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Open and Shut?





Updated: 2018-01-22T15:26:35.708+00:00

 



Preface: Open Divide?

2018-01-02T08:21:11.174+00:00

Last year I was asked to write a preface for a new book called Open Divide? Critical Studies on Open Access, edited by Ulrich Herb and Joachim Schöpfel. The book was sent off to the publisher at the end of last year. Below is a copy of the preface I wrote.Photo from Wikimedia CC BY-SAWhen the internet emerged open access to publicly-funded research appeared to be a no-brainer. The network, it was argued, could dispense with scholarly journals’ print and postage costs and allow papers to be shared more quickly, more cost-effectively, and in a way that would level the playing field for those in the developing world – since it would be possible to make articles freely available on a global basis. As a result, the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) declared, the research community would be able to “share the learning of the rich with the poor and the poor with the rich … and lay the foundation for uniting humanity in a common intellectual conversation and quest for knowledge.”As proof of concept, OA advocates pointed to arXiv, the online preprint server that physicists have been using to share their papers since 1991.But while the potential benefits of open access are undeniable, making it a reality has turned out to be a slow and difficult process, and it remains far from clear that it will lead to an inexpensive or levelling way of sharing research.It turns out, for instance, that researchers are a surprisingly conservative bunch, a characteristic reinforced by the promotion and tenure (P&T) systems that operate in academia. Consequently, most authors have continued to share their work in the traditional manner using traditional publishers, and in ways that reinforce the traditional hierarchical and elitist culture that has prevailed in the research community since time immemorial. Publishers were also initially cautious about open access – amply demonstrated in 1999, when the then director of the US National Institutes of Health, Harold Varmus, proposed the creation of E-Biomed. Intended to replicate and extend the arXiv model in the biomedical field, Varmus’ plan envisaged a biomedical preprint server and new electronic journals managed by an E-Biomed governing body. It also assumed that authors would retain copyright in their works, a proposal that, in itself, was enough to give publishers the jitters. Unsurprisingly, therefore, publishers responded to the E-Biomed proposal with doomsday predictions about the imminent collapse of the scholarly communication system and intense political lobbying. This saw Varmus’ proposal significantly watered down and launched as PubMed Central in 2000. Gone was the preprint server, gone were the new journals, and gone was the expectation that authors would retain copyright. Gone also was what had, in essence, been an attempt by the research community to wrest control of scholarly communication from legacy publishers. For the OA movement, this was a significant defeat.But advocates persisted in their calls for open access, and publishers had eventually to conclude that they could not hold the tide back indefinitely. Fortuitously for them, new-style open-access publishers like Public Library of Science (co-founded by Varmus) and BioMed Central (subsequently acquired by legacy publisher Springer Nature) had by then demonstrated that it is possible to fund OA by levying publication fees in place of subscriptions (i.e. offer pay-to-play gold OA). Incumbent publishers realised that if those fees were set high enough they could embrace OA without any diminution of their substantial profits. So, they began to launch their own OA journals, and to introduce hybrid OA, which allows researchers to continue publishing in traditional journals and make their papers OA – so long as they pay a premium (c. $3,000 per paper).However, some OA advocates pointed out that gold OA would unnecessarily enrich publishers at the expense of the research community, not least because hybrid OA provides publishers with an additional, rather than a replacement, [...]



Realising the BOAI vision, by disengaging from voluntary servitude

2017-12-27T07:21:31.543+00:00

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.Today I am publishing the response I received from Florence Piron. Florence is an anthropologist and ethicist, and a professor in the Department of Information and Communication at Laval University in Quebec, where she teaches critical thinking through courses on ethics and democracy. She is the founding President of the Association for Science and Common Good and its open access publishing house, Éditions science et bien commun. Piron has also founded Accès savoirs, a science shop in Laval University. Florence is interested in the links between science, society and culture, both as a researcher and activist for a science, that is more open, inclusive, socially responsible and focused on the common good, which she interprets as the fight against injustice and environmental degradation. She has been responsible for the SOHA project (open science in Haiti and French-speaking Africa) from 2015 to 2017 and is now leading a research-creation project in theatrical writing and an action-research project on science shops in French-speaking Africa and Haiti. This is what Florence had to say:Dans ce billet, je réfléchis au chemin qui pourrait conduire vers une science authentiquement en libre accès dans les pays du Nord et des Suds. Au coeur de mon argumentation se trouve la nécessité que les scientifiques (surtout du Nord) sortent de leur servitude volontaire envers les éditeurs à but lucratif, refusent ou rejettent la pratique des frais de publication et s'efforcent de rapatrier la publication scientifique dans les universités, avec l'aide des organismes de financement, des bibliothèques et des logiciels libres.ResearchersResearchers are the key to the implementation of the vision proposed in BOAI, but this depends on their managing to collectively and definitively disengage from their “voluntary servitude” to for-profit scientific publishers, the one group that refuses to implement an authentic open science, despite their strategic recent shift towards pay-to-publish gold open access.Currently, most researchers, including researchers in the North, seem to me to be in favour of open access, but for very different reasons, some of which may even be contradictory. Here is my list of the six main reasons for endorsing open access, categorised in two groups. The first group consists of technical or managerial reasons: 1.       Open access improves the circulation of studies and results, and so increases research productivity and the potential for discovery and innovation, while reducing duplication and unnecessary research.2.       Publications made open access are more widely read and cited, and so increase [...]



Realising the BOAI vision: Peter Suber's Advice

2017-12-22T15:56:47.624+00:00

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.Today I am publishing the response I received from Peter Suber. Peter is Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication, Director of the Harvard Open Access Project, Senior Researcher at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, and widely regarded as the de facto leader of the open access movement. This is what Peter had to say:Here are some recommendations for key stakeholders. I haven’t included all the useful and effective actions I find worth recommending, just those at the top of my priority list today. In almost every case I could add more detail and supporting arguments. In some cases, I want to say much more, for example on the kinds of OA policies universities and funders should adopt, the ways that promotion and tenure committees could help the cause, the strategic restrictions to put on OA funds, and the harmful myths about OA to recognize and correct. I haven’t had time to dive into more detail here, but have almost always provided more detail elsewhere. ResearchersAbove all, make your own work OA. For this purpose, it doesn’t matter whether you make it OA through journals (“gold OA”) or through repositories (“green OA”). Just do it. Make all your new articles OA, starting now. As you find time, make all your past articles OA.Do the same with your data and code. Do the same with your books and book chapters, though it’s harder to get permission to make books and book chapters OA than for articles, data, and code. Do the same for your preprints, if you won’t be punished for it. If you might be punished for it, that is, if you might want to publish in a journal that deliberately excludes authors who have already circulated a version of their work, that is, a journal that still follows the Ingelfinger rule, then at least understand the risk and choose your journals with care. Don’t perform peer review for journals that violate or fall short of your standards for scholarly journals. For example, entirely apart from a journal’s quality, I don’t peer-review for non-OA journals, for hybrid journals, or for any journals, even OA journals, from publishers who lobby against OA policies at universities, funding agencies, or governments. Write this list your own way, but set your own standards and follow them. Don’t donate your time and labor to publishers who work against the interests of researchers and research. Don’t donate your time and labor to enrich and entrench them. This is one kind of action that doesn’t take time, and even saves time. It’s an action that doesn’t require you to persuade anyone else, just yourself.Write up a polite version of your “rejection letter” an[...]



