My thoughts on #OpenAccess and libraries

Recently I posted about the plight of Diego Gomez who is facing trial for the crime of sharing knowledge. Gomez, of course, is not the first victim of heavy-handed attempts to stifle the sharing of knowledge through the misuse of copyright law and licence agreements, as the case of Aaron Swartz tragically illustrated. The Open Access movement, at heart, is an attempt to find new ways to share knowledge – ways which remove the current legal and economic barriers which make information a commodity affordable only by the privileged.

Earlier this week, Ginny Barbour the Executive officer of the Australian Open Access Support Group (AOASG), noted in some tweets (and if you’ve read this far you should follow her), that we are in a bit of a rut with Open Access advances and we need to start thinking about what is needed next. I agree. She went on to suggest that we need to develop Open Access as an ecosystem, with different models for different specialities and countries and then agree some priorities. I also agree with most of that but global agreement and ecosystems take time to develop; it will only come slowly and with lots of compromise. Facing large challenges can sometimes lead to entropy, but we should not be daunted by the task ahead, and the size of the challenge should not prevent us trying some new approaches, learning and moving on. I think that initiatives like OpenAIRE are very good (almost) global scale examples of this.

With that in mind I’d like to map out what I think we can do now and locally to support OA and build the ecosystems needed to make it sustainable, at least as far as I can tell from my perspective in an academic library. I do not think all of these elements are that well understood, but I do think that they all depend very much on each other and I am trying to make these things a focus for all of my colleagues at UTS Library:

  • advocating, shepherding, implementing and managing University Open Access policy. We have an OA policy at UTS, like many institutional OA mandates, it was originated and sponsored by the Library who now have the responsibility to implement it.
  • improving and managing our Open Access research repository. Ours is now called OPUS. With an OA policy in place we hope to significantly increase the proportion of works in the IR which are open and we’ve set in place some work flow process improvements that link to our research publications management systems that will help us regarding the OA policy implementation by making it easier for academics to deposit copies of their publications. We’re also busy making it all more findable.
  • providing and managing an Open Access press. UTS ePRESS is mostly a journal publisher, but we have started experimenting with monographs of late. We’re learning heaps by doing, improving its quality, meeting various standards (DOAJ, COPE, etc.) and promoting it widely. We are keeping an open mind on publishing and how we do it. I read an article just this week that questioned the need for journals and even articles in the age of the internet. It may not be feasible within the current academic system, but who knows in the future?
  • we’re involved in related system and infrastructure projects. Libraries have a role to play in creating the infrastructure which will support changes in scholarly publishing. For UTS Library these have included our recent Symplectic implementation, a move to ORCID identity management for our researchers, and a pilot project for the payment of certain article processing charges (APC).
  • education. We help to educate researchers in things like rights management (e.g. how to use the SPARC author’s addendum), data management, where to publish, Copyright, etc. There’s no better way to understand something than to teach it. We’re also learning more about the complex OA ecosystem ourselves through involvement in things like SPARC and COAR programs and a newly launched PKP project, The Open Access Publishing Cooperative Study that is looking towards a sustainable global OA model for research and scholarship (I’m on their advisory board).
  • advocacy. Here we do what we can with limited resources, by promoting the OA elements listed above, through regular events during OA week and by trying to model our belief in OA however we can.

The last point above brings brings me to my final point about librarians as researchers and advocates. As researchers ourselves, librarians, at least in Australia, continue to publish in journals behind pay-per-view walls (and I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past). Our flagship professional journals are published by commercial publishers. I’ve heard the many complex reasons for this, but I disagree with those reasons. When we choose to publish somewhere behind an expensive paywall, or after paying a massive APC for Gold OA, or after signing a publishing agreement which will allow Green OA only after lengthy embargo periods we are acting directly in opposition to our role as advocates for freedom of access to information and knowledge.

I think that I have learned over time that one size is not going to fit all for OA, but we still need to work towards a global ecosystem that is inclusive of those who need our help. I don’t have all the answers and I’m sure we could improve and continue to learn more. What are you doing in your library?

PS: I must add my thanks to my colleagues at work who make all of this happen and who also encouraged me to post this and provided advice on how to make it much better than my early draft! MMB

The awful case of Diego Gomez and barriers to #OpenAccess

This week I was quite upset by reading about the case of Diego Gomez, a Colombian graduate student who is standing trial, and possibly facing years in prison, for sharing an academic paper on Scribd, with his graduate school peers, some years ago. You can read more about his case and support him via EFF: Diego Gomez trial – EFF support.

This really got me quite angry thinking about how low on the totem pole the sharing of knowledge actually is in academia. The reality is that, because of the system we have, it falls well below the pursuit of individual careers and institutional reputations in a pretty bizarre, competitive and largely unfair game of rankings, ratings and impact factors that all works to reinforce an unsustainable market for academic publishing. (Remember here, that these are just my personal views, not those of my institution and also that I am actually part of that system, so I’m at least partially at fault.)

