Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Author Archives: Philip Young

Worth Reading: Decision Trees, Copyright and ETDs, Open Virginia, and iCalendar

I haven’t been following open access developments in the UK, but apparently publishers are weakening the proposed policy there. I haven’t seen their decision tree, but Mike Taylor proposes one that should work globally. While authors are more likely to follow the publisher’s guidelines on archiving (if that), Taylor does have a point about manuscript ownership. Most authors won’t be so assertive, though I don’t know of any cases of publishers asking for the material to be taken down.

Graduate students apparently don’t know much about copyright for their ETDs, and part of the cause may be bad information from their universities, according to the latest post on Free US ETDs. An upcoming Part 2 will offer guidance on providing better copyright information for ETDs.

Virginia Tech alumnus Waldo Jaquith posts on the launch of the Open Virginia data repository, bringing various datasets together in one place. The data repository uses CKAN, an open data solution from the Open Knowledge Foundation that, you guessed it, is also open source.

Many of you will remember Microsoft’s Jon Udell from his visit to Virginia Tech a couple of years ago as Distinguished Innovator in Residence. He’s now working with communities in the Hampton Roads area on a community calendar, which will use iCalendar, an open standard. It’ll be interesting to see the results.

Voluntary vs. Mandatory Policies

As the open access movement advances, more faculty become interested in providing access to their work. But there aren’t enough open access journals yet, especially in some fields. Self-archiving is very spotty- a few do it, but most don’t. So faculty associations in universities, colleges, and departments are adopting open access archiving policies.

One policy debate that sometimes arises is whether archiving should be voluntary or mandatory. Though some open access issues are unsettled, this one isn’t. Voluntary policies don’t work and never have.

Stevan Harnad made his “subversive proposal” to archive articles on a Virginia Tech e-mail list nearly 20 years ago. Recently he said:

If one thing has been learnt from the slow, sad saga of OA (now at least two decades old) it is that mandating OA works, but encouraging it doesn’t.

The faculty votes (many of them unanimous) that have taken place in the last few years have been for mandatory policies (there is no list of voluntary policies). The purpose of a policy is to increase the amount of openly available research online, and mandatory policies do a far better job of that:

Gargouri et al. 2010

Open Access (OA) Self-Archiving Percentages for Institutions With Self-Archiving Mandates Compared to Non-Mandated, Self-Selected Controls (Gargouri et al. 2010, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013636)

About 60% of journals now allow archiving of the author’s final version (the post-print), but only 10-20% of articles are archived. That’s why a mandatory policy is necessary. We need that nudge. We need that collective expectation that research will be open, not paywalled.

The word “mandate” evokes negative reactions even before policy details are heard, but it’s an inaccurate term in two ways. First, there is always an opt-out, so it is not a mandate in the strict sense of the word. Second, a policy is approved democratically by those directly affected by it. It’s not a directive from the provost or a dean. It’s a statement that says we think making research openly available is important enough to require it of ourselves.

As authors, we know that open access serves our own interests. More people can read our work if it’s not behind a paywall. Numerous studies confirm that openly available articles are cited more often. When everyone has access, promotion via social media is far more effective and raises the researcher’s profile. Even for those who don’t actively promote their work, the simple act of providing worldwide access generates views and downloads month after month.

We know that providing access to our research helps a lot of people, including those in the developing world and independent researchers. So we can produce a great public good (and advance our own careers) just by setting aside 10 minutes to archive one of our articles.

Let’s make policy decisions based on evidence. No faculty group can singlehandedly repair our dysfunctional system of scholarly communication, but we can begin taking steps to better fulfill the university mission, and that of land grant institutions. If the journals in our field put our research behind a paywall, let’s ensure worldwide access for our articles by taking 10 minutes to archive them.

Worth Reading This Week

One of the hottest topics in higher education recently is the MOOC, or massive open online course. MOOCs are a bit of a problem for libraries, since the majority of the content we offer is licensed (at a pretty steep price) and under the copyright of the publisher. At Duke a professor teaching a MOOC couldn’t get permission to use his own articles in the class. Fortunately the journals allowed archiving, and the professor still had his final versions, which were uploaded to the repository, as Kevin Smith writes. There are a couple of things worth noting. First, as Kevin notes, MOOCs provide an incentive for faculty to archive their work. Second, this is a licensing issue. Rather than depend on journal archiving policies, faculty will need to be more active in retaining copyright and publishing under CC licenses.

