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Open Access Policies at ASERL Institutions

I recently completed a one year appointment with the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries as Visiting Program Officer for Scholarly Communications. This was a wonderful opportunity to network with fellow scholarly communications professionals at the 40 member institutions of ASERL as well as build a scholarly communications program for ASERL and put us on the map nationally as leaders in this growing area of importance. As part of my responsibilities during the last 12 months, I examined the policies and practices of our members in several areas: open access, library publishing and resource sharing. I authored four papers reporting the results of conversations with and surveys of ASERL institutions. The third of these four papers is posted below and at the ASERL website.

 

Introduction
The Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) for the first time commemorated Open Access Week in October 2013 with a live interview[1] with international open access leader Peter Suber[2]. In this webcast, Dr. Suber, author of the definitive guide to open access[3], spoke with me about the current state of open access and its potential to help solve many of the problems currently plaguing the system of disseminating and accessing scholarly research. These problems include rising subscription costs, declining library budgets, disparate access to research, and loss of control over one’s own research through one-sided copyright agreements. One of the means advocated by Dr. Suber to address these problems is the adoption of open access policies by academic institutions:

“Every strong, new policy increases the likelihood of publisher accommodation, and when enough universities and funders have policies, all publishers will have to accommodate them. In that sense, every strong new policy creates some of the conditions of its own success. Every institution adopting a new policy brings about OA for the research it controls and makes the way easier for other institutions behind it….A critical mass is growing and every policy is an implicit invitation to other institutions to gain strength through common purpose and help accelerate publisher adaptation.”[4]

Several ASERL member institutions have adopted open access policies.[5] These policies differ in their origins, requirements, and application. However, similar issues and questions arose for those involved in the drafting and promotion of the policies, and their collective experience is instructive to other institutions contemplating adoption of an open access policy.[6]

Policy Formation
For many institutions that have adopted open access policies[7], the idea first formed within the institution’s library. For some ASERL members, this was also true. For example, at the University of Central Florida, the idea of an open access policy was raised before that University’s Faculty Senate by the library’s collection development manager and this presentation served as the impetus behind a larger conversation that led to passage of a resolution supporting open access publishing. Similarly, at Florida State University, a research librarian and an e-science librarian raised the issue of open access with the Faculty Senate’s Library Committee, which led to the charging of a task force to undertake the drafting and presentation of an open access policy to the larger Faculty Senate. In some institutions, the idea for a policy begins with a governance body charged with advising the institution’s library. At Emory University, the idea for an institutional open access policy grew out of discussions the University’s Senate Committee on Library Policy had on scholarly communications issues. Similarly, at the University of Florida, the Faculty Senate’s University Libraries Committee took on responsibility for drafting an open access policy for consideration by the full Faculty Senate.

Other times the idea for a policy begins with faculty or a faculty group that is external to the institution’s library. At Georgia Institute of Technology, a faculty member from the College of Computing brought the issue of open access to the forefront by facilitating presentations and town hall meetings where open access and the possibility of an institutional policy was discussed. At Duke University, the idea of an open access policy arose in conversations among the Digital Futures Task Force, a group appointed by the University’s Provost after the University was awarded a Mellon Grant to develop strategies and infrastructure to support new models of digital information use, management, dissemination, and preservation. Dr. Suber strongly favors faculty-led initiatives. As he and his Harvard colleague Stuart Shieber instruct in the “Good Practices for University Open-Access Policies,” the persons leading the campaign for an open access policy should be faculty, with support from librarians: “If the idea and initial momentum came from librarians or administrators, they should find faculty members willing to lead the effort. Because the policy will apply to faculty more than others, it should be a faculty initiative and should be perceived to be a faculty initiative. Otherwise, many faculty will suspect or object that they are being coerced.”[8]

Concerns Raised by Faculty
It is clear that faculty awareness and buy-in are keys to successful adoption and implementation of institutional open access policies. Education and consensus building takes place through formal and informal conversations at department and college level meetings, facilitated town halls, and more indirect forms of communication such as FAQs. These conversations give faculty and others affected by the policy opportunity to raise concerns about policy adoption and implementation. Dr. Suber identified many of these common concerns in the “Good Practices for University Open-Access Policies.”[9] ASERL schools also encountered many of these same concerns in the conversations taking place on their campuses with respect to open access policies. ASERL members I spoke to frequently indicated that faculty expressed confusion about what open access was and what an open access policy required. Faculty equated an open access policy with a mandate to publish only in open access journals to the exclusion of all other publications. This misunderstanding requires an explanation to faculty of the difference between “green” and “gold” open access and a reassurance that faculty may publish in the journal of their choice with, depending on the policy’s terms, a reservation of the right to archive a version of their articles in an open access repository.

Faculty at ASERL institutions also raised questions about the label assigned to the policy document. Many objected to referring to the policy as a “mandate.” Even though the policies adopted at ASERL institutions essentially allow for voluntary participation by their terms or through provision of a waiver, faculty view the terms “mandate” or “mandatory” as hostile and an affront to academic freedom. Dr. Suber addresses this issue in his book, stating: “Unfortunately, we don’t have a good vocabulary for policies that use mandatory language while deferring to third-person dissents or first-person opt-outs.…The word “mandate” is not a very good fit for policies like this, but neither is any other English word.” [10] Language was also raised as an issue in reference to the description of the version of an article to be deposited in a repository. Faculty at ASERL institutions reported unfamiliarity with the meanings of the terms “preprint” and “postprint.” This confusion highlights the importance of addressing in pre-adoption conversations and in any accompanying documentation not only the distinction between a “preprint” and a “postprint” but also the role of peer review in open access scholarship. Although the preference for open access policies is to request deposit of postprints (the final peer-reviewed manuscript prior to publication), some open access policies and repositories focus on “preprints” (the manuscript version prior to peer review). It is important to distinguish for faculty that open access built on preprints is not a means of bypassing quality measures but rather is a means of making work available more quickly, thereby “creating new and earlier opportunities for citation, discussion, verification, and collaboration.”[11] As Dr. Suber aptly notes, open access is “a kind of access, not a kind of editorial policy.”[12]

Another common concern expressed by faculty at ASERL institutions is the belief that implementation of an open access policy will create a burden upon faculty. There is the perception that compliance with the terms of an open access policy will require a great amount of work. Some ASERL institutions have addressed this concern by developing workflows within the libraries to perform much of the work for faculty. For example, at Georgia Institute of Technology the library has utilized Drupal to create a form where faculty can upload their PDFs and have them loaded by the library into the institutional repository, SMARTech.[13] At Duke University, library staff have been involved in searching for citations and mediating deposit of articles when no conflict with published version appears. As a result of this direct assistance, Duke faculty have responded by locating additional materials to deposit into the repository.

