You can now watch the UI’s Open Access Week 2014 panel discussion “Open Access and the Public Good” via Iowa Research Online. Professor Russell Ganim (Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) moderates a conversation between the Honorable James Leach (Law), Professor Christina Bohannan (Law), and Professor Bernd Fritzsch (Biology). Among the topics are how research in the Humanities and Sciences is financed and conducted and who has the right to access its results.
Paperity, just launched this week, is the first multi-disciplinary aggregator of all peer-reviewed published open access articles and papers. Yes, that’s right, it aggregates not just the abstracts, but the full-text of the articles. Right now Paperity includes over 160,000 articles from 2,000 scholarly journals, and growing. The goal of the team is to cover 100% of Open Access literature in 3 years from now.
- gives readers easy and unconstrained access to thousands of journals from hundreds of disciplines, in one central location;
- helps authors reach their target audience and disseminate discoveries more efficiently;
- raises exposure of journals, helps editors and publishers boost readership and encourage new submissions.
James Amos, MD, Department of Psychiatry at The University of Iowa, continues our celebration of Open Access Week with a guest post on the importance of free access to medical articles for patients and their families.
The importance of open access medical literature
James Amos, MD
As a consulting psychiatrist, I teach medical students and residents, I really appreciate open access medical literature. We have a weekly case conference called Clinical Problems in Consultation Psychiatry, a practical way to teach the Practice-Based Learning & Improvement Core Competency.
This helps develop the habit of reflecting on and analyzing one’s practice performance; locating and applying scientific evidence to the care of patients; critically appraising the medical literature; using the computer to support learning and patient care, and facilitating the education of other health care professionals.
Recurring topics are delirium and dementia. Our recommendations for patients, families, and colleagues depend on free, easy access to studies and reviews.
A poignant reminder was a recent CNN article about a man struggling to cope with early state Alzheimer’s disease. He said, “All we really are is our thoughts…” Ironically, mindfulness research tells us the opposite might be true. A paper in the Directory of Open Access Journals reviews the growing research literature on the role of mindfulness in moderating the suffering of those with dementia .
- Marciniak, R., et al. (2014). “Effect of meditation on cognitive functions in context of aging and neurodegenerative diseases.” Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience 8.
The changing landscape of publishing: are we witnessing a revolution in information flow through open access? by Bernd Fritzsch
Open Access Week 2014 begins today, and we’ll be running posts by guest bloggers on open access and contemporary scholarship. Today’s post comes from Bernd Fritzsch, Chair and Professor in the Department of Biology, and panelist in last month’s Open Access and the Public Good discussion.
The changing landscape of publishing: are we witnessing a revolution in information flow through open access?
I am old enough to remember the ‘good old days’ when we went through the ‘Current Contents’ every week to find out what had been published journal by journal. Once you had identified a paper of interest, you needed to request a reprint, which you received maybe several weeks to several months later. You had to keep track of what reprints you requested, what you received and archive all of that in an ever increasing collection of reprints.
This started to change with the introduction of online journals—a new concept following the introduction of the world-wide web. Now, once you had identified a paper of interest you could possibly download a PDF of the entire article or at least see its abstract for a better assessment of fit for your interest. That was around 2000. In the last 14 years this concept of online, open access journals is increasingly pitched against the traditional journals. These novel ideas for access can potentially solve the biggest problem of the past—the unequal flow of scientific information—by providing easy access for everyone.
One major difference between open access and ‘traditional’ journals is the basic business model. Traditional journals rely, at least to some extent, on subscriptions to make a profit. How much a given journal profits from subscriptions is variable and the data is hard to come by. Given the high cost of subscriptions, budget-strapped libraries are faced with deciding which journal subscriptions are the most useful for their audience. The citation impact factor was developed by ISI initially to give libraries an idea of which journals are highly cited and read, helping them determine which journals they need to hold. Of course, once the idea of ‘impact factor’ was established for journals, the same system was used to rank authors. In essence, publishing in a prestigious journal with a high impact factor that is found in every library and many individual labs, was one way of making sure that a given scientific insight was widely disseminated. Journals, in turn, were interested in acquiring the highest impact factor to be widely subscribed. The problem with this business model is that the tax payer pays at least twice: first to finance the research that drives the lab of the author and subsequently to finance the library subscriptions. NIH has argued that this is an undue support and these arguments have changed the business model: now, papers, whose research was funded by NIH, have to be made available free to the public within one year. The authors, however, pay nothing in most cases, but have to sign over the copyright of data generated in most cases by public funding to a for profit organization. The problem with this model is that not every journal is easily accessible. In many cases one can only access abstracts unless a given University has a subscription that allows online access. Given that most researchers have their ‘reprint collections’ on their hard drive or the ‘cloud’ as PDF files, the possibility of accessing a given PDF instantly is becoming the rate limiting factor for information dissemination.
