Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Tag Archives: Non-Profits

Worth Reading: The Winnower, Ecology Journals, SHARE, and “Importance”

The Winnower, an upcoming open access journal created by Virginia Tech Ph.D. student Joshua Nicholson, now has a blog. Check out the first post, Science Publishing is Systematically Broken and It’s Time to Fix It. Also, stay tuned for an interview with Josh that I’ll be posting in the coming weeks.

Brian McGill has a fantastic (but long) post on journals in ecology, Follow the Money- What Really Matters When Choosing a Journal (be sure to click through to the Google spreadsheet he’s put together). It’s a pretty comprehensive treatment of the topic, and the comments are worth reading too. TL;DR choose a non-profit journal!

Tyler Walters, dean of the University Libraries, will be co-chairing an effort to incorporate repositories into federal open access mandates. The library effort, known as SHARE, offers a low-cost solution that puts the public interest first. Conversely, the publisher’s effort, CHORUS, offers further enclosure that ensures that the profits continue. Tough choice, huh?

The Golden Goose Awards (PDF) have gotten some popular press, and it points out yet another aspect of scholarly communication that’s broken- judging the importance of research. The awards are an admirable project, making it clear that research sometimes mocked by the public can have profound impact. While the public isn’t good at judging the importance of research at the time it’s published, expert reviewers aren’t that great at it either. The focus on “importance” leads to the prestige journals, called “glam mags” by some, or just “CNS” for Cell, Nature, and Science. The glam mags lead to exorbitant costs, and pressures on tenure track faculty to publish in them. Yet the glam mags have little evidence of quality, and higher retraction rates. Let’s quit the addiction to assigning “importance” to research articles, and let citations, open peer review, and altmetrics sort things out.

Intellectual Property Strategy by John Palfrey

Intellectual Property Strategy (Update May 14, 2018: This book is now available in an open access edition with additional material.)

John Palfrey’s Intellectual Property Strategy (MIT Press, 2012) is the first book I’ve read on the subject. Having read one of his previous books, Born Digital, and because it is in the same book series as Peter Suber’s Open Access, I suspected openness would be a theme, and I wasn’t disappointed. This review is mostly about that theme, rather than all aspects of the book, so keep that in mind. Palfrey is a well qualified writer on this subject, having taught law at Harvard, practiced intellectual property (IP) law, cofounded several tech startups, and is a venture executive. The book is aimed at CEOs and senior managers, and is short enough that it might be finished on a cross-country flight.

The four areas of IP are patent, copyright, trademark, and trade secret. Palfrey first addresses the prevailing “sword and shield” IP strategy by pointing out that it benefits lawyers more than organizations. He urges readers to “give special consideration to strategies of openness rather than exclusion, especially in the information context” (p. 3).

IP is a nonrival good- more than one party can use it simultaneously. The author points out that IP often gains in value the more that it is used, which is a flaw in the “full exclusion” approach. Palfrey is quite familiar with universities and libraries, and interestingly uses MIT’s OpenCourseWare as an example of using openness to increase assets. However, it’s important to establish ownership rights in order to give IP away (p. 56):

It may seem counterintuitive, but even the strategies of openness that I urge you to consider need to be grounded first in the system of rights in order to work smoothly.

Palfrey spends some time talking about open innovation, that is, using openly available or customer-generated information. For example, Zillow as well as legal publishers Lexis and Westlaw thrive in this environment. He cites a study (PDF) showing that the fair use economy in the U.S. supports hundreds of billions in exports, employs millions, and is growing by 5% annually. Palfrey warns that zealous protectionism can backfire, such as demanding royalties for using the song “Happy Birthday” (a demand that now appears fraudulent rather than protectionist).

Nonprofits as a special case are examined in Chapter 7. The differing missions of for-profits and nonprofits “opens up new possibilities” and can make IP strategy more important. Using libraries as an example, Palfrey suggests digitization in collaboration with for-profit partners, with a limited term of exclusivity during which the library receives royalties. Summarizing, he says (p. 120):

If the default in the for-profit world is to generate maximum revenues from the licensing of intellectual property, the default in the non-profit setting is probably to make intellectual property as broadly available as possible.

There are a few stumbles along the way- Palfrey occasionally uses the term “open access” in a confusingly loose way (p. 89, 105) despite discussing it accurately elsewhere (p. 118), and offers Google Wave (p. 68) as an example of open innovation (oops!). And he suggests that universities license IP in a nonexclusive way (p. 119), lowering fees for greater societal benefit (perhaps I’m too cynical, but I don’t see this happening).

I recommend this book as an introduction to IP in general- it’s a quick and informative read. Intellectual Property Strategy is available in Newman Library, and Palfrey’s book talk is below (beginning at 7:00).