A special note regarding this and other HTML separates:
You apparently prefer to read Cites & Insights articles in HTML form.
If that’s true—and if you hope to read Part 2 of this two-part essay that way—then the time has come to support your preference.
Quoting from the first essay in the issue—which, based on stats, most of you haven’t looked at:
If you want the HTML separates to continue, contribute to Cites & Insights. The Paypal link is right there on the home page.
· If the sum of contributions and purchases of C&I annual volumes reaches $1,000 by the time I’m ready to publish the February issue (call it January 20-22, 2013), I’ll keep doing HTML separates throughout 2013.
· If that sum is significant and appears well on its way to $1,000 within the first quarter of 2013, I’ll do HTML separates for the February issue and see how it goes.
· If not, probably not. As far as I can tell, at least 250 people read HTML versions fairly regularly. If the HTML versions aren’t worth even $10 to $25 per year to at least some of those readers, they’re not worth doing.
Catching Up on Open Access, Part 1
Once upon a time—in November 2009, to be precise—I thought I was done writing about open access (henceforth OA most of the time). Quoting from the whole-issue essay Library Access to Scholarship in Cites & Insights 9:12:
The question now is whether Library Access to Scholarship should or will remain as an occasional feature in Cites & Insights. Here’s what I had to say about it on Walt at Random (with modifications):
Why I’m considering dropping the section
· Value added: I’ve never felt I could add much value to Peter Suber’s commentaries or, for that matter, Dorothea Salo’s (when she was focusing on these issues). I’ve given up engaging Stevan Harnad or directly discussing his monotone writing. Lately, I’m not sure my synthesis and commentary are adding much value to any of this.
· Effectiveness: Most Cites & Insights readers are within the library field, I believe–and that’s only reasonable, since that’s my background and the focus of most topical areas. So I’m probably not reaching many scientists–or, if I am, I’m probably not doing much to convince them to do more about OA and access-related issues. As for librarians, I’d guess that my readers are mostly already convinced–that I’m neither educating nor convincing much of anybody who doesn’t already get it. (I’d guess 1% to 3% of librarians read C&I, spiking to 25% or more for one particular issue. Those who need educating are mostly in the other 97%, I suspect.)
· Futility: Given what I’m reading from scientists as to how they relate to libraries and librarians, and given what I’m reading as to how they make decisions on where to publish and where to exert pressure, I’m feeling pretty futile about the whole effort. Not necessarily about OA as such–but definitely about my ability to make a difference.
· Library Access to Scholarship essays appear to be read and downloaded a lot less often than essays on blogs and blogging, Google Books, wikis and the like and somewhat less than essays on copyright and Making it Work.
More reasons for abandoning this section, reasons that admittedly overlap with the three above:
· The addition of Bill Hooker’s Open Reading Frame and Stuart Sheiber’s The Occasional Pamphlet may make my contributions even more superfluous.
· It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the “OA community”—the bloggers who focus on open access, notably apart from Peter Suber and Charles W. Bailey, Jr.—would be just as happy if I disappeared or, perhaps more correctly, have never been aware (or cared) that C&I even existed.
· I grow increasingly convinced that most scientists just don’t care–either about libraries or about OA–and maybe that’s appropriate. I also grow increasingly convinced that librarians can’t do it on their own, although it’s encouraging to see things like the Compact that recently emerged. Still, it’s an uphill battle, and one that I really can’t play much part in.
· Every time I see calls for “universal mandates,” I want to back as far away as possible.
· One new one: Sometimes it seems as though it’s all been said, that we’re now engaged in endless rehashing.
I was as good as my word: Library Access to Scholarship never appeared again and never will (at least not here). I put all the OA essays from C&I into a 513-page paperback, Open Access and Libraries. That massive paperback is still available (for $17.50, essentially the cost of production). And I was done with OA, for all the reasons noted above.
But OA wasn’t done with me. Through a combination of circumstances, I wound up writing an ALA Editions Special Report, Open Access: What You Need to Know Now. Little by little, I started tagging the occasional item related to OA. Although no essays appeared in 2010 or 2011, it’s hard to call Policy: The Rapid Rout of RWA in Cites & Insights 12:12 (December 2012) anything but an OA essay.
I’ll be doing a half-day preconference on OA at the Oregon/Washington Library Associations Conference in April 2013 (assuming people sign up for it). It will be based on a combination of my books, Peter Suber’s Open Access, this roundup and items I’ve flagged specifically for the precon. If you’re an Oregon or Washington librarian, I encourage you to sign up. It definitely won’t be three straight hours of a sage on stage; I hope to provide useful background and ideas but also to engage folks in discussion.
Meanwhile, I’d like to think the third bullet in the second set above isn’t true—that more scientists (and librarians) are beginning to care. So here’s a haphazard roundup of items I thought worth noting and discussing, arranged in a set of overlapping topics. I don’t claim this is anywhere near exhaustive: I’ve been selective in tagging items (now in Diigo, formerly in Delicious) and eliminated almost half of the tagged items while preparing this roundup. The order of topics is partly arbitrary, partly intentional, with short groups first. Citations run through December 19, 2012; anything after that may show up elsewhere at some point. I have included only items that I, as someone with no institutional affiliations, can freely access.
I’ve deliberately omitted some sources I find too infuriating to cope with, although a couple of them do get mentioned in connection with other items. I doubt that I need to name those sources to anybody who’s familiar with my stuff; it’s fair to say that they include both viciously anti-OA sources and some who claim to be pro-OA, but only if it meets their own specific definition.
This quintet of items is nearly miscellaneous, and clearly many other items relate to OA’s advantages, but I thought these were particularly interesting.
Kevin Smith posted this on September 27, 2011 at Scholarly Communications @ Duke. The title refers to the CERN experiment that appeared to show subatomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light. That’s mostly a hook for what follows. Extensive excerpts:
One noteworthy feature about this spate of attention and speculation [regarding the CERN experiment] is that the article itself is available for anyone to read, on the repository for high energy physics called Arxiv. Having the article available for open access is often important for researchers in this fast-moving field, since advances and discussions now typically move faster than the speed of traditional publications would allow (although not as fast as neutrinos). But I want to stop a moment and consider what open access means for the rest of us, at least around a high-profile but highly technical article like this one.
One of the things open access advocates hear a lot, both from authors and from publishers, is that many articles are just too technical, and most people cannot understand them. The handful who can, this argument goes, will see the article published in the expensive flagship journal in the field, and that is all that matters.
Putting aside the questionable assumption about whether everyone capable of understanding a specialized scientific article really does have access to all the journals—my experience as a librarian makes me think this is false—what value is there in making articles available to those who would struggle to understand them? One set of advantages can be seen clearly when an article suddenly becomes the subject of media reports, as happened here.
First, when an article is available in open access, reporters are more likely to find the research and write about it…
Second, when reporters are looking for sources to comment on a published experiment or discovery, they often turn to other scientists. When they do, the ease with which those experts (who really may not be a institutions that subscribe to everything, since no institution does) can see the original work improves the quality of their comments…
Finally, even for laypeople like me there is an advantage to actually seeing the paper. I admit that I struggled just to comprehend the abstract. Yet it is salutary, I think for folks like me to see how real science is done and reported…
We often hear about “junk science,” and it is not clear how well the news media determines the quality of a scientific claim. Too often it seems based on who is being the loudest or make the most attention-grabbing claim. By having their work available in open access venues, scientists can counteract that tendency just a bit. Besides, if valid science is all behind subscription barriers, we have no cause to complain that the media primarily reports on the junk, or at least fails to make judgments about quality. Far better for the scientists and for society if the valid work is also out there in the marketplace of ideas, with an equal claim on the attention and critical judgment of the public.
It’s hard to argue with any of that, and maybe a little hard to comment on it. (Each ellipsis represents several additional sentences expanding on that paragraph’s theme.) In practice, “layman won’t understand the papers anyway” is one of the lamest dodges in the lame collection of anti-OA excuses. In the case of the CERN experiment, CERN itself later found that the apparent results were erroneous measurements—but that’s irrelevant to this discussion, I think.
Not a terribly meaningful title, but the page itself is worth reading—and the site, Who needs access? You need access!—is worth a visit. It appears to have started in February 2012 and includes 15 interviews so far—but based on the archive makeup, it’s slowed down a lot. (There were 12 interviews between February and April, one in May 2012 and one in December 2012.)
The site is run by “the @access working group“ and administered by Mike Taylor along with two site editors, Tom Olijhoek and Jenny Molloy. The interviews are an odd lot, including one very high-profile and argumentative OA person and others I’ve never heard of, mostly scientists. I am not sure what to make of the site or group as a whole—but the FAQ is interesting albeit badly out of date (I sense that the site really isn’t being actively maintained). How badly out of date? Consider these paragraphs:
Right now in the USA there are two opposite pieces of legislation going through Congress.
One of them, the Research Works Act (RWA), is funded by traditional publishers and aims to make the existing NIH public-access policy illegal. It does this by reclassifying everything that they touch as a “private-sector research work” even if it’s publicly funded—something that has made many researchers angry.
The other bill is the Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA). If passed, it would extend the NIH’s public access policy to all eleven of the government agencies that fund more than $100 million of research per year.
We need hardly say that the RWA would be disastrous for public access, and the FRPAA would be a huge step forward. If you are American citizen, please write to your representatives urging them to oppose the RWA and support the FRPAA. For details on how to do this, see the Taxpayer Alliance’s pages on the RWA and on the FRPAA. There are also WhiteHouse.gov petitions that you can sign: RWA, FRPAA.
I’ve left out the links; you can get to them on the FAQ page. The first link to RWA is not a link to the bill itself but to the Wikipedia article on it, which also appears not to have been updated appropriately.
Here’s the section of the FAQ I like best—although “academic” really should be either “scholarly” or “research” (many STM papers aren’t “academic”), and it’s unfortunate that (in a later portion not quoted here) Gold OA is described in a way that seems to always involve author-side charges (not the case).
Aren’t academic papers too hard to read?
Too hard for who? Most (not all) academic papers are pretty specialised, which can make them hard for non-specialists to read. But that doesn’t make them useless to the public. To pick one obvious example: your doctor has the background to read medical research, but probably doesn’t have access.
And papers vary. Bright high-school science students shouldn’t have too much trouble following the arguments of papers like Head and neck posture in sauropod dinosaurs inferred from extant animals, even if they don’t understand all the details and ignore the citations.
In the end, it’s for readers to decide whether or not a given paper is “too hard” for them; it’s not for publishers to decide ahead of time, and use that as an excuse for not allowing access.
But the people who need access already have it.
This is an argument sometimes made by senior academics at well-funded universities with wide subscriptions. It may be true that there is a tiny proportion of researchers who have all the access they need. But there are multiple issues with this:
Who says academics are the only people who need access?
Even good universities don’t have access to all the papers they need: for example, the University of Bath, named as the “University of the Year” for 2011/12 by The Sunday Times, doesn’t have access to the Royal Society’s Biology Letters.
Even when access is possible, navigating through paywalls is often cumbersome, misleading and time-consuming.
Even when researchers have access to read research, they often don’t have access to use it in other ways, such as text-mining and indexing.
We are a long way from the fully open access to research that we need.
Overall, my sense is that this site is an interesting initiative that’s lost most of its momentum. Still worth noting along the way.
Marcus D. Hanwell wrote this October 17, 2012 item at SpotOn. Hanwell’s a PhD who now works for a private company and is active in a variety of “open” areas. Since the OA Irony Meter is yellow on this item, posted on a Nature site with a very explicit Macmillan copyright statement on the bottom, even including the superfluous but aggressive “All Rights Reserved,” I’m only going to quote one key paragraph; you can read the rest in the original.
Once I left academia I realized just how different the world was—the research I had conducted in the past was now inaccessible to me, stuck behind academic paywalls. In the past when I found a paper and the abstract looked interesting, I could simply click on the full text link and get the paper. If it turned out it was not very relevant (happened most of the time), I could close the article and keep searching. Now that I had lost my academic IP address, with all of the journals I had been accustomed to having “free access” to in an affluent Western university, I was restricted to gleaning what I could from abstracts and article graphics. I had become what Peter Murray-Rust termed “scholarly poor,” a highly qualified scientist essentially shut out of the scientific process due to the academic paywalls in place. I was no longer able to follow developments in my field, and should I choose to publish more articles about my research after leaving academia, I would also be unable to read it once published.
Read the piece. (The OA Irony Meter is red for articles on OA that are entirely protected by paywalls, yellow for articles that are available but with explicit copyright claims. I don’t normally mention it, especially since red items just won’t appear here.)
Peter Suber and Darius Cuplinskas co-wrote this commentary, appearing December 3, 2012 at The Chronicle of Higher Education. It begins with a remarkable story:
This year a high-school student in Maryland announced that he had invented a diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer. The test costs three cents per use. It works 168 times as fast and more than 400 times as accurately as the best previously existing test. It also may be able to detect ovarian and lung cancers.
Jack Andraka, the inventor, is 15 years old. His cancer test is more than a medical triumph. It is also a triumph for open access, the goal of a decade-old movement to replace an obsolete and inefficient scholarly publication industry with something better for everybody: a system that allows anyone with a computer and an Internet connection free access to results of academic and scientific research—most of it paid for by taxpayers.
Without open access, Jack Andraka would not have been able to retrieve and read scientific publications on the Web, even if he had been able to locate them. He did not have thousands of dollars to spend on scholarly journal subscriptions or pay-per-view fees.
Is there room for citizen science? Certainly not if citizens can’t get at research results. Is it possible that a high school kid could develop something important? Absolutely.
The economic benefits of open access are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The decision to place the results of the Human Genome Project in the public domain without delay, for example, helped ensure that scientists everywhere can use the data. The $3.8-billion investment in the project has had an estimated economic impact of $796-billion.
Science needs to be more open, as the authors say.
Simply put, open access should become the default method in every country for distributing new peer-reviewed research in every field. In order to make that happen, universities and funding agencies must develop effective open-access policies.
The commentary notes some of those policies in brief. Sad to say, the very first comment—from a pseudonymous commenter—starts right in on the costs of OA. Suber responds, naturally…after which another pseudonymous commenter—actually Sandy Thatcher—starts in on the “parasitical” nature of green OA. And Jeffrey Beall wants to know “exactly which articles he accessed via open access.” Sigh…
This December 3, 2012 interview—done by Richard Poynder and appearing at Open and Shut?—is fairly typical: a medium-length introduction followed by a PDF of the full interview (37 pages).
Shieber’s not a librarian (he’s a computer science professor at Harvard) but he’s been on several library committees and he’s listened to library people. Partly as a result, Shieber was chief architect of Harvard’s OA policy. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have more scholars say things like this:
[I]t became increasingly clear to me that some of the problems that libraries faced in dealing with providing access to the scholarly literature were not library problems per se, but rather, problems in how the scholarly communication systems are set up.
Or, praise be, this—specifically the second sentence (a refreshing contrast to some OA advocates who continue to fault librarians for not yelling loud enough or early enough):
In short, publishers are overcharging for scholarly journals. And since it is they who pay the bills, it was librarians who first sounded the alarm. However, since the costs do not come from their budgets, and journals are made available in institutions on a free-at-the-point-of-use basis, most researchers have been unaware of the seriousness of the problem. For their part, publishers have consistently denied that they are overcharging.
A few items from the interview—noting that you have to get past 14 pages of Poynder “introduction” before you finally reach the interview:
· Harvard scholars can opt out from Harvard’s OA mandate—but it seems that no more than about 5% do so.
· After a long contentious question that suggests Harvard is somehow “forcing” publishers to migrate to OA, Shieber provides a simple answer—he doesn’t think publishers should be forced to do anything, just as NIH isn’t forcing publishers to do anything: Nobody forces publishers to accept NIH-funded papers.
· After an even longer question involving the (to my mind absurd) claim by Elsevier’s Alicia Wise that the NIH policy “undermines the general principles of copyright,” Shieber offers a solid answer beginning with this: “I’m not a lawyer, but it doesn’t make any sense to me. Contractual provisions affecting future intellectual property rights—I suppose you could call them “liens”—happen all the time.” Yep. Researchers at most universities have “liens” against patents developed that relate to their work; scholars at some universities have “liens” against any copyright related to their work; and so on. Shieber suggests that Elsevier was being disingenuous.
· When Poynder asks whether it’s fair to target Elsevier when most commercial publishers behave similarly, Shieber responds (in part):
Yes, whatever you think about the Elsevier boycott, it is both logical and fair to target a single publisher. As a tactical matter, selecting a single target among the set of possible targets has several advantages: It sends a signal to all of the publishers that they want to be at least the second worst offender, causing them to compete among themselves in a salutary direction. It provides a bit of an outlet for demand among the boycotters who can still make use of the non-boycotted companies.
It is fair because Elsevier has demonstrated through a range of actions that it is especially averse to the trends toward openness in scholarly communications.
There’s a lot more, sometimes with Poynder taking potshots at OA journals and Shieber responding—e.g., Poynder saying that “some have described” what PLoS ONE and Scientific Reports do as “cut-price no-frills peer review.” All in all, well worth reading.
Less worth reading: Sandy Thatcher’s lengthy chunk of sniping—although Shieber does a good job of responding, including these key paragraphs:
I have to say that I find this anti-Voltairean line of argument dispiriting. Perhaps, since we can’t immediately achieve the perfect in our quest for the good and better, we should just pack it in.
