Recent readings on open access and academic publishing (Part 2)

Photograph Archaeology of Bathing by Mal Booth on 500px

Archaeology of Bathing by Mal Booth on 500px  (public art, because I don’t like cats)

And so dear friends, Part 2 begins … having finished my sandwiches (as Gerard Hoffnung would say).

Do we really have a problem with low quality academic journals? This post by Witold Kieńć from openscience was made in late January, but I only found it this morning. He discusses the problems surrounding the hunt for better impact factors and the imperative to publish or perish in order to improve academic reputation. Witold asks whether low quality journals are really that much of a problem, but recognises the issue with predatory and poor quality journals. Whilst some see the latter as a waste of public money, Witold says they do no harm to knowledge development. Furthermore, if such publications are blocked we may well be preventing the development of excellent quality journals for years simply because they are new or innovating in new ways. Witold says the “noise” created by such journals can easily be filtered.

John Dupuis gathers and briefly analyses even more material on a similar subject in ScienceBlogs with his post Some perspective on “predatory” open access journals. John sees the need for more balance in reporting about predatory journals and more pressing issues in scholarly communications (i.e. flaws and limitations in the peer review system and the far more predatory traditional publishing system that is responsible for the big paywalls). He presents links to other resources discussing the major issues with a need for reform of peer review and to cases of significant retractions or scientific fraud that got past peer review in traditionally published journals. Finally he presents some very interesting links to articles since early 2014 that point out the ways the major commercial publishers are still controlling scholarly publishing and charging enormous amounts of money for it, even open access material.

A related article that I read only recently was published by the Huffington Post late in 2014. It was written by Jason Schmitt and titled Academic Journals: The Most Profitable Obsolete Technology in History. Jason highlights the unsustainable and unaffordable nature of the current publishing system for academic journals. “In contrast to the exorbitant prices for access, the majority of academic journals are produced, reviewed, and edited on a volunteer basis by academics who take part in the tasks for tenure and promotion.” This costly system causes problems for even the wealthier institutions like Harvard, but he says it wreaks havoc on smaller US institutions. (And I can assure you that it is just the same for Australian institutions.) Steep prices are further compounded by big deals and costing models where institutions are forced to buy packages including many titles that will never be used. The article questions whether we now need journals as they were traditionally conceived, i.e. in the days of print publishing. He suggests that a digital revolution is now possible for academic researchers which would remove most costs from the current system and be more suited to digital publishing and hosting. One major problem with this brave new world is the conservative nature of most academics who still seem to be quite comfortable with the current environment. But funding heavy weights such as the US NIH and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are throwing their support behind open access and this could point to change. Finally, Jason points out “we, the people, deserve access”.

I’ll finish Part 2 with a link to a short film about the Hague Declaration that is to be launched on 6 May in Brussels. This declaration is still in draft form (so you won’t be able to read and sign it until after it is launched), but it aims to improve access to facts, data and ideas for knowledge discovery in the digital age, so it nicely connects to the sentiments expressed by Jason above. Their aim is to remove the barriers to access and analysing knowledge and data. The short film about it can be viewed here: https://vimeo.com/118462366  I think this is something all librarians should get behind.

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Recent readings on open access and academic publishing (Part 1)

Hello Sports Fans!

I’ve been reading a few pretty thoughtful and useful articles of late about open access publishing, traditional academic publishing and what might be wrong with and improved in these systems. So, I decided to bring all the links together here and offer you a wee comment on each for your viewing pleasure …

Firstly and perhaps most importantly there is this short article from Dr Sarah Kendzior who has left academia: Lip-Syncing to the Academic Conversation . Here she points out that only the privileged few have access, even if they’ve actually written the article or been cited by someone else. As she says “academia is an industry designed on insularity”. Maybe this can only truly be understood from outside our walls? She also points out that the relentless pursuit of career goals and value for money has led to us forgetting what should be a most basic goal: the furthering of knowledge.

More recently via techdirt I saw this article that makes a point not so far removed from Sarah’s gripes above: Don’t Think Open Access Is Important? It Might Have Prevented Much Of The Ebola Outbreak. It goes on to claim that the conventional wisdom about the non presence of the Ebola virus in West Africa before 2013 was wrong because the most up-to-date research was locked away behind paywalls and that the download charges were unaffordable even to the Liberian co-authors of some of the research. . It is a long bow to draw to suggest that the crisis might have been completely avoided if the research was freely available, but still …

Prof, no one is reading you was published less than a week ago in The Straits Times as an opinion piece. The authors say that an average academic journal article is fully read by about 10 people. They suggest (as I did recently) that authors need to start combining some short form journalism with this long form research to promote their research in order to get it read more widely. Furthermore the authors say that 82% of humanities articles are never cited, whilst only 68% of the social sciences and 73% of the of the natural sciences receive citations. They also complain about the sheer volume of material and jargon that one has to wade through in most articles. This is needed if that research is to have any impact at all with policy makers and practitioners and they give some very illuminating examples of why this is such a problem with key research into resources like water. It certainly made me think. And here is some further research from LSE into those poor citation rates (which seems to back up the figures used above): Are 90% of academic papers really never cited? Reviewing the literature on academic citations.

