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February 26, 2004

IEEE Distributed Systems Is IEEE's First Free Online Publication

:: From What's New @ IEEE for Libraries, v6 n2 Feb 2004:

    "This year, IEEE Distributed Systems Online becomes the IEEE's first free Web-based publication. Published by the IEEE Computer Society, the journal is sponsored by IEEE Internet Computing and IEEE Pervasive Computing magazines. Original, peer-reviewed material from monthly issues will be available for free on the journal's Web site, as will educational, tutorial and information services. Launched in 2000, IEEE Distributed Systems will now contain more exclusive, original material, and will have a full schedule of special article series associated with conferences and workshops. The magazine's entire archive is available at its Web site, and will be available in IEEE Xplore at a later date. Visit: dsonline.computer.org/

February 24, 2004

More on Journal Prices, Open Access

Margaret Landesman, Marriott Library, U Utah, writes that "Price Increases Are Not The Problem", in the Advisor Op-Ed section of the v5 n3, Jan 2004 issue of The Charleston Advisor. Elizabeth D'Antonio-Gan of Denison Memorial Library (U Colorado Health Sciences Center) offers "Open Access and the STM Publishing Crisis: A Medical Librarian's View", in the same issue.

February 23, 2004

Just Say No to Exploitative Publishers of Science Journals

Christopher Reed, a chemistry professor at UC Riverside, has written a powerful and very convincing editorial about the crisis in for-profit STM publishing. It appears in the 20 Feb 2004 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and it is worth the time to read it. The question is, will a movement (paradigm shift?) that sees a majority of libraries, for example, joining MIT and Cornell in their boycott of Elsevier, ever take hold?

    Just Say No to Exploitative Publishers of Science Journals


    It used to be publish or perish. Now it is publish and perish. Academic science and medicine are drowning in a sea of publications. They have developed a journal-publishing culture that threatens to engulf them. Library budgets can't keep up. The peer-review system is overloaded. Researchers feel overwhelmed.

    Biologists at the University of California at San Francisco have called for a boycott of several popular Cell journals in response to overpricing by the British-Dutch conglomerate Reed Elsevier. Cornell University is canceling more than 150 Elsevier journals and refused to accept a bundled deal. After warning faculty members of possible cancellations, the University of California campuses used their combined purchasing power to negotiate a systemwide agreement with Elsevier that keeps price inflation in check for the time being. The Public Library of Science has started a new biology journal based on free and open electronic access, and is expected to start a medical journal soon.

    It's time for universities, en masse, to take their cue from these smaller-scale insurrections and to just say no to extortionate journal-subscription costs and pay-for-view access to electronic versions of back issues. That will require boldness among administrators and librarians, along with some "bribing" of faculty members to change their behavior.

    In the 1960s, departmental journal collections were centralized to gain economies of scale. Now, with electronic access and bundled price deals from publishers, the storehouse of knowledge has been further centralized and relocated to the computers of commercial publishing houses and professional societies. Like it or not, publishers have become the de facto libraries of the world. They know it and are exploiting it for unseemly financial gain. The average price of Elsevier journals has increased at three times the rate of the Consumer Price Index over the past 16 years. Elsevier profits were up 26 percent in 2002.

    Researchers don't think too much about that as long as their institutions pay. They like electronic access because of its desktop convenience and superior search capabilities. What's more, they advance their careers with appointments to editorial boards, and that has effectively silenced the scientific leadership from speaking out against the proliferation of overpriced journals, many of them not of the highest quality.

    The journals market is dysfunctional. Researchers do all the work, give away the product, and express almost no buying preferences. They see journals being paid for out of someone else's budget. Meanwhile, through the pay-per-view portal, knowledge that was free to anyone who walked into a library is becoming less available, despite the ever-growing list of journals.

