Seeking Impact and Visibility: Scholarly Communication in Southern Africa

“African scholarly research is relatively invisible globally because even though research production on the continent is growing in absolute terms, it is falling in comparative terms. In addition, traditional metrics of visibility, such as the Impact Factor, fail to make legible all African scholarly production. Many African universities also do not take a strategic approach to scholarly communication to broaden the reach of their scholarsí work. To address this challenge, the Scholarly Communication in Africa Programme (SCAP) was established to help raise the visibility of African scholarship by mapping current research and communication practices in Southern African universities and by recommending and piloting technical and administrative innovations based on open access dissemination principles. To do this, SCAP conducted extensive research in four faculties at the Universities of Botswana, Cape Town, Mauritius and Namibia.”

Europe set to miss flagship open access target | THE News

“The European Union is set to miss its target of having all scientific research freely available by 2020, as progress towards open access hits a “plateau” because of deeper problems in how research is assessed. Sixty to 70 per cent of universities reported that less than a fifth of their researchers’ peer-reviewed publications are freely available, depending on the type of open access, according to a survey of more than 300 members of the European University Association. 

Only one in 10 universities said that more than 40 per cent of their research was published as “gold” open access, where there is no delay making it public. In 2016, EU member states’ science and industry ministers, supported by the European Commission, backed a move to full open access in just four years. This latest survey asks members about papers published in 2013, 2014 and 2015, so may not capture all progress made to date. But it still concludes that to hit the 2020 target “will require greater engagement by all of the relevant stakeholders”.

This chimes with an EU progress report released at the end of February which concludes that “100 per cent full open access in 2020 is realistically not achievable in the majority of European countries participating in this exercise in the foreseeable future”. Lidia Borrell-Damian, the EUA’s director for research and innovation, said that “unfortunately [full open access] is very difficult to achieve” and that “we have reached a plateau in which it’s very difficult to move forward”.

Open access had taken off in some subjects – like physics, where the open access arXiv pre-print platform is widely used – in which “traditional indicators” of journal prestige such as impact factors and other measures of citations were “less relevant”, she explained. But in most disciplines, these measures were still crucial for burnishing researchers’ career prospects, she added, making it difficult for authors to switch to less prestigious, lower impact factor open access journals. “As long as it [research assessment] is based on these proxy indicators, it’s impossible to change the game,” Dr Borrell-Damian said. Search our database of more than 3,000 global university jobs

This is backed up by the survey findings. The biggest barrier to publishing in an open access repository was the “high priority given to publishing in conventional journals”, a hindrance cited by more than eight in 10 universities. “Concerns about the quality of open access publications” were also mentioned by nearly 70 per cent of respondents. In some disciplines, to publish open access, “you have to be a believer or activist” and it comes “at the risk of damaging your own career”, Dr Borrell-Damian said.

Echoing a long-standing concern in science, she argued that “we need a whole new system” of research assessment that does not rely so heavily on citations and impact factors. The EU’s flagship Horizon 2020 funding scheme requires grant recipients to publish their findings openly, but this was a far from universal policy for national funding bodies, she added. A spokesman for the EU Council acknowledged that “more efforts will be needed overall to accelerate progress towards full open access for all scientific publications”.”

Why OpenStreetMap is in Serious Trouble — Emacsen’s Blog

“…The first problem that I feel plagues OSM is that the OpenStreetMap Foundation views the mission of the project to provide the world a geographic database, but not geographic services. OSM gives people the tools to create their own map rather than offering them a simple, out of the box solution. Providing the ability for individuals and organizations to make their own map may work well for some, but it discourages small and medium size organizations from using OSM and thus engaging with the project. And even if they do use our data, their engagement is through a third party, rather than directly with us….”

Toward Open-source Epidemiology : Epidemiology

“There are equally important reasons for embracing open-source principles. Transparency begets reproducibility and allows subsequent methodologic advancement. Cross-collaboration is inherent in science, and allowing our work to flow unfettered across institutions can propel the field. One such example, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, which recently become the first open-science institute in the world, foresees accelerated innovation, participation, and implementation of clinical research by removing existing data barriers.”

Unlock public access to research on software safety through DMCA and CFAA reform | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government

“Software now runs consumer products and critical systems that we trust with our safety and security. For example, cars, medical devices, voting machines, power grids, weapons systems, and stock markets all rely on code. While responsible companies cooperate with the technical community and the public to improve the safety of code, others do not. They instead try to prevent researchers and others from sharing safety research, threatening criminal and civil actions under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Chilling research puts us all at risk. Protect the public from unsafe code and help us to protect ourselves. Reform the DMCA and CFAA to unlock and encourage research about potentially dangerous safety and security weaknesses in software….”

Open Data: The Global Effort for Open Access to Satellite Data | The MIT Press

“Mariel Borowitz’s new book, Open Space: The Global Effort for Open Access to Environmental Satellite Data traces the history of environmental satellite data sharing policies, offering a model of data-sharing policy development, case studies and practical recommendations for increasing global data sharing. Below, she writes about why some countries have adopted an open data policy, while others have not.”

Finland takes a step back in the openness of academic journal pricing — Mostly Physics

“Although I have not lived in Finland since 2013, I’ve kept in touch with the open science community there as well as with current open access discussions. On January 17, I got a rather unpleasant birthday present in the form of an announced three-year, 27 M€ deal between FinELib, a consortium of Finnish research institutions, and Elsevier, perhaps the most egregious of the big publishers. The deal was reached after two years of hard negotiations, supported by almost 3000 Finnish researchers who had committed in the #nodealnoreview boycott to refuse reviewing for Elsevier if the negotiations fail.

The glowing press release, seemingly written purely by Elsevier, compounded with an almost complete lack of details, left an immediate bad taste in my mouth. My opinion did not much improve through discussions in the Finnish Open Science Facebook group, and with journalist Richard Poynder whom I urged to try and get more details. He just published his Q&A with FinELib, which I warmly recommend you read. I have two principal concerns with the deal: the lack of transparency over the actual terms, and the hybrid OA discount option — especially as it was immediately implemented at the University of Helsinki….”

The importance of open data and software: Is energy research lagging behind? – ScienceDirect

Abstract:  Energy policy often builds on insights gained from quantitative energy models and their underlying data. As climate change mitigation and economic concerns drive a sustained transformation of the energy sector, transparent and well-founded analyses are more important than ever. We assert that models and their associated data must be openly available to facilitate higher quality science, greater productivity through less duplicated effort, and a more effective science-policy boundary. There are also valid reasons why data and code are not open: ethical and security concerns, unwanted exposure, additional workload, and institutional or personal inertia. Overall, energy policy research ostensibly lags behind other fields in promoting more open and reproducible science. We take stock of the status quo and propose actionable steps forward for the energy research community to ensure that it can better engage with decision-makers and continues to deliver robust policy advice in a transparent and reproducible way.

The Varieties of Lock-in in Scholarly Communications – The Scholarly Kitchen

“My colleague Roger Schonfeld and I spend a great deal of time talking about lock-in: what it is, who is doing it, who is doing it well — and perhaps most curiously, why so many people and organizations seem to be unaware that they are in a marketing net until it is pulled tight.”

Tear Down That Paywall: The Movement to Make Ocean Research Free — Oceans Deeply

“As scientists race to save coral reefs and tackle other crucial marine issues, access to expensive scientific journals has become a roadblock to sharing knowledge, especially for researchers in developing countries….

…Open Communications for The Ocean (OCTO), a Woodinville, Washington-based nonprofit that recently launched a marine science research “repository” called MarXiv. Its goal is to systematically make more marine research freely accessible….”