Category Archives: Uncategorized

OAR conference notes – government bodies

Jenine Borowik – Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

What stimulates particular disciplines to adopt OA when others do not?

This question is particularly pertinent to the ABS – ABS has a mission of promoting informed decision making – but there is an increasingly array of “national interests” – as a result, ABS has realised that we cannot continue to be an island of research and information gathering and dissemination, we need to work with other organisations. Due to this, interest in encouraging a community of organisations to build a rich statistical picture of Australia.

In 2005, ABS removed the barrier of price to access for information. So anyone who accessed ABS website could freely download publications etc. Number of downloads has risen from 1 million per year to 5 million per year. Page views from 50 million to 150 million.

Creative Commons (CC) gives a solution to another barrier – the legal barrier. ABS is interested in using CC. Would like to use something that is successful and widely understood rather than something they have developed that is “just theirs”. Also interested in the way the licences are carried with the particular item of data, and the requirement for attribution. Legal aspects not the primary consideration for ABS, so if there is a mechanism that makes it easy to apply the right licences then that is a good thing.

Jeffrey Kingwell – Geosciences Australia (GA)

GA is a national geographic information clearing house. Collects seismic info, operates national mapping agency etc.

Mission = collect geographic stuff to give to other people to do stuff with.

So why is it so difficult to get the stuff out there?

Finding that due to a number of factors, including IP law and IP government policy, that it is important to align OA policy with IP policy. This is an issue where policies developed in different departments (e.g. IP policy by commercialization unit, OA in another area). GA is trying to construct an IP policy that is consistent with their vision and core function.

Creative Commons Pilot Project 2007-08


  1. Have a simple statement of your objective in sharing
  2. align IP policy with that
  3. use simple tools (such as CC) to implement

Dr Alexander Cooke – Australian Research Council (ARC)

Broad principles for an Accessibility Framework:

  • Publicly funded research outputs and data should be managed in ways that maximise public benefit;
  • Institutions or individuals receiving public funding have a responsibility to make the results of that funding publicly available
  • ….

What opportunities are there?
The Accessibility Framework offers the ARC and NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) the possibility of strengthening their funding rules to mandate rather than encourage deposit

OAR conference notes – Tony Hey

Tony Hey – Cloud Computing

Rationale for Cloud computing

  • Outsourcing IT infrastructure
  • Minimize costs
  • Large cloud/utility computing provides can have relativel very small ownership and operation costs due to the huge scale of deployment and automation
  • Small business have access to large scale resources

Example – Amazon Web Services
= Simple Storage Service (s3) – storage for the internet; simple web service interface

Example –
= Profitable, debt-free company because it does not have any hardware resources; it only uses Amazon hardware (for free, in the cloud)

Examples from Microsoft:

Live Mesh

  • A PC in the cloud
  • Can synchronize PC in the cloud with your laptop, your mobile devices such as phones or music players etc

Office Live Workspace

  • Can upload documents for other people to work on
  • Other people can download and use those documents that you choose to share

The future = software plus services for science

Expect scientific research environments to follow similar trends to the commercial sector

Example – Trident Scientific Workflow Workbench

Toward a Smart Cyberinfrastructure

Collective intelligence

Example – last fm.

A world where all data is linked…
…and stored/processed/analyzed in the cloud

OAR conference notes – Alma Swan

Alma Swan – Open Access: The Next Five Years

Where we are now:

  • Focus = research articles
  • Latest estimates show level of OA for research article is still
  • Expect even more attempts by (some) publishers at obstruction:
  • Arguments often fallacious – best way to deal with them is calmly and rational
  • Arguments sometimes dishonest
  • Argument always wrong to argue that publicly funded research carried out by public researchers should not be made publicly available because it would hurt a private/commercial player
  • Weapon: copyright
  • Wield it, now, against the interest of academic and the paying public
  • Reason for the panic: OA mandates

Open Access policies:

  • a lot of almost-there well-meaning policies
  • come in various flavours; not all taste good to everyone
  • NIH
  • But we are on an upward trend
  • Mandates work; voluntary policies do not
  • Because the outcome makes glorious sense for the research institutions and funders
  • Repositories are also management tools
  • And marketing tools for a university
  • Helps the university make the best use of the web