The authors of that article would probably applaud two recent posts from PLOS blogs. Firstly, there was How Articles Get Noticed and Advance the Scientific Conversation, which illustrates and explains the importance of social media in promoting research articles and in engaging with readers. And secondly there was Ask our authors anything: new PLOS ‘AMA’ series debuts on redditscience. So PLOS has started using that popular reddit Ask Me Anything series to help explain the science behind their research articles. I reckon this is F A N T A S T I C!

And just to further the point re promotion of research, openscience has a handy series of four posts starting at How to promote an Open Access book? Part 1: Networking. (The next three on Abstracting and Indexing, publisher’s brand and the traditional ways are linked from that first post.)

That’s all for my Part 1. I’ll give you all a little break now for being such good readers. Smoke if you’ve got them …

Reinventing University Publishing – my perspective

This is the presentation I gave as part of a panel representing the perspectives of Open Access publishers in Australian universities, in my case UTS ePress.

PDF version on Google Drive

And here is a PDF version with my speaker’s notes:

UTS ePress future (notes)

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My place in time – photo project

Featured image

https://flic.kr/p/qa6pXt

So I ran across this project via the twitter and decided to give it a go: https://blackcurrantphotography.wordpress.com/the-my-place-in-time-photo-project/ Currently I’m posting my images to Tumblr via Flickr (as I didn’t want to re-caption the Flickr originals).  In order to keep track on my progress, I’ll progressively add links to the content I’ve uploaded against Kell’s list below: The list.

  1. The price of fuel/petrol.
  2. A mode of transportation.
  3. Teenage wasteland – use your common sense when photographing kids that aren’t yours.
  4. A small business.
  5. A view you pass on your way to work. And here too.
  6. Construction And here too.
  7. Destruction
  8. Something that was here 10 years ago.
  9. The corner shop or deli – basically anywhere you run to if you need something late at night.
  10. Where I go to relax.
  11. I can’t believe the news today.
  12. My favourite restaurant.
  13. What arrived in the post.
  14. A local service – think delivery/post/bin collection/ranger.
  15. People playing sport.
  16. An outing with friends (with the background in shot).
  17. Somewhere I used to visit as a kid.
  18. A handwritten note from someone I love.
  19. Something that was here 20 years ago.
  20. The end of the day. And here too.
  21. What I can see from my window. And here too.
  22. A river view.
  23. The price of a cup of coffee.
  24. Something I’ve never seen before – this can include a place.
  25. How we communicate.
  26. A view with train/rail lines in it.
  27. My favourite thing to drink – make sure the label is in shot.
  28. The receipt for something I bought today.
  29. Three O’Clock in the afternoon.
  30. How I tell the time – I know most of us use our phones these days. Be creative!
  31. Graffiti – If you can see the artist’s name please credit them. And here too.
  32. A sculpture.
  33. Nothing but trees.
  34. This sign makes me laugh.
  35. The view from somewhere high up.
  36. One kilometre from my house.
  37. The view from the end of my street.
  38. I’m in a supermarket.
  39. A ticket.
  40. A trip to the movies/cinema.
  41. What’s showing at the movies.
  42. This week’s music chart.
  43. Something old.
  44. A busy intersection – Do not take this whilst driving!
  45. Authority – Police, security, someone in a position of power. Be respectful and don’t get in the way.
  46. On my way to work/school.
  47. I wish this place had never changed.
  48. Ten dollars in my currency – this will be more interesting if you use change.
  49. I had to stop the car and take a photo.
  50. Somewhere I used to live.
  51. Someone outside your family/group of friends that you would miss if they were gone.
  52. This place has been here for my whole life.
  53. If I had kids I would want to take them here.
  54. Somewhere I visited with my first love.
  55. Out on a date – if you are single then photograph a date with friends or family.
  56. Power / electricity.
  57. A neon or electric sign.
  58. A concert or show poster.
  59. Somewhere I visit every day – not the toilet!!!
  60. A postcard – why not buy it and send it to a friend?
  61. Postage stamps from my country.
  62. Postage stamps from another country.
  63. I wish I didn’t have to pay this bill!
  64. A car I would love to own. And here too.
  65. The car I do own (or bike/scooter etc). And here too.
  66. Where all the cool kids go.
  67. It’s show time – interpret as you wish.
  68. Somebody’s special day.
  69. A photo from the coast.
  70. To market, to market.
  71. Fresh produce.
  72. A local playground – Again, use your common sense. Photograph your kids or a friends or wait til nobody is there. Don’t be creepy.
  73. Education.
  74. If I had a permanent marker, I would correct this sign.
  75. Road work.
  76. Somewhere I belong.
  77. Somewhere I don’t belong.
  78. My local library.
  79. Waiting for a bus.
  80. This week’s trashy magazines.
  81. I bought a Lottery ticket.
  82. An old painted sign on the side of a building.
  83. The view from the passenger’s seat. And here too.
  84. Some groceries I bought this week.
  85. Where I was at 11:11 am.
  86. Where I was at 11.11pm.
  87. A car numberplate.
  88. A shop that’s no longer open.
  89. This place is for sale.
  90. Coca-Cola. – It’s been around for most of our lives. Let’s see how it looks around the world.
  91. The price of a Big Mac at McDonald’s.
  92. On the way to the airport.
  93. Out on a bushwalk / hike. And here too
  94. Only in my country.
  95. Absolute junk.
  96. Street lights.
  97. Friday afternoon.
  98. How I spend Sunday morning.
  99. Someone I’ve just met.
  100. My place in time – any photo at any time of the day that describes how you feel with life.

