Open@VT

Open Access, Open Data, and Open Educational Resources

Category Archives: Open Access

TOME at Virginia Tech: A Progress Report

In 2017 Virginia Tech joined eleven other American universities in the launch of a 5-year pilot project called TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a bold new effort to change the landscape of scholarly book publishing. TOME is sponsored by the Association of American Universities (AAU)Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and Association of University Presses (AUPresses). All three of these national associations have a stake in ensuring that scholars can continue to write and publish long-form scholarship at a time when university presses find it increasingly difficult to publish monographs due to market-based concerns. The goal of TOME is to move beyond the old, print-based model of publishing and towards a new, more sustainable model—one in which university-funded grants make it possible for presses to publish deserving scholarly monographs regardless of sales potential.

The TOME pilot recently passed its halfway point, which makes it a good time for a progress report. Much of the following comes from the report I gave last October at the third annual TOME stakeholders meeting. (The full presentation can be seen on this page of the TOME website.) Here I want to present just a few of the key takeaways, after which I’ll briefly report on Virginia Tech’s experience with TOME.

As TOME enters the fourth year of the pilot, the early signs are encouraging. Over the first three years we’ve seen:

  • The number of participating universities grow from 12 to 20.
  • The number of participating publishers grow from 57 to 66.
  • Over $1m in grants paid out to participating publishers, resulting in 70 monographs published in Open Access editions with Creative Commons licenses.

Of course, the true test of TOME—whether or not it increases readership—is difficult to judge at this early stage. Scholarly monographs, unlike journal articles, typically take 3-5 years to take root in the scholarly landscape. Nevertheless, here, too, the early signs are encouraging. A preliminary analysis of the first 25 TOME monographs shows that:

  • The OA editions are being downloaded (chapters or the entire book) on average 2,566 times. That’s over six times the average sales of the print editions (412).
  • The average sales of the print editions is only about 10% less than print sales of comparable books on the publisher’s list (412 v. 445). This suggests that the OA editions are having, thus far at least, a modest impact on print sales.

Now let’s step back and see how TOME is faring at Virginia Tech.

To date, Virginia Tech has funded a total of 10 monographs by faculty in the College of Liberal Arts & Human Sciences (CLAHS) and the College of Architecture & Urban Studies (CAUS). The fields covered include Anthropology, Architecture, English, History, and Political Science. The books were published by four different university presses: University of Cincinnati Press, Cornell University Press, Duke University Press, and University of Florida Press. Altogether, the amount paid out to these publishers was $153,000 (9 grants of $15,000 + 1 grant of $18,000), with each grant being divided equally among the Provost’s Office, the University Libraries, and the faculty member’s college (CLAHS or CAUS).

Alas, it is too early to have much hard data on usage and readership because only one of the 10 Virginia Tech-funded monographs, A Colonial Affair by Danna Agmon, was published in time to be included in the list of the first 25 TOME titles. Still, the data on downloads and sales for Agmon’s book (shown below) are consistent with the previous graph.

Note that downloads of the OA edition (2,001) are more than eight times the sales of the print edition (237). Additionally, the OA edition has been accessed from at least 38 countries. This is especially important for scholars such as Agmon, who work on subjects outside of North America. (A Colonial Affair examines the history of French colonial India.) Indeed, one goal of TOME is to show that sales figures alone fail to capture the true value of scholarly monographs. An OA edition can reach a larger, more global readership both inside and outside the academy. In the end, this advances Virginia Tech’s core mission to be a global land-grant university.

Virginia Tech has committed to funding 5 more monographs between now and the end of 2022. If you are a faculty member at Virginia Tech and you are writing a monograph that you’d like to be considered for TOME, please contact me at PJP33atVT.EDU.