Repositories: state of play

  • growing at a rate of around 1 per day
  • Alma cannot believe that within 5 years there will not be a serious university that does not have a repository and does not actively use it


  • It is a completely resolvable issues
  • Yet it is the major barrier to simple acceptance and practice of OA by researchers
  • Copyright futures – actually a tendency towards the legal strengthening of copyright in general
  • Research community practice will demonstrate the way copyright is applied to scholarly articles is out of date
  • Author agreements that retain copyright (licence to publish)
  • New ‘liberal’ practices with respect to publishing findings
  • Anyway, OA is completely compatible with copyright

New, ill-defined issue: research data

  • increasingly the primary output in some fields
  • data have yet to be properly recognised as research output
  • increasingly the subject of mandates, too

New research approaches…

  • …depend on OA
  • e-research (big research) – collaborative research – needs OA to make it work properly
  • but so does collaborative ‘small’ research
  • interdisciplinary research
  • web 2.0 outputs becoming a norm
  • early examples of institutional solutions – institutions have to start to help things happen – VIVO: Virtual Life Sciences at Cornell (a system that links up within the uni: the repository, the library, personal websites of academics etc);

Pragmatic Solutions:

  • joining articles, data and other related outputs in better ways
  • more (and more) work on standards
  • ‘surfacing’ web content – i.e. better way to show off OA content
  • new services built across repository networks
  • clearer vision of how to reach a repository-based scholarly communication system
  • new technologies need to show content in a form that researchers (and machines) can exploit (XML) – needs to be semantic/exploitative technologies
  • there are already publishers who use a repository as a means of submitting the paper to the publisher for peer review

Wrong solutions: impact and assessment:

  • for too long we’ve used a proxy measure to measure impact (journal impact factor), but for years it has been use to advance (or retard) careers
  • with an OA corpus, multiple metrics and indicators are possible
  • e.g. in the health sciences in the UK, move to measure impact by where it leads in terms of new medicine, new treatment NHS spending etc, not just the journal where the article is published

Mahatma Gandhi:
First they ignore you
Then they laugh at you
Then they fight you
Then you win!

Everything “open” started as a big joke. But things are changing….

It’s been too easy to dismiss the issue:

  • institutions have been notably disengage
  • scholarly communication has been low on the agenda
  • yet it is central to the core mission of a university

Questions universities will be addressing:

  • Are we happy with current quality and impact measures?
  • What do we want?
  • What new reward systems can we build?
  • How can we use the internet better?

Commentators: Prof Tom Cochrane (QUT) and Derek Whitehead (Swinburne)

Prof Tom Cochrane


Mandates are only likely to succeed if they are clearly purposed in terms of scope – there must be clarity about what outputs the mandates will catch, where the outputs will be and for what purpose, and clarity at a policy level about whether it is in itself sufficient to make a rule (mandate) – at QUT it was thought not to be enough, that it had to be implemented cleverly, which is where the library came in in developing the repository properly


We need to look at the system of rewards – until we do something about incentives for data curation, then they wont happen or will happen accidentally and haphazardly


A large number of people are rendered more uncertain about copyright than about anything else. Copyright must be dealt with in this space – we need clarity about it as an enabler not an obstacle


One trend that is contradicting the nature of research, is that the semantic web tools are forcing questions about how collaboration is to be managed. There rush to develop tools where management is at a machine level rather than a human level. But unless we solve some of the legal and regulatory issues that are thrown up by the use of these tools then we will keep being hindered in our OA efforts.

Open Access and Research Conference – general comments

From Wednesday 24 September – Thursday 25 September, QUT Faculty of Law and the OAK Law Project ran the Open Access and Research Conference at the Stamford Hotel, Brisbane.

