Posts about Open Access

All About Circuits

All About Circuits is an online textbook covering electricity and electronics. Topics covered include: Basic Concepts of Electricity’ OHM’s Law; Electrical Safety; Series and Parallel Circuits; Physics of Conductors and Insulators; Solid-State Device Theory; Binary Arithmetic; Logic Gates; Switches; Digital Storage? It is a great resource. Enjoy.

Related: Textbook RevolutionOpen Access Education MaterialsHigh-quality Curricula and Education Resources for TeachersOnline Mathematics Textbooks

New Funding for arXiv Online Scientific Repository

The Cornell University Library is broadening the funding base for the arVix online scientific repository. Nearly 600,000 e-prints – research articles published online in physics, mathematics, statistics, computer science and related disciplines – now reside in arXiv, which is an open information source for hundreds of thousands of scientific researchers.

arXiv will remain free for readers and submitters, but the Library has established a voluntary, collaborative business model to engage institutions that benefit most from arXiv. “Keeping an open-access resource like arXiv sustainable means not only covering its costs, but also continuing to enhance its value, and that kind of financial commitment is beyond a single institution’s resources,” said Oya Rieger, Associate University Librarian for Information Technologies. “If a case can be made for any repository being community-supported, arXiv has to be at the top of the list.”

The 200 institutions that use arXiv most heavily account for more than 75 percent of institutional downloads. Cornell is asking these institutions for financial support in the form of annual contributions, and most of the top 25 have already committed to helping arXiv.

arXiv’s original dissemination model represented the first significant means to provide expedited access to scientific research well ahead of formal publication. Researchers upload their own articles to arXiv, and they are usually made available to the public the next day. arXiv, founded by physics professor Paul Ginsparg, has about 400,000 users and serves more than 2.5 million article downloads per month. Its 101,000 registered submitters live in nearly 200 countries.

arXiv is interconnected with many other scholarly information resources. These include the INSPIRE system being developed by supporting high-energy physics laboratories CERN, DESY, Fermilab and SLAC, as well as the Astrophysics Data System at Harvard University, another supporting institution. Read details about the operating principles of the new structure.

Related: Toward a More Open Scientific CultureSo, You Want to be an Astrophysicist?MIT Faculty Open Access to Their Scholarly ArticlesScience Commons: Making Scientific Research Re-useful

Fungus-gardening Ant Species Has Given Up Sex Completely

The complete asexuality of a widespread fungus-gardening ant, the only ant species in the world known to have dispensed with males entirely, has been confirmed by a team of Texas and Brazilian researchers.

photo of christian rabeling excavating ants in BrazilGraduate student Christian Rabeling excavating fungus-farming ant nests in Brasilia.

Most social insects—the wasps, ants and bees—are relatively used to daily life without males. Their colonies are well run by swarms of sterile sisters lorded over by an egg-laying queen. But, eventually, all social insect species have the ability to produce a crop of males who go forth in the world to fertilize new queens and propagate.

Queens of the ant Mycocepurus smithii reproduce without fertilization and males appear to be completely absent, report Christian Rabeling, Ulrich Mueller and their Brazilian colleagues in open access journal PLoS ONE this week.

“Animals that are completely asexual are relatively rare, which makes this is a very interesting ant,” says Rabeling, an ecology, evolution and behavior graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin. “Asexual species don’t mix their genes through recombination, so you expect harmful mutations to accumulate over time and for the species to go extinct more quickly than others. They don’t generally persist for very long over evolutionary time.”

Previous studies of the ants from Puerto Rico and Panama have pointed toward the ants being completely asexual. One study in particular, by Mueller and former graduate student Anna Himler (now at Arizona State University), showed that the ants reproduced in the lab without males, and that no amount of stress induced the production of males.

Scientists believed that specimens of male ants previously collected in Brazil in the 1960s could be males of M. smithii. If males of the species existed, it would suggest that—at least from time to time—the ants reproduce sexually.

Rabeling analyzed the males in question and discovered that they belonged to another closely related (sexually reproducing) species of fungus-farmer, Mycocepurus obsoletus, thus establishing that no males are known to exist for M. smithii. He also dissected reproducing M. smithii queens from Brazil and found that their sperm storage organs were empty.

Taken together with the previous studies of the ants, Rabeling and his colleagues have concluded that the species is very likely to be totally asexual across its entire range, from Northern Mexico through Central America to Brazil, including some Caribbean islands.

