August 13, 2010

Rare Sharing of Data Leads to Progress on Alzheimer’s

Category: Academic,Alzheimers,Open Access,Research — Biella @ 3:45 pm

Finally. Let’s hope other scientists follow in their footsteps and make “rare” a marker of the past:

No one would own the data. No one could submit patent applications, though private companies would ultimately profit from any drugs or imaging tests developed as a result of the effort.

“It was unbelievable,” said Dr. John Q. Trojanowski, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s not science the way most of us have practiced it in our careers. But we all realized that we would never get biomarkers unless all of us parked our egos and intellectual-property noses outside the door and agreed that all of our data would be public immediately.”

November 21, 2009

How Far Can it Go?

Category: Academic,Berkman,F/OSS,Free Culture,IP Law,Open Access,Politics — Biella @ 10:20 am

During the month of October I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the past, present, and future of F/OSS. This was due in part to participation in a Berkman Center event on Free Culture, where we discussed the historical arc of Free Software to Free Culture, the relationships between them (and their differences), and also the content and meaning each. Over the years, what I have found so interesting about Free Software is how it left its enclave to inspire countless groups into rethinking the politics and ethics of production and access and yet, as I raised in this pod-cast interview (due to the prompting of my interviewer, Elizabeth Stark), Free Software and/or Free Culture is still pretty bounded and contained phenomenon especially when compared to something like the existing consciousness over the environmental movement, which many folks “know” about and understand even when and if they are not involved in doing anything for the movement. I always ask my first year students whether they know what Free Software or Free Culture is and 9 out 10 stare at me with those blank eyes that basically speak in silence: “no.”

Now, there are a group of activists, many located in Europe, a number of them with deep roots in the social justice movement who are taking Free Culture down a different path, trying to expand its meaning and conjoin it to social justice issues, build a broad set of coalitions across the political spectrum so as to override the fragmentation that is so characteristic to contemporary political moment, and use FC as an opportunity to critique the market fundamentalism of the last few decades.

If you are interested in these issues, take a look at their charter: they are looking for comments (critical and constructive) as well as endorsements (here is the long version).

I myself have a few comments, for example, I think it is worth noting something like the limits of what FC can do, that even if in many ways it can be activated to do good in the world, it is also best to highlight in the same swoop that FC is not some political panacea and has limits.

For example some groups in the world, notably some indigenous communities abide by a different logic of access and culture, whereby full access is not culturally or ethically desirable, as the work of Kim Christen has illuminated. I also wonder in what ways issues of labor might be addressed more forcefully, and though they briefly raise the question of environmental sustainability, it is worth expanding these more directly and deeplyas this article by Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell make clear.

There is more to say but I will leave it here for now and just say it is really great to see Free Culture taken down another political path that is rooted in coalition building.

August 9, 2009

Free Software in the CS Academy

Category: F/OSS,IP Law,Open Access,Politics — Biella @ 1:52 pm

The world of Free Software is riddled with ironies, or so I like to tell myself, as I am devoting a history chapter that uses the frame of irony to trace the historical rise of this technological domain. One irony (though not entertained in the chapter) has to do with the status of Free Software in the academy: it is pretty weak among CS-ey types and yet Free Software is often identified as a paragon example of the openness and communitarian elements of how academic science is supposed to work. So.. what is exactly going on?

Recently I had the pleasure of discussing this issue a bit with Colin Turner, a professor of Mathematics at University of Ulster who has given this issue a lot of careful thought and is trying to make some changes on the academic side of things. You can read and learn a little more about his them in this thoughtful interview and his blog.

Do you know of any academic programs where FS was nowhere to be found but with some clever or bold initiative it flourished? Thoughts of what can be done to make FS a realistic presence in academic department? Is this perhaps where the future of Free Software advocacy should be headed?

July 29, 2009

Some fine musings on OA

Category: Open Access — Biella @ 2:11 pm

So I am not in the heart and soul of Open Access but I follow the debates and am doing my share in the back regions of academia to try to make it a little more of a reality.

There is a great new blog Free our Books and I have linked to an entry that has generated a wealth of interesting comments on peer review.

Then there is this great piece by the editor of U Michigan Press University Press 2.0 by Phil Pochoda that deserves a close read if these issues are your political bread and butter.

June 30, 2009

Academic Publishing

Category: Academic,Books/Articles,Open Access — Biella @ 5:56 am

Last spring I secured a Creative Commons license for my book, which is under contract with Princeton University Press. It was was a huge relief for me as I want to publish with PUP but knew there was a serious contradiction if I published a book on Free Software under a copyright license (sort of like printing a Hindu prayer book on leather…).

