HEFCE report on Monographs and open access is out now…
The perception that academic books are not being read, or even read in depth, does not appear to be sustained by the evidence.”
A quick search and read-through of the main report shows no use of the words “index” or “indexing”, in the context of discovery. There are only fleeting and cursory mentions of “discovery”. Discovery for download-and-reading barely merits a full paragraph…
There appears to be disagreement about whether providing open access to a book without active measures to disseminate it is sufficient. … the rise of aggregation and distribution services for open-access books, as well as increasing sophistication in search engine technology and an ever-greater reliance among academics and others on the Web as a discovery tool, might help smaller operations to challenge the larger publishers … For policymakers this is a critical area of concern: a key benefit of open access is surely increased dissemination; if particular models are likely to fail in this regard, then the benefit could be lost.”
It would have been interesting to know if the current standard monograph practice requires that the author must submit a publicity and marketing plan along with their open monograph. That practice isn’t mentioned, so I wonder how often it happens in the UK. It seems a pity to overlook active paid-for marketing, of the sort that proper publishers take for granted. Especially when there might be an opportunity now to embed this widely for even the most diffident or overworked authors, potentially enhancing everything from the scholar’s career and the university’s standing through to the UK’s wider projection of ‘soft power’. So the report might have suggested (at least) a new flowchart / guide for planning some basic academic book marketing, and a requirement that it be completed and submitted along with the monograph. Something that would take just six hours to enact, by someone other than the author (one has to factor in how utterly sick of a book an author can be by the time it’s completed, and how they just want to see the back of it). Asking for specifics such as a list of Facebook groups and listservs etc; contacts for likely book reviewers; magazine and newsletter contacts for tailored press releases; ‘local author writes book’ local newspaper contacts (since their stories, naff though they may be in tone, show up in Google News); niche radio and podcast interview possibilities, and so on. Such a one-day publication-day campaign might then most usefully be handed off to a freelance marketeer on oDesk for $350 or so, rather than be dumped on someone who either lacks the skills or doesn’t have the time.
Note that there’s also an “Annex 3: Patterns of scholarly communication in the humanities and social sciences” for the report…
Humanities and social science researchers also seem to make significant use of relatively old content, compared to other disciplines. Tenopir et al (2012) find that around half of the ‘last articles read’ in the critical incident component of their survey were more than 6.5 years old; a quarter were more than 15 years old.”
The new book-length Humanities World Report 2015 is now available for download in Kindle or PDF…
“The first of its kind, this ‘Report’ gives an overview of the humanities worldwide. Published as an Open Access title and based on an extensive literature review and enlightening interviews conducted with 90 humanities scholars across 40 countries, the book offers a first step in attempting to assess the state of the humanities globally.”
Some nicely pithy comments from interviewees throughout, drawn from interviews undertaken since 2011. But, rather oddly, a quick search of the body of the book for the phrase “open access” reveals not a single mention.
I had some fun boiling the report’s recommendations down to:
* Truth | [attempt to] reinstate confidence in the humanities as truth finding disciplines [and convey that] we do generate answers, as well as questions.
* Experience | position the humanities as the guardian of human diversity, [a] unique repository of knowledge and insight into the rich diversity of the human experience, past and present.
* Impact | [encourage] support systems for effective[ly and meaningfully conveying one’s work to wider audiences than just peers and students. Add] incentives to encourage more academics to engage in [this].
* Digital bridges | digital humanities experts [should] start the process of bridge-building [with those who either fear or don’t see the potential of digital humanities]. [We should also gently push supervisors for better] training [of] the next generation of humanists [enabling them to] exploit the potential of digital technologies and methods.
* Interdisciplinary (when it works) | not all research requires [a strong] quest for interdisciplinarity [and so it] should not be treated as an end in itself [by funders]. [We should be more aware of the contexts where] interdisciplinary [research] does have considerable [demonstrable] value [and learn how to break down] significant institutional barriers [to unlock that value]. [University] promotion criteria should be reformed so as to give due weight to interdisciplinary research [thus making it less] risky in terms of publication and career advancement.
* Integrity | increased scrutiny of [large funding programmes] to see how well they maintain academic freedom alongside [their role in government] decision-making [and validation of completed government schemes].
* Exploration | humanists should not typically be expected to answer the [“what use is this apparently useless research?”] question.
* Nomadics | there is a crying need for experiment over and above the traditional university and its disciplinary divides.
* Expeditions | [we need major new long-term] integrative platforms as spaces for networking, capacity building and preparation of research on questions [which aid the] understanding [of] the human condition. [These would go far beyond the existing traditional advanced] centres and institutes, visiting fellowships and stakeholder interaction [initiatives]. They might identify [what we don’t know] and what we might know [if the funding and will and focus were enough to] lower the barriers between the human, the social and the natural sciences, [and if researchers were allowed to pay no] regard to national priorities.
On that last point, the 10,000-year perspective and vigourous autonomy of The Long Now Foundation springs immediately to mind. They are, effectively, an expedition to the future.