Thatcher is far from the only sniper who takes the view that, not only is half a loaf worse than none, a whole loaf without precisely the right topping is worse than none. Shieber is one of the few to point out the illogic in this reasoning.
Green and gold, libre and gratis: A few items directly relating to the varieties of legitimate open access (as opposed to all the pseudo-OA things like “green but with a six-month embargo”). Worth noting right up front: Gold OA does not, repeat not inherently assume author-side or “processing” charges. The last time a study was done, a higher percentage of subscription journals than gold OA journals charged processing charges, and a minority of gold OA journals did so. Many (most) are funded through other means or operate on a shoestring. One caveat: It may be true that the gold OA journals with processing charges publish most of the articles that appear in gold OA journals. That’s a different issue (and it actually appears to be roughly half and half). When Richard Poynder and (many) others consistently define gold OA as involving processing charges, they’re consistently wrong in a manner that only makes sense if they’re pushing green.
While I sometimes avoid Peter Murray-Rust’s blog because of his apparent disdain for libraries and librarians, it’s worth noting this July 19, 2011 post at petermr’s blog. PMR begins with a comment on Peter Suber that I’d certainly agree with:
PeterS is, for many of us, the person who has led Open Access to where it is today. His textual discourse is something we should all aspire to. Beautifully and simply wordsmithed, with all the arguments completely and fairly laid out. He has never ranted.
After reading a recent Suber interview and an issue of SOAN, PMR’s thinking about the axes of OA—and suggests one reason there’s been so much confusion about OA terminology: “I’m afraid I have to say that several publishers benefit from the confusion and may deliberately promote it by non-standard terminology and poor labelling of products.”
PMR correctly says that all OA by itself means is “that you can see the publication somewhere for free, hopefully for eternity,” but he’s more concerned with reuse: he wants to do massive text-mining. So he wants clear labels:
It should therefore be trivially clear on a publication what rights the reader (including a machine) has. This is technically straightforward and only laziness, ignorance or deliberate subterfuge are preventing it.
The rest of the post is PMR’s attempt to explicate the two axes—and he gets one key point right when he says “Gold publication may or may not carry author-side fees (for example the Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry is a gratis OA publisher with no fees, while BMC, IUCr and PLoS journals have authorside fees).” His description of Green OA is also good, although the only examples of archiving he lists—institutional repositories and websites—leave out a category that seems increasingly important, namely subject repositories such as arΧiv.
PMR also correctly says that the colors and flavors are formally independent: They have no inherent coupling. “Gratis” basically means “you can read it, but nothing else is necessarily implied”—and he may be right in arguing that claims of “libre” should (he says must) be accompanied by precise definitions of the rights of reuse.
Why is libre so important? What do you get for your money? (assuming you pay and this isn’t donated by the journal).
You get certainty for your reader (assuming the libre rights are well defined). You should certainly get a clear licence or contract for your payment.
Assuming the libre is OpenDefinition compliant your reader can re-use the material for almost anything. This includes teaching, book chapters, slide shows, movies, databases, textmining, data mining.
You SHOULD get a clear indication on/in the document itself what the (a) authorship is and (b) the reader’s rights
If you get an undefined gratis document you cannot assume ANY of these things by default. To add rights to a self-archived document is often problematic. You cannot make assumptions that a given document carries rights unless it actually carries them. Institutional Repositories compound this, often by failing to state rights, failing to add rights to documents or even worse (as Cambridge and I suspect many others do) adding the blanket disclaimer:
He adds some good advice for publishers. repository managers and funders. The easiest way to identify something as (almost) fully libre is a CC BY license statement. All in all, a good document and worthwhile read.
Speaking of Peter Suber, this is the lead essay in the June 2, 2012 SPARC Open Access Newsletter. He notes a lot of progress toward libre OA—progress that tends to be overshadowed by “other sudden spikes of OA progress.” Some excerpts:
(1) Defining the terms
If I’m going to spend time on this topic, I should define my terms. “Gratis” access is free of charge. “Libre” access is free of charge and free for some kinds of further use and reuse. Gratis access is compatible with an all-rights-reserved copyright, which allows no uses beyond fair use (or the local equivalent). Libre access is not compatible with an all-rights-reserved copyright, and presupposes some kind of open license permitting uses not permitted by default. As I’ve sometimes put it, gratis removes price barriers alone and libre removes price barriers and permission barriers.
There is only one kind of gratis access because there is only one way to make a work free of charge. But because there are many permission barriers that we could remove if we wanted to, libre access is a range or spectrum. When we want to refer to specific types, we can use named licenses. For example, CC-BY and CC0 lie at the upper or most-free end of the libre spectrum. The CC-BY license allows any use provided the user makes proper attribution to the author. CC0 puts a work into the public domain and in that way allows any use whatsoever.
In addition to the spike of recent progress for libre OA itself, there has been a spike of recent discussion of the “gratis” and “libre” terminology…
…Some want the term “libre” to refer only to the most-free end of the spectrum beyond gratis, not to the whole spectrum beyond gratis. That’s a discussion worth having. Meantime, this article covers libre progress in the wider sense, or in the whole spectrum beyond gratis, and includes many developments about libre in the narrower sense (at the CC-BY/CC0 end of the spectrum). Hence, no matter where you stand on the terminology, there’s progress here worth noting. We shouldn’t let nomenclature disputes hide that fact.
Since I’ll also be discussing “green” and “gold” OA, let me recap those definitions as well. Green OA is OA delivered by repositories, regardless of peer-review status, gratis/libre status, funding model, embargo period, and so on. Gold OA is OA delivered by journals, regardless of peer-review methods, gratis/libre status, business model, and so on. It should be clear that the green/gold distinction is not the same as the gratis/libre distinction. Green/gold is about venues or vehicles, while gratis/libre is about user rights. For better or worse, there are four cases to keep distinct: gratis green, gratis gold, libre green, and libre gold. Most of this article is on libre green, with a few remarks on libre gold.
I could quibble with Suber’s definition of green OA, since it doesn’t include articles archived on personal websites—but it’s fair to suggest that website archiving isn’t particularly effective archiving, so maybe Suber’s definition makes sense.
Suber discusses the past paucity of libre green OA—and specifically policies for libre green OA. There haven’t been many, although Wellcome Trust’s 2007 policy went partway there (if Wellcome paid any part of the costs of publication, it required libre green OA). The situation is improving, to be sure:
In 2001, only 7% of the articles deposited in UK PubMed Central (UKPMC) carried open licenses permitting reuse. By 2009, that percentage had grown to 33%, and in 2010 it jumped to 41%. In each of these years, of course, 100% of deposited articles were gratis OA.
UKPMC’s also been growing rapidly overall—from 50,190 articles in 2009 to 92,000 in 2011. (PubMed Central in the US is much larger, with about 2.4 million articles in early 2012, of which about 19% are libre OA.)
The third section notes that most Gold OA in the past hasn’t been libre either. He concludes that only about 12% of Gold OA journals use CC-BY licenses; 70% don’t explicitly use any form of CC license.
The most common response I’ve heard from merely gratis OA journals is that they wish to block commercial use. But that is not responsive. A CC-BY-NC license would block commercial use while still freeing users to exceed fair use in other respects. The many voices recommending CC-BY (including my own) should not obscure the fact that CC-BY-NC is much friendlier to users and research than an all-rights-reserved copyright.
For the present argument, my main point is that libre gold is rare too, even though it faces none of the impediments of libre green. In fact, the percentage of journals in the DOAJ offering libre gold OA is smaller than the percentage of articles in UKPMC offering libre green --an unexpected and disappointing result. More disappointing: the recent upturn in libre green progress has no counterpart libre gold progress. Libre gold is lower-hanging fruit than libre green, but it remains largely unplucked.
Suber offers good reasons that libre green OA policies have been scarce:
Libre green policies have been scarce for a couple of good reasons, apart from the fact that most repositories are not in a position to authorize it.
First, few publishers are willing to allow libre access. Most green OA, for example, is made possible by permissions from toll-access (TA) publishers, and conversely, most TA publishers permit green OA. But nearly all TA publishers willing to permit gratis green OA are unwilling to permit libre green OA.
Second, funding agencies and universities have their own reasons to adopt strong OA policies in stages, and to put gratis before libre. They worry that libre green mandates would trigger even higher levels of publisher resistance and opposition than we see today, and make it harder for authors bound such policies to publish their work. This concern is not answered by rights retention. For even when authors retain the right to authorize OA, publishers remain free to refuse to publish any work for any reason.
I think this concern is warranted, or has been warranted, and I’ve raised it several times over the years. Each time, however, I’ve urged funders and universities to watch for the moment when they could safely strengthen gratis policies to libre.
Key changes occur when, for example, large funders and universities adopt strong OA policies. If NIH and Harvard, for example, require libre, publishers are unlikely to refuse libre. (Suber notes that, while many publishers speak out against NIH’s OA policy, none refuse to publish NIH-funded authors.)
This is one reason why the libre arc is bending. Some early steps have been taken, some large OA-friendly institutions are warming to libre, many OA-friendly institutions large and small are no longer willing to subordinate their interests to the interests of publishers, and the only players who might have been hurt by premature libre mandates --authors-- are joining the call for stronger OA policies. There’s no decisive historical turning point when the concerns that previously held back libre policies are suddenly answered and powerless. So we can’t say that the moment has arrived when funders and universities can strengthen green OA policies from gratis to libre. But we can say that the moment is arriving.
There’s a lot more in the article itself—Suber’s lead SOAN articles tend to be exhaustive. If you’re involved in OA initiatives, you should read the whole thing.
Jan Velterop addresses the colors in this August 7, 2012 post at The Parachute. He’s responding to a call by Andrew Adams (on the LIBLICENSE list) for green OA:
There are on the order of 10,000 research institutions and more than ten times as many journals. Persuading 10,000 institutions to adopt OA deposit mandates seems to me a quicker and more certain route to obtain OA than persuading 100,000 journals to go Gold (and finding more money to bribe them into it, it would appear—money which is going to continue to be demanded by them in perpetuity, not accepted as a transitional fee—there’s nothing so permanent as a temporary measure). (Full message here.)
Velterop doesn’t buy that argument. Partly, the numbers are bad. While there are more than 100,000 periodicals, there are only at most around 28,000 refereed journals, and by most accounts no more than 2,000 publishers of such journals. So a true numeric comparison, if that made any sense, would be 2,000 publishers vs. 10,000 research institutions. Additionally, there are authors of scholarly articles who do not work in research institutions, hard as that is for some folks to accept.
Perhaps more to the point:
[T]here is no existential reason for institutions to have a repository and ‘green’ mandate. The fact that others have repositories and it doesn’t have one itself does not harm a research institution in the same way that not being ‘gold’ (or at least having a ‘gold’ option) does existentially harm journals in an environment of more and more ‘gold’ journals.
Velterop takes on
green advocates “(by which I mean those who see no place for ‘gold’ open access
at this stage on the basis that ‘green’ would be a faster route to OA and would
be cheaper).” Velterop’s two primary arguments:
‘Green’ fully depends on the prolongation of the subscription model. Without subscription revenues no journals, hence no peer-reviewed articles, hence nothing to self-archive but manuscripts, arXiv-style. (That would be fine by me, actually, with post-publication peer review mechanisms overlaying arXiv-oids). The cost of maintaining subscriptions is completely ignored by exclusively ‘green’ advocates, who always talk about ‘green’ costing next to nothing. They are talking about the marginal cost of ‘green’, and compare it to the integral cost of ‘gold’.
Exclusively ‘green’ advocates do not seem to understand that for ‘gold’ journals, publishers are not in any position to “demand money”. They can only offer their services in exchange for a fee if those who would pay the fee are willing to pay it. That’s known as ‘competition’, or as a ‘functioning market’. By its very nature, it drives down prices. This in contrast to the monopoloid subscription market, a dysfunctional market, where the price drivers face upwards. Sure, some APC’s increased since the early beginnings of ‘gold’ OA publishing, when ‘gold’ publishers found out they couldn’t do it for amounts below their costs. But generally, the average APCs per ‘gold’ article are lower—much lower—than the average publisher revenues per subscription article. And this average per-article subscription price will still have to be coughed up in order to keep ‘green’ afloat.
There’s more to the post, which generally argues for gold OA although explicitly not against green. It’s a good discussion, even though Velterop does (as usual) pretty much overlook the fact that most gold OA journals don’t carry author-side fees.
This odd article by John Houghton and Alma Swan, who have done economic modeling work over the years, appeared on November 22, 2012. It’s a seven-page PDF in which Houghton and Swan suggests that their work has been misinterpreted, specifically when the Finch Report called for UK funders to adopt Gold OA in preference to Green OA.
I’m not inclined to argue details with Houghton and Swan. I suggest you read the article yourself—critically. For instance, think about this paragraph:
It is also important to note that subscriptions do not (necessarily) cover the cost of subscription publishing. There is also advertising revenue, revenue from re-prints, page and plate charges, and there can be a range of membership and other subsidies to subscription journals. Conversely, journal subscription revenues might subsidise membership and other activities. So, despite the fact that it is what most people do, when comparing alternative models, it is not really correct to set OA publishing costs against subscription expenditures.
“Correct” is a tricky term. I would say that it’s precisely correct to do so, because subscribing institutions cannot reasonably be expected to subsidize other activities of societies and because non-subscription revenue other than reprint fees can certainly continue in a Gold OA environment.
The thrust of this paper could be summarized as “what’s in it for me?” where “me” is the UK higher education sector. In the event of worldwide OA, the UK higher education sector would save considerably more money through gold OA than through green OA—about eight times as much (if we accept the models given here). But—and here, I think, Houghton and Swan are playing with smoke and mirrors—for UK higher education to unilaterally go gold OA when nobody else does would mean considerably greater expenses.
Yabbut… I think there’s a lot to argue with in that meta-analysis, but am not enough of an expert to do so. I’ll quote the concluding paragraphs, but I do wonder:
The evidence, both ours and that of others, clearly suggests that disseminating research results via OA would be more cost-effective than subscription or toll access publishing. In an all-OA world, it seems likely that the net benefits of Gold OA would exceed those of Green OA, although Green OA would have a higher benefit/cost ratio. However, we are not in an all-OA world yet, nor anywhere near it.
The most affordable and cost-effective means of moving towards OA in the meantime is through Green OA, which can be adopted unilaterally at the funder, institutional, sectoral and national levels at little cost. Moreover, Green OA may well be the most immediate and cost-effective way to support knowledge transfer and enable innovation across the economy.
There it is. I don’t regard it as the final word.
Any discussion of colors inherently involves a discussion of repositories, but I’d like to note a couple of items specifically about repositories—namely institutional repositories.
There’s a discouraging title for an article by Denise Troll Covey in Texas Digital Library 12:3 (2011). The link here goes to the article’s abstract, which in turn links to the full-text PDF. The abstract in full:
Focus groups conducted at Carnegie Mellon reveal that what motivates many faculty to self-archive on a website or disciplinary repository will not motivate them to deposit their work in the institutional repository. Recruiting a critical mass of content for the institutional repository is contingent on increasing awareness, aligning deposit with existing workflows, and providing value-added services that meet needs not currently being met by other tools. Faculty share concerns about quality and the payoff for time invested in publishing and disseminating their work, but disagree about metrics for assessing quality, the merit of disseminating work prior to peer review, and the importance of complying with publisher policies on open access. Bridging the differences among disciplinary cultures and belief systems presents a significant challenge to marketing the institutional repository and developing coherent guidelines for deposit.
The full article is 18 pages long; you can read it in a PDF viewing window on the site or you can download the PDF. The article includes an extensive look at the literature, identifying the motivations but also the barriers to self-archiving and especially to depositing papers into institutional archives (as opposed to plopping them into personal websites or adding them to subject repositories).
It’s an interesting and careful article, involving some real-world research at an institution that already has a fairly high level of self-archiving. Is the negative subtitle deserved? You’ll need to read the article and draw your own conclusions.
Going back a ways, Dorothea Salo posted this on September 7, 2010 at Book of Trogool. She makes the excellent point that it’s silly to try to separate OA from digital preservation:
I have no patience for “it’s about open access, not digital preservation!” arguments. There is no access, open or otherwise, without at least basic preservation steps. We can see this principle in action, even: the disappearance of DList (the US library and information science repository) and Mana’o (a disciplinary repository for anthropology) removed quite a bit of material from the public eye.
She also notes that you can’t think about preservation just in terms of technology: Repositories disappear for reasons having nothing to do with technology.
Both DList and Mana’o started as single-person projects. Neither made adequate contingency plans for the obvious risks of letting repository survival depend on a single person. The single person ran into time and energy limits. Nobody picked up the slack. The repositories died. QED.
(Think it can’t happen to you? Ask yourself what would have happened to arXiv when Ginsparg got tired of it if Cornell University Libraries hadn’t white-knightly charged in. I think it would have died too, myself.)
As Salo notes, for all the troubles of institutional repositories, “I will happily say that I’ve never seen or heard of an IR whose sponsors weren’t aware that they were taking on a serious obligation to the content they collect.” IRs may not be perfect, but they’re “a good deal better than nothing.”
As it happens, Mana’o returned about the time Salo posted this item. But look at the URL: the collection is hosted by the library at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. It is—at least now—part of an institutional repository maintained by a university library.
