Posts Tagged 'publishing'

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.

Thoughts from Charleston Conference

This was my second Charleston Conference, and I have some thoughts, in no particular order:

Publisher presence: One obvious strength of the Charleston Conference is the integration of vendors and publishers as collaborators with librarians, rather than merely as sales folks in a huge exhibit hall. Hearing publishers give substantive talks and engage in thoughtful dialogue with us about the current and future state of libraries, publishing and higher education is refreshing.

I stayed at a lovely Inn, but was a little unnerved by the painting of doleful bunnies in the bathroom

Diversity of libraries present: I really, really want to count this as a strength of the conference, but I’m not so sure. It seems to me that the differences between large research libraries and smaller libraries are becoming more pronounced. This parallels the well-established trend that the gap between rich and poor increases in times of economic scarcity. I just wonder if our shared challenges and opportunities are maybe not so shared after all. Frankly, sessions on Speed Weeding, Serials Gone Wild, and all kinds of patron-driven and/or just-in-time instead of just-in-case acquisition models are just not that relevant for the Stanford Libraries. Sure, we are selecting items for off-campus storage, but we aren’t de-accessioning anything, and we aren’t really cutting back on our commitment to deep and wide collection building. I wonder if the plenary talks on the need for Linked Open Data, collecting and preserving Data Papers, and exposing Hidden Collections (all of which require significant resources) seemed just as irrelevant to my colleagues at smaller institutions. I fear this all sounds really elitist, and I certainly don’t mean it that way. I was just really struck by the very different perspectives across kinds and sizes of libraries. I guess I don’t see it as much at conferences like ALA, because I tend to self-select into sessions and meetings focused on large research libraries.

Long Arm of the Law: I loved it last year, and am very glad it got an encore this year. What I would love to see next year is a panel with both University Counsel and Library administrators. Let’s have a dialogue about what librarians need to know about copyright. Let’s find out how University administrators, especially University Librarians, make decisions about when to play it safe, and when to move ahead with projects that put their institutions at risk of being sued.
Tweeting Charleston: The Charleston twittersphere got awfully lonely at times! Despite having a pre-designated hashtag, the percentage of active tweeters seemed pretty low to me. Clearly there were plenty of lurkers though, as several folks either DM’d me or told me in the hallway (apparently my avatar photo actually looks like me) that they enjoyed my tweets. Actually, some people just said they were reading my tweets, without noting whether they liked them or not … I think I might be too snarky for some tastes. Several of the speakers mentioned things they saw on the tweet stream, and I overheard conference organizers talking about what they saw there. As one of the more active tweeters at the conference, I have to say I wish the lurkers had chimed in. I really enjoyed the online dialogue with those who did engage, and would have enjoyed it more if more folks shared their thoughts, questions, lunch recommendations, style critiques, etc.

Size and identity: The Charleston Conference strikes me as a medium-to-large sized conference that still thinks of itself as a small, intimate gathering. I think it’s cool that there is a cadre of folks who have been to Charleston every year for 31 years. I have to assume that it is those bonds that inspire all the inside jokes, personal references, singing and skits. But, those same things which make Charleston feel personal for some, can feel cliquish and alienating to newbies. And some of us just aren’t that into skits and sing-alongs.

What academic librarians need to know about academia

The world of academia is a strange and complex place, and I have found that understanding certain key aspects of its culture and norms has served me well in my current work and in contributing to conversations about the future of academic libraries.
Here are a few things that I find helpful to know/understand:

