Open Access Now

Relevant, current, curated news and information about open access and scholarly publishing.

Editors' Choice

The Best Scholarly Communication Writing of 2013

By Micah Vandegrift | February 5, 2014

The Editorial Team at Open Access Now is taking a hiatus to review our goals and workflows (i.e. we all got real busy.)

In the meantime, please enjoy this collection of writings that rose to the top of scholarly communication and open access conversations in the past year. We hope to continue to curate, analyze and repurpose the best and most relevant writings/ideas as we encounter them, and this blog, and the ebook, represent our investment in doing so.

Thank you,

The Editors.

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The Best Scholarly Communication Writing of 2013.
http://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.926779

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By Chealsye Bowley | November 21, 2013

On Monday, the Open Access Button was launched at the Berlin 11 Student and Early Stage Researcher Satellite Conference. The Open Access Button is a new browser plugin that allows users to report when they hit a paywall and cannot access a research article. After a user reports not being able to access research, the Open Access Button records the user’s location, their profession, and why they were looking for the research. The software then integrates this information onto a map to create a real time, worldwide, interactive picture of the access problem.

Three days after the launch, the Open Access Button has approximately 1,900 users and has mapped 873 paywalls.

Screen Shot 2013-11-21 at 10.07.58 PM

One of the most remarkable facts about the button was that it was created by two students, David Carroll and Joseph McArthur. Carroll, who studies medicine at Queens University Belfast, said the following:

“I realized there was a problem when, time after time, I ran into barriers accessing articles relevant to my research. My university is able to afford subscriptions to many journals, and yet I still can’t access everything I need. It made me wonder how many others have had the same experience, and how it is impacting people across the globe.”

The frustration inspired a great idea, and after teaming up with the Right to Research Coalition and a team of volunteer developers, the Open Access Button was born. In the spirit of openness, Open Access Button is licensed under CC-BY and a MIT open source license. Additionally, the data will be open for researchers. Heather Joseph, Executive Director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), commented the followed about the button:

“It’s crucial to remember that too often, we take for granted that the status quo simply ‘is what it is,’ but the developers of the Open Access Button remind us that we, as individuals, actually have the power to change things. It’s a simple, yet incredibly creative idea, that should help show just how deep the need for Open Access truly is.”

Learn more about the button with the Open Access Button Info Sheet.

Sign up to get your own button at openaccessbutton.org.

Librarians needed to facilitate Open Data

By Andrew Wesolek | November 5, 2013

Tim Poisot’s recent blog post on facilitating open data in ecology illustrates a desire to make ecology data open, while admitting that “there are so many peculiarities attached to datasets that sharing them is by nature a difficult task.” Mr. Poisot goes on to offer some interesting solutions to enhance the current practices in data formatting. Perhaps most interestingly, though, he does not mention engaging those who are specifically trained in the organization of information–librarians. This should provide further incentive for our efforts to effectively communicate the breadth of our value to our faculty.

In advocating for Open Access, we often focus on educating our colleagues to the benefits of making their research open, but how well are we supporting those who already want to make their research, or data in this case, open, but are unsure of how to share it effectively?

Open Access Week (#oaweek) in DH

By Sarah Potvin, Roxanne Shirazi, and Zach Coble | October 31, 2013

Editors Note: Most of the OANow Editorial team has been wrapped up hosting and recovering from our own Open Access Week events, so this post comes from our colleagues over at the DH+LIB blog. They present a wrap-up of open access week in terms of the humanities, a side of this conversation that isn’t often represented.

For those unfamiliar with the event, it is an annual, global celebration of open access (OA) that began in 2007 and is billed as:

[A]n opportunity for the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access, to share what they’ve learned with colleagues, and to help inspire wider participation in helping to make Open Access a new norm in scholarship and research.

Open access has been a central tenet of scholarly communication reform since the 1990s, and entails cost-free access for end users to read content, usually journals and other secondary source materials. In a nutshell, the OA movement arose partly in response to the financial implications of the rising costs of serials in the 1990s, especially in the sciences. These costs continue to rise: serials subscription costs have consistently increased at a rate above the Consumer Price Index (as well as the Higher Education Price Index) for decades (Budd, The Changing Academic Library: Operations, Culture, Environments, 2005, p. 187). The causes of price increases are myriad, but the continuous squeeze on library budgets has forced libraries to respond. Many libraries have quietly canceled serials subscriptions while others have launched boycotts in an effort to draw wider attention to situation libraries are facing, such as the University of California’s attempted boycott of Nature in 2010 and SUNY Potsdam’s boycott of the American Chemical Society’s journals in 2013.