Just four out of many possible items about OA mandates and their growth. If you want lots more information on mandates, you may need to do a little digging, as the Open Access Directory hasn’t added a mandate-specific page. You might look at the list of unanimous faculty votes for OA policies as one starting point.
The lead essay in the February 2, 2011 SPARC Open Access Newsletter, by Peter Suber, is about an OA mandate from the Department of Labor—but with a difference. It’s not a mandate for OA to peer-reviewed research articles; it’s a mandate for open educational resources, as part of the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program.
The goal is to build OER that will help US community college students graduate with marketable skills. But since these will be *open* educational resources, they could help English-speaking, college-level students everywhere. Because they will be released under CC-BY licenses, they may be translated and adapted ad lib, without payments or permission, and should eventually help students of many other kinds as well.
Suber makes several points about this mandate. First, that—as some OA advocates argued when NIH wanted to mandate OA—Federal agencies don’t need Congressional approval to adopt such policies.
This doesn’t merely clarify a bureaucratic matter of permission and procedure. It’s a green light for agencies to adopt OA policies on their own. Hence, it opens up a third front in US federal OA policy. In the legislature, we had bipartisan support for FRPAA in two previous Congresses. We still have the bipartisan support, and time will tell what new form it takes. In the executive branch, we have the White House public consultation on expanding the NIH policy across the federal government. Now we have independent action from agencies.
Second, it’s not the first agency-level OA mandate; two small agencies got there first. This is the first one from a large agency or a cabinet-level department.
Third, it’s a libre mandate: It requires CC-BY licenses. (NIH only mandates gratis OA.)
Fourth, the mandate was developed in consultation with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
This matters for two reasons. First, under the new America COMPETES Reauthorization Act, the Director of the OSTP will name the members of the new Interagency Public Access Committee. TAACCCT is not the first evidence that OSTP supports OA, but it’s the latest and strongest evidence. This doesn’t mean that OSTP will name a pro-OA committee, but it does tend to answer worries that the publishing lobbying might lead it to name an anti-OA committee. (The committee members have not yet been named.)
Second, OSTP is developing the White House policy response to last year’s public consultation on a plan to generalize the NIH policy across the federal government. TAACCCT shows that the OSTP is willing to support OA mandates, even libre OA mandates, and is ready to help agencies develop and implement policies even without a specific Congressional directive. TAACCCT improves the prognosis for the incipient White House OA policy response.
Finally, it doesn’t pay to be too enthusiastic about the mandate—and I’ll refer you back to the article for the caveats.
Abigail Goben, who blogs as Hedgehog Librarian, is attempting to stick entirely with OA journals as she works toward tenure—and blogging about it in a series with post titles beginning “Open Access Tenure.” The series is worth following (which you can do most easily here) but I haven’t tagged most items. This one, posted May 24, 2012, is an exception.
She links to a story noting that the UCSF Academic Senate has committed to OA—and it’s the largest health sciences facility to adopt such a policy. UCSF also gets more money from NIH than any other public institution ($532.8 million in 2011) and produces more than 4,500 scientific papers each year. (UC San Francisco is entirely a health sciences/medicine/biomed/life sciences campus.) It’s the first UC campus to adopt such a policy, although UC started working on such policies in 2006. With any luck, it’s a model for other campuses.
All of which is secondary. Goben wonders about some details of policy implementation. It’s an interesting list, worth quoting in full:
What changes are coming with the tenure process to reflect this commitment? Will there be recognition that authors may have chosen OA over a Big Name? Does the administration openly support this? Are there any altmetric considerations of impact being considered?
What mechanisms are going into place to share when exemptions are asked for/given? This is not to shame the authors. Okay, maybe a little shame, but more, I’d like to know which publishers and which journals are refusing to work with authors who have committed to OA.
Do you have a support system in place for when an author gets backed up against the “you must sign over all of your rights” and they pull an article? Speaking as one who has done it, this is gut-wrenchingly hard to walk away from these things, particularly if you are a non-tenured faculty member.
Are you looking at the journals where you are editing and peer reviewing for OA friendly policies? Can you start that conversation with the editorial board? If they’re unwilling to budge, is there somewhere else that you could lend your prestige and expertise?
How are you helping your fellow faculty identify OA friendly publishers, journals, and calls for publication?
How are you talking to your students about this? While the conversation is currently primarily among the faculty and definitely needs to be happening there, it also needs to be in the classroom as well. Please tell your students about what you’ve done and why. As your students are publishing, can you help them find OA options?
Tell job candidates about this. Ideally they will have done their research on the institution and will already know this, but with a limited number of hours in the day, they may need a reminder.
I’ll also quote two sentences from the penultimate paragraph…wishing I could say that Goben’s wrong: “Mandates and proclamations come and go. They’re great, right up until we shelve them with the strategic plans that are gathering dust.”
Georgia Tech faculty adopted an OA policy very recently—the vote took place on November 27, 2012 and the policy takes effect January 1, 2013. The library’s Scholarly Communication & Digital Curation department posted the policy and it’s worth quoting all 477 words as one example of how mandates can work:
The Faculty of Georgia Tech is committed to disseminating the fruits of its research and scholarship as widely as possible. In addition to the public benefit of such dissemination, this policy is intended to serve faculty interests by promoting greater reach and impact for articles, simplifying author retention of distribution rights, and aiding in electronic preservation. In keeping with these commitments, the Faculty adopts the following policy:
Each Faculty member grants to Georgia Tech Research Corporation (hereinafter “GTRC”) nonexclusive permission to make available his or her scholarly articles and to exercise the copyright in those articles for the purpose of open dissemination. In legal terms, each Faculty member grants to GTRC a nonexclusive, irrevocable, royalty‐free, worldwide license to exercise any and all copyrights in his or her scholarly articles published in any medium, provided the articles are not sold or licensed for a profit by GTRC or any GTRC‐granted licensee.
This policy applies to all published scholarly articles that any person authors or co‐authors while appointed as a member of the Faculty, except for any such articles authored or co‐authored before the adoption of this policy, or subject to a conflicting agreement formed before the adoption of this policy, or conducted under a classified research agreement. Upon notification by the author, the Provost or Provost’s designate will waive application of this license for a particular article. At author request, access will be delayed for up to one year.
To assist in distributing the scholarly articles, each Faculty member will make available an electronic copy of his or her final version of the article at no charge to a designated representative of the Provost’s Office in appropriate formats (such as PDF) specified by the Provost’s Office, no later than the date of publication. The Provost’s Office or designate will make the scholarly article available to the public in an open‐access institutional repository.
In lieu of submission to a Georgia Tech institutional repository, an author may satisfy the terms of this policy by making such work available through an alternative repository of the author’s choosing, with notification to the Provost or Provost’s designate, provided that such repository makes the work accessible in full‐text to the public, without costs imposed on any individual user, and that it offers to preserve and maintain access to the work indefinitely.
The Provost will charge an Open Access Policy and Implementation Committee with policy interpretation and with developing a plan that renders compliance with the policy as convenient for the faculty as possible. The OA Policy and Implementation Committee comprises two members of the Library/Faculty Advisory Board, one member of the General Faculty Academic Services Committee, one member of the library staff, and one representative of GTRC.
The policy and service model will be reviewed after three years and a report presented to the Faculty. Thereinafter, the policy will be reviewed every five years.
This strikes me as clear and as flexible as it needs to be. I’m reading the third paragraph as a whole—that is, that the last two sentences only apply to articles in the “except for” category. Otherwise, the inclusion of a possible one-year embargo weakens the mandate, but it’s still a good step.
This page isn’t an article. Instead, it’s a list of publishers and whether or not their policies comply—the word used here is “cooperate”—with MIT’s Open Access Policy without the need to change the publisher’s agreement.
As such, and even given that it’s preliminary, it’s valuable. We see that AAAS—a scholarly society—requires that authors opt out if submitting to Science; we see that ACS (no surprise here!) also requires opting out. And yes, with its 2011 revision of its author agreement, so does Elsevier. (So do Nature and Wiley-Blackwell, but not Springer.) Quite a few publishers cooperate fully.
Lots of items in various other categories deal with problems in OA, including two whole sections (Upping the Anti and Controversies)—but these two items seem specifically appropriate to this topic.
Meredith Farkas posted this on August 1, 2011 at Information Wants To Be Free. She notes Barbara Fister’s column about faculty who seem surprised that journals cost a lot—and the depressing quote from Peter Murray-Rust that “[academic libraries] should have alerted us earlier to problems instead of acquiescing to so much of the dystopia.”
Beyond telling our faculty time and again (for DECADES!) about these issues and keeping them apprised of the situation as we cut and cut and tried to get more with less through “big deal” packages, what should we have done? Refused to pay for journals that are critically needed by students and faculty when they raise their rates or make deals that make it more difficult for us to get access? How often have we seen cases where faculty have supported moves like that??? When we read reports that show that most academics do not see us so much as partners in the educational endeavor but as purchasers and providers of the content they need for their research and teaching, what clout do we have in many institutions in these sorts of conversations?
Have to admit, if I’d read Murray-Rust’s post at the time, I would have been mad as hell. I’d be very surprised if UK academic librarians were keeping faculty in the dark; that certainly hasn’t been the case in good US academic libraries since at least the mid-1970s. (I speak from personal experience.)
Farkas notes a specific example where a society made its journal exclusively available through EBSCO in a way that meant her institution would be paying a major sum for one journal.
Immediately after I learned about this, I urged my faculty who were members of the Society to express their concern/dissatisfaction with this change. None of them followed up by telling me they had done this. Instead, they urged me to find a way to pay for online access to the journal (which we eventually did, to my chagrin) and a few acted as apologists for the Society’s actions. I, as a librarian, have little power to convince a society that they are making a decision that is bad for the institutions their faculty teach at. Their members, on the other hand, have much more power. By choosing not to take any action on things like this (either as members of organizations or writers/reviewers/editors for these journals), faculty perpetuate the scholarly publishing crisis. Eventually, Norwich may not be able to afford $3500 (or more by then) for a package from which they want only one journal. What then? But I have to say that we at the library were also complicit by paying for that access. I was strongly against it, but in the end, we knew it would end up hurting students if we didn’t get it since the faculty had access through their membership. If the faculty don’t have the library’s back, it’s difficult to take any sort of stand against unethical publishing/licensing practices.
I should note that Farkas is no longer at Norwich, although that doesn’t change the significance here. She also notes a post from ProfHacker in which a faculty member discovers good content in OA journals…and questions whether it’s really good content. Quoting from that item:
I think this captures one of the dilemmas scholars of the 21st-century face. While some of us roll our eyes at Wikipedia and blog postings that make the footnotes of student assignments, many scholars are probably rolling their eyes at graduate students or their own colleagues who cite publications from journals they’ve never heard of. Some of them are probably thinking, if this was an article worth publishing, it would’ve been published in *The* Journal of [Your Field Here] Studies, or at least in the Monumenta [Your Field Here]ica.
About which Farkas comments:
And if that attitude is pervasive in one’s field, who is going to publish in an open access journal, especially if they are on the tenure track? (Even if they’re already tenured, many will still want to publish in the noted journals in their field.) And how can these open access journals gain prominence if the prominent scholars (at least in our country) aren’t publishing there? It seems like a Catch-22 that will never resolve until academic departments and universities take a stand and say “this is important to us and we will change our practices to support it.”
Fact is, some (I’d guess many) librarians have been telling faculty about this problem for decades, as Farkas notes. Fact is, many faculty members (I’d guess nearly all) have ignored the message. But let’s not get too self-righteous here (not Farkas, but possibly some readers): Fact also is, as discussed in Libraries: Walking Away: Courage and Acquisitions (Cites & Insights 12:12, December 2012), when a gutsy University librarian worked with her faculty to resolve an impossible financial situation, she came under fire from (some? a few? one is too many!) other librarians for not finding a way to go along with the outrageous price increases—for not squeezing even more blood out of the stone.
This one’s from an unusual source, Louise Morrison writing on August 4, 2012 on the MmITS Blog (from the CILIP Multimedia IT Group, CILIP being UK’s version of ALA). Morrison focuses on a real problem: Why is it so hard to find OA publications?
I’m not talking about the problem of research being behind paywalls (that’s another issue) but about the practical difficulties of accessing the freely available content currently available via Institutional Repositories.
I used to work as part of an Institutional Repository team in an academic library and I’m very enthusiastic about the potential of Open Access resources. But when I left the cosy world of academia for a research job outside its hallowed walls, the problems of getting my hands on Open Access papers became rapidly clear to me.
I was quite disappointed at how difficult it was to retrieve the publications I used to enthusiastically catalogue in my Institutional Repository work. And it got me thinking that if I am struggling to find these publications (even with my insider library and Institutional Repository knowledge) surely I can’t be the only one.
Her five reasons, each of which includes a discussion: Google can’t find all Institutional Repository content; Not all subjects have a subject repository; Institutional Repository search tools are problematic; How many people have heard of Institutional Repositories; And who has the time to use all these search methods?
You may note that all of these are Green OA issues—and constitute one of the major arguments against Green OA. That is, it doesn’t always provide effective access. She’s missed one (mostly relevant to people who do have access to good academic libraries): If an index includes OpenURL links to full text, they will typically be to the published version, less commonly—I suspect—to an IR copy. She concludes:
As the availability of Open Access publications increases, I don’t think it’s enough to just archive papers in Institutional Repositories and assume people will find them. I’m not sure if the answer lies in ensuring better visibility in Google, improving subject repository provision, educating users or maybe a combination of all three.
To me, the primary goal of Open Access is to allow people who would not otherwise be able to access academic research to do so. But it sometimes feels like focus has shifted from this primary goal to what I’d call the side benefits of Open Access: increased citation rates for authors and prestige for universities.
It is an exciting time for the Open Access movement with the whole academic publishing landscape in flux. I know the exact future role of Institutional Repositories in this ecosystem is uncertain but I hope they will continue to play an important role. Institutional Repositories don’t operate in academic isolation though so I think maybe more thought needs to be given to connecting with users outside of libraries and academia as these are surely the people who could benefit most from their content.
No further comment—except, I suppose, to note that these problems don’t arise with Gold OA.
This may be an appropriate time to offer some items related to a new and somewhat unusual OA initiative: PeerJ, a startup in which authors pay one fee for a lifetime of PeerJ articles. It’s by no means a universal solution, as it’s focused on biomed (or, rather, biological and medical science); it combines a peer-reviewed journal and a “preprint server.”
The prices are interesting: $99 for a lifetime membership allowing one article per year; $199 for a membership allowing two articles per year; $299 for unlimited articles. (Lifetime membership also requires that the member review at least one PeerJ article a year, although any comment on a paper counts as a review.) Will any or all of those produce enough revenue to assure the long-term health of the journal (that is, to cover administration, servers, managing the peer review and editing processes, layout and whatever else is involved)? That’s still an open question, and as of this writing the journal hasn’t yet started publishing.
John Dupuis published this on June 12, 2012 at Confessions of a Science Librarian. Binfield is cofounder and publisher, following almost 20 years in academic publishing, most recently with PLoS One. Hoyt is cofounder and CEO and was formerly at Mendeley. Both have PhDs—in Optical Physics and Genetics respectively.
Dupuis asks six questions, all of them useful. I suggest reading the whole interview. A few excerpts:
Q1. Is there a 100 year/perpetual access business plan? It would be nice to have a solid digital preservation plan. In other words, a sense of how deeply the issues around $99 sustainability have been explored.
Summarizing: all content will be archived at PubMedCentral and CLOCKSS and, when feasible, at the Royal Dutch Library. They’re convinced that the business model is “as self sustaining as that of any other commercial publisher.”
Q2. Do the fees have to be researcher-based? Is there any way institutions could play a role — or perhaps have lifetime institutional licenses?
Summarizing: Institutions can “bulk pay” for individual memberships and people can pay for other people.
The third and fourth questions are somewhat beyond this overview’s scope, but show well-thought answers. The fifth is too good to pass up:
Q5. The Scholarly Kitchen has already likened your approach to that of Walmart conjuring up images of abandoned downtown commercial districts. Or even as a kind of predatory OA journal, a ponzi scheme almost. How do you respond to this type of criticism?
Those two links—and possibly ones elsewhere—are as close as I’m likely to get to actually discussing that particular blog, which I regard with utter (and well-deserved) contempt. But I do love the start of the answer:
As a general rule, the Scholarly Kitchen is not a great fan of Open Access publishers, and in addition they were commenting before any real information was yet available. Now that we have formally launched, we believe our actions will speak for themselves, and we expect people to form their own opinions based on the facts of our business model.
That first sentence is one of the great understatements of recent OA history. That’s followed by a detailed comment on why pure OA publishers can operate less expensively—and then this:
The implicit complaint in that post was that making a service cheaper was in some way a bad thing. It is only bad if the ultimate service which is delivered is not valued by the customers or is regarded as substandard (in which case you will quickly lose customers). In our mind, we would like to drive the cost for an author as low as possible, while still providing the highest possible standards of professional publication, in order to deliver a service which is genuinely valued. Unlike some publishers, we are willing to be judged by the marketplace.
