Wishing you the very best as 2020 begins.
Wishing you the very best as 2020 begins.
Where have I been since July? I’ve been conducting two experiments in open access publishing, volunteering to be:
While at times daunting (finding EBLIP peer reviewers during the summer at times seemed like climbing Mount Everest! And who knew some Czech ISBN rules date back to the mid-90s!), both experiences have left me with a clear understanding of what fully moving to an open access environment can mean, when members of various academic communities take it seriously. It all boils down to a community’s rolling up its sleeves and being serious about defining and implementing what scholarly communications/output mean to that particular community plus utilizing (and pushing to expand and improve) existing technological infrastructures.
When this work is done, everyone involved in the process learns: the educational benefits of really engaging in working behind-the-scenes on an open access journal or eBook (in any role: author, publisher, peer reviewer, copy editor, editor) are tremendous, and anyone with an Internet connection interested in the community’s outputs (note: there are still serious Digital Divide hurdles to be solved in this regard) can engage in discussion about the published output.
Stepping back: defining (seriously) what scholarly communications means to a community
I can understand why metrics defining what is considered to be “scholarly output” were developed (funders—including universities and not just grant funding agencies—must have fair and transparent guidelines for academic promotion and distribution of limited grant funding), but I know I’m not alone in feeling that such standards can be misinterpreted, can be overly inflexible, and can be “gamed” by certain players. In the end, each academic community defines its rules.
In terms of contributing to open access movements, it’s up to each academic community to do its soul-searching. Do we want everyone in the world to be able to access our efforts? Why do our journals charge article processing charges (APCs), if they charge them? Are the APCs fair? Will reducing APCs impact quality (or not)? If there’s money involved, where does all the money go?
If it’s hard for your community to answer such questions, it’s maybe time for the community to ask itself why.
Taking advantage of (and pushing to expand and improve) existing technological infrastructures
In thinking about APCs, if a community decides to handle behind-the-scenes work with volunteers (“paid” by learning to be better writers, reviewers, and editors; by gaining academic service activities to put on CVs and to talk about in annual reviews; fame and glory [j/k]), the only “cost” to providing open journal access is the technological infrastructure. EBLIP works with the Open Journal Systems (OJS), a Public Knowledge project, hosted by University of Alberta Libraries; for the ILDS eBook, we used a pre-existing library repository.
Many of these kinds of individual initiatives, at individual institutions or libraries, have sprung up over the past decade. They’re there for members of academic communities to take advantage of, but are often forgotten and/or limited to members of an individual institution. Sometimes, maybe too often, commercial solutions are more user friendly and have broader reach. If we’re serious about open access—and long-term access to information we can trust—maybe it’s time researchers and libraries start asking themselves better questions about solutions which already exist. Why does “Commercial Solution X” work better than our repositories? Are we fast enough to deliver new solutions that can compete with commercial ones? If we’re too slow, why is this the case? How can we do better?
Then there are the even bigger questions: What can we do to change the common issues we face—not just at our institution, but across our global academic community as a whole? How can we share resources to make our efforts accessible to all? How can we serve a greater good better?
Such questions are easy to lose sight of in the day-to-day sea of academic activities. I’d argue it’s maybe time to stop getting jostled by the waves and to put our hands on the rudder.
In a bold effort, the University of California Office of Scholarly Communications has created a toolkit for those negotiating with publishers. The toolkit, well-conceived and including specific UC examples, can assist anyone in approaching complex negotiations (not only with publishers) and includes a section on communications efforts and execution, stressing the importance of the role of data analytics in the negotiation process.
The Office has also made public a recent presentation of the UC strategy to its leadership (link, with video, below).
Recent developments, including University of California developments, clearly explained together with a historical synopsis of the academic publishing industry:
This is a story about more than subscription fees. It’s about how a private industry has come to dominate the institutions of science, and how librarians, academics, and even pirates are trying to regain control.
Resnick, B. & Belluz, J. (2019). “The war to free science: How librarians, pirates, and funders are liberating the world’s academic research from paywalls.” Vox. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/6/3/18271538/open-access-elsevier-california-sci-hub-academic-paywalls
Rick Anderson has written a review of one alternative to Beall’s List: the subscription resource Cabell’s Predatory Journal Blacklist.
Overall, I find the Cabell’s Blacklist product to be a carefully crafted, honestly managed, and highly useful tool for libraries, faculty committees, and authors.
Anderson, R. (2018). Cabell’s Predatory Journal Blacklist: An Updated Review. The Scholarly Kitchen. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2019/05/01/cabells-predatory-journal-blacklist-an-updated-review/
Mackie-Mason, Waibel, and Willmont from the University of California system teamed up to present their Blueprint for Negotiations at CNI on April 8. Power up the slides at: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1gmVXRxGIp_hWUQ82wP6jzhcDsYiaeDlfeLR-3speGGE/edit#slide=id.g55eeb5f918_8_20
Roger Schonfeld once again provides an excellent analysis, this time on the drivers of recent Elsevier deals:
…California, through its cancellation, has nevertheless maintained its position unambiguously. It does not need ongoing journal subscriptions through ScienceDirect. Put another way: A major customer’s perceived value in the product offering has declined. Elsevier apparently no longer has the pricing power it once could assert.
The source of the value decline is no mystery. Joe Esposito argued more than a year ago that ‘Sci-Hub is an unacknowledged reserve army prepared to enter the battle with publishers,’ noting elsewhere in the piece that time “is not on Elsevier’s side.”
But Sci-Hub is not alone. Sci-Hub is one of a series of services through which content is ‘leaking’ out of publisher sites through to users. While some of these sites are illicit and pirate, others like SSRN and institutional repositories are accepted parts of the ecosystem, and still others are like ResearchGate, whose intentions vary by observer.
Read more at: Schonfeld, R. (2019). Is the Value of the Big Deal in Decline? The Scholarly Kitchen. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2019/03/07/value-big-deal-leakage/
Nature interviews open-access pioneer, Nobel Prize winner, and cell biologist Randy Schekman (UC Berkeley) about Plan S:
There will be a shakedown in the business. Some journals will lose out. Publishing is not a static business — the advent of the preprint server has really changed things, for example. Journals are going to change, and Plan S could have a strong influence.
Else, H. (22 Feburary 2019). Open-access pioneer Randy Schekman on Plan S and disrupting scientific publishing, Nature News Q&A. Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00595-y?utm_source=twt_nnc&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=naturenews&sf208184622=1
There is enthusiasm and support for the overall goals of Plan S; however, there is also a great deal of concern about the implementation guidance and the very real possibility of negative unintended effects.
Hinchliffe, L. J. (2019). “Taking Stock of the Feedback on Plan S Implementation Guidance,” The Scholarly Kitchen. https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2019/02/11/with-thousand-of-pages-of-feedback-on-the-plans-s-implementation-guidance-what-themes-emerged-that-might-guide-next-steps/