Policy Implementation
In his book Open Access, Dr. Suber identifies four types of open access policies: encouragement policies, loophole mandates, deposit mandates, and rights-retention mandates.[14] ASERL institutions interviewed for this article have adopted policies representing three of these four types.

  • The University of North Carolina at Greensboro[15], Florida State University[16] and University of Central Florida[17] have adopted encouragement policies. This type of policy is a resolution encouraging faculty to make their work available open access when it is feasible to do so. There is no grant of license to the institution nor other mandate or requirement to deposit one’s work in an open access repository.
  •  Emory University[18] adopted a policy that is a deposit mandate. The Emory deposit mandate grants the University permission to deposit in its repository articles that are voluntarily published open access; however, for all other articles, the policy allows faculty to embargo access to the works where the copyright agreement with the publisher would not permit access.
  • Both Duke University and Georgia Institute of Technology adopted rights-retention mandates. Through rights-retention mandates, the institutions are granted a nonexclusive license to deposit their faculty’s works into the institutions’ repositories, usually with a waiver provision which allows faculty to opt-out of participation. The policies at Duke and Georgia Tech both include waivers, and both have attempted to make waivers easy to attain. At Georgia Tech, for example, a request of a waiver through a simple form is all that is needed.

Next Steps
Adoption of open access policies is usually not the last step for institutions wanting to implement open access campuswide. Continued education about the benefits of open access and refinement of procedures to facilitate deposit of works into repositories are a couple of the activities that may occur once an open access policy has been adopted. ASERL members that have adopted open access policies are also engaged in further activities.

  • At the University of Central Florida and Florida State University, activities are underway to revisit the issue of open access in their respective faculty governance bodies with the goal of moving from a resolution encouraging open access to a more formal policy, whether it is a deposit mandate or a rights-retention policy.
  • The University of Central Florida will also be taking steps to develop an institutional repository, which will be a prerequisite to adoption of any policy requiring deposit of faculty works.
  • The policy at University of North Carolina at Greensboro current applies only to library faculty and the next step is to move toward a resolution that is applicable to the greater faculty body of the University.
  • Duke University is working to integrate compliance with the open access policy into the University’s faculty reporting system. Duke recently launched a faculty reporting system called “Elements.” Within that system, faculty will be allowed to upload their articles with a single click, and they will also have access to data from SHERPA/RoMEO[19] about the deposit policies of individual journals, which will assist them with determining what article version they are permitted to archive in the university’s repository.

Conclusion
At the conclusion of his discussion of institutional open access policies, Dr. Suber asserts that in the arena of open access, universities have the opportunity to be leaders rather than followers by adopting open access policies.[20] Several ASERL institutions have established themselves as leaders by adopting policies that exemplify best practices for adoption and implementation of open access policies. Their experiences and available expertise can instruct other institutions within ASERL and beyond on how to open up a dialogue on their campuses about open access and progress toward adoption of a formal open access policy. As quoted above, “[e]very institution adopting a new policy brings about OA for the research it controls and makes the way easier for other institutions behind it.” As more institutions educate their members about the benefits of open access and facilitate, through policies and supportive mechanisms the opening up of scholarship to others, publishers will adapt to make research more open and accessible and the weaknesses in the current system of scholarly communication will be strengthened.

[1] To view the recording of the interview, please visit http://bit.ly/GJz1mN.

[2] For more about Peter Suber, visit his home page at http://bit.ly/petersuber.

[3] Peter Suber. Open Access. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA 2012. The book is available open access in a variety of formats at http://mitpress.mit.edu/books/open-access. Additional updates and supplements to the text can be found at http://bit.ly/oa-book.

[4]Id. 94-95.

[5] For this article, I interviewed persons at the University of Central Florida, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Florida State University, Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Duke University. Where relevant, I have also included information from the University of Florida, where an open access policy draft is currently under consideration.

[6] For more information on drafting institutional open access policies, please see “Good Practices for University Open-Access Policies” at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/hoap/Good_practices_for_university_open-access_policies. This guide was written and is maintained by Dr. Suber and Stuart Shieber for the Harvard Open Access Project.

[7] For a list of United States institutions that have adopted an open access policy, see the ROARMAP listing at http://roarmap.eprints.org/view/geoname/geoname=5F2=5FUS.html.

[8] See Adopting a Policy in the “Good Practices for University Open-Access Policies” http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/hoap/Adopting_a_policy

[9] See Talking About a Policy in the “Good Practices for University Open-Access Policies” http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/hoap/Talking_about_a_policy

[10] Suber, Open Access, 87-88.

[11] Id. at 102.

[12] Id. at 103.

[13] https://smartech.gatech.edu/

[14] Suber, Open Access 78-81.

[15] University of North Carolina at Greensboro Open-Access Policy for Library Faculty http://library.uncg.edu/services/scholarly_communication/open_access_policy.aspx

[16] Florida State University Open Access Resolution http://guides.lib.fsu.edu/content.php?pid=228434&sid=1889920

[17] University of Central Florida Faculty Senate Resolution on Library Scholarly Literature http://www.facultysenate.ucf.edu/resolutions/2004-2005/index.asp

[18] Emory University Open Access Policy http://guides.main.library.emory.edu/content.php?pid=43389&sid=2144393

[19] http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/

[20] Suber, Open Access at 95.

The New Scholars: Library Publishing of Undergraduate Research Journals

I recently completed a one year appointment with the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries as Visiting Program Officer for Scholarly Communications. This was a wonderful opportunity to network with fellow scholarly communications professionals at the 40 member institutions of ASERL as well as build a scholarly communications program for ASERL and put us on the map nationally as leaders in this growing area of importance. As part of my responsibilities during the last 12 months, I examined the policies and practices of our members in several areas: open access, library publishing and resource sharing. I authored four papers reporting the results of conversations with and surveys of ASERL institutions. The second of these four papers is posted below and at the ASERL web site.

 

Introduction

“Library publishing” is the latest buzzword on the tongues of library science practitioners and scholars. As the academic publishing world adapts to new business models and growing expectations for open accessibility, libraries have responded by adopting the role of publishing services provider. Recent reports[1] and the formation of the Library Publishing Coalition[2], an “organization dedicated to advancing the emerging field of library publishing,” evidences the foothold that libraries are asserting in the publication and dissemination of scholarly research in support and hosting of open access content. Members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) are active participants in this growing area of library service. In a Fall 2012 survey of ASERL members, 18 libraries reported that they were engaged in the hosting or publication of open access scholarly journals through the Open Journal Systems software[3], an institutional repository, or some other digital publishing platform.