Last week’s big news about the purchase of Mendeley by Elsevier has resulted in some introspection about the role of for-profit entities in open endeavors. First, John Wilbanks writes that the key is the extent to which “open” is baked into the business model. If it is central to making a profit, fine. But if it can be discarded, it will be. Second, a post by Cameron Neylon takes a different approach by focusing on how nonprofits can take on larger roles- let’s have nonprofit startups, let’s have nonprofits buy out for-profit startups. How do we get there?

I think we need to do more in higher education to shift from commercial to non-commercial providers, because our values simply aren’t being served. Perhaps for journal publishing it would be helpful to have a list of journals published by commercial vs. non-commercial entities. The cost of journals (or their bundles) by commercial publishers is several times higher than for non-commercial publishers, as Stuart Sheiber notes. Maybe if that information was easier to obtain, and the reasons for supporting non-commercial publishers were more explicit, that would help shift perceptions of preferred journals to publish in.

Commercial Publishers and the Growth of Research

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the resignation of the editorial board for the Journal of Library Administration. Several commenters urged them to start their own open access journal. That would certainly help tip the landscape to open access, but I haven’t heard that it’s going to happen this time like it has in the past.

Even if it does happen, JLA won’t wither away. There will simply be an additional journal for the discipline. It’s happened before- if you follow the previous link and look under 1998, you’ll see that when the Journal of Academic Librarianship was sold to Elsevier, the board resigned and most of them went on to found portal: Libraries and the Academy. Today, JAL is doing fine (and I’ve published there, though I’ve since pledged not to submit articles to, perform peer review for, or serve on the editorial board of Elsevier journals). So JLA will probably form another editorial board and will continue receiving submissions.

There are at least a couple of reasons why: the number of articles written is always increasing, and virtually all articles get published somewhere. The STM Report 2012 (PDF, p. 5) contains this data on growth in scholarly publishing:

“There were about 28,100 active scholarly peer-reviewed journals in mid 2012, collectively publishing about 1.8–1.9 million articles a year. The number of articles published each year and the number of journals have both grown steadily for over two centuries, by about 3% and 3.5% per year respectively. The reason is the equally persistent growth in the number of researchers, which has also grown at about 3% per year and now stands at between 6 and 9 million, depending on definition, although only about 20% of these are repeat authors.”

It’s commercial publishers who have been far faster in creating new journals, in order to further increase profits, as Michael Eisen writes:

“Long before the Internet, publishers discovered that launching new journals was like printing money – something Elsevier specialized in for decades, launching hundreds of new journals with hastily assembled editorial boards and then turning around and demanding that libraries subscribe to these journals as part of their β€œBig Deal” bundles of journals. These journals succeeded because there are always researchers looking for a place to put their papers, and many of these new journals greased the wheels by having fairly lax standards for publication.”

Midway through writing this post, I saw that the Scholarly Kitchen has already posted on the likely lack of effect from the resignations, though with a slightly different angle, comparing impact factors of old and new journals when editorial boards resigned. Their conclusion is that this is just a tempest in a teapot.

And maybe they are right, if you just focus on the editorial board. But the real story is not so much the resignation of the editorial board but what caused it: authors refusing to agree to the publisher’s terms. So what gives me hope is not editorial boards (why are they giving free labor to Informa anyway?) but authors who are paying more attention to contracts and open access issues. That could be a sign of a groundswell that will bring real change to scholarly communication.

Worth Reading

Project Information Literacy has an interview with Peter Suber. It’s particularly interesting to hear how he got involved in open access.

Nature has a special open issue on scientific publishing. All the articles are worth reading, but I especially recommend John Wilbanks’ License Restrictions: A Fool’s Errand advocating CC-BY licenses ( annotations are on his blog) and a very informative article, The True Costs of Science Publishing.

Curt Rice posts about why OA enhances academic freedom, rather than detracts from it as some have claimed.

MIT’s faculty open access policy is now 4 years old, and their library shares personal thanks for article access (during last year’s Open Access Week, MIT had a great article about the policy’s worldwide impact). Documenting this is hugely important. First, it shifts the discussion to the good things that are happening rather than hypothesizing about the bad things that might happen .01 percent of the time under OA. Second, and more importantly, it establishes a narrative that goes beyond the rationale for OA. As research in psychology tells us, people remember stories, not facts. (Positive narratives are also badly needed for ETDs). See how MIT solicited these stories through a feedback mechanism in their institutional repository:

MIT repository feedback mechanism

MIT’s repository feedback mechanism

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