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[Update 5.30PM 2015-03-26: Wiley have now ‘freed’ the wrongly-paywalled articles in response to this. It doesn’t change the fact that these articles were wrongly on sale for 2 months and 26 days. They have also wrongly sold access to these articles.]

Wiley are currently (3PM 2015-03-26) charging for access to thousands of articles that should be free to access.

They have recently (legitimately) taken control of a journal called Limnology and Oceanography from the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). The association makes clear in its guidelines for the journal that all articles are placed into Free Access after three years (source).

Yet today, I see that Wiley is selling access to articles from Limnology and Oceanography for $45.60 USD (inc. tax). I know this because I bought access to an article myself. Screenshot at the bottom. In fact volumes 41 (1996) to 1 (1956), consisting of thousands of articles are currently on sale at Wiley.

Some Questions:

How many times has Wiley sold access to articles from this journal that are greater than three years old: i.e. articles that should be free to read?

Did the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) give them permission to sell access to articles that are more than three years old?

What do the authors think about access to their work being sold for $45.60 per article?

What do society members of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) think about this?

Will Wiley apologise for doing this? Elsevier hasn’t yet for a similar incident.

Will the society get fiscal compensation for this mishandling of their material?

Is this acceptable? IMO, I think not. IMO it is outrageous that Wiley are selling access to thousands of articles that should be freely available. There should be a full and open investigation into this. Relevant organisations like OASPA and UKSG should step in here. This cannot keep happening.

can this be sold?

Last Friday, I genuinely thought Elsevier had illegally sold me an article that should have been open access. This post is to update you all on what we’ve found out since:

The Scale of the Problem

No one really knows how many articles are wrongly paywalled at all of Elsevier’s various different sales websites. So far, Alicia Wise (Elsevier’s Director of ‘Universal Access’) has admitted that 27 articles were wrongly paywalled in this latest incident and that “a handful” of these were sold to readers for $31.50 per article (source).

This wrong paywalling of paid-for ‘open access’ content also happened in 2014. I have a feeling it will happen in 2016 too…

Do we have the time and resources to keep checking all articles, at all providers of ‘hybrid OA’, to see if they are wrongly or illegally on sale?

Can we trust publishers of ‘hybrid OA’ to keep those paid-for articles outside the paywall, in perpetuity?

A lot of credit for unveiling this latest incident should be given to Marlène Delhaye, whom to my knowledge was the first person to uncover this latest round of problems at Elsevier.

Duration of Imprisonment

If one assumes that these 27 falsely paywalled articles were all from the transfer of the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection from Wiley to Elsevier, which happened on January 1st, 2015, then we can perhaps assume that these articles were wrongly paywalled for a duration of 2 months and 9 days.

How many readers did these articles lose in that duration because the prospective readers could not get cost-free access to the full text from Elsevier’s websites? Most publisher websites track failed access attempts. For example JSTOR memorably admitted it turned away 150 million people attempting to read paywalled articles in one year.

I have been promised reimbursement for my purchases of articles that should never have been on sale in the first place, but what of the authors & funders of these articles? What compensation do they get? Their articles weren’t freely available to read for over 2 months – I’d be hopping mad if I was an author of one of those works. I think an appropriate calculation of financial compensation would be the price the article was on sale for, multiplied by the number of days it was wrongly behind a paywall.

Thus for this latest incident involving 27 articles, wrongly paywalled for 67 days, at a sale price of $31.50, I estimate the total bill for compensation owed to all the authors is: $56,983.50.  Considering the Elsevier STM publishing division had an adjusted operating profit in 2013 of £826 million, I think they can spare that loose change amount.

Apparently it was not ‘illegal’

Various people, Alicia Wise included, have been telling me that selling access to hybrid OA in this instance was NOT illegal. After a lot of discussion, I think I believe them.

Despite the article being clearly intended to be freely available to readers upon publication by the authors, all parties agree they paid Wiley to make the article freely available, not behind a paywall.

Despite the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 license clearly marked on the article at the Wiley site.

How?

Well, author-publisher contract trickery is the answer, I believe.

Conventional open access publishers simply confirm, via an informed consent process, that the author knows and wants their work to be published typically under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). If it gets through the editorial & review process, it is published online solely under the terms of the CC-BY license, and this is clearly marked on the paper. Copyright is fully retained by the authors over their work at all times. It’s a clear one-step process. The publisher AND readers are both bound by the terms of the chosen CC-license.

