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What can Bloggers do for Open Access?

Last Saturday I participated in a Bar Camp in Delhi. This was organized by IBNMS [1] and was named as Blog Camp Delhi [2]. I learned that the philosophy of such Bar Camps [3] is that everyone has to contribute in some way or the other. So, I decided to give a presentation on Open Access [4]. I knew I will be talking to entirely wrong audience. As the theme was on blogging, obviously the people can be expected to be more interested in the art of blogging and monetising their blogs. Most would be young and might not have tasted the frustration of obtaining scholarly articles [5]. But, I had no other way to contribute. I went ahead with my decision to give a presentation on my favorite topic i.e. Open Access.

I finally took a session on it - Open Access: What it is and why it is required for scholarly community?

While working on my presentation, I was always thinking on how to make it relevant to expected participants of blog camp. Without any lose of time, I thought of Peter Suber [6]. After all, he has been blogging on Open Access for years now. We are getting all the latest news on Open Access from his Open Access News blog [7]. But then, he is an Open Access advocate. Blogging is just a media for his advocacy of open Access. Many other like him are advocates first and bloggers afterwards. However, my job was to tell an audience that might not even know what scholarly literature is.

How to tell them that there is a community that does things just for the sake of science and advancement of knowledge? This Community of academicians, scientists and scholars has different value system. Here, the reputations of community members largely depend upon papers they publish and references they get to these papers. So, they need to publish papers to remain relevant in the community. This helps them to get promotions and other career advancements. Scholarly papers are often based on original research done in systematic manner over a period of time. Research is never done in vacuum but is always based on existing knowledge. New research aims to extend the baseline of existing knowledge in a specific domain. This requires searching and ‘consumption’ of relevant scholarly papers related to their research. Once the research is completed, the results are included in manuscripts for getting published as articles in scholarly journals. Before an article can be published in a journal, it has to undergo a process called peer-review [8]. In this process, the manuscript submitted by authors is referred to two or three scholars working in similar area. Editorial board consisting of eminent scholars takes final decision to accept or reject paper based on comments of reviewers. It can also send back manuscripts to authors for modification and resubmission. So, it is the members of same scholarly community that are playing the roles of consumers (researchers and scholars) of previously published papers, producers (as authors) as well as quality controllers (as peer-reviewers and editorial board members). All these players are contributing to science and knowledge without seeking immediate monetary benefits. However academic publishing business is more often guided by commercial interests. Publishers insist on exclusive transfer of copyrights of authors in their favour. While authors of books, non-scholarly and popular literature negotiate in terms of royalties, scholarly authors give away their rights without caring much about monetary benefits. Thus, years of hard work is given away for free by scholars so that their papers can be published. The same is then sold back to the same community at a very high subscription rates.

Scholars, academicians and scientists need to access knowledge locked up in high cost journals for conducting new research. It is same knowledge which they themselves had created. It means, only those researchers and scholars can access this locked up knowledge whose employers and institutes can afford to purchase this knowledge. This creates inequalities of access to knowledge. That results in inequalities in efficiency of producing new knowledge. Poor and developing nation are most hit as they can not spend much on purchasing scholarly journals in foreign currencies to the level of developed countries.

Thanks to Internet, things are changing now. Research can be reported much quickly. Authors can submit their manuscripts online. Manuscript management and online publishing has become much easier especially with manuscript management systems like Open Journal System [9]. All processes, from assignment of peer-reviewers to bringing out a new issue can be done online. Which means journal publishing now is much cheaper and prompt. Number of online journals have come up in last decade. Even the traditional journals now have online versions. Wait, that does not necessarily means that what all is available online can be accessed for free. However many journals do provide free access to their full content. Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) [10] lists about 3390 open access journals. Out of which around 100 are from India [11]. These Open Access journals do whatever the traditional scholarly journals do for publishing peer-reviewed articles. Only difference is that they provide online access to anybody and everybody for free. Open Access journals are free to readers but obviously not free to produce. There are various business models for producing open access journals. Most professional societies have their official journals. These are distributed to society members. The parent society takes care of publication costs. Many such society journals have online version. These are normally accessible for free. In India, most online society journals come under this category. Then there are public funded organisations engaged in research and its promotion. These also publish research journals and make their online versions free. The best citied journal from India, Indian Journal of Medical Research [12], falls under this category. Somewhat controversial but successful model is being adopted by Open Access Publishers like PLoS [13] and BioMed Central [14]. Here once the article gets selected for publication after peer-review process, the author needs to pay a fee [15][16]. Popularity of such publishers with such a author-pays model sometime confuse people to belief that open access is all about author-pays and free-to-reader model of publishing. No, Open Access publishing of scholarly literature can be done through number of business models. The model adopted by publishers like PLoS and BioMed is just one of models.

