In Other News Today . . .

In other news today, we have

  • MIT protesting the actions of Elsevier. At issue is Elsevier’s newly instituted policy that prohibits authors from “deposit[ing] in, or posting to, subject-oriented or centralized repositories (such as PubMed Central), or institutional repositories with systematic posting mandates” unless there are “specific agreements between Elsevier and the repository”. MIT has an Open Access Policy which, unless opted out by the faculty-author, grants MIT “nonexclusive permission to make available [the faculty author’s] scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination”. Elsevier may well consider MIT Open Access Policy a “systematic posting mandate” and thus move to limit MIT faculty’s dissemination options for Elsevier-published articles. (It is worth mentioning that Duke University, who has a similar policy to MIT, has disputed being its policy being categorized as a “posting mandate”.)
  • At the same time, MIT’s neighbor, Harvard, is airing its own dissatisfaction with a number of unnamed academic publishers. In its Faculty Advisory Council’s words, “[m]any large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive”.

Interesting, the Council seems to be lodging a separate, but related complaint, that “The Library has never received anything close to full reimbursement for these expenditures from overhead collected by the University on grant and research funds”. These are grants which faculty members win for their own research projects from large granting institutions such as the National Science Foundation. At most campuses, they’re then obliged to turn 25-33% of the money to their home universities for administrative expenses. Harvard Library has now publicized its grievance that although it acquires content (in part) to serve faculty’s needs, it does not get to share proportionally in the money that the faculty turns over to the university. I doubt this grievance is confined to Harvard; this makes keeping an eye on future developments especially interesting.

  • Yours truly discovers a directory for legally free books. Check out the Directory of Open Access Books here. It’s a very new project — beta testing had just gone live earlier this month — and the current selection is unlikely to blow anybody out of the water. However, it’s a promising start, and I hope more faculty authors will insist on contracts that allow them to make electronic (even if PDF) versions of their books available for noncommercial use. (On a curious note, yours truly had just proposed to make such a directory for one of her classes the day before she stumbled onto DOAB. Here’s to hoping for other hasn’t-been-done yet ideas down the line.)
  • Finally, we have a video of a Oxford-style debate carried out at Harvard on the question of “Are Libraries Obsolete?“. The debate is moderated by Jonathan Zittrain, whose book The Future of the Internet–And How to Stop It I keep meaning to finish. Note that all the debaters are academics/librarians and so may not be representative of an average ibrary user or (perhaps more importantly) administrators who control the libraries’ purse strings. In any case, here’s the video

Gotta love the “Oye, oye, oye”.

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