OA Week event details

If you’re planning an event for OA Week this year, please add the details to the OA Week section of the Open Access Directory.

 

It’s organized by region, and should help event planners as well as potential participants.

 

The Open Access Directory is a wiki, and relies on the OA community to be comprehensive, accurate, and up to date.

 

To control spam, contributors must register, but registration is free and easy.

 

     Thanks,

     Peter

 

Peter Suber

Berkman Fellow,Harvard University

Senior Researcher, SPARC

Co-founder, OAD

bit.ly/suber-gplus

Will OA progress lead to Pyrrhic victory?

Richard Poynder, Open Access: Whom would you back?  Open and Shut? March 10, 2009.  This is a long article making a sustained argument.  I can’t excerpt enough of it to show the full argument without trespassing too far on Richard’s good will.  So I’ll start with a short excerpt setting the stage and then in my comments quote individual sentences to which I’d like to respond.  Excerpt:

…[A]s the OA movement has developed an interesting question has arisen: should Green and Gold OA be viewed as concurrent or consecutive activities?

This is not an issue of intellectual curiosity alone: it has important strategic implications for the OA movement. It requires, for instance, that the movement decides whether to treat Green and Gold OA as complementary or competitive activities; and if they are competitive, then where the OA movement should focus its main efforts.

Speaking to me in 2007,…Peter Suber took a characteristic "big tent" approach: The two forms of OA, he said are complementary, and should be developed in tandem.

In this way, Suber believes, the OA movement will maximise its chances of success, and achieve OA more quickly. As he put it, "OA archiving and OA journals are complementary and need to proceed simultaneously, much as an organism develops its nervous system and digestive system simultaneously and cannot do one first and the other second."

By contrast, OA advocate and self-styled archivangelist Stevan Harnad views the two roads as competitive. Moreover, he says, Green OA must prevail before the movement puts any significant effort into Gold OA.

This is important, he argues, not only because Green OA can be achieved much more quickly and easily than Gold OA, but because it will force publishers to downsize, and so squeeze unnecessary costs out of the current system of scholarly communication….

Comments

  • "[I]t seems that Gold OA could marginalise, and eventually overtake, Green OA."  I didn’t see the argument for this conclusion.  Richard gives us a wealth of detail on the rise of gold OA, but I didn’t see him tie it back to this thesis and show that those developments are setbacks for green OA. 
  • "Hybrid OA was set to become…a tool that would enable publishers to infiltrate the movement, and appropriate Gold OA. And today it looks as though it could defang the OA movement at large."  I saw no evidence for this statement either.  Again, Richard documents the spread of hybrid OA.  But I didn’t see him argue that hybrid OA was harming green OA or non-hybrid gold OA. 
  • "[W]hile most subscription publishers had by now agreed to sanction author self-archiving (for political reasons alone), they invariably insisted on an embargo period, from six to twelve months, sometimes longer."  I believe this is untrue.  Publishers who insist on an embargo for green OA are still a small minority of publishers who allow green OA.  We shouldn’t confuse publisher permission policies, which generally do not use embargoes, with funder OA policies, which generally do use embargoes. 
  • Richard identifies two stages in the "publishers’ strategy to ambush the OA movement".  Note that he’s talking about OA publishers here (full or hybrid OA), not TA publishers.  Stage one is the advent of institutional memberships.  Stage two is the sort of deal Springer struck with the Max Planck Society and the U of California to build publication fees for affiliated authors into the cost of subscriptions.  Richard shows that some membership fees have been high enough that some institutions dropped them, though of course other institutions retained theirs.  He also shows that the Max Planck model (actually, first used by Springer with a Dutch library consortium and the U of Goettingen) allows Springer to continue charging for subscriptions.  But both strategies have their advantages, for OA and not just for Springer –primarily in paying for gold OA without making authors pay out of pocket.  These advantages may coexist with disadvantages, but I didn’t see an argument that they net out as an "ambush [of] the OA movement". 
  • Richard seems to assume that Max Planck is paying significantly more for subscriptions, now that author-side publication fees are built in, than it paid before.  But I don’t know whether that’s true and would like to see some evidence, either from Max Planck or from the other institutions where Springer has struck a similar deal (Universiteitsbibliotheken en de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, U of Goettingen, or U of California).  I’m not criticizing Richard for omitting this evidence.  It may be unavailable.  But if the new model covers reader-side and author-side access at the same time, and does so without a significant increase, then it might be closer to a bargain than an ambush.
  • "The upshot is that publishers now appear to be well positioned to migrate to an OA environment, without any significant impact on their profits, and without having demonstrated that their prices are justified."  It’s one thing to worry about whether gold OA prices are justified.  But it’s another to worry that gold OA publishers might be making profits.  The goal of the OA movement –to me– is to provide OA to a larger and larger body of research literature, not to put publishers out of business.  (As I put it in my OA overview, "The consequences may or may not overlap –this is contingent– but the purposes do not overlap.")  We should worry about excessive prices for gold OA, but we should also worry about the inverse problem of insufficient revenues.  Part of the solution is to show that gold OA can be profitable –which has now been done by Hindawi, Medknow, the Optical Society of America, BMC, and PLoS ONE.  We will never develop gold OA across all disciplines and countries without harnessing self-interest. 
  • While we explore the many gold OA business models, and look for ways to make the revenues high enough to cover expenses without excluding authors, it’s critical to remember one thing.  Green OA doesn’t face these problems, can be achieved faster and at lower cost than gold OA, and is not undermined by the progress of gold OA.
  • Richard seems to agree on the urgency, speed, and efficiency of green OA, but he seems not to agree that it’s under no threat from gold OA.  Indeed, like Stevan Harnad, Richard may think the virtues of green OA make it unnecessary to pursue gold OA at all, or unnecessary to pursue gold OA until green is further along.  But that’s where we diverge.  We should pursue both at once, and I still haven’t seen a good reason not to.  For a short version of the argument, see Richard’s interview with me from 2007:

