The Changing Dynamics of Publishing and Impacts on Science Communication

Below is a presentation I gave for The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Science Communication Week about recent changes to Scholarly Publishing.

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Can Fair Dealing/Use Rights be Signed Away?

I’ve started negotiating contracts/licenses for journals subscriptions and ebooks with vendors over the last couple years and it’s been pretty fascinating in a very frustrating way. Vendors really do try and stifle Fair Dealing/Use whenever they can. They place restrictive limits how individual articles can be shared, on text and data mining capabilities, on the ability to download sections from eBooks, and restrictions when it comes to inter-library loan  (ILL) provisions (Some vendors still limit ILL capabilities so that article requests from other libraries can only be fulfilled via fax or only for libraries that are located in your country. So much for a digital, interconnected world).

Worst part about these restrictions on Fair Dealing/Use (FD) is that that vendors squeeze them in via legal jargon wherever they can in the license. Some larger academic libraries have lawyers who can navigate this jargon, but most research libraries don’t have this option. The Library Community has attempted to solve this problem by designing model licences that other libraries can use. e.g. LibLicense,  CRKN.  These licenses have jargon that allows for expansive FD but, more importantly, they often have a statement that makes it explicitly clear that nothing in the license trumps the FD rights given by a countries’ Copyright Act. Continue reading

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Open Access and MEDLINE

MEDLINE is likely the most important scholarly  abstract and indexing database of journals we have. It is a collection of critical evaluated and rigorously cataloged medical journals maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). The high-level journals within it are indexed with the NLM’s Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and widely used when creating health policies or making key medical decisions.

MEDLINE is available for free via the larger database, PubMed, but it’s important to note that MEDLINE ≠ PubMed. In the last couple weeks, there have been some important discussions about questionable journals getting indexed in PubMed. MEDLINE has been free of these concerns because of the rigorous evaluation it’s journals must go through. It is one of the better Whitelists for authors trying to avoid publishing in predatory journals.

If you’re a medical/health researcher and you want your research to have an impact – to truly make science and healthcare better – publishing in a Open Access MEDLINE Journal is one of the best ways to do this. Unfortunately, there is no way to find which of your prospective journals are Open Access and indexed MEDLINE without going through them one by one.

This seemed like a relatively easy problem to solve. Below is my attempt. Continue reading

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Bronze and Delayed Open Access: What can we do about these?

If you haven’t yet taken a look at this recent PeerJ Preprint entitled “The State of OA: A large-scale analysis of the prevalence and impact of Open Access articles” it is worth a read.

Among the more interesting findings was that for 2015 the percentage of open access papers is now at 45%. A pretty shocking percentage that will have some important implications for librarians and library budgets. In the words of advice to librarians by of one of the paper’s authors, Heather Piwowar: “Use this data to negotiate with publishers: Half the literature is free. Don’t pay full price for it.” Continue reading

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Access vs York: Fair Dealing is for everybody

The recent Canadian Federal Court ruling against York University and for Access Copyright has frustrated universities, librarians, and students while delighting publishers and authors. As a member of the former group, I am also annoyed and confused by this ruling that appears to directly contradict previous rulings by the Supreme Court (see Di Valentino and others).

I don’t want to dive into the exact problems with the ruling. Smarter people than me have done that it the last link. What I want to talk about is why this divide between users (universities, librarians, students) and creators (publishers, authors) has formed around fair dealing. Continue reading

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The problem with using cost-per use analysis to justify journal subscriptions

There have been two widely shared articles lately that have had some interesting statements about journal usage numbers being misleading.

From The Scholarly Kitchen –  When the Wolf Finally Arrives: Big Deal Cancelations in North American Libraries

Many libraries seem to have found that demand for the content included in their Big Deals — even what they thought was “core” content — was not nearly as robust as they had believed it to be based on usage data that had been provided by the publishers.

This Nature News article on the ongoing licence struggle between Elsevier and German Universities – German scientists regain access to Elsevier journals

The loss of access to Elsevier content didn’t overly disturb academic routines, researchers say, because they found other ways to get papers they needed, or because Elsevier journals happened not to be of prime importance in their fields

In a number of cases now, subscriptions to scholarly journals that appear to be well used turn out not to be unnecessary subscriptions. What is going on here? Librarians have the usage data for these journals. The numbers! The undeniable evidence that there was a use or view! How can these be misleading?  Continue reading

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DVD fee a barrier for library users at the Winnipeg Public Library

The following article I wrote was published by the Winnipeg Free Press on May 17th, 2017. 

When I mention to my friends it’s frustrating the Winnipeg Public Library (WPL) charges a fee for DVD loans, I’m always surprised by the response: “Wait, you mean other public libraries don’t charge for DVD Loans?”

Unfortunately, Winnipeg is a glaring exception to the practices of similar libraries. A look through the policies of other public libraries shows it is the only major library system in Canada that charges for borrowing regular material. In fact, most provincial Public Library Acts forbid their public libraries from charging patrons for borrowing material. Continue reading

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