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Not FASTR Enough

While the publishing industry continues to explore numerous avenues for providing full Open Access to the stewarded versions-of-record of the scientific literature, SPARC once again offers up the hope that the US Congress will save us from the evil paywalls.  Is  this really the best they can do?

Springer is now the largest commercial OA publisher in the world.  The publishers on the Highwire platform make over 2 million articles freely available within twelve months or less.  CrossRef is playing an increasingly important role in this space, most notably with the FundRef initiative.  NPG, AIP, and others are launching mega-journals built on the PLoS One model.  Wiley announced just today that they are moving two of their established journals to open access.  Even stodgy conservative Elsevier now publishes a couple dozen fully OA journals.

SPARC has changed the name of  their bill.  Yay!  Let's write our congresspeople!

There was a remarkable scene at the STM Annual Meeting in Frankfurt last October.  I was moderating the closing session, a discussion of the value of emerging models of scholarly publishing with Kent Anderson as the main speaker.  Always eager  to be provocative, Kent was being sharply critical of eLife, BioMed Central, PLoS One and the notion of open access in general (this will come as no surprise to readers of his pieces in the Scholarly Kitchen).  What resulted was significant pushback from many in the audience, who argued that not only were the various OA models financially viable, but that moving to OA was the  right thing  to do -- that it represented the values that had brought so many of  those people into publishing in the first place.  Imagine that -- 300 STM publishing executives in a conference room with a significant portion of them (and seasoned professionals at that) vociferously defending open access.

Alas.  I think I was the only librarian in the room.

The tide towards open access is inexorable.  Many in  the publishing industry recognize that and are actively engaged in making things happen.  Wouldn't it be nice if librarians were a part of that?  But SPARC, as the librarians' advocate for OA, would have us sit on our hands (well, one hand, I guess -- we're supposed  to use the other to write to Congress) and hope for a legislative solution.

The previous FRPAA versions of FASTR haven't even been able to get a decent congressional hearing.  It's easy enough for a congressperson to sign on as a co-sponsor, but  there doesn't really seem to be much legislative muscle behind it.  And even if it were, somehow, to get through Congress in the current session, think of  the time and money that will be wasted on building the infrastructure necessary for each agency to comply.  All for the sake of "freeing" manuscript versions of articles, many of which publishers are already making available.

I suppose you can't blame librarians too much.  If all they know about publishing is what they read in SPARC press releases it's natural to think that publishers are evil demons bent on hoarding knowledge to the detriment of civilization as we know it.  The slogans about publishers getting everything for free and making the taxpayers pay twice are compelling if you don't look at them too closely.

I'll agree with SPARC on one thing -- we've got no time to waste in moving the open access future forward.  Too bad that while publishing professionals of all stripes are working to make that happen librarians seem content to sit on the sidelines waving cardboard sabers.


I Blew A Fuse

The doctors remain perplexed.  Yes, they agree, the 1/30 MRI doesn't look any better than the 12/2 & 3 MRIs did.  If anything, they look a little worse.  The spinal cord remains inflamed & swollen from about C3 down towards C7.  (The steroids should  have reduced that!) But there's nothing obvious in the image that we can point to as the cause.  It could still be three or four very different things.

But the patient (that would be me) continues to improve.

The consensus is to wait.  There are some diagnostic procedures that could be done, but they all carry their own risks of making things worse.  Personally I'm not that eager to figure out the cause that I want to risk getting  the spinal cord nicked by some probe.  The doctors agree.  So we'll schedule another MRI for the end of March.  Maybe by then the swelling will have gone down and we'll be able to figure something out.

In the meantime, my body continues its amazing self-healing process.  On any given day, I still can't tell if I'm better or worse than the day before.  But if I look back a couple of weeks I can see  the progress.  Walking is easier -- and a little faster.  I have full range of motion with my left arm.  The grip of my left hand is much stronger.  My fingers remain tingly and numb, so the frustrations of typing, guitar and buttons haven't lessened much.  The biggest problem now is muscle soreness from months of over-compensating and not using the muscles properly, particularly in my left shoulder & arm.  So I've got a referral for a physical therapist -- if I can get a decent daily exercise routine I should be able  to reduce some of the muscle ache.

Explaining this to people is still a conundrum.  When I was at the PSP meeting in DC the week before last I carried my walking stick with me -- not so much because I needed it, but because it gave people an excuse to ask me what was up.  I'd say that the simplest description is that I've got a short-circuit in my spinal cord. 

Lynn prefers the more evocative, "His spinal cord blew a fuse."  Accurate enough for the non-neurologists, I think.