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New Open Access science journal, backed by O’Reilly Media, launches

PeerJ is a peer-reviewed journal-and-preprint service with a new publishing model: researchers pay a modest membership fee to publish in the journal, while retaining copyright to their work. Lifetime memberships begin at $99.

For more details, see this entry on the Wired Campus blog: http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/new-publishing-venture-gives-researchers-control-over-access/36651


Fister: “An Academic Spring”

Be sure to check out Barbara Fister’s piece “An Academic Spring“. She follows scholar Timothy Gowers’ decision to withraw his participation from the scholarly activities of the large publisher, Elsevier:

“Gowers faulted the corporation for high prices, bundling subscriptions in ways that made selection prohibitively expensive for libraries, and for supporting the Research Works Act (RWA), proposed legislation that would prohibit government agencies from requiring that publicly funded research be freely accessible within a year.”

Gowers’ decision prompted action across academia. A petition against Elsevier was created, and brought together 10,800 signatures from those scholars who intended to boycott Elsevier as well.

Fister connects the “Academic Spring” with last year’s “Arab Spring” in a clever way that just might propel sudden change.


MLA Changes Copyright Policy

The Modern Language Association (MLA) has recently changed its copyright policy to allow authors in its publications to retain copyright. Authors will now be able to include versions of their work on their own web sites and in institutional repositories. Inside Higher Education has this article for more information.

Kevin Smith’s “Saying the right things, then doing them” goes into further detail and analyses what MLA’s shift may do to the humanities.

These 3 points may be most important,

  1. Open access is not only possible, but is even vitally important, in the humanities.
  2. Open access, especially in its “green” form of author self-archiving, is not a threat to scholarly societies.
  3. The value of organized publishing efforts is in the services they provide around the content, not in the content itself (which, of course, the publishers do not create).

Harvard Faculty Advisory Council: “Major Periodical Subscriptions Cannot Be Sustained.”

In a statement dated April 17th, Harvard’s Faculty Advisory Council, in a memo to all faculty, stated:

We write to communicate an untenable situation facing the Harvard Library. Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called “providers”) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.

For the full statement, see http://isites.harvard.edu/icb/icb.do?keyword=k77982&tabgroupid=icb.tabgroup143448

The memo goes on to point out that Harvard’s costs for these publishers now approaches $3.75 million. Iowa’s costs for the three largest publishers (presumably the same group, though precisely which are included in the Harvard figure is not clear) is expected to be around $3.2 million in FY2012. While the figure quoted is said to be around 10% of Harvard’s total acquisitions budget, $3.2 million is over 20% of Iowa’s total.

The memo concludes with a strong statement and list of suggested actions, worth quoting at length. Note that DASH is equivalent to our own Iowa Research Online, though unlike Harvard, Iowa does not have an open-access policy (aka “mandate”).

It is untenable for contracts with at least two major providers to continue on the basis identical with past agreements. Costs are now prohibitive. Moreover, some providers bundle many journals as one subscription, with major, high-use journals bundled in with journals consulted far less frequently. Since the Library now must change its subscriptions and since faculty and graduate students are chief users, please consider the following options open to faculty and students (F) and the Library (L), state other options you think viable….

1. Make sure that all of your own papers are accessible by submitting them to DASH in accordance with the faculty-initiated open-access policies (F).

2. Consider submitting articles to open-access journals, or to ones that have reasonable, sustainable subscription costs; move prestige to open access (F).

3. If on the editorial board of a journal involved, determine if it can be published as open access material, or independently from publishers that practice pricing described above. If not, consider resigning (F).

4. Contact professional organizations to raise these issues (F).

5. Encourage professional associations to take control of scholarly literature in their field or shift the management of their e-journals to library-friendly organizations (F).

