Posts Tagged 'open access'

My stint on the JLA Editorial Board: A few clarifications

Seems like a few clarifications about the story of my short stint on the JLA Editorial Board are needed. In no particular order:

  • I’m female. Some of the follow-on stories refer to me as “he”. I get it. It’s a gender-neutral name, and I guess if you googled me for a picture, that might not clear things up. But I am female. I figure if I write “Chris Bourg is female” here, future bloggers can google me and get it right next time.
  • I do not speak for the former Editorial Board of the Journal of Library Administration. My post about my stint with JLA is my own story. I thought that was obvious in the original post, but apparently not.
  • My crisis of conscience in the aftermath of the tragic death of Aaron Swartz was my own and not the board’s. I’m pretty sure I never even mentioned Aaron’s death or my feelings about it in any conversations ever with the Editor of JLA or any of my fellow board members.
  • Even after my crisis of conscience, at the time, I decided to stay on the board, and to submit the article I promised. Judge me if you will. Later, when negotiations with T&F went nowhere, I resigned along with the rest of the board.
  • Any connection between my crisis of conscience, Aaron’s tragic death, and the board’s resignation is tenuous and indirect at best. I suppose my hesitation to submit my article counted as one more piece of data adding up to the board’s conclusion that the restrictive and confusing licensing terms were making it difficult to attract quality content.
  • It is my opinion, and was my hope, that the terms negotiated by the authors of the articles in the special issue on Digital Humanities in Libraries should have served as a model for a new standard author license for JLA. I think Micah Vandegrift and the rest of the authors in that issue deserve enormous credit and praise for both the quality of that issue (which was hugely influential in my decision to join the board), and for their persistence in negotiating an amended license, and for doing so publicly. I just didn’t, and still don’t, think every potential JLA author ought to have to go through the same lengthy negotiation process.
  • As former Editor Damon Jaggars has stated: “Open Access writ large was not the fundamental issue in this disagreement.” I characterize it as about open(er) access and about author’s control of their own work.
  • And just for good measure, I am female. Always have been, always will be.

3/29/13, 6:30pm: Edited to make timeline clear and to reiterate that we all remain resigned.

My short stint on the JLA Editorial Board

In the Fall of 2012, I was persuaded by Damon Jaggars to join the Editorial Board of the Journal of Library Administration. This week, we all resigned.

When I was asked to be on the board, I warned Damon that I had actually never published anything in library literature, and that I was generally critical of the quality of much of the literature in the field. He convinced me this would be a chance to do something about it, and that he had some good ideas for publishing a quality product. Damon is a pretty persuasive guy, and I figured it was time for me to stop grousing about the problems with library literature and try to be part of the solution. So I signed on.

Later, Damon asked me to write an article about our Library Concierge project for JLA, and again I said yes. When Damon contacted me later with an actual deadline for the article, I told him I was having second thoughts. It was just days after Aaron Swartz’ death, and I was having a crisis of conscience about publishing in a journal that was not open access. Damon reminded me (gently) that not only had I agreed to write for JLA, but I was on the Editorial Board, so this could be a problem. More importantly, he assured me that he was working with Taylor & Francis to try to get them to adopt less restrictive agreements that would allow for some form of Creative Commons license. He told me his strategy was to work from within to encourage change among publishers. Once again, Damon’s power of persuasion worked.

So, I worked on the article, and just recently submitted it. In the meantime, Damon continued to try to convince Taylor & Francis (on behalf of the entire Editorial Board, and with our full support), that their licensing terms were too confusing and too restrictive. A big part of the argument is that the Taylor & Francis author agreement is a real turn-off for authors and was handicapping the Editorial Board’s ability to attract quality content to the journal. The best Taylor & Francis could come up with was a less restrictive license that would cost authors nearly $3000 per article. The Board agreed that this alternative was simply not tenable, so we collectively resigned. In a sense, the decision was as much a practical one as a political one. Huge kudos to Damon for his persistence, his leadership, and his measured and ethical stance on this issue.

So, if anyone has an opening on an editorial board of a journal with less restrictive author agreements, I just so happen to have some free time. I’ve also got a fairly decent article about our Library Concierge Project all ready if anyone wants to publish it.