But Elsevier, Wiley and other merchants of ‘hybrid OA’ do things differently. Typically, they grant themselves carte blanche rights for commercial usage in an author-publisher contract and then afterwards, they publish online the article under a Creative Commons (or other) license. In this case only the readers are bound by the terms of the ‘end-user’ licence – the publisher can to some extent do what they want with impunity.

Needless to say, I think this incident has unveiled a significant flaw / legal loophole in the way that legacy publishers offer ‘hybrid OA’. Authors under these ‘hybrid OA’ systems appear to lose the right to sue their own publisher for wrongful commercial usage of their work.

At the very least I think publishers should print the terms and conditions of the author-publisher contract within each publication itself, so that readers like myself are informed of their ‘special rights’, over-and-above those indicated by the Creative Commons license chosen.

No apologies, no formal statements …so far

I’ve seen a few blog comments here and there from Alicia Wise which has been helpful. It is noted that she has even “thanked” me for raising this issue. I have also been promised a refund for my article purchases.

But thanks is not what I wanted. I didn’t intend to do Elsevier’s system-checking work for them. I want a public apology for this incident, that includes the word ‘sorry':

  1. To myself and others who were wrongly charged for access to ‘open access’ articles
  2. To the authors & research funders of those 27 articles that were paid-for to be made available to readers for free, ‘open access’.
  3. To all the prospective readers, who didn’t get to read those 27 articles for over 2 months because they were behind a paywall.

 

I accept that these articles were ‘mistakenly’ paywalled, but even when innocent mistakes are made, it is still polite to formally apologise for making them.

For my part, I’m happy to apologise for alleging that these article sales were ‘illegal‘ – it was a logical, justified statement to make at the time, but with hindsight it might not be factually correct. Sorry Elsevier, what you did was not quite ‘illegal’ it was just wrong.

Now I’ve said my public apology for my innocent mistake, perhaps Elsevier could publicly make their apology too?

RIPhybridOA

  • you weren’t much loved in your short existence
  • you weren’t much use to readers or text-miners because we often couldn’t find where you were – hiding amongst shadows.
  • you were significantly more expensive than your ‘full’ open access cousins

 

In March, 2015 ‘hybrid OA’ died after a short-life of neglect. Elsevier put the final nail in the coffin, but it wasn’t just they who were responsible, other publishers were plainly guilty of hybrid OA neglect too.

Publishers gave birth to the cash-cow that was hybrid OA not long ago. The profits were immense: $5000 for a single article in some greedy cases. Yet after each ‘hybrid OA’ article was born, and the profit raked in, the hybrid OA articles were completely neglected post-publication. Much like their shuttered, not-allowed-to-play-outside-the-paywall brothers & sister articles. They were forgotten about, even though their authors had stumped-up significant funds upfront to ensure their freedom forever.

Hybrid OA - a cash-cow

Hybrid OA was a wonderfully profitable system for the publisher/carers. It enabled bountiful double-dipping – additional revenue for providing exactly the same content. Laughably, the publisher/carers claimed  that it was “not happening at all“, but anyone with a brain knew better.

But too much neglect of the hybrids over the years led to many high-profile instances of triple-dipping: subscription revenue, APC fees, AND $31.50 (+ tax) per article reader charges (for content that had already been paid to be made free for readers, forever).

A variety of rightly concerned funders started a trend banning authors from sending their articles to hybrid OA profiteer-merchants, for their own good. Only full OA venues could be trusted to actually do the job and the keep the articles outside paywalls.

In short, legacy publishers themselves killed hybrid OA through their own carelessness. Authors, librarians, research funders and readers simply didn’t trust publishers to do hybrid OA properly, and had amassed plenty of evidence of their ineptitude. They tried to sweep the problem of a flawed and difficult system under the carpet as just ‘bumps in the road‘ to open access but actually hybrid OA was just a wrong turn all along.

Hybrid OA Is The Wrong Way

Hybrid OA Is The Wrong Way

Elsevier seem to have responded to my criticism yesterday and have stopped selling the article “HIV infection en route to endogenization: two cases” from their ScienceDirect website. Take what you will from that change, but I infer that they have realised that they are in the wrong.

