U. Virginia debates an OA mandate

U.Va. Faculty Senate Weighs Access to Scholarly Articles, UVA Today, September 28, 2009.

The University of Virginia Faculty Senate discussed how to make scholarly articles more accessible when it met Wednesday in the Rotunda Dome Room.

Edmund Kitch, a law professor, and Brian Pusser, a professor at the Curry School of Education and chairman of the senate’s Task Force on Scholarly Publication and Authors’ Rights, presented a draft resolution on open access to scholarship with the intention that senators vote on it at their November meeting.

Under the proposed resolution, U.Va. faculty members would assign to the rector and Board of Visitors “a nonexclusive, irrevocable, non-commercial global license to exercise any and all rights under copyright relating to each of her or his scholarly articles, in any medium, and to authorize others to do the same, provided the articles are not sold for profit.”

The policy would apply to all scholarly articles written by faculty members while at U.Va., except pieces that were written before the policy is adopted and remain under “incompatible” licensing agreements. All other articles would be turned over to the provost’s office in electronic form and made generally available no sooner than 12 months after their journal publication. …

Madelyn Wessel, special adviser to the University librarian and a member of the task force, said the current resolution is based on a similar policy at Harvard University. …

See also our past post on the proposed mandate or all past posts on UVa.

Celebrate Open Access Week – Register in ROARMAP

Register your IR and policy in ROARMAP to track all institutions that require ETDs

Celebrate Open Access Week by registering your institutional repository (IR) and policy in ROARMAP to track all institutions that require ETDs worldwide. ROARMAP (Registry of Open Access Repository Material Archiving Policies), is a creation of open access activist Stevan Harnad, hosted by the folks at eprints. We invite everyone to register your IR and policy at http://www.eprints.org/openaccess/policysignup/

NDLTD Press Release


John H. Hagen
Manager, WVU Institutional Repository Program / Coordinator, Electronic Thesis & Dissertation Program
Board Member, NDLTD
Co-Chair, ETD 2009 Symposium

Acquisitions Department
Wise Library, Room 2510
P.O. Box 6069 / 1549 University Ave.
Morgantown, WV 26506-6069
(304) 293-5267

The Added Value of Providing Free Access to Paid-Up Content

On Sun, Sep 27, 2009 at 8:07 PM, Elizabeth E. Kirk, Dartmouth College Library, on liblicense-l, wrote:

    ”Stevan, it is, as you say, about content. But it’s not only about the content of Dartmouth‘s research output, or that of our peers. It’s also about the value of the content provided through publishers, and the willingness of readers and institutions to look for that value.”

Elizabeth, I am not quite sure what you have in mind with the “it” that it “is… about.” But if it’s OA (Open Access), then the issue is not the value of the content or the contribution of the publisher or the willingness of readers and institutions to “look for” that value.

The value of peer-reviewed publication is already very explicitly enshrined in the fact that OA’s specific target content is peer-reviewed content. What OA is equally explicitly seeking — now that the advent of the online era has at last made it possible — is free (online) access to that valued content, so it is no longer accessible only to those users whose institutions can afford to subscribe to the journal in which it was published, but to all would-be users, web-wide, in order to maximize research usage, impact and progress.

The cost of the portion of that value that is added by publishers is being paid in full by institutional subscriptions today. Hence what is missing is not a recognition of that value, but open access to that valued content.

That is why it is so urgent and important that each institution should first adopt a pre-emptively to Gold OA funding compacts like COPE before or instead of mandating Green OA self-archiving is not only a waste of a lot of scarce money in exchange for very little OA value: it is also a failure to add OA value to all of the institution’s research output at no extra cost (by mandating Green OA self-archiving).

“We both agree that the peer review process is a critical step in creating the finished work of scholarship, as well as “certifying” the work.”

Yes indeed; but peer review is already being paid for — in full, many times over — for most journals today (including most of the journals users want and need most) through multi-institutional subscription fees, paid by those institutions that can afford to subscribe to any given journal. (There are about 10,000 universities and research institutions in all, worldwide, and 25,000 peer-reviewed journals, publishing about 2.5 million articles per year. No institution can afford to subscribe to more than a small fraction of those journals.)

To repeat: The value of peer review is not at issue. What is at issue is access — access to paid-up, published, peer-reviewed articles.

“Currently, open access journals–as you rightly put it–are a very small subset of the publishing pie.”

And committing to fund that small subset of an institution’s own contribution to the “publishing pie” today, before or instead of committing to mandate OA for the vast supra-set of that institution’s total journal article output, is committing to spend a lot of extra money for little OA while failing to provide a lot of OA for no extra money at all.

“Without a predictable financial stream, there are few avenues of growing an OA sector that can furnish peer review, copy editing, DOIs, and all of the other parts of publishing that have costs involved.”

What is missing and urgently needed today — for research and researchers — is not “predictable financial streams” but online access to every piece of peer-reviewed research for every researcher whose institution cannot afford subscription access to it today. The “peer review, copy editing, DOIs, and all of the other parts of publishing that have costs involved” for those articles are already being paid in full today — by the subscription fees of those institutions that can afford to subscribe to the journals in which they are published.

