On May 25, the Wikimedia Foundation moved to endorse a petition to the White House calling for public access to journal articles resulting from research funded by US public sources. The campaign has already commanded close to 20,000 signatures.
Kat Walsh is a prominent Wikimedian who has signed the petition. She is a co-author of the foundation's endorsement announcement, along with senior research analyst Dario Taraborelli and general counsel Geoff Brigham. Kat told the Signpost that "we spend public money on research because it's important to everyone—why isn't it beyond question that the public should have access to it?" The WMF announcement points out that Wikipedia as well as the other projects hosted by the foundation are heavily dependent on verifiable, reliable sources, and that its volunteers should be "empowered to read it, report on it, and cite it."
The key case study deployed by Access2Research in the petition is the Public Access Policy of the US National Institutes of Health, one of the world's major funding agencies. Heather Joseph told the Signpost that the current White House has had open access on its radar from its first month in office and has engaged with issues that research and open-access communities care about (see WMF response). She is confident that the administration will take action in response to a successful petition, either by means of executive action or by a positive response to legislative proposals by Congress.
Joseph pointed out that the petition shows not only major public support, which is likely to lead to improvements in open-access policy and, critically, will exert a positive influence on consideration of the proposed Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), previously put to Congress in 2006, 2010, and again this year. The FRPAA would require that 11 US federal science agencies deposit articles on research they have funded into publicly accessible archives; the articles must be maintained and preserved by that agency or another repository that permits public access. Articles must be made available "gratis" to users within six months. The legislation commands bipartisan support in both houses of Congress, and would complement executive actions with a legislative framework that could not be easily rolled back by a later administration.
Beyond the US, the open-access debate is moving in a similar direction. Prominent mathematicians are calling for a boycott of Dutch publisher Elsevier, the biggest player on the medical and scientific literature market, and Jimmy Wales has been appointed to advise the UK government on open access (Signpost coverage). Heather pointed out that the Foundation's endorsement is important not just because the Foundation is a major player, but because elected representatives remember the Wikipedia community's action in response to the proposed SOPA (Signpost coverage) and the public attention carried by Jimmy's status as public figure.
To have an impact, the petition needs at least 25,000 signatures by June 19. Anyone who is at least 13 years old, US citizen or not, can sign it.
Pending changes RfC finally over
After a protracted 60 days, the request for comment on the pending changes feature (Signpostcoverage) ended May 22 without a clear preliminary result. While the final administrative evaluation of the process is still under consideration, the sheer numbers indicate higher participation than in the last RfC on the issue in 2011.
This time, there were three options: to oppose (1) or support (2) the feature as such, with another option (3) to accept the tool but reject the current draft policy on the other. According to figures published by a community member, the numbers are as follows:
While 3% of the RfC participants (17 users) supported option 3, the opposing camp managed to rally 35% (178), and the support camp rallied 61% (308). The support option also received the highest relative level of support among reviewer user rights holders within its own voting block (63%, 193 users) but the lowest numbers among editors with fewer than 1000 edits (15%). All options received a high level of comments and justifications.
Last year the third phase of the pending changes trial ended with a closure that delivered just over 66% support for the proposal (127 ayes to 65 nays), as well as concluding that no consensus to keep the feature had been established. Additionally, two caveats, each related to a set of BLP-related issues and articles, received some support.
This year's RfC aimed to follow up at the 2011 results and to reassess the tool that was temporarily taken out of service in response to those results. However, in terms of participation both proceedings are significantly below the level of activity generated by the vote on the German Wikipedia, the largest project using the more restrictive flagged revisions, back in 2008. The German community, which regularly decides project governance issues by vote-only procedures rather than deliberative RfCs, voted in favor of their version of the tool by 53.7% (638 of 1189 votes) and has abided by this decision to this day.
A co-ordinating administrator of the English Wikipedia RfC, Fluffernutter, stated that no fixed target date for the administrative closure of the RfC at hand is set.
Editor satisfaction (WESI): The fourth release of findings of the editor survey last year (Signpostcoverage) in the foundation's blog highlighted that the majority of responding editors were satisfied with the environment provided by Wikipedia. However, it appears that there are differences between the language versions, with German- and Japanese-speakers at the lower end of the field.
Cairo education pilot reaches endgame: The WMF's Cairo education program pilot to pioneer Arabic language higher education outreach comes to an end in June. The foundation's blog states that the initiative was a "huge success" so far. The Signpost will do a special report on the pilot in July, once all results have been published.
FDC update: Discussions on how to design the Funds Dissemination Committee (Signpostcoverage) reached a new stage on May 25 as a process update was published on Meta. It states among other things that the FDC draft outlines that of the nine voting FDC members the community will have the right to vote on five and the WMF's Board of trustees to appoint four members.
German Wikipedian defies criminal charge on controversial content: A prominent German Wikipedian, Achim Raschka, reports in the Signpost's German counterpart Kurier that he faced criminal charges under the German law that covers individual liability in relation to the use of pornographic content, for his use of a Commons video in the history section (Geschichte) of the pornography article on the German Wikipedia. The video, a historical document shot in c. 1925, features nuns and monks engaging in sexual acts. The prosecutor decided not to proceed on the grounds that the infraction was minor, but did not address the wider issues raised by jurisdictional inconsistency on the internet.
Czech Ambassador Program results: The educational cooperation projects between universities and Wikipedia in the Czech Republic have produced more than 100 articles over the last year. A member of the Czech Wikimedia chapter reports in the WMF's blog that the program focuses to a large extent on hard science and that the program aims at 150 to 200 articles this term.
GLAM conference in Barcelona: An international delegation of Wikipedians took part in the MuseumNext 2012 conference on social media in museums in Barcelona. The GLAM newsletter points out that they could rely on a theme-specific lounge organized by Amical Viquipèdia to represent the movement's activities.
New administrators: The Signpost welcomes Jenks24 as a new administrator.