(3/23, 5:43pm, Edited to correct some spelling and add a link. CB)


Busy librarian guide to the Research Works Act

I did an informal survey at MPOW and was a bit surprised to learn that very few librarians here know much about the Research Works Act (RWA) (PDF). Some had heard of it, but had only a vague sense of what it is — “It’s the anti-Open Access bill, right?”. (Not to single anyone out, but our awesome new International Government Docs librarian did know about the RWA, had strong opinions, and rushed off the find the full text of the bill).

I think the Research Works Act, and especially the debate that it has engendered, is an important part of the context in which we (librarians) operate; and we need to be aware of the conversations. So, I hope folks at MPOW and elsewhere will find this round-up of the basics helpful. To fully grok the debate, you really should follow the links and read more.

The Research Works Act is intended to place limits on the actions of federal agencies, such that:

No Federal agency may adopt, implement, maintain, continue, or otherwise engage in any policy, program, or other activity that (1) causes, permits, or authorizes network dis- semination of any private-sector research work without the prior consent of the publisher of such work; or (2) requires that any actual or prospective author, or the employer of such an actual or prospective author, assent to network dissemination of a private-sector research work.

The American Libraries Association came out in opposition:

The ALA has been a long-time, ardent supporter of increasing access to information of all types, including federally funded research. This latest bill, the Research Works Act, would act in direct contradiction and therefore the ALA vehemently opposes the bill.

Perhaps not surprisingly, The Association of American Publishers supports the Act, claiming it is necessary “to ensure freedom from regulatory interference for private-sector research publications.”

The Copyright Alliance is likewise supportive, arguing that “Providing a federal grant to fund a research project should not enable the federal government to commandeer and freely distribute a subsequently published private sector peer-reviewed article.”

The ever insightful Barbara Fister does a marvelous job of spelling out the connection between the Research Works Act and the Elesevier boycott, noting that the furor over the RWA seems to have awakened more scholars to the open access cause.

For a rather nuanced take on the RWA and associated issues, check out David Crotty’s piece at the scholarly kitchen, where he asks:

Can we express strong support for open access publishing while at the same time taking care not to destroy the funding we generate, which is used to directly support the research community and research itself?

Crotty further argues:

For the not-for-profit publisher — the research society dependent on its journal, the research institution that uses a journal to fund research — extremism in either direction makes no sense. If one truly believes in one’s mission, then both the seemingly contradictory ideas of expanding access and preserving revenue streams are necessary and compatible. The goal should be to find ways to expand access while at the same time continuing to fund the important activities a society or institution provides.

For more information and opinions on the Research Works Act, see:

Note: I decided to make this the first in what I hope to make into a regular series of posts tagged “Busy librarian guide”. I’ll tackle and try to summarize key issues that I think librarians (especially academic librarians) ought to be aware of. I’ve retroactively tagged a few old posts as well, so it actually looks like a series. Please feel free to suggest topics in the comments below.

2/7/12: Edited to add John Dupuis’ Around the web: Research Works Act & Elsevier Boycott, which is chock-full of links.

Nicholas Carr is wrong. Again.

Nicholas Carr is wrong again (see Google is not making us stupid). In Information wants to be free my ass, Carr argues that all the money we fork out for information services is based on the high value we place on content. No argument from me on that, but Carr seems to be ignoring all kinds of relevant trends towards free services and content: Skype, free WiFi, Open Access movements, etc. Yes, there are counter-trends, as content providers and others are trying to figure out how to cash in on the demand for information. But that doesn’t mean that the basic ideas behind the information wants to be free meme are wrong. It just means that lots of folks want to make money off of information, and that hardly seems like a big revelation. In fact, that is what Stewart Brand said when he first noted that information wants to be free:

On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it’s so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other. (May 1985, Whole Earth Review, p. 49

But that kind of nuance is not really Carr’s thing.

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When is a mandate not a mandate?