“Open Access” is about Access, not about “financial streams.” The wide-open “avenue” that urgently needs to be taken today (for the sake of research and researchers today) is the already-constructed, and immediately traversable (green) toll-road to accessing the vast paid-up subscription stream that already exists today, not the uncertain and still-to-be-constructed (golden) road of “growing” a future “OA sector,” by paying still more, over and above the tolls already being paid, for a new “stream” of Gold OA journals.

Institutions first need to provide immediate access to the peer-reviewed content they already produce today (its peer review already paid in full by subscriptions from all the institutions that can afford subscriptions to the journals in which that content already appears, today). Having done that, there’s no harm at all in an institution’s going on to invest its spare cash in growing new Gold OA “sectors.”

But there’s plenty of harm in doing so instead, pre-emptively, instead of providing the Green OA all institutions are already in the position to provide, cost-free, today.

“Trying to grow that kind of OA sector by supporting those costs, and overcoming the misconception that OA means “not peer reviewed” (which many people said about 10-15 years ago about all electronic journals, if you remember) is a honking good reason to join the compact.”

Misconceptions about OA certainly abound. But the fact that OA means OA to peer-reviewed content has been stated explicitly from the very outset by the OA movement (BOAI), loud and clear for all those with ears to hear the honking. Committing to funding Gold OA for a small subset of an institution’s peer-reviewed output instead of first mandating Green OA for the vast supra-set of an institution’s peer-reviewed output is a rather pricey way to drive home the home-truth that OA’s target content is indeed, and always has been, peer-reviewed content…

“That kind of OA sector, which of course can only be built when more institutions join us, is one that may create actual competition in journal publishing over time, by which I mean competition that results in lower prices, more players, and multiple models. It could include, as well, any current publisher who might wish to move to producer-pays from reader-pays.”

“Prices, players, models, competition, payment, sectors”: What has become of access — access today, to today’s peer-reviewed research — in all this Gold Fever and “sector-growth” fervor, which seems to have left the pressing immediate needs of research and researchers by the wayside in favor of speculative future economics?

“We care very much about the stability of and access to our research.”

Then why doesn’t Dartmouth mandate Green OA self-archiving, today?

“We are working on that from a number of fronts and in multiple conversations. The compact is not our answer to everything. But we certainly won’t step back from an opportunity to help create a more vibrant publishing landscape.”

But why is committing to provide a little extra Gold OA for a small part of Dartmouth’s peer-reviewed research output, at extra cost, being acted upon today, whereas committing to provide Green OA to all the rest of Dartmouth’s peer-reviewed research output at no extra cost (by mandating Green OA) is still idling in “conversation” mode? — especially since the cost of the value-added peer review for all the rest is already being paid in full by existing institutional subscriptions?

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum

PLoS article-level metrics: substantial value add for authors

Public Library of Science (PLoS) recently introduced article-level metrics.

The PLoS article-level metrics are a substantial value-add for authors, including a range of download statistics, citations and social bookmarking data, and more. As an author, I would love to see this kind of service!

It is interesting that a publisher with top-ranking journals on traditional metrics (impact factor) is also a publisher innovating in the area of metrics of far greater relevance, which say soon make impact factors irrelevant in the near future.

One service that I, as an author, would like to see for the future, is a means of combining statistics from institutional and disciplinary repositories with the publisher’s statistics. This is a development that could be pursed either by publishers or by repositories.

The data available from PLoS (from the PLoS website) includes:
Article usage statistics – HTML pageviews, PDF downloads and XML downloads
Citations from the scholarly literature – currently from PubMed Central, Scopus and CrossRef
Social bookmarks – currently from CiteULike and Connotea
Comments – left by readers of each article
Notes – left by readers of each article
Blog posts – aggregated from Postgenomic, Nature Blogs, and Bloglines
Ratings – left by readers of each article

More information is available at:

Croatia’s OA journal platform

Jadranka Stojanovski, Jelka Petrak, and Bojan Macan, The Croatian national open access journal platform, Learned Publishing, October 2009. Abstract:

Until recently, Croatian scientific journals were accessible only in print form and only to a relatively small audience. A national online journals platform was therefore planned to offer publishers a simple tool for building online versions of their journals and to make them open access. The platform, named Hrčak, was launched in 2006, supported by governmental funds. It currently includes 170 open access (OA) journals. Most journals include backfiles from 2006 onwards; the average archived period is 6.3 years. 56.5% of the journals come from the fields of social sciences and humanities. Metadata from the Hrčak platform are regularly harvested by OA repositories. To increase the number of Croatian journals covered by relevant bibliographic and full-text databases, Hrčak has forged links with Elsevier, Thomson Reuters and EBSCO. So far, the main achievements include assisting publishers in the process of electronic publishing, and improving accessibility to Croatian scientific output.

See also our past post on Hrčak.

OA textbooks from college bookstores

Jeff Young, College Bookstores Hope to Turn Their Web Sites Into E-Book Portals, The Wired Campus, September 24, 2009.