    How did we get to this point? We have been pushed there by the entry of for-profit publishers into the scientific-publishing arena. Scholars now are faced with too many inducements to have long publication lists, stressing quantity over quality. Tenure procedures and the grant-renewal process of the National Institutes of Health encourage advancement by page counting. The duration of grants from the National Science Foundation is too short, encouraging publication of "LPU's" -- least publishable units. Professors feel obliged to quickly publish a certain number of papers co-written with their students so that those students can get jobs.

    Knowledge is precious, and libraries are keepers of the flame. But today, that has become a justification for excessive spending on routine scholarship. Not all knowledge is of equal value. Science is maturing, and the more predictable a result, the less it needs to be published.

    Commercial publishers have been getting a disproportionate amount of serials budgets for decades. In the University of California system, Elsevier has raked in 50 percent of the online-journals budget for 32 percent of the titles and only 25 percent of the use. In my discipline, chemistry, rather few of those titles are among the best. Journals from professional societies are typically much cheaper and of better quality.

    We need a new model for libraries' serials budgets, one that devolves significant control to the users so as to induce changes in their behavior. That would set constructive market forces into play. When a big buyer, like the University of California, or leading researchers in a particular field joust with an exploitative publisher, that's a step in the right direction. But whittling down title lists and fees while leaving the fundamental, flawed buying structure in place is not enough. It is time for a major buyer to say no to the entire menu of journal offerings from such a publisher, particularly if that publisher charges for access to the archives (the "backfile") or offers licensing agreements that forbid file sharing on an individual-paper basis.

    Researchers might be shocked and worried by such a massive cancellation. But with the right leadership and a "bribe," they could be convinced of its long-term value. The money saved could be used variously, but it should be returned to individual departments and researchers. Every faculty member needs money to buy or maintain a decent printer. Researchers' labs and offices, not libraries, are where hard copies of journal articles are now being printed. Faculty members also need software and training and assistance to maintain Web sites offering free electronic reprints of their papers for colleagues.

    More creatively, researchers could be given a "journal cancellation grant" to use for any research expense. That would be a real inducement to change their publishing behavior. In return, they would promise not to submit to, subscribe to, referee for, or accept editorial-board appointments to any journal that is overpriced or does not allow free access to the backfile.

    A productive new era in faculty-librarian cooperation could be born, replacing the presently strained relations. Librarians are needed back in departments to help educate students in how to take full advantage of the electronic literature.

    Universities would need to reassure their faculty members that the fallout from such measures will not harm careers. That could be done by making the journal-cancellation grants substantial and continuing. Institutions could instruct promotion committees to de-emphasize editorial-board membership as a criterion for career recognition. They could even say that publishing in, and membership on, the editorial boards of expensive, low-quality journals will count against promotion. Everyone in a given discipline knows which ones the junk journals are.

    While such restructuring of the scientific-journal culture might seem drastic, our present course is fiscally unsustainable and unconducive to the best and most efficient research.

    Christopher A. Reed is a professor of chemistry at the University of California at Riverside.
    Section: The Chronicle Review
    Volume 50, Issue 24, Page B16

Genetics Back-file Freely Available

As posted to STS-L by George Porter...

Genetics, published by the Genetics Society of America, has finished retrospective conversion of the journal. Distributed via Highwire Press, the entire back-file conversion project has been gifted to the scientific community. Current material becomes freely available after 3 months.

Fulltext v1+ (1916+)

February 20, 2004

Wired News: Scientists: Bush Distorts Science

I came across a very interesting read regarding the Bush administration and their influence on the scientific community. The article unmasks the bias of so-called "peer-review" that happens when peers are selected or excluded using criteria based not on merit but on the desired outcome of their findings. In this case, the Bush administration seems guilty of trying to influence the process by selecting experts that will back up whatever it is that they wish the outcome to be. Not all scientists are happy about this action.

The Bush administration has distorted scientific fact leading to policy decisions on the environment, health, biomedical research and nuclear weaponry, a group of about 60 scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent organization, also issued a 37-page report, "Scientific Integrity in Policymaking," detailing the accusations. The statement and the report both accuse the Bush administration of distorting and suppressing findings that contradict administration policies, stacking panels with like-minded and underqualified scientists with ties to industry, and eliminating some advisory committees altogether.

The scientists listed various policy issues as being unfairly influenced by the administration, including those concerning climate change, mercury emissions, reproductive health, lead poisoning in children, workplace safety and nuclear weapons.
[Wired News: Scientists: Bush Distorts Science]

:: More on the Union of Concerned Scientists from Science or Google News.

Publishers split over response to US trade embargo ruling

The following is from Nature, v429, n6976, p663.

    Publishers split over response to US trade embargo ruling

    [WASHINGTON] Iranians struggling to secure free speech at home are facing a fresh set of restrictions from the US government.

    The US Department of the Treasury has ruled that editing or publishing scientific manuscripts from Iran, Libya, Sudan and Cuba violates the trade embargo on these countries. And US publishers and scientific societies are divided over how to respond.

    At a meeting in Washington on 9 February, David Mills, the treasury official in charge of implementing the policy, told representatives of 30 publishers that anyone wanting to publish papers from Iran should seek a licence from the treasury department. He also suggested that US scientists collaborating with Iranians could be prosecuted.

    The ruling has split US scientific societies. The journals of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) have stopped accepting manuscripts from researchers in embargoed countries. On the other hand, the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science, have so far refused to comply. "We feel that we are protected by freedom of speech," says Marc Brodsky, executive director at the AIP.

    Questions about interactions with Iran first arose in 2001 when the IEEE tried to rent a conference room at a Tehran meeting, and was told that this would violate the US trade embargo. In ensuing conversations between the organization and the treasury department's Office of Foreign Assets Control, it emerged that publishing could also be restricted. According to a 30 September 2003 letter from the office, editing content from an author in a restricted country is "prohibited ... unless specifically licensed".

    As a result, the IEEE's 100-plus journals began declining manuscripts from researchers in Iran, Cuba, Libya and Sudan. "We felt we needed to operate within the laws of the country we are in," says Michael Lightner of the IEEE. This year, the American Nuclear Society, the American Chemical Societyand the American Society for Microbiology followed suit (see Nature Med.10, 109; 2004 ). Some of these societies, including the IEEE, are actively pursuing a licence to publish.

    But other groups may seek to overturn the ruling. "The government should not be in the business of restricting this kind of first-amendment activity," says Allan Adler, head of legal and government affairs at the Association of American Publishers, which represents most major for-profit and society publishers in the United States, including the IEEE.

    Adler says that the law specifically exempts 'information and informational materials' from trade embargoes. The association is considering several options, including court action and legislation, to overturn the ruling. "We think that this is wrong as a matter of law and a matter of principle," he says.

    Nature and other publications of the Nature Publishing Group are still accepting manuscripts from the affected countries. "We see no grounds to absolutely decline to handle papers from these countries," says Philip Campbell, editor of Nature. "But we are taking legal advice."

    Iranian scientists say that the US policy is crippling their research. "The ruling makes publication by Iranians in journals published in the United States practically impossible, " says Fredun Hojabri, an Iranian chemist now living in San Diego, who heads the Sharif University of Technology Association, representing alumni, students and faculty of Iran's premier technical university.

An earlier report from last October, "Scientific research is latest casualty in war on terror", by Sinéad O'Dwyer, also covered this issue. IEEE's information update on their compliance with this ruling is here. Other reports include Nature Medicine, and second article from the same issue.

February 17, 2004

Reviews of Three US Government Databases/Info Services

Gerry McKiernan (Iowa State U) has made available self-archived copies of reviews from The Charleston Advisor of three important US federal databases/information services:

1) Energy Citations Database

Review: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~gerrymck/EnergyCitations.pdf

2) Science.gov

    Science.gov is a gateway to authoritative and reliable science and technology information produced by major U.S. Government agencies selected by the representatives of the respective agencies. It was developed by the science.gov Alliance, a federal interagency working group of 16 scientific and technical information organizations from 11 major science units.
Review: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~gerrymck/Science.gov.pdf

3) TranStats - The Intermodal Transportation Database

    Launched in September 2002, TranStats: The Intermodal Transportation Database is a "new [Web portal] * for transportation researchers and analysts, aimed at providing 'one stop shopping' for transportation data". Although aimed at governmental and nongovernmental transportation specialists, planners, and consultants, TranStats will also be of value to government documents librarians and other information specialists, and the worldwide transportation community and educated public.
Review: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~gerrymck/TranStats.pdf

The Charleston Advisor provides free and subscriber-based access to "Critical Reviews of Web Products for Information Professionals"


Call for papers...

Dear Colleague,

This note is to inform you of the current round in the call for papers for THE SECOND INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE FUTURE OF THE BOOK. The deadline for proposals is 1 March 2004. Full details of the conference and the online call for papers are to be found at http://www.Book-Conference.com

To be held in Beijing, China, confirmed speakers include:

* Alfred Rolington, Chief Executive Officer, Jane's Information Group, London.
* John Shipp, University Librarian, University of Sydney, Australia.
* Melissa A. Rosati, Director, Editorial & Production for McGraw-Hill International, United Kingdom.
* Walter Bgoya, Chairman, African Books Collective, and Managing Director of Mkukina Nyota Publishers, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Mary Jay, African Books Collective, Oxford, UK.
* Prof. Bertrand Gervais, Departement d'Etudes Litteraires, Universite du Quebec a Montreal, Canada.
* Timothy W. Luke, University Distinguished Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, USA.
* Dr. Sidney Berger, Department of English and Communications, Simmons College, USA.
* Plus a number of keynote speakers from China, details to be confirmed - visit the Conference website for regular updates.

Conference papers will be published in print and electronic formats in the peer refereed International Journal of the Book. If you are unable to attend the conference, virtual registrations are also available allowing you to submit a paper for publication, as well as providing you with full access to the full text of the electronic edition of the Journal for that year.

We hope you will be able to join the Book Conference community, either in its virtual form, or by joining us at this year's annual conference.

Yours Sincerely,

Howard Dare
Collie Director, International Centre for Graphic Technology
RMIT University
Melbourne, Australia

Nanotechnology Sites

:: There are a number of good nanotechnology web sites that have emerged in the past few years. One I discovered this morning is Nanovip.com, and calls itself "the leading nanotechnology business directory. The goal of this directory is to help businesses to easily find nanotechnology companies, partners, clients or competitors either locally or internationally." Other nano-business portals include NanoelectronicsPlanet.com,and NanoInverstorNews. Sites of a more general nature include nanotechweb.org, NanoApex, and Nanotechnology Now. Nanosites in blog format include Nanodot, News.NanoApex, and Howard Lovy's NanoBot.

February 13, 2004

National Engineering Week(s)

:: February 22-28, 2004, is National Engineering Week in the USA. In Canada, National Engineering Week is from February 28-March 4, 2004. The Canadian event began in 1992, and has main three goals:

  • to celebrate Canada’s rich engineering heritage,
  • to promote engineering as a career choice, and
  • to remind Canadians of the role engineering plays in their daily lives

Science - Essays on Science and Society

:: Science continues its monthly series, Essays on Science and Society, in 2004. The theme this year is 2004: Beyond The Ivory Tower.

February 10, 2004

MIT Libraries Declines Three-Year Elsevier and Wiley Renewals

:: Another major library system has joined Cornell University Library in not renewing their subscriptions to Elsevier journals. MIT Libraries has announced it will not renew three-year online and print subscription packages from Wiley InterScience and Elsevier Science. Last year, the Faculty Committee of the Library System expressed their concern about this issue:

    “… we are concerned about the pressures exerted on the scholarly publishing system by a small number of highly profitable commercial publishers concentrating in science and technology journals. These publishers lock libraries into high-priced packages for combined print/electronic output, and contractually constrain libraries’ ability to manage expenditures. Libraries must invest a continually larger percentage of their budgets in providing access to these publications.”

    **Professor Marcus Zahn, Chair of the Faculty Committee on the Library System The MIT Faculty Newsletter, Dec.-Jan., 2003

MIT Libraries was offered the three-year renewal packages through their membership in the NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL), but the cost and commitment to proceed became prohibitive:
    "Through our membership in the NorthEast Research Libraries Consortium (NERL), the MIT Libraries were offered three-year renewals for our Wiley and Elsevier packages of print and electronic journals. The costs of these two packages constitute approximately one-third of the Libraries’ budget for serials (those materials we pay for by subscription on a continuing basis). The multi-year agreements required a commitment not to cancel titles (or to substitute other titles at the same price level for any cancellations). The decision to decline the three-year renewals was difficult because the terms for one-year renewals were considerably less attractive. However, the one-year renewals put us in a position of being able to cancel titles next year if we need to."
So what happens next? Harvard University Library has cancelled subscriptions to ~100 Elsevier journals. With the most important research institutions on Planet Earth cancelling journals from the largest STM publisher, where does that leave their scientists, scholars and engineers? Will these actions put pressure on Elsevier to drop their prices, or will they increase them further so that those of us who still subscribe will bear the brunt of their losses to date?

February 9, 2004

Greg Notess on Toolbars

:: Greg Notess provides a detailed analysis of toolbars, suggesting that most have failed to attact a following of any significance. I confess that I use the Google toolbar regularly, and appreciate its popup blocking feature.

News from IOP

The information below regardings developments to the Institute of Physics' (IOP) Electronic Journals service was received in an e-mail from the IoP.

    *Electronic Journals Quick Guide*
    A new step-by-step guide to our Electronic Journals service is now available online. A good introduction for new users and a useful refresher for existing ones, the Quick Guide runs through all of the key features of the service including searching, clustering, e-mail alerting and reference linking (forwards and backwards).

    The Quick Guide has been prepared in Microsoft PowerPoint so it can be used in a number of ways: you and your library users can work through it onscreen (in 'slide show' mode); the slides can be used for presentations or training sessions and/or they can be printed out and distributed as handouts.

    The Quick Guide is available online at http://www.iop.org/EJ/help/-topic=guide. A link to it can also be found in the top right corner of every page within our Electronic Journals service.

    *Journal Claim Form*
    An online Journal Claim Form has recently been created for subscribers. In the unlikely event that a printed issue of a journal does not arrive or electronic access is not available, this form can be used to notify our Customer Service team and Electronic Product Support team, respectively, to ensure a speedy resolution. The Journal Claim Form can found in the Librarians' channel of the service at http://www.iop.org/EJ/accclaim.

    *Free access to new titles*
    The Institute is pleased to announce 4 new journals for 2004 - all of which are free to access in 2004:

    *Journal of Geophysics and Engineering (http://www.iop.org/journals/jge)
    Published by the Nanjing Institute of Geophysical Prospecting and the Institute of Physics, this major new publication promotes research and developments in geophysics and related areas of engineering. It has predominantly an applied science and engineering focus, but also publishes contributions in all earth-physics disciplines from global geophysics to applied and engineering geophysics.
    ISSN 1742-2132 (Print). ISSN 1742-2140 (Online).

    *Journal of Neural Engineering (http://www.iop.org/journals/jne)
    Journal of Neural Engineering is a new forum for the interdisciplinary field of neural engineering, where neuroscientists, neurobiologists and engineers can publish their work in one periodical that bridges the gap between neuroscience and engineering. Articles will cover the field of neural engineering at the molecular, cellular and systems levels.
    ISSN 1741-2560 (Print). ISSN 1741-2552 (Online).