Realising the BOAI vision: A view from the global South

2018-01-21T16:13:45.945+00:00

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.Today I am publishing the response I received from Dominique Babini. Based in Argentina, Babini is open access advisor, and previously repository manager, at the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO), a network of 623 research institutions, mostly in Latin America. This is what Dominque had to say:ResearchersIn developing regions, where research and its communication are mainly publicly-funded, or the result of international cooperation, many more venues than the so-called “mainstream journals” are used by researchers to share their research. This encompases subjects like health, education, agriculture, socio-political and economic matters etc., and the results are communicated to diverse audiences. This diversity is not reflected in the traditional WoS and Scopus indicators that are used to evaluate researchers in our countries. As a result, researchers are punished for not publishing in journals included in the commercial international indexing services, and so our present reality is that we are to a great extent excluded from the mainstream scholarly communication and evaluation systems.Researchers can help change this situation. When evaluating research projects and colleagues, for instance, it would help if they followed the DORA and Leiden recommendations and sought to include in their assessment research outputs published in local/regional venues, and in local languages. In other words, they should seek to complement the traditional indicators with local/regional open access indicators, where available.And when publishing or distributing online research outputs, researchers should be mindful of the need to include in each digital object they are preparing (and in a prominent place) information that will help create metadata when these research outputs are incorporated into diverse open access venues, e.g.: they should describe the evaluation process used to assess the content, and provide licensing information to enable the content to be shared. They should also include their ORCID if they have one, and provide details of the organisation that funded the research. Research institutionsA top priority for research institutions and universities in developing regions is to review and update the evaluation indicators used for tenure, promotion and grant requests, in line with the DORA and Leiden recommendations previously mentioned.  Likewise, they should value the quality of research outputs published in local/regional venues in local languages, and complement traditional indicators with local/regional open access indicators when available. They should also reward[...]



Realising the BOAI vision: The view from PLOS

2017-12-20T13:18:42.618+00:00

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.Today I am publishing the response I received from PLOS CEO Alison Mudditt. Alison took over as CEO of the open access publisher in June this year. Previously she was Director of University of California Press (UC Press). And prior to that she worked at SAGE Publications, Blackwell Publishers and Taylor & Francis Inc. This is what Alison had to say:IntroductionMuch has been achieved over the past fifteen years: open access has moved from a fringe concern to a central issue in scientific communication.We’ve proved that open access research can match traditional models in terms of quality and impact, and we’ve seen OA adopted as a method of dissemination by countless authors demonstrating the premise of the BOAI declaration “...that open access is economically feasible, that it gives readers extraordinary power to find and make use of relevant literature, and that it gives authors and their works vast and measurable new visibility, readership, and impact.”At a time when science and scientists are under attack, a focus on building wider public awareness, knowledge and trust is ever more important.PLOS was founded in 2001 to realize the potential of digital technology to create and promote the most effective means of scientific communication possible, one that eliminates unnecessary barriers and fosters openness, quality and integrity. We’re proud of the principled leadership PLOS has provided and have been excited to welcome so many others to the market.But as I’ve noted elsewhere, open access now finds itself at something of an inflection point. Although a significant portion of the literature is now published open access, this rapid growth is flattening, and it will take larger efforts to move OA adoption to the levels encouraged by the declaration.We have also fallen short of BOAI goals in a number of other areas and are dealing with unforeseen consequences such as the rise of predatory journals. ResearchersOur vision at PLOS requires real change in scientific culture, the scientific reward system and longstanding practices to which scientists and publishers have become accustomed, but that no longer serve the community.PLOS has always championed these issues but the entrenched value and reward systems of institutions – and researchers themselves – have mitigated strongly against meaningful change.As open access expands towards a full open science agenda, there are positive trends among researchers across disciplines who are embracing the values of openness and transparency to address the very real challenges of repr[...]



Open Access and its Discontents: A British View from Outside the Sciences

2017-12-20T13:18:54.082+00:00

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.Today I am publishing the response I received from Richard Fisher. Richard has worked in University Press publishing for nearly thirty-five years. At the end of 2014 he stepped down as Managing Director of Academic Publishing at Cambridge University Press, and is currently Vice-Chair of Yale University Press, a Non-Executive Director of Edinburgh University Press, and Academic and Policy Correspondent of the Independent Publishers Guild. Richard is also a Fellow and current Vice-President of the Royal Historical Society. He was on the Advisory Board of the Crossick Report on Open Access and Monograph Publishing, and was a Senior Adviser to the AHRC/BL project on The Academic Book of the Future. Self-evidently what follows are (entirely) his personal views, although he is extremely grateful to a trio of good friends for their comments on an initial draft.This is what Richard had to say:IntroductionI would describe myself as neither an Open Access (hereafter OA) advocate, nor an OA sceptic: rather I am interested in establishing the widest possible range of effective and sustainable publication options for scholars around the world. I am innately sceptical of attempts to establish the publishing equivalent of ‘Socialism in One Country’, and regard the impact of policy-makers in the domain of scholarly communication (an arena which until the present century they generally avoided) as at times misguided and on occasion downright hostile to their nominated objectives, no matter how benign. In that context, I have always regarded ‘taxpayer pays’ arguments for Open Access as perhaps the weakest that supporters of OA tend to marshal, and especially weak in a massively research-exporting polity like the United Kingdom, where at least 80% of the consumers of British-originated research will not have contributed direct tax revenues towards its creation. Paradoxically, it is the nation with far more fragmented infrastructures of higher education and far less prescriptive research protocols, the United States, where such a ‘public goods’ argument might be made with rather greater force – but the fundamental point is that in a highly unequal but globalised context of knowledge exchange, the relationship between fiscal provision and research production is not (remotely) state-specific.My own editorial career was in history, politics and the social sciences, and in books (which remain, still, a very print-centric mode of communication) rather than journals. This obviously informs my perspective on debates about Open Access, inasmuch as most of th[...]



Achieving the BOAI Vision: Possible Actions for Realization

2017-12-19T12:04:52.342+00:00

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers.Today I am publishing the response I received from Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Professor/ Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction in the University Library and affiliate faculty in the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Lisa’s voice is interesting to have in this discussion not least because, as she says below, she has not followed all the details of the open access debate as it has played out over the past 15 years. Nor was she familiar with the wording of the BOAI, and indeed she was surprised to see the recommendation it makes on copyright. So Lisa approaches the BOAI with fresh eyes.This is what Lisa had to say:PreludeWhen Richard invited me to contribute to this series, I had to pause for a moment and ask myself “just what was the Budapest Open Access Initiative vision?” I’m glad I stopped to check because, like many others have discovered, my impression of what it says is not exactly what it does say. The paragraph Richard quotes above is what I am taking as the essence of the vision and thus the focus of my reflections, which runs the risk of ignoring 15 years of discussions and resulting statements. But, I think there is value in being anchored in this vision, which is necessarily reflective of the circumstances within which it was created, but is also audacious – as a vision should be – and timelessly compelling in many ways. I think it is also important to recognize what the vision does not include – most specifically, regardless of what some might wish, the BOAI does not call for the removal of for-profit actors from the system.For each group that Richard presented to me, I am going to identify one or two specific strategies that could be deployed to move the system closer to the BOAI vision. In my thinking, I’m suggesting widespread deployment – in most cases there are examples for the strategy I’m recommending that are underway. Also, there are many more tactical activities that I am not mentioning in the interests of challenging myself to think about catalytic or accelerative impact and not only incremental change.All of my recommended strategies likely come at a cost, in many cases potentially significant and I suspect in some cases unbearable. In many ways that is the challenge in achieving the BOAI vision – not whether the vision is desirable but what we are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve it.Recommendations to Realize the BOAI VisionOne other note before I begin. I do not take as a given that all of the groups, or individuals with[...]



Open Access: What should the priorities be today?