Yet this focus on the serials cost crunch by OA advocates is most relevant in the sciences, where journal prices have sometimes reached astronomical levels. And though cost is hardly the only argument to be made in favor of OA, the argument’s prominence among librarians risks neglecting the different concerns and emphases that are found in the humanities, opening the door to critiques such as the one made recently by Daniel Allington. Scholarly Communications Librarian Micah Vandegrift called attention to this imbalance on Twitter:

What, then, does OA Week bring for the humanities—and, by extension, the digital humanities? In many ways, the transformation of scholarly communication is integral to the digital humanities endeavor. Whether through advocating for openness, suggesting models for evaluation and peer review, or advancing reforms to those standard tools of scholarly communication and dissemination (journal articles, monographs, and conferences), digital humanists are actively shaping new practices for communicating research to each other and to the public. Lisa Spiro, in offering a set of core values for the digital humanities, notes:

The digital humanities community embraces openness because of both self-interest and ethical aspirations. In order to create digital scholarship, researchers typically need access to data, tools, and dissemination platforms.

Ultimately, openness promotes the larger goal of the humanities “to democratize knowledge to reach out to ‘publics,’ share academic discoveries, and invite an array of audiences to participate in knowledge production” (Draxler et al.).

While we won’t attempt a larger argument for OA in the humanities here, we do want to highlight some of the activities that took place during OA Week in the digital humanities. And, please, if we’ve missed anything, let us know in the comments!

OA Week Round-up

Digital humanists are actively shaping new practices for communicating research to each other and to the public.

  • As part of a kickoff event for OA Week, SPARC (The Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition) and the World Bank hosted a panel on “Open Access: Redefining Impact.” Panelists included dhers Brett Bobley (National Endowment for the Humanities) and Kathleen Fitzpatrick (Modern Language Association). The panel was livecast and liveblogged; archives of the video and blog are freely available.
  • Georgia Tech’s OA Week events included a panel discussion aimed specifically at the humanities. Featuring Ian Bogost, TyAnna Herrington, and Robin Wharton, and moderated by Stewart Varner and Brian Croxall of Emory University, the event was livestreamed and used the hashtag #GTOpenAccess. “Information Now: Open Access and the Public Good,” a podcast produced by Tech librarians Wendy Hagenmaier, Fred Rascoe, and Lizzy Rolando for OA Week includes interviews with Dan Cohen and Peter Suber.
  • In honor of OA Week, Indiana University Libraries’ Digital Collections Services made TEI and plain text files available under a CC BY-NC 3.0 license. Michelle Dalmau introduced the text: “Motivated by a recent mock keynote debate, ‘A Matter of Scale,’ presented by Matt Jockers and Julia Flanders as part of the Boston Area Days of Digital Humanities Conference and the imperative that librarians involved with many things ‘digital’ learn not only how to build tools, in this case for textual analysis, but leverage existing tools to support teaching and research endeavors rooted in the text, I present TEI (P4 & P5) and plain text files of several e-text collections published by the Indiana University (IU) Libraries.” The group invites users of the texts to a wiki to share their usage of the texts.
  • In response to Dalmau’s emailing the TEI listserv to announce the availability of texts, Peter Robinson circulated an article by Paul Klimpel on “Consequences, risks and side-effects of the license module ‘non-commercial use only — NC,’” published through Wikimedia Germany, iRights.info, and Creative Commons Germany. This post sparked a string of messages around the application of Creative Commons licenses and the potential for coercion.
  • Responding to Allington’s critique of OA in comments to his post, Ted Underwood writes that OA allowed him to “‘break into’ the conversation in scholarly fields (like computer science) where pervasive green OA has already made the boundary between expert and lay knowledge rather permeable.” Ben Brumfield argues that open access serves public users and should not be displaced by versions of scholarly work packaged specifically for public consumption: “[Alice] Bell’s ‘meaningful open access’ is not a substitute for open access, as in many cases an effectively popularized version of scholarship will eliminate any public uses not envisioned by the popularizer.”
  • Sarah Werner, Digital Media Strategist at the Folger Shakespeare Library, wrote about her experience negotiating the terms of her publishing contract to retain copyright and the ability to self-archive in “More Lessons on Negotiating a Contributor’s Contract.”
  • In her column at Inside Higher Ed, Barbara Fister tackled the sticky subject of OA for books (and book chapters) in “Open Access, Tenure, and the Common Good.”

Open Access to Agriculture Research: The Food Imperative

By Marianne Buehler | October 18, 2013

How often do we contemplate the origin of our food as we sit down to dinner? Our mission is to eat and enjoy our fare. Most of us need to count on our farmers to enjoy healthy food. An agricultural organization, CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), is committed to sharing their research as a global resource committed to an open model of dissemination that benefits agriculture and people http://www.cgiar.org/our-research/. The most important part other than the 15 partner-based research and data itself, is its open access to research to share and make healthy food http://www.cgiar.org/resources/open/ available to create:

  • less rural poverty;
  • better food security;
  • improved nutrition and health; and
  • sustainably managed resources.