Are libraries Blockbuster in a Netflix world?

I read this earlier today via Zite, over breakfast at a cafe near our library:

http://www.digitaltonto.com/2014/a-look-back-at-why-blockbuster-really-failed-and-why-it-didnt-have-to/

It talks about the demise of Blockbuster and the rise of Netflix. Blockbuster made some dumb business decisions and ignored some possible ways to stay afloat, but the author Greg Satell talks about the importance of networks in Netflix’s rise. Blockbuster’s failure to understand the importance of networks also determined their fate. He says that those networks are very difficult to quantify or define, but that we’ve not really tried to understand their importance.

Even though we may work in a much smaller ecosystem (e.g. our library serves a University community), I really believe that our own future strongly depends on what we do within, and how we encourage and contribute to, our own networks. That is why I keep stressing the critical nature of engagement and the fact that everything we do is somehow connected to something else we do. Virtually nothing we do in libraries can actually be sustainably successful if we do it in isolation. I think the chase for efficiency in libraries has actually encouraged silos to develop and this works against those connections we must have within libraries. So far I think we* actually understand this and we actively seek to connect within and to those outside the library pretty well, but it is something we cannot ignore and that we must continue to invest in. The networks we participate in, encourage and contribute to have a positive effect on the development and relevance of our library and we should make them major considerations in all we do. To quote from Greg Satell @digitaltonto :

… we really haven’t scratched the surface on the networks we encounter in real life: The networks of consumers that make up our brands and industries as well as the organizational networks that determine how things get done—or don’t get done—in our enterprises.

And it’s imperative that we start thinking about them more seriously.  We need to stop acting as if there is a recipe for business—like a cake or a casserole—and start thinking in terms of how factors are connected.

I am now going to take this analogy a little further… I think the focus of libraries should already be moving from being all about the collections we develop and provide access to, measured mostly in size of collections and numbers of visitors, to the unique collections (of both knowledge and culture) that we help to create and then share with our networks. That, as Greg said, is something that is harder to define and measure. Of course the other key advantage that all libraries have, even in universities, is that they are cultural institutions. Culture provides context for all knowledge, but flourishes within libraries only when it is kept alive.

* UTS Library

UTS Library Retrieval System

The slide show above illustrates the progress from excavation and building to loading of the operational LRS itself. 

As you read this UTS Library staff are busy overseeing the load of more than 400,000 books into the Library’s new automated retrieval system (LRS) under Alumni Green. It is exciting to see years of planning come to fruition and to be so close to realising the benefits of the LRS.

By storing low-use physical items in this purpose-built retrieval system we will be able to relieve overcrowding on book shelves in the Library and make room to continue to expand our collection of print resources. Regular library visitors will have noticed the tightly-packed shelves and perhaps occasionally been frustrated by difficulty in locating books. From the end of 2014, only the newest and most highly-used physical items will be housed on open shelves, making it easier to browse and locate items amongst the most popular books from our collection. The LRS also allows for the merger of the Blake and Kuring-Gai libraries at the end of 2015.