Finally, Q6 deals with the subject specialization; for now, PeerJ has no plans to move beyond biological and medical sciences. Of course, if it works, it can be replicated…
That’s the Library Loon comment on June 12, 2012 at Gavia Libraria—and the Loon’s post both follows and links to Dupuis’ post. I rather like Loon’s response to the flack PeerJ’s caught from some corner:
There has been some chaff here and there about it from the usual suspects. The Loon is not impressed. She’s learned to take attacks from certain quarters as fear that the venture under discussion just might work. If it weren’t viable, they wouldn’t bother expending pixels on it. Enough of that, then.
The Loon thinks the greatest financial issue might be the cost of typesetting, since PeerJ promises to produce in XML, HTML and PDF. “While typesetting to PDF and image management are at rock-bottom commodity prices, the Loon believes markup-based workflows aren’t.” In all, though, the Loon thinks it’s promising (partly because of Binfield’s involvement) and hopes it works. (A couple of comments poke at ways PeerJ could minimize markup/”typesetting” costs. I don’t know enough to interpret them.)
Margaret Heller posted this on September 27, 2012 at the ACRL TechConnect Blog. The first paragraph is telling, both in what Heller gets right and what too many scientists and others get wrong:
Open access publication makes access to research free for the end reader, but in many fields it is not free for the author of the article. When I told a friend in a scientific field I was working on this article, he replied “Open access is something you can only do if you have a grant.” PeerJ, a scholarly publishing venture that started up over the summer, aims to change this and make open access publication much easier for everyone involved.
The fairly long post (really more of an article, with ten footnotes) discusses the PeerJ basics and the “open peer review” model. It’s unfortunate that Heller uses SK as a source, including some questionable arithmetic. Still, the discussion of open peer review is interesting.
What’s open peer review? Authors know who reviewed their papers and the peer review history is public when the paper is published. Initially, both forms of openness will be voluntary—but PeerJ notes that at The EMBO Journal, which offers voluntary openness, more than 90% of authors choose to make things open.
Heller’s discussion of traditional single-blind and double-blind peer review is interesting. I’ve only dealt with double-blind (on both sides). Single-blind (where the reviewers know the author’s name but comment in perfect anonymity) strikes me as prone to various sorts of bias but, as Heller notes, even double-blind isn’t always “blind” in small fields or with authors with distinctive voices.
While she sort-of got it right the first time, Heller gets it wrong when she revisits the colors:
A related problem for junior scholars exists in open access funding models, at least in STEM publishing. As open access stands now, there are a few different models that are still being fleshed out. Green open access is free to the author and free to the reader; it is usually funded by grants, institutions, or scholarly societies. Gold open access is free to the end reader but has a publication fee charged to the author(s).
The penultimate sentence is questionable—in fact, “green OA” journals are by design not free to readers, and the final versions of articles may not be. The final sentence is just plain wrong. Most Gold OA journals do not charge processing fees, and realistically, most processing fees will be “funded by grants, institutions” or, less likely, “scholarly societies.” And in discussing fees, Heller returns once more to the swamp that is SK. In the end, I suggest reading this article—but with caution.
Here’s one from Peter Binfield, one of the cofounders, in a piece published November 1, 2012 at EDUCAUSE review online. It’s a good, fairly brief discussion of why PeerJ exists and how it’s different. A key paragraph:
Perhaps the most visible thing that we have done at PeerJ is to innovate around the dominant business model in use in the OA world. OA is a distribution model, not a business model (a fact that is often overlooked in the OA debate). With this in mind, although there are several ways to finance a “gold” OA publication, the business model that has seen the widest, most successful adoption is the one is which authors pay an Article Processing Charge (APC) per article published, with fees ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. It seemed to us that even at this early stage of OA development, there was very little in the way of viable experimentation with new or innovative business models—hence our development of a “membership model.”
The sentence beginning “With this” may or may not be true. Certainly it’s false in terms of number of Gold OA journals: Most do not charge APCs. But it’s been suggested that most Gold OA articles do appear in journals with APCs. There are also APCs lower than $1,000, but never mind…
Here’s another key paragraph:
How do we feel that these innovations [membership, open peer review, the preprint server] will affect the way we will do business? In an era in which much of the industry is still coming to terms with the transition from “librarian as customer” to “author as customer,” our focus on authors as “members” will further extend this thinking. When an article is published using an APC model, it is very much transactional in nature: a group of authors come to a publisher, expecting good service, and one of them is charged an APC fee for that specific service (the publication of their article). However, when all authors are members (and their membership fee does not guarantee them a publication), we have to think about them differently: we have to provide reasons for them to become members; we want them to recommend PeerJ membership to their colleagues; and we want them to receive membership benefits that they genuinely value. In addition, this new way of thinking forces us to regard each member (and hence, each author on a paper) as a unique individual, with contributions that may range from being an author to being a referee or a reader or a commenter. Because we know (and care) who our members are, we can collate and present all of their interactions with us, and we can build site navigation based around individuals (instead of the more traditional navigation based around subject area). We do not yet know how this new way of thinking will play out, but we are pretty sure that it will represent a significant evolution in how to think about the scholarly publication process.
By the time you read this, there may be some indication of how PeerJ is or is not succeeding—but we won’t really know for a few years (unless it fails disastrously).
I’d concluded the PeerJ section before I encountered this piece by Fabiana Kubke, appearing December 3, 2012 at Building Blogs of Science. December 3, 2012 was the day PeerJ began receiving manuscript submissions—and seemed like a good time to discuss Kubke’s experiences so far with PeerJ as a user.
Some of us academic editors were able to do some website testing for the article submission site, and I have to say I am impressed. Truth be told, the most painful part of submitting a paper has been, in my experience, being confronted with those horrid manuscript submission sites. When I started working in science there were no computers. We typed (yes, remember the typewriter?) our manuscripts, printed our pictures in the dark room, drew our graphs by hand with rotring pens and Letraset and put the lot in an envelope. With a stamp. And walked the envelope to the Post Office.
Three miles each way. Uphill. In the snow. (I remember Letraset. Not fondly.)
As the piece continues, we learn that electronic submission wasn’t necessarily that much better. How bad is it?
I find myself sometimes putting an entire afternoon aside just to upload the files on their system, and I have become accustomed to this, I have been doing it for years. And I know that any submission or editorial task will have to wait until I am at my desktop computer because navigating those sites on my netbook or my tablet is, well, not worth the effort.
Kubke found the PeerJ site a revelation—in the right way. There’s a discussion illustrated with screen captures, suggesting mostly some straightforward user-oriented design. There’s more, and it mostly suggests that the PeerJ people are doing things intelligently.
The most miscellaneous group of items, placed here between small topical clusters and larger topical clusters.
No, this isn’t about the SUNY Potsdam situation (covered at length in the December 2012 Cites & Insights). This post appeared more than a year earlier, on October 5, 2010, by Beth Brown at Book of Trogool. Beth Brown is a local section officer of a small ACS section—and she’s one of the rare society members who recognize that libraries shouldn’t be funding various activities of non-library societies.
[P]rofessional societies, with the American Chemical Society (ACS) as a notable example, use income generated from journal subscriptions and literature index licensing costs to fund other society activities. Has the society quantified this? I’m not sure—I can say as a local section officer our small section was able to obtain several programming grants and other supplemental funds to host Science Cafes, seminars, outreach activities and the like. As an incoming local section officer I was able to attend a weekend leadership institute with free hotel, meals, and transportation costs. This was not a trivial amount of money—I estimate this totaled approx. $3,000-$4,000 in my year as President. And I’m not counting the money our section received from the ACS as our allotment of member dues—these “grants” all came directly from ACS HQ programs and presumably from journal profits.
While our section hosted worthwhile activities that promoted science to the general and local public, I question handing out funds this easily when libraries are struggling to pay subscription costs and maintain access to the literature. Isn’t having a usable local library collection part of my outreach to my users? How can I buy new ACS journals when I can’t afford the ones that currently exist?
The rest of the post deals with changes in the author agreements for ACS journals, and they’re changes that are about as anti-OA as they can be. In a situation where depository submission is required? Kick in $3,000 for the Author Choice program.
Great background for other ACS issues. One almost wonders whether the society is trying to make Elsevier look good by comparison.
This dates from June 28, 2011—at least the latest version does—and is based on a “large-scale survey of the attitudes of researches on, and the experiences with, open access publishing.” Large-scale as in around 40,000 answers. It’s on arXiv, which—unknown to me—has a Digital Libraries section within Computer Sciences. (Since arXiv is now part of the Cornell University Library, that makes eminent sense.) I won’t name the authors, mostly because there are 17 of them (if I’m counting right).
The article itself is a 14-page PDF. The abstract says the survey revealed “overwhelming support for the idea of open access” and showed funding and “(perceived) quality” as the main barriers. Worth noting: the data retained includes only the 38,358 active researchers who published at least one peer-reviewed article in the past five years (and who answered a key question). By far the two largest groups of responders come from biological and medical/dental sciences (around 7,000 each), with social sciences (at nearly 3,400) a distant third.
The form of the PDF makes it nearly impossible to cut-and-paste excerpts and it’s not a terribly long article, but here are a few highlights:
· 89% of published researchers thought journals publishing OA articles were beneficial (or would be beneficial) for the field; that rises to more than 90% for most humanities and social sciences and falls to around 80% for Chemistry, Astronomy, Physics, Engineering and related disciplines. [The text summary omits a key element of the actual question: the “would benefit” clause.] The discussion of specific benefits can’t be summarized neatly.
· Sigh…the researchers use scare quotes around “myths” related to OA publishing—and in fact three of the ten statements aren’t myths at all: They’re advantages of OA. I can’t possibly summarize the results in any meaningful way.
· 29% of respondents have not published any OA articles—which appears to mean that 71% have, which if true is heartening (but it may not mean that). Of the 29%, 42% said they had specific reasons not to do so, with lack of funding being the most common reason, journal quality the only other common one.
· The next section clarifies things: 52% have published an OA article (leaving 19% mystery respondents). And, ahem, 50% of those who had published OA articles did so without paying an author-side fee.
· Of the minority that did pay fees, research funding explicitly covered the money in 28% of cases, authors chose to use non-targeted research funding 31% of the time, institutions paid 24% of the time—and in one out of eight cases, the author actually paid. In other words: Of a very large sample of actual OA authors, only 6% actually paid author-side charges themselves.
Want to play with the raw data? You can. The link above goes to a page with links for the data manual and data in CSV, XLS or XLSX form—and the data is all explicitly in the public domain (CC0-licensed).
Mostly a quick note on the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions (COAPI), based on this August 8, 2011 item by David Rapp at Library Journal. The group was spearheaded by the University of Kansas, which says it was the first U.S. public university to adopt an OA policy.
As of this writing, at least, you’ll find COAPI material at SPARC. If I’m counting correctly, it’s now up to 43 institutions (including the University of Texas system)—and it’s launched Open Access Now, which it calls a source for “Relevant, current, curated news and information about open access and scholarly publishing.”
Apparently Inside Higher Ed has caught it from other sources: This March 8, 2012 article by Philip G. Albach and Brendan Rapple has the brief name above on the page itself—but “Essay on problems with state of journal publishing” as a webpage title.
Whatever the name, it’s an odd duck, so much so that I couldn’t find an appropriate home for it. The authors assert that scholars are under pressure to publish more—and that this pressure leads to a proliferation of new publishers and new journals. Ah, but then we get a section on “Fake and Low-Quality Journals,” not too far below a link to DOAJ and with a writeup that initially seems to call many if not most OA journals into question:
Not surprisingly, a large number of “bottom feeders” are now starting “journals” with the sole goal of earning a quick profit and enriching their owners. One of these new journals charges prospective authors a “transaction fee” of $500 to be published. Others have alternative ways of exploiting unsophisticated authors. These so-called journals have impressive sounding names and lists of prominent advisory editors — some who have in fact never been asked to serve. Peer reviewing is touted, but one suspects that anyone who pays the fee can get published. Clearly, authors are not served by journals without academic standing that will not be read nor cited by anyone. Many of these sham journals are in the sciences, with computer science being well-represented. The primary problem, of course, is that it is increasingly difficult for potential users to discern the respectable journals from the new fakes.
That’s followed by a pointer to Jeffrey Beall’s list of what he calls predatory OA publishers (there are apparently no predatory subscription-access publishers). There’s some balance in a brief writeup on one of Elsevier’s fake journals, the Australasian Journal of Bone and Joint Medicine. Ah, but Albach and Rapple are also down on other traditional journals, here with a focus on multinational subscription-access publishers:
As well as exploitative journals with a primary goal to make money rather than to advance scholarship, a profusion exists of “legitimate” journals, mediocre at best—publishing articles that really should not be published. The major multinational publishers of these journals have assembled large “stables” of them packaged and sold at high prices to libraries. Though many of these periodicals are supposedly peer-reviewed, the standard is frequently low, and much weak research is accepted for publication. Many faculty probably rationalize that being published somewhere is better than not being published at all. A 21st-century paradox is that while it is ever more difficult to get published in a top-tier journal, it is now easier than ever to get published.
A curse on both your houses? Perhaps. We also get the claim that there are 64,000 peer-reviewed academic and scholarly journals and “over 141,000” such journals in all—which, even though it’s based on Ulrich’s, strikes me as implausibly high in both cases. There’s more discussion about the unsustainable prices and increases and about bundling. I do like this sentence: “Bundling is a practice for publishers to sell journals that few libraries would subscribe to if they were to be selected individually.”
After what reads like somewhat of an anti-OA broadside in the first part of the article, the authors cite OA journals as part of potential solutions, along with suggestions such as refusing to work with “journals that are manifestly of poor quality and/or are excessively priced” and, more interestingly, only allowing five or six publications to be submitted in applications for promotion and funding. I’d certainly agree that no scholar should work with a journal that scholar considers to be “manifestly of poor quality” (are there scholars who do?); it would be refreshing if a few hundred thousand scholars decided not to work with those that are excessively priced—but who defines excessively?
This one’s by Jennifer Howard, appearing on April 1, 2012 at The Chronicle of Higher Education. It is what the title says—and, as Joe Kraus notes in the very first comment, it’s unfortunate that Howard didn’t hold the article until one day later, as it’s a bit too easy to brush it off as a joke. It’s not (even though it’s illustrated with a parody version of Elsevier’s logo). Here are the first two paragraphs (after “Dear publishers,”):
Boycotts, public disagreements, stalled antipiracy and anti-public-access bills: It’s been an interesting time for you lately.
Are you nervous? Some of you should be. Not because your business models are on the verge of collapse—commercial academic publishers are unlikely to suffer a mass extinction soon—but because of how researchers themselves are changing. One scholar described it to me as an Academic Spring, a sense of revolution in the air.
Examples? The extent of the Elsevier boycott; the RWA debate (and, indeed, rapid failure); the new life behind FRPAA. On the other hand…
The public-access legislation has been introduced twice before. It could fail this time around. The Elsevier boycott could gather twice as many signatures as it already has and not make a dent in how journals operate. We haven’t seen mass resignations by volunteer journal editors so far—although, as one historian pointed out to me recently, mathematicians, who are leading the latest boycott, have a long history of revolutionary thinking, and the last act in the boycott drama hasn’t unfolded yet.
Howard suggests that publishers can’t afford to dismiss what’s going on and that they need to make a better case for themselves. But one wonders: Letting people know about OA options may not be great if the options themselves stink. Hard to disagree with “Understand that if you ask librarians to sign nondisclosure agreements about subscription deals, there’s good will as well as profit at stake” or “Attempts to control the message don’t sit well with researchers’ culture of openness.”
Howard doesn’t see any massive extinction of traditional journal publishers. Neither do I. But times may finally be changing; that’s what she’s saying.
As noted, librarian Krause had the first comment; as perhaps predictable, a pseudonymous commenter assailed OA in the second. Other comments are all over the place.
I wonder how many readers of Inside Higher Ed take Barbara Fister’s writing at somewhat less than face value because of the Library Babel Fish title (and the fish itself, closely related to the LSW Cod), as in this September 26, 2012 column. They shouldn’t: She may write lightly, but she has important things to say.
Fister notes an American Historical Society statement related to publishing and the Finch report, which largely favors gold OA with author-side charges. Fister says of this:
It’s a great recipe for sustaining publishing corporations. It is not a particularly good way of making research accessible. After all, the publishers who make the highest profits got us into an unsustainable situation. Why should the solution be designed to keep their revenue streams flowing with public dollars?
She notes two distinct issues: Lack of access to published research and the excessive expense of the current publication system. And she offers a nice light comment on some reasons things aren’t changing rapidly:
The trouble is that developing cheaper methods of providing research results to anyone who wants to see them means changing the way we do things, and that threatens publishers’ business models. Since authors and readers are accustomed to relying on publishers, that threatens them, too. Scholars know how to publish under the current system. Doing things differently is scary. Scholars also know how to get their hands on published research – as an exclusive member benefit of their scholarly society, from the library, or from friends who work at an institution with a bigger library. If they can’t get their hands on published research, some scholars may blame their institution’s administration for spending money on athletics instead of the library, or the library for failing to spend its money on the right things, or themselves for not finding work at a better-funded university.
There are two paragraphs about techniques for publishing more cheaply—and the cultural practices that keep the current system going. On the other hand, Fister isn’t buying AHA’s “we need to talk about it” stance:
The AHA is right to criticize the idea that we fund open access by shifting the same costs from the reader side to the author side. That may work for some publications in some disciplines. But it doesn’t begin to address inequity of access and costs we can’t sustain as they are currently. Those are the problems we need to solve if we believe research has social value, not just marketplace value.
