Expectations Exceeded: My Experience With the Open Access Fund | Guest Post by Dr. Matthew Uhlman, Urology Resident

by Willow Fuchs

This guest post is by Dr. Matthew Uhlman, Urology Resident, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

Expectations Exceeded – My Experience With The Open Access Fund

Thanks for the chance to write about our experience with the open access (OA) fund here at Iowa. To introduce myself, my name is Matt Uhlman and I’m a 6th year Urology resident at the University. Over my time here, I’ve seen and learned a lot. Being at a large referral center, and in Urology no less, we see plenty of abnormal things and when we come across them, we often look to the mystical “literature” for guidance.picture of Dr. Uhlman

In a number of instances, I found that there wasn’t much written on the things I was seeing and since I find that writing about cases helps me process through them and cement concepts, there were a number of times I, along with colleagues, decided we wanted to write up a case we’d seen. There are very limited options for such papers (case reports), but what I found was OA journals had emerged as a place for them. For a long time, I’d written off such journals figuring they were just filled with the ramblings of people paying to publish stuff that wasn’t really worth my time. However, as I started to look around for case reports, I found they were a really helpful resource as they were effectively mini-review articles on rare things.

During my research year, I had written up a number of cases and when I came across the OA fund at the University, using it was a no brainer. The costs to publish weren’t prohibitive, but were unfortunately a tough sell to the department given the tight budgets we work within. After I learned about the fund, I talked with the librarians who work with it and was happy to learn how eager they were to help me get support. It didn’t feel like I was going to a tight fisted group who would find any reason to not support our efforts, but rather an ally who genuinely wanted to get behind us.

Since that time and with the knowledge of the OA fund, I’ve been able to utilize it another 4 or 5 times, publishing in a number of different journals. An interesting unintended, but positive, outcome from the OA fund has been the opportunity to help a number of medical students publish. Without dedicated research time, it can be tough to find time for long term research projects. Being able to help students write up a case report or short review article has been a great way to get them involved in researching a subject and then contributing to the overall body of medical literature, plus, it looks nice on their resume when they apply for residency!

Looking back over the last few years since I found out about, and started using the OA fund, it’s been a catalyst to being able to publish on the things I’m encountering on a daily basis in residency, not just the things that others deem “worthy”. Case and point, we recently published a paper on the safety of instillation of a chemotherapy compound in the bladder at the time of a specific surgery. We had submitted the paper to a number of journals and had basically been told, “This isn’t a common cancer, nor a common practice. Come back when you have a randomized trial”. For anyone familiar with research, randomized trials take a long time, a lot of coordination, a lot of money and early safety/efficacy data. We decided to go with a more well-known OA journal within Urology and ultimately had the paper accepted and published. After doing so, we started hearing from physicians at different institutions who were interested in starting a trial, now that someone had done the initial safety work. There’s a long way to go, but the first step was publishing our results and the OA fund made that much more attainable.

My experience with the fund at Iowa has been uniformly positive. To anyone thinking about utilizing the funds, I say go for it. It’s allowed me to write about the things I’m seeing, walk with students through the process of publishing and publish on topics that are timely, but don’t always fit into the limited scope of our standard journals. I don’t know if this sort of fund is available elsewhere, but I feel like it should be!


Selected Open Access Case Reports by Dr. Uhlman



Open Access Week | Guest Post |On Generous Scholarship

By Willow Fuchs

During the month of Open Access week (October 19-25) we will be highlighting a number of guest posts from University of Iowa Faculty and Staff who have personal experience making their work Open Access.  We appreciate their contributions.

The third guest post is by Meenakshi Gigi Durham, distinguished scholar, teacher, and writer whose durhamwork centers on media and the politics of the body. Her research emphasizes issues of gender, sexuality, race, youth cultures, and sexual violence.  She holds a joint appointment in the Department of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies.

See her Iowa Research Online deposited publications here.

On generous scholarship

A vital aspect of doing academic work is disseminating the knowledge we create so as to maximize its potential to have positive effects on the world. That’s why I’m a fan of institutional repositories. The impetus in the United States today seems to be to corporatize and commoditize education, somehow turning it into a for-profit enterprise instead of a public good. Institutional repositories are a great way to challenge and resist that impulse, returning us to the recognition that research is a crucial element of a collective vision of social progress.

I lived for years in a resource-poor country, and I know that even in the wealthier nations, there are many institutions and scholars who don’t have access to the treasure trove of databases we are privileged to use every day via the wonderful library system at the University of Iowa. But scholarship can’t happen without access to up-to-date knowledge; as scholars, we build on the work that advances our fields. It’s always been inspiring to me that some of the world’s greatest ideas and inventions have been catalyzed by an encounter with some prior work: Galileo read Copernicus and came up with his theory of heliocentrism; Srinivasa Ramanujam read G.S. Carr and made groundbreaking contributions to number theory; Toni Morrison read Virginia Woolf and went on to write Nobel Prize-winning novels. Connecting with the thoughts and ideas and perspectives of others inspires and informs us. We need to make sure the next great scholar can read everything he or she wants to. Part of our work is facilitating the discoveries of the future. That takes generosity and a social conscience —that’s the spirit behind teaching, just as it is behind scholarship.

