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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.

 

Today I received proof that Elsevier are also sending takedown notices to UK universities – asking them to takedown copies of their staff’s academic research papers, hosted on university webpages. The full text is further down this post (in red). It is not just Academia.edu, it is not just the University of Calgary, University of California-Irvine, or Harvard University. Elsevier very probably are sending takedown notices to institutions and websites across the globe.
No-one is safe from these legal threats.

Not only that, but they seem to be encouraging universities to be pro-active and takedown more than just the specific articles identified in the DMCA notice they send! They are encouraging universities to limit access to their research works. This is simply disgraceful (even though I acknowledge they are technically, legally within their rights to do this because of the way in which their copyright transfer agreements are written, which incidentally many academics are effectively forced to sign in order to get published and make progress in their careers).

For background information read:

How one publisher is stopping academics from sharing their research. The Washington Post 19/12/2013

Elsevier steps up its War On Access SVPOW 17/12/2013

300px-Elsevier_poster_with_text

Librarians and university web admins: please publicly come out with more examples like this. Researchers, readers and taxpayers desperately need to know about this. Silence and subterfuge benefits no-one, these chilling effects must be publicly revealed.

This is the email I received with certain parts redacted:

*** Sent via Email – Inappropriate postings of Elsevier’s journal articles / DMCA Notice of Copyright Infringement ***

Dear Sir/Madam,

I write on behalf of Elsevier to bring to your attention the inappropriate posting of final published journal articles to your institutional website. I am President at Attributor (A Digimarc Company), which assists some of the world’s most prominent publishers, including Elsevier, with digital content protection (www.digimarc.com/guardian). Following the discussion below, a formal DMCA takedown request is included as Appendix A.

As you probably know, Elsevier journal article authors retain or are permitted a wide scope of scholarly use and posting on their own sites and for use within their own institutions. Those rights are more expansive when it comes to author preprints or accepted manuscripts than with respect to the final versions of published journal articles. Elsevier recognizes that in some cases authors or their institutions may not be fully aware of these rights and can by mistake post the final version of their articles to institutional websites or repositories. Unfortunately, it has come to our attention that copies of final published journal articles have, perhaps inadvertently, been posted for public access to one of your institutional websites.

I therefore request your cooperation to remove or disable access to these articles on your site, including but not limited to the articles identified in Appendix A. We have identified merely a sample in Appendix A, and as a publisher of close to 2,000 journals this might mean that more articles published by Elsevier could be found on your site. Please may I therefore draw your attention to Elsevier’s posting policy and ask for your attention to ensuring that your posting practices comply with this?
http://www.elsevier.com/about/open-access/open-access-policies/article-posting-policy#published-journal-article

In particular I note that Elsevier currently doesn’t permit posting of the final published journal article, and if there is a mandate or systematic posting mechanisms in place then Elsevier asks for a cost-free agreement with the institution before accepted author manuscripts are posted.
I would also recommend considering the use of DOI links as a way to access to the version of records of a published article. This would allow authors to list their work and to provide easy access to peers.

Finally, should you need any help in properly identifying a final published article to prevent any future improper posting, please do get in touch via the email address below.

I appreciate your anticipated cooperation and if you have any questions or feedback, or if you believe you have received this message in error (as you have received permission to post this article from Elsevier), please contact: UniversalAccess@Elsevier.com
Thank you.

Sincerely,
Eraj Siddiqui
Attributor (A Digimarc Company)

Appendix A

Copyright Infringement Notice

This notice is sent pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the European Union’s Directive on the Harmonisation of Certain Aspects of Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society (2001/29/EC), and/or other laws and regulations relevant in European Union member states or other jurisdictions.

Please remove or disable access to the infringing pages or materials identified below, as they infringe the copyright works identified below.

I certify under penalty of perjury, that I am an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the intellectual property rights and that the information contained in this notice is accurate.

I have a good faith belief that use of the material listed below in the manner complained of is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.