2017-12-19T07:51:07.627+00:00

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI), the meeting that led to the launch of the open access movement, and which defined open access thus:“By ‘open access’ to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”A great deal of water has passed under the bridge since 2002, but as 2017 draws to an end what should the stakeholders of scholarly communication be doing now to fully realise the vision outlined at the Budapest meeting?That is a question I have been putting to a number of people, inviting them to say what they believe the priorities should be going forward for the following stakeholders: researchers, research institutions, research funders, politicians and governments, librarians, and publishers. Today I am publishing the response I received from Danny Kingsley, Deputy Director of Scholarly Communication & Research Services, and Head of the Office of Scholarly Communication, at Cambridge University. This is what Danny had to say:ResearchersResearchers are under extraordinary pressure to be highly productive whilst managing large teaching loads and a considerable administrative burden. They are only rewarded for the publication of novel results in high impact journals – the remainder of their work is not systematically recognised in promotion and funding applications. Researchers are working within a reward system that is counter to the wide-scale uptake of open access.  It is not necessarily up to an individual researcher to become an open access activist (although I applaud those who have). However, having a meta understanding of how the wider system works, or even that processes and norms differ by discipline would be helpful. Research institutionsA recent article described the need for academic leaders in research institutions to ‘step up’. Traditionally research institutions have been slow to react to issues related to open access and this is understandable. Research is a global and highly competitive endeavour. It is not in the interest of a single institution to introduce operational processes that could put its own reputation or that of its research community at risk. Having a university-wide discussion about the changing nature of scholarly communication, including open access, to determine the university’s position on various aspects of openness and reproducibility would provide a policy framework to assist the research community and their administrative support. For instance, research institutions have control over how they promote and hire researchers. Rewarding openness in these processes - by, for example, only considering articles that have been deposited in the institutional repository in a promotion round – will increase academic engagement with open access.In addition, research institutions have a responsibility to ensure their students and early career researchers have the knowledge about, and tools to navigate, the fast-changing scholarly communication landscape. This means systematically putting in place support and training in this area rather than relying on individual supervisors. Recognition by research institutions that the people working in the area of scholarly communication are domain experts and offering professional respect[...]



The OA Interviews: Judy Ruttenberg, ARL Program Director for Strategic Initiatives/Co-Director of SHARE

2017-10-27T10:46:45.337+00:00

When the open access movement began it was focused on solving two problems – the affordability problem (i.e. journal subscriptions are way too high, so research institutions cannot afford to buy access to all the research their faculty need), and the accessibility problem that this gives rise to.Today, however, there is a growing sense that what really needs addressing is an ownership problem. Thus where in 2000 The Public Library of Science petition readily acknowledged publishers’ “right to a fair financial return for their role in scientific communication” (but sought to “encourage” them to make the papers they published freely available “within 6 months of their initial publication date”), today we are seeing calls for research communication to become “a community supported and owned enterprise” outside the control of publishers (see also here). The key issue today, therefore, concerns the question of who should “own” and control scholarly communication, and more and more OA advocates are concluding that it should no longer be traditional publishers.This change of emphasis is not surprising: as legacy publishers have sought to co-opt open access and bend it to their own needs, it has become clear that, since it is leaving legacy publishers in control, OA is insufficient on its own – because for so long as publishers remain in control the affordability problem that drove the calls for open access will not be solved. (More on this theme here). What gives this issue greater urgency is a new awareness that legacy publishers are looking to leverage the control they have acquired over scholarly content to dominate and control the data analytics and workflow processes/tools that are emerging in the digital space – a development that could usher in a new generation of paywalls, and lock the research community into expensive proprietary services.IssuesThis then is the ownership problem facing the research community. How is it playing out in practice? The linked interview with Judy Ruttenberg, Co-Director of SHARE, surfaces the issues well I think.SHARE (the SHared Access Research Ecosystem) was launched in response to a 2013 memorandum issued by the US Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) directing Federal agencies with more than $100M in R&D expenditures to “develop plans to make the published results of federally funded research freely available to the public within one year of publication and [require] researchers to better account for and manage the digital data resulting from federally funded scientific research.”SHARE was an expression not just of librarians’ conviction that publicly-funded research should be freely available, but an assertion that it should be universities that provide access to it. As Ruttenberg puts it below, SHARE was founded in the belief that “university-administered digital repositories should be the mechanism by which federal agencies provide public access to funded research, most of which is conducted in universities.”To read the Q&A please click here.As is my custom, I have prefaced the interview with a long introduction. However, those who only wish to read the Q&A need simply click on the link at the head of the file and go directly to it.[...]



Q&A with PLOS co-founder Michael Eisen

2017-10-12T15:03:09.208+00:00

Last month I suggested on Twitter that the open access movement has delayed the revolution in scholarly communication that the internet made possible. Perhaps unsurprisingly, my tweet attracted some pushback from OA advocates, not least from Michael Eisen, co-founder of open access publisher Public Library of Science (PLOS).Photo: CC BY 4.0; Source hereEisen objected strongly to my assertion and later complained that I was not willing to engage with him to defend what I had said. For my part, I did not feel it was possible to debate the issue adequately on Twitter, so we agreed to do a follow-up to our 2012 Q&A.  Last week, therefore, I emailed Eisen a Word document explaining why I had made the assertion I had, and posing 14 questions for him. I published the explanation here yesterday.The first question in the list I sent to Eisen was: “How would you describe the way the OA movement has developed, and the impact it has had on scholarly communication? Why do you disagree that the movement has delayed open access? What is the movement’s current status and potential? What needs to be done to ensure the revolution takes place sooner rather than later?”Eisen did not respond to this first question, I assume because he felt that his answers to the other questions addressed the points. He did, however, answer all the other questions, which I publish below. For anyone who might not be aware, PLOS started out as an OA advocacy group, and in 2000 launched an online petition calling on scientists to pledge that they would discontinue submitting papers to journals that did not make the full text of their papers freely available (either immediately or after a delay of no more than 6 months). The petition attracted tens of thousands of signatures, but few of the signatories changed their behaviour. In 2003, therefore, PLOS reinvented itself as an OA publisher and began to launch its own journals. Since then it has become a significant presence in the scholarly communication world.Eisen, an evolutionary biologist who studies flies at the University of California, Berkeley, co-founded PLOS with former director of the US National Institutes of Health Harold Varmus and biochemist Pat Brown. Eisen is still on the PLOS Board. Earlier this year Eisen announced his intention to run for the United States Senate. The interview begins …RP: OA advocates have long maintained that pay-to-publish gold OA will create a “true” market for scholarly communication, something the subscription model never has. As a result, they argue, the price of scholarly communication will start to fall with OA, thereby solving the affordability problem. I believe this was your view too. In 2012, for instance, you pointed out on my blog that the subscription model creates a “disconnect between the people making the decision about where to publish and the people who pay the subscription bills. This means that there is very little effect on author demand if prices go up.” You added that this inefficiency is “absent from gold OA.” Have your views on this changed in any way in the past 5 years? Do you expect pay-to-publish gold OA to eventually exert downward pressure on prices? (Contrary to Elsevier’s view that “average APCs would need to rise to fund the infrastructure currently paid for via the 80 percent of articles [still] published under the subscription model”).ME: I still believe a service model for publishing creates a better market than the subscription model for the reasons outlined above. But it’s clearly not working as well as I would like it to. Prices have not dropped, nor seem likely to in the near future. You can point to several reasons. ·       people aren’t really paying for a service, they’re paying for a brand[...]



Has the open access movement delayed the revolution?