There is one more route to open access. Here, the authors or other right holders retain [17] and exercise their right to self-achieve their papers in publically accessible digital repositories. These could be repositories run by their institutions (Institutional Repositories) or Subject Repositories allowing self-archiving without considering institutional affiliation of the authors. Number of universities, academic institutions and research funding agencies are making Open Access via such repositories mandatory [18]. Recently in U.S., NIH voluntary Public Access Policy has been made mandatory through an Act [19]. University faculties are becoming aware of benefits of archiving for open access, for example on 6th May 2008, Harvard Law faculty voted for 'open access' to their scholarly articles [20] through digital repositories. Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR) had 1065 registered repositories with it as on 21st May 2008 worldwide [21].

I don’t know how much people in blogging or the wider domain of New Media know about this strange model of academic publishing. However bloggers, once made aware of it , can help open access movement [22] in number of ways. One way is to blog on Open Access itself. There are few already there and well established like the one by Peter Suber [7]. Some others which I know are OA Librarian [23]; The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics [24] and I will also mention the one from student community – Open Students: students for open access to research [25]. Second way is to blog about various open access resources. Every day, number of resources including journals, repositories, open courseware etc are launched and announced. These could be evaluated, annotated and listed under well planned categories (or tags) in a blog. Links of such tags or categories automatically collate resources into listings of related posts. It could be very similar to ‘Digital Scholarship’ [26]. Third way has to do more with subject experts. Scientists and Scholars can blog on how to promote open access within their own subject domain. Open Access Anthropology: Promoting Open Access in Anthropology [27] is beautiful example. Very similar concept has been highlighted in a presentation - Blogging Archaeology: creating an Open Access source for knowledge [28]. Fourth way is to blog about Peer-Reviewed Research. All such blog posts can be aggregated at one place [29]. There could be many more ways to promote Open Access through blogging.

Further Readings:

  1. Indian Blog & New Media Society.
  2. Blog Camp Delhi.
  3. Bar Camp.
  4. Open Access Overview.
  5. Scholarly vs. Popular Articles.
  6. Peter Suber.
  7. Open Access News.
  8. Peer-review.
  9. Open Journal Systems.
  10. DOAJ.
  11. DOAJ Search for Journals from India.
  12. Indian Journal of Medical Research.
  13. PLoS.
  14. BioMed Central.
  15. PLoS: FAQ - Questions about publication fees.
  16. BioMed Central: Frequently asked questions about BioMed Central's article-processing charges.
  17. Author Rights: Using the SPARC Author Addendum to secure your rights as the author of a journal article.
  18. Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies.
  19. Revised Policy on Enhancing Public Access to Archived Publications Resulting from NIH-Funded Research.
  20. Harvard Law faculty votes for 'open access' to scholarly articles.
  21. Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR).
  22. Timeline of the Open Access Movement.
  23. OA Librarian -
  24. The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics -
  25. Open Students: students for open access to research -
  26. Digital Scholarship.
  27. Open Access Anthropology: Promoting Open Access in Anthropology.
  28. Blogging Archaeology: creating an Open Access source for knowledge –
  29. Research Blogging: Discussing and creating peer-reviewed research.


My first encounter with Google Health

Google Health is now a reality. On visiting it, I landed on an agreement page. Apart from other usual terms and conditions, I had to agree to authorize Google to share my health information in my profile. However, it appears that I can choose with whom it could be shared.

This could even contain sensitive information relating to the following:

* Mental illness or any mental health condition
* Alcohol or substance abuse
* Sexually transmitted diseases
* Pregnancy
* Abortion or other family planning
* Genetic tests or genetic diseases

This authorization also covers any record that a doctor or other health care provider may supply to Google Health. The good thing is that I can withdraw this authorization by deleting my profile or using options available in Google Health.