As we contemplate our food sources, the haves and the hungry, it is imperative that open access food literature is about our future nourishment. Since 2002, the international archive of Organic Eprints http://www.orgprints.org/ has deposited full-text papers with bibliographic information, abstracts and other metadata, including projects related to organic food and farming research. People benefit from the partnering that occurs more easily by agricultural collaborators communicating their successes and failures across continents using global open access research. At your next meal, think of the farmers having an opportunity to research available, best practices’ intellectual content to bring nutritious food to your table.

The long slog: OA baby steps, great leaps forward, and two steps back

By Anne Langley | October 8, 2013

As someone mostly new to the discussion and work of open access, I find some of the most interesting aspects of the ongoing public discourse are the attempts by various players to discredit open access efforts through grandstanding (especially by various publishers) or via publicity stunts such as the recent “sting” operation by John Bohannon in Science Magazine.

It strikes me that striving for open access sometimes feels like a David vs. Goliath battle. In this period of upheaval in the slowly changing system of scholarly communication, with its hard-to-fathom, lop-sided economic model, combined with the OA movement’s uphill battle for recognition, understanding, support, and implementation; while there are, and will continue to be nay-sayers and doom-sayers, the only way we will get to a workable, sustainable, affordable scholarly communication system that supports research and the growth of knowledge, is by taking baby steps. Through these baby steps, like making sure we respond thoughtfully to stunts, as many in our movement have done (see links below), we will eventually make great leaps forward (like the creation in 2011 of COAPI, the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions, as a resource for others looking to pass OA policies at their institutions), yet we must acknowledge that occasionally, we will take two steps back. I, for one, am in it for the long slog.

To read more from the OA community and others are saying about John Bohannon’s Science piece:

Peter SuberNew “sting” of weak open-access journals
Heather JosephScience Magazine’s Open Access “Sting”
SV-POW blogJohn Bohannon’s peer review against science
The GuardianHundreds of open access journals accept fake science paper

What does “the public” think about open access?

By Micah Vandegrift | October 3, 2013

As we are approaching Open Access Week, we are reminded that while outreach and conversations about open access within our communities is a valuable thing, a target audience for making scholarly literature available online is the general public. An idea that was floated around at my institution was to hold open access week events exclusively at the public library downtown. Convincing faculty members and colleagues of the value of open access is one chore, but introducing a local business owner to a relevant open access journal could have much more far reaching affects. The open access movement has a well-documented discussion from publishers and academic open access advocates, but not yet a good sense of the public’s call for access to high quality research online. One could imagine that many not involved in the academy might see this as just another one of the heated philosophical debates that happen inside a classroom between a liberal professor and texting undergraduates.

Hearteningly, initiatives like state-wide open access policies show that some representatives of the public at the legislative level are concerned and taking action about the state of scholarly publishing. Currently, New York and California have bills on hold until the 2014 session. Illinois, a leader in this aspect, has passed a bill which is waiting to be signed into law. The University of Illinois has provided a helpful fact sheet about the bill.

A barometer for public knowledge about open access could also be read from the journalism that reports it. A standard argument against open access is that press releases about scholarly articles in layman language suffice to provide the public with enough detail. Two items in recent weeks address that point indirectly, and from different stances on the value of open access.

Mother Jones published an article titled “Steal this Research Paper (You Already Paid for it!,” focusing on Michael Eisen, a Biologist, open access advocate and co-founder of PLoS. Michael Mechanic, Senior Editor of Mother Jones writes,

For nervous scientists looking for evidence that they can abandon the paywalled journals, [Eisen] offers himself as Exhibit A. Eisen earned his tenure from Berkeley and landed the prestigious title of investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute even though his lab publishes exclusively in open-access journals. Some people will cling to the old ways until the bitter end, he says, but “it’s basically inevitable that this is going to be the dominant mode of scientific publishing.

On the other side of the spectrum, writing about an article included in a Special Issue of Science on scholarly communication and open access, The Economist reports “It seems dangerously easy to get scientific nonsense published.” They write,

The publications Dr Bohannon selected for his sting operation were all open-access journals. These make papers available free, and cover their costs by charging authors a fee (typically $1,000-2,000). Policymakers have been keen on such periodicals of late. Since taxpayers already sponsor most academic research, the thinking goes, providing free access to its fruits does not seem unreasonable. But critics of the open-access model have long warned that making authors rather than readers their client risks skewing publishers’ incentives towards tolerating shoddy science. Dr Bohannon has shown that the risk is real.

Approaching this article as a piece of journalism intended for a public audience (despite the flaws and misinformation presented in this one paragraph) we see that the education and outreach we do on campus will only go so far. Thinking broadly about the impact of open access, perhaps the theme of Open Access Week next year should be “Engagement Beyond the Ivory Tower.”