2017-10-12T15:08:43.895+00:00

Last month I posted a couple of tweets that attracted some pushback from OA advocates. In the process I was accused of being a species of “Russian troll bot”, of having an unspecified “other agenda”, and then told that unless I was willing to engage in “constructive discussion” I should pipe down.Amongst those to object to my tweets was PLOS co-founder, and feisty OA advocate, Michael Eisen (see below). Evidently dissatisfied with my responses, Eisen declared that it was silly to make inflammatory statements on Twitter and then say that the platform is a bad place for discussions. However, after a few rounds of back and forth with my critics, I had concluded that it was not going to be possible to debate the matter in short bursts without ending up simply swapping insults. So, I proposed to Eisen that we do a follow up to the Q&A we had done in 2012.Eisen agreed, and last week I emailed him the text below by way of explanation as to why I had made the comments I had, along with a number of questions for him to answer. I plan to publish Eisen’s answers in the next couple of days. (Now available here).What sparked the disagreement? It began when I tweeted a link to a confessional interview that Leslie Chan had given on the OCSDnet website. Amongst other things, Chan conceded that he had, over the years, given a lot of bad advice about open access. In posting a link to the interview I commented, “I wish all OA advocates could be this honest, rather than repeating out-dated mantras & promoting failed approaches.” By way of background, Chan was (with Eisen) one of the small group of people who attended the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) meeting in 2002. It was from that meeting that the term open access emerged, and BOAI is viewed as the moment the OA movement came into being. As such, Chan’s confession seemed to me to be a significant moment, not least because it was made with more candour than I have come to expect from OA advocates. OA advocate Stephen Curry responded to my initial tweet by saying, “Also true that OA has stimulated many to think seriously about & challenge current practices around research evaluation. Myself included.” To this I replied, “To some extent, I agree. But I would phrase it this way: the internet made a revolution possible, open access has delayed that revolution.”Eisen denounced my comment as “one of the most ridiculous, misguided, and frankly ignorant statements about scholarly publishing ever.”Anyway, below is why I said what I did in those tweets.As I see it, the internet opened up the possibility of radically reinventing the way in which scholarly communication takes place, and to entirely rethink the peer-reviewed journal – which, let’s face it, has changed very little in the past 350 years. The open access movement was a response to that possibility and focused on two interrelated problems. First, it aimed to address the affordability problem (i.e. journal subscriptions are way too high so research institutions cannot afford to buy access to all the research their faculty need). Second, it aimed to address the accessibility problem created by the affordability problem. It is affordability that is key here because if everyone could afford all the subscriptions they needed there would be no accessibility problem, and so there would be less need for an OA movement. It is also important to note that the researchers most impacted by these two problems are those based in the global South, for reasons I hope are obvious. How successful has the OA movement been in realising the revolution the internet made possible? Not very, I would say, even if we limit our purview to the accessibility and affordability problems alone. I say this because fifteen years[...]



The Open Access Interviews: Justin Flatt on the Self-Citation Index

2017-09-14T06:36:40.141+00:00

In a recently published paper, Justin Flatt and his two co-authors proposed the creation of the Self-Citation Index, or s-index. The purpose of the s-index would be to measure how often a scientist cites their own work. This is desirable the authors believe because current incentive systems tend to encourage researchers to cite their own works excessively.In other words, since the number of citations a researcher’s works receive enhances his/her reputation there is a temptation to add superfluous self-citations to articles. This boosts the author’s h-index – the author-level metric now widely used as a measure of researcher productivity.Amongst other things, excessive self-citation gives those who engage in it an unfair advantage over more principled researchers, an advantage moreover that grows over time: a 2007 paper estimated that every self-citation increases the number of citations from others by about one after one year, and by about three after five years. This creates unjustified differences in researcher profiles. Since women self-cite less frequently than men, they are put at a particular disadvantage. A 2006 paper found that men are between 50 and 70 per cent more likely than women to cite their own work.In addition to unfairly enhancing less principled researchers’ reputation, say the paper’s authors, excessive self-citation is likely to have an impact on the scholarly record, since it has the effect of “diminishing the connectivity and usefulness of scientific communications, especially in the face of publication overload”?None of this should surprise us. In an academic environment now saturated with what Lisa Mckenzie has called “metrics, scores and a false prestige”, Campbell’s Law inevitably comes into play. This states that “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.”Or as Goodhart’s Law more succinctly puts it, “When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.”However, academia’s obsession with metrics, measures, and monitoring is not going to go away anytime soon. Consequently, the challenge is to try and prevent or mitigate the inevitable gaming that takes place – which is what the s-index would attempt to do. In fact, there have been previous suggestions of ways to detect possible manipulation of the h-index – a 2011 paper, for instance, mooted a “q-index”.It is also known that journals will try and game the Impact Factor. Editors may insist, for instance, that authors include superfluous citations to other papers in the same journal. This is a different type of self-citation and sometimes leads to journals being suspended from the Journal Citation Reports (JCR).But we need to note that while the s-index is an interesting idea it would not be able to prevent self-citation. Nor would it distinguish between legitimate and non-legitimate self-citations. Rather, says Flatt, it would make excessive self-citation more transparent (some self-citing is, of course, both appropriate and necessary). This, he believes, would shame researchers into restraining inappropriate self-citing urges, and help the research community to develop norms of acceptable behaviour.Openness and transparencyHowever, any plans to create and manage a researcher-led s-index face a practical challenge: much of the data that would be needed to do so are currently imprisoned behind paywalls – notably behind the paywalls of the Web of Science and Scopus. This is a challenge already confronting Flatt. As he explains below, he is now looking to study in more detail how people self-cite[...]



The Open Access Interviews: Rusty Speidel, The Center for Open Science

2017-08-29T13:57:01.165+00:00

The Center for Open Science (COS) has announced today that six new preprint services have launched using COS’ preprints platform, taking the number of such services to 14. The announcement comes at a time when we are seeing a rising tide of preprint servers being launched, both by for-profit and non-profit organisations – a development all the more remarkable given scholarly publishers’ historic opposition to preprint servers. Indeed, so antagonistic to such services have publishers been that until recently they were often able to stop them in their tracks. In 1999, for instance, fierce opposition to the E-BIOMED proposal mooted by the then director of the US National Institutes of Health Harold Varmus caused it to be stillborn.  Publisher opposition also managed to bring to a halt an earlier initiative spearheaded by NIH administrator Errett Albritton. In the early 1960s, Albritton set up a series of Information Exchange Groups in different research areas to allow “memos” (documents) to be mutually shared. Many of these memos were preprints of papers later published in journals. Albritton’s project was greeted with angry complaints and editorials from publishers – including one from Nature decrying what it called the “inaccessibility, impermanence, illiteracy, uneven equality [quality?], and lack of considered judgment” of the documents being shared via “Dr Allbritton’s print shop”. The death knell came in late 1966 when 13 biochemistry journals barred submissions of papers that had been shared as IEG memos.Seen in this light, the physics preprint server arXiv, created in 1991 and now hugely popular, would appear to be an outlier.The year the tide turnedBut over the last five years or so, something significant seems to have changed. And the year the tide really turned was surely 2013. In February of that year, for instance, for-profit PeerJ launched a preprint service called PeerJ Preprints. And later that year, non-profit Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) launched a preprint server for the biological sciences called bioRxiv. Rather than opposing bioRxiv, a number of biology journals responded by changing their policies on preprints, indicating that they do not now consider preprints to be a “prior publication”, and thus not subject to the Ingelfinger rule (which states that findings previously published elsewhere, in other media or in other journals, cannot be accepted). Elsewhere, a growing number of funders are changing their policies on the use of preprints, and now encouraging their use.This has allowed bioRxiv to go from strength to strength. As of today, over 14,000 papers have been accepted by the preprint server, and growth appears to be exponential: the number of monthly submissions grew from more than 810 this March to more than 1,000 in July.But perhaps the most interesting development of 2013 was the founding of the non-profit Center for Open Science. With funding from, amongst others, the philanthropic organisations The Laura and John Arnold Foundation and The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, COS is building a range of services designed “to increase openness, integrity, and reproducibility of scientific research”. At the heart of the COS project is the Open Science Framework (OSF). Speaking to me last year, COS executive director Brian Nosek explained that OSF consists of two main components – a back-end application framework and a front-end view (interface). “The back-end framework is an open-source, general set of tools and services that can be used to support virtually any service supporting the research lifecycle.”One of the services offered is OSF Preprints. This allows for the creation of customised interface[...]