Health profile could be created by entering information relating to Drug interactions, Age, sex, height, Medical Conditions, Medications, Allergies, Procedures, Test results, Immunizations etc. Health profile can be populated from very user-friendly search tool or from alphabetic listings. Diseases can be added from alphabetical list. The items in the list are with “reference” links. The “reference” here means special pages with brief but excellent description of the disease. These contain information on symptoms, treatment, prognosis, tests, prevention, complications, when to consult a doctor etc. These pages are supplemented with what Google is best at. These are search results from Google Scholar, related groups and search trends. These pages are illustrated with diagrams and pictures.

One can even import medical records from independent service providers offering personal health services. It has the following in the listing. Very likely, this is going to expand in future.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Cleveland Clinic MyChart
Longs Drug Stores
MinuteClinic from CVS Caremark
Quest Diagnostics
Walgreens Pharmacy

One can also explore health services for medical records. The following are listed at present:

Cleveland Clinic MyConsult
Heart Attack Risk Calculator
HxTI VaccineView
iHealth, powered by Medem
MediConnect Global
MyCareTeam MCT-Diabetes

One can also find a doctor and add to medical contacts. It also has tools to alert and send you notices like drug interactions depending upon information in the profile.

My overall impression is that it could become very useful tool for keeping better personal medical histories and records. As expected, presently it can be fully exploited by people residing in U.S. Hopefully more and more service providers from other countries would be associating with Google Health.


Yet another URL Shortening Service

Came across yet another URL Shortening Service - - Really Tiny Links. It also provides "Bookmarklet" link to shortened the URL of the current page in your browser. For this, you can also download an extension for your Firefox. It promises to come with a facility to manage your shortened links.

Snipr still remains my favorite service for shortening long URLs. It let you to select your own suffix text (if available) and title to the URL being shortened.


More link shortening services

Found two more link shortening services - and appears to be more attractive in the sense that its own URL is short and sweet.


Google Reader evolving into a Social Networking Site?

Just wondering whether Google Reader is gradually evolving into a Social Networking Site? It has now improved its Sharing options. It has become easier to share your favorite sites with your friends. It provides for a “Note in Reader” link that can be dragged and dropped in your browser’s bookmarks bar. Once that is done, you are ready to share your favorite sites or the sites you just discovered. Select a relevant portion of the site you wish to share through Google Reader and click on “Note in Reader”. (Well text selection is optional, but it is also better to be focused). A window will open up with title of the site being shared with selected text already filled. Now just put your annotation (yet another optional step) about the site (your friends might like to know as why you are sharing?) and click “Post Item”. You have now shared an item through Google Reader. You can email the links of shared items to your friends, share through your blog (ready to add clip in Blogger available) or copy and paste relevant HTML snippet in your site.

Will Google Reader continue to add such features and evolve into a Social Networking Site? It can add profiles, favorite contacts, communities, pictures and all that stuff. With all these usual social networking stuff powered with shared knowledge (sites), Google Reader could become “Google Wisdom” for a participating virtual community.

Open Access Directory (OAD)

A new wiki - Open Access Directory (OAD) - has been rolled out. It would serve as a compendium of simple factual lists about open access (OA) to science and scholarship.


Page2RSS - Create RSS feed for any web page

Page2RSS is one of the services available for monitoring non-RSS enabled web sites. Such services monitor requested sites. Once a change is noticed, a RSS feed is generated and delivered to subscribers.


Hindi included in Google Translate

Google Translate has now included Hindi in its list of languages. So now you can translate 'English to Hindi' or 'Hindi to English'. See also few useful tools available with Google Translate. You can read English sites in Hindi or Make your own site avalable in Hindi or English. The translated text for Hindi would be in Devnagri.

But don't start celebrating yet! Translated text does not follow the grammar or syntax of Hindi. For example "My name is Sukhdev Singh" would be translated as "मेरा नाम है सुखदेव सिंह", when it should be "मेरा नाम सुखदेव सिंह है". You can suggest Google the right translation by clicking on "Suggest a better translation". It may improve translation quality in future by learning from suggestions.


List of Free Tools for Learning

Nice post listing free tools and sites that can be used for learning:

ZaidLearn: A Free Learning Tool for Every Learning Problem?
"..every learning problem (or issue) we have today, there is probably a free tool or site out there that enables us to solve it.."