Open Access and Open Source

This morning, I read that the main Swedish research funding agency has decided to enforce open access to research results of projects it funds. This is a big deal for Swedish researchers relying on these funds: The status of a researcher is determined by the prestige of the journals in which they publish (and how much they publish). Many of these journals are not open access but rather require hefty fees to give you access. Hence, researchers might not be getting some of the expected reputation for their work.

Such a requirement is likely to come down the pipe in many other countries as well. Its impact on the academic publishing industry is not to be underestimated, it is nothing short of Schumpeterian. Economics is aligning itself against the publishers of high-priced journals. As open access journals as well as professional organizations like the ACM show, it is possible to have a publishing process at a much cheaper price tag than those of the likes of Elsevier and Springer.

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A License Agnostic ACM Digital Library?

Most authors transfer their copyright to the ACM when having their papers published and archived in the ACM Digital Library. While the ACM allows authors to provide their papers on personal servers for non-commercial purposes, the goal recognizably is to make the DL not only the primary source of such material, but also the only source.

A second less well-known option for authors is to sign the “permission release” form, granting the ACM the right to publish the work, but without loosing the copyright to it. Authors keep the rights to their work while still having the paper published and archived in the DL. Then, the DL becomes one source of the paper, but not the only one. This option is typically made available only under special circumstances, for example, if you are working for the Canadian government.

The recent publication of the Proceedings of the 2006 Conference on Pattern Languages of Programming may signify an important change in this regiment.

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Author Obfuscation

In the last few days, I’ve been reading up on author obfuscation. By “author obfuscation” I mean tools and techniques that will ensure an author’s anonymity when posting a blog entry or writing a document. You might think that not giving your name or writing under a pseudonym may be sufficient, but I don’t think this will stand the test of time. Specifically, if you are writing a blog under a pseudonym, you are creating a large corpus of text, all of which is being archived, and ten years from now smart algorithms may be able to correlate those postings with other work by you that identifies you as an author of the blog.

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Bertrand Meyer: Electrical Engineering vs. Computer Science

Bertrand Meyer, at the 40 Years of Software Engineering panel at ICSE 2008, on May 16, 2008, 11:56am: “Electrical engineering is to computer science what making a bed is to making love.” I’m not entirely sure this is true, but it certainly makes for a memorable quote.

UPDATE: I had mentioned my enjoyment of this quote to Prof. Meyer at the conference. A few days later I received an email from him in which he generously (and gracefully) corrects me with the exact statement, which first appeared in his inaugural lecture at ETH Zurich:

We appreciate our debt to electrical engineering, without which there would be no computers. Indeed, computer science is to electrical engineering as the art of making love is to the art of making beds.

Much better, and certainly less crude than my in-the-moment snapshot.