TOME books by Virginia Tech authors:

Announcing open textbook Fundamentals of Business, third edition

Cover of Fundamentals of Business 3rd edition

Virginia Tech Publishing and the Pamplin College of Business are pleased to announce the publication of Fundamentals of Business, third edition. This peer-reviewed open textbook is free to read and download online. Print editions are also available via print-on-demand. Fundamentals of Business, third edition is the required textbook for Virginia Tech’s MGT 1104 Foundations of Business course. This introductory course is required for all graduates of Pamplin College of Business and averages 1,650-1,700 students annually. Pamplin’s choice to use an open educational resource keeps student textbook costs for this course at zero. Fundamentals of Business, third edition is released under a Creative Commons license, and may be customized and redistributed non-commercially with attribution. 

Downloaded over 1.5 million times worldwide (excluding Virginia Tech downloads), the first and second editions of this book have been adopted by over 100 institutions beyond Virginia Tech. Multiple instititutions report customizing the content to fit their needs, for example producing this Canadian edition. Over fifty institutions benefit from the 4VA-funded faculty-only testbank collaboratively developed during a Virginia Tech-hosted 2019 test bank sprint in response to user requests.

Ron Poff, Assistant Professor of Practice in Management, and his team provided updates to this third edition. The 2020 team included Poff, course instructor Lisa Fournier, editorial assistant and recent Pamplin graduate Kathleen (Katie) Manning, design specialist Kindred Grey, Assistant Director of Open Education and managing editor Anita Walz, plus copyeditors Grace Baggett and Lauren Holt, and production manager Robert Browder. Poff and colleagues built on the work of Stephen Skripak, Anastasia Cortes, Anita Walz, Richard Parsons, Gary Walton, and Corinne Guimont, all of whom contributed to the development of previous editions. 

Virginia Tech’s first and second adaptations of Fundamentals of Business were published in 2016 and 2018. These editions were adapted from an existing openly licensed textbook with significant revision and addition of new material to ensure an excellent fit for the Foundations of Business at Virginia Tech. The 2020 team researched, redesigned, and contributed new content to update the learning resource. 

CC-BY-NC-SA logo

The book, licensed CC BY NC SA 4.0 is available in accessible HTML and interactive quizzing on the Pressbooks platform, in PDF, ePub, Mobi, ODT, and XML formats. Print on demand is also available at the manufacturer’s cost in color, and black and white. The third edition includes data updates, graphic redesign over 70 figures, updated content to reflect changes in technology, law, and economics, and inclusion of company examples more familiar to today’s students. The book includes images of people that are more representative of a diverse student body. The book’s publication on the University Libraries’ Pressbooks platform and through LibreTexts remix system enables customization and localization to fit various audiences.

This project was supported in part through by the University Libraries’ Open Education Initiative Faculty Grants program, Virginia Tech Publishing, and Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech.

Instructors evaluating, adopting, or customizing this book are asked to complete the following form: http://bit.ly/business-interest.

VTechWorks Update, Fall 2020

VTechWorks homepage

VTechWorks provides global access to Virginia Tech scholarship, and offers an easy way for members of the university community to provide open access to their work. The university’s institutional repository is managed by the University Libraries, and receives theses and dissertations from the Graduate School, as well as deposits from Elements (EFARs), the faculty reporting system, eliminating the need to switch platforms.

Here are the latest VTechWorks statistics:

  • 82,000+ items, 34,000 (41%) of which are theses and dissertations
  • 2,100+ items deposited by faculty from Elements (EFARs)
  • 3,000+ file downloads per day over the last year (on average, bots excluded)
  • 530 items collectively have more than 3,000 Altmetric mentions
  • 96% open access full text repository (4% are embargoed, withheld, or legacy citation/abstract-only items)
  • 51,500 items indexed in Google Scholar (7th highest among U.S. repositories); also indexed by Unpaywall, Microsoft Academic, all major search engines, SHARE, BASE, and the VT Libraries catalog
  • 400+ items linked to from English Wikipedia
  • Top traffic sources are Google, Google Scholar, VT.edu search, and Bing
  • BASE can be used to sync items in VTechWorks to ORCiD profiles
  • Accessed globally, with the highest usage (after the U.S.) from India, China, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and Canada
  • Provides a permanent URL (handle) for citing
  • Estimated 99.9% uptime

Recent items of interest (all videos):

