Show me the data!

Last week, on Monday 19th January, I co-organised the first ever Open Research London event at Imperial College London, with the help of local organisers; Jon Tennant & Torsten Reimer.


We invited two speakers for our first meeting:

They both gave excellent talks which were recorded on Imperial’s ‘Panopto’ recording system. We hope to make these available for viewing/download as soon as possible. The recordings are now publicly available! CB’s talk is available to stream here & download here, JMcA’s talk is available to stream here & download here.


We had lots of free swag to give away to attendees, including PLOS t-shirts, notebooks, USB sticks and ‘How Open Is It?‘ guides, as well as SPARC and OA Button stickers & badges – they seemed to go down well. I kept some swag back for the next event too, so if you didn’t get what you wanted this time, there will be more next time!

The speakers were kind enough to publicly post their slide-decks before their talks so you can alternatively catch-up with their content on Slideshare.

Chris Banks’ slides are embedded below:

Joe McArthur’s slides are below here:

I’ll refrain from naming names for the sake of privacy but what I most enjoyed about the event was the diversity of attendees. We had people who were ‘curious’ about Open Access and wanted to know more. We had a new PhD student, we had midway PhD students, librarians, open access publishers, and more… I believe one attendee might even have travelled back to Brighton after the event! In terms of affiliations, we had attendees from Jisc, The Natural History Museum London, Imperial College (two different campuses represented!), UCL, The National Institute for Medical Research (MRC), and AllTrials.

I was also mightily impressed that nearly all the attendees, including both speakers happily joined us in the student union (Eastside) afterwards for discussions & networking over drinks – a real sense of community here I think.

Can we do better next time? Sure we can, we must! Attendance was lower than I had hoped for but several people kindly messaged me afterwards to let me know they wanted to be there but couldn’t. I’ve no doubt that with warmer weather we’ll be able to double our attendance.


The next ORL meetup will be in mid or late March at UCL, further details TBC. 

Keep up-to-date with ORL via Twitter @OpenResLDN or our OKFN community group page:


I’m actively in the process of trying to grow the organising/steering committee for ORL. At the moment it’s just myself, Liz I-S and Jon Tennant. If you’re passionate about open research, open access, open data, reproducible research, citizen science, diversity in research, open peer-review etc… then get in contact with me:

I would love to have an OC that more broadly represents the variety of the open research community in London :)


Until next time…



[Update: I’ve submitted this idea as a FORCE11 £1K Challenge research proposal 2015-01-13. I may be unemployed from April 2015 onwards (unsolicited job offers welcome!), so I certainly might find myself with plenty of time on my hands to properly get this done…!]

Inspired by something I heard Stephen Curry say recently, and with a little bit of help from Jo McIntyre I’ve started a project to compare EuropePMC author manuscripts with their publisher-made (mangled?) ‘version of record’ twins.

How different are author manuscripts from the publisher version of record? Or put it another way, what value do publishers add to each manuscript? With the aggregation & linkage provided by EuropePMC – an excellent service – we can rigorously test this.


In this blog post I’ll go through one paper I chose at random from EuropePMC:

Sinha, N., Manohar, S., and Husain, M. 2013. Impulsivity and apathy in parkinson’s disease. J Neuropsychol 7:255-283.  doi: 10.1111/jnp.12013 (publisher version) PMCID: PMC3836240 (EuropePMC version)


A quick & dirty analysis with a simple tool that’s easy to use & available to everyone:

pdftotext -layout     (you’re welcome to suggest a better method by the way, I like hacking PDFs)

(P) = Publisher-version , (A) = Author-version

Manual Post-processing – remove the header and footer crud from each e.g. “262
Nihal Sinha et al.” (P) and “J Neuropsychol. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2013 November 21.” (A)

Automatic Post-processing – I’m not interested in numbers or punctuation or words of 3-letters or less so I applied this bash-one-liner:

strings $inputfile | tr ‘[A-Z]’ ‘[a-z]’ | sed ‘s/[[:punct:]]/ /g’ | sed ‘s/[[:digit:]]/ /g’ |  sed s/’ ‘/\\n/g | awk ‘length > 3′ | sort | uniq -c | sort -nr > $outputfile

Then I just manually diff’d the resulting word lists – there’s so little difference it’s easy for this particular pair.



