White House takes another step in support for open education

Creativecommons.org -

Yesterday the Obama administration released an updated version of its Open Government National Action Plan. Ever since the launch of the global Open Government Partnership in 2011, participating nations have made commitments to work on initiatives “to promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to make government more open, effective, and accountable.” Included in the U.S. plan is a section aimed at supporting open educational resources and open licensing.

Expand Access to Educational Resources through Open Licensing and Technology (p.3)

Open educational resources are an investment in sustainable human development; they have the potential to increase access to high-quality education and reduce the cost of educational opportunities around the world. Open educational resources can expand access to key educational materials, enabling the domestic and international communities to attain skills and more easily access meaningful learning opportunities. The United States has worked collaboratively with domestic and international civil society stakeholders to encourage open education initiatives. Building on that momentum, the United States will openly license more Federal grant supported education materials and resources, making them widely and freely available. In addition to convening stakeholders to encourage further open education efforts, the United States will publish best practices and tools for agencies interested in developing grant-supported open licensing projects, detailing how they can integrate open licensing into projects from technical and legal perspectives.

You’ll recall that Creative Commons and over 100 other organizations called on the White House to act so that federally funded educational materials are made available under liberal open licenses for the public to freely use, share, and improve. One way for the Obama administration to meet this goal is to make open licensing policy a major commitment in their updated Open Government National Action Plan.

The newest White House plan—released during the Open Government Partnership Summit in Mexico City this week—is not as progressive as our earlier recommendations. Still, it mentions open education and open licensing as important areas for action. And this type of work could help move the U.S. toward a default open licensing policy for the digital education and training resources created with discretionary federal grants funds.

Text of the updated U.S. Open Government National Action Plan (PDF)

WIRED article highlights #NEWPALMYRA project launch

Creativecommons.org -

Temple of Bel 3-D model renderings, CC0

Today marks the launch of #NEWPALMYRA, an online community platform and data repository dedicated to the capture, preservation, sharing, and creative reuse of data about the ancient city of Palmyra. The project features 3-D models of ruins from Palmyra created by Bassel Khartabil, the lead for Creative Commons Syria who has been imprisoned there since March 2012.

In today’s WIRED article A Jailed Activist’s 3-D Models Could Save Syria’s History From ISISAndy Greenberg highlights the project’s dual purpose:

The New Palmyra Project seeks to digitally rebuild those structures as they’re being physically deleted—and in doing so, put a spotlight on the project’s creator that could help pressure the Assad regime to release him.

#NEWPALMYRA says that it will “work  to source archeological and historical data, share it with the community, and output art exhibitions, salons, and creative works using this data to carry the rich history of Palmyra forward to new generations.”

All data collected by the project will be released into the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication at newpalmyra.org.

“Bassel’s contributions to Creative Commons have always inspired collaboration, community, and the sharing of culture and knowledge,” said Ryan Merkley, CEO of Creative Commons. “We’re proud to see these historical monuments preserved and protected digitally and shared freely with the world. Because of his leadership, #NEWPALMYRA will live on for everyone as part of the Commons.”

Visit newpalmyra.org for more information and to download the 3-D models.


Collaboration Improves Recognition and Credit

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Connectivity and integrated data are moving ahead as the best minds in metadata, digital identifiers and networked discovery collaborate to ensure that appropriate credit and recognition are given for scientific outputs of all types. Once connected to the research infrastructure through a personal and unique digital identifier, a researcher’s work becomes more discoverable and their need to reenter information into multiple systems to comply with funder, institutional and publisher requirements ultimately will be reduced.


Connected Work for a Complete Picture

An Open Researcher and Contributor ID (ORCID) identifier is a unique digital identifier for a researcher, akin to a personal bar code. An ORCID identifier unambiguously distinguishes you and your work from that of other researchers with similar names and connects your work across versions of your name. Using the equivalent of a digital name when you publish seamlessly connects you to your journal publications, newspaper or magazine articles, book chapters, dissertations, datasets, figshare items, newsletter content, grant awards, peer review activities and more. The connection is independent of how each of these entities formats your name and remains in place whether you change your name, your institution, your country or your field of research.

Because your identifier becomes a part of your published works, it enables others to discover the complete scope of your contributions regardless of which database they are stored in or search engine is being used. Uniquely linked to you and only you, your ORCID identifier can be used to update your professional social profiles including Scopus, ResearcherID and LinkedIn. You can even download a QR code expressing your ORCID identifier for printing on stickers to place on posters and other presentations! This allows potential funders and employers to see your complete record, wherever they are, with a smartphone. Why miss an opportunity to impress?


Collaboration for Improved Recognition and Credit

The ability to uniquely and correctly identify oneself can greatly benefit researchers who contribute in areas outside of journal articles, including curriculum development, policy recommendations and professional activities such as peer review. Publishers are actively pursuing additional venues to provide recognition and credit for the entire range of a scientist’s efforts and to make visible contributions beyond the traditional published article, including peer review. F1000 is participating in ORCID’s recently launched peer review program for their F1000 Prime and F1000 Research reviewers; PLOS will be participating in the future.


Scholarly societies are also looking to use ORCID to provide recognition and credit, according to Alice Meadows, ORCID Director of Communications. The American Geophysical Union wants “not only to recognize peer review activity but to map that against membership so they can see the important work being done by their community in this area,” she says. ORCID is collaborating with Hypothesis.is to incorporate contributor identifiers into web annotations and related publisher workflows. PLOS encourages researchers to include their ORCID identifier when submitting manuscripts and generally when updating their profiles. To facilitate a complete and accurate picture of each author’s contributions, PLOS will be adding ORCID information and newly released Contributor Roles Taxonomy (CRediT) information on author contributions to the existing metadata that is pushed to CrossRef.


Unique Identifiers Help Funders and Researchers Alike

Funders from the Wellcome Trust to the National Institutes of Health now request that grantees use digital identifiers such as ORCID in their systems, and many other funding agencies around the world are following suit. As well as helping funders track the outcomes of their grant dollars, connections between identifiers, publications and grants reduces the burden on grant applicants by providing a means to automate aspects of post-award reporting. As publishers, universities, funders and ORCID continue to work together to connect research data between one another, the key beneficiary of this increasingly integrated environment is clear: the individual researcher.



Image credit: Dale, Flickr.com

The post Collaboration Improves Recognition and Credit appeared first on The Official PLOS Blog.

Read the story of Bassel Khartabil, Syrian prisoner who lives and risks dying for a free Internet

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The original article was written by Stéphanie Vidal in Slate.fr. It has since been published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Please attribute author Stéphanie Vidal and Slate.fr as the place of first publication by linking to the original article. The following has been translated into English by Philippe Aigrain, Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, and Jean-Christophe Peyssard. The translated source text is available here.

Bassel Khartabil by Christopher Adams, CC BY 2.0.

Known worldwide as a free Internet defender and an Open Source culture promoter, he has been detained for three years and a half by the Bashar al-Assad regime and has been transferred from Adra prison to an unknown place on 3 October 2015. On October 10th, his wife has been informed that his name has been deleted from the prison register, without further information on where he could be. None of the parties involved recognizes they have him or not.

Bassel Khartabil, 34, a fervent defender of a free Internet and promoter of open source culture, has been held prisoner since 15 March 2012 in the jails of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. According to the opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention during its 72nd session held in Geneva in April 2015, he had been arbitrarily detained for “peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression” and having “advocated a non-restricted use of the Internet.” Khartabil was transferred on 3 October 2015 from Adra prison, located in the north-eastern outskirts of Damascus, where he has been imprisoned since December 2012. He was taken to an unknown location, possibly for trial. Accused without evidence having ever been presented against him, he is more than ever in danger.