As for the age of the species, the scientists estimate the ants could have first evolved within the last one to two million years, a very young species given that the fungus-farming ants evolved 50 million years ago.

Rabeling says he is using genetic markers to study the evolution and systematics of the fungus-gardening ants and this will help determine the date of the appearance and genetic mechanism of asexual reproduction more precisely in the near future.

Full press release

Related: Bdelloid Rotifers Abandoned Sex 100 Million Years AgoAmazonian Ant Species is All Female, Reproduces By CloningFemale Sharks Can Reproduce AsexualityAmazon Molly Fish are All Female

Why do we Need Dark Energy to Explain the Observable Universe?

Why do we need dark energy to explain the observable universe?

Against all reason, the universe is accelerating its expansion. When two prominent research teams dropped this bombshell in 1998, cosmologists had to revise their models of the universe to include an enormous and deeply mysterious placeholder they called “dark energy.” For dark energy to explain the accelerating expansion, it had to constitute more than 70 percent of the universe. It joined another placeholder, “dark matter,” constituting 20 percent, in overshadowing the meager 4 percent that make up everything else—things like stars, planets, and people.

An accelerating wave of expansion following the Big Bang could push what later became matter out across the universe, spreading galaxies farther apart the more distant they got from the wave’s center. If this did happen, it would account for the fact that supernovae were dim- they were in fact shoved far away at the very beginning of the universe. But this would’ve been an isolated event, not a constant accelerating force. Their explanation of the 1998 observations does away with the need for dark energy.

And Smoller and Temple say that once they have worked out a further version of their solutions, they should have a testable prediction that they can use to see if the theory fits observations.

Another interesting example of the scientific inquiry process at work in cosmology.

Shouldn’t the National Academy of Science (NAS), a congressionally chartered institution, promote open science instead of erecting pay walls to block papers from open access? The paper (by 2 public school professors) is not freely available online. It seems like it will be available 6 months after publication (which is good) but shouldn’t the NAS do better? Delayed open access, for organizations with a focus other than promoting science (journal companies etc.), is acceptable at the current time, but the NAS should do better to promote science, I think.

Related: Physics from Universe to MultiverseLaws of Physics May Need a RevisionExtra-Universal MatterCosmology Questions Answered

Merck and Elsevier Publish Phony Peer-Review Journal

Elsevier is one of those publishers fighting open science. They try to claim that the government publishing government funded research in an open way will tarnish science. The argument makes no sense to me. Here is another crazy action on their part: they published a “journal” funded by Merck to promote Merck products. Merck Makes Phony Peer-Review Journal:

Merck cooked up a phony, but real sounding, peer reviewed journal and published favorably looking data for its products in them. Merck paid Elsevier to publish such a tome, which neither appears in MEDLINE or has a website, according to The Scientist.

What’s sad is that I’m sure many a primary care physician was given literature from Merck that said, “As published in Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine, Fosamax outperforms all other medications….” Said doctor, or even the average researcher wouldn’t know that the journal is bogus. In fact, knowing that the journal is published by Elsevier gives it credibility!

As I have said the journals fighting open science should have their credibility questioned. They are putting their outdated business model above science. We should not see organizations that are focused on closing science research through deceptive publicity efforts and lobbying efforts as credible.

Related: From Ghost Writing to Ghost Management in Medical JournalsMerck Faked a Research JournalMedical Study Integrity (or Lack Thereof)The Future of Scholarly PublicationFresh questions raised about prominent cardiologist’s role in “ghostwritten” 2001 meta-analysis of Vioxx trialsScience Commons: Making Scientific Research Re-usefulPublishers Continue to Fight Open Access to ScienceMisleading or Deceptive ConductPeter Suber Response to Rep. Conyers

MIT Faculty Open Access to Their Scholarly Articles

MIT faculty open access to their scholarly articles

In a move aimed at broadening access to MIT’s research and scholarship, faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have voted to make their scholarly articles available to the public for free and open access on the Web.

The new policy, which was approved unanimously at an MIT faculty meeting on Wednesday, March 18 and took immediate effect, emphasizes MIT’s commitment to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible.

Under the new policy, faculty authors give MIT nonexclusive permission to disseminate their journal articles for open access through DSpace, an open-source software platform developed by the MIT Libraries and Hewlett Packard and launched in 2002. The policy gives MIT and its faculty the right to use and share the articles for any purpose other than to make a profit. Authors may opt out on a paper-by-paper basis.

