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Subject: Fwd: Open Letter: access to scientific literature
From: Hans Sluiman <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:[log in to unmask]
Date:Tue, 23 Jan 2001 13:08:34 +0000

text/plain (222 lines)

The following was posted on 19 January to the bionet.chlamydomonas
newsgroup and is quoted below for the benefit of those who don't have
easy access to usenet.
Any editors or editorial board members of Phycologia, J. Phycol., EJP,
Protist...etc. care to respond?
Hans Sluiman

[log in to unmask] wrote:
> Dear Colleagues,
> We would like to call your attention to the circulation of
> an open letter in support of unrestricted access to the
> published record of scientific research. More than four
> hundred scientists from 29 countries have now signed this
> letter, pledging that their voluntary support of scholarly
> journals will be limited to journals that make the primary
> research reports that they have published freely available
> for distribution and use by independent online public
> libraries, within six months after publication.  The
> letter, a continuously updated list of the scientists who
> have signed it, and some answers to frequently asked
> questions are posted at:
> This site also provides a way for colleagues to sign the
> open letter online.
> We have appended a copy of an editorial written by
> Richard J. Roberts which will be appearing soon in
> PNAS that explains why he supports this effort. We
> hope it will help convince you to sign the letter as well.
> This is a grassroots initiative, and the breadth and depth
> of support it receives from the scientific community will
> determine its success in persuading our journals to change
> their practices. If you support this effort, we also ask
> you spend an hour or two of your time in the next week
> talking to colleagues at your own and other institutions,
> explaining to them the reasons that you chose to support
> it, and encouraging them to join you in signing the letter.
> Your effort can really make a difference.
> Please also take the time to contact the editors and
> publishers of journals that are important to you, informing
> them of your support of this initiative, and encouraging
> them to adopt the policy that the letter advocates. We
> would greatly appreciate hearing about about any such
> efforts you are able to make.
> Finally, we welcome your advice and ideas. Thank you for
> your support and help.
> Sincerely,
> Public Library of Science coordinators
> ([log in to unmask])
> Michael Ashburner, University of Cambridge
> Patrick O. Brown, Stanford University
> Mary Case, Association of Research Libraries
> Michael B. Eisen, LBNL and UC Berkeley
> Lee Hartwell, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
> Marc Kirschner, Harvard University
> Chaitan Khosla, Stanford University
> Roel Nusse, Stanford University
> Richard J. Roberts, New England Biolabs
> Matthew Scott, Stanford University
> Harold Varmus, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
> Barbara Wold, Caltech
> ============================================================================
> ======================
> In 1999, Harold Varmus, then Director of the NIH, proposed
> a bold new initiative called PubMed Central (PMC) designed
> to provide a central repository for literature in the life
> sciences (see Science 284: 718, 1999). Following an initial
> period of confusion, PMC now exists. It has a clear
> mission, a stable home and a nucleus of papers. Its mission
> is to provide a comprehensive electronic archive of the
> peer-reviewed literature relevant to the biological
> sciences. Its home is the National Center for Biotechnology
> Information (NCBI), whose Director is David Lipman. NCBI is
> also home to GenBank, the public archive of DNA sequences.
> The publications already present in PMC and freely
> accessible to the world's scientific community, include all
> articles published in the Proceedings of the National
> Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that are more than one month old
> and which were in a suitable electronic format, as well as
> articles from a number of other journals such as Molecular
> Biology of the Cell, Arthritis Research and Breast Cancer
> Research. Several other journals including The British
> Medical Journal (BMJ) and Nucleic Acids Research (NAR) are
> committed to join. A full list is available at
> PMC will only contain articles from the peer-reviewed
> literature and is not intended to be the sole repository or
> distributor of the publications that it hosts. In fact,
> journals are encouraged to distribute their material as
> widely as possible, through their own web sites or online
> distributors. Furthermore, publishers do not need to
> relinquish their normal copyright provisions for the
> further commercial use of the material. The great value
> that PMC brings to the scientific community is the
> opportunity to search, not just titles and abstracts, but
> entire papers, for interesting content. Just as GenBank has
> proved invaluable to molecular biologists, PMC could serve
> an equally important role within the broader biological
> community. Once a central repository and archive for the
> world's biological literature becomes populated it will