A developer recognized worldwide for his contributions to open source projects such as Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia and Creative Commons, Bassel Khartabil was also involved in local action, based in Damascus at Aiki Lab, a place dedicated to digital art practices and teaching of collaborative technologies. For all of his work, he was awarded by the Foreign Policy website the 19th position on its prestigious Global Thinkers ranking of 2012, and in 2013 won the Digital Freedom Award from the Index on Censorship, an international organization that promotes and defends freedom of expression since 1972.

His imprisonment and his recent transfer deeply affect and concern the Open Source community and activists for human rights and the fundamental freedom of free communication of thoughts and opinions. At the announcement of the news, Jillian C. York, director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization defending civil liberties in the digital world, posted on her Twitter account the following message:

We know petitions won’t convince Syria (or anyone) but it’s all we’ve got. Please help get the word out so Bassel stays safe.

— Chillian J. Yikes! (@jilliancyork) October 3, 2015

In less than 140 characters, Jillian C. York managed to raise two realities: the frightening silence of the Syrian government in response to the actions taken for the release of Bassel Khartabil, and the protection power that lies in the watchfulness of the Internet users for political prisoners fate. On the first point, Ines Osman, Coordinator of the Legal Service of the Alkarama Foundation NGO, linking the victims of violations of human rights in the Arab world and UN mechanisms, confirms the impassivity of the Syrian authorities:

We have taken action at the UN twice, in 2012 and 2014, and the Syrian authorities have never responded to UN requests. This past April, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the release of Bassel, and this appeal once again remained ignored. It is essential that the international community is calling for the implementation of these decisions, which clearly state that his most basic rights were not respected: he was arrested, held incommunicado, tortured, and brought before a military judge with false accusations.

On Saturday morning, we were informed that Bassel had been transferred from the Adra jail towards an unknown destination. Nobody knows his present whereabouts. We immediately informed the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. We hope that this time, the Syrian authorities will answer.

When there is no longer respect for human rights, public calls can only state what one hopes for. This brings us to the second point: the more the affirmation of our hope is shared and present on the Web and social media, the more it may turn to a reality. Bassel’s engagement in favor of a free Internet may have brought him to jail, but the attention that we, citizens on the Internet, give to this case may, to some degree, help bring him out of the darkness. To demonstrate interest for his life is one of the ways by which people can become aware that in Syria, one can die because one uses a smartphone and understands how the Internet works.

Survival in Adra, even under the bombings

To tell Bassel’s story over these last five years is also to try to portray implicitly a devastated Syria, from the beginning of the Syrian revolution 15–18 March, 2011 (first calls to uprising, further to the Egyptian revolution; first “Friday demonstrations” and their brutal repression) to the slow transformation of this revolution into an inextricable armed conflict where 240,000 people have died and millions have been displaced.

Bassel by Joi Ito, CC BY 2.0.

Bassel Khartabil, who was forced by restraint to remain in Syria, is yet another of these prisoners whose total number is hard to confirm: one speaks of 8,000 prisoners, of which 600 are women, in Adra prison alone, three times its nominal capacity. Prisoners have been jailed in Adra for a wide variety of allegations such as drug dealing or drug use, murder or robbery, but it also detains prisoners whose name is known abroad for the engagement in favour of freedom of expression. Mazen Darwish, for instance, is one of them. He is the President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, arrested in February 2012, almost a month to the day before Bassel Khartabil. He was freed temporarily on 10 August 2015 before being found not guilty of the charges of “publishing information on terrorist acts” on the 31st of the same month.

Detained under other charges, Bassel Khartabil was accused in front of military courts, and thus excluded from the general political amnesty of June 2014, which, though opaque, cleared many peaceful activists of the charges brought against them. Khartabil was thus still in Adra when the jail was stormed by the armed rebel group Jaysh al-Islam, who took control of two of its buildings on September 12th, a date that may be symbolic as it is the day after Bashar al-Assad’s fiftieth birthday. The prisoners found themselves caught between bombings by the regular army and fire by the rebels trying to free the jail. Bassel Khartabil survived this deluge of fire, but it seems that around twenty other prisoners were killed and several dozens, possibly up to one  hundred, were injured.

Again, when it comes to Syria, information sources are difficult to obtain. Numbers are approximate, speech is choked in fear, and communication is slowed because of regime surveillance. As stressed by the lawyer Benoît Huet in an op-ed published in the French newspaper Libération, the war in Syria has also become, in a connected world, an information war, raising the question of its dissemination and manipulation. Internationally, this information war prevents us from clearly seeing the facts in a media-pervasive but terribly distant conflict because of its extreme complexity. This should not make us overlook the other information war, which raged this time at local level: in the heart of Syria, personal information and content posted on social networks are used as weapons.

Syrian smartphones, fear in the pocket

The internet, and particularly social media such as Facebook, have been privileged communication venues used by the Syrian population to testify about the revolution of 2011 and the regime’s bloody repression. The documentary Syria: Inside the Secret Revolution, initially broadcast by the BBC on 26 September 2011, gathers some of these videos which, after their publication online, allowed the international community to realize the revolt on Syrian streets.

It should nevertheless not be forgotten that the Internet has not always been authorized in Syria, nor Facebook accessible to its population. As he took office after the death of his father Hafez in June 2000, Bashar al-Assad appeared like a reformer, demonstrating an open spirit in several economic and political domains. He even made access to the Internet possible but, understanding the power of the network, took care to have most social networks censored by 2007, followed by Wikipedia in Arabic in 2008.

From the start, the network was monitored: those who would go to cybercafés had to show proof of identification and their web history was kept, as explains Wahid Saqr, former officer of security of the Syrian government, to Mishal Husain in the second episode of How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring, as well as another documentary broadcast by the BBC on 15 September 2011.

It was only in February 2011 that Bashar al-Assad permitted access to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The gesture, intended to be magnanimous, was quickly interpreted as threatening, because social network were also appearing to be a useful tool for the government to surveil its population and gather information on those who could, through words and images, be opponents. Employed as digital surveillance weapons, these social networks have been used to track those whose voice could rise, virtually or for real, against the Damascus regime, but also all those who had computer means or competences.

Dana Trometer, researcher and producer of the documentaries quoted above, could feel this dreadful reality:

People who I met for all movies on which I worked on the Arab world, and especially of Syria, have very often been forced to escape or have unfortunately disappeared shortly after our interviews.

Even today, on the road of exile, refugees explain that it is particularly dangerous to carry a mobile phone. This simple possession can lead to arrest — or much worse — by Syrian government representatives or ISIS members who ask them, at their respective checkpoints, to give their Facebook username and password to determine their political allegiance.

Bassel Khartabil said that in Syria, holding a mobile phone was much more dangerous than walking around with a nuclear bomb. Because of his job as a developer and his commitments to the promotion of a free Internet, it was impossible for him to get rid of his computers and connected mobile phones, nor to forget his knowledge of information technologies. On 31 January 2012, two weeks before being arrested, he posted the following tweet:

the people who are in real danger never leave their countries. they are in danger for a reason and for that they don’t leave #Syria — Bassel Safadi (@basselsafadi) January 31, 2012

Wanting to build: the AikiLab and Palmyra Project

His role of Creative Commons lead in Syria and his participation, at the international level, in the free culture movement, led him to frequent travels abroad, but he would always go back home. It was in Poland, at the September 2011 Creative Commons Summit, that his friend Jon Phillips, who has since become the leader of the #FreeBassel campaign, saw him for the last time:

I begged him to not go back, that he would be killed or made a prisoner. He tried to reassure me by telling that maybe he would not be risking that, and that anyway, his friends, his family, his love was there, that he could not stay away. We cried and it was really ugly, then we spent the rest of the night laughing and designing a new world. When the sun rose, he took his cab, waved a last time through the open window, and I remember thinking that it was the last time I would see him; that he would be arrested as soon as he got out of the plane.

