Re: Open Access: The Next Step

From: Donat Agosti <agosti_at_AMNH.ORG>
Date: Thu, 22 Feb 2007 13:56:35 +0100

The issue of "opening up the past" is in the biological systematics
community especially important, since describing new species follows
codices, such as the "International Code of Zoological Nomenclature"
prescribing what needs be done to produce a name for a new species.

This includes also a description, and since this system originated in the
mid 18th century (eg for zoology with the 10th edition of Linnaeus' "Systema
Naturae" in 1758) the legacy publications are very important. These are
mostly highly technical, data biased publication and thus are constantly
needed to support the identification of biological specimen.

For ants we now have a digital library including ca 4,100 publications as
pdf and in the near future also as xml documents, with many of the newer
publications not available because of copyright (i.e.

A very recent development of the "Biodiversity Heritage Library"
( aiming at digitizing the holding of the large US/UK
natural history libraries. They will employ several officers asking for
copyright wavers for all the journals and books. That this is not an easy
task is easily shown again with the ant experience, where more than 800
different journals were involved in publishing articles on ants alone (only
12,000 species ouf of the ca 1,8M expected).

Since some of the major contributors of new papers are objecting even
selfarchiving, I am planning to set up an xml-based archive for ants where,
similar to the in physics not the original work, but an
aequivalent, publications marked up in taxonx, a systematics specific
schema, will be saved and served.

These xml documents would also have the additional advantage, that names
could be marked up and thus links to dedicated pages could be inserted,
similar the publications, allowing links back to the digital versions and

For those interested, here is a first version of an editor
(, here a link to the schema
(, some examples
( and here a mashup, a potential
application making usage of this archive

This is an interesting topic we need to discuss, and again, BHL might be an
important source, and I'd be interested to discuss these issues related to
build up an archive.


There remains a lot to be done to institute IR deposit mandates. However, we
appear to be finally seeing real progress on this.

I would like to start a policy debate on how we follow this up. Current
mandates focus on new material, possibly including the back catalogue of
publications by academics in post, although this might be tricky for both
legal (mandating deposit of material published while at a previous
institution) and practical (lack of easy availability of suitable electronic
copies) reasons.

While in many disciplines, such as medicine, the availability of very recent
material is of the greatest importance and need, material in all disciplines
remains highly useful. In other disciplines, particularly in mathematics,
arts and humanities, older material can be equally, or even more, useful
current material. For example, my own PhD thesis (1997) required the
referencing of works from the 30s and 50s as well as material from the 80s
and 90s.

So, the question I believe we should begin to consider is how we will
"Open Access to the Past". I think the major issues here are:

- Obtaining electronic copies of material;
- Producing Meta-data from lower quality electronic copies;
- Copyright issues;
- Retired authors and deceased authors;
- Co-author issues.

So, while the fight for open access to the present and future is not yet
we should begin to consider open access to the past as well.

*E-mail*********  Dr Andrew A Adams
**snail*27 Westerham Walk**********  School of Systems Engineering
***mail*Reading RG2 0BA, UK********  The University of Reading
****Tel*+44-118-378-6997***********  Reading, United Kingdom
Received on Thu Feb 22 2007 - 13:32:57 GMT

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