Tag Archives: universities

Winds of change – ivy league universities make mileage from open access

2009 might turn out to be the year in which the tipping point has been reached in scholarly publishing. There is an increasing tide of criticism of conventional, commercially-driven journal publishing and its systems for evaluating and ranking scholars and universities.  For example in a scathing article published in Times Higher Education last month Sir John Sulston, chairman of the Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation at the University of Manchester, and Nobel prizewinner in the physiology or medicine category in 2002 is quoted as saying  ‘[Journal metrics] are the disease of our times.’

But it is a crystal-clear spring day in Cape Town today, so let’s opt for the good news. And that is that Harvard and four other leading universities in the US are leveraging considerable strategic benefit from adopting open access.  Harvard has launched DASH,

its open access repository; a group of 5 leading universities, including Harvard, have launched a Compact for Open Access Publication; and, in support of this Compact, Harvard has developed  HOPE – its policy for the management of for funding support for open access publication.  This is a policy that could well serve as a model for universities wanting to tackle this issue.

From a South African perspective, do our leading research universities, which currently compete fiercely to get journal articles into the journal indexes in order to corner a place in international university rankings, need to start rethinking their strategies to concentrate more on providing access to their scholarship? And given that South African universities are in even greater need of getting readership for their research and suffer much more than the well-endowed US institutions from ever-escalating subscription costs, should we not be more active in our support for open access authorship?

What is striking in Harvard University’s announcement of the launch of its open access repository, DASH, is the way the university is using this launch as a powerful marketing exercise to promote the contribution that open access can make to profiling the quality of its scholarship:

“DASH is meant to promote openness in general,” stated Robert Darnton, Carl H. Pforzheimer University Professor and Director of the University Library. “It will make the current scholarship of Harvard’s faculty freely available everywhere in the world, just as the digitization of the books in Harvard’s library will make learning accumulated since 1638 accessible worldwide. Taken together, these and other projects represent a commitment by Harvard to share its intellectual wealth.”

Visitors to DASH (http://dash.harvard.edu) can locate, read, and use some of the most up-to-the minute scholarship that Harvard has to offer. DASH users can read “Anticipating One’s Troubles: The Costs and Benefits of Negative Expectations” by Harvard College Professor Dan Gilbert. Markus Meister, Jeff C. Tarr Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, weighs in with “LED Arrays as Cost-Effective and Efficient Light Sources for Widefield Microscopy,” while Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow asks “After Brown: What Would Martin Luther King Say?”

From Abu Ghraib to zooarchaeology, from American literature to the Zeeman effect, more than 1,500 items can be located in DASH today, with the number increasing every week. As vital as the repository is to current work, DASH also houses a growing number of retrospective articles and papers. Contributors include Harvard President Drew Faust and University professors Robert Darnton, Peter Galison, Stanley Hoffman, Barry Mazur, Stephen Owen, Amartya Sen, Irwin Shapiro, Helen Vendler, and George Whitesides.

The Compact for Open Access Publishing has been launched by Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, and the University of California, Berkeley. In the first instance, this is profiled as a public good intervention, but it also takes account of the increasing pressure that is being placed on library budgets and hence on access to research, as a result of rising journal costs in a recessionary climate. A key goal of the compact is to ensure that universities have in place support mechanisms to provide funding for scholarly authors publishing in open access journals, in those cases where author fees are charged. This is seen as a way of levelling the playing fields:

‘The compact supports equity of the business models by committing each university to the timely establishment of durable mechanisms for underwriting reasonable publication fees for open-access journal articles written by its faculty for which other institutions would not be expected to provide funds.’

This is a conscious effort to plot a path from an old model to a new. In an interview on the launch of DASH and the Compact for Open Access publishing, Stuart Schieber, Director of the Office of Scholarly Communications at Harvard, is clear – and as articulate as ever, about the need to change the system:

Scholarly publishing is going through a transformation as a result of systemic problems in the underlying business models, which have led to a spiral of hyperinflating costs, journal cancellations, and reducing access to the scholarly literature. With the economic downturn, this access problem will only be exacerbated. DASH is an attempt to solve the symptom of reduced access, at least to our own articles. But we need to turn our attention to the underlying problem, to find sustainable alternatives to the dysfunctional subscription-based business model that has supported journal publishing in the past.