> have a far-reaching impact on the conduct of scientific
> research. It will improve productivity and will allow new
> approaches to searching the literature. No longer will we
> need to spend hours searching among the stacks of the
> local, or not so local, library to find articles essential
> for our research. Scientists, physicians, teachers and lay
> people, who are currently disenfranchised from the world's
> literature because of minimal research budgets, will have
> access, perhaps not to the very latest research, but at
> least to reasonably current research. Our colleagues in the
> developing world and many of the smaller research
> institutions will have unprecedented access to the
> scientific literature.
> To populate PMC, all life science journals are being asked
> to provide their contents free of charge following a
> suitable delay beyond the date of print publication. In the
> case of PNAS the delay is one month, for other journals it
> may be longer. This is to mitigate any deleterious effect
> on subscriptions and the financial health of the journals
> that might result from free access. For instance, if a
> journal were to make its content immediately available to
> PMC, there would be a real danger that subscriptions to the
> print or online copy of the journal would drop
> precipitously as libraries become increasingly pressed to
> find funds for journals. What is a reasonable delay? I
> would argue that six months seems a reasonable time for a
> journal to monopolize the content. Most of us would not
> dream of scanning the contents of a journal published six
> months ago unless we were searching for a specific article.
> Thus it seems unlikely that a large number of subscriptions
> would be lost if six month old issues were made freely
> available. I think rather few worthwhile journals would be
> adversely affected if they were to institute such a policy.
> I thus welcome, and have signed on to, the initiative
> proposed by Dr. Pat Brown of Stanford University. He was
> one of the chief proponents of PMC and is now circulating
> an open letter from scientists urging journals to
> participate. The letter is currently posted at
> Signatories show their
> support for open access and pledge to publish in, edit or
> review for, and personally subscribe to, only those
> journals that grant unrestricted distribution rights within
> 6 months of publication to PMC and similar entities. As
> word of this initiative spreads, many of us hope that
> thousands of scientists, both senior and junior, will sign
> on. Even more important, we hope that many journals,
> especially the more prestigious ones, will join PNAS, NAR,
> BMJ and others in agreeing to make their content freely
> available no later than six months after publication.
> This initiative is very much a grass roots affair. All
> scientists from students to professors are being asked to
> join. It is an initiative that, if successful now, will
> provide a vital resource to students and their professors
> alike during the coming years. Why might a journal not join
> something that is so obviously good for science? Some
> publishers argue that they will lose revenues from
> subscriptions. This is hard to take seriously, when many
> journals make their dated content freely available on their
> own web site and some even offer prepublication copy. I
> suspect that many publishers and their senior editorial
> staff are fearful of losing control and jeopardizing
> favorite programs that they view as benefiting science and
> which are presently supported from journal profits.
> However, when I ask students they seem overwhelmingly in
> favor of PMC. Indeed as a practicing scientist how can one
> reasonably be against it? It will save much time and make
> invaluable resources uniformly available. It is good for
> everybody. Both GenBank and PubMed, also run from NCBI,
> have been immensely successful and have driven science
> forward. PMC is the next step.
> One might have thought that the scientific societies would
> have been at the forefront to promote the interests of
> their members and to promulgate science by all means
> possible. So why have the major life science societies,
> such as ASM, ASBMB, AAAS etc, not followed the lead of the
> National Academy of Sciences and rushed to join PMC? At the
> very least the societies should poll their members to gauge
> their enthusiasm for PMC. Could it be that the societies
> have become seduced by the cash that their journals produce
> and the professional interests of the scientists they
> represent are taking second place? I would urge all
> scientific societies and academic publishers such as the
> university and institutional presses to take a hard look at
> their priorities and ask whether they support science or
> Mammon. I also urge the large commercial publishers to join
> PMC. They cannot claim to be serving the best interests of
> their customers by trying to balkanize the published
> literature. Imagine how stymied we would all be without
> GenBank. Most of all though I urge our young scientists to
> think hard and carefully about this issue. Your future is
> at stake. Here is your chance to make your voice heard and
> indicate your priorities in the scientific enterprise. Join
> me and sign on!
> ---

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