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
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.
Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw partnered as the UTS Library Artist-in-Residence for 2014. Works from this Residency are now prominently displayed in the UTS Blake Library in Haymarket, Sydney.
Their brief was to provide an artistic interpretation of the UTS Library Retrieval System (LRS). Their resulting major work 11-808 is a live data visualisation that interprets the use of the LRS in real time. The purpose of the entirely underground system needed to be communicated to a wide audience, illustrating how the system was being used and demonstrating its value to the UTS community. The brief was extremely challenging, with a tight budget and deadline, but Elisa and Adam’s work has exceeded expectations.
The result is an elegant and poetic display of data that shows how this system is being used and, via the catalogue of library metadata, the dynamic movement of collections around the Library ecosystem. Through their artists’ perspective, beauty and the interaction of colour, Elisa and Adam have conveyed meaning and understanding to an extent that I think Joseph Albers* would have approved.
They also provided a playful sound installation, Conversations, that explores the random nature of the ways books are stored within the 11,808 steel bins of the LRS, arranged only by spine height. Here they have provided audible “conversations” between the books in selected bins.
Their work is artistically beautiful, superbly designed and technically very clever. Both works are eloquent in conveying meaning as well as exploring and highlighting the nature of this system. In doing so they have provided attractive and engaging works that appeal to the curiosity of Library users and that speak to them in very contemporary language.
Manly Beach, summer by Mal Booth on 500px (in lieu of a kitten)
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 …
I read this earlier today via Zite, over breakfast at a cafe near our library:
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
Twitter and other social media yesterday was crazy about a leaked 91 page report from the New York Times on innovation in the mobile and digital age (use the Google or contact me if you cannot find it). It primarily addresses their environment of rapidly changing media platforms, but there is a lot in it that also applies to us in library-land. In particular, our own web strategy at UTS Library, which is very informal, and where we are going with our Open Access press UTSePress.
Initially I thought I’d just send it to the managers responsible for those areas, but after quickly reading the lot I found more and more general ideas that I liked, so I sent it to all of our managers and we will all meet to discuss it at a later date. If you can still find it, you’ll see that it isn’t a marvellous copy, but it is mostly readable and I think very valuable, even if it seems mostly to affirm some of our existing directions.
- web publication trends (we’ve been closely following these of late)
- audience reach and why it is important (agreed)
- reader experience (acknowledging it and doing something about it and we must do more in this area)
- having a web strategy – do we want one that is more obvious, a little more formal and that evolves?
- disruption and what it means for us (too)
- content aggregators – what are they, how they impact on us and how we make best use of them
- the importance of discovery – new tools & getting the basics right, like tagging and structure (we’ve been focussing a lot on this for the last couple of years)
- experimentation – how it works, why it is needed (agreed and we do try to encourage this)
- personalisation (see above re discovery as we’re trying to do something like a recommendation engine that our users can opt into)
- using data layers or adding them in (I’m not exactly sure how this applies to us and need to think more about it, but I’m pretty sure we should be doing more in this area)
- user generated content – is that relevant to us? (we are essentially doing that in the physical space now with curations of student works and could extend that to our online presence, perhaps using social media more – we’ve experimented with this a little already)
- events (this is a big area for us and they always have a planned and strong online dimension)
- going “digital first” or digital equally? (I think the latter is more relevant for us – we should not concentrate simply on either digital or physical programs)
- boosting analytics (this is why I desperately want to get some professional UX people into the library)
- employee movement between departments – to boost collaboration & understanding (I think we could really do more here)
- failing, learning, & sharing results (I think we’ve already started on this path)
- making more creative roles not just (passive or responsive) service roles: makers, entrepreneurs, advocates, observers (agreed)