The correspondence line changed slightly from this in the author version:

Correspondence should be addressed to Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Department Experimental Psychology, Oxford University, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK ( . (A)

To this in the publisher version (I’ve added bold-face to highlight the changes):

Correspondence should be addressed to Masud Husain, Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and Department Experimental Psychology, Oxford University, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK (e-mail: (P)


Reference styling has been changed. Why I don’t know, seems a completely pointless change. Either style seems perfectly functional to me tbh:

Drijgers RL, Dujardin K, Reijnders JSAM, Defebvre L, Leentjens AFG. Validation of diagnostic criteria for apathy in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders. 2010; 16:656–660. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2010.08.015. [PubMed: 20864380] (A)

to this in the publisher version:

Drijgers, R. L., Dujardin, K., Reijnders, J. S. A. M., Defebvre, L., & Leentjens, A. F. G. (2010). Validation of diagnostic criteria for apathy in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinsonism & Related Disorders, 16, 656–660. doi:10.1016/j.parkreldis.2010.08.015 (P)

In the publisher-version only (P) “Continued” has been added below some tables to acknowledge that they overflow on the next page. Arguably the publisher has made the tables worse as they’ve put them sideways (landscape) so they now overflow onto other pages. In the author-version (A) they are portrait-orientated and so hence each fit on one page entirely.


Finally, and most intriguingly, some of the figure-text comes out only in the publisher-version (P). In the author-version (A) the figure text is entirely image pixels, not copyable text. Yet the publisher version has introduced some clearly imperfect figure text. Look closely and you’ll see in some places e.g. “Dyskinetic state” of figure 2 c) in (P), the ‘ti’ has been ligatured and is copied out as a theta symbol:

DyskineƟc state




I don’t know about you, but for this particular article, it doesn’t seem like the publisher has really done all that much aside from add their own header & footer material, some copyright stamps & their journal logo – oh, and ‘organizing peer-review’. How much do we pay academic publishers for these services? Billions? Is it worth it?

I plan to sample at least 100 ‘twinned’ manuscript-copies and see what the average difference is between author-manuscripts and publisher-versions. If the above is typical of most then this will be really bad news for the legacy academic journal publishers… Watch this space!


Thoughts or comments as to how to improve the method, or relevant papers to read on this subject are welcome. Collaboration welcome too – this is an activity that scales well between collaborators.

So, apparently Elsevier are launching a new open access mega-journal some time this year, joining the bandwagon of similar efforts from almost every other major publisher. A lovely acknowledgement of the roaring success of PLOS ONE, who did it first a long time ago.

They’re only ~8 years behind, but they’re learning. I for one am pleased they are asking the research community what they want from this new journal. One of their “key points” in the press release is: “the journal will be developed in close collaboration with the research community and will evolve in response to feedback”

Well, I’m a member of the research community. I’m a BBSRC-funded postdoc at the University of Bath. I publish research myself AND I re-use published research, so I have a dual perspective that Elsevier should find useful. Here’s my feedback on their new open access journal proposal:


  • Does the research community really need or want a new journal?

We have at least 27,000 other peer-reviewed journals (source: Ulrich’s). I can’t see anything in Elsevier’s proposal that’s really new, or better than anything that already exists – you’ll be hard pressed to beat PeerJ. More journals add to the fragmentation of the research literature – it’s already hard to search across all these journals effectively. Why not just accept more volume in existing journals? It’d be great if you flipped The Lancet, Cell, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution to full (100%) open access journals, and rejected less submitted papers that present sound science. I genuinely do not know of any researcher that asked specifically for an additional new Elsevier journal.


The definition of open access always has been, and always will be this:

By “open access” to this literature, we mean its free availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited. (BOAI)

If you’re going to allow the CC-BY-NC-ND licence then by definition you can’t call it an open access journal. Either don’t allow that restrictive non-open licence, or call this new journal a ‘free-to-read’ journal or a ‘public access’ journal. These are the established terms for cost-free but not open journal content that the research community uses. Speak our language for a change instead of deliberately opaque legalese.


  • Take feedback on the design of your new journal from the WORLD not just the research community

Approximately 80% of the world’s academic research is taxpayer or charitably funded. The world is therefore your customer, not just researchers. Ask the world what they want from your new journal.


Take inspiration from the Panton Principles: “Science is based on building on, reusing and openly criticising the published body of scientific knowledge” – help researchers do the best science possible by not allowing them any excuses to not share non-sensitive data with their colleagues. The ‘email the author’ system has been widely proven not to work, in my own experience too.


  • Make peer reviews open for all to see, post-publication alongside the paper

At the time of review, you can do single or double blind, but after the manuscript is accepted and published, please publish the reviews alongside the accepted paper. The research community can then see for themselves how good peer review is at your new journal. Allow people to sign their reviews if they wish to (and personally I think this is best in most circumstances).


  • Encourage data citation

Do I really need to explain this one? Old school academic editors have apparently been striking these out at some journals. Please make all editors aware that this is both a good thing and is encouraged.


  • Encourage authors to provide their ORCIDs upon submission, (and ORCIDs for reviewers and editors too please)

This will help people disambiguate who’s who’s which is important when there are at least 7 million active researchers.


  • Charge a reasonable APC ($1350 or less), and be generous with fee waivers and discounts for those that cannot afford them

Anything more than $1350 per article for a new journal in 2015 is daylight robbery. For the first year of publication you should waive charges for everyone, as everyone else does.


  • Provide open, full text XML

Great for text-mining. We don’t need your API. Just give us the content.


There you go Elsevier – that’s my feedback. If you can do ALL of the above or better, I might even publish with you myself. I have stated what I think you should do; it’s up to you now to implement it. I anticipate the launch of your glorious new journal. When your new journal comes out I shall revisit this post & score your new journal against it.


I encourage all other researchers & the scholarly poor who feel similarly, to also make their feelings known to Elsevier, and to add points I have perhaps overlooked. I’d say good luck Elsevier, but you don’t need luck with your fat profit margins – it’s simple to openly publish a good peer-reviewed research journal – just get on and do it already.




Ross Mounce, PhD





I’ve just given an email interview for Abby Clobridge, for a forthcoming short column in Online Searcher.

I give many of these interviews and often very little material from it gets used, so I asked Abby if it was okay if I reposted what I wrote. Her response: “go for it” – thanks Abby! So here’s my thoughts on Generation Open, for a readership of librarians and information professionals:

1) Why are Open issues particularly important for early career researchers? 

Science is digital and online. Virtually no-one hand-writes a manuscript with pen & paper. Our digital research objects e.g. papers, data, software, if open as per can be freely copied and shared to all, for the benefit of everyone. Yet legacy business models from the past are putting awkward constraints, restrictions and obstructions on the publishing and re-use of our research objects. This is deeply wrong. For reasons of efficiency, economic benefit & morality our research should be open, particularly if it’s publicly or charitably funded. Non-open research creates horrid inefficiencies and inequalities that effect us all. Early career researchers are the future of research; we are the ones who can put things right and do research as it should be done – maximising the utility of the internet for low-cost, open dissemination, evaluation and discussion of research. If the early career community don’t act now to help change things, change simply won’t happen.

2) What kind of changes would you like to see within universities/colleges in regard to Open Access, Open Education, or Open Data? 

All lecture material material should be openly-licensed and available online. It’s mad to think that lecturers all over the world are creating new slides every year with essentially the same content. Deeply inefficient. Share teaching materials. Re-use & adapt good content you find. Save time & enrich the quality of your teaching.
Teaching in many ways stems from research. There would be a lot more open content available for worry-free re-use & adaption if research papers, particularly research figures were openly-available. I honestly don’t think research academics are all that aware of the licencing costs involved for re-using non-open research to which a traditional publisher has taken the copyright of. Peter Murray-Rust has a great example  of a Nature paper, that if you want to print 10 copies of it for teaching purposes, it costs $1610 USD, not including the paper & ink, just the licence to reproduce!


It’s ridiculously obstructive and a waste of good research. No one will use that paper for teaching because of the prohibitive licencing costs. By contrast, open access papers published under the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) can be emailed, put on Moodle, printed for no additional cost, nor does one need to ask permission before re-use. Open removes barriers and makes life easier for everyone.


With respect to data & software, institutions need to train-up their staff & students more in terms of research data management, reproducible research, git & version control. It’s mildly embarrassing that external (but brilliant) organisations like Software Carpentry & Data Carpentry are taking up the slack and giving everyone the training that they need. All Software Carpentry sessions in the UK have been packed as far as know because that kind & quality of training simply isn’t being adequately provided at many institutions.


3) What can librarians do to support ECRs in regards to being open? 


Go out into departments and speak to people. Give energetic presentations in collaboration with an enthusiastic researcher in that department (sometimes a librarian alone just won’t get listened to). Academics sorely need to know:
  • * the cost of academic journal subscriptions
  • * that using journal impact factors to assess an individual’s research is statistically illiterate practice
  • * the cost of re-using non-open research papers for teaching purposes (licencing)
  • * What Creative Commons licences are, and why CC BY or CC0 are best for open access
  • * new research tools that support open research: Zenodo, Dryad, Github, Sparrho, WriteLatex etc…


4) What action(s) have you personally taken to support or promote openness?


How long a list do you want?


5) Anything else I’m not asking that you think is important… 


What do I think of NPG’s recent #SciShare announcement. Will it help people gain access to research?


No. I think it’s just another form of #BeggarAccess. The actual terms & conditions of the scheme are extremely limiting and do not resemble the initial hype around the scheme when it was first announced. The Open Access Button and #icanhazpdf remain as the most optimal solutions for access to proper copies of NPG articles.