Actually, they are still selling it from the ScienceDirect website too. It only looked freely available to me because I myself had paid for access to it & I guess a cookie remembered me. It’s still on sale at ScienceDirect.com as well as clinicalmicrobiologyandinfection.com

Further update: As of 2015-03-09 17.13 PM the articles were finally freely available ‘unchained'(?) from behind Elsevier’s paywalls.

 

So I was very surprised to find when I woke up this morning (2015-03-07), that this article, and many other CC-licensed articles in that journal are still being sold via other Elsevier-owned websites e.g. the one below: http://www.clinicalmicrobiologyandinfection.com/article/S1198-743X(15)60028-3/abstract

2015-03-07-091854_1332x1045_scrot

I couldn’t believe my eyes, so just to make sure they really were still illegally selling this article that shouldn’t be sold, I made another test purchase:

2015-03-07-092852_1332x1045_scrot

I heard back from Didier (the corresponding author) yesterday. He does not know why Elsevier are selling his article, nor did he give them permission to.

Elsevier (RELX Group) have been doing this for many years now: selling open access articles that authors/funders have paid-for to make freely available to everyone. Peter Murray-Rust, Mike Taylor and others have written about this extensively.

It is little wonder then that Elsevier is the most boycotted academic publishing company in the world: nearly 15,000 researchers have publicly declared they want nothing to do with this company.

I am yet to receive a refund or an apology. Alicia Wise did tweet me this:

“.@emckiernan13 .@TomReller .@rmounce the journal is in transition from Wiley to Elsevier; will check on transition status” https://twitter.com/wisealic/status/573948162794196992 but it is of little help…

Will I get my money back? I hope so…

[Update 2015-03-13: I have blogged further about this here and provided a recap here. This post has been viewed over 10,000 times. Clearly some people want to sweep this under the carpet and pretend this is just ‘a storm in a teacup’ but it did happen and people do care about this. Thanks to everyone who spread the word.]

Today, Elsevier (RELX Group) illegally sold me a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licensed article:

Colson, P. et al. HIV infection en route to endogenization: two cases. Clin Microbiol Infect 20, 1280-1288 (2014).

I’m really not happy about it. I don’t think the research funders will be happy about it either. Especially not the authors (who are the copyright holders here).

Below is a screenshot of how the content was illegally on offer for sale, for $31.50 + tax.

2015-03-06-175622_1286x907_scrot

To investigate if it really was on sale. I decided to make a test purchase. Just to be absolutely sure. Why not? The abstract looked interesting. The abstract was all I was allowed to read. I wanted to know more.

Below is the email receipt I received confirming my purchase of the content. I have crudely redacted my postal address but it’s otherwise unaltered:

receipt

So what’s the problem here?

The article was originally published online by Wiley. As clearly indicated in the document, the copyright holders are the authors. The work was licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

The terms of this widely used license clearly state: “You may not use the material for commercial purposes.

Wiley respect this license. They make this content freely available on their website here. The authors, or their research funder or institution probably paid Wiley money to make sure that the article could be made freely available to the world.

But tonight, Elsevier were selling it to me and all the world via their ScienceDirect platform.
This is clearly an illegal copyright infringement.

I have tweeted Elsevier employees @wisealic & @TomReller to see how I can get a refund for my purchase at the very least. This article should never have been on sale.

I have also contacted the corresponding author (Didier) to see what his thoughts are.
I do hope the authors will take legal action against Elsevier for their criminal misdeeds here.

My full comments on the PLOS ONE manuscript submission modelling paper:

 

On 27 January 2015 at 23:05, Chris Woolston <REDACTED> wrote:

Dr. Mounce,

Hello again. I contacted you awhile ago for my Nature column on the intersection of science and social media.

Yep I remember.

I’m wondering if I could once more ask for your help. (This is what you get for being a prolific and articulate tweeter.)

Sure why not? Thanks for the compliment :)

The next edition will look at the PLoS report on the optimum strategy for submitting papers.