My contact information is as follows:

Organization name: Attributor Corporation as agent for [Publisher Company]
Email: counter-notice@attributor.com
Phone: 650-340-9601
Mailing address:
400 South El Camino Real
Suite 650,
San Mateo, CA 94402

My electronic signature follows:
Sincerely,
/E Siddiqui/
E. Siddiqui
Attributor, Inc.

***List of Works and Location of Infringing Page or Material ***

Infringing page/material that I demand be disabled or removed in consideration of the above:

*** INFRINGING PAGE OR MATERIAL ***

Infringing page/material that I demand be disabled or removed in consideration of the above:

Rights Holder: Reed Elsevier

Original Work: [redacted]
Infringing URL: [redacted]

UPDATE:

Dutch Universities too are receiving DMCA’s from Elsevier:

2013-12-20-113623_939x846_scrot

@Wowter via Twitter

I’d just like to point out to anyone who asks, particularly CRC Press (part of Taylor&Francis Group, who are in turn part of Informa PLC) that by posting the full text of my book chapter to Academia.edu I am *not* breaching the copyright transfer agreement I signed.

Upon receiving a copyright transfer agreement as a PDF from them via email – I edited the PDF to reword the agreement to terms that were more agreeable to me (e.g. I did NOT want to transfer my copyright to them for my work).

The bit of wording I changed is as follows:

As such, copyrights in the Work will not inure to the benefit of the Publisher, the Publisher will not own the publication, its title and component parts, and all publication rights. This does not permit the Publisher, in its name, to copyright in the Contribution, make applications to register its copyright claim, and to renew its copyright certificate.

I signed this reworded form as PDF (displayed below, signature removed) and returned it to them. I have now kindly received a free ‘author copy’ of the printed book and my chapter has clearly been included so it’s too late for CRC press to exclude my chapter. I can only assume they agreed to the reworded terms of the contract I signed and sent them.

I doubt CRC press would even be bothered by my actions to be honest. They are allowing another of their books to be completely posted online for free, so in comparison to that, my action here is puny – but it certainly emboldens me for the next time I may have to sign a CTA form…

CRC Press are welcome to non-exclusively publish my book chapter. Thank you CRC Press for agreeing to my terms and conditions.

Contract

Lessons one might learn from this exercise:

DO NOT GIVE AWAY THE COPYRIGHT TO YOUR WORK!
PUBLISHERS DO NOT ‘NEED’ ALL YOUR COPYRIGHT TRANSFERRED TO THEM TO PUBLISH.
ALL THAT IS NEEDED IS FOR YOU TO GRANT THEM A NON-EXCLUSIVE LICENSE TO PUBLISH.

A word of warning though… I wouldn’t recommend relying on this method of editing CTA’s to get what you want. I was just lucky this time. Choosing an open access publication venue from the start is always the best option (if possible).

See also:

Mike Taylor 2010. Who Owns My Sauropod History Paper?
http://svpow.com/2010/10/13/who-owns-my-sauropod-history-paper/

Just a quick post to say that I think Beall’s list of “predatory journals” should be expanded to include dubious subscription access journals.

I think it’s rather unfair on the open access movement to claim it’s just the open access business model that faces this kind of desperate exploitation.

It’s long been known that even big established scholarly publishers have published fake journals in the past but there are also independent, low-quality fakes out there, like the new DeNovo journal that’s recently published a “peer-reviewed” (?) paper on the Sasquatch Genome.

DeNovo journal

This paper is behind a paywall. It’s a hybrid subscription/oa journal that’s accepting submissions right now. I haven’t seen a single good word from any scientist I know about this paper. Here’s just some popular reviews of it.

Are there any other really poor quality subscription access journals out there that should be listed on this list of journals/publishers to avoid?

Discuss.

