This post presents some of my own views. It does not represent or reflect the views of the institution that I work for.
The post comes about as a result of a late night and early morning Twitter exchange and after hearing about the obscene charges a publisher has quoted us for perpetual licenses to academic e-texts.
Here’s the Twitter exchange:
And here is the link to Richard Poynder’s tweet above: https://twitter.com/RickyPo/status/897021213507297280
I don’t always agree with Richard, but I do in this case. Pay-to-publish Gold OA is defective and not sustainable; the research cycle does need more transparency; and there is a need for more public involvement in discussions about Open Access.
Publicly funded research in many universities, like those here in Australia, is not shared openly and the tax-paying public pay for it many times over:
1. Government funded universities.
2. Subscriptions or purchases of all the research that is given away for free, mostly to several large publishing houses who own most academic research in the many ways discussed below.
3. We pay for any research that has to be made Open Access in the form of outrageous “Article Processing Charges” (APCs).
4. We pay the same publishers for access to systems that give us metrics and indexes on who is being read or cited the most, etc. (Scopus, Web of Science, etc.).
5. We pay many of the same publishers to join their ratings and rankings games so we can boast about how well we are doing in a relative sense.
I realise that many in the “game” know all of this already, but most of the public will not. This system is responsible for generating revenue and profits for these legacy publishers that are well in excess of the margins earned by major media companies, and probably higher than those posted by Apple, Google or Amazon (see https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/jun/27/profitable-business-scientific-publishing-bad-for-science). Most universities struggle with the ever increasing costs outlined in the points above and students certainly struggle with the rising costs of access to either print or electronic textbooks that are published by these legacy publishers. Some academics are also frustrated and doing something about it as illustrated well in this recent (July 2017) post from Professor Timothy Gowers. His frustrations with the current dissemination model are neatly outlined in the first paragraph. Those on whom research is done rarely can access (or benefit from) the results and they too are getting fed up. For example, vulnerable and disadvantaged communities – what do they see for all the research done and does life change for the better?
I think the current system of scholarly publishing (covering monographs, journals and textbooks whether print or online) is held back by legacy publishers who still benefit from it being based upon a print mindset. Universities must rethink this outdated model and try to realise the potential of the internet age that can be achieved through better use of networks, connections and more collaborative communities of shared interests. I know this sounds idealistic, but it has happened in many other sectors already. Academia has been reasonably slow to move and slower to adapt and change its habits. One of the many challenges will be in bringing around those senior researchers who are tied to the current system and who also benefit from it in terms of reputation. My observation is that many junior researchers can actually see a better way to disseminate their research and I think their experience with the internet has led to a more altruistic attitude to sharing their knowledge.
We should look at the best examples of this on the internet. If scholarly publishing really is about knowledge sharing, then it needs to be more like Wikipedia than Encylopedia Brittanica, more like the HuffPost (distributed, connected contributors) than legacy news media, and more like AirBnb than traditional hotels. We need to look at things like Reddit for discourse, GitHub as a model for sharing and collaboration and BitTorrent as a model for peer-to-peer sharing and fast large scale data transfer.
Some progress is being made with Open Access:
- Some significant funds are being injected by charities such as the Wellcome Trust and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation into new Open Access publishing platforms that are managed for them by F1000 Research.
- Starting in Brazil and now expanded to 15 countries is the SciELO program that seeks to improve the scientific journals that indexes and publishes in Open Access.
- Open Access is particularly important for developing and emerging countries (who cannot afford access to many subscription based sources) and the evolution of Open Access publishing in South America is described in this post from SPARC.
- In Europe we can see the OpenAIRE Europe network that seeks to make open science for the benefit of society, innovation and industry and the developing European Open Science Cloud project.
- The SHARE portal by the Open Science Foundation is building a free, open, data set about research and scholarly activities across their life cycle.
- SPARC is a global coalition committed to making Open the default for research and education.
