University libraries have for a long time struggled with the increasingly extortionate fees placed upon them by journal publishers. Many universities can no longer afford to pay journal publishers to access the content their students require. Sadly, until now this has been a closet issue, an issue of “prestige”. In what may prove to be a watershed moment, Harvard University have sent the following memo to all faculty members (emphasis mine), outlining the university’s strategy to deal with this problem which includes gently directing researchers towards open access publishers. This announcement sets a powerful precedent that could prove to be a defining moment in the “Academic Spring”.
Major Periodical Subscriptions Cannot Be Sustained
To: Faculty Members in all Schools, Faculties, and Units
From: The Faculty Advisory Council
Date: April 17, 2012
RE: Periodical Subscriptions
We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called “providers”) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.
Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.
The Library has never received anything close to full reimbursement for these expenditures from overhead collected by the University on grant and research funds.
The Faculty Advisory Council to the Library, representing university faculty in all schools and in consultation with the Harvard Library leadership, reached this conclusion: major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained: continuing these subscriptions on their current footing is financially untenable. Doing so would seriously erode collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised.
It is untenable for contracts with at least two major providers to continue on the basis identical with past agreements. Costs are now prohibitive. Moreover, some providers bundle many journals as one subscription, with major, high-use journals bundled in with journals consulted far less frequently. Since the Library now must change its subscriptions and since faculty and graduate students are chief users, please consider the following options open to faculty and students (F) and the Library (L), state other options you think viable, and communicate your views:
1. Make sure that all of your own papers are accessible by submitting them to DASH in accordance with the faculty-initiated open-access policies (F).
2. Consider submitting articles to open-access journals, or to ones that have reasonable, sustainable subscription costs; move prestige to open access (F).
3. If on the editorial board of a journal involved, determine if it can be published as open access material, or independently from publishers that practice pricing described above. If not, consider resigning (F).
4. Contact professional organizations to raise these issues (F).
5. Encourage professional associations to take control of scholarly literature in their field or shift the management of their e-journals to library-friendly organizations (F).
6. Encourage colleagues to consider and to discuss these or other options (F).
7. Sign contracts that unbundle subscriptions and concentrate on higher-use journals (L).
8. Move journals to a sustainable pay per use system, (L).
9. Insist on subscription contracts in which the terms can be made public (L).
The memo coyly avoids specifying exactly who the “major providers” to be abandoned are, but I think we can make an educated guess at one of them.
Everything is a remix is one of those few productions that hits the nail dead on the head, an absolute must-watch. The now complete four part series of ten minute, content crammed films produced over two years explains why there is no such thing as an original masterpiece. The films demonstrate in exquisite detail how everything from Led Zeppelin to Star Wars and from art to technology, not to mention science is based upon hundreds if not hundreds of thousands of uses of other people’s creations.
The films powerfully demonstrate how the purpose of copyright and patent law was to allow a brief period of exclusivity to allow development costs to be recouped yet the most litigious companies of or our era, who have all based their work on the work of others, proceed to slam their descendants with crippling intellectual property litigation. Even Disney who’s titles are littered with content built out of public domain content lobbied for the extension of the term of copyright.
Anyway, enough small talk. Sit back, turn up the volume and enjoy!
The creater of the series is currently over half way to funding a new production on Kickstarter. The final (also completely free) product is due for broadcast in the run up to the 2012 US predidential election. If Everything is a remix is anything to go by then This is Not a Conspiracy Theory looks like it could be a noble cause indeed.
On Monday, The Pirate Bay announced (thepiratebay.org/blog/203) that it has launched a new category for torrents, 3D printing blue-prints. This is not as ridiculously optimistic as it sounds.
IEEE Spectrum (Magazine of the world’s largest engineering organisation)
Free software such as Autodesk is available for you to make designs with and “push-button connections to online 3-D-printing services, of which there are now dozens, if not hundreds” are already in existence. This year 1000 production-quality 3-D printers will be placed in high schools across the U.S under a federal programme (IEEE).
Admittedly not a great deal is on the Pirate Bay’s page yet except blueprints for a model pirate ship, a 3D Chris Dodd engraved with the AACS Encryption Key, a dildo and a whistle. That is set to change however with databases such as Shapeways and Thingiverse already handling blueprint sharing and printing. Media lawyers have already entered the battlefield with one Shapeways user already having received a cease-and-desist order from movie studio Paramount after creating a 3D replica of a prop.
The potential for 3D printing is not to be sniffed at. The world’s first 3D printed plane flew out of Southhampton University in July, demonstrating that the possibilities really are endless.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, after thirty years of silence, authors of a standard clinical psychiatric bedside test have issued take down orders of new medical research. Doctors who use copies of the bedside test which will have been printed in some of their oldest medical textbooks are liable to be sued for up to $150,000. The New England Journal of Medicine makes the stark comparison that “Google, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter all use open-source software at the heart of their products” yet when it comes to medicine, developments are very often, very far from open-source. This case demonstrates the tragic state of affairs that even the ghosts of positively ancient abandoned copyrights for the very simplest of ideas can be used to block new medical work through legal bullying. The basic nature of the information that is protected in this case only begins to illustrate the harm that is really possible when even more powerful and innovative ideas are placed under lock and key for the rest of living memory.
“For three decades after its publication, in 1975, the Mini–Mental State Examination (MMSE) was widely distributed in textbooks, pocket guides, and Web sites and memorized by countless residents and medical students…
New England Journal of Medicine (29/12/2011)
The test which is the “evaluation of choice for most general doctors” now requires a payment of $1.23 per copy which is likely to prevent it’s use in both teaching and clinical settings. More worryingly still, a new 16 item test known as the “sweet 16″ developed at Harvard that is based on the original 30 item screening test has been taken down due to legal orders.
“This action, unprecedented for a bedside clinical assessment tool, has sent a chill through the academic community”
New England Journal of Medicine (29/12/2011)
This news is highly relevant in light of the ongoing SOPA scandal that is currently threatening the internet as we know it. Many fail to realise that copyright is valid 70 years after the death of the author and up to 120 years after the creation of the work. The use of copyright law to prevent the clinical use of medical tests and to prevent new medical tests being developed is something many of us would only expect to really happen in dystopian fiction. The fact of the matter is that it is happening in real life.
Newman, J., & Feldman, R. (2011). Copyright and Open Access at the Bedside New England Journal of Medicine, 365 (26), 2447-2449 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1110652
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