College bookstores are taking steps to turn their Web sites into e-book portals, hoping to stay relevant as publishers make a push to electronic textbooks.

A project announced this week by bookstore associations in the United States and Canada will bring a library of downloadable e-books to participating stores. A few stores in Canada are experimenting with the system this fall, and some U.S. stores will try the system starting this spring.

… [T]he groups — the National Association of College Stores and the Canadian Campus Retail Associates Inc. — have pooled their resources to develop a shared system. Each store can integrate it into its own Web site, to let students buy and download an electronic text in just a few clicks …

So far the groups’ collection is tiny — just about 200 titles. … [T]his first set of books is free to students, either because the books are out of copyright or because the publishers have agreed to make them free for now.

Anyone can download the free books from participating stores …

Also see the NACS press release.

Comment on Richard Poynder’s “Mistaking Intent For Action”

It would be churlish of me to criticize Richard Poynder’s friendly article, with most of which I can hardly disagree. So please consider this a complimentary complement rather than a cavil:

Annual institutional subscriptions for annual incoming journals do not morph in any coherent or sensible way into annual institutional “memberships” for individual outgoing articles.

This is true of the multi-journal “Big Deal” subscriptions with journal-fleet publishers, and it is even more obvious with single journals: Are 10,000 universities supposed to have annual “memberships” in 25,000 journals on an annual pro-rated quota based on the number of articles each institution’s researchers happen to have published in each journal last year? Or is this “membership” to be based on one global (and oligopolistic) “mega-deal” between a mega-consortium of publishers and a mega-consortium of institutions? (If this makes sense, why don’t we do all our shopping this way, putting a whole new twist on globalisation?) Or is it just to save our familiar intuitions about subscriptions? Wouldn’t it make more sense to scrap those intuitions, when they lead to absurdities like this?

Especially when they are unnecessary, as we can see if we remind ourselves what OA is really about. Open access is about access: about making all journal articles freely accessible online to all users. It is not about morphing institutional-subscription-based funding of publishing into institutional-membership-based funding of publishing. Indeed, it isn’t about funding publishing at all, since it is not publishing that is in a crisis but institutional access.

Here’s another way to look at it: The “serials crisis” is the fact that institutions cannot afford access to all the journal articles they need. They have to keep canceling more and more journals, thereby making their access less and less. If all institutions had free online access to all those journal articles then that would not make the journals any more affordable at current prices, but it would certainly make canceling them less of a big deal, because their content would be free online anyway.

And that is precisely the state of affairs that universal Green OA self-archiving mandates would deliver virtually overnight.

So why are institutions instead wasting their time and money fussing over how to fit the round peg of institutional subscriptions into the square hole of institutional memberships today, via pre-emptive Gold OA funding commitments that generate a lot of extra expense for very little extra access — instead of providing Open Access to all of their own journal-article output by mandating Green OA self-archiving today?

That “the access and affordability problems are part and parcel of the larger serials crisis” is altogether the wrong way to look at it. The OA problem is access, and affordability is part and parcel of that problem today only inasmuch as alternatives to journal subscriptions increase access today — which is very little, and at high cost, insofar as Gold OA is concerned (today).

So instead of waiting passively for journals to convert to the Gold standard, and instead of throwing scarce money at them pre-emptively to try to make it worth their while, why don’t institutions simply make their own journal article output Green OA, today? That will generate universal (Green) OA with certainty, today.

If and when that universal Green OA should in turn eventually go on to generate journal cancellations to the point of making subscriptions unsustainable for covering the costs of publication, then that will be the time for journals to cut obsolete products and services for which there is no longer a market (such as the print edition, the PDF edition, archiving, access-provision and digital preservation, leaving all that to the global network of Green OA institutional repositories), along with their associated costs, and convert to Gold OA for covering the costs of what remains (largely just implementing peer review).

Unlike today — when paid Gold OA is at best a useful proof-of-principle that publishing can be sustained without subscriptions and at worst a waste of scarce cash based on a premature and incoherent hope of morphing directly into universal Gold OA — after universal Green OA each institution will have more than enough money to pay those much reduced publication costs (on an individual article basis, not via an institutional membership) from just a small fraction of its annual windfall savings if and when they decide they can cancel all those subscriptions in which that money is tied up today.

Hence it is mandating Green OA that will rewire the “disconnect” between user and purchaser that Stuart Shieber deplores, putting paid to the inelastic need and demand of institutions for subscriptions (today) because of their inelastic need and demand for access (otherwise unavailable today). The reconnect will not come from (“capped”) Gold OA Compacts (like COPE and SCOAP3 but from the cancelation pressure that universal Green OA will eventually generate — once the demand for the obsolescent extras currently co-bundled with peer review fades out as the planet goes Green.

In other words, even if it is the affordability problem rather than OA that exercises you, the coherent way to morph from institutional subscriptions to universal Gold OA is via the mediation of universal Green OA mandates, not via a pre-emptive leap directly from the status quo to Gold via funding commitments, regardless of the price and modus operandi. Meanwhile, along the way, we will already have universal OA, at last solving the access problem, which is what OA itself is all about.

Stevan Harnad
American Scientist Open Access Forum