What do I think of the attitude and prevalence of academic copyright infringement amongst early career researchers?


Everyone is knowingly or unknowingly committing copyright infringement at the moment. If we didn’t, research would be incredibly painfully slow and inefficient. Ignoring silly laws is what my generation do. For context; the Napster generation was 1999-2001 – that was a long, long time ago. We know how to share files online. We know how to use torrents. I really don’t know why libraries don’t cut more subscription journals – the academic community is very good at routing around damage caused by paywalls. Have faith in our ability to find access, even if the institutional library can’t provide it. Cut subscriptions, let them go, we don’t need or want the restrictions they offer.

Nature’s Beggar Access

December 2nd, 2014 | Posted by rmounce in Open Access - (7 Comments)

Nature has announced a press release about a new scheme they’ve come up with to legalise begging to view research.

Picture from / All Rights Reserved, copyright not mine.

Pic lovemeow All Rights Reserved, copyright not mine.


The situation before this scheme was that the scholarly poor would beg for access via private social media (email) and public social media (e.g. twitter #icanhazpdf). Kind, privileged subscribers with access to Nature magazine would then privately pass along a printable PDF copy via untrackable/untraceable ‘dark social‘ means.


After this announcement, the situation won’t change much. The printable-PDF that most people use and want is still under a 6 month embargo. It can’t be posted to an institutional repository.

The scholarly poor, without a Nature subscription, will still need to beg subscribers for access to specific articles they want. Only now this begging is more clearly legalised. Nature will graciously, formally allow privileged subscribers to share an extremely rights-restricted locked-down view of Nature articles with their scholarly poor friends. These view-only articles CANNOT be printed, presumably because that would enable untrackable ‘offline’ sharing of research.

Which makes me think? What are the real reasons behind this new policy?

Macmillan Publishers Ltd who publish Nature, also run Digital Science who are an investor of AND an investor in ReadCube.

It’s clear that this new policy is major PR for ReadCube – the links will presumably direct to Nature articles view-only within ReadCube. The more subtle boost is also for & the altmetrics of all shared Nature articles.

If this PR stunt converts some dark social sharing of PDFs into public, trackable, traceable sharing of research via non-dark social means (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ …) this will increase the altmetrics of Nature relative to other journals and that may in-turn be something that benefits


I’m sorry to be so cynical about this PR stunt, but it really doesn’t appear to change much. It will convert a small amount of semi-legal ‘dark social’ sharing, into formally legal public social sharing of research.

It has legalised begging.

It also panders to those that think true open access publishing is “a solution for a problem that does not exist”. A shrewd measure retarding the progress towards the inevitability of open access.


Congratulations Nature, hmmm…?


For less cynical posts see Wilbanks review: Nature’s Shareware Moment, and Michael Eisen’s ‘Is Nature’s “free to view” a magnanimous gesture or a cynical ploy?‘.


Update: It’s come to my attention that the ‘annotation’ function that the press release mentions is also likely to be a ReadCube-only feature. This is classic lock-in strategy. Please DO NOT annotate any Nature papers you read using Beggar Access. Macmillan / Digital Science / ReadCube are clearly looking to monetize annotations on their proprietary platform.

Also, it looks like blind & visually-impaired people don’t benefit from this. I don’t think standard screen-reading software works with ReadCube. Thanks to a suggestion from @derivadow I tried the ChromeVox screen-reader plugin and that seemed to work, it could read-out all the words. I do not know if it works with popular screen-reader software like Orca or JAWS.

Just a quick post to congratulate the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for their fabulous new research policy covering both open access & open data.

One of the key things they’ve implemented for 2017 is ZERO TOLERANCE for post-publication embargoes of research. Work MUST be made openly available IMMEDIATELY upon publication to be compliant. No ifs, no buts.

Let’s just remind ourselves why other major research funders like RCUK & Wellcome Trust allow publishers to impose an embargo on academic work before it can be made public:



Do any academics want a post-publication embargo on their work, that stops it being shared, read & re-used by the widest readership possible?




Does it benefit readers, patients, policy-makers or practitioners to have a post-publication embargo delaying their access to the very latest research?




Does it benefit research funders themselves to have a post-publication embargo on work they fund?




The only stakeholder that benefits from research funder policies that allow post-publication embargoes preventing free access to research are the legacy publishers. The fact that RCUK, Wellcome Trust and many others pander to these parasitic publishers and their laughably unfit-for-purpose business model is just WRONG and it makes me angry. JUST SAY “NO” TO POST-PUBLICATION EMBARGOES!




It’s high-time that major research funders wrote policies that ask for what WE ALL ACTUALLY WANT, instead of a bullshit compromise that minimises fiscal harm to the multi-billion dollar legacy publishers.