  1. A faculty members’ peers are NOT necessarily the other faculty in their own department or their own institution. A scholar’s peers are other scholars who do similar work. This is literally true for activities such as peer review, and tenure & promotion reviews. It is also true in terms of social identity and social networks. Knowing this, I might realize I can helpfully point out similar research happening on a scholar’s own campus; since they may reasonably not know about it. I also need to know this because when scholars talk about doing collaborative work, their collaborators are likely to be located all across the globe — and that has implications for how libraries support that work.
  2. Publications serve many purposes for faculty, but the primary purpose for most is to support tenure and promotion cases. Given that, faculty will publish their research in whatever venue has the highest prestige value in their field and their department. Understanding whether books or journal articles are more highly valued for a given department is helpful. It is also good to further understand which publishers and which journals are most important for a given department. Note that there will be variation within disciplines–what makes a good publication record for a tenure-track Sociologist at one university might not be so impressive at another school.
  3. For tenure-track faculty, virtually everything they do & every choice they make will be based on how it contributes to their chances of getting tenure. For example, if teaching plays an insignificant role in tenure decisions at my school, then I can’t expect tenure-track faculty to devote much time to innovative teaching. If I want to support tenure-track faculty, I need to offer services that help them do things that increase their chances of getting tenure. If I want to offer library support for their classes, I need to be willing to do so in a way that requires little to no extra effort on their part, and perhaps even provides them some free time.
  4. I’m sure there are plenty of other norms from the world of academia that academic librarians ought to understand. What am I leaving out?

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Support for Research: An Academic Library Manifesto

Support for the Research Process: An Academic Library Manifesto has just been published. This brief call to action document represents the collaborative work of the RLG Research Information Management Roadmap Working Group.
The goal of the document is to set forth a “top 10” list of action items for Academic Libraries to focus on in the face of a rapidly changing scholarly research landscape.
Much of what is currently written about the future of libraries focuses on how to save libraries, or on whether we even still need libraries. In this document, we tried instead to focus on what academic libraries can and should do to ensure that “current and future researchers will have the support they need to navigate and exploit the full potential of evolving digital scholarship.”
One potential follow-up to this document would be for members of the academic library community to take each of the action items and develop examples, use cases, and best practices:

1. Commit to continual study of the ever-changing work patterns and needs of researchers; with particular attention to disciplinary and generational differences in adoption of new modes of research and publication.
2. Design flexible new services around those parts of the research process that cause researchers the most frustration and difficulty.
3. Embed library content, services, and staff within researchers’ regular workflows; integrating with services others provide (whether on campus, at other universities, or by commercial entities) where such integration serves the needs of the researcher.
4. Embrace the role of expert information navigators and redefine reference as research consultation instead of fact-finding.
5. Reassess all library job descriptions and qualifications to ensure that training and hiring encompass the skills, education, and experience needed to support new modes of research.
6. Recognize that discovery of content will happen outside of libraries—but that libraries are uniquely suited to providing the organization and metadata that make content discoverable.
7. Embrace opportunities to focus on unique, core services and resources; while seeking collaborative partnerships to streamline common services and resources.
8. Find ways to demonstrate to senior university administrators, accreditors, and auditors the value of library services and resources to scholarship; while providing services that may seem invisible and seamless to researchers.
9. Engage researchers in the identification of primary research data sets that merit long-term preservation and access.
10. Offer alternative scholarly publishing and dissemination platforms that are integrated with appropriate repositories and preservation services.

As Ricky Erway at hangingtogether says:

You don’t need to nail it to your library’s door, but you might want to think about how many of these things you currently do, how many you could do, and what you could stop doing (or streamline) so that you can better support your institution’s research mission.

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Moving Beyond Libraries as big photo albums

In Moving beyond the photo album, Kevin Smith describes the journal article as “a “snapshot” of research… increasingly far-removed from the actual research process and have less and less relevance to it.”

Smith summarizes a talk by G. Sayeed Choudhury, Associate Dean for Library Digital Programs at Johns Hopkins University, in which:

Choudhury called on libraries to move past a vision of themselves as merely a collection of these snapshots and become more active participants in the research process. He recounted a conversation he had with one researcher who, in focusing on the real need he felt in his own work, told Sayeed that he did not care if the library ever licensed another e-journal again, but he did need their expertise to help preserve and curate his research data. The challenge for libraries is to radically rethink how we spend our money and allocate the expertise of our staffs in ways that actually address felt needs on our campuses and do not leave us merely pasting more snapshots into a giant photo album that fewer people every day will look at.

Of course, as Smith notes, promotion and tenure systems still rely on the “outmoded system of scholarly communications that is represented by the scientific journal”, even as actual scholarly communication is happening outside of, and in spite of, published journal articles.

