Wednesday, February 20, 2013

day four: over two hundred signatures and lots of good conversations!

The campaign rolls along! Many many thanks again to everybody who's signed or spread the word.

One immediate result of doing this has been a lot of online conversations: most people seem pretty excited about the project. A few, though, are less enthusiastic: why is the protest necessary? Isn't progress being made? Just wait!

In conversation on Yann LeCun's G+, it was suggested that "Any proposal for ACM to go Open Access should come with a breakdown of how ACM's activities will be paid for and/or which ones will be eliminated." -- and that's a totally valid desideratum for proposals for how -- but this is not a proposal for how. This is a call for the leadership to make it happen; this doesn't seem all that hard, and it seems important (morally so?).

Graydon Hoare had a fantastic comment on an earlier CACM blog post, which I'll reproduce here (with his permission):
As an ACM member, I'm embarrassed that the organization -- representing professionals in the field of computers, the bit-copying devices! -- is not at the forefront of OA advocacy. The notion that the costs of archival are somehow prohibitive is laughable. We all know what storage and bandwidth costs. How many terabytes are we talking about? Why isn't this all edge-cached by now, or living in a torrent / mirror network (the way is)?
That's basically how I feel about the issue. But Graydon thought it was better expressed in this tweet:
Open access:
Yeeaaaahhh. That is what OA looks like.

There was an exchange on Twitter about whether it's acceptable for OA publishers to charge fees to the authors. David Van Horn said that it's ridiculous, and I totally agree that it's to be avoided when possible! But surely scholarly societies gotta get paid, sometimes? Open Access heroes Tim Gowers and Stuart Shieber don't seem to be averse to the idea -- Shieber is discussing ways that switching to Gold-OA-with-author-fees would be healthy for scholarly societies in his post.

And yet, we're starting to see scholarly publishing approaches that require vanishingly small budgets. The math community especially seems to be getting into this: they're calling the idea "epijournals" -- peer-reviewed journals that will require basically no budget at all and do all of their distribution on arXiv. That project is going up at And in CS, there's already at least one journal using the same model: Logical Methods in Computer Science. (the use of arXiv doesn't seem necessary for keeping costs down: the Journal of Computer Graphics Techniques just runs on a server at Williams College...)

@TheOfficialACM hasn't yet tweeted back at us, so I suppose we're just going to have to keep this rolling.

Monday, February 18, 2013

two days in: over 100 signatures and a patch!

Exciting! We're picking up momentum! Now over 100 signatures.

Thank you so much for signing and sharing, everyone who's shared or signed! Let's keep it up!

Also, in the spirit of openness, we got a patch for the site! (thank you, gwillen!)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

about us

The idea that the ACM should support open access is not a new one, but so far it seems like there hasn't been an organized campaign to push the issue.

It's been argued that the ACM's policies aren't all that bad, since they allow authors to host preprints of articles on their personal websites, or on the archives of their employers.

But CS deserves better than "not all that bad" -- why can't we have a professional society that's actively good?

The ACM constitution lists the unimpeachable purpose of serving "both professional and public interests by fostering the open interchange of information and by promoting the highest professional and ethical standards". It's hard to imagine how the public interest is served by limiting access to research -- research that the public typically funded in the first place. Or how paywalls serve the open interchange of information.

Furthermore, the ACM publishing board is aware of the calls for open access. And yet, while they've written that "the age of open access is upon us", so far they have only considered models that will leave the paywall intact.

So let's push the issue. We should be proud of the ACM, but for that, we need an ACM that we can be proud of.

The "Tear Down This Paywall" website was designed and built primarily by Alex Rudnick, a graduate student in computer science at Indiana University. He works mostly in natural language processing, and will go on at length about how the Association for Computational Linguistics is great and their online archive of proceedings is basically the right thing.