Here’s my submission for the House of Lords inquiry. I rather ran out of steam writing it so you’ll see it tails off towards the end. There’s probably loads of things I should mention too. But alas, I have lots of other work to be getting on with right now. Ironically, I highlight the excellent journal Impact Factor‘s of some OA journals. Please forgive me for those sins! So here it is:

 

17/01/2012 Author: Ross Mounce, final year PhD Student at University of Bath & Open Knowledge Foundation Panton Fellow email: rcpm20@bath.ac.uk

 

This submission is an individual contribution but I think it may be indicative of the opinion of many in the scientific research community. Of particular relevance to this inquiry I should state my research funding is from BBSRC, I am engaged in content mining research (which is commonly hampered by copyright/legal issues with respect to non-Open Access research), and I am a council member of The Systematics Association (a UK-based learned society that publishes academic works with CUP).

 

Background

 

  1. On the whole I was extremely pleased when the Finch Report came out and even more so when RCUK announced it was going to implement most if not all of the recommendations. I, and most of my colleagues strongly believe that taxpayer-funded research such as that given out by RCUK should be made openly available to everyone in the world to read and to use for whatever purpose (Open Access).
  2. Currently there are huge inequalities in access to scholarly outputs (not just papers, but data & software too). My research library at the University of Bath can only afford to subscribe to so many subscription access journals – very far from all of them. But for myself and my colleagues to do high-quality, high-impact, definitive research we frequently need access to materials we don’t have either free/Open Access, or quick paid-subscription access to. In these cases myself and colleagues often spend hugely-wasteful lengths of time trying to get copies of these must read materials that are buried behind paywalls we can’t unlock.
  3. The alternative options for access to paywall-restricted papers are poor and inefficient; inter-library loans can take days or weeks. Relatively few researchers currently post full-text self-archived copies of their own work in ‘green’ online repositories (although perhaps more might do so in the future). Electronic inter-library loans from the British Library can only be printed-once – if an error occurs during printing – tough luck, you’ll only ever have half a print version.
  4. Sympathetic colleagues at different institutions with different journal access rights pass each other PDFs all the time – technically this is copyright infringement – we have a system that appears to criminalise attempts to do comprehensive and diligent research. Yet these small acts of academic copyright infringement are rampant online if you know where to look and are often the only way to sensibly and efficiently get research done. Buying additional legal access is simply not affordable nor desirable at the outrageous prices often offered – and sometimes only upon inspection of the fulltext does one find that the paper isn’t actually of use and can be discarded.
  5. Many different peer-reviewed papers have shown that Open Access research has a higher citation rate than its paywall-protected ‘Closed Access’ counter-parts [e.g. 1-8]. Making RCUK research 100% Open Access should reasonably therefore confer some of this effect on our research and increase our already impressive global impact, particularly if we are one of the first big research nations to embrace this, rather than the last.
  6. But the UK is far from alone in strongly pursuing Open Access means of research dissemination. The NIH Public Access mandate requires that all NIH-funded research publications are accessible to the public (world-wide) via the PubMed Central repository no later than 12 months after publication. In Australia, both NHMRC & ARC have Open Access policies in place. In fact if one looks closely enough one will see a litany of national research funders that already have open access mandates in place Argentina, Denmark, Austria, Belgium, as well as innumerable policies at the university/institution level e.g. the Howard Hughes Medical Institute , Wellcome Trust, and even my own institution – the University of Bath (important to mention, because not all UK university research is funded by RCUK).
  7. In particular I think we should note the way in which the SciELO Network has provided sustainable free access to over a thousand South American, Latin American, and (more recently) African research journals via the internet. It is ethically awkward that ‘they’ provide access to so much of ‘their’ research to us for free whilst we often charge them for access to ‘our’ research (many institutions do NOT receive charitably given access via HINARI ). This is an asymmetrical access imbalance that sorely needs to be corrected.