    [p. 51] PS:…I do know, from talking to policy-makers, that OA journals do help the case for OA archiving. Everyone wants to be reassured that OA peer-review providers exist before they put toll-access peer-review providers at risk….Green is not sufficient. It hasn’t caused journal cancellations in physics but it might cause journal cancellations in other fields, eventually, as OA archiving rates approach 100%. If so, then we’ll need OA peer-review providers to replace the TA peer-review providers overthrown by OA archiving. By the way, Stevan acknowledges this too, and it’s perfectly consistent for him to do so.

    [p. 50] RP: As we also discussed, Harnad’s argument is that we need to prioritise self-archiving because it is a much quicker way of achieving open access. Is he right?

    PS: He’s right that it’s quicker, and that’s a good reason to pursue it. But it doesn’t stand alone, and that’s a good reason not to pursue it alone.

  • Richard points out that institutional memberships shield researchers from the costs of publishing, just as subscriptions do, and in that sense do not change the situation in which "the scholarly journal market…[has] little or no mechanism for restraining prices."  I agree with the first half but not the second.  As more OA journals charge publication fees or institutional memberships, there’s a good reason to think that competition will keep prices within bounds.  I say this even though I know that we’ve never seen serious price competition among subscription journals.  Subscription journals don’t compete on price because they don’t compete for readers.  They don’t compete for readers because they are not fungible.  This is a fact about all journals, not just TA journals.  Because different journals publish different papers, you must gain access to the ones you need even if they are expensive and even if there are free or affordable journals in the same field.  But journals in the same field do compete for authors, even if they don’t compete for readers.  Again, this is a fact about all journals, not just TA journals.  When OA journals charge publication fees or institutional memberships, the prices function as barriers to authors, not to readers.  As soon as we shift costs from the reader side to the author side, then, we create market pressure to keep them low enough to attract rather than deter authors.  This may look like a technical detail.  But I think it goes to the heart of Richard’s argument.  If he’s right that the transition from TA journals to OA journals will not reduce prices, then he’s right that it could eventually exclude authors and be a Pyrrhic victory.   But precisely because high prices in an OA world would exclude authors, and not merely readers, there is a natural, market-based check on excessive prices.  BTW, I’m not saying that these market forces will keep prices within reach of all authors (as opposed to a sufficient set of authors), or that they are already at work; we may need to see many more OA journals in the same fields before price competition emerges. 
  • It’s relevant to point out here that most OA journals charge no publication fees or institutional memberships at all.  I’ve argued that even fee-based gold OA is not the threat that Richard seems to think.  But even if I’m entirely wrong about that:  fee-based gold OA is a minority of gold OA, and no-fee gold OA doesn’t pose any of the threats that Richard describes.
  • "This suggests that it may be time to push for a more radical revolution than currently envisaged by OA advocates; one focused more broadly than the issue of access alone. Perhaps it is time to re-engineer the entire scholarly communication process? If peer review has become a hostage to fortune, for instance, is it not time to try and wrest the task of managing it back from publishers?"  Two quick responses:  (1) Peer review is only a hostage to fortune at very expensive journals.  Hence, it matters whether OA journals will compete on price in their effort to compete for authors, and it’s relevant that most OA journals charge no publication fees.  (2) Many OA advocates, for example, Stevan Harnad and myself, envision and even recommend the decoupling of peer review from distribution.  