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With a White House directive supporting it and legislation pending at the federal and state levels, the fight to expand open access to taxpayer-funded research is rapidly gaining momentum. But it's not over yet. Major journal publishers are working hard to stop—or at least dilute—open access. That's because it's a threat to the traditional publishing business model, which depends on taking the results of research (i.e., articles) and then selling it back to the scientists and their institutions at a massive profit.
The publishing coalition's leading tactic is a deceptive proposal called the Clearinghouse for the Open Research of the United States, or "CHORUS." According to the publishers, CHORUS would create a set of platforms, housed by the publishers themselves, that would help users easily find and access journal articles resulting from federal funding, facilitate article preservation, and "allow text and data mining tools to be applied across publishers' platforms 'under protocols that protect both the user and the source content.'" In essence, the proposal encourages the agencies and legislators to just let the publishers handle open access. After all, they're the experts, right?
Wrong. Most traditional academic publishers are experts at just that: traditional models that depend on limited access. Forgive the cliché, but putting them in charge is like letting the fox guard the hen house.
With props to SPARC, which has been battling for open access since 1997, here's the reality:
- CHORUS is all about control: publishers preserve their place as the sole point of access to research, and, by extension, they exert a veto right on innovation and new forms of access;
- CHORUS is cumbersome: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) already houses a wealth of research in its PubMed Central database, which allows easy full-text searching and is interoperable with other publicly-funded databases. Rather than leveraging this existing structure, the publishers want to build their own. Again, it's all about control. While the program promises to allow text and mining tools to apply across publishers' various platforms, those platforms vary widely. Thus, in practice, implementing such tool will be difficult.
- CHORUS forgets about data: Policies such as the White House directive call for open access to articles and data. CHORUS conveniently forgets to provide for linking articles to data.
- CHORUS is not "free": Publishers claim CHORUS will be a "no-cost" solution. But that's just hiding the ball. Publishers receive most of their revenue from subscription fees, which are paid by universities—including many public universities. Publishers will doubtless pass the cost of building CHORUS onto subscribers.
We hope that agencies and legislators who are considering how to implement open access are not fooled by CHORUS. It's time for real open access. Here's how you can help.Related Issues: Open Access
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U.S. policy-makers are weighing military options to restrict flight operations by President Bashar Assad's regime in the 2-year-old Syrian civil war, Western government envoys told Reuters on Friday.
In announcing plans on Thursday to provide Syrian opposition forces with expanded military support, the Obama administration said it had finalized no plans aimed at limiting aircraft activity. White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said "a no-fly zone … would carry with it great and open-ended costs for the United States and the international community."
Two international envoys, though, said the United States could seek to establish a no-flight area close to neighboring Jordan. One of the diplomats said any such operation would be "time-wise and area-wise."
Such an effort would necessitate eliminating Syria's anti-aircraft batteries from Russia, which have the potential to put U.S. pilots at greatest risk, according to Reuters and related reporting. U.S. government insiders, though, said the details of enforcement operations could vary, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.
The U.N. Security Council would to have approve any use of force to implement flight restrictions, Reuters quoted the French government as saying. Moscow could block endorsement by the 15-nation body.
Supporters contend that a military-backed aircraft ban would not require Security Council endorsement if it remains outside Syrian territory, the Journal reported. Government insiders said U.S. aircraft could down Syrian targets from great distances and any entry into Syrian air space could be justified on self-protection grounds. Assad's aircraft would endanger any large-scale effort to send weapons to opposition forces in the absence of military-supported flight restrictions, officials added.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the United States "should be able to establish a no-fly zone relatively easily," Politico reported on Thursday.
"The only way this war is going to end quickly and on our terms is to neutralize the air assets that Assad enjoys," Senator Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) said. “We can crater the runways. There are four air bases he uses. We can stop the planes from flying. We can shoot planes down without having one boot on the ground.”
Discussing Syria earlier this week, former President Clinton drew a parallel with the late-1990s Kosovo conflict in which his administration had supported a NATO intervention, the Daily Beast reported.
“You just think how lame you’d be … suppose I had let a million people, two million people be refugees out of Kosovo, a couple hundred thousand people die, and they say, ‘You could have stopped this by dropping a few bombs. Why didn’t you do it?’ And I say, ‘because the House of Representatives voted 75 percent against it?’” he said. “You look like a total wuss, and you would be.”
The Syrian government on Friday said the Obama administration was "full of lies" in accusing Damascus of carrying out chemical strikes, the Associated Press reported. Washington is using "cheap tactics" and inaccurate assertions as pretext to send weapons to Assad's opponents, the Syrian Foreign Ministry said in released comments.
The top U.N. human rights official on Thursday suggested the Syrian civil war has likely claimed more than 100,000 lives to date, the Los Angeles Times reported. An official U.N. estimate says roughly 93,000 people have died in the conflict.
The Obama administration's top intelligence official is pushing for release as soon as Monday of evidence documenting that a massive National Security Agency telephone and Internet surveillance effort has helped stop extremist attacks from occurring in the United States and elsewhere, the Christian Science Monitor quoted Senate intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) as saying on Thursday.
U.S. National Intelligence Director James Clapper previously said related information-gathering activities have aided in preventing "dozens" of possible strikes. The operations became public in news reports last week, but Feinstein and committee Ranking Member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) suggested that a number of lawmakers had been receiving updates about the efforts for years.
Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) sat in on a classified discussion with Clapper and other U.S. government personnel, and the lawmaker later called for “the order of magnitude of what they’ve done to keep America safe [to] become public,” the paper reported.
“It is my hope that that information, especially, will be declassified,” Corker said.
A Kremlin staffer on Friday said Russia has no immediate plans to equip Syria's government with advanced S-300 anti-air systems, even though rebels in the country's civil war are now expected to receive expanded military aid from the United States, RIA Novosti reported.
Presidential aide Yuri Ushakov said “the [S-300] issue has not been raised yet,” and added Moscow is "not competing (with Washington) on Syria."
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin on Wednesday renewed his government's pleading for Russia to abstain from providing Syria with S-300 systems, saying that the air and missile defense technology could be used to target both civilian and military Israeli airplanes, Bloomberg reported.
Jerusalem and Washington have pressed Moscow not to export S-300 batteries to the Bashar Assad regime. The systems were purchased under a weapons contract that predates the early 2011 start of the Syrian civil war, which is estimated to have already killed roughly 93,000 people.
The S-300 can destroy aircraft and some missiles at ranges of up to 125 miles.
"In an unstable situation, you never know whose hands they may end up in," Elkin said, possibly alluding to the Assad regime's close relationship with the extremist group Hezbollah. "The weapons change the rules of the game in the Middle East."
Israel wants, at a minimum, for Russia to put the export of the S-300s on hold "until the situation in Syria clears up," the deputy minister said.