The State of Open Access: Some New Data

2017-08-03T14:56:23.672+00:00

A preprint posted on PeerJ yesterday offers some new insight into the number of articles now available on an open-access basis. The new study is different to previous ones in a number of ways, not least because it includes data from users of Unpaywall, a browser plug-in that identifies papers that researchers are looking for, and then checks to see whether the papers are available for free anywhere on the Web. Unpaywall is based on oaDOI, a tool that scours the web for open-access full-text versions of journal articles.Both tools were developed by Impactstory, a non-profit focused on open-access issues in science. Two of the authors of the PeerJ preprint – Heather Piwowarand Jason Priem – founded Impactstory. They also wrote the Unpaywall and oaDOI software.The paper – which is called The State of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles– reports that 28% of the scholarly literature (19 million articles) is now OA, and growing, and that for recent articles the percentage available as OA rises to 45%.The study authors say they also found that OA articles receive 18% more citations than average. In addition, the authors report on what they describe as a previously under-discussed phenomenon of open access – Bronze OA. This refers to articles that are made free-to-read on the publisher’s website without an explicit open licence. Below I publish a Q&A with Heather Piwowar about the study. Note: my questions were based on an earlier version of the article I saw, and a couple of the quotes I cite were changed in the final version of the paper. Nevertheless, all the questions and the answers remain relevant and useful so I have not changed any of the questions.The interviewRP: What is new and different about your study? Do you feel it is more accurate than previous studies that have sought to estimate how much of the literature is OA, or is it just another shot at trying to do that?HP: Our study has a few important differences:·       We look at a broader range of the literature than previous studies and go further back (to pre-1950 articles), we look at more articles (all of Crossref, not just all of Scopus or Web of Science – Crossref has twice the number of articles that Scopus has), and we take a larger sample than most other studies. That’s because we classify OA status algorithmically, rather than relying on manual classification. This allowed us to sample 300k articles, rather than a few hundred as many OA studies have done. So, our sample is more accurate than most; and more generalizable as well.·       We undertook a more detailed categorization of OA. We looked not just at Green and Gold OA, but also Hybrid, and a new category we call Bronze OA. Many other studies (including the most comparable to ours, the European Commission report you mention below) do not bring out all these categories specifically. (I will say more on that below). Furthermore, we didn’t include Academic Social Networks. Mixing those with publisher-hosted free-to-read content makes the results less useful to policy makers.·       Our data and our methods are open, for anyone to use and build upon. Again, this is a big difference from the Archambault et al. study (that is, the one commissioned by the European Commission) and we think it is an important difference.·       We include data from Unpaywall users, which allows us to get a sense of how much of the literature is OA from the perspective of actual readers. Readers mas[...]



On sponsorship, transparency, scholarly publishing, and open access

2017-07-18T08:03:21.701+00:00

Sponsorship in the research and library communities is pervasive today, and scholarly publishers are some of the most generous providers of it. This generosity comes at a time when scholarly communication is in sore need of root-and-branch reform. However, since publishers’ interests are no longer aligned with the needs of the research community, and they have a vested interest in the legacy system, the research community might be best to avoid publisher sponsorship. Yet researchers and librarians seek it out on a daily basis.While the benefits of this sponsorship to the research community at large are debatable, publishers gain a great deal of soft power from dispensing money in this way. And they use this soft power to help them contain, control and shape the changes scholarly communication is undergoing, often in ways that meet their needs more than the needs of science and of scientists. This sponsorship also often takes place without adequate transparency. Sponsorship and lobbying (which often amount to the same thing), for instance, have assisted legacy publishers to co-opt open access. This has seen the triumph of the pay-to-publish model, which has been introduced in a way that has enabled publishers to adapt OA to their needs, and to ringfence and port their excessive profits to the new OA environment. Those researchers who do not have the wherewithal to pay article-process charges (APCs), however, are finding themselves increasingly disenfranchised.Sponsorship has also to be seen in a larger context. With paywalls now viewed askance, and pay-to-read giving way to free-to-read, more and more content is being funded by the producers rather than the readers. This has a number of consequences. Above all, it has made it increasingly difficult to distinguish neutral information and reporting from partisan content created solely to serve the interests of the creator/sponsor. Now commonly referred to as “fake news”, this is normally associated with biased and/or false information about, say, politicians, elections, and celebrity deaths etc., and its origin and purpose is often unknown. But open access has presented science with the same kind of problem. With many authors now choosing (or having) to pay for the publication of their papers, and publishers’ revenues directly related to the number of articles they publish, unscrupulous authors are now able to find an outlet for any paper regardless of its quality. It is therefore becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish legitimate science from pseudoscience. This is in part a consequence of publishers’ use of sponsorship (and lobbying) to foist a flawed business model on the science community. And by continuing to dispense sponsorship, publishers are able to perpetuate and promote this model, and maintain their grip on scholarly communication.These are the kinds of issues explored in the attached essay (pdf file). It includes some examples of publisher sponsorship, and the associated problems of non-transparency that often go with it. In particular, there is a detailed case study of a series of interviews conducted by Library Journal (LJ) with leading OA advocates that was sponsored by Dove Medical Press. Amongst those interviewed was the de facto leader of the OA movement Peter Suber. Suber gave three separate interviews to LJ, but not once was he informed when invited that the interviews were sponsored, or that they would be flanked with ads for Dove – even though he made it clear after the first interview that he was not happy to be associated with the publisher in this way.The essay can be accessed as a pdf file here.[...]



The Open Access Interviews: Jutta Haider

2017-05-20T06:43:16.608+00:00

Many of us join causes and movements at different times in our lives, if only because we like to feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and because most of us have a healthy desire to improve the world. Unfortunately, movements often fail to achieve their objectives, or their objectives are significantly watered down – or lost sight of – along the way. Sometimes they fail completely. When their movement hits a roadblock, advocates will respond in a variety of ways: “True believers” tend to carry on regardless, continuing to repeat their favoured mantras ad nauseam. Some will give up and move on to the next worthy cause. Others will take stock, seek to understand the problem, and try to find another way forward. Jutta Haider, an associate professor in Information Studies at Lund University, would appear to be in the third category. Initially a proponent of open access, Haider subsequently “turned into a sceptic”. This was not, she says, because she no longer sees merit in making the scientific literature freely available, but because the term open access “has gained meanings and tied itself to areas in science, science policy-making, and the societal and economic development of society that I find deeply problematic.”Above all, she says, she worries that open access has become “a business model, an indicator for performance measurement, tied to notions of development purely imagined as economic growth and so on.” This is not how open access was envisaged when the movement began.Haider believes the turning point came in 2012, when the UK’s Finch Report was published. From that moment “open access became gold OA, and gold OA became APC OA.” In other words, pay-to-publish.The implications of this have been significant, she says, not least because it has allowed legacy publishers to appropriate the movement, and by doing so to continue to control and make excessive profits from scholarly communication.Open access has also been co-opted by governments and university managers, says Haider, to facilitate “the growing incursions of neoliberal control management into university governance and research policy, and the ongoing privatisation of research infrastructures.”She also believes that in being moulded to fit other agendas in this way, open access has enabled long-standing and intractable problems in science and scholarly communication to be migrated to the digital world, including science’s Western-bias, and what she describes as its “idealised story of how science progresses and of the role of the scholarly journal article (conference paper, published record)”.Most significantly, by putting a price on the scholarly paper APC OA has “marketised” science communication in a very direct and negative way.In short, the triumph of APC OA means that rather than create a fairer and more equitable system of scholarly communication (as advocates promised) open access will leave many disadvantaged and disenfranchised, especially researchers in the Global South. Indeed, for them the situation is likely to worsen rather than improve, since contributing to science will increasingly require having the wherewithal to pay to have your work published, which is difficult if not impossible for many in the developing world. “I cannot fathom how a shift to APC open access becoming the dominant model will work to not further deepen the inequalities with production and contribution to the literature”, says Haider.Pay-to-publish gold OA has also seen the emergence of so-called predatory publishing. This has amplified the problems of trust in scholarly communication, and many believe those in the Gl[...]