Salinas S, Munch SB (2015) Where Should I Send It? Optimizing the Submission Decision Process. PLoS ONE 10(1): e0115451. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0115451
A worthy choice. It relates to my most recent research too… I have a preprint in which I comprehensively demonstrate that information published in PLOS ONE is substantially more discoverable than publishing in other paywalled journals – if other researchers can’t discover your paper when searching for relevant terms, they probably won’t cite it…
Mounce R. (2015) Dark Research: information content in many modern research papers is not easily discoverable online. PeerJ PrePrints 3:e773v1 http://dx.doi.org/10.7287/peerj.preprints.773v1
This may help to explain a (but not the only) causative mechanism behind the frequently observed open access citation advantage.
PLOS ONE is both an open access journal AND a technically excellent content platform, thus it is near perfectly full-text indexed in Google Scholar. Other journals operating a paywall, or with a more simplistic content platform & content provision (e.g. PDF only) are not well indexed in Google Scholar & thus may suffer in terms of citation.

I saw your tweet regarding “scoops.” If you have a moment, I would appreciate a brief elaboration. Isn’t there some extra value in a scoop?

“we assume that a publication that has been scooped has negligible value” journals.plos.org/plosone/articl… Replications are good. Not worthless! — https://twitter.com/rmounce/status/559744669740171264
Some academics have an odd psychological complex around this thing called ‘scooping’. The authors of this paper are clearly strong believers in scooping. I don’t believe in scooping myself – it’s a perverse misunderstanding of good scientific practice. I believe what happens is that someone publishes something interesting; useful data testing a novel hypothesis — then somewhere else another academic goes “oh no, I’ve been scooped!” without realising that even if they’re testing exactly the same hypothesis, their data & method is probably different in some or many respects — independently generated and thus extremely useful to science as a replication even if the conclusions from the data are essentially the same.
Many papers are often published, deliberately, testing the same hypothesis on different species, across species, in different countries or habitats, under different conditions – these are not generally labelled ‘already scooped papers’ although under this scheme of thought, perhaps they should be? Particularly in lab or field ecology I find it extremely unlikely that two independent groups could possibly go out and collect data on *exactly* the same hypothesis, species, population, area… They’d bump into one another, surely?
It’s only really with entirely computational theoretical ecology that it might be possible for two independent groups to be working on exactly the same hypothesis, with roughly the same method at the same time. But even here, subtle differences in parameter choice will produce two different experiments & different, independent implementations are useful to validate each other. In short, scooping is a figment of the imagination in my opinion. There should be no shame in being ‘second’ to replicate or experimentally test a hypothesis. All interesting hypotheses should be tested multiple times by independent labs, so REPLICATION IS A GOOD THING.
I suggest the negative psychology around ‘scooping’ in academia has probably arisen in part from the perverse & destructive academic culture of chasing publication in high impact factor journals. Such journals typically will only accept a paper if it is the first to test a particular hypothesis, regardless of the robustness of approach used – hence the nickname ‘glamour publications’ / glam pubs. Worrying about getting scooped is not healthy for science. We should embrace, publish, and value independent replications.
With relevance to the PLOS ONE paper – it’s a fatal flaw in their model that they assumed that ‘scooped’ (replication) papers had negligible value. This is a false assumption. I would like to see an update of calculations where ‘scooped’ (replication) papers are given various parameterizations between 10% & 80% of the value of a completely novel ‘not-scooped’ paper. In such a model I’d expect submitting to journals with efficient, quick submission-to-publication times will be optimal, journals such as PeerJ, F1000Research & PLOS ONE would come top probably.   Many academics who initially think they’ve been mildly or partially scooped, rework their paper, do perhaps an additional experiment and then still proceed to publish it. This reality is not reflected in the assumption of “negligible value”.

And don’t scientists generally look for an outlet that will publish their work sooner than later?

Some do. I do. But others chase high impact factor publication & glamour publication – this is silly, and in many cases results in a high-risk suboptimal strategy. I know people who essentially had to quit academia because they chose this high-risk approach (and failed / didn’t get lucky) rather than just publishing their work in decent outlets that do the job appropriately.

I suppose that’s a big part of the decision process: Impact vs. expediency. Did any of the other points in the paper strike your attention?

