A Hundred Years of Richard Feynman

The famous American physicist, Richard Feynman, was born a 100 years ago on the 11th May in 1918, and it is worthwhile spending a few moments reflecting on what makes his achievements so enduring. To the general public, Feynman first became widely known with the publication in 1985 of a best-selling collection of stories from his life in physics called ‘Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman’. The title refers to an incident in his introduction to graduate school at Princeton at an event called the ‘Dean’s Tea’. This was unfamiliar territory for Feynman who had grown up in Far Rockaway, a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens, and who had gone to MIT for his undergraduate degree. But it was Feynman’s participation in the presidential commission to investigate the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 that made him one of the best-known physicists in the world. At a public meeting of the Commission, Feynman famously performed a public demonstration of the cause of the shuttle disaster using a rubber O-ring, a clamp and a glass of ice water. It is still worthwhile looking at the video of the event on YouTube.

To physicists, Feynman is revered for many reasons but is probably best known for the ‘Feynman diagram’ approach to calculations of quantum field theory. Feynman’s approach to field theory calculations was pictorial and in marked contrast to the more formal mathematical approach of his fellow Nobel Prize Winner, Harvard professor Julian Schwinger. As Schwinger later said:

“Like the silicon chips of more recent years, the Feynman diagram was bringing computation to the masses.”

Feynman diagrams are now an integral part of theoretical physics. Ironically, Freeman Dyson, the person who proved that Feynman’s intuitive approach was actually the same as Schwinger’s more mathematical approach, never won the Nobel Prize although he was instrumental in getting Feynman’s space-time approach accepted by people like J. Robert Oppenheimer and the rest of the physics elite.

When I was an undergraduate student in Oxford I first came across Feynman through his famous ‘Red Books’ – the three-volume set of his ‘Lectures on Physics’. Feynman dedicated two years of his life to creating a two-year introductory course in physics for Caltech students that covered most of modern physics – mechanics, kinetic theory, electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. Although many of the students reportedly found the lectures hard-going despite Feynman’s inimitable style of lecturing, his Lectures on Physics have become a staple part of the education of much of the physics faculty around the world.

After completing a D.Phil (the Oxford equivalent of a Ph.D.) in theoretical physics in 1970, I was excited to be awarded a Harkness Fellowship to go to Caltech for two years as a post doc. Just before I left Oxford, Feynman had published a paper on ‘partons’ – an intuitively appealing picture of the proton as made-up of point-like constituents. There was also great interest in the new experimental results from SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre, on ‘deep inelastic scattering’ of electrons from protons. Feynman had originally only applied his parton ideas to proton-proton scattering but on a visit to SLAC he had recently given a seminar showing how the new deep inelastic scattering results could be understood using his parton model of the proton.

I arrived at Caltech in 1970 feeling both trepidation and excitement and it was like moving from the slow lane to the fast lane on the freeway. At Oxford we had sort of absorbed the idea that the physics world revolved a little around Oxford, but at Caltech, it was clear that, to a first approximation, the UK, Europe and the rest of the world were largely irrelevant. This was the ethos of the theory group at Caltech with its two Nobel Prize winners, Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann. In actual fact, my old professor in Oxford, Dick Dalitz, was one of the few physicists who had taken seriously the proposals by Gell-Mann, and independently, by George Zweig, then a professor at Caltech, for quarks as fundamental constituents of matter. Dalitz had developed a detailed quark model for baryons and mesons and showed that that this had remarkable power to reproduce many features of the hadron spectrum found by experiment. Despite its clear theoretical inconsistencies, Dalitz regarded his explicit quark model as similarly useful as Bohr’s equally inconsistent model of the atom. Just like Bohr’s model, Dalitz was convinced that the quark model pointed the way to some deep truths about Nature.

Feynman was never one to take other people’s calculations on trust and so he had developed his own version of the quark model with graduate student, Finn Ravndal, and post doc, Mark Kislinger. Perhaps because of his work with them, Feynman often used to have lunch with the graduate students and post docs at the Caltech campus cafeteria, universally known as ‘The Greasy’. It was here that I first heard versions of Feynman’s stories that he and fellow bongo drummer, Ralph Leighton, later wrote up for publication. The intellectual rivalry between Gell-Mann and Feynman was legendary and Gell-Mann frequently grumbled about what he regarded as Feynman’s ‘myth making’.

My most intimidating moment at Caltech was at an informal lunch-time lecture I had agreed to give to the experimental particle physicists. The group was led by new Nobel Prize winner, Barry Barish, with Frank Sciulli and they had just been awarded funding for an important experiment on deep inelastic neutrino scattering. Feynman’s parton explanation of deep inelastic electron scattering had been written up – with due acknowledgement to Feynman – by ‘BJ’ Bjorken and Manny Paschos who had both attended his lecture at SLAC. All I was going to do in my lecture was to explain how the parton model could be applied to neutrino scattering. However, you can imagine my surprise when I arrived to give my talk to see Feynman sitting in the audience. In fact, all went well until I was nearing the end of the lecture when Feynman jumped up and said:

 “Stop. Draw a line. Everything above the line is the parton model – below the line are just some guesses of Bjorken and Paschos.”

As I rapidly became aware, the reason for Feynman’s sensitivity on this point was that Murray Gell-Mann was going around the Lauritsen building at Caltech growling things like “Anyone who wants to know what the parton model predicts needs to consult Feynman’s entrails.”.  The point that Feynman was making was that all the results above the line in my seminar were identical to predictions that Murray had derived using fancier algebraic techniques. Feynman just wanted to dissociate his parton model predictions from some of the wilder parton model predictions of others. My lecture was just an opportunity for him to do that.

What made a Feynman lecture unique? The well-known Cornell physicist, David Mermin, once said “I would drop everything to hear him give a lecture on the municipal drainage system”. Why was this? An LA Times editor captured the essence of a Feynman lecture with the words:

“A lecture by Dr. Feynman is a rare treat indeed. For humor and drama, suspense and interest it often rivals Broadway stage plays. And above all, it crackles with clarity. If physics is the underlying ‘melody’ of science, then Dr. Feynman is its most lucid troubadour.”

The article went on to say:

“No matter how difficult the subject – from gravity through quantum mechanics to relativity – the words are sharp and clear. No stuffed shirt phrases, no ‘snow jobs’, no obfuscation.”

In his Nobel Prize lecture, instead of giving a talk about the beautiful Feynman diagram framework he had created, Feynman chose to show some of his miss-steps along the way to his eventual success:

“That was the beginning and the idea seemed so obvious to me and so elegant that I fell deeply in love with it. And, like falling in love with a woman, it is only possible if you do not know too much about her, so you cannot see her faults. The faults will become apparent later, but after the love is strong enough to hold you to her. So, I was held by this theory, in spite of all the difficulties, by my youthful enthusiasm.”

What of Feynman’s legacy today? In 1981, at a conference at MIT, Feynman gave a lecture in which he asked the question “Can physics be simulated by a universal computer?” He then answered his question with the statement:

“I’m not happy with all the analyses that go with just classical theory, because Nature isn’t classical, dammit, and if you want to make a simulation of Nature, you’d better make it quantum mechanical, and by golly it’s a wonderful problem.”

Feynman then put forward an example of a quantum computer and now, over 35 years later, physicists and engineers all around the world are seriously trying to build and operate such a computer.

Finally, Feynman was always passionate about the need for what he called ‘utter scientific integrity’. In a commencement address to Caltech students in 1974 he said:

“Learning how not to fool ourselves is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis.”

In his fine biography of Feynman, James Gleick memorably summed up Feynman’s philosophy towards science with the words:

“He believed in the primacy of doubt, not as a blemish upon on our ability to know but as the essence of knowing.”

Tony Hey

Kirkland, Washington

11th May 2018

Ada Lovelace: Programming Pioneer

Why is Ada, Countess of Lovelace, celebrated as a computer pioneer and the first programmer when she lived and died in the 19th century long before the advent of digital computers? Ada Lovelace, as she is usually called, was the only legitimate daughter of the notorious romantic poet Lord Byron. Her mother, Lady Wentworth, separated from Byron only a month after Ada’s birth and was determined that her daughter did not fall prey to her father’s grand romantic notions. She therefore arranged for Ada to have training in mathematics as a disciplined antidote to her father’s well documented excesses.

