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Visualizing Impact with IRO’s Readership Activity Map


Readership Map: Real-time Visualization of Full-text Downloads

The homepage of Iowa Research Online has a whole new look with a Readership Activity Map. This new tool allows visitors to see full-text downloads from all over the world as they happen. When someone visits the site and downloads a Master’s Thesis or research article or any other scholarly work in the Iowa Research Online collection, a dot will appear on the map showing the user’s location and the box on the left will show what document is being downloaded. With every passing minute, readers everywhere can access and benefit from the research coming from the University of Iowa. Visit the site and see for yourself!


Appropriations Bill Expands Open Access to Federally Funded Research

President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 last Friday (1/17/2014) to fund the activities of the federal government for the 2014 fiscal year. The $1.1 trillion dollar budget includes the requirement that federal agencies providing $100 million or more in annual research funding to make the resulting peer-reviewed research papers publicly available within 12 months of publication. This provision is an expansion of the Open Access policy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to cover agencies within the purview of the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Here is an excerpt of the bill that details this provision:

Sec. 527. Each Federal agency, or in the case of an agency with multiple bureaus, each bureau (or operating division) funded under this Act that has research and development expenditures in excess of $100,000,000 per year shall develop a Federal research public access policy that provides for—

(1) the submission to the agency, agency bureau, or designated entity acting on behalf of the agency, a machine-readable version of the author’s final peer-reviewed manuscripts that have been accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals describing research supported, in whole or in part, from funding by the Federal Government;

(2) free online public access to such final peer-reviewed manuscripts or published versions not later than 12 months after the official date of publication; and

(3) compliance with all relevant copyright laws.

Like the NIH Public Access Policy, this will require recipients of federal research funding to deposit their final research papers to an Open Access repository like PubMed Central or Iowa Research Online. Details of specific public access policies have yet to be released.

[Washington Post | SPARC]


Nobel Laureate Participates in a Reddit Ask Me Anything

Randy Schekman, a co-recipient of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, participated in an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Reddit this weekend. Schekman, a Cell Biologist at the University of California, Berkeley, was jointly awarded a Nobel Prize for his work in understanding the transport mechanisms involved in the export of proteins from cells. Last week, he authored an editorial in the Guardian that accused the practices of journals like Cell, Nature, and Science of distorting science and has been the subject of both criticism and praise in the scholarly publishing world.

In his editorial, Schekman specifically calls out Cell, Nature, and Science (C/N/S) who are among the most prestigious journals in the biological and medical sciences.

“These journals aggressively curate their brands, in ways more conducive to selling subscriptions than to stimulating the most important research. Like fashion designers who create limited-edition handbags or suits, they know scarcity stokes demand, so they artificially restrict the number of papers they accept.” [Source]

From the Reddit AMA, the focus of Schekman’s criticism of C/N/S is the artificial restriction of publishing only the papers that fit in the print run of these journals. “Why should we have such a limitation in the 21st century?” he asks. Schekman marks this practice as a distinguishing characteristic of a “luxury” journal as well as the use of a professional editorial staff rather than working scientists in the field. This combination of management priorities, Schekman argues, distorts scientific discourse by emphasizing fashionable topics at the expense of good science.

Schekman is a supporter of the open access movement and is the Editor-in-Chief of eLife, an open access journal of life sciences papers. His boycott of C/N/S has drawn criticism for his eLife affiliation and his previous 46 publications in these journals.  [Read the AMA here]


UI Libraries Join Knowledge Unlatched to Support Open Access Books in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The University of Iowa Libraries has signed up to support Knowledge Unlatched, a collaborative initiative to make scholarly books in the humanities and social sciences available open access. Knowledge Unlatched uses a model that brings library funds together to a set of books that academic publishers have agreed to make open access with a Creative Commons license.

Open-access (OA) literature is digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions. -Peter Suber [source]

The first collection of books in this pilot collection cover History, Political Science, Literary Studies, Anthropology and Communications  [The full title list is here]. This project is the first of its kind and is expected to pave the way for more scholarly books to be freely available online without the usual licensing restrictions of eBooks. If 200 libraries sign up by January 31st, these books will be “unlatched” and future collections will be expected to emerge in 2014.