So whenever I can, I contribute my writings to Iowa Research Online. I offer my work humbly, as part of a community of thinkers whose aims are to change the world for the better. It’s truly gratifying that my IRO papers have been downloaded far more often than they have from commercial journal websites or databases. I hope they are contributing to the way others are thinking about the issues I study: gender, sexuality, and the media. I hope they are sparking new ways to think about these issues, and I hope those ideas will translate into the real goals of my own work, which include social justice, gender equity, and an end to sexual violence.

The Janus Faces of Open Access Publishing | Guest Post by Dr. Frederick Domann

Frederick E. Domann, PhD @RickDomann

by Willow Fuchs

During the month of Open Access Week (October 19-25) we will be highlighting a number of guest posts from University of Iowa Faculty and Staff who have personal experience making their work Open Access.  We appreciate their contributions.

The second guest post is by Frederick Domann, PhD; Director, Molecular & Cellular Biology Graduate Program; Co-director, Radiation and Antioxidant Enzyme Core Service; Co-director, Free Radical Cancer Biology Program; Professor of Radiation Oncology; Professor of Pathology, Surgery

There is little doubt that the open access (OA) model for publishing scientific literature has revolutionized the academic approach to publishing and the publication industry itself. Since the advent of OA publishing there has been an exponential proliferation of OA journals which currently number greater than 10,000 (https://doaj.org).

I personally receive countless requests to serve on the editorial boards of these journals which I typically ignore and promptly delete. Academic institutions have embraced the OA model since traditional journals can cost as much as $20,000 per year for an institutional subscription. Indeed, universities such as the University of Iowa offer incentives in the form of payment of publication fees for their faculty to publish in OA journals. Indeed my trainees and I have benefitted from these incentives and have published several papers in OA journals within the last several years.

One of these (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24672806), published two years ago in the reputable Dove Press journal Hypoxia is currently the most viewed and downloaded paper since the journal’s inception. Clearly this has provided a brilliant showcase for our work and we have benefitted from the university’s OA policy. Open access allows free and ready access to its readers, while passing the costs of production and publication off to the contributors of literary content.

And while this “pay to publish” approach opens opportunities for investigators to quickly and broadly disseminate their findings, OA publishing also has a dark side. This dark side is manifest in the proliferation of “predatory” journals that accept work that may be of questionable quality and significance. Such journals should be actively avoided and are identified on Beall’s list of predatory journals which can be found at http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/.

One of the perils of the pay to publish model are the presentation of opportunities for blatant conflicts of interest in the publication process http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMc1307577). For example, pharma businesses might take advantage of the lower rejection rates and relaxed journal standards in OA journals to publish prematurely or incompletely to promote the interests of their company.  Another troubling aspect of the proliferating OA model is the pressure to provide qualified competent reviewers from a limited pool of knowledgeable experts, the demands on whose time are typically already overextended, to review the avalanche of submitted manuscripts.

Since the material in OA journals is disseminated digitally there are essentially no page limits and so the numbers of papers and rate of papers published is astronomical. Already more than 2 million papers are published in the greater than 10,000 OA journals mentioned above. Almost certainly the rigor of review that is afforded these papers is on average substantially below that of traditional journals. These acknowledgements appear to have led to an improved perception of the value of publications in traditional journals for the communication of highly reliable and reproducible results.

Other digital resources such as ArXiv (http://arxiv.org/) enable investigators to disseminate their own findings before they are peer-reviewed in pre-print form known as e-prints, so the information can be distributed to interested parties without delays or compromising the quality of the finally published work. And while ArXiv may have downsides of its own (http://mathoverflow.net/questions/65090/downsides-of-using-the-arxiv) it may present a viable alternative to OA publishing, and at minimal or no expense.

Hopefully this discussion highlighting the two-faced nature of OA publishing will leave the reader with a better sense of risks and benefits of both publishing in and reading from OA journals.



Transitions: scholarly communication news for the UI Community, January 2010

January 2010
Issue 1.10

Welcome to the winter issue of Transitions.

The purpose of this irregular electronic newsletter is to bring to readers’ attention some of the many new projects and developments informnig the current system of scholarly communication, with emphasis on new products and programs, the open access movement, and other alternative publishing models. Scholarly communication refers to the full range of formal and informal means by which scholars and researchers communicate, from email discussion lists to peer-reviewed publication. In general, authors are seeking to document and share new discoveries with their colleagues, while readers–researchers, students, librarians and others–want access to all the literature relevant to their work.

While the system of scholarly communication exists for the benefit of the world’s research and educational community and the public at large, it faces a multitude of challenges and is undergoing rapid change brought on by technology. To help interested members of the UI community keep up on these challenges and changes we plan to put out 4 issues per year of this newsletter.  Please visit our web site, Transforming Scholarly Communication, to find out more about this topic.

This newsletter is designed to reflect the interests of its readers so please forward comments, suggestions and entries to include to karen-fischer@uiowa.edu.

Visit our newsletter to read the articles:

Public Access to Federally Funded Research – Public input
University Press survival… through open access
Compact for Open Access Publication Equity (COPE)
PLoS One to be indexed by Web of Science
Optical Society of America – a pioneer in scholarly publishing innovation
Nobel Prize-winning scientists urge Congress to act
Open Access Encyclopedias
Who will pay for Arxiv?
Studies on Access – a review
Medical Schools Quizzed on Ghostwriting
Scholarly and Research Communication, a new OA journal
Wellcome Trust calls for greater transparency