The Global Information Society Watch 2009 Report has been released. It’s a substantial book-length “annual report” on the state of open access to information around the world, complete with chapters about individual nations.
Due for publication in January 2010, the book The Ecology of Academic Journals by Bozena Mierzejewska…
“The book is written against the backdrop of the complete transformation of scholarly communication. It considers the multifaceted nature of academic journals in a systematic investigation of the journal’s eco-system — a metaphor indicating the importance of relationships between all involved stakeholders, their environments and their functioning as a unit. This book develops a framework which can be used for identifying journal’s market position and developing future directions. It draws on authors practical experience as publisher and editor of academic journals combined with an in-depth knowledge of academic research. It is aimed at journal editors, managers and publishers.”
Communicating knowledge: how and why researchers publish and disseminate their findings (Sept 2009) is a new free online report published by the UK’s Research Information Network (RIN).
Full-text papers and Powerpoints from ELPUB 2009 : 13th International Conference on Electronic Publishing are now freely available online.
Lots of titles that sound interesting, including: ‘Overlay Publications: a functional overview of the concept’; ‘Targeted knowledge: interaction and rich user experience towards a scholarly communication that “lets”‘; ‘Incorporating Semantics and Metadata as Part of the Article Authoring Process’; and ‘Electronic publishing and bibliometrics’.
“discussed in Moed’s keynote speech was assessment in the area of the humanities where there is a lack of reference indexes such as Scopus or Web of Science, due to the different types of research, outcomes and habits between the humanities and science communities. Moed explored five different options for the creation of a comprehensive database for the humanities and social sciences, including combining a number of existing European special SSH bibliographies, creating a new database from publishers’ archives, stimulating further enhancement of Web of Science and Scopus, exploring the potentialities and limitations of Google Scholar and Google Book Search, and creating a citation index from institutional repositories. Much work must be done in these fields, but the availability of full-text seems to be a key issue.” (My emphasis)
The first part of this presentation also has an interesting graph, showing how the RAE in the UK severely skews the output of academic papers…
A new U.S. National Academies report, Ensuring the Integrity, Accessibility, and Stewardship of Research Data in the Digital Age. The page for the report looks as though it’s behind a paywall, but scroll a little further down the page to find links to full-text page images. The report was commissioned in 2006, and the Chronicle of Higher Education has a short journalistic summary.
I’m thinking we need new long-term personal financial instruments that fund/ensure that the family/institution/archivists are sent the keys to a universal “digital vault” after someone’s death, the vault containing a structured and tagged backup archive of that person’s vital academic data, papers, blogs, book files, bibliographies, etc.
“Does e-Journal Investment Lead To Greater Academic Productivity?” is a question asked in an article in the July-August 2009 edition of Library and Information Update (p.45)…
This U.K. magazine is not freely available online, but some of the points are usefully summarised over at the OUL Library blog, including, among others…
* Oct-Nov is the busiest season for downloads (a surprise)
* Access in increasingly via third parties (e.g. Google Scholar)
* Historians are the biggest users of Google as access route (?!)
This seems to be an important bit of research. The U.S. Chronicle of Higher Education reports on new NHA research which finds that…
“It costs more than three times as much to publish an article in a humanities or social-science journal as it does to publish one in a science, technical, or medical, or STM, journal [ reports ] an in-depth study of eight flagship journals in the humanities and social sciences.” [...] “It cost an average of $9,994 in 2007 to publish an article in one of the eight journals analyzed” [...] first-copy costs — “collecting, reviewing, editing, and developing content” — added up to about 47 per cent of the total outlay among the eight journals studied
The National Humanities Alliance report The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations (not yet online) was written during 2007-2009, and examined U.S. data from 2005 to 2007. The Chronicle journalist highlights three possible reasons for the difference…
* articles are significantly longer than in the sciences
* acceptance rates are far lower than in the sciences, at a pitiful 11%
* such journals include a wider variety of content than in the sciences…
“peer-reviewed research made up about 62 percent of what the eight journals published in 2007. The remaining 38 percent consisted of “other scholarly content,” including book reviews.” [...] Such material does not come cheap, though; it must still be commissioned, edited, and put into production. It cost an [annual] average of $313,612 per journal in 2007, the study found.