Over the decades, academia has established a substantial infrastructure to support scholarly publication based on that business model—publishers to manage logistics and production, subscription agents to handle order processing, library budgets to pay for the subscriptions, overhead from grants to fund those library budgets, and so forth. We need to start establishing the infrastructure to support alternative models, and to get the mechanisms of scholarly communication on a sound, sustainable footing.

There are lessons to be learned all around, here, about the ways in which the world’s leading universities address their strategic goals.

IPR Act Regulations promulgated – the death knell for open science in South Africa?

The Deprtment of Science and Technology has published the Regulations for the implementation of the IPR Act of 2008. These have serious implications for researchers and the universities and research institutions they work in and even more dire implications for open access and open innovation in South Africa. I set out below my preliminary reading of what these Regulations might mean. However, they are not very well drafted and contain some confusions, so it would be good to share reactions from researchers on how they see this affecting their research practices. The time for responding is short – we have until 8 May. How this relates to what is happening in the rest of the world will follow in subsequent blogs, as will feedback as UCT and other institutions grapple with what this means for how research will be carried out in South Africa.

A brief recap for those who are not familiar with the Act.

The full name of the Act is The Intellectual Property Rights from Publicly Funded Research and Development Act, 2008. (I blogged the Draft Bill last year here and here and here and here and here) In 2009, one would expect a piece of legislation dealing with publicly funded research to be dealing with access to research, but that could not be further from the case of this legislation. To put it briefly, this is designed to ensure that all publicly funded research gets intellectual property protection for the purposes of commercialisation. This seems to be the only way that this legislation can conceive of public benefit from research. Open innovation, open science, open access and open source have to get special permission from the bureaucrats before they will be allowed.

The provisions of the Act

Before looking at the Regulations, researchers need to grapple with the basic definitions and provisions in the Act:

  1. The central provision of the Act is that universities carrying out research from public funds have to assess and report on all research carried out in the university that might have the potential for IPR protection and commercialisation. (Which being translated means they are patentable – but beware; it means more than that, as set out below.)
  2. If the university/researcher does not want to lock down the IP in the research, then this decision has to be made according to the guidelines provided by the national IP Management Office (NIPMO) and it has to be notified of this decision. NIPMO then reviews this decision and can, if it disagrees with the university, acquire ownership of and obtain statutory protection for the IP in this research. In other words, the university and its researchers no longer have the right to make their own decisions on how best to ensure the impact of their research.
  3. Research funded by private organisations only counts as not being publicly funded if the full cost of the research is covered, including all direct and indirect costs (15b). Does this mean that if you are running a research programme with donor funding, but UCT supports your office and computer infrastructure, your research is subject to this Act?

How is intellectual property defined in the Act?

In other words, what does this really mean for researchers and who would be affected by it? The primary focus of this legislation is clearly patents, but those researchers who think that their work has nothing to do with patents in South African law need to think again.

The definition of IP in the Act excludes copyrights in published works, and includes ‘creations of the mind’ that are capable of being protected under South African and foreign IP law. That means that software and business processes, patentable in the US but not in SA, have to be considered in terms of this Act. Databases, which are protected under the EU database provisions, would also fall under this legislation. Trademarks, artistic works and designs would presumably have to be considered, too.

It is clear therefore that researchers in humanities, social sciences, business school, and architecture cannot sit back on the assumption that these provisions would not apply to them because what they do is not normally patentable. Nor can any unit working with open source software development. The scale of what this might mean for the university IP office and for individual researchers is daunting; even more so the volume of forms to be filled in. But most of all, it is the loss of freedom for researchers and the university to make their own decisions on how to manage the dissemination of their work and how to ensure its impact that is most threatening.

What do the Regulations say?

When a decision is made on whether or not a piece of research requires protection, the only basis on which the researcher or the university can make this decision on their own is that it is not patentable (2 (2)). In any other case, a form has to be filled in and the decision referred to NIMPO. The criteria that NIMPO will apply include the sector, potential contribution of the research, commercial and social potential and the ability for this work to be protected under any law anywhere in the world.