Ada’s connection with computers came from a meeting with the famous mathematician Charles Babbage in 1833 when Ada was only seventeen. Ada had been invited to one of Babbage’s celebrated evening entertainments attended by the leading scientists of the day and by the rich and famous. She was fascinated by his pioneering – and expensive – government-funded project to build a mechanical machine to automate mathematical calculations. Tabulations in such publications as the British Nautical Almanac were known to contain many errors, either from mistakes in calculations or from typesetting the tables. Such errors were popularly supposed to have been the cause of numerous shipwrecks.  Babbage had invented his famous ‘Difference Engine’ – named after the particular mathematical method used to perform the calculations – in order to eliminate these mistakes. Two weeks after this first meeting, Babbage gave her a personal demonstration of his small working prototype of the machine. Unfortunately the Difference Engine became the first Government-funded computing project which ended up over budget and unfinished.  This was principally due to the absence of mass production manufacturing technology and at the time there were not even agreed standards for simple components like screws. In 1991, Doron Swade and a team working at the Science Museum in London were able to vindicate Babbage’s design by constructing a working, full-scale, Difference Engine.

Before the Difference Engine had even been completed, in 1834 Babbage had abandoned his original design for a much more flexible and powerful machine he called the ‘Analytical Engine’. While the Difference Engine was designed only to perform very specific mathematical operations, the Analytical Engine was designed to be able to perform any arithmetic or logic operation. In this sense, his new machine was effectively a design for a general-purpose computer that could be programmed to implement any well-defined algorithm or program. It is this sense that Babbage anticipated the ideas of the modern stored program computer, first outlined by von Neumann in his ‘First Draft of a Report on the EDVAC’ in 1944.

Babbage never published any scientific papers on the Analytical Engine but he did give a seminar on his design in 1840 to Italian scientists in Turin. A report of this meeting was written up by Luigi Menabrea, a remarkable individual who later became a General in the Italian army and then Prime Minister of Italy. By this time, Ada had got married and had had three children but she clearly felt the need for some more intellectual stimulus. In 1839 she wrote to Babbage asking him to recommend a mathematics tutor for her. He recommended Augustus De Morgan, a well-known mathematician, who later wrote Ada could become ‘an original mathematical investigator, perhaps of first-rate eminence’. At the suggestion of a mutual friend, Ada translated Menabrea’s paper on Babbage’s new machine for publication in English. Babbage then suggested she add some notes to the paper and gave her further material and examples from his talk in Turin. There is controversy among computer historians about exactly how much of her example programs in the notes is due to her contribution. However it is certainly true that Ada can be credited with finding the first ‘programming bug’ in one of Babbage’s examples!

Ada’s notes on programming the Analytical Engine contributed greatly to making Babbage’s achievement understandable to a much larger audience. In addition, while there is no evidence that Babbage thought seriously about using his machine for algebraic manipulations, by contrast, Ada was very forthright about the Engine’s capabilities:

‘Many persons … imagine that because the business of the Engine is to give its results in numerical notation the nature of its processes must consequently be arithmetical and numerical, rather than algebraical and analytical. This is an error. The engine can arrange and combine its numerical quantities exactly as if they were letters or any other general symbols; and in fact it might bring out its results in algebraic notation, were provisions made accordingly.’

The image of Ada as the first programmer has clearly captured the public’s imagination and her name is now remembered in many different ways – as the name of the Ada programming language created by the US Department of Defense, as the Lovelace Medal awarded annually by the British Computer Society, and now in Ada Lovelace Day celebrated in mid-October every year. Ada, along with Babbage’s machines, also feature in an ‘alternative reality’ science fiction novel called ‘The Difference Engine’ written by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. This imagines a Victorian era in which Babbage’s machines had been successfully built so that all our transactions could be recorded by the Government’s vast Engines, managed by professional computer operators they called ‘clackers’. As a final example, Sydney Padua has written a wonderfully readable webcomic/graphic novel called ‘The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage’.

For more details on the early history of computing, my book ‘The Computing Universe: Journey through a Revolution’ contains a readable, introductory account.

Blog article also published at:


Tony Hey

November 6th 2017


Progress towards Open Science?

Since the time that Isaac Newton first wrote his laws of motion and theory of gravity in mathematical form, science has made progress by using the two familiar methodologies, or “paradigms”, of experiment and theory.

With the dawn of digital computers, however, scientists were able to explore systems too complex to be analysed mathematically, or which involved extreme environments inaccessible to experiment (computer modelling of galaxy formation and climate change being two such examples).

Nobel laureate Ken Wilson called computation the “third paradigm” of scientific research, where computational science does not replace the paradigms of theory and experiment but requires scientists to learn new and different skills. These include knowledge of numerical methods, computer algorithms, programming languages and parallel computer architectures.

In 2001, John Taylor, then director general of research councils in the UK Office of Science and Technology, initiated the e-Science programme, which focused on managing the growing challenge of “data deluge” as well as the multidisciplinary collaborations needing to combine different datasets to explore new science.

Turing Award winner Jim Gray, of Microsoft Research, called such data-intensive science a “fourth paradigm” for research. Data-intensive science requires researchers to learn new skills in databases, data visualisation, data curation and, increasingly, advanced data analytics technologies such as machine learning.

The UK e-Science programme was funded for five years from 2001 to 2006. Ten years later, the challenges of managing the still-growing scientific data deluge are plain for all to see.

This “Big Scientific Data” revolution is being driven by the extreme volumes of data being generated by large facilities – such as the CERN Large Hadron Collider, Harwell’s Diamond Light Source and high throughput gene sequencers – and by new generations of satellites, wide-ranging sensor networks and by supercomputer simulations.

Open science begins with open access

The increasing importance of data and the need for more complex data analytical methods, along with the well-publicised problems in research reproducibility in certain fields, has led to a growing movement for “open science”.

Typically, the full text of a research paper will contain only a subset of the data used to derive the results, and may not specify precisely what software has been used for the analysis or for the simulation. The open science movement seeks to make science more reproducible by adding explicit links in the paper to the full datasets and to any software used. This movement has growing momentum in many countries around the world but here I will focus on the similarities and differences between two of the leading practitioners, the UK and the US.

Open science starts with open access – free access to the full text of research papers funded by government research agencies such as the National Science Foundation, Nasa and the National Institutes of Health in the US, and the Research Councils (soon to be united in UKRI) in the UK.

One of the most important starting points for the open access movement was the arXiv repository created by Paul Ginsparg at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico in 1991.

Instead of the common practice of exchanging paper “preprints” prior to refereeing and publication, Ginsparg took this into the digital world by setting up the arXiv repository to host digital versions – or “eprints” – of the full text of physics research papers.

Nowadays the arXiv repository is more than 20 years old and is hosted by the library at Cornell University where Ginsparg is a professor. More than 200,000 articles are downloaded from arXiv every week by about 400,000 users.

Ginsparg’s example inspired the US National Library of Medicine to set up the PubMed Central repository for voluntary author deposit of full text versions of NIH-funded research papers.

Deposit in PubMed Central is now mandatory for all NIH grant holders and the repository contains more than 3 million articles, with around 85,000 papers deposited each year. Although access is free, publishers can insist on a short embargo period of six or 12 months, after journal publication, and compliance with the NIH’s open success policy is about 90 per cent.

In the UK, Stevan Harnad was inspired by the arXiv example to write his famous “subversive proposal” in 1994, which called on researchers to make the full text of their research papers freely available over the internet.

With the support of Jisc, this idea evolved into the Green Open Access movement, which calls for the self-archiving of research papers by researchers in “institutional repositories”.

A key factor in the success of these university research repositories in the UK is the periodic evaluation process of university research.

For their research to be eligible for submission to the 2021 Research Excellence Framework exercise, researchers are required to have the full text of their papers deposited in “an institutional or subject repository”.