Map of global usage for VTechWorks
VTechWorks usage by location, 2020

The easiest way for faculty to get their works into VTechWorks is to upload a file in Elements, because no registration is needed, and article metadata is often already present, which eliminates manual entry. Go to Menu > Publications and look for the upload arrow, which is the first in the row of icons underneath each entry (if you see the “double pages” icon, the item is already in VTechWorks).

upload arrow
Upload your file!
in repo
In VTechWorks

Deposit advice (such as which version you can legally deposit, and any publisher embargo) is automatically added to the deposit screen from Sherpa/Romeo, which aggregates journal policies for posting articles online. We are also happy to help anyone at VT identify which items they can legally post online – just email us at vtechworks@vt.edu. To learn more about open access, see our Open Access Guide. Students and staff should register and then email vtechworks@vt.edu and tell us which collection you would like to submit to. Faculty can also use this method if they prefer.

Recent and upcoming VTechWorks projects include:

  • Adding rights statements to the metadata for more items.
  • Improving captions for videos, which are now full text indexed.
  • Updating links to VTechWorks items in English Wikipedia.
  • Adding items to WorldCat (95% complete), which is also the discovery service for the University Libraries.
  • With the help of IT Services, we plan to test a pilot TDM studio. If implemented, it would expand usability for text and data mining.

We work every day to grow VTechWorks and provide effective global dissemination of scholarship by Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students. Contact us anytime with questions or comments at vtechworks@vt.edu.

A Big Deal Update

This Open@VT blogpost is part of an ongoing series on Virginia Tech’s pending negotiations with the scholarly publishing giant Elsevier. Virginia Tech is one of seven research universities in the Commonwealth of Virginia that negotiates collectively with Elsevier and other large publishers to license access to thousands of scholarly journals through what are commonly called “big deals.” (The other schools are George Mason University, James Madison University, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and College of William and Mary.) The current big deal agreement with Elsevier is set to expire at the end of 2021. As this deadline approaches, we are eager to engage the VT community in a conversation about the best path forward.

Two men standing, backs turned, at a reading table in a medieval library

University of Leiden Library, 1610 (Public Domain image)

More than a year has passed since the University of California terminated its multi-million-dollar bundled journal subscription agreement with Elsevier. The news was startling at the time, even more so given the size and importance of the UC system to Elsevier and to scientific research in general. So it is perhaps just as startling that the stalemate has continued, with no immediate signs of a resolution on the horizon. This post provides a brief update on the UC-Elsevier situation and then points to related developments elsewhere that, taken together, shed light on where big deal negotiations in general are headed.  

After negotiations between UC and Elsevier broke down in February, it wasn’t until July that Elsevier officially cut off UC’s access to new journal content on the ScienceDirect platform. Since then, UC has been working to ensure that faculty and students have alternative means of access to this new journal content.

The next move came in August when a group of prominent UC faculty pledged to step down from the editorial boards of Elsevier journals until the publisher agreed to return to the negotiating table. This, however, appears not to have had its desired effect. According to the UC Office of Scholarly Communication website, the parties have only engaged in “informal conversations” through the end of 2019. And while there were plans to “explore reopening negotiations” during the first quarter of 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak may very well have disrupted those plans.

Meanwhile, neither UC nor Elsevier has been waiting passively on the sidelines. Far from it.

In California the UC system has successfully negotiated open access publishing deals with several other scholarly publishers including Cambridge University Press, PLOS, and ACM. These deals all incorporate key elements of what UC is seeking from Elsevier. That is, they do more than simply curb the rising costs of journal subscriptions. They support, in one form or another, open access publishing for UC authors. This cost-access nexus makes them “transformative” agreements.

For its part, Elsevier has been negotiating new license agreements with institutions and consortia both here and in Europe. In some of these agreements institutions are opting out of big deals, replacing their existing bundled journals packages with smaller, a la carte journals packages targeted to the specific needs of their campuses. 