All of this suggests to me that the author-pays model of open access ejournal publishing may not be sustainable for the humanities, unless subsidised with huge amounts of unpaid labour. I would presume that the 11% acceptance rate is due largely to issues of quality rather than space, and so it would be self-defeating for the humanities to fling open the floodgates just because the Web is infinitely expandable. It could lead to yet more unread articles, damage to the ‘brand’ of the flagship journals concerned, and a further lowering of status for the humanities in the eyes of university admins and the public alike. It might also have a ‘knock-on’ effect downstream, leaving fewer articles for the lesser journals to pick up and polish.
On the “articles are longer” argument, I’m not sure that a simple word-count is a valid measure. Science articles are full of complex tables, formulae, diagrams, and it must take quite some time for a reviewer to mull these over. Similarly, I’m thinking that the acceptance rate may be so low because only the “top eight” most prestigious journals were surveyed — lesser journals may well have a higher acceptance rate?
Joseph Gelfer criticises aspects of the paper “But what have you done for me lately? Commercial Publishing, Scholarly Communication, and Open-Access” (2009) by John P. Conley and Myrna Wooders, with special focus on the value that paid editors can bring in terms of polishing manuscripts.
In the second half of the post, Gelper also points out that…
“the volunteer labor on which many OA journals … are based hides the true cost of doing business. One would expect an economist to make more of this analysis, but the fact that $0 is spent on editing an OA journal does not result in zero cost. Costs come in many shapes and forms: that hour of volunteer copyediting from our editorially skilled and willing academic comes at the cost of their employer, or family, or an hour of leisure activity. … when such [OA] mandates rely on unpaid labor, they also have the potential to erase the skills of academics and publishing professionals who may otherwise reasonably demand an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work … the glossing over of economic realities does no service to OA’s moral high-ground”
The other hidden long-term cost factor here is training. Professionals may have invested years of their life in training courses and self-learning, whereas volunteer OA editors are seemingly expected to “just know how to do it”. Not only are volunteer editors not paid (even in terms of workload allowances), they’re not paid to train for their role either.
The Occasional Pamphlet (a law blog at Harvard) has a long and detailed posting on the issues around the public self-archiving of academic articles, after publication in an academic journal.
Amazing. Apparently the Treasury grabs 17.5% of the cost of all online academic journals, via charging VAT (a UK sales tax) on sales to university libraries.
Yet another new report for your holiday deckchair reading. Open Access: What are the economic benefits? A comparison of the United Kingdom, Netherlands and Denmark is by John Houghton of the Australian Centre for Strategic Economic Studies, and is published by the Danish Knowledge Exchange….
“Open access or ‘author-pays’ publishing for journal articles (i.e. ‘Gold OA’) might bring net system savings of around [...] EUR 480 million in the UK (at 2007 prices and levels of publishing activity) [...] a repositories and overlay-services model may well produce similar cost savings to open access publishing.”
Free access to content from over 3,000 arts and humanities journals not enough? There will still be times, of course, that call for a flourish of the cheque-book or a PayPal ping. Steven Schroeder wanted to spend some money on journal subscriptions…
“You know, for all the moaning journals (mostly university-affiliated) do about how they won’t ever get subscribers, a surprising number of them aren’t making it easy to get subscriptions. I had a little money burning a hole in my pocket yesterday and decided to buy some new subscriptions — my only condition was that I be able to buy them online. [...] You might as well be asking [potential subscribers] to chip their request on a stone tablet or send it via Pony Express. By my rough estimate, maybe 20% of university-affiliated journals have the ability to purchase online through their websites.”
“Is it not possible for IRs [ repositories ] to serve as full-fledged electronic libraries and thereby serve the greater purpose of collecting, disseminating, analyzing and exchanging useful digital information for academic purposes? Should not the IR be coupled with the full range of academic and research support services that new technologies permit? [...] The challenge, as I see it, is to keep librarians from undermining themselves. [...] IRs can be utilized in far more creative ways to enhance the research endeavor.”
Although one might compare such aspirations with the view from the trenches, as expressed in Innkeeper at the Roach Motel…
“Academic librarianship has not supported repositories or their managers. Most libraries consistently under-resource and understaff repositories, further worsening the participation gap. Software and services have been wildly out of touch with faculty needs and the realities of repository management.”
