Evolutions in Scholarship

Looking back, looking forward

Friday, February 15, 2013 4:05 pm

Until yesterday, 2013 has not been a year of positive movement in the scholarly communication realm. In early January, many were shocked and saddened to learn of the death of Aaron Swartz, a leading advocate for open access. Although his methodology has been questioned by some, the principles that inspired his actions are sound. In late January, updates I heard from various lawyer-librarians on the Kirtsaeng v. Wiley case before the Supreme Court and the implications for ALL, not just libraries, if Wiley gets even a partial “win” (Miss Pollyanna here refuses to believe an outright “win” is possible) were disheartening.

February didn’t get any better, as the publishers in the Georgia State copyright case filed their appeal at the end of January, and February greeted us with the chilling news that the US Dept. of Justice requested additional time to determine if they were going to file an amicus brief not in support of GSU, but either for the publishers or for neither party. (See Nancy Sims’s take for an excellent analogy to eating fast food burgers.) Then we learned that an academic librarian is being sued by a publisher, and another academic librarian has been threatened with litigation. After a particularly uplifting 2012 – Research Works Act squashed; researchers rebelled; victories one, two & three rolled in – this has been a difficult year to stomach.

But yesterday, on the 11th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, which launched the Open Access movement (and also Valentine’s Day no less), hope glimmered again with the introduction of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) in both the US House and Senate. This is an updated version of the Federal Research Public Access Act, which was introduced in the past but never brought for a vote. FASTR would require all Federal agencies that fund $100 million+ in extramural awards annually to make publications stemming from funded research available to the public within 6 months of publication. But FASTR is better in two critical ways: 1) it would also require that the publications be in formats open to reuse for “computational analysis by state-of-the-art technologies” (that’s text-mining, baby!), and 2) it was introduced simultaneously in both the House and Senate, with bipartisan support, in a non-election year. SPARC and InfoDocket have additional information.

May the glimmer become glitter this year!

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