Why Open Access and What Is It?

More slides from a talk that I gave to UTS Information and Knowledge Management students before Open Access Week 2015. I was on a panel of people talking on a range of related subjects and answering student questions.

OA week for IKM (slides in pdf format)

I posted this in advance of Open Access Week 2015 (19-25 October) but together with my colleague Scott Abbott from UTS ePress, I will add some relevant information about Open Access each day over the course of the week.

Daily Update #1

So you want to find more Open Access content and you’re not sure where to look? Well, here are a few options:

Firstly Google Scholar which indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an many publishing formats and disciplines, but it will deliver results that are not all Open Access.

CORE aggregates all open access research outputs from repositories and journals worldwide. And to quote from CORE’s mission, it “supports the right of citizens and general public to access the results of research towards which they contributed by paying taxes”.

JURN is a search engine that primarily was aimed at indexing free and Open Access ejournals in the arts and humanities. In 2014 the scope of JURN was widened to include other open scholarly publications, such as theses and also ejournals in science, biomedical, business, law and ecology/nature related topics.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) is an online directory that indexes and provides access to high quality, open access, peer-reviewed journals.

Daily Update #2

In his pre-OA Week Google+ post, Peter Suber urges us to use OA week to talk to everyone we know about Open Access, making the case for it in face-to-face conversations. He is one of the wisest and strongest global advocates for Open Access and he urges us not to lead with “readings”. Nevertheless, he provides a really useful list of references so you can get the story correct and I think they are well worth listing here. Thanks Peter!

Daily Update #3 (thanks Scott!) When You Work in the Open, Everyone Can Be a Collaborator

Open Science, Open Government, Open Data, Open Software are a part of the broader Open Movement of which Open Access is a central part. As this article by Elliot Harmon, of Electronic Frontier Foundation sets out, open access to the research enables collaboration across an incredibly broad range of areas.

Example 1. By using open software and open data/open science practices (such as open lab books), scientists can pool their research online and collaborate more effectively – as has been done by Sydney University’s Matthew Todd and colleagues. Todd, and his fellow researchers speed up the process of sharing their results and finding a cure for Malaria.

Example 2. The free Open Journal Systems software provided by the Public Knowledge Project allows scholars across the globe to publish any kind of scholarly peer reviewed journal. Indeed, UTS ePRESS uses a customised version of OJS to publish its 14 open access journals and Open Conference Systems to publish its conference series.

Example 3. To finish with, a wonderfully direct and incredibly inspiring example of open collaboration between a citizen scientist and more established researchers is the case of then 16 year old Jack Andraka (mentioned in the EFF piece above). Andraka, while a sophomore in high school was devastated by the loss of an uncle to pancreatic cancer. As a result, he researched open access articles from Pub Med Central and over time developed a possible, cheap and effective early test for that cancer. His inspiring TED talk is here. And here is a blog post Jack wrote for PLOS about Open Access way back in 2013: http://blogs.plos.org/thestudentblog/2013/09/27/7665/ 

These are just three brief but concrete examples of what collaboration can achieve across the open movements. What other “open” success stories can you discover?

Daily Update #4 : Featuring the latest MediaObject from UTS ePRESS: Lace Narratives

Later today we have a talk for Open Access Week by our new Assistant Deputy Vice Chancellor for Education, Professor Peter Scott. He comes to us fresh from the The Open University (UK) and will discuss his experince in developing Open Educational Resources. Right after that and following that theme and also the OA Week theme of “Open for Collaboration” we will launch our latest MediaObject and monograph Lace Narratives on the work of Cecilia Heffer. The publication is composed of an Open Access digital edition of the book along with a seven-minute video documenting Cecilia creating the lace-work Drawn Threads. A print-on-demand edition of the book will be available to purchase shortly. Additionally, a limited edition artist’s book with lace samples bound into the pages will be publicly available through selected libraries and museums, including the UTS Library. This is an experimental publication model conceived by Zoë Sadokierski for the MediaObject book series and produced with support from the UTS Library. See more at: http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/books/lace-narratives

Daily Update #5 (Yes, I’m afraid this is a Monday-Friday thing. Besides I cannot brain anymore for OA this week.)

Open Access, Human Rights and the Future

In a blog post critiquing the ongoing use of the  #icanhazpdf – or “secret codeword” for sharing paywall-restricted scholarly content online via twitter – EFF author Elliot Harmon, makes an important point. He argues that use of this sharing technique is only effective for some and, in fact, does little to change the status quo of traditional academic publisher practice: limiting access to only the wealthy/lucky few. This point feeds in to the post’s main theme that “Open Access is a human rights issue”.