I admire the Gates Foundation. They understand what we all need and they’ve implemented that in a clear and appropriate policy; optimal for readers, researchers, patients, practitioners and policy-makers. We want immediate open access, and we want it NOW! The ball is now in your court Wellcome Trust, make your move!


Day 0 of OpenCon started with me missing the pre-conference drinks reception because my flight from Chicago was delayed by 2 hours. I got into Washington, D.C. (DCA) at about midnight & then had to wait half an hour for a blue line train to take me the short distance from the airport to the conference hotel — I’m a diehard for public transport! Finally arriving at the hotel past 1 o’clock in the morning. Not a great start. Sincere apologies to my excellent room mate Alfonso Sintjago, to whom I hastily introduced myself the next morning #awkward 

Day 1 started with a real bang. Michael Carroll gave a short speech. Then Pat Brown gave a long but HUGELY enjoyable talk about his role in the founding of PLOS & some excellent take home messages from the talk:

  • * Write petitions & letters for change with colleagues. Even if you fail to directly achieve all the goals or immediate aims of the petition, the act of doing it, the publicity & thought-provoking it raises can have real and important positive effects.

I saw immediate parallels of this with the recent ‘Open Peer Review Oath‘ , Jon Tennant’s & co’s ‘Open Letter to AAAS‘ , Erin McKiernan’s ‘Open Letter to the Society for Neuroscience‘, Gower & Neylon’s ‘The Cost of Knowledge, the [ongoing] Elsevier Boycott‘ and my own petition to ‘Support Palaeo Data Archiving‘ (2011). All of these, have made people sit-up and take notice. They have ALL been worthwhile activities in my opinion.

  • * Sometimes you’ve got to do odd things that might be against your ethos, to support your interests in the long term e.g. the traditional review selectivity of PLOS Biology & initially, printing paper copies of PLOS Biology.
  • * Sometimes you have to fake it to make it (N.B. said in the context of collective action, not scientific research)


The State of the Opens

Next there was a panel with talks and discussion on the state of Open Access, Open Data and Open Educational Resources. I was giving the Open Data talk (slides here) and found it hard to give — to be authoritative on the state & practice of open research data requires significant research, and I simply didn’t have time to really do the topic justice. I guess my main points were:



I’m so glad Victoria Stodden gave the next talk after the panel, I think I was the one on the organising committee who first suggested her for a keynote slot (sorry to brag!). Victoria did not disappoint – her talk was a remarkable display of undeniable deep-thinking & scholarship. Her reminder to us all of Merton’s Scientific Norms (1942) was an excellent grounding in the basis of open research:

  • Communalism: scientific results are the common property of the community
  • Universalism: all scientists can contribute to science regardless of race, nationality, culture, or gender
  • Disinterestedness: act for the benefit of a common scientific enterprise,
    rather than for personal gain.
  • Originality: scientific claims contribute something new
  • Skepticism: scientific claims must be exposed to critical scrutiny before being

This was clearly appreciated by the audience and others e.g. Lorraine have already blogged about it. I also took home from the talk that it’s important to distinguish between the 3 different types of reproducibility: Empirical Reproducibility, Computation Reproducibility, and Statistical Reproducibility, and that the Bayh-Dole Act is the an awfully bad motivator for NOT opening-up research in the US (of which I pointedly reflected-on in a meeting at the NIH on day 3).

REAL TALK: at the end Stodden made a great point, which I hope was listened to: young academics should not be expected to martyr themselves for the cause of open scholarship, and that it should be the more senior academics leading the way — here, here!

Don’t martyr yourself for the cause. “Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian”. By Giovanni Bassi, 1525. Public Domain

After lunch there were parallel sessions. Uvania Naidoo led a workshop on Open Access in the Context of Developing Countries. I regret I can’t report on that session because Peter Murray-Rust and myself were holding a ContentMine workshop in the alternate room at the same time. The ContentMine session was really good fun, and very interactive — you can see the discussion from the session on the etherpad here. Jure Triglav had some great ideas around mining the literature for software citations, Nic Weber chimed-in that HPC citation /mentions would be great to do too. April Clyburne-Sherin was interested in clinical trials data mining etc… I could go on. The trick now is for us to explore these ideas and see if we can make them happen after the conference. The epidemiology/ebola, content mining looks like it’s definitely going to happen, many people were interesting in forming a collaboration around that.

Innovative Publishing Models

I’m not going to report every session in full detail. This is one where I’m probably skimping. Meredith Niles (Harvard postdoc) moderated talks and discussion by a panel consisting of Arianna Becerril (Redalyc), Pete Binfield (PeerJ), Mark Patterson (eLife) and Martin Paul Eve (Open Library of Humanities).