But saying “we have to talk about open access” based on fear that governments may require authors to pay thousands of dollars to publish an article is a bit like saying “we have to talk about health care reform” because people are worried about death panels.
In practice, and supported by the SOAP results, disciplines outside the sciences tend to have journals with much lower author-side fees, frequently as low as $0. There are some disciplinary repositories in the humanities and social sciences as well (a comment from Mr. Gunn says there are no arXiv-equivalents, and that’s probably right), but not as many or as well-established as they need to be.
This is the first of two historical pieces to close this section—this one by six authors from the Hanken School of Business, published on June 13, 2011 in PLoS ONE. Here’s the abstract:
Open Access (OA) is a model for publishing scholarly peer reviewed journals, made possible by the Internet. The full text of OA journals and articles can be freely read, as the publishing is funded through means other than subscriptions. Empirical research concerning the quantitative development of OA publishing has so far consisted of scattered individual studies providing brief snapshots, using varying methods and data sources. This study adopts a systematic method for studying the development of OA journals from their beginnings in the early 1990s until 2009. Because no comprehensive index of OA articles exists, systematic manual data collection from journal web sites was conducted based on journal-level data extracted from the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Due to the high number of journals registered in the DOAJ, almost 5000 at the time of the study, stratified random sampling was used. A separate sample of verified early pioneer OA journals was also studied. The results show a very rapid growth of OA publishing during the period 1993–2009. During the last year an estimated 191 000 articles were published in 4769 journals. Since the year 2000, the average annual growth rate has been 18% for the number of journals and 30% for the number of articles. This can be contrasted to the reported 3,5% yearly volume increase in journal publishing in general. In 2009 the share of articles in OA journals, of all peer reviewed journal articles, reached 7,7%. Overall, the results document a rapid growth in OA journal publishing over the last fifteen years. Based on the sampling results and qualitative data a division into three distinct periods is suggested: The Pioneering years (1993–1999), the Innovation years (2000–2004), and the Consolidation years (2005–2009).
It’s a fairly long article and I won’t excerpt much of it. Since I note that the authors get the colors of OA right (a seeming rarity these days), not stating that all gold OA includes author-side payments, I’m favorably inclined right off the bat.
OK, so this paragraph couldn’t hurt either:
Crawford  is among the earliest studies documenting the behavior of pioneer OA journals. The study, conducted in 2001, attempted to chart the OA landscape back in 1995. Using data from The Association of Research Libraries, the study found evidence of the existence of 86 journals publishing in 1995 which fulfilled the criteria of free, refereed, and scholarly. Interested in the viability of this novel type of publishing, Crawford also investigated the status and activity of these 86 journals six years later (in 2001). The main finding was that only 49 journals, or 57%, were still actively publishing. There appeared to be a pattern among the majority of the ceased journals, which the author coined ‘the arc of enthusiasm’, where a journal does well during years 2–5, but does not increase the publication volume from the two initial years, only to end up totally inactive or publishing only one or two articles per year after that. Among those that had survived, two distinct groups were discernible: ‘small successes’ (n = 21) which published a steady stream of fewer than ten articles annually, and ‘strong survivors’ (n = 28) which consisted of bigger journals publishing over ten articles annually, with some journals regularly publishing over one hundred articles per year. Considering the speed with which changes happen on the Internet, attempting to measure or reconstruct the open availability of journal articles prior to around 1998 is a challenging task. Fortunately, Crawford conducted both a comprehensive review of OA journal developments between 1995 and 2001, as well as included all journal titles and their annual volumes as part of the article itself.
I couldn’t ask for a better one-paragraph summary. I suspect the summaries of other early studies are similarly sound, as is the study reported here. The first paragraph of the discussion section:
The results speak for the sustainability of OA as a form of scientific publishing, with a large portion of pioneer journals still active and the average number of articles per journal and year almost doubled. It can also be concluded that the relative volume of OA published peer reviewed research articles has grown at a much faster rate than the increases in total annual volume of all peer reviewed research articles. Within the last few years some high-volume and high-impact journals have made the switch to OA which further increases the relative share of openly published research.
All in all, a good piece.
This one, published on October 22, 2012 at BMC Medicine, is by two of the seven authors of the article just discussed. Indeed, it seems somewhat similar, except that it covers 2000 to 2011 rather than 1993 to 2009:
Open access (OA) is a revolutionary way of providing access to the scholarly journal literature made possible by the Internet. The primary aim of this study was to measure the volume of scientific articles published in full immediate OA journals from 2000 to 2011, while observing longitudinal internal shifts in the structure of OA publishing concerning revenue models, publisher types and relative distribution among scientific disciplines. The secondary aim was to measure the share of OA articles of all journal articles, including articles made OA by publishers with a delay and individual author-paid OA articles in subscription journals (hybrid OA), as these subsets of OA publishing have mostly been ignored in previous studies.
“Full immediate OA journals” are what I’d call gold OA journals (I don’t recognize “delayed OA” as being any kind of OA at all, much less gold OA).
One key point: Along with the patently false assertion that gold OA always involves author-side charges is the lesser assertion that most gold OA articles involve author-side charges. According to this study, that’s simply not true: 49% of the OA articles in 2011 involved author-side charges.
The brief conclusion:
OA journal publishing is disrupting the dominant subscription-based model of scientific publishing, having rapidly grown in relative annual share of published journal articles during the last decade.
That seems to be a little more ambitious than the other article.
Another and apparently closely related study, probably worth reading.
Possibly a misleading group title for these items, but there it is.
This article-as-post is by Richard Poynder and appeared March 7, 2011 at Open and Shut? As usual, it consists of a medium-length introduction and a longer PDF. The introduction notes the genesis of PLoS ONE, uses interesting wording to refer to the apparent status of that journal as the largest scholarly journal in the world (“what OA advocates maintain is now the largest scholarly journal in the world” [emphasis added]—which, absent any evidence to the contrary, seems like a deliberate belittling of a factual claim), and tosses in controversy:
[S]ome believe [Harold Varnus’] project lost its bearings on the way. Rather than providing a solution, they argue, PLoS may have become part of the problem.
Certainly PLoS ONE has proved controversial. This became evident to me last year, when a researcher drew my attention to a row that had erupted over a paper the journal had published on “wind setdown”.
Poynder asked questions of PLoS. Initially they declined to answer—but they responded to the article. If you want to read the full article, be patient: On my system, at least, it took several minutes for the 42-page article to download. (It’s just under one megabyte, so that shouldn’t be the problem.)
Why did Peter Binfield decline to respond to Poynder’s questions?
“We’ve given this more thought, and I’m afraid that we don’t wish to engage in the long Q&A you have proposed. You have raised many questions now about this one paper along with various broader questions about PLoS ONE. I don’t think we have anything further to say about the article at this point, and so it doesn’t seem appropriate to use the discussion that surrounds this article as a way to build a much more extensive discussion about PLoS ONE.”
Key words here are “long” and “many.” If a journalist asks a question or two about PLoS—questions that aren’t of the “When did you stop beating your wife?” variety—I’d expect PLoS to answer. If it’s 50 questions…not so much.
I did not read the article slowly and in full. It’s 42 pages of sans serif type, and I soon tired of reading attacks on PLoS from various sources whose apparent hobbies are to attack OA at every turn. There’s a bit of balance near the end of the article, but in all I found it mostly an attack on PLoS and PLoS ONE based largely on possible issues in five out of 17,000 articles. I guess that’s fair: After all, there have never been worthless or later-retracted articles in high-profile subscription journals, right? Right?
Turns out the number of questions does appear: In PLoS’s response to Poynder’s article:
At several points, Richard’s article uses quotes from staff, press releases and so on that are now several years old and misses the point that much has changed even in the short few years since PLoS ONE launched. We are learning all the time from PLoS ONE. His frequent quotes from PLoS staff also show that we’ve answered many of his questions (including some less than friendly ones) over the years. Nevertheless, he places great emphasis on the fact that we declined to answer a set of more than 20 detailed and complex questions about general aspects of PLoS ONE, as a follow up to a series of exchanges about the peer review process on a particular PLoS ONE article about which there was some disagreement. Indeed we posted a comment to try and clarify the issues in light of Richard’s questions, and comments from researchers. We were surprised by the number and wide-ranging nature of Richard’s subsequent questions about PLoS ONE, and chose not to answer them because we felt that the issues surrounding the PLoS ONE article were closed. If Richard had signaled his intention to write a lengthy article about the history and status of PLoS at the outset of the exchange, our response might have been rather different.
My skimming of the article may not do Poynder justice. Still, his need to point out that PLoS has its headquarters in San Francisco, specifically called out as an expensive city, seems odd in the extreme, as do a number of his other points. The comments are interesting—and the mandatory comment from Stevan Harnad is noteworthy in that Harnad explicitly says Poynder is a Harnadian (albeit not in those words: “Richard replied that the reason he did not dwell on Green OA, which he too favors…” [emphasis added].
It is to Poynder’s considerable credit that he gave PLoS’ response a full separate post on March 8, 2011 in addition to including it at the end of the 42-page PDF. And I should add that, on balance, Poynder has done estimable service for OA over the years—although, increasingly, with a green slant that appears to involve an increasing amount of sniping at gold OA. That is his right, to be sure.
That’s the title for an October 23, 2011 post by Peter Murray-Rust at petermr’s blog—and while the title and portions of the post may seem arcane, PMR is getting at a fairly straightforward assertion: Open access saves lives—which is, in fact, an ethical assertion. (Or, more to the point, it’s an ethical assertion that closed publishing costs lives.)
PMR discusses HINARI, a program through which toll-access publishers provide some of their e-journal material free…to countries that are poor enough. How poor? A gross national income of less than $1,600 per capita. In 2011, Bangladesh became “rich” enough that its free access was cut off, and LANCET argued that HINARI should be extended to Bangladesh.
But I think that’s completely wrong. The HINARI program only exists because the publications are CLOSED. It costs nothing to make the journals available. It costs more technically to prevent people reading the literature than to make it available. Libre material gets copied at zero cost. HINARI is nothing more than the crumbs of charity that the kinds used to give out. HINARI perpetuates a morally unacceptable system. The publishers aren’t giving their content free, they are giving OUR content free (or rather restricting access to our content).
Simply, closed access publishers make money by restricting access to information.
That’s been a consistent theme through the discussion
Now we all agree, I think, that more and better information leads to better medicine, better health-care, better environment.
The worse the medicine and healthcare, etc. the more people die.
Nothing controversial so far? But these are the premises of a syllogism, and when followed through you end up with the conclusion:
Closed access means people die.
There’s much more to the post, but that’s certainly a compelling point. I see no reason to comment on it; I don’t actually regard it as controversial.
That’s followed by a post, “Open Access saves lives,” which provides some evidence of that assertion—including the case of a scientist whose own life was probably saved because, as a scientist, he had access to medical literature.
Scott B. Weingart posted this on February 20, 2012 at the scottbot irregular. It’s a personal example of ethical considerations around embracing OA—especially if you’re a non-tenured academic.
Earlier, Weingart posted a series of pledges including several related to OA—and while those pledges include one to only review for OA journals, they don’t explicitly say he wouldn’t publish in a closed-access journal. The relevant pledges:
Freely distributing all published material for which I have the right, and fighting to retain those rights in situations where that is not the case.
Fighting for open access of all materials worked on as a co-author, participant in a grant, or consultant on a project.
To date (as of this post), Weingart had no single-authored publications although one was pending at Journal of Digital Humanities (and has since appeared, thus the link above). He recognized the problem with a complete OA pledge: “It’s a dangerous world out there for people who aren’t free to publish in whatever journal they like; reducing my publication options is not likely to win me anything but good karma.”
So…he saw a call for papers that pointed directly to his research area, and he had a paper already in draft stage, introducing some new methodologies. He faced a dilemma:
I e-mailed the editor asking about access rights, and he sent a very kind reply, saying that, unfortunately, any article in the journal must be unpublished (even on the internet), and cannot be republished for two years following its publication. The journal itself is part of a small press, and as such is probably trying to get itself established and sold to libraries, so their reticence is (perhaps) understandable. However, I was faced with a dilemma: submit my article to them, going against the spirit—though not the letter—of my pledge, or risk losing a golden opportunity to submit my first single-authored article to a journal where it would actually fit.
After thinking about it, he decided to go with the spirit of his pledge, beyond the letter. He sent a carefully worded response—and posted the draft of his article on his own site.
Worth reading—as are the comments, including Barbara Fister’s pointed note as to why a small journal is probably making the wrong bet in enforcing closed access.
There’s an ethical question that’s near and dear to me, ever since the flack I caught (from only a few folks) for writing Open Access: What You Need to Know Now and ALA Editions having the sheer effrontery to charge for it. Since, you know, that full-time job I don’t have or the grants I can’t possibly get, or maybe those fabulous five-figure speaking opportunities I’ve never had should be all the reward for my labor that’s even worth suggesting.
All of which is just grumbling. This time, it’s about Peter Suber and his book Open Access, from MIT Press. Which, although much more reasonably priced than mine was (I had no say in ALA Editions’ pricing), still carries a price. John Dupuis wrote about the situation in this June 22, 2012 post at Confessions of a Science Librarian.
Dupuis says the post’s title is a bit misleading:
I don’t really think it’s much of a question.
Of course it’s ok to get paid to promote open access.
He expands on that point and then gets to Peter Suber’s announcement of his book’s publication. (Clarification: None of my sour grapes refer to Suber. He wrote a great blurb for my book, he’s done incredible—and incredibly fair—work on OA, he has only my admiration and respect.) After quoting the announcement, he adds:
Peter is getting paid to write the book, the publisher is charging people to read it. After a year, the book will become open access, although presumably people will still be able to pay for it if they want.
Is it moral and ethical for him to do this? Is he compromising his principles? Is Peter Suber the biggest hypocrite on the open access planet?
Yes, it is moral and ethical for him to do this. No, he is not compromising his principles and most emphatically Peter Suber is not a hypocrite.
So why did he write the post? Partly because a bottom-feeding anti-OA blog posted a truly nasty (and uninformed) attack on Suber. If you feel the need, you can find that link from Dupuis’ post. I’d suggest reading the comments, but the blog’s echo chamber makes that mostly an exercise in futility. The handful of comments on Dupuis’ post are, on the other hand, reasonable and worth reading.
That humdinger of a title appears on a June 28, 2012 Google+ post by Peter Suber. It’s largely the same comment he posted on the bottom-feeding blog post, which appeared while he was traveling. I suggest that you read his response in this forum, where you don’t have to scroll through loads of anti-OA crap to get to it. It’s a good discussion, worth reading.
This set of items addresses various tactical and strategic aspects of increasing the use of OA. Items are in chronological order.
By far the oldest item here, this comes from danah boyd and appeared February 6, 2008 at apophenia. It has a clear copyright statement and no suggestion of CC licensing (since it’s not a scholarly journal, there’s no inherent irony here), so I’ll just quote a few excerpts. It begins with a vow from danah boyd after announcing that she has an article in Convergence, a Sage journal:
I vow that this is the last article that I will publish to which the public cannot get access. I am boycotting locked-down journals and I’d like to ask other academics to do the same.
Boyd offers a very brief overview of the situation with scholarly publishing. As it happens, Convergence is only a moderate offender: individual print subscriptions cost $112 and institutions pay $515—in both cases for a quarterly. Those are under-the-radar prices compared to STEM journals. (She says she doesn’t know how much electronic access costs. Surprisingly, it’s actually a little cheaper than institutional print access, and the combination is trivially higher than print, to the tune of £7.)
The second paragraph of her overview deserves quotation in full:
The economy around academic journals is crumbling. Libraries are running out of space to put the physical copies and money to subscribe to journals that are read by few so they make hard choices. Most academics cannot afford to buy the journal articles, either in print or as single copies so they rely on library access. The underground economy of articles is making another dent into the picture as scholars swap articles on the black market. “I’ll give you Jenkins if you give me Ito.” No one else is buying the journals because they are god-awful expensive and no one outside of a niche market knows what’s in them. To cope, most academic publishers are going psycho conservative. Digital copies of the articles have intense DRM protection, often with expiration dates and restrictions on saving/copying/printing. Authors must sign contracts vowing not to put the articles or even drafts online. (Sage embargoes all articles, allowing authors to post pre-prints on their site one year following publication, but not before.) Academic publishers try to restrict you from making copies for colleagues, let alone for classroom use.
“Going psycho conservative” is a nice turn of phrase. The next few paragraphs discuss why boyd’s not sympathetic to publishers, why the situation is “asinine” and that it needs to change. She proposes a number of tactics. I’ll provide the bold-faced proposals; each is followed by a paragraph of explication.
· Tenured Faculty and Industry Scholars: Publish only in open-access journals.
· Disciplinary associations: Help open-access journals gain traction.
· Tenure committees: Recognize alternate venues and help the universities follow.
· Young punk scholars: Publish only in open-access journals in protest, especially if you’re in a new field.
· More conservative young scholars: publish what you need to get tenure and then stop publishing in closed venues immediately upon acquiring tenure.
· All scholars: Go out of your way to cite articles from open-access journals.
· All scholars: Start reviewing for open-access journals.
· Libraries: Begin subscribing to open-access journals and adding them to your catalogue.
· Universities: Support your faculty in creating open-access journals on your domains.
· Academic publishers: Wake up or get out.