MIT’s policy is the first faculty-driven, university-wide initiative of its kind in the United States. While Harvard and Stanford universities have implemented open access mandates at some of their schools, MIT is the first to fully implement the policy university-wide as a result of a faculty vote. MIT’s resolution is built on similar language adopted by the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences in 2008.

It is good to see scientists putting advancing science above outdated journal business models. It is a bit of a shame that we have to be happy for such a small thing but given the state of those fighting against open science it is good to see those in favor of open access to science make progress.

Related: John Conyers Fights Open ScienceAnger at Anti-Open Access PRThe Future of Scholarly Publication

John Conyers Against Open Science

Lawrence Lessig once again has written a good blog post: John Conyers and Open Access

Open access journals, such as, for example, those created by the Public Library of Science, have adopted a different publishing model, to guarantee that all all research is freely accessible online (under the freest Creative Commons license) immediately, to anyone around the world. This guarantee of access, however, is not purchased by any compromise in academic standards. There is still a peer-review process. There is still even a paper-based publication.

Pushed by scientists everywhere, the NIH and other government agencies were increasingly exploring this obviously better model for spreading knowledge. Proprietary publishers, however, didn’t like it. And so rather than competing in the traditional way, they’ve adopted the increasingly Washington way of competition — they’ve gone to Congress to get a law to ban the business model they don’t like. If H.R. 801 is passed, the government can’t even experiment with supporting publishing models that assure that the people who have paid for the research can actually access it. Instead, if Conyers has his way, we’ll pay for the research twice.

The insanity in this proposal is brilliantly described by Jamie Boyle in this piece in the FT. But after you read his peace, you’ll be even more puzzled by this. For what possible reason could Conyers have for supporting a bill that 33 Nobel Prize Winners, and the current and former heads of the NIH say will actually hurt scientific research in America? More pointedly, what possible reason would a man from a district that insists on the government “Buying American” have for supporting a bill that basically subsidizes foreign publishers (for the biggest players in this publishing market are non-American firms, making HR 801 a kind of “Foreign Publishers Protection Act”)?

the co-sponsors of this bill who sit on the Judiciary Committee received on average two-times the amount of money from publishing interests as those who haven’t co-sponsored the bill.

The damage done to science by dinosaurs fighting progress and corrupt or inept politicians is very disheartening. Thankfully we have been able to achieve great things in spite of politicians trying to favor their donors and harm the scientific community.

Related: Science Journal Publishers Stay StupidHoward Hughes Medical Institute Takes Big Open Access StepFrom Ghost Writing to Ghost Management in Medical JournalsThe A to Z Guide to Political Interference in Science

Study on Citation of Open Access Papers v. Closed Access Papers

Open Access to Scientific Papers May Not Guarantee Wide Dissemination

To test this theory, James A. Evans, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, and Jacob Reimer, a student of neurobiology also at the University of Chicago, analyzed millions of articles available online, including those from open source publications and those that required payment to access.

The results were surprising. On average, when a given publication was made available online after being in print for a year, being published in an open source format increased the use of that article by about 8 percent. When articles are made available online in a commercial format a year after publication, however, usage increases by about 12 percent.

“Across the scientific community,” Evans said in an interview, “it turns out that open access does have a positive impact on the attention that’s given to the journal articles, but it’s a small impact.”

Yet Evans and Reimer’s research also points to one very positive impact of the open source movement that is sometimes overlooked in the debate about scholarly publications. Researchers in the developing world, where research funding and libraries are not as robust as they are in wealthier countries, were far more likely to read and cite open source articles.

The University of Chicago team concludes that outside the developed world, the open source movement “widens the global circle of those who can participate in science and benefit from it.”

So while some scientists and scholars may chose to pay for scientific publications even when free publications are available, their colleagues in other parts of the world may find that going with open source works is the only choice they have.

I remain a strong advocate for open science. The out of date model of publishing research in closed journals does not make sense. Especially not for any government funded research or any research supported by foundations, universities or others that aim to promote science.

The quote above and the interview webcast also provide unclear data on what the actual impact is (on how often a paper is cited in other papers). Maybe the article would be clearer but I can’t tell because it is closed access. This link has some worthwhile comments: Generalizing the OA impact advantage.

Related: Toward a More Open Scientific CultureOpen Access Journal WarsDinosaurs Fighting Against Open Science

Science Commons: Making Scientific Research Re-useful

Science Commons is a project of Creative Commons. Like other organizations trying to support the advancement of science with open access they deserve to be supported (PLoS and arXiv.org are other great organizations supporting science).