Meredith Niles and myself at the Day 1 evening reception. Twitter / M. Niles. All rights reserved, copyright not mine.

Meredith Niles and myself, in my new favourite t-shirt at the evening reception, Day 1. Twitter / M. Niles. All rights reserved, copyright not mine.

Huge congratulations to the organising committee for bringing this particular panel together. These are without doubt in my mind, representatives of four of the most important, innovative organizations in academic publishing right now. They all gave excellent talks but particular kudos should go to Martin Paul Eve for delivering a swish Prezi and more importantly, a passionate, invigorating talk on the possible future of OA in the humanities.

The impact of open

The line-up alone for the next session was stellar. The conference had it’s first glimpse of Erin McKiernan on stage, moderating a panel consisting of Jack Andraka, Peter Murray-Rust, and Daniel DeMarte. Forgive me for a lack of detail here, it was near the end of a long day. Jack gave his usual polished speech, with humour and grace. As well as ably fielding a couple of tough but fair questions about his patent pending. As ever, a lot of people wanted to take pictures with him and he was gracious to allow everyone who wanted a photo with him

Four people proudly pushing boundaries. Photo: mine! All rights reserved. CC-BY

Four people proudly pushing boundaries. Photo: mine! Licence: All rights reserved. CC-BY of course!

Jon Tennant (pictured above) gave Jack, as promised, a copy of his new book, which I also have a copy of. Peter Murray-Rust gave a rebel rousing talk, and an emotional slide of respect for the visionary pioneer of open notebook science, Jean-Claude Bradley, who sadly died this year.

The day ended with a closing keynote from John Wilbanks which was really the perfect cherry-on-top of the icing of a brilliant first day. It’s only been a few days but his talk slides, ‘Open as a Platform‘ have racked-up nearly 1000 views and I’m not surprised. I’d better not blather on too much, but put it this way: Wilbanks is a hero to me. I love some of things he’s said before and I’ve really taken them to heart in my work e.g. “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The 2nd best time is NOW” from ‘Data sharing as a means to a revolution‘. It was simply great to be able to chat to both Michael Carroll and John Wilbanks at the evening reception.

Miscellaneous Day 2 Highlights (If I don’t abbreviate this blog post soon, it’ll be book length)

Audrey Watters keynote talk ‘From “Open” to Justice‘ had a clear closing message: open is necessary but it’s not enough, we need meaningful political engagement, care and justice. The word ‘open’ alone does not solve all our problems (I may have paraphrased!).

Erin McKiernan‘s keynote was an inspiration to us all. ‘Being Open as an Early Career Researcher‘ was a masterclass in DOING IT THE RIGHT WAY, with an abundance of supporting evidence. I haven’t had the privilege of seeing her speak before, and had heard lots about how good a speaker she is – I wasn’t disappointed. I completely stand with Erin when she says:

If I am going to ‘make it’ in science, it has to be on terms I can live with.

I sincerely look forward to working with Erin, Prateek, Meredith, Nick and others on future projects, most immediately, the Open Access Ambassadors meeting in Munich this December.

Project Presentations

All the project panels on day 2 were excellent. It’s great to see so many of our attendees, many of whom travelled along way to be here to get time on stage to tell us about their work.

Open Access around the world

Open Access around the world. Twitter / Iryna Kuchma. All rights reserved, copyright not mine.

I was particularly taken by Ahmed Ogunlaja‘s clever response, to the question of how he approaches OA advocacy in Nigeria:

Open Access wins all of the arguments all of the time

That in itself got a round of applause. It’s no exaggeration to say there were a lot of earnest rounds applause that day; no polite applause.

Another such spontaneous round of applause came when Penny Andrews took the microphone to raise a really important point/question about diversity and social mobility in research in a calm, professional, clear tone. The audience, myself included were simply floored by how erudite it was. Stunning. This is but a small sample of what Penny brought to OpenCon:

If you only work with people who are like you, your work will only be FOR people like you. Embrace diversity, even if it’s hard #opencon2014

Late into the night at the ‘unconference’ session perhaps circa 11pm, Jure Triglav found out that his ScienceGist summaries are being used (in a good way!) by a researcher as sample data to test against a machine-based paper summary approach — I hope Jure blogs more about that, it seemed pretty cool to me. I’m also hoping ScienceGist might be used on PeerJ. Watch this space…

Mitar, gave an excellent talk, PeerLibrary has come-on a lot since I last looked at it, and he seemed to be literally overflowing with brilliant ideas, awaiting implementation. He told me had been considering applying for a Sloan Foundation grant to support his excellent work, but hadn’t yet applied, so without his knowledge/consent I decided to send a cheeky tweet to encourage him! If Sloan won’t fund his project(s), I’m sure Shuttleworth will!