- The Open Library of the Humanities is funded by an international consortium of libraries and is dedicated to publishing Open Access scholarship with no author-facing APCs.
- And the now infamous Sci-Hub was created from sheer frustration with the current system of scholarly dissemination.
If we decide to devote our efforts to more collaborative and cooperative shared platforms more will be achieved and be sustainable in the long run. I think we need to let go of the old ties to print models of books, journals, and textbooks and the associated delays in publishing, editions, restrictive licenses, and competition. We should rather: encourage the use of shared platforms; curate open online collections; recognise the value of Open Educational Resources; use Creative Commons licenses; seriously attempt to sort out and implement open peer review; and value reuse, unbundling, remixing, repurposing and lively discourse through interactivity. John Seely Brown might describe this as a move from “Stocks” (protected, static or fixed assets) to “Flows” (tacit, created evolving forms of knowledge). I think he would also encourage us to stop waiting for perfect.
Finally, here are some other suggestions, based mostly on some reading that I did last year in Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable:
- Aim at a deeper richer form of engagement with society and the those who are stakeholders in the object of the research;
- Provide just-in-time research in real-time and on-demand – when it is needed to help clarify topical issues beyond media hype (The Conversation is doing some of this);
- Look at more fluidity in academic output, including growth, revision and versioning;
- Encourage and recognise behaviour that is more open and “becoming” (less static and aloof);
- Realise the benefits of cloud-based platform synergy;
- Work with and for the (public) crowd, not exclusive of them;
- Strive to make the new forms of research output searchable, retrievable, shareable, productive and persistent – the F.A.I.R. goals for 2020 for publicly funded research are a decent set of principles – Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable;
- Value open questioning; and
- Realise that we are heading towards convergence on a massive scale in a global matrix and the current scholarly system actively resists this, so the risk is that universities as we know them could become irrelevant and by-passed.
As Gerard Hoffnung would say “That’s All!”.
Earlier this week we ran the CAUL Publishing-X event at UTS. This is the first time that a number of Australian university library scholarly publishers have combined to run a self-help event like this. As well as library publishers from Adelaide, ANU, Monash, Sydney and UTS universities, we had other participants who generously came to speak and share knowledge from PKP, W3C, tekReader and SOS print+media.
We will be progressively uploading the presentations given to the event’s github site (linked above).
Here’s my summary of the two days:
We heard about what each of the presses do and how they do it. There are several very different approaches but also some similarities and common challenges. I think we established at a working level that there is much valuable experience and wisdom that can and should be shared. How do we best do that now?
We had several updates and technical workshop demonstrations from the likes of PKP, Sydney University Press (re IGP) and from the tekReader folks. UTS ePRESS staff provided a revealing review of the process of accreditation (with COPE, DOAJ and OASPA) covering the basics and benefits of this.
There were two important and revealing environmental scans/updates: on developments in Open Access (from Scott Abbott) and future trends and issues in content technologies, web development & apps and portable web publishing technology from David Wood representing W3C.
We were appraised on some very realistic solutions to common issues by the people from eGloo and SOS. And we heard and saw some very inspiring things from Fiona Salisbury of La Trobe University re OER publications and from Michael Schultz (SOS) and Zoë Sadokierski (UTS) re the new capabilities of digital printing and print-on-demand services. These presentations were all impressive and should result in all of us doing better things with online and open access scholarly publishing.
Hopefully there was something for everyone and I was really happy with the voluntary input from our relatively small community of scholarly publishers and our partners.
In The Inevitable, Kevin Kelly discusses every surface becoming a screen in the Screening chapter, but this technological force isn’t just about converting surfaces into screens. He also discusses the possibility for libraries to become platforms for cultural life within their communities and he writes of the importance of encouraging contemplation and how online activities can provoke action. I think we’ve done some of this with our Artist-in-Residence and Curations programs. They’ve both led to ongoing actions and we think they inspire contemplation and further thought with at least some of our users. These programs have certainly had Interactive elements, with the current Artist Timo Rissanen actually creating his work in the central library stairwell over several weeks. Our Artists have asked questions of us and what we do that we’d not have asked of ourselves. This has enabled some reflection on our part and led to improved services, including with our search and discovery platform and our way finding signage.