Provisions are then made for what happens if the State takes over the IP rights (2(8)) and what happens if permission is given for them to be waived (in which case they have to be offered to the funders of the research or, where there is no private funding, to the researcher concerned) (2 (9,10,11)).

Researchers will need to think about how this sits with the funders of research that they carry out.

Open science, open access and open source

There is confusion in the Regulations between public domain, open source and open access (see Andrew Rens’s blog on this question), but Section 2 (12) appears to be trying to say that where a the university wants to make research open access or develop open source software, it has to fill in a form and apply to NIMPO. If the need to make the research open comes from the requirements of cooperative research agreements or funder requirements, then this has to have prior approval from NIMPO. According to the Regulations, NIMPO then decides whether this agreement is in the best interests of the country or not (2 (14)).

It looks as though the university and its research departments will not be able to join collaborative research ventures or accept funding from donors who require open dissemination without government permission.

Andrew Rens thinks this might be unconsitutional – see his Aliquid Nova blog.

Given the requirements of some of UCT’s largest research funders, this is somewhat startling. This would also be threatening to a department like the Centre for Educational Technology, which has contracts with an international consortium, Sakai,  that requires assurance that all software developed has no IP restrictions and is open source.

How is this going to affect UCT’s research collaborations and research funding agreements?

The NIPMO Structures

What skills will the NIMPO Advisory Board, which will oversee all this, bring to bear? It will consist of people chosen for their ‘knowledge and experience in intellectual property management, commercialisation, technology transfer, and business skills’ (4 (6)). In other words, people without special research knowledge or familiarity with disciplinary fields will be making decisions about how research could best impact on the country.

Revenue sharing

Researchers do get the right to revenue earned from the commercialisation of their research (7(1). However, the deductions that can be made before this happens sound somewhat threatening, as they include expenses for ‘filing, prosecution and maintenance of statutory protection; bank fees and other charges for collecting revenues due; defence, validation and enforcement of IP rights; legal advice; market research, marketing and sales, travel costs and admin expenses, up to R1 million (7 (2)). In truth, there is not much likely to be left after all this. If I were a researcher in this position, I would not be holding my breath. Perhaps, like the music recording industry, the creator will land up owing more than is earned.

Licences

There are detailed provisions for how NIPMO will intervene in the granting of exclusive licences, offshore deals, assignment of rights. In the case of exclusive licences granted, NIPMO can walk in and reverse these licences if they think that commercialisation is not adequate.

Auditing and retrospective licensing

Then there is a retrospective clause that says NIMPO can audit a university’s disclosure of IP. The university is required to fill in forms twice a year detailing the IP governed by the Act and how it has been commercialised. Then NIMPO can audit annually. If it finds that any IP has not been declared, then it can retroactively enforce assignment of the rights (11 (2)).

Does this mean that the university’s ability to contract with donors who require assurances of open IP management will be compromised? How could the university offer such assurances if they can be reversed by NIMPO at a later date?

This will surely mean that super-caution will be exercised by submitting everything for approval before research contracts begin. And what effect would that have on research effectiveness?

Research collaboration

When it comes to dealing with private organisations and institutions, the university could licence a share of the IP to a co-owner. If the university enters into a collaborative research agreement, it must retain ownership of any pre-existing IP and commercialise this in line with the Act; retain IP rights in what it produces, or jointly own IP. It must ensure the commercialisation in SA of this collaborative research.

If the partners in the collaboration require open licences, then NIPMO has to approve before the university can enter such an agreement. NIPMO will publish guidelines on how universities have to manage such collaborations (12 (3)).

How will universities manage their research collaborations with this level of interference? And what effect will this have on research output and its social and economic impact?

The worlds leading universities move to open access

South Africa’s leading research universities are very keen to compete in the international arena, ranking up comparative scores of international journal articles published and citation counts and jostling for research ratings (more on that tomorrow).