On both the Impact and “what use is this apparently useless research?” points, I would have suggested a role for a new type of naturally inquisitive ‘curator and explicator’. Someone able to naturally pick up and draw out such tenuous or obscured connections, and from across a wide range of disparate research. Such a unique matchmaking/publicist role would rise far above the low orbit of a university’s PR department, or the middle manager who routinely bundles researchers into funding-worthy projects. Such a role would need a rare combination of curious journalist, art curator, brilliant academic, political operator and publicist.
David Prosser at Jisc blogs on the need for action on discoverability…
… 40% of researchers kicked off their project with a trawl through the Internet for material, while only 2% preferred to make a visit to a physical library space. [yet] nearly half of all items within digitised collections are not discoverable via major search engines by their name or title [and, even worse] digitised collections become harder and harder to find over time, for a variety of complex reasons.
A Thomson ISI / Web of Science study is reported in Nature, dated 26th May 2014, as “Do Open Access journals have impact?”. They concluded that…
“Open Access journals [a selection of 190 titles, “core scientific publications”] can have similar impact to other journals, and prospective authors should not fear publishing in these journals merely because of their access model.”
CultureCase, a new UK overlay service that provides a short plain-English summary of selected academic research on the impacts and effects of the arts and arts policy. There are OA links where possible, but most of the outbound links are to research that’s behind a paywall — which shows why these summaries may be especially useful for bootstrapping arts organisations which need to “make the case” for culture to sceptical bureaucrats. Though, in my experience, one does ideally need access to the original papers and reports since much arts advocacy research tends to rest on shaky foundations. Once you track back the estimates and ‘received wisdom’ factoids to their sources, the case being made can start to totter. This is especially true when people are making numbers claims about the boost to cultural employment or regional tourism income.
CultureCase currently has no links to OA journals on their links page, so I’ve sent them the following list…
Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy
Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management
Working Paper Series, The Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies
Current Opinion in Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Nordic Journal of Cultural Policy
Arts Professional (UK, now free)
A Google search shows that CultureCase only have 27 OA articles at present, which can be found via a Google site: search. It would be useful if there was a http://www.culturecase.org/research-category/open-access/ tag which would collect all the open article records onto a single page.
The other problem is that they are linking to JSTOR and calling it ‘open access’ — but most people outside academia don’t have access to JSTOR, or only have very partial access.
“In 2013, the SciELO Network of national journal collections covered 16 countries, 15 in Ibero-America [South and Central America] plus South Africa, which as a whole, index around 1,000 journal titles and publish more than 40,000 articles a year…”
“A priority action line of SciELO is internationalization that, among other strategies, includes the gradual adoption of the English language for the communication of research with the aim of expanding its international visibility. All article texts must have at least the title, abstract and keywords in English. … journals are increasingly adopting English as either their only language of communication of journal content or are using a multilingual format together with Spanish or Portuguese.”
“What were librarians thinking of?” A question I often ask myself, as I glance at various pointless and fruitless busy-work projects. But now there’s a new survey of the views of “academic library directors in the U.S.”, which gives some insight. Scholarly Kitchen has a handy digest of the report…
In 2010, 41% of library directors said that, if given a 10% budget increase, they would like to spend at least some of it on discovery tools. In 2013 only 16% said the same thing.
Joseph Esposito has usefully snagged a peek inside a very expensive commercial market report titled Global Social Science & Humanities Publishing 2013-2014.
Social/Humanities publishing is found to be perhaps 25% of the size of Science/Technology/Medicine, at around $5bn. That actually strikes me as something of an achievement, when you consider that we have far smaller research funding inputs and a smaller technical/training infrastructure to call on. But perhaps the $5bn figure is given a strong boost by teacher training textbooks, social work manuals and the like?
Joseph highlights the report’s finding of a highly fragmented market. This market fragmentation is one of the reasons I’m sceptical about the success of a ‘one metadata to rule them all’ solution to OA indexing and discovery. It seems that DOAJ-listed OA journal titles can’t even find their way in full-text into the largest of commercial databases (such as EBSCO Complete) at higher levels than just over 20%. When last heard of the Web of Science / Scopus seemed to be barely scraping 1,000 OA arts and humanities titles indexed. One art history study found that Google Scholar could index only half the DOAJ’s OA art history titles. A dastardly conspiracy to keep OA titles out of these big indexes seems unlikely. So I suspect it’s largely due to many OA editors in the arts and humanities not giving a fig about providing the means to automatically index their content. Their widespread lack of something as basic as RSS feeds seems to confirm that. Add to that the fact that only 56% of DOAJ journals can supply the DOAJ with article metadata. Persuading people to even glance at a new bit of metadata, let alone tag all their back-issue content with it, thus seems rather a long shot. Nor are librarians likely to be of much use, after the fact of publication — since they seem to have mostly failed to apply even their own metadata standards to open content, and open repository metadata is dire.