At UTS Library the influence of Chris Gaul (our first Artist) cannot be overstated. He has had a significant impact on how we view our collections and this has led to ongoing improvements to discovery as well as search interfaces. His pioneering Spectogram has been recognised and reflected upon by several of our subsequent artists. He played a significant part in establishing a design-led visual identity for UTS Library.
Elisa Lee and Adam Hinshaw were asked to artistically interpret the use of our new Library Retrieval System in 2014. This ambitious project resulted in a truly amazing live data visualisation of the requests and returns to this huge robotically served underground storage system. Their work was inspirational and playful. It also added an important dimension to our identity as experts in data at a time when UTS was focussing itself on the importance of data and data analysis.
Zoë Sadokierski followed Elisa and Adam in 2015. She has been a long time collaborator with the Library through her design work on various experimental formats for ePRESS, in her artistic installations within the Library and by sharing her research on the intersection of print and screen technology (as opposed to the myth that circulates about these two being competitors). Her Residency explored the very nature of the book through research and by producing artist’s books. She also conducted a very interactive and collaborative production of a book live at the 2015 Sydney Writer’s Festival. Like previous artists her work has had a very significant impact on our visual and physical identity as a library.
Starting in late 2016, we added digital literacy kits to our collection. Including low cost technology like Sphero, Makey-Makey and basic VR, these kits have been incorporated into both our own staff development and our educational programs for academics and students. They represent a playful way to introduce technology literacies, expanding on our traditional role in developing information literacy skills.
This is the guts of a presentation I gave at EduTECHAU on 9 June 2017. It’ll be a bunch of images, text to explain those images and a few links.
Thanks to my colleague Dr Belinda Tiffen for her assistance with this presentation: she is much smarter than me.
Last year I read Kevin Kelly’s book The Inevitable and I was struck by the way he described the 12 technological forces that he thinks will shape our future. The forces are named in the image above, but they’re not all that easy to understand. I’ve thought more about them and believe that at UTS Library we are actually making progress in all these areas, not always exactly as he describes, so I’ll outline what some of our initiatives are in the following images and text. For the sake of brevity, the only force I won’t be illustrating is Tracking, but rest assured that we are already doing some of that too and in fact you can see it in some of the examples I am using.
I am concentrating on three major areas: discovery and search; open access; and cultural and artistic stimulation.
For Discovery & Search I see our efforts are consistent with the four forces and examples illustrated above: Becoming; Accessing; Cognifying; and Filtering. We are in the process of completely redesigning our discovery interface on the basis of some in-depth UX research that we conducted ourselves. We have long taken an iterative approach to website and digital services development, and our latest work builds on that. In our UX work we have recognised that there is a spectrum of user needs and behaviours from search to discovery, so we are adding new features to aid and enhance discovery, but they are designed in a way that will not distract or delay those searching for known items and wanting to get out of there fast. Our collection development has seen major improvements with regard to collaborative borrowing arrangements and these options needed to be carefully included and distinguished in the search/discovery catalogue in order to increase the options available to our users, while not confusing them with respect to immediate availability. Finally as others like Amazon, Uber and Netflix have done we are introducing features that allow for a more personalised and tailored search and discovery experience, should the users opt in.
In response to our research insights and user feedback, the following slides outline the initial user interface concepts for UTS Library’s new search and discovery system. These solutions have been designed from the responses and feedback gathered from our previous wireframe prototypes.
The following design concepts will be developed into a working prototype where the new search engine can undergo further user testing in conjunction with the user interface.
Overall search page results in our catalogue. From left to right you see columns arranged to show search filter options; search results list and a new contextual discovery panel.