On the HighWire Press Facebook page, John Sack tipped me off to the Occasional Pamphlet, where Stuart M. Shieber has a terrific post up about University open-access policies as mandates.
Essentially, Schieber notes that university open-access policies are not mandates, in the sense that “there is no such thing as a mandate on faculty.” According to Schieber, all open-access policies have an implicit waiver option anyway, so:

it makes great sense to take the high road and provide for the waiver possibility explicitly. This has multiple benefits. First, it acknowledges reality. Second, it explicitly preserves the freedom of the author. Third, it enables much broader acceptance of the policy.

Perhaps the most important part of the post is this:

I am not claiming that there can be no true open-access mandates on faculty. Rather, such mandates must come from outside academia. Funders and governments can mandate open access because they can, in the end, refuse to fund noncompliers. They have a stick. All a university, school, or dean has, in the end, is a carrot.

In As library budgets collapse, authors need to take responsibility for access, Shieber implies that one of the carrots we have is, ironically, shrinking library budgets. As libraries are forced to cancel subscriptions to high-priced journals, the best way to ensure that the maximum number of other scholars have access to your scholarship is to publish it in open-access journals and deposit it in open-access institutional repositories.

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Conventional Scholarship as “Legacy System”, Open Access as “Middleware”

I finally got around to reading Conventional Scholarship as “Legacy System” and Open Access as “Middleware” at Academic Evolution.
I think it is a very useful analogy for understanding why some scholars are slow to embrace open access.

You see, academia’s knowledge economy is so symbiotically connected to for-profit (toll-access) publishing at this point in time that academics, ostensibly devoted to open inquiry and the pursuit of knowledge for social good, can be profoundly closed-minded about Open Access publishing or any method of distribution if it varies from the tried and true, even if those methods far exceed the reach and impact of traditional print publishing.

And more on the potential consequences for academic publishing of not changing:

If academic publishing stays within its established genres and persists in the gateway model of peer review, it can continue to pretend to fixed and certain authority, as though knowledge is a commodity (as indeed, it is within the academic reward system). This is understandable given tradition, but it is inconsistent with the open and ongoing review of knowledge that is the new paradigm of communication and knowledge production. Ultimately, traditional academic publishing will prove to be inferior knowledge of diminishing significance (largely due to its own self silencing and its voluntary withdrawal from persistent social knowledge systems).

Read the whole thing to get to the parts about how current Open Access models are “middleware”, and how academic scholarship and publishing will evolve.

Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship

Scholarly Communications @ Duke recently posted a summary of the Durham Statement on Open Access to Legal Scholarship.

The Durham Statement calls for law schools to “commit to making the legal scholarship they publish available in stable, open, digital formats in place of print.” In addition, “As a measure of redundancy, we also urge faculty members to reserve their copyrights to ensure that they too can make their own scholarship available in stable, open, digital formats.”

Kevin Smith at Scholarly Communications @ Duke rightly points out that while the usual profit motive is missing from law school publications (since students do all the editorial work), the same reputation and impact motives are at work. Open access law school journals could provide a proof of concept for open access publishing in other areas of scholarship.

Although recent research seems to indicate that the citation boost that accompanies online access is paradoxically larger for fee-based access than open access, I think that trend could change as free open access becomes more common and normative. The Durham Statement seems to be a clear step in the right direction for open access.

I’m happy that my colleague at Stanford’s Crown Law Library, J. Paul Lomio, was one of the signatories; and has already posted it at Legal Research Plus.

More citations for fee-based online journals than free ones

My buddy James Evans (with co-author Jacob Reimer) continues to produce important and methodologically rigorous research on publishing and citation patterns.

In a study published in Science magazine (no link available yet, PDF (subscription required)), Evans and Reimer find that:

when a research article is offered online after being in print for one year, the use of an open-source format increases citations to the article by 8 percent. But when a paid-subscription format is used to distribute a year-old print article, the citations increase by 12 percent. (from The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Some of the Chronicle comments note that Evans and Reimer elected to publish in a fee-based journal themselves.

There is a complicated self-fulfilling prophecy mechanism at work in the pattern they find. For a scholar seeking tenure, citation count matters more than simple exposure. If the fee-based journals get cited more, they will remain more attractive publication vehicles for scholars. As the best scholars and rising scholars continue to publish in fee-based journals, then those journals will continue to get cited more.

Update (Feb. 25, 2009): Evans describes his research in this video interview from National Science Foundation.

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