· Funding agencies: Require your grantees to publish in open-access journals or make a pre-print version available at a centralized source specific to their field.
The paragraphs after these bullet points are all good reading, including the cautionary notes for the fourth (“Young punk”).
There’s still more after the bullet points; it’s a long post, one that’s still worthwhile even after almost five years. And, sigh, one that’s still needed after almost five years. More than 80 comments, some interesting, some strange, some attacking boyd because she gets high speaking fees, at least one explicitly advocating outright piracy as ethical…and of course there’s Stevan Harnad. Boyd includes a set of links to other commentaries about her post in a 2/8/08 comment.
Maybe it’s just as well that I somehow missed this entirely four years ago—or maybe it’s discouraging that it works almost as well today as it did then.
That terse title heads Dorothea Salo’s October 22, 2010 post at Book of Trogool. It’s lively, well written, down-to-earth and well worth reading two years later. I might be tempted to quote the whole thing, but that would be overkill (and it bears a bold copyright notice with the superfluous “All Rights Reserved”—I would double-dog bet Salo had nothing to do with that). This is advice for article writers and she starts out strong by deflating the extreme case:
Something I hear a lot when I suggest publishing in a gold open-access journal is, “well, I’m not going to give up a slot in Nature or Science for open access.” Well, of course you’re not. I’ll see you in Nature and Science, then. Oh, wait, I won’t?
Right. The number of choices that stark really does approach zero. I’ll never be published in Nature or Science. I love you, I love your research, but chances are you won’t either. So let’s back away from the black-and-white and consider the vastly more common situation of quite a few journals of acceptable prestige, some of them various degrees of open, from which you might choose.
I believe that Science, at least, does so well with material other than refereed articles, personal subscriptions and advertising that it would still be profitable even if it went Gold OA for the refereed articles—but that’s another can of economics entirely. (Sure would be nice, though, especially for an association-published journal like Science.) [I can’t speak to Nature as they don’t send me the occasional free sample copy.]
In any case, as Salo says, there’s now loads of evidence that all else being equal an article that’s freely accessible over the web will garner more attention than one that’s not. Here are the headers for Salo’s five suggested heuristics (or tactics) without her expansions—in the first four cases, what to do if you’re faced with two possible journals to submit to, of roughly equal prestige [my occasional notes in brackets]:
If one is fully open-access and the other is subscription, take the open-access option. [Here, the argument is especially meaty.]
If one is subscription-only and the other is hybrid... it’s a toss-up. [Salo’s suspicious of hybrid journals. So am I.]
If both are subscription journals, but one requires a full copyright transfer and the other only asks for a license to publish, go for the one with the license.
If both are subscription journals, but one allows you to place a pre/post-print in an open-access repository and the other doesn’t, go for the one that does.
Put as much of your work as you legally can in open-access repositories.
There’s quite a bit more, all of it good. I’m going to quote a gem of a paragraph that immediately follows the five bullets above:
One thing that never hurts: whenever you see a restrictive publishing agreement, sigh, look pained, and ask the editor, “Can you do any better than this?” The worst they will say is “No; put up or shut up.” Sometimes they will say yes, and the deal you get will be considerably better. You won’t endanger your publication. You will send a message that you care about your rights. There is no lose here.
This one’s a little odd but still worth noting—from Jeffrey Pomerantz on June 22, 2011 at PomeRantz. He links to an earlier post, “My Copyfight,” which recounts a sad story of a requested paper for a special issue of a toll-access journal and was asked to sign the publisher’s standard copyright agreement—a pretty bad one, as I read it. The publisher, Taylor & Francis, refused to accept a revised form. In the end, Pomerantz and a co-author withdrew the article and made it freely available—and Pomeranzt declared that he’s boycotting Taylor & Francis journals. (You should probably read that post: it’s an interesting account.)
Pomerantz believes that post was his most commented-upon. He got a little flack in three areas:
Why don’t you publish your paper in an OA journal?
Why don’t you put your paper in your universities’ institutional repositories?
T&F and all publishers have more generous contracts in their back pocket, if only you know to ask.
Only the first two relate to OA tactics (the earlier post covered the third—but in this case the alternate T&F contract wasn’t much better). His responses to all three are interesting. A key paragraph [excerpted] from the first discussion:
When I got tenure I seriously considered taking a vow (though to whom, I’m not sure) to only publish in OA journals… But I realized very quickly that taking an OA-only stance in this field is almost completely untenable. There are simply not enough A-list OA journals to choose from. And I apologize if you’re the editor of an OA journal in ILS… nothing personal. Obviously yours is one of the great ones.
Since then, I’d argue there are at least two more OA journals I’d consider A-list, namely College & Research Libraries and Information Technology and Libraries. But it’s still a good point, followed by his recognition that OA journals need support and good manuscripts to become A-list items. Indeed, he now offers a slightly stronger vow: “to the extent possible, publish only in OA venues.” Even with that truck-size loophole, that’s a start.
The second, of course, is also OA: In essence, “why didn’t you use green OA?” His discussion there is more disturbing—because he’s concluding that institutional repositories are no better than putting the paper on your personal website. His example is unconvincing because it turns out to be a special case: One IR’s papers weren’t discoverable via Google because that IR had temporarily blocked search engine crawling. [A comment on the post clarifies this and says it’s been corrected. Indeed, when you read the post at this point, clicking on “this sample search“ pretty much undermines his post since it yields a robust result. That happens when you embed searches in hyperlinks!]
Like institutional repositories, e-journal publishing programs have been treated by all too many libraries as “install software and forget” services. In her more cynical moments, the Loon thinks that libraries believe it more important to say they have a publishing program than to have a useful and viable one. This rarely ends well; faculty need more than a bare Open Journal Systems install, and without a clear sense of service boundaries, libraries have been known to find themselves stuck catering expensively to individual prima-donna editors.
Yes, library publishing programs relate to OA—especially since they’re increasingly likely to be some combination of Gold OA ejournals and virtual university presses. The Loon has some experience in this area on several sides, apparently, and is focused on the OA aspect:
[T]he Loon will leave aside library-press collaborations—digitization, online backfile access, and the like. She’s assuming that the library’s angle is to help faculty publish open-access journals, soup to nuts, and if the local press doesn’t like it, the local press can lump it. This means, of course, that at a minimum the library has to offer a service more attractive than the local press!
The Loon—I’m gonna say “she” for much of this post, since this gentle avian self-identifies as a she—notes that librarians and would-be journal editors tend not to understand the full process of journal publishing, so she’s offering some of it.
A few journal-level sine qua nons, first: Any half-decent journal will want an attractive, usable, distinctive web presence. Sorry, OJS, but without considerable tweaking you provide none of the adjectives aforementioned. Libraries: don’t start a journal-publishing program without web-design expertise on tap, and if you’re using OJS, you probably want to be able to call on a PHP hacker as well. Willingness to purchase and manage a domain name for the journal is a good idea.
She’s not convinced that journal marketing is a big deal where subscriptions aren’t involved, but emphasizes that a library publishing program needs to have enough knowledge of subject-area indexes to submit new journals to the right ones—and to find and use appropriate mailing lists.
Faculty have Pavlovianly learned to associate DOIs with quality in electronic journals. (This is admittedly dumb; just work with it.) DOIs are not free, monetarily or technically. Library publishing programs should buy into them anyway. Don’t try to palm off handles (yes, yes, the Loon knows that DOIs are handles behind the scenes), PURLs, or ARKs; they don’t have the DOI mystique. An ISSN should, of course, go without saying.
Then the Loon steps through the process of a single article at the Journal of Unrecognizable Results (if there isn’t such a journal, there probably should be). Briefly—and the Loon’s writeup is far more interesting than this summary:
· Obtaining manuscripts via calls for papers and specific recruitment.
· Gathering submissions (not the same thing).
· First review, by the editor(s), to reject obviously-inappropriate submissions and assign peer reviewers.
· Peer review, author revision, final acceptance.
Speaking quite broadly and largely inaccurately, editing comes in two varieties: content editing, which asks all the hard questions about the content of the article, and copyediting, which cleans up spelling, grammar, ambiguity, and lack of clarity, as well as checking mechanical issues such as figure/table numbering and adherence to house citation style and other house rules.
There’s more here: faculty editors may be willing to do both kinds of editing—but that doesn’t mean they’re competent to do copyediting. Copyediting is tough. The Loon gives it a fair amount of space, for good reason.
All of the above should result in articles that are readable, error-free (cross fingers) and ready for production. After noting just how complex production workflow can be (e.g., a journal that needs to produce NLM XML, print, HTML and PDF for online readers, noting that print PDF and online PDF may not be the same), the Loon addresses the presumably simpler needs of most library-based Gold OA journals. Starting with typesetting (I’d say “typesetting/layout”):
If there’s a production process more honored in the breach than typesetting, the Loon doesn’t know what it is. Honestly, faculty and librarians alike believe it happens by magic. If they don’t get adequate typesetting, though, First World faculty absolutely will realize they’re missing it, and demand it. (Faculty in developing nations are less picky, which is partly how InTech has stayed in business so long despite its deplorably incompetent typesetting.) Some faculty are sloppy enough not to miss even copyediting; none will overlook a double-spaced Word document that resembles an undergraduate paper masquerading as a professionally-produced article.
This is, fundamentally, why university presses find so many library publishing efforts risible. The presses are entirely correct to laugh. Adequate typesetting is a basic journal-quality heuristic, far more fundamental than (because operating on deeper and less-conscious prejudices than) impact factor or anything else bibliometric. Libraries: get this right, or just plain quit pretending. The Loon is as serious about this as she knows how to be. No publishing services without basic design and typesetting.
And, of course, I have to quote the next three paragraphs, if only because—with ITI’s help in refining it—I finally managed to produce a good-quality book template for Microsoft Word, which reduces (but does not eliminate) the labor involved in typesetting with Word:
Now, the Loon doesn’t believe that a shoestring publishing operation needs InDesign or (heavens forfend) Quark to arrive at a half-decent page, no matter what university presses say—but even typesetting in Microsoft Word takes time and effort, and more delving into the innards of the program—particularly as regards paragraph and character styles—than most people who consider themselves competent with Word have any notion of. (Typesetting in Word without styles? Timesink. The Loon guarantees it.)
Does a professional librarian need to do this repetitive, time-devouring work? Given a house design and Word stylesheet, plus an exhaustive stylesheet-training manual for student labor (given its frequent turnover), no—but who’s going to come up with those, pray? Librarians who don’t know an em from an en dash? Faculty who don’t know oblique from true italic?
(Lest you think the Loon exaggerates: the Loon once had a tenured library-school professor spill red ink on a paper she turned in because, well-indoctrinated by the expert typesetters the Loon learned from, the Loon hadn’t indented paragraphs after headings. People of the book? Mm-hm. The Loon invites anyone who doesn’t get the joke to open a professionally-typeset journal, look at first paragraphs after headings, and learn.)
If only I couldn’t point to a few professionally run typeset print journals that do indent the first paragraph under a heading…but the Loon’s right: Shouldn’t happen, and it’s trivially easy to fix in Word—if you care enough to do so. (The templates discussed in The Librarian’s Guide to Micropublishing all have a style called “First,” which is just a regular paragraph with the indent removed—and all the Heading styles (H1, H2, etc.) are set so the next paragraph defaults to First rather than Normal. This is not rocket science, but it does have to be done. And if you’re marking up somebody else’s manuscript, you have to assign the Firsts yourself. Easy-peasy: If there’s a heading, there should be a First following it. I’m a renegade in Cites & Insights: I also use First any time I’ve had bullets or quoted text, as in this paragraph. That is not standard style, and it’s probably “wrong.” The templates don’t do it.)
So can you just use HTML? Not really, not if you want the articles to look good:
Perhaps all this seems excessive; after all, couldn’t the journal just publish in HTML and be done with it? That, too, sounds easy yet isn’t. Part of the problem, particularly in the printed-page–obsessed humanities, is that publishing in HTML lacks cachet. PDF can pretend it came from a proper printed journal; HTML can’t.
There’s a bunch more on typesetting and layout; the Loon somewhat resignedly recommends a PDF-based workflow.
If all you need is electronic, all that’s left is adding metadata and putting out the issues. But…some journals also need print editions, and that’s a nasty little ball of wax requiring a whole bunch of additional services. (I’ve seen journals use Lulu when only a few people want print versions; that will not work for ongoing subscriptions, however.)
Oh, and there are ads. Go read the article. I have nothing to say.
The above covers the first two posts, with more cited material than I really should use (but it’s so good, and this is a topic I care about quite a bit, to the extent that these articles will surely be mentioned in my April OA preconference). The third, subtitled “Cutting one’s teeth, disruptively,” explains why setting up a library-based journal publishing service is a disruptive strategy and why it’s worth doing.
Is there, at least potentially, a place for minimally-competent, OJS-based “publishing” programs in libraries? Believe it or not, the Loon thinks there is. Libraries taking this road, however, need to understand why they’re doing it, what its limitations are, and that visible returns on investment may be years away, before they embark.
That’s all I’m going to quote because, even if you’ve read the first two parts previously, you should go now and reread the third one. And consider whether it’s something your library could (and should) plausibly do. She offers some tactics to make it work and urges a long view—that you shouldn’t be looking so much for immediate large-scale success as for building a viable service over time.
This might belong in a later section of this mega-roundup devoted to, well, you know, but it felt better here—because it’s not entirely about Elsevier. It comes from the Library Loon at Gavia Libraria again, this time on February 5, 2012, and the lead paragraph is key:
One phenomenon that will be tested by the Elsevier boycott is the strength and influence of web-based academia. Is there enough critical mass in the academic social-media-sphere to make itself felt in the ivory tower?
It’s not just whether the boycott itself has any effect (other than, at least indirectly, pushing Elsevier to back off from the RWA); it’s whether any group has that kind of influence. Consider anthropology:
A noisy, net-enabled cadre of anthropologists has been protesting its professional association’s attitudes toward open access for years. (The Loon was talking about an AAA crackup over open access when she was but a loon-chick. Plus ça change…) Yet AAA recently issued a defense of the Research Works Act. Noisy and net-enabled isn’t quite enough, it would seem.
She points out that anthropologists are trying to organize and thinks that’s a move in the right direction. Here’s the most discouraging text, since I’m pretty sure the Loon is absolutely right here:
One variable whose value the Loon isn’t sure of is the amount of continued total ignorance of these issues in the offline academic majority… The said ignorance is still rampant. Just the other day the Loon heard from a liaison librarian who told faculty about the Research Works Act and got back the same old threadbare objections from the department chair: “economic concerns” about the viability of open access, and those PLoS and BMC things, they can’t possibly make it in the naked city ivory tower, can they? Naturally, these folk are the ones in the corridors of power, and their opinions shape the opinions in their departments. Meddle not with they who hold the tenure-and-promotion strings, for they are irascible and often wined and dined by big-pig publishers.
I left out the paragraph following that first sentence, where the Loon guesses that some mandates have been adopted because of that majority. Probably so. And maybe sneaky mandates are a good tactic.
I’ve already noted Abigail Goben’s decision to try to get tenure while publishing only in OA journals. This post, appearing February 22, 2012 at Hedgehog Librarian, announces that plan. To wit:
Watching the momentum swirl in academia in response to RWA and the increasing verbal acknowledgement by faculty that the closed access publishing system isn’t working has been exciting. I’ve talked to a number of students and faculty who are very interested in what’s happening. The students, particularly, are horrified at the status quo (whether their horror outlasts their need to publish in the future remains to be seen).
Thinking about this and the efforts at Cost of Knowledge and the blog posts of very smart colleagues, an idea started forming in my head that I wanted to share with you–mostly to keep myself accountable, partially so I can give you updates as it happens, and finally so I think through this a little more.
I am making a public commitment to try to get tenure at UIC only publishing in Open Access journals.
Why is this scary? I’m at a R1 institution and a huge portion of my tenure evaluation is my ability to publish. I’m absolutely in a publish or perish situation for the next four years and that’s a big red flashing deadline at the top of the really long to do list.
What are the opportunities? There are a number of new(er) peer reviewed OA journals in the library field that will be good fits for me. Most of the ALA Journals have gone OA. I have friends and colleagues who have expressed interest in writing with me and who think finding an OA journal sounds fantastic.
Goben notes the barriers but thinks this is a good time for the attempt. It’s an effort worth watching (in her “Open Access Tenure” posts). I hope she’s right. Also worth reading the comments on this post, including one long and slightly odd one (nicely responded to by Dorothea Salo). Yes, it’s probably wrong to lump together low-cost society journals with “big pig” journals…but there’s simply no reason that e-only society journals shouldn’t be gold OA. Such as College & Research Libraries. Which now is.
Or “Essay on open access scholarship,” if you prefer, since Inside Higher Education, where this appeared on February 23, 2012, goes in for split titles (one on the screen, one on the web page). It’s signed by the provosts of 11 large research universities “that engage in over $5.6 billion of funded research each year” (all of them public universities) and it’s a useful discussion of what universities have been and should be doing.
It’s not a particularly long statement and worth reading directly, coming as it does from the chief academic officers of eleven large institutions. I’ll quote some of the statement’s examples of how provosts might do more to “ensure that their own campus policies are aligned with professed campus norms”:
Encouraging faculty members to retain enough rights in their published intellectual property that they can share it with colleagues and students, deposit it in open access repositories, and repurpose it for future research.
