Category: Open access

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)

Doing what is right, or following Aaron Swartz’ example

Please watch this lecture by Lawrence Lessig on Aaron’s Laws – Law and Justice in the Digital Age.

It is a really moving address about our obligation to try to do what is right for humanity.
It is about the need to reform dumb law.
It is about how we can honour Aaron’s legacy.
It is about Aaron’s form of civil disobedience and whether he actually caused any real harm.
It is about celebrating his hacking activity to advance the public good.
It addresses Aaron’s pursuit of social justice and his fight against corruption.
It is about the absurdity of our continuous promotion of the knowledge elite who have privileged access to publicly funded research through their membership of “elite institutions”.
It is about publishers selling access to research that is funded by governments.
And it is also about those who have not so much access to this knowledge.
It is about Aaron’s Guerilla Open Access Manifesto.
It is about whether Aaron’s crime was to hoard vast amounts of research material that he downloaded from JSTOR at MIT; or whether he wanted to use it for research purposes; or whether he wanted to liberate it for the Third World; or whether he wanted to liberate it for the whole world.
It is about what real harm can be cause by computer crime in cyber-space.
It is about a government bullying an individual and playing the example justice game in their disproportionate response to his “crimes”.
It is about what we should do under unjust laws when the remedy is worse than the evil (apologies to Henry David Thoreau).
It is about recognising the cause of corruption and fixing the system.
And it is about fixing the obliviousness of our daily lives when we work within such systems and laws.

Researchers & social media

In early February I was asked to participate in a discussion on the use of social media by researchers for our 2013 Research Week. I was joined by @jennaprice and we mostly agreed with each other. Mostly …

I based my talking points on the content of two presentations that I have uploaded to SlideShare. They are among the most popular of my 30 or so uploads and here is the most recent version: Make me famous with social media

For those who prefer the most recent discussion, here are a few words based on the rough notes that I used.

I started by saying that I recognise the ephemeral nature of almost all social media posts. I am not really sure that any institutions needs to try to record all of it. A lot of it is complete rubbish and quite meaningless without the context of time, place and others participating in the same conversation or open discussion. As Clay Shirky has said though, it does represent a connective tissue that fuses both public and personal media and that is what makes it so significant, at least in our time. For researchers it can assist in connections, communication, the provision of sometimes instant feedback or responses, increased reach and in finding your own “voice”. One of social media’s key and perhaps most valuable characteristics is that it allows and encourages us to share; it helps facilitate altruism and that is a real benefit (as long as it lasts).

So, if we take a quick look at three key platforms as an example for researchers and what they can do with them:

  • TWITTER – helps with connections, asking for help, news, “voice”, sharing and searching.
  • ACADEMIA.EDU – basically Facebook for academics (without the ads). It is not as well used here as it seems to be in the US, but has huge potential to facilitate better academic social networks. (Jenna didn’t agree with me on this one.)
  • BLOGS – allow you to test ideas and to share, practice, ideate and form or contribute tio various communities of research practice.

My tips and advice for researchers who want to use social media:

  • Start with your own community
  • Keep it in perspective (see the note above re the ephemeral nature of social media and social networks)
  • Listen (it is a two way street, not simply a public broadcast media)
  • Engage – I doubt you’ll fully realise the potential benefits by just lurking
  • Play, fail, learn – most social networks are very forgiving
  • Respect others and their acknowledge their generosity
  • Be real – I’m not at all a fan of anonymity on the social web
  • Be careful how much you reveal about yourself and your long term research (Jenna reminded us that most researchers, like journalists like to be the first to publish)
  • Don’t feed the trolls!
  • Be patient – it isn’t always instantaneous and not everyone is always connected and always paying attention

Finally I said that for some researchers in a highly competitive market for research funding that social media can lead to the creation of a higher public profile (which then needs some management). This might be combined with sharing (via Open Acces publication), clever use of social networks and altmetrics to deliver crowd-funding for your research.

Sketch-notes – Pirate Party

Anna Troberg keynote
ALIA Information Online 2013

Anna Troberg leads the Swedish Pirate Party and she gave us very strong encouragement to raise hell about quite a few issues. We are “too passive and too nice!”. She sees information and culture as wealth and reminded us that we have a key role in preserving access to them. Anna said that culture always finds a way forward, but outdated Copyright law needed reform as it now served to block cultural flow and even to hide cultural assets.

So what are we all waiting for? Let’s raise some hell!

Sketch-notes – NBN and libraries

Warren Cheatham
ALIA Information Online 2013

This was an interactive awareness-raising session led by Warren Cheatham from Townsville. It showed us the librarian as advocate for government programs and how to assist in understanding. He encouraged debate about many of the differing perceptions of something many of us simply do not fully understand and I think he also got us to think about its potential for libraries (if it isn’t killed with a stick by a different governing party). Thanks Warren.

One thing Warren and I discussed was the potential of the NBN to provide a catalyst that unites the whole Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector on a new path towards cultural digital collaboration. This is an area in which Australia is sadly lacking and perhaps the power of the NBN could bring our sector together.

Sketch-notes – Sue Gardner, Wikimedia

Sue Gardner’s keynote at ALIA Information Online 2013

Sue Gardner from Wikimedia left us with some very important reminders about the importance of a free and open internet and how libraries must participate in that as advocates and by helping others to understand more about it. She encouraged us to do what we can to make knowledge freely available, just as Wikipedia does.