Since 2000 a different business of publishing is gaining ground: open access journals such as BMC journals, PloS journals and, more recently, eLife. These journals have no printed copies and thus no subscriptions by individuals or libraries to finance their costs. Upon acceptance of a paper, the author pays a fee to allow online access for all potential readers. The importance of this new business model is that data are immediately available for all to see and download as PDF to build up your own computer based library. Unfortunately, payments have to be made by the author, but the author typically retains the rights for his/her data. Of course, once the power of the internet become apparent to traditional publishers, most have added online access to their journals, in addition to the traditional paper journal (although this is sometimes at additional expenses to the author). Of course, impact factors of the new exclusive online journals are next to irrelevant for libraries (they do not need to subscribe to them) and are now only used to gauge the ability of a given set of authors to move a paper into a higher impact journal, allegedly being seen by more people, a questionable argument at a time of all access search engines.
Indeed, the very perception of a high impact journal carrying more weight because it is more being widely read is becoming debatable. At a time when several online journals provide statistics for each paper such as views per months, number of downloads of PDFs, number of citations including links to citations etc., other metrics that are easily accessible to evaluate ‘impact’ are moving into the forefront. Instead of ‘guessing’ the possible impact of a given article based on the ‘impact factor’ of a journal, one can now see the impact unfolding in real time for every article in these journals or for every author across journals. This allows every author to compare the impact development of their papers published in a low as compared to a high impact journal. In fact, only time can tell how a publication will fare: some papers will be cited frequently early and phase out, others will start with few citations and last. In addition, several online indices exist (Scopus, Google Scholar) that measure the real time impacts of any given paper from any journal. I recently looked at this data for papers I had published in the same year in high impact journals (Nature, for example) and low impact journals. I discovered that it did not matter where I had published my research: over a 25 year period the quality of the paper seems to equalize, at least for my sample, the impact factor difference of the journals; both papers were nearly equally cited. In my area of expertise, one of the most cited papers by T Dobzhansky (1708 times) is in a journal with an impact factor of around 0.4, highlighting my point namely that highly cited papers can appear in ‘low impact’ journals. Moreover, since the h-index was invented nearly 10 years ago, it is now possible to calculate for every author the total citation impact of her/his publication record as a measure of the life time impact. This measure is becoming more widely accepted. In many countries tenure and promotion decisions are partly based on not only the numbers of papers published and the impact factor of the journal, but increasingly the cumulative impact of a given faculty through the h-index.
Having a clearer understanding of what the changes in publication landscapes imply, one can begin to ask questions about the future success of the traditional versus the open access models, in particular in the context of faculty promotion. In my opinion, h-index is here to stay as a measure of overall citation frequency of papers of a given author. Modifications to correct for academic age, such as the m-index, combined with overall citation frequencies (provided by Google Scholar or Scopus) can provide a reasonable measure of how many people found the work of a given author useful for their own work and thus cite it. Variations of these measures can look into position of a given a faculty in the list of authors (middle name in a 20 people assembly of authors or first name in small set of authors). However, this will not change the basic usefulness of existing quantifications of a given author’s impact, they will only fine tune the results.
How will all of this affect frequency of reading of a given publication? Because it is now possible to search across all publications in seconds followed by the direct access not only of an abstract but the entire article information flow will speed up and help to develop a given idea. My expectation is that the traditional publication approach will disappear over time and most papers will go on line proportional to the phasing out of senior scientist used to the traditional model. My guess is that the revolution in disseminating information that started with typesetting by Gutenberg in 1450 (in China already around 1000) will soon be replaced by all electronic media. In addition, I expect that journal articles will transform into online fora of open discussions of the content of journals, not just consumption. ELife has already developed some of these novel publishing ideas such as the publication of the peer-review along with the article and the author’s rebuttal letter–things that are kept top secret by traditional journals. In addition, anybody can comment on the paper and such comments will become a permanent record. Combined, open access and open communication will help stamp out scientific fraud. The quality of the review process along with the publication of the name of the reviewer will ensure that anybody who cannot repeat the work can immediately interact with the authors via the online fora. This will change publication as we know it from a static process forming a one-way street of information flow (author to journal to library) into a dynamic process that will turn the scientific community into an intellectual village of worldwide openly communicating individuals. Clearly, ranking of universities such as QS University relies for 20% of the total ranking on citations per faculty, requiring that faculty should make sure that all their citations are properly credited to them. Easy ways to do this is through Google Scholar profile (or Scopus or Web of Science profiles).