It didn’t exactly happen like that: Bassel Khartabil got a few more months of respite, during which he continued his local engagement. Syria was under an embargo, and only certain proprietary software was permitted to be taught in universities. In 2010, Bassel Khartabil thus founded the AikiLab, described, depending on the person, as a hackerspace or a cultural center, in order to allow education in social media and open source technologies.

Developers, artists, professors, journalists and local entrepreneurs would frequently visit the AikiLab space, described by artist Dino Ahmad Ali as a large apartment with two rooms where anyone could come to work and even sleep if the task was long, and drink a coffee or a beer in the kitchen to give oneself courage, or to relax. The large living room was fit for conferences, and Internet celebrities visited to share their knowledge, such as Mozilla founder Mitchell Baker MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito.

Dino Ahmad Ali and Bassel Khartabil were also colleagues. They were both working for a publishing house called Al-Aous, on Discover-Syria.com, a website providing cultural information on Syria — Dino was artistic director and Bassel the technical director. Bassel Khartabil dedicated years of his life to a project which was particularly close to his heart, the Palmyra Project. On a CD-ROM, this project was an ambitious virtual tour of the ancient city, fully reconstructed in 3D images from documents of scientific and archaeological research. “Initially, Bassel was only dealing with programming, but as a person with multiple talents, he learned to use the Maya software and began to produce 3D models,” remembers Georges Dahdouh, who joined the team several months as head of 3D modeling. “He also learned the functioning of a game engine to conceive the path of the virtual tour in 3D and at the end, together with other team members, he would work on every other aspect except for copyright and research, for which a team was dedicated to the study of historical sources and interviews with archaeologists.”

Oriented for a general audience, Project Palmyra was expected to constitute a sort of digital encyclopedia on this city, also called Tadmor, bringing its return through the gathering of images and texts and discovering new technologies involving specialists and archaeologists. Khaled Al-Assad was the director of antiques of Palmyra between 1963 and 2003 and a friend of Bassel Khartabil. This scholar was beheaded on 18 August 2015 by ISIS, before his body was exposed on the streets by his executioners and photos broadcast on social media.

Since the CD-ROM has not been published, the members of the #FreeBassel campaign decided to revive Palmyra Project by launching on 15 October 2015 #NewPalmyra, an online community and a platform of data storage, in order to honor the work of Bassel. The project is directed by Barry Threw, a digital artist and director of software for Obscura, who also contributed to #racingextinction, a video projection on the Empire State Building. Behind both hashtags is a similar desire to use architecture to raise public awareness by displaying endangered species on one of the most famous skyscrapers in NYC, raising awareness on climate change, or by putting digital technology at the service of a threatened Syria. “The Ancient City of Palmyra was a vital gateway for commerce and cultures,” said Threw. “With #NewPalmyra, we oppose the foolish destruction of archaeological treasures led by ISIS by the will of construction of a man like Bassel Khartabil. We hope this project will raise awareness on his work and contribute to his liberation.”

A civilian pursued by a military tribunal

On 15 March 2012, while leaving his place of work in the district of al-Mazzeh in Damascus, Bassel was arrested by men of Branch 215, one of the military intelligence services in Damascus. After having been interrogated and tortured for five days, he was accompanied to his house so that his computers and documents could be seized. He was then detained in secret for nine months. We know since then that he was first taken to Branch 248 of military intelligence and that he spent eight months in solitary confinement in the Adra prison. He was presented to a military court on 9 December 2012.

“The military court, specialised in trials of military criminals in times of war, reports to the Defense minister and not to the Justice minister. It is composed of three soldiers, including one president. Its procedures are kept secret, and the accused do not have the right to a lawyer’s assistance,” explains Noura Ghazi, attorney and human rights activist, who was engaged to Bassel Khartabil a short time before he was arrested. “Sentences are particularly severe and result in death. Penalties are executed immediately, preventing any re-examination of the sentences. Since 2011 events, when the military court was activated to persecute peaceful activists such as Bassel, Anas and Salah Shughri and many others. This is a clear violation of the law, the Constitution and even the founding decree of this court.”

A civilian without a lawyer on trial by a military court, Bassel Khartabil saw his trial last for no more than a few minutes, without any evidence presented against him, as underlined the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. After this expedited and unfair trial, he was immediately transferred to the prison of Sidnaya, known to be one of the most infamous of the regime.

Bassel was then sent again to Adra prison, where he could receive a visit from his family on 26 December 2012. They found him in an alarming physical and psychological state. He obtained the right to marry Noura Ghazi in prison on 7 January 2013. He has been detained in Adra until 3 October 2015. According to a message posted on that day on the Facebook page of the #FreeBassel campaign, he was “transferred from the Adra prison to an unknown location after a patrol, which origin is unknown, came to ask him to arrange his affairs. It is assumed that he has been transferred to the headquarters of the military police civil tribunal in the district of al-Qaboun. Once more, we do not know where Bassel is, and are very worried.”

Bassel Khartabil, developer, teacher and pacifist, who survived torture, solitary confinement, hunger and bombing, certainly lives under the knife of a terrible sentence. Do not forget, you certainly have a mobile phone in your pocket.

Collaboration with Microsoft Extends Article Visibility and Lifecycle

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As part of ongoing efforts to improve discovery, reuse and impact of PLOS content, articles published by PLOS and available in PDF can be easily uploaded, discovered, shared and recombined on the new online service from Microsoft, Docs.com. This provides authors an environment to package their PLOS articles with related content post-publication – such as additional data or slides – thus extending the life of the article. In addition, exposing content through diverse venues enables the broader community to interact with PLOS content.

Docs.com from Microsoft allows individuals to create their own content collections around a particular theme or scientific topic. For example, users can now combine PLOS articles with PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDFs and links to websites, including discussion venues such as the PLOS Science Wednesday on redditscience Ask Me Anything series, to generate personalized, comprehensive and cohesive collections for easy sharing.

Microsoft reached out to PLOS to add quality scientific content to Docs.com in order to create an environment where scientists and the public see trusted work. Initially the top 400 articles from each PLOS journal by PubMed Central download metrics were uploaded to Docs.com to establish a foundation of diverse and highly regarded scientific content ready to discover and share. More articles will be added in the future. Anyone browsing Docs.com can easily discover PLOS content: a search using “science research” brings up PLOS articles with the option to like, share and add to a collection. PLOS collaborated with the Docs.com team to ensure that PLOS articles uploaded to the platform are clearly legible and maintain the integrity of the CrossMark badge. Clicking on the badge will direct viewers to the update status of the document.

This collaboration adds to the list of organizations such as Dryad and figshare working together with PLOS to increase the visibility, reach and reuse of Open Access content and to ensure that content lives beyond the publication. As the Docs.com platform develops, personal collections will be an interesting tool for scientists to curate pertinent and up-to-date content for online CVs, resumes and portfolios, journal clubs, group meetings and research collaborations.

The post Collaboration with Microsoft Extends Article Visibility and Lifecycle appeared first on The Official PLOS Blog.

Creative Commons Board of Directors approves resolution calling for Bassel Safadi release

Creativecommons.org -

At its meeting on October 16, 2015, the Creative Commons Board of Directors unanimously approved the following motion:

Consensus Resolution re: Bassel Safadi 

WHEREAS: Creative Commons is hosting its bi-annual Global Summit in Seoul, South Korea from Oct 15-17, 2015, an event that has previously been attended by Bassel Safadi (Khartabil), where he was an active and valued contributor, and where he is today profoundly missed by his friends and colleagues.