However, academic library engagement in publishing is not mandated only by the changes in the business of scholarly publishing. The Association of College and Research Libraries also has charged academic libraries with educating students about the economics of the distribution of scholarship as part of the information literacy mission. Specifically, ACRL has found that “librarians who have become more involved with student-run journals find that working with undergraduate students as authors, editors, and publishers is an excellent way to teach about the economic, technological, and legal aspects of publishing, emphasizing the traditional life cycle of scholarly information.”[4]

Publication of undergraduate research is not without its challenges, however. A major issue is sustainability. A natural consequence of working with students is turnover in editorial support staff. Maintaining faculty support and enthusiasm can also be challenging. Another factor for sustainability is competition with disciplinary journals. To succeed, the undergraduate journal needs to offer distinctive and complementary positioning to the disciplinary journal. Another challenge faced by those producing undergraduate research publications is formulation of a streamlined workflow. Questions such as who should conduct peer review, how should the content be disseminated, and what body should maintain control of editing and journal design frequently stymie persons involved in undergraduate research journal publication.[5] Despite these challenges, academic libraries are thriving in the realm of undergraduate research publication. A survey by the Library Publishing Coalition, which will soon be published as a “Directory of Library Publishing Programs,” found that 57% of the responding libraries publish student journals.[6] ASERL Libraries are also engaged in publishing the research of undergraduate students. Three ASERL members recently presented on their undergraduate research publication activities.[7]

Tulane University

Already a host to two journals dedicated to undergraduate scholarship[8], Tulane University Libraries is a partner with its Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching[9] to develop a new undergraduate research journal, entitled Tulane Undergraduate Research Journal, that seeks to address the challenge of sustainability in publication of undergraduate research and provide an academic outlet to students seeking to become creative, inquisitive, ethical and responsible scholars. The goal of the journal’s planners is to create an organizational model that utilizes the existing relationship between faculty and the Center’s student fellows. The student authors of this new journal will be designated as Fellows of the Center working with faculty mentors on research projects in a variety of academic disciplines, including the liberal arts, science and business. The journal’s editorial board will be comprised of faculty from each of the University’s major schools and departments. Student representatives on the editorial board will function as liaisons between faculty advisors and other students. At present, there is no publication date for the new journal’s first issue. Journal planners are focusing on building adequate support within the academic community to ensure the journal’s sustainability under the proposed model. Discussions are also underway to restructure the two existing undergraduate research journals to incorporate some or all of the elements of the model devised for the Tulane Undergraduate Research Journal.

Florida State University

Started in 2010, The Owl is Florida State University’s vehicle for publication of undergraduate student research.[10] The journal started as a print publication, but migrated to online publication in 2012 through the University’s institutional repository, DigiNole. The journal is now the third most accessed item in the institutional repository. Prior to migration of the journal to DigiNole, The Owl editorial team grappled with issues concerning editor-author email communication, the process for submission of manuscripts, and the professional appearance of the journal. However, by partnering with the library and using DigiNole, the journal was able to address these challenges. Manuscript submission was centralized such that editorial board members had a single easy-to-access site for submissions. Editor-author communication was also moved to the system, thereby obviating the need to use a less secure and inefficient shared email address. The library also has been an instrumental partner in adopting a smoother workflow by training editorial board members on how to use the features of the DigiNole platform. The library’s role will continue as the journal staff works on marketing the journal to the larger campus population and assists in development of citation analysis and reporting of the journal’s impact.

University of South Florida

Successfully publishing undergraduate mathematics research since 2008, the Undergraduate Journal of Mathematical Modeling[11] positioned itself to have greater impact and presence when in 2012 it contacted the library at the University of South Florida about including the journal in the institutional repository, Scholar Commons. Librarians managing Scholar Commons met with the editorial board to review the journal’s needs and issues, such as quality and sustainability. The journal was deemed eligible for inclusion, and design of the journal’s launch page and migration of content began.By partnering with the library for central management of the journal through Scholar Commons, the journal has enabled the library to assign DOIs to articles using CrossRef, to improve indexing of the journal in several databases including the Directory of Open Access Journals, and to streamline the submission and editorial processes. As a result, the journal has experienced a marked increase in findability as evidenced by a steep increase in full-text downloads, from 271 full-text downloads in May 2012, which was the month prior to migration to Scholar Commons, to nearly 700 full-text downloads per month following the journal’s publication in Scholar Commons.

Conclusion

The number of libraries engaged in library publishing services is likely to increase as the scholarly publishing world continues to adapt to new challenges and requirements brought on by the changing economy and governmental mandates. Further, as librarians integrate scholarly communications into information literacy instruction targeted at undergraduates, and universities continue to take interest in the potential of younger researchers, development of additional journals showcasing undergraduate research seems likely. Libraries are a natural partner and collaborator in the development and promotion of these journals, and the number of ASERL Libraries involved in the publication of undergraduate research journals demonstrates how this can be successful. Further, ASERL libraries have succeeded in addressing the challenges often associated with publishing undergraduate scholarship. Through utilization of existing infrastructure and contribution of expertise, ASERL libraries have helped the undergraduate populations they serve showcase their research in a searchable and sustainable way.

[1] In March 2012, SPARC issued the final report documenting the findings and recommendations of the “Library Publishing Services: Strategies for Success” project which surveyed the publishing activities of North American academic libraries and suggested ways these services could be broadened and strengthened. http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/purduepress_ebooks/24/. In August 2013, the free eBook Library Publishing Toolkit was released. The Toolkit examines the “broad and varied landscape of library publishing” through case studies and articles on the current state of library publishing activities. http://www.publishingtoolkit.org/

[2] Library Publishing Coalition, http://www.librarypublishing.org/.

[3] Public Knowledge Project, Open Journal Systemshttp://pkp.sfu.ca/?q=ojs.

[4] Association of College and Research Libraries. Working Group on Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy. Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment. Chicago, IL: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2013, 7-8. http://www.ala.org/acrl/sites/ala.org.acrl/files/content/publications/whitepapers/Intersections.pdf

[5] Charles Watkinson, “Library Based Publishing: Focus on Undergraduate Research Journals,” Presentation to the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries, July 23, 2013. http://www.aserl.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Perdue_Undergrad_Journals.pdf .

[6] Id. See also Council on Undergraduate Research’s list of undergraduate journals at http://www.cur.org/resources/students/undergraduate_journals/.

[7] Association of Southeastern Research Libraries, “Library Based Publishing – Focus on Undergraduate Research Journals,” July 23, 2013. See http://www.aserl.org/archive/ for archived presentation and presenter slides.