I think the conference was a great success. There were a great number of attendees both from Australia and abroad who were extremely knowledgeable about open access, e-research and the digital environment. These attendees included John Wilbanks of Science Commons, Alma Swan of Key Perspectives, Richard Jefferson of CAMBIA and Patent Lens, Professor Brian Fitzgerald and Professor Anne Fitzgerald of QUT Law Faculty, Maarten Wilbers of CERN, Professor Stevan Harnad (via video link), Tony Hey from Microsoft, Carolina Rossini formerly of Creative Commons Brazil and now based at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Senator Kim Carr (via video link), Professor Warwick Anderson of NHMRC, Dr Andrew Treloar of the ANDS Establishment Project, Frederika Welle Donker of Delft University in the Netherlands, and many many more. The quality of attendees at the conference meant that the discussions which followed each presentation and continued into the morning tea and lunch breaks were some of the most interesting I have heard to date.

Senator Kim Carr’s opening address strongly endorsed the principles of open access to knowledge and information, and referred to the recommendations made in the recently released green paper on the Review of the National Innovation System (“the Cutler Review”), of which there was much discussion generally at the OAR Conference. (For the relevant recommendations, see my earlier post).

On the first day, John Wilbanks gave an enlightening presentation that discussed how the internet is “democratizing knowledge” by breaking down the “guild culture” of experts on a particular topic and replacing it with a “network culture” where experts still have a role but where others have more input as well.

Then, Professor Brian Fitzgerald of QUT law faculty announced the upcoming collaboration between QUT and Richard Jefferson of CAMBIA.

On the second day, Maarten Wilbers of CERN fascinated everyone with pictures of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which has just been turned on, and with an intriguing history of CERN and the role it has played in the open access and e-research movements, right from the creation of the world wide web by Tim Berners Lee through to the LHC today.

I was also very interested to hear from Frederika Welle Donker, who took us through the developments in Europe in relation to open access to public sector information (PSI) and materials. In particular, she discussed the European Union PSI and INSPIRE Directives.

The presentations of all participants will be available shortly on the OAK Law website.

Quentin Bryce sworn in as GG

ABC has reported that Quentin Bryce has just been officially sworn in as Australia’s first female Governor-General.

The ABC reports: “Ms Bryce broke new ground as one of the Queensland’s first female barristers and law lecturers. She was also a federal sex discrimination commissioner and human rights advocate”.

I think this is a good day for Australia, Australian women, and Australian women lawyers in particular.

Over on Boing Boing, Cory Doctorow has posted an entry entitled, “Human rights worker: JFK’s secondary screening procedures are “human rights abuses” (the post is dated 18/08/08).

In order comment effectively, I am reproducing the post in full:

An American human-rights worker was detained by the DHS at JFK when she returned from her holiday in Syria. She found herself in a Kafka-esque nightmare room crammed like a cattle-car with Americans and foreigners seething as they were abused, ignored, insulted (and sometimes deported) by the US government’s representatives. So much for public diplomacy.

No one who had been detained knew precisely why they were there. A few people were led into private rooms; others were questioned out in the open at desks a few feet from the crowd and then allowed to pass through customs. Some were sent to another section of the holding area with large computer screens and cameras, and then brought back. The uninformed consensus among the detainees was that some people would be fingerprinted, have their irises scanned and be sent back to the countries from which they had disembarked, regardless of citizenship status; others would be fingerprinted and allowed to stay; and the unlucky ones would be detained indefinitely and moved to a more permanent facility.

There was one British tourist in the group. Paul (also not his real name) was traveling with three friends who had passed through customs soon after their plane landed and were waiting for him on the other side of the metal barrier; he suspected he had been detained because of his dark skin. When he asked if he could go to the bathroom, one of the guards said, “I wouldn’t.” “What if someone has to?” I asked. “They will just have to hold it,” the guard responded with a smile. Paul began to cry. I watched as he, over the course of four hours, went from feeling exuberant about his trip to New York to despising the entire country. “I speak the Queen’s English,” he said to me. “I’m third-generation British. I came to America because I’ve always wanted to come here, and now they’ve got me so scared that all I want to do is go home. We’re paying for your stupid war anyway.”

I once got pulled out for secondary screening at the Australian border. They brought my pregnant wife a chair and a glass of water, were friendly and professional and prompt, and never made me feel anything other than welcome. They thoroughly investigated me without ever making me feel like a crook. It took all of 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I can report a similar experience dealing with airport security in the United States. While I was never required to wait in a crammed room where I was not permitted to go to the toilet, I did have to suffer through an extraordinary amount of security procedures every time I passed through a US airport.

