Peer Review Category


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 “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.


University of Iowa Authors Publish in Open Access Journals


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.


US News & World Report takes on academic journal publishing

In a long piece online at its web site, Simon Owens of US News and World Report offers an overview of academic (chiefly scientific) journal publishing and the rise of open access. See Is the Academic Publishing Industry on the Verge of Disruption?” Starting with the recent Harvard letter on journal prices (see Transitions for April 23, 2012), the article reports on moves toward open access publishing, and resistance from commercial “closed access” publishers.


Ethical Practices of Journal Editors

A voluntary Code of Conduct for journal editors now exists. Editors can affirm their support for the five points, which include refraining from coercive citation practices, keeping marketing strategies separate from the peer review process, encouraging data transparency, and communicating relevant ethical standards to the editorial board. One of the two editors that started the code, Steven Rogelberg of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (editor of Journal of Business and Psychology), said a letter in Science in February about coercive citation practices convinced him of the need for a code. Inside High Ed defines coercive citations as:

those that editors seek to add to authors’ pieces not because they are needed, but to make various journals appear more influential. Many people use various measures of journal influence that are based on counting how many times journals’ articles are cited — so extra citations yield a more influential journal.


Modern Language Association issues new guidelines for evaluating digital work

Articles in Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education describe the MLA’s new guidelines and quote from their contents.

“Institutions and departments should develop written guidelines so that faculty members who create, study, and teach with digital objects; engage in collaborative work; or use technology for pedagogy can be adequately and fairly evaluated and rewarded,” says the MLA guidance. “The written guidelines should provide clear directions for appointment, reappointment, merit increases, tenure, and promotion and should take into consideration the growing number of resources for evaluating digital scholarship and the creation of born-digital objects. Institutions should also take care to grant appropriate credit to faculty members for technology projects in teaching, research, and service.”

“Digital media are transforming literary scholarship, teaching, and service, as well as providing new venues for research, communication, and the creation of networked academic communities,” the updated guidelines say. “Academic work in digital media must be evaluated in the light of these rapidly changing technological, institutional, and professional contexts, and departments should recognize that many traditional notions of scholarship, teaching, and service are being redefined.”


Iowa Provost Barry Butler signs open statement supporting accessible scholarship and opposing RWA

University of Iowa Provost Barry Butler and ten other University Provosts from Big Ten institutions have issued a public statement opposing the Research Works Act and supporting taxpayer access to federally funded research results, such as that mandated by NIH.

“Because of our strong belief in open sharing of information, we were disturbed to see that recently introduced legislation (The Research Works Act, H.R. 3699) called for a rollback of the progress being made toward opening communication channels for sharing publicly funded research findings with the American people. Were this bill to pass, it would reverse a 2008 administrative mandate by the National Institutes of Health that grantees deposit the results of their funded research in a publicly accessible archive, and prohibit other agencies from issuing similar mandates going forward. We believe that this legislation would significantly undermine access to the new ideas that result from government-funded research, access that we encourage to the public at-large, to a worldwide network of leading scholars, and to future generations of scholars who are today’s undergraduate and graduate students. In our view, ratification of the proposed legislation would represent a step backward in the ongoing enlightenment of society through research and education”

The Provosts’ call for a “local agenda” on their respective campuses is especially encouraging for those long engaged with these issues:

“In addition to our concern about the impact external entities have in shaping the research and communication agenda of our universities, we are cognizant that senior campus administrators and faculty leaders could be working more effectively to ensure that their own campus policies are aligned with professed campus norms. Some examples of how we might do more to influence campus behaviors include:

  • Encouraging faculty members to retain enough rights in their published intellectual property that they can share it with colleagues and students, deposit it in open access repositories, and repurpose it for future research.
  • Ensuring that promotion and tenure review are flexible enough to recognize and reward new modes of communicating research outcomes.
  • Ensuring that our own university presses and scholarly societies are creating models of scholarly publishing that unequivocally serve the research and educational goals of our universities, and/or the social goals of our communities.
  • Encouraging libraries and faculty to work together to assess the value of purchased or licensed content, and the appropriate terms governing its use.”

Read more:
Inside Higher Ed


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:


Open access might not be the real issue issue for the future of research communication

Dr. David Rosenthal, engineer and co-creater of LOCKSS (Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe) recently spoke on the topic of Open Access at the University of British Columbia.

He choseto look at five audiences where OA may have an effect: general public, researchers, libraries, publishers, and software developers.  He discusses his thoughts on peer-review or in his opinion bad peer-reviewing and whether or not open access increases or decreases bad research publishing; the creation of the big deal journal bundling by publishers to fight off the cost decrease due to the transition to Web publishing and lack of library initiative to fight off the big deals; and how the increase of OA data versus OA articles might be more beneficial for researchers.  Essentially, he believes a combination of reducing publication costs, finding new technology driven publishing models, less restrictions on intellectual property and publishing of better quality articles may be the issues that face the future of research and that OA may just be a way to work on those real issues.

The full transcript of this talk can be found on his blog:


OA week continues: Michael Eisen on PLoS One’s success

PLoS One, an author-pays open access journal, has achieved great success while offering a new model for peeer review and rapid publication. It is tied for second among journals in frequency of publication by Iowa authors, and comes in third for number of citations to articles published by Iowa researchers. Michael Eisen in this blog post comments on its success and the imitators it has spawned in its wake:

“So it has given me considerable pleasure to watch, over the past year or so, as one traditional publisher after another has responded to the smashing success of PLoS One by launching direct ripoffs that seek to capitalize on the business model we have established.”

See “PLoS Won” 

Clones mentioned by Eisen include: