Friday, August 25, 2006

Last meeting today at 4pm

Don't know if anyone besides me is around today (Kristin has a wedding to attend) but folks wanting to discuss Feed and/or Air can find me over at the Union around 4pm today, inside if wet, outside if sunny. Cheers,


Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Future

So, the fiction titles are listed as the last titles. Do they need to be the last?

I know that continuing the reading group into the semester would be difficult if we were to continue to read books, but what if it 'downsized' to an article or two, or a book chapter?. Say, maybe, place a 40-ish page cap on readings.

Just a thought.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Last book(s) will be fiction to ease the pain

Our last reading group meeting of the summer will take place Friday August 25 on the Terrace at 3:30. To reward ourselves for surviving yet another summer, we've decided to choose two novels that deal with information in near-future societies.

The first one is a young adult novel entitled _Feed_ by M.T. Anderson. It's a relatively quick read and very engaging. From the blurb from Amazon: "This brilliantly ironic satire is set in a future world where television and computers are connected directly into people's brains when they are babies. The result is a chillingly recognizable consumer society where empty-headed kids are driven by fashion and shopping and the avid pursuit of silly entertainment--even on trips to Mars and the moon--and by constant customized murmurs in their brains of encouragement to buy, buy, buy."

The second one is a regular adult novel entitled _Air_ by Geoff Ryman. It's a longer read than _Feed_ but covers similar ground, this time from a non-Western, subsistence culture perspective: "Life in Kizuldah, a village in Karzistan, has changed little over the centuries, though most homes have electricity. Chung Mae, the local fashion expert, earns her living by taking women into the city for makeovers and by providing teenagers with graduation dresses. Intelligent and ambitious, this wonderfully drawn character is also illiterate and too often ruled by her emotions. One day, the citizens of Kizuldah and the rest of the world are subjected to the testing of Air, a highly experimental communications system that uses quantum technology to implant an equivalent of the Internet in everyone's mind. During the brief test, Mae is accidentally trapped in the system [...] Mae soon sets out on a desperate quest to prepare her village for the impending, potentially disastrous establishment of the Air network. For all its special effects, what makes the novel particularly memorable is the detailed portrait of Kizuldah and its inhabitants. Besides being a treat for fans of highly literate SF, this intensely political book has important things to say about how developed nations take the Third World for granted."

Both books are available in paperback and you can choose to read either one or both for the August meeting.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Meeting today on the terrace

We meet this afternoon at the Union to discuss Bowker's book. I propose we adjust the meeting time one half-hour forward to 3:30 (since that's when everyone seemed to show up last time anyway). In the event of another torrential downpour, we'll meet inside the union within shouting distance of the bar (or you might find us floating down Langdon Street, clinging to the Big Orange Chair).

Back to "open access" for a moment ...

An news item in Inside Higher Ed today provides an update on the current state of the "open access" debate dealing with the free electronic publication of research findings and research papers (which we read about in our first summer reading club book):

If universities pay the salaries of researchers and provide them with labs, and the federal government provides those researchers with grants for their studies, why should those same universities feel they can’t afford to have access to research findings?

That’s part of the argument behind a push by some in Congress to make such findings widely available at no charge. The Federal Public Research Access Act would require federal agencies to publish their findings, online and free, within six months of their publication elsewhere. Proponents of the legislation, including many librarians and professors frustrated by skyrocketing journal prices, see such “open access” as entirely fair. But publishers — including many scholarly associations — have attacked the bill, warning that it could endanger research and kill off many journals.

In an attempt to refocus the debate, the provosts of 25 top universities are jointly releasing an open letter that strongly backs the bill and encourages higher education to prepare for a new way of disseminating research findings. “Widespread public dissemination levels the economic playing field for researchers outside of well-funded universities and research centers and creates more opportunities for innovation. Ease of access and discovery also encourages use by scholars outside traditional disciplinary communities, thus encouraging imaginative and productive scholarly convergence,” the provosts write.

While the letter acknowledges that the bill would force publishers and scholarly societies to consider potentially significant changes in their operations, the provosts conclude that the legislation “is good for education and good for research.”

The letter originated with the provosts of the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, which includes the universities of the Big Ten Conference plus the University of Chicago. Others joining the effort include the provosts of such institutions as Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Texas A&M University, the University of California, the University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, and Washington University in St. Louis.

The article continues at

Maybe we should try to link the debates over open access repositories with Bowker's ideas about "memory practices" this afternoon ...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

A little off topic, but... is a link to a transcript of a book chat with Peter Morville about "Ambient Findability":

The chat was earlier today at the Washington Post's site. Sorry I didn't find it soon enough for those who might have wanted to participate.


Sunday, July 02, 2006

Synchronization and synchrony in the archive: pgs. 35-73

Bowker uses a historical analysis of geology to create a backdrop for modern day record keeping. His explanation, although developed more elegantly in the book, is something like this:

  1. Geological Sciences in their infancy where heavily influenced by traditional Creationist beliefs. Catastrophe and miracles were thought of as occurrences that happened on a regular(?) basis. These events could not be predicted or discovered without empirical evidence.

  2. British scientist Charles Lyell challenges this idea, and develops the idea of geological events being semi-deterministic, and occurring slowly over time. Fellow Englishman, Charles Babbage, supports a fully Laplacean determinism, which is not nearly as well received.

  3. Lyell supports record keeping this is cyclically dependent. Due to his thoughts about the history and evolution of the Earth, he believes the best way to record and research geological history is by incrementally recording change in fixed intervals and by spatializing time.

  4. At the same time, the Industrial Revolution uses a similar concept in order to organize the workforce. Labor is divided and fixed spatially and temporally on the assembly line.

  5. Record keeping for these activities reflects this spatiotemporal philosophy.

I have a feeling the next part of Bowker's argument in the following chapters is that applying this type of record keeping is pervasive and and it imbues these spatiotemporal values into human archives and memory systems.

Comment #1
Given the interest in technological determinism from the last book, I'd be interested in thoughts about this passage from pg. 47.

Technoscientific representations were socially and organizationally imposed by means of the new infrastructural technology-with a dual process of commodification and representation central to the shift. The same infrastructural technology that permits a qualitative leap in the process of commodification (the railway) also enforces a form of representation (abstract space and time) that is inherent in commodification. It enforces this form of representation not out of some kind of weird magic (or, worse, Hegelian dialectic) but for very good organizational reasons of control and communication. You need to be able to represent the world in a coherent and standard form in order to run railways and deal in commodities. Emerging here is Michel Serre's insight (1987) that since we live in a world with the human/nonhuman (nature/society) boundary is increasingly less well-defined, then we need analytic categories that allow us to account for the unified representational time and space applied to both bureaucratic and scientific work.

Comment #2
The past could be generated from knowledge about causes such as climate or race; but contemporary humanity would move completely outside the flow of narrative time. The end of history, anyone?

This passage from pg. 51 bugs me. Bowker is making a strong case for the rhetoric of a spatiotemporal archival system, but as soon as he would offer a narrative as an alternative, he's lost me. A social historical narrative would potentially be an even more persuasive form of record keeping than the tables and grids of a spatiotemporal record. He may not have meant it in the way that I took it, but it still raised a red flag for me.

Comment #3
Bowker goes well out of his way to create a framework for pervasive ontological influence. He then goes on to cite Derrida several times, but not mention the rhetoric of language once. In my mind, he needs to make a connection and then division between why his categorical theory of influence is different than many post-structural linguistic arguments.

BTW, I found this online for those interested in an alternative media form to the book. It takes forever to load (so long that I'm still waiting after a couple hours), but I believe it's Bowker lecturing about this book.

Bowker Video

Friday, June 30, 2006

Memory Practices in the Sciences: First Thoughts, First 40 pages

It’s eccentrically organized, and given the subject matter, I’m trying to decide whether or not it’s done on purpose. Bowker develops the concept of memory having close links, or even a foundation in the ability to categorize information (8-9), as well as other disguised memory practices that are not “an act of consciousness” that consist of what can be “called to mind”. Without giving him too much credit before finishing the book, I am circumspect that he is using an unorthodox organization that defies normal categorization in order to engage the concept of memory from a fresh perspective. Hopefully the following chapters will provide better insight into that thought.

Bowker also points out a difference in linear and categorical memory that I am hoping he further develops in the following chapters, most likely chapter 3. He compares different modes of data and information storage in object oriented programming (linear) and relational database storage (categorical) that he needs to develop further (29-30). He alludes to a change in western ontological thought processes, but then drops the topic entirely for other discussion.

Another interesting point that I’ll be waiting for in the following chapters is the consideration given to large-scale memory suppression. That is, a history of a nation or other population being shaped by a course of events that are important for its development, but are later forgotten in order to camouflage an unwanted past. A good example is probably the Armenian Genocide. He briefly speaks of science in the modern (postmodern?) age being readily used to remember and exploit past memories that some would prefer forgotten.

It’s definitely a dense read, as was referenced in the original post, but the book has real potential to develop a multitude of interesting ideas.

Monday, June 26, 2006

New Month, New Book: Memory Practices in the Sciences by Geoff Bowker

Greetings book clubbers

We had our first meeting last Friday afternoon on the Terrace - it was one of those beautiful afternoons where you feel bad for all the people out there who don't live in Madison: the band was playing, the boats were sailing, the brats were grilling, the beer was flowing... Ah, if only January in Madison was as sweet.

We had an invigorating discussion of our first book The Access Principle, various open access issues (mostly focusing on institutional repositories), and library OA advocacy efforts.

Our next book will be Geoff Bowker's brand new Memory Practices in the Sciences. Here is Bowker's homepage:

Here's how Bowker describes his book:
"My recent Memory Practices in the Sciences looks at information infrstructures and storytelling in a science over the past two hundred years. It looks at geology in the 1830s, cybernetics in the 1950s and environmental sciences today - weaving together their information infrastructure and the stories that they tell about their objects."

You may remember Bowker from Bowker & Star _Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences - which hopefully someone made you read in some SLIS class.

Be warned Memory Practices is not as easy a read as Access Principle! The SLIS library has purchased a copy & put it on 3 day reserve.

The meeting date for this book is the last Friday in July.

The way we record knowledge, and the web of technical, formal, and social practices that surrounds it, inevitably affects the knowledge that we record. The ways we hold knowledge about the past -- in handwritten manuscripts, in printed books, in file folders, in databases -- shape the kind of stories we tell about that past. In this lively and erudite look at the relation of our information infrastructures to our information, Geoffrey Bowker examines how, over the past two hundred years, information technology has converged with the nature and production of scientific knowledge. His story weaves a path between the social and political work of creating an explicit, indexical memory for science -- the making of infrastructures -- and the variety of ways we continually reconfigure, lose, and regain the past.

At a time when memory is so cheap and its recording is so protean, Bowker reminds us of the centrality of what and how we choose to forget. In Memory Practices in the Sciences he looks at three "memory epochs" of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries and their particular reconstructions/reconfigurations of scientific knowledge. The nineteenth century's central science, geology, mapped both the social and the natural world into a single time package (despite apparent discontinuities), as, in a different way, did mid-twentieth-century cybernetics; both, Bowker argues, packaged time in ways indexed by their information technologies to permit traffic between the social and natural worlds. The sciences of biodiversity today, meanwhile, "database the world" in a way that excludes certain spaces, entities, and times. We use the tools of the present to look at thepast, says Bowker; we project onto nature our modes of organizing our own affairs.

Synchronization of synchrony in the archive : geology and the 1830s
The empty archive : cybernetics and the 1960s
Databasing the world : biodiversity and the 2000s
The mnemonic deep : the importance of an unruly past
The local knowledge of a globalizing ethnos

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Some Phil Agre thoughts on tech determinism

In case you didn't get what I was saying about Willinsky being a technological determinist, here are some thoughts on different types of technological determinism from Phil Agre's (UCLA) article Internet Research: For and Against. He has posted it on his website at <> I think Willinsky's thinking would fall into Agre's "discontinuity" category.

It is part of a larger collected volume: Mia Consalvo, Nancy Baym, Jeremy Hunsinger, Klaus Bruhn Jensen, John Logie, Monica Murero, and Leslie Regan Shade, eds, Internet Research Annual, Volume 1: Selected Papers from the Association of Internet Researchers Conferences 2000-2002, New York: Peter Lang, 2004.

"Progress in the social study of computing requires us to discover and taxonomize the forms that technological determinism takes in received ways of thinking. Two of these might be called discontinuity and disembedding (cf. Brown and Duguid 2000). Discontinuity is the idea that information technology has brought about a sudden change in history. We supposedly live in an "information society", a "network society", or a "new media age" whose rules are driven by the workings of particular technologies. These theories are wrong as well. Of course, new information technologies have participated in many significant changes. But many other things are happening at the same time, yet other things are relatively unchanged, and the changes that do occur are thoroughly mediated by the structures and meanings that were already in place. It is easy to announce a discontinuity and attribute it to a single appealing trend, but doing so trivializes a complex reality.

Disembedding supposes new technologies to be a realm of their own, disconnected from the rest of the world. An example is the concept of "cyberspace" or the "online world", as if everything that happened online were unrelated to anything that happened offline. The reality is quite different. The things that people do on the Internet are almost always bound up with the things that they do elsewhere (Friedland 1996, Miller and Slater 2000, Wynn and Katz 1997). The "online world" is not a single place, but is divided among various institutions -- banking sites, hobby sites, extended family mailing lists, and so on, each of them simply annexing a corner of the Internet as one more forum to pursue an existing institutional logic, albeit with whatever amplifications or inflections might arise from the practicalities of the technology in use. People may well talk about the Internet as a separate place from the real world, and that is an interesting phenomenon, but it is not something that we should import into serious social analysis."

Note: Agre's Real-time politics: The Internet and the political process, The Information Society 18(5), 2002, pages 311-331 also provides a nice typology for thinking about information technology and social change.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Meeting this Friday

Don't forget - our first book discussion meeting (Books, Brats, Beverages) is this Friday at 3:00 pm on the Terrace (or inside if it is raining) Look for Kristin and Greg - we will try to get a semi-shady table. You are still encouraged to come even if you haven't had a chance to read the whole book! I want to particularly encourage the real librarians lurking out there to come and share their experiences/thoughts.

Brief Notes

This might not be the most important note/question, but did anyone else think that Willinsky should have started the book with Chapter 10 "Rights"? I felt like this would have set up his philosphical approaches more strongly from the start.

For a brief moment at the beginnning of Chapter 12 "Reading" I was really excited. I thought that Willinsky was actually going to talk more seriously and technically about dialogic reading practices and reading in hypermedia environments. So much work has been done on these issues, and he didn't even acknowledge it (here is one bibliography). I'm surprised, based on his background and list of other publications. I would expect him to be familiar with what is going on in studies of multiliteracies (book by same name), new media studies, and programs in rhetoric and technical communication.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. Am I correct in assuming that it is quiet around here because of all of the ALA festivities?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Access and That 'Triple Sided Economy'

I keep thinking about Willinsky's charge of 'inefficiency' as being what I would think of as more varied access.

Kristin mentioned this earlier in terms of how he is discussing labor. When I read it, I keep thinking of A. Suresh Canagrajah's book The Geopolitics of Academic Writing which really shows some of Willinsky's concerns as being beside the point when it comes to access for periphery scholars. In areas where electricity is not guaranteed, scholars still use typewriters, access to paper for printing/photocopying is scarce, and where scholarly approaches different than those valued by western scholarship are used, this doesn't mean all that much. The journals and research Willinsky focuses on are those dominated by western scholarship. Even many of the so-called international journals have a decidedly anglo- or western European focus.

Anyway, part of my point is that those printed copies of journals are actually more reliable as information sources in some communities. Using them doesn't depend on electricity, computer hardware, software, etc. In the example Willinsky opens the intro with, I think this is evident. If this library had access to print subscriptions to these journals, scholars in this community would not need to sign up for the limited time available on that one computer.

Don't get me wrong, I love having as much electronic access as possible, but I don't necessarily think that open electronic access can ever truly be universal open access.

Yes, I am crabby about this. And I suspect I still will be crabby when I read further.

Eschenfelder overall comments

First, I want to begin by saying that there is a lot I like and respect about this book:

a. it pulls together a lot of disparate information about the motivations for and dreams associated with OA
b. in doing so, it provides references to a diverse set of research about the related issues in a very useful way
c. it's pleasurable to read : )
d. it's a book - I've never written one!
e. Willinkson's emphasis on "the access principle" (the principle of increasing and improving access, impact, participation and circulation: pg. 29) instead of a specific tool and or business model is a very useful way to approach the problems that drive the OA movement. Appendix A "10 flavors of OA" is extremely useful.

I will probably assign portions of the book to my class as a good intro to many of the issues associated with OA and the 10 flavors portion emphasizes the different possibilities/business models associated with the end goals (his "access principle")

But I have some complaints about the book:

1. It spans so much territory, that Willinsky can't do justice to all the subtopics he takes on. It values breadth over depth; but depth would be much more interesting in the end. I would have recommended that the book focus on and expand chapters 1-7 and 12.

2. Unsupported claims: The lack of depth in certain sections results in some unsupported claims about how OA will solve this or that problem that undermine the overall effectiveness of his arguments. For example, he claims on pg. 181/182 that the "prospect of even citation indexing's becoming an open access resource, the possibilities of building an integrated and open system of indexing... becomes more feasible." Well, maybe. Yes, the fact that bib information is online and thus harvestable via OAI-PMH makes it more feasible, but it doesn't make commercial/non-profit/library cooperation more likely. He has left out any sort of analysis of the history of interactions between different indexing organizations, their business strategies & what motivations they have to cooperate or not cooperate in this venture. It would have been great if he had included that sort of analysis. Another example is the unsupported claim that OA will improve science journalism (p.g 136). Again, well maybe. Maybe certain journalists will be dilligent and make use of OA articles to improve their stories; but maybe other larger institutional forces like deadlines, editor interests, and limited understandings will mean that they won't.

3. Tech determinism: This book employs largely technological determinist assumptions that OA will cause certain (typically good) things to happen. From a social informatics perspective (my particularly theoretical camp) broad assumptions like these are highly suspicious. While OA may cause certain good things to happen under certain conditions, they won't happen all the time under all conditions. So the real questions are under what (cultural/temporal/economic/etc.) conditions will these things occur?

Willinksy doesn't fall into the trap of assuming OA will necessarily disempower publishers. LIS researchers like Rob Kling and Phil Agre point out that many technologies which we initially hoped would change power structures and empower underpriviledged groups instead tend to reinforce existing power structures. It may be that OA, under one of the 10 flavors presented by Willinsky, will end up reinforcing publishers power instead of moving power to a publisher/author/library cooperative (as suggested in chapter 6)

4. The historical context/openness spin. Willinsky contradicts himself in placing OA in a historical context. In Chapter 1, he argues that OA is part of a larger historical tradition of libraries and scholars maximizing access to materials. He says something about scholars visiting the ancient libraries at Alexandria. But as our very own Madge Klais points out, access to scholarly resources in ancient times was hardly open; rather, it was directly tied to class. If you weren't a gentleman, you couldn't read and you certainly had no business in the Alexandria library - unless it was to wash something. In a much later chapter Willinsky admits that access has long been tied to the politics of reading and who can read. Instead of spinning OA as part of a tradition of openness and access, I think he should have spun it as progress away from historically closed acccess to materials.


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Federal Research Public Access Act debate

From Inside Higher Ed comes a report on the debate over the Federal Research Public Access Act:

At first glance, it seems that the research world is united against the Federal Research Public Access Act. Scholarly associations are lining up to express their anger over the bill, which would have federal agencies require grant recipients to publish their research papers — online and free — within six months of their publication elsewhere.

Dozens of scholarly groups have joined in two letters — one organized by the Association of American Publishers and one by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. To look at the signatories (and the tones of the letters), it would appear that there’s a wide consensus that the legislation is bad for research. The cancer researchers are against it. The education researchers are against it. The biologists are against it. The ornithologists are against it. The anthropologists are against it. All of these groups are joining to warn that the bill could undermine the quality and economic viability of scholarly publishing.

There’s no doubt that many scholars do object to the legislation. But a rebellion of sorts is brewing online, where scholars who are, in theory, represented by some of these groups argue that the legislation would help research, that the scholarly associations are selling out their rank and file’s interests to prop up their publishing arms, and that the debate points to some underlying tensions about academic publishing in the digital age.

These scholars — with the leaders of this informal movement coming from anthropology — want Congress to know that their associations aren’t speaking for them, and they also want to draw attention to the fact that some scholarly groups didn’t sign on.

The bill that set off this debate is based on the premise — popular in Congress — that if taxpayers pay for research, they should be able to see the results of that research. That premise is being attached to a larger debate in scholarly publishing over “open access.” Proponents say that systems that provide for speedy, online, free publication assure the broadest possible access to cutting-edge knowledge. Critics of the idea say that the costs associated with journal subscriptions pay for quality control — and that open access is making their economic models fall apart because it removes the incentive for people (or, in the case of scholarly journals, institutions) to subscribe.

There are of course many types of open access — and professors and publishers have a range of views beyond simple pro/con. But in the reaction to the new legislation — sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) and Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) — has been swift and strong. The letter from the Association of American Publishers said that the bill would destroy the peer review system that assured journal quality and would turn federal agencies into competitors with scholarly publishers. The letter from the biologists’ group said that the legislation would do even more damage — hurting patient care in hospitals because the bill’s adoption would harm the continuing medical education programs subsidized by journals.

The full article goes into more detail. Connections to our book?


Scott Jaschik, "In whose interest?" Inside Higher Ed (15 June 2006).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chapter 1-3 comments: The division of labor in academic publishing

In ch. 1, "Opening," Willinsky points out that “scholarly publishing runs on a different economic basis than the rest of the publishing world”: “Researchers and scholars are not paid a penny by journal publishers for original manuscripts presenting the results of perhaps thousands of dollars’ worth of research.” [6] It seems to me that in the sciences, where this issue is most keen and where most of his examples originate, the research could be tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in cost, with not individual authors, but vast teams of authors. In addition, Willinsky neglects to note here -- and in many other places -- that peer reviewers and editorial board members of journals do not get paid for their efforts either.

A little later, Willinsky laments the “redundancies” of the “terribly inefficent triple-sided economy in the transition of journals from print to digital editions”: (1) “the traditional industrial apparatus of print” both on the publishing side and on the distribution/storage side with libraries; (2) publishers’ own “sophisticated Web-based systems for publishing, distributing, and indexing electronic editions within their own portals”; and (3) the infrastructures developed by libraries “for providing their patrons with access to these and other digital resources”. [10]
All these “redundancies” and “inefficiencies” imply wasted human labor and, thus, needless costs. Is the question here not one of ownership and access, but of division of labor in copyediting, digitizing, distributing, indexing, and marketing this information?

This labor question seems to lurk beneath ch. 2, "Access," as well. Willinsky points out that recent corporate mergers have left “Reed Elsevier with 1,800 journals, Taylor and Francis with over 1,000 titles, and Springer with more than 500 titles,” meaning “these three companies now control 60 percent of the materials indexed in the world’s leading citation index, the ISI Web of Science.” [18] But one of the main motivations for corporate mergers is cutting the kind of labor "redundancies" that Willinsky lamented in the previous chapter. Who performs the fact-checking, copy-editing, citation abstracting, and keyword indexing labor for all these journals, and how is this funded?

Finally, ch 3. on "Copyright" must deal with this issue as well. Willinsky argues “The copyright interests of researchers are to have their work reproduced, read, and accurately cited among as wide a readership as possible. The economic interests of faculty are not hurt, for example, as are those of publishers, by the distribution of free copies of their published work. Just the opposite.” [52] But Willinsky still hasn’t systematically addressed the user problem of finding research to “reproduce, read, and cite” in the first place — the abstracting, indexing, and searching problem which too requires labor, and therefore costs. Who is bearing the greatest burden of these labor costs, and who is reaping the greatest benefits?

So in a nutshell, let's try to gauge as we read on: Will Willinsky's multifarious open-access schemes address questions over "acquisition" labor and "retrieval" labor, as well as the original "authoring" labor of the research team itself?

Friday, May 26, 2006

update on Chapter 1/2: Elsevier author pays option

The number of commercial publishers offering author/institution pays options has increased since the book went to press. Elsevier recently announced it will offer this option for _some_ journals. Below please find a brief accouncement of Elsevier's decision from their library relations office and an explanation/response by a University College London librarian that contextualizes Elsevier's decision within a recent initiative in the Physics community to convert major journals to OA. (The text is copied from the liblicense listserv)

Note is is _not_ all Elsevier journals!

Interesting questions: So, will Elsevier only offer this option for those journals whose scholarly communities are placing significant pressure on publishers by a) developing alternative journals b) getting funding agencies (NSF, NIH) to require OA access? Will those fields without prestigous OA journals or funder OA requirements be less likely to have the author pays option for their commercial journals?

--- Original Message -----
Thu, 25 May 2006 17:50:43 -0400 (EDT)
Re: Sponsored Articles In Elsevier Journals
This announcement by Elsevier of an open access option for physics authors is welcome but not entirely unexpected. The commercial risk to Elsevier from losing authors to those journals which do offer an open access option must be too great for Elsevier to ignore, particularly in the light of an initiative by CERN announced at the Berlin 4 Open Access meeting on discussions with publishers about conversion of the major physics journals to OA.

We await further details of the Elsevier scheme, but two points strike me immediately. Firstly Elsevier are proposing to charge authors colour charges on top of the OA fee, whereas some other publishers make no additional charge. And secondly there is no mention by Elsevier of a reduction in subscription rates as OA income increases. Again publishers vary in their policy on this. Some are playing fair on this point but others may be using OA income simply to boost profits.

However, we are now beginning to see a situation where the differences between publishers on such issues are more transparent, and authors will be able to make an informed choice.

Frederick J. FriendJISC Scholarly Communication Consultant
Honorary Director Scholarly Communication UCLE-mail

Original Message -----From: "Menefee, Daviess (ELS)" To: Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 11:51 PMSubject: Sponsored Articles In Elsevier Journals">>Sent: Wednesday, May 24, 2006 11:51 PMSubject: Sponsored Articles In Elsevier Journals

Please excuse any duplication.>> From May onwards some Elsevier journals will be offering to > their authors the option to pay a sponsorship fee to ensure > that their article, already accepted for publication, is made > freely available to non-subscribers via ScienceDirect.>> Worldwide approximately 10 million researchers can already > access these journals through institutional subscriptions. In a > few instances, authors publishing in these journals have > requested an option to make their articles freely available > online to non-subscribers.>>

Six journals in Physics are the first to offer such an option.> These are:>> Nuclear Physics A> Nuclear Physics B> Nuclear Physics B Proceedings Supplements> Nuclear Instruments and Methods A> Physics Letters B> Astroparticle Physics>>

Thirty more journals across other fields such as Life and Health> sciences also plan to offer this option in the next two months.>> The author charge for article sponsorship is $3,000. The fee> excludes taxes and other potential author fees such as color> charges which are additional. Information about selecting this> option is now available on the journal homepages at> as well as Elsevier's author gateway site,> The availability of this option will be> offered to authors of the above-mentioned journals only after> receiving notification that their article has been accepted for> publication. This prevents a potential conflict of interest> where a journal would have a financial incentive to accept an> article.>> Please feel free to contact either of us or your Elsevier> representative with any questions.>>

Tony McSean, Daviess Menefee>> Library Relations> Elsevier

Friday, May 19, 2006

Our first book: The Access Principle (2006)

Ok everyone, Kristin and I met and we're going to do John Willinksy, The Access Principle (2006) first. It's about $35 hardcover. Pencil in Friday June 23 at 3:00pm at the Memorial Union Terrace for our conversation, but let's post some reactions to this weblog first as we start chewing on the book.


John Willinsky's home page at UBC

Powell's Books entry for The Access Principle

Frontlist Books entry for The Access Principle

(You can find the Amazon, B&N, or Border's entries on your own, most likely.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Welcome, and let's pick our first book

This blog is an organizing and discussion forum for a new reading group at UW-Madison. The group is being started by a couple of newly-tenured (yay) faculty in the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) -- but really, anyone can join. All you need is an irrational interest in books about "information and society" broadly construed. Some of these are books we should have read in graduate school. Some are new works that everyone's buzzing about and we don't want to feel left out. Some are forgotten gems. Some we read just so we can get really, really angry and cut them to ribbons. And if we have any creativity at all, we'll get some fiction into the mix as well.

Only members of the blog will be posting and commenting here. But if you'd like to participate please simply contact one of the members. In the comments to this first post, let's try to figure out what book we want to start with.