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On the “Open Access Sting” Published in Science

Earlier this month, Science published a news article (“Who’s Afraid of Peer Review?”) by John Bohannon, a reporter and Harvard University biologist, that investigates the quality of the peer-review process at some fee-charging, Open Access journals in the life sciences. Bohannon submitted a credible, yet “hopelessly flawed” scientific article on cancer research to 304 relevant, fee-charging Open Access journals, 158 of which accepted it for publication It is worth noting that journals from the Public Library of Science, BioMed Central, and Hindawi, the three biggest Open Access publishers, rejected the paper outright.

The news of this study sparked spirituous debate in the blogosphere and the popular media (especially in the comments sections), oftentimes confounding its implications on the future of science, open access, and peer-review. As we approach Open Access Week (Oct. 21-27), it is important to consider what this article means in the broader context of scholarly communication.

“The takeaway shouldn’t be that Open Access is broken and not worth trying. Open Access is great and everyone believes that. It’s just a question of how to implement it.” – John Bohannon on NPR.

While Bohannon’s article uncovers problems in academic publishing, it is not clear that any of the problems are specific to Open Access. Bohannon specifically studied a subset of Open Access journals (many of which were known to be problematic) as a response to his colleague’s experience with a publishing scam, in which a fraudulent scientific journal collected publication fees from the author without performing any legitimate peer-review. Given the scope of this question and the nature of the fake research paper, the findings represent less than 4% of Open Access journals, of which less than 2% accepted the bogus paper (figures according to the Directory of Open Access Journals). Because the article did not study subscription based-journals, non-fee charging journals, non-English journals, and non-life sciences journals, it cannot be concluded that the problem is unique to Open Access.

One major effect of Bohannon’s work is the fascinating discussion on Open Access and peer-review that emerged in the wake of his article. Michael Eisen, a UC-Berkeley Biologist and co-founder of the Public Library of Science, suggests that the problem Bohannon’s study reveals is in the antiquated and opaque standards of the peer-review process. Peter Suber, Director of the Harvard Office of Scholarly Communication, reminds us that Open Access is not just about publishing; to tie this news to Open Access is to ignore the far more popular Open Access archiving option (such as depositing work in Iowa Research Online or PubMed Central) which is compliant with most traditional publishing agreements. Not interested in reading other blogs? Take a listen to this Science Live Chat with John Bohannon on the response to his study.

News like this reminds us that changes in the scholarly publishing system can be far more nuanced than expected and that it is important to continue these discussions as members of the scholarly community.

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The Open Library of Humanities

Open Library of Humanities

The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit open access publisher of scientific research with the mission to accelerate progress in science and medicine. Each PLoS article is free to read and is available through a Creative Commons license, optimizing the ability for researchers to build upon the work. Since its founding in 2000, PLoS journals have risen to the top of their fields and has help revolutionize the ways in which scientists communicate their work. In the spirit of PLoS, the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) will bring sustainable open access publishing to the humanities.

The Open Access movement is partly a response to the rising costs of the traditional publishing system, but it is mostly an effort to bring scholarly communication into the age of the web. No longer bound by the timetables and infrastructure necessary for a print-based publishing system, the OLH will offer rigorous peer-review and publish each work online when it is ready and offer article-level metrics to track each work’s impact in the scholarly field.

The OLH is still in the early stages of planning but is expected to fill a much needed gap in open access options for humanities scholars. To get involved, you can subscribe to their email newsletter or contact Chris Diaz to receive updates as the project develops. Right now, the OLH is recruiting editors and is asking interested authors to Pledge to Publish in the OLH’s first year.

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eLife Editor Wins Nobel Prize for Cellular Research

eLife

Image: eLifesciences.org

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to James E. Rothman, Thomas C. Sudhof and Randy W. Schekman for their research on cell transport systems. This work has strengthened the medical community’s understanding of neurological diseases, diabetes, and immunological disorders. Schekman, a Cell Biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, is a prominent support of Open Access publishing and is the Editor-in-Chief at eLife, an innovative Open Access journal in the biomedical sciences. eLife joins The Public Library of Science and PeerJ in offering a cutting-edge Open Access publishing platform for prestigious scientists to share their work, data, and rich media. eLife is currently free to publish (no author-side fees). For more information, please visit the journal’s website or watch the video.

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Support for PeerJ Memberships via Open Access Fund

PeerJ Logo. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Available: https://peerj.com/about/press/

PeerJ Logo. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Available: https://peerj.com/about/press/

Calling all Biological and Medical scientists! The University Libraries is pleased to begin supporting PeerJ memberships for all interested University of Iowa faculty and researchers through the Open Access Fund. The University Libraries and the Office of the Provost established the Open Access Fund to pay the processing fees related to open access publishing.