WHEREAS: Mr. Safadi has served faithfully and diligently as the Public Lead of CC Syria since 2009, and among other immeasurable contributions:

  • Built Aiki Lab Community Center in Damascus that has hosted talks from key figures in the open web movement in support of Creative Commons communities in the Arab region;

  • Volunteered on countless free culture projects including Creative Commons, Mozilla, Wikipedia, and Openclipart;

  • Participated in and was a leader of several Creative Commons Arab Regional Meetings, including work to forge a unified Arabic translation of important CC licensing and public domain concepts;

  • Was named in 2012 as a one of the Top Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy for insisting on a peaceful Syrian revolution; and

  • Was awarded by Index on Censorship the Digital Freedom Award in 2013.

WHEREAS: Mr. Safadi’s contributions to Creative Commons have always inspired collaboration, community, and the sharing of culture and knowledge, including his leadership in the development of the #NewPalmyra, and his activism and involvement in the CC community and open internet community is deeply missed since his arrest and imprisonment without trial or assistance of counsel in March 2012.

NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: that the Board of Directors hereby calls on Mr. Safadi’s captors for his immediate and safe release.


New NIH Biosketch Brings Opportunity for Change

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There is an intense ongoing conversation in the scientific community on how best to determine the value of scholarly work, in reaction to what is perceived as widespread misuse of the journal impact factor. As of May 25, 2015 scientists of all career stages, from early career researchers to established investigators, have the opportunity to formally demonstrate to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) the impact of their work through a revised CV form. This Biosketch, a standardized presentation of a scientist’s qualifications used in grant and job applications, contains a new Part C: Contributions to Science, in which scientists are asked to document the importance and influence of their work independent of journal impact factor. Here, Article-Level Metrics including views, citations, saves, discussions and downloads, social media activity and global media interest can be included to provide a rounded picture of a work’s influence and value to funders, hiring and promotion committees.

With this in mind, PLOS spoke with Dr. Bruce Alberts, Chancellor’s Leadership Chair in Biochemistry and Biophysics for Science and Education, University of California, San Francisco and former Editor-in-Chief, Science. The focus of the discussion was the appropriate determination of an article’s impact and what he thinks the Biosketch opportunity provides to scientists, especially early career researchers and those on the academic job market. However, as might be expected, other topics quickly arose including the importance of ORCiD, the role of professional societies and the special perspectives of both young and established professionals in transforming scientific publishing — and more generally science as a profession.

Select highlights of the conversation with Dr. Alberts are presented below in advance of Open Access Week, October 19-25, 2015 with the theme this year – Open for Collaboration – paralleling aspects of Dr. Alberts’ comments and current projects.

A Problem of Bias
Dr. Alberts gets right to the point. The journal impact factor is a “terrible indicator” of the importance of any scientific publication, he says. The narrow reliance on this indicator puts enormous pressure on post-docs to generate work that will be favorable to acceptance by the few high impact factor publications. It’s not merely that the direction of the research is dictated a priori by the attraction of publishing in a top journal, it’s that relying on this single metric “can bias people away from good science and even to inappropriately selecting data for publication.” This, believes Alberts, helps to explain the unacceptable quantity of irreproducible results currently published in the biomedical literature. Manuscripts should be written “without distortion” but doing so is challenging in consideration of career and funding pressures that create an environment ripe for bias, whether conscious or unconscious.

An inflated value of publishing in high-impact journals is seriously affecting the way that scientists judge each other, as well as adversely impacting the reproducibility of research. Good models of scientists judging the work of others and determining the importance of a work at the article level are out there, however. Alberts likes the model used by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as well as by an increasing number of universities in which only a limited, small number of a scientist’s publications can be considered during expert reviews of research quality, with the expectation that peers will actually read and analyze that scientist’s major contributions.

The Role of Societies
The American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) and the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) are two societies mentioned by Alberts that are currently working to improve the way that scholarly contributions are evaluated. “Societies work for the benefit of all institutions,” says Alberts, and that makes them an “ideal organizations to advocate for change.” They have a large role to play in shifting and guiding the conversation. “Scientific societies must pound on the issue” of avoiding the damaging effects on science of misused journal impact factors, while emphasizing the much better ways available to evaluate individual scientists.

New Forms of Recognition
Additional recognition and credit for intellectual contributions to the publication process, such as for scientific reviewing or creating datasets, would benefit faculty of all career stages, including those in the transition to independence. Others have considered that this might take the form of a citation for manuscript review or letters of acknowledgment to department heads from journal publishers, as PLOS has offered. Since the 2012 Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) which attracted massive support from both individuals and institutions, concrete efforts at establishing and adopting more relevant and pragmatic evaluation of significance at both universities and funders are underway. But wide-scale adoption by institutions and private funders will require the recognition of these new forms of credentials at the highest levels of federal grant funding agencies, including the NIH. The revised NIH Biosketch is a step in the right direction.

Working Together
Senior investigators have often found a niche for themselves that makes them too satisfied with the status quo, so “the momentum for change must come from the young,” says Alberts. The reality, however, is that the young are not in decision making positions at the executive level, so it takes scholars such as Alberts, Harold Varmus, Shirley Tilghman, Marc Kirschner plus the 12 others on the Steering Committee for a new Rescuing Biomedical Research movement to provide conduits to the highest level. Educators, students, researchers, funders, clinicians, policy makers and publishers all have a stake in building an improved scientific culture aligned with the values of the scientific community. Alberts and his colleagues on the Steering Committee are urging transition to a culture of science that is more conducive to innovation and inspiration, as well as one that is less tolerant of irreproducibility and the hyped importance of results that can lead to public mistrust of science. The Rescuing Biomedical Research Steering Committee understands that established and respected individuals must actively advocate for change, whether that change is related to evaluating the merit of work at the article, rather than journal level, or providing recognition for contributions such as manuscript reviewing that are largely currently not formally acknowledged. As the Rescuing Biomedical Research homepage states, “doing nothing is not an option. The stakes are enormous.”

This is not the first conversation on The PLOS Blogs Network or in PLOS journals on the progress necessary in order to transform scholarly communication, improve reproducibility and enhance public confidence in the scientific research endeavor. Of note, however, is that with the recent actions of the NIH and the Rescuing Biomedical Research effort, the conversation has moved from those in the trenches of grant and job applications to those at the upper echelons making funding, hiring and promotion decisions.

The post New NIH Biosketch Brings Opportunity for Change appeared first on The Official PLOS Blog.

A plea from the Commons: #FreeBassel now

Creativecommons.org -

As the Creative Commons Global Summit kicks off this week in Seoul, we are acutely aware of the absence of Bassel Khartabil, the Palestinian-Syrian open source software engineer and activist who led the CC Syria affiliate team. He has been imprisoned in Syria since March 2012.

It is an incredibly dangerous time for Bassel. Earlier this month we heard that Bassel had been transferred from Adra Prison to an unknown location. Bassel’s name has been removed from the register at Adra Prison, and his bed has been assigned to another prisoner. There is little to no other information about his status, health, or whereabouts.

In this uncertain time it’s now more important than ever for our community to raise awareness about Bassel’s situation and re-commit to calling for his safe release. Here’s some things we all can do:

Keep Bassel in the spotlight. #FreeBassel.



Open licensing guide for foundation staff

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Government funders are increasingly adopting open licensing policies for copyrightable works and data they create or commission. Over the last few years we’ve been excited to work with philanthropic foundations to implement similar open licensing policies for their grant-funded and in-house created works.