For instance, earlier this month the State University of New York Libraries Consortium and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced their decisions not to renew their big deals with Elsevier, making them part of a growing list of institutions opting out of big deals. (An up-to-date list can be found here.)

According to SUNY’s April 7 announcement, “While both parties negotiated in earnest and tried to come to acceptable terms for SUNY to maintain access to the full ScienceDirect package, in the end there was considerable disagreement around the value proposition of the ‘big deal.’” 

UNC Library tweets, 4 April 2020

The calculus was similar for UNC, which announced its decision on April 9. “I tried to work with Elsevier but we had no choice but to break our big deal,” tweeted University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks. “We are free to select what titles we want. No more ‘cable packages’ of journals that we don’t read or value.”

The virtue of replacing a “cable package” with an a la carte package is that it addresses the immediate problem of exponential cost increases. SUNY expects to save as much as $7 million from the $10 million it currently spends annually. UNC expects to save approximately $1 million from the current $2.6 million deal. On the other hand, Elsevier’s pricing structure is such that institutions are paying significantly more money per title, which means fewer titles. The full ScienceDirect package contains over 2,500 journals, but SUNY is subscribing to only 248. For UNC, the number is 395.

Few if any librarians would argue that such an agreement is a long-term solution to the problem posed by the big deal. One might even call these “little deals” because, although they address the immediate problem of escalating costs, they fail to deal with what most would agree is the bigger and more entrenched problem––that of opening access to a growing body of scholarly research that currently sits behind a paywall. In short, they are not transformative.

Meanwhile, Elsevier has been doing much more than just signing smaller subscription agreements with schools such as SUNY and UNC. They are, in fact, piloting new subscription agreement models that are, at least in part, transformative in that they combine subscriptions and open-access publishing fees into one price. Such agreements are now in place in Sweden and Ireland. Here in the US, at least two universities have reached transformative agreements with Elsevier: Carnegie Mellon University and, perhaps surprisingly, Cal State University

Under the terms of the Carnegie Mellon agreement, which became effective Jan. 1, 2020, CMU is no longer paying separately to access Elsevier’s catalog of paywalled content and to publish open-access articles in Elsevier journals. Carnegie Mellon scholars will have access to all Elsevier academic journals, and all articles with a corresponding CMU author published through Elsevier also will be open access.

According to the Cal State announcement, its agreement “offers excellent content for a fair price, purposefully equalizes access across all 23 campuses, and sets the stage for the CSU faculty to more fully engage in Open Access publishing in ways that make sense for them and their fields of research.”

Unfortunately, only certain details of these agreements are made public, and the devil is in the details. For instance, a price might seem fair at the outset but if the amount of money Elsevier collects depends on the number of faculty that publish in Elsevier journals, cost containment will continue to be a problem for libraries, which again will be caught in the big deal bind of uncontrollable cost increases.

Nevertheless, it is significant that Elsevier has changed its position somewhat over the course of the past year and is now willing to accept transformative agreements in principle. This, of course, is what UC has been asking for all along, so let’s hope that a resolution to the UC-Elsevier stalemate is coming soon. 

Finally, let me offer a few takeaways from these developments:

  1. After years of threatening to step away from the big deal, libraries are now actually doing it. And they are finding seemingly palatable ways to replace bundled packages with much smaller, a-la-carte packages—even if it means paying significantly more money per title. In short, this option is on the table when it comes time for Virginia’s schools to negotiate with Elsevier.
  2. Libraries are successfully engaging their campuses in these decisions rather than going it alone. At SUNY and UNC, the final list of titles was arrived at through faculty and librarian consultations, together with analytics gathered from tools such as Unpaywall. As a result, all indications are that campus support is high. See, for instance, the responses from UNC faculty on the UNC Library twitter feed. (And, of course, at UC the negotiating team was remarkably inclusive, bringing together members of the Academic (faculty) Senate, the UC (campus) Libraries, and the California Digital Library.) Here in Virginia, we are committed to this same level of engagement.  
  3. The more one digs into the data, the less of a “good deal” big deals prove to be. The fact that libraries are able to drop so many titles from their subscription packages and still retain faculty support tells us something significant about how many of the titles in these packages are truly indispensable. As an illustration, here at Virginia Tech our statistics show that 40% of Elsevier titles get 50 or fewer downloads per year.
  4. There is no roadmap yet for institutions to follow in negotiations with Elsevier. Agreeing to a smaller subscription package is not a long-term solution. And while Elsevier may have budged somewhat in its stance on transformative agreements, the publisher has proved again and again that it knows how to maintain its profit margin in any deal it makes. In short, it seems unlikely that Elsevier’s idea of a transformative agreement will look anything like what higher ed institutions have in mind. 