So, if we are competing with the big players internationally, what are they up to? A review of developments in open access in the last couple of months is a very telling insight into how the terrain might be changing – not that the citation counts have gone away, but that the big research universities seem to be recognising the strategic importance of open communications. The
universities concerned are quite hard nosed and not into empty gestures, so I imagine that their reasons for the actions they have taken are strategic, as was MIT’s decision to spend a lot of money opening up its educational resources to the world.

In the last couple of months:

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted unanimously to grant the university a licence to make the faculty’s scholarly articles freely available online.The move was motivated in part by dissatisfaction with the copyright restrictions and the escalating cost of commercially published journals and in that mood, the move is to greater control of the university’s and its scholars’ own output. However, it is a also a firm commitment to the active and open dissemination of research:

“This is a large and very important step for scholars throughout the country. It should be a very powerful message to the academic community that we want and should have more control over how our work is used and disseminated,”â€added Shieber, James O. Welch, Jr. and Virginia B. Welch Professor of Computer Science.

“The goal of university research is the creation, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge. At Harvard, where so much of our research is of global significance, we have an essential responsibility to distribute the fruits of our
scholarship as widely as possible,” said Steven E. Hyman, provost. “Today’s action in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
will promote free and open access to significant, ongoing research. It is a first step in the creation of an open-access environment for current research that may one day provide the widest possible
dissemination of Harvard’s distinguished faculties’ work,” he added.

Shortly afterwards, the Harvard Faculty of Law followed suit, committing to make articles authored by faculty available free online. Harvard University is now creating an Office for Scholarly Communications, situated in the university libraries, under the aegis of the historian Robert Darnton. (perhaps emulatingthe University of California’s similarly-named position). This office will ensure that faculty, when signing publishing agreements, will do so in such a way as to best serve the public interest. The Office will also oversee the creation of a repository for university publications.

The motivations for all of these moves talk of the prestige of Harvard research and the need to make it available globally. Clearly Harvard sees opening its intellectual capital as a good way of advancing its research mission and profiling the university.

In June 2008, at the ElPub conference in Toronto, John Willinsky announced that the Stanford University School of Education had emulated Harvard in passing a unanimous motion for a mandate for the open access deposit of research
articles. (See the account in Peter Suber’s Open Access News and the report in the SPARCnewsletter) The Stanford School of Humanities and Science is now considering a similar mandate, Peter Suber reports.

Also inspired by Harvard, the Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University has proposed to the university that they adopt and Open Access policy. Details are in his blog (he has a blog, take note!) And Michigan University has created Open Michigan, which provides a gateway to a wide variety of university resources (via Peter Suber’s blog). It includes open education resources, open software and open publishing and archives. Again, this is a strategic initiative: as the university describes it:

With a common goal of opening resources for teaching, learning and research for use and enhancement by a global community, these projects increase the value of those resources to U-M and the world. Open.Michigan provides a
clear view of the many places and ways U-M contributes to our world’s knowledge and creates exemplary resources for education and research.

That is just a few months’ worth in the US. The question is, ‘What are we doing at UCT? And in South Africa more generally?’

UCT signs the Cape Town Declaration

Our final area of growing partnership is knowledge sharing. Of course, everything we have discussed with university leaders this week involves the exchange of ideas and concepts. This specific initiative combines the dissemination of knowledge with the immediacy and accessibility of global communication.  Medical education and research is so critical in today’s world, and we want to collaborate with South African institutions to develop and provide open Internet access to educational materials in medicine, public health and the health sciences.The soul of scholarship is research. From the current to the ancient,universities must make all information accessible to faculty,students, and the public.

A point of pride for us is the creation of Sakai, the first global consortium of higher education institutions using the concepts and technologies of Open Educational Resources. Open Educational Resources encompass arange of information – such as textbooks, course materials,software and more – that can be accessed and re-used at no charge,and already, more than 150 universities around the world draw upon Sakai’s resources.

We want to create the same level of exchange between the University of Michigan’s health sciences schools – medicine, nursing, public health and dentistry – and medical students and faculty throughout Africa, so they can access materials to supplement their medical educations.

Speaking at the signing of the Declaration, Martin Hall said that the freedoms of the internet must be protected, or else knowledge will become a heavily-priced commodity. ‘Universities are not Mickey Mouse’, he said, expanding on the role of big corporates in the extension of copyright protection.’The commercialisation of intellectual property presents difficult challenges for a university’, he argued. ‘Universities thrive on making knowledge freely available and the Cape Town Open Education Declaration establishes important principles for ensuring that this happens.’