“The use of citations to determine the quality of academic work in the hard sciences is to be abandoned in favour of peer review in the new system being designed to replace the research assessment exercise. [...] the Higher Education Funding Council for England sketched out how it intends to assess the quality of research outputs in the system…”
A new report titled Leading the World: The Economic Impact of UK Arts and Humanities Research (PDF link), from the Arts & Humanities Research Council…
“it appears that the UK arts and humanities community is producing nearly as many articles as their US colleagues (over three years, the UK produced 33% and the USA 37%), even though the USA has five times our population.”
Impressive productivity, which also seems to be reflected in citations. Let’s hope it convinces — it’s the sort of report that appears before an axe-weilding government Comprehensive Spending Review stomps onto the scene.
Universities are now under the control of the Department for Business, and there are dire warnings of forced across-the-board cuts of ten percent each year to UK public sector spending. Thankfully JURN is run on Kit-Kats and £40 a year for server space — and thus isn’t vulnerable. Although if Mandelson wants to send round a truckload of Kit-Kats I won’t complain.
An interesting point from the publisher of an independent commercial academic journal…
The [ universities and their various Research Assessment Exercises ] have created, and they sustain, an academic assessment system that is very heavily dependent on academic journals, but which gives no credit whatever for the editing of such journals. The universities offer precious little encouragement (read “no material support” and “no workload allowance”) for the editing or publication of academic journals.
News just in from Canada…
“Small magazine publishers and editors are fighting proposed changes to Canadian Heritages’ magazine funding criteria that will bar subsidies to any publication with an annual circulation of less than 5,000. That’s most academic journals, art magazines and literary magazines in Canada…”
A Portico report from May 2008 “Digital preservation of e-journals in 2008: Urgent Action revisited” (PDF link). From the summary…
“there is a pronounced gap between thinking that the digital preservation of e-journals is important and taking action to ensure that e-journals are preserved. … Many library directors
expressed a desire to wait before taking action. … preservation of e-journals, while valued, has not yet become a strategic budgeting priority for many libraries”
“Journal spend, use and research outcomes: a UK perspective on value for money” (PDF link), by Ian Rowlands at the UK Serials Group Conference, 31st March 2009. In amongst the inevitable science journals (yawn), his group also made a case-study of History ejournals. One interesting factoid…
“86.5 per cent of titles in the arts, humanities and social sciences are now available online”
From the same conference: “Electronic journals, continuing access and long-term preservation: roles, responsibilities and emerging solutions” (Powerpoint link, 2Mb). It seems a useful overview of the problems, and the initiatives (LOCKSS, Portico, etc) currently underway.
Short-run open access titles in the arts and humanities are especially vulnerable to loss, judging from my experience of finding one too many “404 not found” and domain-squatted pages while building JURN. One solution that springs to mind might be to build into open access journal software an automatic “collect all the articles into a single POD-ready printable 8″ x 10″ PDF and upload it on publication to a print-on-demand book printer” (such as Lulu). National deposit libraries could then access a uniform printed (although probably not archival/acid-free) copy for their stacks. And so could anyone else who wanted a printed copy.
Another rather more humourous idea might be to have a Big Red Button integrated into the journal’s software control panel — especially useful for graduate Cultural Studies ejournals perhaps — marked:
“We can’t be bothered any more, upload everything to archive.org and then delete the website”
Of course, a ‘brute force’ approach would be to buy a fat new hard-drive and then run site-ripper software (free tools such as the British Library Web Curator Tool and the independent WinHTTrack spring to mind) on the JURN Directory. But there’s a problem — many independent ejournals keep their article files at a radically different URL than that of the home website. A third of the time you’d end up with a nice snapshot of the website, but no articles. Unless you could specifically tell the software to download all unique off-site files/pages that were being directly linked to by the targetted website (that’s if you’re lucky and the journal doesn’t use scripted “bouncing-bomb” URLs that dynamically bounce into repositories to get the PDF). But then, many journal entry-points are just a page on a larger departmental website — so you could end up hauling in terabytes of unwanted material either way.
Or for a more managed solution, one could spend £12,000 paying students at £12 an hour to spend an average of 40 minutes per title (across 1,700 titles), to go in and hand-archive all the articles and TOCs into named directories on a hard-drive. Even if management bloated the cost, I’d guess an initial archival capture could probably be done for less than £50k? Heck, I’ll do it myself if someone wants to offer me £50k.
Of course, if librarians had made and promoted just one simple little Google-friendly tagging/flagging standard for online open-access journal articles… then none of this would have been needed.