Elsevier Issues Take Down Notices to for Breach of Copyright has received roughly 2,800 takedown notices from Elsevier for copyright infringement, reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education late last week. is a social network for academics to “share research papers” and has over 6 million registered users. Users of the site can create a profile, identify their institution and research interests, and upload their papers and CV to share among their peers. However, when an author publishes a paper in a journal, the journal publisher oftentimes requires an agreement that transfers copyright ownership of the paper to the publisher and restricts the unauthorized distribution of that paper. In this case, Elsevier, a major academic publisher, is compelling to remove papers for which Elsevier owns the copyright.

This incident is part of a larger conflict in scholarship between authors and publishers over the issue of copyright. When the business interests of publishers interfere with the scholarly interests of authors, there needs to be a negotiation toward a middle ground. A useful tool in this negotiation is the Author’s Addendum. The addendum stipulates:

“The Author shall, without limitation, have the non-exclusive right to use, reproduce, distribute, and create derivative works including update, perform, and display publicly, the Article in electronic, digital or print form in connection with the Author’s teaching, conference presentations, lectures, other scholarly works, and for all of Author’s academic and professional activities.” [Download PDF]

This addendum can be attached to any publishing agreement that requires the transfer of copyright for a scholarly journal article. The agreement is similar to the licensing agreements that are freely available from Creative Commons and are commonly applied by Open Access publishers like the Public Library of Science, PeerJ, and Open Humanities Press. For more information about the Author’s Addendum or Open Access publishing, contact your department librarian. The sharing of research is fundamental to the advancement of ideas and negotiating for more equitable rights to your work helps ensure that this practice continues in your favor.


Publish in PeerJ for Free Until 2014

PeerJ Logo. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Available:

PeerJ Logo. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Available:

PeerJ will publish any accepted article that was submitted for review before January 1st, 2014. PeerJ is an open access publisher of peer-reviewed articles in the biological and medical sciences [full list of subject areas]. From the statement:

[a]s we approach the end of our first calendar year of publication, we want to open up the PeerJ experience to as many researchers as possible. By doing so, we also want researchers like you to experience the benefits that our ‘end-to-end process’ provides (i.e. the close integration of PeerJ PrePrints with PeerJ).

As a result, we are pleased to announce that from now through the end of 2013, any article that is submitted to PeerJ PrePrints (including any articles which have already been submitted there) can go on to be published in PeerJ (the journal) entirely for free (assuming it passes peer review and assuming you initiate the PeerJ submission process before Jan 1st 2014)*.

As we celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Berlin Declaration (one of the seminal moments in the history of Open Access), we want to make sure that researchers realize that Open Access publishing has evolved, and we want as many as possible to experience what it has become!


Note: * For the sake of clarification, your preprint must be posted to PeerJ PrePrints before the associated PeerJ submission is editorially Accepted, or before Jan 1st 2014 (whichever comes first). Ideally, of course, you should submit the PrePrint first, and then submit the same article to PeerJ. Your resulting PeerJ submission must be initiated before Jan 1st 2014
Normally, PeerJ operates on a membership model, where authors pay a one-time fee to publish in the journal. Any interested University of Iowa authors are encouraged to apply for the Open Access Fund to have the membership fee covered.

Six Common Myths About Open Access

The Guardian’s Higher Education Network recently published a guest blog post by Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office for Scholarly Communication and author of Open Access (MIT Press, 2012).  The post debunks six common myths about open access for this year’s Open Access Week.

Here are the myths about open access, briefly noted:

  1. The only way to provide open access to peer-reviewed journal articles is to publish in open access journals.
  2. All or more open access journals charge publication fees.
  3. Most author-side fees are paid by the authors themselves.
  4. Publishing in a conventional journal closes the door on making the same work open access.
  5. Open access journals are intrinsically low in quality.
  6. Open access mandates infringe academic freedom.

As Suber notes in the post, the topic of open access is becoming a mainstream issue in higher education and public policy. Given the complexity of the issue, it is important to know that facts when considering if open access is the right model for sharing scholarship. Read the post here.


On the Permanence of Open Access, by Ed Folsom

Today’s Open Access Week guest post comes from Ed Folsom, Professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. He is the co-Editor of the Walt Whitman Archive, “an electronic research and teaching tool that sets out to make Whitman’s vast work, for the first time, easily and conveniently accessible to scholars, students, and general readers.” It is published by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln under a Creative Commons License. Learn more here about open access and Open Access Week at the University of Iowa.