 

On Learned Societies

 

  1. Learned societies heavily-reliant on subscription journal income and concerned with how the RCUK policy may affect them should closely examine the workings of other societies that have successfully operated open access journals for many years. West and colleagues [9] provide robust data showing hundreds of society-operated gold Open Access journals with good citation impact at either no-cost to authors, or for a usually reasonable APC.
  2. Good examples include the Journal of Economic Perspectives (of the American Economic Association) – not only do they charge nothing to authors (APC=0) and provide free access to readers, but also Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports (JCR) ranks this as the 5th best journal in Economics out of 321 listed. It is influential and extremely well cited.
  3. The journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica is a remarkable success story of society journals (it’s the official journal of the Veterinary Associations of the Nordic Countries). From 2000 to 2005 it was subscription-access only and was dwindling in impact and citations. In 2006 they changed to Open Access publishing with BioMed Central and now enjoy significantly increased impact and citations for the research published there.A plot of the Impact Factor of the journal Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica over time, showing a marked increase after switching to Open Access publishing. Source. Author: BioMed Central. Image licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license 
  4. The European Geological Society (EGU) publishes 14 different gold Open Access journals with the help of Copernicus Publishing. One of these in particular – Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics has been hugely successful and through high citation rate is now ranked the 2nd best journal of 71 in the category “Meterology & Atmospheric Sciences” in Thomson Reuters JCR. It happily publishes articles using the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY) and charges a fair, variable APC that is cheaper for those who submit manuscripts in LaTeX form – reflecting the ease of which it is to convert such manuscripts into publishable forms. Microsoft Word submissions require more processing and thus they charge more. It is commendable that they expose, and make avoidable some of the effort costs of typesetting this way.
  5. Furthermore, I’d bet there are many different societies operating subscription access journals that already allow self-archiving of published works so that they’d be compliant with the Green OA route which the RCUK policy also allows (with additional leniency on the humanities, allowing a 12 month embargo). This would seem to me to be a fairly pain-free way of complying with the policy should they wish to (N.B. Learned societies are not obligated to comply with this policy, although you would think if it was a British society it might be in their best interests. It is the researchers that must comply).
  6. I am concerned for some UK learned societies that from their annual financial reports seem to indicate they are rather reliant on subscription-journal income to support their societies financially. I am not privy to the exact details of whether society subscription-journal income is ‘ringfenced’ away from supporting the other activities & perks of a societies’ membership. I hope it is. Otherwise I worry that perhaps some learned societies maybe using the surplus from the subscription-access journal income (paid for by libraries/institutions/universities world-wide) and spending this surplus on personal society member-only perks e.g. a free hardcopy paper newsletter only delivered to personal members. I have examined annual report accounts of some learned society accounts myself and find that where the money/surplus goes to be rather opaque in some cases.
  7. It appears that many societies have been operating a consistent and healthy surplus from their subscription-access journals and using this surplus to expand their outreach activities and member perks – free pens, paper, mugs, USB sticks and heavily discounted student memberships. I myself have greedily taken many of these membership benefits, and know that I have received goods and services that far exceed the cost of the small, hugely subsidized membership fee I paid. All this would be okay if it was only members paying for other (younger) members – self-sustainability. But I am increasingly concerned about the asymmetry of fees and benefits provided by some learned societies. Surely a significant portion of journal subscription income is from institutional subscriber agreements? Institutions are very rarely members of learned societies, and institutionally the only benefit they get from these fees paid is institutional access to subscription-only society journals. Yet the surplus from subscription income at societies doesn’t seem to be given back except to members through perks and the organisation of outreach events and such.
  8. Therefore I think it would be fairer for a society to publish any associated journals in an Open Access manner and concentrate on being financially self-sustaining – whilst clearly delivering on their core mission(s) of educating the world about their subject. Relying on denying access to research via paywalls to provide surplus income with which to spend on outreach to further their mission, seems like a very convoluted argument and an inefficient way of achieving their aims. Put simply, Open Access very clearly fulfils many of the core purposes of learned societies and provides an open platform with which to build outreach around.

