8,200+ Strong, Researchers Band Together To Force Science Journals To Open Access

Evolutionary biologist Michael Eisen made this t-shirt design in support of the Elsevier boycott.

Academic research is behind bars and an online boycott by 8,209 researchers (and counting) is seeking to set it free…well, more free than it has been. The boycott targets Elsevier, the publisher of popular journals like Cell and The Lancet,  for its aggressive business practices, but opposition was electrified by Elsevier’s backing of a Congressional bill titled the Research Works Act (RWA). Though lesser known than the other high-profile, privacy-related bills SOPA and PIPA, the act was slated to reverse the Open Access Policy enacted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 2008 that granted the public free access to any article derived from NIH-funded research. Now, only a month after SOPA and PIPA were defeated thanks to the wave of online protests, the boycotting researchers can chalk up their first win: Elsevier has withdrawn its support of the RWA, although the company downplayed the role of the boycott in its decision, and the oversight committee killed it right away.

But the fight for open access is just getting started.

Seem dramatic? Well, here’s a little test. Go to any of the top academic journals in the world and try to read an article. The full article, mind you…not just the abstract or the first few paragraphs. Hit a paywall? Try an article written 20 or 30 years ago in an obscure journal. Just look up something on PubMed then head to JSTOR where a vast archive of journals have been digitized for reference. Denied? Not interested in paying $40 to the publisher to rent the article for a few days or purchase it for hundreds of dollars either? You’ve just logged one of the over 150 million failed attempts per year to access an article on JSTOR. Now consider the fact that the majority of scientific articles in the U.S., for example, has been funded by government-funded agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, NIH, Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA, and so on. So while taxpayer money has fueled this research, publishers charge anyone who wants to actually see the results for themselves, including the authors of the articles.

Paying a high price for academic journals isn’t anything new, but the events that unfolded surrounding the RWA was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It began last December when the RWA was submitted to Congress. About a month later, Timothy Gowers, a mathematics professor at Cambridge University, posted rather innocently to his primarily mathematics-interested audience his particular problems with Elsevier, citing exorbitant prices and forcing libraries to purchase journal bundles rather than individual titles. But clearly, it was Elsevier’s support of the RWA that was his call to action. Two days later, he launched the boycott of Elsevier at thecostofknowledge.com, calling upon his fellow academics to refuse to work with the publisher in any capacity.

Seemingly right out of Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, researchers started taking a stand in droves. And the boycott of Elsevier continues on, though with less gusto now that the RWA is dead. It’s important to point out though that the boycott is not aimed at forcing Elsevier to make the journals free, but protesting the way it does its business and the fact that it has profits four times larger than related publishers. The Statement of Purpose for the protest indicates that the specific issues that researchers have with Elsevier varies, but “…what all the signatories do agree on is that Elsevier is an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the current system of commercial publication of mathematics journals.”

The advantages of open access to researchers have been known for some time, but its popularity has struggled.

It’s clear that all forms of print media, including newspapers, magazines, and books, are in a crisis in the digital era (remember Borders closing?).  The modern accepted notion that information should be free has crippled  publishers and many simply waited too long to evolve into new pay  models. When academic journals went digital, they locked up access  behind paywalls or tried to sell individual articles  at ridiculous prices. Academic research is the definition of premium,  timely content and prices reflected an incredibly small customer base  (scientific researchers around the globe) who desperately needed the  content as soon as humanly possible. Hence, prices were set high enough  that libraries with budgets remained the primary customers, until of  course library budgets got slashed, but academics vying for tenure,  grants, relevance, or prestige continued to publish in these same  journals. After all, where else could they turn…that is, besides the Public Library of Science (PLoS) project?

In all fairness, some journals get it. The Open Directory maintains a list of journals that switched from paywalls to open access or are experimenting with alternative models. Odds are very high that this list will continue to grow, but how fast? And more importantly, will the Elsevier boycott empower researchers to get on-board the open access paradigm, even if it meant having to reestablish themselves in an entirely new ecosystem of journals?

As the numbers of dissenting researchers continue to climb, calls for open access to research are translating into new legislation…and the expected opposition. But let’s hope that some are thinking about breaking free from the journal model altogether and discovering creative, innovative ways to get their research findings out there, like e-books or apps that would make the research compelling and interactive. Isn’t it about time researchers took back control of their work?

http://singularityhub.com/2012/03/18/8200-strong-researchers-band-together-to-force-science-journals-to-open-access/

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Broadcasters seeking to exploit Twitter for interaction with viewers

Broadcasters are increasingly using Twitter to encourage viewers to interact with their programmes. “We think most programming today is spontaneous, but soon as a standard we expect to see broadcasters using hashtags and @ handles to get people involved, said general manager, Twittter UK, Tony Wang. Drawing largely on US examples, despite the number of UK broadcasters using the social networking site, Wang said broadcasters divided into three categories. The first was when broadcasters relied on spontaneity from viewers that made their own Tweets, the second was when broadcasters gave an on screen call to action, and thirdly an artful approach that would get viewers involved. Wang pointed to Fox News coverage of the Republican presidential debate that had actively encouraged the audience to respond to candidates answers, then analysed the Tweets they had received through the broadcast hashtag. Earlier, Kristin Frank, general manager, MTV said later this year one of the broadcaster’s scripted shows would use Twitter to interact with characters and develop plot lines. Characters would then ‘Tweet’ back to their friends.

http://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2012/03/20/broadcasters-looking-to-twitter-for-interaction/