On the Permanence of Open Access

Ed Folsom

Why even talk about Open Access at this point? It is here to stay, has grown tenfold in the past decade, and is so obviously the way scholarship will be distributed and read in the future that all the reservations about it simply continue to dissolve as the months roll by. Journals that remain print only are becoming among the least read, and journals that are Open Access watch their readership increase exponentially. The concerns that continue to get expressed are almost all financial in nature, but online finances are changing as quickly as the technology: things have had a way of sorting themselves out remarkably well in a very short period of time. What seemed like major drawbacks five years ago are almost forgotten today. Whatever vestiges remain of the valuing of print and paper over online publication are quickly disappearing, too, as more and more universities are rewriting tenure and promotion guidelines to reward online scholarship. As fewer and fewer of us pick up print copies of journals and turn instead to the electronic copies of journals, we are producing a scholarly world only dimly anticipated a decade ago, a world where particular articles become the product sought (rather than complete issues of journals). Open Access allows articles in different journals to promptly engage each other, as social networks become scholarly networks, passing the most exciting new scholarship on via email, Twitter, Facebook. It may not be a great time to be looking for a job in the humanities, but it’s an amazing time to be a scholar of the humanities


Ed Folsom is Roy J. Carver Professor of English at the University of Iowa. His teaching and research have focused on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American poetry and culture, and he is particularly interested in the ways American poets have talked back to Walt Whitman over the years, and how Whitman tapped into American culture in surprising ways to construct a radical new kind of writing. In addition to running the Walt Whitman Archive, he has published many articles and books on Whitman’s relationship to art, culture, and technology. These include Walt Whitman: The Measure of His Song (Holy Cow! Press), Re-Scripting Walt Whitman: An Introduction to His Life and Work (Wiley-Blackwell), and Walt Whitman’s Native Representations (Cambridge University Press).


Defending the Cultural Commons: the Avant-Garde and Information Activism, by Stephen Voyce

Today’s Open Access Week guest post comes from Stephen Voyce, Assistant Professor in the University of Iowa’s English department. It is an excerpt from an essay titled “Toward an Open-Source Poetics: Appropriation, Collaboration, and the Public Domain”, originally published in the journal Criticism (53.3 [Fall 2011]: 407-38). Professor Voyce will be participating in today’s panel discussion on academic publishing and open access. It will be held at 3 pm in room 1117 of the University Capitol Centre, and refreshments will be served. Find more details here about this event and Open Access Week at the University of Iowa. We hope you’ll join us.

Defending the Cultural Commons: the Avant-Garde and Information Activism

Stephen Voyce

In many ways the practices of appropriation and distributed creativity in recent poetry are part of a broader movement to enlarge and protect a public cultural commons. The term commons can refer to natural resources, public spaces, transportation, social institutions, information and research, government infrastructure, and network technologies. Thus, the commons contains material assets (e.g., parks, forests, water), intangible resources (e.g., the public domain, government research), and virtual environments (e.g., public radio, the Internet). A motley array of resources and public spheres converge within its signifying power and receive its protection from collective, democratic control. The radical market exploitation of the commons in recent decades has muddled distinctions between private and public realms of ownership (and since so many of the spaces in which subjects interact are now devoted to consumer practices, there is also a comparable muddling of our roles as citizens and consumers). Moreover, there has been little discussion of the public domain outside the disciplines of law and economics. Jessica Litman observes that, in the legal field, public domain works are often referred to as “unprotectable or uncopyrightable”; not only does this account of the public domain ignore its central role in subsequent literary production, it seems also to confer a peculiar nonstatus on any noncommercial object. We are led to conclude that an object not defined by property lacks proper existence. Since we lack a precise language to describe the commons, it has by default come to denote the residue of property. Responding to this challenge, James Boyle calls for a twenty-first-century information movement akin to the formation of the environmental movement during the 1960s. For this to take place, however, scholars like Boyle and Litman contend that a reinvigorated language of the commons is a necessary precondition if one hopes to mobilize communities to protect it.