The addition of a contextual discovery side panel to provide the user with results that are personalized to the individual. This feature will assist the user in the discovery of information that the system believes will be helpful to them. Information will be displayed based on their search request and will provide related content matched to a logged in users profile.
Article results intergration: A common request amongst users of our current system is for the ability to combine Article results in a search with Books and Journals.
Using the default ‘All’ search, the new system will combine the top 3 Article results alongside Books and Journals.
This slide shows a few new features related to the item display within search results:
- Ribbon colour display: (LHS of record) Integrating the colour ribbon into the catalogue items establishes the direct link between the two. For users, this creates a better understanding of the search functionality the ribbon has. It also more directly displays the relationship between the search results and the items physical location within the library
- Shelf view: Shelf view button is located under the book cover display; this better suggests shelf views functionality to the user.
- Save item: Save item button enables a logged in user to quickly save an item of interest to a list.
- Item status: Improving the clarity of an items status means a user can quickly see an item’s availability and its location.
- Locate item: Simple and clear call to action buttons has been added to each item. This button describes the necessary action to preform in order to get the item.
- Call to action buttons (options are shown in the lower image above) The description on the call to action button indicates to the user where that item is located. For example, an item on the shelf will indicate where to “Locate item” or if an item is in the LRS it will indicate to “Request from LRS”. If an item is unavailable the call to action button describes to the user what further options are available to receive that item. When multiple resources are available for one item the button will display a drop down menu. This drop down will display the available recourse types to choose from.
Discovery of related items: The contextual discovery panel (“You may also like …” on RHS of full item page) will have the flexibility to provide related content to a particular item. On the Item page, the discovery panel can suggest related books by the same author or display items other people have viewed or borrowed.
It is of course fully responsive design, meaning the experience is fully optimised for mobile devices.
End of Part 1. Part 2 is here. Go there now. Do it. You know you want to.
The crew of No. 6 gun, 102 Field Battery, photograph by Greg Ayson: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P01769.010
More Anzac Day reading …
This book tells the story of the largest unit-level battle involving Australian and New Zealand soldiers in the Vietnam War. A series of actions were fought over 26 days in May-June 1968 around Fire Support Patrol Bases Coral and Balmoral, north-east of Saigon. The North Vietnamese Army actively took the fight to the 1st Australian Task Force positions and even artillery gun positions fought close-combat actions.
It is an appropriate book for the Anzac Day period because the Patrol Bases included both Australian and New Zealand Army forces (as well as US Army units and elements).
Lex gives the background to this period in Vietnam and introduces us to all of the major players and the units involved. I don’t think I read this book until about 2003 or so, but over the course of my earlier time in both the Army and within the Department of Defence I had already met many of the characters mentioned. What surprised me was that over the two decades before reading the book, none of those people had sat me down and told me about what happened at ‘Coral’ in 1968. Even after 2003 as I started researching Coral and meeting with some of the battle’s veterans, most seemed very reluctant to say a lot about what happened, particularly with respect to the major NVA assault and battle on the first night (12/13 May 1968). None were boastful of their own actions and many told me that certain individuals deserved, but disappointingly never received, major bravery awards.
So all that makes Lex’s book a pretty essential record. He tells it in a typically laconic Australian manner. Lex covers the stories of most of those Australians who were wounded or killed during the battle. One well worth reading is the saga of Gunner Mal Hundt who was hit six times during the Battle for Coral on 13 May, at least two of which came from his comrades. Even as he was being evacuated, as Lex puts it “His troubles were still not over.” Mal continued to serve in the Army as a gun sergeant later on and I am pretty sure I met him during a Coral veterans’ 50-years on reunion in Canberra in 2008. He seemed pretty well adjusted to me. I like the way Lex manages to relate the way some of the soldiers kept their dry sense of humour and their ability to make massive understatements in even the darkest of circumstances.