 

Arrangements for APC funds

 

  1. As I’m sure many will cite, most gold open access journals listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) are fee free. They do not charge an APC. Of those that do, the average APC is just $906 (Solomon & Bjork, 2012). There is no strong relationship between the APC cost of gold open access journals and their article level impact [9]. Intuitively this makes sense – if I submitted my work to Nature, or I submitted my work to the Panamanian Journal of Ichthyology (a fictional journal) the work, if published, would essentially be the same – journal ‘brand’ is just a label, it doesn’t change anything – especially not the quality of peer review. In terms of citations, solid evidence supports this intuition – since 1990 the relationship between Impact Factor (citations to a journal) and article-level citations has significantly weakened [10]. To put it another way – good research gets read and cited no matter where it’s published.
  2. I’m aware there are concerns in the Humanities and Social Sciences about Open Access and APCs. I don’t know why there aren’t more Open Access journals in these disciplines. There’s nothing technologically preventing a surfeit of new Open Access journals from forming. Good, well tested solutions like Open Journal Systems are free to implement (no software cost) and are used by over 11,000 journals world-wide. The implementation only needs bandwidth-cost support and the same human time/effort required to run a subscription access journal, which I’m sure institutions should be made willing to help with. Stuart Shieber gives an excellent description of how costs are managed at the Journal of Machine Learning Research. Here academics volunteer time, with the help of a little institutional support to produce a high-quality, high-impact peer-reviewed research journal that costs just $6.50 per paper to run.
  3. I would urge the House of Lords to look into how universities and libraries could be encouraged to help British academics create new, efficient, low-cost, peer-reviewed research journals. Martin Eve for one appears to have no trouble doing this. It need not even necessarily require additional cash-injection, just IT-support and the use of institutional bandwidth & servers to host Open Access journals. Willingness to try, rather than just moan about change is also required.
  4. Above all, academics in all areas need to consider and be made aware of the huge variety of open access publishing options available to them. The big commercial publisher brands may be the most well-known in some areas, and they spend significant marketing budgets on ensuring this. Unfortunately these commercial publishers also offer some of the most eye-wateringly expensive gold Open Access options. We need to incentivize and ensure a ‘value-for-money publishing’ mentality, and to discourage academics away from these expensive ‘hybrid’ OA options. It would be good to set a hard limit on the amount of cash that RCUK would be willing to pay for an APC for any one publication. Otherwise it might encourage some publishers to further indulge in price-gouging.
  5. I am glad that RCUK is supporting gold open access and green open access routes. I fail to see how green alone would work out in the end – it does not provide peer review. ‘Overlay’ peer-review services external to journal publishers operating on pre-print servers are a nice idea, but I’m not sure this model of publishing will gain traction or acceptance in academia, not for a while at least. Therefore to continue to build-on and support low-cost journals I think it is good that RCUK is encouraging the gold open access route.

 

Embargo periods

 

  1. I don’t have much to say about embargo periods. Only that I’ve seen some interesting arguments used against short embargo periods in the humanities e.g. history. One such argument used was that the ‘citation half-life’ was very long in History and therefore a short embargo period would harm this discipline more than in the sciences. Yet I know that in Palaeontology, the citation half-life of papers as you might imagine is also very long – yet there are few such concerns about embargo periods or the effect of Open Access in this discipline. I recently gathered data and found that the mean-age of cited papers in palaeontology is roughly >18 years. Therefore I don’t ‘buy’ this long-tail usage argument as it equally applies in other disciplines that appear to have no problem with open access, green or gold.

References

 

1. Lawrence, S. 2001. Free online availability substantially increases a paper’s impact. Nature 411:521 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/35079151

2. Xia, J. and Nakanishi, K. 2012. Self-selection and the citation advantage of open access articles. Online Information Review 36:40-51.http://www.emeraldinsight.com/journals.htm?articleid=17004555&show=html  [the OA citation advantage is more pronounced for ‘smaller’ journals]

3. Xia, J., Myers, R. L., and Wilhoite, S. K. 2011. Multiple open access availability and citation impact. Journal of Information Science 37:19-28.http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0165551510389358 [More copies available in different places, more citations…]