The cultural activities of open source programmers and literary organizations like the Poetry Research Bureau, UbuWeb, and Information as Material afford both a theoretical and practical point of departure. Beyond the already multifarious range of meanings we give to the commons, from at least the fourteenth century onward, the term also affords a synonym for community (L. communis). Digital networks create countless possibilities for storing, distributing, and sharing cultural resources. These are the principles upon which networked collectives such as UbuWeb establish affiliations, codevelop their ideas, and present their work. Hence, UbuWeb functions both as a site of shared resources and as a site of community formation, and should be thought of and defended as such. Parks, squares, campuses, recreation centers, and social networking sites historically function as spaces in which communities form and mobilize as political subjects. One must apply this same logic to the public domain.

Next, we should conceive of the commons as a practice—and thus inject a logic of the commons into the fabric of our thoughts and actions. Again, both open source code sharing and UbuWeb’s commons-based poetics are instructive. Theories of authorship often mystify creativity by concealing the collective production of culture and its reliance on past traditions. Critiques of individual creativity appear all the more convincing with reference to contemporary poets, musicians, and authors whose challenge to proprietary definitions of authorship is the very hallmark of their practice.

To this end, the role of the avant-garde in the twenty-first-century is finding renewed purpose. The militaristic origin of the term avant-garde is well known. Renate Poggioli, responding to the legacies of futurism, imagism, and vorticism, argues that the formation of an avant-garde is essentially agonistic: the movement is defined “against something or someone”—and typically the academy or the general public. Although agonism appears within Greek, Christian, and Romantic traditions, “avant-garde agonism” refers to a radical form of opposition, a paradoxical affirmation of “self-sacrifice” by a “collective group” on behalf of the principles it advances. This now canonical definition of modernist experimental practice overshadows the intensely social projects of community building undertaken by artistic communities throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It is this social imperative that gives direction to contemporary practice. The role of artistic and literary collectives today need not jettison agonism as such, but rather its sometimes elitist, chauvinistic, fascistic, and eschatological associations. The responsibility of the avant-garde will instead require an activistic obligation to create and fortify public domains of open source knowledge, to challenge excessive restrictions placed on language and information, to bring forth marginalized knowledges from a position of inaccessibility to the public at large, and to produce and share artistic tactics and works that challenge intellectual property. That which is at stake is nothing less than open accessibility to culture. Hence, writers and artists are becoming more collaborative and interdisciplinary, drawing on the general and specialized skills of archivists, programmers, academics, and community organizers. Recalling the syncretic logic of Wershler-Henry’s the tapeworm foundry, this form of political organization is recognizable in the formal politics of the poem: literary communities begin to participate in the struggle for the commons by advancing an open source artistry as the central axiom of their practice by insisting that the signifying codes that one develops belong to a community that shares, adapts, and transforms its many possible uses. 


Stephen Voyce is an Assistant Professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. His work examines twentieth-century poetry and culture, print and digital media, and the history and politics of literary movements. His recent book, Poetic Community: Avant-Garde Activism and Cold War Culture (University of Toronto Press, Spring 2013), addresses several key poetic groups collaborating after World War II. He is currently working on a book project titled Open Source Culture: Literature, Appropriation, and the Public Domain, which investigates how late-twentieth-century poets, fiction writers, and artists creatively subvert intellectual property law and the regimes that enforce these policies. He is a member of the University of Iowa’s Digital Studio for Public Arts & Humanities and the director of the Fluxus Digital Archive.


On Not Being Published, by Stephen Ramsay

Open Access Week 2013 begins today, and all week we’ll be running posts by guest bloggers on open access and contemporary scholarship in the Humanities. Today’s post comes from Stephen Ramsay, Associate Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Professor Ramsay is the University of Iowa’s open access guest-scholar this year, and he will be delivering a lecture, “What is a Publisher?” at 2 pm in the Illinois Room (room 348) of the IMU today, Monday, October 21st. He will also be participating in a panel discussion on open access and trends in academic publishing Tuesday, October 22, at 3 pm in Room 1117 of the University Capitol Centre. Find more details here about these events and Open Access Week at the University of Iowa. We hope you’ll join us.

On Not Being Published

Stephen Ramsay

I’m going to risk a certain immodesty by talking, in rather self-aggrandizing terms, about an essay of mine called “The Hermeneutics of Screwing Around; or What You Do With a Million Books“.