Science Commons has three interlocking initiatives designed to accelerate the research cycle – the continuous production and reuse of knowledge that is at the heart of the scientific method. Together, they form the building blocks of a new collaborative infrastructure to make scientific discovery easier by design.

Making scientific research re-useful, help people and organizations open and mark their research and data for reuse. Learn more.

Enabling one-click access to research materials, streamline the materials-transfer process so researchers can easily replicate, verify and extend research. Learn more.

Integrating fragmented information sources, help researchers find, analyze and use data from disparate sources by marking and integrating the information with a common, computer-readable language. Learn more.

NeuroCommons, is their proof-of-concept project within the field of neuroscience. The NeuroCommons is a beta open source knowledge management system for biomedical research that anyone can use, and anyone can build on.

Related: Open Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingPublishers Continue to Fight Open Access to ScienceEncyclopedia of LifeScience 2.0 – Biology

HHMI on Science 2.0: Information Revolution

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute does great things for science and for open science. They have an excellent article in their HHMI Bulletin – Science 2.0: You Say You Want a Revolution?

Cross-pollination among research disciplines is in fact at the core of many other popular science blogs. Michael Eisen, an HHMI investigator at the University of California, Berkeley, is an avid blog reader who particularly enjoys John Hawks’ site on paleoanthropology, genetics, and evolution. A recent post there discussed a new sequencing of Neanderthal mitochondrial DNA. “It’s like a conduit into another whole world,” says Eisen.

The current extreme of collaboration via Science 2.0 is OpenWetWare.org. Begun in 2003 by Austin Che, who was then a computer science and biology graduate student at MIT, this biological-engineering Website uses the wiki model to showcase protocols and lab books: everything is open and can be edited by any of its 4,000 members.

“Most publishers wish open access would go away,” says Brown. It won’t. Major research-funding organizations, including NIH, HHMI, and the Wellcome Trust, now require their grantees to post their findings on openaccess Websites such as PLoS or PubMed Central within 12 months of publication in traditional journals. Publishers are pushing back, however, and in September, the House Judiciary Committee began holding hearings on whether the federal government should be allowed to require grantees to submit accepted papers to a free archive.

Related: $600 Million for Basic Biomedical Research from HHMITracking the Ecosystem Within UsPublishers Continue to Fight Open Access to Science$1 Million Each for 20 Science Educators

Toward a More Open Scientific Culture

Michael Nielsen wrote a great post, The Future of Science, which is also the topic of a book he is writing. He discusses how scientific advancement has often been delayed as those making discoveries did not share them openly. And how 300 years ago scientific journals and reward systems created ways for scientists to be rewarded for publication. And he continues with the need for the process to again change and promote more open sharing of scientific knowledge, which I agree with and have written about previously: Publishers Continue to Fight Open Access to Science, Science Journal Publishers Stay Stupid, The Future of Scholarly Publication, etc..

Why were Hooke, Newton, and their contemporaries so secretive? In fact, up until this time discoveries were routinely kept secret.

This cultural transition was just beginning in the time of Hooke and Newton, but a little over a century later the great physicist Michael Faraday could advise a younger colleague to “Work. Finish. Publish.” The culture of science had changed so that a discovery not published in a scientific journal was not truly complete. Today, when a scientist applies for a job, the most important part of the application is their published scientific papers.

This has been a great advance. Now we need to continue that advance to use the internet to make that publication open and increase the advantage of shared knowledge to society.

The adoption of the journal system was achieved by subsidizing scientists who published their discoveries in journals. This same subsidy now inhibits the adoption of more effective technologies, because it continues to incentivize scientists to share their work in conventional journals, and not in more modern media.

This means: making many more types of content available than just scientific papers; allowing creative reuse and modification of existing work through more open licensing and community norms; making all information not just human readable but also machine readable; providing open APIs to enable the building of additional services on top of the scientific literature, and possibly even multiple layers of increasingly powerful services. Such extreme openness is the ultimate expression of the idea that others may build upon and extend the work of individual scientists in ways they themselves would never have conceived.

To create an open scientific culture that embraces new online tools, two challenging tasks must be achieved: (1) build superb online tools; and (2) cause the cultural changes necessary for those tools to be accepted.

I agree we need to take advantage of the new possibilities to advance the practice of science. His full post is well worth reading.

Related: Open Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingThe Future of Science is Open by Bill HookerDinosaurs Fight Against Open ScienceOpen Access Journal WarsI Support the Public Library of ScienceDoes the Data Deluge Make the Scientific Method Obsolete?