The lack of any such incentive for deposit by university researchers in the US is directly related to their relative lack of success in filling their repositories. This difference in emphasis between the US and the UK (i.e. research funding agency hosted repositories versus university-based institutional repositories) persists to this day.

The tipping point for open science

In my view, 2013 was the tipping point for the open science movement. In February of that year, the US Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a directive requiring the major federal funding agencies “to develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the federal government”.

The results of research included digital data that the memorandum defined as “the digital recorded factual material commonly accepted in the scientific community as necessary to validate research findings, including data sets used to support scholarly publications”. This declaration was followed in May 2013 by the Global Research Council (consisting of abut 70 heads of research funding agencies) agreeing on an “Action Plan towards Open Access and high level Principles of Research Integrity”.

In June 2013, there were similar declarations from meetings of the G8 science ministers and the European Parliament. Finally, in August 2013, the University of California – one of the largest public research universities in the world – agreed a policy requiring all its 8,000 faculty to deposit full text copies of their research papers in the UC eScholarship repository, unless they specifically chose to opt out.

The US agencies have now all produced plans for increasing public access to their research and there are two solutions being adopted: NIH’s PubMed Central platform and the DOE PAGES platform developed by the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

The DOE PAGES project is working with the publishing industry’s “Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States” (Chorus) consortium. Nasa has chosen to use NIH’s PubMed Central platform while the NSF and the DOD are using DOE’s PAGES.

These agencies fund much of the research published each year in the US. The approximate numbers of papers published by each agency each year are: NIH 85,000; Nasa 7,000; DOE 26,000; NSF 42,000; DOD 15,000.

These research papers are all required to be freely available after a possible embargo period and the global impact of this for the open access movement cannot be overemphasised.

Metadata, data management plans and all that

In the UK, the Digital Curation Centre was set up by Jisc and the e-Science Programme in 2004. The original call to establish the DCC described its function as “to provide a national focus for research into curation issues and expertise in the processes of digital archiving, preservation and management. Particular emphasis will be placed on the needs of users of the Centre’s outputs”.

One of the DCC’s roles was to educate the research community about the importance of research data management and the DCC produced some of the earliest guidelines for how to develop “Data Management Plans”. In both the US and the UK, collaboration and sharing of data is increasingly expected of researchers by the research funding agencies. In addition, the agencies on both sides of the Atlantic now demand that researchers include a data management plan for the data generated by their research proposals.

In the US, the research funding agencies now all have plans to capture research data, assign digital object identifiers (DOIs) to the datasets, and link the data to the relevant research papers. In the UK, again it is the institutional repositories, together with subject data repositories such as the Natural Environment Research Council’s Centre for Environmental Data Analytics, that are taking the lead. The different research councils do not yet have a completely common policy for research data management and the policy of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council is the most explicit in spelling out the obligations on universities:

“Research organisations will ensure that EPSRC-funded research data is securely preserved for a minimum of 10 years from the date that any researcher ‘privileged access’ period expires or, if others have accessed the data, from the last date on which access to the data was requested by a third party…”

The policy also states that: “Data that have not attracted any interest for more than 10 years are not expected to be retained”. The effect of this policy can be seen from the statistics of the Oxford Research Archive for Data (below), which shows the increase in data deposits over the last 12 months and which Research Councils have funded the research.

Onwards to open science

My conclusion is that, in both the UK and US, definite progress is being made towards the goal of open science. However, changing cultures towards the new reality of data-intensive science sometimes seems painfully slow.

Jim Gray had a vision that all scientific data would be made available online and linked to the corresponding open access journal articles. His inspiration was the US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, which, in addition to providing the curated PubMed Central repository for the full text of NIH-funded research papers, also provides links to a large set of curated databases such as GenBank and PubChem.

Gray believed, as I do, that if we can populate these institutional, funding agency and subject repositories with open access research papers linked to the corresponding datasets, this would lead to a huge increase in scientific productivity.

Given the environmental and medical challenges facing the world, open science is needed as a matter of urgency.

This article was commissioned by Times Higher Education in partnership with Jisc as part of the Jisc Futures series. Jisc is the UK’s expert body for digital technology and resources in higher education, further education, skills and research. 




A Global View of Open Access (6) : A perspective from India

I am very pleased to introduce the sixth and last article in this series of snapshots of the progress towards open access around the globe. Muthu Madhan, manager of Library and Information Services at the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Patancheru, Hyderabad (www.icrisat.org) has kindly updated his 2011 status report on: “Open Access to Scholarly Literature in India — A Status Report” (http://cis-india.org/openness/publications/open-access-scholarly-literature.pdf ).  In this blog entry he reports on the recent developments on OA in India as well as summarizes its origins.

Open Access discussions began surprisingly early in India, dating back to a talk given by Stevan Harnad in September 2000. The first institutional repository was set up next year at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. Unfortunately, although the report details many expressions of support for open access, there have been very few institutional or funder mandates that have been implemented to encourage the deposit of the full text of research articles. ICRISAT is one of the few institutions that has set up a repository and introduced a mandate.

The situation seems a missed opportunity for Indian researchers but open access in India is complicated by the emergence of 100s of new ‘predatory journals’ claiming to offer open access for a fee. There is clearly much work to be done to realize true open access in India and it is to be hoped that OA initiatives such as that championed by the Global Research can help make a real difference:


Tony Hey

May 2014

Open Access in India Today

Open Access (OA) discussions in India in the true sense began at a conference organized by M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) to pay tribute to Eugene Garfield on his 75th birthday in September 2000. In the conference, Prof. Stevan Harnad spoke about his influential idea ‘the scholarly skywriting’ and introduced EPrints– the first OAI-PMH based institutional repository software – to the participants.  Next year, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore set up India’s first Eprints based interoperable institutional repository.  More than 13 years, since the landmark conference happened, is good enough for a meaningful retrospective.

Support to OA from Science Academies

Indian Academy of Sciences (IASc founded in 1934), the earliest science academy of modern India, has extended full support to OA.  First, the academy has made all the journals it publishes OA.   Incidentally, even before the Budapest meeting that came up with the OA declaration, the Academy made two of its journals – Pramana- the journal of physics and Current Science freely available to all users through the journals’ websites.  The Academy does not charge authors any article processing fee. More than that, IASc has made an effort to make OA all the papers (about 100,000) published by the more than 1,500 fellows that the Academy has elected so far.  In its endeavor, the Academy has created a repository platform for the fellows to self-archive their publications. The repository at present holds more than 90,000 bibliographic records, with roughly 20,700 full-texts, of the papers published by both living and deceased fellows. IASc is the first and probably the only academy in the world to have taken such an initiative.  If the attempt succeeds, it will probably make sure that the cream of Indian science (reported in journals) freely available for all to use. Obviously, in the given situation where authors have very minimal self-archiving rights, it is not easy for the academy to achieve 100% open access to the research papers of the fellows.

Indian National Science Academy (INSA founded in1935) also extended its support to OA by signing the Berlin declaration < http://openaccess.mpg.de/319790/Signatories >.  Following that, INSA made four of its journals OA.  INSA too does not charge any fee to authors to get the papers published in those journals.

OA policy developments in public laboratories and funding agencies

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), a network of 37 laboratories with 6,000 researchers, is considered to be the largest applied research organization in India.  According to an assessment by EvidenceThomson Reuters, CSIR laboratories have produced 10 per cent of India’s overall research output during 2001-2010. CSIR has made some efforts to provide OA to publications that come out from the laboratories. During the time of OA week in 2008, 17 journals published by National Institute of Science Communication and Information Resources (NISCAIR) – a CSIR institute devoted to dissemination and documentation of science and technology information – were made OA. NISCAIR also does not charge any fee from authors. The CSIR has endorsed an unenforced green OA mandate.  As per the mandate, each CSIR laboratory must set up an interoperable OA repository and populate it with publications produced from the laboratory.   CSIR’s Unit for Research and Development of Information Products (URDIP) has created a platform called CSIR Central  to help the laboratories in creating, customizing, hosting and maintaining institutional repositories. One of the objectives of CSIR Central is to provide single point access to all the research output produced from the CSIR laboratories. As of now, 27 laboratories have set up institutional repositories. However, only a few laboratories have shown commitment in populating the repositories.  Of the 37 laboratories of CSIR, only the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Goa, has implemented an effective institutional mandate since 2010.  NIO’s repository  is one of the well- populated and well-maintained repositories in India. CSIR has to take persuasive steps to implement the OA mandate in the laboratories that would certainly complement its frugal innovation projects like the Open Source Drug Discovery (OSDD).