I spent the first half of 2008 travelling through Europe, Canada and America. There were no troubles in Europe. But America was a different story altogether. I was travelling on an around-the-world ticket, a condition of which was that I could not fly into the same airport twice. This meant that I was essentially travelling on a one-way ticket, as far as US airport security was concerned. And apparently, foreigner + one-way ticket = terrorist.

I passed through, I think, six airports while I was in the US. And without fail, every time I was required to endure secondary screening procedures. These procedures involved:

  • having airport security search through all of my personal belongings (very roughly, I might add, and the one time I tried to catch one of my belongings before it fell off the table after the security officer had cast it aside, I was loudly and harshly berated for touching my own property);
  • being required to answer a series of intrusive questions;
  • being fingerprinting;
  • having my irises scanned;
  • being patted down by security personnel (I was asked if I wanted this done in a private room, but I refused, preferring to have witnesses while I was touched); and
  • standing in a little glass cubicle where air was blasted on me to see if I had any explosive substances on my clothes or person (it felt like a gas chamber).

I was treated like a criminal, and like “Paul” from the UK, it completely turned me off future visits to the US. After the first airport screening procedure, I found that I became extremely nervous each time I had to go to the airport, which probably just made me look even more suspicious.

But probably the most insulting thing, was that each time I was told that the process by which I was selected for secondary screening procedures was “random”. Please – six times in a row? My partner, who was travelling on the same type of ticket but on an American passport (he was born in Hawaii) was not subject to the same treatment. And whenever I ventured to ask the other people waiting in line to be security screened whether they were American, there was never a single American person in line.

My relief upon returning to an Australian airport, where the security personnel are friendly (they even crack jokes), respectful and efficient, was immense. My experience in the Australian and NZ airports has always been pleasant (mirroring Cory’s own experience), and I can only hope that this is because Australian security personnel treat travellors better in general, and not just because I was travelling on an Australian passport.

IP enforcement taken too far?

Today, one of Wired’s top stories is “Senate Introduces IP-Reform Bill Bolstering Enforcement”. The abstract in my RSS feeds caught my attention: “Legislation bolstering intellectual property enforcement by increasing penalties, expanding the power of the attorney general and creating a new FBI piracy unit was proposed Thursday in the Senate.”

An FBI Piracy Unit???

Isn’t that a little extreme? I think that the US Justice Department has forgotten that at the end of the day, “piracy” is just copying a song or moving visual image. That’s all. What’s more, it is traditionally a civil action between two parties – the copyright owner on the one hand and the alleged infringer on the other. The community-at-large is generally not harmed. I think it’s time the Justice Department stop doing the entertainment industries’ legal work for them.

The article quotes Gigi Sohn, President of Public Knowledge and a communications attorney, who said, “This bill would turn the Justice Department into an arm of the legal departments of the entertainment companies by authorizing DOJ to file civil lawsuits for infringement, forcing taxpayers to foot the bill.”

Read the full story here.

Hello world

Well here it is – my inaugural post! I have never kept a blog before so much of the process and conventions of blogging I am still figuring out. My hope is that this blog will help me to improve my analysis of what is going on in the world around me, refine my voice and open me up to online discussions.

This blog will likely cover a wide range of topics corresponding to my work and my interests. I work as a legal researcher at QUT primarily in the field of open access. Therefore, I intend that many posts will be about the law in Australia and about the open access movement worldwide. However, I hope to also touch on politics and society where I feel motivated to comment.

In addition to my law degree, I also have a degree in Creative Writing. So expect some literary references to creep in. The name of this blog is inspired by Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, one of my all time favourite novels. You can find the relevant extract in the side bar. I chose this extract because of the multiple metaphors that can be read into it. In venturing to host a blog and expose my thoughts and opinions to the world on the internet, I feel a little like I am tightrope-walking over an abyss! But the image of Octavia – of a community suspended, never knowing when the rope will break – can apply equally to the state of copyright law in the digital age, or more generally to the world in which we live today where the nature of our fundamental human rights are at times uncertain. Read into the name and extract what you will. Read into my blog what you will and please feel free to comment on any posts that interest you.