Mike Taylor | Szymon Górnicki

An interview with paleontologist and OA advocate, Mike Taylor. 

“SG: You are a supporter of open access, open source and open data. Of course, science must be easily available for everyone. On the other hand, there are problems with funding research and paleoart, small number of jobs in paleontology. Do you have any thoughts on how to solve these problems?

MT: Well, first of all, open access, open source and open data do not threaten jobs in palaeontology at all. If anything, they create more of a market for research, as more can be done.


Palaeoart is a completely separate problem. Fundamentally, the compensation system is different. Academics are paid for doing their jobs, and the data-sets and papers they generate are in some sense by-products. Paying academics to use their data and papers would be ludicrous: they’ve already been paid. But (with maybe a very few exceptions) palaeoartists are not salaried. They get paid only in exchange for their services. For that reason, it’s morally defensible for them to use copyright to prevent their work from being copied, in a way that is not defensible for preventing copying of scholarly papers. It’s great when artists are able to work in ways that allow their work to be freely reproduced and modified, but that will always be the exception….

SG: Does PeerJ meet your expectations of academic publishing practices transformation?

MT: In almost all respects, absolutely. When I was putting together the Xenoposeidon-is-a-rebbachisaur paper, it literally didn’t even occur to me to send it anywhere but PeerJ. Their submission system is less painful than any other I’ve used, their editors are thorough, their peer-review system is efficient, effective AND transparent, their website is fine, their production is really careful, and of course they do all this at a superb low price. And they offer preprints, and an easy route to move from preprint to reviewed paper. I think that as things stand, they are BY FAR the best game in town: when I look at papers in traditional journals like JVP and Palaeontology now, with their hard-to-read two-column text and their tiny greyscale illustrations, they feel like relics of a bygone era.

If I have a reservation about PeerJ at all, it’s a rather churlish one: I wonder whether they could have been a bit MORE radical. But in reality, they probably hit the sweet spot: they’ve moved the Overton window now in a way that they couldn’t have done if they’ve been perceived as too left-field for the Big Names to publish in. But in fact, PeerJ is perceived now as one of the major venues for vertebrate palaeontology, in large part I think because established workers felt that it was recognisable enough as a journal that they were prepared to publish their work there.

There’s one other thing that does need to be mentioned: it worries me a little that PeerJ is privately owned. I know Pete Binfield and Jason Hoyt a little, and they are about the most principled and trustworthy owners a scholarly publishing operation could have. I am confident that they won’t sell out. But ultimately, anything that’s privately owned is to some degree vulnerable. Suppose they dilute their stock a bit more to bring in more investment. They become huge, Then Elsevier offers $500M for them, and the other shareholders group together and
force Pete and Jason to sell. It doesn’t seem likely, but it’s not impossible. I have grown increasingly convinced of the important of the https://cameronneylon.net/blog/principles-for-open-scholarly-infrastructures/ …”

Spotlight on the OASPA Board: Caroline Sutton – OASPA

“In the fourth of a series of interviews highlighting the important contributions of the Board, OASPA’s Events and Communications Coordinator, Leyla Williams, talked to Caroline Sutton, Head of Open Scholarship Development at Taylor & Francis. Caroline was OASPA’s first President of the Board in 2008….”

Open and Shut?: “It is for publishers to provide Plan S-compliant routes to publication in their journals.”

“The problem right now, however, is that there is too little information on how Plan S would work in practice. This means it is nigh impossible for informed commentary to take place, and we are seeing frequent calls for clarification.

On 12th September, therefore, I invited Smits to do an interview with me, in the hope that he could provide that clarification. I suggested we do this either by telephone or email. Smits agreed and said he would prefer to do it by email. So, I emailed him a list of questions and waited for his replies. These arrived on Monday this week.  …”

SPARC Open Education Leadership Program, 2018-2019 Cohort

“SPARC is pleased to welcome our second cohort of Open Education Leadership Fellows starting in mid-September 2018. The class of 24 represents SPARC member libraries from 16 states and provinces, and represents a diverse range of backgrounds and experience levels. The group was selected from a competitive application pool earlier this spring. The full cohort will attend the 15th Open Education Conference in Niagara Falls, NY this October….”

Economics Nobel laureate Paul Romer is a Python programming convert — Quartz

“Romer believes in making research transparent. He argues that openness and clarity about methodology is important for scientific research to gain trust. As Romer explained in an April 2018 blog post, in an effort to make his own work transparent, he tried to use Mathematica to share one of his studies in a way that anyone could explore every detail of his data and methods. It didn’t work. He says that Mathematica’s owner, Wolfram Research, made it too difficult to share his work in a way that didn’t require other people to use the proprietary software, too. Readers also could not see all of the code he used for his equations.