[8] See Second Line: An Undergraduate Journal of Literary Conversation and Tulane Journal of International Affairs at Tulane University Journal Publishing, https://library.tulane.edu/journals/index.php

[9] http://tulane.edu/celt/index.cfm

[10] http://diginole.lib.fsu.edu/owl/

[11] http://scholarcommons.usf.edu/ujmm/

Putting Money Where Our Mouths Are: Libraries Funding Open Access Publishing

I recently completed a one year appointment with the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries as Visiting Program Officer for Scholarly Communications. This was a wonderful opportunity to network with fellow scholarly communications professionals at the 40 member institutions of ASERL as well as build a scholarly communications program for ASERL and put us on the map nationally as leaders in this growing area of importance. As part of my responsibilities during the last 12 months, I examined the policies and practices of our members in several areas: open access, library publishing and resource sharing. I authored four papers reporting the results of conversations with and surveys of ASERL institutions. The first of these four papers is posted below and at the ASERL web site.

 

Like research libraries around the world, members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) have seen the growth of open access (OA) as a mode of scholarly communication and a resulting rise in the number of open access journals. Today there are nearly 9,000 open access journals published worldwide.[1] A common business model adopted by open access journals for funding their operations is collection of Article Processing Charges (APC) from authors. As a means of supporting the open access movement and encouraging their faculty to publish in open access journals, many universities have established campus-based open access funds. In a 2012 survey[2] of ASERL members about their open access advocacy activities, more than 1/3 of the responding libraries indicated that they currently administer an open access fund, and several additional libraries indicated plans to launch funds in the near future. I recently chatted with several ASERL members[3] about the status of the open access fund at their university. The conversations revealed similarities and differences with respect to management and use of open access funds, which are likely reflective of experiences at other universities.

Fund Structure

Conversations with open access fund administrators revealed the multiple ways in which campus-based open access funds are funded. For most, a combination of sources supplies the monies to the fund. A common funding scenario features equal contributions from the library, the provost, and the university’s office of research. Libraries are also committing portions of their central collections budgets to supporting open access publishing. The collective hope is that diversion of funds from subscriptions to support of open access will encourage publishers to adopt open access as a model and reduce subscription costs. At the same time, universities should be educating their faculty on the cost of publishing and the values of open access. Until there is such a level of awareness to bring about the desired shift in publishing economics, libraries will be faced with the decision of potentially canceling subscriptions in order to continue financially supporting open access publishing activities of the faculty.[4]

Interestingly, ASERL libraries have experienced some very different levels of use of the OA funds. One of the funds is still operating with its initial allocation dating from 2008, while a couple funds have run out of monies several times during their lives, leaving faculty waiting for notice regarding the funds’ uncertain future. Libraries have capitalized on this by presenting evidence about the utilization of the fund by faculty and graduate students from diverse disciplines and the growing support within the greater academy for open access, oftentimes leading to recurring support for the OA funds across multiple years. The funds represented in this report allocated from $12,000-$75,000 annually for support of open access publishing.

Eligibility of Applicants and Publications

ASERL libraries are using their OA publication fund as a “fund of last resort,” that is, researchers with grant monies must use grant funds to pay APC charges. Additionally, all librarians I interviewed noted that the failure to include publication costs in a grant application was “not an excuse” for waiver of this eligibility criterion, and all had denied awards on the basis of available grant funding. There were differences in processes used to verify an applicant’s grant status. While some fund administrators regularly verified the availability of grant funds to the applicant through the university’s office managing sponsored research, others simply took applicants at their word regarding the availability of other monies to cover open access publication costs.

All fund administrators permitted applications from faculty, students and staff. One fund administrator reported no difference in the number of tenured versus untenured faculty applying for assistance. This is interesting because a common argument against open access is the reliance of tenure and promotion upon publication of articles in journals with high impact factors or rankings, both of which may not be assigned to or measured for many open access publications. That untenured faculty are publishing in open access journals at the same rate as tenured faculty may discredit this perceived weakness of publishing in open access journals. Additionally, two fund administrators indicated that the faculty at the medical colleges affiliated with their universities were not eligible for support through their campus-based open access fund. Interestingly, these same two funds experienced slower rates of fund depletion experienced at universities that provided APC funds for medical faculty. This supports the common perception that open access is most prevalent and accepted within medical and other life sciences.

There was some variance in practice regarding support of APC charges in “hybrid” open access journals. Hybrid open access journals are those that charge a subscription for access to journal content but also permit open access to those articles where the author has paid an open access fee. Most OA fund administrators believe publishers have added to their revenue stream by collecting the additional dollars from authors willing to pay to make their work openly accessible. As a result, most OA fund administrators in ASERL do not provide funding for hybrid journal articles. However, one fund administrator supports hybrid journals as their library did not want to close any avenue to making research available through open access; if an author was interested in making his/her article available open access, even if through a subscription journal, the library felt fund should support it.

Perceived Quality of OA Journals

There was also much discussion of the quality of open access publications. Most administrators reported that they had rejected applications on the basis of poor journal quality. Quality decisions were typically based upon a listing in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) and adherence to OASPA’s Code of Conduct[5]. The use of Beall’s List of Predatory Publishers[6] for determining eligibility was also discussed. While all admired the thought and work that is put into maintenance of Beall’s List, many believed it should not be relied upon exclusively as an arbiter of quality or ethical practice. Some administrators believe the criteria of Beall’s List, if applied, could potentially exclude high-ranking traditional, subscription-based scholarly journals on account of their business and editorial practices. Others felt the criteria also have the potential of mislabeling good quality journals that are too new to be fully tested as predatory, or those that focus on such niche or specialized topics that their coverage and appeal to a narrow group of scholars matters more than adherence to potentially arbitrary criteria.

Fund Usage

The usage of the campus-based funds within ASERL libraries mirrored the national trend of open access prevalence in the sciences. Administrators reported that the departments most often using their funds came from medicine, nursing, veterinary medicine, and engineering. All funds had applications from the social sciences and humanities, and one fund administrator indicated that support through the fund of publication of open access books would likely encourage usage in those disciplines. The fund administrators also concurred that faculty and students from business related disciplines had not applied for funds. It is unclear whether a paucity of open access business journals, attitudes of business colleges, or availability of other funds has led to the lack of participation from these disciplines in open access publishing.

Related to the usage of the fund, we discussed how our campus-based funds had been marketed. Typical marketing venues were reported – websites, brochures, and targeted emails. However, the most effective marketing tactic appeared to be word of mouth; most applicants learned about the fund through other applicants. Further, despite their marketing efforts, administrators were still dismayed by how many faculty had never heard of the fund, even after it had been in place for a few years. Through this discussion, administrators indicated a desire that library liaisons or subject experts engage more with faculty and students about scholarly communication issues and inform them of the resources available for publication support.

A few administrators noted spikes in the number of applications submitted at various times during the year. There was no clear correlation between the timing of these spikes and the academic calendar nor discernible publishing cycles. This was a point of considerable curiosity, and we determined this may be worth investigating on a larger scale.