4. Riera, M. and Aibar, E. 2012. Does open access publishing increase the impact of scientific articles? an empirical study in the field of intensive care medicine. Medicina intensiva / Sociedad Espanola de Medicina Intensiva y Unidades Coronarias.http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.medin.2012.04.002

5. Norris, M., Oppenheim, C., and Rowland, F. 2008. The citation advantage of open-access articles. J. Am. Soc. Inf. Sci. 59:1963-1972.http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/asi.20898

6. Eysenbach, G. 2006. Citation advantage of open access articles. PLoS Biol 4:e157+. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0040157

7. Hajjem, C., Harnad, S., and Gingras, Y. 2006. Ten-Year Cross-Disciplinary comparison of the growth of open access and how it increases research citation impact. http://arxiv.org/abs/cs.DL/0606079

8. Gargouri, Y., Hajjem, C., Larivière, V., Gingras, Y., Carr, L., Brody, T., and Harnad, S. 2010. Self-Selected or mandated, open access increases citation impact for higher quality research. PLoS ONE 5:e13636+. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0013636

9. West, J., Bergstrom, T. and Bergstrom, C. T. 2013. Cost-effectiveness of open access publications

10. Lozano, G. A. , Lariviere, V. and Gingras Y. 2012. The weakening relationship between the Impact Factor and papers’ citations in the digital age http://arxiv.org/abs/1205.4328v1

 

Twitter tips for Systematists

January 11th, 2013 | Posted by rmounce in Publications - (1 Comments)

I wrote a piece for The Systematist newsletter last year which has now been published & disseminated to members. The official version won’t be freely accessible from the website until next year (instant access is currently a perk of Systematics Association membership only) so in the meantime I’ll re-blog it here:

Is this the first mention of #icanhazpdf in scholarly literature?

I’d like once again (I already have by email) to thank the new editor Jane Droop for taking care to provide many many clickable linkouts in the PDF to all the different resources I mention – there’s a *lot* of links!

Here’s the full reference for the original version:
Mounce, R 2012 Twitter for systematists. The Systematist, vol. 34, pages 14-15

Twitter for systematists

Despite or perhaps because of being limited to just 140 character messages at a time, Twitter is an excellent medium for the near instantaneous dissemination of information over the Internet. It’s been successfully used to remotely sense earthquakes [1] and flu outbreaks [2], and to predict the outcomes of elections [3] and box office success [4]. It’s also a very hand tool for academics, with ever-increasing usage amongst the population.

Here’s my top tips for using twitter for science (a far from exhaustive list):

Remotely following conferences you can’t attend.

There are too many interesting conferences these days. No one has the time or money to attend them all. Furthermore some may occur simultaneously and one cannot be at two places at the same time! But with Twitter one can often get a reasonable description of what’s going on at a conference by following the official conference hashtag e.g. #evol2012 #ievobio (Evolution, Ottawa), and #HennigXXXI (Hennig, Riverside). At some conferences remote participation via Twitter is possible, to ask questions from afar at panel discussions and such.

Expand the impact of your conference talks

Extending upon the above, if you’re giving a talk at a conference – put your twitter handle on your conference name badge and on the title slide of your talk so tweeters in the audience can link to you on Twitter when describing your talk. This is particularly useful if you have a common name – John Smith could be anyone online but @JSmith69 exactly identifies who (and is shorter). If you can, put your slides online before your talk using a service like Slideshare or Prezi and use a URL shorterner to provide an easily tweetable link to that online slidedeck. Put this short-link on your first and last slides, so tweeters can disseminate this link to everyone following the conference hashtag from afar to also view your slides. This can dramatically increase the number of people seeing your talk (albeit, a slide-only version of it). For example, my talk this year at #HennigXXXI once tweeted out by @rdmpage and others (thanks!) was seen by over 200 people online after just a couple of days. At the conference itself there were less than 100 people in attendance, so it really helped maximise the impact of the talk.