Research literature would still be peer-reviewed, but not by "publishers" so much as editorial boards which may be entirely unaffiliated with publishers.  Distribution could take place through any of several OA channels, including institutional repositories.  Some OA advocates recommend this decoupling independently of their interest in OA; some recommend it as a condition of further OA progress; and some merely predict it as an effect of further OA progress.  It is emerging, perhaps slowly, as a natural consequence of the internet; the rapid drop in the cost of online distribution means that editorial boards can perform their essential function without working with publishers.  We can accelerate this decoupling at any time.  But in the meantime, it’s important to keep our eyes on the prize:  OA itself.  Many OA advocates are deeply concerned to reform scholarly communication in ways that go far beyond the removal of access barriers.  But there are reasons to make these efforts secondary rather than primary, or parallel rather than unified:  to avoid giving the impression that OA depends on peer-review reform, to assemble a coalition of stakeholders who agree on the need for OA even if they disagree on other reforms, and simply to accelerate progress –because nearly all of the most exciting reforms depend on OA itself.
  • One general point in conclusion:  I never saw the need to distance the access problem from the affordability problem.  It’s true that they are separate problems in the sense that we could solve the access problem without solving the affordability problem (e.g. with expensive OA journals).  That is the prospect which alarms Richard.  But the urgency of solving the affordability problem has given the OA movement some of its most stalwart allies and most enduring incentives.  If Richard is saying that we should address both problems at once, I fully agree, though we may differ in some of our reasons.  We should address both at once in part to avoid the Pyrrhic victory Richard describes, in part to recruit and retain indispensable allies, and above all to apply a very elegant solution (complementary green and gold OA) to a very serious problem.

Impact factors and journal prices: no apparent correlation

Bill Hooker has used Elsevier data to show that there is "no apparent correlation between IF [impact factor] and price."  Excerpt:

…Interesting, no? If the primary measure of a journal’s value is its impact — pretty layouts and a good Employment section and so on being presumably secondary — and if the Impact Factor is a measure of impact, and if publishers are making a good faith effort to offer value for money — then why is there no apparent relationship between IF and journal prices? After all, publishers tout the Impact Factors of their offerings whenever they’re asked to justify their prices or the latest round of increases in same.

There’s even some evidence from the same dataset that Impact Factors do influence journal pricing, at least in a "we can charge more if we have one" kinda way. Comparing the prices of journals with or without IFs indicates that, within this Elsevier/Life Sciences set, journals with IFs are higher priced and less variable in price….

Comment.  Also see White and Creaser 2007, which showed little correlation between price and impact factor.  Bergstrom and Bergstrom 2004 showed that journal prices are either unrelated to citation impact or inversely related to it:

[L]ibraries typically must pay 4 to 6 times as much per page for journals owned by commercial publishers as for journals owned by non-profit societies. These differences in price do not reflect differences in the quality of the journals [as measured by citations]. In fact the commercial journals are on average less cited than the non-profits and the average cost per citation of commercial journals ranges from 5 to 15 times as high as that of their non-profit counterparts.

Document summarizing software harnessing Wikipedia

Krishnan Ramanathan and three co-authors, Document summarization using Wikipedia, a technical report from HP Labs, February 21, 2009.  (Thanks to ResourceShelf.)