Future of Open Access Funds

The conversation about campus-based open access funds concluded with a discussion of their sustainability. While all agreed that the availability of open access publishing funds was an important part of a university’s overall open access advocacy plan (“it’s putting money where our mouth is”), most fund administrators agreed that the business model of authors paying APCs was not sustainable in the long-term. The administrators were intrigued by emerging business models adopted by the journals eLife[7] and PeerJ[8], and the success of these new models will be watched closely. The outcomes of the directive from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy[9] and the proposed Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act[10] will also greatly impact the future of funding open access publishing and will be closely monitored. The group pondered whether libraries should be diverting funds used to pay subscriptions to large, expensive bundles of largely low-use journals into support of open access, and how libraries could better advocate the many open access journals that do not charge any APCs. Regardless, the APC model of funding open access is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future; if universities want to support open access in more than words alone, the administrators believe universities – not just libraries – should plan to sustain campus-based open access funds through recurring funding.

Conclusion

The Fall 2012 survey of ASERL member libraries regarding their open access activities revealed a keen awareness of and a high percentage of participation in open access advocacy and support. Distribution of funds to support open access publishing is just one of the ways ASERL members promote open access to research. In order to facilitate further conversation and collaboration in open access and other scholarly communication initiatives, ASERL has undertaken development of a scholarly communications program. Through presentations on scholarly communications topics such as altmetrics and library publishing, an in-person event on the role of open access in liaison activities, and the appointment of a visiting program officer for scholarly communications, ASERL hopes to inspire its members to continued advocacy and leadership in the area of scholarly communications

[1] See Heather Morrison’s “Dramatic Growth of Open Access” for quarterly updates on the increasing number of open access articles and journals. http://poeticeconomics.blogspot.ca/2006/08/dramatic-growth-of-open-access-series.html

[2] For a summary of the full survey, please visit http://www.aserl.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ OA_Survey_Exec_Summary.pdf.

[3] I interviewed Gail McMillan (Virginia Tech), Lisa Macklin (Emory University), Claudia Holland (George Mason University), Kevin Smith (Duke University), Molly Keener (Wake Forest University), and Robin Sinn (John Hopkins University). I also administer the Open Access Fund at University of Florida Libraries and have included my experiences in this reflection on campus-based open access funds.

[4] For more on the cost of open access publishing see Richard VanNoorden’s article “Open access: The true cost of science publishing.” Nature, v. 495, Issue 7442, March 27, 2013. http://www.nature.com/news/open-access-the-true-cost-of-science-publishing-1.12676

[5]http://oaspa.org/membership/code-of-conduct/

[6]http://scholarlyoa.com/2012/12/06/bealls-list-of-predatory-publishers-2013/

[7] http://www.elifesciences.org/

[8] https://peerj.com/

[9] “Increasing Access to the Results of Federally Funded Scientific Research,” Memorandum of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, February 22, 2013. http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ostp_public_access_memo_2013.pdf

[10] Sen. 350, 113th Cong. (Feb. 13, 2013). H.R. 708, 113th Cong. (Feb. 13, 2013).

Scholasticus: I maintain a personal website dedicated to my research, is it okay to post copies of articles and book chapters I’ve authored there?

Many faculty members maintain a web presence dedicated to their research and professional activity, whether through their employing University’s web server or through a third party host such as WordPress. Faculty members are also increasingly utilizing sites like Academia.edu to collate and showcase their scholarly works. Oftentimes, faculty post to these sites PDF or other digital copies of the final published version of works they’ve authored. However, doing so may be copyright infringement.

When publishing an article or book chapter with a publisher that does not utilize creative commons licensing or does not otherwise make the content open access copyright is often transferred by the author to the publisher. The terms of these copyright transfer agreement frequently strip away an author’s right to post the published version of their work. As a result, copyright infringement occurs when the work is posted on a web site without the permission of the publisher, who is now the copyright holder.

To preserve the right to post a copy of one’s own work on a personal web site or even in an institutional repository or other open access repository, faculty need to be mindful of the terms of any agreement they sign with a publisher. The author is the copyright holder until he or she transfers the copyright to someone else in a signed agreement.  Normally, the copyright holder possesses the exclusive rights of reproduction, distribution, public performance, public display, and modification of the original work. An author who has transferred copyright without retaining these rights must ask permission unless the use is one of the statutory exemptions in copyright law. Authors who transfer their copyright without retaining any rights may not be able to place the work on course Web sites, copy it for students or colleagues, deposit the work in an open access repository or reuse portions in a subsequent work. That is why it is important to retain the rights you need.

Publishers’ agreements (often titled “Copyright Transfer Agreement”) have traditionally been used to transfer copyright or key use rights from author to publisher. They are written by publishers and usually capture more of an author’s rights than are necessary to publish the work. Publishers do not need a wholesale transfer of copyright to accomplish publication. Publication agreements are negotiable, either through amendment of the agreement’s express terms or use of an author’s addendum, such as the SPARC Author’s Addendum). The only rights publishers need are:

  • A non-exclusive right to publish the work first and distribute a work and receive a financial return;
  • Proper attribution and citation as journal of first publication; and
  • Right to migrate the work to future formats

At a minimum, authors should seek to retain the right to post the manuscript copy post-peer review as accepted for publication, but before a publisher typesets and finalizes it. This is often referred to as the “pre-print” version.

Another option is to publish works in open access journals. Open access publications allow authors to retain their full copyright; only a license is granted to the publisher to make the work available through their online publication.

Better than FASTR?

On February 14, 2013, the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) was introduced in both houses of Congress. A successor to the once again defunct Federal Research Public Access Act (FRPAA), FASTR covers the same agencies as the former proposed legislation and similarly mandates public access within 6 months of publication, through unspecified open access repositories, to the final versions of peer reviewed manuscripts that report results of certain federally funded research. FASTR differs from FRPAA in its inclusion of a provision for covered agencies to coordinate the policies they develop in response to the legislation and inclusion of provisions requiring open licensing of research so that it may be reused under certain conditions.

The introduction of FASTR, particularly its open licensing provisions, immediately drew praise from open access supporters, including library and public interest organizations, and scorn from publishers. Association of College and Research Libraries President Steven Bell stated in that organization’s letter of support: “I am particularly pleased that this legislation addresses both greater access to research and greater reuse through open licensing. As scholars undertake new research, it is crucial to build on the works of others who came before. Open licensing is an important step towards a more open system of scholarship as it facilitates subsequent reshaping into new scholarship.” On the other side, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) called the new bill a “boondoggle.” AAP Vice President Allan Adler complained: “This bill would waste so much taxpayers’ money at a time of budgetary crisis, squander federal employees’ time with busywork and require the creation and maintenance of otherwise-unneeded technology all the while ignoring the fact that its demands are already being performed successfully by the private sector.”