Instead of using Mathematica, Romer discovered that he could use a Jupyter notebook for sharing his research. Jupyter notebooks are web applications that allow programmers and researchers to share documents that include code, charts, equations, and data. Jupyter notebooks allow for code written in dozens of programming languages. For his research, Romer used Python—the most popular language for data science and statistics.

Importantly, unlike notebooks made from Mathematica, Jupyter notebooks are open source, which means that anyone can look at all of the code that created them. …”

Mr Smits goes to Washington: Architect of bold European open-access plan hopes to garner US support

“A month after European funders launched the ‘Plan S’ initiative to demand immediate open access to scientific literature in the next two years, the plan’s creators have revealed more details about their bold scheme — and are hurriedly trying to get support from US policymakers….

Smits is in the United States this week to talk to research funders, scientific societies and representatives of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. “I’m going for business, not chit-chat,” he told Nature….

In mid-September, Smits suggested at the conference of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association in Vienna that if an author published work behind a paywall but immediately deposited an accepted version of the manuscript in an open repository, under a liberal publishing licence, they would be adhering to Plan S.

That clarification might mean that many paywalled journals could find a way to respect Plan S without changing their publishing models. …

Smits declined to answer Nature’s questions about whether researchers archiving preprints would be sufficient, saying that this would all be laid out by Røttingen and Sweeney’s task force….”

The Continued Relevance of Peter Suber’s (2012) Book on Open Access | Open Science

“Few formats fit better Marshall MacLuhan’s dictum that “the medium is the message” than Open Access does. Peter Suber’s book Open Access published in 2012 by the MIT Press intends to be an authoritative source of reference on the notion of open access, its historical roots, its variegated models, policies proffered in its support, its possible scope, its copyright implications, its economic foundations and consequent limitations. In tune with the phenomenon of digitization that has enabled the emergence of open access in the first place, this publication is available in multiple digital formats, such as PDF, ePub and HTML as well as an online version at the Internet Archive. As this book has been translated into multiple other languages, such as Chinese Polish and French, it has become a standard source for arguments in favor and against Open Access….

Despite the elapsed time from the date of its publication, the digital supplement for this book provides further materials in respect to the effect Open Access is likely to have….

Therefore, in the intervening years this publication has hardly lost any of its relevance as a sustained and up-to-date compendium of thoroughly researched scholarship on Open Access and reasons for its emergence.”

The Plan S conversation continues

“Last week, the 10th Conference of the Open Access Publishing Association was held in Vienna… On the Tuesday afternoon Robert-Jan Smits spoke as part of a panel about Plan S. It was a calm measured discussion where he thanked many people who had worked with them to develop the plan. He noted that  things went ‘wild’ after releasing the plan, with over 70,000 tweets on the first day. The comments, he said, were mostly positive but there are some negative comments from publishers and some academics – which not surprising  because the plan is so robust. He also noted multiple positive comments from developing countries, thanking him ‘because they struggle to access research outputs.'”

Robert-Jan Smits wordt voorzitter van de TU Eindhoven – ScienceGuide

In Google’s English: “Currently he is still special Envoy Open Access and introduced Plan-S earlier this month with 14 European scientific organizations. He received a lot of praise for this internationally. After clearing this initial impulse to prepare the EU for more Open Access, he leaves for [Eindhoven University of Technology] on 1 March….

In March 2019, the born Brabander Robert-Jan Smits will succeed lecture chairman Jan Mengelers, who will retire in mid-2019. Nicole Ummelen will succeed Jo van Ham as vice-chairman of the Executive Board on 1 January 2019. Jo van Ham will also retire in mid-2019. Until then, he will focus on broadening the international coalition for Plan S and the implementation of the open access policy….

The plan seems to have a lot of impact. Since the announcement of this plan on 4 September, a day after Smits took care of the Academic Year Opening at Eindhoven University of Technology, the share of the largest scientific publisher Elsevier has already fallen by 7% in market value, stock market analysts attribute this to the introduction of Plan S. International he has also received much praise for this plan….

In the coming months, Smits will focus primarily on expanding the coalition at an international level. Last weekend gave the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation already commit themselves to the coalition, and there is interest from the US, China and Japan. In early October Smits travels to the US to speak with American partners for a global rollout of Schedule S. “This week I have a meeting with the TNCs from Europe to explain the plan.”

In a week’s time, a task force headed by ScienceEurope will start the concrete implementation of the European organization of NWO-like institutions….”