Abstract:   Although most of the developing world is likely to first access the Internet through mobile phones, mobile devices are constrained by screen space, bandwidth and limited attention span. Single document summarization techniques have the potential to simplify information consumption on mobile phones by presenting only the most relevant information contained in the document. In this paper we present a language independent single-document summarization method. We map document sentences to semantic concepts in Wikipedia and select sentences for the summary based on the frequency of the mapped-to concepts. Our evaluation on English documents using the ROUGE package indicates our summarization method is competitive with the state of the art in single document summarization.

Comment.  I’ve written a few times about document summarizing software, and how useful it will be when there is more OA literature to sic it on.  But this is the first time I’ve seen any sign that the software could actually use OA literature to guide and improve the summaries, the way statistical machine translation software uses OA literature to guide and improve translations.  Neat. 

There’s a nice positive feedback loop here:  The more OA literature we have, the better this software will work, and the better it works, the more it supports what I call the software strategy for OA by creating new incentives to make even more work OA.

Nearly 24,000 “free e-journals” listed at Nottingham Trent U

The e-journal database at Nottingham Trent University lists 23,971 "free e-journals".  (Thanks to J.W. Fletcher.)

Comments 

  • That’s more than six times the number (3,914) listed today in the DOAJ.  But the DOAJ is limited to peer-reviewed journals, and it seems unlikely that the Nottingham-Trent list shares that limitation.  It’s also five times the number (4,793) listed today in Open J-Gate, and and Open J-Gate includes more than 2,100 non-peer-reviewed journals.  The Nottingham-Trent collection is even larger than EZB, which today lists 21,101 free e-journals and is not limited to peer-reviewed journals.  If anyone can shed light on the criteria defining the Nottingham-Trent list, please drop me a line or post a note to SOAF.
  • If you look closely at the Nottingham-Trent list and wonder what SFX is, the MIT Libraries have some good background.

Publishers push back against Houghton report

Peter Williams, Publishers denounce JISC open access report, Information World Review, March 9, 2009.  Excerpt:

Professor John Houghton of Victoria University in Melbourne and Professor Charles Oppenheim of Loughborough University led the research.

Three models were examined: subscription or toll access (reader charges and use restrictions), OA publishing (where publication is author-funded), and OA self-archiving (where academic authors post their work in free online repositories).

The study estimated that core scholarly publishing in total cost the UK higher education sector just under £5bn in 2007, and that the three models could save the sector hundreds of millions of pounds.

Houghton said greater accessibility to research could result in £172m worth of benefits a year to UK plc from government and higher education sector research alone.

In a joint statement, publishing associations PA, ALPSP and STM said: “OA publishing in all its variants is the subject of a series of experiments already running with our membership. Claims that if adopted universally an exclusively OA business model would generate large savings in the system costs for scholarly communication in the UK in our view remain unproven.�

JISC said it wanted to stimulate debate and would meet publishers shortly.

PS:  Also see my post on the Houghton report, which includes longer excerpts from its findings.

Mike Eisen’s response to Rep. Conyers

Michael Eisen, John Conyers Tries [and Fails] to Explain His Position, It is NOT Junk, March 7, 2009.  Excerpt:

Lawrence Lessig and I have been writing about the link between publisher contributions to members of the House Judiciary committee and their support for H.R. 801 – a bill that would end the newly implemented NIH public access policy that makes all works published as part of NIH funded research freely available to the public online. On Friday, House Judiciary chairman John Conyers (D-MI) – lead sponsor of the bill – responded in a letter on Huffington Post.

The first several paragraphs of Conyersâ??  letter contain an outline of his record as a progressive politician.  Representative Conyers is a smart man who has worked hard defending the publicâ??s interest on a large number of issues. But no record, no matter how distinguished, can provide an excuse for introducing an atrocious piece of legislation that sacrifices the public interest to those of a select group of publishing companies who just happen – coincidentally Iâ??m sure – to contribute to Representative Conyers and the other backers of the bill….

Although he says at several times he is trying to get to the bottom of a complex issue, he ignored evidence presented to his committee during hearings last year and has shown no interest in learning about how scientific publishing actually works.

