MIT adopts universal open access policy

March 19th, 2009

Yesterday the MIT faculty approved a university-wide open access policy. The full txt of the resolution, which passed unanimously, i available on Peter Suber’s Open Access News blog. Here’s an excerpt.

“Each Faculty member grants to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination. In legal terms, each Faculty member grants to MIT a nonexclusive, irrevocable, paid-up, worldwide license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of his or her scholarly articles, in any medium, provided that the articles are not sold for a profit, and to authorize others to do the same. The policy will apply to all scholarly articles written while the person is a member of the Faculty except for any articles completed before the adoption of this policy and any articles for which the Faculty member entered into an incompatible licensing or assignment agreement before the adoption of this policy. … The Provost’s Office will make the scholarly article available to the public in an open- access repository. The Office of the Provost, in consultation with the Faculty Committee on the Library System will be responsible for interpreting this policy, resolving disputes concerning its interpretation and application, and recommending changes to the Faculty.

I have to say I am conflicted about this and wish I was more informed. As a researcher, I am 100% for the right to make papers describing our results freely available. But I also recognize that publishers and professional societies are an essential part of our research infrastructure and their business models are partially built on copyright and controlling access to content.

Just as we are seeing the big changes in main stream media, we will probably see related changes in publishers, including professional societies. We’ll have to wait and see if they represent a phase shift to a new and better model or simply the collapse of the old one.

The analogy between the two is far from perfect. Traditional MSM publishers pay a professional staff to research, write and edit stories. Journal publishers and professional societies don’t typically pay their authors who increasingly deliver camera ready copy or near camera-ready electronic copy.


Eigenfactor.org measures and visualizes journal impact

December 19th, 2008

eigenfactor.org is a fascinating site that is exploring new ways to measure and visualize the importance or journals to scientific communities. The site is a result of work by the Bergstrom lab in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington. The project defines two metrics for scientific journals based on a page-rank like algorithm applied to citation graphs.

“A journal’s Eigenfactor score is our measure of the journal’s total importance to the scientific community. With all else equal, a journal’s Eigenfactor score doubles when it doubles in size. Thus a very large journal such as the Journal of Biological Chemistry which publishes more than 6,000 articles annually, will have extremely high Eigenfactor scores simply based upon its size. Eigenfactor scores are scaled so that the sum of the Eigenfactor scores of all journals listed in Thomson’s Journal Citation Reports (JCR) is 100.

A journal’s Article Influence score is a measure of the average influence of each of its articles over the first five years after publication. Article Influence measures the average influence, per article, of the papers in a journal. As such, it is comparable to Thomson Scientific’s widely-used Impact Factor. Article Influence scores are normalized so that the mean article in the entire Thomson Journal Citation Reports (JCR) database has an article influence of 1.00.”

For example, here are the ISI-indexed journals in the AI subject category ranked by the Article Influence score for 2006.

The site makes good use of GoogleDoc’s motion charts to visualize the changes of metrics for top journals in a subject area. You can also interactively explore maps that show the influence of different subject categories on one another as estimated from journal citations.

Map of Science

The details of the approach and algorithms are available in various papers by Bergstrom and his colleagues, such as

M. Rosvall and C. T. Bergstrom, Maps of random walks on complex networks reveal community structure, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 105:1118-1123. Also arXiv physics.soc-ph/0707.0609v3 [PDF]

(spotted on Steve Hsu’s blog)


Journal requires authors to include Wikipedia article with submissions

December 18th, 2008

Scientific journals are undergoing rapid evolution as they adapt to the Web and various forms of social media. As reported by Nature (Publish in Wikipedia or perish) and in ReadWriteWeb, the journal RNA Biology is experimenting with a connection to Wikipedia. Articles submitted for publication about new RNA molecules must also include a draft Wikipedia page that summarizes the work. The journal will then peer review the page before publishing it in Wikipedia.

Here are the guidelines from the RNA Biology site:

“To be eligible for publication the Supplementary Material must contain: (1) a link to a Wikipedia article preferably in a User’s space. Upon acceptance this can easily be moved into Wikipedia itself together with a reference to the published article.

At least one stub article (essentially an extended abstract) for the paper should be added to either an author’s userspace at Wikipedia (preferred route) or added directly to the main Wikipedia space (be sure to add literature references to avoid speedy deletion). This article will be reviewed alongside the manuscript and may require revision before acceptance. Upon acceptance the former articles can easily be exported to the main Wikipedia space. See below for guidelines on how to do this. Existing articles can be updated in accordance with the latest published results.”

This is definitely an interesting and forward looking idea. Yet, I can not help having the cynical thought that it’s also a great way for the journal to boost it’s page rank.