6. Encourage colleagues to consider and to discuss these or other options (F).

7. Sign contracts that unbundle subscriptions and concentrate on higher-use journals (L).

8. Move journals to a sustainable pay per use system, (L).

9. Insist on subscription contracts in which the terms can be made public (L).


Chronicle: Scholarly Groups’ Choices Yield Diverging Fortunes

A Chronicle of Higher Education article on the financial positions of various scholarly societies. Journals published by such societies often help subsidize the operations of the society, and their outsourcing to commercial publishers usually leads to higher costs to libraries.

See the story “Scholarly Groups’ Choices Yield Diverging Fortunes” in the April 1 Chronicle.


Publishers Air Views on Copyright, Open Access

At the recent annual meeting of the Association of  American Publishers, issues related to copyright and open access took center stage, as did the recent deep-sixing of SOPA/PIPA, two bills the AAP supported.  It was clear from the discussion that the publishers were still smarting from that loss.  Librarians also weighed in at the meeting, on e-books and the need for more cooperation.  Here’s a link to the story from The Chronicle online.


Local costs for journals

A boycott of Elsevier journals has been growing to show opposition to their support of the Research Works Act and their 36% profits (see Research Bought, Then Paid For – an Op-Ed in the New York Times, Elsevier boycott gains momentum, Elsevier responds to the boycott, and “Of goats and headaches”–The Economist on journal publishing for previous posts on these issues ).

There have also been prominent articles about the lack of public accessibility of academic research, such as “Locked in the Ivory Tower: Why JSTOR Imprisons Academic Research”  which appeared in The Atlantic on Jan 20, 2012. This particular article points to JSTOR as an example of the “broken economics of academic publishing”. Nancy Sims from University of Minnesota wrote “Academic publishing is full of problems; lets get them right” which is a good response to the Atlantic article, correcting some of the specifics.

Since that time, we have seen faculty taking note of the cost of some e-journal packages and collections of titles, most notably the $2.9 million figure from Purdue when that institution came close to cancelling their Elsevier package in December. (“Purdue re-signs contract for online scholastic access” )

In order to keep Iowa faculty informed about the cost of journals from a variety of sources, we offer these figures for University of Iowa costs from FY 2011:

 Publisher  Cost # of Titles
Elsevier  $       1,641,530


Wiley/Blackwell  $           868,031


Springer  $           607,540


Sage  $           243,647


JSTOR  $             97,602


Cambridge UP  $             43,940


Project Muse  $             33,210


Oxford UP  $             21,313


Please note that the JSTOR figure is for back content (the so-called moving wall), not current issues.

The following chart offers another way to view the relative size shares of the pie different publishers receive from our acquisitions budget (the denominator for these percentages is total spending on e-journals). The data is slightly older than that used above.


Introducing Altmetrics: Scholars look for new ways to measure the impact of research

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education (link below) describes efforts to measure the impact of research beyond traditional citation analysis. In addition to measuring the impact of scholarly publications (who cites whom), altmetrics tries to tap into the buzz of scholarly conversation on social media sites such as Twitter and reference-sharing communities such as Mendeley and Zotero. The full article is available here:



Predatory Open Access Publishers

The 2012 edition of Beall’s List of Predatory Open Access Publishers is now available at http://metadata.posterous.com/83235355  In addition, there is a watch-list of publishers which show some predatory characteristics.


New OA journal hopes to improve peer review process

eLife , an online only, open access journal in the life sciences scheduled to begin publication next year, will use a discussion-based peer review process that will allow reviewers to share their opinions with each other and to reach a consensus in their review.  Editor Randy Schekman feels that this process will not only be more fair than standard peer review, but can also be done more quickly.  As an incentive for this quick, consultative review process, reviewers, as well as editors and board members, will be paid for their time.  The entire editorial process will be in the hands of working scientists.

In an article published on November 27 in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Schekman, who is the former editor of PNAS (the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science) and a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley, says that he hopes eLife will compete with Cell, Nature, and Science.   At least in the beginning, authors will not have to pay any publications fees.  Three major science funders – the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society, and the Wellcome Trust – are providing financial support for up to five years.