Because there is a limit to the funds available to even the largest foundations, most try to use their resources in a way that will have the greatest impact on the problems they hope to solve. We believe that in almost all cases, the copyrightable works produced with grant funding will have more impact on those problems if they are published under an open license.

An open licensing policy is made possible through the foundation’s use of open licenses, whereby the acceptance of foundation funds requires grantees to share content developed with those funds broadly under an open license, such as the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. In addition to grant-funded content, foundations are adopting open licensing for the resources they produce themselves, such as website content, photographs, and publications. 

Several leading foundations have adopted default CC BY licensing policies in the last few years, such as the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (for all grant-funded research), and the Vancouver Foundation.

Recently the Hewlett Foundation has revised and released an Open Licensing Toolkit for staff. This document is a guide for foundation program officers so staff are well-informed on the default policy and can work effectively with grantees on open licensing. It answers common questions, explains the Creative Commons license, and provides best practices for marking different types of works under open licenses. The toolkit also includes sample language for grant proposals and reporting requirements.

Hewlett has generously agreed to license the toolkit under CC BY so that other foundations can utilize it for their specific grant workflows. Thanks to Hewlett for this great resource!

Hewlett Foundation Open Licensing Toolkit for Staff (Google docs)

Open Access Week 2015 – Open for Collaboration

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Now in its eighth year, Open Access Week provides an opportunity to celebrate progress and bring additional awareness to help make Open Access – the founding principle of PLOS – the new norm in scholarship and research globally.

Celebrate Open Access Week 2015 by participating in and sharing some highlights from PLOS and the broader Open Access community:

  • Join the conversation during PLOS Science Wednesday on redditscience – a weekly Ask Me Anything (AMA) with PLOS authors; October 21 features Robert Kaplan and John Ioannidis on how more comprehensive reporting in scientific research can improve study replication, statistical methods and scientific standards
  • Explore the Open Access Spectrum (OAS) Evaluation Tool that, based on the HowOpenIsIt?® guide, provides a quantitative score of a journal’s degree of openness
  • Distinguish yourself and connect your work by registering for your Open Researcher and Contributor – or ORCiD – identifier; learn more in the Open Access Week blog post
  • Understand the potential for the new NIH Biosketch to change the way scientists are evaluated, with comments from Bruce Alberts on this and Rescuing Biomedical Research, a collaboration among leading scientists including PLOS co-founder Harold Varmus, to ensure the success of biomedical science trainees
  • Catch the debut of PLOScast, a podcast focused on science, academia and the future of scholarship
  • Learn about PLOS collaborations with IBM Watson to improve decision making for those at the forefront of clinical care, biomedical research and policy development; and with Microsoft to enable individuals to curate personal collections through docs.com
  • For those of you at UC Santa Barbara on Friday October 23, hear from PLOS ONE Associate Editor Gina Alvino about technology and innovation developments at PLOS that keep Open Access exciting
And if that’s not enough, below is additional content related to the Open for Collaboration theme – enjoy Open Access Week 2015!

The post Open Access Week 2015 – Open for Collaboration appeared first on The Official PLOS Blog.

Supporting user rights for mass digitization of culture

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Assignments of copyrights photostat copies by mollyali, CC BY-NC 2.0

A few months ago the United States Copyright Office issued a request for comments on an extended collective licensing (ECL) pilot program they are considering for mass digitization projects. The Office thinks that such a program would permit greater access to cultural works by allowing institutions to engage in mass digitization and then licence those digital collections for a fee. Creative Commons and Creative Commons USA submitted comments to the Copyright Office in coordination with Wikimedia and Internet Archive.

We urged the Office to reconsider the pilot because the fair use doctrine has actually been strengthened in the U.S. due to recent court cases. This has increased the certainty with which a number of entities can engage in mass digitization. And even though the Office points toward similar pilots in Europe, their reliance on ECL is a response to the inflexibility of the current EU copyright framework. Some European cultural heritage institutions are willing to accept the ECL framework because they have no other option. U.S. institutions—such as university libraries—can rely on fair use.

The ECL system as proposed by the Office would not work well to support mass digitization projects. Many authors are not primarily interested in financial rewards—for example those that write scholarly books. And if there is no expectation of revenues for the creator, paying a collective rights organization collect fees to use such works is inefficient and in opposition to the intentions of these authors.

The proposed ECL scheme in the U.S. would be more powerful if it could do more, but the Office has chosen to favor a pilot program that would “facilitate the work of those who wish to digitize and provide full access to certain collections of books, photographs, or other materials for nonprofit educational or research purposes.” By limiting the proposed ECL scope to noncommercial uses, the Office inadvertently makes a stronger case that the activities of digitizers and users will be considered a fair use and that the ECL is not needed in the first place.

We explained that if the Office ultimately pursues an ECL pilot, it should affirmatively exclude works that are publicly licensed and allow other authors who wish to be excluded to apply a Creative Commons license to their work.

In the end, we agreed with many of the libraries that if the Copyright Office is serious about helping to increase legal mass digitization of our shared cultural heritage, it should instead focus on: 1) Encouraging the application of fair use to digitization projects; 2) Promoting the development of better copyright ownership and status information through enhanced registries, rethinking recordation, and asking copyright owners to identify themselves and their works through an internationally-compliant formalities system; and 3) Providing better access to existing copyright ownership and status information by digitizing or encouraging others to digitize and provide free access to all of the Copyright Office’s records.

Comments of Creative Commons and CC USA (PDF)


CC0 now available in Polish – official translation published

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Post written by John Weitzmann

Creative Commons and the European group of CC Affiliates are proud and happy to announce the launch of the official Polish translation of CC0 version 1.0.

Translation is an essential part of our efforts to be a truly global project, offering legal tools that work for everyone regardless of language and origins of the respective legal system. Our tools aren’t finished until everyone who wants to use them has the ability to understand the license in the language they know best. The Polish CC0 translation exemplifies how our affiliates, in this case Centrum Cyfrowe in Warsaw as hosting organization of Creative Commons Poland together with other volunteers, are achieving that goal. Together with the Polish Coalition for Open Education, CC Poland had engaged in extensive analysis of the usability of CC0 under Polish law in advance of conducting the translation, this included engagement with the Polish Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the wider community of legal experts in Poland and abroad.

The Polish CC0 translation has passed the various internal and external stages of the standard process divised for this and is now complete. Further info on the public discussion that forms part of this process can be found here (in Polish). Key contributors in the process were Helena Rymar, Marcin Serafin and Katarzyna Strycharz, and further expertise and comments were provided by Krzysztof Siewicz and Adrian Niewęgłowski. Alek Tarkowski of CC Poland and Piotr Wasilewski presented on CC0 in October 2015 at a meeting organized by the Department of Intellectual Property Law of Jagiellonian University in collaboration with Creative Commons Poland, focussing on CC0 and the boundaries of copyright law.

Polish cultural institutions for a long time had been interested in CC0 as a tool, particularly because of their collaboration with Europeana. The team of CC Poland therefore expects a large increase in the use of the CC0 by libraries, archives and museums. We are proud to hear that for example the Polish National Institute for Museums and Public Collections (Narodowy Instytut Muzealnictwa i Ochrony Zbiorów – NIMOZ) in a brochure recommends the use of CC0 for digitized museum resources.

From now on, CC0 in Polish is available on the CC server at https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/legalcode.pl.

CC BY-SA 4.0 now one-way compatible with GPLv3

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The declaration increases interoperability of the commons for games, hardware designs, and more

Photo by Hugh Llewelyn, licensed BY-SA 2.0, available on Wikimedia Commons.