This essay began as a talk I gave at Brown University in 2010. The talk was a bit rough, but reasonably well received. Later on that year, I was invited to a workshop in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (the organizers had taken advantage of off-season rates to hold it in a stunningly beautiful resort town). The workshop was called “Playing with Technology in History” (later rebranded as “PastPlay”) and focused on bringing notions of play and the ludic (using, for example, role-playing games, Arduino boards, and even Lego bricks) to teach history. The plan was that we would spend a day playing games, hacking things, and participating in other sorts of activities — in other words, trying things out and exchanging ideas to see what might work and what might not. On the second day, though, we would get down to business. We were all supposed to bring an essay to be workshopped in traditional seminar format. University of New Brunswick Press had agreed to publish the resulting volume (subject to the usual terms of peer review). So, I revised my essay from Brown — making it a bit less “talky” — and submitted it to the group.  Reactions were, I thought, more positive this time, though one participant told me I was dead wrong on one particular point. He was right; I fixed it, and fiddled with it some more. Publishing takes a while, as we all know, but being generally anarchic digital humanists, we all agreed that it would be a good idea to put all the essays online in advance of them being formally published.

That essay is now, far and away, the most successful thing I’ve ever written. It has been cited countless times, is a regular feature on course syllabi throughout the land, and was even discussed at some length by Stanley Fish on the New York Times “Opinionator” blog.

But here’s the thing.  It is 2013 — three years later — and that essay still hasn’t been published.

Now, there are several reasons for this, none of which includes lassitude on the part of the workshop organizers. Nonetheless, when I write my annual review, I still list it as “forthcoming,” which means that it doesn’t yet “count” as something next to which my department can put a check mark. It’s not yet accepted as one of my “scholarly accomplishments.” The question, therefore, is whether I should actually care about this.

In one sense, the answer is “yes.” Academics tend to think of success as adding to the list of items on their CV, and this one still isn’t on mine. On the other hand, this essay made me famous (not Miley Cyrus famous, but you know what I mean). To be more precise, it gave me readers — people who actually care what I have to say. I cannot possibly communicate my astonishment that this happened. For years now, I have been putting everything I’ve ever written online (or rather, everything I can legally put online). I don’t really know why this one caught fire. “Hermenutics” isn’t, I suspect, high on the list of most-googled terms, and while “screwing around” likely is, I imagine that most in search of content related to the latter are disappointed by the marked lack of prurience in a piece that mostly talks about libraries.

On the other hand, it shouldn’t have surprised me at all. For years, I had been tweeting things like, “Hey everybody! New blog post!” As with spam, someone always has to investigate further. But even if that response rate is minuscule, the effect might be just as the old shampoo ad put it: “I told two friends. And they told two friends. And so on and so on . . .” After a while, people started to read other things I’d written.

I’m uncomfortable telling this story, because it sounds like any number of absurd narratives (“rags to riches,” “the entrepreneurial spirit,” and so forth). But I cannot deny a very important aspect of this tale: it happened because the piece was open and online. It was, in other words, open access.

These days, we are likely to speak of open access in terms of the economics of publishing and libraries. Occasionally, we speak of open access as a way to make scholars’ work available to a wider public. What is seldom discussed, though, is the role of naked self-interest on the part of academics. If you’re interested in having readers (and you should be), does it really make sense to bury your work in the stacks of a research library to be discovered by the six graduate students who find it while researching “Hermeneutics–Data Processing”?

Back when I started working on digital libraries (as a graduate student, not too long after the Web appeared), one often heard professors talking about their fear of having their work “stolen” if they put it online. Twenty years on, one still hears it from time to time. We used to say, “You should be so lucky!” My work wasn’t stolen (so far as I know), but one thing I know for sure: I was so lucky, and I certainly wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t put it out there for all to see.

Hopefully, it will never be published.


Stephen Ramsay is Susan J. Rosowski Associate University Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a Fellow at the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. He is interested in the digital humanities, theories of new media, theater history, applying computational methods to humanities scholarship, and designing and building text technologies for humanist scholars. His publications include Reading Machines: Toward an Algorithmic Criticism (University of Illinois Press, 2011) and, with Patrick Juola, the forthcoming Mathematics for the Humanist (Oxford University Press).