With a view to strengthening research base in biomedical sciences, in 2008, Wellcome Trust, UK, and Department of Biotechnology (DBT), India, formed an alliance and introduced a three-tier fellowship program.  The £80 million pound research fellowship program (called India Alliance) is funded equally by both the agencies. The program has mandated OA to papers resulting from research supported in whole are in part by the fellowshipThe fellows can claim article processing charges (APC) for publishing their papers in open access journals.  This is the only program where an Indian funding agency explicitly permits APCs for scientists.  Ironically, DBT has not enforced the same mandate to the other fellowships that it funds.  Further, DBT has not done anything concrete with regard to OA to research papers produced from DBT funded institutions. Currently, with a new secretary at the helm, there is some talk about formulating an OA policy.

Of the 18 autonomous science and technology institutions funded by Department of Science and Technology (DST), India, Raman Research Institute (RRI), Bangalore < http://dspace.rri.res.in/  >  and Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) < http://prints.iiap.res.in/ >, Bangalore,  were early adopters of green OA, and they are maintaining  well-populated  institutional repositories.  The RRI’s OA repository holds the complete works of the Noble laureate Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman.  The Indian Association of Cultivation of Science, modern India’s oldest research institute founded in 1876 has just set up a repository.  The National Centre for Catalysis Research, Chennai, established with assistance from DST, maintains a repository which is populated with the center’s research output and with the publications of the members of the Catalysis Society of India.  In 2012, the Government of India has brought out National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy (NDSAP) for non-classified data under the provision of Right to Information (RTI) act of 2005.  DST, the nodal department for implementing the policy, clearly states that “Ministries/Departments of Government of India while releasing funds to State Governments and other Institutions including Central/State Universities put down a condition, the data generated using such funds would come under the purview of this Policy”. Following the policy, implementation guidelines (V 2.1) for NDSAP has been prepared by Department of Electronics and Information Technology in April 2013.   Open data that has taken precedence in government policy initiatives may give impetus to a nation-wide policy for open access to scientific information produced from public funds.

Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) – the apex body for the management of agricultural research and education – has made some headway in making agricultural research output produced from India open to all.  ICAR has created a platform to host Indian agricultural research journals.  The platform hosts 20 journals published by ICAR and societies dealing with agricultural sciences.  Of the 99 ICAR institutions funded and governed by ICAR,   only three research laboratories have set up institutional repositories.  Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI), Cochin, an ICAR laboratory, has a well-populated institutional repository, which other ICAR institutions can adopt as a model. International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), a Hyderabad based CGIAR institution, has set up an OA repository with a mandate.   ICRISAT conducted several sensitizing workshops on OA in agriculture, for researchers and librarians of Indian agricultural research institutions, universities and societies.  In 2013, ICAR adopted a system-wide green OA policy.  However, its implementation is poor as there is no penalty for non-implementation. About 70 per cent of the agricultural research produced in India is reported in journals published from India.  Most of the Indian agricultural journals lack international visibility and that is one reason for lack of global impact of Indian agricultural research.  ICAR must expedite the process of implementing the OA policy it has adopted and make sure Indian research visible and accessible to the world.

Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), for all its units and institutions, has set up a repository, but, there is no policy in place to motivate researchers to deposit their papers in the repository.     The Indian Journal of Medical Research published by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is open access, but most laboratories under ICMR and all institutions under the Indian Council of Social Science Research remain unaffected by the OA advocacy.

The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) , the high-level advisory body constituted with the mandate to guide policy and direct reforms to the Prime Minister of India, has encouraged OA to scientific and scholarly information produced in India.   Mr Sam Pitroda – the Chairman of Knowledge Commission – in his recommendations to Prime Minister of India sent on 2nd November 2007 states that , “all research articles published by Indian authors receiving substantial government or public funding must be made available under Open Access and should be archived in the standard OA format at least on his/her website”.  It is more than six years now, there is hardly any action on implementing NKC’s recommendations till date.

Open Access in academic sector

For many years, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has been encouraging initiatives that aim to bring educational resources free to all.  One such initiative funded by MHRD is the National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) whose mission is to enhance the quality of engineering education in the country.  NPTEL provides E-learning through curriculum based online web and video open educational resources (OERs) in engineering, science and humanities streams. These courses are mostly offered by the faculty of seven Indian Institutes of Technology (Bombay, Delhi, Kanpur, Kharagpur, Madras, Gawhati and Roorkee) and Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, all of them are highly respected.  NPTEL has developed 700 video courses and these can be accessed through NPTEL website, YouTube, and two television channels, viz, Ekalavya and Gyan Darshan. They are also made available as DVDs and hard disks.

University Grants Commission (UGC), a statutory body (under MHRD) responsible for maintenance of standards in universities, mandated OA to electronic theses and dissertations (ETD) submitted to all research universities.  Following the mandate, Information Library Network (INFLIBNET) of UGC has set up a repository platform called Shodhganga for research students and universities to deposit their ETDs to comply with the mandate. More than 15,000 theses/dissertations from 166 universities (as of early May, 2014) have been made OA through this platform.  A few universities are maintaining their own repository for electronic theses and dissertations.

In India, as of February 2014, there are altogether 659 universities that include 312 state universities, 173 private universities, 129 deemed to be universities and 45 central universities. Of these, the repository maintained by Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, with more than 37,000 records, stands out among the repositories in academic institutions. Though IISc was the first in India to set up an interoperable institutional repository (2001), universities and other higher educational institutions in India have not emulated IISc in providing OA to institutional research output.   National Institute of Technology, Rourkela (NITR), the first institution in India to have approved an OA mandate, maintains two repositories, one for research papers and the other for ETDs.   University of Mysore – a state university – maintains a well-populated OA repository.  The directory of open access repositories has listed number of repositories from India, but most of them are not populated on a regular basis.   Academic institutions in India, have not realized the potential loss of delaying OA to the research that they produce. Nor has MHRD that governs the higher education system in India recognized the importance of OA.

At the level of schools, with support from MHRD, the National Council of Educational Research & Training (NCERT) launched on 13 August 2013 the National Repository of Open Educational Resources (NROER) portal ‒ a free online repository of NCERT courseware. Students and self learners can freely access the courseware, including some finely scripted and directed audio and video programs and appealing interactive content, which would aid their learning. Some of the videos are distance learning programs created by the NCERT and previously aired on Doordarshan. < http://www.epw.in/web-exclusives/widening-access-educational-resources.html >

Prof. B Viswanathan of Indian Institute of Madras has made available a 25-part presentation on a hot research topic, viz. converting carbon dioxide, a key global warmer, into useful chemicals and fuels, originally delivered over three months on the Google Hangout platform for invited researchers from about 20 countries through YouTube. Such knowledge sharing on a yet to be solved research questions is rare.

Open Access Journals

Directory of Open Access Journals has listed 588 journals published from India.  Of the 588 journals, 263 journals published by 149 publishers do not charge authors/readers any fee.  Just three Indian publishers, viz. Medknow (75 journals), NISCAIR (17 journals) and IASc (11 journals) publish 103 OA journals.

There are 325 journals, published by 226 publishers, which levy article processing charges (APC) from authors. Jeffrey Beall classifies most of them as counterfeit journals published by predatory publishers. He says, “Perhaps nowhere are these abuses more acute than in India, where new predatory publishers or journals emerge each week. They are appearing because of the market need — hundreds of thousands of scientists in India and its neighboring countries need to get published to earn tenure and promotion”.  < http://www.nature.com/news/predatory-publishers-are-corrupting-open-access-1.11385 > Please see also                                                      < http://www.currentscience.ac.in/Volumes/106/09/1173.pdf   >. As if to prove his point, more than 130 such journals have sprouted in India during 2012-2013. It is really disheartening to note that Indian scientific community could not arrest the growth of these fake journals and just remains helpless spectators.  India, unfortunately, is also home to predatory conferences as well.

