Blog archive for September, 2007

A new podcast series on scholarly publishing, copyright

September 27th, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

MIT Libraries recently launched a new podcast series dedicated to issues involving scholarly publishing and copyright.

The latest addition to the series is a piece by Anna Gold, head librarian of the Engineering and Science Libraries at the university. In the podcast, entitled “Making a Difference: Pushing Back on DRM at MIT”, Gold speaks of the university’s recent subscription cancellation of a scholarly journal after learning it was employing digital rights management (DRM) technology its digital collection of research reports. The journal was that of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).

The DRM technology Gold speaks of, in terms of SAE, worked in the following way. One would have to first download a DRM plug in (note, which does not work on machines using Linux or Unix), allowing the researcher to only view the article on the computer screen and make a single printed copy. The user is not able to save a copy to their hard-drive or utilize the material in any other way.

Gold argues that this is not how people use information in a university setting, stating that SAE’s DRM was, in fact, not only complicating but preventing information dissemination crucial to engineering research.

You can learn more about the series of events that followed at MIT Libraries’ Web site. And stay tuned for new additions to this podcast series.

Charter survey on Semantic Web and life sciences work

September 23rd, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

From Alan Ruttenberg, one of our principal scientists at Science Commons, involved in the Neurocommons project:

The W3C has put out a survey aimed at collecting ideas and interests for chartering the next Semantic Web Health Care and Life Sciences groups, with the possibility being either or both of an interest group and working group formed starting again next year. One of the collaborations between Science Commons and this group was the demo we worked on in conjunction with the Neurocommons.

If you are invested in the future of Semantic Web activities in the life sciences take some time to thoughtfully fill out the survey in the next few days, when the chance for it having an impact is high.

Feel free to pass this on to colleagues who may also be interested or have good ideas. The survey is not constrained to W3C members only.

‘Copyright, Fair Use, and the Cultural Commons’ now on MIT World

September 10th, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

Now up on MIT World, “Copyright, Fair Use, and the Cultural Commons.” The Web cast is from the April 28, 2007 panel discussion featuring Creative Commons‘ own Hal Abelson, William Uricchio (who moderated the event), Wendy Gordon, Gordon Quinn, and Pat Aufderheide.

From the Web site:

“Moderator William Uricchio sets the scene for panelists’ discussion of current copyright wars with a brief historical overview of copyright protection. In 1790, when news traveled by horse and carriage, copyright protection was good for 14 years. Today, when a digital, networked society enables instant transmission of data, protection lasts 70-plus years. Uricchio notes, “Bizarrely, the faster information circulates, the longer we’re extending copyright protection. It seems totally at odds with where our constitution framers and case law emerged from.” […]

Hal Abelson [Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, MIT School of Engineering] offers his sense of how copyright concerns constrict life at the academy. MIT, he says, has begun putting fences up around its own course materials, including the most basic and central of thinkers. For instance, it has limited online, published versions of Aristotle, Pascal and Fermat to students in a particular course, for a single semester. Huge expense goes into getting permissions from faculty, and university lawyers are so concerned about offending copyright holders that they bar reams of material from MIT’s OpenCourseWare site. Abelson believes these fences risk “destroying the university as an intellectual community,” and recommends using open content (granting Creative Commons licenses) as much as possible, as well as aggressively exercising fair use.”

Visit MIT World’s Web site to listen to this wonderful discussion, as well as to learn more about the forum’s participants.

A web without science …

September 4th, 2007 by Kaitlin Thaney

James Boyle‘s latest column in The Financial Times“The irony of a web without science” – examines how the  lessons learned from the world wide web can and should be applied to the sciences. From research funding to commercial publishing, Boyle posits that the capabilities made available through the advent of the Web and its design are not adequately being applied to scientific research.

Boyle writes:

“The greatest irony, though, is this. The world wide web was designed in a scientific laboratory to facilitate access to scientific knowledge. In every other area of life – commerce, social networking, pornography – it has been a smashing success. But in the world of science itself? With the virtues of an open web all around us, we have proceeded to build an endless set of walled gardens, something that looks a lot like Compuserv or Minitel and very little like a world wide web for science.”

The article notes a key element of Science Commons philosophy –  the almost-mythical “e-research” world, where collaboration is the norm and  we design our systems for the network. Meaningful e-research is going to require a fundamental redefinition of infrastructure. Infrastructure is more than just ethernet and fiberoptic cable. Content is part of the infrastructure, too, and likely the underlying ICT infrastructure content needs to be open by default and governed by open, standard protocols. We won’t get to the e-research future any other way.

Please see the Neurocommons pages for a sense of what an e-research project looks like. If only we had as much access to the literature online as we do to digital data …

You can read Boyle’s article in its entirety here. Boyle is a William Neal Reynolds professor at Duke Law School, and a co-founder of Science Commons. He also sits on the Creative Commons board.