While the press and others were still spinning support and criticism of FASTR, the Obama administration through the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a public access directive on February 22, 2013 that commands Federal agencies with over $100 million in annual research expenditures to “develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government…[including] any results published in peer-reveiwed scholarly publications that are based on research that directly arises from Federal funds.” Similar to FASTR, the directive encourages agencies to work collaboratively in the development of public access plans. The directive, drafted in response to a 65,000 signature petition calling for action and to comments filed in response to 2011 OSTP Request for Information, specifies the features these plans must incorporate, including strategies to foster public discovery and access of scholarly research and to either utilize existing archives and repositories or develop new partnerships for creation of modes of open and public access. Unlike FASTR and its predecessor bills, the directive calls for a 12 month (rather than a six month) embargo. Drafts of these plans are to be submitted by covered agencies to the OSTP within six months for its issuance.

As expected, the OSTP directive garnered immediate praise from open access advocates. Surprisingly, however, the AAP also came out in support of the directive, leaving one to wonder if perhaps a better alternative to FASTR had been born. One way the OSTP directive improves upon FASTR is in its stroking of publishers’ egos by recognizing the services they provide and by seemingly recognizing their interests as stakeholders. As the AAP response praises: “As one of its core principles, the policy ‘recognizes that publishers provide valuable services…that are essential for ensuring the high quality and integrity of many scholarly publications. It is critical that these services continue to be made available.’” The incorporation of the 12 month embargo similarly makes the OSTP directive more palatable to publishers. The writers at the blog Scholarly Kitchen, which frequently directs criticism at open access endeavors, specifically called out the 12 month embargo and the ability for agencies to petition for an extended embargo period if data was presented to support the request. Embargo periods, as the blog points out, are often established without much rationale or evidence (and are frequently the subject of debate among open access advocates and opponents alike). The provision for establishment of an embargo period supported by data may very well be a positive step.

Aside from seemingly making publishers happy, there may be other reasons to position the OSTP directive as superior to FASTR, or at least as a necessary complement or supplement to the as of yet enacted legislation. The FASTR bill only covers public access to scholarly publishing; the OSTP directive covers both publications and data. This recognition of the importance of access to research data is certainly an improvement and a recognition of changes in policy already taking place at some federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation. Another improvement of the OSTP directive over FASTR is by its definition it applies to more agencies than FASTR.  This larger umbrella includes agencies such as the Smithsonian Institution, which are excluded from FASTR. A final positive of the OSTP directive is its effective date: immediately. Agencies are under an immediate mandate to start crafting policies and publishers are put on notice that they must be open to working with agencies to carry out the objectives of the directive. Rather than spending energies lobbying for or against proposed legislation, these groups can direct their attentions to doing real work that will culminate in real results. Granted, the directive could easily be stricken in four years with a new administration; whereas legislation takes an act of Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court to be nullified. However, the force and effect of an executive order to move forward rather than continuing to spin wheels is certainly a better and perhaps truly “faster” means to an end than the FASTR bill.

Closing Another Open Access Week

Open Access Week 2012 has come and gone.  Across the globe, institutions of higher learning, funders of research, library groups, and publishers of open access works celebrated the theme “Set the Default to Open Access,” challenging us all to work toward open access as the norm for publication of scholarly works rather than an option. At the University of Florida, several events commemorated Open Access Week. The Libraries hosted two events featuring presentations on open data, publishing in the Open Journal System, and open access in the humanities. Additionally, I had the privilege of presenting on open access at Graduate Student Research Day. During this presentation, I observed dozens of “lightbulbs” go off above the heads of students when I used this scenario to demonstrate open vs. closed access:  I asked them to imagine conducting the research they now do after they graduate without the benefit of University paid subscriptions.  It was not surprising that several of them were unaware that the electronic resources they use regularly were available on account of expensive licenses paid for from the Libraries dwindling budget. But it was surprising to see their reactions upon realizing that the scholarship and knowledge they depended upon for their education and training was not available to all.  Once the lightbulbs of shock dimmed, discussion ensured about why open access was important not only for education and creation of new knowledge but also for purposes of public access to publicly funded research.

Reflecting upon the graduate students’ reactions and questions, I concluded that for real change to happen in scholarly publishing we should advocate more to our graduate students. They are not only the future producers of scholarly content, but also future tenure track or tenured faculty, future editorial board members, future employees of publishers and research funders, etc.  This is a large population of agents of change. In her own blog post about Open Access Week, librarian Barb Fister also recognized the importance of students in the open access movement.  She cautions other librarians against “extinguishing their common sense” by promoting our paid-access resources too heavily. We are perpetuating the problem of equating quality with closed access by not exposing students to the full range of resources, open and closed.  Fister writes:

When we teach students that the library is a terrific shopping platform that they get free access to as a member benefit, we aren’t preparing them for life-long learning. We’re reinforcing a number of false premises: that knowledge is stuff somebody out there created, stuff you can acquire if you are among the privileged few, that answers are things you go shopping for, that what anyone can read without paying for it must be, by definition, inferior to our designer goods. We’re trying hard to help students see knowledge as a social act, that when they do research they are joining a conversation, that the point of research isn’t to find the answer, it’s to build a new understanding that involves the student and the people who are speaking to them through the sources they encounter. Apart from these intangibles, I don’t want to build an artificial wall between what we pay for and what is available to all. I want to make it as easy as possible for students to find good sources, whether they are paid for by the library or not – because the future is open.

This is excellent advice for librarians.  Students are an essential, but often overlooked, component to the movement to make open access the default.  Whether we are engaged in information literacy or in open access advocacy, we must be mindful in the message we send to them. If we are successful in converting students to the cause for open access, we stand greater chances of success overall.

Across the Border and Across the Pond

Important copyright and open access news has come out of Canada and the UK in the past several days:

Supreme Court of Canada Issues Several Copyright Rulings
On July 12th, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its rulings in five separate copyright cases.  Four of the five cases concerned music royalties and the fifth case concerned the charge of royalties for photocopying short excerpts of works for use in education. (The controversy over assessment of this tariff was previously discussed on this blog.) In sum, the Court’s rulings established a broader reading of “fair dealing” — a phrase nearly equivalent to “fair use” under U.S. copyright law. Specifically, the Court held that photocopying textbooks for or by students for private study, even if in the context of instruction, or research is fair dealing, thereby dismantling the expensive licensing scheme put into place by Canada’s version of the CCC, Access Copyright. Duke University Scholarly Communications Officer Kevin Smith made a nice analogy of the Canadian Court’s ruling to the recent decision in the Georgia State University e-reserves case.  He writes:

Another important part of these decision about instructional copying is that [Supreme Court of Canada] Justice Abella found little or no harm to the market for published work caused by this copying.  The excerpts copied were short, forcing students to buy the entire books was unrealistic, and there was no link demonstrated between this copying and any evidence of declining textbooks sales.  This sounds quite a lot like Judge Evan’s conclusion in the Georgia State case that permission income for publishers was of negligible importance  and that there was no evidence that the permission fees lost because of fair use actually threatened the well-being of publishing businesses.  I hope we are seeing the beginnings of an international consensus around the idea that limited copying for educational purposes is more important for societies to support than a small additional  revenue stream for publishers is.