New White Paper from commercial publisher SAGE: Discoverability of Scholarly Content: Accomplishments, Aspirations and Opportunities, written after the moment…
“in 2013, [when commercial paywall] academic content providers around the world were forced to consider alternate methods of open-web discoverability when Google’s primary web search ceased its special treatment of access-controlled scholarly materials”
The consusus here and elsewhere seems to be ‘just add metadata’ to open content, and it will slot right into existing closed discovery systems. Good luck with that one, and don’t forget to shut the stable door.
Interesting comment spotted in the paper, in relation to the oft-heard complaint that Google uses closed proprietary search algorithms…
“The research also noted the variability among [academic library Web-scale] discovery services’ proprietary search algorithms, which — lacking transparency — disallows local customization, which libraries and end users expect.”
What it doesn’t mention is the quality of the ranking done by the proprietary search algorithms in services such as Summon. To see what I mean, try the dozy search | what is history carr | in Summon, then try it again in JURN.
New Innovating Pedagogy report from the UK’s Open University…
* There does not seem to be a consensus among academic librarians regarding what is desirable in terms of humanities book offerings.
* Many librarians do not distinguish scholarly titles from academic titles. Librarians seem to lean toward known brands (e.g., EBSCO, JSTOR), irrespective of the content that these aggregators offer.
* Most libraries are still in the early stages of developing an e-book strategy, and many are unsure of which direction they should take.
* …there is no agreement amongst librarians as to which humanities content is considered necessary, which collections are essential, which aggregators to use or what fields to cover
* Most librarians surveyed believe that the various aggregators and publishers all offer the same (overlapping) content
That last one is pretty amazing.
A free online report/book, Chasing Sustainability on the Net (Juvenes Print Tampere, Finland, Oct 2012)…
“International research on 69 journalistic pure players and their business models”
For those not conversant with suit-speak, a “pure play” is an “internet only business”. Might there be some lessons in the report for academic and scholarly ejournals?
The AHRC’s final report Crowd-Sourcing Scoping Study: Engaging the Crowd with Humanities Research (Dec 2012)…
“[recording and saving] Ephemera and intangible cultural heritage form potentially the most productive category of asset for humanities crowd-sourcing…”
Details of a recent JISC survey in the arts and humanities and social studies. They asked if OA publishers could be allowed to recoup their costs on open access, by selling print-on-demand paper copies of monographs. I guess this is consultation on the medium-range future, since the UK Research Councils and the HEFCE are both targetting journal articles and conference papers for OA first, not books (and thus presumably not monographs) or data.
What I’d want (and might pay for during a research project, instead of a free PDF) wouldn’t be print, but a nicely formatted .mobi ebook file for my Kindle ereader. But if a publisher’s Kindle monograph costs £65 (inc. shipping from the USA) and a simple PDF to Kindle operation is free, why would I not choose the latter, mangled formatting and all? Many others will simply read their PDFs on an iPad, Kindle Fire or other tablet.
However, it seems that for the moment print rules…
“Print still dominates reading preferences, but less so for early career academics”
Yet I really can’t see university managers standing for academics charging the departmental credit-card £50+ a time to get print monographs, once the PDFs are free online (as the legal requirement for OA widens out from just “research council funded” works to encompass all taxpayer-funded works). To save costs managers might present their stick-in-the-mud academics with shiny new £150 tablets, and tell them to read all future PDFs on that or lump it. Or, if print really is vital, the university might install a hired print-on-demand book-printing machine in the university’s printing works.
Also some interesting statistics in the article, from a JISC survey of 690 (presumably all in the UK)…
“Creative Commons licensing is not well understood by humanities and social science academics, not only was awareness of CC low at only 40 per cent […] Familiarity with open access is at 30 per cent and awareness is at 50 per cent, although this was before the Finch report” […]
Inside Higher Ed has a useful summary of new large-scale research on “How Readers Discover Content in Scholarly Journals”.
COAR report of 26th Oct 2012, The Current State of Open Access Repository Interoperability (2012).
A new Mendeley Global Research Report which crunches data from 2 million Mendeley users. Includes a section on “Why Open Access Makes a Difference”…
“The report reveals the extent to which a country’s GDP per capita and R&D expenditure per capita limit its researchers’ access to academic papers.”
On publisher distortion of the citation rate…
“60 per cent [of research academics] admit that they would add citations from a journal to their reference list before submitting their article to [that journal]”
“Over 20 per cent of researchers have been pressured by journal editors to modify their articles in ways that manipulate the reputation of the journal […] Editors can manipulate their journal’s ranking by asking authors to include more citations of other articles in that very journal”
A new report, from commercial academic publishers, asked UK libraries what the results might be of the government’s plan for universal open-access with an embargo period of six months…
“Nearly a quarter of [the 210 libraries that responded] would cancel their humanities and social science subscriptions entirely.”
A further report suggest another problem — that papers simply won’t be presented by academics to their repositories…
“The PEER findings […] indicated that the vast majority of academics did not self-archive their work even when asked to do so.”
Perhaps UK universities should declare that journal articles won’t count toward future career advancement, unless they are deposited in a timely manner?