The function was a useful moment to step back and take stockof how far open approaches are taking hold at UCT. A gratifying number of senior academics and administrators expressed support;attendance from the academic staff included a number of new faces,rather than only the usual suspects; and most gratifying, there was enthusiastic support from the students. SHAWCO,the long-established student-run NGO, that offers health,educational  and welfare services, signed as an organisation and SHAWCO leaders want to engage further with the potential offered by the Declaration.

Given this impetus, it will be interesting to see where open education will beat UCT in another year’s time.

Patents and open science – and that Bill again!

Today is the last day for submissions on the Draft Bill for IPR for Publicly Funded Research. So it was good to see a very balanced and insightful article, Sharing the fruits of science by Glerry Toomey in University Affairs on the question of patents and the value of open science. In contrast to the obsessive insistence of the South African Draft Bill on patenting everything that can be patented and on commercialisation as the only way of getting benefit from research, Toomey makes it clear that international science is now taking other directions:

We … know that the social behaviour of modern science, and of the broader domain of innovation, is marked by a continual tug-of-war. At one end of the rope we find the forces of collaboration and sharing. At the other end are the instincts to compete and to protect one’s hard-earned intellectual property. While both kinds of behaviour lubricate scientific discovery and technological innovation, IP protection via patenting, with a view to future profits, has become a dominant trend in recent decades, particularly in the life sciences.

But now an international scientific counterculture is emerging. Often referred to as “open science,” this growing movement proposes that we err on the side of collaboration and sharing. That’s especially true when it comes to creating and using the basic scientific tools needed both for downstream innovation and for solving broader human problems.

Patenting has a role to play, the article argues, but the mistake that has been made in recent years is a failure to ‘distinguish between the research tools and basic knowledge’ of science and the inventions with industrial application that the patent system was designed for.

The article tracks a number of open science projects and links these to the recognition of scientific discovery as the generator of public good. He quotes at length Dr Richard Jefferson, a biotechnologist now living in Australia, the founder of an international research unit in Canberra called CAMBIA, which promotes open science.

Dr. Jefferson distinguishes between the development of basic scientific tools and the application of those tools, between “discovery and invention.” He sees scientific discovery as a social enterprise – not only serving as midwife to marketable inventions, but also delivering publicly valuable products for which markets or profit margins may be small. That includes alleviating poverty and hunger, especially in the developing countries, preventing or curing the diseases of the disadvantaged, and improving human stewardship of natural resources. So, while open science is described as a pragmatic way of doing research, it also has a social and ethical backbone. Terms like global public goods, common heritage of humankind and human rights recur in the literature on open science.

This would seem to be very much in line with the policy of the Department of Science and Technology, which argues for the need for research to contribute to national upliftment. On the other hand, Toomey claims, the commercialisation of public research, driven by the Bayh-Dole Act in the US some 27 years ago led to a ‘filing frenzy’ resulting in a tendency to privatise the tools and platforms of science.

This has not povided beneficial to the universities:

For universities in the technologically advanced countries, says Dr. Jefferson, the promise of getting fat cheques in the mail from patenting the fruits of their biosciences research projects has simply not materialized. He maintains that offices of technology transfer are “generally losing money” and that there’s ample evidence that private biotechnology enterprises, as a commercial industry, have fallen flat as well.

The article ends by suggesting that there needs to be a total rethink of the role of intellectual property, as a powerful tool for creating social value, through providing the platforms and sharing the improvements that result.

I would suggest that the South African Department of Science and technology needs to consider these arguments before enacting any legislation on IPR rights in university research. In promoting a Bill that looks backwards to 25-year-old US legislation, proven to have had many negative consequences; in insisting on a very wide-ranging definition of what research needs to be protected for patenting purposes, the Department would be locking the country into a backward-looking paradigm, just when exciting new prospects are available for delivering real development impact from public research.

Thanks to Peter Suber’s Open Access News for drawing my attention to this article