What are libraries to do? Dwindling budgets are forcing many of us to cancel journal subscriptions anyway; but as long as tenure and promotion rely on traditional citation and publication counts, we can’t very well stop collecting the snapshots that are traditional scholarship. But, we can play a role in promoting new modes of scholarly communication, and we ought to be participating in conversations about establishing better, more efficient, more relevant ways of evaluating scholarship.

Edited 8/27/09: Thanks to @ericrumsey for the better, more accurate title suggestion.

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What do citations really mean?

Several recent papers and/or blog posts have highlighted the social nature of citation practices, challenging the assumption that citation counts stand as impartial measures of the quality and impact of a piece of scholarly work:

  1. In Position matters Philip Davis summarizes Positional Effects on Citation and Readership in arXiv , in which the authors find that articles listed at the top of arXiv’s daily publication announcements were cited more frequently than articles listed lower. The authors go on to note:

    we’ve documented here that accidental forms of visibility can drive early readership, with consequent early citation potentially initiating a feedback loop to more readership and citation, ultimately leaving measurable and significant traces in the citation record.

  2. Although Henry at Crooked Timber rather convincingly argues that Charles Rowley’s article (behind paywall), ‘The curious citation practices of Avner Greif: Janet Landa comes to grief’; is “one of the sorriest hack-jobs that I’ve ever had the misfortune to read in an academic journal”; the Rowley article does highlight the general issue of the very real influence that individual citation choices can have. Scholarly careers can be made or broken by citation (or lack thereof) in a subsequently influential piece of scholarship. Once cited in one influential paper, one’s work is more likely to become part of the regularly cited literature on a topic, as subsequent scholars cite the same works.
  3. Finally, Steven Greenberg’s How citation distortions create unfounded authority: analysis of a citation network highlights the social side of citations by demonstrating how “the persuasive use of citation–bias, amplification, and invention–can be used to establish unfounded scientific claims as fact.”

Clearly lots of factors affect when, where, why, by whom and how often a given scholarly work is cited. It seems like it would be good for us all to remember not to place undue weight on either individual citations or citation patterns; and not to blindly rely on citation count as an unbiased, objective measure of quality.

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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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Peer-reviewed publishing at warp speed

In some ways, the most interesting part of the whole Facebook use and grades controversy was the process by which scholars responded to the hype over the original study. In this blog post at Crooked Timber, Eszter Hargittai, sociologist and current fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society describes how she and two other scholars “published a formal response to the media frenzy covering the study that claimed a relationship between Facebook use and lower grades.” Facebook, Twitter, and peer-reviewed online publishing are all key ingredients.

For a first-person account of a new model of academic publishing, read Facebook and grades revisited aka peer-reviewed publication at record speed. What do libraries and librarians need to do to support this kind of rapid and responsive publishing model?

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.

Citation concentration debate

Once again, the folks at hangingtogether are my source for new research — in Efficiency and scholarly information practices, they describe a new study published in Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology : JASIST that purports to refute an earlier study published in Science magazine that shows that as journal content becomes available online, citations get narrower.

(Full citation: See: Larivière, Vincent, Yves Gingras, and Eric Archambault. “The Decline in the Concentration of Citations, 1900-2007.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology : JASIST. 60. 4 (2009): 858-862. Stanford-only link).

The original article “Electronic Publishing and the Narrowing of Science and Scholarship”, by friend and colleague James Evans, attracted quite a bit of attention (I wrote a bit about it myself), so I am not surprised that someone has already tried to replicate (or refute) his findings.

In “The Decline in the Concentration of Citations, 1900-2007.” the authors claim that contrary to Evans’ findings, citations are becoming increasingly dispersed over time. The major problem here is that Evans has done a fairly sophisticated analysis (including negative binomial models) that controls for time. This allows him to isolate the estimated effect of journal online availability on trends and patterns of citations. In contrast, Lariviere, Gingras, and Arhambault readily admit that their models “do not take into account ‘the online availability’ variable.”

In other words, the study that claims to refute Evans’ work actually fails to account for the key independent variable, and instead shows simple trends over time.

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