The OA interviews: Philip Cohen, founder of SocArXiv

2017-05-20T07:22:19.566+00:00

(A print version of this interview is available here)Fifteen years afterthe launch of the Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) the OA revolution has yet to achieve its objectives. It does not help that legacy publishers are busy appropriating open access, and diluting it in ways that benefit them more than the research community. As things stand we could end up with a half revolution.But could a new development help recover the situation? More specifically, can the newly reinvigorated preprint movement gain sufficient traction, impetus, and focus to push the revolution the OA movement began in a more desirable direction?This was the dominant question in my mind after doing the Q&A below with Philip Cohen, founder of the new social sciences preprint server SocArXiv.Preprint servers are by no means a new phenomenon. The highly-successful physics preprint server arXiv (formally referred to as an e-print service) was founded way back in 1991, and today it hosts 1.2 million e-prints in physics, mathematics, computer science, quantitative biology, quantitative finance and statistics. Currently around 9,000-10,000 new papers each month are submitted to arXiv. Yet arXiv has tended to complement – rather than compete with – the legacy publishing system, with the vast majority of deposited papers subsequently being published in legacy journals. As such, it has not disrupted the status quo in ways that are necessary if the OA movement is to achieve its objectives – a point that has (somewhat bizarrely) at times been celebrated by open access advocates.In any case, subsequent attempts to propagate the arXiv model have generally proved elusive. In 2000, for instance, Elsevier launched a chemistry preprint server called ChemWeb, but closed it in 2003. In 2007, Nature launched Nature Precedings, but closed it in 2012. Hope springs eternalFortunately, hope springs eternal in academia, and new attempts to build on the success of arXiv are regularly made. Notably, in 2013 Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) launched a preprint server for the biological sciences called bioRxiv. To the joy of preprint enthusiasts, it looks as if this may prove a long-term success. As of March 8th2017, some 8,850 papers had been posted, and the number of monthly submissions has grown to around 620.Buoyed up by bioRxiv’s success, and convinced that the widespread posting of preprints on the open Web has great potential for improving scholarly communication, last year life scientists launched the ASAPbio initiative. The initial meeting was deemed so successful that the normally acerbic PLOS co-founder Michael Eisen penned an uncharacteristically upbeat blog post about it (here).  Has something significant changed since Elsevier and Nature unsuccessfully sought to monetise the arXiv model. If so, what? Perhaps the key word here is “monetise”. We can see rising anger at the way in which legacy publishers have come to dominate and control open access (see here, here, and here for instance), anger that has been amplified by a dawning realisation that the entire scholarly communication infrastructure is now in danger of being – in the words of  Geoffrey Bilder – enclosed by private interests, both by commercial publishers like Elsevier, and by for-profit upstarts like ResearchGate and Academia.edu (see here, here and here for instance). CSHL/bioRxiv and arXiv are, by contrast, non-profit initiatives whose primary focus is on research, and facilitating research, not the pursuit of profit. Many feel that this is a more worthy and appropriate mission, and so should be supported. Perhaps, therefore, wha[...]



Copyright: the immoveable barrier that open access advocates underestimated

2017-03-18T06:42:34.717+00:00

In calling for research papers to be made freely available open access advocates promised that doing so would lead to a simpler, less costly, more democratic, and more effective scholarly communication system. To achieve their objectives they proposed two different ways of providing open access: green OA (self-archiving) and gold OA (open access publishing). However, while the OA movement has succeeded in persuading research institutions and funders of the merits of open access, it has failed to win the hearts and minds of most researchers. More importantly, it is not achieving its objectives. There are various reasons for this, but above all it is because OA advocates underestimated the extent to which copyright would subvert their cause. That is the argument I make in the text I link to below, and I include a personal case study that demonstrates the kind of problems copyright poses for open access.I also argue that in underestimating the extent to which copyright would be a barrier to their objectives, OA advocates have enabled legacy publishers to appropriate the movement for their own benefit, rather than for the benefit of the research community, and to pervert both the practice and the concept of open access.As usual, it is a long document and I have published it in a pdf file that can be access here. I have inserted a link to the case study at the top for those who might wish only to read that.For those who prefer paper, a print version is available here.[...]



The NIH Public Access Policy: A triumph of green open access?

2017-01-20T15:27:13.507+00:00

There has always been a contradiction at the heart of the open access movement. Let me explain.The Budapest Open Access Initiative (BOAI) defined open access as being the:“free availability [of research papers] on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.”BOAI then proceeded to outline two strategies for achieving open access: (I) Self-archiving; (II) a new generation of open-access journals. These two strategies later became known, respectively, as green OA and gold OA. At the time of the BOAI meeting the Creative Commons licences had not been released. When they were, OA advocates began to insist that to meet the BOAI definition, research papers had to have a CC BY licence attached, thereby signalling to the world that anyone was free to share, adapt and reuse the work for any purpose, even commercially. For OA purists, therefore, a research paper can only be described as open access if it has a CC BY licence attached. The problem here, of course, is that the vast majority of papers deposited in repositories cannot be made available on a CC BY basis, because green OA assumes authors continue to publish in subscription journals and then self-archive a copy of their work in an open repository. Since publishing in a subscription journal requires assigning copyright (or exclusive publishing rights) to a publisher, and few (if any) subscription publishers will allow papers that are earning them subscription revenues to be made available with a CC BY licence attached, we can see the contradiction built into the open access movement. Quite simply, green OA cannot meet the definition of open access prescribed by BOAI.To see how this works in practice, let’s consider the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Public Access Policy. This is described on Wikipedia as an “open access mandate”, and by Nature as a green OA policy, since it requires that all papers published as a result of NIH funding have to be made freely available in the NIH repository PubMed Central (PMC) within 12 months of publication. In fact, the NIH policy is viewed as the premier green OA policy. But how many of the papers being deposited in PMC in order to comply with the Policy have a CC BY licence attached and so are, strictly speaking, open access? There are currently 4.2 million articles in PMC. Of these around 1.5 million consist of pre-2000 historical content being deposited as part of the NIH’s scanning projects. Some of these papers are still under copyright, some are in the public domain, and some are available CC BY-NC. However, since this is historical material pre-dating both the open access movement and the NIH Policy let’s put it aside. That leaves us with around 2.7 million papers in PMC that have been published since 2000. Today around 24% of these papers have a CC BY licence attached. In other words, some 76% of the papers in PMC are not open access as defined by BOAI.The good news is that the percentage with a CC BY licence is growing, and the table below (kindly put together for me by PMC) shows this growth. In 2008, [...]