Governments and funding institutions need some metrics for research performance and output but the current measures for impact seem quite inadequate from a number of perspectives. Currently, they do not, and maybe they cannot, measure effectively and fairly “societal benefit”. As a vendor said to me earlier this week, sometimes the benefit from published research comes to fruition years down the track, so how can we account for that? The economic benefit of research to industry and the commercial sector can take ages to be realised and the links back to the original research may not be clear or comprehensive, so how much of this kind of impact should be directly attributable? The real impact of research is even harder to measure with less tangible outcomes like policy improvements or advances in areas such as public health.

Academics too need some agreed measures for career progression, but many are now openly questioning the value of the current publish or perish driver. It is especially debatable when it encourages and leads to situations in which the published research is locked away from those who might desperately need it by licenses that are unaffordable to all but elite and wealthy Western institutions that can afford the ridiculous fees charged by academic publishers; publishers who rely on academia for their content and then sell it back to them at prices that, as someone once noted, make Rupert Murdoch look like a socialist. Of course, this is news to nobody, but it does make Diego Gomez’ plight seem grossly unfair and unjust. It is an opportunity for us all, researchers, librarians, policy makers, to consider the limitations and inequities of the current system, and how we as individuals and institutions will address them.

As I was busy writing this post I noted with some interest that in an effort to make all publications by Dutch scientists available through Open Access by 2024, Dutch universities plan to boycott one of the big four academic publishers, Elsevier (from 2 July 2015). Apparently they were not able to even come close to an agreement with Elsevier.

30 Day Song Challenge (in one day)

I was late to this. Today I saw Chris Caines tweeting about his songs (he was catching up too) and decided to find the list and join in. So here they all are. I found it on Doctor J’s blog. So here we go, mind the step …

30 Day Song Challenge (2015)
DAY 01:  your favorite song   A Forest (Tree mix), The Cure (from Mixed Up. I’ve seen two of their “last concerts ever”.)
DAY 02:  your least favorite song  Who Are You, The Who (mainly now because of CSI, but I hated it well before they started using it & I refuse to provide a link to it)
DAY 03:  a song that makes you happy  Mack the Knife (live version, Ella Fitzgerald (she forgets some words and improvises)
DAY 04:  a song that makes you sad  re: Stacks, Bon Iver (because I associate it with Dad’s death last year)
DAY 05:  a song that reminds you of someone  And It’s Alright, Peter Broderick (because I had this played at my brother’s funeral. It was very sad.)
DAY 06:  a song that reminds you of home Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes (I don’t know why, but I love the change of time signature that they pull off at about 2:45)
DAY 07:  a song you never tire of hearing  True Faith, New Order (and the iconic music video I linked to broke new ground in 1987 – it is worth a whole blog post I think; or She’s Gone, The Brian Jonestown Massacre – for me this song is almost like tripping, it is all-encompassing and I just dive into it, all 7+ minutes of it)
DAY 08:  a song you know all the words to  Take a Picture, Filter (or Ripe & Ruin, Alt-J)
DAY 09:  a song that makes you want to dance Peter Pan, Jinja Safari (because ugly dancing)
DAY 10:  a song that helps you fall asleep Harry Patch (In Memory Of), Radiohead (it doesn’t send me to sleep, but it is soft and a melancholy)
DAY 11:  a song from your favorite band/artist In Between Days (Shiver Mix), The Cure (from Mixed Up)
DAY 12:  a song from a band/artist you hate  Anything by Justin Bieber (once again, no link)
DAY 13:  a song that is a guilty pleasure  Kids, MGMT (and I really don’t feel that guilty, but it was this or something from Coldplay)
DAY 14:  a song no one would expect you to love Unite Us, Pnau
DAY 15:  a song that could be the theme song to your life Ordinary, Red Riders (I wish they’d not split up, but I was fortunate enough to see their last Sydney show; or You Are A Tourist, Death Cab for Cutie – watch the video, I think it is brilliant!)
DAY 16:  a song you used to love but now hate Jelly Legs, Children Collide (I guess I don’t really hate it, but I do skip if it comes up on the Nano)
DAY 17:  a song you hear often on the radio Time to Wander, Gypsy & The Cat (well, I used to hear it when I was listening to the radio some years ago)
DAY 18:  a song that every bar band should know Closer to Fine, Indigo Girls
DAY 19:  a song that bar bands should stop playing Anything from Hot August Night, Neil Diamond (it could be banned or made illegal, so no link.)
DAY 20:  a song to listen to when you’re angry Johnny Appleseed, Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros (calms me down; makes me smile again)
DAY 21:  a song that is best heard live  Go Or Go Ahead, Rufus Wainwright (but I’ve also heard a fab version by Matthew Mitcham in his cabaret show)
DAY 22:  a song you wish you had written A Stillness, The Naked and Famous (I LOVE this song)
DAY 23:  a song you want played at your wedding Intro, M83 Feat. Zola Jesus (from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Disc1)
DAY 24:  your favorite song this time last year We Are Fine, Sharon Van Etten (& I still love it because it is truly beautiful. I first heard it on the US TV series Rectify.)
DAY 25:  a song with utterly mysterious lyrics Moth’s Wings, Passion Pit (I’ve never really tried to understand the lyrics)
DAY 26:  a song that is an “earworm”  Symphonies, Dan Black (in a good way mostly)
DAY 27:  a song you wish you could play/sing  The Shining, Badly Drawn Boy (another very beautiful song first heard on the US series Queer As Folk. They always selected outstanding music to close each episode.)
DAY 28:  a song from your childhood  The Boy With a Moon and Star on his Head, Cat Stevens (I was a big fan)
DAY 29:  a song you want played at your funeral Read My Mind, The Killers (The lyrics are wonderful, especially “The stars are blazin’ like rebel diamonds, cut out of the sun…”)
DAY 30:  a song you discovered this month (during the Challenge)  Love Will Tear Us Apart, Joy Division (well, more rediscovered actually, but I love that someone had it down as a song to be played at a wedding)