Conyers offers two main justifications for his support of H.R. 801. First, seems incensed that the bill mandating the policy originated in the Appropriations Committee and not his Judiciary Committee. Judiciary was the appropriate venue, he argues, because the bill alters copyright. As I will show below, this is incorrect. Second, Conyers trots out the publishersâ?? favorite trope that the NIH policy will bankrupt publishers and thereby destroy science. Since this is the more substantive claim, I will deal with it first….

The notion that the NIH policy will lead to massive subscription cancelations is not supported by empirical data or by publisher actions.

The NIH policy require that works be available within 12 months of publication – not immediately. This delay of free public access was put in place precisely because it would allow publishers to recoup their investment in publishing by charging for access to the freshest material. Science moves far too fast for active researchers to afford a yearâ??s delay before reading papers in their field. Thus universities and other research institutions have to maintain subscriptions to a wide range of journals. Many journals, realizing that their revenue comes primarily from new material, already make their contents freely available online after a year or less. And these journals have not reported a wave of canceled subscriptions – or any appreciable loss of revenue.

Indeed, most publishers have no problem with the NIH policy….Many even help their authors by sending copies of their articles directly to the NLM.  It is a small minority of narrow-minded and venal publishers who want this policy reversed.

Second, publishers do not pay for peer review. Peer review is carried out by members of the research community, who receive no remuneration for this important contribution to the scientific process and the integrity of the scientific literature. Indeed, since the salaries of most American scientists are paid directly or indirectly by the US government, the peer review process can be viewed as a massive Federal subsidy to publishers. That some publishers – who not only get their most important source of skilled labor paid for by taxpayers but are also publishing research that is the product of tens of billions of annual taxpayer dollars – are unwilling to provide the taxpayers with a copy of the papers they paid to produce and review is unconscionable.

And while Representative Conyersâ?? publishing friends may have convinced him that there are severe unintended consequences that will arise from the NIH public access policy, the scientific community – who has been debating this issue for over a decade – strongly disagrees….

Now, letâ??s return to the issues of process and copyright, which seem to so infuriate Conyers….As someone who has been involved with this issue and has closely followed the development of the NIH public access policy, I can say that Conyersâ?? history of this policy is grossly inaccurate. The NIH policy was developed over the course of several years, during which time there was extensive back and forth between Congress and the NIH as they worked to craft a policy that would ensure public access to taxpayer-funded research.

I am no expert of Congressional protocol, but it seems perfectly sensible to me that the Appropriations Committee, whose job it is to make sure that taxpayersâ?? money is spent wisely and efficiently, would be the relevant committee for setting the terms under which scientists could receive federal dollars. Once developed, the policy was opened up to public comment. Everyone in the scientific research and publishing communities knew about the policy long before it was implemented, and then NIH Director Elias Zerhouni met with all stakeholders to make sure their views and issues were considered. This is hardly a bill snuck in by special interests and rammed through in the middle night with no public comment, as Conyers would have us believe.

Conyersâ?? argument that the bill should have gone to his Judiciary committee rests on the dubious notion that NIH policy modifies copyright. But the policy in question does not alter copyright in any way….This is [merely] a modification of the contract made between grantees and the NIH every time a new grant is awarded….

Throughout his response Conyers repeatedly cites the need to discuss the complex issues around scientific publishing….Unfortunately, Representative Conyers actions do not reflect his words. This bill was introduced in the last Congress. The Judiciary Committee then held hearings on the bill, in which even the publishersâ?? own witnesses pointed out flaws in its logic and approach. In particular, a previous Registrar of Copyrights, clearly sympathetic to the publishersâ?? cause, acknowledged that the NIH Policy was in perfect accord with US copyright law and practice. If Conyers were so interested in dealing with a complex issue in a fair and reasonable way, why then did he completely ignore the results of this hearing and reintroduce the exact same bill – one that clearly reflects the opinions of only one side in this debate? …

PS:  Also see my own response to Conyers’ defense of his bill.

Another intro to OA

Cian Oâ??Donnell, The Price of Knowledge, EUSci, January 2009.  Scroll to p. 12.  (Thanks to Neuronism.)  An introduction to OA.

