Building Blogs of Science

[Open] Science Sunday – 18.04.10

Posted in Health and Medicine, Science, Science and Society by kubke on April 18, 2010

Opening content by traditional Toll Access journals

At about the time that I had made the personal commitment to only contribute to Open Access publishing (as service on editorial boards or peer review) I was contacted by Georg Striedter asking me to join the Editorial Board of Brain Behavior and Evolution. After hearing from him his views about the new direction he was planning to take the journal, I could not refuse. Georg Striedter took the Editorial position for the journal starting this year and a big change ensued. The journal now has a new section called Highlights and Perspectives in Neuroscience, and articles in this section have been made free to access. I have been quite impressed with this section, and the quality of the discussions there. As an example, you can go and look at Mark Changizi’s piece “Neuroscientis’s Embarassment: Artificial Intelligence’s Opportunity” and Anat Barnea’s piece “Wild Neurogenesis”. For the latter, I recommend reading first a great summary of the article around which the discussion centres which was posted by NeuroDojo when the article came out. Mark Changizi’s piece is self contained but you might also want to check this awesome discussion around brain size.

Many journals are opening up some of their content for free, and this is a good move. For example, on the 26th of March, Nature Publishing broke the news that the Nature News content free of charge. This is a great section and it is wonderful to have that content available to the general public.

Don’t mess with technology, what about BioTorrents?

On the 10th of April I participated in the Public Acta meeting in Wellington. One of the statements of the Wellington Declaration said that

“[Technological Protection Measures] should not infringe on or limit the rights of users to use or access copyright material in a manner that would be permitted without the TPM”

One of the arguments raised that day, is that technology is sometimes attacked when it is can be used to infringe copyrighted works, but that restricting such technologies may infringe on the ability of accessing material that is otherwise legally available.

This week saw the publication of a paper in PLoS One by Morgan GI Langille and Jonathan A Eisen. BioTorrents: A file sharing service for Scientific Data. As Tim O’Reilly said on his Tweet, this is a great use of the BitTorrent technology. Here is a technology that has valuable applications and should, too be protected as such.

One may ask what prompted me to attend the PublicACTA meeting. The answer is simple: Most scientific information is behind the copyright that as authors we often transfer to the journals where our work is published (for journals outside the Open Access model). Education, Health and Science rely heavily on having good access to this information. Any decision to regulate copyright will inevitably have an impact on Education, Health, Science and Technology. So ACTA cannot be framed around the protection of recording artists and the film industry and not consider its implications for these other areas of public good. The text of ACTA will be made public next week, at which time I hope scientists, educators and health professionals will collaborate in making sure the implications for their fields are taken into account.

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Get your ACT(A) together

Posted in Science, Science and Society by kubke on April 12, 2010

The Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is an international treaty that is being negotiated by a handful of nations, in a very secretive way. The text of the ACTA has not been officially released, but some of the issues under negotiation can be found through several leaked documents. However, public officials are unable to comment on such leaked documents.

Although its name may indicate that it is to deal with issues around counterfeiting, leaked documents have shown that the scope of the agreement may go well beyond that, to include other types of copyright and intellectual property infringements. And this raises two important questions:

  1. Why is an ‘antitrade agreement’ being negotiated by only a handful of countries to deal with issues that should fall under the umbrella of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) which has a greater representation of nations?
  2. Why the secrecy?

The next round of negotiations of ACTA is to be held in Wellington, New Zealand, this week. As a response, a conference known as PublicACTA was held on Saturday to draft a response to be presented to the ACTA negotiators in Wellington. The document now known as The Wellington Declaration can be found online and is linked to the petition signature page.

The document calls for transparency in the negotiation process and an opportunity for public participation, as well as a definition of the specific issues that are or should be associated with the ACTA itself.

Anyone that uses the internet will be either directly or indirectly affected by the ACTA resolutions. It is shocking to me that while on the one hand there is an increasing awareness of the need to open government and scientific data for public scrutiny, an agreement that will impact on the most ubiquitous medium for data sharing, open collaborations and discussions, is done behind closed doors and without significant public participation. If this is not a contradiction in terms, then I need to buy another dictionary.

  • Michael Geist’s blog is a great source of information.
  • The video of the Conference is now here.
  • The Wellington Declaration is here.
  • The petition signature page is here.