In January we officially opened a public consultation (blog post) on CC BY-SA 4.0 unilateral compatibility with GPLv3, in accordance with our ShareAlike compatibility process and criteria. Following additional months of detailed analysis, discussion and deliberation with the Free Software Foundation and other stakeholders, we are very pleased to announce that we have added a declaration of one-way compatibility from CC BY-SA 4.0 to GPLv3 to our compatible licenses page!

Put simply this means you now have permission to adapt another licensor’s work under CC BY-SA 4.0 and release your contributions to the adaptation under GPLv3 (while the adaptation relies on both licenses, a reuser of the combined and remixed work need only look to the conditions of GPLv3 to satisfy the attribution and ShareAlike conditions of BY-SA 4.0).

This doesn’t mean that you should apply GPLv3 to your revised BY-SA 4.0 work — in most cases it makes sense to release adaptations under the same license as the original, even if not required (e.g., in the case of CC BY or CC0) to facilitate ongoing collaboration with the “upstream” and peer “forks”. But if your use case calls for or requires (in the case of remixing CC BY-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 material to make a single adaptation) releasing a CC BY-SA 4.0 adaptation under GPLv3, now you can: copyright in the guise of incompatible copyleft licenses is no longer a barrier to growing the part of the commons you’re working in. We hope that this new compatibility not only removes a barrier, but helps inspire new and creative combinations of software and culture, design, education, and science, and the adoption of software best practices such as source control (e.g., through “git”) in these fields.

Increasing Interoperability

Since 2005 Creative Commons has been working to increase the legal interoperability of the commons — roughly the ability to use works in the commons together, usually in the form of adaptation, without legal barriers. This has meant retiring little-used CC licenses that were incompatible with other licenses — meaning works under the now-retired licenses could not be remixed with works in the commons under more popular licenses. It has meant working with other license stewards and user communities to migrate projects to licenses compatible with those used for the largest pools of relevant works, as when we worked with the Free Software Foundation and the Wikimedia community to facilitate the latter migrating from the GNU Free Documentation License to CC BY-SA 3.0 as its default license. It has meant working with governments to use and mandate broadly used licenses, or the least ensure that government-specific licenses are compatible with broadly used licenses, most often CC-BY.

Finally, this long-term push for increasing interoperability meant developing an explicit mechanism for declaring compatibility between CC BY-SA and similar share-alike or copyleft licenses. Absent such a mechanism, works under different copyleft licenses cannot be used together to form an adaptation, as copyleft licenses typically require that adaptations be released under the same license as the original work. We first introduced the mechanism in CC BY-SA 3.0 (2007) but it has yet to be used for that license — the most pressing interoperability barrier at the time was mitigated instead through a temporary allowance for license migration (see Wikimedia above) — and we believe compatibility should only be declared after much careful analysis and deliberation. With CC BY-SA 4.0 (2013) the mechanism was enhanced, allowing the possibility of unilateral as well as bilateral compatibility. Nearly a year ago CC BY-SA 4.0 was declared bilaterally compatible with the Free Art License 1.3.

Since the beginning of version 4.0 consultations (2011) and before, we have been discussing with the Free Software Foundation and other stakeholders the possibility of declaring unilateral compatibility from CC BY-SA 4.0 to GPLv3, allowing new contributions to adaptations of works under the former to be released under the latter, and thus also allowing adaptations to be created from works under both licenses. The demand for such an arrangement comes from a variety of use cases, including games and other smart artifacts for which it isn’t always easy to separate software and non-software, hardware designs for which both CC BY-SA and GPL family licenses are popular, and artists who wish to require that adaptations of adaptations not only be allowed, but facilitated through availability of a “preferred form of the work for making modifications”, as the GPL requires. These may seem like niche issues if you think only of media such as text, images, and data. But as the saying goes, “software is eating the world”; the winning educational resources, cultural artifacts, and research inputs and outputs of the future will be software, designed by software, processed by software, or all three. Mitigating legal barriers to remixing “software” and “non-software” in the commons is one thing we can do to help ensure the commons remains vibrant.

Increasing interoperability of the commons is a very long-term, ongoing process, in part enabled by cooperation between license stewards within and across particular domains. CC BY-SA 4.0 one-way compatibility with GPLv3 is a huge win. It took many years to achieve. There are still many incompatibilities among licenses used for data, hardware designs, software, and other materials, both within those domains and especially across them. What commons interoperability fixes do you want to see in the next 5-10 years?

Institute for Open Leadership 2: Apply now

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Cape Town by Kemal Kestelli on Flickr, CC BY-ND 2.0.

Earlier this year, Creative Commons and the Open Policy Network hosted the first Institute for Open Leadership (IOL). The IOL is a training and support program to empower new leaders interested in crafting and implementing an open licensing policy within their discipline. We had a diverse cohort of 14 fellows who came together for a week in January, 2015 in San Francisco. The fellows worked with mentors and each other to hone their open policy project ideas. Since then they’ve working within their institutions and fields to implement their open policy plan.

Today we’re opening the application period for the next round of the institute. IOL 2 will take place March 14-18, 2016 in Cape Town, South Africa.

Application instructions are on the Institute for Open Leadership webpage. Applications are due October 30, 2015. We will accept 15 IOL fellows.

We encourage applications from a variety of areas, including the public sector, cultural heritage institutions, publishing, and scientific labs. We’re interested in individuals who are eager to become experts in open licensing, pursue new opportunities for open sharing of content and data, and directly influence policy decisions in their institution and field of work.

Thanks again to the William and Flora Hewlett Foundationand the Open Society Foundations for their support for the Institute for Open Leadership.

Creative Commons awarded $450,000 from the Arcadia Fund to support open access publishing for authors

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Creative Commons is pleased to announce a grant award in the amount of $450,000 over 3 years from the Arcadia Fund, the charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin. Since its inception in 2001, Arcadia has awarded grants in excess of $331 million. Arcadia works to protect endangered culture and nature. Creative Commons will use funds from Arcadia to develop tools that complement the current CC license suite and empower authors to retain or regain their right to publish so they can make their scholarly and academic works available for public use.

Building on the success of the current CC licenses — now with nearly 1 billion licenses in use across over 9 million websites — Creative Commons is enthusiastic about developing tools that can be used by authors who “write to be read” but face all too common barriers to making their research openly available. These resources will be developed for global use, taking into account country-specific copyright laws, customs, and language. Once in widespread use, these tools are expected to increase the number of articles and publications that are available for broad public use.

To accomplish this ambitious goal, Creative Commons will work with CC’s international network of over 100 affiliates working in over 80 regions around the world. This core group will next convene at the 2015 Creative Commons Global Summit on October 14-17 in Seoul, South Korea. A dedicated summit session will be held to discuss the best approach to formulating tools and materials that enable authors to retain and regain their rights, while also addressing the needs of publishers. Collaborators on this project include Authors Alliance, Free Culture Trust, and SPARC, all of whom are dedicated to supporting authors, institutions, and the public in promoting access to research and scholarly work. Importantly, this group also includes academic publishers who support or have interest in promoting open access principles.

Creative Commons is grateful to the Arcadia Fund for its essential support of our work. We look forward to sharing our progress and success with all of you!

About Creative Commons and our collaborators

Creative Commons enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools to help realize the full potential of the Internet—universal access to research and education, and full participation in culture.

Authors Alliance is a membership-driven non-profit organization that supports and advocates for authors who write to be read.

Free Culture Trust is dedicated to helping authors and artists make their works widely available by removing bureaucratic and structural barriers to sharing.

SPARC is an international alliance of organizations dedicated to creating a more open system for sharing research and scholarship.

European migrant crisis: Czech teachers create and share resources

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This is a guest post by Jan Gondol.