OA advocacy in India

OA advocacy in India can be characterized as mostly a one-man effort by Prof. Subbiah Arunachalam, a distinguished fellow at Center for Internet and Society (CIS), Bangalore. His advocacy was largely responsible for OA developments at IASc, INSA, CSIR and ICAR. He organized many workshops and conferences (on OA-related topics) and mobilized funds to bring overseas experts (such as Alan Gilchrist, Stevan Harnad, Barbara Kirsop, Leslie Chan, Leslie Carr, Alma Swan, John Willinsky, and Abel Packer) and Indian experts and participants. He brought in eminent institutions such as IASc, IISc and CSIR to cosponsor these events. He organized in 2010 an appeal to the CGIAR management with 14 eminent international leaders of the OA movement as cosignatories for making all CGIAR research open access, and now in 2014 CGIAR has an OA policy. Documentation Training and Research Centre (DRTC), Bangalore and the National Centre for Science Information (NCSI), Bangalore, (which unfortunately was closed down in 2012) have conducted many workshops on OA repository software for librarians India. Individuals like Prof. A R D Prasad of DRTC, a popular information science teacher and a member of the international advisory board of DSpace Federation, has promoted DSpace in a big way in India. Apart from OA, Prof. Prasad is a champion of openness in general. Dr Francis Jayakanth of IISc has helped many institutions to set up their own repositories. Dr Jayakanth has also taught a large number of students OA software and introduced the PKP Open Journals System (OJS) for a few OA journal publishers.

Forming an OA interest group with champions at institutions is of urgent necessity to strengthen OA advocacy in India.  The group should find ways to bring the scientific community that has shown little interest so far on board to discuss OA.

Prof Padmanaban Balaram, the Director of Indian Institute of Science and a strong supporter of green OA, opposes government/funding agencies enforce a mandate on scientists.  He feels OA should be a community movement and repositories should attract scientific community by its features <http://cis-india.org/openness/professor-balaram-talks-open-access>. Is 100% OA to Indian research output achievable without mandates at institutional and funders level? Prof. Balaram’s view must be debated by India’s scientists and academic and research librarians.

Over 13 years after a few Indian researchers started talking about electronic publishing and open access to science and scholarship, India still has to go a long way before OA is accepted by a majority of scientists and funders.  Continued procrastination will considerably harm the country’s scientific enterprise and delay its goal of moving to a knowledge economy.

Muthu Madhan                                                                                                                             

13 May 2014

A Global View of Open Access (5) : The Perspective from Germany

I am very pleased to introduce the fifth article in this series of snapshots of the progress towards open access around the globe. Authors Norbert Lossau, Birgit Schmidt and Margo Bargheer from the University of Goettingen have written a definitive summary of progress towards open access in Germany. Although Germany, with the Berlin declaration, was one of the pioneers in the move towards open access for research publications and many German universities and funding agencies have official open access policies, these OA policies have not resulted in an enforced mandate. Instead, organizations like the Federal funding agency, the DFG, and the Federal Ministry of Research and Education, have provided support for the implementation of open access in a number of interesting ways, ranging from the creation of publication funds to changes in the copyright law. The German OA activities have also been closely linked to activities supported by the European Commission. The article presents an informative and authoritative picture of the progress towards full open access to research papers, and of the complexities in its implementation.

Tony Hey

February 2014

An Update on Open Access Developments in Germany

Birgit Schmidt, Margo Bargheer, Norbert Lossau

University of Goettingen, Germany


Ten years after the Berlin Declaration, initiated by the Max-Planck-Society, open access has become a common topic in Science Policy, for funders, universities and research organisations. An illustrative example is the recently negotiated coalition agreement between the conservative party (CDU) and social democrats (SPD) for the upcoming years (27 November 2013) that explicitly mentions the need for open access. At the institutional level, open access policies have been introduced at a number of universities and research organisations. However, mainly due to legal reasons, these policies result in no enforced mandate. The “Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft” (DFG) is the main research funding body in Germany and supports the implementation of open access in multiple ways. The Federal Ministry of Research and Education has intensified its activities over the last few years and has been supportive of the new copyright law.  There is a vibrant open access community in Germany, collaborating in several working groups and joint events with German speaking communities in Austria and Switzerland.

A strong emphasis has been on building up supporting infrastructures and services. This includes the creation of publication funds; the enhancement of links between research information systems and repositories; and first steps in institutional support of research data management – approaches which can substantially enforce open access. New approaches are also being trialed for national licensing, and first results seem to be promising. In addition, recent changes to the German copyright legislation will secure basic rights and could be beneficial for implementing open access. Publishers have recognised the need for open access business models. Indeed, the majority don’t dispute if they should offer open access, but rather how to find a suitable way of implementing it.

Awareness of open access is generally high among researchers. Still, the percentage of uptake is on average only 20%. The main reasons have been the dominance of impact factors in furthering academic careers, in particular for young scientists, disadvantageous copyright regulations, the lack of high-quality open access journals in some disciplines and the difficulties to transform subscription-based journals into open access.

In the following we describe some relevant open access activities in Germany, closing with an outlook on initiatives and trends for the future.

Researchers’ perspective on OA

Several studies have focused on researchers’ attitudes and behaviour when it comes to open access publishing. All studies distinguish between disciplines and the green and gold route, and have shown significant differences in reputation, take-up and meaning of open access among disciplines. It can now be taken as common knowledge that open access varies across publication cultures, hence calling for discipline-specific solutions and support. Whereas self-archiving is highly accepted and practiced in mathematics, physics and economics, gold open access plays a more important role in biology and the life sciences. A recent study (Eger et al 2012) highlights that German researcher’s willingness to practice open access is strongly correlated with a prevalence of open access publishing opportunities of high quality and an over-average level of acceptance for open access in the field. Seen from a researcher’s perspective this can be described as a “wait-and-see” strategy in which individual researchers are reluctant to abandon the dominant publishing strategy (in closed access journals) to avoid individual reputation loss – resulting in the dilemma that an entire field is locked into a situation, which, if changed, would benefit everyone. From the perspective of funders and institutions, however, the described locked-in dilemma offers a promising starting point, for instance by offering specific incentives for early adopters.

Combining repositories and research information

In recent years, German universities and research organisations have developed a growing need to improve knowledge about their research outputs and impact. This stems from the German Excellence Initiative (which funds outstanding research projects and institutions, selected through a nation-wide competition, http://www.excellence-initiative.com/), institutional and funders’ open access policies, international rankings of universities and, last but not least, from building up publication funds to support open access publishing. Typically it is libraries administrating such funds. In consequence, some institutions have started to rethink their information management approach and brought together various stakeholders from research support, administration and the library. Challenges include the gathering and curation of data as well as selection of impact indicators. At the same time, nearly all universities and research institutions in Germany operate open access repositories and contribute to national and European repository networks. A census of 141 German repositories provided information about the size, software used and value-added services (such as bibliographic export, usage statistics, social bookmarking, etc.); an extended update of the census is currently in preparation (Vierkant 2013). In most cases digital repositories only loosely connect to institutional information management strategies and systems. Usually only information import takes place, whereas a full two-way-flow that would offer academic incentives is still lacking.

To enable collaboration across institutions, the working group Research Information of the German Initiative of Networked Information (DINI) constituted itself in 2012. It works towards recommendations to support institutions in developing institutional strategies and setting up services compliant with international standards such as the Common European Research Information Format (CERIF, http://www.eurocris.org). Bibliometric services – which are not yet common in German universities – address similar goals, in particular to develop a clear understanding of the current performance of institutions in terms of research outputs. To obtain reliable information both service areas have to be closely aligned; typically CRIS data form an essential data layer for bibliometric analysis.

Metrics on publication usage in repositories can be used to measure readers’ interests at the article-level and the relevance of topics present in the repository. The effort to set up such services will be comparably low for repositories, as soon as standards for counting downloads and for usage data aggregation across repositories are in place. However, so far only a few countries have succeeded in setting up sustainable services; among them is the German initiative “OA-Statistics” (http://dini.de/projekte/oa-statistik/english/) cooperating with a library service provider to maintain and extend the service. An interest group set up in the context of the Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR, www.coar-repositories.org) will share gained experiences with the international community.