Harmon goes on to cite two cases where a researcher and OA activist ran afoul of the law for downloading/sharing pay-walled scholarly content. The first case cited is the ongoing saga being endured by researcher Diego Gomez who ignored the “rigidity of copyright law” and shared pay-walled scholarly content with other researchers. His legal trial continues.

The second case cited is the tragic death of OA and human rights activist Aaron Swartz who was threatened by the US Justice Department with 30 years of jail time and a million dollar fine for “accessing millions of articles via MIT’s computer network without “authorization.”” As a result of this immense pressure, Aaron, at age 26, hung himself in his apartment. A really moving and insightful documentary about Aaron’s short but incredible life – “The Internet’s Own Boy” – was released in 2014 and is well worth a look.

The second article, which we will finish the OA Week blog with, is a look to the future:

In her LSE blog Opening Up Open Access: Moving beyond business models and towards cooperative, scholar-organized, open networks Kathleen Fitzpatrick asks “What will be required in order to motivate scholars to take the lead in forming collective, cooperative, scholar-organized and -governed publications on open networks?”

While acknowledging the continued exciting and innovative development in “OA land”, Fitzpatrick suggests that the OA movement may have recently focused too much on the business models of making research free and open at the expense of ensuring that researchers themselves take charge of their own futures in regard to publishing. She questions whether two problems are the cause of the slow movement in this area:

  1. The problem of whether scholars having to get involved with the publishing process is too much for most of them – who were not trained for that work – and the resulting lack of credit they get at the institutional/funding level even if they do happen to launch/run/edit a scholarly journal.
  2. Second problem: “Scholars continue to publish in venues that have established imprimaturs, and in venues that they have no editorial hand in, because those two factors continue to be privileged by the various review mechanisms up the chain.” Fitzpatrick answers herself stating that scholar-led publishing collectives can be just as, and even more rigorous in peer review. They can give the imprimatur needed to be well rated further “up the chain”.

Fitzpatrick’s insightful conclusions (also recently and eloquently advocated by Lars Bjørnshauge here) are best presented in her own words:

But I think, in the coming years, we need to pay as much attention to shifting the requirements of those review mechanisms up the chain, whether institution- or funder-based, in order to persuade them that impact and prestige might not necessarily correlate, that rigor need not necessarily require distance, and that all publications — from the individual scholarly blog to the most carefully edited monograph — demand to be evaluated on their own terms, with an understanding of the possibilities each presents for the increase in knowledge we all seek.

On that note, we’d like to wish you a happy and successful conclusion to OA Week 2015 and all the best for your future endeavours!


Great Videos from the Aspen Leadership Roundtable on Library Innovation (Pt. 2 of 2)

In this second part, I feature the talk by Michelle Ha Tucker, from IDEO. She deals with Library Innovation By Design.

Michelle’s talk is very easy to understand and quite inspiring for those thinking of taking this path. It is the path we’ve been on for some five or six years in developing a design mind-set with the aid of several design mentors and guides from UTS and elsewhere around Sydney. I’d agree with her observations and recommendations.

She described user centred design or design thinking as more of an approach than a process and then runs through a few different ways to describe the various stages that you tend to work through such as Inspiration > Ideation > Iteration > Scale, or Explore & Understand > Synthesize > Prototype > Refine & Scale, or simply moving from Research through a Concept Prototyping phase into Design. What I liked most is that she also said the best way to learn about it is to actually start doing it. There are a number of guides and toolkits around that can help. For example Design Thinking for Libraries, the Design With Intent Toolkit, and the (Social) Innovator’s Toolkit.

Michelle sees three reasons libraries should try design thinking:

  1. Libraries are the last great living lab (for designers?): we have dedicated spaces, a steady stream of users who can be observed and questioned on a day-to-day basis. And you can prototype, experiment and co-create with a diverse range of people.
  2. Librarians are great service designers. They really know their users best and the challenge is empowering front-line staff to create better solutions.
  3. Libraries are networked community infrastructure. We are at the centre of the communities strength and resilience connecting education and learning systems, public safety, economic development and civic engagement. MIchelle believes  the best solutions are systemic, complex and cross institutional, so with libraries at the centre of all of this, we’re well positioned to connect and make those partnerships deliver. The partnerships must be activated.

Michelle also recognised some tensions or barriers such as moving from:

  • just reflecting on data (historical benchmarking) to imagining a future or possibilities;
  • research answers questions to (design) research opens up new questions (be comfortable with ambiguity);
  • organisation structured around operational teams to an organisation driven by strategic teams; and
  • failure is avoided (at all costs!) to failure is invited.