The reason I really like this expanded definition of research in Justice Abella’s opinion is that it gets at the heart of the analogy issue that was central to the Georgia State case.  The plaintiff publishers in that case wanted the court to accept a strict analogy between electronic reserves and the commercially printed course packs that were found not to be fair use in the Michigan Documents Services case, while many of us argued that, in the absence of a for-profit copy shop’s involvement, the better analogy was physical reserves, where a copy of a work is made available for students to use (in this case by downloading into their own computers) or not.  By tying the copying done by an institution to the private study purpose of the individual students, Justice Abella makes this latter argument for us.  In cases like Georgia State (and the UCLA streamed video case) the law clearly allows individual students to view and even to copy works for private study.  In both situations, technology simply enables the same group of students to use the materials in essentially the same way, but at their own convenience.  Instructors are, as Justice Abella puts it, simply guiding the students to the resources which they will then use for their private research.

UK and EC Mandate Open Access for Government Funded Research
The Research Councils of the United Kingdom (RCUK), a body representing the UK’s seven government-funded grant agencies, announced on July 16th that it had approved a policy mandating that all publications produced from grant funded research have to be made public 6 months after publication beginning in April 2013. (The blog for the  journal Nature provides a great summary of the policy and its effects.)  A day later the European Commission announced that it would similarly mandate open access. Its proposal endeavors to open up all the work funded by its Horizon 2020 research program, set to run in the European Union from 2014 to 2020 and disburse €80 billion (US$98.3 billion).  The EC says that it is aiming for 60% of all European publicly funded research articles to be open access by 2016. Meanwhile, in the United States, the National Institutes of Health remains the sole federal agency mandating open access for grant funded research, and a bill (FRPAA) proposing to expand this mandate to all federal agencies remains in limbo until after the November 2012 elections.

Sparks of Wisdom from the SPARC Open Access Meeting

Although the SPARC Open Access Meeting concluded several days ago, I find myself still processing the information that was shared by the slate of wonderful speakers. I finally took the time to review my scribblings and found that there were a few takeaways worth sharing and expounding upon.

John Wilbanks (bioinformatics entrepreneur, former VP at Creative Commons, and current senior fellow working on open data for the Kauffman Foundation) gave the keynote address. During his enlightening and engaging speech, he enumerated three uncomfortable truths that we must face as we proceed in the quest for open access to knowledge. The 1st uncomfortable truth is that we currently exist in a Veruca Salt generation — consumers want information now, they don’t care how. They want to be able to access their music, their e-books, their personal data files, etc. on a variety of devices in a variety of places. Scholars are no different than members of the general public in their demand for anytime and anywhere access.  The 2nd uncomfortable truth is that data publication is not the answer.  There are many unanswered questions about when to publish data, where to publish data, etc. And there is the larger issue of who will perform the work; there is a global shortage of data managers to perform the tasks necessary to preserve and publish the data.  The 3rd uncomfortable truth is that the Research Works Act is not the worst threat to be seen against open access.  The attacks will continue in even more subtle forms — it may be legislation buried in more omnibus bills or it may be through misleading claims about a publication’s open access status.

Neil Thakur of the National Institutes of Health provided me with the next takeaway of note.  Thakur, speaking about the NIH Public Access Policy, explained why the NIH policy is not open access and should not be confused as such. He noted that the NIH policy relies upon the current copyright framework, primarily the limits of fair use, to achieve its goals. He also explained that public access policies are not the answer to the serials crisis. It does not reduce costs (and further, does not hurt the publishers’ bottom lines) or obviate the need for subscriptions. But the most important point Thakur made was about the greatest challenge posed by the NIH policy. Although the NIH policy opens the doors to thousands of pages of research, such access is not beneficial if researchers or the public are not reading the “right” papers.  We need to be doing more through machine access and analysis to connect people with the papers that are most beneficial for to their research.

A final speaker of note was Caroline Sutton, president of the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association. Speaking about the importance of open access publishing, Sutton noted that open access is a key support for innovation and competitiveness in the greater economy; the real value of open access is value creation and innovation, not the freedom from cost. In the rhetoric that often accompanies open access promotion, the real value of barrier-free knowledge is often overlooked.

For more on the SPARC Open Access Meeting, please visit the SPARC website for author bios and slides.

There is Strength in Numbers, But is There Also Change?

Whether it began with the civil rights marches of the 60s or the Vietnam War protests of the 70s, the modern method of working to bring about change is by communities of like-minded or similarly-situated citizens joining in a single act of defiance of an identified “evil.”  Last year we witnessed the rise of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, a gathering of citizens in protest to the greed and corruption in the financial sector of our society. Although the movement has received much attention in the press and experienced expansion and presence in cities across the country, there is question of whether this collective activity can bring about real change. Similarly, researchers, librarians, and other academics have been engaged in collective action intended to bring about a change in proposed and existing intellectual property laws, including copyright and fair use.

Last fall, two separate bills (the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA and the PROTECT IP Act or PIPA) were introduced in Congress to address the problem of copyright infringement online. The bills’ opponents claimed that the net effect of the enforcement scheme outlined in the bills was a violation of First Amendment freedoms. On January 18th, nearly 50,000 web sites intentionally went dark in protest to SOPA and PIPA. Millions of citizens expressed opposition to SOPA and PIPA through social media venues, email, and other forms of digital communication. As a result of this mass online outcry, several U.S. Senators switched their position on the bills. And within three days of the blackout, the sponsor of the SOPA bill tabled the bill indefinitely. In the short term, it appears that this form of Internet-fueled democracy has resulted in a desired change. However, this does not mean that other bills will not be proposed or that more dangerous legislation, such as ACTA which is currently under vote in the EU, won’t soon be threatening our rights.