Building up publication funds

Funders and institutions in Germany generally endorse open access but do not adopt strong and forceful mandates. This is mainly due to researchers’ and other stakeholders’ reluctance towards mandatory clauses, in particular as such a clause might interfere with the German constitutional freedom of research. Therefore the most common strategy to foster open access is to offer support on various levels. In particular, the DFG has been supporting networked repositories, start-up funding for open access journals and the German information hub open-access.net. In addition, universities can apply for DFG-funds to support publishing in genuine open access journals.

More than 30 universities have set up open access publication funds with support of the DFG (75% co-funding) for article procession charges (APC) between 2010 and 2014. The DFG’s rules exclude APCs for hybrid journals and limit reimbursement to 2,000 EUR per article. So far, average costs per article vary around 1,000-1,200 EUR. Applying for these funds constitutes a challenge for institutions and their reporting systems:  the application procedure requires detailed figures on publications (overall numbers, ratio of open access publications, etc.) for the year preceding the application and a projection of funds needed for the coming year. In addition, care needs to be taken for promoting the fund and setting up workflows for processing invoices. The DFG considers this program as a start-up, meaning that after a period of up to 5 years institutions have to endow the funds solely from their own resources. This raises questions such as where this budget will come from, e.g. from cancellations of journal subscriptions or from faculties which benefit most from open access funds, and how funds could be distributed fairly when demand exceeds the available resources.

Linking policies and practices

Nationally, the DFG and other research organisations, the University Rector’s Conference (HRK) and several institutions have expressed their support for open access by signing the Berlin Declaration and/or developing policies and additional activities for the implementation. The German Ministry for Education and Research has recently announced it will strengthen support for open access (http://www.bmbf.de/de/22905.php).

The German open access community has developed a range of tools and services – many of them with initial funding from the DFG – to meet common needs and set incentives for open access, including the information platform open-access.net, a certificate that sets standards and best practices for repository services (DINI Certificate, http://www.dini.de/dini-zertifikat/), a network of open access repositories and services on top of repositories, and a collaboration of university presses. A registry of research data repositories has been recently launched (http://www.re3data.org/). These national projects are linked to international activities through collaboration with COAR, Knowledge Exchange, OAPEN, DOAB and other initiatives.

Internationally, recent statements by research funders and organisations expressed the need for joint action to further the uptake of open access, e.g. the Global Research Council (May 2013, http://www.dfg.de/en/magazine/dfg_international/130528_grc_annual_meeting/) and the G8 Ministers for Science and Education (June 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/news/g8-science-ministers-statement). The European Commission has been a driver of open access for several years, from 2008 with an open access pilot for the Seventh Framework Program and moving on to a mandate for Horizon 2020, the new framework program for research starting in 2014. Open access to publications will be obligatory to publications while a pilot for open data will be optional and only apply to selected research areas. Since 2009, the EC-co-funded initiative OpenAIRE (www.openaire.eu) supports the implementation of the EC’s open access policies.

German institutions are starting to develop infrastructure and services for the management of research data (e.g. research organisations, universities of Bielefeld, Berlin, Göttingen, etc.). Pilot services are often linked to large Collaborative Research Projects. Since 2007, the DFG has set incentives for such embedded data management and services sub-projects; currently there are about 20 projects which combine research management, IT and library competencies. Issues include long-term archiving, sustainability, and acceptance by the other sub-projects (Radieschen, 2013).

Open access and licensing

Open access depends on the availability of rights to make articles openly available. The majority of authors still use traditional routes of publishing in subscription journals and “open access” in repositories in many cases solely refers to articles that can be downloaded for personal use, but are not be disseminated any further. Similarly, journal subscription licenses typically do not provide any rights for further dissemination in institutional repositories.

In the framework of the Digital Information initiative of the German Alliance Initiative (http://www.allianzinitiative.de/en), a national licensing working group has been formed and has agreed on guidelines for licensing negotiations. These guidelines include an open access clause to secure that  authors (or their institution on their behalf) from all authorised institutions – at no extra cost – are entitled to deposit their articles in repositories of their choice and make them available in open access. The first successfully negotiated licenses (for the period 2011-2013) include a dozen journal collections, one database and one e-book collection. Institutions can now easily determine when and where to deposit publications on behalf of their authors (Schmidt, Shearer 2012). Identifying eligible articles remains a challenge: author affiliation information is often missing in publisher’s databases and the use of persistent author identifiers is not yet the norm. Activities of the licensing working group are now extending towards analysing gold open access options where the main challenge lies in the handling of transition processes, i.e. from subscriptions to open access models.

The international Task Force on Open Access Agreements and Licenses, initiated by COAR, further facilitates the monitoring and evaluation of practices in this area. A recently published report summarises the current clauses in use, as well as some lessons learned from organisations that have been successful in implementing open access clauses in publisher licenses (COAR 2013).

Changes in German intellectual property right

The German law on intellectual property rights has been under revision for several years now. One of the discussion points was §38 UrhG which regulates that after one year all rights to articles published in journals and magazines fall back to the authors. Until June 2013 this clause could be applied only if there wasn’t a formal publishing contract denying authors these rights. The German parliament has now decided  that authors whose publications result from at least 50% publicly funded research maintain an indispensable right to disseminate the author’s version of their article, if the article has been published in a serial or journal with two or more annual issues, and its dissemination has no commercial purpose.

Not all stakeholders are convinced of the benefits of this approach. In particular, the trade organisation of German booksellers and publishers argues that disseminating authors final manuscripts through open access repositories would lead to confusion among readers. The scholarly community on the other hand is disappointed by the clause. This is largely because for authors, and their institutions, the core of indispensable rights is weakened by opaque conditions (f.e. two or more issues per year, non-commercial purpose) that cause additional effort to identify eligible articles and will lead to low numbers of available articles for the public. If the clause comes into force by January 2014, some first articles could be openly accessible by January 2015. It is likely that authors won’t touch their article again at this stage, therefore deposit in institutional repositories upfront at publication time would secure that articles become accessible right after the embargo ends. A well-integrated CRIS (Current Information System) at the institutional level, combined with incentives for researchers to use it, would pave the way for a smooth flow of metadata and full texts.


Recently initiated activities in Germany have addressed open access publishing of books as well as new approaches to convert subscription-based to open access based licensing models. The DFG with its funding programmes continues to play a vital part to facilitate these efforts. For Germany the linking of national activities to Europe is high on the agenda with the upcoming new 7-year funding programme Horizon2020 of the European Commission (2014 onwards) that will require open access to all EC-funded publications. One option is to use the European repository infrastructure, OpenAIRE to additionally include publications from nationally funded research, thus providing access to them and usage statistics for funders. Linking publications to research data expands the role of repositories and moves previous activities further towards a more comprehensive scientific information infrastructure. Publishers will be encouraged to provide large-scale, automated deposit of publications into repositories, deploying tools and routines provided by the European PEER project (http://www.peerproject.eu/). The goal for Germany should be, in line with the strategy of the European Commission, to increase the percentage of open access publications until 2020 to at least 60%, if not higher.


