International Association of Scientific and Technological University Libraries

IATUL News Alerts

Archive July 2008

Intellectual Property: Commission adopts forward-looking package

Thursday, 31 July 2008 11:18:40 a.m.

The European Commission today adopted two initiatives in the area of copyright. First, the Commission proposes to align the copyright term for performers with that applicable to authors, in this way bridging the income gap that performers face toward the end of their lives. Secondly, the Commission proposes to fully harmonise the copyright term that applies to co-written musical compositions. In parallel, the Commission also adopted a Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The consultation document focuses on topics that appear relevant for the development of a modern economy, driven by the rapid dissemination of knowledge and information. Both of these initiatives comprise a unique mix of social, economic and cultural measures aimed at maintaining Europe as a prime location for cultural creators in the entertainment and knowledge sectors.

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Libraries mash up content, services and ideas

Thursday, 31 July 2008 11:15:22 a.m.

By Tom Storey

One of the fastest growing trends today is combining data and functionality from several sources to create new services that provide a unique user experience. They’re called mash ups. Think Google Maps. Yahoo Pipes. Facebook Plug-Ins. Libraries are doing Web mash ups as well: Meebo Instant Messaging. Library Lookup. Bookburro. And, in a way, they’ve been doing all kinds of mash ups for years. Think story hour, open-shelf access, cafes, book lockers.

As a changing social and economic landscape raised concerns about childhood literacy and children’s recreational reading, Caroline Hewins initiated a read-aloud, storytelling activity at the Hartford Public Library. She mixed children and families and books and stories from the rapidly expanding body of children’s literature. The result was a useful and fun new library program.

As new social and economic trends changed information discovery behaviors, Dave Pattern introduced a way to bring readers from a popular book site to the library. He mixed the library collection with the bookstore experience to reach a growing new audience with a creative new library service. The result was traffic for the library and convenience for the user.

Both of these examples show how libraries adapt and combine services and ideas to meet the needs and preferences of users. They are ‘mash ups,’ fresh concoctions designed to be informative, useful, fun and even transformative. One was programmatic, one was technological, but both were effective. Caroline Hewins’ story time, the first one of its kind, happened in 1882. Dave Pattern’s library look-up on was mashed up in 2006.

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Researcher Profiles and Portfolios: Use Cases of the Facebook Service and the University of Queensland Researchers Service

Thursday, 31 July 2008 11:08:07 a.m.

By Belinda Weaver

The University of Queensland (UQ) maintains an online research profiling system, UQ Researchers,to showcase the expertise of its academic staff and postgraduate students. The site makes available detailed research profiles and evidence of expertise at various levels. It incorporates school, institute and centre research profiles, CV-type profiles for individual researchers, research project and publication details, and details of available research facilities. External users can search for topical areas and seek opportunities for research collaboration. The service is often used internationally by aspiring research higher degree students who are seeking to identify institutions or individual academics with research strength in their chosen area of study. The UQ Researchers site provides access not only to the expertise and experience of individual researchers but also to that of research groups across the University. Participation in the service is currently optional. There is no mandate for inclusion.
UQ Researchers offers direct data entry, as well as a data sourcing system that automatically collects information about academics and students, and their research, from UQ sources and provides it for use. Users are also welcome to add further, relevant information such as details of non-refereed publications, the collection of which is not currently done by UQ data sources.
The take up of the UQ Researchers service, however, is patchy. Not all staff participate in the service, and postgraduate student take up is extremely low. This has been attributed to a number of causes, such as lack of time, lack of currency of the information provided, and reluctance on the part of staff to do direct data entry into the system. On the other hand, some staff and students were more than willing to spend time showcasing themselves and their work via social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Accordingly, it was decided to compare the functionality of a social networking service with that of UQ Researchers to identify any gaps in the UQ research profiling service and to arrive at some recommendations for improving it. 

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Intellectual Property Regime Stifles Science and Innovation, Nobel Laureates Say

Thursday, 31 July 2008 11:06:39 a.m.

By Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch

MANCHESTER, UK - The basic framework of the intellectual property (IP) regime aims to “close down access to knowledge” rather than allowing its dissemination, Professor Joseph Stiglitz said at a 5 July lecture on “Who Owns Science?” Stiglitz, a 2001 Nobel Laureate in Economics, and Professor John Sulston, a 2002 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine, launched Manchester University’s new Institute for Science, Ethics and Innovation.
Both were highly critical of today’s patent system, saying it stifles science and innovation.
IP is often compared to physical property rights but knowledge is fundamentally different, Stiglitz said. It is a public good with two attributes - “non-rivalrous competition” and non-excludability - meaning it is difficult to prevent others from enjoying its benefits. That runs counter to IP regimes, which are worse than exclusion because they create monopoly power over knowledge that is often abused, he said.
Patent monopolies are believed to drive innovation but they actually impede the pace of science and innovation, Stiglitz said. The current “patent thicket,” in which anyone who writes a successful software programme is sued for alleged patent infringement, highlights the current IP system’s failure to encourage innovation, he said.
Another problem is that the social returns from innovation do not accord with the private returns associated with the patent system, Stiglitz said. The marginal benefit from innovation is that an idea may become available sooner than it might have. But the person who secures the patent on it wins a long-term monopoly, creating a gap between private and social returns.
The Human Genome Project identified a gene that predicts breast cancer and that was patented by a US company, Stiglitz said. The actual cost of testing for the gene is minimal but patients’ costs are so high in the US that poor people are unable to obtain the test, he said. That raises questions about the equity and fairness of the patent system, he said.
Stiglitz raised two concerns. Developed countries are separated from developing countries by the disparity in access to knowledge and IP is making it harder to close the gap, he said, which is why developing nations in the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) called for (and got) a development agenda. Moreover, IP results in less access to health care, he said. Generic medicines cost a fraction of brand names but the World Trade Organization Uruguay Round agreement on IP and trade signed a death warrant for millions of people by making access to generic drugs more difficult, he said.
Stiglitz proposed that IP regimes be tailored to specific countries and sectors. No one believes that the patent system should be entirely abandoned, but the question is whether other tools, such as prizes or government funding, could be used to promote access to knowledge and spur innovation in areas where there are well-defined objectives such as a cure for malaria, he said. Stiglitz said he is hopeful of reform because many in the US are seeking changes to the IP system.
Sulston said science can be driven by need and curiosity, which requires a substantial degree of openness and trust among players. Increasingly, however, the picture is one of private ownership of science and innovation, a situation welcomed by governments and investors who control the direction of research, he said. But the consequence is to funnel science into profitable areas and steer clear of those that will not make money, he said.
That trend has several consequences, including the neglect of research on diseases of the poor and the production of unnecessary drugs sold through high-pressure marketing, Sulston said. There has been a failure of equitable distribution of the goods of science but the solution is not to have “dull insistence on equality,” he said.
IP is an ideological issue in quarters such as WIPO, Sulston said. Drug companies see any improvements to the system as weakening it, but no one is saying they have to give everything away, he said. The system should be a “good servant” not elevated to a “theistic level,” he said.
Counterfeiting has become a major issue, Sulston said. The trend is to link counterfeiting with IP but they are not connected, he said. If drugs are sold at their cost of production or just above, counterfeiters would have little room in which to play. The IP system is causing the production of bogus products, he said.
Sulston recommended a return to the old practice of splitting research and development from production, saying mixing the two leads to lobbying and advertising in R&D. Splitting them allows equitable delivery of products and can make R&D openly accessible, but only if those who share science also share its benefits, he said.
That separation appears to be happening to some extent as private companies such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funnel money into public health, Sulston said, but he warned against a return to the Victorian days when healthcare was supported by philanthropy. He urged that global health issues be coordinated by the World Health Organization, but said it is underfunded and heavily lobbied by governments and commercial interests.
Sulston also wants more coherent thinking about a biomedical treaty being examined by the WHO, and greater input from transnational non-governmental organisations.
Reversing the trend toward privatisation of science is critical, Sulston said. The world should concentrate on the survival and thriving of humanity, and exploration of the universe, he said. The outcome, he added, depends to a great extent on “who owns science.”

Dugie Standeford may be reached at

Participative Web and User-Created Content: Web 2.0, Wikis and Social Networking

Thursday, 31 July 2008 11:01:41 a.m.

Drawing on an expanding array of intelligent web services and applications, a growing number of people are creating, distributing and exploiting user-created content (UCC) and being part of the wider participative web. This study describes the rapid growth of UCC and its increasing role in worldwide communication, and draws out implications for policy. Questions addressed include: What is user-created content? What are its key drivers, its scope and different forms? What are the new value chains and business models? What are the extent and form of social, cultural and economic opportunities and impacts? What are the associated challenges? Is there a government role, and what form could it take?

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OPEN DOORS AND OPEN MINDS: What faculty authors can do to ensure open access to their work through their institution

Monday, 28 July 2008 5:05:59 p.m.

Inspired by the example set by the Harvard faculty, this White Paper is addressed to the faculty and administrators of academic institutions who support equitable access to scholarly research and knowledge, and who believe that the institution can play an important role as steward of the scholarly literature produced by its faculty. This paper discusses both the motivation and the process for establishing a binding institutional policy that automatically grants a copyright license from each faculty member to permit deposit of his or her peer-reviewed scholarly articles in institutional repositories, from which the works become available for others to read and cite.

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