I believe that the essential stumbling block for these new models of truly free communications, data, and idea exchange will be how to finance these forward looking endeavors that are transforming our publication landscape. Nearly 500 years after printing helped the public to gain access to scriptures, restricted before to the knowledgeable few, online open access publications could become the next step forward in free information flow, provided the financial models can be resolved. Other online features such as Facebook or Twitter will help to drive the free communication enterprise even further into accessibility by everyone.
On Monday, The Guardian’s Higher Education Network posted an item by Melissa Terras “Want to be taken seriously as scholar in the humanities? Publish a monograph“. The entire short post is worth reading, but here are a few excerpts:
We don’t write humanities monographs for riches. We may do so in an attempt to earn academic fame. But the career kickback for me was rapid promotion. In the humanities, the monograph’s the thing.
With digital publishing comes the uncoupling of content from print: why should those six years of work (or more) result in only a physical book that sits on a few shelves? Why can’t the content be made available freely online via open access?
Isn’t this the great ethical stance: making knowledge available to all? Won’t opening up access to the detailed, considered arguments held within humanities monographs do wonders for the reputation and impact of subject areas whose contribution to society is often under-rated?
The humanities’ dependency on the monograph for the shaping and sharing of scholarship means that scholars – and publishers – should be paying attention. How will small print runs of expensive books fare in this new “content should be available for free” marketplace? How will production costs be recouped?
The latest Jisc survey on the attitudes of academics in the humanities and social sciences to open-access monograph publishing makes an interesting contribution to this debate, showing how central single-author monographs remain to the humanities, and how important the physical – rather than digital – copies are. People still like to read, and in many cases buy, them.
The monograph is still the thing: anyone who wants to be taken seriously as a scholar in the humanities should work towards having one. Open-access requirements are on the horizon, so broach them with the publisher. Don’t accept £10,000 costs. Brandish this survey, and say “people still buy books”.
On September 29th, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed into law the California Taxpayer Access to Publicly Funded Research Act. The law mandates that the public be given free access to the results of research conducted with funds provided by the California Department of Public Health. Inspiring news, and timely — the University of Iowa Libraries’ “Open Access and the Public Good” panel discussion last week largely focused on the question of who should be the beneficiaries of research conducted with taxpayer dollars.
The office of Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) issued a press release announcing the signing of the act into law. Also, have a look at the SPARC blog post about this, which does a good job of emphasizing the importance of this progress while noting that the law is “narrow in the scope of content it covers”: much work remains to be done but the framework for doing it is growing stronger.
An article in The Chronicle reveals the all-too-real frustrations of obtaining digital content for academic libraries, like the University of Iowa.
How Streaming Media Could Threaten the Mission of Libraries, by Steve Kolowich
In March 2011, the University of Washington’s library tried to get a copy of a new recording of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, playing Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique that the library could lend to students. But the recording was available only as a digital download, and Amazon and iTunes forbid renting out digital files.
So the librarians contacted the Philharmonic to see if there was some way they could get a copy of the album that they could lend out like a compact disc. The orchestra referred them to a distributor, which referred them to the publisher, the Universal Music Publishing Group. At first the corporation said it couldn’t license the recording to the university, according to the librarians. Later it offered to license 25 percent of the album for two years in exchange for a licensing fee plus a $250 processing fee.
No thanks, the librarians said.
Welcome to content licensing, a great source of anxiety for librarians in the digital era.
….The licensing of digital media, however, gives publishers far more power. Instead of selling an album outright, they can sell permission to access its contents for a fixed amount of time. (This is a boon for textbook publishers in particular. Under a digital regime, they may not have to worry about losing sales to students’ buying used copies.)
There will be a free screening of THE INTERNET’S OWN BOY at FILMSCENE on Saturday, September 27th, 2:30 pm, with a Q & A to follow. The film is the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. After the screening, please join two scholars in the fields of digital scholarship and internet-based creativity, University of Iowa professors Kembrew McLeod (Communications) and Stephen Voyce (English), to talk about open access, copyright, intellectual property, and other issues related to the free access of information. Organized by the University of Iowa Libraries, this event is free and open to the public.
A panel discussion on the topic “Open Access and the Public Good” will occur Friday, September 26th at 2 pm in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber. Professor Russell Ganim (Division of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures) will moderate a conversation between the Honorable James Leach (Law), Professor Christina Bohannan (Law), and Professor Bernd Fritzsch (Biology). Among the topics will be how research in the Humanities and Sciences is financed and conducted and who has the right to access its results.
Organized by the University of Iowa Libraries, this event is free and open to the public. We hope you’ll join us to talk about open access and related issues regarding publishing and the free availability of information.
Julian Stirling, a post-doctoral researcher from Great Britain, recently published an angry blog post recounting his frustration with scientific publishers, touching on their lack of transparency, their perceived unwillingness to change, and copyright law. Read it on his personal blog here.