It’s great news for PLOS ONE. Many ecologists have a strange & irrational distaste for PLOS ONE, particularly in the UK – often it’s partly a reticence around open access but also many seem to wilfully misunderstand PLOS ONE’s review process: reviewing for scientific-soundness and not perceived potential ‘impact’. This paper provides solid evidence that if you want your work to be cited, PLOS ONE is great place to send your work.
Citations aren’t the be all & and all though. It’s dangerous to encourage publication strategies based purely on maximising number of citations. Such thinking encourages sensationalism & ‘link-bait’ article titles, at a cost to robust science. To be highly-cited is NOT the purpose of publishing research. Brilliant research that saves lives, reduces global warming, or some other real-world concrete impact, can have a fairly low absolute number of citations. Likewise research in a popular field or topic can be highly-cited simply because many people are also publishing in that area. Citations don’t necessarily equate to good scholarship or ‘worthyness’.

I would welcome a brief response over email, or perhaps we could schedule a chat on the phone tomorrow. I’m in the US, and I’m generally not available before 3 p.m. your time. Thank you.

I’ll skip the phone chat if that’s okay. I’ve failed to be brief but I’ve bolded bits I think are key.
All the best,
Ross

 

This post is about my new preprint I’ve uploaded to PeerJ PrePrints:

Mounce, R. (2015) Dark Research: information content in some paywalled research papers is not easily discoverable online. PeerJ PrePrints

Needless to say, it’s not peer-reviewed yet but you can change that by commenting on it at the excellent PeerJ PrePrints website. All feedback is welcome.

The central hypothesis of this work is that content in some academic journals is less discoverable than in other journals. What do I mean discoverable? It’s simple really. Imagine a paper is a bag-of-words:

cat
sat
mat
rat
fat
hat

If academic search providers like Google Scholar, Web of Knowledge, and Scopus can correctly tell me that this paper contains the word ‘rat’ then this is good and what science needs. If they can’t find it, it’s bad for the funders, authors and potential readers of that paper – the rat research remains hidden as ‘dark research’, published but not easily found. More formally, in terms of information retrieval you can measure search performance across many documents by assessing recall.

Recall is defined as:

the fraction of the documents that are relevant to the query that are successfully retrieved

As a toy example: if there are 100 papers containing the word ‘rat’ in Zootaxa, and Google Scholar returns 50 search results containing the word ‘rat’ in Zootaxa, then we ascertain that Google Scholar has 50% recall for the word ‘rat’ in Zootaxa.

In my preprint I test recall for terms related to my subject-area against >20,000 full text papers from PLOS ONE & Zootaxa. The results are really intriguing:

  • Web of Knowledge is shown to be consistently poor at recall across both journals (not surprising, it only indexes titles, abstracts and keywords – woeful at detecting words that are typically present only in the methods section).
  • Google Scholar appears to have near-perfect recall of PLOS ONE content (open access), but less than 50% recall on average of Zootaxa content.
  • Scopus shows an inverse trend: reasonably consistent and good recall of Zootaxa content, averaging ~70% recall for all tests but poorer at recalling PLOS ONE content (45% recall on average).

 

Why is Google Scholar so poor at recalling terms used in Zootaxa papers? Is it because Zootaxa is predominantly a subscription access journal?

 

Why is Scopus so poor at recalling terms used in PLOS ONE papers? PLOS ONE is an open access journal, published predominantly under CC-BY – there should be no difficulty indexing it. Google Scholar demonstrates that it can be done well.

 

Why is Scopus so much better than Google Scholar at indexing terms in Zootaxa? What does Scopus do, or have that Google Scholar doesn’t?

 

I don’t pretend to have answers to these questions – academic search providers tend to be incredibly opaque about how they operate. But it’s fascinating, and slightly worrying for our ability to do research effectively if we can’t know where knowledge has been published.

More general thoughts

Why is academic content search so bad in 2015? It’s really not that hard for born-digital papers! Is this another sign that academic publishing is broken? Discoverability is broken & inconsistent. Access is broken & inconsistent. Peer review is broken & inconsistent. Hiring & tenure is broken & inconsistent…

 

The good news is; there’s a clear model for success here if we can identify its exact determinants: PLOS ONE & Google Scholar provide excellent discoverability (>95%). Whatever they’re doing, I suggest publishers copy it to ensure high discoverability of research.

 

 

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
    accepted

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!

Postscript:

Rejected. Image copied from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leslie-goshko/rejection_b_3272718.html . 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 http://indulgy.com/post/4NhbJB4QK1/try-try-again Haney. All rights reserved, not my copyright.

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