Pencil by Mari Pi, Public Domain.

In the midst of the European migrant crisis, the Czech Republic is showing the power of open educational resources (OER).

EDUin, a non-profit organization based in Prague worked with the Czech organization of civic education teachers to address the current migrant crisis. Students in schools were asking questions and wanted to understand what was going on. Why are so many people on the run? What is the difference between a refugee and a migrant? What is the difference between migration, emigration and immigration?

The teachers worked on developing the materials for Czech schools, and the resulting worksheets are now shared on their website (in the Czech language). These worksheets are licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0, and there are different versions for ages 6-11 and ages 12-16.

“This activity shows that open educational resources can help react to a new situation very quickly in a way traditional textbooks cannot,” says Tamara Kováčová, coordinator of EDUin’s open education program. “Because of fast distribution, materials get to schools around the country in a matter of days. Teachers get support in time when they need it and teaching is up-to-date. Furthermore, it’s possible to join several school subjects together on phenomenon based learning principle.”

Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (DRAFT)

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Files. By Pieter J. Smits, CC BY 3.0

Creative Commons believes that public and foundation funded resources should be openly licensed by default. We have written extensively about the importance of open licensing policies in government, foundations, and have built the Open Policy Network and the Institute for Open Leadership with our open policy partners around the world. In the past few years, the United States federal government has accelerated its interest in and implementation of open licensing policy requirements on the products of publicly funded grants and contracts.

To support the education of government staff creating, adopting and implementing open licensing policies – we’ve created an Open Licensing Policy Toolkit. While this draft is tailored for U.S. government federal staff, it can easily be revised to meet the needs of any country. We share it here under a CC BY 4.0 license hoping others will take, improve, and modify it to meet regional, national and/or local needs. We look forward to seeing what you create… and we are happy to collaborate with you should you identify an opportunity to work with your government on broad open licensing requirements on publicly funded resources.

Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Google docs version)
Open Licensing Policy Toolkit (Wiki version)

PLOS Publication Costs Update

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Open Access scientific publishing makes scholarship available globally and relieves scholarly institutions from the overwhelming burden of commercial subscription fees. Because of this proven success, institutions, funders, foundations and government agencies dedicate significant resources to encourage authors to publish in Open Access journals.

For the past six years, PLOS has absorbed increasing publishing costs without raising author fees. At the same time, PLOS invests resources to improve the quality of PLOS ONE output, thoroughly checking for ethics, competing interests and robust science. As a result, readers can be confident that research published in PLOS ONE is scientifically rigorous and reflects thorough peer review. In addition, PLOS invests millions of dollars in research and development to increase the efficiency, transparency and speed of scholarly communication for all its journals. The center of this investment is the platform ApertaTM, a new submission system currently under development that aspires to substantially improve the publishing experience for authors, reviewers, editors and readers.

To support these endeavors, the Article Processing Charge (APC) for PLOS ONE authors will increase to $1,495 as of October 1, 2015 (effective 10:00 AM PDT). This is the first increase in the PLOS ONE APC since 2009.

PLOS ONE promotes a broad global reach designed to amplify the journal and individual article awareness. Currently, PLOS ONE journal articles garner more than 1.9 million article downloads per month.

PLOS remains committed to ensuring that lack of funds not be a barrier to Open Access publication by providing support to authors with financial need. Periodically, PLOS adjusts the criteria for its financial assistance programs to better reflect demand and the global economy and as of October 1, 2015 (effective 10:00 AM PDT) will utilize the HINARI standard for the Global Participation Initiative. The Publication Fee Assistance program remains unchanged.

The post PLOS Publication Costs Update appeared first on The Official PLOS Blog.

Momentum for Article-Level Metrics: New Uses

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Reproduced here from the original June 11, 2014 PLOS Newsroom post

The visibility of a research article extends beyond the journal in which it appears, and today includes press coverage, discussion forums, social networks, blog posts, post-publication reference managers and downloads. To best represent the visibility and influence of individual articles, the scientific community is turning toward article-level metrics, which in the broadest sense are metrics that apply at the article level rather than the journal level. The field has rapidly expanded, and in addition to the more academic tracking related to citation and downloads, there is now the ability to track the more social aspects of how articles are used, shared and discussed whether via CiteULike, Facebook or Twitter. Article-level metrics provide granular information on how individual articles are used.

Article-level metrics in practice currently come in two flavors: ALMs and altmetrics. ALMs refer to the suite of metrics, from social to academic, with a focus on academic tracking and altmetrics refers to the suite of metrics, from social to academic, with a focus on social tracking. Authors, publishers, funders and patients turn to one or another, or both, depending on need. PLOS ALMs provide metrics across a suite of sources that includes HTML, XML, and PDF downloads, PubMed Central use, Scopus, Web of Science and CrossRef citations, CituULike and Mendeley reference management services, Researchblogging.org and Nature Blogs, and social media platforms Twitter and Facebook.

Authors Engage

Researchers use article-level metrics not only for their own interest in tracking an article’s distribution and use but also to showcase the influence of their work in tenure and promotion packages. When scientist Steve Pettifer at the University of Manchester, UK, applied for promotion in 2013 he incorporated article-level metrics, rather than just citations or downloads, into his promotion package to best showcase the influence of his 2008 PLOS Computational Biology review article, one of the most viewed and downloaded reviews to be published in any PLOS journal. Although it’s not possible to know if the metrics helped him get the promotion, “I’m definitely a convert,” he says, according to his interview in Nature. For Emilio Bruna, professor, Department of Wildlife Ecology & Conservation, University of Florida, active use of Impactstory metrics was a positive experience. “I included Impactstory data in my portfolios for promotion to full professor and selection to UF’s Academy of Distinguished Teaching Scholars,” he says. Both applications were successful.

ALMs are an “intuitive way for non-scientists to understand the relevance and interest of seemingly esoteric research,” says Andrew Farke, expert in dinosaur evolution and Augustyn Family Curator of Paleontology in Claremont, California. For a privately funded researcher “metrics can be helpful to show supporters of our research program the impact that is made by their contributions,” he says. ALMs benefit readers of scientific literature at all levels by helping to guide them to the most important and influential work among the overwhelming amount of scientific literature published today, both in Open Access and subscription journals. Those leveraging ALMs and the inherent post-publication filtering of articles include Graham Steel, Patient Advocate and Open Access proponent. “ALM’s are a valuable tool that we now have,” he says. “I prioritize my reading in part based on ALMs.”

Publishers Respond

PLOS was one of the earliest publishers to offer ALMs on all articles. As authors increasingly want to track the influence of their work and use article-level metrics, additional publishers have responded. Open Access publishers BioMed Central, PeerJ, Copernicus Publications, Frontiers, eLife and the Public Knowledge Project (PKP) all publish metrics with their articles. Journals published with the PKP’s Open Journal System often operate independently, with “few resources and in developing regions,” says Juan Pablo Alperin, Researcher with the PKP and PhD candidate in Education, Stanford University. Article-level metrics not only help authors better track their impact but also “help authors better understand their audiences,” he says.

Article-level metrics are not just for Open Access journals. Subscription-based publishers see the value in them as well. Springer publishes more than 2,200 journals, approximately 325 of them Open Access. The company “is changing from a sole focus on the journal impact factor to providing multiple metrics” to authors and editors, says Martijn Roelandse, Publishing Editor, Neurosciences, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Springer’s ALMs include CrossRef to measure citations and its own download statistics to track use. The growing list of subscription publishers that provide article-level metrics includes The Rockefeller University Press, Cell Press, Nature Publishing Group and John Wiley & Sons.