Open access and Africa

2016-12-29T08:02:08.167+00:00

In November I reportedthat PLOS CEO Elizabeth Marincola is leaving the open access publisher in order to take up a position as Senior Advisor for Science Communication and Advocacy at an African organisation. At the time, PLOS said it could not say exactly where Marincola was going as it had to wait until the organisation concerned had held its board meeting in December. But last week Marincola confirmed to The Scientist that the organisation she will be joining is the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), based in Nairobi, Kenya. (I am not aware that PLOS itself has put out a press release on this). Marincola will be leaving PLOS at the end of the year (this week), with PLOS Chief Financial Officer Richard Hewitt serving as interim CEO from January 1st 2017. We can surely assume that Marincola will be advocating strongly for open access in her new position at the AAS. But where does this leave PLOS? I discussedthis and the challenges I believe PLOS currently faces in November, but I was not able to get Marincola’s views. In a Q&Apublished yesterday, however, The Scientist asked Marincola where she saw PLOS’ place in today’s open-access publishing marketplace.Marincola replied, “The first and primary mission of PLOS when it was founded was to make the case that open-access publishing could be a sustainable business, whether in a nonprofit environment or a for-profit environment. So the very fact we have a lot of competition now is extremely satisfying to us and it is, in itself, a major part of our vision. As Harold Varmus said when he cofounded PLOS, if we could put ourselves out of business because the whole world becomes open-access STM publishing, that would be the greatest testament to our achievements.”Meanwhile at ElsevierMarincola is not the only publisher to have developed an interest in open access, in Africa, and in the African Academy of Sciences. In 2014 Elsevier announcedthat it was partnering with AAS to support researchers by means of a publishing training programme. This, it said, would include offering access to Elsevier Publishing Connect and providing support for hosting live, online webinars. And last year SciDev.net reportedthat Elsevier is planning to launch a new African open access mega journal (presumably in the style of PLOS ONE). This would be free to readers, but authors and their organisations would have to pay to publish – although SciDev.netindicated that internal discussions were taking place over whether publishing fees should be waived for the first five years. One of the organisations Elsevier was said to be working with in developing the mega journal is the AAS. The other partners in the group are the African Centre for Technology, the South African Medical Research Counciland IBM Research-Africa. SciDev.net anticipated that the new journal would be launched this year, with the first papers being published in 2017. If the journal is still planned, then presumably the launch date has slipped. Clearly there is growing interest in promoting open access and OER in Africa. But some believe that the involvement of people and organisations from the Global North can be a mixed blessing, as they can end up setting the agenda in a way that is not conducive to local conditions. One African tweeter commentedrecently, “The agenda for, and lead in, African studies should be set by African scholars.” The same sentiment is often expressed about publishing and publishers, especially when large for-profit companies like Elsevier get involved.[...]



Tracking Trump

2016-12-06T11:49:31.993+00:00

While many, many words have already been spilled on the manifold implications of the surprise win of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections, I am not aware that much has been written about what it might mean for Public Access, as Open Access is called in the context of research funded by the US Government.I was therefore interested last week to receive a copy of the current issue of David Wojick’s Inside Public Access newsletter. Wojick has been tracking the US Public Access program for a while now, and the latest issue of his subscription newsletter looks at what the arrival of the Trump Administration might mean for the Program. Wojick agreed to let me publish an edited version of the issue, which can be read below.Guest post by David Wojick The transition teamTo begin with, the Trump Administration has gotten off to a very slow start. The transition team did very little work prior to the election, which is unusual. Federal funding is available to both major candidates as soon as they are nominated. Romney’s transition team spent a reported 8.9 million dollars before the election. The Trump team has spent very little.The transition team has a lot to do. To begin with it is supposed to vet applicants and job holders for about 4,000 federal positions which are held “at the pleasure of the President.” About 1,000 of these positions require Senate approval, so the vetting is not trivial. There is a transition team for each Cabinet Department and the major non-Cabinet agencies, like EPAand the SEC. In addition to vetting applicants, the teams are supposed to meet with the senior civil servants of each department and agency, to be briefed on how these huge and complex organizations actually operate. Something as small as Public Access may not be noticed.Each team is also supposed to begin to formulate specific policies for their organization. Given how vague Trump has been on policy specifics, this may not be easy. Or it may mean that the teams have pretty broad latitude when it comes to specific agency policies. There seems to be little information as to who makes up each agency team, so their views on public access are unknown at this point.Moreover, the head of the Energy Department transition team was recently replaced, which has to slow things down a bit. DOE has been a leader in developing the Public Access Program. But in the long run the fate of Public Access is in the hands of the Department and Agency heads, and their deputies, not the transition team. Science related nominations have yet to even be announced. The Science Advisor and OSTPThen there is the issue of OSTPand the 2013 Memorandum that created the Public Access Program. The Office of Science and Technology Policy is part of the Executive Office of the President. It is headed by the President’s Science Advisor.At one extreme the Memo might simply be rescinded. President Obama issued a great many orders and executive memos, in direct defiance of the Republican led Congress. Many of these orders seem likely to be rescinded and Public Access might get caught in the wave and wiped out. Then too, Republicans tend to be pro-business and the publishers may well lobby against the Public Access Program.On the other hand, a public access policy is relatively non-partisan, as well as being politically attractive. The new OSTP head might even decide to strengthen the program, especially because Trump is being labeled as anti-science by his opponents.The OSTP situation is also quite fl[...]



PLOS CEO steps down as publisher embarks on “third revolution”

2016-12-29T08:23:56.611+00:00

I HAVE POSTED AN UPDATE PIECE ON THIS HERE.On 31st October, PLOS sent out a surprise tweet saying that its CEO Elizabeth Marincola is leaving the organisation for a new job in Kenya. Perhaps this is a good time to review the rise of PLOS, put some questions to the publisher, and consider its future.PLOS started out in 2001 as an OA advocacy group. In 2003, however, it reinvented itself as an open access publisher and began to launch OA journals like PLOS Biology and PLOS Medicine. Its mission: “to accelerate progress in science and medicine by leading a transformation in research communication.” Above all, PLOS’ goal was to see all publicly-funded research made freely available on the internet. Like all insurgent organisations, PLOS has over the years attracted both devoted fans and staunch critics. The fans (notably advocates for open access) relished the fact that PLOS had thrown down a gauntlet to legacy subscription publishers, and helped start the OA revolution. The critics have always insisted that a bunch of academics (PLOS’ founders) would never be able to make a fist of a publishing business. At first, it seemed the critics might be right. One of the first scholarly publishers to attempt to build a business on article-processing charges (APCs), PLOS gambled that pay-to-publish would prove to be a viable business model. The critics demurred and said that in any case the level that PLOS had set its prices ($1,500) would prove woefully inadequate. Commenting to Naturein 2003, cell biologist Ira Mellman of Yale University, and editor of The Journal of Cell Biology, said. “I feel that PLOS’s estimate is low by four- to sixfold,” In 2006, PLOS did increase the fees for its top two journals by 66% (to $2,500), and since then the figure has risen to $2,900. While this is neither a four- or sixfold increase, we must doubt that these prices would have been enough to make an organisation with PLOS’ ambitions viable. In 2008 Nature commented, “An analysis by Nature of the company’s accounts shows that PLOS still relies heavily on charity funding, and falls far short of its stated goal of quickly breaking even through its business model of charging authors a fee to publish in its journals. In the past financial year, ending 30 September 2007, its $6.68-million spending outstripped its revenue of $2.86 million.”PLOS ONEBut by then PLOS had pioneered a new – and very different – type of journal. Launched in December 2006, PLOS ONE was the world’s first “megajournal”, and is distinctive in two ways. First reviewers are told that when considering a paper for publication in the journal they should not consider its novelty, importance, or interest to a particular community, but only whether it is “technically sound and worthy of inclusion in the published scientific record.” Second, PLOS ONE accepts papers from right across science, technology, engineering and mathematics, along with some social sciences. These two features meant that the journal was soon flooded with submissions from authors keen to benefit for its low-bar approach to publishing research. And this in turn provided a welcome fillip to PLOS’ coffers. “In its first full year of operation in 2007, PLOS ONEpublished 1,230 articles, which would have generated an estimated $1.54 million in author fees, around half of PLOS’s total income that year” reported Nature in 2008. “By comparison, the 321 articles published in PLOS Biology in 2007 brought in less than hal[...]