100 million TVs will be Internet-connected by 2016 says report

A new report from researcher NPD In-Stat predicts that 100 million homes in North America and Western Europe will own television sets that blend traditional programs with Internet content by 2016. These new hybrid devices, capable of displaying interactive content related to TV shows, are a bid to hold the viewer’s attention in a device-cluttered world. “The TV people figured out nobody’s just watching TV anymore,” said Gerry Kaufhold, NPD In-Stat’s digital entertainment research director. “They’re watching TV with a tablet or a smartphone or a laptop in their hands.” Indeed, more than 60 percent of viewers check their email or surf the Web while watching TV, according to Nielsen’s 2011 consumer usage report. Programmers realize they need to do something to draw the viewer’s eyes back to the TV screen – even as they develop apps for tablets and smartphones to deliver content related to the show that’s airing. Kaufhold pointed to a European connected TV standard (known as Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV) as a bellwether of things to come in North America. Broadcaster France Televisions will use the new hybrid standard during the French Open, which begins in May. Tennis fans can push a single button on their remote controls to bring up an interactive screen that will display real-time scores of other matches, bios of tournament players and news, photos and Twitter streams describing the action.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/entertainmentnewsbuzz/2012/03/100-million-tvs-will-be-internet-connected-by-2016.html

 

Newspapers the fastest-shrinking industry in the U.S.

Using five years’ worth of data from the Council of Economic Advisors, LinkedIn has calculated how the job rate has grown or declined in various industries, finding that between 2007 and 2011, the U.S. newspaper industry shrunk the most of any other industry analyzed, LinkedIn reported. While the “internet” category and “online publishing” are two of the fastest growing industries, up 24.6 percent and 24.3 percent, respectively, from 2007 to 2011, the newspaper business lost the greatest percentage of jobs, down 28.4 percent, Business Insider explained. Such depressing numbers about the newspaper industry should come as no surprise considering that, in 2007, The New York Times Company was trading for about USD 25 a share, and in February 2012, USD 6.56, according to another Business Insider article. And as The Atlantic pointed out with some telling graphics, print advertising in newspapers has “collapsed.” Despite the growing internet and online publishing industries, a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellency in Journalism showed that newspapers’ online advertising revenues are not making up for print ad , as for every USD 1 gained in digital advertising, USD 7 are lost in print revenue

http://knightcenter.utexas.edu/blog/00-9277-newspapers-fastest-shrinking-industry-us

Twelve countries names as ‘Enemies of the Internet’ in study

Joining usual suspects like Syria, Iran, China and North Korea among the so-called Enemies of the Internet, Bahrain and Belarus have joined a list of 12 countries, which the international press freedom advocate, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), says are guilty of cyber censorship and restricting the freedom of information. To mark this year’s World Day Against Cyber Censorship (March 12), RSF has released its latest report on the world’s worst offenders of Internet censoship. The “Enemies of the Internet” list includes Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam. RSF says Bahrain and Belarus were added to the list after the organization found those countries to have increased efforts to restrict the flow of information. But the countries have not been ranked individually. Matthias Spielkamp from the German branch of Reporters Without Borders says the methods of cyber censorship are too varied and too numerous to allow a clear ranking. For example, China, Iran and Vietnam feature for the imprisonment of 120 bloggers and online activists, while Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are cited for censorship. Several online activists were killed in 2011 in Bahrain, Mexico, India and Syria. A second report just published details those countries which RSF says are “under surveillance.” It includes 14 countries: Australia, Egypt, Eritrea, France, India, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. But the organization admits that even this list is incomplete. Its main report also mentions Morocco, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Tajikistan

http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,15802909,00.html

ABC to integrate Facebook and Twitter into programmes

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has teamed up with the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation to introduce Facebook and Twitter content to its programmes as part of the broadcaster’s social media strategy. ABC’s manager of new media services, Chris Winter, told Fairfax Media: “It’s about allowing people to engage a little more than they have been able to in the past with what they’re watching.

“One of the great prompters of conversation is what you’re watching on the telly. In the past we sat in the lounge room and talked to the person sitting next to us, in the future it will become easier and easier to engage with people who are not in the same room.” The broadcaster wants to engage with viewers using smartphones and tablet computers while watching TV content. Developed by National ICT Australia (NICTA), the technology can overlay online discussions currently occurring on Twitter discussion on top of any show across the ABC’s multiple channels.

http://www.rapidtvnews.com/index.php/2012022420044/abc-to-integrate-facebook-and-twitter-into-programmes.html

Associated Press sues ‘parasitic’ news agency over licensing claim

Associated Press is suing a digital news agency, claiming that it uses unlicensed content without paying licence fees. AP, which claims to be the world’s biggest news agency, said on Tuesday it had filed a lawsuit against Meltwater News in a district court in Manhattan. Meltwater News allows its clients to monitor breaking news stories from around the world, including content from AP and other agencies. AP is seeking an injunction and substantial damages from Meltwater News in the copyright infringement action. Tom Curley, outgoing chief executive of AP, accused Meltwater News of a “parasitic” use of content produced by news agencies. AP claimed in its court filing that Meltwater News refuses to pay licence fees for the content it allows users to monitor in the US. The Norway-based firm also has a “vast archive” of AP stories dating back to 2007 which users can store and access despite them not being available online, according to the filing. AP has fought a long-running battle against websites and search engines listing its content. In 2009, the agency went head-to-head with Google over its Google News index, but has since struck licensing deals with the search giant and other internet portals such as Yahoo and AOL.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/feb/14/associated-press-sues-digital-agency?newsfeed=true