“8th August, 1918” by Will Longstaff: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/ART03022/
More Anzac Day reading …
This single volume narrative covers the entirety of all Australian forces and their involvement in the First World War. It is based on the 12-volume “Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-18”, of which six were written by Dr Bean himself. He observed first-hand many of the battles fought by the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as Australia’s official war correspondent during that war and is noted by theUNSW historian Dudley McCarthy in the Foreword for his “capacity to convey the feelings and qualities of thousands of ordinary soldiers”.
Dr Bean was wounded at Gallipoli in 1915 and also mentioned in dispatches there. In 1916 he suggested the idea for a national museum to the Minister for Defence and in 1917 he urged the systematic collection of records which, with the formation of the Australian War Records Section marked the birth of the Australian War Memorial.
In the final chapter of this book Dr Bean says what caused Australians to enlist in the AIF was “the principle of protecting their homes and their freedom by sustaining a system of law and order between nations”, but he also recognises (in 1946) that this war did not end war itself. Later in that chapter, he writes that “only in conditions ensuring freedom of thought and communication can mankind progress”: words that ring true today.
More reading for Anzac Day …
This 1985 publication is based on an award winning ABC Radio series of the same name that was first broadcast in 1984. It was presented by Tim Bowden, AM (war correspondent, journalist, broadcaster, documentarian, author and oral historian) and Hank Nelson, AM (historian, author, mentor and ANU Professor). I listened to that series week-by-week, on Saturdays as I remember, because I was named after Dad’s older brother who was killed as a POW when the Japanese ship the Rakuyō Maru, transporting over 1,000 Australian and British POWs back to Japan, was torpedoed by the USS Sealion II in September 1944. My family would never tell me much about my uncle’s tragic experience as a POW when I asked and this radio series and book helped me to understand why. They simply did not know. Some earlier accounts had been published, such as Russell Braddon’s “The Naked Island”, but I think this broadcast and publication really helped us to understand the experience of those POWs because it was made at a time when so many ex-prisoners were finally more willing to talk about their incarceration. That the stories were brought to life is also not least down to the skill of both Tim and Hank.
The book is quite simply full of almost unimaginable memories of endurance, mateship, courage, compassion, humour and the most beastly brutality. It begins with the fall of Singapore in February 1942, and then covers life in Changi, the infamous Thai-Burma railway, the capture of Australian Army Nurses, the decimation of ‘Gull Force’ on Ambon, the atrocities committed on Borneo and the Sandakan death march, escape and evasion attempts, forced repatriation of some POWs to slave labour Japan, the severity of punishments handed out in Outram Rd prison in Singapore, survival and eventual freedom and the legacy of wounded minds.
Now that the 16 parts of the series are available for download, I think that it is best to take the opportunity to listen their voices and then read their words, perhaps chapter-by-chapter. Together, the program and the book bring to life the experiences of many memorable prisoners such as Stan Arneil, George Aspinall, Keith Botterill, Vivian Bullwinkel, Dr Kevin Fagan, Don Moore, Ray Parkin and Snow Peat.
A George Aspinall photograph of three “fit” workers on a camp on the Burma Thai Railway: https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P02569.192
Nearly all ex-POWs would have passed now, but I had the opportunity to meet and talk with some while I was working at the Australian War Memorial. It always amazed me that so many went on to lead healthy, productive and reasonably long lives knowing what they endured and also what they went without for so many years as POWs. I think it would’ve been around 2004 that several ex-prisoners tracked me down at the Memorial and asked if I was related to a mate of theirs (they had enlisted, served and been captured in 1942 with my uncle). They were all in their 80s or 90s by then and I got to know them all. They marched together every Anzac Day in Sydney and had all survived the sinking of the Rakuyō Maru in 1944. They asked me if they could meet with my father and I remember getting them all together one Saturday morning in West Ryde at one of their homes. After all those years they had managed to track me down and finally my father and I knew what had happened to his brother so many years ago. For me it was just like meeting many of those who told their stories to Tim and Hank.