…Academics themselves can also do a lot to promote open access. The obvious first step is to simply publish new research in open access journals, or in journals that offer a paid open access choice. This can be to the authorâ??s benefit, as studies have suggested that freely available articles may have a higher impact than closed ones…

Another straightforward option is to publicly archive all published work. Apart from a few restrictions, this is completely allowed by a surprising number of journals – including Science and Nature – and actually mandated by many funding bodies. The SHERPA organisation maintains an excellent website, which details individual publisher and funding body open access policies.

Many academics simply archive their work on personal websites, but other options exist. Some disciplines already have popular public archives, such as the physics repository, www.arXiv.org. Most papers in this field are posted on â??the archiveâ?? well before being accepted in a journal, with no apparent detriment to the publishers. Many academic institutions also maintain their own archiving facilities. Here at the University of Edinburgh, staff and students can archive their own work in the Edinburgh Research Archive. The technophobic can also get library staff to deposit work on their behalf….

[A] small, but growing, fraction of scholarly work is now freely available to anyone with a connection to the web. In the age of Wikipedia we have no shortage of instantly accessible information but, sadly, facts and figures are not always backed by expert opinion. The open access movement aims to remedy this by making scholarly knowledge available and accessible – to all who wish to find it.

Stevan Harnad’s response to Rep. Conyers

Stevan Harnad, Rep. John Conyers Explains his Bill H.R. 801 in the Huffington Post, Open Access Archivangelism, March 7, 2009.  Excerpt:

Reply to: Conyers, John (2009) A Reply to Larry Lessig. The Huffington Post. March 6, 2009.

Congressman John Conyers (D. Mich) is probably sincere when he says that his motivation for his Bill is not to reward contributions from the publishers’ anti-OA lobby: He pretty much says up front that his motivation is jurisdictional.

Here are the (familiar, and oft-rebutted) arguments Rep Conyers refloats, but I think he is raising them less out of conviction that they are right than as a counterweight against the jurisdictional outcome he contests….(By the way, the original Bill was anything but secret as it made its way through the House Appropriations Committee, then the House, then the Senate, as Peter Suber’s many OA News postings archived along the way will attest.)

Rep. John Conyers:
"[O]pponents [of mandating Open Access to publicly funded research] argue that, in reality, it reverses a long-standing and highly successful copyright policy for federally-funded work and sets a precedent that will have significant negative consequences for scientific research." …

(3) Evidence of Positive Consequences: The actual consequences of self-archiving to date have all been positive ones, for research progress: enhanced visibility, access, uptake, usage, applications and impact for research findings.

(4) No Evidence of Negative Consequences: The "significant negative consequences" to which Mr. Conyers alludes (on the prompting of the publishing lobby) are the hypothetical possibility — for which there so far exists no actual evidence whatsoever — that OA self-archiving will cause subscriptions (largely institutional) to be cancelled catastrophically, making them unsustainable as the means of covering the costs of peer review….

Rep. John Conyers:
"These opponents argue that scientific journals expend their own, non-federal resources to manage the peer review process, where experts review academic publications. This process is critical….Journal publishers organize and pay for peer review with the proceeds they receive from the sale of subscriptions to their journals, thereby adding considerable value to the original manuscripts of research scientists."

All true. But no argument at all against Open Access self-archiving mandates! As long as subscriptions remain sustainable to cover the peer review costs…things continue exactly as they do now (and as they have done for over a decade in the few fields, such as high energy physics, where OA self-archiving has been going on spontaneously at close to 100% levels already with no detectable effect on subscriptions).

And if ever subscriptions fail, peer review will be paid on the OA publication-fee model that some OA journals such as PLoS and BMC already use today — but paid for out of the universal windfall cancellation savings, instead of out of extra funds, poached from somewhere else (often scarce research funds themselves!), as now.

In other words, the ominous talk about a threat to peer review is patent nonsense….

To try instead to keep holding back OA, now…despite its demonstrated direct benefits to research, just in order to insure publishers’ current subscription revenues and modus operandi from hypothetical risk is rather like trying to keep coal-fed steam engines or horse-drawn carriages in service in order to insure the revenues of stokers and the hay industry — except it’s more like trying to do that with hospital ambulances….

PS:  Also see my own response to Conyers’ defense of his bill.