Carolina Botero’s talk  was an important closer for day 2. So so important. Sharing Research Is Not A Crime!

I’ve a written a long post and most of it is glowingly, sickeningly positive. What didn’t go well?

Well… this is all my fault but I do feel the ‘How to be an open researcher’ session run by Erin & myself could have been smoother. We had technical difficulties setting-up the computer. BOTH our laptops only have HDMI connectors, no VGA, so we had to borrow Georgina‘s Mac & neither Erin nor I are particularly great Mac users (4-finger swiping between the browser and the presentation slides was challenging!), on linux this is very easy to do, just Alt-Tab & cycle through to the window you want. I must also apologise to Erin for launching into a mini-rant about figshare without forewarning her – I have concerns about putting too much open data on a commercial platform, that there simply isn’t enough space in this blog post to get into. Another time! But in principle I think double-teaming a lively workshop like this works really well — especially if we have slightly different viewpoints on some tool or strategy.

Day 3: On The Hill

Well, I learn’t a little about Minnesota whilst sitting in Amy J. Klobuchar‘s office. In our short time with a legislative assistant of hers, we pitched hard for Open Access & Open Educational Resources.

I highlighted that US taxpayer-funded academics give their work for free to commercial publishers, other academics peer-review this content, for free, the publisher barely does anything aside from typesetting & putting the content online, and hence most of the big publishers are consistently making 30-40% profit margins on taxpayer-funded research. [Standard knowledge basically] I was also quick to allay any concern that it would harm US businesses – I pointed out that most of the large publishers were European – Elsevier (Dutch), Springer (German), Nature Publishing Group (UK). It was a little disappointing to have only 30 minutes but that apparently was a good innings as these things go.

Whilst I honestly have no idea what will come of the Minnesota Senator meeting, the meeting at NIH was seriously productive.

NIH was simply fabulous for all involved, including NIH if you ask me! Many of the younger early career researchers got to see detailed & complicated concerns of their (relatively) more senior attendees e.g. Prateek Malwahar, Daniel Mietchen, Lauren Maggio, Karin Shorthouse and myself. I was worried that perhaps we might have ‘dominated’ the discussion a bit too much, but after discussing it with Shannon Evans afterwards – many actually really enjoyed seeing research-savvy people really dig into difficult policy issues. Natalia Norori‘s question near the end was also brilliantly appropriate, and the response rather chilling (although I should be clear, I’m not trying to shoot the messenger here!) — the USA has some deep political problems if disclosing the number of people using PubMed from outside the US is a ‘bad’ thing (those who were there will know exactly what I’m talking about!). I’m also hugely excited by the prospect of the OA_Button *potentially* getting a linkout button on Pubmed – Kent Anderson’ll love that, eh?.

Daniel Mietchen & I gave some valuable feedback on the packaging of the PubMed OA subset – the contention was that it wasn’t seeing much visible use, and yet Daniel & I both feel this is wrong — there are many users out there — it’s just hard to publish mining research because it’s often new/interdisciplinary and how does one ‘cite’ PubMed corpus usage anyhow? — it’s clearly going to be difficult to track users.

I was hugely flattered when Neil Thakur said he’s read my blog before! wow! Hope you like this post Neil.

Swapping shirts & the super-friendly culture at OpenCon

I gave out my 2 spare ‘Boycott Elsevier’ t-shirts at OpenCon this year, and I think I’ll make shirt-swapping a regular thing if I can! First, it was my immense pleasure to swap shirts with Daniel Mutonga at the organizing committee dinner. To his credit, Daniel was the one who suggested it: ‘like football players after a game’ , so I put on his MSAKE tee & he put on my ‘Boycott Elsevier’ tee. Fantastic. I think I should swap t-shirts with someone at every conference. Shannon (?) told me an interesting variation on this one, which also sounds like a good idea to implement: swapping pin badges.

I gave the other spare ‘Boycott Elsevier’ t-shirt to Erin McKiernan. We joked it would be hilarious to wear at SfN. Although, slightly concerned for how it would be received I did make clear that I didn’t mind if she chose not to wear it at SfN. She’s since tweeted me a picture wearing it in front of the Elsevier stand – exactly what I’d do! Every penny spent on those t-shirts has been totally worth it – such a good medium for non-violent, high profile activism!

The ‘backchannel’ discussion on twitter between OpenCon attendees & remote followers of the conference was also brilliant. Lots of lively, informative, intelligent threads of discussion sparked by lots of the talks, simply excellent.

It was also great to see Celya Gruson-Daniel again – she’s a real unsung hero of open science – if you aren’t aware of her project HackYourPhD go check it out NOW. Community building is immensely important and she’s clearly very good at it. It’s immensely & deservedly popular in the Franco-phone world. (I wonder if there are similar wildly successful Spanish-language open science communities? Please point them in my direction if you know of one!)