Another avenue through which change has been attempted is through development of community-based fair use best practice codes. The Center for Social Media, in partnership with various communities of users of copyrighted content, has created a series of best practice codes outlining principles for the fair use of copyrighted material by those particular communities. One of the most successful best practices codes was developed by the Center and documentary filmmakers. Following interview and survey of numerous notable and veteran documentary filmmakers and distributors, the documentary filmmakers’ best practices code “makes clear what documentary filmmakers currently regard as reasonable application of the copyright “fair use” doctrine.” That is, other filmmakers can rely upon the code for guidance in determining what is fair use of copyrighted content and when permission should be sought. As a result of this community-based approach, the number of infringement claims arising from documentary film making has decreased and errors and omissions insurance have more readily offered coverage for fair use claims.

Last week, the Center, along with the Association of Research Libraries, released the long-awaited Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Academic and Research Libraries. This Code is the product of nearly two years of surveying and interviewing librarians regarding their employment of fair use in their daily work. To date, librarians have relied upon various fair use guidelines that have cropped up since the enactment of the Copyright Act. However, unlike some of these other guidelines, the Code did not solicit the input or buy-in from those most often on the other side of the fair use debate with librarians, publishers standing as rights holders. Further unlike the prior guidelines, the Code does not attempt to set forth quantifiable fair use limits, which have only served to impede and limit the employment of fair use. The Code, as fully admitted by its authors, is not the silver bullet many librarians were hoping for since learning of the project; as stated in the introduction, this Code is “not a comprehensive or exhaustive guide to all possible applications of fair use in and around libraries.” Rather, the Code enumerates eight scenarios in which clear consensus regarding fair use was identified. However, each of these scenarios, or “principles” as the Code refers to them, is accompanied by a series of limitations and enhancements, which merely articulate the nuances librarians routinely grapple with and try to reconcile within and without the strictures of existing fair use guidelines. The eight principles also include a couple principles that I believe to be “no brainers” and not the subject of debate or confusion among my peers, namely reproducing materials for disabled patrons and digital preservation of at-risk items.  Nevertheless, I am not surprised by the limited guidance and clarification in this new Code; as I predicted last January, without “a judicial or legislative clarification of fair use as applied to the ever-evolving  modes of publishing and content delivery” a best practices document will not be an effective vehicle for change.

A final example of an academic community trying to bring about change through numbers is the recent call by researchers for a boycott of publishing giant Elsevier. In support of the scholarly prize-winning mathematician Tim Gowers recent scolding of Elsevier for its high journal prices, strong-arming of libraries to buy bundled subscriptions, and support of the Research Works Act, as well as SOPA and PIPA, an Internet petition was formed where researchers can publicly declare their intent to no longer write for, referee, or edit any Elsevier journal. At the time of this writing, nearly 2900 faculty members, scholars, and scientists from around the globe have signed this petition.

The rapid increase in petition signatories and the growing press attention to the petition and the problems it highlight leads one to believe that a positive change is imminent; however, this may not be the case. As well-known technology writer Glyn Moody recently noted, this is not the first (or the biggest) attempt that a collective effort to change the business model of scholarly publishing. In 2001, 34,000 scientists signed onto a letter put forward by the founders of the Public Library of Science calling for the establishment of an online public library that would provide the full contents of the published record of research and scholarly discourse. Many of those same signers pledged to boycott those publishers who did not participate in this endeavor, but very few actually followed through with their boycott pledge.  Going back even further, when the Internet was created in 1991, it was for the stated purpose of better facilitating scientific communication and the dissemination of scientific research. “Put another way, the Web was designed to disrupt scientific publishing.” Finally, if change in Elsevier’s (or any similarly operating publisher) business practices does not occur, what “collateral damage” may occur as a result of a boycott, and is this damage something we are prepared to deal with?

I fully support open-access, as a librarian, an author, and a tax-payer. I do not condone the practices of the Elseviers of the world. I believe that change can occur through collective action. However, we need to be mindful of what efforts may truly be needed to bring about the desired result and what consequences may exist if that desired result occurs.

A Case of Open and Shut

Since its introduction in October of last year, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) has captured immense attention from legislators, online business proprietors, copyright experts, and privacy proponents. From the intense exchanges of opinion both on Capitol Hill and among non-politicos, an unlikely champion has arisen in Republican Congressman Darrell Issa. Promoting citizen participation in the legislative process, Issa launched a web site, based upon a theory of crowdsourcing, for the public editing of a bill called the OPEN Act (Online Protection & ENforcement of Digital Trade Act). The bill advocates approaching the piracy problem through international trade law and not through local law enforcement measures.

However, while publicly standing as  for open government through citizen participation and an open internet economy, Issa quietly took a step last month to shut the doors on access to government-funded research. Entitled the “Research Works Act,” the Issa-sponsored bill, a poorly repackaged version of the failed “Fair Copyright in Research Works Act,” would, if enacted, prohibit all federal agencies from adopting, implementing, maintaining, or continuing any policy or program that provides for the online and public dissemination of commercially published and peer-reviewed research without the publisher’s consent. The effect of the bill would be the termination of the NIH public access policy and the foreclosure upon the idea of broadening the scope of that policy’s application.

Not surprisingly, although disturbingly, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) issued a press release applauding the bill. AAP President Tom Allen is quoted as stating “America’s [Professional and Scholarly Division] publishers are making more research information available to more people, through more channels, than ever before in our history. At a time when job retention, U.S. exports, scholarly excellence, scientific integrity and digital copyright protection are all priorities, the Research Works Act ensures the sustainability of this industry.”  The release further asserts: “Journal articles are widely available in major academic centers, public libraries, universities, interlibrary loan programs and online databases. Many academic, professional and business organizations provide staffs and members with access to such content.”

The AAP’s statements are factually misleading. The academic entities referenced cannot afford to provide access to the large body of research that is available exclusively through commercial publishers; it is no secret that libraries and other institutions have had to make difficult budgetary decisions about maintaining subscriptions to these publishers’ publications and databases. Further, authors and researchers do not publish in AAP’s members’ journals for monetary gain and often give up all of their own intellectual property rights in exchange for publication. As a result, access by the author’s employing institution and its students is often also bargained away. Further, the AAP’s stance ignores the fact that additional publishable works, for which they can recover subscription fees, are produced as a result of the increased discoverability and collaborations that occur when there is public access to research, particularly in places where there is no possibility of access except through public channels. There is no evidence that policies such as that of the NIH have economically hurt publishers to such a degree as to outweigh the benefits realized through open and public access to scientific research.

Issa, in a statement posted on his OPEN Act web site, proclaims that Americans have the right to benefit from their own creation. Shouldn’t the American public, then, have the right to benefit from the research that they have funded? Without the tax dollars paid by Americans, there would be no funding for federal research, and without federally funded research, publishers would suffer a sharp decline in publishable material that their readers want and need to read.  Apparently Issa wants to be the American public’s doorman, determining when and for whom the door may be open and shut.

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