The Information Policy Blog

The (unofficial) blog of the BCLA Information Policy Committee

Monthly Archives: December 2012

ITU summit gathers steam after standardising web surveillance

So IPC’s eyes have been fixed on ITU internet governance summit for the last couple of weeks; we had a pretty interesting discussion on-list about whether or not to promote and participate in the lobbying efforts of a most strange bedfellow – Google, of all things – and in the end I think we came down on the side of “enemy of my enemy”. Regardless of your feelings, you should absolutely be writing to MPs, the ITU, and everybody else who doesn’t want to hear that this summit, and clandestine governance forums like it, are bad news for library patrons and everybody else.

Why, you ask? What kind of thing does the ITU actually get up to? Well, I’d like to draw your attention to a little-publicised incident where ITU’s plans for standardising Deep Packet Inspection were sort-of leaked to the sort-of press. It’s quite funny, since it’s only a leak in the most generous sense of the term – the morons sent a classified document to a net freedom activist and only later realised that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea.

Back to the matter at hand. The leaked document itself is pretty stark and disturbing; the ITU are under no illusions about what this technology is likely to be used for (monitoring and controlling the behaviour of users, China- and Iran-style). DPI is one of those technologies where the potential for abuse so hugely outweighs any conceivable legitimate use that most every other governance body has refused even to discuss it (and even then, our conceptions of “legitimate” are fairly gross; allowing ISPs to seamlessly, undetectably spy on traffic to take the guesswork out of Big Content’s Satanic intentions regarding copyright and enforcement).

It’s probably not surprising that we think of these attitudes as profoundly unethical and intrinsically hostile to users, their rights, and really just to the dissemination of human culture and ideas generally. Thanks as always to Cory Doctorow for sharing.

Federal government in court for denying TRC access to records

This is big news, even if it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Essentially the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is in the awkward position of having to ask for an extension of its own mandate. Why? Because the government’s efforts to prevent it from completing its work in time have been so relentless and well-coordinated across various institutions and departments.

This is not a happy day for transparency, accountability, or even plain old-fashioned human decency here in Canada. What response can we expect from the CPC? We will undoubtedly see the TRC maligned as ineffectual time-wasters who have been idly dawdling while squandering precious government resources, which is frankly absurd to anybody with any experience of the TRC and their hard work over the last four years. In any case, isn’t levying that accusation against every single person in government who criticises the CPC’s finances getting a little exhausting?

From the article: “The commission said in an interim report last February that it had hit a wall in its attempts to pry the documents out of Ottawa’s hands. In an application for legal intervention, it says the stonewalling continues and the government has provided only a subset of an existing database of known material. “The commission is taking this step very reluctantly and with a sense that it has been left with no alternative,” Justice Murray Sinclair, the commission’s chairman, said in a statement.”

CIHR revises (i.e., weakens) Open Access policy

CIHR, the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, has been a national (and, in some regards, international) leader in the development and promotion of open access (OA) to research outputs, including peer-reviewed articles. However, the future of CIHR’s leadership in the area of public access to publicly-funded research is in question. After forging new ground with a research access policy requiring OA within 6 months of publication of research results, the CIHR had a strange kerfuffle in 2011 in which they rolled out and then rolled back an open data policy (see this and subsequent blog posts for more info).

In this week’s CIHR funding news, they have renamed the “Policy on Access to Research Outputs” the “Open Access Policy” and extended the embargo period from 6 months to the NIH-standard 12 months. While I understand that the NIH, being the largest biomedical research funder in the world, effectively set the industry standard at 12 months with their own policy (rolled out after the CIHR policy), the CIHR requiring 6 months gave researchers a leg to stand on when negotiating a shorter embargo period with publishers. While standard journal publishing contracts in biomedicine allow public archiving after 1 year, the argument that a contract must be modified because “my federal funder requires this after 6 months” was rarely denied (<–statement based on anecdata, but I do not know of any higher form of evidence regarding this question; if you do let me know).

Not only has CIHR removed this leverage to provide more timely public access to Canadian researchers’ outputs, they have failed to couple it with the strength of the NIH policy — a requirement for immediate deposit (with optional delayed public access) in PubMed Central. Without this requirement for immediate (upon acceptance for publication) deposit, few researchers will remember to go back and deposit their article draft a year later when the OA requirement goes into effect. There is still no known process for auditing compliance with this policy, nearly 5 years after it originally went into effect.

This is another disappointing development from a tri-council funder that used to be a clear leader in OA. If anyone has any further information on the process of revising this policy, I’d love to hear about it.


(Disclosure: I and many of my colleagues are and have previously been funded by CIHR. I am currently a CIHR Vanier Scholar.)

Actual CIHR “Funding news” snippet follows:

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3) Application and Funding Policies

a) Update to the CIHR Open Access Policy

Starting January 2013, CIHR-funded researchers will be required to make their peer-reviewed publications freely accessible within 12 months of publication – at the latest. Amendments to the CIHR Open Access Policy, formerly known as the Policy on Access to Research Outputs, modify current requirements to provide the public with freely accessible research articles while aligning with other major funding agencies, such as the US National Institutes of Health. Researchers can comply with the green open access policy by depositing the articles in an archive, such as PubMed Central Canada or an institutional repository, and/or by publishing results in an open access journal.

While the CIHR Open Access Policy provides researchers with clear guidance on CIHR’s minimum expectation, in the spirit of public benefits of research, CIHR continues to encourage researchers to make their publications accessible for free as soon as possible after publication. Compliance with the policy will continue to be monitored through end of grant reporting.

The revised Open Access Policy is available online:

For further information, please contact