By Chealsye Bowley | September 26, 2013

On Tuesday, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF) announced the launch of the MMRF Researcher Gateway, a new portal that will provide open access to genetic and research data in hopes of speeding up the development of new treatments for the blood cancer.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Morning Joe, MMRF Founder and CEO Kathy Giusti was asked, “How much do you think that [the sharing of data] will fast foward towards cures? And why hasn’t there been a sharing of data? It seems so simple.” Giusti’s answered with the following:

It’s frustrating because it’s where the system is broken. People are not bad, it’s just that the system doesn’t work very well. When you look at academic centers and the best scientists in the country, the way they move ahead is publish or perish. You want to be the first to find your own invention and you want to put it out to the public domain at that point. That’s not fast sharing. What you have to do is make sure everyone is willing to give up intellectual property so all scientists can look at it. That’s the key.

The MMRF Researcher Gateway will be powered by the MMRF CoMMpass Study, which lauched in 2011 and follows 1,000 patients from initial diagnosis through their course of treatment over a minimum of five years. The study has 50 centers in the United States and Europe that are enrolling patients and will be sharing data. All participating patients have agreed to share their genetic information and treatment responses.

MMRF was founded in 1998, two years after now founder and CEO Kathy Giusti was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer. The five-year survival rate for multiple myeloma is approximately 41% and about 86,000 patients are diagnosed with multiple myeloma each year worldwide.

New Public Access Legislation

By Andrew Wesolek | September 24, 2013

In another bi-partisan effort to ensure public access to federally-funded research, Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) have introduced PAPS legislation in the house. The Public Access to Public Science (PAPS) act is intended to codify the language of February’s White House directive into legislation. However, as noted by SPARC, PAPS is not as strong a piece of legislation–in terms of maximizing access to publicly funded research– as FASTR.

So how will OA advocates react to this announcement? With muted enthusiasm, I would suspect. While PAPS is significantly weaker than FASTR on many fronts, it does illustrate that the push for access to federally funded research is now coming form multiple directions within the legislative branch.

Remember to encourage your Provosts to sign the Open Letter in Support of FASTR here.

Also of interest, Peter Suber’s side-by-side comparison of PAPS and FASTR.

 

 

Hit the Button for Open Access

By Marianne Buehler | September 19, 2013

Most researchers have hit a paywall at least once, which for open access advocates is one time too many. These paywalls, with costs often insurmountable for an individual purchase, precludes access and halts the spread of research. Each person who is denied access to scholarly content is an indictment of our current scholarly communication system. We all know the story: increasing costs of journal subscriptions are unsustainable and overpriced research impedes reader access, particularly  for the  scientists and scholars who depend on scholarly content for their own work.

“Disruption” has become a prevalent term to illustrate the interference of access to research in the scholarly communication process. Heather Morrison, open access blogger at The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics, recently commented on the vast paywall inflicted on readers of the Journal of Comparative Neurology, a journal that charges $30,860 per yearly subscription, publishing 234 articles per year, keeping in mind the peer-review process is freely donated. She writes,

The Association of American Medical Colleges accredits 141 medical schools in the U.S. and Canada alone. If each one of these schools purchased a subscription at $30,860, that would add up to revenue of $4.3 million per year. $4.3 million would be sufficient to pay open access article processing fees for 1,657 articles at the rates of the professional for-profit BioMedCentral”s very-high-impact journal Genome Biology (U.S. $2,265).

One aspect of disrupting the system is to adapt the technology that supports it. Already one idea that is being adopted and integrated into various systems, including the University of Southhampton and , is the “Request a copy” button for repository software. This accomplishes what Steven Harnard has called the ID/OA model (immediate deposit, optional access) and helps allay author and institutional concerns about copyright infringements during publisher embargo periods and permits a post-print copy for the reader’s use. Two students out of colleges in the UK proposed the idea of an open access button, “a browser-based tool which tracks how often people are denied access to academic research.”

An additional technological innovation has come out of student participation in an Open Access Button Hackathon: London, England Sept 7/8. Programmers invited undergrads and grad students to globally join forces and expertise to create an access button that requests a post-print. One proposed tool will track how many denials to research and where on the globe, what professions, and why research is important to access. This map will collate the information at one location within an interactive interface. Read more about it on Open Knowledge Foundation blog.

It is these types of innovative ideas that will begin to positively affect the model of academic publishing that restricts access.

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  • Open Access Now is a team-managed, one stop source for news, policy and current writing about open access and scholarly communication. The purpose of this publication is to centralize and aggregate the variety of information that is published, online or in print, related to the principle that scholarly research should be freely accessible online. Members of the Coalition of Open Access Policy Institutions participate in the process of sorting, nominating and publishing the most relevant news, pulling from a collection of sources.
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