[open-bibliography] comprehensive bibliographic database of "open" resources?

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Mon Aug 16 22:56:15 BST 2010

On Mon, Aug 16, 2010 at 8:11 PM, MJ Ray <mjr at phonecoop.coop> wrote:

> Ian Ibbotson wrote:
> > I know it's *terribly* old fashioned... and I hate to sound like a
> > broken 8 track... but index data still maintain an amazing registry of
> > all the openly searchable bibliographic databases using IRSpy at
> > http://irspy.indexdata.com/. The data is open in the sense that anyone
> > can search it, [...]
> which isn't really open at all in a useful way for Open Knowledge IMO.
> It might only be "look but don't touch".  From what I remember, MARC21
> doesn't contain a tag that specifies the licensing terms of a record,
> does it?
> <RANT>
I had not realised till I started this Open Bibliography project
#jiscopenbib how awful and confused the state of serials (journals)
biblilography was. I am appalled and angry about the way that academia has
handed over its property for serials bibliography - or allowed it to be

Unless I am wrong, there is no open bibliographic data for serials other
than that associated with Open Access publications. Open Access is itself a
poor formal definition and only recently have people started using Gratis
and LIbre to qualify it. So unless something is OA Libre then there is no
gurantee that the metadata or the bibliography is Libre - just Gratis at the
whim of providers. (There may be soemthign additional that PMC or UKPMC

I did not realise that publishers sold their bibliographic metadata to
secondary publishers. That means that when I write a paper, the journal
sends off the metadata to some third party who protects with licences,
paywalls, but mainly FUD. And sells my metadata which I created back to my

The whole system is paralyzed by FUD. You can only do anything with
non-Libre information except after negotation.

Anger is not the best rational emotion so I'll calm down

It needn't be like this. When I create an article I own my own name. I own
the title of the article. I own the right to mention the name of the
institution I am employed by.

I regard the name of the journal I send the article to as in the public
domain. If I write a letter to the Guardian I don't have to get their
permission to use the word "Guardian". So why should the Journal of
Extortionate Prices own the metadata of the artcile *I* wrote. Or to sell it
on to third parties in a restrictive manner? So that I can't use my own
material without permission.

Perhaps because the publisher has obtained a unique identifier? Or because
they have added page numbers? I don't know. It's as if the DVLC sued me for
publishing the license plate on my car.

There are lots of things that can be done. Openstreet map got 250,000
volunteers to map street names onto an open map. They did this by cycling
and walking the globe. Took 3-5 years. Compared with this it's trivial.

Simple solution:
* get every first year student to compile a bibliography of their subject by
hand. Portion out the work just like OSM does. A list of all journals and
all articles which students use to find new ones. How many papers published
per year? perhaps 5 million (I guess it's less) how many universities. Let's
take a low estimate of 1000. That's 5000 papers per university. That's a
trivial amount to produce. it's 100 papers per week. Per university.

It's legal. It's simple. It could be done by a mixture of carrot and stick.
Prizes for those who do the most. It's educational (well at least at the
start). It's legal.

So why not? Because the academic system cannot get its act together. Ask
most librarians and they'll tut-tut - not high-enough quality, not legal
enough (of course it's legal - you don't need permission of secondary
publishers to cite papers in your thesis).

If the universities did it, they would be unstoppable. Even 100 universities
(perhaps 1% of all universities) did it it would work.

But I have tried this with trying to get the Universities to provide
bibliography and metadata for their own theses. They seem incapable of
joining this up.

So - who is going to front this?
* universities?
* or the OKF.

I'm not mad. There are enough examples of citizen action that shows this is
completely tractable.

And of course we'd produce a better product. Because we understand what we
want. Conventional publishesr give people what can be sold. And that sale
has to include restrictions on use, because that increases monopolistic

And I have some exciting ideas about better products


Citations are more difficult. There are more, and they are trickier to

Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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