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

PeerJ is an Open Access publisher of scholarly articles in the biological and medical sciences [full list of subject areas]. Rather than charging a per-article fee for making an article Open Access, PeerJ charges a one-time membership fee for authors [Breakdown of membership types]. All interested UI faculty, graduate students, and research should contact Michael Wright for more information about setting up a PeerJ membership.

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MSNBC’s Morning Joe Discusses Big Data, Open Access, and Cancer Research

Kathy Giusti, co-founder of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), was featured on MSNBC’s Morning Joe this week to talk about how the open sharing of data can improve cancer research. The MMRF recently launched the MMRF Research Gateway to serve as an open access portal for data on Multiple Myeloma, a common form of blood cancer. The goal is to make the data openly available so that progress in cancer treatment can be accelerated. The MMRF Research Gateway requires registration, however non-profit academic, private, and governmental users can access the data free of charge. Watch the clip.

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University of Iowa Authors Publish in Open Access Journals

lib-oa-faculty

Table of UI Open Access Publications

 

Table of University of Iowa faculty Members Publishing in Open Access Journals

Open Access journals are peer-reviewed and are freely available online to students, researchers, and the general public. As an alternative to the subscription-based model, Open Access publishing removes access barriers to increase the availability and impact of scholarly literature. University of Iowa authors have been publishing in Open Access journals since 2006. While Open Access journals provide free access to their content, they are not always free to publish. Some journals, particularly in the sciences, charge article-processing fees to cover the costs of publishing. Luckily, the Universities Libraries and the Office of the Provost have established the Open Access Fund to cover these fees. Not sure if Open Access is right for you? Browse this table of University of Iowa Open Access publications and consider if this route is right for you.

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PeerJ Survey Shows High Author Satisfaction

PeerJ Logo. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Available: https://peerj.com/about/press/

PeerJ Logo. License: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Available: https://peerj.com/about/press/

The results of a survey of authors who submitted their research to PeerJ for publication were released today. The survey measures the satisfaction of authors from the first six-months of the journal’s publishing operations. With a 51% response rate, the results looks promising. Some highlights:

  • 92% of authors report having a “good experience” or better with publishing in PeerJ
  • 83% of authors intend to submit their future research, with 17% reporting “maybe,” depending on the subject appropriateness for the journal
  • 94% of authors would recommend PeerJ to a colleague

PeerJ is a peer-reviewed, open access publisher of research articles in the biological, medical, and health sciences. Operating on an author membership model, as opposed to article-processing fee model, member authors can submit articles for publishing after paying a one-time membership fee. For authors interested in soliciting feedback on works-in-progress, there is also a free PrePrints option.  [Read the announcement]

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This week in Open Access: SHARE

Yesterday, the Scholarly Publishing & Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC) released a letter sent to John Holdren, the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), requesting copies of U.S. government agency plans to make the results of federally funded research freely available to the public. This follows up on a February 22nd, 2013, White House OSTP memorandum directing federal agencies that annually provide $100 million in funding for research and development to “develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government. This includes any results publishing in peer-reviewed scholarly publications.” The deadline for these proposals was August 22nd, 2013, and there has been no official word on the specifics of these plans yet.

To comply with these policy changes (once they take effect), the SHared Access Research Ecosystem (SHARE) has been proposed by the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Association of Public and Land-grat Universities (APLU), and the Association of Research Libraries (ARL). This system will leverage current digital repository infrastructure already in place and in use at large state and publically funded Universities to create a network of publically funded, open access research through a common metadata schema. Here at the University of Iowa, our digital repository system is called Iowa Research Online.

Toward the making SHARE a reality, the AAU, APLU, and the ARL announced yesterday the formations a Joint Steering Group comprised of University Administrators, Librarians, and Technologists was formed to see this project through completion. You can read more about SHARE here.

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Standards and Recommended Practices for Altmetrics

The National Information Standards Organization (NISO) recently announced a community-based, two-year project to develop standards and recommended practices for altmetrics. Altmetrics uses web traffic, social media, reference managers, and other online tools to provide a broader picture of an author’s scholarly impact than traditional, journal-level metrics provide. Not limited to research articles, altmetrics tracks the sharing and discussions of datasets, computer code, blog posts, slide decks, and other online modes of scholarly communication. Examples of altmetrics include Impact Story and Altmetric for Scopus. Altmetrics has drawn controversy, leaving skeptics concerned about its potential for abuse, such as artificially gaming page views, downloads, and social media sharing. In the announcement of this project, Todd Carpenter, NISO’s Executive Director, states: “The creation of altmetrics standards and best practices will facilitate the community trust in altmetrics, which will be a requirement for any broad-based acceptance, and will ensure that these altmetrics can be accurately compared and exchanged across publishers and platforms.” The creation and publication of altmetrics standards will take place over the next two years. Read the announcement.

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Interesting Articles on Altmetrics

Two thought-provoking articles on altmetrics were published last week.

The following two blog posts published in 2012 are also interesting. Make sure to check out the comments, which are equally interesting.