Funder Dispatch – First Quarter, 2008

A View of Life in the Commons

To help you stay updated on our projects and relevant developments in the world of open science, we’ve decided to start sending out brief email dispatches. We hope these dispatches, which will contain news summaries and links, give you more context for the work we’re doing and help foster a deeper understanding of the issues we address.

As always, we invite your feedback and comments. If you’d like to share your thoughts or get more information about anything you read, please feel free to contact us at

Project Round-Up

There are now more than 500 Open Access journals under Creative Commons, making up 15 percent of the publishing scene in the life sciences.

We recently completed our pilot with the Kauffman Foundation’s iBridge Network. The network serves as a clearinghouse for innovation, featuring unique research materials posted by participating universities. Our collaboration with iBridge included deploying our Materials Transfer Agreement system for use on the network. The MTA system allows materials to be easily found and searched on the Web through a system similar to tagging, allowing providers to issue offers for materials listed under standard transfer agreements.

We recently released the knowledge base for the Neurocommons – derived from ten large, public databases mapped into a common, open language. The knowledge base contains a mix of open content, medical subject headings, as well as digital descriptions of research materials available through our Materials Transfer Project. The knowledge base can also be queried from a public Web page, downloaded, and has already been mirrored in Ireland and Bulgaria.

What to expect from us this year …
Stay tuned for a big announcement in our Scholar’s Copyright work, involving a conversion of an impressive collection of scientific journals to Open Access – a conversion that will almost double our Open Access presence.

More biobanks will be coming online with materials tagged under our Materials Transfer Agreement system.

We will also be issuing soon a whitepaper on copyright and compliance issues in the wake of the Harvard Open Access mandate.

In the coming year, we also will have made technical advancements that make the Neurocommons ubiquitous, furthering our Semantic Web work in the life sciences.

Conferences & Workshops

Thought Leaders Meet to Discuss Cyberinfrastructure and University Policy

On February 20-21 in Washington, DC, Science Commons joined the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the National Science Foundation and the University of Michigan to convene an interactive workshop on cyberinfrastructure and university policy. The invite-only workshop, held at the Keck Center at the National Academies, brought together thought leaders from academia, the corporate sector, government and policy: <>

Science Commons, SPARC, and CSPD to Lead Satellite Workshop for Euroscience Open Forum 2008

This July, Science Commons, the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), and the Center for the Study of the Public Domain (CSPD) at Duke University head to Barcelona to lead a joint workshop on the policy and infrastructure needed for meaningful e-science. The workshop is one of three satellite events preceding the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF), an interdisciplinary conference that brings together a diverse audience of scientists, academics, government officials, policymakers and members of the media. For more information about ESOF and the satellite event, follow this link: <>

News & Developments

Open Access U

Two recent developments signal that 2008 could be a watershed year for the Open Access movement.

On December 26, 2007, President Bush signed into law a bill mandating that all NIH-funded research be submitted to the National Library of Medicine’s PubMed Central no later than 12 months following the date of publication. Previously, the NIH recommended, but did not mandate, submission to PubMed Central.

As we recently wrote on the Science Commons blog, at the institutional level, Harvard University has adopted an Open Access policy, which includes a self-archiving mandate: <>.

Many people believe that the decision will cause a ripple effect, and the early signs are encouraging. One day after the Harvard announcement, the University of Oregon passed a resolution in favor of Open Access, including recommending that faculty members use addenda like the Science Commons Author Addenda: <>.  In addition, people at universities including Swarthmore, Boston College and New York University are making similar calls for Open Access mandates:

Boston College: <>

NYU: <>

Swarthmore: <>

Science Commons Partnerships and Participation

Leadership Roles

John Wilbanks has recently been invited to join the advisory board of the Open Knowledge Foundation, sitting on the council overlooking the Open Knowledge Definition. He is also a member of the Board of Directors for Fedora Commons, a digital repository organization. Wilbanks also continues to serve on U.S. National Library of Medicine’s  PubMed Central Board.

Jonathan Rees, principal scientist at Science Commons, is now a member of the Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), appointed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. The TAG oversees the overall technical architecture of the World Wide Web, providing advice to Web standards groups and others in a number of areas, including identifiers, metadata and security. This group is responsible for coordinating standards for the Web.

Alan Ruttenberg, also a principal scientist at Science Commons, has been named chair of OWL working group. The mission of this group is to produce a recommendation for the W3C that refines and extends a Web Ontology Language known as OWL. The group is codifying a high-quality logical foundation for ontologies. The language helps facilitate the processing of information by machines, allowing for greater interoperability of Web content through a rich library of vocabularies, schema, and semantics.

Science Commons in the News

The Mainstream Takes Notice

This past December, our NeuroCommons work graced the pages of Scientific American in the article “The Semantic Web in Action”. The full article is unfortunately behind a pay-wall, but the abstract can be found here:  <>. The article builds upon Tim Berners-Lee’s Semantic Web “vision” laid out in the original 2001 article on the Semantic Web , discussing current steps towards and projects involving Semantic Web technologies and principles. Science Commons, along with other projects such as DBpedia, were featured case studies in this informative look into the future of the Semantic Web.

Podcast Alert: Science Commons Gets its 15 Minutes

If you’re a podcast fan, you can tune in to a new interview with John Wilbanks, who earlier this month spoke to Ellen Duranceau of MIT Libraries about how Science Commons is working to overcome barriers to knowledge-sharing in science :