The Invitation – review #sydfilmfest

The Invitation is supposed to be a slowburn thriller or a “riveting horror film”, set around a dinner party reunion of a group of friends (plus two others). Our hero Will (Logan Marshall-Green) returns to his old home with his girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi), two years after the death of his young son. His ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard) and her new husband David (Michiel Huisman) are hosting a dinner party for a group of old friends. Like most dinner parties, it begins very slowly, someone is late and it is all rather awkward. One of the problems with this film is that there are simply too many characters to be introduced and then ignored. This takes an age, isn’t effectively done and in doing so we are soon treated to a series of odd facial expressions straight out of the early years of Home and Away.

It continues to move along at a slow pace, with very little happening along the way. We know something is going to happen because you know, we bought tickets for a horror flick, but it just isn’t riveting, so I started getting distracted by things. From what I saw of the house, it didn’t look much like a contemporary home. It looked a little like a darkly-lit version of the Brady Bunch family home. Then it seemed that quite a lot of the guests (I won’t name them because most were not memorable) had been dressed by Alice the maid from Mr & Mrs Brady’s old wardrobe. Eden, however, was dressed and made up like the wife of one of those guys who runs tournaments for slaves, gladiators and lions in an ancient Rome TV series. But I digress …

Along the way we are introduced to a cult that has supposedly helped Eden deal with her grief. It was during this period that I started wondering whether this film was the Hollywood film version of an Instagram selfie. Let’s not get stuck there tho’.

Eventually, the ever suspicious Will has his first brain-fart, but his theory about what is happening is quickly assuaged when the missing guest finally shows up. Later on, much later on, after more gnashing of teeth (mostly Will’s), the proverbial does hit the fan and we are all relieved that something did eventually happen. It just wasn’t terribly thrilling and what does happen is left far too late.

Only lasts 90 mins but it seems much longer. 2.5/5

Phoenix – review #sydfilmfest

Billed as a mystery, I thought Phoenix was more of a complex exploration of forgiveness, love, betrayal and rebuilding in Berlin immediately after the Second World War. It moves at a gentle pace, allowing tension to build and this is very skilfully accomplished. We are left asking all kinds of questions about the reasons and motives for betrayal, and then perhaps wondering what we’d have done in the same situation. How much does true love influence forgiveness? And ultimately, are there limits to this kind of forgiveness?

It is easy to see the successful rebuilding of Berlin the city and now it is almost impossible to imagine the post-war destruction that obliterated some districts, but what of the people? How long does it take to heal, forget or forgive those wounds and losses? A generation or more? Phoenix made me think about all of this more deeply than my most recent visit to Berlin late last year.

The film is very well produced and presented and the story keeps you guessing right up to the end. It certainly didn’t end as I had expected and maybe that tells you something about how you might have reacted if faced with this kind of moral dilemma.

Everybody I spoke to thought highly of this film. Very well done. 4/5

Spring – review #sydfilmfest

This film very successfully blends romance, drama, comedy and the supernatural. It has something for everyone! The acting is good, the script is tight and contains some witty dialogue and it is very well shot in some spectacular locations.

My only minor complaint, and it is just a personal preference, is that the monster could have been defined a bit better and behaved more neatly. I prefer my monsters to be more predictable and reasonably good looking like most vampires or werewolves. The monster in this film is particularly messy.

A good night out. 3.5/5

The Tribe – review #sydfilmfest

So I decided to provide my review in a manner similar to the way the film was presented, with no dialogue, nor any subtitles for the Russian sign language.

The first paragraph is presented in the form of my written impression of the Russian sign language:                                                                                  .                                                                      .                                 !                                                                                    .                                                                  ;                                                                            ?

The second paragraph was going to be a long winded and repetitive set of points on exactly the same subject that would be really annoying and pointless to read, but I decided not to put you through that after all. (Unlike the film.)

The following 27 paragraphs are just more of the same. Work it and try to stay awake as this will take some time.

There is no concluding paragraph. I just could not be bothered.

Don’t read the critical self-indulgent reviews. In my opinion it isn’t radically new and pure expression, this film is a dud. 1/5