    *Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment (http://www.iop.org/journals/jstat)
    Journal of Statistical Mechanics: Theory and Experiment is an authoritative, peer-reviewed international journal created by the International School for Advanced Studies and the Institute of Physics. It brings together cutting-edge research in all aspects of statistical physics, particularly emphasizing experimental work that impacts on fundamental aspects of the subject. ISSN 1742-5468 (Online).

    *Physical Biology (http://www.iop.org/journals/physbio)
    Physical Biology fosters the integration of biology with the traditionally more quantitative fields of physics, chemistry, computer science and other math-based disciplines. Its primary aim is to further the understanding of biological systems at all levels of complexity, ranging from the role of structure and dynamics of a single molecule to cellular networks and organisms (i.e. systems biology).
    ISSN 1478-3967 (Print). ISSN 1478-3975 (Online).

    *Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics: end of free access period* After a very successful first year, Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics (JCAP) is now only available to subscribers (on its own, or as part of IOP's discounted journal packages B, Z and the new package H). Created by the International School for Advanced Studies and the Institute of Physics, the journal is receiving industry acclaim and is exceeding all editorial expectations - to date, over 1,000 pages of research have been published and more than 100 articles have been accepted. See http://www.iop.org/journals/jcap.
    ISSN 1475-7516 (Online).

    *Free and easy access to IOP Select*
    It is now easier than ever to read papers in IOP Select, a free journals service from the Institute comprising articles chosen for their novelty, significance and impact on future research. You no longer have to login to view the free papers. Instant access is available at http://select.iop.org. IOP Select was launched in September 2001 as a service to authors and readers and has proven to be extremely popular.

    *Historic Archive (1874-1993)*
    In 2000, we digitized the entire IOP journal archive. Access to all content older than 10 years is available for subscription or purchase. In 2004, this covers the period 1874-1993. Content from the most recent 10 years is available through our regular journal subscriptions. For further information, please visit http://ej.iop.org/pdf/historic_archive2004.pdf.

    If you have any queries about any of the above, please do not hesitate to contact our Electronic Product Support team at custserv AT iop.org or your Regional Manager (see http://www.iop.org/EJ/enquiries for details).

February 5, 2004

Oil Properties Database

:: I received a query from a chemical engineering student yesterday, who was looking for assay information on a grade of oil called Lloydminster blend. The information he had suggested that a series of assay articles had appeared in Oil & Gas Journal in 1983. Searches through Ei Compendex, Chem Abs, Petroleum Abs, and GeoRef returned no hits.

A web search, however, led me to the web site of the Environment Technology Centre of Environment Canada. The ETC provides access to a number of databases and software, including Spills Technology Databases. One of these is the Oil Properties Database, which lists various properties of 450 crude oil and oil products, such as Sulphur (weight %), API Gravity, Flash Point (°C), Density (g/mL), Dynamic Viscosity (mPa·s or cP), Hydrocarbon Groups (weight %), Oil/Salt Water Interfacial Tension (mN/m or dynes/cm), and many others.

A couple of drawbacks: you are allowed only 15 results per day per I.P. address, but this is not mentioned on the site, until you try for your 16th result! Also, data is referenced with a name/title and year, but there is no bibliography or explanation of the references, so that you can locate them afterwards. Still, the data is good, and the student advised that the data he required was there, and that additional data on the oil was of value to him as well.

February 2, 2004

Suber, SPARC Open Access Newsletter, 2/4/04

New issue: SPARC Open Access Newsletter, issue #70February 2, 2004 is available now. Of note: an interesting report back on PLoS's first month of publication.

Peter Scott's Library Blog

Peter Scott's Library Blog points to the digitized version of the Blaeu Atlas of Scotland, 1654 (free access). Scott writes:

On the 350th anniversary of the publication of Scotland's first atlas, Joan Blaeu's Atlas Novus, Volume V (1654), this website presents the first translation into English of its entire textual contents. The texts contain detailed historical and topographical descriptions of Scotland and its regions, freshly translated by Ian Cunningham, and complemented by 49 engraved maps