. Society publishers [i.e., societies that publish] could be told that they’re threatened not by OA but by the “big deal” that brings in academic journals.

Q: Is Springer’s taking over of BioMed Central a good thing?
A: Yes. BMC is for-profit. BMC was the world’s largest OA publisher. Now Springer is. Springer says that OA is a sustainable part of their bsiness. My reading is that Springer is preparing for an OA future. [Tags: ]

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RTFB

Announcement from the Sunlight Foundation or St. Sunlight, as I think of it:

Washington, DC -Today, the Sunlight Foundation announced ReadTheBill.org, a grassroots campaign to create a more transparent government by calling for all non-emergency legislation to be publicly available online for at least 72 hours before Congress begins debate. Joining Sunlight in supporting its ReadTheBill.org effort is a bipartisan group of individuals and groups, including Newt Gingrich, Joe Trippi, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Citizen and the Federation of American Scientists.

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February 25, 2009

Am I Blocked or Not?

The Berkman Center has launched Herdict.org, a site that lets you report sites you can’t reach, aggregating reports from every other Herdict user, to paint a picture of the openness of the Net.

You can join here. (And see Eszter Hargittai‘s better explanation of it. We’re both using as the title of our posts an aptly-named URL — amIblockedornot.org — that takes you to a page accessibility test at Herdict.)

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James Boyle on keeping public science open to the public

The Financial Times yesterday ran a terrific op-ed by James Boyle, explaining the ridiculousness of the Conyers bill “that would eviscerate public access to taxpayer funded research.” The op-ed is written in Jamie’s light-hearted-yet-penetrating style, and should be read simply for that reason — preeminent legal scholars of copyright are not supposed to be entertaining.

Then, at the end, he adds an argument that I think is crucial because it addresses the Internet’s effect on knowledge and authority:

Think about the Internet. You know it is full of idiocy, mistake, vituperation and lies. Yet search engines routinely extract useful information for you out of this chaos. How do they do it? In part, by relying on the network of links that users generate. If 50 copyright professors link to a particular copyright site, then it is probably pretty reliable.

Where are those links for the scientific literature? Citations are one kind of link; the hyperlink is simply a footnote that actually takes you to the desired reference. But where is the dense web of links generated by working scientists in many disciplines, using semantic web technology and simple cross reference electronically to tie together literature, datasets and experimental results into a real World Wide Web for science? The answer is, we cannot create such a web until scientific articles come out from behind the publishers’ firewalls….

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Stimulating edumacation

Here’s a useful breakdown of how the stimulus bill will affect education[Tags: ]

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