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Monographs are important in the humanities – but consider open access

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”.

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Open Access Becomes California Law

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.

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Streaming Media Makes Obtaining Content Harder for Libraries

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

Excerpt:

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.)

Continue reading>>

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Screening of “The Internet’s Own Boy” at Filmscene

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.

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Open Access and the Public Good

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.

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Frustration with Scholarly Publishing

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.

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Two Articles on Laboratory Fraud and Government-funded Research

First, from the New York Times, an opinion piece titled Crack Down on Scientific Fraudsters that hits particularly close to home: a researcher at Iowa State University faked lab results to make it seem that he had created a new and effective vaccine for the AIDS virus. The topic of federally funding scientific research amid widespread laboratory fraud, as well as the issue of whether and how the government should be reimbursed for grant money used to fake results, is a focus.

And, from BMJ.com, a more wide-ranging look at the same topic, titled Should Research Fraud be a Crime?

Particularly unfortunate events considering the recent acknowledgement by the federal government that free, public, open access to scientific research conducted with government grants is important, as it may be access to an indefinite amount of criminal fantasy.

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Update on the Open Access Fund

As many of you know, in April of 2013 the Libraries and the Provost’s Office launched the Open Access Fund to encourage UI authors to publish in Open Access platforms by covering the author processing charges typically associated with OA journals.   Use of the fund took off at a leisurely pace, but has increased slowly but steadily since.

Here are some statistics that folks may find interesting, from the inception of the fund to date:

  • 54 UI authors have applied for funding
  • 53 of these requests have been approved
  • Authors came from 27 departments, many from the hard sciences and medical campus, but also from Communication Studies and the UI Museum of Natural History
  • The funding requests represented 38 unique journals from 19 publishers
  • Article processing fees were paid for 41 of these applications (some are still to be published)
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Lack of Transparency in Academic Journal Pricing

Citing a recent research paper on PNAS, a short article from http://www.the-scientist.com talks about the lack of transparency in academic journal pricing and the high prices research libraries have to pay for journal access. Read full article here.

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Another take on Altmetrics

Check out this blog post on altmetrics by David Colquhoun, a London-based scientist, and Andrew Plested, a Berlin-based scientist: Why you should ignore altmetrics and other bibliometric nightmares. Scroll down the page to see responses, which are equally interesting.

BMJ Group recently ran a shortened version on their blog.