Publishers are joining forces, as well, to innovate and leverage their individual ALM experiences. As of June 2014, CrossRef Labs, a project of CrossRef and PLOS, has indexed 748,254 articles with PLOS’ ALM application, available through an open API, for the purpose of improving technical aspects prior to industry-wide scale up of ALM use. PLOS was a pioneer in the development of ALM applications, and as a strong advocate of Open Access encourages others to develop additional tools through the shared API.

Funders and Institutions Determine Value

Joining publishers in the shift away from use of journal-based metrics as a surrogate measure of individual research article quality and impact are funders and institutions. The momentum of this shift is seen in the large increase of signatories to the Declaration of Research Assessment (DORA) statement, originally drafted by publishers and editors of scholarly journals in December 2012. As of June 2014, 18 months since inception, the declaration has 10,668 individual and 467 organizational signatories around the globe, increases of nearly 6,800 and 470 percent, respectively. DORA signatories acknowledge that improvements in research assessment, including article-level metrics, are critical to “increase the momentum toward more sophisticated and meaningful approaches” to evaluate research. Institutional funders of the statement include US-based Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UK-based National Health and Medical Research Council and France-based INSERM.

The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation believes that traditional metrics such as citation count “do not adequately capture the impact of research,” says Vicki Chandler, Chief Program Officer, Science, of the Moore Foundation. “ALMs are part of a growing set of scholarly output measures that we are paying attention to.” Funders turn to ALMs on a case-by-case basis for a more comprehensive understanding of how their grant funds influence research, promotions, education and policy, to satisfy government requirements to make research outcomes more transparent, and to monitor the broader impact of the grants they distribute. In the UK, The Research Excellence Framework, a system for assessing research quality in UK higher education institutions that has influence over funding decisions, allows scientists to use altmetrics to demonstrate the social impact of their research in their reports. The Wellcome Trust specifically states in its Open Access Policy that “it is the intrinsic merit of the work,” rather than the particular journal the work appears in, that should be considered in funding decisions. ALMs, in part, help establish this intrinsic merit.

Progress in ALM adoption is also taking place at research institutions. The University of Pittsburgh uses the dashboard of ALM aggregator PlumX to display the impact of researchers from a cross-section of departments throughout the university, facilitating total institute and departmental metrics. The university is working to increase use and practical application of ALMs through lunch and learn trainings, with one recent seminar focused on “Using Altmetrics to Demonstrate Scholarly Impact.” Trainings include “toolbox tips” on best practices for library colleagues to use with the broader University of Pittsburgh community. Practices such as this propel use of ALMs forward.

Businesses Invest and Organizations Collaborate

Article-level metrics make good business too. Digital Science, launched by MacMillan Publishers, became an investor in the startup Altmetric.com in 2012. The growing list of organizations and companies outside the publishing industry that incorporate ALMs in their business offerings include Mendeley, CrossRef and Impactstory. Since August 2013, Impactstory has more than doubled its user base, says Stacy Konkiel, Director of Marketing & Research. Most recently, commercial publishing firm EBSCO Information Services acquired Plum Analytics in January 2014 for its PlumX database that aggregates altmetrics.

Industry collaborations on article-level metrics, promoted by interest in ALMs, are moving forward to improve technical and practical usability standards. Efforts such as NISO’s Alternative Assessment Metrics Initiative and CrossRef Labs’ pilot with PLOS ALMs indicate that standard organizations are working together to explore, identify, and advance metrics standards and best practices. The annual PLOS ALM conferences, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, are growing in number of attendees, diversity of organizations represented and overall popularity. In 2013, 86 participants attended the PLOS ALM Workshop, up 72 percent from the 50 attendees in 2012, representing the research, publishing, funding and technology industries in Europe, Canada, and the United States. New to the conference in 2013 was Annual Reviews, which each year publishes 46 extensive review volumes focused on disciplines within the Biomedical, Life, Physical, Social Sciences and Economics. As for 2012 and 2013, PLOS will organize the 2014 ALM Workshop planned for December 4-5 2014. A parallel event in London this year is also in the works.

Patient Communities Become Users

Even the patient community wants to understand ALMs and how they might benefit from their use. In 2012 the Health Research Alliance (HRA), a national consortium that now numbers 57 private foundations and public charities that fund biomedical research, sent a representative to the meeting in order to understand ALMs “as a tool to help assess the career progress of funded investigators,” as an “indicator of progress toward a treatment goal” and even for donor cultivation purposes, says Kate Ahlport, Executive Director of HRA. Patient organizations and disease foundations such as Autism Speaks attended the 2013 ALM conference as did the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, PCORI, an organization mandated by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act with a focus on improving healthcare delivery and outcomes.

Harnessing Momentum

The peer-reviewed research paper remains a central research output that informs research assessment. Those currently using article-level metrics have the opportunity to track the impact and use of their work post-publication and also to promote, post-publication, the visibility of their work within the research community and beyond to the larger public. The challenge for ALM developers is to convert passive observers to active users. Efforts underway to increase and improve practical use of ALMs ultimately will increase the benefit to, and use by, those putting in the hard work to generate the manuscripts. These examples show how article-level metrics help paint the evolving picture of a published work over time. The suite of metrics, from social to academic, provides a comprehensive assessment of an article’s influence, both immediate and over time. Those who embrace the use of these metrics have a deeper understanding of the impact and influence of individual scholarly works. As ALM tools improve, greater adoption and practical use are certain to follow.

The post Momentum for Article-Level Metrics: New Uses appeared first on The Official PLOS Blog.

Congrats to EFF and the dancing baby

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There are plenty of examples to depict our broken copyright system, but the “dancing baby” case is one of the most notorious. That’s the one where Universal Music used the DMCA to take down a 29-second YouTube video of an adorable baby dancing to “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince. Putting aside the legal questions, it is unclear what motivated Universal Music to go after this home movie where the Prince song was almost indecipherable. It’s impossible to imagine people were using the short video as a substitute for buying Prince albums, and of course, it’s impossible to imagine this sort of enforcement would help the troubled record industry earn goodwill from the public. But sadly, this is (or at least was) the state of copyright.

Most DMCA takedowns result in quiet removals of content, but this one resulted in 8 years of litigation that continues to this day. The mother of the dancing baby, Stephanie Lenz, teamed up with EFF and fought back. They sued Universal Music for violating Section 512(f) of the DMCA by misrepresenting their claim in the takedown notification. The fight continues, but the good news is this week the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion that affirmed some of the key principles at stake in the case.

Specifically, the panel of circuit judges held that copyright holders have to consider fair use before sending a DMCA takedown notification. The court also definitively explained something most of us already knew – fair use is authorized by law. It’s not simply an excuse for infringement or even an affirmative defense. It is outside the scope of copyright.

The decision wasn’t perfect. It went on to state that if copyright holders like Universal fail to consider fair use before sending a takedown, it just creates a question of fact for the jury to decide whether the rights holder had a good faith belief that the claim was valid. The court also made a somewhat confusing reference to copyright holders who use automated systems to determine what content to have taken down, stating that doing so was a reasonable solution but not explaining how that would possibly account for fair use.

Nonetheless, the key takeaway from the case was a win for fair use. It confirmed that exceptions and limitations to copyright are affirmative rights, and it created a mechanism to help deter sham DMCA takedowns. Given how easy it is to have content removed using the DMCA, it is increasingly the tool of choice for anyone looking to have content removed online, whether or not they have a valid copyright claim. This case should help deter at least the most blatant bad actors from misusing the statute in this way.

Perhaps the case also symbolizes a larger shift in how rights holders view reuse of their content. Not every use of copyrighted content is infringing, and not every use is a threat.


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