Mita Williams published a blog post this week entitled Bret Victor, Bruno Latour, the citations that bring them together, and the networks that keep them apart. It’s an interesting piece that critiques the use of citations as a performance measure and gives some alternative ways to look at citations. It’s well worth the read.
I’ve been working a lot with citation analysis lately and I’ve been having some conceptual problems with it that Mita’s piece helped me think more carefully about. Mita talks about Bruno Latour’s theory of citations which, as i understand it, argues that citations are used to support claims an author is making and there are many ways for an author to use a document to do this. References to other documents do not necessarily give positive assessments of a cited document or indicate that it’s special or unique. There are multiple reasons why an author might cite a work. For example, to argue against it, to point to it as diving into an interesting area of study, or just to say “somebody else once looked at this and this is what they found”. Why something is cited is situational and depends on the context of how and when it appears in the author’s paper. A citation of a document is rarely a claim that this document is important.
Now this idea doesn’t sound particularly novel, or even that interesting, in my rephrasing. What really kinda threw me off is – despite having already read the DORA declaration, the Leiden Manifesto, and the Metric Tide where similar points about the limits of citation metrics are made – whenever I had compiled citation metrics on an article, journal, or researcher, I never really understood what I was compiling. I had a number, but what did this number mean? What did it show?
The Serials Crisis has always made the future of journal subscriptions unstable and headed for disaster. 6% yearly price increases, at a rate higher than inflation, with one party in the scholarly publishing process – the publishers – often pulling in 30% profit margins? Nope.
What makes this all the more shocking is that these price increases and profit margins are still happening today, when the percentage of journal articles that are Open Access (OA) is hovering around 50%. 45% of journal articles published in 2015 are now OA and the rate of OA is increasing every year.
Around mid-2017 a preprint by Michelle Wu, Law Library Director and Professor of Law at Georgetown University, was published: Piece by Piece Review of Digitize-and-Lend Projects Through the Lens of Copyright and Fair Use.
What this article is proposing got me a bit excited. It argues that there are sufficient copyright provisions and court decisions to allow libraries to begin to digitize print copies that are still under copyright and make the full version of these digital copies available to patrons and other libraries.
This sounds like an explicit copyright violation, but Wu argues that if the library only allows one version of the digital or print book to be accessible to users at a time, that this use will fall under fair use. E.g. The print book will be stored in archive accessible to users only by request, while the digital version will be accessible via the library website. If a user does require the print book, then access to the digital version will be blocked for everybody while they use it.
I’ve got to weigh in on this Twitter Inter-library Loan (ILL) thing that happened last week. If you are unfamiliar, this Storify lays out its creation and the discussion around it nicely.
It’s always interesting when you see an “open’ initiative like this that is met with widespread excitement from researchers and hand wringing from library staff. The responses from library staff to this Twitter ILL account/service seemed to involve one or more of these four reactions:
- Libraries already do ILL and we do it well. You’re trying to crowdsource and create a volunteer-based workforce when all these expertise are already there, you’re just not using them.
- You wouldn’t need to request articles if you published Open Access. Open Access is the real solution here. Twitter ILL is just a half-measure that does not solve the real problem.
- This isn’t a new idea. Similar services like this already exist, e.g. #canihazPDF, The Open Access Button, UnPaywall. Use those!
- Libraries handle ILL because of thorny copyright issues. A lot of this stuff you share is going to break copyright, the real solution here is to rely on your library (#1) and publish open access (#2).
I think there’s some truth to the above, but I also think the way we engaged in these conversations shows some of library twitters worst tendencies: Open Access Shaming, Library Elitism, Copyright Fear-Mongering, and User Blaming.
I’m guilty of all these too! I’m hoping I can correct that here. I think Twitter ILL can work together with Libraries to encourage our mutual goals openness, discovery, and access. Continue reading
Below is a presentation I gave for The Public Health Agency of Canada’s Science Communication Week about recent changes to Scholarly Publishing. Continue reading
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
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