Ensuring that promotion and tenure review are flexible enough to recognize and reward new modes of communicating research outcomes.
Ensuring that our own university presses and scholarly societies are creating models of scholarly publishing that unequivocally serve the research and educational goals of our universities, and/or the social goals of our communities.
Encouraging libraries and faculty to work together to assess the value of purchased or licensed content, and the appropriate terms governing its use.
The essay was prompted by RWA, but it’s needed in any case. The comments are a mixed bag.
This item by Catherine Pellegrino on February 24, 2012 at Spurious Tuples is one of several expanded pledges from a librarian who signed the Cost of Knowledge Elsevier boycott. Here’s the key pledge, in boldface in the original:
Starting now, I will not submit any single-authored work to a journal that doesn’t allow some form of open access.
As Pellegrino notes, that pledge hedges her bets: It leaves room not only for multi-author papers but for Green OA journals (she doesn’t note the latter). She also says she won’t review articles for or serve on an editorial board of journals that don’t allow “some degree of open access,” another pledge that could allow her to referee Elsevier articles. Still, it’s a start.
A better start: She’s consistently made sure that her articles were published with copyright agreements that “I was able to interpret” as allowing her to self-archive, albeit on her own web page, not in an IR.
Michael Eisen offers that mild-mannered title for this May 1, 2012 post at it is NOT junk. He notes the announcement at Harvard that even it couldn’t afford the journals it should have—and attacks what he calls the “tepidness of the committee’s recommendations“ and “silence of the university’s administration,” calling them “just the latest manifestation of the toothless response of American universities to the ‘serials crisis’ that has plagued libraries for decades.” (The first link in that sentence is to another Eisen post; the second is, well, to Harvard’s home page—I’m not sure what Eisen expected to find there.)
Eisen, who not incidentally is a cofounder of PLoS, is sure of the solution and that it would work:
Had the leaders [of[ major research universities attacked this issue head on when the deep economic flaws in system became apparent, or if they’d showed even an ounce of spine in the ensuing twenty or so years, the subscription-based model that is the root of the problem would have long ago been eliminated. The solutions have always been clear. Universities should have stopped paying for subscriptions, forcing publishers to adopt alternative economic models. And they should have started to reshape the criteria for hiring, promotion and tenure, so that current and aspiring faculty did not feel compelled to publish in journals that were bankrupting the system. But they did neither, choosing instead to let the problem fester. And even as cries from the library community intensify, our universities continue to shovel billions of dollars a year to publishers while they repeatedly fail to take the simple steps that could fix the problem overnight.
There’s a lot more detail in the post and it’s worth reading. Eisen’s tactics are straightforward, if a little improbable in the real world:
Stop the flow of money to subscription journals. Universities should not renew ANY subscriptions. They should, instead, approach them with a new deal – they’ll maintain payments at current levels for 3 more years if the journal(s) commit to being fully open access at the end of that time.
Introduce—and heavily promote—new criteria for hiring and promotion that actively discourage the use of journal titles in evaluating candidates.
The first recommendation lumps all subscription journals together. That doesn’t make any sense to me. But what do I know?
This one, by Brian Kelly on October 26, 2012 on the JISC blog, speaks to the second level—and it seems to be about green OA, not gold.
So you’ve deposited your research paper in your institution’s online repository, now what? Just because it’s online, doesn’t automatically mean it’ll get lots of interest, you can harness the power of the social web to promote your papers and engage with your peers.
I’ll just list the ten tips; each is, of course, followed by an explanatory paragraph, which you can and should read in the original:
Be pro-active. Monitor what works. Make it easy for readers. Don’t forget the links. Encourage feedback and discussion. Develop your network. Understand your social media network. Know your limits in the social media environment. Seek improvements. And finally my top piece of advice…participate!
That’s Rupert Gatti in this November 8, 2012 item at The Guardian’s higher education network. Gatti’s at Trinity College Cambridge and cofounded Open Book Publishers, an “independent academic publisher” (with grant funding) that publishes humanities and social science monographs that are free for online reading. (The print prices are on the low side for academic monographs as well.) The post takes the UK’s Finch recommendations to task (for, as rendered here, propping up commercial journal publishers by shifting the cost to authors) and moves on to monograph publishing. (I wonder whether you could really call Gatti’s operation an “open access publisher,” as library copies of PDFs are priced, not free—I guess it depends on how strictly you define OA!)
The post is mostly about his publishing company as a model, and he thinks everybody should play:
There’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a creditable open access book publisher in every university around the world, but it is going to require a collective shift in the academic mind-set.
An important part of this will be for academic institutions (appointment boards and libraries) to recognise the changing world of publishing and the active role they can play in it. And for funders to recognise that sustaining a publishing model which is obsolete and costly stifles industrial innovation. Our once beloved university presses used to perform a necessary and noble service, but they are no longer serving our needs. The future of our work’s dissemination is in our own hands—precisely where it should be. The question is whether we are prepared to hold on to it.
The comments are so full of misinformation that it’s hard to recommend them. In this world, all OA journals charge processing fees, OA began in 2003 (really?) and…oh look, there’s the inevitable Harnad.
This four-page PDF was last updated on October 15, 2012 and is worth noting as The Wellcome Trust’s new OA policy. Since Wellcome is a pioneer in this area, it’s worth paying attention. Wellcome requires that any Wellcome-funded papers be deposited in PubMed Central and other similar sites “as soon as possible, and in any event within six months of the journal publisher’s official date of final publication.” In a way, it’s sad that the policy even allows a six-month embargo.
The key to the new policy: The requirement of a CC-BY license, which assures full reuse possibilities, including commercial reuse. The new policy takes effect in early 2013. The PDF provides details on how Wellcome supports OA and what the CC-BY license permits.
That’s the title of a November 27, 2012 piece by Adeline Koh at The Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker blog. The strategy or tactic is doing it yourself: Founding new gold OA journals. Scholastica is a new journal publishing platform charging a $10 fee for each processed article. Walsh calls it a tool much like WordPress is a tool. “Our mission is to put control of scholarly publishing back in the hands of scholars, not large corporate sponsors.”
It’s a long interview, worth reading. I don’t have enough expertise to know how Scholastica compares with Open Journal Systems, but outsourcing the mechanics of OA publishing does have its charms. Take a look.
Or, if you prefer, “Amherst launches open-access scholarly press,” the webpage title for this December 6, 2012 piece by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed. It’s about a new press at Amherst College, one that Amherst admits is “wildly idealistic.” How so? The monographs will be subject to traditional peer review, edited rigorously—and then published in electronic form completely free for the reading. In other words, OA monographs. Not all “book-length,” as the press plans to publish “scholarly novellas”; all within the liberal arts. This press will be operated by—where else—the library. (The FAQ is charming and brief.)
Indeed, the idea came from the library, and the librarian knows they’ll lose money on it (they’re hiring a director and two editors, and aiming for 15 books a year). It’s an interesting initiative. It would make sense for Amherst to add PoD support via CreateSpace or Lulu, since it would cost nothing more to do so, but that’s a detail for the future.
The common theme of these items is that they concern scholarly societies and publishing.
In case Matt Blaze’s title on this February 28, 2011 post at Exhaustive Search isn’t clear enough, here’s the subtitle: “Why do IEEE and ACM act against the interests of scholars?”
If there is one area where the Web and Internet publishing is truly fulfilling its promise, it has to be the free and open availability of scholarly research from all over the world, to anyone who cares to study it. Today’s academic does not just publish or perish, but does so on the Web first. This has made science and scholarship not only more democratic—no journal subscriptions or university library access required to participate—but faster and better.
And many of the most prominent scientific and engineering societies are doing everything in their power to put a stop to it. They want to get paid first.
There follows a description of society publishing that doesn’t seem to grant that publishers add any value other than production and distribution, but that may be beside the point. Blaze says the restrictive copyrights of ACM and IEEE have been “honored mostly in the breach as far as author-based web publishing has been concerned” because academics make preprint versions of papers available on personal websites or in institutional repositories: Green OA, albeit not in those terms.
What’s changed? Nothing, really, except that IEEE now explicitly forbids authors from sharing published versions. Many green OA provisions have been that way all along, but perhaps not as explicit as IEEE now appears to be—and Blaze says ACM is as bad. He’s had it:
Enough is enough. A few years ago, I stopped renewing my ACM and IEEE memberships in protest, but that now seems an inadequate gesture. These once great organizations, which exist, remember, to promote the exchange and advancement of scientific knowledge, have taken a terribly wrong turn in putting their own profits over science. The directors and publication board members of societies that adopt such policies have allowed a tunnel vision of purpose to sell out the interests of their members. To hell with them.
So from now on, I’m adopting my own copyright policies. In a perfect world, I’d simply refuse to publish in IEEE or ACM venues, but that stance is complicated by my obligations to my student co-authors, who need a wide range of publishing options if they are to succeed in their budding careers. So instead, I will no longer serve as a program chair, program committee member, editorial board member, referee or reviewer for any conference or journal that does not make its papers freely available on the web or at least allow authors to do so themselves.
Please join me. If enough scholars refuse their services as volunteer organizers and reviewers, the quality and prestige of these closed publications will diminish and with it their coercive copyright power over the authors of new and innovative research. Or, better yet, they will adapt and once again promote, rather than inhibit, progress.
It’s an interestingly nuanced stance. He feels he must continue to publish in paywall journals to support coauthors—but he won’t do anything else.
Several updates, including one that involves a fairly common anti-OA myth:
Update 8 March 2011: A prominent member of the ACM asserted to me that copyright assignment and putting papers behind the ACM’s centralized “digital library” paywall is the best way to ensure their long-term “integrity”. That’s certainly a novel theory; most computer scientists would say that wide replication, not centralization, is the best way to ensure availability, and that a centrally-controlled repository is more subject to tampering and other mischief than a decentralized and replicated one. Usenix’s open-access proceedings, by the way, are archived through the Stanford LOCKSS project. Paywalls are a poor way to ensure permanence.
Ivan Fils explores this question in a September 1, 2011 piece in the JEPS Bulletin, and in some ways the relatively brief discussion is notable not only for what Fils says but for the fact that Stevan Harnad pounds home not one but four lengthy comments, saying in essence that since APA allows Green OA, there’s no issue, move along, nothing to see here. APA is one of the good guys, along with Elsevier: just ask SH.
Fils asks: “Does APA, probably the most influential organization in psychology today, support the goal of open access to research?” At least part of the answer is fairly clear, given that a former president wrote a “cautionary” item about OA that seemed to suggest it might threaten peer review.
Is it really possible that open access threatens the health of scientific review process in science?
Green OA, what the former APA President attacked in her column (pardon, cautioned against) is the very grassroots response to the limited access to published research in the first place. It’s an attempt by the authors to make their research accessible without pay-to-view, because all or most of the journals they publish in aren’t open access. This problem she cautions against is directly caused by the publishers like APA – if they made the journals they publish open access, the authors wouldn’t need to self-archive. In OA lingo, if everything was gold OA there wouldn’t be a need for green OA. Or at least, the need wouldn’t be that vital.
I suspect that the scarecrow scare painted by that column against open access isn’t because of the actual risk to the review process or the scientific rigor of published work. It is a fear for lost profits. APA is funded by their scientific publishing.
And there it is: “APA is funded by their scientific publishing.” Let’s put that another way: Academic libraries are underwriting APA by paying for its journals. That’s not how it should ever have worked, and it can’t work that way in the future. Fils provides fairly ample evidence that Gold OA is sustainable and that OA doesn’t threaten peer review.
So, in conclusion, the American Psychological Association, as the leader in the world of scientific publishing in psychology, should show initiative and vision in open and staunch support of open access. They should publish open access journals and research sustainable models of doing so. Token support and cautionary notes are not exactly what is considered support, especially when we take into account that OA publishing in psychology is much behind the current trends in other sciences.
Psychology needs it now. So make it happen.
Setting aside SH’s multiple screeds, there are a handful of comments—including at least one that confuses a number of issues, saying that it’s just fine for societies to make huge profits from publishing—and that an “unregulated move to OA” would “absolutely be a threat to peer review.” (I didn’t realize commercial and society publishing were “regulated”: can anyone tell me what US or international agency monitors peer review processes? No?) That comment also misstates US government policy, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
Back to the ACM, this time with a post (and followup) by Robert J. Simmons on January 5, 2012 (followup on January 7, 2012) at Request for Logic. This was during the brief horrorshow that was RWA—and, if you remember, RWA was endorsed by the AAP/PSP. Of which ACM is a member.
Awful legislation gets introduced all the time with names (“Research Works Act”) that do the opposite of what their title suggests (preventing research from working and acting, wildly attempting to maintain an ultimately unsustainable status quo). Frankly, I expect publishers to behave this way, and I expect there to be the usual variety of opinions about it. But then I ran through the members of the Association of American Publishers, the group which is cheering this legislation that the (presumably) they wrote, hoping against hope. I was unsurprised but a bit sickened by what I saw: the Association for Computing Machinery is a member of the AAP.
Simmons likes ACM—and it’s fine with him that ACM owns the copyright on anything he publishes through them. He’s OK with the paywall behind which ACM material sits, partly because of a strange loophole, the “Author-izer,” that allows authors to provide a special URL that can access a protected article. “It sounds a little goofy but it works for me in practice and I’m cautiously pleased with it.” Think of it as an automated version of asking an author for an offprint: If you know where to look, you might be able to get access. (He adds links to some who argue that this really isn’t the way to do things.) It’s abundantly clear that Simmons is anything but an OA zealot.
My view of Author-izer is that it requires a high level of trust: trust that the ACM will continue supporting authors, and that we’ll be able to continue supporting the ACM (since if we don’t or can’t support the ACM, it will go bankrupt and be taken over by copyright trolls). I can overlook little things where the ACM is not acting in the interest of its members (why doesn’t the standard .cls make it easy to make an authors version?) because the world isn’t perfect.
Simmons also thinks ACM is trying to do the right thing, “as opposed to IEEE.”
However, the “Research Works Act” makes it clear that ACM’s membership in the Association of American Publishers is an egregious and unacceptable instance of working against the interest of scholars and ACM members. We should be thinking about how to demand that our professional organization, the Association for Computing Machinery, do two things: 1) withdraw from the Association of American Publishers 2) take the clear position that the so-called “Research Works Act” is an unacceptable piece of legislation that is not supported by the computer science community. [Emphases in the original.]
OK, so this really isn’t about OA as such—although there’s a segment about the difficult process of turning a final paper into something ACM allows to be self-archived (as opposed to the slightly bizarre Author-izer).
Scott Delman, Director of Group Publishing for ACM, left a long response as three comments on the first post; Simmons pulled the comments together, got an agreement from Simmons, and posted them as a separate post on January 7, 2012. Some tidbits from Delman’s response:
Like most things in life, things are not always as black and white as some would lead us to believe. In this case, I think there is a basic misunderstanding of the ACM and the AAP (which is incidentally an organization that does a great deal of good work on behalf of both publishers and the scientific community)…
[Because ACM is a nonprofit scholarly society with a full-time staff of 75]: It is important to point this out, because there is an implication in the original post that the ACM is an entity that is in some way acting against the scholarly community, when in fact the ACM is an organization that is literally run by the scholarly community.
In other words, a nonprofit scholarly society can’t act against the scholarly community: It’s impossible by definition. Right. Set aside the issue of whether societies with significant full-time staff are in fact “run by” their membership—that’s one complex issue. Delman’s statement is simply nonsense: Of course one part of the scholarly community can act against the whole of the scholarly community. Happens all the time.
Whenever I discuss the topic of open access with colleagues and friends, I think it is useful to try to imagine what the world would look like if the US Federal Government or other Foreign Governments decided to pass legislation that required all scholarly material that is in some way supported by public funding be made instantly open and freely available to the world without any paywalls of any sort. Well, as ACM’s publisher and someone who is intimately aware of the tangible costs of publishing and disseminating high quality scholarly literature, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the end result of this sort of legislation would be catastrophic for the scientific community and scholarly publishers alike. If in a blink of an eye, organizations like ACM were required to simply open up our archive of articles (the ACM DL) without the ability to recoup the costs of publishing and disseminating those articles (or all of the technically sophisticated services built around that content inside the ACM DL), ACM would cease to be the sustainable organization it is today and would eventually shutter its doors at some point in the future, instead of continuing to be the sustainable force for good that it is today. If this sounds like PR-dribble, I apologize, but I really do believe this!
Wow. Delman sure sounds black-and-white to me—and flatly says that, without subsidies from publishing profits, ACM would shut down. In which case, academic libraries should be running the ACM, if they’re the only things keeping it alive.
And here’s the final paragraph in a long “comment,” which should make clear how Delman deals with the idea that public-supported research should be available to the public:
Lastly, it is worth noting that the AAP is one of the publishing industries’ primary advocates and they do an enormous amount of good work. Rather than deriding this organization that supports and protects the interests of over 300 well established publishers, including ACM, I would suggest that we focus on the spirit of what the Research Works Act represents, which is to limit the ability of the federal government to mandate decisions that would almost certainly have a longterm catastrophic impact on an industry that partners with and supports (and in our case is one and the same) the scientific community.
There it is. Pretty black and white. Ya’ gotta love the very first comment:
The logic that concludes “ACM is run by the scholarly community so won’t act against the scholarly community” would also conclude that “the federal government is run by the people community so won’t act against the people community”. Why limit the federal government then?