Discuss, promote and critique papers on Twitter

Like a paper? Tweet about it including a link to the paper (attribution and links are key on Twitter) and maybe start a discussion with fellow academics. Don’t just tweet-promote your own papers or those of your close colleagues – this is bad netiquette. Some groups even have journal clubs conducted in the open on Twitter e.g. http://www.twitjc.com/

Get help or canvass the opinion of your research community

Got a problem you can’t solve yourself, but might easily & quickly be solved by someone else? One can’t abuse twitter for this all the time, but the occasional well-put question on twitter often elicits good responses if you have enough followers. The key here is reciprocity – if you’re always asking for help you’ll soon be ignored. But if you can give as well as receive help you’ll generate a healthy respect. Twitter convention has it that questions are often marked with the #lazyweb hashtag – use this to indicate you have a question that you want answered. Similarly if you need a PDF you don’t have subscription access to, try supplying the URL link to the paper + your email address + #icanhazpdf in a tweet. @BoraZ created this convention and it’s now rather popular with many requests *every* day appearing on Twitter for PDFs. This facilitates quick and easy access to the literature, enabling thorough scholarship, by-passing the often tedious and slow inter-library loans procedure.

The Systematics Association, like other societies e.g. @SVP_vertpaleo, @GeolSoc, @LinneanSociety and journals e.g @systbiol @MethodsEcolEvol, @BiolJLinnSoc , @ecologyletters have had a presence on Twitter since 2011: @SystAssn.

Want to talk about systematics? Tweet us at @SystAssn . Happy tweeting tweeps :)

References

1. Sakaki, T., Okazaki, M., and Matsuo, Y. 2010. Earthquake shakes twitter users: real-time event detection by social sensors. In Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World wide web, WWW ’10, pp. 851-860, New York, NY, USA. ACM. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/1772690.1772777
2. Culotta, A. 2010. Towards detecting influenza epidemics by analyzing Twitter messages. KDD Workshop on Social Media Analytics http://arxiv.org/abs/1007.4748
3. Tumasjan, A., Sprenger, T. O., Sandner, P. G., and Welpe, I. M. 2010. Predicting elections with twitter: What 140 characters reveal about political sentiment. In Proceedings of the Fourth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media, pp. 178-185. http://www.aaai.org/ocs/index.php/ICWSM/ICWSM10/paper/viewFile/1441/1852
4. http://www.hpl.hp.com/research/scl/papers/socialmedia/socialmedia.pdf

A list of some relevant accounts on Twitter to follow:

@David_Hillis (University of Texas)
@kcranstn Karen Cranston (Open Tree of Life)
@rdmpage (Professor of Taxonomy at Glasgow University)
@cydparr (EOL)
@phylofoundation (updates from The Phyloinformatics Research Foundation)
@phylogenomics (Prof. Jonathan Eisen, UC Davis)
@Dr_Bik (marine genomics, UC Davis)
@JChrisPires (plant genomics)
@k8hert (Kate Hertweck, NESCent)
@TRyanGregory (University of Guelph)
@pedrobeltrao (bioinformatics, UCSF)
@ewanbirney (assoicate director at the EBI)
@caseybergman (University of Manchester)
@ianholmes (compuational biologist)
@lukejharmon (University of Idaho)
@cboettig (theoretical ecology & evolution)
@tomezard (University of Surrey)
@eperlste (evolutionary pharmacologist, Princeton University)
@RosieRedfield (UBC)
@NYCuratrix (Susan Perkins, AMNH)
@theleechguy (Mark Siddall, AMNH)
@AndyFarke (vertebrate paleontologist)
@TomHoltzPaleo (paleobiologist)
@Bill_Sutherland (conservationist)

and at the Natural History Museum London:

@nhm_london (official NHM London account)
@edwbaker (biodiversity informatics)
@DavidMyWilliams (diatomist)
@vsmithuk (cybertaxonomist)
@Coleopterist (Max Barclay)
@SandyKnapp (Solanaceae taxonomist)
@NHMdinolab (updates from Paul Barrett’s lab)
@gna-phylo (updates from Thomas Richards’ lab)