VTechWorks Update, Spring 2020

VTechWorks homepageVTechWorks is Virginia Tech’s institutional repository, providing global access to the scholarship of faculty, staff, and students, as well as hosting many university publications, images, and more.  Managed by the University Libraries, VTechWorks receives theses and dissertations from the Graduate School, and has a two-way connection to Elements, the faculty reporting system, allowing the deposit of files to the repository without the need to switch platforms.

Here are the latest VTechWorks statistics:

  • 79,000+ items, 33,800 (43%) of which are theses and dissertations
  • 2,000+ items deposited by faculty from Elements
  • 2,000+ file downloads per day over the last year (on average, bots excluded)
  • 313 items collectively have more than 2,000 Altmetric mentions
  • 96% open access full text repository (4% are embargoed, withheld, or legacy citation/abstract-only items)
  • 49,900 items indexed in Google Scholar (7th highest among U.S. repositories); also indexed by Unpaywall, Microsoft Academic, all major search engines, SHARE, BASE, and the VT Libraries catalog
  • Top traffic sources are Google, Google Scholar, VT web search, and Bing
  • BASE can be used to sync items in VTechWorks to ORCiD profiles
  • Accessed globally, with the highest usage (after the U.S.) from India, China, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, and Canada
  • Provides a permanent URL (handle) for citing
  • Estimated 99.9% uptime

Map of global usage for VTechWorks

VTechWorks usage by location, 2019

The easiest way for faculty to get their works into VTechWorks is to upload a file in Elements, because no registration is needed, and article metadata is often already present, which eliminates manual entry.  Go to Menu > Publications and look for the upload arrow, which is the first in the row of icons underneath each entry (if you see the “double pages” icon, the item is already in VTechWorks — please don’t add a duplicate).

upload arrow

Upload your file!

in repo

In VTechWorks

Deposit advice (such as which version you  can legally deposit, and any publisher embargo) is automatically added to the deposit screen from Sherpa/Romeo, which aggregates journal policies for posting articles online.  We are also happy to help anyone at VT identify which items they can legally post online – just email us at vtechworks@vt.edu.  To learn more about open access, see our Open Access Guide.  VTechWorks staff add some open access and public domain articles to the repository, but we cannot find them all.  Please do add open access articles after ensuring they are not already in VTechWorks.  Why? Publisher websites go down occasionally, and presence in the repository presents a better picture of research done at Virginia Tech (and is searchable from the the university’s homepage, vt.edu).

Students and staff should register and then email vtechworks@vt.edu and ask to be added to a collection as a submitter.  We would like to add more items to Student Works, where there are several collections to accommodate a variety of works from graduate or undergraduate students.  We’re especially interested in providing access to undergraduate theses and master’s projects, for those students who would like to make them available.

Recent and upcoming VTechWorks projects include:

  • Identifying  and removing duplicate items
  • Improving accessibility by using third-party captioning for our videos, and identifying any items lacking optical character recognition (OCR)
  • Providing better documentation for using VTechWorks as a research corpus, including accommodations for text and data mining (TDM) using the REST API (some documentation is on the DSpace wiki, and there are Python scripts for using the DSpace API)
  • Evaluating repository platforms for an expected migration in the next year (or two), which will also provide improvements in the user interface

We work every day to grow VTechWorks and provide effective global dissemination of scholarship by Virginia Tech faculty, staff, and students.  Contact us anytime with questions or comments at vtechworks@vt.edu.