Some resolutions or thought starters: hiring T-shaped people with one depth but a broad affinity with others and also X-shaped people who have developed expertise in two different areas (like art and science). Those people will lead changes in libraries.

On Innovation, Michelle said it was a verb (not a noun), both process and outcome, something that can be taught and about thinking big and starting small. It is not always new and she encourages taking something you see and contextualising it for your needs.

Finally she said that change happens at a large scale not top-down, but by empowering people on your front-line to act.

Great Videos from the Aspen Leadership Roundtable on Library Innovation (Pt. 1 of 2)

Over the last two days I’ve watched and noted a couple of great videos from a recent event in Aspen on Library Innovation. The two speakers were Michelle Ha Tucker from IDEO on Library Innovation By Design and John Seely Brown on Re-imagining Libraries for the C21st. I think they are both great talks and very relevant to what we are engaged in at UTS – designing a future library, its services and our future organisation. I recommend watching both videos, but for those too lazy to take notes, I’ve done that for you below, with a few of my own observations thrown in for good measure. So here we go, mind the step …

John Seely Brown (hereafter known as JSB) is talking about re-imagining public libraries in the C21st, but most of what he says can equally be applied within a university community.

He begins by saying that the challenge is not developing new ideas, but escaping old ideas. He says we face exponential advances in computational technologies that rapidly become almost irrelevant on what is now as short as an 18 month cycle. So how do we keep pace with that and plan a future library that can adapt quickly and transform as the eco-system changes?

I like the quote he uses from David Weinberger who says we live in a time of “Too big to know”. Knowledge is now in networks; topics have no boundaries and nobody agrees on anything. We must learn to deal with ambiguity in our daily lives and in learning.

We are moving from “stocks” (protected and fixed) to “flows” (tacit, created knowledge that flows and moves and this makes it much harder to capture).

Everyone now is embedded in vast networks with libraries already in or approaching a state of flux (certainly, we will be if we cannot adapt!).

So JSB sees libraries as:

  • becoming hubs of communities
  • making the most of digital technologies and creative media
  • mentoring, connecting, guiding and curating

These are all the things we are saying about our role here in the UTS community.

We must move from “knowing” to creating and making. And the building of CONTEXT is now more important than CONTENT (collections). He says the basic architecting of context can result in amazing things. Learning how to read context is now as important as reading content. I think it comes with the environment of almost everything now being instantly available. The context helps you to navigate to what is most relevant and authentic. It also gives meaning.

He also talks about “reverse mentorship” – learning from the young(er) and I think we’ve done a fair bit of that over the last several years here, by empowering relatively junior staff and by hiring current or recently graduated students. They helped those of us who are not so young and who were trained and qualified well before this networked world understand the potential of new technologies and how these networks work best.

The importance of play is also stressed as this helps us to push boundaries and with the invention of things within spaces of rules. Play also helps us to unlearn and this too is critical.

He talks of the critical nature of IMAGINATION  |  CURIOSITY  |  AGENCY (or having some effect in the world). These are very important for libraries to understand. I’ve been saying for some time now that libraries need to understand discovery as well as search (they are quite different) and now I am suggesting that a major role for all libraries is in encouraging curiosity. Agency is something we’ve only just started to understand, but I’ve seen enough hints and mentions to realise that it too is important for us.

Now there is also networked imagination and JSB cites the example of communities playing WoW in which teams from across the world share their actions and plans in imagined connections. He also cites the example of Harry Potter fans doing amazing things with civic imagination behind the stories and achieving results in the less developed world accordingly.

Henry Jenkins talks of a global collective that students are used to creating (in their networks) that is intertwined within a networked imagination and asks us whether we are prepared for this? If not, we risk becoming irrelevant. Transmedia is very important in all of this.

The key challenges for us:

  • Expanding the notion of literacy to include the visual, musical, procedural and cinematic 
  • Understanding that yesterday’s cutting edge is today’s dustbin – this is a big challenge for CAPEX and OPEX investment and also for staffing. He thinks we need a VISION that transforms and an evolving tool set.
  • How to get our institutions on board with all of that? This is perhaps the biggest challenge, so he offers the following advice:
    • “leverage the edge and let it pull you to the core” (don’t ask permission, take some risks & show results)
    • show what you can do by “spiral” (as opposed to perfect) development
    • gather metrics for you and others
    • show rapid learning & results
    • leverage open source and open
    • engage a wide collection of beta-participants (especially skeptics)
    • exploit cloud computing and social media
    • THINK LIBRARY AS PLATFORM and a network of our patrons within an ecosystem (this I think becomes infrastructure)

I’ll cover Michelle’s talk in the next Part.

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.