In the comment stream, Simmons asks an interesting question:
Have the ACM’s more NIH-funded siblings withered in the face of this catastrophe, necessitating that they be pulled back to the brink into the more-copyrightful world that NSF-funded research inhabits?
Well, sure they have; that’s why Elsevier and other publishers with heavy biomed publishing areas all went bankrupt. Oh, wait…
Here’s an amusing response from Delman (after a slap at politicians followed by assurance that ACM is, of course, wholly controlled by its Volunteer Leadership, capital V, capital L):
Regarding RWA, I can not speak intelligently about every aspect of the proposed legislation or existing mandates at NIH, but I would say in general that it is important for Publishers and organizations like AAP to keep a very close dialogue going with decision makers in Washington and one of the ways that such organizations do this is by working with members of Congress to introduce legislation that will get debated, revised, and debated again before going to formal votes. Rarely does legislation end up where it started, but the process almost always ends up better informing our representatives....to make better decisions. Without naming specific organizations, I can say without hesitation that Open Access mandates have impacted small, medium, and large non-profits and commercial publishers in significant ways. For some who have no strong “business model” in place for delivering their content to the community, I would say they are on a path to “catastrophe” and the government intervention in this regard hasn’t helped. As an aside, I do not think “copyright” is in anyway to blame or a villain here. In fact, I think we should be focusing on ways to strengthen copyright protection, as a way to protect authors’ intellectual property, not look to dismantle the entire system, and by removing the ability for Publishers to hold this copyright and leave it completely in the hands of the individual, I am not convinced that this is in the communities’ best interest either. More on this later, I’m sure....
He “can’t speak intelligently about every aspect of the proposed legislation”? RWA was a tiny bill—I reprinted it in its entirety in the December 2012 Cites & Insights, taking up less than half a page including definitions and lots of spacing. The whole thing is 325 words long; the heart of it is 69 words. I find it impossible to believe that Delman couldn’t “speak intelligently about every aspect” of 69 words with an hour’s research. Then there’s the section beginning “Without naming…”: He’s unwilling to offer any evidence, probably for good reason, but he’s willing to attack OA anyway. Oh, and argues for strengthening copyright to “protect authors’ copyright”…by having Publishers take it over. Quite a response.
In this case, “the President” is Elizabeth Bartman and the association is the Archeological Institute of America (AIA); this statement appeared in the May/June 2012 Archaeology. After summarizing FRPAA, Bartman comes down hard:
We at the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA), along with our colleagues at the American Anthropological Association and other learned societies, have taken a stand against open access. Here at the AIA, we particularly object to having such a scheme imposed on us from the outside when, in fact, during the AIA’s more than 130-year history, we have energetically supported the broad dissemination of knowledge, and do so through our extensive program of events and lectures for the general public and through our publications. Our mission statement explicitly says, “Believing that greater understanding of the past enhances our shared sense of humanity and enriches our existence, the AIA seeks to educate people of all ages about the significance of archaeological discovery.” We have long practiced “open access.” [Emphasis added.]
Note that AIA, according to Bartman, isn’t just against FRPAA: it’s against open access. In precisely those words. Instead, she makes an empty claim that AIA practices “open access”—and in this case the scare quotes appear justified.
While it may be true that the government finances research, it does not fund the arduous peer-review process that lies at the heart of journal and scholarly publication, nor the considerable effort beyond that step that goes into preparing articles for publication. Those efforts are not without cost. When an archaeologist publishes his or her work, the final product has typically been significantly improved by the contributions of other professionals such as peer reviewers, editors, copywriters, photo editors, and designers. This is the context in which the work should appear. (Almost all scholarly books and many articles lead off with a lengthy list that acknowledges these individuals.)
Neither does AIA fund the “arduous peer review process,” unless it’s very different from most other scholarly societies and publishers (economics may be an exception): At best, it funds the management of peer review. Isn’t it odd that the process that publishers don’t pay for, and that OA doesn’t threaten, is so frequently named as the reason OA won’t work?
The final paragraph is a typical anti-OA attack (or, in this case, anti-FRPAA): it would damage existing publishers and undermine the (current) publication process. Sad. And noteworthy in that Bartman makes no distinction between varieties of OA: It’s just bad.
Now we’re into librarianship—specifically, the Reference and User Services Association, RUSA, one of the type-of-activity divisions of the American Library Association. RUSA’s peer-reviewed journal is Reference and User Services Quarterly or RUSQ.
The story emerges in a May 4, 2012 post, “RUSQ’s camouflage,” by Library Loon at Gavia Libraria; continues in a May 7, 2012 followup at that blog, “Update on RUSQ”; and—for this discussion—ends with a May 11, 2012 post, “RUSQ, Open Access, and Me,” by Catherine Pellegrino at Spurious Tuples.
The Loon begins:
Once upon a time there was a professional organization whose branches ran a good many professional journals. As the open-access message penetrated this organization, a few of its journals ventured out into the open waters. Happy ending?
In fact, several ALA journals are Gold OA, including the always-OA Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship and the recently-OA Information Technology and Libraries and College & Research Libraries, as well as School Library Research, Library Leadership & Management and possibly others.
For a while, RUSQ was OA—it offered free online access to peer-reviewed articles along with the print subscriptions. As with other ALA journals, RUSQ was never particularly expensive, but OA provides easier access as well as free access.
Then it stopped: RUSQ went back to providing access only to its members and other subscribers. The Loon comments:
The Loon is disappointed by that, but not particularly surprised or angered. (All right, she’s angered enough that every RUSQ read on her syllabi will be replaced; she refuses to reward this behavior.) Gold OA isn’t a financially-feasible path for every journal at present; there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with giving it a whirl, discovering it doesn’t work, and doing what needs to be done to save the journal. What does anger her—well, anger and intrigue at once—is the secrecy with which the re-closing took place. No announcement, no explanation, no apology—just a whole lot of 404 leading to a good bit of bewilderment.
She conjectures that the powers-that-be at RUSQ feel shame, fear, or both over the re-closing. Shame, because they feel open is a good thing to be, a sentiment with which the Loon of course concurs. Fear, because the open-access movement has teeth and claws these days, among librarians as much as anywhere and more than in many disciplines and professions.
She wishes, however, that RUSQ’s editors and supporters would come clean. Open access has a history of paying a good bit too much heed to rose-tinted glasses. It’s important to get mistakes and failures out there for examination, uncomfortable though that process often is (not least because a few open-access advocates sling blame around with hurricane-force winds, and just as indiscriminately).
There might even be feasible ways to bring RUSQ back to open. How will we know, if we don’t know why RUSQ re-closed?
The comment stream carried forth a discussion and investigation. On May 8, there was a clarification from the incoming editor of the journal:
In January 2011, the RUSA Board approved the move of RUSQ from print to a digital only journal. As part of that move, the RUSQ Taskforce recommended, and the RUSA Board approved, having the current four issues of the journal available only to subscribers (this group includes all RUSA members and organizations with an institutional membership, as well as others with a subscription). Older RUSQ content, back to RUSQ 46:1 (2006) is open to all on the RUSQ Metapress site (http://rusa.metapress.com/content/ L74261/).
A subscription to RUSQ is a member benefit of belonging to RUSA, and one that we know represents an important member value. Additionally, since there are still production costs to RUSA affiliated with the journal, along with costs to host the journal on MetaPress, the Taskforce felt, and the Board concurred, that this compromise was the best way to balance the member value piece with the interest in reaching the broader library community.
As a part of the move to the digital only journal, RUSQ Online Companion was ceased publication as of RUSQ vol. 51. The Online Companion was originally developed as a stop-gap measure until a full electronic version was in place.
As noted above, the RUSA Board discussed and approved the move to online only format, including the one year embargo in 2011, and this change, including the embargo, was announced in “From the Editor” column in RUSQ Volume 50, Number 4 / 2011. We feel that this move was made in a transparent and thoughtful fashion.
In preparing this response, we noted that there was an incorrect setting on our Metapress site, which was blocking access to older RUSQ articles. That has been corrected, and we apologize for any confusion.
When another commenter asks whether RUSQ was ever proclaimed to be OA, a link to a 2006 press release includes a quote from the then-current editor that the “online companion” was “guided by the philosophy of the open access movement.” In essence, it was formally OA. And now it’s not.
The Loon’s followup post is short and needs to be read on its own. She summarizes the points that were made and adds a few comments, of which I’ll quote only this portion:
Time was, these questions were purely internal matters with very little room for manoeuvre and only a diminutive perceived ethical dimension. Clearly that’s changing. Equally clearly, not all journal boards have caught up to the change—the threatening static the Loon got for openly calling out Elsevier journal boards in library and information studies attests to that!
Finally, there’s the Pellegrino piece. As she notes, technically RUSQ did not itself go OA in 2006—instead, an “online companion” would include full-text articles at the same time the journal appeared. When the print journal shut down, so did immediate OA. To make matters worse, the new platform for the now-online-only journal, MetaPress, had settings that closed off far more of previous articles than had been intended; that was eventually corrected.
Here’s where it gets personal:
What does this have to do with me? Well, last summer I submitted an article to RUSQ, which I’m delighted to say was published in volume 51, number 3 this past spring. At the time that I submitted the article (June 2011), RUSQ was, as far as anyone knew, open access. By the time the article appeared this spring, however, the actual situation was rather murkier than it had been when I submitted it, though the murkiness did clear itself up fairly quickly.
As you know if you’ve been reading this blog, I’ve made a public pledge that any solo-authored work that I publish will be available through some form of open access: green, gold, fuchsia, something. Now, I hadn’t formally made the pledge at the time that I submitted the article, but I most definitely considered only open-access journals when deciding where to submit my article. RUSQ’s change of course left me with the impression that I’d submitted the article under false pretenses. I could accept that RUSA might need to close access to their journal after experimenting with open access, but I felt that the right thing to do would be to close access to future content, not to content that had been submitted prior to the decision to close access. (The actual situation, with the one-year embargo, is a different matter which I’ll address shortly.)
As you’ll find, at least if you read this before April 2013, that first link won’t work: it gets you directly to the paywall.
Pellegrino continues with a discussion of transparency and methodology—and raises a couple of tough questions:
The last question I want to raise on this matter is twofold: what do we mean by “open access,” anyway, and how permanent is it? First off, can a journal be considered “open access” if there’s a one-year embargo on new articles? I honestly don’t know the answer to this question, not being an expert on matters OA. For my purposes, the one-year embargo is all right; I can still self-archive my article on my own web site (which I’ve done), making an end-run around the embargo and ensuring access to the article should RUSA change its mind again.
Which leads to the second question: what’s to prevent a journal from closing access to content that had previously been open? Again, I’m honestly not sure. I mean, PLoS is unlikely to suddenly make a deal with, say, Wiley and start charging $3000/year for access to its backfiles, but that’s because PLoS has staked its reputation on being an open access journal (and a damn fine one, too). For the other journals, the ones who went out on a limb and honestly weren’t sure if they could make it work—what of them? What if, like RUSA, they decide their experiment isn’t working, for whatever reason, and they need to close access—what, other than the ethics of their editorial boards and the boards of their sponsoring organizations—prevents them from closing access, not just moving forward, but to previously open content?
I know my answer to the first question, and I know that others disagree. I believe that OA with an embargo is not OA. And, short of Creative Commons licenses—which cannot be revoked—I don’t think there is a good answer to the second question. But go read the post (and the comments).
This one’s by Cameron Neylon, published on July 22, 2012 at Science in the Open. (Neylon goes beyond the typical CC-BY for an OA-related blog: He uses CC0, no rights reserved.)
With major governments signalling a shift to Open Access it seems like a good time to be asking which organisations in the scholarly communications space will survive the transition. It is likely that the major current publishers will survive, although relative market share and focus is likely to change. But the biggest challenges are faced by small to medium scholarly societies that depend on journal income for their current viability. What changes are necessary for them to navigate this transition and can they survive?
The fate of scholarly societies is one of the most contentious and even emotional in the open access landscape. Many researchers have strong emotional ties to their disciplinary societies and these societies often play a crucial role in supporting meetings, providing travel stipends to young researchers, awarding prizes, and representing the community. At the same time they face a peculiar bind. The money that supports these efforts often comes from journal subscriptions. Researchers are very attached to the benefits but seem disinclined to countenance membership fees that would support them. This problem is seen across many parts of the research enterprise—where researchers, or at least their institutions, are paying for services through subscriptions but unwilling to pay for them directly.
The key here is “that depend on journal income for their current viability”—that is, societies that rely on libraries (and others) to underwrite their non-publishing operations. Those societies whose members are willing to pay for the good work the societies do, possibly augmented by departmental sponsorship and the like, aren’t in trouble.
Neylon offers several suggestions, and I suggest that you read them in the original. I think my comments on them would be influenced too much by the field I’m in and my continuing stance that it’s both ethically inappropriate and realistically unsustainable for societies outside librarianship to rely on libraries for their funding. Neylon has some interesting ideas here; definitely worth reading and thinking about.
Dan Cohen discusses the American Historical Association and OA in this September 25, 2012 post at Cohen’s eponymous blog. An AHA statement seems to presume that the OA discussion is all about science, which is certainly not historically true, and that the humanities are different. It also seems to presume that all Gold OA involves APC fees and, as part of a series of questions, certainly throws in the “OA will tend to undermine peer review” myth.
The statement also asks for comment—as did another statement seven years earlier. Cohen:
We historians have been treading water on open access for the better part of a decade. This is not a particular failure of our professional organization, the AHA; it’s a collective failure by historians who believe—contrary to the lessons of our own research—that today will be like yesterday, and tomorrow like today. Article-centric academic journals, a relatively recent development in the history of publishing, apparently have existed, and will exist, forever, in largely the same form and with largely the same business model.
We can wring our hands about open access every seven years when something notable happens in science publishing, but there’s much to be said for actually doing something rather than sitting on the sidelines. The fact is that the scientists have been thinking and discussing but also doing for a long, long time. They’ve had a free preprint service for articles since the beginning of the web in 1991. In 2012, our field has almost no experience with how alternate online models might function.
There’s more to the discussion, and it’s worth reading, especially if you’re a historian or member of a similar scholarly society.
At this point, it’s hard not to read that as “Sun rises in the morning,” but never mind. This unsigned piece appeared—I guess in October 2012, although I can’t find a date anywhere on the page—at APS News.
It’s interesting reading with regard to APS and its journals. The treasurer-publisher says that there are fifty full-time paid editors, mostly physics PhDs, “to organize, edit and accept or reject the 35,000 manuscripts the APS receives a year.” Unless APS does its peer review in house using paid editors, that’s a lot of organizing and editing.
And, sure enough, as predictable as that sun rising (yes, yes, I know it’s really the earth turning), here comes an APS person equating OA with potential loss of peer review.
Technically, this “open letter from the editors of 21 UK history journals”—which appeared on December 10, 2012—relates directly to the Finch/RCUK situation, but the wording is interesting enough that I’m mentioning it.
Maybe the second and third sentences raise the appropriate flags:
We fully support initiatives to make scholarship as widely and freely available as possible, above all online. However, we have serious concerns about several aspects of the proposed implementation of the policy, which we believe will have a serious effect on the reputation of UK scholarship internationally, on peer review, and on the rights of authors.
Nothing else in the statement suggests that peer review is an issue—and that second sentence is a classic “Yabbut” to the first sentence: “We support X, however we don’t really.” The next paragraph makes clear that, in this group’s view, all Gold OA journals involve APCs, even though that’s simply not the case (for nearly three-quarters of Gold OA journals).
Then there’s the position of the editors. One sentence—mostly in bold—should be obvious: Publication decisions won’t depend on an ability to pay an APC. The bolding makes one wonder whether these editors are suggesting that this is not the case in other journals. But it’s the second and fourth clause that are particularly interesting. The second says the journals will offer green OA with an embargo: An embargo of 36 months. “We think this is the shortest possible period that would still protect our viability as subscription-funded organisations, which have to pay for copyediting and the management of peer review, and is fully consistent with the need to make research publicly available.” There it is: The editors are admitting that the organizations are subscription-funded. The last clause is pure BS: A three-year delay is fully inconsistent with making research meaningfully available. The fourth sentence is equally interesting: regardless of whether it’s green or gold, the license will be the most restrictive Creative Commons license there is: CC BY NC ND. No text mining. No commercial reuse. No derivatives. No nothing. Here’s the rationale:
The government has specified that ‘gold’ access is to be given on a CCBY licence, the most permissive form of creative commons licence that there is. This however means that commercial re-use, plagiarism, and republication of an author’s work will be possible, subject to the author being ‘credited’ (but it is not clear in what way they would be credited). We believe that this is a serious infringement of intellectual property rights and we do not want our authors to have to sign away their rights in order to publish with us.
Plagiarism has always been possible and has nothing whatsoever to do with any CC licenses, including CC0 (which is actually the most permissive form of CC license). The last half of the last sentence is presumably nonsense, since unless authors do sign away rights to publish in these journals, green OA with no embargo would be legitimate.
Here, let me boil this statement down: “We won’t play.”
This ends Part 1. Part 2, in the next Cites & Insights, is roughly the same length and includes these sections: Upping the Anti, Controversies, Predators, Economics, Elsevier, The Future…and A Little Humor.
Comments should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large is copyright © 2013 by Walt Crawford: Some rights reserved.
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