It’s become a bit of a running joke among my friends how much I love the city of Winnipeg. To them its a frozen city in the middle of nowhere that’s the butt of a lot jokes, but to me – ever since I first arrived there on a freezing cold January morning to find I was locked out because my landlord had given me the wrong keys and taken off on vacation to warmer temperatures – it’s the greatest city in Canada.
However, this blog post isn’t my “In defense of Winnipeg” masterwork that fundamentally alters how Canadians perceive their national geography (Keep an eye out for that though!). I just want to talk about one specific thing I love about Winnipeg here: The Trees.
Trees don’t do well in cities. Concrete compresses the soil and stops roots from expanding. Pollution stunts their growth and leaves them open to disease. In Canada they especially don’t do well because of the road salt over the winter. Come spring, leftover salt draws the incredibly important spring moisture out of a tree, deforming and essentially starving it to death. Ever wonder why you don’t see a lot of evergreen trees in downtown areas compared to leafy ones? No tree deals will salt that well, but it’s especially deadly to evergreens. Outside of cities (and away from humans) trees can live for a hundreds of years but in cities only about half of trees make it to 20.
It’s still pretty early days for measuring open access journal articles. For a long time the only reliable way to determine if an article had an open access version available was via a Google Scholar title search. You can’t get at Google Scholar via an API or web-crawling (because of the Captchas they have in place), so any attempt to mass pull open access data from Google Scholar is a long and painful process.
There were/are a number of tools trying to mass capture open access though, ones that
pull and merge open access content from repositories (e.g. BASE )
index full open access journals and their articles (e.g. DOAJ)
capture journals that become free to read after an embargo (e.g. PMC)
collect individual copyright statements for published articles (e.g. Crossref)
The brilliance in Unpaywall is in how it pulls these all these sources together to create one database (Green, Gold, Bronze, and Hybrid). One that allows mass gathering of open access data but also easy use for individuals looking to find an OA version of a single article.
Being able to mass obtain data about open access publications opens all sorts of doors that were previously closed. We can see what kind of information is available to those without institutional access. We can start collecting open access articles and do fancy analysis of them with text-data mining and algorithms. We can track Research Funder OA compliance. We can measure where OA research has practical benefit to researchers.
Developments in the open access world seem to be moving at a lightning pace lately. Plan S has added a realism and urgency to OA discussions. Never to be behind on any ‘scholcomm’ development, Elsevier has started a pilot program of launching what they are calling ‘Mirror Journals’. Open Access (OA) ‘copies’ of existing peer reviewed journals. Journals that are “fully gold open access but share the same editorial board, aims and scope and peer review policies as their existing “parent” journals – and the same level of visibility and discoverability.”
Angela Cochrane gave a good analysis of Mirror Journals as a route to the full OA future in October. Worth a read! She argues that Mirror Journals have the potential to solve several problems publisher face when trying to publish OA, including accusations of double-dipping and the steep challenge of starting a new OA journal from scratch.
The double-dipping debate has always been one that has fascinated me. The argument goes that with ‘Hybrid’ OA- where the journal is by default paywalled, but authors can pay a publishing charge to have their individual articles made open access – that publishers get paid twice. Once by the institution subscribing to the journal, because most of it is not open access, and again by the author who chooses to publish open access and pays, with the institutions dollars, the publishing cost. The publisher dips twice into institutional funds. Institutions pay to subscribe to the journal, but don’t see a discount from the OA articles, and so they end up paying for them again. Continue reading “Are Mirror Journals Just Hybrid Open Access Journals In Disguise Or Are They A Viable Route To The Open Access Future?”
I’m always a bit surprised the way some researchers use the term ‘predatory’ to refer to any and all open access journals they think are of lower quality. Since trying to rebalance the conversation around these journals is kinda myshtick, I used to push back pretty hard on this, but I’ve been rethinking it There’s been a move lately to move to using the term “questionable publishers” when broadly referring to these journals. That way you can talk about bad journals and ‘journals that are actually trying to scam you’ together without conflating the two like ‘predatory” does.
I’m not sure though. “Questionable” still puts bad journals and predatory ones in the same box. It’s not really solving the problem (telling the two apart), just avoiding it. When I talk to researchers who use the term predatory freely, they usually seem to be well aware that they are using it to include both bad journals and actual predatory ones. It doesn’t matter to them. Publishing in a bad journal is the same as publishing in a predatory one. Only one might actively be trying to scam you, but both result in sub-par research being published.
This has got me thinking about the ‘quality trap’ that new journals often have a hard time escaping from. You can’t be a quality journal without good authors submitting good papers and good peer reviewers volunteering to review them, but in order to get all these good things, you kinda need to already have them. To be a good journal you need good researchers who contribute, but in order to convince them to contribute you need to already be a good journal. Catch-22. Continue reading “Some thoughts on Open Access’ ‘Bad Journals’ Problem and the APC Model”
There’s been an ongoing push by those in the open access movement to convince authors and publishers that a copyright transfer is not needed to publish scholarly works. The default in the system still seems to be that authors need to transfer their copyright to publishers and then publishers will grant some ‘author rights’ back to the author so that they can still make use of their works.
Typically publishers will justify this copyright transfer with the following reasons:
To protect the copyright of the article. (e.g. Wiley)
For a wide dissemination of the article (e.g. Springer)
To increase the financial income of the publisher as a trade-off for the services they provided freely to the author. (e.g. Canadian Veterinary Journal)
The issue with these reasons is that all the above could still be accomplished via a license agreement. The author doesn’t need to transfer ownership of their work – their copyright – in order for a publisher to protect it, widely disseminate it, or make a profit off of it. They just need to give the publisher the right to do all these things. With a license agreement authors’ retain copyright, but grant rights to the publisher to use the article in these ways.Continue reading “Why does Elsevier require an exclusive rights transfer to publish Open Access?”
An interesting thought experiment is comparing the Open Access (OA) movement to other current social movements for progressive change, e.g. Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. Like these movements, OA recognizes an injustice in the system and is fighting to make it more inclusive.
Of course, Black Lives Matter and #MeToo are the much more important fights. They are fighting for a specific end result; better lives for discriminated groups, while OA is fighting for a means to an end; OA so that research is better and better research so that people have better lives.
You can see advocacy strategies used within the OA movement have grown out of strategies used by social justice movements. Things like developing more creative ethical (and practical) arguments that can be used to convince others. Advocating for strategic policy changes. Solidarity and community building. Intersectionality.Continue reading “Moving from Open Access ‘Centralism’ to Open Access Radicalism”
Something I’ve noticed lately in scholcomm and open access discussions on social media is a misunderstanding of the Serials Crisis. Typically when it gets referred to it is often interpreted that the ‘crisis’ is the high prices of scholarly publishers. The oligopoly they have and the 30% profit margins they make. This is a piece of the Serial Crisis, but what the Serial Crisis is really about is not the high costs, the dominance of a small number of publishers, or the high profit margins, it is about the rate by which scholarly publishers have increased their prices. I think this is an important distinction and I am going to try and explain why.
The price of serials usually goes up 5% – 6% per year while the rate of inflation is only around 2.5% per year (in the US). This essentially means that while the cost of everything else goes up 2.5% per year, the cost of serials goes up about double that.
Here agreements are signed with legacy publishers that combine bulk journal subscription fees (as with traditional Big Deals) plus bulk OA publishing fees so that authors can publish without personally having to pay APCs.