Andrew, T. (2012): Gold Open Access: Counting the Costs, Adriadne 70, http://www.ariadne.ac.uk/issue70/andrew

Confederation of Open Access Repositories (COAR) (2013): Open Access Clauses in Publishers’ Licenses – Current State and Lessons Learned, report produced by the Open Access Agreements and Licenses Task Force, October 2013, http://www.coar-repositories.org/files/OA-Clauses-in-Publishers-Licenses.pdf

Eger, T.; Scheufen, M. and D. Meierrieks (2013): The Determinants of Open Access Publishing: Survey Evidence from Germany, submitted to the European Journal of Law and Economics, SSRN Working Paper, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2232675

RADIESCHEN (Project RADISH) (2013): Framework Conditions for an inter-discipinary research data infrastructure, final report, April 2013, doi:10.2312/RADIESCHEN_009

Vierkant, P. et al (2012): Census of Open Access Repositories in Germany, poster at Open Access Days 2012, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:kobv:11-100204211

Rowlands, I.; Clark, D. and D. Nicholas (2012): PEER Usage Study – Randomised controlled trial results, June 2012, http://www.stm-assoc.org/2012_06_18_D5_3_PEER_Usage_Study_RCT.pdf

Schmidt, B. and K. Shearer: Licensing Revisited: Open Access Clauses in Practice, Liber Quarterly 22, No 3, URN:NBN:NL:UI:10-1-113939

A Global Perspective on Open Access (4): Open Access in Australia

I am very pleased to introduce the fourth article in this series of snapshots of the progress towards open access around the globe. Dr Danny Kingsley, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group summarizes the main OA policy developments and the OA activities that have taken place in Australia during 2013. Australia is clearly playing a leading role in the international OA agenda and have also been pioneering open access to research data. I am now working with Ross Wilkinson of the Australian National Data Service (ANDS) and the newly formed Research Data Alliance (RDA). The year 2013 has clearly been a momentous year for open access to publications and 2014 looks to continue this momentum and make progress on issues to secure meaningful access to research data.

Tony Hey

December 2013

 Open Access in Australia

 This has been a big year for open access around the world, and developments in Australia have moved apace. Two things happened on the first of January 2013 – the Australian Research Council (ARC) announced their open access policy http://www.arc.gov.au/applicants/open_access.htm and the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG) http://aoasg.org.au began operations (disclaimer – I work as the Executive Officer for the AOASG).

Funding policies

The ARC policy is very similar to the policy http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/grants/policy/dissemination-research-findings introduced on 1 July 2012 by the Australia’s other government funding body – the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Both policies require http://aoasg.org.au/resources/comparison-of-arc-nhmrc-policies/ that the Chief Investigators for funded projects should add metadata about their publications to their institutional repositories at the time of acceptance. There should be a link to the open access version within 12 months of publication. Neither policy advocates a particular method of achieving open access, and both policies specifically do not require payment for open access. However both organisations allow use of grant funding to pay for publication.

These policies stand out because they specifically look to use the established infrastructure in Australia. All Australian universities, (and many other institutions) have established an institutional repository http://aoasg.org.au/open-access-repositories-at-australian-institutions/. Generally to date Australia has enjoyed strong commitment and support from the government  http://aoasg.org.au/2013/03/19/centrally-supported-open-access-initiatives-in-australia/ to develop infrastructure for open access.

At an Open Access Week event in October, organised by the AOASG, the CEOs of both the ARC and the NHMRC spoke about these policies https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Kcj8j3LyBQ They noted that given the speed of change in scholarly communication it is almost impossible to know what the open access agenda will look like in five years’ time. For this reason neither the NHMRC nor the ARC wish to be prescriptive about how to implement their policies. They also noted that while there are no current plans to withhold future grants from researchers that do not comply with the policies, this could become the case into the future.

Institutional policies

Open Access Week also saw the announcement of several new open access policies in Australian universities. Edith Cowan University http://www.ecu.edu.au/GPPS/policies_db/policies_view.php?rec_id=0000000354 , Deakin University http://theguide.deakin.edu.au/TheGuide/TheGuide2011.nsf/191d0d51322b3a04ca2576be00064063/7299b3cb34d37e45ca257acb002546a3?OpenDocument, University of Queensland http://ppl.app.uq.edu.au/content/4.20.08-open-access-uq-research-outputs and University of South Australia http://ppl.app.uq.edu.au/content/4.20.08-open-access-uq-research-outputs. There is a list of statements on open access from Australian institutions here http://aoasg.org.au/resources/.

These four new policies are added to the existing six policies in Australian universities. Those six universities (Australian National University, Charles Sturt University, Macquarie University, Newcastle University Queensland University of Technology and Victoria University) are the founding members of the AOASG. With a total of 10 open access policies, a quarter of all Australian universities now have an OA policy. In the same week the Australian Medical Student’s Association also released their policy on open access http://media.amsa.org.au.s3.amazonaws.com/policy/2013/2nd%20Council/201307_research_open_access_policy.pdf .

Events and activities

The ARC & NHMRC event was one of many OA Week events  http://aoasg.org.au/oawk-events-2013/ held in Australia in 2013, which was the largest yet. Every state and territory is hosting events with more than half the country’s universities participating.

The week following OA Week saw a large open access-themed conference – the Open Access and Research Conference  http://www.oar2013.qut.edu.au held at QUT from 30 October to 1 November. This event featured many high-profile international speakers.

Earlier in 2013 the National Scholarly Communication Forum http://www.humanities.org.au/About/AlliedOrganisations/NationalScholarlyCommunicationsForum.aspx was held, addressing the topic “Open Access Research Issues in the Humanities and Social Sciences”. A full run down of the presentations, themes and readings can be found at  http://aoasg.org.au/2013/05/16/notes-from-the-national-scholarly-communication-forum-may-3-2013/.

Informing the discussion

Throughout the year the AOASG has worked towards its goal of informing and encouraging the discussion around open access. The primary output of the group has been the development of the AOASG webpage. This consists of a combination of information about open access specific to Australia, links to useful resources, and discussion points about events in the open access space both in Australia and overseas.

The site has had over 26,000 visitors since going live in February. An analysis of page statistics indicates a strong interest in practitioner issues. The most popular blog has been “So you want people to read your thesis?” http://aoasg.org.au/2013/04/10/so-you-want-people-to-read-your-thesis/, followed by “Journal editors take note – you have the power” http://aoasg.org.au/2013/03/25/journal-editors-take-note-you-have-the-power/. The most popular webpage (apart from the homepage) is the list of Australian OA journals  http://aoasg.org.au/open-access-in-action/australian-oa-journals/. The website also contains several graphics including posters http://aoasg.org.au/how-to-make-research-oa/ and flowcharts http://aoasg.org.au/resources/policy-compliance-decision-tree/ that are available for download under CC-BY license.

The Australian and New Zealand repository community has been fortunate to have a strong community of practice which developed over several years through discussion lists and community days organised through the CAUL Australasian Institutional Repository Support Service (CAIRSS). While CAIRSS no longer exists, the Council of Australian University Librarians (CAUL) http://www.caul.edu.au has continued to support these important services.

To complement this community, AOASG started the Australian Open Access Community Discussion List http://mailman.anu.edu.au/mailman/listinfo/australian_oa_community which pleasingly has had a strong uptake. Over 200 people have joined the list, representing a wide range of backgrounds. While 72% of the members are library-associated, a significant number of these are from research institutions outside the university sector. We have a positive interest from researchers, with many joining the list. There has also been some international interest – with members from India, Japan and Singapore plus several from New Zealand.

Twitter has been a very useful way to share the vast amount of developments, publications, policies and resources that are part of the open access area. The Twitter feed @openaccess_oz has sent over 1,200 notifications during the year. Followers come from all over the world.

Possibly the most positive sign for open access in Australia is the increasing number of policies in institutions. The AOASG began with representatives from six universities with open access policies. During the year more have been announced and there is a full list of Australian OA policies at http://aoasg.org.au/resources/. The AOASG is looking to expand its membership for 2014, which is shaping to be an even bigger year for open access in Australia.

Dr Danny Kingsley

Executive Officer

Australian Open Access Support Group


p: +612 6125 6839

w: wwww.aoasg.org.au

t: @openaccess_oz

A Global View of Open Access (3) : A perspective on Open Access in China

I am very pleased to introduce the third article in this series of snapshots of the progress towards open access around the globe. Professor Xiaolin Zhang is the Director of National Science Library of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and has been engaged with the open access movement for many years. The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) was a signatory to the Berlin Declaration for Open Access in 2004 along with the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).  In 2010, the 8th Berlin Conference on Open access was co-hosted in Beijing by CAS and the Max Planck Society. CAS has been a firm supporter of green OA and has now created Institutional Repositories for almost all of its hundred or so research Institutes. Professor Zhang has been in the forefront of these developments in China and CAS and STFC will be the co-hosts of the 3rd annual meeting of the Global Research Council in China in 2014 where the GRC’s steps towards Open Access will be reviewed.

Read and enjoy!

Tony Hey 7th August 2013

 Open Access in China

     1. Promotion of Open Access

As the second largest country in terms of research papers published internationally, and as a country striving for an innovative nation, China has been encouraging open access to scientific information, especially results from publicly-funded research. In December 2003, Lu Yongxiang, then the President of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), signed as the first Chinese scientist the Berlin Declaration for Open Access. In 2004, CAS and the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) officially signed the Berlin Declaration as the first Chinese research and funding organizations. In 2005, the International Conference on Strategies and Policies of Open Access to Scientific Information was held in Beijing by the National Science Library (NSL), CAS, to promote open access on a national scale. In 2006, in CODATA Beijing Congress, the Minister of Science and Technology Mr. Xu Guanghua spoke in his keynote on the need for open access to scientific papers and data. In 2007 and 2009, two international seminars were held in Beijing by NSL/CAS to discuss rights issues and Creative Common Licenses with open access.

2010 saw significant steps forward for open access in China. The 8th Berlin Conference on Open Access was held in Beijing, co-hosted by CAS & the Max Planck Society (MPS), the first Berlin Conference outside Europe. CAS delivered an Open Access Strategy Statement, by Mr. Pan Jiaofeng, Associate Secretary General and Head of Bureau of Strategic Planning, CAS. The statement committed CAS to: promote self-deposit of research papers into institutional repositories; support OA publishing by CAS authors; support OA journals by CAS institutes; promote national policies and funder initiatives for in public access to publicly funded research; participate in international cooperation in OA initiatives. It was also in 2010 CAS formally started the development of its institutional repository grid (CAS IR Grid).

In July 2012, Mr. Wen Jiabao, then the Premier of China, stressed at the National Scientific Innovation Congress that all information resources created from publicly funded research should be accessible as widely as possible. In October 2012, the first China Open Access Week was held by NSL/CAS, where trends and issues on OA policies, IR and OA publishing were discussed, and several road-shows of PLoS, BMC, and arXiv.org, were organized in universities and research institutes. It was during the OA Week that a group of major academic and research libraries led by NSL formed an IR Implementation Group to promote Green OA, and NSL released its DSpace-based IR platform software, CSpace, as an open source software project.

In 2013, CAS, NSFC, and Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) are all studying policies of open access to publicly-funded research, partly encouraged by actions from the OSTP in the US, RUCK in the UK, and the Horizon 2020 OA policy in the EU. CAS and NSFC participated in the 2nd Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council (GRC) in May 2013, and endorsed GRC’s Open Access Action Plan.

     2. Actions towards Open Access

China is active in research and scientific publishing and is funding and research organizations have long been in action to promote open access. According to a survey in 2010 by Cheng and Ren, among 1868 high quality STM journals published in China, there are 642 titles, 34%, publishing as open access or delayed open access, which amounts to a more than 300% increase since 2006. 20% of these are in medicine, 16.7% in engineering, and 31% are journals published by universities. More than 44% are immediate open access, and 36% delayed open access for 1-12 months. Many have transferred to open from a subscription only model, with 17% having retrospective content open back to pre-1990, and 13% more are open back to pre-2000. Another survey in 2012, by Chu Jingli, mapped the scene with learned society journals under the umbrella organization of the Chinese Association of Science and Technology (CAST). There are 308 OA titles among a total of 1050, counting for 29%, which means a 137% increase since 2006. 55% of them offer immediate OA, 25.6% with delayed OA in 1-6 months, and a small percentage, 2.5%, have a delayed OA more than 13 months. This 2012 survey asked 79 titles about their funding, with only 7 titles among 79 charging OA publishing fees, while most still keeping print subscription and charging fees from e-journal aggregators. Most STM journals were at least partially funded by host institutes, which is more a norm than an exception in China. Among them there are some high impact Chinese journals, such as Science China-Life Science, Science China-Information Technology, and Chinese Science Bulletin.

In supporting OA publishing by authors, CAS, NSFC, MoST, and the Ministry of Education (MoE, another research funding intensive ministry) have allowed their grantees to pay the article processing charges (APC) from research grants when publishing in peer-reviewed open access journals. This has resulted in increasing numbers of OA papers. For example, there have been 5000+ papers by Chinese authors published in PLoS journals in 2011-2012 alone, over 1000 papers each in 2010 and 2011 by Chinese authors in BMC journals, with an increase to 1650 papers in 2012. Yet few institutes or funding agencies have formal arrangements to support OA publishing. One large scale exception is CAS. Organized by its library, NSL, it has been an institutional member of BMC. After an institutional discount off the official APCs, NSL pays 50% of the remaining APC for papers published with a CAS researcher as the corresponding author. CAS has also signed an Express of Interest to join SCOAP3, the international effort to transfer 90+% high energy physics (HEP) papers to open access. NSL then organized a SCOAP3 China group consisting of HEP-intensive Chinese organizations to support SCOAP3 nationally.

One significant effort has been the CAS IR Grid. CAS is a national research organization in fields of basic sciences, bio-medical sciences, geo-and-environmental sciences, and computer and electronic technologies, with more than 100 research institutes in more 30 cities across China. In 2010 CAS formally began a large scale development of IRs in each of all its research institutes, both as knowledge management and open access measures. By April 2013, 90 IRs are in service and 13 more in development. More than 320,000 full-text articles are now self-deposited, more than 75% of them are currently openly accessible after their embargo periods, with close to one third published in international journals. All repositories are OAI-PMH compatible, and a CAS IR Grid search engine, as an OAI-PMH service provider, provides CAS-wide IR search. With its high volume and high quality, CAS IR Grid now becomes a hot resource, with total downloads exceeding 4 million in 2012 and 2 million in the first 4 months of 2013, with 40% of downloads coming from outside the mainland China. To make the CAS IR Grid a trusted and reliable resource in terms of content and rights management, NSL has developed detailed guidelines for self-deposit, rights management, and repository services. It recommends self-deposit of the accepted author manuscripts of published journal articles with an embargo period of 12 months, full recording of the journal publication information in the metadata, using the journal publication information as the preferred citing reference, and linking, when feasible, back to the journal website. Quite a number of CAS research institutes now make the depositing into IR a condition for researcher performance evaluation and graduate student degree condition. In addition to CAS, Xiamen University developed its IR to include more than 10,000 items openly accessible. A dozen of universities such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiaotong University, began their IR development recently.

     3. Efforts ahead

Open access in China is now moving forward with ever increasing momentum. It is expected that policy studies in MoST, CAS, and NSFC, will soon be turned into concrete policy measurements. Aware of the complex challenges involved, they will take a more balanced and flexible approach, by supporting both Green and Gold OA models. They may first facilitate Green OA with proper embargo periods and deposit formats. They will extend experiments with Gold OA while striving for quality, cost transparency, affordable APCs, and integrated transition of subscription fees to OA publishing funds. Of course there are still uncertainties, but the direction is unmistakable. Just like the OSTP open access memorandum, the collective push of NSFC and CAS will definitely result in a changed game of the scholarly communications in China. Keep tuned in.

Another push comes from the GRC OA action plan. CAS and NSFC will be the co-hosts of the 3rd Annual Meeting of GRC which will review the implementation of the plan. These two are in a good position with, as mentioned before, CAS being the largest research organization in China, and NSFC the major funder for basic research with a good size funding budget. I can personally contest, as someone present at the GRC 2013, that CAS and NSFC are geared up to take the opportunity of the GRC 2014 to further promote open access. In addition, to facilitate open access policies a number of public campaigns are planned to raise awareness of open access among researchers and research organizations. What is more, there will be detailed studies of implementation policies, supporting infrastructures, and best practices, especially on things like criteria for qualified OA Journals, recommended altmetrics, APC management requirements and mechanisms, and evaluation criteria and methods for OA policies & progresses.

With all these actions to promote open access, I hope and highly expect that China will play a more active and constructive role in the global movement of open access that will benefit Chinese researchers and China greatly.

Xiaolin Zhang, National Science Library, Chinese Academy of Sciences