Institutional Repositories: Response to comments

2017-03-30T09:32:55.078+00:00

The introduction I wrote for the recent Q&A with Clifford Lynch has attracted some commentary from the institutional repository (IR) and open access (OA) communities. I thank those who took the time to respond. After reading the comments the following questions occurred to me.(A print version of this text is available here)1.     Is the institutional repository dead or dying?Judging by the Mark Twain quote with which COAR’s Kathleen Shearer headed her response (“The reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated”), and judging by CORE’s Nancy Pontika insisting in her comment that we should not give up on the IR (“It is my strong belief that we don’t need to abandon repositories”) people might conclude that I had said the IR is dead. Indeed, by the time Shearer’s comments were republished on the OpenAIRE blog (under the title “COAR counters reports of repositories’ demise”) the wording had strengthened – Shearer was now saying that I had made a number of “somewhat questionable assertions, in particular that institutional repositories (IRs) have failed.”That is not exactly what I said, although I did quote a blog post by Eric Van de Velde (here) in which he declared the IR obsolete. As he put it, “Its flawed foundation cannot be repaired. The IR must be phased out and replaced with viable alternatives.”What I said (and about this Clifford Lynch seemed to agree, as do a growing number of others) is that it is time for the research community to take stock, and rethink what it hopes to achieve with the IR. It is however correct to say I argued that green OA has “failed as a strategy”. And I do believe this. I gave some of the reasons why I do in my introduction, the most obvious of which is that green OA advocates assumed that once IRs were created they would quickly be filled by researchers self-archiving their work. Yet seventeen years after the Santa Fe meeting, and 22 years after Stevan Harnad began his long campaign to persuade researchers to self-archive, it is clear there remains little or no appetite for doing so, even though researchers are more than happy to post their papers on commercial sites like Academia.edu and ResearchGate.However, I then went on to say that I saw two possible future scenarios for the IR. The first would see the research community “finally come together, agree on the appropriate role and purpose of the IR, and then implement a strategic plan that will see repositories filled with the target content (whatever it is deemed to be).”The second scenario I envisaged was that the IR would be “captured by commercial publishers, much as open access itself is being captured by means of pay-to-publish gold OA.”Neither of these scenarios assumes the IR will die, although they do envisage somewhat different futures for it. That said, what they could share in common is a propensity for the link between the IR and open access to weaken. Already we are seeing a growing number of papers in IRs being hidden behind login walls – either as a result of publisher embargoes or because many institutions have come to view the IR less as a way of making research freely available, more as a primary source of raw material for researcher evaluation and/or other internal processes. As IRs merge with Research Information Management (RIM) tools and Current Research Information Systems (CRIS) this darkening of the content in IRs could intensify.  What makes [...]



Q&A with CNI’s Clifford Lynch: Time to re-think the institutional repository?

2017-03-30T09:35:41.082+00:00

(A print version of this interview is available here)Seventeen years ago 25 people gathered in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to discuss ways in which the growing number of e-print servers and digital repositories could be made interoperable. As scholarly archives and repositories had begun to proliferate a number of issues had arisen. There was a concern, for instance, that archives would needlessly replicate each other’s content, and that users would have to learn multiple interfaces in order to use them. Photo courtesy Susan van HengstumIt was therefore felt there was a need to develop tools and protocols that would allow repositories to copy content from each other, and to work in concert on a distributed basis. With this aim in mind those attending the New Mexico event – dubbed the Santa Fe Convention for the Open Archives Initiative (OAI) – agreed to create the (somewhat wordy) Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting, or OAI-PMH for short.Key to the OAI-PMH approach was the notion that data providers – the individual archives – would be given easy-to-implement mechanisms for making information about what they held in their archives externally available. This external availability would then enable third-party service providers to build higher levels of functionality by using the metadata harvesting protocol.The repository model that the organisers of the Santa Fe meeting had very much in mind was the physics preprint server arXiv This had been created in 1991 by physicist Paul Ginsparg, who was one of the attendees of the New Mexico meeting. As a result, the early focus of the initiative was on increasing the speed with which research papers were shared, and it was therefore assumed that the emphasis would be on archiving papers that had yet to be published (i.e. preprints). However, amongst the Santa Fe attendees were a number of open access advocates. They saw OAI-PMH as a way of aggregating content hosted in local – rather than central – archives. And they envisaged that the archived content would be papers that had already been published, rather than preprints. These local archives later came to be known as institutional repositories, or IRs.In other words, the OA advocates present were committed to the concept of author self-archiving (aka green open access). The objective for them was to encourage universities to create their own repositories and then instruct their researchers to deposit in them copies of all the papers they published in subscription journals. As these repositories would be on the open internet outside any paywall the papers would be freely available to all. And the expectation was that OAI-PMH would allow the content from all these local repositories to be aggregated into a single searchable virtual archive of (eventually) all published research.Given these different perspectives there was inevitably some tension around the OAI from the beginning. And as the open access movement took off, and IRs proliferated, a number of other groups emerged, each with their own ideas about what the role and target content of institutional repositories should be. The resulting confusion continues to plague the IR landscape.Moreover, today we can see that the interoperability promised by OAI-PMH has not really materialised, few third-party service providers have em[...]



What quality controls are utilised by PLOS ONE when selecting reviewers? Who is deemed eligible?

2016-07-25T10:19:18.517+00:00

In 2011, I expressed concern about the PLOS ONE business model and its associated review process. My worries were focused on the use of what some have called light or “lite” peer review, and the “pay-to-publish” system used by PLOS ONE (and now by many other publishers). My worries were subsequently recorded on the PLOS ONE Wikipedia page. Recent personal experience has increased my concern, and left me wondering about the way in which reviewers are recruited by PLOS ONE. On 12th July, I received an email from a PLOS ONE academic editor inviting me to peer review a paper. I won’t say what the paper was entitled, or who the authors were, but it was on the topic of open access journals. Since I am a blogger/journalist rather than an academic I was surprised to receive the invitation, and emailed PLOS ONE with the following question: “I have had an invitation to review the above paper. Can you point me to the rules on the eligibility of PLOS ONE reviewers?”I received the following (I assume boilerplate) reply:This did not address my question, so I also emailed the academic editor whose name had been at the bottom of the invitation. I am not going to name him, but I will say that he is based at Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, “Was it you who sent me an invitation to review the above paper?” I asked. “If so, I am wondering why you invited me. Can you say?”I received the following response:Grunt workLet me be quite clear at the outset: I had and have no interest whatsoever in reviewing this or any other scholarly work, not least because there is absolutely no incentive for me to devote my time to reviewing papers. Moreover, the one time I did agree to review anything for an academic journal (an editorial rather than a paper), my suggestions were all rejected on the grounds that “the author says he is too busy to make the changes you suggested.” Clearly I had not made very good use of my time!But as I say, my first response on receiving the PLOS ONE invitation was to wonder whether it is inappropriate for non-academics to review scholarly papers.With these thoughts in mind I tweeted the invitation under the strapline “PLOS ONE invites journalist to review scholarly paper”. Somewhat to my surprise, everyone who responded said that they saw no problem with my reviewing a scholarly paper on open access (although it could not presumably be defined as “peer” review). Their reasoning was that they are confident that I have the necessary expertise. And Roger Schonfeld commented, “I’d like to see expertise welcomed into the scholarly conversation without regard to academic affiliation.”On reading these responses I recalled that some OA advocates maintain that an important benefit of OA is that it encourages members of the public to take a greater interest in science, and to even take part in the process themselves – by means of “citizen science”.A few days later I read this in the Times Higher: “the open access movement in academic publishing, while far from perfect, means that more research papers than ever are available to those outside universities. Are we not entitled to expect graduates in the workforce and the general public to show the curiosity and commitment to engage with research findings relevant to them?”It added: “Academics should not hide in the ivory tower, but neither should non-academics refus[...]