This article in the chronicle Saving Texts From Oblivion, which opens with a fascinating though unsurprising finding, points to other reasons why an open license is a sensible thing to do, that is, if you want students to read your book:

At a focus group in Oxford University Press’s offices in New York last month, we heard that in a recent essay assignment for a Columbia University classics class, 70 percent of the undergraduates had cited a book published in 1900, even though it had not been on any reading list and had long been overlooked in the world of classics scholarship. Why so many of the students had suddenly discovered a 109-year-old work and dragged it out of obscurity in preference to the excellent modern works on their reading lists is simple: The full text of the 1900 work is online, available on Google Book Search; the modern works are not.

The article, written by Oxford’s editor, has an interesting set arguments about why to support the Google book settlement. It does not, however, really address the question of book piracy, which if anyone has taken a minute to explore, will notice that it is a booming underground economy and the quality of the books is utterly fantastic.

Given these conditions: what will the academic publishers do? No one, at least in academia, wants them to go under and yet conditions have made it difficult for them to survive. I do hope that some interesting solutions, with the financial aid of university support (after all, many are calling for open access) are hacked up.

Calling for tighter copyright controls as this famous judge has done in the case of newspapers is not the path that I hope anyone entertains. In fact, releasing books after a year or two under a CC license might be one path to take, along with providing affordable e-books so that those who do want to support authors and books buy them instead of hitting the pirate stands.

June 17, 2009

drwxr-xr-x or -rwxr-xr-x (Sherpa RoMeo)

Category: Academic,IP Law,Open Access,Wholesome — Biella @ 11:42 am

Permissions. Unix geeks know them well as they are constantly handing them out, taking them back. Academics, when it comes to their publishing rights, don’t know what permissions they have or given away. Once you signed the contract you may also have no idea where you filed it, if you filed it.

But now if you want to know, it just got a heck of a lot easier. I was just alerted to a website Sherpa RoMeo that helps you figure it all out! As they report on their front page:

“Use this site to find a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher’s copyright transfer agreement.”

Now that is a nifty tool!

May 27, 2009

Journal of Legal Anthropology

Category: Academic,Open Access — Biella @ 12:42 pm

Something I have been thinking a lot about lately is why social science and humanities journals have been slower to move toward the land of open access in comparison to the ‘hard’ sciences. There are a few obvious reasons but there are others which are still a mystery to me.

I understand why existing journals can’t easily pry away from established relations and obligations so I am not all that surprised that these journals, whether in the ‘hard’ sciences or ‘soft’, have not gone open access. But perhaps newly minted journals are in better position to start right off the bat with an OA agreement. This is what the International Journal of Communication recently did and I am sure there are other examples.

So today I was disappointed to find out that the following new Anthropology journal theJournal of Legal Anthropology has seemingly gone down a traditionalist copyright route. But I don’t just want to point fingers here as I know editors are often in a very difficult position when seeking sponsorship and support for a new journal. That is, achieving OA, I understand is no walk in the park. And yet given their mission and given that it is a legal journal, it also makes sense to have some sort of open format:

“International in scope, we hope it will be accessible beyond a specialist legal anthropology area and, in practice, both widen what is understood within the discipline of anthropology as legal and position the legal as also ‘socio-cultural’ in terms of contemporary anthropology. The journal is produced by anthropologists interested in making anthropology accessible (translatable) in other settings and disciplines, and by legal practitioners with support from academics working in human rights, conflict and related areas”

A walled garden is not suited for the flowers of access to grow. But perhaps they tried and failed. If this is the case, it would also be good to learn of these experiences, which can be used in future cases to pave the path toward greater access.

March 19, 2009

MIT approves open access

Category: Academic,Open Access — Biella @ 7:38 am

The more stuff like this happens, the harder it will be to pass this stuff.

February 6, 2009

Lazy Web

Category: Academic,F/OSS,Open Access — Biella @ 4:51 pm

Hi everyone,

So do people know of a relatively famous book (academic, fiction, non-fiction trade) published by a female author and under a Creative Commons license?

January 31, 2009

Steamboat Mickey

Category: Academic,Free Culture,Open Access,Politics — Biella @ 7:51 pm

This is a great little video/animation Steamboat Mickey, which references one or more events from each year, starting in 1928 and ends in 2008. The music, which accompanies the animation, is fantastic and is by Owen Chapman, an assistant professor of communication at Concordia and a great DJ/sound artist.