I must also thank Kurtis Baude for interviewing me about open research data in one of the breaks – his enthusiasm for spreading open science is infectious – we had a great chat together.


People making change for the better

People making change for the better

Being at OpenCon, more than at any other meeting, I was truly amongst friends. I was going to list everyone here in thanks but a list of 175 names isn’t much fun to read & I wouldn’t want to miss anyone out! Sorry to anyone I didn’t mention by name!


Rejected. Image copied from . All rights reserved, not my copyright

Rejected. Image copied from HuffPo / Leslie Goshko. All rights reserved, not my copyright.

I have to admit, I went to OpenCon feeling a little bit low. My cranial / postcranial data comparison manuscript from my PhD had been recently rejected (again). Not on the basis that it was bad science, just that it wasn’t quite interesting enough for readers of the particular journal we (re)submitted it to. I gather this happens a lot with traditional impact-factor chasing publication strategies, and it can ruin alter career paths before they even get started. To have spent 4 years doing a PhD & 3 years of that on/off trying(ish) to publish this particular chapter and STILL have nothing, not even a preprint to publicly show for it (don’t even ask why I can’t put up a preprint. I think preprints are a great idea myself…). I was a tad depressed – let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen to us all, folks. Real Talk

Luckily, OpenCon has completely changed my mood for the better and reminded me of all the important things I did do during my PhD:

* I published *shrugs* in academic journals. I’m not even going to link to what I did manage to publish. I have a h-index, yada yada… I think all of the below were more important contributions, with more real-world impact to be honest:

* I debated Open Access live on BBC Radio 3 with MP David Willetts & others

* I gave a pretty darn good talk about content mining at the European Commission ‘Licences for Europe, Working Group 4: Text & Data Mining’ event. Which helped stave-off the unwanted imposition of ‘licensed’ content mining in Europe.

* I submitted well-reasoned, written evidence, to the UK Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) call for information on Open Access policy

* I wrote popular & influential, blog pieces for the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog: one on simple steps towards open scholarship, and the other on the UK Hargreaves copyright exception allowing non-commercial content mining.

I write the above list, self-indulgently to convince myself I’m not stupid. I can do clever stuff. I’m pretty sharp when it comes to research policy, and I have ideas and enthusiasm to help make research more open (== better). I think I’ve proved that now, time and time again.

Next week I’m meeting up with my supervisor and we’re going to work on revising & resubmitting that manuscript again. And thanks to OpenCon 2014 I’m actually in the mood to do that. Thanks Generation Open. You’re awesome.

Stay cool. Copied from Haney. All rights reserved, not my copyright.

Stay cool. Copied from Tumblr / Haney. All rights reserved, not my copyright.


[UPDATE: 2015-01-07 It appears the full text of this article is now freely available from the publishers website. A moving wall system? This still doesn’t change the fact that this article was not publically available for 12 months. The maximum embargo allowed by MRC funding is just 6 months from publication.]


I note with interest that article publication charge data from the University of Edinburgh has been released on Figshare today.

There are some fascinating numbers in there and I applaud the transparency.

One particular article that took my eye is this one:
Paradoxical effects of heme arginate on survival of myocutaneous flaps


Page charges were paid for this article amounting to £1330.45, and that’s just for page charges – the journal did not make the article open access, nor was it asked to. This was for ‘page charges’ alone.

I also noted the research was paid for by the MRC – a top-class UK government-funded agency. As I am a full UK taxpayer, I feel especially entitled to read this research!

The MRC has a very clear policy on open access – the article must either:

1.) be made immediately open access by the publisher upon publication; ‘journal-mediated OA’ (sometimes called ‘gold’)


2.) via the route of ‘repository-mediated access’ some kind of copy of the work must be made publicly accessible no more than 6 months after publication (sometimes called ‘green’)

Since the article clearly wasn’t open access at the publisher, I assume the authors have elected to choose the repository-access method. The article was formally published on 1st January 2014, so between then and now, clearly at least 6 months have elapsed. 7 months and 20 days to be precise. So where is the full text of this article?

It’s not in PubMed (abstract-only)
Nor EuropePubMed (abstract-only)
Nor the University of Edinburgh institutional repository (abstract-only)

So it would appear to me that the rules of the funding body (MRC) may have been broken here (sincere apologies if I am wrong about this), something all too easy to do if the repository route is chosen.

Wouldn’t it have been better to spend those page charges on making the paper immediately open access?

In the mean time, I have sent the University of Edinburgh open access team ( an email to ask where the full text for this paper is, and I await their reply.