We realize that older items in our collection continue to have value and need to remain easily accessible. This was the rationale behind building an on-site retrieval system, rather than using off-site storage from which books could only be retrieved irregularly. Material in our LRS will be delivered regularly, with deliveries scheduled several times each day. It is also the reason we’ve been busy making enhancements to our catalogue so you can find new ways to discover items in our collections by searching and browsing online. Shelf View lets you browse a ‘bookshelf’ displaying book covers, our ‘collection ribbon’ is a unique way to delve in to our collection by subject, and we are working on recommendations and personalisation.

The LRS will therefore let us continue to build our collections, with room to expand to at least 2040, in a carefully controlled and secure environment ensuring the long-term preservation and protection of this valuable resource. It will also help us make our collection accessible by relieving overcrowding on book shelves. Of equal importance, it will help us meet the needs of our clients from study spaces as teaching and learning changes and our student population grows. Currently library space is dominated by book shelves, but increasingly we hear from clients, and observe ourselves, that there are not enough places to study in the Library. And we know we need diverse spaces to facilitate different types of learning from quiet, individual study to participatory group learning. This is why, once the lower use items in our collection are relocated to the LRS, we will be working on delivering new types of spaces for learning and research. We hope as well to provide spaces and technologies that facilitate access to productive activities such as multi-media, gaming and “maker” technologies because many of our students are no longer assessed purely on written output: they are making things like models, videos, games, etc.

We’ve tried to build sustainability into every aspect of the LRS. The building itself has major sustainability features*, and will store books in a highly compact format; storing the same amount of books in a traditional library would require a building 4-5 times larger. We’ve also paid attention to smaller details to reduce the environmental impact of our operations. That’s why, for example, our staff will walk between the LRS and the Blake Library using trollies and backpacks to deliver books, rather than rely on cars which add to traffic congestion and pollution.

The LRS presents an exciting opportunity to expand library services and collections for the future, helping the library play a central role in the learning, teaching and research activities of UTS. You can learn more about the LRS on our website http://www.lib.uts.edu.au/future-library/library-retrieval-system-lrs

* Sustainability Features:

There is no Green Star rating category for a facility such as the LRS, but it benefitted greatly from being constructed under the same project works as the 5 Green Star design rated Thomas St Building (an extension for the Science Faculty and Graduate School of Health). For example, the project utilised the sustainable concrete (required to be made with recycled rainwater) poured on the Thomas St Project for the LRS project. Other elements were the very strict waste management requirements, providing evidence of waste minimisation during construction. The design also incorporates significant natural lighting brought into the LRS picking station area via the large skylight that will double as a viewing lens from Alumni Green.

The LRS itself contains high-grade insulation which minimises energy consumption to the building to control thermal issues. A number of measures have been employed to ensure an easily maintained constant temperature in the book storage Vault. The LRS has been constructed under the Alumni Green with the 600mm of earth together with the insulated concrete providing excellent insulation, far exceeding the insulation requirements. The Vault is also insulated from the Plenum via lightweight insulated panels and insulated concrete and blockwork.

The Plenum itself pre-cools the air to be used in the facility by exposure to the constant cool temperature of exposed rock and concrete that surrounds it. The air path through the plenum is long and winding to ensure the maximum exposure to the surfaces and therefore maximum reduction of outside air temperature. The use of pre-cooled air reduces the energy required by the mechanical plant substantially.

Note: I’ve also posted this here https://www.lib.uts.edu.au/blog/university-librarian/2014/07/our-library-retrieval-system#

Cold in July – Review

Cold in July was my final film of the 2014 Sydney Film Festival. It is a film full of violence and variously described as pulpy, dark, horror/thriller and funny. I didn’t find it very funny at all. It is a rather odd film that starts with the shooting death of an intruder or “home invader” who appeared to be robbing the owners of valuables as they slept. Then the story becomes much more complex and it touches on subjects like revenge, police corruption, gun violence, snuff-porn and the exploitation of “illegal immigrants”. It was another poor choice on my behalf.

Despite the presence of accomplished actors like Michael C. Hall, Don Johnson and Sam Shephard I could find little to like. There were several plot twists, but I don’t think they were dealt with very well at all. And I may be wrong, but it looked as though the film was shot in a way to show 1989 as a rather colourless time in history through the use of subdued, almost sepia tones in many shots. I visited parts of the US in 1989 and can remember them quite clearly, although maybe Texas is an exception? It certainly wasn’t that colourless or faded to me.

I wasn’t sure whether the film was trying to tell a deeper story about the proliferation of shootings in the US or just relate the story from the original Joe Lansdale novel. It really didn’t do either justice.

Ordinary. 2.5/5